While most of the media keeps up the currency naw naw naw nyah nyah nyah, there’s been a wee spot of love bombing plaintively pledging its troth. Scotland got a luvvie letterette today. Now we can feel dead important because two hundred celebs have taken a few seconds out of their busy schedules and faaaaabulous lives to put their names to a paragraph long letter that someone else wrote for them. It’s just heartlifting to see such commitment. How can anyone possibly complain about the need for foodbanks when we’ve got such immense compassion to nourish our anonymous little souls. Simon Cowell has noticed us, how many beans is that worth?
Mind you, the paean of love to Scotland might have been a teeny bit more convincing if David Starkey didn’t figure amongst the list of signatories. Davie, for those of you lucky enough never to have encountered his oeuvre, described Scotland as a ‘feeble little country’ and Rabbie Burns as ‘a deeply boring provincial poet’. Admittedly I didn’t recognise a lot of the names, not moving in slebby circles. There was someone revelling in the name Jock Stirrup, which I had thought was a groin support for equestrian types until I looked him up on Wikipedia. Apparently he used to be a heid bummer in the RAF. And for some of the names which were recognisable it would probably have been better if they hadn’t been recognisable at all. Like David Starkey.
Scotland has no currency, no money, it’s a huge financial risk (because of course, we’re a basket case), it’s cursed with resources it can’t possibly manage by itself and which generate huge amounts of paperwork, and is totally dependent upon the goodwill and largesse of the kind hearted Westminster Parlie. But they love us because we make them feel better about themselves, we’ve got gorgeous scenery, and we provide a tartan splash of colour that helps British nationalism pretend it’s not a form of nationalism at all.
Still, it was awfie nice of the two hundred slebs. It would maybe have been nicer if they’d signed an open letter to the Westminster Parliament telling them that they’re a bunch of unaccountable wasters whose self-interest and short-termism have turned the entire UK into internal colonies of the financial sector in the City of London, but it’s likely that our elected and unelected unrepresentatives would have slung them a deifie. Which is more or less what the average voter in Scotland will do on hearing a plea from Simon Cowell. The referendum now gives the rest of us a chance to vote Simon off, who’s going to resist the chance to do that? You’re not going to bootcamp Simon, you’re getting the boot.
The letter – well, I say letter, a paragraph doesn’t count as a letter. It’s more of a postcard – asks Scotland “not to leave this shared country of ours” and asks us to remember “the bonds of citizenship”. And there’s the problem right there. This is not a shared country, and I don’t mean that Scotland is a different country from England – a self-evident truism which only needs to be explained to some of the more obtuse below the line commentators in publications like the Guardian. The UK is not a shared country, it’s not a sharing country. In the UK a small number enjoy access to wealth and privilege at the expense of the majority. That’s not sharing, it’s dispossession. For the majority of its citizens the UK is not a nation, it’s a state of alienation.
Bonds of citizenship sound lovely and cosy too. Like fur lined handcuffs. The bonding only goes one way. Non-slebby types, those of us who are not rich or well connected, are bound to put up with whatever crap, whatever political wheeze, that gets thrown at us. And there’s bugger all we can do about it. Where were the bonds of citizenship when a diabetic ex-serviceman had his benefits sanctioned and died due to lack of food and a fridge that no longer kept his insulin usable. There’s not much in the way of bonds of citizenship for the mother who walked seven miles to a foodbank so she could feed her weans. That’s not a bond, that’s bondage.
It’s all very well to ask others to keep sharing when you’re one of the ones on the receiving end of the largesse. The two hundred slebs don’t put forward any political solutions to the ever widening social and economic chasms which disfigure the entire UK. Instead they’re making a call for inaction to the only people who are proposing to do something about this lamentable state of affairs. It’s like Labour’s suicide pact, sorry – Labour’s plea for workers’ solidarity – only with BAFTA nominations. Stay with us Scotland, so we can emote about you. Vote Nob Orders for nobs.
The luvvie love bomb was organised by Dan Snow, whose faither in law is Gerald Grosvenor the Duke of Westminster. The Grosvenor family own the 100,000 acre Reay Forest estate in Sutherland. 100,000 acres is a lot of land, it works out at over 156 square miles, almost the same size as West Lothian. And it’s all owned by Dan’s da-in-law. Of course the gross imbalance in Scottish land ownership isn’t Dan’s responsibility, but maybe if Dan Dan the History Man had a wee look at the history of his faither in law’s holiday home he might be a bit more understanding of the reasons why so many in Scotland think we’d be better off governing ourselves.
The Reay Forest estate, and other enormous Highland estates like it, are often what luvvie types think of when they think of Scotland, a vast tract of picturesque wilderness without any people in it. It used to have people in it, but the Dukes of Sutherland, whose family the Grosvenors bought the estate from in 1904, had handily cleared away the unsightly and distinctly unpicturesque Gaelic speaking peasantry. The area around the Reay Forest estate was cleared in the early 1800s. The people ended up on the emigrant ships, or moved to the growing slums around the foundaries and mines where today their descendants walk miles to find a food bank, or face eviction because they can’t pay the bedroom tax. In this best of both worlds, this perfect union, poverty and dispossession is the only constant. We’re told this is the best we can aspire to in this rich land.
And that Dan, is why so many of us are voting Yes. We want out of this cycle of despair, we’re tired of being cynical, we’ve lived long enough with alienation. But although we are alienated from the Westminster Parliament, we are not alienated from each other. We’re cynical about the motives of the powerful and connected, we’re not cynical about our hopes and aspirations for dignity, equality, and justice. But we’ve learned that things will only change if we change them ourselves.
So don’t send us a wee postcard begging us not to do it because some comfortable and connected people might suffer a pang of personal regret. Do something useful, Dan, do something unselfish. Support us.
And tell your faither in law we want our land back.