The things we’ve learned

The independence referendum has been a learning experience for Scotland. Irrespective of how the vote goes in September – and I remain convinced that it will be a Yes – this country has improved and matured because of a campaign which has engaged this country’s populace with politics in a way that has never been seen before. The grassroots Yes campaign has produced a singularly remarkable achievement – it’s taught a nation of hard-bitten cynics how to hope again.

Scotland has learned some other lessons too, lessons which are not so pleasant. Even though the media in this country started out in this campaign from a very low baseline of credibility and public trust, it has managed to plummet even further. No one can seriously argue any more that Scotland has a representative media. Our newspapers and broadcasters do not reflect the breadth of this country’s views and experiences, with a handful of honorable exceptions they do not speak for us. They speak for a minority which is privileged and connected, they speak down to us, not from amongst us. When only one Sunday newspaper supports a constitutional position preferred by more than 40% of the population, you have a problem.

A free, balanced, and representative media is not an optional extra in a democracy. It’s not a nice wee addition to provide a bit of entertaining diversion. Without a free, balanced, and above all representative media, there is no real democracy. Citzens in a democratic country need access to all relevant information in order to make an informed decision at the ballot box. But Scotland’s media is like a sex information leaflet from a fundamentalist chastity group – just say no is the only message. It doesn’t want to inform you that there are other options for avoiding unwanted pregnancy or unwanted Conservative governments. And it certainly doesn’t want to tell you that informed sexual independence can be fulfilling and leads to emotional maturity. It speaks only of risks, not fulfilment. And it certainly won’t help you reach any climaxes. Instead we’re told the safe option is to remain in the trough of despondency, despair, and hopelessness. Scotland can’t possibly choose her own partners or set the terms of her relationships. 307 years and never been kissed.

The other big lesson we have learned is what our place is in this most perfect of unions. For three hundred years Scotland had laboured under the misapprehension that we were equal partners in this most perfect Union, that Scotland was a valued and respected participant. We were told that we could be British without compromising our Scottishness. But we’ve learned that in the eyes of our political masters we are nothing. We are owed nothing. We contribute nothing. And we should be grateful for nothing. We have nothing and we are worth nothing, and if we are so foolish as to imagine that we might be intelligent enough and capable enough and mature enough to reach our own climax then we will be less than nothing.

We are a basket case apparently. The currency union is waved around to distract us from the reasons they cite for its refusal. It’s too risky. Scotland is too uncertain. Scotland’s economy is fragile and weak and too trivial to have any account. The Proud Scots of Parliament revel in the misery of our weakness and dependency like masochists being beaten by a dominatrix in a Union flag corset, triumphantly moaning with pleasure with every lash of the whip. It’s the only way to get off in the Union.

And the media doesn’t ask the questions this poses. Masochism is all very well in the confines of a night club or the privacy of a bedroom, but it’s no way to run a country. Scotland has been in this union for over 300 years yet now we discover from the mouths of our rulers that it has left us too weak and frail to look after ourselves. Are they not the ones who are responsible for this lamentable state of affairs?

The state of Scotland as told to us by our Westminster Parliament after 300 years of what is claimed as a successful union is perplexing, a mystery which begs to be demystified. After all, taking a country in a geopolitically tranquil part of the world, with high standards of education, which is blessed with an embarrassing wealth of natural resources and a surplus of energy like few other countries possess, which is famed for the inventiveness and abilities of its people, and turning it into an economic basket case which has no other hope but to throw itself upon the tender mercies of a generous Westminster, a land where Home Rule can’t even extend as far as allowing us control of the TV remote – that takes a very special kind of incompetence. A malign incompetence that verges on the criminal.

What are these Proud Scots proposing to do about it? When and how will those responsible be held to account? But the media is off on a Plan B Hunt to please the dominatrix with the whip, and all the Parliamentary Proud Scots propose is to moan more with pleasure. Oooooh…. plan B….

None stop to ask why there should be any need for a plan B or why the rest of the UK is justified in its refusal to accept plan A. Why is it that this northern partner, this North Britain, this belt which holds up the trousers of Union, is such a poor risk for the rest of the UK? But answering that question means exposing the illogicality of the premise. It means exposing the lie that Scotland is poor. We are not poor. We are being impoverished. It’s not the same thing.

We are being asked to vote No based upon an argument which is at its very core self-contradictory. The supposed poverty and incapability of Scotland is given as the reason to remain under the control of those who hoover up capital to create poverty for the rest of us, and who shackle us in a political system which offers no remedy.

Once being Scottish meant being born cynical, and growing increasingly more cynical as we got older. The Proud Scots, the cannae Scots. Not any more. We’ve learned how to hope and we like it. We stopped looking at the powerful and looked at ourselves instead. And what we see is potential. We get a good feeling. It’s new. It’s the breath of life rustling through the dry leaves of books we never read before. New ideas buzz and blast, lightbulbs of inspiration pop on and flash like beacons in the long dark night. It’s good to be here and now. We’ve learned how to light up the darkness of the souls of cynics, and that’s knowledge that can never be taken from us.



44 comments on “The things we’ve learned

  1. diabloandco says:

    I don’t know how you did that but you succeeded in depressing me and uplifting me at the same time.

  2. Thanks Paul. That was a lift whilst stuck here at work listening to right wing shite and standard BT bullshit by my Brigton- Born, Rangers supporting ex-para workmate.
    Thank fuck he’s finished at 1am or I’d be looking for a razor blade! 😉

  3. JimnArlene says:

    Got to agree with diabloandco, had the same reaction. Great post.

  4. K1 says:

    Thanks Paul, it’s hard to remain buoyant in a sea of pish…you take the stench off the worst of it.

  5. mary vasey says:

    Great stuff, so simple but oh sooo true. Thank you.

  6. Bamstick says:

    Lots of very good points made. Especially about the contradictory reasons for voting no.
    We, I think, are like the wee worker honey bees in the hive. Hurry, hurry, they say make more honey so we can sell it all over the world for huge profits. They take our honeycombs too and then when honey is not in demand they cast us out with no protection. A lot of the wee worker bees die, but they don’t care, no-one wants honey any more. Some of the wee worker bees set up by themselves and develop new markets for honey and other stuff that bees can make. Oh, no you don’t, they say when we succeed, we can sell that for more. We have more experience, we know what we are doing, you’re just a stupid wee worker bee. So we are back to being their wee worker bees again, until we are not in demand and thrown out again.
    It is time for us wee worker bees to be in charge of our own honey!

  7. Noel Chidwick says:

    The point to highlight is that the UK establishment cannot be honest about why it wants Scotland to stay in the UK – the wealth Scotland generates for themselves and the power and control it has over Scotland. If Scotland leaves, that’s what it loses. They can’t admit that, hence the nonsense about currency and other distracting trivia.

    Remember all the good reasons for Independence, people, mainly Scotland looking after its own affairs like any other similar sized nation.

  8. Rookiescot says:

    We can win this. Milibands statements about no currency union today will drive even more Labour supporters like me to independence.

    Actually I should say ex Labour supporters.

    If theres one thing Scots hate above all else its being told what to do by a member of the elite few.

    This debate has become bogged down over a currency union.
    Then lets forget a currency union.
    Lets get our own currency.
    We need to go on the offensive and not dance to Westminsters tune. We can be a rich and more equal country. We just need to believe in ourselves. We can do this. Not for us but for our kids.
    Look at the state of the UK. Do you want this for your children?

  9. Cag-does-thinking says:

    I like that beehive analogy too. The Scottish worker bees while people like the Duke of Westminster sell the honey. Sadly I think our media is impossibly corrupted. Were it just a few of our outlets it would be fixable but really we have a whole gamut of nodding dogs to a different tune from the ordinary Scottish person. I’m half expecting Oor Wullie for No so deep is this infection of our papers our radio (all pretty much owned by English companies) and television all singing the tune of a British state which has felt more and more oppressive as the campaign has gone on. The worrying thing is the lack of dissenting voices. All the good and questioning journalists well they’re places like here. Or Derek Bateman’s weblog. It will have to be addressed in an independent nation for the current lot don’t have the common respect for the Scottish Parliament or the SNP. I’m quite happy for people to question policy, but there’s not much kindness in the way the media goes about it’s business, unless it’s fawning over a Royal.

  10. Mick Pork says:

    Excellent post though I would add that a corrupt press is never a free press and by god we’re seeing just how corrupt and just how far up the westminster establishment that goes with the hacking trials and Coulson.

    There is more to come on this and not just Tommy Sheridan and Coulson.

  11. smiling vulture says:


    It will be cybernats,currency plan B,to the finishing line

  12. A Meringue says:

    The entire media being against independence can work in our favour. Only unionists like maxstafford60093`s Brigton-born rangers supporting ex-para workmate and right up to their MSP`s actually listen to BT`s utterings and give them any credence. They do this while completely ignoring all other sources of information. It is how they justify themselves. It is one huge “fingers in ears and la la la I can’t hear you” strop. The trouble with that is that if you keep your fingers in your ears you can’t hear what sounds are going on around you. Sounds like the rustling of the dry leaves of books we never read before.

  13. Capella says:

    I walked past a news stand at a supermarket yesterday. All the red tops led with their orchestrated hate AS campaign. Once again the insight of George Orwell springs to mind and the famous 2 minutes of hate scene from 1984. Screaming headlines, war in Eurasia, grey poverty for the masses while the elite drink fine wines as the surveillance technology spies out dissent. Orwell was paranoid, of course, and modern Scotland has a free and fair press!

  14. Steve Asaneilean says:

    The key for me is that whether Yes or No in September we don’t walk away. This movement must keep going. We must grow and thrive and not give up until we have created the kind of society we want to see where everything is governed by fairness, honesty, truth, equalty, liberty and social justice.
    When Pandora opened her box the only thing which remained inside was hope. Not any more and there can be no going back.

  15. Taraswilson says:

    Great article, couldn’t agree more.
    Although… having spent the last few months moaning about the immature shite spouted in most of the media and the lack of “yes” voices, I’m now thinking that they might be doing our job for us. The more often jackie bailie is on the radio or david starkey is writing us a letter the better, for example.
    Also agree that Scotland has changed and people want more. I’m not that confident of a win in September, but if we can keep the momentum and the demands for a different kind of Scotland then change will come.

  16. innerbearsdenurchin says:

    “Why is it that this northern partner, this North Britain, this belt which holds up the trousers of Union, is such a poor risk for the rest of the UK?”

    I really like that but can I just develop the metaphor a wee dod?

    Scotland is the galluses holding up the Union drawers. Without us, the union would have its drawers doon at its ankles, and they have nae knickers, economically speaking.

    And they are stupid to say they will enshrine a no CU with a Free Scotland into their manifestos.

    Don’t move or the Nigga gets it (Blazing Saddles)

  17. innerbearsdenurchin says:

    The will be no plan B because plan A is a negotiating strategy which will be played out during the face to face meeting pos t the Yes vote.

    It will be like a decision tree.

    OK, no CU.

    No C U and no asset slip so, no inherite debt. And by the way get your subs and all the nukes by next Tuesday morning or we are putting them up on e-bay.

    Next point of contention please? Ah yes, the structure for the supply of our electricity to keep your lights on. Oh, you don’t want that either?

    What fun.

  18. hiorta says:

    “The currency union is waved around to distract us from the reasons they cite for its refusal. It’s too risky. Scotland is too uncertain”

    The ‘too feart’ bit is politely omitted, but after a NO ballot success, would be rammed down our throats thrice daily along with non-stop ‘Rule Britannia’ across the ultra-jubilant air waves.

    The fear factor focus is entirely on material values, revealing just what NO is terrified of.
    Our resources, ingenuity, adaptability is what has been keeping this corrupt London-worshipping Union afloat and losing this is what the diatribe is about, vainly trying to hide the panic.

    Think of a solitary England, unable to feed itself, stripped of her macho nuclear threat, bankrupt and isolated.
    The range of expensive ‘fur coat and nae drawers’ make-believe exposed for all to see.
    The ermine clad, selling a posh equivalent of the Big Issue, fooling themselves that the good times are just waiting around the corner.

    They are skint, big time. Wonga awaits.

    The Scots, the Welsh and the Cornish will be living in a permanent food bank being forcibly reminded of their good fortune, while ‘England’s green, unpleasant Land’ dominates the airwaves.

    It must be YES. There really is no alternative.

  19. Aspen says:

    I am a staunch supporter of Independence. My English/Scottish daughter and family are for BT. I spent last evening arguing with them six to one. They mocked AS’s performance on Tuesday and when I was telling them about the McCrone Report, the Clair field, Cameron’s shady visit to Shetland, oil off the west coast, Blair altering the line of our coastal waters they knew nothing of this and jibbed that if any of that was true why didn’t AS bring at least some of it up in the debate.My daughter is quite convinced AS is backing off and said the Scots are all talk and when it comes to it there will be a poor turn out for the vote. Help me convince them I am not talking rubbish.

    (I’m thinking of disowning her. We have a bet on and I’d ashamed to say I only bet £10)

    • JGedd says:

      Why don’t you print off relevant articles from various sites like this one, as well as Newsnet, Bella Caledonia, Business for Scotland etc.,and show them to her? I have a file full of such articles and carry them around with me. ( When i don’t forget them, that is.)

  20. Marian says:

    The great enigma in the referendum campaign is “why is Westminster fighting with every means at its disposal to keep the alleged basket case that is Scotland, in the union, when it is completely against form for Westminster to hold on to anything at all that requires subsidy.”

    If Westminster succeed in getting a NO vote it will be a pyrric victory that only succeeds because the unionists and their MSM chums have made the people of Scotland so frightened of Westminster’s big stick that they are unwilling to contemplate let alone grasp the carrot offered by independence.

    Westminster and their media chums will be hoping for things to return to “normal” after a NO vote but Scots eyes have been opened and the wounds Westminster and the MSM have inflicted on Scotland and its people during this referendum are now so deep there will never be a healing.

    No matter what happens with the vote the the Labour, Tory, LibDem parties and the MSM will be the biggest losers strategically because of the memories that Scots people will always have of what was done to them by Westminster unionism and their lackeys in this referendum debate.

  21. Jan Cowan says:

    Independence will be the outcome so, those determined to vote “no” should make sure they’re wearing a reversible jacket.

  22. Dunkie says:

    I don’t have any doubts about Scotland’s ability to thrive after
    independence. However the NO triumphalism since the debate makes you want to hit back and that’s what gets me down – that I can’t yet – except by
    trying to spread in my own wee way some of the truth that the media is
    suppressing. To realise the extent of that suppression must depress
    anyone who believes in democracy no matter which nationality they are.
    Our voice is being actively censored at every turn by the UK government
    and its establishment friends through it’s control of the media machine.

    What we are dealing with is a bunch of clowns who don’t know their arse from their elbow. It looks like they are going to put all their eggs in one plan B basket in a desperate attempt to limit the whole debate and hide the nightmare reality of what a NO would actually mean for Scotland’s NHS etc etc… How stupid can they get choosing the currency issue to major on. The “sermon on the pound” on the 13th February when they first all united to deny currency
    union created a surge of YES support on the basis of “Who the F— do
    you think you are to try pushing us around”. They are triumphantly
    walking straight back into the same shit they landed in then – and
    that’s their main argument!!!! God what stupid arrogant self important

    Like over-excited children they are so hitched to the media headlines of
    triumphalism that they have come to believe that Santa Claus Darling has
    brought them a wonderful present and they should run with this obtuse
    non-issue, to win the vote, and keep the UK living happily ever
    after. They can’t see outside their own media generated bubble. It is
    embarrassing, and scary, to think that such immature people believe they
    can run a successful UK.

    Anywey, the letter below from today’s Herald will hearten you if you haven’t seen it.


    I HAVE no wish to argue for or against independence, but as an economist
    I would like to separate the economic realities of the currency issue
    from the political bluster that obscures them.

    The Chancellor has ruled out a formal currency union, though some say
    this is just negotiating bluff. Either way, there is nothing to stop
    Scots continuing to use the pound if they choose. A Westminster
    government with no jurisdiction over an independent Scotland has no
    power to stop them.

    Several independent countries, including Panama, use the US dollar,
    without seeking the permission of America’s central bank, the Federal
    Reserve. In the absence of a formal currency union agreement, Panama has
    no say in the Federal Reserve’s monetary policy, which is conducted
    solely for the benefit of America. Some argue, by analogy, that if an
    independent Scotland continued using the pound without a formal currency
    union, Scotland would have no say in Bank of England policy, which could
    be potentially damaging for Scotland’s economy.

    Nevertheless, as a result of using the dollar, Panama – a country
    comparable in population to Scotland – has one of the world’s most
    stable banking sectors. And the economic interdependence between
    Scotland and the other countries of the present United Kingdom is so
    deep that the Bank of England would, in reality, have to take Scotland’s
    welfare into account when setting monetary policy. Not to do so would
    risk damaging the other UK countries just as much as Scotland.

    Another suggestion, from Jim Sillars, is that Scotland should print its
    own currency and tie it to the pound. There is no substantive difference
    between this idea and using the pound. As the two are pegged, the only
    difference is the design on the currency. And why (apart from national
    pride) go to the expense of printing Scottish notes, exactly equivalent
    to the pound – but which people south of the Border might be reluctant
    to accept?

    The other option, switching to some other currency such as the euro,
    would be even more costly and difficult, and would raise huge,
    business-damaging uncertainties. It would also leave Scotland subject to
    the monetary policy of a country or agency with a very distant interest,
    if any, in Scotland’s welfare.

    The easiest solution, therefore, would be for Scotland to continue using
    the pound, with or without a currency union, safe in the knowledge that,
    as an important part of the sterling economy, the Bank of England would
    have to take Scotland’s interests into full account when setting policy.
    The currency problem just isn’t a problem.

    Eamonn Butler,

    Director, Adam Smith Institute,

    23 Great Smith Street,


  23. Another great piece, Paul, and thoughtful comments.

    Wonder what those Labour voters who still cling to the party’s No line think about the way Milliband is about to do them down by including a No CU promise in the party manifesto. This is a political elite conniving to do us out of a CU, as if over the past three hundred or so years we had no hand in building the UK economy, forging its prosperity, and inputing to its (past ) success. They are intent on denying we have any share in the UK, apart from, as a poster above said, as worker bees.

    The party that was formed to represent working people is now telling its working people in Scotland that it is more than happy to ditch them because they dare to question their masters. Moreover, Milliband seems determined to destroy business in rUK in order to put Salmond and the Nats back in their place. The rUK economy is not in such great shape that threats or promises to eviscerate it make any economic sense. If I stayed in England I would be thinking Milliband and co. are increasingly looking and sounding like a bunch of dangerous idiots.

  24. Papadox says:

    @Steve Asaneilean says:
    August 9, 2014 at 7:25 am

    Well said Steve, yes or no the only way I am going is forward. I ain’t going away.

    I have been a separatist all my adult life.
    Thanks to the referendum my eyes have been opened and even an old cynic like me has realised how corrupt the cesspool of Westminster and it’s propaganda machines are. Much worse than even I imagined, they are totally evil, selfish and corrupt.


  25. Rab Kay says:

    The genie is oot the bottle.

  26. Devereux says:

    I think the No camp have gone too early – they have thrown everything at Salmond. I suspect even he did not expect STV to rig the debate the way they did, or to fill the ‘post-match’ summaries with so-called ‘don’t knows’ who were far from that. But from now on if they keep at it they are just going to sound hectoring and there is a long way to go. I agree with WGD that that there has never been any doubt that this is a war against old and new media. If old media wins it will be the last time but I’ve just got this feeling, I don’t why, that we will do it. There is a good chance many, many people on-line have not voted before in the same numbers as the older newspaper reading generation. BT have created a frenzy but it might come back and bite them in the bum. They are galvanising Yes activists just when they need to be galvanised. And I bet the wily Mr S still has something up his sleeve as well – too bright not to have.

    • Bamstick says:

      We, in this house, have been having the same thoughts as you.
      We think it’s pretty even at the moment but we still have time to push the final outcome in our favour.
      YES, we can!!!!!!

    • setondene says:

      I’m a member of ‘the older newspaper reading generation’ and I still read ‘Scottish newspapers’. Not all their readership supports the Union, for example I have supported independence for about 40 years. You have to remember a couple of things – 1) newspapers are bought for other items than just politics, and 2) the ‘Scottish’ newspapers are no longer owned, controlled or even staffed by Scots. So don’t worry about their spin, it’s water off a duck’s back for lots of their readers.

      • Devereux says:

        Setondene – I suppose at 52 I am too, a member of that older newspaper generation. I am also an ex- journalist and I remember an old Mirror editor who trained me saying that papers could only persuade someone to buy Ketchup if they already liked it. Which is comforting. Not so comforting is, if perceived wisdom from newspaper headlines leak their way into families then some are influenced by the back door. The narrative this week is that Salmond lost. And therefore, so did Yes. A modern myth, if you like. But, and this is the key, how many grasp on to this myth because what they are really saying is they like Ketchup not Brown Sauce. It is a hard thing for any Scot to admit to his or herself that when it comes down to it they don’t actually quite (yet) want to be a nation again. This myth narrative provided by newspapers gives them a reason that looks logical. The key is, how many in Scotland like Ketchup and how many KNOW that Brown Sauce is better.

        • Bamstick says:

          In a similar way I have found that before last weeks debate those who said they planned to vote NO blamed it on a dislike of Salmond, now they claim they will vote No as we have no Plan B.
          They don’t seem to have an argument and just repeat parrot fashion the latest Press chant.
          Out at a YES event today my husband was accosted many times by NO voters who pointed the figure and said “What’s your plan B ?”. He tried to respond but on trying was shouted at “You have no plan B” He told me that this was shouted in a viscous hateful manner. But on the positive side he did meet many YES supporters too.

  27. John Duncanson says:

    Once again, a tremendous and inspiring post Paul. Despite the mendacity of the Press, I am convinced the Yes message is getting through to the general public.
    However, should the vote be “No”, we must ensure that the story doesn’t end there; it’s a just cause and it must continue.

  28. Graham says:

    Excellent post.

    But you have forgotten to mention the biggest enemy of the Scottish people: the BBC.

  29. I just want to say, I love the Wee Ginger Dug blog and continue to read and repost on my FB page to bring to a wider audience. Keep it up. Loving your work.. It always needs and deserves a bigger audience in particularly with reference to the current mainstream media situation.

  30. The Scottish Media is a busted flush Paul. We know it and the Scottish churnalists know it too.
    Press releases printed without question must be embarrasing to some. It ‘must’ be.
    Especially to members of the N.U.J.
    Their London owners rule….
    Sound familiar?

  31. Dr Ew says:

    The Fourth Estate enjoys a very privileged place in our democracy – unregulated, legally protected from revealing its sources, etc. – because it is deemed to fulfil a very specific function that enables democracy to prosper: i.e. its role is to hold Power to account.

    Concentration of ownership, concealed vested interests, corrupt practices, commerical pressures, overly cosy and compromised relationships with Power – all have contributed to the severe weakening of this supposed function. In other words, does it actually fulfil the function that guarantees its privileges?

    Pages like this, Ginger Dug, and especially social media are supplanting the Fourth Estate, yet remains far more vulnerable in law. The all-pervading surveillance exposed by the immense bravery of Edward Snowden demonstrates the desperation of Power to find ways to undermine and control discussion on the internet, indeed subvert it in every way they can.

    I’d argue the internet is, in fact, is now most important forum for free expression, and access to it and protection within it is as essential to the future development of healthy democracy in the 21st century as was the spread of literacy through the 19th and 20th centuries.

    Bark loudly, wee dug – and more power to your bytes.

  32. Hugh Wallace says:

    Reblogged this on Are We Really Better Together? and commented:
    “A free, balanced, and representative media is not an optional extra in a democracy. It’s not a nice wee addition to provide a bit of entertaining diversion. Without a free, balanced, and above all representative media, there is no real democracy. Citzens in a democratic country need access to all relevant information in order to make an informed decision at the ballot box. But Scotland’s media is like a sex information leaflet from a fundamentalist chastity group – just say no is the only message.”

  33. Alex Wright says:

    Paul, I have read and enjoyed all of your posts, but in my opinion, what you have produced today is one of your best.

    The paragraph that begins with, ” The state of Scotland as told to us by our Westminster Parliament after 300 years of what is claimed as a successful union is perplexing, a mystery which begs to be demystified. ———–” should be on a billboard. It is that powerful.

    I will Email “Indie poster boy” to see if he can create a downloadable poster with these words on it, as something this good should be seen and imprinted on peoples minds. Thank you.

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