Self-defeating behaviours

Oh here we bloody go again. Now you might have thought that the Scottish independence movement was motivated by the democratic deficit in this country, which leads us to have Tory governments we didn’t vote for, and which takes us out of the European Union even though we voted to remain by a considerably larger margin than we voted to stay a part of the UK. Perhaps you’d like to get rid of the affront to democracy that is the House of Lords and have governments that are responsible to the electorate and which the electorate can get rid of.

Or you might have thought that people in Scotland want independence because of an idea that’s more innovative than any jam, the notion that a country is best governed by people who actually live in it and who are elected by people who live in it and who are answerable to them and to no one else.

Or you could have formed the notion that Scotland needs independence because of the chronic mismanagement of our economy by a Westminster parliament which has taken a resource rich, highly developed, peaceful, democratic society and lumbered it with eye watering national debt and a budget deficit that’s supposedly the largest in Europe. It could be that you believe that if Scotland is ever going to tackle the problems that this country has with structural inequalities, with land rights, with deprivation, with poor health, with unemployment, and with chronic underinvestment in our infrastructure that we need to take all the levers of macroeconomic control into our own hands and do the job ourselves. Because it’s patently obvious that the denizens of the Westminster parliament have displayed a neglect and an incompetence that borders on the criminal.

Or it could be that you want independence because it’s the only way in which Scotland can rid itself of the obscenity of nuclear warheads parked just a few miles down the road from the country’s largest conurbation. There is no way that Westminster is ever going to give up the nuclear viagra that allows the Prime Minister to pretend that the UK is still a global power when it is in fact a middle sized European country which of late has made itself into the laughing stock of the world. The only way to get rid of Trident is to get rid of the politicians whose self-esteem and egos depend on it.

Or maybe you want independence so that we can have a referendum on becoming a republic and getting rid of the anachronistic fancy dress show that is the Royal family. Perhaps every time Nicolas Witchell comes on the telly and oozes sycophancy all over your living room you find it hard to suppress the urge to throw a shoe at the screen.

Any one of those would be a pretty damned good reason for independence, and the above isn’t even an exhaustive list. But none of them matter, because according to sections of the Unionist media and prominent apologists for the British state, there’s only one motivation for the campaign for Scottish independence. You guessed it. We all hate the English. Scottish independence isn’t about Scotland at all. Oh no. It’s really all about hating the English. It said so in the Express, so it must be true.

The myth that the drive for Scottish independence is motivated by anti-English racism is perpetuated by people who would, quite rightly, complain and threaten to sue for defamation if it were alleged that their support for the Union was motivated by fascism or sectarianism. Yet it cannot be denied that there is a large and loud fringe of Unionism which is indeed motivated by fascism, racism, or sectarianism. There is a nasty strain of Unionism which is violent. Representatives of fascist, anti-migrant, racist and homophobic groups are far more likely to wave a red white and blue fleg than to campaign for independence with a saltire.

It’s worthy of note that the only people who have ever been convicted of violent offences or online abuse in connection with the Scottish independence movement have been Unionists. Yet if anyone were to allege that certain prominent supporters of the Union were motivated by the same negative and atavistic drives as these extremists, they’d be landed with a writ for defamation before you could say small island of lawyers. Because of course, sensible and mainstream people are not motivated by the same violent and racist drives that motivate a nasty fringe and it’s wrong to suggest that they might be.  But that doesn’t stop Unionists alleging or insinuating the same about mainstream independence supporters.

What they’re doing is scientifically illiterate. You cannot cherry pick your data in order to characterise a broad political movement which enjoys the support of around half the population by the behaviour of a tiny and unrepresentative minority. But that’s exactly what certain Unionists do with the independence movement. It doesn’t matter whether we distance ourselves from a minority fringe. It makes no difference how many times we disavow the antics of the Scottish Resistance. Mainstream Unionism will always insist that the mainstream independence movement is defined by the actions of a handful of zoomers on Twitter or the publicity seeking of an unrepresentative few. And if they can’t find genuine examples of frothing mouthed zoomery, they’ll misrepresent a few Tweets in order to pretend that they’ve got a case.

The latest outburst of anti-English accusations in the Express tell us that the recent spat over billboards was pointless. All of us are going to be characterised by it anyway and it makes no difference whether those who disagree with the tactic disavow it. It ought to be obvious by now that a key Unionist tactic is to demonise in an attempt to prevent undecideds from engaging with the arguments.  It behoves all of us in the independence movement not to give our opponents ammunition.

But the tactic of alleging that the mainstream independence movement is defined by anti-English racism is self-defeating. Because it’s not true, and it’s evidently untrue. When prominent Unionists and Unionist media outlets make public statements that the Scottish independence movement is defined by anti-English racism, they’re only persuading themselves. They’re only persuading those who already have that belief, and that’s a tiny minority. Scottish residents who do have direct experience of independence supporters, and that’s a large majority, will only be struck by the gulf between the claims of anti-English racism, and their lived experience of a movement which is open, accepting, and tolerant, a movement which is the opposite of the xenophobia and insularity of the post-Brexit British state. And all that will happen is that their faith in the pronouncements of the Unionist media will be undermined.

The only people who are likely to be persuaded that the Scottish independence movement is motivated by anti-English racism are those who have no first hand experience of it.  That’s people outwith Scotland. When Unionist apologists make the false claim that Scotland is a sink of anti-English racism, that it’s only seeking independence because so many of us hate the English, all they’re doing is undermining support in the rest of the UK for maintaining the Union. They only harm their own cause. Let them keep on doing it.

Audio version of this blog post, courtesy of Sarah Mackie @lumi_1984 https://soundcloud.com/occamshaver/wee-ginger-dug-31st-oct-2016

If you’d like me and the dug to come and give a talk to your local group, email me at weegingerbook@yahoo.com


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frontcovervol3barkingvol2coverSigned copies of the Collected Yaps of the Wee Ginger Dug volumes 1 2 3 & 4 are available by emailing me at weegingerbook@yahoo.com. Price just £21.90 for two volumes plus P&P. Please state whether you want vols 1 & 2 or 3 & 4. You can also order signed copies of all four volumes for the special price of £40 plus £4 P&P within the UK.

Copies of Barking Up the Right Tree are available from my publisher Vagabond Voices at http://vagabondvoices.co.uk/?page_id=1993 price just £7.95 plus P&P. The E-book of Barking Up the Right Tree is available for Kindle for just £4. Click here to purchase.

You can get your copy of Barking Up the Right Tree Volume 2 for the special advance order price of £1 off the cover price and free P&P within the UK by placing an order on the Vagabond Voices website. Just click the following link.

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The paradoxical truth of independence

Brexshit just gets worse and worse. According to Universities Scotland and the Research Council UK, Brexit could leave Scotland as intellectually impoverished as the Labour party’s Holyrood front bench. Academics who are EU citizens won’t want to teach or study at Scottish universities, and Scottish students won’t be able to study abroad so easily. Because if you are a European citizen who fancies your intellectual barrow, you’re going to go where there’s a decent prospect of funding and resources, and that won’t be British universities after the Tories wrench us all out of Europe and into a land of dumbed down fleg wavers where Michael Gove will count as an expert. He’ll receive a professorship so he can lecture us about how facts are overrated. British universities will no longer benefit from European funding, and that will devastate many fields of study. But the Tories will be happy, because who needs world class universities anyway. They only encourage people to think critically.

4500 EU citizens work in universities and colleges. They currently have no guarantee of their status. They don’t know whether they’ll be allowed to remain in the UK. Liam Fox is happy to treat them as bargaining counters whose fate is to be held hostage to the fortunes of Tory negotiations. But human beings aren’t a passive pile of plastic chips in the possession of the reckless Brexit gambler in the EU trade casino. Liam Fox and David Davis don’t possess them. Human beings can and will walk out with their own two legs. Faced with the uncertainty in their personal and professional lives that has been created deliberately by arrogant politicians, people will make their own arrangements. And it’s Scotland’s universities and the universities of the rest of the UK which will suffer.

Brexit means Brexit, and that means Scottish students and students from the rest of the UK will be trapped with the inanities of a xenophobic backward looking Britain where the social attitudes of the 1950s count as progressive. Our students will no longer be eligible to participate in the Erasmus programme, which allows students to study in European universities. Travel broadens the mind, but that’s precisely what our Tory masters don’t want. They want us narrow minded, inward-looking, and parochial, all the better to swallow their nostrums. When you still think that you can’t drink the water abroad, you’re less likely to think that other countries have anything to teach us.

Brexit means Brexit, and that means that research programmes in Scottish universities will no longer be eligible for EU funding. One of the most worrying is funding for research programmes in IT, over 30% of which currently comes from the EU. Scotland’s world class reputation for innovation and invention, not to mention our £3 billion plus computer games industry, depends upon our expertise in IT. Also facing the axe are archaelogy, philosophy, classics, and law. We’ll be left as a country that doesn’t know its own past, doesn’t know what the future holds, and which won’t have the philosophical or legal resources in order to think about and challenge our position.

The fate of Scotland’s universities is the fate of Scotland post-Brexit. It will leave us diminished, isolated, and underfunded. Brexit is the ultimate in dumbing-down, the last word in the idolisation of wilful stupidity. According to the Scottish government, Brexit puts 80,000 Scottish jobs at risk, it’s going to cost the Scottish economy over £11 billion a year by 2030. But there will still be plenty of programmes on the telly with Great British in their title, and that makes it all OK. Mind you, as you struggle to make ends meet and avoid being sanctioned by a benefits system which has institutionalised cruelty, you won’t be able to afford your BBC licence fee anyway.

Scottish universities fear that the effects of Brexit will be devastating. Brexit is the insitutionalisation of dumbing down, and will make it even harder for us to challenge the decisions taken by the UK government because we’ll be alone, adrift and impoverished. Far from taking back control and restoring the sovereignty of the British parliament, Brexit in practice has resulted in the ever increasing concentration of power in the hands of whoever it is that happens to occupy the post of Prime Minister. And the current occupant is an unprincipled politician who will espouse any position in the pursuit of power.

Britain is becoming a nastier place, a crueller place, a place where compassion is regarded as weakness, where learning for its own sake is disparaged. The Brexiteers aren’t taking Britain out of the EU because they want to make this a kinder and more gentle country, they’re doing it because they want to expose us all to the howling gales of powerful corporations, to unleash the worst excesses of capitalism onto a population which has neither the energy nor the resources to resist. They want to strip back social progress our parents and grandparents fought and struggled for.

There is a way out. There is an escape. Scotland doesn’t have to face this fate. It can be possible for Scotland to remain a part of the EU. If we hold an independence referendum and vote for independence before the rest of the UK formally leaves the EU, Scotland can potentially inherit the UK’s membership. Because it’s in the gift of the other EU states to decide who they choose to recognise as the inheritor of the UK’s status as an EU member state should one part of the UK choose to leave and another part choose to remain.

If we want to save the best of Britain, the NHS, our public services, a social security system that actually provides security for those in need, decent pensions for our older people, a respect for different cultures and an openness to the world, the only way to do it is for Scotland to become an independent country. Scotland can be that part which preserves the positive and progressive values that once characterised the British state. It’s only by becoming an independent country that we can preserve and continue to develop those good and positive aspects of the British state that many No voters in 2014 were afraid of losing. We’re going to lose them if we remain a part of the UK. The paradoxical truth is that if you want to preserve the best of British, you need to vote for independence.

Audio version of this blog post, courtesy of Sarah Mackie @lumi_1984 https://soundcloud.com/occamshaver/wee-ginger-dug-30th-oct-2016

If you’d like me and the dug to come and give a talk to your local group, email me at weegingerbook@yahoo.com


Donate to the Dug This blog relies on your support and donations to keep going – I need to make a living, and have bills to pay. Clicking the donate button will allow you to make a payment directly to my Paypal account. You do not need a Paypal account yourself to make a donation. You can donate as little, or as much, as you want. Many thanks.

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frontcovervol3barkingvol2coverSigned copies of the Collected Yaps of the Wee Ginger Dug volumes 1 2 3 & 4 are available by emailing me at weegingerbook@yahoo.com. Price just £21.90 for two volumes plus P&P. Please state whether you want vols 1 & 2 or 3 & 4. You can also order signed copies of all four volumes for the special price of £40 plus £4 P&P within the UK.

Copies of Barking Up the Right Tree are available from my publisher Vagabond Voices at http://vagabondvoices.co.uk/?page_id=1993 price just £7.95 plus P&P. The E-book of Barking Up the Right Tree is available for Kindle for just £4. Click here to purchase.

You can get your copy of Barking Up the Right Tree Volume 2 for the special advance order price of £1 off the cover price and free P&P within the UK by placing an order on the Vagabond Voices website. Just click the following link.

http://vagabondvoices.co.uk/?page_id=2709

Put it on a billboard

There’s been a whole lot of shouting of late over a wee project that a few grassroots indy supporters have embarked upon entirely on their own initiative. A group of independence supporters who are convinced that the BBC doesn’t give the case for independence a fair hearing, despite the fact that via the licence fee it’s funded by indy supporters as much as anyone else, have been fundraising in order to put up some billboards with a message decrying BBC bias.

Bias from a Unionist newspaper is one thing. You don’t have to buy the newspaper. You can use an ad-blocker so that you don’t have to see the advertising that pays for the online edition. Or you can simply refrain from clicking on any link to its articles. Newspapers are private concerns, and it’s easy for private individuals to avoid contributing money or support to a private concern that they disagree with. It’s similar with privately owned television channels. If you think Sky News, STV news, RT, Al Jazeera, or any other broadcast news outlet is biased, you can refrain from watching it. You’re not supporting it. You’re not being forced to pay for it.

That’s not the case with the BBC. If you have a TV, if you access TV programmes online via iPlayer or a similar service, you have a legal obligation to pay a substantial annual fee to the BBC. You have to pay for the BBC even if you choose only to watch the news on Al Jazeera or some other channel. You have to pay for the BBC even if you never view a single BBC programme. That’s why perceived bias on the BBC angers people far more than the perceived bias of a newspaper or a privately owned TV channel. It’s one thing to broadcast programming that you regard as propaganda that’s biased against your views, it’s quite another to broadcast programming that you regard as biased against your views and then force you to pay for it. And even worse, to criminalise you for not paying up.

Some people attempt to delegitimise criticism of perceived BBC bias by reducing it to a conspiracy theory. That’s a simple minded and reductionist view on how bias works. Bias in an organisation like the BBC doesn’t arise because of decisions made behind closed doors by a small but powerful group of people who impose a secret line on their underlings. Institutional bias is a point of view that becomes entrenched because it’s regarded by those who hold it as being unbiased. It’s similar in some ways to institutional or systemic racism. No individual is going to admit that they’re racist. Equally no one in the BBC is going to admit to bias against the Scottish independence movement.

The bias that Scottish independence supporters complain about from the BBC is a metropolitan-centric viewpoint. It’s not a conspiracy. This was very apparent during the latter stages of the first independence referendum campaign when the BBC’s “big hitters” came up to Londonsplain the referendum. Opinions espoused by Westminster politicians were given more credence than the views of independence supporters. Independence supporters were subject to more critical examination than their Unionist equivalents. The independence campaign was pressed to explain the most trivial details of Scotland post-independence, up to and including being accused of a lack of certainty on the price of a first class stamp. The contrast with the EU referendum was striking.

But this latest dispute between independence supporters isn’t really about whether the BBC is biased. It’s about how the independence movement acts in a media environment where it’s not guaranteed to get a fair hearing from traditional outlets. And that’s where we need to be disciplined as a movement. We need to refrain from insulting one another for having a different view on tactics. Some people think putting up billboards about BBC bias is a good idea, others think it’s counter productive. It’s good to have different strategies. It’s good to have different approaches. What’s not so good is when those different strategies and approaches descend into petty name calling.

Let’s be honest here, and let’s get a bit of perspective. We’re talking about a few billboards here, not about storming Pacific Quay with lit torches and pitchforks. A few billboards by themselves are unlikely to change anyone’s mind. People who see these billboards are unlikely to say to themselves “Why yes, yes indeed the BBC has been lying to me” unless they’ve already formed the idea in their minds that the BBC can’t be trusted. But equally they’re unlikely to alienate anyone who is genuinely undecided on the question of independence. If your response on seeing a pro-indy billboard decrying BBC bias is an angry “Mad zooming paranoid cybernats, I want nothing to do with them” then the chances are that you were highly unlikely to sympathise with the cause of independence in the first place.

However the point of the billboards isn’t to point out examples of BBC bias, their purpose is to direct people to a website which acts as a portal to pro-independence views and opinion from a variety of sources. You can disagree about how effective the billboards are in doing that, you can argue that their anti-BBC message obscures their function as a signpost to sources of pro-indy information aggregated on the http://www.informscotland.com website. But it misrepresents this initiative to think it’s all about a small number of anti-BBC billboards.

Personally, I would prefer that we put our crowdfunding efforts into producing an alternative media. I would rather that we were crowdfunding projects like Phantom Power’s films, that people were funding the production of the online content that the informscotland website links to. Because it’s a tough slog trying to support yourself as a content provider and people need to eat and keep a roof over their heads. But I’m not going to criticise a group of grassroots indy supporters who’ve got up off their arses and have decided to do something, even if it’s something that I don’t personally think is going to be effective. Because I could be wrong.

What is most definitely counterproductive and unhelpful is for different groups of independence supporters to use intemperate language when they disagree about tactics. We need to acknowledge that if we really want this indy movement to be a broad-based grassroots movement, then different groups are going to have different priorities and different strategies and different tactics. That’s what a broad-based movement is all about. And that in turn requires that the different strands of the movement need to accept that others are going to do things differently.

It helps no one but the Unionist establishment when one group of indy supporters says that another group are paranoid conspiracy theorists, and get called intellectual snobs in return. If you don’t agree with someone else’s strategy, you don’t need to support it, but refrain from insulting them, and develop and promote your own alternatives. If your alternatives are more effective, then they will be more widely adopted. We’re only going to win this campaign with a multi-pronged approach. We’ll lose if we divert our energies into factionalism and in-fighting.

The best way to disagree about tactics is to come up with an alternative tactic of your own, not to name call. Let’s put that on a billboard.

Audio version of this blog post, courtesy of Sarah Mackie @lumi_1984 https://soundcloud.com/occamshaver/wee-ginger-dug-27th-oct-2016

If you’d like me and the dug to come and give a talk to your local group, email me at weegingerbook@yahoo.com


Donate to the Dug This blog relies on your support and donations to keep going – I need to make a living, and have bills to pay. Clicking the donate button will allow you to make a payment directly to my Paypal account. You do not need a Paypal account yourself to make a donation. You can donate as little, or as much, as you want. Many thanks.

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If you’d like to make a donation but don’t wish to use Paypal or have problems using the Paypal button, please email me at weegingerbook@yahoo.com for details of alternative methods of donation.


frontcovervol3barkingvol2coverSigned copies of the Collected Yaps of the Wee Ginger Dug volumes 1 2 3 & 4 are available by emailing me at weegingerbook@yahoo.com. Price just £21.90 for two volumes plus P&P. Please state whether you want vols 1 & 2 or 3 & 4. You can also order signed copies of all four volumes for the special price of £40 plus £4 P&P within the UK.

Copies of Barking Up the Right Tree are available from my publisher Vagabond Voices at http://vagabondvoices.co.uk/?page_id=1993 price just £7.95 plus P&P. The E-book of Barking Up the Right Tree is available for Kindle for just £4. Click here to purchase.

You can get your copy of Barking Up the Right Tree Volume 2 for the special advance order price of £1 off the cover price and free P&P within the UK by placing an order on the Vagabond Voices website. Just click the following link.

http://vagabondvoices.co.uk/?page_id=2709

Hutu radio broadcasting

Well there ye go. I do another piece supporting and promoting the Gaelic language, and now I discover that I’m a blood and soil nationalist, a fascist, and am all but indistinguishable from a Hutu radio broadcaster calling on people to slaughter their neighbours because they belong to a different tribe. That last is courtesy of a minor blog which I won’t give a link to because the frothing zoomer who writes it doesn’t deserve any more readership than the dozen he’s already got.

Being described as a fascist and likened to a Hutu radio broadcaster calling on people to take a machete to their neighbours is quite possibly legally actionable.  The author of the blog describes his articlettes as “literary criticism with cojones”, but it’s more like criticism which is cojones. It’s pretentious bollocks masquerading as insight, an example of the psychosis of psychological projection, a snide wee critique of those who can write prose that people enjoy reading from a wannabe writer read by no one.

This followed on from a frustrating and tedious conversation with a Unionist apologist on Twitter who wilfully conflated the terms “indigenous language” and “national language” in order to accuse me of racism for not acknowledging Polish or Urdu as national languages of Scotland. The two concepts are entirely unrelated, as any fewl no. Any fewl that is, except for an apologist for the British state in search of something to feel victimised by.

Nowhere in yesterday’s blog piece do I refer to “indigenous languages”. It’s not a concept which is relevant or useful. Some languages which are indigenous are not national languages. Shelta, the language of the Scottish Traveller community, is not a national language even though it’s an indigenous language. It’s never been used beyond the Traveller community, and it is a symbol of Traveller identity, not a symbol of Scotland as a whole. The Norn language of the Northern Isles is likewise not a national language of Scotland, even though it is also indigenous. Norn was never used beyond the Northern Isles, it’s proper to the Northern Isles and nowhere else. That doesn’t mean Shelta or a variety of Norn (if it were possible to revive it) should not be protected, fostered and encouraged by agencies of the state, they most certainly should. They are a part of the rich diversity of Scotland and we should cherish them.

Equally a national language doesn’t need to be an indigenous language. English is a national language of many former colonies of the UK, but it’s not an indigenous language in all of them. In some countries where it’s a national language it’s spoken only as a second language.

Standard English is also a national language of Scotland. There is a distinctively Scottish variety of Standard English which arose in the 18th century, so English is also an indigenous language of Scotland. But even if it were not, even if Scotland used English purely as a second language like some of the former colonies of the British Empire, it would still be a national language of Scotland.  A vast amount of literature and cultural production relevant to the whole of Scotland has been produced in English.

A national language is a language which has an ambit covering the entire country, which is the cultural property of everyone in the country irrespective of their origins, and which is a cultural symbol of that country as a whole. A language can fulfil those roles even if it’s not an indigenous language. Further we can add that a national language is one in which literary and non-fictional works of national significance have been produced. The only languages in Scotland which fulfil those criteria are Gaelic, Scots, and English.

I clearly stated in yesterday’s piece that although Polish, Chinese, or Urdu, or the other languages of minority communities in Scotland, are not national languages of Scotland, their use should be fostered, encouraged and supported. The only clear implication there is that their use should be fostered, encouraged, and supported by the state. However certain British state apologists insist that this statement implies that I’m a blood and soil nationalist. They claim that I’m really drawing a distinction between “indigenous” and “non-indigenous” and that only if you’re “indigenous” can you properly be Scottish. This is an implication which exists purely in their own self-righteous imaginations.

I’d have thought that the statement that Polish is not a national language of Scotland would have been a simple objective statement of fact, but some seek to twist this into a rejection of the right of members of those communities to remain in Scotland, and a claim that they’re not “properly Scottish”. Nothing could be further from the truth. The languages of minority communities are also a part of the rich diversity of Scotland and we should cherish them.  The people who use them are every bit as Scottish as anyone else.  It’s sad that needs to be explicitly stated.  Reasonable people should take it for granted.  But then not everyone in the UK is reasonable.  You only need to look at the blatant xenophobia on display at the Tory party conference or the recent episodes of BBC Question Time to see that.

Throughout the history of this blog I have repeatedly stated the belief that Scottishness is a property pertaining not just to people who were born and brought up in Scotland, irrespective of their family’s ethnic or national origins, but also that people who choose to come and live in Scotland are equally Scottish too. Those who are Scots by choice are every bit as Scottish as those who are Scots by the accident of birth.  This is a belief which is shared by the vast majority of those of us who support Scottish independence, and it is core to our concept of the inclusive and tolerant independent nation we seek to build.  But I’m not going to apologise for things which exist purely in the imaginations of people who are looking for excuses to castigate the Scottish independence movement.  Nasty and vicious xenophobia is far more of a problem and far more characteristic of British nationalism than it is of the Scottish variety.

I am apparently a dangerous fascist for pointing out the relevance of the Gaelic language to the formation of the Scottish nation. This is divisive, drawing distinctions between tribes, and just a bawhair short of a Hutu radio broadcast calling on Gaelic and Scots speakers to take a machete to their neighbours. That’s the kind of ridiculous and hysterical hyperbole that you attract when you dare to promote a minoritised language, when you seek to describe the value in a language that’s been traduced, belittled and diminished. And apparently the person who wrote it fancies himself as a serious cultural commentator. Bless.

The point which any reasonable person can grasp is that it’s Scotland’s history as a multilingual nation which has created the modern inclusive and outward looking civic Scottish nationalism of today. It’s Scotland’s origins in the Gaelic language and the long interplay between Gaelic and Scots which have created that modern reality. It’s Scotland’s history as a country where many languages have been spoken which has brought about this modern Scotland where Scottishness is a choice, a conscious act of creation that anyone can participate in, not something due to genes or blood. That’s the point that Unionist critics wilfully overlook. It doesn’t suit their simplistic and reductionist narrative that “nationalism is bad”.

It’s only in Unionist Scotland where celebrating diversity, welcoming migrants into the tapestry of Scottishness, and attempting to protect multilingualism and stave off an English language monoculture becomes narrow minded dangerous nationalism. They claim that a celebration of Gaelic and Scots implies a rejection of English, when in fact any such rejection exists purely in their own imaginations. They accuse supporters of independence of blood and soil nationalism while they’re the ones who seek to diminish cultural diversity in the name of the faux internationalism of the British state. The uncomfortable truth that apologists for the British state won’t accept is that the most dangerous, the most quasi-fascist, the real blood and soil nationalists in this country are the ones who wrap themselves in the red white and blue. Defending the British state doesn’t mean you oppose nationalism, because the British state is very much a nationalist project. Defending the British state doesn’t make you an internationalist, it just makes you an apologist for a far nastier and more pernicious form of nationalism. A nationalism that thinks it’s so special that it rejects that it’s nationalist at all.

The real internationalists in Scotland are the people who seek to preserve and foster the diversity of Scottish culture and language and to connect it to the rest of the world on equal terms with any other country.

Audio version of this blog post, courtesy of Sarah Mackie @lumi_1984 https://soundcloud.com/occamshaver/wee-ginger-dug-26th-oct-2016

If you’d like me and the dug to come and give a talk to your local group, email me at weegingerbook@yahoo.com


Donate to the Dug This blog relies on your support and donations to keep going – I need to make a living, and have bills to pay. Clicking the donate button will allow you to make a payment directly to my Paypal account. You do not need a Paypal account yourself to make a donation. You can donate as little, or as much, as you want. Many thanks.

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If you’d like to make a donation but don’t wish to use Paypal or have problems using the Paypal button, please email me at weegingerbook@yahoo.com for details of alternative methods of donation.


frontcovervol3barkingvol2coverSigned copies of the Collected Yaps of the Wee Ginger Dug volumes 1 2 3 & 4 are available by emailing me at weegingerbook@yahoo.com. Price just £21.90 for two volumes plus P&P. Please state whether you want vols 1 & 2 or 3 & 4. You can also order signed copies of all four volumes for the special price of £40 plus £4 P&P within the UK.

Copies of Barking Up the Right Tree are available from my publisher Vagabond Voices at http://vagabondvoices.co.uk/?page_id=1993 price just £7.95 plus P&P. The E-book of Barking Up the Right Tree is available for Kindle for just £4. Click here to purchase.

You can get your copy of Barking Up the Right Tree Volume 2 for the special advance order price of £1 off the cover price and free P&P within the UK by placing an order on the Vagabond Voices website. Just click the following link.

http://vagabondvoices.co.uk/?page_id=2709

National languages for a whole nation

Since publicising on this blog that I’ve been doing Gaelic maps of Scotland, I’ve experienced a considerable amount of abuse on social media from people with a political motive for denigrating Scotland’s distinctive linguistic history and traditions. Strangely, these very same people accuse me of politicising the Gaelic and Scots languages by attempting to use them as national languages pertaining to the whole of Scotland.

1000The most common objection is that “Gaelic was never spoken in XYZ”, where XYZ is a town or district in the Lowlands which is chock full of Gaelic place names. The existence of these names is incontrovertible proof that Gaelic was once the dominant language of the district. The map on the left is a representation of the approximate extent of different languages in Scotland around the year 1000.  The map is largely based on information contained in the book Scottish Place Names by WFH Nicolaisen.  It’s important to remember that Gaelic was influential and important even beyond those areas where it was spoken by a majority of the population.

There was a time when Gaelic was spoken natively in the areas of all of Scotland’s modern cities. Like everywhere else on the Scottish mainland north of the Forth and Clyde, Dundee and Aberdeen were once solidly Gaelic speaking. Dundee is itself a Gaelic name, Dùn Dè in modern spelling, the first part of the name means fort, the meaning of the second part is disputed, but may be an Old Gaelic word for fire.

Likewise Glasgow was once deep within the Gaelic speaking area, as is proven by Gaelic place names within the city, and north, south, east and west of it. Barrachnie in the east of the city is from Bàrr Fhraochnaidh ‘the hill of the heathery place’, Garscadden in the west of the city is from Gart nan Sgadan ‘the farm or yard of the herring’. Ibrox, the spiritual home of red white and blue fleg waving deniers of Scotland’s Celtic identity, is from the Gaelic Àth Bruic ‘badger ford’.  Dumbreck is from An Dùn Breac ‘the speckled fort’. To the south east there’s Cambuslang from Camas Long ‘the river bend of the ships’.

Even Edinburgh contains numerous Gaelic place names like Craigentinny – Creag an t-Sionnaich ‘the rock of the fox’, Craigmillar – Creag Mhaol-Àirde ‘the rock of the bare height’, Balerno – Baile Àirneach ‘town of the hawthorn’, Corstorphine – Crois Thoirfinn ‘Thorfinn’s cross’, and many more.  These names prove that Edinburgh was once home to a large and politically and culturally important Gaelic speaking population.

Gaelic belongs to the Lowlands as much as it belongs to the Highlands. It may no longer be spoken natively in Lowland communities, but this is a fairly recent historical development. Gaelic survived in the south of Ayrshire and Galloway until as late as the end of the 18th century. It was once present in every part of the country. There is even evidence that Gaelic was present in the Northern Isles prior to the Viking invasions which established a form of Norse as the majority speech of the islands.

The Buckquoy spindle-whorl is a stone weight discovered in Buckquoy in Orkney in 1970. It’s a circular stone once used as a weight to assist weaving and it bears an inscription in Ogham letters. The inscription is in Old Gaelic and reads Benddact anim L. ‘A blessing on the soul of L.’ The stone is local, not imported from outwith Orkney. It does not prove that Gaelic was the majority language of Orkney, but it does provide evidence that the Gaelic language was both known to and was culturally important to the pre-Viking inhabitants of Orkney.

The truth is that Gaelic was once the sole or dominant language of every part of the Scottish mainland west and north of a line drawn very approximately from just to the east of Edinburgh to Gretna on the Border. It’s only in the relatively small part of Scotland to the east and south of this line where Gaelic was never spoken by a majority of people as a mother tongue. That doesn’t mean that Gaelic had no presence whatsoever in these areas. It did. Gaelic was present in all parts of what is now the territory of Scotland. It was even present across the modern border in what’s now the English county of Cumbria where there are a number of Gaelic place names, such as Ravenglass from Gaelic Roinn Glas ‘the green share’.

There’s a small but significant cluster of Gaelic place names in East Lothian. In this part of the county Gaelic probably was at one time the language of the majority. This Gaelic area is centred on the town of Gullane which most likely takes its name from the Gaelic word Gualainn, meaning ridge. Even much further south in the Borders we find places like Auchencrow, which is seemingly from Achadh na Craoibhe ‘field of the tree’, although this isn’t certain as the oldest attested form of the name is Aldencraw. However place name scholar Iain Mac an Tailleir suggests that Aldencraw may represent the Gaelic Allt na Crà ‘stream of the salmon trap’.

A name providing more certain evidence for the presence of Gaelic in the Borders is Longformacus, from the Gaelic Longphort Mhacais, the stronghold of Macas. Longformacus is next to the town of Duns, which takes its name from the nearby Iron Age hillfort. It was probably given the name dyn in the Brittonic Cumbric language, a word which refers to a hillfort, but the modern name derives from the Gaelic equivalent, dùn. In modern Gaelic the town is called Dùintean, the plural of dùn. Likewise Dunbar in East Lothian is probably originally a Cumbric name, but like Duns it comes down to us in a thoroughly Gaelicised form. The original Cumbric name Dyn Barr ‘the fort of the hill’ was Gaelicised to Dùn Bàrr with the same meaning and the modern English name derives from this Gaelic version.

The scattering of Gaelic names in the extreme south and east of Scotland, and the larger number of Cumbric names which have been Gaelicised tell us that while Gaelic might not have been numerically dominant in these areas, it was culturally and politically dominant. The presence of Gaelic, even in these areas, is still felt to this day.

Scotland has a complex linguistic history. Before the spread of Gaelic, the inhabitants of Scotland south of the Forth-Clyde line spoke a language known to modern linguists and historians as Cumbric, those to the north spoke Pictish. The claim is sometimes made, most often by people who seek to downplay the importance or relevance of Gaelic in modern Scotland, that if we acknowledge that Gaelic is a national language of modern Scotland, then we must also acknowledge that Cumbric and Pictish are too.

There’s a problem with this argument, and that problem is that before any linguistic variety can be acknowledged as a national language of a modern country it must first of all be capable of functioning as a language. Pictish and Cumbric are not capable of functioning as languages. They are fossil languages preserved only in a handful of place and personal names. There are no connected texts in Cumbric. We know it was closely related to Welsh, but we know nothing about how it differed, as it must have differed, from Welsh. Pictish is attested in some two dozen inscriptions in the Ogham alphabet, but no one is able to make much sense of them. We know next to nothing about the grammar, sound-system or vocabulary of Pictish, not even things as basic as the numerals or the personal pronouns. For that reason, while Pictish and Cumbric are important in Scottish history, they cannot be national languages of a modern Scotland. Not enough is known about them in order for anyone to speak them.

There’s a similar problem with the Norn language which was spoken in Orkney and Shetland, and bilingually along with Gaelic in Caithness, until as late as the middle 19th century (at least in parts of Shetland). Norn is far better attested than either Pictish or Cumbric, but the surviving texts in the language total only a couple of pages, written in a spelling which doesn’t accurately represent the underlying sounds of the language. All that can be said with any certainty is that Norn was probably very similar to modern Faroese, although it differed from Faroese in ways we can be far less certain about. Given the poor attestation of the language, it’s not feasible to revive Norn. That doesn’t mean that people who live in the Northern Isles should not celebrate their Norse linguistic heritage, but it does mean that in practical terms it’s only feasible for them to do so by learning a modern Scandinavian language proper to some other Norse country.

There are other languages spoken in Scotland. There’s Scots, which likewise has a claim to the status of national language. In the case of Scots, its claim to that status rests upon the fact that it was the official language of the Scottish state for much of the time that Scotland was an independent country. Due to limitations of space, I’m not going to discuss Scots in this article, suffice to say that I believe that Scots is every much a national language of Scotland along with Gaelic and Scottish Standard English.

Polish, Chinese, Urdu, and other community languages are present in modern Scotland. But they’re not national languages of Scotland. Their use should be encouraged and supported, but the main demographic and cultural weight of these languages is outwith Scotland. The communities within Scotland which use them can make use of cultural resources produced in Poland, China, or Pakistan in order to foster and support the continuing use of these languages within Scotland. That’s not the case for Scots or Gaelic. Gaelic and Scots rely entirely upon the cultural resources produced for them within Scotland.

I’ll be blunt. I have no time or patience for idiots who complain that a bilingual road or train station sign, or a Gaelic medium school that their children are not obliged to attend, means that Gaelic is being “imposed” upon them. Imposing a language means being punished for speaking some other language, an experience within the memory of many Gaelic and Scots speakers. Having to see the Gaelic version of a place name on a train station sign is not imposing a language. A bilingual English-Gaelic sign neither prejudices nor punishes English speakers. It’s simply making a public statement that Gaelic has as much right to a public presence in Scotland as English does. English speaking Scots who regard this as an imposition upon them are nothing more than mewling fools with a sense of monoglot privilege who seek to legitimise their disdain for Gaelic by claiming victimhood status. They do not deserve either sympathy or understanding. They are victims only of their own arrogance and their own ignorance. If you believe that Gaelic or Scots are irrelevant to you that is perfectly fine. But you do not have the right to demand that they should be irrelevant to everyone else as well.

The reason that Gaelic is a national language pertaining to all of Scotland rests upon two main claims. Firstly there’s the claim that the language was present across virtually all of the territory of modern Scotland. It was once far more widespread territorially than Scots has ever been. But more importantly even than that is the role that the Gaelic language played in the creation of the Scottish nation. The mediaeval Latin word Scotti referred to speakers of Gaelic, and after the Wars of Independence and during the High Middle Ages when the various linguistic and social groups present in the Kingdom of Scotland adopted a Scottish identity, they were making the social statement that they shared a national identity with Gaelic speakers. It is no coincidence that the national myths of Scottish origins, the stories of Dalriada and Fergus Mor MacEarca, the stories of Kenneth Macalpine and his violent dinner party, are all Gaelic stories.

Scotland was born in the imaginings of the Gaelic language.  Gaelic is fundamental to Scottishness.  The great flourishing tree of Scottish identity and culture took root in Gaelic soil.  Gaelic speakers created a state and for much of its history as an independent country that state expressed itself through the medium of Scots.

The real reason that Gaelic and Scots attract such hatred is that they are proof that Scotland has a culture and an identity of its own. They prove that Scotland is a nation with a rich heritage. They prove that there is substance to being Scottish beyond the Unionist claim that Scottish nationalism is motivated by hatred of the English, and that’s why they have to be diminished and destroyed. It’s really those who seek to undermine attempts to foster and protect the Gaelic and Scots languages who are politicising the languages.

Audio version of this blog article, courtesy of Sarah Mackie @lumi_1984 https://soundcloud.com/occamshaver/wee-ginger-dug-25th-oct-2016

If you’d like me and the dug to come and give a talk to your local group, email me at weegingerbook@yahoo.com


Donate to the Dug This blog relies on your support and donations to keep going – I need to make a living, and have bills to pay. Clicking the donate button will allow you to make a payment directly to my Paypal account. You do not need a Paypal account yourself to make a donation. You can donate as little, or as much, as you want. Many thanks.

Donate Button

If you’d like to make a donation but don’t wish to use Paypal or have problems using the Paypal button, please email me at weegingerbook@yahoo.com for details of alternative methods of donation.


frontcovervol3barkingvol2coverSigned copies of the Collected Yaps of the Wee Ginger Dug volumes 1  2 3 & 4 are available by emailing me at weegingerbook@yahoo.com. Price just £21.90 for two volumes plus P&P.  Please state whether you want vols 1 & 2 or 3 & 4.  You can also order signed copies of all four volumes for the special price of £40 plus £4 P&P within the UK.

Copies of Barking Up the Right Tree are available from my publisher Vagabond Voices at http://vagabondvoices.co.uk/?page_id=1993 price just £7.95 plus P&P. The E-book of Barking Up the Right Tree is available for Kindle for just £4. Click here to purchase.

You can get your copy of Barking Up the Right Tree Volume 2 for the special advance order price of £1 off the cover price and free P&P within the UK by placing an order on the Vagabond Voices website. Just click the following link.

http://vagabondvoices.co.uk/?page_id=2709

Getting the tools to get the job done

Kezia Dugdale was open to the idea of independence a few weeks before the Brexit vote, saying that a Scotland that was being dragged out of the EU might cause her to reconsider her opposition. Thankfully everything that’s happened since has reassured her that staying a part of a UK that’s dragging Scotland out of the EU and into a dystopian far-right xenophobic hate-fest is just fine and dandy. That’s why she told the Murnaghan Show on Sky that “Scottish Labour is committed to tackling poverty and inequality. You can’t do that with independence.”

The hapless representatives of Labour in Scotland have said a few asinine and fatuous things in their time, but Kezia’s statement is way up there in the pantheon of great political stupidity along Arnold Schwarzenegger’s statement that “gay marriage should be between a man and a woman”, Jim Murphy’s prediction a few weeks before his party’s utter rout in the May 2015 General Election that Labour was going to increase the number of seats it held in Scotland, and everyone in the Scottish media who hails Ruth Davidson as the saviour of the Union.

Of course, if Scottish Labour has indeed been so committed to tackling poverty and inequality then it does kind of make you wonder just why it is that we have so much of it. Four of the most deprived constituencies in the UK are in Glasgow. Scotland, along with the rest of the UK, has a ballooning number of people who depend on foodbanks in order to eat, we have an obscene inequality in income which is only getting wider. And much of this occurred under Labour’s watch. Kezia’s statement ignores the fact that most of us who support independence ended up doing so because we looked upon the poverty and inequality which blights Scotland, and we looked upon a Labour party which promises the world in opposition but which morphs into Tories with a sad face as soon as it gets a snifter of power. Benefit sanctions were introduced under the last Labour government.

Right now, Kezia and the Scottish Labour leadership’s strategy for tackling poverty and inequality in Scotland, along with the rest of the UK, seems to consist of doing all it can to undermine Jeremy Corbyn and so ensure that we’re faced with Tory governments for decades to come. At a time when the Tories were rudderless and directionless in the aftermath of a Brexit vote that they had brought upon the country but which they shamefully had no plans to deal with, Labour didn’t choose to press its advantage. It chose to attack its own leader instead.

Labour isn’t tackling poverty and inequality. Labour is flailing around trying to find some excuse for remaining a part of a state that creates and fosters poverty and inequality. They hate Scottish nationalism so much that in the name of a supposed and imaginary internationalism they rush headlong into the embrace of the most vicious right wing British nationalism that we’ve ever seen.

We have a British government which is refusing to make any concessions to Scotland. England’s wishes must be respected, but Scotland’s can be ignored. Labour’s fine with that. In order to score what they mistakenly believe is some anti-nationalist point they consign millions of Scots and hundreds of thousands of EU citizens to the mercies of an unforgiving and xenophobic British nationalism. Scotland is the last outpost of the British Empire and our role is to act as a figleaf so that the Labour party can pretend that British nationalism isn’t nationalist at all. Subsuming Scotland’s needs to those of the British state allows them to pretend that they’re internationalist. Their self-delusion is bought at the price of unemployment in Glasgow, of poverty in Dundee, of inequality in the Highlands. Labour won’t tackle those things because the power of their self-delusion is stronger than their ability to see a path out of the misery that they’ve helped to create.

Of course independence by itself doesn’t tackle poverty and inequality. No one has ever claimed that it does. But what independence does do is to give Scotland the tools it needs in order to tackle them effectively, because after more than three hundred years of Westminster rule we’ve learned that Westminster has no intention of doing so. Here we are in one of the richest countries in the world and the poor are getting poorer while the rich grow ever richer. Our public services, our NHS, our pensions, our social security, are all at greater threat than they have ever been.

And after one hundred years we’ve learned that Labour’s Parliamentary road to socialism ends in ermine robes for Labour’s high-heid-yins and the bitter tears of disappointment for the rest of us as we struggle to get to a Job Centre appointment on time fearing that if we don’t we’ll be sanctioned. We owe Job Centre sanctions to Labour as well.

What Kezia is saying when she says that independence won’t tackle poverty and inequality is that buying a toolkit won’t make improvements to your house, so don’t buy the tools you need to do home improvements. What she’s articulating is the naive and stupid idea that independence is a goal in and of itself, that once Scotland achieves independence that’s it. She portrays independence as an end, not as a means. She wants people to believe that there is no reason for independence other than the goal of independence itself.

But that’s idiotic, and it’s not why myself and hundreds of thousands of other Scots are on this journey. We want independence because of what we can do with independence. We want independence because it’s only with independence that the rich possibilities and potentials of Scotland become unleashed. It’s only with independence that the power of Scotland is unlocked from the shortbread tin and we will be able to use that power to redistribute wealth, to rebuild our shattered communities. Our journey to self-determination, our path to a better country, our road to equality and tackling poverty, it doesn’t end with independence. It’s only with independence that it can start. Independence is not the end of the road for Scotland. It’s just the beginning. Let’s get the tools we need, then we can get the job done.

Audio version of this blog post, courtesy of Sarah Mackie @lumi_1984 https://soundcloud.com/occamshaver/wee-ginger-dug-24th-oct-2016

If you’d like me and the dug to come and give a talk to your local group, email me at weegingerbook@yahoo.com


Donate to the Dug This blog relies on your support and donations to keep going – I need to make a living, and have bills to pay. Clicking the donate button will allow you to make a payment directly to my Paypal account. You do not need a Paypal account yourself to make a donation. You can donate as little, or as much, as you want. Many thanks.

Donate Button

If you’d like to make a donation but don’t wish to use Paypal or have problems using the Paypal button, please email me at weegingerbook@yahoo.com for details of alternative methods of donation.


frontcovervol3I’m now taking advance orders for Volumes 3 and 4 of the Collected Yaps. For the special price of £21 for both volumes plus £4 P&P you can get signed copies of the new books if you order before publication, scheduled for mid-July. Covering the immediate aftermath of the independence referendum until the Yes campaign’s destruction of the Labour party in the 2015 General Election, it’s a snarling chronicle of Scottish history.

To reserve your copies, just send an email to weegingerbook@yahoo.com giving your name and your postal address and how many copies you wish to order. You can also order signed copies of all four volumes for the special price of £40 plus £4 P&P.


Signed copies of the Collected Yaps of the Wee Ginger Dug volumes 1 and 2 are available by emailing me at weegingerbook@yahoo.com. Price just £21.90 the pair plus P&P. Copies of Barking Up the Right Tree are available from my publisher Vagabond Voices at http://vagabondvoices.co.uk/?page_id=1993 price just £7.95 plus P&P. The E-book of Barking Up the Right Tree is available for Kindle for just £4. Click here to purchase.

Barking Up the Right Tree Vol 2, & upcoming speaking events

barkingvol2coverLater this month Vagabond Voices will be publishing the second volume of Barking Up the Right Tree, an anthology of my articles for The National newspaper. The book is due to be published on 31 October, but if you place your order beforehand, there’s a special offer of £1 off the cover price and free P&P within the UK. (P&P is £4.50 outwith the UK.)

You can get your copy of the book for the special advance order price by placing an order on the Vagabond Voices website. Just click the following link.

http://vagabondvoices.co.uk/?page_id=2709

I’m scheduled to do a lot of talks for local groups and organisations over the coming month. Here are the ones which have been organised so if there’s an event in your local area, you’re more than welcome to come along and meet me and the dug. Please note that events marked with an asterisk are local SNP branch meetings and attendance may be restricted to SNP members. Please contact your local SNP group for further information. Events which are not marked with an asterisk are open to all.

Gavinton/Duns
Monday 24 October – 7pm, Gavinton Village Hall, Gavinton (near Duns), The Borders.

Morningside, Edinburgh
Friday 28 October – 7pm, Yes Morningside, Columcille Centre, 2 Newbattle Terrace Edinburgh

Whitburn*
*Tuesday 1 November – 7pm, SNP Whitburn & Blackburn Branch, Whitburn Burgh Halls, East Main Street, Whitburn

Bo’ness*
*Wednesday 2 November – 7pm, Bo’ness SNP Branch, Bo’ness Bowling Club, 52 Grange Terrace, Bo’ness EH51 9DU

Lochgilphead
Friday 4 November – 7pm, Yes Argyll, The Stag Hotel, 47 Argyll St, Lochgilphead PA31 8NE

Campbeltown
Saturday 5 November – 7pm, Yes Argyll, The Town Hall, 54 Main St, Campbeltown PA28 6AB

Dingwall
Tuesday 8 November – 7pm, Yes Rosshire, Ross County FC function suite, Ross County FC, Jubilee Road, Dingwall, IV15 9QZ

Gourock
Monday 14 November – 7.30pm, Inverclyde for Independence, Darroch Bar, 72-73 Shore St, Gourock PA19 1RD

Milnathort
Wednesday 16 November – 6.30pm, CommonWeal Perth & Kinross, Heaven Scent Coffee Shop, 19 South Street, Milnathort, KY13 9XA

Isle of Skye
Saturday 19 November – 11am to 1pm, Yes Skye, Sligachan Hotel, Sligachan, Isle of Skye IV47 8SW

Dundee
Thursday 24 November – 7pm The Lochee Burns Club, 5 Old Muirton Road, Dundee, DD2 3TY

Oban
Saturday 26 November – 6.30pm, SNP Oban & Lorne, Hamilton Lecture, Argyllshire Gathering Halls, Breadalbane Street, Oban PA34 5NZ

Hamilton*
*Monday 28 November – 7.30pm, SNP Hamilton, Miner’s Welfare, 4 Alness St, Hamilton ML3 6RU

Inverness
Wednesday 30 November – Inveryess2, 7pm, Spectrum Centre, 1B Margaret St, Inverness IV1 1LS, in conjunction with The National. Come along and meet The National’s editor and staff.

Helensburgh*
*Friday 2 December – 7pm, Helensburgh SNP branch St Andrew’s night social, PJ’s Kitchen, 64a Sinclair street, Helensburgh