Over the weekend, as much of Scotland was covered in ice and snow, those of us who are dog owners still had to struggle out and slide about on the ice-rink that pavements and side-streets had been turned into. Not that I’m really complaining, the Spanish born dug loves snow. It seems to hold all sorts of interesting smells for him. It takes about twice as long to do the usual walk as it normally does, and not because you have to carefully and slowly pick your way across the icescape. It’s because the dug is insistent that every patch of suspiciously coloured snow, and a lot of patches that aren’t, has to be sniffed, licked, and pushed about with his muzzle. It must be a dug thing.
The other day, the walk that was taking longer than usual took even longer than usual because I got waylaid by a guy who lives around the corner who is always keen to share his opinions about Thattessempee with the world. You always know that it’s going to be a negative opinion, because anyone who habitually prefixes the names of the SNP, or Nicola Sturgeon, or any other prominent independence supporting politician, with “that”, is using the demonstrative pronoun with an implied sweary word between the ‘that’ and the name.
Like a lot of people who are British nationalists because British nationalism isn’t nationalist at all, he is quite convinced that his negative view of Scottish independence in general and the Scottish government in particular must be shared by everyone, and he has not the slightest hesitation in broadcasting them to each and every passer by. The possibility that any of the passers-by might be of a different opinion has clearly never occurred to him. After all, it’s not like Scotland is chock full of independence supporting newspapers or Reporting Scotland is always banging on about how Scotland would do so much better as an independent country. If a particular point of view is consistently sidelined and is largely invisible in the media, people who hold the point of view that does monopolise most of the column inches and the airtime are going to conclude that theirs is the voice of reason and common sense that is shared by all sensible thinking people. Why shouldn’t they feel confident about sharing it with a random passer-by.
So there I was, slipping about while the dug lunged off at some other extremely interesting patch of snow, when the neighbour, who had been clearing the snow from his car, shouted out. “Here!” he said excitedly, “Did you know that that Humza Yousaf has got his street gritted! Outrageous, so it is. That transport minister can get his own street gritted but we cannae get ours done.”
Now I don’t know about you, but personally I’ve never been of the opinion that it’s outrageous that streets should be gritted after it’s been snowing. On the face of it, you’d think that it might be far more worthy of outrage if streets hadn’t been gritted. And that’s really what was exercising the neighbour. We live in sidestreets. This isn’t a bus route. It’s not a main road. They are not streets which lead anywhere, and Glasgow council didn’t grit them, preferring to concentrate on main roads, bus routes, and roads leading to train stations.
What the neighbour was so annoyed about was that Thathumzayousaf had had his street gritted, but the neighbour’s own street hadn’t been gritted. He was certain that the council had gritted Thathumzayousaf’s street and driveway in an instance of microcorruption, that it was Thatessempee doing a backhand favour for one of its own. Humza Yousaf’s street had been gritted but his hadn’t. It gave him something to feel victimised about. He was convinced that I was going to share his sense of victimhood and outrage.
The immediate source of the neighbour’s ire was a short passage in a report in The Sun about people being stuck on the M74 in the recent blizzard. At the very end, the report including a snide wee paragraph which mentioned that streets in Clarkston, where Humza Yousaf lives, had been gritted. Humza Yousaf can get home, the report sniffed, but travellers on the M74 can’t. The report didn’t actually say that the very street where Humza Yousaf lives had been gritted but that’s the way my neighbour chose to interpret it. Neither did it matter to the neighbout that road gritting is the responsibility of the local council and that Clarkston is in East Renfewshire. The gritting policies of SNP controlled Glasgow council have absolutely nothing to do with what happens in Clarkston. None of this mattered to the neighbour. Neither did it matter to him that a nearby street which remained ungritted just like his own is where an SNP MSP lives. All that was important was that he had a grievance and that grievance was validated by what he’d read in the press. In his eyes an SNP politician had got something that he hadn’t. Thatessempee ate my hamster.
Back in the real world, it’s hardly surprising that main roads in major urban areas get gritted before roads which are deep in rural areas. Urban areas are where most of the gritting lorries are based. They’re where most people live. If main roads in urban areas are left ungritted and the council instead concentrated on gritting rural roads, there would be even more of an outrage in the press. However the Sun’s wee dig about roads in Clarkston where Thathumzayousaf lives being gritted before roads that cross hills and mountains far from urban settlements was purely about stoking resentment in those who are looking for something to feel resentful about. It succeeded.
That’s how propaganda works. It doesn’t always have to lie. It is just sometimes selective in what information it tells you. It was no lie that streets in Clarkston got gritted. Streets in every urban area in Scotland got gritted. But when tagged on to the end of an article about roads which had been impassable in a blizzard, the information that streets in the urban area where the Transport Minister happens to live had been gritted was turned into yet another stick with which to beat Thatessempee. And these are the people who complain about grievance mongering by independence supporters.
That’s why it’s all the more important for those of us who support independence to speak up, to challenge, and to contradict the misconceptions, misinformation and partial information fed to our neighbours, friends, family, and colleagues. As a movement we need to get visible, we need to get active. And we need to get loud.
The Wee Ginger Dug has got a new domain name, thanks to Indy Poster Boy, Colin Dunn @Zarkwan. http://www.indyposterboy.scot/ You can now access this blog simply by typing www.weegingerdug.scot into the address bar of your browser, the old address continues to function, the new one redirects to the blog. The advantage of the new address is that it’s a lot easier to remember if you want to include a link to the blog in leaflets, posters, or simply to tell a friend about it. Many thanks to Colin.
Wee Ginger Donations & Speaking engagements
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