Knowing our place

According to the BBC political editor Nick Watt, a senior Conservative spoke to him about his frustration at the way Brexit has been going. What this Tory grandee was specifically upset about was the amount of power and influence that Dublin has had in the Brexit negotiations. Dublin has been able to lay down the law to the UK, to insist that the UK abide by the terms of the Anglo-Irish treaty and the Good Friday Agreement, and to ensure that a backstop arrangement is put in place which prevents the UK’s exit from the EU re-imposing a hard border in Ireland. The senior Tory is not at all happy that the Irish government has the power to ensure that the consequences of Brexit are dealt with by the British, and not by the Irish. “The Irish really should know their place,” he told Nick Watt.

The lesson is clear. From the point of view of the red cheeked British establishment, the Irish are an uppity little minor part of the British Isles which ought to return to its rightful place. That rightful place is being told what to do by its betters in London. That was how it was for centuries. Ireland said it wanted something, and the RoastBeefs said no. So Ireland rebelled, and Britain got its way at the point of a rifle.

It was in order to ensure that the interests of Scotland, Wales, or Ireland could never come before the interests of England’s ruling class that the English state embarked on a policy of conquest and control over the non-English nations of these islands. Nothing was to interfere with England’s ruling class’s freedom to do as they pleased, and if that was going to have negative consequences on the other nations of these islands, well that was unfortunate. But it wasn’t going to be unfortunate for the ruling classes of England. The lesser nations could suck it up. It has always been thus. It’s the natural order of British things.

This is the lesson that the ProudScotsBut have never learned. It’s the lesson that they choose to ignore because it speaks an uncomfortable truth. What the ruling classes of England, those who define the British state, those who speak for the Union Fleg, what they think of Ireland and the Irish, they think of you too. You’re accepted as a North Briton, a proud British Scot with your union fleg bedecked bagpipes, because you know your place. You’re not an equal, but you’re allowed the delusion of telling yourself that you are. You’re not a partner, you’re a possession, but you can pretend to yourself that we’re a part of a Union and not a piece of real estate that’s disposed of as someone else sees fit. You know your place. You think the bars on your cage are there for your own protection.

Reconciling those two realities, the nationhood of Scotland with its subordinate place within a British state that treats it as a possession, that’s what creates the cultural cringe. It’s responsible for the belief that Gaelic roadsigns cause potholes, the conviction that Scotland has no culture or identity of its own other than an atavistic hatred of the English. It’s because the North Britons are afraid to confront the reality of their own ProudScotBut submission.

It’s what comes from telling yourself you come from a country that can’t act as a country. It’s what comes from telling yourself that you go your own way in a land whose path is chosen for it. It’s what comes from telling yourself that you’re better than Ireland because Scotland isn’t a colony, it’s a partner in a Union.

It’s a strange Union which works in the interests of only one of its members. The myth of the Union is the comfort blanket of North Britain. It’s the cosy insulation that protects ProudScotsBut from the truth that the contempt, the entitlement, the disdain, that the British establishment has for Ireland is exactly the same as what they feel about Scotland. Know your place Jocks. It was a UK vote. England with its 85% of the population chose for you. That’s democracy in this Union. Scotland will do as it’s told.

This Conservative government can’t wrap its head around the fact that the EU regards Ireland as a member state whose interests must be defended. Britain’s attitude to Ireland has always been that if the ruling establishment in London wanted something, then Ireland could get shafted. They think that about Ireland. They think that about Scotland and Wales. They think that about the working class in England too. The politics of the UK are the politics of being told your place and accepting it. But Ireland didn’t accept it, and now Scotland won’t either.

It tends to be forgotten in the British press that what they are pleased to call the problem with the Irish border isn’t really a problem with the Irish border. It’s really a problem with the British border. The international frontier that winds its way across the north of the island of Ireland is an artificial construct imposed upon the island by the British, in an attempt to retain control over as much of the island of Ireland as possible even after it became clear that Ireland’s independence was unstoppable.

It’s a great irony that the British state is now being taught the limits of its power by Ireland, and Ireland is using an instrument of British control in order to do so. That’s because Ireland knows its place. Ireland’s place is an independent member state in a free union of states, a union where Ireland has the same rights as the other parts of that union. Ireland’s place is to have a seat at the top table. Ireland’s place is to be listened to and respected. Ireland’s place is to treat Westminster as an equal.

Compare and contrast how Ireland has shaped and defined Brexit. Ireland has ensured that Irish interests will not be overlooked. Ireland has forced an unwilling Westminster to deal with Irish concerns. Ireland has a voice. Ireland has a say. What does Scotland have? Scotland’s government hasn’t even been informed about the progress of Brexit, never mind consulted, and certainly hasn’t been allowed to shape the UK’s negotiating position. That’s because those Tories who insist that Ireland should know its subordinate position are confident that Scotland is contained within its shortbread tin.

It’s time for Scotland to know its place like Ireland knows its place. Its place as an independent state. Its place at a negotiating table dealing with Westminster as an equal. Its place as a country with a voice. That’s our place. It’s time we took our seat at the top table too.


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28 comments on “Knowing our place

  1. Interpolar says:

    Paul. Thank you for this proficient piece of analysis. It cuts right to heart of what is wrong with the Scottish psyche. I am not a ProudScot But or Otherwise. I‘m a DeeplyAshamedScot, and have been since 2014. But I should have been one long before then.

    As long as Scots define themselves as a derivative of the English, be that as the antithesis or the same-with-a-certain-difference, then they are lost. It’s exactly what is wrong with the words of Flower Of Scotland being sung at matches before “Scotland-Scotland-Scotland” is chanted like a playground taunt. Only when the people of Scotland can truly come to embrace something that can be of itself an identity rather than something that is NotEnglish or LikeEnglish (=British) that Scotland will be ready for independence.

    Thus, any Indy2 effort starting from now must be build on building confidence in what Scotland is and could be in relationship to Europe and the world. There is a positive story to be told around what that could be. Too much time and energy has been wasted on explaining what Scotland could be in our relationship with England, which always only makes us British.

    The less said about England in a future Indy2 campaign, the better. Not because the English are bad (they certainly are as good as anyone else!), but because English we are not.

  2. My mind is still boggling that in the 21st Century, gammons like the ‘Tory grandee’ in question still feel it is acceptable for them to say out loud that another sovereign nation should “Know its place”! Surely this MUST say something to all the ‘ProudScotsBut’ out there. Time they woke up and smelled the fresh air of freedom.

  3. […] Wee Ginger Dug Knowing our place According to the BBC political editor Nick Watt, a senior Conservative spoke to him […]

  4. benmadigan says:

    Interpolar – it’s taken nearly 100 years for ireland to get over its “irish Cringe” towards the catholic church – but we did/are doing it!

    The important thing for Scotland is to seize its independence as soon as possible and then watch attitudes settle down and gradually get worked out.

    The “Scottish cringe” won’t start to disappear until we are independent.

    We must all, of course, bear in mind that some great Scottish Independistas like our very own Wee Ginger Dug never suffered from the “scottish cringe” in the first place.

    Or got over it pretty quickly if they did
    So if they could do it, everyone else can too!

  5. Thepnr says:

    “It tends to be forgotten in the British press that what they are pleased to call the problem with the Irish border isn’t really a problem with the Irish border. It’s really a problem with the British border.”

    I had never thought of it that way. It truly is a British problem, certainly not Ireland’s and not the EU’s. The border between the EU and the UK has to be somewhere and if not in the island of Ireland itself it has to be in the Irish Sea. Why do so many in Westminster fail to see this?

    Not a real question in case anyone wondered.

    • benmadigan says:

      Remember the irish were the first to stand up to the Empire – the Russian revolution came a year later, India was successful post WWII.

      Britain never got over the irish push for independence.
      Hence the UK decision to “overlook” the democratic wish of the irish people as expressed island-wise in the 1918 election and go for Partition.
      Just to maintain a stronghold.

      Throughout its struggles for independence ireland has always called upon “its gallant allies in Europe”.
      Over the centuries Spain, France and Germany individually all did what they could
      This time all together they responded in spades!

    • Shagpile says:

      Indeed yes Thepnr, imagine if there were not a GFA, that international treaty between the UK and ROI, underpinned with the consent of referenda on both sides of that border… and the fears of both communities were to be assured with the great Tory promise of “jam tomorrow”? Hmm, where have we heard that before?

  6. […] via Knowing our place […]

  7. joannie says:

    Brilliant piece of writing.

    As for the British establishment’s rage at uppity Ireland, its a long time since I’ve seen anything so funny. Scotland, hurry up and go independent, then we can enrage them together.

  8. susan says:

    Ireland paid a huge price to be free of English domination and Tories just can’t hack their right to independence. Sheer arrogance!

  9. angusskye says:

    Powerfully said, Paul, showing yet another huge difference between the UK “union” and the European Union, in which the smaller are not constantly and institutionally bullied and their will steamrollered by the larger.

  10. Tol says:

    England’s hubris has resulted in them forgetting a fundamental rule of colonial power. Never let the colonised see the reality.

    Ireland and Brexit is the mirror that allows all to see Scotland’s reality.

    If YES don’t move now…they will force you forget it again as quickly as possible.

  11. MI5 Troll says:

    My name is Andrew. I am a Scotaholic. I will never know my
    place. Time to get out.

  12. Macart says:

    What the ruling elite, the caste order and the political class have done to the populations of these islands is unforgivable. The dissolution of the Treaty of Union and ending the power of that house on the Thames needs to happen. For all our sakes.

    People… Peoples get along fine. Governments do not.

    The powerful, the ruling class, the political class, act out of greed. The need to expand their reach and their territories at the expense of others. They have no friends. They own no allegiances except to themselves. They use and they abuse in equal measure. They respect nothing, except those more powerful than they and have no empathy towards those they would use to further their own needs. For such a tiny demographic, the untold harm they have caused and continue to cause is beyond disproportionate. They create the narratives that drive and define populations. Racial, ethnic, religious, societal divisions are window dressing. A means to an end. The excuse to du jour to manage populations and drive demographics down a desired path. In short? They don’t play well with others.

    Power unchecked and resting in the hands of the few is a catastrophe waiting to happen. The UK today? Is the end result. A society that’s been divided and subdivided through decades of such abuses. A house and practice of politics that put the populations of these islands in harms way for the sake of greed and power.

    THIS is why you bring government closer to the people. THIS is why it should be made more accountable. THIS is why you should have a written and codified constitution. THIS is why popular sovereignty. Old Scot or New Scot? I prefer an independent Scot. All of us together can do this.

    Worth thinking about. Especially today.

  13. Ian Waugh says:

    If we start to call the London HQ of ‘Scottish Labour’ and ‘Scottish Conservative & Unionist’ parties ‘English Labour’ and ‘English Conservative & Unionist Party’ …might their supporters in Scotland start to see the light?
    A theme worth developing, WGD?

  14. bringiton says:

    It all comes down to culture and the concept of sovereignty.
    England,a country steeped in the historic cap doffing devine right of kings and their Monarch’s parliament where the population are ruled over by their “superiors”.
    In 21st century Europe,this is fairly unique,most countries having given their surviving monarchs simply titular positions and expect their politicians to SERVE the public interest.
    It may draw tourists to London to see this museum piece in action but has little place in the 21st century world where democracy has a stronger foothold,or at least aspires to such.
    I,along with most Scots,have a healthy disrespect for our “superiors”.

    • Dave Hansell says:

      bringiton raises a point which tends to be forgotten. Perhaps because there is a knife here so sharp it’s difficult to see it moving. Paul’s observation here:

      “They think that about Scotland and Wales. They think that about the working class in England too. The politics of the UK are the politics of being told your place and accepting it.”

      points the direction. But it needs stating explicitly to grab hold of it so it may be properly comprehended – particularly in the present situation and unfolding events.

      The “cringe” is not unique to Scotland or Ireland. It exists also across England particularly in large sections of the working class. It may operate slightly differently due to all sorts of contexts but it exists in some form nonetheless.

      In that regard if England were a person large parts of it would resemble Dickins’s Uriah Heep given the level of tacit and implicit forelock tugging and cap doffing which exists. Whilst that needs to be ridiculed when and where appropriate ridicule is an insufficient approach. The English cringe needs a good example close to home if England is to avoid returning to fuedalism.

      This is why a successful Scottish independence which provides a stark contrast to the dysfunctional model in England is a must. That is where Scotland needs to focus it’s attention rather than English issues which will sidetrack it back into the biscuit tin.

  15. brilliant, Paul.
    Just about sums up the attitude of the English Establishment.
    Eton, Harrow, Cambridge, Oxford, and of course St Andrew’s Up Here.
    I’d wager that every ProudscotBut Lord of the Manor Up Here attended English Public Boarding Schools or their equivalents Up Here in preparation to ‘ruling over’ us all as a future Mover and Shaker of the True Brit Oligarch.
    This morning’s ‘leadership challenge’ sums it up.
    Everything stops while the Blue Tories have yet another Bun Fight in the Great Hall.
    Such Fun!.
    May will resign mid afternoon when her Chief Whip whispers ‘your tiffin’s up’ in her shell like.
    We are heading for No Deal WTO chaos.
    That’s the Brit Empire at its most devious.
    Glug up the works for 2 1/2 years, then walk away from the whole thing in a fake fit of pique.
    Johnny Bloody Foreigners…
    Mid afternoon will see the end of the Duchess of Downing Street.
    Indyref 2 inevitable soon.

  16. I’d love to be a cochroach hugging the skirting at Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s first meeting with President Trump.
    It may be the last before they nuke Iran and humanity is wiped off the face of the earth in Nuclear Winter.
    Us cockroaches and ants will hastily arrange a meeting with EU 27 and cancel Article 50 soon thereafter.
    Adam Ant for First Minister.
    At least we are getting rid of Fluffy.

    • Macart says:

      Ruth’ll be along any second now to save the UK. Anyone heard from those thirteen stalwarts who would stand up for Scotland? They’ve been awfy quiet. 🙄

      • Macart says:

        Right on cue.



        • Ruth Davidson’s ‘our country’, meaning her beloved England/GB, finally confirms that she considers Scotland not to be ‘a ‘country’.

          Nothwithstanding her endowing her pal Big T with testicles, Mumsie Davidson, still on Mat Leave, with no vote or authority in WM, draws attention to her own metallic body part, her brass neck.
          She was going to resign over the indefinite Backstop, was she not?
          She remains as irrelevant in absentia as she ever was posing half way up the back of an ungulate.

          Jackson Carhire is playing a blinder as supersub, Ruth.
          He is Councillor in Charge of Business Rates now.
          The rest of that politics stuff is way above his head.
          You’ve no’ been missed; and that’s what worries the shit out of you.
          Indeed if the Re Blue and Yellow Tories didn’t turn up at Holyrood for a year or two, they wouldn’t be missed.
          It would be noticed; our Scottish Government could get on with business.
          May might step down mid afternoon when it becomes obvious that she will lose, or win narrowly.

          • Oh crap; she’s pitching the ‘lame duck’ Option to the 1922 Committee at 5 o’clock.
            Please let me stay on for a while, and I’ll not contest the next GE as PM.
            That might get her over the line tonight, but the UK ends up with a PM who is demo happy.
            And the Red Tories do what they do best, sit on their hands and do nothing.

            • Shagpile says:

              Jack, it would not surprise me if she shook that devil off her back by having a few “mates” submit the required number of letters to force that vote now, in the full knowledge she will survive. C’est la vie Boris 😉

              Labour will do fuck all, and the DUP have her back on that one.

              She will still loose her “meaningful” vote in January. But by that time she will (in her mind) see fewer options for those who oppose her deal. She still sees this as a party political game I feel.

              • You may be right, shagpile.
                Her man works for the Money Men, who want out of the EU in April to ‘take back control of our borders, law and money’, a direct quote from her four minute speech at 8.46 am today.
                There’s no way the Brit Establishment, from Her Maf down will want the Tax Havens outlawed.
                Rees Mogg and Johnson know that, no matter the outcome, they have successfully holed any Brexit deal, soft, hard boiled, or sunny side up, being agreed before 21st January, paving the way for No Deal WTO carperbaggery come March 29th ’19.
                We are relatively relaxed about all this back stabbing Blue Tory/Red Tory pantomime, because we have an escape pod, Independence, which looks nailed on, and very soon now.

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