Drowning out the Bruce

robertthebruce
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Recently, Scottish social media discovered that the Cineworld chain of movie theatres won’t be showing the new film about the life of Scotland’s great hero, Robert the Bruce. The Robert the Bruce movie will not be screened in any of the UK’s biggest cinema chain’s outlets, meaning that in many Scottish towns and cities movie viewers will be deprived of the chance to see it.

The decision provoked an outcry. The film deals with a crucial and important part of Scottish history, the restoration and reestablishment of this country’s independence after military occupation by the forces of the English monarchy, and the securing of Scottish independence for the next four hundred years. The complex and fascinating character of Robert the Bruce is one of Scotland’s greatest national heroes. I’ve not seen this new movie about him, but it has received positive reviews and it seems that it is not afraid to examine the Bruce as a human being with his frailties, complexities and negative characteristics intact, and not to reduce him to a one dimensional action hero in the Holywood blockbuster mould.

So naturally it was deeply disappointing that the country’s largest cinema chain took the decision not to screen the film. Scotland is a country which is cut off from its history, many Scots report that Scottish history was not covered during their schooldays. Many more of us could name the English monarchs of the middle ages than could name the occupants of the Scottish throne at the same time.

However the regrettable decision not to show the film didn’t just produce a demand from its potential Scottish audience to see it, it also produced a slew of dark and muttering conspiracy theories. There were rumours that the film was the subject of a D notice from the British government. There were mutterings from some that since the decision was allegedly taken by the chain’s owner, who lives in Israel, that there was some nefarious deal between the British state and the Israeli government as though a cinema in Aberdeen was the bombardment of the Gaza strip.

There is no D notice. The rumour was started by a Scottish journalist who posted about a D notice on Twitter as a joke. Other people took him seriously, and before you knew it hundreds of people were convinced that Scottish history was being censored by the British state. That’s not how D notices work. If there really was a D notice, the film wouldn’t be being screened by Cineworld’s competitors, the Odeon chain. Instead, every copy of it would have been seized by the police. But it is being shown in Odeon cinemas.

Indulging in conspiracy theories without overwhelming evidence does the independence movement no favours. It risks making us come across as tinfoil hatted nutjobs. It repels the soft noes and undecided voters that we need to attract in order to attain independence. Remember the scientific rule of thumb, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. The fact is that despite the authoritarian and anti-democratic tendencies of the Conservative party, we do not live in a one party state. We still have freedom of speech. If you want to claim that the state is actively censoring a work of art, a movie, you need compelling evidence. There is no such compelling evidence here. The suspicions of people who are speculating on Twitter don’t count.

By far the most plausible explanation is that a UK wide movie chain took the commercial decision not to screen an independently made and produced film which deals with the life of a man who is unknown to the vast majority of people in the UK. People in England don’t know much about Robert the Bruce, and for the most part they are not interested in watching a film which shows England as the bad guys. Commercially, this film is not a good prospect for a movie chain which produces the large majority of its revenues from bums on seats in English cinemas. The company is going to make a lot more money from showing Toystory 4, the new Lion King film, or the new Spiderman movie.

The real lesson to take from this affair is not that Scotland is being censored by the British state. It’s not that there are deep and dark state conspiracies to do Scotland’s cinematic representation down. It’s not surprising that some leapt to that conclusion, given that we learned after the independence referendum in 2014 that David Cameron had intervened to ask TV broadcasters not to show the Outlander series during the referendum campaign. But even he didn’t resort to a D notice.

The real lesson here is that independence is necessary not just because Scotland is poorly served by the British government, it’s that Scotland is also poorly served by UK wide companies which don’t have a head office in Scotland and which don’t make Scotland specific decisions. A company which is UK wide and whose revenues are largely derived from its activities in England, because the English market is so much larger, took a commercial decision not to screen a movie which is unlikely to be popular with an English audience. Moreover that movie is being released at the same time as the huge multi-million Holywood blockbusters are being released, movies which represent a much better commercial bet for a cinema chain.

What happened is that the interests of a Scottish audience were not taken into account, because as a UK-wide company there is no head office in Scotland with control over the company’s Scottish activities. At best there’s a branch regional office. What has happened with Cineworld is very similar to Tesco’s decision to plaster union flags all over their produce. That’s a decision which is non-political in England, where it plays well, but which in Scotland is deeply political and which antagonises as many if not more than it attracts. The sensibilities and concerns of the Scottish consumer are drowned out in a company which operates on a UK-wide basis.

With independence, Scotland would cease to be a mere region of a UK wide company. Then a company would need to have a Scottish head office because Scotland would be an independent country with distinct laws, tax regimes, and regulatory authorities. Scotland could no longer be treated as an adjunct to the company’s north of England operations. The Scottish head office would be in charge of the company’s operations within the territory of an independent Scottish state and would therefore be in a position to make decisions which will make the company’s products or services appeal to the distinct interests, culture, concerns, and sensibilities of the Scottish consumer.

That would mean that a cinema chain would be able to make a commercial decision about what movies to screen based on its assessment of what might appeal to Scottish movie goers, and not those which appeal to a generalised UK average cinema goer. It would immensely strengthen the Scottish film industry as it would assist Scottish made and produced movies to find their audience. A Scottish audience would like to have the chance to watch Scottish movies, but a UK company making commercial decisions on a UK-wide basis has no real commercial interest in giving them that chance.

What the regrettable Cineworld decision teaches us is not that Scotland is being censored, it’s that within the UK Scotland is being drowned out.

The turd way of politics

turdway
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We live in a topsy turvy world where black is white, where up is down, where inclusivity is castigated as racism and real racism is excused. Imagine that the BBC was filming a documentary following the work of a senior SNP politician, and that politician had been caught on camera calling the English “turds”. Would the BBC have acquiesced to a demand from the Scottish Government that the remark be expunged from the programme and not broadcast? Hell no.

The racist remark would have been the highlight, or rather lowlight, of the show. It would have spawned a spin away series of discussions and earnest panels of London based Scots intent on teaching us that anti-English bigotry forms the foundation of the Scottish identity itself, never mind it being central to the independence movement. There would be a series of newspaper articles from the Daisleys and Cochranes and Iain Martins of the press lecturing Scotland for its appalling racism and telling us that only the Union can protect us from such primitive atavism. SNP baddery would be in full and inglorious flight.

We would be told that it wasn’t just the minister who had sinned, but that the entire Scottish nation was at fault. The minister in question would be hounded, doorstepped, and compelled to issue an abject and grovelling apology before going into a disgraced retirement from public life, where he or she would be forced to subsist on a diet of milky tea and triangular cucumber sandwiches with the crusts cut off, while watching reruns of a particular fitba match from 1966 on an infinite loop.

Meanwhile independence supporters would be falling over ourselves to distance our movement from the comments. I’d certainly be amongst them. We’d be joining in the criticisms and making it clear that such sentiments have no place in the Scotland that we seek to build. Because they don’t.

Compare and contrast with what happens when it’s a senior member of the Conservatives who airs a traditional English prejudice. When the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg was making her documentary following Boris Johnson’s embarrassment of a career as Foreign Secretary, the less than diplomatic diplomat was caught on camera calling the French “turds”. Then under pressure from the British Government the BBC pulled the sequence.

Anti-French racism runs long and deep in English culture. That doesn’t mean that all English people hate the French, far from it. It doesn’t mean that modern English identity was created in reaction to French domination, although there is certainly a historic legacy of Englishness as something distinct from and formed in opposition to the Norman French domination and conquest of that country.

Yet there has not been, and there will not be, any expectation that Boris Johnson’s racist comment about the French should require any deeper examination of racist attitudes in England towards the French and other Europeans and the role that this racism may have played in the creation of the mythology of Brexit. However it is certainly indisputable from any uninvolved observer – Fintan O’Toole springs to mind – that anti-European racism and English exceptionalism are fundamental to the resentments that led to Brexit, whereas anti-English racism in Scotland is marginal and is rejected by the vast majority of independence supporters.

Boris Johnson has a long history of casual racism. He’s made racist comments about black people, about the inhabitants of Papua New Guinea. He wrote an article saying that the only problem with colonialism is that Britain doesn’t rule the colonies any more. He wrote a racist poem about the Turkish president. He allowed the publication of a racist poem about Scottish people when he was editor of the Spectator, and he himself has written racist comments about Scots. When he was on an official visit to Myanmar and was visiting a Buddhist shrine in Mandalay, he attempted to recite Kipling’s poem, either unaware or uncaring that it expressed some deeply racist and offensive comments about his Burmese hosts. In fact, just about the only nations that Boris Johnson hasn’t been racist about at one time or another are Anglosaxon ones.

This racism is shrugged off by Boris Johnson’s supporters. It’s just Boris being Boris, they chuckle, telling it like it is. That’s because Boris Johnson voices those racist sentiments that they themselves possess, and he says them for them. It allows them to be racist by proxy, enjoying the pleasure of their prejudice without having to take responsibility for it. They seek an England which wraps itself in the comfort blanket of a past when the UK bestrode the world and gunboated its way over the objections of lesser breeds. That’s what Brexit represents to them. It’s a rejection, a return, a reaction. It’s why they are obsessed with WW2, the last time that England’s mythology saw it stand gloriously alone – if only because they forget the Free French, the Free Poles, and all the other Allies.

Scotland is a different country. Scotland looks to the future and not the past. The evidence of that lies in the yawning disdain that Scotland has for royal events, in the paltry crowd which came out in Edinburgh to witness the retropageantry of the Queen’s visit to Holyrood. There are more people on a double decker bus. No one cared about the Royal Company of Archers, the Falconer General Pursuivant, or the Flummery-in-Chief’s medal bedecked uniform.

Scotland’s independence movement is defined by a civic nationalism which welcomes Poles, Portuguese, and the English who enrich this country by doing it the honour of choosing to throw their lot in with it and becoming a part of its story. Scotland seeks connections, alliances, friendships, because we know that we are a small country and total isolation is neither possible nor desirable. Scotland’s independence movement has a realistic sense of itself and its place in the world in a way that proponents of Brexit can never have, because Brexit is fundamentally driven by exceptionalism and the fantasy of a total independence that in the modern world can only be enjoyed by a superpower.

England is no superpower but in their nationalist exceptionalism the Brextremists still dream of being one. That’s the disconnect of Brexit. The only way to bridge the vast chasm between Brexit’s imagining of England and the reality of a medium sized European country is to fill it with resentments and the casual racism of Boris Johnson. It cannot be that Brexit’s England cannot achieve its goal of domination and total freedom because England is not as powerful as they want it to be. It can only be because the French are turds, the Scots are beggars, and the Germans are arrogant.

Scottish independence is driven by a realistic assessment of Scotland’s place in the world, and that realistic assessment must also tell us that we cannot wake England’s Brextremists up from their dreaming. Any attempt to do so will only be rebuffed in anger and fuel their resentments. All that Scotland can do is to protect itself. That means independence within Europe, forming alliances and friendships with other countries which likewise have a realistic assessment of their place in the world. The Brexit dreaming of English nationalism will only lead to a living nightmare.

Tony Blair once described his politics as the third way but his lies and mendacity only led to widespread disenchantment with politics in the UK. Now British politics is to be defined by Boris Johnson’s racism and Brexit – the turd way. Scotland has a better and a more honourable choice. That choice is independence.

BBC2 Newsnight’s Scottish Toryfest

bbcbalance
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There’s been a lot of anger and outrage over the past few days about the risibly poorly informed discussion of Scotland on the Jeremy Vine Show earlier this week. It was justifiable anger, since Scotland doesn’t have a television broadcast network of its own and Westminster tightly keeps control over broadcasting Scotland perforce must consume news and current affairs programmes which are overwhelmingly made outwith Scotland. That means that those broadcasters have an obligation to their Scottish audiences which, judging by the Jeremy Vine Show, they are clearly not fulfulling.

In the cosmic scheme of things, no one seriously expects a rigorous and intelligent discussion of anything, much less of Scottish politics, from a daytime TV show which features the likes of Princess Di’s former butler as a guest. Paul Burrell is no one’s go-to guy for intelligent commentary on Scottish affairs, or indeed anything else. His expertise begins and ends at telling us what Princess Di liked for breakfast. So it’s scarcely surprising that his contribution to a short discussion about Scottish politics was such a bowl of soggy cornflakes.

However BBC 2’s Newsnight is that channel’s flagship news and current affairs programme. It is supposed to give us a more rigorous and in-depth treatment of news and current affairs than is possible during a news broadcast. It’s supposed to combine commentary and opinion with news coverage. In short, it’s meant to be serious and it wants us to take it seriously. You can’t really say that about the Jeremy Vine Show. That means that Newsnight’s failure to accurately present the Scottish political scene to an audience which is overwhelmingly outside Scotland is much more serious, and telling.

Last night, instead of raising my blood pressure by watching BBC Question Time and spending an hour yelling obscenities at the telly, I watched an edition of Newsnight which was entirely based in Scotland and which spent the whole of the programme’s 45 minutes dealing with Scottish politics and culture. Ostensibly this was because it is the 20th anniversary of the Scottish Parliament. However what we got wasn’t a serious and in-depth discussion of Scottish politics and current affairs. What we got was a Scottish Tory-fest. So much for reducing the blood pressure.

There were five politicians and four party activists interviewed on the programme. We got an interview with Nicola Sturgeon. We got an interview with former Labour First Minister Jack McConnell. We got an interview with Ruth Davidson. So far, so balanced, at least according to the BBC’s usual definition of balance when it comes to Scottish independence, having one SNP person and one each from the main anti-independence parties.

I admit to being biased, but it did seem to me that Nicola Sturgeon was the one out of the three who was the most rigorously questioned. She was certainly the only one out of the three that Kirsty Wark interrupted. She got asked the usual stuff about trade with the rest of the UK, and wanting hard borders. Because you know, independence bad. Although I did have to laugh when she was asked whether she preferred Boris Johnson or Jeremy Hunt as Prime Minister and replied that that was like asking whether she preferred to be run over by a bus or a lorry.

After we heard from Nicola Sturgeon, there was an interview with Kirsty’s pal Jack McConnell, who entirely coincidentally and conveniently was given the chance to rebut some of the points that Nicola had made. So that wasn’t planned at all. Oh no.

Then Ruth Davidson was introduced by Kirsty Wark as being the woman who was responsible for the Conservative resurgence in Scotland. It was all very much soft soap stuff, although Ruth wasn’t really able to mask her disdain for Boris Johnson. She didn’t have much influence over Theresa May’s policy choices, Ruth will have even less influence over Boris Johnson’s.

There was no mention of the most recent election in Scotland, which saw the Scottish Tories plunge into fourth place behind the Lib Dems and finish a long long way behind the SNP. There was no mention of the slew of recent opinion polls which show that the Scottish Conservatives are staring at an extinction level event in the next Westminster elections in Scotland. There was no attempt to question Ruth on her change of mind on Brexit, or on the Scottish Parliament not being blocked by Westminster if there’s a majority in Holyrood for another indy ref.

Nor was there any reference to the fact that for all the Tories keep banging on about how no one wants another independence referendum, those same opinion polls also point to a renewed majority for the pro-independence parties in the next Holyrood elections. All we got was Ruth the Winner! Ruth Winning! Ruth is full of Win! A casual viewer who wasn’t familiar with the Scottish political scene will have come away from that interview believing that Ruth Davidson has a real chance of becoming the next First Minister, when the reality is that she will be lucky to hold onto her own seat and is likely to have to scrape her way into Holyrood as a list MSP. The Brexit supporting Tories are not performing at all well in Edinburgh, the most pro-remain city in the UK.

Then in order to ensure that we got a broader picture, or at least a more Tory one, we also got an interview with Stirling Conservative MP Stephen Kerr. Because you know, we’re all desperate to learn what he thinks. We heard from Scottish Tory MSP Margaret Mitchell about why she’s supporting Boris Johnson in the leadership contest and how great Boris Johnson is going to be for Scotland. For an extra bit of Toryness we also heard from the former Head of Communications for the Scottish Conservatives, Andy Maciver. Then because the programme was obviously worried that we hadn’t heard enough from the Tories, we had interviews with three local Scottish Conservative activists in Stirling.

Out of the nine political voices that the programme presented from Scotland, seven were Conservatives. And not one of those representatives of a minority party was asked to explain what mandate they have from the people of Scotland to block another independence referendum. So yeah, a totally balanced and even handed presentation of the current state of Scottish politics after 20 years of the Scottish Parliament. That’s your BBC balance for you.

Viewers in the rest of the UK don’t get many discussions of the Scottish political scene. This programme wasn’t going to inform them of very much at all. It certainly wasn’t going to ensure that in a future edition of the Jeremy Vine Show the guests will be any better briefed than Paul Burrell or Carole Malone. For all its desperate shoring up of the Scottish Conservatives, all that this programme really achieved was to ensure that people in the rest of the UK remain ignorant and ill informed about what’s really going on in Scotland. And that is one of the reasons why the UK is coming to an end.

Wee Ginger Dugcast – 28 June

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In this week’s edition of the Dugcast, Callum Baird and I discuss the Jeremy Vine Show, last night’s Scotland special from BBC2 Newsnight which was really a Scottish Tory special, Jeremy Hunt’s lack of diplomacy, Tory character assassinations, and Boris Johnson’s bus painting hobby.  So naturally I also mentioned my own hobby of making model buildings for my model tramway layout – and unlike Boris Johnson I am able to supply photographic evidence.

We also mention the next National Roadshow event. During the podcast I mistakenly say it is on Tuesday of next week,  it’s actually on Wednesday 3 July at the Cowdenhill Community Hall in Bo’ness from 7pm.  If you’re in the area, come along and meet the dug, Callum, and me.

 

 

The pied piper of shamblin’

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The attack on Boris Johnson’s character by his former boss Max Hastings which was published in the Guardian earlier this week has obviously hit a nerve amongst the Borisketeers. Max Hastings was the editor of the Telegraph when Boris Johnson wrote all those lies about bendy bananas. There is clearly little love lost between them. No one knows how the bananas feel about it, possibly because they don’t exist. Rather like Boris Johnson’s plan for exiting the EU. Hastings said of his former employee, “Johnson would not recognise truth, whether about his private or political life, if confronted by it in an identity parade.” Then for good measure he added that the only people who like Boris Johnson are those who do not know him. Ooooh burn.

In response, the Spectator Magazine, which Boris Johnson used to edit, has published a defence of Boris Johnson penned by Conrad Black. Yes, that Conrad Black, the former owner of the Telegraph and convicted fraudster. Because the best person to give a character reference for Boris Johnson is a former convict and convicted fraudster, who was pardoned by Donald Trump after Conrad wrote a book in praise of the president. The Spectator was once a respected publication. The voice of the intellectual Conservative, or for what passed as such. It’s rapidly turning itself into Hello magazine for Boris Johnson fans.

The truly amazing thing here is that Fraser Nelson, the sufferer from irritable vowel syndrome who is the current editor of the Spectator, thought that a character reference from Conrad Black was going to help. Or more likely, it was because he thought it would help Boris Johnson’s chances to attack those who criticise the leading contender for the Conservative leadership. It sends a useful signal. Attack the darling of the Tory right and you will not be safe, no matter who you are.

Boris Johnson’s public image is of the bumbling fool, the friendly buffoon, the cuddly teddy bear who tells funny stories. But it’s well known amongst those who know him that he has a vicious and foul temper. That’s why Max Hastings said that the only people who like Boris Johnson are those who don’t know him. In part his support amongst Conservative MPs was built upon threats about what would happen to them if they didn’t back him.

Maybe the only reason that they got Conrad to give a character reference was because Darth Vader was too busy. Next week in the Spectator, Kenneth Noye writes an impassioned plea for better customer service in banks, and berates road users for their lack of courtesy. Meanwhile Harold Shipman’s thoughts on how the NHS can improve care for elderly patients is being prepared for publication.

Conrad Black’s article in the Spectator is a pretty weak defence of Boris Johnson. It’s more of an attack on Max Hastings. It’s amusing to witness the British establishment knock lumps out of one another. It would be even more amusing if it wasn’t for the sad truth that the entire UK is perched on the edge of disaster while the patricians play pretend politics.

Unfortunately for the rest of us, attacks on Boris Johnson’s character, as entertaining as they are, are unlikely to prevent him from winning the support of the Conservative party membership. The reason that they like him is because of his character flaws. They’re not a bug, they’re a feature. They like the fact that he’s an unreconstructed posho with a sense of entitlement. They like the fact that he has the tact and diplomacy of an enraged elephant in a glassware shop. They like the mock bumbling shambolic nature of his presentation, because deep down the Conservatives dislike and distrust intellectuals. Because intellectuals think for themselves. They are less likely to bend the knee to the authority of the established order. Recently a Conservative canvasser admitted that if they looked through the window of a house they were considering canvassing, and saw books on the shelves, they knew the householder would not be a Tory.

Words are powerful things. They can protect and defend against charlatans and liars, but they can also cast spells that bewitch and betray. Boris Johnson’s greatest sin is is his sin against language. He uses words not to illuminate, but to distort and deflect. He didn’t tell us about his bus making hobby in order to inform us, but so that whenever someone Googles Boris and buses they’ll be confronted with articles about his confection of models from cardboard and not pieces about the lie about £350 million for the NHS that he had painted on the side of the leave campaign’s tour bus. As if by magic, the bus that’s a danger to his ambition vanishes.

Words are living things, they are creations of the soul of humanity. The druids, the priesthood of the ancient pagan Celts, believed that words were sacred. The Gaelic word for soul, anam, is descended from an ancient Celtic word that originally meant breath. So our pagan distant ancestors believed that it was sinful to write words down, because by writing a word down you deprived it of the breath that gave birth to it, and in doing so you risked destroying its soul. A word that was written without respect for truth was a murdered word, and murdered words contain the potential to become a lie that lasts forever, a dark magic incantation that builds a world of untruths.

Boris Johnson is a killer of words. He uses murdered words to pen articles which create a false universe constructed of lies and deceit. He casts his spell over the Tory party like the Pied Piper who is playing the fool, because he tells them the stories that they want to hear and they lose themselves in a dreamscape made of comforting lies and self-congratulatory laughter. They think that Boris Johnson is letting them in on the joke, when in fact they are the joke. He’s the Pied Piper of shamblin’ who is leading them to their destruction and he’s taking the union between Scotland and England with him. We won’t mourn for any of them.

How will we survive

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Oh my God! How will we survive? The Jeremy Vine Show yesterday had a discussion about Scottish independence. Well, I say discussion, but the amount of knowledge displayed by the participants was easily exceeded by a cat’s ability to explain quantum physics. Just ask Erwin Schrödinger. Essentially the programme boiled down to some seriously out of touch English media junkies telling people in Scotland that we have no assets, no resources, and that we have absolutely nothing going for us.

The first time I typed out the above paragraph, I mistakenly wrote Jeremy Kyle instead of Jeremy Vine. That was daft. In comparison with the comments aired on the Jeremy Vine Show about Scotland, the Jeremy Kyle Show seems like a serious, sensitive, and compassionate investigation of social issues. What we got yesterday from the Jeremy Vine Show was a few out of touch commentators screaming at Scotland, “You slag! You’d be nothing without me!”

The comments were so outré in their ignorance that they even made it into the pages of the anti-independence press in Scotland, as well as being widely aired on social media, so there’s little to be gained by repeating them in full here. Suffice to say that the truly gobsmacking thing about the remarks was not the arrogant lack of knowledge masquerading as insight which they displayed, it was the confidence with which they were asserted. It was British nationalist exceptionalism in full flow, and it was not a pretty sight.

Carole Malone averred that support for independence had declined since the 45% support it received in 2014, so it wasn’t going to happen.  She airily dismissed it with a wave of her hand.  The last opinion poll showed support for independence on 49%, Carole. 49 is a bigger number than 45. 53% say that they’d support independence if your fellow Brextremist Boris Johnson becomes Prime Minister. 53 is also a bigger number than 45.  It also represents a majority.  Happy to help.

We learned from Paul Burrell, former butler to Princess Di who has been milking the connection ever since she died, that Scotland has oil, and a monster in a lake, and eh … This is untrue. Scotland actually has two monsters in lakes. Everyone forgets about Morag the monster of Loch Morar. Most people in Scotland are wishing that everyone could forget about Paul Burrell.

Scotland in fact has any number of mythical beasties.  There’s Nessie and Morag, the kelpies, the selkies, the Grey Man (who contrary to popular belief isn’t actually James Kelly MSP), the Blue Men of the Minch (who aren’t Rangers fans who fell off the Harris ferry), any number of Little Folk, the Beast of Buchan (who is definitely a Scottish Conservative MP), and a whole lot more besides. What all these mythical craiturs have in common is that every single one of them is more grounded in reality than Paul Burrell. As far as Paul was concerned, the biggest issue to arise from Scottish independence would be what happens to the Queen’s holiday hoose. That’s quality current affairs telly that is.

None of this would be an issue if broadcasting was a devolved matter and Scotland had a proper broadcasting network of its own. As it is, we have to put up with a succession of ignoramuses pontificating about Scottish politics and current affairs, lecturing us from a position of gross ignorance and reinforcing the stereotypes and scare stories so beloved of the anti-independence campaign.

So what does Scotland have going for it, that question that the guests on the Jeremy Vine Show were so spectacularly incapable of answering. Scotland has 8.4% of the total population of the UK, but has 32% of the total land area and a massive 62% of the total sea area. Everything in 62% of the UK’s maritime area and every natural resource in 32% of the UK’s land area belongs to the 8.4% of the UK population which lives in Scotland. That’s a pretty good start. Even before we get into details, the people of Scotland are far richer in terms of maritime and land based resources per head of population than people in the rest of the UK.

But not all natural resources are evenly distributed. Although Scotland comprises 32% of the land area of the UK, that 32% contains over 90% of all the fresh water in the UK. Loch Ness doesn’t just contain a monster, it also contains more fresh water than all the lakes of England combined. Maybe Carole and Paul will remember that the next time they turn on a tap of chlorinated and calcinated water in London. The Sapir Whorf Hypothesis in linguistics says that our view of the world is shaped by the language that we speak. Scotland has such an abundance of fresh water that there is no Scots word for a shortage of water.  The Scots word drooth means a lack of alcoholic beverages not a drought, because the concept of running out of water just doesn’t occur to Scottish people. That’s a luxury that people in most countries don’t have. Scottish water remains publicly owned and the best quality drinking water in the world is piped to every home in the country, unmetered.

That 62% of maritime waters which belong to Scotland contain 96.5% of the UK’s crude oil, and 65% of the UK’s natural gas reserves. Although admittedly we’re not counting the reserves of gas which were released on the Jeremy Vine Show. There was precious little natural about those. Those waters are also responsible for 60% of all the fish that are landed in the UK, and a considerable amount of fish caught by non-UK boats. They contain the greatest seafood stocks in the EU, and they’ll be traded away by Westminster in return for access to the EU markets post-Brexit, just like they were traded away by Tory PM Edward Heath in the 1970s.

Scotland’s 32% share of the UK’s land area contains 81% of the UK’s untapped coal reserves. Scotland possesses such an abundance of energy resources that we can afford to leave that coal in the ground. Likewise Scotland can afford to have a moritorium on fracking, because we have plenty of carbon neutral energy resources which can be exploited instead. There are not many countries which have that luxury.

Scotland’s 32% of land area is responsible for 92% of all the UK’s hydroelectric energy production and 40% of all its wind, wave, and solar energy production. Those figures are only going to increase, because Scotland possesses a massive 25% of the wind and wave energy production potential of the entire EU. Energy is the motor of any economy, and Scotland possesses it in an embarrassing abundance.

Scotland’s land also contains 46% of the UK’s forests and produces 62% of all its timber. It holds 30% of the UK’s beef herd, 20% of the UK’s sheep, 9% of the UK’s dairy herd, 10% of its pigs. Scotland also produces 15% of the UK’s cereals – by which is meant wheat and barley, not cornflakes or ricecrispies – and 20% of the UK’s potatoes. All this to feed 8.4% of the UK’s population. So it’s hardly surprising that Scotland has a huge food and drink industry worth an estimated £13 billion annually. Scotch whisky is a multibillion pound industry all by itself. Unlike the rest of the UK, Scotland is not massively dependent on food imports.

Scotland has a highly educated English speaking population with a world class history of invention and innovation. With independence more of the people that Scotland pays to educate will be able to remain in Scotland and benefit Scotland’s economy, instead of being forced into emigration because of the lack of opportunity created by generations of Westminster neglect. Independence means that our children can stay in Scotland, instead of benefiting the economy of London. Westminster economic policies take away our children, and then Westminster tells us that this is a union benefit.

This country has a £17 billion construction industry, a £17 billion financial and business services industry, a £9.3 billion tourism industry, a £5 billion aerospace industry, a £9.3 billion chemical industry, a £3 billion life sciences industry, and we export over £300 million annually in luxury textiles.

Scotland is blessed with being in a geopolitically quiet corner of the globe. We are not surrounded by war zones, we have no territorial claims on anyone and no one has claims on us. Scotland will have one of the greatest advantages of any nation – peace. Because as an independent nation we won’t continually be dragged into foreign wars by a UK government that wants to pretend that it’s still a global player.

Scotland has strong democratic traditions and institutions. Scotland has such a respect for democracy that it is able to conduct a debate on independence, a debate which in many other countries is carried out with bullets and bombs and states of emergency, entirely peacefully. In Scotland, we take peace so much for granted that our anti-independence press has instead to get itself worked up into a lather about some snarking on Twitter.  Being surprised by snark on Twitter is like being surprised that alcohol makes people drunk.

When Scotland does become independent, it will be peaceful, democratic and stable. It will benefit from well established industries which enjoy a global reputation. It will benefit from natural wealth which is far greater per head of population than the rest of the UK possesses. And we will no longer see the products of Scotland’s wealth being drained out of the country in order to pay for London infrastructure, or the demented nuclear ambitions of a faded empire, or for tax cuts for the rich. Scotland’s wealth will stay in Scotland.

Scotland doesn’t have the cult of exceptionalism, but I don’t think that will be missed. How will we survive when our country’s resources, talents, and abilities are no longer being bled dry to fuel the vanities of British exceptionalism. How will we survive? Pretty damn well. That’s how.

The saltire piñata

saltirepinata
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Another day, another step in the Conservatives’ destruction of the United Kingdom. They just can’t help themselves, can they. Jeremy Hunt has announced that he’s withdrawing all UK diplomatic support for the Scottish First Minister on her trips abroad to represent the Scottish Government and Scottish Parliament. “She can fly Ryanair with a hen party from Caldercruix and then fight her way onto a bus 120 miles from her destination,” said Jeremy, “That’ll teach her for being a vile separatist.” Well he didn’t really say that, if only because he doesn’t know where Caldercruix is and wouldn’t know how to pronounce it even if he did. But his sentiments were along an equally petty vein. The really scary thing here is that this is the guy who’s considered the better option.

The reason that the UK Foreign Secretary gave for his undiplomatic decision was that Nicola Sturgeon uses her foreign trips to promote the policies she was elected on, opposing Brexit and supporting Scottish independence. Now we know that politicians who are elected in the UK will only enjoy the support of the UK diplomatic corps if they happen to agree with the politics of whoever happens to be the Foreign Secretary at the time.

Perhaps if Jeremy Hunt possessed a modicum of historical awareness he might have realised that it was a very similar issue, that of consular representation, which brought about Unionsoppløsningen the dissolution of the Union between Norway and Sweden in 1905. Norway felt that it was not adequately represented by consular officials abroad who were appointed by the Swedish foreign minister. The issue became emblematic of the increasingly divergent political paths that Norway and Sweden were then taking, and the union between the two countries, which had existed since 1814, came to an end. Jeremy Hunt’s childish and petty decision will not be the hill that the UK dies on, but it’s one more illustration to Scotland of a UK that is not serving our needs.

According to a spokesapologist for the Tories, in future elected representatives of the devolved administrations will only get support from the Foreign Office if they “avoid supporting activities intended to campaign for policies contrary to [the UK] Government’s position”. So if at some point in a post-Brexit Britain, the British government decides that the NHS is very much on the table in a trade deal negotiation with the USA, then according to this ruling the Scottish government wouldn’t be allowed to speak against that during any official visits to America.

That’s the kind of thing that had it happened under the government of Recep Erdogan or Vladimir Putin would provoke British handwringing about the threat to democracy from authoritarian regimes. Yet here we are. Nicola Sturgeon won’t get support from the Foreign Office when she’s on an official visit abroad, that Foreign Office that is paid for out of Scottish taxes too, because she favours Scottish independence and opposes Brexit and those are policies that Jeremy doesn’t like.

This isn’t just petty on the part of the Foreign Secretary. It’s downright sinister. The Conservatives are a party which is prepared to refuse Scotland another independence referendum “under any circumstances”. The fact that there’s a democratic mandate for one doesn’t matter. They are a party which is prepared to suspend Parliament in order to ram through a no deal Brexit that doesn’t have majority support in the Commons. And now we learn that they are a party which is happy to rule out official support to democratically elected politicians whose policies they don’t like. The Conservatives are not just the party of English nationalism, of English exceptionalism, and of Brexit at all costs, they’re profoundly undemocratic and authoritarian. They represent precisely the kind of extreme right wing politics that they themselves warned Scotland could only avoid if it voted against independence.

What this is really about here, of course, is the Conservative leadership contest. The Scots are a convenient whipping boy. Scotland is about as popular amongst Conservative party members in England – where the vast majority of them reside – as explaining uncomfortable truths about their Brexit policy is with Boris Johnson or Jeremy Hunt. By showing them that he’s prepared to act the hard man with Scotland, Jeremy is hoping to curry a few more votes from the unreconstructed English nationalists who will be voting for the Tory leader in a short while. Scotland’s interests are being sacrificed so that an unprincipled careerist can make himself look good in the eyes a party that prioritises Brexit far above Scotland’s interests. That’s pooling and sharing for you.

Jeremy tells us that he’ll never allow the break up of the UK because although he’s English he also has Irish blood and Welsh blood, and he spent some time in Scotland when he was a wean. Posho Jezza hasn’t realised that insisting on telling people about your blood while waving about a can of Irn Bru for a photo op really isn’t a good look when you’re trying to make out that this nationalism lark is a bad idea.

Jezza son, I mean this kindly, but no one in Scotland gives a tuppenny where your great great great grandparents were from, and we care even less that you spent a few months during the school holidays with your da the admiral on a navy base in Scotland when you weren’t at your posh boarding school in Surrey. So just shuttit, gaunnie. Because you’re coming across as a dictatorial wee nyaff and that really doesn’t play at all well in Scotland. And you’re meant to be the sensible one in this leadership contest, god help us. It’s like saying that because my parents once took me to Whitley Bay when I was a wean, it gives me the right to tell England to forget about this Brexit nonsense.

It’s hard to decide which of the two Tory leadership candidates is worse. But then we don’t get a vote or a say and exist in this contest purely as a tartan piñata to be beaten with a stick in the hope of dislodging a few more votes from some anti-Scottish bigots. There’s a choice between a lying fantasist or a lying opportunist. You can have your liar either shambolic and brazen, or sleekit and boring. Both of them are equally peddling myths and false expectations about Brexit, and both of them are going to come crashing down just as soon as their false promises hit the hard reality of the EU.

When that happens, as it inevitably will, they’ll blame the Europeans for their failure, they’ll blame the Scots, they’ll blame remainers, they’ll blame everyone but themselves and the lies about English exceptionalism upon which Brexit was founded. All that faces Scotland within the UK is more of the Tories’ diplomacy of contempt and a future as a saltire piñata that they will beat with a stick in order to extract a few more votes from the golf clubs of Surrey.