We had a good time away, and it’s a good time to come home. Huge thanks to Ray and Sandra for giving the dug such a great holiday when we were away. It’s still good to be home even though it’s to return to a Scotland whose European identity has been ripped away from it, and which is under assault by an English nationalist government in Westminster which is doing its utmost to render Scotland politically irrelevant. It’s good to be home because Scotland is full of European Scots who refuse to sit quietly and shut up like good little North Britons. It’s good to be home because Scotland isn’t going to surrender.
We’ve now had three opinion polls in a row which show support for independence at 50% or above, and the great idea to save the yoonyin is a bridge that everyone knows will never be built. There’s no realistic way in which the scarily deep Beaufort’s Dyke, full as it is of radioactive waste and chemical weaponry, could ever be safely bridged. Still, at least we now have a candidate ditch for Boris Johnson to die in. It is of course entirely coincidental that this imaginary bridge that will never get built was announced on the exact same day that Michael Gove weaselly admitted that there will in fact be post-Brexit border checks despite spending the past few years denying that there would be any such checks at all. However there is now to be a period of consulting about this new bridge that won’t ever get built. The UK government could save itself a whole lot of bother just by giving me £10 million quid and I could tell them right now that the idea is a stupid one. It would still be a tiny fraction of the cost of HS2.
Jackson Carlaw is the new leader of the English Nationalist Brexit Party’s Scottish branch office and Annie Wells is his deputy. Look on their works ye mighty and giggle a bit. Jackson spent 25 years as a used car salesman, so at least he knows when he’s lying. This is a step in the right direction for a Tory politician, and for that small mercy we must be grateful. Jackson’s first act as leader, well, I say leader, was to describe the independence movement as an evangelical faith based cult. This is what counts as leadership in the We Just Love Being Told What To Do By Boris Johnson fan club. I’d have thought that a better definition of an evangelical faith based cult was a political party whose sole policy was telling people in Scotland that they cannot have any agency over their own lives but must surrender to the absolute power of a despot in London. Boris and Brexit will provide. All hail the World King. Although the Scottish Conservatives do raise an interesting philosophical question, how can you be a leader of an organisation whose entire raison d’etre rests upon being told what to do? It’s the antithesis of leadership. You’d be as well campaigning for voting to abolish democracy. Oh wait. That’s exactly what the Scottish Conservatives are doing.
Jackson Carlot is going to spend the next year or so saying no to another independence referendum, and since his band of nawbags has nothing else to offer the people of Scotland will make it their sole policy in the 2021 Holyrood elections. Then once the Tories get their collective arse handed to them on a plate in the ballot he’ll deny that the election was ever about an independence referendum at all. So very much as he did following the General Election then.
And talking of those who would struggle to lead their way out of a wet paper bag, Alister Jack has managed to survive Dominic Cumming’s, sorry Boris Johnson’s, cabinet reshuffle. In retrospect he was always going to. Boris Johnson was never going to allow anyone to keep their jobs if there was the slightest possibility that they might outshine him, and there are few bulbs dimmer than Alister’s. There are in fact small damp patches of photosensitive mould which glow more brightly than Alister. And they make a greater contribution to human wellbeing too. Sajid Javid lost his job as Chancellor, giving him the distinction of being the first British Chancellor of the Exchequer ever to be sacked before delivering a budget. He’s been replaced by the speak your weight machine that is Rishi Sunak, a man who makes Phillip Hammond seem like he’s edgy and charismatic. Sajid said no self-respecting minister could accept the conditions of subservience that were required for the job, and then Rishi comes along and says me! me! This is because if you were to draw a Venn diagram containing circles representing self-respect and Rishi Sunak, the two would be separated by a ditch deeper and wider than Beaufort’s Dyke, and every bit as toxic.
You might be forgiven for wondering why it was that if Dominic Cummings was such an eminence grise that we have a cabinet of third rate villains from a B movie, who are as fit for their positions as Herod was as a child protection officer. Liz Truss is now the longest serving member of the cabinet. Liz. Truss. Let that sink in for a moment. A woman that you wouldn’t trust to look after your goldfish. Liz Truss, who wants us to believe in Brexit because she thinks the whole world is crying out for British cheese and jam. Gavin Williamson still has a job. Gavin is the guy who leaked the proceedings of a national security council meeting to the press in order to get one over his political rivals. He’s the man who tried to defeat Vladimir Putin with petulance. This is the man who makes Private Pike seem like he’s in charge of the SAS. Gavin is the kind of reject from the early phases of auditions for The Apprentice that the other fireplace salesmen would strip naked, truss up to a lamppost, and leave to the mercy of a pigeon. This is the cream of the UK political crop, allegedly. God save us.
The UK cabinet has turned into an episode of a badly made kids’ tv show, in which contestants keep chanting the host’s favourite catch phrases. 40 hospitals! 50,000 nurses! 4000 buses! There’s not an atom of self-respect to be seen. Adults in that show where children got to ritually humiliate their teachers and parents with gunge possessed more dignity. I can’t take the dog out because my toes have curled so much that I can scarcely walk.
I keep trying to think of a sentence using the word we which could include both me and any member of the Tory cabinet, and keep failing. I did come up with “At least we’re not brainless monsters from the evil Mirror Universe of Star Trek”, but then I remembered that Suella Braverman exists, so that didn’t work. It’s not that Suella isn’t the brightest bulb in the lobby, more that she displays all the intellectual acuity of a baked potato that’s been left out in the sun for three weeks. Actually that comment is unworthy. It’s unfair to three week old baked potatoes. At least you can trust a three week old baked potato, which is a lot more than anyone could ever say about Suella.
Despite the collective crapfest that is the British government, the main reason that it’s good to be home is that support for independence is rising, and it will continue to rise. It will continue to rise no matter what self-inflicted disasters the SNP leadership manage to bring upon themselves. It will continue to rise no matter the outcome of next month’s high profile trial, which is being eagerly anticipated by British nationalists on social media like vultures waiting for a carcass. Unfortunately for them, they haven’t realised that the stink of death in their nostrils is the smell of their own decay.
The fundamental error made by those who are rubbing their hands with glee at the prospect of a damaging trial for the SNP is the belief that support for independence is driven by the SNP. It’s not. They have the cart before the horse. It’s support for independence that drives the SNP. What drives support for independence is the failure of the British state. No matter what happens in that trial, it won’t change Brexit. It won’t make the Tories go away. It won’t alter Boris Johnson’s contempt for Scotland. It won’t suddenly make the UK a more attractive place for a Scotland that wants something different.
Meanwhile British nationalists in Scotland are handicapped by a singular blindspot, the blindspot that will be their undoing. They are obliged to make the assumption that remaining in a dysfunctional Union which isn’t really a Union at all is the default position that’s best for Scotland. It is screamingly obvious that the political and constitutional structures of the UK cannot accommodate Scottish political distinctiveness. It is equally obvious that remaining within the UK mean being subject to the whims of an English nationalist government which has no interest or need to listen to Scotland and a winner takes all voting system which means that the Labour party has little chance of power for many years to come. Even when a mildly progressive force does manage to take charge in Westminster, it can – as Blair proved – only do so by aping the Conservatives and then any good that it manages to achieve in its period in office will be undone once the Tories inevitably return to power. British nationalists in Scotland have to accept all this and present it to us as a good thing.
This might have worked back in 2014, in another political world it was possible to argue that the UK was wonderful, that its amazingness spoke for itself, that there was no need to prove its superiority. All that was taken for granted by British nationalists, just as it was taken for granted that British nationalism was the nationalism that was better than Scottish nationalism because it was magically not nationalist at all. It won’t work any more. It won’t work in a Scotland where the majority now support independence, where the default position amongst the public is a belief that independence is the normal state of affairs for Scotland.
But the greatest single problem that opponents of independence have is their credibility gap. That’s why they will struggle to make any positive case for the UK. The inescapable fact is that they made us all sorts of promises the last time round, and those promises can now be measured against the reality of what was actually delivered. No one is going to believe another Vow. No one will listen to another solemn promise that Scotland is a partner. No one will give any credence to a heartfelt plea that Scotland is loved and respected.
In 2014 a vote for independence was a vote for aspiration. In the next independence referendum a vote for independence will be a vote for exasperation. It will be a vote driven by exasperation about the decline of the UK, its destruction of the social security system and public services. It will be a vote driven by despair over the prospect of endless Conservative governments with Anglocentric politics and the worthlessness of Scottish voices in Westminster. It will be a vote driven by disgust about the small mindedness of Prime Ministers catering to the mean, the vindictive, the ignorant, and the xenophobic. It will be a vote in anger because we have a government chock full of nonentities who have less compassion and humanity than those dummies that people put in the passenger seats of their cars so that they can drive in the car-share lane without getting fined.
2020 is going to be the year when support for independence in Scotland is consolidated. It’s good to be back home and to be a part of making it happen.
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My new book has just been published by Vagabond Voices. Containing the best articles from The National from 2016 to date. Weighing in at over 350 pages, this is the biggest and best anthology of Wee Gingerisms yet. This collection of pieces covers the increasingly demented Brexit years, and the continuing presence and strength of Scotland’s independence movement.
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