There’s been another broontervention. You can be forgiven for not having noticed, as broonterventions come so frequently these days that each new one blurs seamlessly into the ones that preceded it. It’s just a shame that there weren’t any broonterventions during that period just after the 2014 referendum when Gordie had promised that he personally was going to ensure that the UK party leaders would be held to account for the promises that they’d made in order to win that year’s referendum. If he had, then perhaps Scotland wouldn’t be the divided country that he’s bewailing this week. Gordie isn’t the solution, he was such a poor Prime Minister that the people of England voted for the Tories in order to get rid of him.
The real problem with Gordie Broon condemning the political divisions within Scotland is that he bears a huge amount of the responsibility for creating them. It’s a bit like Baron Frankenstein condemning Burke and Hare. The difference is that Gordie’s constitutional monster cobbled together from parts of the dead British state never even got as far as a dissecting table in a castle in Transylvania, hooked up to a lightning conductor. It’s also true that a revived corpse with bolts in its neck is possibly rather less creepy and sinister than Gordie Broon, but that comparison is unfair to the undead.
Gordie took to the stage of the Scottish blogging version of Beetlejuice’s save the yooooonyin event in Newcastle this week in order to lay the blame for the divisions within Scottish society firmly at the door of the SNP. The guy who traipsed about during the independence referendum telling lies about pensions and transplants told the attendees at the These Islands conference that the way to get over all this nasty and upsetting talk of Scottish independence is to stop talking about it, and to form neighbourhood assemblies, where people can instead talk about things like bin collections and potholes in the road and how Nicola Sturgeon is really the incarnation of one of the lesser demons from the Ladybird Big Book of Satanic Rituals. And they can also talk about fantasies that are never going to happen in this reality, like winning the lottery, discovering that they really have superpowers, or Gordie’s ideas for a federal UK.
Gordie strode the stage, doing that weird thing with his hands and his jaw, propounding his theory that there are five different nationalisms which are damaging the UK. None of which are British nationalism or English nationalism, which are strangely absent in Gordie’s mental universe. There’s Scottish nationalism, Welsh nationalism, Irish nationalism, as well as creatures called Ulster nationalism and Brexit nationalism, whose sole purpose for existing appears to be to provide a semantic sleight of hand allowing Gordie to tell himself that him and his fixation on the British state doesn’t constitute a version of British nationalism. Yet Gordie and his fellow travellers like Brian Wilson and other old guard members of the Labour party are every bit as nationalist as the most xenophobic Tory Brexiteer. They prefer to stand shoulder to shoulder with the Conservatives to keep Scotland a part of the UK rather than tolerate any notion of Scottish self-determination.
It’s self-evident that Scotland is divided on the question of independence. It’s a division that’s created out of frustration, frustration with the way in which the British state has treated Scotland since 2014. The truth which Gordie Broon doesn’t want to face up to is that if he and other UK party leaders past and present had ensured that all the promises that they made to Scotland during the referendum campaign had been fulfilled, then he wouldn’t currently be doing that thing with his hands like he’s giving an impression of a demented puppeteer and decrying the political divisions within Scotland. Anyone who isn’t blinded by the insistence that British nationalism is better than other nationalisms by virtue of not being nationalist at all can see very clearly that what is driving the growth in support for Scottish independence is not the SNP, it’s the failure of the British state to create a political space in which a large and increasing number of Scottish residents can feel comfortable, listened to, and respected. The blame for that rests very squarely with Westminster.
Yet it’s also true that Scotland has never been more politically alive, vital, and engaged than it is now. The Scotland that the dinosaurs of Labour hanker for is a Scotland that is quiescent, submissive, and passive. It’s a Scotland where ordinary people didn’t engage with the political process, where politics was to be left to our “betters”. That’s a Scotland that is dead and gone and should not be mourned. Modern Scotland is a country where many tens of thousands of ordinary people are active members of political groups and not just traditional political parties. There are Yes groups, Commonweal groups, groups protesting climate change, and many more. Social media has provided a platform for people outwith the traditional power structures to voice their opinions and spread their views.
The real divisions within Scottish society are divisions of poverty and class. Those are divisions created and deepened by decisions made by the parliament which has control over macroeconomic powers – that would be Westminster. The UK has the greatest regional inequality of any European country. That’s not down to the SNP. It’s down to Westminster governments. The way to start healing those divisions is for Scotland to have the power to adopt different policies. Westminster isn’t going to.
Independence remains a live issue because circumstances have changed due to Westminster, and because Westminster hasn’t fulfilled the promises it made in order to win the last referendum. The way to solve those divisions of opinion about independence is for Scotland to have another referendum to allow the light and air into the debate, you can’t solve them by slamming down the shortbread tin lid and pointing at federalism squirrels. That will only increase the frustration and anger, and make it even more likely that when a democratic event finally occurs, its outcome will not be to Gordie’s pleasing.
Gordie Broon is a voice from the past, as irrelevant to modern Scotland as the dinosaurs that are found as fossils in the rocks. In the aftermath of the referendum, when his side secured a victory, he didn’t care about the supposed divisions that he now berates. He thought that Scotland would shut up and crawl back into its shortbread tin, and he did nothing to ensure that the promises that he’d made to people in Scotland were kept. Now he’s back, complaining about division, because what he is really afraid of is that Scotland is inching towards a new consensus, a new consensus which only has a place for Gordie as a failure in the history books, a new consensus that this country would be better served by independence.
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