Last week in the House of Lords the topic of debate was the long-delayed review carried out by Tory peer and former advisor to Margaret Thatcher Andrew Dunlop into the relationships between the devolved governments and Downing Street. Although the review had been commissioned over two years ago and had been carried out by an unelected Conservative politician, the British government sat on the findings for as long as it possibly could. This is because not even a right wing British nationalist Conservative could avoid coming to the conclusion that a prime reason for the breakdown in communications and trust between Westminster and the devolved governments is that Downing street has treated Edinburgh and Cardiff with a consistent pattern of arrogant contempt and has systematically cut the devolved governments out of decision making, even failing to keep them informed about the policy decisions of the British government which have a direct impact on devolved competencies.
Dunlop’s proposals for dealing with this sorry state of affairs essentially consisted of setting up a toothless talking shop committee, one which would have no ability to ensure that Downing Street paid heed to its decisions, far less to over-ride the dictat of Number 10. He also advised setting up a new government department to oversee relations between Westminster, Holyrood, Stormont, and Cardiff Bay. This department, Dunlop advised, should be headed by a new minister who sat in the cabinet.
The proposals, weak and basically cosmetic as they were, were dead in the water even before the ink was dry on a report which was destined to be filed by the British Government under “Aye, right, uh-huh,” and locked away in the same filing cabinet deep in a locked basement where Michael Gove and Boris Johnson keep their sense of shame. Johnson appointed himself the Minister for the Union, a title which to date appears to have consisted of little more than keeping well away from Scotland during the recent Holyrood elections and posing on top of a giant St George’s Cross outside number 10 that looked as though it occupied most of Downing Street.
However, to be fair to Johnson, the cropped image that appeared in the media didn’t show the full picture. On an unpublished aerial photo that showed the whole street, you could see that Johnson was in fact standing on a giant letter t in the words dishonest cheating bastert.
It’s only English football matches that the soi-disant Minister for the Union chooses to celebrate, just as it’s only England matches that members of that royal family which is so keen to tell us how much it loves Scotland can be bothered to attend. Within the UK it’s only English culture which is important and significant.
This is never clearer than when discussing the languages other than English which are native to this archipelago off the north west coast of Europe. During that debate last week in the House of Lords, arch Brextremist Daniel Hannan, who was awarded a peerage for services to alienating Europeans, expressed his inability to understand why the subject of Scottish independence was even a thing. It seems that Daniel cannot after all grasp the concept of wanting to take back control.
Daniel said that he was perplexed because people across the UK share the same culture, watch the same soap operas and speak the same language. Which means that you don’t watch Eastenders because you’re engrossed in the sagas of the Slaters and the Beales, it’s really because you think that Scotland’s political decisions are best made by the likes of Daniel.
The fact that even in the 21st century over two million people in the UK speak a language in addition to English, languages which are moreover native to the UK, seems to have escaped Daniel’s notice entirely. The combined number of speakers of Scots, Welsh, Scottish Gaelic, and Irish in the UK is well in excess of two million according to the most recent available census results. However those people who profess to love the union typically disparage and insult the other languages of these islands. We see this in the regular complaints about Gaelic road signs. We see it in the abuse directed at Scots speakers for daring to use their language in public forums. We see it in the way in which Tory MSP Stephen Kerr erased the Gaelic text from Scottish Parliament letter heading.
Some proponents of continued British rule seem to pride themselves on their ignorance of the languages and linguistic history of the UK. This is clear from those who object to funding for the Gaelic language on the spurious grounds that “Gaelic was never spoken here” even though they live in a town whose name is an anglicised spelling of an original Gaelic name. It’s clear from the Northern Irish Unionists who dig in their heels over the prospect of a bill to promote and protect the Irish language in Northern Ireland and claim the language has nothing to do with their community, even though as late as the mid 19th century an applicant for a preaching licence from the Presbyterian Church in Ireland had to demonstrate their ability to preach in Irish because many members of the church knew no English. Many Unionists in Northern Ireland trace their descent to 17th century settlers from south west Scotland, yet Gaelic was still spoken in Galloway and South Ayrshire until the end of the 18th century. The Scottish Gaelic dialect once current in Galloway and Ayrshire was fully mutually intelligible with the dialect of Irish once spoken in the eastern parts of what is now Northern Ireland.
Speakers of Scots who write their language are told that Scots is uneducated slang and that writing it is an affectation. Yet when Scots speakers attempt to develop a literary variety of their language they are told this is artificial and not genuine. In fact all literary languages are by definition “artificial”, they are the deliberate creations of writers who extend the meanings of words and who revive words from prior phases of the language or who use words in new ways. In fact some modern literary languages, like Estonian or Basque, contain words invented by writers who were deliberately trying to create a literary language. Others, like Catalan, make use of spelling systems from a historic period of the language, regularise and adapted for modern use. However when Scots writers attempt to make use of the same tools used to develop all other written languages, in order to develop a literary variety of Scots they are ridiculed and derided.
According to British nationalists the way this union ought to work is for people in the smaller nations to value and treasure English culture, but those feelings do not need to be reciprocated. Indeed any attempt to assert the importance or value of non-English languages must be slapped down and decried. This isn’t how a union works, it’s the language of control-freakery.
NEW MODERATION POLICY
In the wake of recent events I am determined that this site will not become a home for bigots and conspiracy theorists. They will not be welcome here. Moderation is the most stressful part of running a blog, but this site is going to continue to make the positive case for independence. With this in mind as of today a new moderation policy is in force.
Anyone who attempts to use this site to post hatred, bigotry, or conspiracy theories will be banned. If you attempt to insult and abuse anyone you will be banned. This site has a zero-toleration policy for homophobia, transphobia, racism, and misogyny. Failure to respect this will result in a ban.
If you intend to spend the next four years undermining the SNP, the Scottish Government and the pro-independence parties that the great majority of independence supporters voted for, you can do so somewhere else, because you’re not going to do it here. The reminder that has regularly appeared on this site is not a serving suggestion. It will be rigorously enforced. If you don’t like this rule – there is a small x at the top right of your screen. Click it, close this page and go elsewhere.
This is your reminder that the purpose of this blog is to promote Scottish independence. If the comment you want to make will not assist with that goal then don’t post it. If you want to mouth off about how much you dislike the SNP leadership there are other forums where you can do that. You’re not welcome to do it here.
Scotland will have another independence referendum at some point in the next couple of years. Until then, this blog will continue to publish articles which – I hope – are amusing, entertaining, and which help to educate Scotland on the need for independence. However in order to do so I need to eat and pay my bills. Due to my reduced productivity and the limitations imposed on me by my health, this year I am asking for half the amount I’ve requested in previous fundraisers. I hope to raise £5000 which will go towards supporting myself for the next year.
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