The English nationalist elephant in the room

We need to talk about English nationalism. Those of us who support Scottish independence are usually wary about anything that could be perceived as “England blaming”. We get hammered so constantly and repeatedly in the media and by opponents of independence as English haters, even though many of us have English family, even though many of us are English ourselves, that we’ve developed an aversion to mentioning anything that might be spun as yet another example of the supposed anti-English racism which the media would have many believe is the only driving force for Scottish independence.

This isn’t about blaming ordinary English people for Scotland’s ills. The problems of Scotland and this country’s role in a British state that is an expression of English nationalism are due to the complicity of generations of Scottish people. Independence is above all the acknowledgement that Scotland must be responsible for its own problems and must find its own solutions to them.

But as long as we remain a part of the UK we do need to talk about England’s problem with its own nationalism. England is the largest and the most dominant nation in this farce of a pretendy union in which Scotland is currently enmeshed. The UK is an expression of English nationalism dressed up as Britishness. It’s English nationalism which has driven and defined Brexit, and it’s English nationalism which is taking Scotland off the Brexit cliff. The UK, for all that we are constantly told it is a union of partner nations, has no mechanisms, no constitutional provisions, no legal safeguards, to protect Scotland from the malign effects of rampant English nationalism. In Scotland we are hostages to English nationalists.

There is much that is good and great about England. There are many things to admire and cherish. It’s a country with a long and respected tradition of radical politics, of liberal values, of toleration and acceptance of difference. And it shouldn’t need to be said that not all English people are consumed by the xenophobia and little Englandism that defines the hard Brexit pursued by this Conservative government.

England is deeply divided on the question of Brexit, and its divisions are profound, bitter, and all-consuming. Even if by some miracle Brexit can be avoided, or the softest possible Brexit agreed, the issue will still continue to divide and define the shape of English politics for decades to come. And that’s the point, because Scotland may be divided on many things, above all the issue of independence, but Scotland is not divided by Brexit like England is. Scotland does have a significant minority which supports Brexit, but unlike in England it is a minority. It is a minority of a similar size to opponents of the EU found in other EU member states where there is no question of leaving the EU and where leaving the EU does not figure in mainstream political discussion. Yet Scotland is now being dragged out of the EU. It’s being dragged out because of English nationalism.

Brexit is happening because English nationalism has never reconciled itself to a position of equality with other nations. England has always been something apart. English nationalism glories in the myth of an island nation, even though these islands are shared with nations other than England. Even though Ireland is an independent sovereign state, English nationalists are still incredulous that Ireland seeks to work in its own best interests and doesn’t surrender to what’s best for their narrow vision of England.

In the dreamscape of the right wing English nationalists who have seized control of the British government, their country is special and not to be subject to the rules that other lesser nations must obey. Yet for the foreseeable future Scotland’s politics and Scotland’s economic prospects will be defined and determined – and more seriously damaged and destroyed – by an English nationalist debate that tells Scotland that it must sacrifice its links to other countries in order to remain subordinate within the UK.

English nationalism is the elephant in the room for opponents of Scottish independence within Scotland. They have no idea how Scotland can be protected from it. Despite Brexit, many of them still refuse to acknowledge that Scotland needs to be protected from it or that it even exists. Even those for whom it does appear on the edges of their conscious awareness, they have no answers to it.

What mechanisms can, realistically, be introduced into the British state in order to ensure that the UK really is a union in fact and not in name? The truth is that there are none, because any such mechanisms would imply a limit being placed upon the English nationalism which has always been the unspoken dominant and defining force within the UK. British nationalism is merely English nationalism with Celtic cheerleaders. British nationalism is English nationalism with a pipe band. British nationalism is the avatar of English nationalism that tells itself that it’s not nationalist at all. It is fundamentally and at its core a species of denial of reality. No wonder that Brexit has proven to be such a mess, when British nationalism is itself an exercise in self-delusion.

Any constitutional mechanisms which would transform the UK into a real union of nations would require the assent of English nationalists and a majority within England. We’ve already seen the constant appearances and disappearances of the federalism fairy ineffectually waving a magic wand which has as much effect as a souvenir bought in a Harry Potter theme park. British nationalists in Scotland propose federalism, but it’s not going to happen because that means placing limits on the absolute power enjoyed by a Prime Minister with a majority in the Commons.

It’s better if you are an opponent of Scottish independence to pretend that there is no issue, that it doesn’t exist, and to concentrate instead on the legal issues faced by a former First Minister, or whatever SNPbad story is the headline du jour. The constant SNPbaddery that defines the British nationalist press in Scotland is a symptom of the powerlessness of British nationalists in Scotland to have any influence over the British state.

As we approach another vote on the issue of Scottish independence, the issue of English nationalism and protecting Scotland from it is a question that we cannot allow opponents of independence to get away with. It is incumbent upon those who want Scotland to remain a part of the UK to demonstrate a clear and realistic plan for ensuring that Scotland’s voice will be heard, that Scotland will not be ignored and sidelined as it has been sidelined during the Brexit negotiations, and that there are constitutional measures in place within the UK to ensure that the four different nations of this so-called union have equal representation and influence at the topmost levels of the British state. Because if they cannot, or will not, do that, then there is nothing in the UK to distinguish it from an expression of English nationalism. That’s the lesson of Brexit.

This may be the perfect union of the Scottish Conservatives, a Scotland that is a prisoner of English nationalists like Jacob Rees Mogg, Theresa May, and Boris Johnson. Well it’s very far from perfect for those of us who see the English nationalist elephant in the room. Scotland either becomes independent, or we remain trapped as cheerleaders for an English nationalism wrapped in a union fleg, feeding its delusion that it’s not nationalist at all.


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What happens next

On Sunday on the Marr show, Nicola Sturgeon stated the obvious. The case for independence is not affected by legal difficulties faced by any individual. If indeed it were the case that personal legal problems had constitutional implications, then given the number of legal issues which have been faced by British politicians, Westminster would be indistinguishable from a smouldering crater in the aftermath of a nuclear strike.  The only certainty in the British state these days is that almost everything is uncertain.

Nicola Sturgeon has reiterated her intention to provide some clarity about her plans for an independence vote in a few weeks’ time. I don’t know what Nicola is going to announce. I only know what I’d announce if I were the First Minister. Admittedly if I were First Minister there would be a whole lot more swearing and sarcasm in public life, so possibly it’s just as well that I’m not.

The polls are still not showing a clear and consistent majority for independence. They’re not going to until there is a clear and definite date for a vote, and an official campaign. Those of us who are politics geeks often make the mistake of assuming that everyone shares our interest. They don’t. Most people will not engage with the arguments about independence until they have a reason to. That reason can only be an upcoming vote on the topic. It’s only when an official campaign is in full swing that the polls will start to change.

The best method of getting an independence referendum in which everyone participates and the result of which is recognised and accepted by all parties is for the British Government to agree to a Section 30 order. It’s likely that when she does make her announcement the First Minister will renew her call to Theresa May to grant a Section 30 order in order to allow the referendum to go ahead. When this call was made previously, Theresa May rebuffed it, saying “Now is not the time.” When Nicola makes a renewed call, the times and circumstances will have changed.

It is not inconceivable that we will be facing a no deal Brexit. If a no deal Brexit is avoided, we may find ourselves being taken out of the EU on some version of Theresa May’s deal, taking Scotland out of the customs union and single market and ending freedom of movement. That is a hard Brexit by the definition used back when the Scottish Parliament voted in favour of another indepedence referendum. Brexiteers may wish to rewrite their definitions retrospectively, that doesn’t mean that Scotland should allow them to do so. Both a no deal Brexit or Theresa May’s hard Brexit were seen as unlikely, we now know that they’re frighteningly plausible. That’s a major change in circumstances compared to the situation back in the early months of 2017.

However it’s unlikely that the notoriously obdurate Theresa May will change her tune. Uncooked spaghetti is more flexible and less brittle. In her mind in her most perfect of unions, she has an absolute veto on whether the people of Scotland get to choose the form of government best suited to their needs. So while it’s important that the Scottish Government renews the call for Theresa May to grant a Section 30 order and respect the Scottish Claim of Right which the Westminster Parliament itself endorsed on 4 July 2018, it’s also important that it spells out the political consequences if Theresa May refuses to do so.

If Scotland is trapped in the UK and its future is subject to an absolute veto by a Prime Minister whose mandate derives from votes from elsewhere in the UK, then it is clear that Scotland is not in a union at all. It’s going to be very difficult for anti-independence parties to continue to argue that Scotland is freely and willingly a part of the UK when the British government refuses point blank to allow the people of Scotland to have a say on the very changed circumstances of the British state.

The British government should be given every opportunity to agree to a Section 30 order, but if I were the First Minister I’d give them a tight deadline. If Theresa May, or whoever is Prime Minister by then, is still refusing to grant a Section 30 order, then the Scottish government must start legal action in order to test the legality of a consultative referendum held without a Section 30 order. This need not, as certain anti-independence commentators are so keen to make out, be automatically outwith the competence of Holyrood. A consultative referendum would not impact upon reserved powers. It would remain for Westminster to act upon the outcome and give it legal effect. The effect of a consultative referendum would be political, not legal, and it would be very much within the spirit of the Scottish Claim of Right which Westminster has agreed to.

Should the court determine that a consultative referendum was indeed legal, the Scottish Parliament should press ahead with one. During the following campaign, independence campaigners will then be able to point to opponents who had sought to silence the people of Scotland and prevent them from having a say. This is why it’s very much in the interests of opponents of independence to agree to a Section 30 order. It’s the only way in which they will be able to maintain the fiction that Scotland is a partner in a union, and not trapped in a loveless marriage with a bullying partner who refuses to allow marriage guidance counselling, never mind a divorce.

However should the court rule that it was illegal, and the matter is likely to go to a UK Supreme Court in which Scottish judges are a minority, a court which has previously given the British government the benefit of any possible doubt, then it would be time for a Scottish plebiscite election. That could take place either during a Westminster General Election in Scotland, or during Holyrood elections, whether early or at the end of this Scottish Parliament in 2021.

If the Greens refuse to support the Scottish Government’s budget this week, there could be a Scottish election a lot sooner than 2021. It could be very soon indeed. If that happens and the Scottish government falls, there won’t be time to test a consultative independence referendum in the courts, we’ll be straight into an election. Nicola’s decision will have been made for her.

If it were up to me I’d go for a plebiscite election if there’s an early Holyrood vote, but I suspect Nicola Sturgeon will take a more measured and careful path.  However any coming election will be an election in which Brexit and Scotland’s response to it will be front and foremost. It will be an election in which the question of independence cannot be sidelined or avoided like the SNP tried to do in 2017. Do we want the continuing powerlessness of Scotland in this supposed union, or do we want a Scotland which is empowered and which has a meaningful voice. Do we want the passivity of Scotland in this so-called union, or a Scotland which is an agent in its own destiny. That is going to be the only issue. Evereything else is irrelevant, because everything else is at risk of destruction by the Tories’ insane clueless and chaotic Brexit. A win for pro-independence parties in an early election means an unarguable mandate for a Scottish people’s vote.

A continued refusal from Westminster to allow that Scottish people’s vote would destroy any pretence that the UK is a union, or even a democracy. Such a refusal should be followed immediately by either a consultative referendum or the dissolution of Holyrood and a plebiscite election.

When Nicola Sturgeon makes her announcement to the people of Scotland, she needs to make it clear that one way or another, the people of Scotland will get a legal vote on Brexit and on Scotland’s place within this so-called union. Theresa May does not have a veto on Scotland’s future.

Buckle up. We’re in for a bumpy ride.


 

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The week in Brexit

While certain sections of the British nationalist press in Scotland have been very insistent this week that it’s all over for the independence movement, back in the real world the reasons for Scottish independence just keep getting stronger.  Brexit hasn’t gone away.  Scotland being sidelined and ignored hasn’t gone away.  This week has seen yet more reasons for independence being piled onto the stinking heap of putrid British politics, a heap which already rivals Mt Everest in height.

Theresa May is complaining that Jeremy Corbyn won’t come and speak to her about things that she’s already said she won’t do. One of the businessmen who was most vocal in his support for Brexit is taking his business to Singapore. Jacob Rees Mogg tells us that the only way to save democracy is to close down parliament. The Conservatives insist that it would be an attack on democracy to allow the people to have a free vote. Then a senior BBC presenter thought it was a serious question to suggest to an Irish government minister that the solution to the border question would be for Ireland to leave the EU and join the UK. That’s where we are now in the through the looking glass world of Brexit Britain.

There are only 62 days left until Brexit. That’s not enough time for Jacob Rees Mogg to get his tailor to make him a suit that looks like it wasn’t made for his dad. It’s scarcely enough time to get the council to come and pick up an abandoned mattress, certainly not if you are unfortunate enough to have a Tory council. There is, it must be said, little to distinguish Brexit from an abandoned mattress. It’s unsightly, unseemly, it leaves a bad smell, and no one will take responsibility for it. Certainly not those who actually dumped it outside our front gate. A gate which will soon require a visa to get through, at least once you get past the queue of lorries.

Jacob is terribly worried that the Parliament whose sovereignty he swore blind he was campaigning for might actually act like it’s sovereign. I seem to recall that all the way through the EU referendum campaign Jacob and his pals were insisting that it was an outrage that the sovereignty of the British Parliament be limited by Brussels and by treaty commitments that the UK had signed up to. It’s the God-given right of the UK to be perfidious, and promises made to foreigners needn’t be respected. Neither to promises made to Scotland, so we’re familiar with that one.  This kind of guff sounds terribly plausible to Conservatives in Middle-Englandshire when it’s delivered in the plummy tones of someone for whom poshness is performance art.  And that all by itself is one of the reasons why the UK is not fit for purpose.

However now that there are mutterings that MPs might wrest control of Parliament business from Theresa May’s minority government, and potentially use it to delay Brexit or even call for another referendum, Jacob is all of a sudden rather less keen on the sovereignty of Parliament. He wants to activate the Queen – which is a phrase that I’d never thought I’d hear. He wants Liz to make like activated charcoal and clear out the blocked bowels of Westminster. She can do this by suspending Parliament to prevent MPs acting like they’re a sovereign body. So now we know that Brexit is really about restoring the divine right of the monarchy. Most of us thought the royals already had been granted divine rights. At least as far as traffic offences are concerned.

Theresa May asserted this week that if Brexit fails to take place then people will lose all faith in politicians. Which only shows how out of touch she really is. That ship sailed a long time ago. The reason many of us want Scottish independence is precisely because we lost faith in politicians, and hope that with a written constitution in an independent Scotland we’ll be better placed to make sure that politicians are actually answerable to us. That’s certainly not the case in the UK.

She couldn’t help herself during PMQs. We may all be going to Hell in a handcart, there may be precious little time left, but there’s always time to get in a cheap gibe about Jeremy Corbyn – like she was a snarky blog writer or something. She sniffed, “The right honourable gentleman has been willing to sit down with Hamas, Hezbollah and the IRA without preconditions, yet he won’t meet me to talk about Brexit.” Yeah Theresa, but that’s because Hamas, Hezbollah, and the IRA knew what they were doing. And at least they took responsibility for the damage that they created.

The population of the UK now feels like it’s living in that movie where Bruce Willis went up in a spaceship to save the world from the asteroid that was hurtling toward it and about to destroy it. Only instead of Bruce and his derring do we have Theresa May and her derring don’t. We have Jeremy Corbyn who wants to hand knit a spacecraft from wool plucked by a peasant collective from the backs of ethically reared vicuñas. And we have Jacob Rees Mogg cheering on the asteroid. None of them actually want to prevent the asteroid striking us, they merely disagree on who should be in charge when it does.

It seems that at least one senior presenter on the BBC doesn’t want to blame anyone in the UK for the mess of Brexit. On BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Saturday, Helen McEntee, the Europe Minister in the Irish government was interviewed by the veteran presenter John Humphrys. John wasn’t too impressed by the recent warnings that a no deal Brexit might lead to the imposition of a hard border across the island of Ireland, a border which John seems to have forgotten only exists in the first place because the British partitioned Ireland.

John thinks that it’s up to Ireland to sort out the mess. He asked the Irish minister why Ireland didn’t just quit the EU and “throw its lot in with this country”. Because that worked out so well for Ireland the last time. The fact that John Humphrys, who let us not forget is a highly paid BBC presenter specialising in politics, thought that this was a serious question deserving of a serious answer sums up all that is wrong with Brexit. If Helen McEntee hadn’t been a polite and sensible Irish politician, she would have given him the only proper answer, which is, “Are you feckin mad, or stupid, or both?”

In the Anglocentric world of Brexiteers, there is no need to understand or even acknowledge the tortured history of Ireland’s relationship with Britain. The problems with Brexit are always the fault of others, and it’s incumbent upon other countries and other people to fix England’s problems for it. Back in the real world, 92% of the people of Ireland want to remain in the EU. It’s not Ireland’s job to sort out the self-inflicted difficulties created by the UK’s inept and selfish political class. As long as Scotland remains a part of the UK, that would be Scotland’s job. That’s Scotland in the UK for you. No say. No influence. But fully liable for all of the mess.


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The Wee Ginger Dugcast : with Mhairi Black

Welcome to the latest edition of the Wee Ginger Dugcast brought to you by The National newspaper. In this week’s episode we have a very special guest, Mhairi Black. Mhairi joins us to chat about independence, the craziness of Westminster, and Brexit.

Of course, the only reason she agreed to guest was so that she could get to pat the dug.


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The flame of hope burns bright in the storm

Back in September 2014, on the day after the defeat of the Yes campaign in the referendum, I wrote about the importance of keeping the flame of hope alive during the storms and gales that were about to strike. The arrest of Alex Salmond on fourteen separate charges including breach of the peace, sexual assault, indecent assault, and attempted rape is one of those storms. There is going to be a howling gale of British nationalist gloating, of finger pointing, and taunting on social media and in the pages of the anti-independence press.

These are serious and shocking charges. This is a very big story. However it must never be forgotten that Alex Salmond deserves due process, and so do those who made the allegations which led to his arrest. He is innocent until proven guilty and he deserves a fair trial, if this matter comes to a trial. Those who made the allegations against him deserve a fair hearing. That needs to be said, because it is a point that is likely to be lost amidst the rush to judgement in a hostile press and the insults and slurs that have already started to fly on social media. He deserves to make his case, and the case of those who made the allegations against him must be heard as well. We must, all of us, respect the legal process. Justice demands it.

It is cold comfort to those of us who have looked up to Alex and respected him as the single individual who has done more than any other to bring the cause of independence into the forefront of Scottish politics, who has made independence respectable and realistic, but we must acknowledge that it is a desireable thing that this is a nation in which no one is above the law. We are not campaigning for an independent Scotland in which a person’s position or status protects them from justice. A Scotland in which no one is above the law is a Scotland which all of us can be proud of living in and being a part of. We should be seeking a Scotland in which those who feel that they are victims of sexual assault are able to make a complaint and have it dealt with sympathetically and seriously no matter how prominent or powerful the person against whom the allegations are made. That’s the independent Scotland we strive for. But it is still a shock to see one of the great heroes of our movement be arrested and potentially face trial.

The flame of hope burns stronger now than it has burned since 2014. We are closer to independence now than we have been at any time since. The British state is reeling from the self-inflicted wounds of Brexit. There is the buzz of expectation of another independence referendum, and many of those who voted no in 2014 are reconsidering their decision in the light of the contempt with which Theresa May’s government has treated Scotland, and remain voters in general, since the EU referendum vote. We have seen all the promises and commitments that the Better Together campaign made to Scotland in 2014 turn to dust.

As the likelihood of a no-deal crashing out of the EU looms ever larger, independence for Scotland is the shining beacon that shows the only clear path out of the mire, the only escape from an eternity of right wing governments and cruelty as official policy. Only independence offers the prospect of a kinder, gentler, better land. We are getting close to the tipping point. We must not be distracted from that. We are winning.

The very last thing that the independence movement needs right now is to succumb to some self-inflicted wounds of its own. It will do the independence movement no favours if we indulge ourselves in conspiracy theories and dark mutterings about the nefarious doings of a British state that is threatened like it has never been threatened before. Such musings and mutterings will do nothing to persuade undecided voters to our cause, at a time when we have succeeded in pushing the rock almost to the top of the hill, at a time when the vista of a better Scotland, an independent Scotland, is almost clear for all to see. So we need to stay calm. We need to stay dignified. We need, above all, to remain focussed on the prize.

Opponents of independence have always been keen to personalise the independence cause. They have consistently sought to portray the desire for independence as the personal creature of first Alex Salmond, and more latterly of Nicola Sturgeon. Naturally they are going to seize with unseemly glee on the arrest of Alex Salmond and the court case which will follow should the Procurator Fiscal’s office decide to proceed with a trial. It’s all their SNPbad Christmasses come at once.

Alex Salmond is a giant of the Scottish independence movement, but he is not the movement. Alex Salmond has had and continues to have a huge influence on the independence movement, but he is not the reason for independence. Our movement is bigger than any individual. The reasons for independence are not embodied in any one person no matter who they are.

Above all, the reasons for independence are to do with the consistent and continual failures of the British state and the British political establishment to respond to, to take on board, and to act upon the democratic desires of the people of Scotland. The story of independence is the story of the systemic failure of the British state, that remains unchanged no matter what personal failures are alleged about any individual.

Making the case for independence means making the case for a nation in which the government is democratically accountable to the people of Scotland, elected by the people of Scotland, and which works in the interests of the people of Scotland. That case remains the exact same today as it did yesterday. That is why no matter what happens with respect to Alex Salmond’s legal issues, the reasons for independence will remain unchanged. We must, as a movement, continue to focus on those reasons. We must continue to tell the story of the better Scotland that is within our grasp. Scotland deserves nothing less, our children and grandchildren deserve nothing less.

We will prevail, because we have right on our side. We will get to the top of the mountain, and will see the better land beyond. The flame of hope still burns brightly in the storm. It will light our path to a better Scotland.


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GINGER2croppedGaelic maps of Scotland are available for £15 each, plus £7 P&P within the UK for up to three maps. T-shirts are £12 each, and are available in small, medium, large, XL and XXL sizes. P&P is £5 for up to three t-shirts. My books, the Collected Yaps Vols 1 to 4 are available for £11 each. P&P is £4 for up to two books. Payment can be made via Paypal.

The proud Scot butters nae neeps

So how’s that respect agenda working out for everyone? Remember that? Respect was supposed to be the keystone in Conservative dealings with Scotland, according to David Cameron before he won the award for worst Prime Minister ever and then flounced off to his garden shed. But it’s not all bad, we’ve now all discovered that he’s only the second worst Prime Minister ever, as Theresa May has taken the prize.

There’s precious little respect on display from the Conservatives towards Scotland. Respect means to have due regard for the feelings, wishes, or rights of someone. It means to be considerate and attentive to what another is saying. This Conservative government has failed dismally to demonstrate any respect for Scotland.

Actually, that’s being kind. To say that someone has dismally failed to achieve something that they’d claimed they were going to do implies that they had good intentions to begin with, that they had a genuine desire to do whatever it was that they’d said they were going to do. The Conservatives never had the slightest intention of changing how they dealt with Scotland or the Scottish Parliament. The respect agenda is up there with the claim that Scotland is a beloved partner in a family of nations, or the assertion that this is the UK is the most successful partnership of countries that the world has ever seen. It is now and always was meaningless cant designed to make British nationalists in Scotland feel better about themselves.

The reality of Conservative respect for Scotland was on display this week when the UK government cancelled the Joint Ministerial Council meeting that had been scheduled for Thursday, citing diary issues. The Joint Ministerial Council is a regular meeting between the First Ministers of the devolved administrations and the British government, but apparently David Lidington is washing his hair so can’t make it. The cancellation comes just a few days after Theresa May promised an “enhanced role” for the devolved administrations in Brexit negotiations.

We had some more Conservative respect on Wednesday, with reports that the Scottish Conservatives are going to vote in a bloc against Theresa May. Yay! Ruth Davidson’s Scottish Conservatives™ are standing up for Scotland just like Ruth Davidson said they were going to! Oh. Wait. Hing oan.

They’re going to vote against any proposals from Theresa May to give the Scottish Government a greater role in post-Brexit trade negotiations. So not standing up for Scotland at all then. They’re standing up for a reduced role for Scotland. They’re standing up for putting Scotland firmly back in the shortbread tin and nailing the lid down. They’re standing up for the narrow party interests of the Scottish Tories and their loathing of Nicola Sturgeon, and if that means that there will be no Scottish voice in post-Brexit trade negotiations, so be it. They’re proud Scots, but not so proud that they want Scotland to speak for itself or have its own interests and views represented. Proud Scot butters no parsnips.

Also on Wednesday, there was an excruciating example of more Proud Scot buttering nae neeps when Scottish Conservative MP Stephen Kerr was chosen to ask the Prime Minister a question during PMQs. There are a lot of things that Stephen could have chosen to ask. He could have asked about measures to protect the Scottish fishing industry, which is the only Scottish industry that has any interests which appear on the Scottish Tories’ Brexit radar. Or rather, the interests of the six wealthy families who have hoovered up most of Scotland’s fishing quotas. But even so, it would have been more worthwhile than what he came out with.

Stephen assured the House and everyone else that he was a Proud Scot. It’s only ever people who are keen to ensure that Scotland has a subordinate role and an inferior position who feel the need to tell us that they are Proud Scots. Stephen wanted the world to know that the United Kingdom was the most successful political union that the world had ever known.

It’s not clear what standard of comparison he was using here. There are plenty of other political unions in which the participants actually retain equal voices or at least equal representation at the highest level of the structures of the union. Unions which, you know, are actually unions, and not incorporations and takeovers.

Possibly he meant that the UK was the most successful political union that the world had ever seen because it gave Stephen a seat in the Westminster parliament where he could pontificate from the back benches and pretend to himself that he was important and influential. And if he keeps his nose clean and his head down he might eventually be in line for a knighthood or even a peerage.

Mainly however, he wanted Theresa May to rule out Scotland having another independence referendum any time soon. Or indeed not so soon. Stephen is such a Proud Scot that he wants to ensure that Scotland doesn’t have any say in whether or not it wants to continue remaining a part of his most successful political union the world has ever seen. He’s such a Proud Scot that he wants to ensure that a Prime Minister whose mandate in Scotland rests upon the votes received by her party elsewhere in the UK has a veto over Scotland. And he wants to ensure that the Scotland that he’s determined to trap into this so-called perfect union has no say in how it charts its course in the storms of the post-Brexit world that his party is dragging an unwilling Scotland into. That’s a strange definition of pride.

You don’t measure pride by words. You don’t measure pride by the number of times a person tells you that they’re proud. You measure it by deeds, by action. You measure it by how many neeps it butters, not by how many proud Scots say but. The proud Scots but of the Scottish Tories are not proud of Scotland. They’re just conceited. The proud Scot butters nae neeps.


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Lost and silenced in the dreamscape

What is wrong with Britain? Let me list the ways. Mind you, if anyone embarked upon a serious and detailed accounting of the myriad ways in which the British state is a fundamental screw up, they’d still be listing them by the time that the Sun runs out of hydrogen and starts to consume helium instead, causing it to swell up into a red giant and engulfing the Earth. This is expected to occur in approximately 5 billion years time. So considerably sooner than Theresa May is likely to start listening to alternative opinions then.

Given that, all anyone can really do, at least while maintaining a semblance of sanity, is to mention some of the more egregious ways in which this so called United Kingdom is neither united nor fit for purpose.

Amidst the Brexitosis which has been occupying the body politic, last week Prince Philip crashed his car. Reports say that he was turning out into a main road, was blinded by the sun, even though it’s still not a red giant, and hit another vehicle carrying two women and a baby. This would seem to suggest that the accident was Prince Philip’s fault, as he was the one who had the obligation to give way to oncoming traffic. The women were injured in the collision, not that you’d really have learned that from the press coverage of the event, which focussed almost in its entirety on the fact that the person who appeared to have been responsible for the crash was uninjured despite overturning his Land Rover. Thankfully the baby escaped without any harm.

One way of reporting this incident, typical of the Daily Mail or the Express, would have been to talk about how an elderly EU immigrant from Greece who’s lived off state benefits all his life and has a sense of entitlement the size of the sun after it’s turned into a red giant caused traffic mayhem, injured two women, and risked the death of an infant. There could have been demands to know why this 97 year old was still driving, and how the only reason he’s still doing so is from a wilful pigheadedness, especially since he’s in the fortunate position of being able to rely on staff who can drive for him. That’s something which can’t be said for a 97 year old who relies on the state pension.

Philip’s pride and arrogance risked the lives of other motorists, and in this case an infant as well. Then just two days after the accident, he was seen driving on a public road, and wasn’t wearing a seatbelt. Clearly he’s learned nothing, and equally clearly there is no one who is able to stand up to him and take his car keys away from him. There could have been a headline saying, “Out of control pensioner who endangered baby is still driving dangerously.” It’s fine if Prince Philip wants to endanger himself. It’s not fine that he’s endangering other people.

Naturally that’s not how any of this was reported. Instead we got the entirely predictable wall to wall sycophancy and Nicholas Witchelling. Ooooh, isn’t he MARVELLOUS! Isn’t he a wonderful example of British grit. The women and the baby who were the real victims were almost completely ignored.  Pointing out the truth means pointing out the myths upon which the monarchy rests, and that would never do.

Brexit has been reported in a very similar way. It’s all about the prestige of the UK. There’s a fixation on status and an absolute and unquestioning deference to the myths of Britishness. Myths which are never to be questioned or examined critically just like the monarchy can never be challenged. The damage and harm to us plebs is ignored. Yet the UK is founded upon some myths which fall apart on even the most cursory examination. There’s the myth that the UK is a great power, when the reality is that this country acts as a cheerleader for the Pentagon. There’s the myth that the UK punches above its weight, when in fact it is no more influential than any state of a similar size with a similarly large economy.

It’s because of the myths of Britishness that we are told that the UK can’t possibly accept the so-called Norway solution, because “we” can never be rule takers, only rule makers. The UK can’t accept the Irish backstop, because that means having our hands tied until the agreement of Dublin is secured and that would never do. The natural order of British things is for Dublin to have its hands tied, just like Edinburgh’s. Only lesser countries can thole a lesser status, not the UK. Because we’re British and we won the war you know. The only thing that would be damaged here is the pride of those who can’t accept the realities of Britishness and who cling to its myths.

This is in marked contrast to how Scotland is portrayed. Just about everything about Scotland is up for question. It seems at times that there is nothing about Scotland that isn’t derided by proponents of the UK as myth or fiction. It is of course right that a nation should examine itself and its past with a critical eye, but the central myths of Britishness remain unchallenged. The biggest myth of all is the myth of union, a myth which remains as sacrosanct as the press coverage of the royal family. The myth that this is a family of equal nations when the UK is in fact a unitary state in which the majority gets to impose its will on the minority nations.

Let’s spell it out. Let’s burst the bubble. Scotland is not a partner in a union. There is no union. There are no unionists, only British nationalists. Brexit has taught us that. The way in which Scotland has been ignored at every stage in this process proves it. The way in which this Conservative government preaches its respect for the will of the people but undermines, contradicts, and traduces the will of the people of Scotland and the devolution settlement proves it.

If you oppose Scottish independence that doesn’t automatically make you an opponent of nationalism, it makes you a supporter of the British state and British nationalism. You don’t get a free pass like Prince Philip gets a free pass in the press – and as a supporter of an independent Scotland I am not going to support you in your delusion. It’s not the job of independence supporters to repeat the myths of the Nicholas Witchells of British nationalism. We should no longer allow them to endanger everyone else with the stories they tell themselves.

This is not a debate between nationalism and non-nationalism. It’s a debate about whether Scotland wants to wake up and live in reality, or continue to be silenced and endangered amongst the dreamscape of the myths of Britishness.


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Please also use this email address if you would like the dug and me to come along to your local group for a talk.

GINGER2croppedGaelic maps of Scotland are available for £15 each, plus £7 P&P within the UK for up to three maps. T-shirts are £12 each, and are available in small, medium, large, XL and XXL sizes. P&P is £5 for up to three t-shirts. My books, the Collected Yaps Vols 1 to 4 are available for £11 each. P&P is £4 for up to two books. Payment can be made via Paypal.