Inside the goldfish bowl looking out

According to a recent study* by Croatian academic Dr Jaroslav Tir of the University of Colorado’s Department of Political Science, an independent Scotland could be one of the most pacific nations in history.

It’s not that sort of pacific, Calmac ferries will not call at Tahiti en route to Rothesay.  We’ll not be blessed with tropical sunshine, Gaugin paintings of Polynesian maidens, and hordes of Australians on weekend breaks.  The kind of pacific that’s in store for us is even better – Scotland will be a country which is blessed by the prospect of peace, which will enjoy freedom from war, and experience exceptional democratic stability.

This good news, which Dr Tir delivered during a recent conference at Glasgow University, was completely drowned out by Project Fear’s insistence that iScotland will be unable to protect itself against rampant hordes of Russian cybercriminals, god-botherers with bombs, and Faroese trawlerboats.  We’re defenceless against North Korea drilling a hole through the centre of the Earth and dropping a missile though it so it can nuke Hampden in revenge for the flag incident.  We’ll be a little lost country, shivering alone in a big bad forest full of foreigners with dastardly ways.

Project Fear never stops to ask itself who we need to defend ourselves against, and why.  In the James Bond universe of the No campaign, villains need no motive.  They’ll act just like Westminster will after a No vote, apparently, and will punish us out of sheer spite.

In essence, Project Fear’s campaign boils down to “Vote No or we’ll kick your arse, and while we’re kicking your arse, these other baddies will kick your arse too – for no reason other than we’re all basterts.”  It’s understandable that they’re finding it difficult to put a positive gloss on this.  But if the basterts are going to kick our arses anyway, I’d rather take my chances with a Yes.

Despite the increasingly discredited and discreditable threats of Project Fear, Dr Tir’s work tells us that our chances of living a nice quiet life are rather better with a Yes vote.  He has analysed the process of independence in many countries, and the factors that influence how peaceful the new state becomes.

What he discovered is that there is a correlation between the peacefulness of the country’s independence process and the likelihood of that country becoming involved in wars.  The more peaceful the independence process, the less likely it is that the new state will be belligerent and prone to getting into artillery exchanges with its neighbours.   A nation that becomes independent peacefully develops into a peaceful state.

The Scottish independence process is exceptionally peaceful.  The worst that happens is that someone gets called a name, and even then the outrage is most often manufactured.  It would appear that political violence in an independent Scotland will most likely consist of some politicians occasionally taking the huff over a supposed slight by some other politicians.

The rest of us can live with that quite easily, unless you’re one of those peculiar people who loses sleep over Alistair Carmichael saying he’s been called a nasty name.  However unpleasant being called a name is for the sensitive Carmichael, it’s a whole lot less life threatening than invading Iraq.

The experience of living inside a goldfish bowl is very different from viewing it from the outside.  For all the supposed bitterness and vitriol of the Scottish debate, the rest of the world holds us up as a model of how a nation can attain independence.

Those opposed to Catalan independence contrast the sober and issue based debate of Scotland’s pro-indy campaigners with the supposed “unreasoning passions and emotions” of Catalonia’s independentistas.  Meanwhile the independentistas cite the Edinburgh Agreement and the legality of Scotland’s referendum as proof that the Scottish No campaign recognises the democratic legitimacy of a claim to national self-determination, even while being opposed to Scotland exercising its claim.  Both sides point to Scotland and say, “See, they’re acting like grown ups and that’s how it’s supposed to be done.”

But we’re inside the goldfish bowl, so all Scots independentistas see is Westminster gobbling all the fishfood and Ian Davidson doing a jobbie in the watter.  Whereas Project Fear sees independentistas as a voracious carp which is about to swallow their political careers whole.  Which admittedly isn’t entirely incorrect.

But despite this, none of the fish in our bowlful of Loch Ness watter are killing each other.  Our monsters are mythical.  We’ve avoided cannibalism, headbutting, devouring our young.  We’ve had no physical violence, not so much as a fin has been nibbled.  Our piranhas are only metaphorical.  As a nation, we need to give ourselves a bit more credit for this because it doesn’t happen very often.  Our non-violent independence campaign is in itself proof of the democratic maturity of Scotland.

The other major issue determining how peaceful and stable a country is going to be is them next door.  Countries which can’t agree with the neighbours over where the garden hedge is situated are countries which are likely to spend decades fighting over the petunias.

Here again, Scotland is exceptionally fortunate.  If you’ve ever looked at a historical atlas, you’ll be struck by the ever changing kaleidescope of borders across Europe.  From around the year 1000, Poland has waxed and waned, at times stretching across much of Eastern Europe, at other times wiped from the map.  After WW2 it ended up pretty much where it started 1000 years earlier.  It’s not just Poland.  Across Europe borders came and went, populations ebbed and flowed.  The end result was a whole lot of states which had claims on all or part of another country’s territory, and took a chainsaw to the hedge and trampled all over the neighbour’s vegetable plot.

Scotland’s sole land border has been one of the most stable and enduring in Europe.  For the best part of the past 1000 years it’s been in more or less the same position, give or take Berwick.  Although Scots have emigrated in their thousands, there are no solid blocks of Scottish people in some other land, calling to be “reunited” with the hameland.  Scotland has no territorial claims, and no other state has any territorial claims upon Scotland.

What all this means is that Scotland is an exceptionally favoured country.  It is a racing certainty that as an independent nation we will have few enemies, we will stay out of wars, our defence force will not sally from its barracks and overthrow the legitimate government, and the worst manifestation of political violence we’ll witness will be the weekly hurling of insults at Furst Meenister’s Questions.

The alternative we’re offered is the almost continual war of the United Kingdom, “punching above our weight” in military conflicts which have nothing to do with us, and seeing future generations of young Scots going off to die in foreign fields.  And we still get Johann Lamont’s weekly sneerathon.

* Unfortunately Dr Tir’s original research doesn’t seem to be available online.

I’m afraid updates to this blog will be a bit erratic over the next week or so as my partner has been admitted to hospital for tests.

Just say naw to George Galloway

There’s some very tortured logic lurking beneath George Galloway’s stentorian oratory.  George is what you get when Ian Davidson swallows a thesaurus and takes some classes in rhetoric.  He’s currently on a tour of Scotland, exhorting us to “just say naw” to independence.  George believes he can get us to do this, in part, by flinging a bit of sectarian mud.  In May this year he said:

“My own experience of growing up as a Roman Catholic in Scotland has led me to fear independence in Scotland.  The possibility of Scotland being a kind of Stormont is a real one  […]  Of course, most Scottish people are not swivel-eyed, loyalist sectarians but there are a large number of them.  A large six-figure number, and if I were living in Scotland as a Roman Catholic I would be worried about that.”

I’d never describe myself as “growing up a Roman Catholic”, far less as “Catholic”.  Just ask my maw, to her eternal shame I was always the world’s worst Catholic.  Religion just didn’t compute, despite enormous efforts on the part of my parents.  I was dragged to Mass every Sunday until I was 15, even though I decided at the age of 10 that I was an atheist, and was sent to Catholic schools where time in RE periods was spent arguing with the priest.  It was only a phase, they insisted, I’d grow out of it.  And they were right.  It was a phase.  I’m still an atheist, but I no longer argue with priests.

Since, unlike George, I actually live in Scotland and don’t view the country from afar through the wrong end of a 1970s telescope bought on Westminster expenses, I reckon this gives my views on sectarianism considerably more credibility than his.  But if you want to have your views given wide coverage, it helps to be a mouthy Westminster MP who grasps at the limelight with the single mindedness of a pussy cat intent on grasping Rula Lenska’s dangling ball of wool.

In the East End of Glasgow in the 1970s whether you were a “Catholic” or not had very little to do with your own personal beliefs about matters spiritual.  I could have shaved my head, donned my mother’s best yellow curtains, and marched up and down Shettleston Road chanting Hare Krishna, but folk would still have said: “Aye, there goes thon weirdo Catholic boay.”  Mind you, they said that anyway, but that’s by the by.

My own experience of growing up in a Catholic family in the West of Scotland led me to the opposite conclusion from George. I learned very young that sectarianism had little or nothing to do with religion.  Atheism ever so slightly rules you out from being a Roman Catholic.  Not being a Catholic was one of the things I was quite determined about, but it’s not like this would cut any ice with the average Orangeman, nor indeed the average Catholic parent in the 1970s.  On one fundamental doctrine the Orange Order and the Catholic Church are in full agreement: Once a Catholic, always a Catholic.

So if sectarianism isn’t about a person’s religious beliefs or lack of them, then what is it about? There’s a clue in a somewhat glaringly obvious fact which George appears not to have noticed about swivel-eyed loyalist sectarians.

You can recognise such people, not primarily by their swivel-eyes, which could merely be a symptom of a thyroid condition, but rather by the fact that the loyalist loons are the ones waving Union flags and going on about being British and how much they love the Queen.  Some of them wear bowler hats and carry furled up umbrellas.  So far I’m not seeing much that would convince me I was at an SNP rally.

The swivel-eyed loyalist loons George warns us about are the ones who love being British so much that they make a point of causing traffic chaos in order to let the rest of us know about it.  There’s also a fair bit of singing songs about 17th century wars between the British state and Irish nationalists, often accompanied by the copious consumption of tonic wine produced by Catholic monks.  That would be an ecumenical matter.

None of these, with the possible exception of the Buckie, are, distinctive symbols of Scotland, independent or otherwise.  But perhaps George knows different.

The Union flag is not a cuddly all-inclusive symbol.  Even now, decades later, my primary association of the Union flag is with Orange Walks.  It’s a symbol which historically represented the social exclusion of a large part of the Scottish population.  It’s a symbol which says: “We’re better together without people like you.”

George appears to recognise this too, at least on some level.  In one of his recent lectures, George claimed that his flag is not the Saltire, and it’s not the Union flag, his flag is red.   It’s one of these fine sounding pieces of rhetoric which on closer examination is bereft of any substantive meaning, the socialist version of “oh look there’s a cute wee kitten called Karl”.  A bit like a speech by Johann Lamont, come to think of it, apart from the fine sounding pieces of rhetoric, or any socialist references, or indeed sentences with nouns and verbs in them.

But eloquently expressed garbage is still garbage.  His desire to continue having the red flag as his flag apparently depends upon Scotland retaining the Union flag.  I’m not sure how that works, and I don’t think George does either.

George has also failed to notice that loyalist sectarian loons are precisely those people who are least likely to be in favour of an independent Scotland, apart from Westminster politicians.  So if Scottish independence is likely to provoke an outbreak of loyalist violence, that can only be because the loyalist loons identify Catholics with, or blame them for, an independent Scotland.  And that in turn would mean that loyalist loons see an independent Scottish state as representing Catholics, but not them.

So why should Catholics in Scotland feel threatened by a state which loyalist loons feel threatened by because of its supposed Catholic sympathies?  Does not compute. It’s like RE classes all over again.

Trying to follow his chain of logic gives you a heidache that pounds like a Lambeg drum.  Because no matter what way you look at it, the only folk in this equation who ought to be fearful of Scottish independence are the swivel eyed loyalist loons.  And we already know that the Orange Order is an enthusiastic supporter of Project Fear, even though neither Project Fear nor George Galloway prefer to acknowledge the fact in public.

Sectarianism in Scotland is not about religion at all.  And neither is it about defining who is or is not Scottish, despite what George Galloway says about the attitudes of certain SNP figures back in the 70s.

Historically, sectarianism was about defining who was British and who was not.  Britishness, not Scottishness, was the most important consideration.  It was never that the Irish in Scotland could not be Scottish.  It was that the Irish in Scotland could not be Scottish because they were not British, and being Scottish depended upon being British first.  But this is 2013, and we know better now.  Everyone born, brought up, or living in Scotland is Scottish and a part of Scotland, it’s the British bit that’s optional.

Sectarianism is a disease of British nationalism, Loyalist bigotry and its Irish Catholic counterpart are symptoms of that disease.  And the Auld Firm hoo-ha surrounding 22 overpaid baw kickers ruining a perfectly good lawn is yet another product of it.  That’s British nationalism for you, it even manages to screw up the fitba.

Independence will not infect Scotland with the disease of sectarianism.  Independence is the cure.  And given that his last attempt at election to public office in Scotland saw him gain a mere 3.3% of the vote, it may very well prove to be a cure for George Galloway as well.

Proud Scots but

Alistair Carmichael is making a keynote speech, which is Union-speak for “having a wee moan”.  He’s allegedly upset that the Yes campaign have  allegedly alleged that No voters are less Scottish than Yes voters.

The “Yes campaign” in question consisted of a carnaptious cooncillor from the SNP who had described Koalamichael as a “supposed Scot”.  This was a sardonic reference to the cuddly cabinet meenister’s valiant defence of jobs in Govan, which consisted of assuring the shipyard workers that if they vote Yes next year they’ll lose their jobs, lose their homes, their children will be sent to sweep chimneys, and worst of all they’ll still have Ian Davidson as their MP.

I’ll say here and now that the cooncillor was wrong.  There’s nothing supposed about the Koalamichael’s Caledonianosity.  He is as Scottish as any other person born or brought up in Scotland, living in Scotland, or possessing a Scottish accent – and that last caveat is only required because of Tony Blair, absolutely no one wants to admit to him.  But none of this applies to Ian Davidson, he’s not Scottish.  He’s not British either, his nationality is Twattish.  It’s a small island in the Ocean of Self-interest.

What’s interesting about this, if indeed there is ever anything of interest in what comes out of a LibDem’s gob, is that the supposed slight “supposed Scottish”, doesn’t work in reverse.  Whatever you think of the Fife cooncillor’s remark, it’s understandable – perhaps not in the moral sense, but the linguistic sense.  “Supposed Scot” is a phrase which has meaning.  It is comprehensible, like “two faced Scottish Secretary”, “hypocritical MP”, or “lying Lib Dem”.

The opposite, “supposed British”, doesn’t make any sense when used with reference to independence supporters.  The reaction of yer average indy supporter to being called “supposed British” by a Unionist would be “Eh?”  It’s not at all clear what the phrase might mean.  The utterings of apologists for Westminster are often nonsensical and frequently outrageous, but at least they consist of insults you can feel insulted by.

“Supposed British” is one of those zen koans devoid of lexical content that you find in the holy speeches of St Johann the Rarely Visible.  Johann’s mangled syntax is the SLab equivalent of “What is the sound of one hand clapping, grasshopper”, before it slaps you across the mug.

The lack of sense of the phrase “supposed British” can only be because it doesn’t make sense without the “supposed” bit prefixed to it either.  Britishness is for most Scots a vague and nebulous concept, which is why the Westminster parties are so determined to make out that they are the only body able to give the word any definite import – like they’re the Oxford English Dictionary or the Dictionary of Scots all of a sudden, and we instinctively turn to Johann Lamont, Ian Davidson or Magrit Curran for guidance on the finer points of linguistic usage.

The not at all supposed Scot Koalamichael is living proof that Scottish people are not immune to rank hypocrisy, wilful ignorance, or a truly astounding lack of self-awareness.  He illustrated this by his warning that the Yes campaign are on dangerous ground by mixing “patriotism with politics”, saying without an apparent shred of irony: “I tell you this: once you start mixing up politics and patriotism you can quickly get into dangerous territory.”

No shit Alistair.  All those exercises in flag waving, royal events, and Great British telly programmes are entirely coincidental.  It’s not mixing politics with patriotism to repeatedly warn us that we’ll all become foreigners, because it’s well known that being foreign is a bad thing.  And it’s not mixing politics with patriotism to declare like Jim Murphy that he’s a proud Scot but he’s also proud to be British with the “best armed forces in the world”.  No patriotic grandstanding there then, oh no.

This raises an altogether deeper and more interesting question.  To the No campaign, British patriotism is like British nationalism.  Neither exists in their universe, and no amount of rationally pointing out to them that supporting the British state is a form of nationalism is going to penetrate their skulls.  If they were truly non-nationalists and viscerally opposed to nationalism in all its incarnations they’d be arguing for the abolition of Westminster and its replacement by one world government.

Trying to demonstrate to a British nationalist that they are indeed a nationalist, and so hasn’t got a moral leg to stand on when they decry a Scottish desire for independence, is a bit like trying to demonstrate to a homophobe that they are indeed homophobic.  It will not compute with them.  In fact, they are liable to respond angrily, because some people believe that being called a homophobe is actually worse than being homophobic, just as the likes of George Galloway will fiercely reject any suggestion that he’s a British nationalist as he tours the length of the land exhorting us to “Just say naw” to indy.  We’ll just say naw to George instead.

Certain people and organisations habitually define homophobia in such a way as to exclude themselves from it, allowing them free rein to argue that gay people shouldn’t be allowed to marry or have kids or have equal legal rights.  Typically they redefine homophobia so it only means “physically assaulting a gay person out of malice or spite”.  It’s a strategy for dealing with cognitive dissonance, allowing them to continue to discriminate without seeing themselves as discriminatory.  The redefinition permits them to accuse the people they discriminate against as being the wrongdoers, and portray themselves as the victims.

This is in fact the exact tactic adopted by a number of Christian churches, not only do they believe they have the right to define the meaning of the word “marriage” for everyone, Christian or not, they also believe they have the right to define the meaning of the word “homophobia”.  They discriminate against gay people because they believe a god of love tells them to do so, so it cannot possibly be homophobic for campaign against legal equality for LGBT folk.  It’s gay people who are the bad guys, causing all that upset and fuss.  And if you scratch a bit further, it’s because deep down they believe that only straight people are normal, gay people are abnormal.  Only those who are themselves “normal” are entitled to define “normal” meaning.

The ability of humans to hold mutually contradictory ideas simultaneously is called cognitive dissonance, and the strategy of redefining meaning to suit oneself is a classic means of achieving it.  Koalamichael’s pronouncements against “mixing patriotism with politics” are another example of the exact same cognitive dissonance, only this time applied to a different struggle for civil liberties, the Scottish independence debate.

The UK government and the Westminster parties want Scotland to continue as a country which isn’t properly a country, and a nation which isn’t properly a nation, without confronting the cognitive dissonance that this entails.  They want to justify Scotland remaining a nation which doesn’t enjoy the full range of rights possessed by any normal nation.  Unionists achieve this by being “proud Scots but”, and portraying themselves as victims of evil Scottish rupturists.  Pointing out the disadvantages of Scotland remaining in the UK is a far worse crime than actually perpetrating those disadvantages upon Scotland.

Only Scottish independence is nationalist, and only mixing Scottish patriotism with the political desire for independence is dangerous.  Westminster is normal, an independent Scotland is abnormal.  Unionists argue that Scotland couldn’t possibly cope with the challenges that face any normal country, the subtext being that Scotland is not a normal country.  Naturally only normal people like Johann Lamont or Alistair Carmichael can define these concepts normally, but that’s much harder sell for them.

This is certainly hypocritical of Unionists, but they’re not actually lying – at least not in this aspect of their arguments – because lying entails a conscious telling of a non-truth which is understood not to be true by the person making the statement.  Unionist politicians don’t have that much self-awareness.  They’re proud Scots … but.

Don’t expect any of this to change before September 2014.  As the American socialist author Upton Sinclair said:  “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.”




The Clyde’s oil and gas glow in the dark of the MoD

Recent reports have apparently confirmed what many of us have suspected for some time, that there is oil and gas under the Firth of Clyde in quantities which make it more than worthwhile to extract.

I remember hearing of it in the early 80s, but then everything went quiet and the prospect of a Weegie oil boom vanished along with much of Scotland’s traditional industry.  There was mibby some oil, but it was too wee too poor and too stupid to become independent of the ground – ground which not coincidentally was controlled by Westminster.

Obviously the Firth of Clyde is a lot smaller than the North Sea, but it was still expected that the Clyde could enjoy if not a boom, then at least a moderately biggish bang.  What we got instead was a big fart blown in our general direction from the Ministry of Defence.

Even in the early 80s it was known that the MoD was not keen for oil companies to go sticking their drill bits into the Clyde, possibly in case they came up with some top secret radioactive contamination.

Despite the nuclear risks, the oil company’s marketing people thought that “Clyde Oil, it glows in the dark” could be a workable slogan.  After all, it worked for Ready Brek.  Instead of a liability, it could have been a unique selling point.  Clyde oil with added Faslane lets you fire up your central heating and light your home for free at the same time.  Or you could have got an x-ray whenever you filled up your petrol tank.  Would have saved the NHS millions if you don’t count the radiation posioning.

But the MoD didn’t want any civilians poking their noses into the murky waters of the British nuclear deterrent, its costs, its dangers, and its contamination.  They’d just purchased some extremely expensive submarines and some even more expensive missiles.  So the Clyde was to be left fallow, and the expensive nuclear deterrent was left defending an industrial wasteland that looked like the Russians had already nuked it.

It wasn’t enough that Westminster destroyed Scottish industries, they were also hell bent on ensuring that we wouldn’t be allowed access to our own waters and our own resources in order to stick a plaster on the gaping wounds.

In September 1983 the Glasgow Herald published a brief story, Ayrshire MP David Lambie had written to then Energy Minister Alick Buchanan-Smith asking him to clarify whether the Ministry of Defence was blocking oil exploration off the West coast.  Buchanan-Smith was one of those posh Scottish Tories who would eventually go the same way as the Clyde’s oil boom, so there is a small amount of justice in the world.

By February 1984 the paper was reporting that the MoD was indeed blocking exploration in the Clyde.  David Lambie accused then Defence Secretary Michael Heseltine of blocking drilling licences.

This was the second attempt to explore for oil and gas in the area.  BP had carried out some initial investigations in 1981, but was blocked by the MoD.  Even after their second attempt was rebuffed, the company kept up the pressure to allow exploration to continue.  Like they’d do that if the amount of oil and gas was insignificant.

Now SNP MSP Chic Brodie has reopened the issue, and it is clear that the economic potential of the Clyde was sacrificed to meet the demands of the MoD’s nuclear submarines.  They didn’t want anyone to know just how rubbish they were, nor did they want annoying questions about the uselessness of the UK’s supposedly independent nuclear deterrent, or how it might not be independent after all.  A non-independent nuclear deterrent based in a non-independent country, there’s a sort of logic there.

The UK wanted its nuclear subs, the people of Glasgow wanted jobs and economic opportunities.  There could be no clearer illustration of how when the needs of Scotland clash with those of Westminster, Scotland loses.  But that’s how the Union works.  We’re locked into a Union where our interests are always going to be secondary.  The arguments over the Govan ship yard are just the most recent example.

An oil boom in the Clyde might have brought much needed jobs and investment to a West Coast reeling under the onslaught of Thatcher’s industrial amputations, although all the dosh would have ended up in the Treasury’s coffers and we’d have been assured it was an insignificant amount anyway.

Shame for them really, because they missed a trick.  Instead of Better Together and its pals scaring us with the dubious prospect of Shetland and Orkney deciding they didn’t want to be part of an independent Scotland, they could have been threatening us with an independent Millport, and telling us we’d need a passport to go doon the watter to Rothesay.  They could be telling us there was almost no oil left in the Clyde, barely enough to cover the cost of a radioactive Loch Fyne haddock.

Instead what we have is more evidence of the arrogance and disdain which Scotland is subjected to by our masters in Westminster, evidence that Yes campaigners will ensure is made known widely before next year’s vote.  And we’ve been left with unexploited oil and gas reserves that we could develop for ourselves when we finally get rid of the chancers.

The UK is founded upon the short-term gain of London and the City on the back of the long-term consequences to everywhere else in the United Kingdom.  Now that strategy is coming back to bite them on the bum.  It couldn’t happen to more deserving people.

In the editorial in the Glasgow Herald in February 1984 we were warned: “Pessimists will say that the oil boom is over and we will not have another.”  Those same pessimists are still with us, still saying the same thing 30 years later.  Let’s make sure that we don’t waste the next 30 years.

A field spotters guide to the Lesser Spotted Unionist

Although Blairite McDougall (chief exec of Better Together, former special advisor to BBC Director of Strategy James Purnell and, quite coincidentally, a regular invitee to the BBC’s popular news segment Great British Right To Reply To Anything Vaguely Scottish Or I’ll Call Your Boss) claims that Scotland is hoatchin wi dedicated and fanatical supporters of the Union, ordinary punters can find it difficult to spot members of this supposedly ubiquitous species.  Other than that really annoying brother-in-law that everyone’s got.

Best known for its piercing and repeated mating call “I’m a proud Scot but …”  the Lesser Spotted Unionist, Latin name Britnaticus northbrittanicus, has failed to thrive, despite a massive campaign to develop a breeding programme which has been expensively funded by the British government and Tory oil barons who have selflessly dedicated themselves to preserving a Scottish ecosystem that they’ve found very profitable.

UK government policy, continued by “the greenest government ever” of Davie Cameron, has for 300 years strived to create the conditions in which the Britnaticus northbrittanicus could prosper, not financially but in the sense of having someone else worse off than you you could feel better than.  Traditionally this was Gaelic speakers, Catholics, black people, Asian people, or anyone Continental.

Land ownership was carefully managed to ensure that most of Scotland is owned by a tiny handful, who agreed to clear out the natives in order to provide the natural conditions necessary for the successful reproduction of the species.  Industrial slums were grown, sectarianism was fostered, colonialist wars were enthusiastically embarked upon, and divide et impera brittanica was the order of the day.  Scotland was once teeming with flocks of North Britons ruling the waves and never ever ever being slaves, at least not in their imaginations.

However in the post war era, the Unionist species has gone into a precipitous decline.  The demise of the Unionist coincided with the spread of the virulent Scottish nationalism virus which attacked Unionist habitats.  The virus spread rapidly in Unionist heartlands, where it pointed out that it was in fact pretty rubbish that in an energy rich country there are people who cannot afford to heat their homes, it’s digusting that people are forced to use food banks while the City of London continues to enrich itself, and it’s an insult to democracy that Scotland is continually subjected to governments it didn’t vote for who have the cheek to blag all our resources in return for a bit of pocket money.

Worrying evidence of the decline includes a marked reluctance to engage in flag waving and bunting hanging, combined with bouts of projectile vomiting whenever the BBC’s Royal Correspondent appears on screen.  By the time symptoms have progressed to episodes of sarcastic laughter and throwing shoes at TVs when UK politicians attempt to explain the many benefits bestowed upon North Britain by those lovely people in Westminster, the former Unionist has already mutated into a new species: Cybernaticus caledoniensis.

Outside their regular haunts in TV studios and between the pages of mainstream newspapers telling us how much of a majority they are, regular sightings of the Lesser Spotted Unionist prove to be difficult to confirm.  Although the entirely unbiased Royal Society for the Protection of Unionists has published a number of censuses of Unionist numbers, the figures remain open to dispute as many of the Unionist breeding pairs identified in these surveys have on closer inspection been found to belong to entirely different species – most commonly Mibbii mibbinaw, Wellnaw bitakidbepersuadit, Jistickifurstboax izerraprizefurrisAchtheyrawshite diznaemaiteroniewiis or Pissaffyapollster orahllampyeis (subspecies amnotellinyenuhin).

In the interests of helping readers with an interest in the natural world to identify this vanishing creature, and so they can cross the road and avoid it when they see one coming, here’s a brief guide to the subspecies of the Lesser Spotted Unionist.

B. northbritanicus labordinosaurii

The most common surviving subspecies, although only common in the sense it has no style or class, the labourdinosaurii is noted for its torn faced expression, drab plumage, propensity for feathering its own nest, and its willingness to threaten its own habitat if the habitat doesn’t vote the way it wants.  It’s called a ‘break clause’: vote no or I’ll break you.  It’s proving quite controversial in Govan, and is being widely cited in zoological journals as startling new evidence that this species may in fact be a vulture, as members of the vulture family are amongst the few birds known to shit on their own support.  Called urohidrosis, the accumulation of crap on the lower members can eventually lead to sickness and death.

The subspecies traditionally thrived in industrial areas where it survived on promises of jam tomorrow.  Unlike most other Unionists, the fiercely territorial labordinosaurii (also known as Davidson’s Ringfenced Expensaccount) denies that it is a Unionist, and fondly believes that nationalism is something that only afflicts people who have the misfortune not to be British.

You can try and argue with them otherwise, but the response will invariably go along the lines of:  “British nationalism doesn’t count, it is of course better than any other nationalism because it’s not nationalist at all.  And it’s not nationalist to say that.  Oh look, Great British Bake Off is coming on.  See, if you’re independent you’ll not be allowed Victoria sponge or Battenburg cake, because they’re British.  And not German at all.”

Members of this subspecies also tend to hold that the corrupt and institutionally bankrupt British state is really an exercise in international workers’ solidarity.  This is in fact true, although the workers in question are only those who work as company directors in the City of London.  In an effort to demonstrate this solidarity in a practical manner, the subspecies collects shiny directorships with an enthusiasm that puts magpies to shame.  Davidson’s Ringfenced Expensaccount holds that this shows that the system is working.

B. northbritanicus torii

More widely known by its Scots vernacular name of Yadurrtytorybasterts, a sad few bedraggled survivors are all that remains of this once dominant sub-species, which formerly produced a range of colourful varieties.  The exotic attire and tartan troosers of the Nicholas Fairbairnius are sadly long extinct, while the Teddy Taylorii, a hybrid of a wee yappy dug with a Thatcherite, was forced to migrate south and was last seen on Southend Pier wearing a union jack waistcoat and a kiss-me-quick hat.

The handful of remaining examples of this subspecies huddle together for warmth in a dwindling number of leafy suburbs in the Central Belt and the Borders, however their numbers are continually diminished as adults in search of a political career flee south in search of Education Ministeries to crap all over, Defence Contractors’ hospitality, and hotel bedrooms they can share with Adam Werritty.

B. northbritanicus libdemocratus

An ill-advised experiment in hybridisation with the torii has resulted in the almost total extinction of this subspecies.  Successful cross-fertilisation requires parties with members of approximately equal weight and influence, but all the libdemocratus had to offer was a very wee Wullie Rennie.

Most of the better known examples, such as the Smug Ginger Rodent (variety: Lookmammyavgoataministerialmotor), have recently been discovered to be Tories who have adopted the plumage of libdemocratus in order to deceive their electoral prey.  To the relief of Wee Ginger Things everywhere, the Ginger Rodent has now been reclassified as a Boris Johnston Strawberry Blond.

It’s already too late for this subspecies, extinction beckons.

B. northbritanicus swivelii

The migratory swivelii, more commonly known as the Ukip Swivel-eyed Loon, provides a classic example of evolutionary mimicry.  Despite attempting to present itself as a big scary Tory monster, the Ukip Loon is in fact a timid little Tory mutant, easily frightened off by shouts of “Nigel you’re a bawbag.”

More comfortable in southern English golf clubs, where it bores the bar with incessant complaints about frogs that reek of garlic, sausage-munching krauts, and whinging jocks with a deep fried mars bar on their shoulder, it is rarely seen in Scotland.  However a stray Loon is occasionally found in Edinburgh pubs in the mistaken belief it’s at an Aberdeen by-election where it hopes to be rewarded with some cheap headlines.  It can easily be recognised by its distinctive cry of “That’s anti-English racism that is.”

B. northbritanicus orangensis neanderthalensis

The subspecies has gone into a drastic decline from which it has never recovered.  Once the working class version of the Durrtytorybasterts, their influence was partly responsible for delivering the Conservative’s infamous majority in Scotland in the 1950s, when the forces of darkness took 51% of the popular vote in a General Election.

There were a number of causes for the decline in their numbers and influence.  The first was an upswelling of new religious fervour.   Scotland’s four traditional religions, Protestants, Catholics, Protestant Atheists, and Catholic Atheists, found themselves in competition with a new religion sweeping Europe: Apatheism, the belief that you don’t give a shit about religion.  Since its central ritual in Scotland is having a long lie in of a Sunday, followed by Irn-Bru and an aspirin, it proved very popular.

The spread of the new faith was accompanied by a growing realistion that the reason churches continually banged on about personal sexual morality was because, like sex, religion is something which should only be practised by consenting adults in private, because otherwise it can lead to all sorts of unpleasantness which is really best avoided.

As the 60s turned into the 70s and 80s and turned on tuned in dropped out people lost themselves in a haze of herbal smoke and premarital sex, banging a big Lambeg while dressed in a bowler hat, a navy blue crimpolene uniform, and singing songs about killing Catholics lost much of its glamour.  Even in Brigton.

But the death blow came when Orange Neanderthals up and down the land discovered that a steadfast and loyal Protestant with a union flag fluttering from his windae box of orange lilies was still going to get made redundant when the factories, the mines and the yards got closed down, belief in Her Maj being about as useful as saying a novena to St Jude the patron saint of lost causes.  So that was the Protestant Ascendency pretty much knackered, and it was knackered by the very British Establishment it pledged loyalty to.  Still, irony is such a British characteristic, so that’s UK OK then.

Although most closely associated with 17th century history, 18th century social attitudes, and 19th century political relevance, the Orange Sashed Neanderthal has attempted to modernise its image.  The organisation now accepts gay people, who can parade in the boa their father woa, which at least makes them acceptable to Glasgow Labour cooncil.

B. northbritanicus fascistbastert

A detailed description of pondscum and fungal infections is beyond the scope of this article.

B. northbritanicus annoyingbrotherinlawensis

Because some folk are just dickheads. Although few in number, they make up for it with the sheer volume with which they make their opinions known, the loudness of their opinion being inversely proportional to the amount of hard facts and information it contains. Unfortunately their information derives ultimately from the sports pages in the Daily Record or the Sun, which makes it extremely loud indeed. Their opinion of Scotland, her people and prospects boils down to one or all of the following: “shite”, “fuckin shite”, “useless bawbags”, “how can we govern ourselves when we got beat by Belarus on penalties”, and “I hate that Alex Salmond.” Nevertheless, they’re still very keen to let us know that they are proud Scots.

In the interests of balance, it should be pointed out that this subspecies has its counterpart amongst independentistas, the Cybergnaticus caledoniensis compulsivebloggerii – who is prone to making friends and relatives run away and hide in case they start banging on about independence again – but at least is far better informed.

In conclusion, if you are lucky enough to encounter an elusive Lesser Spotted Unionist, give them a big hug and a hearty cheer.  They’re performing a sterling service, converting Scots into Yes voters.

Breaking the Joyce Barrier

Oh here we go again.  It’s becoming a daily ritual, ranting about Johann.  I’m starting to feel like a stalker.  But it’s been a really bad day.  I wish I could run away and hide from my problems like Johann, but full time carers don’t have the same luxuries afforded to the leader of the Labour party in Scotland.  In the meantime she offers a convenient target for an outpouring of pent up frustrations.

So she is actually useful for something, although I’m sure the members of Falkirk Labour party and the staff at Grangemouth wouldn’t find that much of a consolation.

Anyway, on Monday we were presented with evidence that Johann lives.  Ok, well maybe it’s “lives” in the sense that a sea sponge lives without the benefit of a central nervous system, ears, or eyes, but the lovely Johann has come out of hiding and has admitted what the rest of the country has known for quite some time: there were attempts to manipulate the selection process for a Labour candidate in Falkirk.

Admittedly it took a front page spread in the Sunday Herald, in which Falkirk Labour party members complained that they’d been left adrift and abandoned by the party leadership, none of whom could be arsed to turn up and explain to them what’s going on, before she decided it was time to “intervene”.

She didn’t add that the attempts at manipulation set off a chain of events that led to the greatest threat to Scottish jobs and the Scottish economy since Thatcher.  Neither did she remind us that the leadership of the Labour party in Scotland then sat on its collective bahoochie replaying nostalgic old videos of conference delegates singing the Internationale.  But we can take that as read.  Johann has now intervened, to her own satisfaction if no one else’s.

If you look up the word “intervene” in the Dictionary of Labour Party Terminology, you’ll find it really means “shamed into giving a brief media interview after howls of outrage and derision over a leadership with as much direction as an inflatable banana in the Corrievreckan whirlpool”, but hey, let’s not quibble.  Better late than never.

Scotland is on pause – oh the irony – because Johann won’t do the job that she and Labour claim she was elected to do, to lead the entire Labour party north of the Border.  She didn’t think it was “appropriate” to discuss the situation with her fellow Unite members.  She didn’t think it “appropriate” to discuss the issue with the leadership of the union that sponsors her as an MSP.  And she certainly didn’t think it “appropriate” to speak personally to members of the Falkirk Labour party.  She’s only a nominal leader, a latent leader.  But better latent than never.

Johann is so much of a leader that she wasn’t even given a copy of the report that Labour central office carried out into the affair.  It was reported on Monday that Johann had seen the report, although that’s not exactly what she said.  She said she “knew what was in the report”.  But that’s not saying much, everyone knows what’s in the report.  It contains the contents of a Falkirk sewer and it’s deeply embarrassing for the Labour leadership.  Still doesn’t answer the question of whether Johann is in the Labour leadership loop or not.  I’m guessing not.

Decisively leaderish, on Monday Johann vowed to “have a look at” reopening the inquiry into the Falkirk serial collision.  Not a definite commitment to reinvestigate the murky goings-on, just a vague statement that Johann might have a wee think about it.  One of those promises that’s as vague as Davie Cameron’s commitment to “consider” further devolution in the event of a No vote.  That’s reassuring then.  Though somewhat less reassuring when you realise that Johann doesn’t actually have any powers to reopen an investigation or start a new one, which isn’t very leaderish at all.

However in the same interview she also repeatedly stated that Labour needs to “move on” from the debacle, sweep it under the carpet and desperately pretend that it never happened.  She didn’t actually say that last bit, but it’s a safe assumption that’s where her preference vote lies.

So what’s it to be, reinvestigating or “moving on”?  Labour is able act swiftly and decisively.  By tea time it was reported that Labour was going for moving on, rather than doing anything of any practical use to clear up its problem with declining membership rolls, and the increasing ease with which small organised groups can manipulate selection processes in sclerotic constituency parties.  And in a few weeks it may well be rinse and repeat in East Dunbartonshire.

They’ll kick it into the long grass, let the police investigate, and pray they find nothing illegal.  Hopefully we’ll all forget and Johann can go back to accusing Alex Salmond of lying about something.  It’s a tried and trusted strategy.  Worked a treat with Stephen Purcell.

“Oh that’s a surprise,” said a shocked Scotland over its tea as it digested the news.  Before going on to ask itself just how Labour expects to persuade us that we’re Better Together with the Union when the Union has been so spectacularly bad for Labour.  Look what the Union has turned them into, a party that once stood for socialism and Scottish self-determination.  The high road to British Parliamentary Socialism led to the cul de sac of Lamont, fiddling in Falkirk while Grangemouth burned.

The whole sorry saga was sparked off by a former officer in the Army Education Corps and sometime Labour MP who wanted to teach us a lesson in Chaos Theory.  The classic version requires a butterfly flapping its wings in the Amazon to set off a destructive hurricane on the other side of the world, but Eric discovered that a fly head butting of a Tory in a Westminster bar worked just as well.  It led to a storm over Grangemouth, and it seems the lasting casualty will be the Labour party.  The storm ripped away their tarpaulin of lies and self-serving excuses, and even BBC Scotland wasn’t able to provide much shelter.

Their only hope of recovery is the birth of a party that is really a Scottish Labour party, a party that’s not always looking over its shoulder to make itself electable to Tory voters in swing seats in Middle England.  A party with a proper leadership that doesn’t just mouth platitudes, but demonstrates solidarity with working people by having the confidence to adopt truly progressive social democratic policies, the will to carry them out, and the powers of a parliament that can make them happen.  The current party leadership will never allow that to happen, so it’s up to us ordinary punters to make it happen.

It’s the first lesson of socialism, the lesson that Labour have long since forgotten.  If the people want change they must make that change happen themselves, because those with power will not do it for us.  We can only do that by voting Yes next year.  A Yes vote will drag Labour into change, despite themselves.  Vote No and the Labour leadership will take it as a vote of confidence.  We can expect many more Falkirks, and Grangemouths.

At least Scottish science has discovered a new principle of physics, so it hasn’t been total loss.  Labour under Lamont has shown it’s possible to break the Joyce Barrier, the level you have to sink to before Eric Joyce is able to lecture you from the moral high ground.

As man responsible for toppling the first domino when he nutted that Tory MP put it in his blog:

“The party seems wholly unable to distinguish between competent, decent trade union organising and Unite’s intimidation, incompetence and bogus politics. Either that, or it’s simply too afraid. With the majority of the Scottish shadow cabinet members of and sponsored by Unite, and with a huge number of MPs in the same basket, it’s looking awfully like the latter.”

He added later on Newsnicht that he had no confidence that Johann was capable of taking action, a view which Alistair Darling apparently shares.  But the Labour leadership is still going La-La-La-Lamont listening.  It’s too afraid.

But it’s not the Unite union Labour should be afraid of.  It’s not the banks or the press.  It’s ordinary Labour voters, it’s the people – like me – who should be natural Labour voters but are too revolted by what the party has become.  Because we have it within our power to give them the biggest fright of their lives on the 18th of September next year.  A fright not even Johann Lamont will be able to hide from.

When the truth is replaced by silence, the silence is a lie.

Just as you’ve vented one Etna’s worth of eruption because Johann Lamont has been being disingenuous with the actualité, she goes and does it again, even worse this time.  She’s Scotland’s very own renewable resource of splenetic bile.  If we could harness all the energy produced by people overcome by an urge to hurl a shoe at the telly when the wummin appears, the UK government wouldn’t have to bribe the Chinese to build a nuclear reactor in Somerset.

It’s not that Johann is a chancer that gets me, nor even that her political dance moves are executed with the grace and elegance of a brain damaged elephant on rusty roller blades.  I can live with the fact that she wears the permanent expression of a person who’s holding in a fart in case it’s a wet one.  I can even forgive her for having less intellectual depth than a children’s TV continuity announcer and the vision of an actor in a Specsavers advert.

But what really gets my goat is the way she imagines she can rewrite the past, and expects us not to remember what she really did or said.  Or more commonly, didn’t say or didn’t do.

Just last Sunday she denied that she’d ever said Scotland was a “something for nothing” country despite copious evidence to the contrary – up to and including videos.  Now in this week’s Furst Meinisters Questions, Johann has accused Alex Salmond of going off on holiday during the Grangemouth dispute, while she was valiantly saving the plant single handed.

It was only last week for feck’s sake.  Does she really think we don’t remember what really happened?   The events that unfolded allowed us to compare and contrast how the three political factions vying for the trust of the Scottish people – the Scottish Government, the UK Government, and the Labour party – dealt with a major threat to the future of the Scottish economy.  And Johann did not come out of it well.

The Scottish Government had a plan A.  It was to do all they could to get Unite and the representatives of the Evil One to sit down and negotiate in order to keep the plant open and save the threatened jobs.  The Eck also had a plan B, in case plan A went tits-up, to find a buyer for the plant so it could be kept open and save the threatened jobs.  He had been in talks with just such a potential buyer.  There was even a hint there may be a plan C, in the shape of a promise that an independent Scottish government would nationalise the plant so it could be kept open and save the threatened jobs.

The UK government also had a plan A which was essentially the same as Eck’s plan A, the only difference being that Tories think Jim Ratcliffe is a jolly good chappie and UK Plc needs more of his entrepreneurial spirit.  The UK government had a plan B too.  Admittedly it was, “Well, there’s always the Job Centre,” but at least it constituted some sort of statement on what might happen next.  Plan C? What? By this time they were too busy discussing the Royal Christening and had lost interest.  Who cares about Grangemouth, didn’t Kate look gorgeous?

Johann and the Labour party had no plan at all.  She didn’t even get as far as Season One Episode One of Sesame Street in the lettering of plans.  She had no idea how to achieve any sort of solution.  Her sole contribution to resolving the crisis was to shriek that Jim Ratcliffe is an evil bastert.  However just about everyone in Scotland had already formed that opinion without Johann’s input.  Jim Ratcliffe knew that too.  The only question is why Johann imagined that he was going to back down because she was doing her beloved impression of a stairheid rammy.  Like it’s worked so well on Eck.  But Johann doesn’t answer questions, so we’ll never know.

Only one of these three players is not responsible for the state of the UK energy sector, and only one does not have or did not once have the powers to regulate the sector to prevent the Grangemouth crisis from arising in the first place.  Only one was not responsible for allowing the carnivores of capital to devour Scottish workers’ futures, and selling off all state assets in order to sook up to the City of London.  Can you guess which one children?  Because Johann bloody Lamont can’t.

Johann Lamont managed to make less of a positive contribution towards solving the Grangemouth crisis than the actual fucking Tories.  Indictments don’t come much stronger than that.

When Johann denied she said Scotland was a something for nothing country, she was referring to something that took place a whole year ago.  And if you try and peer out of the furthest corner of your eye aided by the wholesale consumption of alcohol, pills, and herbal cigarettes after you’ve sacrificed a goat to the goddess of amnesia, you might just be able to persuade yourself that people will have forgotten that you said it, and forgotten that you’d called a press conference so they could hear you say it, and forgotten that it provoked a storm of anger and protests and derision that was all over the telly and the papers until your press guy leaned on the media to shut up with the story.

But now she wants us to forget something that just happened last week.  Believing in Johann Lamont now requires short term memory loss as well as a Stalinesque facility for airbrushing last year’s press conferences so they no longer contain the phrase “something for nothing”.  Goldfish have better memories than that.

There are only two real possibilities here.  Either Johann Lamont is a liar of sociopathic proportions, who just doesn’t give a shit whether people believe her or not, or she has lost all grip on reality, has long since teetered off the brink of sanity and is now in freefall imagining herself to have superhuman powers to change the fabric of reality.  Of course, these are not mutually exclusive categories.

Whatever, she is unfit for public office.  If she had even a nanogramme of self-awareness she would resign immediately, and offer her job to someone far more reliable, capable and trustworthy.  Like Eric Joyce or Jar Jar Binks.

Under Lamont Labour has no policies.  It has commissions that won’t report back until after the independence referendum.  It has condemnations of Alex Salmond aplenty, although many are invented and most are spurious.  And it has the deep frozen silence of the vacuum of outer space.  Labour gave up speaking the truth to Scotland many years ago.  Now instead of a social democratic (never mind socialist) party fighting for the rights of workers we get the pathetic self-serving vacuities of Lamontism instead.  Johann will go back to hiding away wherever it is she goes when she’s avoiding the contradictions thrown up by her many attempts to change the recent past, and she will say nothing at all.

But as the Russian poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko said, “When the truth is replaced by silence, the silence is a lie.”  Every time Johann Lamont is unavailable for questions, she is lying to the people of Scotland.

Gordon Brown tells the truth

According to one theory, there is an infinite number of universes, which in turn means that all possible things which can potentially happen do in fact happen somewhere in the infinite multiverse, no matter how implausible or unlikely.  There is a universe where there are actually more Tory MPs in Scotland than pandas, it’s one of the Hell Dimensions.  There’s also a universe where Reporting Scotland is a really good news programme, although quantum physicists consider this less plausible than the universe where the Daily Mail publishes an editorial begging the UK Government to allow in more asylum seekers from countries which Westminster has invaded.

However yesterday we discovered we reside in perhaps the most singular universe of all, the blessed land where Gordon Brown actually tells the truth for once.  No really, it did happen.

Gord has now admitted that he’s an ex-politician, something the rest of us have known for quite some time.  You have to phase these things out gradually you know, so he’s still drawing his MP’s salary, and his expenses, and gaining contributions to his pension pot and pay offs.  He gave up doing any work himself a long time ago.

But we must not be harsh on him, he’s really just practising the message that he preached while in high office.  He’s privatised his constituency work by farming it out to office staff he pays for out of expenses.  So he’s really a job creator and not a parasite.

Gord has lied for years on just about everything, mostly to himself, but also to the rest of us.  He was the Labour Chancellor who proudly stuck to Tory spending plans and Tory attitudes to the jobless.  He had a moral compass but it was really a device for telling the direction in which to sling some mud.   He was the man with a plan who was going to put the Labour back into New Labour, but it turned out the only plan was how to get his paws on Tony Blair’s job.  Gord approached politics like an obsessive Monroe bagger, once he’d reached the highest peak he didn’t know what to do with himself.

The blessed land where this miraculous truth telling occurred was not Scotland, that’s too ridiculous for any universe in which we’re not yet independent.  It was Qatar.  Gordie was doing what he does best when he’s not got a book to plug or an after-dinner speech to make for nothing more than his food, travel, lodgings and a very fat cheque.  He does it all for charidee you know.  He was punching above the weight of the constituents of Kirkaldy at an international summit on something terribly important, held at a posh and lavishly appointed conference and hotel centre. Conveniently somewhere warm where people think he’s the former prime minister ingliziya.

Removing themselves from being subject to difficult questions is the only demonstrable skill possessed by Scotland’s Labour politicians.  They are experts in disappearing, world class in fact.   It’s surprising that they didn’t demand hide and seek to be added to the list of Olympic sports when the games were held in London.  Between Gordie Broon, Johann Lamont and Jim Murphy they’d have snapped up gold, silver and bronze.  It would have given them an excuse to wrap themselves in Union flags and pose on the front of United with Labour leaflets.  Only there aren’t any leaflets.

United with Labour is the invisible campaign for invisible politicians.  Despite being launched with a fanfare of “that’ll show thae nats a thing or three” puffery from media hacks, Labour’s own campaign to save the Union in a way that doesn’t involve being photographed with Conservatives has managed to garner just 6 friends and 47 likes on its Facebook page.  I almost felt sorry for it.  Even Gary Glitter’s got more people who believe him than that.

Johann Lamont has learned well from Gordie, many would say she now surpasses the old master in the vanishing arts.  It’s much harder for Johann to hide, since she’s rarely invited to international conferences in warm countries.  No one in Labour’s London office seems to have heard of the supposed leader of the party in Scotland, she didn’t even figure on the CC list for the report into the goings on within the Falkirk constituency party, so it’s hardly surprising no international conference organisers have heard of her either.

After briefly emerging to have a wee gloat over a predictable Dunfermline by election result,  chicken Johann has gone back into hiding in order to avoid being asked any questions about the flustercluck that was the role of Labour and the Unite union in the Grangemouth crisis.  Labour and Unite spent the past few months attacking one another with the single minded fury of battery chickens on steroids determined to establish who ruled the roost.  They forgot all about the Ineos fox intent on devouring Grangemouth’s wee chicks in high visibility jaickets.

For all that they preach that Scotland should demonstrate solidarity with workers in England, Labour’s pretty poor at showing solidarity with workers themselves.  Grangemouth showed that Labour’s sole interest is Labour.  Unite’s sorry role in the Grangemouth affair is nothing to be proud of either, but at least their basic point is correct.  The Labour party was established by the union movement as a vehicle for workers’ rights.  But the Labour party has transformed the union movement into a vehicle for the Labour party.

Now the Labour party rails against the evil inquities of avaricious foxes, but when in office Labour embarked on a fox breeding programme with all the enthusiasm of their Tory predecessors, and cut down the chicken wire protecting the coops saying it was a barrier to business.  They muzzled the guard dogs and sold off the chicken sheds.  They created the conditions that allowed Grangemouth to be so vulnerable.

Johann doesn’t want to answer any questions about this.  And it’s terribly unfair of us to think she should.  After all, it’s not like a Unite sponsored MSP and nominal leader of the Labour party in Scotland could possibly know anything about a major bitch-fest between Labour and Unite that ended up being the blue touch paper on a powder keg of petrochemicals.

Labour doesn’t want us to think about its role in leaving Scottish industry a sitting duck for any passing capitalist predator, a legacy of the ex-politician on a freebie to Qatar.  Instead we must allow Johann to get back to doing what she does best.  Lying down in a darkened room until she can think of something to accuse Alex Salmond of.  It’s her only apparent purpose.  She’s a fat lot of use for anything else.

Scotland’s Labour politicians have been known to submerge for weeks and months on end, only finally surfacing for a brief period, usually in order to accuse Alex Salmond of something.  It’s a skill in which they are rivalled only by Nessie, except for the accusing Alex Salmond bit, although it is fair to say there are more plausible sightings of Nessie than Gordie or Johann.  It’s also probably true that Nessie would be capable of giving a far more coherent account of herself, but that’s by the by.

However the similarities far outweigh the differences.  All are elusive cold blooded reptilians, all have a reputation that is largely mythical, and all are easy to confuse with lumps of dead wood floating at an odd angle.

Johann Lamont is an ex-politician too, she’s just not admitted it yet.  Perhaps in an independent Scotland a real Labour party can rise from the ashes of despair created by the current incarnation.  It’s unlikely that Johann or Gordon will have any role in it, then perhaps they can disappear forever.

Lessons in conversational Lamontese

I wasn’t really paying attention to the Sunday Politics show on BBC Scotland.  There are far more important things in the world than listening to Labour politicians attempting to justify themselves.  But adrift amidst a mountain of washing and tripping over the hoover, I caught Johann Lamont declare that she had never said that people in Scotland get “something for nothing”.

Aware that her something for nothing comments had been received like a deep fried cockroach in a bucket of chicken nuggets, Johann has spent the last year alternately back-tracking and being unavailable for comment.  Now she’s trying to pretend that they never happened at all, and it’s all our fault for misunderstanding her.

Johann Lamont has a grasp of fact that’s worse than a Young Earth creationist’s grasp of evolutionary theory.  The crazed creationist at least possesses the virtue of being consistently selective in their treatment of data, Johann just makes it up as she goes along.

In the speech she delivered in September 2012, her exact words were:  “Scotland cannot be the only something for nothing country in the world,” before going on to promise that her new commission would leave no stone unturned in its search for ‘affordable’ policies, and left no doubt that free education and free prescriptions would be amongst those things the commission might throw some stones at.  A report on the speech is still available on the STV website.

This wasn’t an off the cuff remark either, Johann had herself called a press conference to let us all know that “Scotland cannot be the only something for nothing country in the world.”  She had invited telly crews and people who know how to take shorthand and use audio recorders.  We heard her say it and we saw her lips moving.

At times like this we should always be kind, and try to think of an innocent explanation first.  Maybe Johann just forgot, what with her being scared shitless that some of the blame for the Grangemouth debacle is going to rebound on the Labour party and the Unite union for allowing their petty internal politicking to put thousands of Scottish jobs at risk, and her only having her job because she got the Unite vote in the Labour leadership campaign.  She’s struggling to find a way to shift the blame onto Alex Salmond for that one.  So the whole something for nothing stuff just slipped her mind.

Admittedly there are heroin addicts with head injuries who have better recall of events, but this is the Labour party in Scotland we’re talking about here.  They don’t have high standards.  Even so, the only way that Johann would be unable to remember making the statement would be for her actually to be in a vegetative coma.  So come to think of it, it is a plausible excuse after all.

Perhaps it’s also our fault for misunderstanding, what with us being Scottish and struggling to articulate sentences that make any sense, as Johann consistently demonstrates in solidarity with us ordinary folk.  We can’t put it down to linguistic differences though, since another Labour luminary has already told us we can’t have independence because we have no language of our own.  It’s only Johann Lamont who has a language of her own.

So the sentence “Scotland cannot be the only something for nothing country in the world” was not a rehashed Tory slogan from a hash of a Labour politician who’s adopting Tory policies so her party can get elected south of the Border and make a hash of social provision in the process.  It must really mean something entirely different to what it looks like it means to us stupid people who don’t speak Lamontese.

What she actually said was : “Scotland can obey the only summons for nuke gantries in a whirl,” which was really coded advice to tell us to vote yes in the indy referendum so we can get rid of Trident.  Johann’s a closet Yes supporting nuclear unilateralist, who knew?

But that’s about as plausible as the BBC interviewer challenging Johann when she tells a blatant lie.

Dear Westminster: A divorce letter

I originally wrote this article during the lead up to the Holyrood elections, and it was first published in March 2011 in Newsnet Scotland.  It was later published by the Scots Independent as their lead article in the edition published during election month.  (My mammy was dead proud.)   I’ve been writing a new and updated version, but have been unable to finish it as my partner had a bad night last night, and we had to call the doctor out today.  Thankfully it seems like it’s nothing serious.

I thought the original letter was worth republishing.  The new and updated version will be published just as soon as I get time to finish it.  

Dear Westminster,

There was a time when you wooed me.  Once you promised me the delights of India and the magic of Hong Kong, but these days all you do is sit on the sofa with your American pal playing war games.  You’ve squandered all our money on expensive toys and presents for your mates in the City.  Now you tell me you’re cutting the housekeeping money but you’re still buying two aircraft carriers, only there are no planes to put on them.  You even had the cheek to tell me you were doing me a favour by letting me assemble the airfix kits.  And don’t start me on those bloody submarines.

You treat me like you’re ashamed of me.  You never let me leave the house alone.  Are you afraid that I’ll say something to embarrass you if I was to meet up with some other countries without you being there?  I was really upset when you didn’t let me go to Copenhagen to that workshop on climate change, especially because you know how much work I did installing wind turbines in the back garden and got all those books about tidal energy out the library.  It was hurtful and unthinking.  Does the term ‘control freak’ mean anything to you?

I always knew you were never faithful.  I never mentioned your thing with Wales, you know, the other woman, your kidnap victim from a previous relationship.  I was even your biggest supporter when you wanted to start that menage-a-trois with Ireland.  You know as well as I do how much that particular little escapade ended up costing in therapy sessions and broken crockery.  I can’t believe how naive I was.  It’s all water under the bridge now, but I’ll never have a proper relationship with my own family until you stop claiming the right to speak for me.

I bumped into Norway the other day, she’s looking good and doing so well for herself.  I remember her when she worked in the fish factory and didn’t have two kroner to rub together, then she divorced Denmark and rushed into that rebound affair with Sweden which ended in tears.  Well that’s all changed.  She was just popping off to some important do at the UN and was looking very stylish.  And there was me in an auld coat and head-scarf like the depressive suicide risk in an Ingmar Bergman movie because you say I can’t afford nice things.

I see the banks are Scottish again.  That’s nice.  For years you’ve insisted on controlling all the pursestrings, and now the pursestrings are flapping around your ankles like snapped knicker elastic all of a sudden the empty banks are Scottish and a reason I could never look after myself.  You’re like a wean that breaks a toy then gives it back saying it was broken when you got it.  Funny how you managed to play with the banks for years without noticing how broken they were.

You say the oil money is spent and gone, and you always said that it was never a significant sum anyway.  Well now I’ve discovered the truth that you’ve been trying to keep from me for the past 30 years.  For all that time you’ve known that I could be very wealthy, but you kept schtum so you could spend the money on things for yourself. 

I don’t know what’s more hurtful, the fact that you kept secrets from me and stole from me, or that you didn’t trust me enough to be honest with me in the first place.  Just what other dirty little secrets are you keeping?  You know what Oprah Winfrey said, when trust breaks down there can be no marriage.  You’ve ripped up my trust, thrown it away, and trampled it in the gutter.  You’ve only got yourself to blame for that.

Then there was thon weirdo Thatcherism cult you got seduced into joining.  You gave away all the family silver and kept chanting that mantra about obeying the market.   What a nightmare that was.  You went all wild-eyed and starey and really scared me.  Remember Jack Nicholson in the Shining?  I was Shelley Duvall cowering in terror while you took an axe to everything.  I’m still not entirely convinced you’ve got over that little episode, and there is no power on Earth that would force me to endure another bout of it.  You’ve not done a great deal to boost my confidence on that score.

I’m under the doctor now.  You don’t care, you just mutter about Celts and alcoholism and tell me it’s all my own fault because I’m feeble and useless.  But the truth is I have cancer, the media and political parties that you support have turned against my body, poisoning my system.  They make me weak and cause me to doubt myself and lose my self-confidence.  They eat away at me from within.  The doctors have diagnosed it as Unionosis, it’s caused by a loveless and one-sided marriage.

What makes it worse is that it’s you who is feeding the disease.  I’m not saying you’re doing it deliberately – that would imply you have a degree of self-awareness I don’t think you’re capable of – but I can’t rid myself of the dark suspicion and you don’t help by refusing to accept that there’s a problem.  It keeps me awake at nights and I’ve been drinking more than is good for a person. 

All you do is to accuse me of having a chip on my shoulder.  Well that’s true, and guess what honey – you put it there.  You aren’t just a chip on my shoulder, you’re a whole fish supper with extra sour vinegar all wrapped up in a copy of the Hootsmon.  And frankly the fish smells pretty rank.  Chip.  I’ll gie ye bloody chip.

Anyway, the only cure for Unionosis is to root out the problem at source, and that means leaving you.

We don’t have any reason to stay together.  The children are all grown up.  Australia and Canada are doing so well for themselves.  I used to worry about Canada living in that bad neighbourhood, but he managed to avoid getting led astray by that neighbour of his.  Such a sensible and level-headed child.  He gets that from me you know.  Even little New Zealand has done us proud, and you know how I used to fret about him being so far away with nothing but sheep for company.  It’s worked out well for him, and I’ve learned not to judge who the children choose to spend their lives with.

I know you’re angry.  No one likes to be told they’re a failure, and it’s hard for you to hear you’ve been a failure as a parliament and a partner.  But you react either by screaming abuse at me or by telling me I’m worthless and would fall apart without you.  I don’t believe you any more.  You’re acting every bit the spurned lover.  You’re acting exactly like you’re always accusing France of behaving, and I only broke off my engagement with him because you convinced me he was possessive and jealous.

We’ll always be close, we still share so much and I want us to be friends.  But until you can learn to have adult relationships with the other nations in these islands, and treat us like equals and not as your harem, there’s no hope for us and there’s no hope for the people of England.  People in England deserve a proper parliament and not the pretendy wee excuse for patronage, privilege and dressing up in fancy costumes that you’ve become.  It’s time you got your fat lazy arse up from resting on your Mother of Parliament laurels and went and took a long hard look at yourself in the mirror.  You’re very good at looking after your own interests,  In time you’ll realise that this is in your best interests too.

Meanwhile I’m taking a leaf out of your book and putting my own interests first.  So I want a divorce.  There, I’ve said it.  There’s not much love anymore, I think you know that as well as I do, and it’s time we learned to live our own lives before what’s left of our feelings for one another turn into hate.  Being in this marriage has made both of us lose sight of who we are, and we need to find ourselves again.  I’ll still stand beside you to defend what we have in common, but I won’t be under your thumb.