It’s normal!

The White Paper is being tossed about on the frothing seas of partisanship, lurching to port where George Kerevan hails it “game-changing” then heaving to starboard where Brian Wilson buffets it as “nothing of substance” – 670 pages of it! Meanwhile the decks are awash with streams of “fantasy” and “wish list”, all enough to make you seasick.

So what is it in reality? Well, it’s a tangible sign that independence is becoming entrenched in the popular mind as a conventional and feasible option for running the country. And I think that is the most telling point of all. The release of such a detailed report became an unavoidable item of UK national news – unless you read the Star – in which Scots saw their government and fellow Scots, in a sense themselves, sensibly discussing independence as a rational, everyday political idea on the television news. This is normalisation. For many, mostly beyond the reach of Newsnight and the Politics Show or the comment pages, independence as a concept has retained a White Heather Club quality that allows outsiders to laugh at us as celtic eccentrics. It is not uncommon for the urban working class to offer only sneers at Salmond as some kind of sheep-shagging salesman, as opposed to a true Labour artisan politician, while at the same time welcoming his policies and berating Labour’s failure. If they can’t accept the messenger, they won’t get the message.

The breadth of the media coverage of the White Paper showed a different perspective. It brought the “Big News” from London to our doorstep where Hew Edwards respectfully interviewed Salmond at length. It led the network bulletins. It produced disharmony and acrimony as all normal political issues do. It proved the SNP government’s plans were both serious, as in profound, and important, as in a matter for London to cover on location.

The day after it is spread throughout the press, with its merits and shortcomings dissected with forensic scrutiny and across the land thousands of voters whose cynicism inclines them habitually to dismiss new and challenging ideas, will be made to think. “What do I think about this? I’m not sure about full independence but this looks really serious and makes some points I agree with. I don’t usually bother with the political news but I can’t ignore this, it’s everywhere. Salmond really has an impact, doesn’t he? He does things that get London jumping. And why shouldn’t we use the pound? It isn’t England’s. Who do they think they are…”

This event has moved independence out of the speciality lane in the political supermarket and placed it in household essentials. And it does, at last, provide a searchable source of answers – whether you accept them or not – and it has created another awkward moment for Better Together because they have nothing to offer in reply. From now on, not only are specific “answers” at hand, the White Paper itself IS an answer to the constantly demanding How will this work? How can we afford it? The reply is they’ve produced an entire document in answer. The follow-up challenge of course is: “Where is the Unionist alternative?” And it’s true, to engage in a proper debate, each side is duty bound to produce its case. That has now been done by the Yes side so when do we see the agreed manifesto for Union?

I also think this document and the coverage will force people elsewhere in the UK to come to terms with a simple fact – that Scotland has cards to play. Hitherto, the impression has been apparent from London that they dictate events, they say Yes or No and they hold the assets and can block Scotland’s progress. Yesterday demonstrated that isn’t so. There is a strong economic case for independence, there is a widening gulf in political culture (certainly with London but I doubt if it applies across the rest of the rUK) and grudgingly many will now realise that it does make sense to share some services. I suspect the English view broadly is that independence means going it completely alone and they can imagine that happening but it makes some uncomfortable that the logic is to share a border, a currency, the DVLA etc because that requires a more nuanced mind-set. This is a profound change in the government of Britain, one of the most politically backward of all industrialised states, deeply conservative in its attitudes to democracy and resistant to change and social mobility. For English people in general, devolution was a disturbing concept that hinted at disharmony and a cloaked rejection, so independence is like betrayal. Then to find that, actually the Scots have a good case and it involves still sharing with them will take time to digest and come to terms with. Many won’t. The Little Englanders – Tory Right, UKIP, EDL, Telegraph – will voice their opposition to all association with a new Scottish state which will only serve to incline the fair-minded who take time to rationalise it into accepting a new deal. Indeed, because the Civil Service – and big business – will spell out the advantages to London of continued association and joint working with Edinburgh, senior Unionist politicians may be pushed into giving it a careful endorsement to prepare the ground for post-independent arrangements.

In the next 10 months this document and a wider knowledge of it will come up time and again in public debate across Britain, further normalising the idea of an independent Scotland in the minds of millions. It may even excite the wider British Left in politics and the media who could find something to salute here in a social democratic model rejecting, as they do, the rule of the bankers, the austerity burden on the poor and a London-centric economy. Do they really have such faith in the outdated and fading British state that they believe it trumps all attempts at fair pay, civil rights, equality, and self-determination? After yesterday’s Scottish announcement taking top billing, the first two items on this morning’s BBC news were Cameron’s plans to deny benefits to fellow EU citizens – a racist move also against the rules and principles of the EU – and nine million people are in serious debt in the UK. What a country to be proud of. Would we really want to join in Union if we were asked today? With all its caveats – hydrocarbon exploitation, lower business rates – Scotland’s independence agenda is offering more than Miliband’s Labour for those seeking to transform unequal, geographically-deformed Britain.

Many southern eyes will look north in the next year and some of them will be understanding. Some might even be envious.

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0 thoughts on “It’s normal!

  1. With regards to the media, it seems to me that both the Scottish media and the UK media were on their best behavior yesterday because they knew that the eyes of the world were upon them.

    Coverage was, for a change, fair.

    It remains to be seen whether this will herald better coverage of the debate, or whether the media wil revert to type and start up the white noise again to close down any meaningful debate.

    None of us independence supporters are asking that the media support independence, just that we get fair representation without all the unionist bias that we have seen to date.

    • Craig Macfarlane

      coverage was hardly “fair” I watched BBC news interview 7 Scots, 6 of which were no’s and 1 wait and see…they even interviewed English tourists in Dundee rather than speak to any yes voters…it stinks of propaganda and has to stop!

  2. It will be interesting to see if the Yes leadership centre their efforts around the SG white paper, or whether it will be treated as one of a range of policy positions. Certainly, I’d think some elements (oil extraction, airline duty or lowering corporation tax) won’t sit comfortably with Green or Common Weal policy positions – it might have been better to have had a clearer separation – possibly two documents?

    But there it is, the sheer size of the document means it will be quarried, rather than read through and a Yea or Nay determined, so it should have good longevity for the campaign.

  3. “Where is the Unionist alternative?”

    Hell I’ve been asking that question for the past two days and spookily I’ve yet to receive a reply.

    However here is the recommendation of the Electoral Commission at the time of the Edinburgh Agreement:

    5.42 We recommend that the UK and Scottish Governments should clarify what process will follow the referendum in sufficient detail to inform people what will happen if most voters vote ‘Yes’ and what will happen if most voters vote ‘No’.

    Still waiting on the highly detailed, costed and governmentally sanctioned paper from Westminster which will detail Scotland’s future as part of the union.

    Any day now…

  4. Quick story.

    In the run up to the last council elections in Scotland, the Labour Party gang who control Glasgow City Council were terrified that the SNP were going to take Glasgow.

    I live in Knightswood, and my partner mentioned that a free bus had appeared, running between I think Drumchapel and Scotstoun, right through Knightswood. GCC (aka The Labour Party) had paid for this bus to demonstrate how committed they were to Glasgow, blah, blah, blah. My partner used this bus to collect our son from primary school, and by all accounts it was well used by mothers and pensioners.

    In the week after the Labour Party gang comfortably held onto GCC (mainly due to the ‘urban working class’ Derek mentions above) the bus service disappeared. Simply stopped.

    That so many of my fellow Glaswegians/Scots could fall for such an obvious trick does not fill me with confidence for a successful Yes vote. I need to be honest about that. I would dearly love to see Scotland independent, I believe though that there are too many Labour voting sheep in Scotland, who auto-vote Labour in general elections because ‘that’s who ma Ma and Da voted fur’.

    I hope that I am wrong.

    (Apologies for not being cheerful after yesterdays terrific WP launch.)

  5. Excellent as always, Derek. I trolled the English papers for their ‘next day’ reaction, but some cook’s cocaine habit and another chap seemed to have had problems with a gate in London. Clearly, they don’t want to give it oxygen. White paper seems a first rate stab in only four years – 2011 shocked everyone remember.

  6. Just a couple of instances of the media not at its best yesterday.

    1. The world watching and the BBC’s Nick Robinson asks the FM about “Strictly Come Dancing”.

    2. Kirsty Wark classes a possible negotiation on currency and debt as “thuggish threat”
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b03jymqw/Newsnight_26_11_2013/

    What did surprise was that no overseas press were asking questions; was there a separate press conference for overseas reporters?

    • Roibert a Briuis

      Were not most of ‘the questions’ answered in the White Paper….as far as could be without a crystal ball or Dr Who and his Tardis which of course belongs to the UK
      Its a prospectus, a plan..even Plan A, a road map of where a SNP government would like to end up once we are independent. Unlike the Stone of Destiny none of this is cast in stone and until we have a government of an Independent Scotland with their manifesto that they can put to the voters and get elected on…..its wait and see time.
      Darling and Brown made a pigs ear of the economy . Why anyone would listen to a word Darling says and put any faith in it surely falls into the “fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice shame on me scenario. Even the “vote for a monkey with a red rosette lot” cant be all fools….surely not….or am I stretching my imagination past breaking point?.

  7. the white paper is now number 5 on the amazon kindle top 100 free publications….so someone is prepared to read it even if the Tories Together can’t be bothered to.

  8. There is no mystery about the thoroughly detailed proposals of Better Together. They have a united approach to all questions regarding Scotland remaining in the Union, which they have spelt out:
    Vote No to ensure that the people of Scotland forfeit participation in meaningful democracy for the foreseeable future.

  9. Well there we go, the voice of calm and reason, especially the last paragraph.

    I do so hope and wish that it is true for we are being sledged by a wall of lies, smears, nonsense and fear which may drive some lesser mortals behind their sofas.

  10. “I suspect the English view broadly is that independence means going it completely alone and they can imagine that happening but it makes some uncomfortable that the logic is to share a border, a currency, the DVLA etc because that requires a more nuanced mind-set, etc.”

    I’m intrigued by the difference you describe, regarding the way in which the idea of independence is understood in Westminster, compared to the meaning now published for inspection in Scotland. Westminster’s understanding of the concept seems so intensely insular and defensive.* And this seems so, not only as regards Scottish independence, however understood, but the general idea of what it is to be independent: an anxiety which involves some crazy perception on their part that being independent of Westminster is virtual nonentity – for in fact nothing but Westminster has a demonstrably independent existence.

    It will be fascinating to see whether the White Paper helps turn attention onto that staggeringly influential long-post-imperial neurosis. Something which in its inverted supercringe nay-saying manifestation as BT will in due course provide huge resources locally for analysis, and wonder. Perhaps their last huzzah will be for the Yes campaign that helped them see the light – it would be a fine and neighbourly thing to hope so.

    *Though it’s really England that is the island, of course, and a lovely one too. Scotland’s continental.

  11. Excellent article. Also read Ian Bell’s coverage in today’s Herald.

  12. Another great article. I must say I warmed to Hew Edwards when he ” respectfully interviewed Salmond at length.” Recognition at last.

    • In contrast to Kirsty Wark’s accusation of Alex Salmond’s negotiation on currency and debt as “thuggish threat”.

      • While the FM has clearly no problem in being interviewed by Kirsty Wark it is all too clear that KW has serious problems in conducting dialogue with members of this Scottish Government and the Independence movement.
        When she was clearly at ease with Donald Dewar and with Lord McConnell of Arn in that cosy Labour clique -she was part of the consultative committee for the location and design of the Holyrood project- all was well with the world. Like many New Labour acolytes she has apparent difficulties with the 2011 election result and hostility to Salmond on one well remembered occasion along with references to possible Scottish currency as “pibrochs” and “thuggish threats” reveal much about her attitude when interviewing.

  13. Hi Derek after tonights STV debate your next blog must be entitled ‘You can hold your own SoS’ but he can’t ! Cheers

  14. I feel sorry for Michael Moore – I quite liked him, just felt he was wrong and outperformed by the Depedee FM. Watching Alastair Carmichael being hanged, drawn and quartered metaphorically by Nicola in the debate tonight though was just pure comedy gold! I wonder how long now before the Secretary of State for Portsmouth will get his own P45?

  15. Given the unbridled guff that’s coming from the cheap parlour talk-in shows, aka Ronnie Ancona, it’s full frontal assault on all things Scots and although half-expected, it’s severe and bordering racism. Maybe it’ll be tested for racism pretty soon. Anyone fancy making a pile of bucks?

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