Upon Visiting Blair Castle…

(after Thomas Pennant Visiting Scotland 1769)

blair-castleDeparting my lodgings perched on a steep grassy hillside overlooking the Rivers Tilt and Garry in the verdant valley or glen known as the Tom of Lude, I followed the cart path until it meandered to the stone gates of Blair Castle, ancestral home of the Dukes of Atholl.

In a clearing among ancient pines of gigantic stature I gazed upon the whitewashed walls and towers with crenelated defences and crow-stepped gables in the Scottish vernacular style.

The appearance was of the architecture of mythology and legend rather than the brute battlements of a battle-hardened protective keep such as that I encountered at Castle Tioram overlooking the waters of Loch Shiel on the peninsula of Ardnamurchan.

The edifice at Blair, it occured to me, had seen more battle over the dining table than in combat, nothwithstanding its occupation during the Jacobite upheavals.

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Upon entry, I discovered a lavishly accoutred arsenal of flintlocks, bayonets and daggers exhibited as for amusement as opposed to any martial utility. Among the staircases and halls were personal belongings and portraits of Atholl antecedents and their honoured guests and poignant fragments of a nation’s historical turmoil such as the animal skin gloves and clay pipe of the one known as the Bonnie Prince, albeit without accredited proof of their provenance.

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It seemed to me this brash display had as its design the seduction of the visitor so as to leave him in thrall, not to the history and story of Scotland, but rather to the glorification of the generations of Atholl family members who, despite every insurgency and rebellion, had nevertheless contrived to retain their own dynastic interests over the centuries up to including the castle itself.

I was called away by the sound of the traditional instrument known as the bagpipe whose horn flutes are fingered as a bag of air is pumped by the arm and whose doleful and lingering drones are said to reach deep into the soul of every Scotchman.

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At the front door I came across the Duke’s own piper, swathed in the tartan plaid known as Murray of Atholl, trussed in leather and silver, a feather upon his headgear and a purse known as the sporran, stitched from badger pelt, hung from his waist. He struck an heroic figure, his bearing and distinctive musical airs, combining to represent in my mind everything that was noble and eternal about the ancient nation of the Scots.

Some yards distant a gentleman, simply dressed in the garb of a gardener or journeyman, was watching closely, a lugubrious mien betraying some melancholy.

On approaching him, I asked what could be troubling him when the very organs of his nation’s pride were being pressed with majestic flourish only yards away?

“Aye. It’s a grand sound the air makes”, he ventured. “But tis only air. The real nation of Scotland has the trappings of any country and the beating of most but has none of the rights to be truly the land yon piper is regaling.”

He informed me there had in recent times been a great national plebiscite in which the people had been invited to make a democratic choice of having their own sovereign government or of remaining under the rule of the government in London and had, to his despair, declared for the latter. He had in consequence discovered that his attachment to the rituals associated with nationhood had become discordant in his mind. He could no longer listen to the pipes he had loved without hearing voices jeer at him and the lament sound as if for the burial of a Scotland he loved as family. He said it had all come to an end, ignominious and disowned and no amount of Highland flummery could disguise the shame he felt. He was the saddest Scotsman I met on my journey.

As he bemoaned his lot, the words that struck me deepest from this forlorn but honest son of the estate were these: “Part of me has died, gone like the wife I knew for thirty and more years, and left but a memory, no tangible aspect to remain…”

I watched as he turned and walked solemnly away disappearing into the woods and no doubt to some artisan task, his shoulders bent forward under the weight of his burden. As I turned round, I noted to my surprise that the piper too had gone, vanished from his post and I was alone before the castle, my ears deafened by the sudden silence…

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We’re Better Together…

‘Bateman’s been quiet’, I heard someone say. ‘ Must be the referendum hangover’. Well, far from it. In fact I’m half way to becoming a media magnate  as plans to develop a new digital media proceed behind the scenes. Think Randoph Hearst or Rupert Murdoch…OK, not Rupert Murdoch. Citizen-Kane-finally-plays-Hearst-Castle-3Q144DEM-x-large
I’m as frustrated as anyone else at the piss poor coverage of the referendum. It was at best patchy, at worst execrable, biased, led by Better Together and completely missed the appetite of the Yes people for something – anything – to reflect their views and aspirations. We will not be put back in our box.
I’ve been trying to do something different by inviting guests on to batemanbroadcasting to open up about their beliefs and tell their story – without constantly interrupting and treating them like coconuts on a stall. Our filmed versions on Youtube have been a bit of a hit giving insights into Alex Salmond and his childhood influences, Elaine C Smith and her Labour disillusion and Billy Kay, a wonderfully evocative story teller. Others included folk you’ve maybe never heard of but whose voice is just as valid but rarely if ever heard in the conventional media.
Scotland is alive with people with stories to tell but who can’t get the interest of media outlets more interested in pre-packaged story-lines that don’t upset the powers that be and the advertisers.logo

I know may of you are aching for something more intelligent and responsive. I hope to bring it you soon. The idea, in conjunction with the founders of Newsnet and others, is to combine the written word – news, analysis and comment based around the well established and popular Newsnet brand – the first and original – with digital programming, both radio and on screen, through batemanbroadcasting, produced by my production partner TVI.
It would mean all formats in one wrapper bringing together Newsnet, Derek Bateman Broadcaster, batemanbroadcasting.com and other content providers we negotiate with. We’re ready to cooperate with others. You will not be excluded. There will be fully interactive access to make a complete platform for intelligent opinion.You will have the chance to join us and become part of our project by contributing both financially through subscription, donation and crowd funding, and materially, by suggesting subjects to cover and taking part in a programme of events and online discussion.

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Newsnet is the longest-established website which began in 2009 arguing for Devo Max – until the 2011 election produced an SNP majority and a referendum – when it focussed on independence. Now, in 2014 we’re back at the beginning, examining Devo Max. It has built a solid and loyal following but the founders recognise it is time to move forward into a new post-referendum age, joining forces with my operation. Combining our two outfits produces a seriously large consumer base. We hope to hold on to all of you and grow the project. Details will follow soon and I’ll tell you what we need and how you can take part. Something is growing organically out of the exhilarating referendum process. I intend to act quickly. Let’s capture it together.

In the meantime, I’ll have to get back into the broadcasting saddle. If you’d like to be interviewed and have something to say – AND fancy meeting us – drop me an email and I’ll get in touch.
PS what do you think of Bateman Global for a company name? Too much? What about The Scotsman…that title’s not doing much these days. Or Dodgy Derek’s Dippy Doodles? (I have today cancelled my subscription to the Times and the Guardian)

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By Another Road

This is ridiculous. There’s even more going on now the referendum’s decided. And I wanted a rest…

In no particular order, my thoughts are that whatever action now follows, it can’t suggest the referendum wasn’t decisive and is somehow irrelevant because of any amount of excuses like ballot-rigging, last-minute offers and failure to deliver retrospectively.

This is a miserly response to a democratic process and runs counter to the simultaneous claim that this was a celebration of democracy which was an honour for Scotland. If it is an event to be proud of, we can’t carp about losing.

It doesn’t matter that the over-65s won it – their vote counts the same as anyone else’s. Whatever their motivations, be it personal security, lack of charity or shrivelled belief in country, they are entitled to vote accordingly.

In any campaign the trick is to win over enough voters to your side and clearly Yes didn’t do that so for the foreseeable future, the game is over. I would have claimed independence with a single vote more than No and disregarded any Unionist moans about Salmond claiming there would be no post referendum difficulties or claims of unfair funding or whatever. As far as we can see into the future, independence is off the board and the game has changed.

That doesn’t mean though that Alex Salmond is wrong to point out that a referendum is merely one route. New Zealand springs to mind in context as it had no formal process to sovereignty – it merely acquired more powers from London as the years went by until it was agreed it was effectively independent. There is no New Zealand Independence Day because nobody knows the date it happened.

The reaction to Salmond is interesting because it shows how worried the Unionist establishment is by the continuing movement. Instead of ignoring him or laughing at his remarks following a referendum win, Johann Lamont reacted angrily showing just how defensive she remains despite victory.

Accepting the result and agreeing to work in the best interests of Scotland is one thing. But forgiving the systematic mendacity and connivance with the Tories, UKIP and big business to crush what we now see to be the hopes of mainly working class Scots, is quite another. No sooner had Willie Bain called for reconciliation than people were tweeting how their elderly parents had been told by him they would lose their pensions if they voted Yes. It is now the narrative of the referendum that Labour sacrificed the rights of its own natural support in order to maintain the British state. Margaret Curran overseeing a party inquiry into why voters deserted them is just an insult to the Labour movement. It is another bureaucratic manoeuvre to pretend to be doing something – like making the Holyrood leader the ‘leader of all Scottish Labour’.

The truth is that Labour deserted its own people and has paid the price. It isn’t the voters who need to be questioned, it’s the Labour leadership. The story I read about the Curran initiative was placed just above a headline which read: ‘Balls to keep Tory cap on child benefit.’ Go figure, Margaret.

There is a determination among the payroll politicians of Unionism to make this whole period disappear into history. They have been deeply disturbed by having the agenda removed and having to deal with an organic and committed opposition that doesn’t fit the norm. For me this is one of the main reasons to keep going – the old failed hegemony has broken down and the Yes parties are already combining along with the grassroots into a radical opposition to the way Scotland is run.

Unionists can’t seriously suggest that everyone divest themselves of the dream of independence just because of the referendum result. After all, Labour voters didn’t stop voting Labour because the Tories won the election. And if the early unions had given up when first confronted by the bosses, there wouldn’t be trades unions today and there wouldn’t be a Labour Party.

Harnessing the energy will be a longer process because it will and has burst out in different forms and ideas which will have to coalesce and find sustainable shape if it is not all to be lost. I argue that Yes should maintain an administrative heart so everyone can stay connected – I think it can be paid for by the Yes parties. Yes should redefine what it stands for which for me has to be all powers below the level of a separate state. We would call it Devo Max and, bizarrely, it is on the agenda because of the wrong use of the term by London-based Unionists (including the ill-informed BBC) and because of a failure of the political parties to define what they meant when they panicked two weeks before voting.

It is perfectly possible I think that with the mood in England darkening, that serious powers could now come to Scotland just to stop another insurrection while the rest of the UK also benefits from enhanced devolution. And that would mean a serious reduction of MPs going to Westminster, the obvious democratic quid pro quo which also leaves Labour hoist by its own petard.

The nutty hyperbole of Gordon Brown talking about effective federalism has entered mind of the ignorant English media and is gradually being given form in the political debate. This is constitutional reform by osmosis and I’m not even sure the London classes know what they’re doing.

Far from settling the question, the referendum has produced more chaos than ever and we must not let it settle.

 

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Here I Come!

Now that Gordon Brown has appointed himself Governor General of our country while the elected Scottish Government is ignored by Westminster, I thought it might be a good time to say, having slept on it, that the blog and batemanbroadcasting.com will continue.

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I will never give up on independence and in the meantime believe there is a pulsating demand to get to grips with our so-called government structures. Two things stung me in the last 48 hours after the numbness of defeat.

The first was the appointment of Establishment quango man Lord Smith of Kelvin to head up the UK government’s further powers commission (quango) while I simultaneously was treated to the BBC fawning over Gordon Brown who declared it was HIS job to guarantee powers. Meanwhile I find no reference to the Scottish Government.

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Who the hell is running the country? We get a placeman with a title (and an island by the way) appointed without consultation or conferral and we have the humiliation of a backbench opposition MP thrust upon us – at whose say-so? I will take no lessons from Brown whose record in office and manic behaviour is a national embarrassment. Just as his former Cabinet colleagues…Is this how our country will now be run?

Even the bonkers fast-track ‘powers’ are now a football at Westminster as the Tories add in a reduction in Scottish MPs’ influence to screw Miliband.

We need to keep on top of this and ask if we can trust the same outlets that failed us so miserably over the referendum?

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I can’t give away detail yet but I plan a media presence integrating the written word with broadcasting in one package. I am consulting with others (not Lord Smith) to produce a business model that will be sustainable. You will have a chance to be part of it and it won’t necessarily involve wine this time. That’s all I can say at the moment and more detail will have to await a series of Power Breakfasts next week.

(I used to have one of those bulky diary thingys…a Filofax. Does anybody still use them? I need to look the part. I’m hunting out my suit and if I can only find a tie…)

 

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I’m Still Standing…

Look, Scotland!…I’m still standing. I was wrong about the vote and I lost the referendum but I’ve come out the other side unscathed. I remain an independista, an unflinching Scottish Nationalist and convinced that one day, after my time, we will be sovereign again.

The joy of belief is that makes you part of a cause not just a campaign. And you don’t kill a cause. I’ll go to my grave believing in Scotland’s independence.

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For now, the argument has been lost. It is a good idea to say that to yourself out loud. No amount of dismay and anger, no number of complaints and conspiracies will change that.

It was in May 2011 when the SNP swept to power that it became clear there would be a referendum. That’s nearly three and a half years for Scots to get used to the idea, to find out the truth, to decide whom to believe and to work out their position.

With voter registration at 97 per cent and turnout at 85 per cent, there is no question of legitimacy or representation. A margin of defeat at 10 per cent is decisive.

This is the clearly expressed will of the Scottish people and I for one respect it. I am a democrat. This is the bedrock of our system and without our support, democracy is diminished. To suggest outside factors may have skewed the result is to denigrate the process. To complain that it somehow isn’t fair is to insult the people. To rage against it is to tarnish the image of the whole Yes campaign.

It hurts, but the only dignified response is to get used to it…more Scots prefer the Union to Independence. I will campaign for independence because I believe it is our birthright and our national destiny and because it is the right way to govern the country but I will do so accepting it is effectively off the agenda for the time being and understanding it is not what the majority want.

I don’t think defeat in the ultimate objective will destroy Yes. It is a ready-made organic organisation, well-researched and committed. It is superbly well placed to monitor any evolving devolutionary proposals and to coordinate joint action in any field of public concern in Scotland. The sheer numbers of individuals makes it a daunting opponent to confront whether you’re the BBC or a retailer deliberately misleading Scots in a popular vote. Yes must live on.

While we remain united, expect the Unionists to do the opposite, ending their unholy alliance designed to keep Scotland a province (and lucky to be so, according to their legal advice which said we didn’t exist at all). As the inter-party factionalism breaks out in the months running up the General Election, we can stay composed and focussed on what they get up to, which I suspect will produce a wave of anti-Unionist sentiment in Scotland likely to damage particularly the carcass of the Labour Party.

Remember, whatever they say about conventions and national agreements to heal and find a way forward, the key figures in the Unionist three-party coalition really detest Yes.

Yes does not behave in predictable political party ways, it is a constant challenge at grassroots level which they can’t handle and refuses to fit into their norm. It is anti-Establishment and it irritates the Hell out of them. Party opponents can be denounced as just another bunch of payroll politicians, but smiling people with Yes badges can’t.

We are civic dissidents.

One thing about our politics is that nobody dies – not directly. I’ve reported from the West Bank, from revolution-torn Eastern Europe and from Belfast. There I met people who literally feared for their safety depending on their vote; people who had to hide when opponents appeared; individuals who had been imprisoned and tortured for their beliefs. We may worry about suicides and broken families from poverty, about lifestyles destroyed and hopes crushed, but a quiet greet at the point of defeat is easier than a bullet in the back.

We have to make the most of what we do have and bury resentment of opponents who exercised their right to believe and to vote their own way. (I was disappointed to hear Jim Gallagher of Better Together on Radio Scotland still talking this morning of No voters being afraid to speak out. He needs an irony check, given the coordinated fear campaign he was part of, and a magnanimity-in-victory injection.)

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Lastly, there is a difficult question to be addressed over Alex Salmond. He has led the ascent to the ridge just below the summit but failed to attain the top. There is no saltire on the pinnacle. He has been magnificent in leadership and has spent his adult life leading up to this moment. Today he faces the crushing knowledge that it is not to be. He will not be First Minister of an independent Scotland.

I can’t believe that after this momentous effort, after this life of struggle, he isn’t hollowed out inside. He presented Scots with the richest, best-prepared country ever to seek independence backed by a track record in office at Holyrood – and still the people said no.

So what does he do? Of course he can carry on until the next election in 2016 but if he leads the party into it, does he intend to stay there throughout the term? When does it come to an end for him? When do his loyal lieutenants get their chance? There is a ready-made replacement in Nicola Sturgeon. Does anybody doubt it?

Part of him must surely be saying that his time has gone. This was his moment and it passed. He has an extraordinary legacy and I’m not sure the referendum vote is its high point. For me it is the Edinburgh Agreement when a British Prime Minister came to Edinburgh to treat a Scottish politician as an equal, sign a binding agreement based on a democratic principle and legitimise Scotland as a nation-in-waiting in the eyes of the British state. The handshake between them was the UK saying: Yes you can. Salmond brought the SNP from fringe to heart of government and from hobby to mainstream.

I think there would be a national wave of empathy for Salmond if he declared now that he intended to step aside. It would display modesty and reveal his human vulnerability. His place in history is assured and Scotland would realise that the party was reinventing itself in a new and daring form for a new challenge. (I expect Johann Lamont to step down next month to audible relief). The Unionists wanted to destroy him and his party as credible players in government and they have failed.

Defeat must deeply hurt him but he can walk away head up and chest out on his own terms. No doubt, as the transition cranks into place, there will be recriminations and regrets. It would be best if he insulates himself from it by flagging up the big changes ahead in the leadership.

He has been the master of timing before and I can’t help but think he would capture the public mood by aligning his own position with that of the electorate and acknowledging their verdict.

This is a turning point for Scotland and Alex Salmond has always been ahead of the curve

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