Surreal Scotland

Have we become Irish? I ask because there is such a hilariously contradictory mood around that it could be St Patrick’s Day. ‘Happy? Of course we’re happy. We lost our independence and our living standards are going backwards but isn’t the party grand?’


Makes you wonder just what we would be doing if we’d won the referendum… ‘Cabinet members arrived for their first meeting dressed in assorted onesies. First Minister Sturgeon came in a panda outfit accompanied by the Shotts and Dykehead Caledonia Pipe Band…The Cabinet sang Do They Know It’s Christmas before going into Bute House where they debagged Brian Taylor and threw his trousers on to the street. Reflecting off the windows were the flames of bonfires set by the mob in Charlotte Square gardens…’

Thousands of Yes Scots, many with no previous political history, clapping and stomping as political speeches are mixed with music represents a new and surreal Scotland. It isn’t simply a coalescing of the campaign, it is overtaking it in determination, identity and commitment to participate, even if the details of platform and policy are undefined. To be fair, the neighbouring RIC event was already past the hangover stage and into the tidy-up and allocation of cleaning duties. (The Left does planning ahead? Even more surreal).

I haven’t seen anything like it and with an awareness back to the days of Harold Wilson in government, my view is governed by grim experience. So, I am reduced to asking balefully: When does it all go wrong? And then I remember that I am out of time, that politics in my lifetime has been formulaic and only occasionally people-led and that I am forever cast in the role of questioning outsider, not joyful participant – the journalist’s fate.

The only real change in my 50 years of politics-watching has been the rise of the SNP because it, uniquely, threatens total change by forcing the disintegration of the British state. Even UKIP doesn’t offer such drastic revision. But for most of that time, although I knew it was my intellectual home, the SNP was, like me, the outsider. It was dismissed and reviled, consigned to popping up in sporadic outbursts before subsiding again. Devolution has changed all that and proved to be the perfect platform for power, forging the party into a national movement reaching into every corner of every home and street.

So why shouldn’t they be right now? Why should this not be a new politics, a new movement in a new Scotland? Maybe the balloon doesn’t have to burst and maybe the party, in every sense, will go on. After all, the national cause is still there to be the engine that drives ambition. Meanwhile, there is much to be done is reshaping the country with new laws and powers and a titanic struggle with Labour to hold the focus. Can I suggest for next year…St Nicola’s Day?

Others of course are not just puzzled but sneering. In one of those creepy London pieces by M25 media luvvies in the Times, there is an object lesson in why Scots feel aggrieved at their portrayal by an ignorant mainstream and why we need a media rooted in our own country. Alice Thomson and Rachel Sylvester interview Jim Murphy for the obvious reason that he’s the one they’ve heard of. He has a London profile so readers in Surrey might have heard of him.

The bold Murph is billed as ‘ the unexpected star of the referendum campaign’. In case you missed it, this is what he did…. ‘touring the cities and glens, street corners and village halls with his Irn-Bru crate. He was heckled, splattered with egg and had to shout his unionist message above baying Yes campaigners.’ What a hero! How the kilted peasants must have cheered and waved their sporrans in the glens. Our London feminists fawn over their subject oblivious to the contempt his juvenile antics are held in across Scotland. But see how the myth he created and our brave media perpetuated, is now standard usage in English journalism? Baying mobs, thrown eggs, defenceless, brave Jim. They swallowed it whole because they are conditioned to do so. He fashioned a story they couldn’t resist because it fitted their prejudices and desires. No mention here of the provocation of a man with a mike shouting at passers-by, of three men and a dog and his own henchmen making up the numbers, of ignoring the question and insulting questioners, of seeking police protection and hiding for three days after having an egg cracked on his shoulder in what many of us regarded as the nearest act of cowardice to Iain Gray’s sandwich shop retreat. No mention of his two-faced policies like voting for tuition fees for English students and now, to get the job, opposing them in Scotland – an issue, by the way, that really does irritate Times readers in the south.

The interview wasn’t just to boost Westminster’s man in his bid to lead the branch office, it was to ridicule the post-referendum Yes success which has them deeply worried (not on our behalf but because it might mean Scotland matters to their beloved Westminster election). On Twitter this hagiographic twaddle was paraded by more London luvvies, Times colleague David Aaronovitch and Blair biographer John Rentoul of the Independent, who’d love a Blairite to help them understand Scotland and stop these bloody Nats from enjoying themselves so much. ‘Why can’t they stay defeated?’

PS. If you need a reason to buy the new National, it is surely David Torrance displaying more bile about Alex Salmond in the comment section of the Herald.

He has never forgiven his humiliation at the hands of Salmond who dismissed his attempt at biography so neatly. (His charge that Torrance doesn’t know him was echoed to me by a professor of politics who had read the book. ‘It is obvious he has no understanding of Salmond’s character or motivations’, he said).

In contrast we are told by Tory-supporting Torrance that Douglas Alexander is ‘typically thoughtful’ and Gordon Brown’s failings ‘were largely presentational’. Brown is full of substance in contrast with the mere presentational strengths of the SNP. (How gullible the stupid Scots are for not realising). Anybody outside the Unionist bubble agree?

In my memory Brown destroyed the pensions of millions of Britons, sold off the gold reserves at knock down prices to support the bankers’ profits, devised the failed financial services regulatory system, bailed out the same bankers and organised for working people to pick up the bill, ended the 10p tax rate, sacked 100,000 public sector workers, kept quiet about his concerns about the Iraq war, stabbed colleagues in the back and orchestrated a coup against the elected Prime Minister. But then to David Torrance, he is first a Unionist and anything is justified to preserve the mighty Union, even the reputation of the great deceiver that is Brown.

We need the National, not because it is pro independence but because we need balance in our media, never more so than today.

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36 thoughts on “Surreal Scotland

  1. Another great analysis from you. I hope the new paper commissions some articles from you.

  2. This YouTube video says a lot about the MSM’s current unionist hero, Jim Murphy. From 1:30 onwards he fails to even try and answer the lady’s question.

  3. Derek,you sound like the perfect curmudgeon and,I have to say,I join you in that.I cant really “Get with” the rock star concert style and just wonder what all this will lead to.Wheres the policy?Wheres the debates and the inevitable infighting?Just what the hell is going on?!!I too remember the days of monolithic Slab dominance when it seemed nothing would ever change-Ever!!-but now,well,what a whirl and a rush of events.I understand the Indyref was lost but I cant help feeling something remarkable was won.For me the deal breaker is the westminster election-if the polls translate into SNP seats,or even half the poll prediction,then we really will be living in an entirely new situation.

  4. It is a new politics Derek and its gotten off to a grand start.

    Why can’t we practice politics like this? Why can’t people drive the parties in stead of parties leading by the nose to the abbattoir of their private agendas? I’ve never seen anything like it and God, I wish I was twenty again. 😀

    This reaction to September’s vote must be scaring the hell out of LabConLib. And d’you know what? It bloody well should.

    The people have got their mojo back and traditional politicians better get braced for people politics of the 21st century. Oh, and not just the politicians. Whisper it quietly mind, but there may be a very popular new title for the news agents out there today. Not that we’d want to upset our media luvvies by questioning their professionalism and coverage of political affairs for the past, oh, let’s be kind and say three years, but it left a lot to be desired in terms of representing the views of a significant number of the population. 🙂

  5. The Hydro was great.
    I’m going along to this on Sunday to say thanks to the YES city.

    We keep reminding them that we are not going away, right up to May, 2015 and beyond.

  6. Murphy epitomises all that is wrong with the Westminster party (aka Lib/Lab/Con party).
    Self serving,self interested and completely out of touch with the aspirations of working people.
    People need to judge him by his record (not the Daily) and not the empty “vote for me,I am one of yoos” rhetoric,because he ain’t and he will only represent himself in any position people are daft enough to elect him to.

  7. It Seems that Torrance et al wish to drive all the pro-Indy readers awAy so that they will buy “The National” !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! What does Salmond have that engenders such hate in the breasts oif the Empire Loyalists ?

  8. Wonderful article Derek.

    Captures the spirit of the country…

  9. I agree with most of your article, however I take offence at the word ‘feminist’ being used as an insult.

    I understand what you mean by using it the way you do – that the women in question practice a brand of exclusionary, neo-liberal feminism that caters to the efforts of straight, cis, white middle class women from the Greater London area to achieve power within the oppressive, patriarchal, capitalist system that this country operates in, with little regard for the struggles faced by anyone outside that narrow bracket – however, many without the comprehensive understanding of the nuances of gender politics you obviously have will miss that.

    They will see the word feminist being used as an insult, and begin using it as an insult themselves to any woman who disagrees with them about something, regardless of what kind of feminism they practice.

    I’m sure you can find another way to describe these women in particular that does not shove an entire political movement, that many of your allies identify with, under the bus. Especially since their feminism has literally nothing to do with their opinions on Jim Murphy’s ability to lead the Scottish Labour Party.

  10. Brilliant piece, Derek, yet again. There’s a place reserved for you in “The National”……has to be!

  11. I know where you’re coming from. I too remember the “white heat of technology” (yes I know that isn’t correctly quoted). More to the point, I remember welcoming Blair’s election in ’97 with the hope that real political change was going to happen in the UK. A chimera, but at least we got the parliament out of it, and the possibility of more substantial change.
    And yes, I have the underlying uneasiness that it will all go terribly wrong; that the Empire will strike back. In the real world, Luke seldom wins.

  12. Gaun yersel Derek! I particularly liked your disparaging critique of David Torrance the Unionist windbag.

  13. Derek, I have had several attempts at devising a succinct description of the loathsome Gordon Brown but will now give up as yours is perfection. For those that booked tickets but did not show for Nicola’s brilliant party at the Hydro they really did miss something special, moving and historic.

  14. nice one once again Derek

  15. Fantastic piece Derek, I can feel the change in the air. People have well and truly got their mojo back. Like the people of Soweto dancing for their freedom as apartheid collapsed we are witnessing a mass awakening the like of which has not been seen in Scotland for centuries.

    Here’s Barbour’s Brus:

    ‘For fredome is a noble thing
    Fredome mays a man to haif liking
    Fredome to man all solace brings
    He lives at ease, who freely lives’

  16. God, I hope Westminster’s blue-eyed boy, Jim Murphy, gets elected to the “leadership” of Labour in Scotland. It will signal the end of that party in Scotland.

  17. The way that Gordon Brown trashed more than one generation’s provision for their old age should make him a pariah to the same extent as his erstwhile master, the shameless warmonger.

    It never ceases to amaze me that the superficial appearance of gruff wholeheartedness can take so many people in when his misdeeds are there on the record for all to see. In less civilised countries, he wouldn’t dare to tread a pavement without bodyguards. Maybe we’d get more response from the British establishment if we weren’t so gentle with them.

    • Don’t think Broon will have the bottle ever tread any pavements in Scotland again. All his “saving the union” rants were behind guarded doors with safe invited audiences and broadcast through the union propaganda mouthpiece of the bbc.

      He’s resigning before his lies come home to roost and the electorate show their displeasure by booting him out. I’ve no doubt he’s been promised ermine for his duplicity, like many labour peers before him.

      An have to agree with Derek that Torrance is a conceited little puffbag who regularly has his ego massaged by the unionist media. His comeuppance will come sooner than he thinks.

      Usual top standard from Mr Bateman. Like others I hope to see him and Paul Kavanagh (WGD) contribute to The National in the near future.

  18. If you want to see what those delightful people on Buzzfeed think about Nicola’s Rally at the Hydro you really need to read this
    I would say that we really need The National, but we really need it to be neutral, at least until it becomes established.
    I have to agree with everyone else here and with you Derek and let us hope that both your good self and Paul, The Wee Ginger Dug get spots on there, you both have so much to contribute.

  19. National sold out at McCuddens today, Derek – so even Selkirk is taking notice !

    I’ve only got halfway through it – lack of practice reading hard copy as I take the on-line Herald. Tried to get the web National, even paid for a day, but unable to access it.

  20. All of us here want independence, but I hope that is just the beginning of something transformational. With the UK parties embedded in the neo-liberal consensus of free market fundamentalism, punishing the poor and rewarding the rich, there is no-one with a socialist agenda and proud of it. At some point we have to ask what the SNP stands for beyond Independence. I hope Nicola will take the party further to the left and define a socialist SNP manifesto that I can support. But beyond that I want, what Macart763 calls “people politics”, the people driving the politicians through consultative assemblies, for example. It mustn’t be politics as usual, parties clinging on to power by any means, trashing their principles, bending in the wind to the latest blast from the Sun or Mail. Government is too important to be left to politicians. The people must have their say.

    • What has gone wrong is that UK politicians don’t control anything anymore. Except welfare. They can kick the poor and the weak, and us in Scotland, their colony, but that’s about it. But in terms of steering the direction of the country they have given up and left everything to corporate lobbyists to pursue their own agendas. Westminster Government is a PLC, and its politicians are not patriots, they are businessmen using the country for their own private personal gains. They won’t rein in the banks, because they are in the pockets of the banks. UK politics is just a PR machine for getting elected and staying in power but is otherwise a game for trousering the country’s assets from their corrupt deals.

      • Nail on head MBC. 🙂

        Great article again Derek.

      • Very much nail and head both you and broadbield, couldn’t agree more.

        These people have no country, I doubt they even have a politics. Politics is merely a suit of clothes they can wear or discard as required. A means to an end, the end of course being the retention of their system, their establishment.

        In my opinion party politics, as it is currently practised, is merely a means of directing and manipulating the true seat of any nation’s power – the public and their collective perception. Without public consent, they are basically powerless. No such structure can exist without the willing consent of the public. The greatest trick, the devil ever pulled springs to mind.

        In this instance the greatest trick the UK establishment ever pulled was to convince the public that they were powerless and required their guidance. It doesn’t matter a damn which of the ugly sisters you vote for in UK politics you wind up serving the same corrupt and compromised system, the same structure. It really brings home the truth of why people are fond of saying ‘doesn’t matter who you vote for, they’re all the same, nothing changes’. Simply because they are and nothing does. Of course this apathy works for the establishment right up until people realise that they’ve had the power to change things all along.

        • We are probably rushing at an open door. The power of the UK politicians is a chimera. Against united and organised people power scenting their game and rebelling, they are powerless. Their power rests in their PR machine and control of the MSM. And the military, of course, if it ever comes to it.

          The operative word being ‘organised’.

          Was sad to read of Peter Arnott slightly dissing the SNP rally on Saturday and opening up non-existant differences. The SNP is a disciplined party now with nearly 100,000 members. It was its discipline that got it where it is. I hope RIC doesn’t fracture and that Nicola will build active links with the SNP to consolidate the wider Yes movement. I thought that’s what Hosie, Constance, and Brown were all arguing for anyway.

          • I can’t see the current SG throwing a hissy at some difference of opinion. As you say, they are now a disciplined party unit as well as a member of a cross societal movement. The biggest selling point of the YES movement has always been the term broad church.

            Its fine if Mr Arnott has a difference of opinion on the rally. Its to some folks taste and others not so much. As a long time cynic where politics is concerned, I was impressed at the turnouts for all of the dates. The engagement and energy involved which has been shown by the public is hugely encouraging for the future.

  21. I remember posting at the very start of your blog, relieved that you had reappeared after leaving your job at the BBC. You are a man of your time and this piece is terrific. This is my second contribution and last since you started. Thank you Derek Bateman. Thank you.

  22. this is jim Murphys fav quote post referendum

    “anger of manyYES voters desperate of change”

    most of us voted YES not in anger but hope

  23. The straw that broke the camels’ back.

    Whichever straw it was, and whenever precisely it was laid, it turned out to be the fabled ‘last’ one.
    The camels’ back is now broken in British Politics.
    The camel supporting the British Establishment is now on it’s knees. It cannot get up. The head still moves as it cries out, but the eyes show fear. There is no future for the beast.

    Enough of the electorate have had enough and have decided to become a different animal – not yet with a name but I doubt it’s Irish!
    But it will not be a beast of burden as before, that’s for sure.

    As for the camel followers, that media band, they may find they’re buried in the sand.
    Along with the camel.

  24. If ever there was a piece of writing that “says it all,” this is it.

  25. The vision thing.

    As regards my post above, about what has gone wrong with the politics of the UK, it has been a very long time since I heard any UK politician seriously address the question of where the country is going; what is their vision for Britain. Address the really big questions of ethics and identity, of British values and what Britain stands for at home and in the world. What would make you proud of being British. I used to hear politicians talk about this back in the 1970s. That was the decade of contest and change when Britain emerged as a post-colonial but also, increasingly, a post-industrial society. No longer defined by our empire, or our global lead in industry, no longer, suddenly, after Suez, a world power, and, until 1973, not yet in the European union, Britain faced big questions then about its purpose and identity, which, as far as I can make out, never were answered. The questions were asked, but a convincing answer never came.

    The 1970s were the crossroads of the trajectories of Scotland and Britain heading in different directions. Crisis followed crisis in this turbulent, roller-coaster decade. Margo said, ‘If you wernae confused, ye wernae there’.

    Then in 1979 Thatcher arrived and seemed entirely immune to the relevance of such questions. This is the woman who allegedly said “there is no such thing as society” and went about attacking the vision of postwar Britain that socialists and one-nation Tories had created, dissolving the social glue and collective solidarity that had characterised the war effort and was now shakily trying to cement a nation together which had emerged exhausted from conflict and now faced big changes ahead.

    And since then no UK politician has tried to answer or even articulate that vital question. Or tried to bind the nation together. Each has practised their own form of sectarianism, simply played an electoral game, using the dark arts of PR, spin, and focus groups to achieve a power advantage and to misdirect the public away from the essential emptiness of their vision for Britain.

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