Hail The Sun God

I’m finding it difficult to see the computer screen today with the brilliance of the light reflected over Maryhill from the Sun God down by the Clyde. Empress Nicola is reflecting her aura across Yes City and heads bow at her progress. I’m told aides walk backwards from her presence. Outside the SECC there is a board with hieroglyphics depicting her beside the Old Pharaoh Salmond and between them the Great Sage Curtice.


It makes it tough to write a blog, though, especially if you want to be cheeky and you might be torn to pieces by the mob.

I was chairing Alex’s Edinburgh book event last week and was taken aback by the thunderous reception he received. (His quiet aside that it was actually for me didn’t wash…) I’ve said before that to me he is a Great Scot, the best politician of his era, the man who used every skill to bring us to the very edge of independence. He deserves our gratitude. And I like him. But I can’t for the life of me forget that the Alex Salmond I know is a politician.

That means representative, advocate, lawmaker etc but on Thesaurus.com the associated sections are Bureaucrat, Demagogue and Sycophant. I’m delighted the membership has surged and the enthusiasm is infectious but I have an inbuilt alarm when support veers into adoration. The best politics occurs through engagement, not devotion. Politicians perform best when the route to achievement is marked by checks and balances. They are high-wire artists who have to know the cost of a single slip.


I suspect the SNP leadership has learned through years on the outside and now years in office how to behave and how to manage both expectation and failure but you can’t be sure until the votes are counted. If Labour form a government and deliver next to nothing despite needing SNP support, how will the new blood react? If the Tories get back in a coalition and the SNP bloc can only fume, how will the arrivistes respond? Suppose the votes don’t add up and the Scottish seats are fairly spread between Labour and the SNP, will a culprit be sought?

But in the spirit of unexpected holiday that is sweeping the movement, I offer instead of a blog two selections of what has happened to Labour champions when they became starry-eyed. http://www.scotsman.com/news/brian-wilson-raise-a-glass-to-nicholas-macpherson-1-3731556

The first I came across while searching for something else and clicked on with misgivings. Reading Brian Wilson is like opening a long-forgotten bin and finding maggots crawling within. I emerge relieved, like escaping from someone’s darkest nightmare. What made my jaw drop was the total lack of awareness from a man who built a name as a radical, both anti-Establishment and committed, and a Highland land reformer. I seem to recall him on television years ago arguing with the Earl of Thurso or somesuch nob of the realm.

Yet here he is, genuflecting to the Brit Establishment, crawling up the inside leg of a scion of privilege, down on one knee in supplication at a public official who decided, without any evidence of official approval, to abandon the rules of impartiality to defeat the democratic Yes movement in Scotland. Och! says Bulldog Brian, that’s nothing. He’s only doing what any honest official would in the national interest… Good old Eton…no difference there with Dunoon Grammar, is there? Doesn’t make you a bad chap…no social mobility issue here…

Nicholas Macpherson’s family are also part of the landowning classes Wilson used to oppose. They have substantial holdings in Ross-shire. Here’s what the Herald said some years ago.

‘Ewen Macpherson owns the 32,000-acre Attadale estate valued at £9m. (Now £13m). In Kevin Cahill’s definitive Who Owns Britain, he objected to a proposal by Highland Council to re-route a section of the A890 Auchnashaen to Lochcarron road through Glen Udalain on his estate in 1996. Mr Macpherson said at the time: Of course I have a vested interest but who wants a road going through their own property? ”This is a wilderness area and do we want a highway through wilderness? The proposal is still unresolved. The Attadale estate was historically part of the Clan Matheson lands that extended west to the Kyle peninsula. Most of the estate consists of bare hillside with around 200 acres of flat ground covering the floor of the Attadale glen. It was bought in 1952 by Mr Macpherson’s father, Ian, whose family had left the island of Skye in the early years of the 19th century. Mr Macpherson is married to Nicolette and they have a 43-year-old son, Nicholas, who was educated at Eton and Oxford.’

But then those campaigns were surely the imaginings of a young hothead and no longer relevant either to Scotland or to an entrepreneur living high on the hog. In here are the ramblings of a man who has given up and who, like Labour, has abandoned everything he once stood for, downing the New Labour potion to emerge mangled and crooked like Mr Hyde. This is what can happen when winning is easy and criticism muted – the foundations rot and principle bends.


If you can stand it, the second entry is top of my list of supreme vomit-inducing hagiography, or, as it’s known in Labour circles…Gie’s a joab.  http://www.scotsman.com/news/john-mcternan-none-bigger-than-gordon-brown-1-3488146?fid=15278&isc=1&did=dc4523c6391c90870505bafab4ec7790370aad86&ctp=article

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41 thoughts on “Hail The Sun God

  1. I like Nicola. I think she is frank and forthright but very astute. I think she is able and competent and served a canny apprenticeship under Salmond, while not becoming a clone.
    However I am inclined to have a gut reaction that some of the arms raised movements have a wee reflection of Eva Peron in them. This may unfounded but perceptions of Evitas are not what we need any more than we needed a Dictator Salmond, albeit that the danger of each perception resides in different areas to some extent.

  2. We will see what we will see. We live in exciting and unpredictable times. I share your discomfort with adulation.

    But the whole key to keeping rot at bay is proportional representation. I fully expect new pro-indy parties to form and pitch in at Holyrood maybe as early as in 2016. These may be to the left of the SNP on a number of issues, and that will keep the SNP in check should they drift over-much to the right, or become an establishment forgetful of who put them there.

    There are signs that England is at last waking up. Campaign groups like David Babb’s 38 degrees are doing a great job on issues like TTIP. There are also campaign groups in London (Sweets Way and E15 Mums) campaigning to keep social housing. Then in the North there is Yorkshire First. The thing that prevents them gaining any real traction is FPTP. If the SNP gains any influence at Westminster it must try to secure reform of the electoral system and House of Lords, which should be an elected upper chamber, a kind of Senate. This is what is preventing progress in the UK.

  3. For crying out loud, do we really need to start demonising our popular and successful politicians just because they are liked and likeable?

    Rosa Alba calls Salmond a dictator and while I’m not sure how this is meant, I know it was a favourite claim of unionists who were completely ignorant of the reality that the SNP were the highest polling governing party in the UK and if anyone was an unelected dictator forcing through policies the majority would be against, it would be Cameron and probably any recent unionist PM, given Labour’s dismal right-wing record in office.

    I would never regard myself as a sycophant but I do recognise a very successful party and honest, ethical politician in Sturgeon and Salmond, a man who has been described as the finest politician in a generation and who could have risen to the highest levels in Labour or the Conservatives, but instead choose to follow his heart and join a party with few members and far fewer mps. And not to forget the £400k+ he’s thought to have donated to charity from his salary.

    Be grateful we have so many principled figures as Sturgeon, Salmond, Hosie, Yousaf and so many existing and prospective MPs and MSPs. Perhaps that’s what comes from following your heart as well as your head in politics – you get more principled members.

    But make no mistake, if the SNP change and become as corrupt as the unionist parties then they will quickly lose my support, which is a problem we have with the other parties rigjt now – there are too many people willing to stick with their UK party, no matter how far they have moved politically and from their founding principles.

    Ok, rant over.

    • Exactly..I think this article insults our intelligence somewhat….make no mistake the SNP will be closely monitored by it’s members and loyalty quickly lost if they stray from the path. Prime example being the reaction Angus Brendan got from SNP supporters when he was named in the Channel 4 expense programme this week…the tweets and messages I saw were very scathing before he had the opportunity to reply and correct the programme’s misrepresentation. Let’s not slag them off before we have started…typical of our Scottish self-deprecation of anything remotely positive.

    • I agree with you, I like Alex Salmond, I think Nicola is an excellent leader, I do not worship at their feet nor do I worship at anyone’s. Most people are human and all of us need someone to ensure we remain human, looks like the pages of Wings is doing a very good job today. I want to see the SSP and the Greens who should hold the SNP’s feet to the fire much better than the cry baby politics of Labour, Tory or Lib Dems (who he).

  4. Deification in Scotland? The land of ‘ah kent yir mither’?

    Wur no talkin’ Slim Jim Baxter here y’know. 😀

    Havin’ said that, if Alex gets voted in and plays keepie uppie in the house of commons…

    You are, of course, right though Derek. Expectation management on both the personal and electoral level is important. There’s a great deal to admire in both Alex and Nicola, (good grief, their actions have got even me interested in politics again), but they are human beings and politicians. They pull their socks on one foot at a time and are as fallible as the rest of us. To answer your ‘what if’ questions though, under the heading of one big ‘what if’ would be easier. What if they fail?

    Then they will still have done what no other politician in Scotland has done in my life time…

    … they will have tried.

    It will be an honest failure with our best interests at heart, but would it still be a failure?

    If all the arithmetic comes to naught. If all the hopes of forcing Westminster to honour its pledges get dashed on the rocks and the Scottish electorate are forced to accept the oncoming horrors of austerity politics in full. If sending down even a full house of pro Scotland MPs means that in the end all they can do is protest in volume, then haven’t we learnt something as valuable as forcing the establishments hand? Won’t the electorate be made more fully aware than ever before the consequences of their actions on September past? In such a circumstance they may be powerless to prevent (though delay…?) legislation being enacted against our wishes, but not powerless to respond to the Scottish electorate’s inevitable reaction.

    This election and its following administration is the litmus test for Westminster. They either work with our representation in good faith, honouring the spirit and word of both the union treaty and pledges made during the referendum, or they don’t. If they don’t? If they ignore or actively work against the representation we send down? If they make up their own electoral arithmetic as it were? (not an uncommon occurrence for politicians). Then the Holyrood elections are next year and there are those who have a knack of turning a short term fail into a long term win.

  5. Steve Asaneilean

    Not much to add to what McCart says – one way or another the truth will out come May 8th – our democratic choices accepted or rejected. Either way we will know where we stand.

    But in the end of the day the job is here and now. In your streets, in your community, in your town or city, on your island, in your country. You know what is wrong and you know how it can be fixed. Don’t wait for solutions to come along and things to be done to you. Get up, get out and sort it.

    Only by becoming now the nation we aspire to be can we hope to get a Yes vote next time around.

    I have no time for “can’t” and no patience for excuses like we need independence or FFA to do things, to change. All they do is make things easier but their absence doesn’t prevent us doing something now.

    What are we waiting for? Something that may never come? Well I don’t want to live like that.

  6. jacquescoleman

    “For crying out loud, do we really need to start demonising our popular and successful politicians just because they are liked and likeable? ”

    I heartily agree. And let us have our wee bit of triumphalism. I am loving it. Tweaking the London Establishment and its medias’ tail is a pleasure to be gloated over for a long time.

    If we achieve little at Westminster it will be due to Unionist intransigence, and it will show where we stand in the UK. And if the polls turn out to be correct we’ll at least be rid of the cancer of ‘Scottish’ Labour MPs from our body politic. The remainder MAY shape up as a proper Scottish Labour Party.

  7. Thanks, Derek, for giving voice to some real concerns and risking a backlash from ‘the mob’.

    Some readers may despair that your blog appears to be contemplating recent history repeating itself and the new found faith of so many in the SNP and the wider YES movement being betrayed when the levers of power are within reach of our latest cohort of politicians. I admit that I felt some despair in my first reading too but after re-reading this article I felt that it was right to keep everyone grounded;

    I am no historian but I feel strongly that the current upsurge in support for the SNP has to be tempered – whether we like it or not – by commentators like you reminding us all how and where it has gone wrong before. Without that, I fear that in time I will feel the same deep antipathy to the SNP that I currently do for the Labour Party and I really, really don’t want that to happen.

    We’ve got another chance in a few weeks’ time to build upon one aspect of the progressive alliance that is growing in Scotland – and it is just one aspect, I constantly remind myself. Electing 40-odd or 50-odd SNP MPs will be a great achievement but it won’t be the destination, of course. Just another step along the road of where we – hopefully most of us – want to be. Blogs such as yours will help keep us on that road. Thanks.

  8. I also think we really need to guard against cmplacency.

    Remember the Yes bubble?

    The numptie factor is still alive and kicking in Scottish politics. Labour have that constituency well under their control and could still use all the levers they did before to ensure the sheep return to the fold in sufficient numbers to steal the day.

    Scanning through a copy of the Daily Record the other day in the supermarket (I’d never actually buy it) it was page after page of anti-SNP poison and misinformation.

    There was even an article by Alex Massie, written in populist homily style, so that the sheep wouldn’t know he was a Tory, called ‘a nation of numpties’ re-iterating the line of how the 45% nearly caused an utter disaster and appealing to the patriotic Britishness and common good sense of the 55% to save us from the SNP.

    Never underestimate them!

    • The problem for the Record and British Labour is that most of the 45 were working class Labour voters,many of whom used to read that rag.
      That is why,their readership and support is in melt down.

      • I still can’t get over the No result. What has kept my sanity in the last six months is the resurgence. The thought that Labour might still silently resurface out of the shadows like the No vote did, and the polls have been wrong, is frankly the stuff of nightmares.

        • No one with any kind of soul or empathy ever will forget the morning after the NO result MBC, but get over it we must. Not just for ourselves but for those who voted no on the day out of fear, caution, mistrust or uncertainty. Those who were ‘independence not yet’ for whatever reason.

          To those who voted no from conviction there will never be a good enough reason (that’s the way it goes), but those others? They need us focussed, certain, positive and most importantly still welcoming and inclusive.

        • I think we all fear that, my only bit of encouragement is that people do not join political parties to vote against them.

  9. An excellent piece Derek and very informative as usual. As someone who was an active Yes campaigner I will not view the two Scotsman sources you recommend as I believe that every “hit” the Scotsman website receives increases their attractiveness to advertisers and therefore boosts their revenue. Could you possibly archive such sources so that readers can view the archived material without adding to the coffers of a Unionist rag which demonised the whole Yes campaign?

  10. Yes, it’s amazing how yesterday’s firebrand revolutionaries become today’s reactionary members of the establishment (and worse) – Straw, Hain, Wilson etc.

    The SNP are more of a means to an end: once independence is achieved then it’s a clean start and who I vote for will be the party which is most socialist and egalitarian. So far, that looks like the SNP.

    Another message we have to get out is the state of Britain today under the Tories, with Labour promising to do much the same. The Tories really are the “nasty” party filled with particularly nasty individuals. They believe in inequality, they believe the poor are the authors of their own misfortune, they believe (or say they believe) the financial mess was caused by too much public spending, when it was clearly caused by bailing out the banks, they believe that the poor, the unemployed, the sick, the vulnerable need to be punished to force them back into work even though there aren’t the jobs available, they want to take welfare back to the 19th Century, they want to privatise everything so that the profits that should have gone to the country can be handed over to their rich pals, they want to remove all protections available to workers and tenants so that the rich can screw them even further into the ground, they have no economic strategy other than creating another housing bubble.

    But Labour are little better – many of the worst aspects of Tory welfare “reforms” were initiated by Mrs Thatcher’s spiritual successors Blair and Brown.

    Possibly the most difficult battle will be how to counter the all-pervasive lies propagated by UK politicians and the MSM, and not just lies about Scotland but lies about welfare, immigration, the deficit. Politics in the UK has become an exercise in lying, egged on by the cheerleaders in the BBC and the press, who think it’s a wonderfully fascinating game.

  11. Well yes. I can see why you’d urge some objectivity. However, speaking for myself, while I’m not in adulation mode I’m certainly in joy mode. Politicians with principle, honour and compassion who walk the talk? What’s not to like. Most exciting election of my entire lifetime, and I feel truly represented by my party.

    Plus there’s the heady feeling of being in a massive crowd listening to someone for whom you have very positive regard. It’s a favourite morsel for the opposition to fall on like dogs – “but remember WW2” – but why do they not instead reference things like festivals. Olympic events. Election parties? Other events at which people throw their shoes in the air. Better that people are expressing their deep gratitude and appreciation for such principled politicians, being inspired to be involved, engaged, politically aware, than feeling lost and disenfranchised, and excluding themselves from the political process.

    I doubt that the energy you see shown at the conference is carried home at the same level – but it fires up the newly-politicised as well as the tired old soldiers. We all need to recharge the batteries and roll up our sleeves, and there’s nothing wrong with the occasional celebration. 🙂

  12. I was at conference. I didn’t get a sense of complacency or triumphalism. I saw determination to make the most of this opportunity for the people of Scotland.

    In several speeches reference was made to sending a majority of Scottish MPs to London as part of the SNP contingent. If my arithmetic is correct, that is, at an absolute minimum, 30. It is a very astute way of keeping the groundswell of support up while at the same time not encouraging the notion of a clean sweep.

    If you want to see naked triumphalism, and the consequences it incurred, think of David Cameron’s performance on the 19th of September.

    • We are in a win win position. If Westminister fails to uphold its promises and the snp are thwarted by tory/labour machivellian tricks and underhand tactics then we use the holyrood elections to call for indepndence in the knowledge that the tory/labour lies are clear and open for all to see.

  13. My God what a wet blanket. Private Fraser is alive and well in the land of kent his faither.

    For over 60 years I’ve fought to get where we are now, would you deprive me of pleasure happiness joy at what has been accomplished? I have wept tears of joy at the words of Nicola and Alex. and let me tell you they are more welcome than the bitter tears of sorrow and defeat.

    I have hope in my heart for my country for the first time in decades. Begone ghost, there is no room for you at this table.

    • I couldn’t agree more.
      I joined the SNP in 1969, and I can assure you I have experienced more disappointment than triumph in those forty five years.
      Policies developed over those long years by grass roots members, who regularly bring the leadership down to earth, are not about to be abandoned just when we are in a position to exercise some of those policies.
      So please, let me just begin to enjoy the very early days of a better nation.
      It been a long time coming.

  14. I was at the conference to hear Nicola’s stunning speech and witness for myself the enthusiastic reaction of the packed hall. Nicola has come into her own, true to herself, serious, honest, self assured, intelligent. We are so fortunate to be blessed with such a fantastic leader of the party. For heavens sake Derek can we not rejoice in our champion for Scotland in contrast to the Labour/Tory/Lib muppets?

  15. Derek…Dinnae worry..have we no still got a little of the “Cringe” about us?

    You’ll keep us right anyway. 😀

  16. The very notion of the SNP existing in a critical void is the stuff of parody. Have you seen our media, Derek?

  17. It is not difficult to see that Nicola in her Leader role has got the UK Establishment in a flap if you read the London based press and the so-called “Scottish” editions and their take on the Glasgow conference.
    I make a point on a Sunday, for the sake of balance, of buying a copy of the Times, Mail on Sunday or Telegraph just to see what the opposition are saying. Today’s “Scottish” MoS has Michael Blackley (who he ?) and our old pro -unionist hack, formerly of the Hootsman , Hamish MacDonnell, in full panic attack mode. “Shock vows”, “smashing the system” and “a steely line in utter contempt” all emanate from “Stalinist Sturgeon.” Make of that what you will!

    It is hardly surprising that Brian Wilson would rush to defend the top civil servant who interfered in the referendum process. Brian Wilson has travelled a great distance to the right since he protested at Ardnadam Pier and went on to found the West Highland Free Press.

    I would be really concerned if McTernan was inclined to support the radical agenda outlined by Ms Sturgeon yesterday. I had to smile though when I saw that Douglas Alexander along with Gordon Brown was quoted for “manse” backgrounds. Many years ago I was an occasional visitor to the Clydeside HQ of the Iona Community and recall that this was the base of much of the opposition to US and latterly UK nuclear weapons based on the lower Clyde. The objections to this were financial, ethical and moral. Was it just my imagination that the MP for Paisley South & Renfrewshire, was then outspoken but has since been silent on this issue?. Did big Broon have any ethical opposition to the stockpiling of WMDs? Just asking.

  18. Derek

    I understand the point you are raising and we all still feel the bitter disappointment of September, but I agree with mogabee. Let’s beware of The Cringe.

    We are on the brink of something really quite special. Enjoy it for God’s sake.

  19. “It makes it tough to write a blog, though, especially if you want to be cheeky and you might be torn to pieces by the mob.”

    Derek….I love your blog, the insight, the wisdom, the massive contribution you are making. But the good and decent folk reading this article are not ‘a mob’.

    Some clouds on the horizon for the indy movement – WoS on temporary shut down due to Nicola’s appointment of a certain special advisor and now your good self writing as above.

    Jings – you guys might well be right in the long-run, but then again you might be wrong!

    Right now we need to pull together, work together and I’m not entirely sure the above really helps?

    Pragmatically, there is only one thing to do now and up to 7 May, so let’s do it.

    • Curious to know what is behind WoS huff with Nicola’s advisor appointment.

      • She apparently has been a thorn in Rev Stu’s side for some years, accusing him of misogyny, homophobia, etc., and lobbying against him. She’s also too pan-loafy with Labourites.

  20. Much like like the Sunday Herald and the National, some folks Labour proclivities just can’t help but surface.

  21. I understand what you mean but I think it’s more a ‘we’ve got your back’ as a reaction to the shocking bias in the MSM.

    I support the SNP and have only recently joined as a member but I am under no illusion that they are politicians.
    I have recently met people who have joined, left, re-joined as it requires discipline to stay in a party and post GE I will probably think if it is really for me.

    At the moment though my only focus is to get as many SNP politicians voted in at WM.

    Also, don’t worry, we don’t all blindly follow and believe.
    I was with an ex-Lab member at the conference and they were saying we need to watch they don’t become like the Red Tories..
    It is up to the members to ensure that doesn’t happen

  22. Attadale Estate and that infamous Lochcarron road!

    I was having lunch with a pal from Lochcarron yesterday and she mentioned that Sir Nicolas McPherson was from the landed family that had the land around the worst road in the Highlands and would not sell the land and objected to any upgrade of the road.

    They have blocked this upgrade of the Lochcarron road for many years which has led to its multiple closures over the last few years. It is truely a disgrace of a road.

    I was going to post about this – Damn!

    Why are you are always one step ahead?

  23. Just had a look at the probably route of the new Loch Carron road though Glen Udalain to Attadale House on my OS map.

    Looks like a no brainier to me. It is a much shorter route down from the Kyle road side and misses out all the bad steep parts of the roads next to the the railway which are dangerous and are the cause of many prolonged road closures.

    The new road would impinge on the Attadale House views slightly but I am sure Sir Nicolas will not mind as he is down in London most of the time.

    It would impact on the Estate by driving a road right through the middle of the Glen but it would have the advantage of speeding up travel times and access to Attadale which of course would be a major benefit.

    I am looking forward to the SNP transport transport minister making it one of his highest priorities for the Higlands.

    If you would like to support me on this please write to the Transport Minister at…


    This new road would be a significant benefit to the West Ross area and highlands.

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