Making the Weather

I get asked about the weather and how I’m coping with the rain. The answer is Just fine, thanks, I’m Scottish. In fact it’s a pleasure to feel it on my face after weeks of 30 degrees and a ground so hot you couldn’t walk barefoot. It’s also the best way to see the Clyde which I sailed up yesterday redolent as it is with long-gone memories of bustle and business, now a watery road to nowhere. The only vessel we passed was itself a museum, the Glenlee. Otherwise there wasn’t another human on the water and not a single pontoon to allow the thousands who live in town-size developments on the riverbank access to a boat. Peering through roan-flecked windows seemed about right.

I’m getting flashbacks to Portugal too, like opening the Herald after the Budget to find not one but three right-wing Unionists on the same day…you can take this balance business too far, you know. There may only be three right-wing Unionists left so you don’t want to bunch them up. There was Andrew McKie (who did a balanced analysis). There was Catherine Macleod (who blamed the SNP and said it was their job to defend Scotland from the Tories). And there was Jenny Hjul. I love Jenny. She’s comedy gold. Nobody generates a sense of outrage like her – remember her piece last year on discovering that an actor who happened also to be…a…a Nationalist from…Glasgow was living next door in Inverleith. (Seriously successful David Hayman). The vapours!

This time she was pleading with fellow Tories not to start a breakaway party (!?) as it would split the vote and help the Nats. This was all discussed at the great political hotbed that is the Scone Game Fair. I pictured her – Scotland’s own Hyacinth Bouquet – in one of those silk headscarves with horses on, in a quilted gilet with a Lab on a lead. She’s leaning on the bonnet of a Landrover as Roger Duff-Pennington-Smythe pops a cartridge into the breech and announces the next one’s for Salmond.

Shouldn’t someone sign up Jenny and Alan for one of those fly-on-the-wall programmes about people whose world has stopped turning and who are inadvertently hilarious like the Hamiltons – the Dying Breed. But better be quick…

And how prescient Catherine turned out to be. It was up to the SNP to offer the opposition because the spineless drones in her own party gave up. I read and re-read how Labour had been whipped to abstain. How some had ‘rebelled’ by opposing the Tories. And then heard the abstainers brazenly claim to have opposed all along. This doesn’t qualify as politics to me but the mad rush of the headless chickens just before they drop dead. I’m of the view that Labour’s only medium term hope is that Corbyn wins, the party splits and forces for the first time in 20 years an all-members fears-and-tears debate about the purpose of a Labour Party. Its sole purpose just now is to make the Tories look like they’re right. Which takes me to my main point.

I came across an assortment of commentators whom I assembled into a New Intellectual Front because they’re all really brainy. They were moaning about the Nationalists from different aspects and concluding earnestly that it wasn’t good enough. They included Hugo Rifkind, David Torrance, Kenny Farquharson and Andrew Tickell who all had some criticism or other and they mirrored a tone that has emerged since the General Election. You may have noticed it in the writings of Kevin McKenna as well. (I suspect he was seduced by interviewing Kezia).

Hugo is fed up with the SNP braying about themselves and appearing to be morally superior and lecturing everyone on how clever they are. (Isn’t that what London commentators do, I hear you ask). I detect in this an unease about SNP encroachment from a London Scot reluctant to be associated with the more hirsute clan members bringing their unsavoury practices into polite society. It is a notable phenomenon that while some Scots become ever more stereotypical when relocated – pint of heavy, pal and don’t put water in that whisky – others come over all apologetic – I haven’t lived there for years and never voted SNP. Why the hell are so many Scots embarrassed about being Scots? I know another London Scot who was so outraged at Salmond waving a saltire at Wimbledon that he wrote him a personal letter of complaint. Eh? It’s as if they want to tip-toe around their new friends and play the role of the shy incomer who all but denies his identity. For fear of what? Can it be that over the generations we have quietly accepted our allotted role of inferior type, of not being officer material, of being the butt of jokes and that we have to demur in order to get on?

Hugo, a perceptive and entertaining writer, has form here. He once wrote a piece complaining that he worried he was too posh to be truly Scottish, relying on the generally working class nature of our country which produced cultural rules he couldn’t apply to himself. He sounded an outsider here who had found a comfort zone more suitable (and started a family) in London.

What he seemed to miss was that it might be attributable to this mum and dad that they made him one of the four per cent who attend fee-paying schools. Making an educational choice is one thing but knowingly setting your child apart and telling them they are superior with a higher expectation of entitlement is a social division which not everybody copes with. I am not convinced it is Scotland’s fault if you feel you don’t fit in. And in his case, can you really exclude the possibility of some scurrilous wretch taking exception to your famous father’s role as posh Tory lawyer and MP? I’m glad Hugo’s happily settled but I wish he’d stop blaming the Scots for his own angst.

The NIF boys are also adamant that the SNP must come up with more and radical policies and can’t just be against everything. And, as Catherine also wrote, they will have to ameliorate the hardship about to be unleashed on the poor. Are they blind in one eye? If the role of Holyrood is to exact taxes from Scots simply to allay the worst of Westminster decisions, is not the case for independence explicitly made? To argue it is Scotland’s job merely to mop up London’s mess shows how we are diametrically different countries in need of a break. Yet there is a gusto in Farquharson’s view which echoes a Twitter exchange of some weeks ago in which the Tory adviser Adam Tomkins was agreeing with Labour diehard Ian Smart that the Scotland Bill was designed to force the SNP to raise taxes to help recipients whose benefits would be cut. The phrase Tomkins used was: Money where mouth is. To be clear, this is not government for the people, this is punishment. These are people with no concern for the real victims of Tory policy – poorer Scots. Both Labour and Tory (in this case the government’s own adviser) have designed policy which forces income tax rises (the only effective route to raising extra cash) on the SNP to help the poor. If they don’t raise tax, the Unionist front believes the SNP will be exposed as frauds. That is their policy aim – defeat of the Nats – just as it was the aim of their referendum approach – defeat of the Nats, not better government for Scotland.

I suspect that almost total lack of proper opposition – Mundell, Murray and Carmichael are chocolate soldiers sent to the front – has left a vacuum that the commentators are rushing to fill. Yet what is the political imperative? Are there marches demanding local government reorganisation…petitions calling for a cleaner environment…pitched street battles over updating planning laws? The issue of the day is austerity and fighting the Tories – to deflect attention from that is to let down the public and miss their mood. And when you have detailed proposals on how that should be done differently, backed by an ambitious vision of a new country, how can you be said to need new policies…how is that being against everything rather than for something?

The Torrance variation amounted to what is now a tired agenda – that the SNP talk a good game but don’t deliver. Mmm…how’s that working with the voters? I’d say a voting tsunami with no sign of stopping and 6o per cent support indicates that David is out there on his own. Well, someone must be telling Yougov they’re a Tory.

His summation is that the SNP case is built ‘on shifting sands’. I ran this through the Bateman Political Enigma Codebreaker and it translated it as: The SNP are f***ing genius at politics.

As I keep writing – the SNP have cornered the market. Their time has come. It doesn’t matter how exasperated David Torrance gets that Scots can’t see the true path to Toryism and it doesn’t matter how much he can see through the Nat case and how they alight on each topic and carefully make it their own and hold seemingly contradictory positions. People don’t care. Why not?

Well, for a start they look at the opposition. Would you back Cowdenbeath against Barcelona? The paucity of people and policy and indeed purpose makes this a no-brainer for any sensible voter.

Then there is the Teflon and Kevlar coating of a professional, well-resourced organisation which has over the years built up goodwill and refined its message. People know what it stands for – Scotland. Simple. Nobody can compete with that. Sturgeon makes them proud, irritating Westminster (and Hugo) makes them smile and when they see one of the Westminster smart alicks in a pink bra snorting coke from a hooker’s front grille, it doesn’t exactly make them hanker after London government. And since when did the public study policy detail? Instead they know the SNP has Scotland at heart, that it will do its best in all circumstances, that it is curtailed by London and when mistakes are made they can be forgiven.

There is an example this week. The EU has obliged the SNP to ratchet up the percentage of private finance in its infrastructure plan. Labour claim this shows they say one thing and do another. But it doesn’t do that. This is the replacement for Labour’s PFI which has burdened local government with crippling generational servicing costs. The government is legally obliged to comply with the EU demand. Is that really going to change anyone’s vote when they sit on a reservoir of goodwill the size of Loch Lomond?

The brutal fact is that the SNP is smarter than the commentators and is way ahead of them. So is the public. They may be reading the New Intellectual Front but I see no evidence they are taking notice of them. Scots are settled in their view – this lot will do. For now. All that could change that now is for an MP to be found in a pink bra snorting coke from…

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29 thoughts on “Making the Weather

  1. Bit unfair to include Andrew Tickell in your cabal of gum-flappers there, Derek! Putting him in any kind of group with Torrance, Rifkind and Farquharson seems harsh – if nothing else, when he makes a criticism of the SNP or the pro-indy movement, he’s offering advice to fellow SNP/indy folk, rather than the tedious “SNP BAD” bleating of the majority of the commentariat that is actually aimed at a unionist audience.

  2. Excellent. I have to admit to a quiet smile when an expert disects hypocrisy.
    I had a first last week. The first time someone had blocked me on Twitter.
    Lo and behold it was the fragrant Catherine Moorehead.
    Before she blocked me, she let rip with both barrels.
    “I see a narcissistic little timewaster”
    That was me told. Too wee, too poor and too stupid to mix with the intellectual giants.

  3. The rest suited you well Derek. A good piece to get back into harness with.

    All that has been asked of the SNP they have done, up to and including the near pointless exercise of taking amendment after amendment through the Scotland Bill debates and watching as each and every one was shot down in flames. In short they did exactly as they were bid by the Scottish electorate and attempted the arguments for fair, devolved constitutional settlement.

    Just what exactly some commentators expect beyond a political party actually following the wishes of their electorate? I have no idea. They did as they were told and they’ll work hard to delay and offset what they can, but that democratic deficit won’t go away. But then that’s not the aim of most commentators. They’re not there to inform, but to influence, (if they can), in favour of their own preferred political options.

    So keeping that in mind… 🙂

  4. My experience has been that most of the Scots who are ashamed of their heritage are Anglo Scots and have bought into the same narrative as the elite they associate themselves with in that the Empire still exists and that London is the centre of the world.
    Not much different I suspect from what happened in the last days of Rome and it’s colonial structures.
    People of Scottish descent who live in other countries are clearly aware that the British empire is no more and do not feel better together with the vestiges of imperial power still evident in parts of southern Britain.
    They feel free to celebrate their history and culture in an uninhibited way perhaps also because they are no longer dependent on “British” patronage for a living.

    • Not sure what you mean by an “Anglo-Scot”? Maybe I am one? Scottish mother, English father. But I can tell you I have ALWAYS wanted Scotland to return to independence and have done for at least 45 of my 60 years. I have never been so proud of Scotland’s representatives in this appalling political system than I have in listening to the maiden speeches of so many great Scottish parliamentarians. Be wary of the blanket stereotype.

      Time is coming and it won’t be long, when Scotland rejoins the world.

  5. A good analysis of our media, so-called political, commentators, Derek, and I agree with your view of their problem/deficiencies.

    The first paragraph I found poignant and rather sad; a reminder of our lack of access to our own resources. A bit further on, you ask “Can it be that over the generations we have quietly accepted our allotted role of inferior type, of not being officer material, of being the butt of jokes and that we have to demur in order to get on?”. I believe that the answer to that, more often than is comfortable, is yes.

    Three hundred plus years (and counting) of being told what we can and can’t do, of being constantly reminded that we are second class citizens, etc., etc. has taken its toll and the national psyche, to a great degree, seems to display symptoms of Stockholm Syndrome. I can only hope that our youth prove themselves more resilient after the confidence of the ref campaign and the subsequent burgeoning of independent news analysis, blogs, etc.

  6. smiling vulture

    Penny for Scotland 1999


    “inherent unfairness of Scotland paying more than England in income tax”

    That’s when Gordon Brown was chancellor


    slash Scotland’s budget,let SNP cover the difference

  7. “Would you back Cowdenbeath against Barcelona” – As a Blue Brasilian season ticket holder (aye it’s me lol) every time lol.

  8. I believe that the tensions both within and without Scotland, with regards the UK gov, westminster and Scotland’s reputation within the union are simply going to make another referendum inevitable. The referendum result was too close, it only gave the union a reprieve. The SNP did not collapse as it was meant to. The Scottish electorate were not supposed to turn on the main Unionist parties and kick them square in the nuts. They were not supposed to send 56 SNP mps to parliament. This was not meant to happen. The smith commission and the resulting Scotland act, was meant for a nation that had fully endorsed the union and would tolerate the cold cup of sick on offer because it had chocolate sprinkles.

    Cameron is making the same mistake thatcher made. Taking a narrow win for a much larger endorsement of austerity and rightwing politics. Labour have convinced themselves they need to be more like the tories, so frankly expect no help from them. The lib dems are convinced that they’re relevant. Meanwhile in Scotland, we have the Scottish branch of these UK parties demanding that the Scottish government do something to stop the Conservatives. Having ensured that Scotland cannot do anything of the sort. They demand that Scots now be taxed higher than the UK to mitigate cuts from westminster[even the Scottish tories are getting in on this one – let that one sink for a minute – tories demanding a rise in taxes to protect the poor from the tories] And you know full well that they’ll attack the SNP for raising taxes and think they can coast in on a promise of tax cuts – which can only be paid for by more austerity. This is what it’s come to. Put your money where your mouth is – stop us from destroying you or forever hold your peace.

    Its a bit like finding yourself the victim of a mugging and the mugger taunting you about how powerless you are to stop him. It’s designed to humiliate. It is punishment. But what point is this punishment beating supposed to make?
    Its better to pretend you’re british than be under the cosh of the British?
    Vote the way we tell you next time and we won’t have to mess you up?
    We own you Scotland…we can do whatever we like to you and you can’t stop us…go on try, try and stop us…you’re feeble Scotland, you can’t us, how can you expect to survive out there in the big world. And if you think this is bad – wait til your independent, then you’ll see how nasty the UK can really be.

    You’re British so get over it – they scream. Who does that? who uses their identity to insult people. Who uses their identity as a punishment beating? Who does that and then talks a lot of pish about national unity and the need for reconciliation?

    Scotland relationship with the rUK can not go on like this. There is no pragmatic unionist politics anymore to mitigate this nonsense. There is no safety valve. Something is going to break and the weakest link is the union.

  9. David S. Briggs

    ‘because it had chocolate sprinkles’

    Can’t say I’ve noticed.

  10. The piece starts of with reference to 3 Unionist commentators in the Herald – symptomatic of that newspaper’s slide from Its liberal leaning balance of a few years ago towards becoming the comic book hootsman of the west and unionist print version of the BBC’s Reporting Scotland and GMS.

    The main lesson of the income tax trap – problems with NHS and social care funding: increase income tax; problems with welfare benefits levels and food banks: increase income tax; problems with education, employment, roads, policing: Increase income tax; problems with anything: increase income tax.

    The unionist alliance of Tories, Labour and Lib Dems clearly think they have been very clever in striking political gold in the form of devolution of the politically toxic Income tax, which none of them increased at a UK level (other than the top rate) over the last 40 years – devolution based on short-term party political advantage and absolutely nothing to do with the interests of Scotland.

    And now we have the added gross hypocrisy, as pointed out, of the three austerity parties challenging the Scottish Government to make up for the devastation about to descend on us through their Westminster austerity policies. I take it this is what they meant by being better together and leaning on the broad shoulders of the UK.

  11. David Torrance? Brainy?

    Are we talking about the same David Torrance here?

  12. I don’t think it’s the fee-paying school, Derek. I went to one of these (same one as Anas Sarwar as it happens, but in my day it was basically Miss Jean Brodie in the west), and I lived in the Home Counties for 25 years, and none of that turned me into Hugo Rifkind.

    I remember school lessons that reinforced my Scottishness (in a genteel, Miss Jean Brodie sort of way) and instilled huge pride in our history and accomplishments. I remember my mother waxing lyrical about her days singing at the Glyndebourne festival and rubbing shoulders with Lord and Lady Harewood, but also that she chucked it all up after a few years to return to Scotland.

    I was in SNP London Branch for many years, on the committee in various positions for much of that time. I travelled north to help campaign in several elections, including the 1999 Holyrood election, and to party conferences. It never occurred to me to “go native” in Sussex, school or not. It’s nothing to do with the school and everything to do with the parents. Or maybe “fee-paying schools” is a generalisation, lumping very different establishments together. Whatever, it’s not an inevitable association.

    • A brave and welcome alternate view from the ‘Garden of Eton’

    • Ooooft Derek, a deserved slapping there, my wife is a posh English boarding school girl whose grandfather lived in a castle, she’s a keen YES and SNP voter, careful now !

    • jacquescoleman

      To Morag et al.
      I am an Anglo-Scot in that I live in England for some part of the year and I am similar to her in that I attended another renowned Glasgow School. However I am a passionate Scot and brook no jokes or insults about Scotland from anyone anywhere. And there are many of us in England like that. Unfortunately there are other Scots in England AND Scotland who are described by my friends and I as Plastic Jocks. And they are a breed who want to keep their Scottish connection because it IS advantageous in England but who are not too keen on the actuality of working class Scotland which they see as ‘rather rough’, nor of the Scottish accent which they have modified into that of the Rifkinds and Marrs of the world. Me? I have retained my Alex Salmond type accent whicj I think should become Scottish RP.

  13. Some of my best friends are posh. Don’t know anyone who went to Fettes though !

  14. Absolutely concur. How do Unionists defend or support the proposition that the Scots Parliament exists to protect us from WM.

  15. VikkingsDottir

    I don’t care what happens to Labour. I’m just glad to see the back of them.
    They saw Scotland as their fiefdom and now they are like headless chickens because they’ve realised it isn’t any more.
    Why not? Due to their own sense of confidence about it, which was false. They assumed the wee voters would always vote for them,
    and proceded to make sure that the people up here remained in a state of no progress,while they themselves evolved into an elite that had
    no connection with the people they relied on to vote them into power. Well, it’s over and Thank God it is.
    What next? Oh, and, I like Hugo but he does have a blind spot about Scotland, the land of his birth. He said that last year was ‘the year Scotland learned to hate.’ (The Spectator) I thought that was a bit dramatic.

  16. Try being a Scots born Kiwi in London Derek. Being put in your place regularly while they cannot socially stratify your accent (drives them mad that one). My wife and I got threatened with being banned from a pub we habituated on a Tues evening while our kids were at St. Johns. We were often the only people in on a Tuesday. Our crime? not for the first time we were wearing our All Blacks jerseys. Why was it so sensitive? Jonah Lomu had just run over Mike Catt in the World Cup opener at Twickenham and stuffed England good and proper. They don’t like being reminded of such things, the English, or at least the London version. Up North they are more sanguine and admiring of such things as Mr Lomu et al.

    I was certainly pleased to leave all that behind when we moved up here where it is entirely absent. A few times while canvassing etc enquiry will be made by Scots as to my accent and nationality. Being informed that I was born here and grew up in New Zealand is met with smiles and nae bother. Even the asking is never challenging, just curious. I’m welcome here in the way I wasn’t in London, despite my British passport.

    • Nice to know you brought your New Zealand July weather with you to stop you from feeling homesick.LOL
      Off topic but our Harness Racing Forum Administrator hails from Christchurch.
      He is coming over to attend the Rugby World Cup in ‘England’ in September.
      Unfortunately, he’s a tad confused as the All Blacks are due to play two of their group matches in Cardiff.
      He’s now wondering if there’s two Cardiffs in the UK.

  17. when you piss off for a spell you always come back with a clear heid. Good article

  18. They’re making hay. The opportunity and craving for anti SNP journalism has never been greater. They must be raking it in. And if they don’t feel that they somehow ‘belong’ or ‘fit in’ with Scotland or Scots has nothing to do with class, accent, education or manners, it’s entirely to do with their politics.

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