Brit Pap

A foundation stone of the Better Together case was the integrity of the UK. In other words, the political and constitutional construct we know as Britain was sound, time-honoured and powerful. Our alternative was uncertain, untried and shaky. You needed faith to buy into our idea. Theirs just was

We were all brought up with its inexplicable eccentricities and unchallenged authority. Even after devolution the common complaint was Holyrood had neither the intellectual content nor rhetorical ability to emulate Westminster. SW1 had quality in spades. EH99 didn’t even have spades.

The presumption of jaw-jutting dominance was encapsulated in the alacrity with which even our ‘left wing, radical’ representatives took to London. You might be elected by the voters of some desperately impoverished burgh but that was only the catapult which propelled you into metropolitan ascendancy. Gordon Brown was first offered junior ministerial promotion to the old Scottish Office. He rejected it out of hand, he having bigger fish to fry.

The same assumptions could be heard time and again in the questions fired at – mostly – Alex Salmond. The Radio Four presenter, asking about automatic entry to the EU, tagged on a final: this is your first foray into international affairs – didn’t go very well, did it? (Over-reaching yourself, yokel?)

The answer was along the lines of not taking lectures on foreign affairs from the people who led us into Iraq and the worst diplomatic debacle since Suez.

But in a way that summed it up. The broadcaster was (is) afflicted by the same default mind-set as the Great British public. In essence it is that Britain is the good guy whose intentions are always true whatever mistakes are made along the way. No matter how egregious the UK’s decision-making, no matter how catastrophic the effects, Britain isn’t wrong for long. Or something like that. It gets hard to tell sometimes just what the public do think such is the myopia and short-term memory syndrome of the voters. Austerity? Starving ex soldiers committing suicide? Food banks in every town? Top one per cent richer than ever? Can’t remember that, mate. I’m voting for Cameron. Don’t trust that Miliband bloke.

I’m tempted to describe this as an extreme branch of nationalism, one so fixed in its fundamental positioning that it overlooks or overcomes every shortcoming of both the British state and those who defend it most openly. This differs considerably from what has become the hallmark of the nationalist case in Scotland.

It’s true, I think, that there is a tendency by Yes to deny or dismiss criticism of the SNP government. But in my experience that is mostly a form of fending off what they see as unreasonable partisan attacks from opposition and media on anything the SNP does rather than rational analysis of policy. It is in the nature of insurgency that the whole array of existing voices will contest your right to exist and the result is a dreadnought defensive reaction. Repel! Repel!

Asked about this default blindness to SNP failure by a Ph.D student filming an interview this week, I outlined some of my own specific, and public, criticisms of the SNP from mistakes over indyref European policy, the currency, the way Named Person was announced to the glorification of Nicola. But I qualified it all by saying that for me and, I suspect, most Yessers, the dismal quality of the opposition and its collective empty offer of serious alternatives still left the Nationalists miles ahead, whatever their limitations. If Sturgeon talks big on education but the outcomes contradict her, do I turn to the Tory opposition for answers? Hardly. If poverty stats worsen do I give my vote to Kezia instead. Erm…

I’m backed up by the Scots themselves who still, nine years on, give a measure of support to the SNP that defies political gravity. (52 % support for Holyrood against 21 % for the Tories in second) You can’t tell me none of those SNP voters disagree with one iota of policy or non-delivery. How many are teachers who resent curriculum change but still vote SNP? Or farmers paying off loans after subsidy payment delays? Or independence non-believers who don’t buy the SNP project at all but just want competent devolved government?

But the difference here is that the SNP is not Scotland. Scots, as shown by the indyref and by the continuing polling, can simultaneously vote SNP and No (to independence). The belief in country that I think allows Unionists to be nationalistic about Britain, more or less despite the political parties, does not yet extend to Scotland. Sure, we do all the bluster about emblems and history but that’s not belief, it’s nostalgia. We’re not a state of course and we’re pushing against the grain of accepted history. We’re trying not just to change politics but to change our perception of ourselves.

One way of doing this is by comparison. Obviously. This hasn’t gone well for us as touched on above. We simply haven’t had the armoury needed to compete with the UK – no credit history and no strategic control of the economy to quote, for example. But something has changed. Britain has become defective.

The seemingly ageless nation, the mother of parliaments, its diplomatic finesse and the other accoutrements of the admirable British, are in decay. Some of us have argued for years now that Britain wasn’t what people thought. It had become a place scornful of the working and non working class, encouraging contempt instead of compassion. It elects and appoints from a tiny elite while talking of meritocracy. It talks human rights while engaging in torture, talks peace while being constantly at war – see Ian Cobain’s latest book, the History Thieves.

Now we see on a regular basis catastrophic decision-making outlined at Hillborough (with Orgreave to come), Bloody Sunday, Chilcott, today, via the Commons, Libya, Hinkley Point and of course the ongoing ruin of Brexit. The vote to come out of the EU is Britain’s Mr Bean moment. It is an inadvertent slip on a banana skin from a careless Prime Minister and a bigoted media feeding a disenfranchised public. It is going to hurt, mostly the low paid, the outward-looking student, the traveller and enterprising businessman. The price in loss of respect and friendship will be incalculable.

If the leadership had a plan for the aftermath and had hit the ground running, you could be reassured there was meaning to this whatever your own misgivings. Instead the instigators have vacated the field. Those left behind are clueless, blaming each other. There is a seismic split of Labour proportions to hit the Tories in the next year between theological outers, the hard Brexiteers, and those moderates who seek a deal allowing (qualified) membership of the single market.

Thus far Britain is irritating the EU leadership, a mistake in itself as the capacity to wound is greater by far in Brussels. It is one thing to be denuded of the professional expertise to negotiate – and in addition to have stripped the civil service bare through budget cuts – but so far the UK hasn’t even an idea which approach to take while ministers disagree over the destination. Notice how quickly the notion that parliament might be consulted was swept aside. Nominally, that’s you and me being kicked in the teeth.

I can see a time when the Brussels machinery really will have to listen to voices in the UK pleading to stay if for no other reason than the image the EU will give to the rest of the world. I see a political temptation to focus on Scotland with a history of nationhood and anti-British resistance, making us an irritating example or a pawn in the game. After all, the British membership chair will be invitingly empty throughout the exit talks. Who will be there when the music stops?

Yet, to go back to the start, the deep belief in the British brand remains embedded here in Scotland. Over the generations the British have done a remarkable job in building a reputation that survives everything. For probably a majority it trumps the efficiency and appeal of any sort of SNP-led self-government. No doubt there will be a moment when a tipping point is reached and resistance falls away. Certainly demographics are on our side. But as opponents have discovered over the ages, the UK still stands. Crumbling and unstable she may be but there nevertheless. If nationalism is core belief in country, it looks like their nationalism is stronger than ours.



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36 thoughts on “Brit Pap

  1. Derek, good to see you writing again. It’s been a long hiatus since 25 August. Apropos of your article, I don’t know if it’s a case of their nationalism being stronger than ours. Perhaps it’s more inertia added to the dead-weight of the brain dead. But I suspect that once the tipping point you mention has been reached, the whole rotten structure will come crashing down faster than even the most confident independentista could have ever expected.

  2. British nationalism is a Boys’ and Girls’ Own pride going forth, and we know where that leadeth to.

  3. Always good to read your insights Derek. Brexit is their free gift to YES Scotland. The economic impact, felt over the next 2/3 years, could well shatter faith among elderly NO’s in the British State. A fact UKOK know and fear.

  4. I’m not entirely sure that UK becoming defective is a new thing. It is only more apparent today. It has always been defective, incompetant, cruel, greedy. Think the Irish famine, the Indian famines, the slave trade and Caribbean plantations, Churchill’s Dardanelles campaign… huge mistakes costing much in human misery have been routinely made by incompetant leaders and generals, and politicians seeking narrow political advantage.

    What masked all of this were its economic successes, in developing a fiscal-military state based on deficit finance after 1689 which then allowed it to build up a formidable navy in the 18th and 19th centuries, and dominate the world through the British Empire.

    The Empire gone (which was the only reason the Scots were ever induced to join) Britain has no longer any clout or any raison d’etre. It has failed to modernise politically and technologically and these failures are becoming daily more evident. A generation or two of entrepreneurs born between 1780 and 1820 (many of them Scots) gave it an industrial edge during the nineteenth century but their successors failed to keep up that momentum, failed to invest in new technological innovation, such as electricity, the internal combustion engine and telecommunications, as they were gradually absorbed into the political elite and squandered their wealth building country houses and buying shooting estates, symbols of elite privilege. Essentially, they were corrupted by the upper class. In Germany a well established urban craft and guild tradition seemed to ensure that German entrepreneurs remained bedded in that middle class strata and work ethos and respect for craft tradition and technology.

  5. Derek, the most worrying thing for me in this whole Brexit business is that the Three Brexiteers are going to be allowed to negotiate on our behalf IN SECRET before triggering Article 50. Without any input from the devolved administrations. Not only was Leave a pig in a poke, but Brexit will be a pig in a poke x 100.

    This is an absolute travesty of democracy.

    We have to create stink about this. We absolutely have to.

  6. Yes, the UKs branding has been ingrained over the centuries and has proven highly successful when threatened.

    How and ever, a wee fly in the ointment. With such a very long period to ingrain this branding in the public consciousness, it came within a hairs breadth in 2014 of being overturned. Who’d have believed it possible that almost half of Scotland’s electorate were not willing to meekly continue following the lead of the big toon?

    No, the SNP are not perfect. They make mistakes, policy gaffs and presentation blooters just like anyone who puts their socks on one foot at a time. They are very much human and prone to the same errors as the rest of us. They are however by far, more transparent, accountable and, as you say, competent than any party of government seen in Scotland for some considerable time. Considering the current state of the parties and UK politics, they are pretty much the stand out party in any part of these islands at the moment.

    I don’t think there is any question that should there be a second referendum in our near future we’re down to those harder to convince. A goodly proportion of which will never be convinced of Scotland’s right or ability to govern its own affairs. That is sadly, just the way it is. There are though, many who voted no for reasons other than ‘belief’. The independence ‘not yet’ folk as it were. Perhaps those who were overly cautious, those who believed federalism may still have been possible or who feared for their personal well being. I’m sure a good many EU nationals resident in Scotland may be very approachable if Brexit proves to be as hard as many suspect it will be. Those examples and I’m sure a good deal more to be had.

    They were sold a bill of goods and a vision of the UK going forward which did NOT come to pass.

    Somehow, I suspect any possible second referendum will not be fought in the same manner as the last campaign. I’m sensing there is a harder, colder, more combative edge running through independence ranks currently. Of an unpleasant job that urgently needs doing, with no time for debating pleasntries or parliamentary sophistry and political semantics. In short that there is a feeling that the ‘gloves need to come off’.

    People are hurting now and I don’t think there is much doubt that more IS on the way. November’s autumn statement with its fiscal reset and the details of the eventual Brexit deal should confirm that in ‘spades’.

    • I’m sensing there is a harder, colder, more combative edge running through independence ranks currently.

      Never give up and never give in. We all have it within us to persuade just one member of our own families that may have voted No last time to vote to Yes and end this rotten corruption that is the UK and its media.

      We do all have them, No voters, that is, among our own friends and family.

      When the next campaign kicks off so too will the gloves come off. Let them hear the truth and that can only come from us, no one else. Open their eyes and if that takes tough talking then so be it.

      • Pretty much Alex.

        I’m not for debating much with the opposition this time round either and I’m damned if we should answer every bloody question providing macro details on every subject under the sun into infinity.

        They have plenty questions of their own to answer. Most of them preceded with a… ‘but you said that last time’.

  7. Piece on
    bears out much of what Derek is saying about misplaced Union hubris.

  8. I agree with pretty much everything here, and I think that the one thing which would seal the deal for independence would be a straightforward statement from the EU that Scotland would inherit the UK’s seat. Scots seem to be much more politically cautious than English people and fear uncertainty. We need to get as much detail as possible nailed down before the campaign begins.

  9. A timely insight on the way the wind is starting to change direction , the giant confidence trick that has been Great Britain ever since i can remember the truly massive mistakes and blunders we have had to suffer , loss of life and resources squandered wealth by successive Governments led by the elite the privately educated born to rule self opinionated vocal minority whose friends in the press and media cover their tracks , Ruth i am not a Tory is the perfect example , talks pish but ever so convincingly and confidently a gift to the gentle folk of morningside the blue rinse brigade who overlook some of Ruthies little indiscretions for the good of the party best not to dwell on such things dont you think Florence .
    The cracks are slowly emerging the glue is becoming unstuck this pretence of business as usual in the Tory party all’s well move on nothing to see is starting to unravel , started with the confusion over Brexit no surprise there , then Grammar schools a bit of grumbling on that one , Hinkley Point well who knows the outcome of that one , HS2 questions on the value of that little scheme , The real stinging rebuke of Cameron and the Tory administration over Libya . the balls up in Syria , the on going Iraq saga . Britain’s arms length help for refugees made even more lamentable when Scotland takes 1000 with a population of five and a half million as opposed to a total of 1800 dispersed throughout the rest of Britain population in the region of 50 million , the growing open hatred and xenophobia that is emerging throughout England of all things foreign is becoming a real cause for concern to EU nationals .
    Yes all’s well in blighty and the Tory party have NO opposition so sit back and relax Maggie May is in charge aren’t we lucky, nite all mind how you go as George Dixon used to say in the good old days .

  10. Although you’re right that the British brand survives, I am not sure you’re right that it is still stronger than the Scottish brand in Scotland. It can take only so many blows.

    • I agree. First time round we were too worried about frightening the horses. This time round we should kick up one almighty stooshie.

  11. At the height of the British empire the majority of people in Scotland, Ireland, Wales and England were poor, undernourished, working in dangerous situations for little pay, and living in over-populated slums at the mercy of filth and desease. Yet I believe most of these poor people would’ve held much affection for the royal family, pride in the empire [because the newspapers told them to be proud] and a strong belief that the privileged few were born to rule. Why? Because for all their deprivation they saw themselves as better, luckier and smarter than the oppressed black man in Africa and Australia, or the disadvantaged brown man in India. In other deluded words: We might be treated like shit but at least we’re above the “savages” of empire.

    Today many poor amd misinformed people still hold similar deluded deferences, still dream about the empire [whilst watching old films in the afternoon showing how Britian won the war] and still believe in the established media and the propaganda of privilege it espouses. In Scotland these people are predominately No voters. Some will admit that they have been conned by Westminster britnats since 2014 but most will say: We might be treated as fools but at least we have the royal family, the memories of empire [the punching-above-our-weight shit] and the belief we are still better than the foreigner. Oh, and the wonderful, faultless bbc.

    Thankfully these people are being reduced in numbers – slowly but surely. Thankfully we have the internet. Thankfully we still have choice. Thankfully Scotland will regain its independence and be finished with all the above deluded deference and xenophobia.

    • Hey Dan, age wise, although not one who has been fooled by “British” propaganda, well, not since the 1960s, I hope I’m not going to be reduced too soon, as myself, and my compatriots, some of whom are almost as old as me,have 25,000 of survey leaflets to deliver as soon as they arrive. Just saying.

  12. Good to read your new article, gloomy though it is. I don’t agree that British Nationalism is stronger or greater. But their control of the media certainly is. We have no effective Scottish broadcasting service. We have no Scottish newspapers, although The National is at least printing interesting and relevant articles with some excellent journalists.
    Support for Independence would undoubtedly be nearer 80% if there was a level media playing field. Which is why there isn’t.

    But we don’t need 80%. We only need 50% +1.

  13. This time we do not give one inch to the unionist’s, they bark at us we roar in their faces. Someone whines about the us not being about to afford it, tell them straight its the people who voted NO with the unionists who put the Scotland in the shit not the people who voted YES.

    Judge the people you speak to, the person who just needs to be informed and reasoned with, be firm and confident. Any earse who starts shouting the same unionist crap as last time, give them no sympathy, out number them, out shout them, out info them, give them nought.

    Any unionist git who says if we loose the next referendum that’s the end of it, tell them straight NO CHANCE, if we have to have one referendum after another till we get our country free that’s our business, not theirs.

    Be decent to those who want to change and support us we all have made mistakes, hell mend the rest.

  14. We were stabbed in the back in 2014 by the EU – I wouldn’t be so keen as to forgive and forget.

    • I don’t believe that we were stabbed in the back by the EU. By and large they stood back and maintained their expected neutral stance. One or two individuals eg Barroso, made statements which the MSM pounced on to use to their own ends but there were others who made counter statements which they chose to ignore.

      The EU question could have been put to bed quite straightforwardly, as we all know, if the UK Govt had chosen to ask the big question. They didn’t for fear of getting a response which didn’t suit their purposes and again the MSM spun that lack of clarity to suit the NO message ends.

      Now the EU have been more or less given free rein to say one way or the other what Scotland’s position will be and if they don’t make things clear then certainly at that point we will have been stabbed in the back.

      • I voted Yes to independence in 2014, but I voted to leave on June 23rd…

        As I’ve said many a time before on this forum, I see no point in breaking away from a corrupt racket in Westminster, only for us to become entangled in another corrupt racket in Brussels…

        Sturgeon may be keen on walking hand in hand with the EU, but at the very least, when we gain independence, the question of EU membership should be put the Scottish people.

  15. @ My Cocaine: The EU didn’t stab us in the back, they played the odds. It is entirely different this time, thanks to Brexit, the EU, NATO needs Scotland more than we need them.
    In home economic terms, Scotland has self sustaining resources of oil, gas, and power via renewables, we can get by in isolation, as you might say.
    In business terms Scotland has the advantage of a low overhead cost economy, thanks to oil, gas, and renewables power resources, such that we have an exports financial advantage in trading globally. We also have some unique trade products to sell.
    Why No voters refuse to acknowledge this is a puzzle. Sentiment? Clutching to straws? Smugness?

    • I’m not a NO voter. I’ve been campaigning for Scottish independence for decades, and will continue to do so for as long as there is breath in my lungs.

      In saying that, I cannot understand this rush to embrace the EU. To my mind, it’s a bureaucratic behemoth, a menace to democracy, a stooge for big corporate interests.

      There are other options an Indy Scotland could pursue – Norway, Switzerland, for example.

      • Your examples still have to comply with EU directives with no voice back…

        That doesn’t look like an immediately attractive proposition!

      • My Cocaine.

        Norway has to comply with 80% of EU directives, and contribute large sums to EU budget just to be able to trade. Yet has no voice in decisions. Oh, and free movement of people. Lots of Poles in Norway now.

        So why stay out?

        The business elite in Norway thinks their country’s position on EU is mad.

        But staying out enables Norway to be outside the Common Agricultural Policy and the Common Fisheries Policy.

        Both farming and fishing lobbies are still powerful politically in Norway. This is why they stay out, that and the fact that they can afford to pamper farmers and fishermen. For now.

        The world since 1945 has moved to a position of trading blocs. Like it or lump it, that’s how it just is. A market of 500 million is a coveted asset. We are insane to be outside it. We face high costs on imports and tariffs on exports being outside the EU. This means businesses folding and jobs going. Food prices will rocket.

        Well done in voting No, and driving away Scotland’s chances of independence. Nawbags are feardies and will cling to the corpse of Blighty in all the economic penury Brexit will bring.

        • Typo. I meant well done on voting Leave.

          See Leave/No are two sides of same coin.

          • Which part of ‘I voted yes to independence in 2014’ did you not understand?

            I’ve spent years trying to unhook Scotland from one bloated, anti-democratic racket in London. I’m not too keen to become coupled with another bloated, anti-democratic racket in Brussels.

            Supporters of Scottish independence are not some homogenous bloc.

            At any rate, the EU referendum was a free vote for people in Scotland. It mattered not one jot which way you or I voted, becuase our fate was settled one way or another by voters in England.

            Even if every single Scot voted to remain, it would note have made a blind bit of difference.

    • In reply to your last question. They are in denial and many have the belief the UK will be “great” again.

      How they’ll feel as the true situation appears is going to be interesting and we need to be ready with a cold compress! 🙂

    • “Why No voters refuse to acknowledge this is a puzzle. Sentiment? Clutching to straws? Smugness?”

      I think it depends on the demographic, multiple variables involved ranging from the ‘cringe’ through to right wing greed and selfishness.

      • I should add there may well be a principled case for the Union but I, and am sure there are many others on the Yes side in the same boat, am still waiting to hear what it is despite asking the question more times than I care to recall.

  16. Who in 1987 would have put money on the Soviet Union disintegrating in the next decade? By 1992 five years later it was gone. Something similar could happen here.

  17. @ Ian Ross: in principle cooperating together in unison is sound, provided each of the parties act in good faith. Westminster, and by extension with a majority of MPs, England has consistently deceived and lied to the Scots.

    The McCrone Report?
    GERS calculated with data issued by Westminster, but review of the data sources not permitted?
    Anyone with a England located tax office will have their taxes credited to England, and so helping towards the Scotland is subsidised myth.
    The BBC?
    Power suppliers in Scotland to the Grid are charged substantial fees, in South England subsidies are paid to suppliers.
    And the Vow?

    And why do they lie to Scotland? Because they can, and its to their advantage.


  18. British nationalism, stronger than ours?
    Well, the parties supporting Scottish independence are on the rise. The Unionist remnants, supported by the EBC and Anglophonic msm give a false picture of “British” lasting power – or Westminster lasting power.
    The outward facade us deceiving. Forget the constant froth of the “great British this and that”.
    That form of propaganda is backward looking, a nostalgic cranking up of immediate post 1945 isms.
    When the three parties, of so-called natural and self-evident Westminster system, are in decline in Scotland and two of them, Tories and Labour in dramatic decline,especially Labour, then Britishness of old is crumbling. The strange death of the Liberals happened post 1918.
    Yet, 150 years ago, one was “either a little liberal or else a little conservative” to quote WS Gilbert. Labour north of the Tweed arose and has crumbled dramatically over the lady 5 years.
    So, change is happening.
    What has happened post Brexit is that the Westminster set up has out itself suddenly on the outside. – of Europe and the world. Xenophobia dahn sath and fear of foreigners drove the electorate there to shut itself off.
    Britishness is now running contra to the networks world wide. It has now to knock and ask to be heard. And the answers are coming fast – go to the back of the queue, even from the so called special relationship the USA!!
    The British state was “saved” by the US in 1918 and in 1945 . The Soviet Union bore the brunt of wearing down the Nazi regime. The British Empire was kaputt after, not the fall of Singapore, but the surrender at Singapore to an Asian country the Japanese!!
    And now Britishness has shut itself out of wider Europe. Decline.
    The increase in flag waving, ceremonials, Tarantara events, is the sign of Ruritanian Britain.
    Nostalgic, tawdry and tacky.

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