Call of the Wild

Back from the Easter break and a ream of memories from a sunny Perthshire – towering Scots pine against a blue sky, a Landrover up into the hills above Loch Tummel, ever vigilant deer herds staring hard at us, red grouse close by…boating on the loch, riding through the woods…alone on the golf course beside the Tay with woodpecker accompaniment from the beeches on the first nine and *ptarmigan calls from the larch woods on the return…dinner on Loch Tay…and several visits to a favourite bookshop in Aberfeldy, followed by a homeward stop for a distillery tour.

Like hundreds of thousands of others we escaped the city (where I’m told our nearest highway, Great Western Road, is the most polluted street in Scotland) to breathe deeply on the tourist trail – hardly news when the country faces Brexit catastrophe. But an escape does offer a fresh perspective. Our boat trip for example, from a new jetty on Loch Tay, is underwritten by the European Development Fund – a gentle reminder of ‘Brussels interference’. But, more significantly, I’m one of many Scots who now looks differently at our country since the indy referendum which charged our view of ourselves with renewed relevance. Suddenly the way the country looks, how it operates, and doesn’t, became political. Instead of just enjoying Highland Perthshire, we looked at it through the eyes of strangers and imagined what they saw, searching for ways of justifying our expected place among the independent nations.

Does this look like a normal, right-enough European country-in-the-making? Can we improve it? How can we entice more visitors?

It was and is an expression of pride in Scotland which the oxygen of the referendum fuelled. While others talked the country down, we took pleasure in declaring openly how much we loved it. Rather than just accept that Perthshire in spring is a place of beauty, we took to the internet to say so. It doesn’t sound much but, given our natural thrawn reserve, I think it was significant in helping us all feel part of a movement that celebrated the nation and whose sole purpose was to make it better. The air of optimism was important and a counterpoint to the cynicism and scorn of the Unionist campaign.

This instinctive public engagement leads to new ideas and provides impetus. Instead of our customary complaint of What Can Ye Dae? we took to agitating and creating answers. Imagine, we said, just what we could achieve with the ability here in Scotland to invest our resources in what we think matters instead of living off powers like income tax adjustment which were only surrendered for partisan reasons along with a block grant that lets English bigots on the internet and the media claim they subsidise us. The latest example is their objection to Scotland spending on Aids prevention drugs not available in England. Why should you get something we don’t when it’s our money you’re spending…

Reminding ourselves of what is wonderful about the place we live in spreads the idea that it is worth defending and nurturing – and that it is our job to do that. That means taking responsibility and the ultimate mechanism for that is independence. Part of the process is telling the world we’re here – come and look. Whatever you thought of Scotland and whatever you imagined Scottish nationalism to be, think again.

Which is why I shook my head in despair at a couple of items Twitter directed me to, bitching (the correct word) about Nicola Sturgeon promoting Scotland in the United States. They were by Labour commentators who belittle Sturgeon and by extension Scotland. Telling the world we don’t belong, that we only exist in the shadow of others and should never venture beyond our shores because we are not worthy is a message that can only appeal to a disaffected rump of readers. Experience of current affairs in a globalised world informs sane people that you have to engage internationally because that is the now the way of the world – our food is imported, according to the supermarket shelves, from Guatemala, New Zealand and China, never mind Europe. Our distilleries are owned by companies from the Caribbean to Bangalore. Twenty two per cent of our service sector companies are foreign owned. People’s own personal lives for business and leisure mean overseas travel and communication. One of our biggest industries is tourism bringing visitors from the States and elsewhere. What kind of dog-in-the-manger, dreary 1950’s outlook on life would you need to be offended by your national leader leaving the country to play some politics? (My first visitor on returning from Loch Tay was from the west coast of America. He was enthusiastic about Sturgeon’s impact there saying she had really impressed and he hadn’t known when Scotland was so centre stage. She was taken seriously as a world political figure.)

My suspicion is that some of these journalists don’t believe a word they write. They too live in the globalised reality and hop on and off planes but there’s a living to be made pandering to the darker instincts of extremist right wing opinion. And there’s people prepared to pay so long as you can prostitute yourself and still look in the mirror. What would be interesting is the reaction of the anti-Scot hacks if they were offered money by the other side. Would the same principle apply?

I suspect it would. And never underestimate the capacity for conversion among the most ardent adherent. One of the biggest transformations was Brian Wilson’s from SNP agitator in Argyll to anti-devolution Labourite – a phenomenon akin to Kafka’s Metamorphosis. Today there those like Tom Morton and Mike Dailly who have gone public with their conversion to independence despite brutal denunciations of its evils in the past. As countless Labour voters have found, once you step over the door, you never go back. Added to the release of knowing what you really believe, is the humiliation of realising you were had by the previous lot for so long. You are embarrassed by who you were and what you thought. The zeal of the reformed becomes real.

I wrote weeks ago about the conversations I was hearing and how people sounded deeply hostile to the SNP – beyond reason, I’d say, and sometimes armed with little information but plenty of prejudice. I’m sure that remains true but the flip side is a steadily moving glacier of opinion that may now be unstoppable. Day by day we hear of foreign politicians, academics, commentators and former opponents who, in assessing the likely impact of Brexit, can only conclude that it strengthens our case for self-government. Typically, they say: I’m not a nationalist. I voted (or would have) No. But Brexit is a dreadful mistake and Scotland has a chance to escape before it’s too late.

This in turn leads them to look with clearer eyes at our economy and its prospects. They then see that even without oil, Scotland is stronger than many existing EU countries and has massive potential to expand across all fronts, that non-Scottish decisions on for example, renewable subsidies being stopped, stunt our growth.

These voices spread the idea that independence isn’t just an option, it is seriously regarded by sane people without affiliations to be a preferable one. It makes it easier to answer the question from September 2014 – What are you afraid of? We now have a clear contrast. Instead of an albeit imperfect status quo, this time we have an impending disaster covering everything from the loss of satellite navigation (all our geo-positioning for sat nav, Deliveroo and every kind of device is operated by a satellite system open only to EU members) to the numbers of EU nurses applying for jobs in the NHS – down 90 per cent.

The tables have turned. Instead of Nationalists defending what seems like a risky choice and a rocky time, it is Unionists who have to justify the choice of economic suicide and a spaghetti disentanglement of regulation and agreements led by a band of ministers who don’t command their own party’s respect let alone a wider public. Many of the arguments for Brexit descend too quickly into prejudice and incoherence based around an inflated view of Britain and a barely disguised xenophobia. This is likely to be reinforced when the campaign hots up and metropolitan luvvies begin what will be an emotional appeal to stay British. They seem to have missed what Britishness has become in the eyes of the world…self-destructive, deluded, bitter (personified by Ruth Davidson), intolerant, right wing, rejecting parliamentary scrutiny and dismissive of its constituent parts. Our claim is strong enough but the wilful neglect of the Ulster question to leave the Republic with a headache after years of peace negotiations is unforgiveable, as the EU is making clear. And when even the Labour FM of Wales which voted No, weighs in – well, it shows you got it wrong. To the balanced voter weighing up his options, the prospect of independence in the EU is losing much of its horror when compared to the unfolding tragedy of diehard Britnats embarrassing the country on a world stage, kowtowing to dictators for business and knowingly taking us down a road to ruin.

The lack of effective opposition is disturbing as Labour fails in its principle duty to hold to account – it is the UK that resembles a one-party state. I can’t help feeling that Theresa May would benefit from a democratic block on her own Brexit idiots but it looks as if we will have to wait for the EU to provide that. Britain really is in a state these days.

Affairs will resolve themselves over the next two years and the only question is if that glacier of opinion can move fast enough to save Scotland. Springtime in Perthshire was a glittering reminder of how much that matters.

*Capercaillie. Sorry – city dweller.

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21 thoughts on “Call of the Wild

  1. Kenmore is like a second home to me, and it’s at its best in Spring and late October, outside the main tourist season. I wish I’d been there to stand you some refreshments. Did LR join you for a cuppa at the Mains or was she too busy with her puncture?

  2. Beautiful, hopeful piece of writing – it is good to read a positive vision of what’s possible. Thank you.

    I’m optimistic about the glacier of public opinion. I reckon we might already have begun to see the unionist ice melting. Given that a major unionist argument has centred on ‘fake’ polls, the melting process will only accelerate once it gets going. Just this once, I’m excited at the prospect of “climate change”.

  3. I’m one who is optimistic that many of the Yes Leavers can be persuaded to back Yes again. Especially those who did both out of desperation at being dispossessed and so voting for anything which seemed to offer change.

    The more Brexit becomes something run by and for the small right wing Tory elite in Westminster so their allegiances to Leave will weaken and they will be open to persuasion about how to achieve real control instead of the illusion of it.

    Point out that the vast majority of their problems are due to reserved powers at Westminster not Brussels and that we get vastly more powers back by being Independent in the EU than via Brexit. Also that those powers will come back to Edinburgh in the former case but will stay with malign Westminster in the latter one so their chances of influencing or benefiting from there will be greater in the former and much less in the latter.

    Part of the problem is ignorance about what the EU funds is manifest. Because the general Eurosceptic ambience makes it hard for local government for eg to crow about the EU funding they are spending. A lot of council elderly housing here in Dundee has just had new sofits and roof edging done. Apparently a large chunk of the money is from the EU but there are no notices to that effect while the work is done and there is no publicity so it is no wonder people are ignorant.

  4. Nice to see the voice of reason and hope has returned Ha Ha .
    A good appraisal of the current situation and the way we could improve things by being outward looking, why should we be confined to these borders, why do Unionists at every turn pour scorn on the very person who is trying to broaden our outlook and promote Scottish business worldwide .
    Shortsighted and insular comes to mind , This deep routed hatred that blinds them to everything she does , it makes them look small and petty , every single thing from bus passes and free prescriptions are dismissed as nothing, mitigating the bedroom tax, improving infrastructure is disregarded,
    This debacle of PFI and the ongoing costs left behind by previous Labour Tory and liberal administrations conveniently hidden by our national broadcaster the BBC, there is not one single instance in any of their reports that points to any of them being culpable for the schools literally falling down around pupils heads, and these parties being wholly responsible for this scandal. Guilty by omission as usual from our national broadcaster .
    Oh welcome back Derek you were missed ha ha

  5. More to the point, did ye fix the wummins puncture?

  6. Amazing how a blink of sunshine and a dose of fresh air can raise spirits and expectations. We need to push that glacier of opinion along as firmly and steadily as we can. And should our spirits flag in the process we really need National Collective in a new guise to add impetus to our efforts.

  7. Nice article, I was in the Glen Garry area myself with the family last week, and even with the mixed weather it was stunning. I spoke to people from all over Scotland and the UK at our site, none of them favoured brexit “if it came up in the conversation”, also their was more than a few EU accents both at the site and at all the various shops/eateries that my wife forced me to attend.

    Guess what ? it felt normal, people served us with a smile and were prepared to have a bit of banter as well. And I was thinking to myself on the drive home I hadn’t heard anyone speak about foreigners taking our jobs or being over here, instead I had just experienced folk from all over, working and holidaying together as I believe the EU was supposed to be about.

    And I liked it, I liked seeing people enjoying Scotland my country and I certainly liked having people from other countries help promote my country with a smile and a laugh.

    So roll on independence and our continuance in the EU, it will be worth it.

    PS, on the way home we stopped in Aviemore for coffee and a bacon sandwich, “Cobbs” café produces the best BACON SANDWICH known to mankind, please take the ex-large for another 75p it is superb. And I should know I have spent the last 59 years eating bacon sanies, but theirs took my breath away. The three of us were in total agreement they are the best we have ever tasted.

    PPS, I took mine straight, no red or brown muck on it.

    • Nah.. Horn Milk Bar on the A85 Dundee-Perth route. Best Bacon rolls in the world. Bar none.. I’ve tested South Africa, Australia and the UK, the Horn still has them beat.

  8. Heidstaethefire

    Unfair, Derek, they were just as mean to Jack McConnell’s natty wee pinstriped kilt…. oh wait a minute…..

  9. Thanks for using my home area in a very good article. Apologies for telling you to stick you’re BBC pension up your arse. It was totally uncalled for.

  10. Gavin C Barrie

    Wise to reflect and appreciate what we have in Scotland. Nice thoughtful article.

    Lose Euro SatNav cooperation, nice one. The Brexit thingy does seem to be gathering pace at an alarming rate, will Brexiteers have the stamina, mental and psychical to maintain the pace? Ruthie does seem to be already overheating, like an side valve engine of old.

  11. Did you mean Labour fails in its principled duty or its principal duty?

  12. The Tories, especially the Scottish brand, are being found out. All they do is mope and complain. They don’t offer alternatives. Most of all they are a million miles from looking like a government in waiting.

    They have become completely unhinged along with their SLAB & LibDem brethren in going into these local elections with nothing to say other than “the country doesn’t want another referendum”. I hope upon hope that all the independistas will take the teachings of James Kelly on the STV system and go down the list putting their cross against the SNP and Greens followed by Independents, LibDem, Labour and Tory in that order. If we follow what the republicans did in Northern Ireland with the STV system to give the DUP a skelping, we can do the same with the Ruth Davidson party. That would be heavenly.

    P.S. I don’t think you heard a ptarmigan in the larch woods. They are strictly mountain top birds and I mean above the 2,500 ft contour – more likely black grouse in Perthshire.

  13. Bitter, wee Shouty Macshoutyface personifies the barren waste of Unionist thinking in Scotland.

  14. To answer those who say Scotland is too wee, too poor to be Independent just say:

    Look across the North Sea to Norway and be aware that if Scotland had been Independent in 1979, today we’d be an even richer country than Norway, because as well as oil, Scotland had/still has vastly superior additional resources. We are where we are today completely as a result of being politically and fiscally mis-managed as a part of the UK for the last 38 years.

    And in my view that statement is all that is required to justify Independence regardless of whatever Economic Data is available.

  15. Your Brian Wilson comment only reinforces what I’ve been saying for years: England is not the roadblock to Scottish independence.

    Who will fight longer and harder than anybody else to keep Scotland in the UK? Scottish men and women. Your Gordon Browns, Ruth Davidson, SLAB, and other assorted Unionist misfits in what passes for Scottish newspapers these days.

  16. Agree with all the sentiments in the piece. But lets simplify it for the General Public,
    better a reformable overly bureaucratic EU than a Fascist England.

  17. Good to see you back Derek and hope you enjoyed the break.

    Yeah, the commentary from the usual suspects over the FMs trip to the USA wasn’t pretty. It was shallow. It was childish and in the more extreme and poisonous wells, it was downright worrying.

    What our unionist political class and the press are attempting is now beyond dodgy political strategy. It is reckless and dangerous in the extreme. It is a narrative of projection beyond stupid. The societal divisiveness they project upon the Scottish Government is of course of their own creation. The baseless portrait of institutional catastrophe they feed the public, undermines trust in the essential institutions and services upon which the public rely day in and day out. They are putting people in harms way, not for any lofty ideal of holding a government to account for actual failure, but merely for political gain.

    THAT is how bad it has become and THAT is just what they are willing to sacrifice in order to achieve their personal aims. The public safety itself. They are actively peddling the projection of hatred, mistrust and societal division without the slightest care for the collateral damage to electorate or readerships.

    It’s pretty much a given today that politicians and journalists are held in pretty low esteem. There is a very, VERY good reason for that. The examples are legion and well documented on both counts. Right about now their desperation is driven by a perfect storm of arrogance, ignorance, a complete absence of any empathy and pure survival instinct.

    I doubt history will remember their efforts of the past few years fondly.

    I also honestly doubt many folks will give a shit about their eventual and inevitable downfall.

  18. …… one of your best, Derek …… an excellent article !!

  19. katherine hamilton

    Glad you’re back. The question of in EU, out of UK is now urgent. It is almost going beyond politics of pro or anti Independence.
    I think it’s becoming a matter of national survival. When London loses it’s financial passporting rights, which it will, England is bankrupt and by following on, so are we.
    We have nothing to lose and all to gain from breaking free.

  20. You have clearly been refreshed and re-energised by your time away. An excellent contribution and continuation of your analysis. My question remains to our “Free Press” and Regulated Broadcasters is why they remain so quiet on these topics.

    I can only conclude that its because the vast majority of the Press is not Free; it is driven by those close to the multi-millionaire press-barrons. Broadcast editors and commissioners have one eye on those above them whose views are through immersion with rUK groups that are predominantly Unionist and dismissive of anything that appears to support “separatist ideas”

    A classic example of their blindness can be seen almost ever time a Paper review is done. There appears to be no thought to exclude Express & Daily Mail. Two newspapers which have been identified by Wikipedia as not considered trustworthy reference sources

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