A Shaft of Light

The lovely aspect of Andrew O’Hagan’s conversion to Yes was the way it cut across the grain of despair being heavily promoted by the champions of Scotland the Province.

The self-styled Unionist lobby has feasted on the contrivance that they somehow ‘won’ an election they comprehensively lost. They have delighted in cramming Scotland back inside a box marked Useless. In their hubris they have claimed an ascendancy that in reality looks more like an electoral spasm.

This year’s general election in Scotland was a vote of revenge for many when the chance came to round on the nationalists who had so discombobulated them. There has after all to be a reason why a Liberal in the North East would vote for a Brexit Tory knowing it would damage their own local economy more than anywhere else in the UK. (We await the government’s report confirming this. So far they are afraid to publish). To abandon every progressive principle of your party and betray its history in order to replace committed, professional representatives with amateurs and careerists from the Rotary Club speakers’ committee, is, like Brexit, a stunning act of self-harm.

That’s what happens when you vote out of revenge – you vote against one thing and forget what you’re getting in exchange. As Ruth Davidson has just admitted, you got a Tory Party devoid of policy. She is now seeking ideas that can be turned into proposals for government when surely that’s what elections are supposed to be about.

Anyone voting for her candidates in June got a pig in a poke – a know-nothing MP (one of whom is holding surgeries by appointment only) and a party without policy. Still, they chased the SNP. And, of course, they delayed a referendum, which may be the last hope of escaping a disastrous Brexit. I fear North East Liberal voters who turned to the Tories may fit Blackadder’s barb at Baldrick: ‘I’d bump into cleverer people at a lodge meeting of the Guild of Village Idiots’

Still, however politically bewildered, they have delivered for the increasingly frothing commentariat a prize that has eluded them for a decade – a blood lust of vengeance which is sweeping away all reason, all nuance and balance. Witness David Torrance in the Guardian.

Add in the desertion of part-time Nationalist voters back to their natural home of British Labour and it could be presented as the wilting of the Yes flower. I’ve spent some time worrying away at the concept of voting Labour in Scotland while supporting independence and concluded that, as always, people should be true to themselves and act accordingly. All are welcome when it comes to the cause. I’m just confused by the message since, if everyone did the same, and voted Labour, there would assuredly be no independence for Scotland. Indeed if only a few thousand more did so, independence would be further away than ever. Nothing will delight the Westminster oligarchy more than SNP voters deserting to Labour. Go figure.

So the O’Hagan intervention was a welcome shaft of light reminding us that if we want real change, it will only come through self-government. By definition, we ourselves will make the decisions on the Scotland that we want. That’s the whole point. It doesn’t guarantee any of us will get exactly what we’d prefer, but that’s because it’s a democracy with diverse views. But we will get Scotland’s wish, not England’s.

And that’s become the defining point since Brexit – the realisation that the Union itself has become a myth. There can only be a union between willing partners who deal with each other equitably, or at least with mutual respect. I agree with O’Hagan that the Supreme Court ruling proved that even the latest devolution settlement was a stitch-up allowing Scots to be overruled at will. The lack of a Unionist foundation can be found in the dismissal of Scotland’s separate EU vote. ‘It was a UK decision’, we are told as if to confirm the English majority in Parliament that ensures we will always get what they want. I’m increasingly with Alf Baird on this; Scotland is today a province of greater England more than it is a partner in Union.

As it happens, I see advantages in Union and believe that after independence there will be a close relationship mirroring some of the joint arrangements we have now. As a Borderer, I know the strength of feeling in favour of it and respect articulate views in support. But where is the justifying case for Union? The endless sneering at Scotland and its aspiration and threats of currency withdrawal and retaliation hardly speak of partnership or respect. Yet that appears to be what vocal support for the UK is reduced to.

O’Hagan reminds us that not all political thought is frenzied and partisan. Outside of the Daisleys and the Deerins, the alt right Oor Wullies, the Scots doubtful about independence are not zealots. The somewhat scary partisans of Scotland in Union with their extremism do not represent Scottish Unionist opinion any more than Scottish Resistance represent Nationalism. And anyone can be converted to the other side. Andrew O’Hagan himself was an unflinching critic as was Tom Morton, now both openly campaigning for our side.

There is no reason to think the wider public is any different. How long will it take voters who turned Tory to see how ineffectual their MPs are and how the party is pursuing the decimation of their own economic base?

When will lefties see through Corbyn as a man who talks left but who is as unquestioningly Unionist as Ruth Davidson and would exult in the extermination of the SNP?

It remains the case that those of us who are proudly Scottish Nationalists have in our hearts a cause, one that transcends political parties and can unite Scots. Even those who have moved back to Labour have not abandoned the aim of independence.

To support the Union today demands acceptance of the most shambolic bunch of liars and jokers who’ve ever held high office in Britain. It means watching as they turn somersaults with red tape and taxpayer’s money trying to buy back what we currently have to no advantage. Britain has been turning into a dystopian pantomime under the Tories (and Liberals). Now the show has hit Broadway and the whole world is watching.

The logic of O’Hagan’s case is compelling. His words inspire. And they speak to a truth the Unionist hardliners cannot bear – however slowly, the transformation of Scotland can no longer be stopped.

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31 thoughts on “A Shaft of Light

  1. One sentence of Andrew O’Hagan’s essay:

    ‘The major parties won the referendum but lost the future’

    says it all.


    What I posted in the Guardian on numerous occassions after Sept 18th 2014

    You won, we lost, then we win and I have had unshakeable belief since then that our self determination would be only a matter of time.

  2. The 2014 referendum exposed a tired, failing Britain bereft of ideas. What fun it was once again to have an adversary small enough to bully!

  3. Andrew’s piece was made all the more difficult to read ( and I did not find it an easy piece to begin with ) by the tears it brought to my eyes. I should admit that at my age tears tend to come easily, but I hope to shed them again if I live to see an independent Scotland.

  4. Alasdair Macdonald.

    It was, indeed, a fine article by Mr O’Hagan. It was also good to see a newspaper devote four pretty full pages to something which was intellectually challenging and nuanced. He demonstrated the importance of The Arts in political discourse.

    It is also, important, as Mr Bateman points out that the majority of the swithering public are people who are sincerely seeking to balance a range of arguments as well as sifting out lies, while struggling against the punishment of austerity which the City financiers and their Westminster patsies are imposing on us.

  5. I was fortunate to have been there when Mr O’Hagan presented his peroration and it did bring tears to my eyes. I have challenged the likes of the bearded Scotland hater and his more intelligent compatriot Alex Massie asking have they ever written anything positive about Scotland. I’m still waiting for a reply.
    You have to wonder if there is anywhere else on the planet where so many denigrate or hate their country

  6. Torrance on britnat bbc today [Friday]. Of course. The britnat bbc loves him.

    Don’t pay the bbc tax.

  7. Corbyn is just another British nationalist.

  8. Where’s the Leader? Who do we follow to Indepenence.
    All great movements need a strong credable leader. Scotland has produced amazing leaders in our history but we seem to have a void in our campaign. We have lots of people with a hand on the tiller at the back of the ship steering but we need a figurehead to point the direction of the course and pull the nation to Independence. Independence will only be won by a mass movement and that need leadership. Someone to follow, someone to vocalise our goals and aspirations. Someone to be seen to challenge and fight the opposition and be a champion.
    How do I follow? I need clarity, I need a Leader.
    Imagine the support financial and spiritual that leader could command.
    Scotland needs that Leader now!

  9. Steve Asaneilean

    Let’s start with the so-called union which effectively allows one part of the union to dominate and dictate to all the other constituent parts.

    There is no equality when the views of one signatory of the agreement can be perpetually vetoed or over-ruled. That isn’t democracy, that is autocracy verging on dictatorship. yet that is what Scotland has put up with for over 300 years. More fool us.

    When the idea of a parliamentary union between England and Scotland was first mooted in Scotland in 1689 King William wrote “of his please that so many of the Scots nobility and gentry” favoured a union. Of course those men were little more than feudal tyrants who had already ground Scotland into the ground through their greed and avarice.

    The Westminster parliament in 1705 passed the Alien Act which “threatened that unless Scotland agreed to negotiate terms for union and accepted the Hanoverian succession by 25 December 1705, there would be a ban on the import of all Scottish staple products into England”

    While the gentry and nobles stood to gain from the union (and therefore drove it through) it’s clear that the ordinary citizens of Scotland did not approve and did not want it – almost 100 petitions against were lodged with the Scottish parliament in the last 2 months of 1706.

    But the nobles had their way and what happened was not a union but rather an incorporation of a rump Scottish parliament into a continuing Westminster parliament.

    Now, as then, there were “proud” Scots willing to say how Scotland couldn’t survive without its bigger neighbour and using every opportunity the had to do down Scotland and present it a parochial and regional and some how inferior to its southern neighbour.

    And so we have Daisley passing snide comment on Scottish Highers – that essentially they are rubbish compared to English A levels. No recognition that a Scottish education system valued breadth over depth for the last 100 years and that a separate education system was one of the things that even the supporters of the dissolution of the Scottish parliament in 1707 stood up for.

    Finally I cannot understand why anyone who truly believes in independence could vote for a political party whose view on Scottish independence is almost literally “over our dead bodies”

    • I agree on Highers. It was the same back in New Zealand. I did five subjects in 7th Form, the last year of school: English, Biology, Chemistry, Physics and Maths. I then went on to get a good First Class Honours degree followed by a PhD (no examination required and no changes either by unanimous decision of all examiners). My name also appears in Nature and it was my contribution which made it a Nature paper and not just a note in Mechanisms of Development.

      IOW it did me no harm. In my first year at university in addition to the three sciences I did two papers in English. Not because I was required to, the six in the sciences were sufficient for a full time course and fulfilled all subsequent course prerequisites but to pad out my time and because English was my best subject at school in terms of marks and I enjoyed it.

      NZ universities, unless you are doing a professional course, allow you to build a custom degree within the requirements. I also did two papers in 2nd year Anatomy, one in 2nd year and one in third. What turned into my research projects made that choice look prescient. But you cannot separate structure from function.

      Our youngest back there at university (treated as a local through citizenship by birth) built herself a double major BSc in Biochem and CompSci with a big dollop of Stats. She is now writing up a PhD thesis on Bioinformatics ostensibly in Anatomy (a source of much hilarity) while working part time in Bioinformatics at the local Agricultural Research Station where she is much valued and assured of employment on graduation.

      No equivalent degrees fitting one for Bioinformatics from the ground up (she learned Biology and CompSci simultaneously) exists in the UK which is a part of why she went to NZ. We have a family friend who got headhunted as a CompSci database researcher to be a Bioinformatician which is where the awareness of it as a career came.

      So she is channelling the Biologist in me and the CompSci/Maths double graduate in her Mother.

      • SteveAsaneilean

        Exactly Muscleguy – when I was at high school the whole ethos was trying to give kids as broad an education as possible.

        Leaving school with my Highers (of which both Maths and English were effectively compulsory) did me no harm at university and beyond.

        Indeed think of all the eminent Scots educated in Scotland over the last half a century who have achieved so much at home and abroad on the back of being compelled to accept “rubbish” O/Standard grades and Highers rather being given the chance to do “superior” A levels.

        Then think of those educated in Scotland who did instead do A levels and what they have achieved at home and abroad. As exhibit 1 I offer Mr Blair…

  10. I despair of the BBC. Not only does the Scottish branch completely blank the O’Hagan peroration and instead find David Torrance at the Book Festival to give his rent ‘a quote, but now we are treated to Bruce Forsyth’s demise as the top item in the news. WTF.

    • And now, according to the bbc, it’s “British” salmon and “British” whisky exports which are doing so well.

      • AYE the answer to what will you have to drink ? , a ” Brit ” dosent quite have the same ring to it , it’s going to be tough hard sell for the establishment who seem to want to assimilate scots out of existence , if they only knew how ridiculous their efforts are making them look .

  11. But dull managerialism does not a campaign make.

    I trust that our girl is playing a clever waiting game…

    • I have read all these comments and Mr Bateman’s article, and they are all excellent. Your comment however stands out, as it sums up the views of many, in a few very articulate words. It is something which needs said often (quote) “But dull managerialism does not a campaign make”. Let us hope those responsible get the message.

  12. Credit to Andrew O’Hagan for his simply beautiful presentation.

    Credit to the National for printing it.

    Credit to Derek for bluntly declaring Westminster Unionists as a shambolic bunch of liars and jokers.

    Credit to Nicola Sturgeon for meeting with the Scottish Independence Convention.

    I never have been pro-Union,from my youth to senior citizen. Always skeptical of the contrived pomp and circumstance, puzzled as to why people laud the royals, but these past 5 or so years have truly been an eyeopener, and the revelations just keep coming, currently:-

    The “Supreme” Court Sewel Convention interpretation, LibDems election spends – Cole-Hamilton, Swinson, Jardine, LibDems debt to Scottish Police, the astonishing £1.5 billion bribe to the DUP, the Brexit fiasco. The ex-regio oil and gas revenue scam finally revealed.

    Add to that the nasty woman who heads the Tories here, Davidson. Then the head of the Labour National Party, Scottish branch, Dugdale on TV encouraging voters to vote Tory to stop the SNP.

    I do not want a referendum as I don’t trust Westminster.I just want Scotland to declare the end of the Union with England. If the Sewel Convention can be interpreted as simply words and not a commitment of intent, then so too can this farcical Union be interpreted.

    Live and act as an independent nation.

    • Very well put. I too have come (reluctantly) to the conclusion that a declaration of independence is the way forward and not a referendum. The last one showed exactly why referendum’s are a hopeless way to decide such complex issues in a UK polity based on immature argument and downright lies, deception, misinformation, innuendo and in which the whole armoury of the UK corporate state was mobilised against us.

      But do any of the MP’s support a declaration?

      • UDI on the one hand would be great and in my heart I would welcome it. But would such a declaration be considered legal with the UN or possibly lead to civil war? We need to ask if it’s worth it.

  13. The fact that The National printed in full demonstrates its importance to the Independent movement – all Yessers ought to buy and take a subscription if they can.

  14. I read Andrew O’Hagan’s speech, and for me personally, it boils down to this. I want to live in a country that is an equal partner, U.K. or EU, just an equal partner.

  15. Scotland in Union (SIU) has very shady antecedents with murky connections to the Orange Order, right wing Rangers supporters clubs, and Ulster politics. It must be derided at every opportunity.
    SIU is an anti-Independence enemy within Scotland set up by mainly English carpetbaggers who see Scotland as no more than a place where they work. And note that members of it are not in any way connected to the “English Scots for Yes” folk who have settled in Scotland to make a new life here.

  16. At risk of being silly – if some one throws a punch at you, as a boxer you will see it coming and dodge, as a punter unaware, you will take the punch and may survive and fight back.
    At the Indyref we took the punch not being a boxer ( not being professional political liars) . We’ve stood our ground, and now we understand the game. No holds barred by the BritNats – Dugdale, Davidson, and the Westminster mafia.

    Brexit isn’t Wimbledon for two weeks, it is a very very serious threat to our wellbeing.

    The BritNationalists disgust me.

    • Great piece, Derek, as per. Gavin C Barrie, great posts.

      I think Mr O’Hagans speech was sublime writing. I know it was prepared, but all the same, he seemed to encapsulate a lot of the humiliation, Scotland has suffered, as fact, not as whinging etc. I’m more angry at the humiliation, the denigration, the stupidity etc., and its hard to be objective.

      For someone like Torrance, to try and take down a literary giant like O’Hagan was just highly embarrassing, he has just deliberately filled his nappy in public, and it stinks.

      The group currently moving out of UK, and worried for their status, are the Irish. They know, it matters not that they have a special status here, because this government is so corrupt.

      Independence can’t come quick enough, literally.

  17. ‘Splendid piece, Derek!

  18. I get all the ‘joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth’ stuff, but everyone seems to be laying it on a bit thick with O’Hagan. He’s a hack who changed his mind, not some intellectual and moral giant.

  19. Good read as ever. Interested in the British Labour aspect. For me and I think many others, the reason we have or are pondering giving our vote to Labour in the UK elections is fairly simple. Labour are offering an anti-neoliberal opposition, SNP aren’t and cannot for that matter in London. Also a resurgent Labour is forcing SNP to think leftwards on issues they have control over and this is much required as they have resolutely clung on to the collapsed centre. For me this is as valuable to the people of Scotland(and importantly people everywhere) as immediate Independence. If UK Lab and SNP continue on current trajectory my vote will be for Labour(UK GE only). My support for Indy is unwavering.

  20. Not long now

  21. Very well said by both Derek and Mr. O’Hagan.

    A keeper. 🙂

  22. Spot on, Dereck.

  23. How much longer will it take before the Penny finally drops and the light goes on for even the most fervent supporter of this union , it must have occurred to even them something is not right , the scots being sidelined and excluded from any opinion and input to the brexit negotiations , I believe this one Act betrays the whole farce of this situation , its not a union , its an Occupation , being forever and a day outvoted 10-1 with never a chance of any voice north of Carlisle being listened to , Ever ,better together my Arse .

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