Scotland

Last post on the R thing

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One last post, and I shall move on from that R thingy, like most of Scotland (not all).  Sane Yessers don’t want to be that bitter old bugger weeping into his beer at their betrayal for the next twenty years, and have agreed to drop the subject and talk to their No friends again about other things.

On Friday evening I thanked my upstairs neighbour for putting up four no thanks posters in his windows. He had done it, he said , because he’d been so angry about the intimidation towards No campaigners. Our neighbour to our right had got sworn at for having No stickers on her car and he knew of those with stickers whose cars were scratched and vandalised. A shop in the next suburb that showed No signs had had its access blocked by a Saltire draped Yes van.

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Him upstairs is a scaffolder who works offshore and like me he thought the country had gone mad. They were sucked in by Salmond’s fantasies of a shiny kingdom with greener grass. His workmates, he said, didn’t seem to care about the economy, their mortgages, their jobs as long as they had the chance to stick it to those English c*nts for grievances from about three or four hundred years ago. He had gone to a political rally for the first time in his life, so angry was he. (You wouldn’t want him to be angry with you – he’s a man you don’t mess with.)

I move in more genteel circles who don’t use such language. They were willing to forget about the economy etc to stick it to Westminster, or the Tories, or Britain the inventor of slavery and capitalism. Which makes me think the slogan for the Better Together/Unionist campaign should not have been a polite, No Thanks, but OH GROW UP! Laurie Pennie, a reliable barometer for leftie silliness, tweeted:- Go on, Scotland. Stick it to ’em. Other dishonourable mentions go to Russell Brand  and George Monbiot, who evidently thinks the two million or so No voters suffer from Stockholm syndrome rather than simple prudence, to put it at its least, or even a desire not to lose shared citizenship with Geordies and Brummies.

I made a vow never to recommend to a country that I don’t live in to take up policies so as to provide passing interest/a point of reference / a stick to beat an enemy with to columnists. I could see a lot of the left wanted us to be the Venzuela of the north, giving the finger to the USA’s ally. Others wanted us to be the new Denmark but glided over the impossibly rocky road to get us there.

I was pleased that some of those who wanted the nations to stay together were idiosyncratic types like Charlie Brooker, Bob Geldof  and Eddie Izzard.  Thanks also to that lovely guy Tom Holland, writer of vivid history books and cricketer, who along with Dan Snow organised the love bombing of the Let’s Stay Together campaign and to everyone who came out and waved flags in Trafalgar Square.

A guru for me and other Noes during this time has been Adam Tomkins, Professor of Public Law at the University of Glasgow who set out clear arguments on issues like Europe and the currency.  He has now been nominated to Lord Smith’s devolution commission.

Throughout the campaign he remained clear-headed and civil, as a contrast to the popular Yes guru, the foul Rev Stu Campbell at Wings of Scotland. After it was reported that it was the pensioners that had lost it, he tweeted:-

“Won’t ever be able to look at a Scottish pensioner again without thinking “You. You sold us out.”

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However I have to do Wings justice because the site has tried to put to rest the stories about a rigged vote that disbelieving Yesses are now passing around.

The influence of Wings does point to the power of social media. For the Yessers it meant they could get out their own information bypassing the mainstream, which they damn as biassed though plenty of newspapers carried articles by Yessers. That is one reason why many are so stunned by the result. Their sites showed 80% in favour of independence – so how could it have come out the way it did without fraud? Blaming the media rather than their own incoherent and self-contradictory message is one way.  (If you follow that link do read the comments by Edinburgh Eye).

Others don’t think it’s “real democracy” when voters are misled by promises made by politicians and aren’t in possession of the full facts so they vote the wrong way- which makes you wonder how much attention have they ever paid to a general election or democracy in any sphere.

And of course the internet worked for the Noes as well. In the 1930s pamphlets were handed around about why we should arm/disarm in the face of Fascism, now articles are passed around in social media. One that I saw being read by the kind of middle class socially concerned person who would usually vote Labour was this excellent piece by Carol Craig at the Scottish Review, where she compared the pessimism of the Noes against the Pollyannaism of the Yesses. It was widely circulated.

Also the Chokkablog showed how thin the business reach of the supposed Business for Scotland is.-He did the simple research of looking up stuff at Companies House which I could trust as I could do that myself. His pieces were picked up by the mainsteam.

For myself the social media got me out to rallies at day’s notice and arguing with the faithful on Facebook, hoping to pull over an undecided or two, or at least boost the morale of a No because the accidents of my life here in Edinburgh made me a minority among my Facebook friends, but not with my real life friends and colleagues.

It was odd to see old cynics of my acquaintance wiping Facebook tears over an article in the Guardian about a lass sadly disappointed that Scotland did not go independent after all that exciting campaigning.

“And what about Alex Salmond’s speech? He is just brilliant. I was crying my heart out. Not like that Alistair Darling, all gloating and smirking.

(Wiping the smug grin off Salmond’s face was one reason I heard for voting No from other young things).

Salmond, the graceless loser, talked the usual flannel  about how positive the hideous process we have just been subject to was:-

As the Scottish Parliament met for the first time since last Thursday’s referendum, Mr Salmond told MSPs: “Scotland now has the most politically engaged population in western Europe and one of the most engaged in any country, anywhere in the democratic world.

“Across Scotland, people have been energised, enthused by politics in a way which has never happened before – certainly not in my experience and I suspect in the experience of anyone in this chamber.

“Wherever we’re travelling together, we’re a better nation today than we were at the start of this process. We are more informed, more enabled and more empowered.”

I think the Catalonians are beating us in the engaged stakes at present, with their present demands for a referendum refused by Spain. You are engaged in a do or die matter of this kind as you are “engaged” in a war. I took part in the campaign as in another time I would have been running up black out curtains and digging Anderson shelters.

We are not a better nation. A chunk of the Yes losers are heart-broken and angry, and although the Noes are relieved many are full of misgivings that we haven’t seen the last of these polarising, embittering politics. If they take a sectarian form in Glasgow – broadly those of Irish Catholic descent going for Indy and Orange types for the Union – the western side of our rusty central belt could end up as Belfast on the Clyde.

It wasn’t about the SNP we were told – now thousands of thwarted Yessers are flocking to join the SNP. It wasn’t about Alex Salmond they assured us – when he resigned people who would normally shrug their shoulders cynically at any politician were weeping at the loss of a great statesman.

The thousands that do join the SNP may of course drift away, finding ordinary party politics not the fun fun fun of their Indyref days, and new members of a leftward slant may give the same headache to the SNP Militant Tendency gave to Labour in the 1980s while alienating their tartan Tory vote. But it means the next couple of elections, for Westminster and Holyrood, are going to be haunted by independence, either for or against.

But I am sure we have not heard the last of Salmond and it scares me that he should be so worshipped, for the SNP is not a liberal party by any means. It stacks its scrutiny committees in Holyrood, it centralised and armed the police and put them outside of democratic control and Salmond has a good deal of the petty tyrant within him, such as excluding journalists from the Financial Times, the Telegraph, the Express and the Mail from attending his press conference after the vote.

… the truly sinister tale which emerged through Freedom of Information requests by the Daily Telegraph about the treatment of the Principal of St Andrews University, Dr Louise Richardson, after she voiced concerns about the impact of independence on Scottish research funding. An “angry” early morning phone call from Salmond was followed by a draft statement of recantation written by his chief of staff, one Geoff Aberdein, which Dr Richardson declined to sign.

Mr Aberdein seems to spend a lot of time writing statements for recalcitrants and others thought to be in thrall to the Scottish Government to sign. He cropped up in the same role when Salmond wanted Donald Trump to praise the Scottish Government for releasing the convicted Lockerbie bomber. Not surprisingly, Trump declined and the story came out. These are the ones we know about.

What disturbs me about the St Andrews story is that a lot of people knew about it and did nothing. I was told of Dr Richardson’s unpleasant experience in whispered tones by a senior academic six months ago. Unfortunately, the context was to explain why everyone else would be keeping their heads down.

Is a Scotland in which academics stay silent for fear of political retribution the one we want to create? It is certainly the direction Salmond has led us in and that is why his departure is so welcome.

This September has been the finest and warmest I can remember, spoiled for me by the sound of my adopted country running on the path to self-destruction. September is usually a lovely month in Edinburgh as we fade into autumn. Like many when the sense of an irrevocable change was coming I grew melancholy, and I cycled to the Pentland Hills at the edge of the city, on the route that takes you past the reservoirs through a steep glen so you feel as if you are in the Highlands and then up on a ridge road overlooking the Forth and the hills in Fife. There was a mist, the fields were fading gold, and the Forth on one side and the hill tops and the reservoirs on the other were blurred by the haze. Oh well, I thought, even if they take away my citizenship and substitute it with something smaller and impoverish us all I’ll still have this – the landscape, the city, the people, the music in the pubs. Well they didn’t – the elegaic mood was a little premature. We’re now past the equinox and making the sharp descent into the Scottish winter. We’ve had a reprieve, but I don’t know how deep the damage that has been done will go.

Come the next general election this indy matter will emerge again in party manifestoes. The nation has changed – to absolute gain for one part being absolute loss to another – and that is bad politics and an unhappy society.

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