Mind your language!

saltire_breakoutIt is disappointing to find The National referring to “the NHS”, as if there were a single UK-wide health service. The British media and the British political parties habitually conflate NHS Scotland with NHS England in order to taint the Scottish health service with the defects and failings of its English counterpart. If it is to effectively offer an alternative perspective on Scotland, it is essential that The National avoids such misleading terms.

As we gear up for a new referendum campaign, we must all play a part in reframing Scotland’s political discourse. When the British propaganda machine refers to “the NHS” this is not mere carelessness. It is intentional. It is part of a purposeful effort to confine the narrative to a particular frame – the frame of a ‘One Nation’ British state. We must emphatically reject this frame. We must reclaim our language. We must create our own narrative. We must reframe our entire political discourse.

Scotland is a nation. It is not part of another nation. We are not seeking independence from another nation. Scotland is not ‘un-independent’. Scotland is an independent nation within a political union. We are not seeking independence from ‘Britain’. Britain does not exist as a country. It exists only as a convenient myth created by and on behalf of a British ruling elite. Britain is not a nation. It is the structures of power, privilege and patronage which support and sustain that ruling elite. It is a system by which the few ensure that their interests are served at the expense of the many.

The political union which has been imposed on Scotland is democratically unsustainable because it denies Scotland’s status as a nation and prohibits the effective exercise by Scotland’s people of the sovereignty that is inalienably theirs. Historically, the British state has maintained its grip on Scotland by persuading enough of us that we are subordinate. Language plays a huge part in this process. The wilful discounting of Scotland’s separate health service being just one example.

With the evolution of a distinctive and increasingly divergent political culture in Scotland, more and more people are questioning the myth of the British nation and challenging the asserted authority of the British political elite. People are no longer inclined to meekly accept that Westminster can have a veto on their right of self-determination. People are more inclined to openly and loudly protest the efforts to subordinate Scotland to the British Crown in the British Parliament.

Realising that the Union can no longer be held together with pomp, pageantry and propaganda, the British establishment has resolved to formally strip Scotland of its status as a nation using the opportunity presented by Brexit.

If we are to successfully resist this malignant ‘One Nation’ British Nationalist project, we must escape the mindset inculcated in us over generations of immersion in a narrative shaped by, and for the purposes of, the ruling elites of the British state . We must do this in ways large and small. By insisting on the distinction between NHS Scotland and the rapidly disintegrating remnants of England’s health service. By exacting respect for our democratic institutions and elected representatives. By requiring an end to the withholding of powers from the Scottish Parliament.

By demanding that the Union be dissolved.

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17 thoughts on “Mind your language!

      1. Because it doesn’t differentiate enough allows people either through ignorance or mischief to conflate the two services.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. And what is the magic phrase which prevents people from doing this? Maybe Scottish National Health Service in Scotland (Scotland)? But there’s still nothing to stop the British media saying “the NHS” when this suits their purposes.

        The simple truth is that there is no way to control what others do or say. We only have control over our own behaviour. So, the very best that we can hope for is that people who have Scotland’s interests at heart will make it their rule to use ‘NHS Scotland’ or ‘Scottish Health Service’.


      3. I have to agree with RH here. “NHS Scotland” sounds like it’s just a branch of “THE (UK-wide) NHS”. Same as you might refer to “NHS Devon” or “NHS London” etc. A more distinctive title, reflecting it’s separate nature would be better, e.g. “Health Service of Scotland” or whatever best rolls off the tongue.


      4. In what way would that prevent the British media referring to ‘the NHS’ when it suited them? By all means devote the rest of your days trying to find the magical combination of words which will achieve this. It’s your time to squander.


      5. It would place an obsticle in their path as they couldn’t then correctly use the abbreviation ‘NHS’ and would (hopefully) be barraged with complaints every time they did.


  1. A well measured and well put artcle yet again. It is a relief to enjoy your clarity of perception of what Scottish politics is really about in 2018. All we wish to do is to exert our right, if such is what most of us wish, to repeal the Act of Union under the terms of which we consent to merge some of our governance with that of England.

    The parliament of the Union was never really brought into being. The English parliament simply, and apparently grudgingly, made way for a few representatives from Scotland to ‘sit in’ on their grander deliberations. Over time this has led to an impression that Scotland had simply become an integral part of a Greater England – suitably branded ‘The United Kingdom etc. etc.’ to avoid frightening the horses. Such an impression must be swept away, and, as you suggest, the careful and thoughtful use of our language is important to that end.

    As an aside, I came across this quotation from Frederic Bastiat which illustrates the fundamental ethic of the ruling elite to whom you often refer:

    “When plunder becomes a way of life for a group of men in a society, over the course of time they create for themselves a legal system that authorizes it and a moral code that glorifies it.”

    Liked by 1 person

      1. PS. I approve your mention of ‘our’ language in reference to that tongue commonly called English. It’s not much known that there was a Saxon colony in the Lothians at the time Brythonic southern England was still under Roman occupation and not an Anglo-Saxon in sight.


      2. So sorry! I screwed up on punctuation. It was meant as:-

        PS. I approve your mention of ‘our’ language.
        In reference to that tongue commonly called English,it’s not much known that there was a Saxon colony in the Lothians at the time Brythonic southern England was still under Roman occupation and not an Anglo-Saxon in sight.

        As an Ayrshire man married to a Skye woman I’m very conscious that we have more than one of ‘our’ languages. My point was that the use of English in its early forms happened in Scotland possibly even earlier than in the south.

        Sort of proves your point that we must be very careful in the use of language.


  2. On the subject of language, most English people easily conflate “England” with “Britain” with “The UK”. Have you never been visiting friends/relatives down south and had a conversation like this :

    — Nice to be here again, can’t quite remember when I was last in England …
    — Oh! We didn’t know you’d gone abroad, will you be emigrating [etc. etc.]



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