The message and the language

I note the now standard indignation quotes from Pete Wishart and Mhairi Black. The outrage seems very routine these days. The language has grown dull with overuse. The same stock phrases deployed for every new outrage. Had they not specified the British political elite’s proposal to gerrymander the Scottish Affairs Committee it would have been impossible to tell which iniquity the two SNP big-hitters were talking about. In short, it’s boring! Mind-numbingly boring!

I am an unabashed political anorak and proud keyboard warrior in the battle to restore Scotland’s independence. If I find these rote renderings of scandalised sensibilities ditch-water dismal imagine what effect they might have on a wider public purposefully alienated from politics and disengaged from the democratic process. I’ll tell you what effect it will have. None! Joe and Jane McPublic were switched off before either Pete Wishart or Mhairi Black opened their mouths to speak. And nothing in what was said or the way it was said was going to switch them on. They’ve heard it all before. It’s the magnolia emulsioned woodchip in the unregarded background of their lives.

Mhairi Black and Pete Wishart could be reciting the End User Licence Agreement for some Microsoft product for all the attention they’ll get from the very people who urgently need to be told what is happening.

Here’s an interesting fact! The Tories are very bad! What’s that you say? It’s not an interesting fact? Everybody in Scotland already knows this? It is actually a banal, hackneyed commonplace and not in the slightest bit interesting to anybody? Well! Colour me astounded! So, why do SNP politicians keep proclaiming the badness of the Tories as if they were imparting a novel gobbet of political wisdom? What’s the point? Who are they talking to? Won’t everybody who happens to hear them rightly assume that they’ve heard it all before and turn their attention back to the sports pages or that riveting afternoon soap opera about the everyday antics of stereotypical characters in a generic English town? Of course they will!

Nobody in Scotland needs to be told that the Tories are bad. But the Tories are not the real problem for Scotland. Anyone who imagines the constitutional situation would be much different or any better with a British Labour government in London is very naive. They might introduce some superficially progressive policies. But if history is our guide then they would do little or nothing to roll back the economically damaging and socially corrosive changes made by their dancing partners in faux rivalries foxtrot of British politics. The superficially progressive reforms would be invariably inadequate, ill-thought, badly implemented and short-lived. Most importantly, they would be intended for the benefit of communities very different from Scotland and to address issues that are not necessarily relevant to Scotland, or which call for a solution that is shaped by Scotland’s particular needs, priorities and circumstances.

Whether in government or in opposition, the policies and positions of British Labour will always be formulated to appeal to or avoid offending the relatively tiny number of voters in England who actually decide elections within the managed democracy of the UK. The very same voters who are foremost in the minds of British Tories as they develop policy. They’re both hunting the same beast. So they both use the same bait and the same traps – with different camouflage.

In Scotland – and perhaps elsewhere – the epithet ‘Red Tories’ is often used in referring to British Labour. As is often the case this is an oversimplification. It implies that British Labour is not at all different from British Tories. Self-evidently, this is not the case. There are marked differences in many policy areas, even if the difference is less apparent by the time the policies are implemented. What the term ‘Red Tories’ should be taken to mean is that as far as Scotland is concerned they might as well be the same party because both are, first, foremost and incorrigibly British parties. It’s the ‘British’ bit that matters, not the Labour or the Tory bit.

The British Tories treat Scotland with contempt, not because they are Tories, but because they are British. British Labour, being every bit as British as the British Tories, will always treat Scotland with a disdain that is barely distinguishable from the British Tories. The contempt and disdain derive from the same British exceptionalism and British nationalism in both cases. The authority for this total absence of respect is also the same – the Union!

That is what Mhairi Black and Pete Wishart and their colleagues should be talking about. And in such a forceful, forthright and emphatic a manner as might get the attention of a public afflicted with chronic ennui. People should be angry about what is happening. It is perfectly fitting that people should be angered by attempts to further reduce the already derisory influence of Scotland’s elected representatives in the English-as-British parliament. When the ruling elites of England-as-Britain make Scotland’s representatives second-class MPs they make everybody in Scotland a second-class citizen in their own country. If we cannot be roused to anger by that then we deserve all the considerable and increasing contempt that British politicians throw at us.

It is long past time that SNP politicians learned to feed the anger in order that it might energise Scotland’s cause. It is long past time they learned to make the Union the target of that anger. Instead, they urge us to put up with the insults and the threats because this will drive up support for independence. And so it should! But only if the reality is presented to people in such a way as to make them listen and force them to think. At present, the language contradicts the message. It is a powerful message. But SNP politicians suck all the power out of it by the way they speak.

This has to change. The message is both powerful and urgent. The Union is bad for Scotland, and rapidly getting worse. The Union is the problem. All the rest is mere symptoms of the Union’s malignant grip on Scotland. The people of Scotland need to know this. They need to be told this in language that leaves no room for doubt about the Union’s cancerous effect on Scotland or the threat posed to Scotland by rampant British Nationalism armed with the power of the Union. If the SNP will not make the effort to convey this critical message then the task falls to the Yes movement. And even if SNP politicians do decide to alter the tone and target of their rhetoric the Yes movement must amplify and broadcast the message so that it penetrates the heads and hearts of even the most apathetic of Scotland’s people.

It’s time to stop farting about! It’s time to get angry! It’s time to get loud and outspoken and passionate and assertive! It’s time for Scotland to rise up and demand an end to the anti-democratic iniquity of the Union! And it’s bloody high time the SNP got serious about Scotland’s predicament.

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20 thoughts on “The message and the language

  1. Agree with almost all of that. Where I part company with you is in your use of ‘British’. Yes, we all live on an island, surrounded by other littler islands, and we call it Britain. So far, so good. However, in the political sense of ‘Britishness’, the reality is actually just ‘Englishness’ because none of the Unionists from either side off the border actually mean that we are all one big family, no matter the p**h they spout. Without exception, what they mean is England-as-the-UK because that is all there is. All Unionists treat the other three parts with utter contempt and lack of understanding.

    People need to get it through their heads that there is no actual, real and influencing input from Scotland, Wales or NI that does anything more than shore up England-as-the-UK. In that sense, we are already regions of a Greater England. Some believe that when the anti Union politicians and commentators of 1707 Scotland talked about the “end of ane auld sang”, that they meant that Scotland would be no more, because that was patently nonsense, given the Articles of the Treaty itself which the Scots knew to be an international contract between two independent, sovereign states, and which upheld its nationhood. What they actually meant, and all writings and utterances around this bear that out, is that they knew, in their hearts, from bitter experience, as, indeed, did the pro Unionists, that England would do all in its power to undermine, sideline and neglect Scotland in favour of England’s interests. They were not wrong.

    The use of ‘British’ for what is nothing more nor less than English Nationalism dilutes the real impact of what is happening, too. The NI Catholics and the Irish State itself, when speaking off the independence struggle also use the term, ‘British’ or ‘Brits’, but they were under no illusion at all that they were speaking about England and English Nationalism. Unlike so many here, the Irish have always understood what they were up against, and, albeit many of the Black and Tans were Scots, they viewed us as paid employees of the English ruling elite, not as independent actors. Until we, too, are prepared to state in no uncertain terms that our own struggle has little to nothing to do with the other parts of the UK apart from England-as-the-UK, in vain hopes that we can placate the minority rUK voters in our midst to come alongside and vote with us for independence, we will forever be shooting arrows at the messenger. The Union, too, is little more than a metaphor for England-as-the-UK.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. I perhaps need to make it clearer that I use the term ‘British’ to refer to something that is quite separate from any of the people’s of these islands. When I write or speak of the ‘British state’ or the ‘British political elite’ I am actually referring to established power. The structures of power, privilege and patronage which perpetuate themselves through history. Structures which serve the people of England little better than they do the people of Scotland or Wales or the bit of Ireland where they still hold sway.

      I have lately taken to using a term that I picked up from a newspaper article. Regrettably, I didn’t take note of the author as I would like to afford them due credit for coining the term ‘England-as-Britain’. I suspect this term captures the essence of what each of us is trying to express. Bit it is a little cumbersome when used in conjunction with other terms. For example, ‘British state’ becomes ‘English as British state’.

      It is good that we have these discussions because, as I attempt to point out in my article, language is important. I give a great deal of thought to the language I use. (Aye! Even the expletives!) But I am always hoping to improve and therefore open to advice and constructive criticism.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Ah. Understood. My apologies. I also agree that the ruling elites have no interest in anyone – Scottish, English, Welsh or NI – who is not them, and, yes, you are right, they are separate from the national question and any concept of national self-determination. They are everywhere in the world and they all pursue their own interests. Ordinary people die in conflicts that serve no one and nothing but this elite group, and, although not a conflict, Brexit is the perfect example of ordinary people with, sometimes, genuine grievances being used as cannon fodder to cover the real motives – usually the never-ending accumulation of wealth and power – of these elites.

        Liked by 3 people

    2. I rather like the expression Perfidious Albion. It has an ancient heritage and describes precisely the duplicity of the British state since 1707 and the English nation before that. Scotland has never been part of Albion.

      PS, I enjoyed your letter in the paper yesterday.


      1. “Foreigners say publicly, I mean our own allies, that we [England] are a perfidious nation; and since we have violated our treaty with Scotland, and laugh at the notion of fundamental and inviolable articles [of Union], there is no great wonder if we treat other nations as we do.”

        Robert Harley, 1st Earl of Oxford and Earl Mortimer

        Liked by 2 people

  2. It is time I think to stand up and declare that for some common sense, evidence and argumentation are utterly irrelevant. It’s a bit like the old example of playing chess with a pigeon; it doesn’t matter what move you make, the pigeon will shit on the board, overturn all the pieces and coo contentedly thinking it has won the game. There comes a point when the arts of persuasion and reason become self defeating. It is indeed time to deploy emotion with purpose.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. I have done my best to understand this, try putting in your false teeth in first before flapping your gums. You sound like one those {intellectual english history guys}


  4. The SNP hierarchy are becoming more and more like the kind of politicians that I want rid of in Scotland. I understood Britain as England and vice versa even as a child. Live cricket simultaneously broadcast on both BBC 1 and BBC 2 in Scotland is as far back in my living memory as I can go.
    Thanks for your posts Peter and for your comments Lorna Campbell.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. The SNP should withdraw her MPs from Westminster. Its no use saying they weren’t elected on a platform of non attendance like Sinn Fein- no; they were elected on a platform of Scotland seceding from the Union this cant be done by giving credibility to the institutions of the state we wish to secede from.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Savour the original and full length “March of the Imperial Masters”

      With one hastily organised street action Matt and Dennis became overnight absolute legends.

      To there friends they were lovable legends before of course. 😉

      Liked by 2 people

  6. There are parallels with post 2016 when May said: “Now is not the time”.

    The same eerie silence has gripped the SNP. What is Nicola doing right now , this very minute! Why is she not doing something instead of nothing. From the outside looking in. It appears that she has used all her ammunition and is now hiding in her bunker watching the world on CCTV.

    I can’t even think of anything to say about the current situation. It’s just a numb feeling of emptiness.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I agree Big Jock numb feeling of emptiness just like the 19th September 2014. Our politicians are not serving our needs and we do need another indy backing party to form out of the grass roots movement.
      It’s the only thing that might galvanise some response from them. They will get a kicking in 2021 i reckon and that will serve the unions purpose perfectly. They have underplayed their hand and stiffled instead of galvanised the yes movement. They are boring us to death and perpetual subservience to the union. Are they feart i wonder?

      I agree Peter that we fight the establishment which exists in all corners of britain whether england or not. I do not think we should alienate the decent english friends that we do have that are also badly served by british incompetence, arrogance and disdain. The new blue wall will find out all about that i think.

      Liked by 3 people

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