When the need for illusion is deep

A regrettably rare intervention by Stu Campbell on Wings Over Scotland reminds us of two things. Firstly – and most obviously as this was the purpose of the article – it reminds us of the sickening spate of scaremongering pish that issued from the anti-independence campaign ten years ago and which continues to pour from the mouthpieces of British Nationalism. Specifically, Stu Campbell recalls the desperate drivel peddled by British Nationalists on the subject of post-independence pensions arrangement. He republishes a piece which first appeared on Wings Over Scotland in November 2016 prompted by the fact that the nonsense song described and dissected in that article is still being sung by the likes of “tuba-honking dunderhead Blair McDougall” – best forgotten for being the architect of ‘Project Fear’. Or, at least, the dunderheaded dupe who would have shouldered all the blame had that propaganda exercise failed even more spectacularly than it did. Fortunately for his ample self-regard and unfortunately for Scotland, ‘Project Fear’ (more properly ‘Project Doubt’) succeeded just enough to preserve the abomination that is the Union for the time being. (That time being somewhat in excess of what is tolerable thanks to Nicola Sturgeon. But that’s a topic well enough rehearsed elsewhere.)

The tuba honks!

The second thing we are reminded of is the quality of Su Campbell’s forensic journalism. His skill in dismantling and destroying British Nationalist propaganda was unarguably among the Yes campaign’s greatest assets. An asset now all but entirely lost to Scotland’s cause due to the vicious, vitriolic witch-hunting efforts of that inexplicably favoured clique close to Nicola Sturgeon. The clique which has by word and deed driven almost all of the division now plaguing the entity formerly known as the Yes movement.

No movement can long survive the significant influence of such self-righteous, self-serving ideologues. That clique was always destined to strive towards making the Yes movement an exclusive club for the like-minded. And so it has transpired. It is as likely now that an individual will find themselves excluded from and vilified by the self-proclaimed voice of Scotland’s cause as that they will be embraced by a once famously inclusive collective.

The British Nationalist propaganda about pensions is, quite literally, unbelievable. It cannot be true. But it doesn’t have to be. It’s purpose during the first referendum campaign was not principally to persuade people of the need to preserve the Union in order to protect pensions. It’s more insidious purpose was to instil doubt or aggravate and inflate such doubts as may have been harboured. Doubt, not fear, was Better Together’s most potent weapon. Although I don’t suppose Blair McDougall actually realised this.

A secondary but far from insignificant purpose of the British Nationalist propaganda on pensions etc. – really, all the ‘economic arguments’ – was to provide a ready-made rationalisation for those who had already decided to vote No – for reasons which had little or nothing to do with rationality. When somebody tells you they voted No because the Yes campaign ‘failed to present a sound economic case’ then you are perfectly entitled to doubt the veracity of this claim. Which is not to say that the individual in question is lying. Technically, they’re not. If they actually believe what they say is the case then it cannot be a lie. Nor is it to say that they are stupid. Although that possibility should certainly not be discounted.

Saul Bellow made an observation which is relevant here.

A great deal of intelligence can be invested in ignorance when the need for illusion is deep.

Saul Bellow, To Jerusalem and Back

People will work very hard at believing that which is expedient or which accords with their prejudices and preconceptions. Bear that quote in mind.

The propaganda of the ‘righteous radicals’ who have captured the SNP is of a different type. The propaganda deployed by the clique of crazies who form Sturgeon’s ‘palace guard’ is crude even by comparison with the product of the anti-independence campaign. It is hate-mongering. It is bullying, berating and browbeating intended to drive out anyone who presumes to question the ‘official’ line. The likes of Graham Campbell (see above) and Pete Wishart offer no counter-arguments to those who are critical or even mildly questioning of the direction in which Nicola Sturgeon has taken Scotland’s cause. They do no more than supply the tar and feathers that their ‘Angry Villager’ army then heaps upon the unhappy heretic before running them out if the Yes movement on a rail.

Never forget the lies! Never forgive the liars! When first I wrote that it was aimed at the likes of Blair McDougall and Gordon Brown. Now, it could just as readily be intended for such as Graham Campbell and Pete Wishart. The former peddled hate and fear and doubt and lies in the name of preserving the structures of power, privilege and patronage which constitute the British state. The latter do much the same in the name of pathological control-freakery and rigid dogma.

In the face of this new propaganda onslaught, the activist base of the Yes movement has taken refuge in illusion. Fantasy politics reigns! The need for illusion is deep among Sturgeon/SNP loyalists who put their faith in ‘Nicola’s Great Secret Plan’ and Salmond/Alba devotees who put their faith in the equally illusory notions of a ‘supermajority’ and a Hollywood-style finale to Scotland’s cause. A great deal of intelligence is invested in promoting the ignorance which is necessary for the illusion to persist.

Ten years ago, when British Nationalists were pushing the fantasy of a beneficent British state down our throats, Stu Campbell was there methodically puncturing the bubble of illusion and providing a clear and impeccably researched view of reality. His voice was viciously suppressed because he insisted on that reality in preference to other illusions being peddled by those who claim the exclusive authority to speak for Scotland’s cause. I for one mourn the loss of that voice.

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21 thoughts on “When the need for illusion is deep

  1. Excellent stuff, not because it takes the SNP to task for the tactics employed by their more vocal members but it shows how those with a defective imagination all repeat the same tired cliches and accusations.

    The narrative that anything that’s not 100% progressive is far-right, alt-right or fascist is copied verbatim from the campuses of Berkeley or Portland. It bears no resemblance to the reality on the ground here on this side of the Atlantic but since it’s good enough for the wild-eyed liberals in America it must be good here too. There must be a website out there with a checklist for self-proclaimed progressives to tweet from.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Like you , I regret Stu Campbell’s decision to bow out of the frontline. We very much miss his searing analysis of events and the confidence he inspired when you were using his journalism. I also miss his style of presentation which was easy to read with well-chosen illustrations and appropriate information blocks , other bloggers should study and copy.
    Does anyone know if the new wee blue book is still to be produced and if so , when?

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Politically?

    Comparing the British Nationalism Party ‘ BNP ‘/SNP?
    Support for the political independence of a particular
    Nation’s people; British or Scottish electorates: see?
    And the Electorate opting for the best form of curricular!

    © Ewen A. Morrison 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿


  4. Just noticed in my previous comment I used the correct spelling not the weird ‘Natioanlism’ that Mr McD has coined in case anyone was wondering what I was on about!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I really do not see how we can blame other parties when the Pension furore just now was started by the top 3 officials in the SNP. They have turned full circle and left it to the activists to explain on the doors. The White Paper then the Growth Commission dumped and now the other 3 countries will pay our pensions.?


    1. I was under the impression the “furore” was instigated by a report from the Fraser of Allander Institute warning that the rUK government might try to wriggle out of its obligations. I don’t see any sign that the SNP’s position on this has changed at all. The situation remains exactly as it was described by Stu Campbell in 2016.

      The “furore” arises from Yes supporters allowing the British parties to press their buttons. They say that the situation has changed and nobody stops to ask if it really has. It hasn’t. Even the likelihood of the rUK government seeking to get out of its obligation is hardly novel. It rather goes without saying that this is how they’ll behave. British Nationalists come at things like this from an abiding assumption that the British government can do whatever it pleases and Scotland can do nothing about it. It never fails to amaze and disgust me how many Yes activists go along with this. They take it for granted that Scotland will be at the mercy of perfidious Albion. The reality is that Scotland will hold a very strong hand in negotiations. It is the British who have most to lose. Once independence is a fait accompli the Brits will be looking for the best deal they can get. They’ll be seeking to retain as much as possible of what they get from having Scotland as annexed territory.

      Liked by 4 people

      1. The Fraser of Allander statement came after Blackford started this and backed up by Katie Forbes then also backed up by the FM. The White paper said we paid the pension +triple lock and the Growth Commission said similar – the triple lock. John Swinney in between said Scotland cannot afford the pension and now Scot Gov say England, Wales and Ireland will pay the Scottish pension. That is some mess you have to admit. How do you come back from that. Its 18 months till the referendum so they better get going on that. The activists will get slaughtered on the door. What will happen to the overseas people from the UK is that Scotland will look after Scots pensions and the other 3 nations will look after theirs. Never mind Mr Campbells article on this. He is not in government. It is what it is. Its an article on how he sees it. This is one mess Scot Gov is going to have to fix quick. Double quick. There is no pension pot. Never has been. If everyone stopped paying our NIC this week there would be a pension for 2 months. Maybe 3. Scotland would get a share of that surplus which would not pay 1 pension month so they better get a move on. The FM has made so many mistakes this week. Telling us the weather. Interfering in the football case illegally the cutting the bottom off classroom doors and sticking to that even when it was making herself look stupid. Now the pensions.


        1. What I’m reading in your comments is the perspective on this issue as presented by the likes of Tom Gordon in The Herald. Definitely not a reliable source. Unless you’re relying on home misrepresenting what was said by the SNP previously and what they’re saying now. The guy is a genius when it comes to deceitful spin. I’m no great fan of Sturgeon and the SNP. But I’m quite enamoured of honesty. And there’s some seriously dishonest commentary going on here.

          As there always has been, of course. Tom Gordon may have got better with practice, but he’s always been pretty good at presenting Scotland as some sort of impoverished hell-hole where nothing works and everything is broken and never mind the incompetence and corruption of Westminster look at the slapstick tragedy that is the Scottish Government. And there have always been folk in the Yes movement who fall for it. In one breath they’ll insist that they never believe anything they read in the British Nationalist press. In the next they’re giving an account of the situation lifted almost verbatim from a Tom Gordon piece.

          I’m kinda resigned to this sort of foolishness now. The failure to learn from past mistakes goes far wider than just the SNP leadership.

          The position on pensions hasn’t changed. It was as Stu Campbell described it in November 2016 and it remains thus to this day. Nicola Sturgeon certainly makes genuine mistakes. But only avid readers of Tom Gordon’s propaganda imagine everything she does is a mistake. Those of us with our heads other than up our arses recognise that there are many situations – almost an ongoing situation – in which the First Minister is damned if she does and damned if she doesn’t. The footballer case is a prime example of this. Those determined to make it seem like she is a constant fuck-up will condemn her for speaking out. While those who are determined to make it seem like she is a constant fuck-up will condemn her for remaining silent. The smart thing to do is ignore those who are determined to make things seem as they aren’t and dig a little for the facts and whatever truth there may be.

          When there may be benefits from improving ventilation in classrooms creating more ways for air to get in and out of the room is. by definition, a good idea. Anybody living in the real world will be aware of the drafts that come under doors. Normally, we expend a lot of effort and resources trying to minimise the amount of air passing below or around doors. Circumstances have developed such that the opposite is now the case. Where previously draughtproofing was the imperative, optimising doors for ventilation is now the aim. Or, as Tom Gordon would put it, hacking a foot of the bottom of fire doors. Evidently, you prefer the Tom Gordon version. There was a time when this would have annoyed me. Now it just leaves me feeling a bit sad and weary.

          Liked by 2 people

  6. A very long answer to a simple question and that is who started this pension debate. It was Blackford. Seconded by Forbes and ratified by Sturgeon. Since you opened up on other subjects, well Sturgeon stepping into the football situ was illegal. Scottish law brought in in 2020 says its 2.5 years has to pass before a conviction can be held against someone. This was a pile on and a big mistake. we expect better from our FM. Raith Rovers will rue the day they backed down. On the doors in schools I will leave you with that one. Its smoke that kills most fire victims. This was the most stupid mistake Sturgeon made and she is so stubborn she will not back down. My MSP sitting behind her is by the looks of the outage is in full support of the FM. Your comment sounds like you support her also on cutting off the bottom of doors. I would keep quiet on that if I were you.


        1. You’ve descended to the infantile now. Does nothing good for whatever remained of your credibility.

          As you evidently have nothing sensible to say, I reckon I’ll just leave it there.


  7. Some absolute nonsense you are spouting on pensions, there is no pot and never has been. The taxes you pay today pays for the pensions of today. Absolutely no chance the UK Government will keep paying Scottish pensioners and they have confirmed that this morning. If there was a pot of money then it would be part of the asset/liability spilt anyway, but as there is no pot of money it won’t be. It’s all facts in front of you. It’s not hard.


    1. When did I say there was a “pot”? Maybe try reading the fucking article BEFORE commenting. It’s the grown-up way to go about it.

      It’s not about a “pot”. It’s about entitlement and liability. Concepts which appear to be beyond you comprehension.

      In an explainer published a couple of weeks before the 2014 vote the BBC (hardly a hotbed of Scottish nationalism) stated the position so succinctly that even you should be able to understand it.

      “The UK government have agreed that if you’ve been building up an entitlement to a UK pension, that will be honoured, but it might be dished out via the Scottish Pensions System rather than the UK one.”

      D’you see it now? Entitlement and liability? Have you got it yet? No “pot” or even the hint of one. It’s not that hard.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Ironic you accusing me of not reading the article when yours is factually incorrect, it was originally raised by Ian Blackford backed up by Kate Forbes and then discussed at FMs questions all before the FOAI report.

        A pension is a benefit, there is zero obligation to pay anything. If you have some legal contract to prove you are entitled to a state pension let’s see it. If you agree there is no pot then the pensions can only be funded from NI and taxes and there is no chance the English, Welsh and Northern Ireland taxpayers will keep paying for the pensions of the people in an independent Scotland, the UK Government have confirmed this already this morning.


        1. “The UK government have agreed that if you’ve been building up an entitlement to a UK pension, that will be honoured, but it might be dished out via the Scottish Pensions System rather than the UK one.”

          Liked by 2 people

  8. Look who’s peddling the pensions pish that idiot Yes supporters have picked up and run with.

    “John Ferry is a contributing editor for the think tank These Islands and a former financial journalist” – https://www.spectator.co.uk/article/does-ian-blackford-think-england-should-fund-scottish-pensions-after-scexit-/amp

    British Nationalist propaganda wouldn’t be nearly so effective if they didn’t get quite so much help from fuckwits who supposedly support the restoration of Scotland’s independence. It was ever thus. It was the same story during the 2014 referendum campaign. We might even have won that if a third or more of the Yes movement hadn’t fallen for every ruse the British pulled.

    And here it is again. Self-declared Yes activists swarming over social media in numbers the British could never muster repeating almost verbatim the shite that dribbles out of the likes of ‘These Islands’.

    I despair!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I still can’t believe you don’t understand this.

    I have some magic beans to sell you if you truly believe that taxpayers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland will pay the pensions of Scots in an independent Scotland while Scots contribute nothing to the pensions of English, Welsh and Northern Irish people. Even saying that out loud shows you how absurd it sounds.

    The UK Government has confirmed it this morning, you can harp back to articles or statements from years ago all you like (since when did you take the word of UK Government Ministers as gospel and the 100% truth all of a sudden) but it won’t be happening.

    If it was true then the outgoings for the pension bill would stay the same but the incomings would reduce so existing taxpayers and NI payers would have to pay more to fund the pensions of pensioners in an independent Scotland, no government is ever going to do that.


    1. I understand perfectly, sonny. I’ve been dealing with shallow-minded buffoons like you for a lot of years. You get one idea planted in you head and then never question it. There are a lot like in senior positions in the SNP and throughout the Yes movement. That’s a very large part of the reason Scotland’s cause has made zero progress in more than seven years. There is no capacity for fresh thinking among those who have taken control of the campaign. They, like yourself, are stuck in some kind of time-warp, constantly rehashing arguments that were pointless ten years ago and are just ludicrous now.

      You suffer from a condition called colonised mind. That is why you can’t help peddling British Nationalist imagining you’re taking sense.

      But I’m wasting my time here. The Brits own you. They control you. If it’s in the British media today, you’ll be parroting it tomorrow utterly convinced that you are being wise. It long ago ceased to be amusing. Now, it’s just tragic.

      Liked by 1 person

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