The good the bad and the numpty

Two stories in The National today got me thinking about attitudes to Nicola Sturgeon ─ how she is perceived and presented and how people feel about her. One is the report that Unionists are fuming. How come that gets to be news, I hear you ask. Well, more specifically the more or less constant state of fuming that characterises the British parties squatting in Scotland’s Parliament is currently directed at the First Minister doing something and not something else. More specifically still, Unionists are fuming that the FM went to Copenhagen to open the Scottish Government’s new Nordic Office there ─ the latest in a network of such overseas offices. Apparently, it’s outrageous that Scotland’s First Minister is representing the nation abroad instead of emptying bins in Edinburgh. This despite the fact that representing Scotland in furrin pairts is very much part of the FM’s job description while emptying bins in Edinburgh, if it appears at all, is buried so deeply in the catalogue of First Minister’s duties that nobody has actually read that far.

While the British parties as a lumpen mass fume in concert, individual Unionists make complete fools of themselves as if doing so was part of their job description. The named numpty in this instance is one Sharon Dowey, a British Conservative & Unionist Party in Scotland (BCUPS) list MSP. (No, I’ve never heard of her either. After today, I fully intend to go back to never having heard of her.) Abasing herself in the name of her ‘precious’ Union, designated dimwit Dowey demands to know why the FM “has chosen this moment to go gallivanting around northern Europe.”. Those of us not blinded by British Nationalist bigotry will immediately spot the stupidity here. We realise that the FM didn’t choose this moment. She didn’t choose at all. She had no choice in the matter. The visit to Copenhagen was arranged by officials and may have been in the FM’s diary for months and quite possibly years ─ the pandemic having occasioned the postponement of many such event.

Abandoning any pretence of intellectual competence, Dowey goes on to indignantly insist that “foreign mini-breaks and after-dinner speaking aren’t in the job description”. Yes, they are, you utter bollard! Although characterising the First Minister’s overseas duties as “foreign mini-breaks” is puerile nonsense, because they are duties. They are very much part of the First Minister’s job. As is addressing gatherings of various kinds ─ childishly presented by daft Dowey as “after-dinner speaking”. These are essential parts of the First Minister’s role as Scotland’s head of government. If this at times seems a bit ‘presidential’ then that is only to be expected. Scotland has no head of state to perform ceremonial duties. So, to a considerable extent the FM has to fill that role as well. That’s just the nature of things under the present constitutional arrangements. The constitutional arrangement that Unionists like Dowey are determined to preserve.

Not to be outdone more than massively by their fellow Unionists in BCUPS, British Labour in Scotland (BLiS) appointed Neil Bibby MSP as their spokesbladder. He is reported as having said something.

Unionist sniping at Nicola Sturgeon may be ridiculous, but the intent is not to make serious points about Nicola Sturgeon’s performance as First Minister. It’s all about undermining and delegitimising Scotland’s democratic institutions. When they attack the First Minister of Scotland as they do, British politicians are in a very real sense attacking Scotland. Nicola Sturgeon is their principal target because she is representative of the democratically elected Scottish Parliament and Government. That’s our Parliament and our government. British Nationalists such as Sharon Dowey absolutely abhor the fact that there is a Scottish Parliament and Scottish Government and a First Minister of Scotland. The very existence of these democratic institutions is an affront to their British Nationalist ideology. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that they put so much effort into denigrating the individual who stands for all of Scotland’s distinctiveness by virtue of holding the office of First Minister.

The office of First Minister must be defended. It belongs to us, the people of Scotland. It is ours. When Unionists seek to diminish the incumbent, they seek to diminish the office and the people who own that office. Which is all the people of Scotland. The people of Scotland must respond appropriately to such attacks. We have to fight off assaults on the First Minister just as we must fight off attempts to ‘neutralise’ the Scottish Parliament. Because these things matter. They are important. They are crucial.

Unionist sniping at Nicola Sturgeon as First Minister doesn’t have to be any more sensible than as exemplified by Sharon Dowey. It really doesn’t matter that it is all nonsense spouted by numpties. It’s all grist to the mills of the British propaganda machine which takes the likes of Dowey’s drivel and turns it into massages which plant seeds in minds, chipping away at the credibility of the First Minister and thereby eroding the foundations of Scotland’s democracy.

It works! As evidenced by the other piece in The National which prompted this commentary ─ UK media image of Nicola Sturgeon ‘opposite’ to abroad, CNN N1 anchor says. For media image read public image. The media are used to manipulate perceptions on a populations scale. How the British mass media portray Nicola Sturgeon is how she is perceived by the public. Or that part of the public which is susceptible to manipulation. Which is all of us! We are all susceptible to media manipulation to some degree. It is impossible not to be influenced by the media. We swim in a sea of mediated messages. We are all affected in some way and to some extent by those messages. Even those of us who are aware of the manipulation and informed about the methods used can’t avoid the propaganda. It impinges on our consciousness; therefore, it affects us even if at a subconscious level.

The difference between the way Nicola Sturgeon is portrayed/perceived abroad as opposed to in the UK is explained by the fact that the foreign media have no interest in portraying her in a negative way. They are pretty much neutral in this regard. The difference only serves to highlight just how far from neutral the British media are. The British media has motive. The foreign media doesn’t. The British media is motivated by the British state’s imperative to preserve the Union. The foreign media isn’t. The British media wants Nicola Sturgeon to be seen as a failure or a slacker or a martinet or a self-regarding careerist or any of a catalogue of negative associations because she is the First Minister of Scotland and so represents a force which threatens the Union and thereby the structures of power, privilege and patronage which constitute the British state. She is ‘the enemy’ because she represents Scotland. Scotland is, and always has been, a problem for the British ruling elites because Scotland declines to conform. They are in the process of ‘dealing with’ that problem. The likes of Sharon Dowey just make the pellets of faeces for the British media monkeys to throw at us.

All of this creates a difficulty for the independence movement. Especially those of us who are critical of Sturgeon’s approach to the constitutional issue. It’s all too easy for Sturgeon/SNP loyalists to lump well-meaning critics in with malicious numpties like Dowey so as to avoid addressing the criticism. Which is its own form of numptyism. It is stupid because it misrepresents those who express concern about Sturgeon’s role as the de facto head of the independence movement by confusing and conflating the criticism with her role as First Minister. I have yet to encounter a Sturgeon/SNP loyalist who is capable of grasping the fact that it is perfectly possible to be entirely satisfied with Sturgeon’s overall performance in the role of First Minister while being extremely dubious about her leadership of the fight to restore Scotland’s independence.

The corollary to this is the difficulty many of those who would criticise Sturgeon’s approach to the constitutional issue have in resisting the urge to pick up on the British propaganda ─ echoing and amplifying the vacuous hate-speak spewing from the likes of Dowey. Which in turn justifies the Sturgeon/SNP loyalists who simplistically lump those critics in with the Unionist numpties. You may be beginning to sense a very unfortunate downward spiral here.

The corollary to the corollary is that it becomes difficult for people like myself to defend Nicola Sturgeon in her role as First Minister even as I am quite harshly ─ but always, I hope, fairly ─ critical of her whole approach to the constitutional issue without being denounced by sundry numpties as a Sturgeon/SNP loyalist and/or apologist. Is this the same unfortunate downward spiral, or a separate one? I’m not sure.

Where the downward spiral(s) leads us is to a level of discourse such as is illustrated by Sharon Dowey’s comments. If the downward spiralling isn’t resisted then eventually, we’ll all be talking like her. Like numpties. It would be better if this didn’t happen. It would be preferrable if the issue wasn’t dumbed down to numpty level. That, after all, is what the British want.

Some aspects of Nicola Sturgeon’s general performance as First Minister are good. Some are bad. Some are necessary regardless of whether you see them as good or bad because they come with the job. It would be gratifying if all Yes activists could remain mindful of these distinctions and nuances as they comment. Mindful in a way that is evidently beyond the wit of numpties such as Sharon Dowey.



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10 thoughts on “The good the bad and the numpty

  1. Mmm, what the thick Unionists also missed is this:

    The Nordic office is co-located with Scottish Development International within the British Embassy Copenhagen.

    and this:

    Scottish Development International was established in 2001 by merging the export promotion agency, Scottish Trade International (STI; 1991–2001) and the foreign direct investment and inward investment agency, Locate in Scotland (LiS; 1981–2001).

    2001 being when there was a Lab / LibDem coalition in Holyrood, and 1981 when the Tories were in power at Westminster. The 9 hubs are set up to complement the work of SDI.

    Unionists are as thick as two short Trusses laid end to end.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. A wee heads-up – a hit and run attack on Salvo by an old Herald suspect:

    https://www.heraldscotland.com/politics/20777819.david-leask-1689-claim-right-really-give-scotland-union-opt-out/

    Quotes 2 experts, and then says: “So that is the expert take.” when anyone who has the slightest clue abotu legal constitutional matters knows that if you assembled 100 constitutional and legal experts in a room you’d get 300 different views on most matters. He should at least have contulted Aidan O’Neill and James Wolffe, who quoted the Claim of Right 1689 in the Brexit case, but from different points of view (as the eminently respected McHarg actually would point out).

    If he had any sense at all and had read ANY court judgement he’d know that there is no determining opinion until, errr, what is it again? Oh yes, a Court makes a Determination.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I see from PAB’s twitter above Pete Wishart has been blurting his bowels again, he really does seem to have a thing about any blog or organisation that doesn’t bow down to his Imperial masters (or something like that). Wishart is the glue that holds absolutely nothing together in the Indy movement. He’s going to need more Immodium. Anyways, he might be advised to read this by someone from Oxford not Salvo, and someone closer to Jim Gallagher and Unionism not the Indy movement:

      https://www.scottishconstitutionalfutures.org/OpinionandAnalysis/ViewBlogPost/tabid/1767/articleType/ArticleView/articleId/1540/Iain-McLean-Scotlands-Choice-and-the-Constitutions-Are-We-All-Neil-MacCormicks-Bairns.aspx

      Lord Cooper’s obiter may well be implausible law. But, as a (moderate) MacCormickite, I insist that it is good history. The 1707 Treaty negotiations were conducted when each negotiating state had recently invaded the other; but nobody except Oliver Cromwell had conquered Scotland, and that did not last long. The parties knew that they had to coexist.

      If the answer is Yes [Indy Ref 2014], then the Scottish constitution will very likely have a MacCormickite (Cooperite) tone. It may have yet another Claim of Right in its preamble, stating that “We, the people of Scotland, do ordain and establish this constitution for Scotland”. (Some of the drafters of the US Constitution of 1787 were Scots, or educated by Scots. But that is for another post, another time).

      So, someone with a little bit more Constitutional knowledge and clearly better read than Wishart and Leask, gives due consideration to the Claim of Right, and perhaps, its consequences.

      I’d say to them that they don’t have to agree with Salvo’s interpretation of the power of the 1689 Claim of Right, but they are complete and utter dunderheids if they dismiss it out of hand, without any proper understanding. I don’t often get angry but both Leask and Wishart would be deserving of my anger at their sheer stupidity and ignorance.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. The pure evil venom from such as a British Nationalist is evident, but also their outright hypocrisy.
    MSP Sharon Dowey’s own boss, none other than the Prime Minister of England, has been off on vacation twice within weeks, and amidst Cost of Living Crisis, too.
    She’s said nothing about that.
    The First Minister was also criticised for being at some event at the Edinburgh Festival.
    But where was that same condemnation for Boris Johnson, who was at some other event at same Festival?

    We had to put up with MSP Murdo Fraser on BBC Radio 4, Any Questions, (from Stirling) ranting and raving that the Scottish Government should be paying workers a Living Wage!!!
    Errrmmm, didn’t the conservatives oppose workers having a Living Wage to begin with?
    And again, he totally blanked the point put to him about the striking Court Lawyers in England. And he also didn’t bother to mention the Network Rail dispute, which his own tory lot in London are doing their utmost to keep going.

    Labour’s Anas Sarwar wasn’t too much better. Brushing off the points made to him, about the constraints placed on the Scottish Government by London rule.
    All the things he wants will never happen without Independence. He must surely know that by now.

    Talking of senior SNP figures, I met MP Ian Blackford, on Wednesday in Glasgow on Ingram Street. I shook his hand, but didn’t say anything other than “it was nice to meet you.”
    I figured he was busy going someplace, and so didn’t demand Independence tomorrow!
    He was with I think his secretary, and I’m sure another Glasgow MP.
    It was quite unexpected, and the group seemed surprised, but pleased at same time!

    Liked by 3 people

  4. “I have yet to encounter a Sturgeon/SNP loyalist who is capable of grasping the fact that it is perfectly possible to be entirely satisfied with Sturgeon’s overall performance in the role of First Minister while being extremely dubious about her leadership of the fight to restore Scotland’s independence”.

    I am capable of grasping that fact. However, it is never the subject under discussion. You make your points in your articles then some anti-SNP, allegedly pro-Indy (I still maintain some are unionists hiding in plain sight) commenter goes off on a rant about “Vichy Govts”, “traitors” and sundry other ridiculous claims that only serve to aid unionists in their cause and sow dissent among indies. If I “take issue” with them, I’m instantly cast as an SNP/Sturgeonista loyalist (among other more offensive descriptions) and internecine trench warfare ensues. I’d rather it didn’t, but I don’t get to decide. Unconditional surrender is required of me, and if I don’t oblige the carnage continues.

    And, despite your comments about blogger sites having little effect, they apparently do.

    Having endured another pointless “SNP traitors”/”no they’re not” internet shitfest, I decided to go to the first SNP Branch meeting I’ve been to since 2014, and only the third this millennium, to see for myself what was going on. It was attended by about a dozen or so friendly people, all but three of whom were women (no jack-booted storm troopers as I was being led to expect). Local issues were reported on, the Tory event in Perth was discussed and the upcoming Constituency meeting to formulate the upcoming independence campaign was also discussed (which I was being led to believe would not happen).

    The only sour note was a statement from one member who stated many activists were surprisingly and unexpectedly downbeat about the whole affair and many didn’t seem to believe it was ever going to happen. I wasn’t surprised. I knew exactly where it was coming from.

    The problem with pouring cold water on the fire of people’s hopes and dreams concerning the SNP and independence is that it tends to put the fires out. Those who have been busy doing the pouring seem to believe that those fires will simply spontaneously re-ignite with a mad rush to Alba/ISP/whatever, but that is at best hopeful if not downright delusional. People are not programmable robots who can be directed by a “great leader”. Nor are they a herd of sheep who will simply move from one shepherd to another on command. They are complex individuals who came to the SNP/independence through their own personal journeys. It cannot be assumed they will retain the same passion for independence if the organisation they have put their trust in has been trashed.

    I wanted to go to the Constituency meeting to hear the what the plans were. But, it was my wife’s birthday, and I was therefore contractually obligated to enjoy it with her.

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    1. “They are complex individuals who came to the SNP/independence through their own personal journeys”

      Many of the best independence activists have also left the daeless SNP, in their droves, apparently. Care to explain that?

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Many reasons no doubt Alf. Including the “pouring of cold water on their hopes and dreams” analogy I mentioned above. Like I said, Alba and their ilk seem to believe people will simply believe their anti-SNP rhetoric, get angry/ disheartened and transfer en masse to them. However, those that do, expecting some sort of Hollywood montage of excitement and activity, are soon faced with the reality of just more meetings about stuff and points of order. Only this time, in an organisation that is in no position to do anything meaningful about it. So yet more disenheartenment (possibly not a word). Expectatations of exciting lives is the bain of modern life. You are almost always left disappointed.

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