No place for honesty

In case you hadn’t heard, there’s an All Under One Banner (AUOB) march and rally in Edinburgh today. Having tested positive for Covid, I will not be able to attend. My feelings about that are somewhat mixed. Part of me wants to be there because I recognise the importance of making the independence movement visible. Ideally, so visible that not even Nicola sturgeon can ignore it. Another part of me is relieved that I won’t be attending. I don’t cope well with large gatherings and social occasions. My memory is failing quite badly. I don’t recognise faces or remember names and I find this embarrassing and stressful. My hearing is not great. I have difficulty hearing conversations against a lot of background noise. This too I find stressful. I react very badly to stress. Even what I once considered ‘normal’ stress tends make me quite ill.

This is not a whine or a plea for sympathy. It is merely a pragmatic recognition of my condition. Mostly, it can be put down to the ageing process. But I suspect that my aversion to crowds is to some extent a hangover from lockdown. Whatever! I think it is important to recognise one’s limitations. There are things that I simply can’t do any more. When that happens, the sensible thing is to stop doing those things and find other things that you can do.

Despite recognising those limitations, I had decided that I would attend the rally until Covid knocked that on the head. I would not have been able to do the full march on account of my dodgy knees. (Aye! That’s another of those limitations!) But I had been invited to speak at the rally. And that’s another reason I’m a bit relieved that I can’t go. Not that I have issues with public speaking. I have never had a problem speaking to an audience of whatever size. That’s because I am always prepared. I don’t get up to speak without being well-briefed. I only speak about things I have given some thought. That gives me the confidence I need. To anyone who does dread speaking to an audience I would say that preparation is the key.

I hesitate to add to what is turning out to be a catalogue of defects and deficiencies, but I have to say that one of the reasons I’m less enthusiastic about public speaking than once I was is that my voice is rather weak these days. I find I am unable to project as I used to and talking at length strains my voice in a way it never has. So there’s that! But there is another, and probably more interesting reason I’m kind of glad I won’t be making that speech today. I have nothing to say that people want to hear.

People attend these events looking to be enthused and gratified. They want reasons to clap and cheer. If you take to the platform for the purpose of giving the crowd what they want then you will be a hero. What they want is to be told that the cause they support is making good progress. They want to be told that the Union is on the verge of collapse. They want to be told that independence has never been closer. They don’t want to be made uncomfortable. They want to be made to feel good about themselves. They don’t want to hear the discomfiting truth. They want to be reassured that the political reality is what they wish it was.

I can’t give the crowd what they want. Rather, I could give them what they want. I can do rabble-rousing as well as the next person. But it wouldn’t be honest. And I am persuaded that honesty is important. I am not going to encourage complacency when that is arguably the greatest threat to Scotland’s cause. I’m not going to tell a crowd of independence activists that all is well when I know that it really isn’t. I am not willing to tell people that the cause of independence is on the verge of some ‘great leap forward’ when the reality is that we are as far from restoring Scotland’s independence as we were ten years ago. I am not about to try and convince people that we are on course for our goal when the truth is that we are stuck in the mire with no prospect of escape.

It is one thing to put the unwelcome facts of the matter in a blog article or a below-the-line comment in The National. It’s quite another to give bad news to a live crowd that is hungry for reassurance. Not that I’m too troubled about being unpopular. If I wanted popularity and big stats I’d be like Paul Kavanagh and pander to the deceived and deluded. If I wanted applause I’d find it readily enough by joining in the chorus of unalloyed praise for Nicola Sturgeon and her government. Sturgeon/SNP loyalists are easily pleased. Their applause is readily bought. All it’ll cost you is your integrity.

Or I could indulge the other tribe by making up stuff about how we don’t need the SNP and constantly regurgitating old news about the various failures and failings of the SNP over the last few years. The Alba Party supporters in that crowd are also easily pleased. If one is prepared to tell them only what they want to hear rather than point to the flaws in their proposals. They don’t want honesty. Tragically few of the people in the crowd at the #AUOBEdinburgh rally are prepared to listen to the truth.

Maybe they’re right. Perhaps this just isn’t the kind of occasion when it is appropriate to spell out hard truths about the status of our cause. It could be that only people who can pretend should be speaking from that platform. In which case, I have absolutely no business being there. Let them have their fun! Let them enjoy the moment! Reality has it’s teeth bared and will bite them on the arse soon enough.

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14 thoughts on “No place for honesty

  1. “Their applause is readily bought. All it’ll cost you is your integrity.”

    I was careful when cutting and pasting that in case I was lacerated by its razor-sharpness or burned by its acidic sardonicism.

    More importantly it has pin-point precision.

    It makes me wonder why Nicola Sturgeon isn’t speaking at every one of these rallies such is her revered and much lauded ‘communication skills’.

    As for those deceived and deluded those folks are self-taught … and extremely well self-taught if comments left in The National and on social media are anything to go by.

    The disparate state of the Yes ‘movement’ is reflected in the fact that there are AUOB, XR and Enough is Enough marches all happening in Edinburgh today:

    All Under x Banners anyone?

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Take care of yourself, Peter. I know exactly how you feel.

    As to the unvarnished truth, I don’t know. Personally, I find I cannot live without it, while, at the same time, I’m not really able to live with it, either, not for too long without doing something to make it more palatable. I suppose that I want to face the truth but find it hard not to hope. Hope is all that humans have really, even in the bleakest times, hope that things will get better. Take away hope and we have nothing to sustain us mentally. The powers to be think that splits in the independence movement signal their victory, but they could not be more wrong: it is far more likely to signal ours.

    However, having said that, it is reality and our very human need to bend it to our will that makes us actually get off our backsides and do stuff. Some of us are doers, some of us are thinkers, some of us are neither, but, by some osmosis still get there, eventually. I think that is why it is often so hard for so many people to accept the reality of a situation straight away: they need time to digest the implications; they need to time to work out what can be done and what can’t be done, hoping all the while that something can possibly be done. Only then, can they move forward to what needs to be done.

    Events can turn on a sixpence, as we know from history. Indeed, that is the most likely scenario always, not the long, patient, interminable wait. I have a strong feeling that this is how the independence question will be resolved: one day, something will give; something will be just too much or the mass of the people; and they will turn. Elites never learn. The ones who rule us always are lulled into a false sense of “they’ll put up with anything” until we, the proles, disabuse them of that certainty.

    That has been the case throughout history: human society does not change as such; it sifts out the saveable, everything that actually works for, and sustains, us, and dumps the rest, which means, of course, that the wheel turns full circle, but, usually, without actually going backwards, if that makes sense. Unfortunately, that can involve violence, it can involve loss of life, and sometimes, it can be achieved peacefully if the elites do not resist too much. We will get there, Peter, but it will be swift and irresistible when we do, not a slow mission creep.

    Liked by 4 people

  3. I think folk will have mixed motives for attending this march and others. Some will be deluded SNP/Sturgeon loyalists of the kind suggested by Peter. Others will be present to demonstrate continued commitment to the indy cause, not a commitment to any particular party or party leader.

    Peter says he was invited to speak at the march. Given that his views are well known, he can’t have been invited with the expectation he’d sing the praises of the SNP or Sturgeon, or ALBA, but presumably because he’d be expected to speak some home truths as he sees them to any deluded SNP (or ALBA) loyalists (I don’t think as big a proportion of these crowds as Peter seems to think). Not being there because of his various issues, including covid, is completely understandable, but not being there because he assumes he’d be in a minority of one, and that no-one would listen sympathetically to what he’d have to say, is a cop-out.

    How relieved the SNP must be that Peter won’t be speaking today. Instead, we have to hope that someone else will be there to speak Peter’s mind for him. And to hope that Peter recovers well enough, and soon, so he can be ready for his next speaking engagement.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It seems there is a need for clarification. There is no “cop-out”. If it were not for the positive test I would have been at the rally and I would have spoken and I would have presented the crowd with those “home truths”. It would not be the first time I’ve done this. All I was saying in the article is that it gets more difficult as time goes on and as the Yes movement becomes more fractured and tribal. Those difficulties are all part of the game. I’m not quite out of the game yet.

      Liked by 4 people

  4. Years ago I had probems with my knees, walking up steps was one at a time holding on to any handrail. By the time I climbed up off the car deck of Calmac ferries it was nearly time to go back down again. Then a customer who’d also done a lot of hill-walking in earlier years suggested Seven Seas JointCare Active – the one with Chondroitin which apparently lubricates joints. Took maybe a month but basically no more problems with the knees, as long as I remember to put on my knee (and elbow) support bandages (from a pound shop). I also still have to work for my sins and stand around on a concrete floor so I make sure I remember to put the rubber mat down – and at times the radio with a bit of dancing on the spot rather than standing motionless for hours at a time.
    Wife and I had to keep rewinding programs to catch the speech with this annoying habit they have of drowning speech out with stupid atmospheric music. By chance I needed to replace my ancient Cambridge sound sytem for the PC and looking at reviews for sound bars, long and short a £39.99 sound bar from Amazon and we can now hear speech clearly – even our kids when they visited found it a lot easier. Apparently modern sound quality on films and programmes is crap as they use crap recording kit. So much for progress. I think that’s made a difference outside too, as I can hear speech more clearly and have decided I really don’t need a hearing aid. Listening to conversations with a lot of background noise is also a mix of concentration, practice – and confidence. If you think your ears are fecked, that’s not going to make you confident generally, you think you’re just getting old. Cobblers to that, 100 year olds can be as sharp as a pin – and hear one drop a mile off, specailly if it’s stuff being reduced in the supermarket. Also Covid staying in restricted practice. If you can’t even hear yourself speak clearly it reduces your confidence yet again and so yes, you won’t project your speech as well as you used to.

    Get a sound bar (mines’s a 50w Bowfell majority, it can play quiet whereas the 120w can’t), take 1 or 2 capsules (I’d do without food to take mine as otherwise I can’t work for food), and lo and behold, you’ll be out and about making speeches here there and everywhere, and God help us all 😦

    Anyways, I don’t listen to speeches, most speechers are too far up themselves. Except Yousaf at the National rally in George Square. Useless Minister, great inspirational speaker. Sturgeon was the usual stuff which is why I never listen, only quickly scan the transcript.

    Bloody wordpress, swallows your posting when you log in at the time of “post comment”.


  5. We looked out for you at the Rally Peter but knew that as you’d had Covid there wasn’t much chance that you’d be there. We go to Marches and run street stalls mainly to be visible and so that it is not possible for anyone to claim that “ the interest in Independence has died off “.
    I think that many people realise this but also just take a bit of comfort from being in a crowd of like minded people!
    It is heartening to see not only “oldies” like us but young people and families.
    We always read your blog and value it highly. We usually agree with you however unvarnished! The truth as anyone sees it and explains it as well as you do is a rare and precious thing. There are so many twisted views out there from “ vested interests “ to outright propagandists.
    So we hope that you will keep on blogging however unpalatable you sometimes feel your content will be.
    The truth’s a chiel that winna ding and precious for that alone!

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Some speakers at the march yesterday spoke the truth Peter you’ll be relieved to hear. Derek Durkin of TU for Indy spoke most truth, Robin MacAlpine and Tommy Sheridan not far behind. There’s another reason for going to marches though and that is the solidarity and friendship that permeates the occasion, I usually feel re-charged as a result and yesterday’s event was no exception.


    1. I know that feeling of being “re-charged” from what I’m obliged to think of as ‘the old days’. It’s a good feeling. What is less good is the anti-climax when that renewed energy is allowed to dissipate without achieving much. We get fired up. We get damped down. So it has been for eight wearying years.

      I’m certainly glad to hear that others are speaking out about the hopelessness of the Sturgeon doctrine. But will this translate to real anger across the Yes movement? Will it provoke an appropriate reaction? I find it increasingly difficult to envisage that it might.


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