Denunciation wars

Derek Mackay’s behaviour was self-evidently unacceptable for a person in his position. Although it is worth noting that had he been an ‘ordinary’ citizen of Scotland what he did would barely have raised an eyebrow. It certainly wouldn’t have been deemed newsworthy. Few employers would have considered it cause for disciplinary action. This is not to minimise the foolishness of Mackay’s conduct. It is merely to recognise the facts. Facts which are in danger of disappearing in a fog of competitive outrage and frantic virtue-signalling.

There are people in society who are held to a higher standard. Rightly so. It is entirely proper that those who are entrusted with authority or high office should be constantly mindful of their duty to meet the public’s high expectations. But neither authority nor high office makes the incumbent other than human with all the failings, flaws and fallibility that this entails. Defects of character and deficiencies of integrity which are seldom more in evidence than on those occasions when predatory politicians get the scent of blood.

Everything is exaggerated. And increasingly exaggerated. As if the partisan palate is ever more readily jaded and demanding of more and more seasoning. The smallest misdeed is gleefully seized upon by political rivals and fashioned into a career-destroying – and on occasion life-destroying – weapon. Various political rivals and even “friends” try to outdo one another in their public expressions of shock and horror for fear that an inadequate response might be maliciously construed as condoning the offence. The misdeed comes to be defined by the ramping reaction to it rather than being judged by normal standards.

The solemn self-righteousness of politically expedient indignation is every bit as patently contrived as the theatrical exhibitions of grief which follow the death of some ‘much-loved celebrity’ or ‘national treasure’ as inevitably as bodily decay. And with much the same nausea-inducing effect on more cynical observers. Sites of tragic death become instant makeshift shrines littered with mawkish ‘tributes’ to the departed from people whose mourning is grossly disproportionate to their non-existent relationship with its object.

The meretriciously maudlin melodrama of competitive grief is a close cousin of the leck-strutting displays of hyperbolised denunciation which can be prompted by even the most objectively trivial transgression.

Derek did a daft thing. He is paying dearly for his incomprehensible stupidity. But nobody died or was seriously harmed by his foolishness. I am prepared to cut the guy some slack and I barely know him. You’d think those claiming to be his close friends might be at least as supportive. Should the quality of forbearance not also be something we expect of our politicians? Or at least some sense of proportion.

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Beware of swans

I don’t suppose Derek Mackay really believes that a British government minister being caught in a blatant lie will be “hugely embarrassing for the Tories”. I expect that, like most of us, he learned long ago that British Nationalists have absolutely no qualms about lying in defence of their precious Union. In fact, it is expected of them. Liz Truss wouldn’t be where she is today if she was not ready and eager to participate fully in the British state’s anti-Scottish propaganda campaign.

Far from being embarrassed, Liz Truss will be very pleased with herself. she got the headlines disparaging Scotland; she knows the media will play down the rebuke from the UK Statistics Authority; and she can be confident that there will be no consequences for her, other than being bought congratulatory drinks by her colleagues.

They just don’t care. British Nationalists don’t care about their lies being exposed because they don’t consider it wrong to lie for the Union. Any behaviour, however reprehensible in other contexts, is totally justified if it’s purpose is to further the British Nationalist cause. He (or she) who casts the first, biggest and most stones is without sin.

Derek Mackay, I’m certain, is well aware of this. The stuff about the Tories being embarrassed is just political rhetoric. No harm in that. Or is there?

It is common to see on social media comments about how the Tories are panicking and the British government is in meltdown and the suggestion that, if we just wait long enough and expose enough of their failures and wrongdoings, the whole lot will collapse and leave us a clear run to independence. And it is true that, on social media, there is to be found much evidence to support this notion of the British establishment being fearful and discombobulated. But what we see on Twitter is the webbed feet frantically paddling. Above, the swan of the British ruling elite glides gracefully on, unperturbed by any number of chastisements from any number of Sir David Norgroves. Impervious to Derek Mackay’s political rhetoric. Unmoved by being ‘slammed’ on Twitter for the umpteenth time by the First Minister.

They don’t care. They don’t care because the Union means they don’t have to care. They don’t care because, in 2014, we told them they didn’t have to care. When Scotland voted No it boosted the already vaunting confidence of British political elite in its power to deal with the ‘Scottish problem’.

The idea that if we give them enough rope they’ll hang themselves is utter folly. The more rope the are given the better they can bind us. We keep on giving them rope and they just use it to string Union flag bunting along every street in Scotland. The notion that the more the British state’s lies and misdeeds are exposed the more people will turn to thoughts of independence is just naive. Because, in general, people don’t care anymore than the likes of Liz Truss does. Tell them a UK Government minister has been talking Scotland down with brazenly dishonest statements and, supposing they even hear you, their thoughts turn to soap operas and football and sex and the problem of affording new shoes for the kids and sex.

The British state is not crumbling. However frantically the feet may be flapping under the water, on the surface the swan goes calmly on about its business. While some urge independence supporters to hang on in the hope that the swan of the British establishment will panic under a hail of exposés in The National and drown, the thing just keeps on going. Swans don’t forget how to swim.

Whatever it may look like from the social media perspective, the British political machine is not close to cracking. The juggernaut of rabid ‘One Nation’ British Nationalism isn’t measurably slowed by all the indignation and outrage at lies told by British politicians. The threat to Scotland’s democracy isn’t lessened one iota by revelations of British perfidy.

We cannot afford to wait in the hope that the Union will break. We must act to break it.

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Against Scotland

It is difficult to react with shock or outrage when a British Nationalist politician misrepresents the facts as Liz Truss did. These people lie so incessantly we are all, I’m sure, quite inured to their audacious mendacity. Which is unfortunate. We should never lose the capacity to be angered by such brazen dishonesty. We should never cease to be indignant that British politicians treat us as fools. We should always speak out against those who abuse the power of high office.

But there is one advantage of being unconcerned about the malicious lies. Not being distracted, we may notice things that would surely pass us by were we preoccupied with fuming about the latest gobbet of British Nationalist propaganda to dribble down the chin of some Westminster politician. See, for example, this remark from Derek Mackay.

I wonder why the UK Tory Treasury Minister would be choosing now as her timing to make such a ridiculously false case against Scotland.

The last two words are striking. It is, at the very least, decidedly uncommon for a senior member of the Scottish Government to so explicitly acknowledge the anti-Scottish nature of British propaganda. It is surely time this became part of the narrative of the independence campaign.

Heretofore, there has been an unwritten rule in the Yes movement that we should ‘play nice’. That we should eschew emotive terminology. That we should avoid calling out the treachery of the British parties in Scotland, lately culminating in a ‘pledge of loyalty’ to Boris Johnson. Even when the British establishment was actively trying to discourage inward investment in Scotland, the obsession with being ‘positive’ meant SNP politicians only spoke of this in terms best described as ‘mealy-mouthed’.

This has to change. British politicians lie to us all the time. It is incumbent on the Scottish Government and the Yes movement to be, not just honest with the people of Scotland, but forthright enough to state unequivocally that those British politicians are “against Scotland”. We must drive home the message that British Nationalism is an anti-Scottish ideology.

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