A rant from an unreconstructed Nat

“If I had a world of my own, everything would be nonsense. Nothing would be what it is, because everything would be what it isn’t. And contrary wise, what is, it wouldn’t be. And what it wouldn’t be, it would. You see?”

Sometimes it feels like I’m the only unreconstructed Nationalist left.  Clutching feebly at my copy of the Sunday Post and all that.  Which is why the bestowing of the award of Briton of the year by the Times newspaper on the First Minister leaves me feeling a lot like Alice.*

“I know who I WAS when I got up this morning, but I think I must have been changed several times since then”.

Please don’t mistake my confusion for churlishness.  I agree wholeheartedly with the Times’ summation of Alex Salmond’s qualities:  “Alex Salmond has done much, during the past year, to make his mark:  his achievements thus far are remarkable.  The year of 2011 was the year of Alex Salmond.”  Bravo.

He is indeed a formidable politician, and undoubtedly the greatest of his age, which has now spanned two centuries and several decades.  But he is not infallible, and like every other mortal being and politician, has his foibles and flaws.  But in Scottish and indeed, UK politics, he is akin to Saturn with the other parties and politicians like its rings and moons which navigate around him.  That in itself is remarkable.

But some of the Times’ rationale is just a touch patronising and not a little inaccurate.  The quintessentially British newspaper has determined our First Minister a regional leader.  Am I the only Nationalist to feel slighted by this sly downsizing of our Parliament, our Government, its leader, our nation and our aspirations?

The Times also claims that the SNP (before 2011 is the supposition) was “a disparate and divided organisation”.  Not so.  The process of melding the SNP into a credible vote-gatherer  began long before 2011.  Salmond is not its sole architect, though his leadership has been crucial.  The SNP was neither disparate nor divided during the first term of government.  Indeed, its very success depended on its Ministers’ and MSPs’ ability to hing thegither, at all times.

Years spent as apprentices on the outside looking into the establishment of Scottish politics, being snubbed, underestimated, cuckolded and belittled have taught all SNP members and luminaries the need to stick together and work together for the common cause.  Simply because it’s always been us against them, with them being practically everyone on the Unionist side.  It’s a siege mentality that has served the party well and which partly led to eventual electoral success.

Moreover, the Times reprises some of the lazier anti-independence and even anti-Scottish lines.  Independence will depend on oil revenues and now renewable energy for economic success.  There is a shortfall in revenues in the economic case.  And – the worst – the British taxpayer bailed out the two Scottish biggest banks, ignoring conveniently the taxes both banks contributed to the UK Treasury, the jobs both banks created all over the UK, and the kudos both banks brought to the FTSE reputation when the going was good.  In the good times, everyone celebrated the house of sand success of RBS and HBOS.

Such sentiments and statements are patronising and perpetuate a stereotypical little UKlander view of the world and importantly, of Scotland.  Which is why the burd is troubled by fellow Nats’ joyful acceptance of the award.  It does matter where awards come from, who makes them and their rationale for doing so.

Awards like this do Scotland’s case no good at all.  They are predicated on keeping us in our place and if I thought they were cleverer than he, boxing the First Minister into a political cul de sac few SNP members wish to find themselves parked in.

Be what you would seem to be – or, if you’d like it put more simply – never imagine yourself not to be otherwise than what it might appear to others that what you were or might have been was not otherwise than what you had been would have appeared to them to be otherwise.

Alice again, or strictly speaking, Lewis Carroll.  And this is where this unreconstructed Nat is truly troubled by such an award.

What the British establishment thinks of we Scots should matter none.  We should neither want nor seek baubles of Britishness nor Briton-ness.  Why should our yardstick be what our neighbours deem to bestow upon us and our First Minister?  Measuring ourselves against the accepted order of things on these islands is to accept their limitations for our ambitions and our aspirations.  I want Scotland to choose self-determination for the right reasons, neither because others have decided we might have it nor as a kick against the traces of an inferiority complex with our larger neighbour.  I want Scotland to vote for independence because her people believe that we can and should be a normal small nation with all the powers and levers, responsibilities and duties that involves.  I don’t believe we are too wee, too poor or too stupid to be a successful nation without our brothers and sisters in the rest of the UK to lean on, as the Times’ leader implies.  And I think we would all be good neighbours afterwards, sharing many commonalities and arrangements of convenience because we do after all, co-exist on a series of islands.

On a purely constitutional note, Briton of the year should not matter to the SNP and to the First Minister because that status should be meaningless in the grander scheme of things.  Yet, because it does seem to matter to many in and around the SNP,  this unreconstructed Nat worries.

Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.”
“I don’t much care where –”
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go.”

*in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, if you have to ask.




15 thoughts on “A rant from an unreconstructed Nat

  1. It’s not about enmity or conflict – no one has been more bored over the years with the grievance politics, but simply about our yardstick being ourselves and our nation’s sense of self. Identity politics is also less motivational for me than many others in the “movement”. My problem with it is that this kind of bauble matters at all, particularly because it is being bestowed by an emblem/symbol of the British establishment. The focus should be on persuading Scots to support independence not garnering political support more generally from the rest of the UK. The latter is no good without the former. And Scotland has a nasty habit of reducing the egos of those it thinks have got too big for its boots. Not there yet but…

    • Well it doesn’t matter. I agree with you completely on that. My point would be that the fact that it is an award from the British Establishment is no more a reason to reject it than to accept it.

      And we also have to remember that on the back of a successful referendum we will then have to negotiate independence with the British Establishment. So it does matter to a certain extent what they think of us – or rather what they think of the Scottish Government.

  2. The idea or the perception that the movement towards independence is somehow a vehicle for conflict between Scotland and England is the single thing that could stop us winning it. And it’s something that is really ingrained in us – for example I nearly said the struggle for independence there before I stopped myself and said movement towards independence. Because it’s not really a “struggle” in any way, except if you have taken out too many leaflets or your canvass sheets have turned into papier mache in the rain.

    So we do have to become reconstructed to some extent. The British Establishment is not our enemy because we do not have an enemy. This is not a war, it’s not even reaolly a contest between the British Establishment and the SNP and we need to stop thinking of it in that way.

  3. Agreed Kate.

    This is the thin end of the wedge that could end up with Eck taking his ermine-clad place as Baron Salmond of Stricken and makes me feel VERY uncomfortable.

    The award should have been rejected out of hand as a bauble from a self-confessed enemy of Scottish self-determination and therefore an enemy of the aspirations of Scotland.

    We are not amused.

  4. Hear, hear! You nailed it on the head with regard to the banks but I would also point out that Professor George Walker of Glasgow University estimates that an independent Scotland would’ve only been liable for 5% of the bailout given that the vast majority of the banks are located in England.

    Eck has undoubtedly been one of the most influential people in Britain over the past year but I totally agree with you that Briton of the Year is perhaps not the title for him – I reckon it may be the Times having a bit of a laugh.

  5. The McCrone Report (1974) :

    1) Possession:
    ‘It is hard to see any conclusion other than to allow Scotland to have that part of the continental shelf which would have been hers if she had been independent all along.’

    2) Balance of payments gains and revenues:
    ‘The country would tend to be in chronic surplus to a quite embarrassing degree and its currency would become the hardest in Europe.’
    ‘The Scottish pound would be a good hedge against inflation and devaluation and the Scottish banks could expect to find themselves inundated with a speculative inflow of foreign funds.’

    3) EU membership:
    ‘North Sea oil could have far reaching consequences for Scottish membership of the EEC because of the tremendously increased political power it would confer as the major producer of oil in Western Europe, Scotland would be in a key position and other countries would be extremely foolish if they did not seek to do all they could to accommodate Scottish interests.’

    4) Report’s Conclusion:
    For the first time since the Act of Union was passed, it can now be credibly argued that Scotland’s economic advantage lies in its repeal. ‘

    Shortfall… Brit nat drivel.

  6. How doth the little crocodile
    Improve his shining tail,
    And pour the waters of the Nile
    On every golden scale!

    How cheerfully he seems to grin
    How neatly spreads his claws,
    And welcomes little fishes in,
    With gently smiling jaws!

  7. If nothing else, the piece in the Times seems to feed into the curious idea that many British Nationalists have that the SNP (and the independence movement) is all about Salmond. Of course he is important to the movement, but the guff you see about a “one-man band” or “or one man’s ego-trip” really does make you wonder whether these people have a clue about politics up here. Mind you, if they continue to make the mistake of underestimating Robertson, Sturgeon, Russell et al. it’ll be all to the good. Some nasty shocks await them.

    • Yes that point did cross my mind as I was blogging. But decided it would take me off-piste. The SNP is so much more than Alex Salmond these days. It’s a sum of its parts, and any award for his political skills goes by default to the “team”.

  8. The problem is that the SNP have always had to align themselves in a UK agenda which is why they made the mistakes of country comparisons and never showing the complete nonsense of a countries ownership of a business just because it has Scotland in its name.

    It is time that they started being themselves and two fingers to complying with the British standard of things setting us as individuals who aren’t interested at sitting at the top table because of who we know but what we are and whether we wish to be associated with imperialists.

    • I agree. Probably too busy ranting to explain that properly – though think in previous blogposts I have stated that I am an anti-establishment disestablishmentarian! There’s too much thirling to the British way of things for my liking. Point of indie is to do different and hopefully, better.

  9. Excellent!
    Just one caveat. HBOS is not a Scottish bank. It is only called HBOS in Scotland as a sop to Scottish sentiment (which is why a divisional HQ was retained in Edinburgh). It in fact is Halifax, a very large English financial institutuion which took over BOS years ago and was generally called Halifax in England until politically it became useful to some to describe it as a Scottish bank .

    Even RBS is little over 10% Scottish. It is Nat West and Ulster Bank and several Institutions in many different places like in the US and Holland.

    It is worth remembering and pointing out wherever useful that Gordon Brown had Fred Goodwin knighted and took him on as a financial advisor.

    • Absolutely Dave – I did hesitate over HBOS, aware that it is/was the amalgam of Halifax and Bank of Scotland. Halifax used to be a very good, solid building society before it was deregulated and clutched by the financial hawks. It too is as much a victim as predator. And well pointed out re RBS, though RBS was the hunter in this case, swallowing up others. Whatever, to claim these are Scottish banks propped up by the British taxpayer is disingenuous.

Comments are closed.