“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.