Another day, another referendum story.
Or rather non-story. For what we are being fed by the print and e-media is a constant stream of subconscious thoughts and mutterings that amount to hee-haw.
The Scotsman seems to have exhausted itself with its mission to create a scary independence-related splash for every day of the week. Today, it actually manages to impart some news on its front page. But some of the headlines screaming at us since the announcement of the independence referendum have been shocking. No, scratch that, for no one could actually believe them, surely. Funny or tiresome is probably more like it.
This weekend, we had the unedifying spectacle of Labour folk – of all people – invoking the race card. The news that 60,000 EU nationals get to vote in Scottish elections seems to have been a revelation for some, which is strange given that they have voted in elections since 1999. In fact, quite possibly, helped deliver Labour into office in 1999 and 2003. Now, however, the inference is that these dirty foreigners will steal our country and break up Britain. Politics at its worst. Shame on Labour. Shame on Scotland on Sunday for giving this “story” such credence, though it does mitigate its actions by saying something very different in its leader.
Over the weekend, we had some poll results which showed either a surge for independence or a devastating dip in support. Such treatment by the commissioners and authors actually makes their polls toxic and not worth dissecting and analysing. Play it straight and you’ll get us all talking about the trends the polls are displaying. Something to think about….
The Herald tried to persuade us earlier this week that we should care what the outgoing Director of the Royal Shakespeare Company thought. “There’s a bit of me that will cry if Scottish independence happens”.
Apparently he fears that Scotland, if independent, would repel all English drama, such as Shakespeare. “So if Scotland does go into a ‘Whaur’s yer Willie Shakespeare noo?’ phase, I don’t think it will last forever. For either Ireland or Scotland to chop off their nose to spite their Anglo-dominated face, it is self-defeating.”
To be fair to Mr Boyd who voted SNP in the 1970s “to kick Labour up the a**e“, he was pushed and prodded into uttering this nonsense sentiment, enabling the paper to scream the headline that independence would deny our weans Shakespeare.
I mean, c’mon. Right now there might well be 16 year olds struggling their way through Shakespeare texts for their English exams celebrating and vowing to vote yes in 2014. But if anyone else can seriously believe that a post-independence Scotland would become a cultural coo-shed with ritual burnings of texts that epitomise Unionism and the English oppression, then we are in trouble.
But just in case I’m wrong, they’re welcome to Walter Scott but I’m hiding my Shakespeare and Dickens in the loft.
It’s not just the mainstream press which is at it. Newsnet Scotland has been a welcome addition to our media, providing a pro-Scottish, pro-independence slant and take on things. It posts news that other blatts don’t deem worthy of publication. Like I said, welcome, especially when it provides a counter-balance to the scare stories.
But it also produces a tiresome stream of material, particularly attacking other parties, presenting them in a very negative light, while printing in full SNP and Government media releases without any attempt to scratch the surface of the declaration.
I understand absolutely why they do this and why to many in the SNP and on the pro-indy side, this is deemed necessary, if not necessarily desirable. But do we really need headlines like “Unionists manipulate Salmond remarks in attempt at diverting attention from BBC censorship scandal“? Just because they do it, and have been doing it for decades now, doesn’t make it right.
Nor, I would contend, does it help. While there are plenty polarised between the two extremes of “aye” and “naw”, most are “mebbes aye, mebbes naw” at this stage (though a few are definitely wondering “who’s askin'”). They are the ones that need to be persuaded by one side or the other and both sides standing on the fringes of the media shouting at each other and everyone else is simply encouraging the undecideds to stick their fingers in their ears.
Some of us – many of us who are partials if not quite outright partisans – are bored. This endless stream of shoutiness from the margins is boring. We’re despairing of how we’ll survive until 2014.
And if we’re feeling like that, then spare a thought for folk who only think about politics and how they are going to vote a few weeks out from an election. Do you think they are listening to any of this? Taking it in? Or turning the page, switching channel, refusing to engage?
We need a better tempered discourse. We also need a straight man, someone or some people or some body which will do a factcheck kinda thing to all the utterances and pronouncements.
But more than anything else right now, we need silence. We need a free week every month (I’d suggest a whole month actually but know that would be impossible) where the constitution does not dominate, where we talk about some of the other issues affecting Scotland and the people who live here. And we can usefully spend the time thinking about what it all means.
So, no constitutional chatter on this here blog for at least a week. No matter how momentous it might prove to be. There will, after all, be weeks, nay months, afterwards to dissect it.