Alan Bissett: Is It Cos Wur Scots?

In the first installment of a new column for National Collective, Alan Bissett writes about attempts to smear the Yes campaign and the ugly side of British Unionism.

It’s an accusation of which we’ve become weary in the independence movement: we hate the English.  Our aspirations to redistribute wealth, remove nuclear submarines from our waters, prevent involvement in foreign wars, and make Scotland a modern, healthy, fair democracy?  All motivated by pure anti-English bigotry.  So desperate are the opponents of – heaven forfend! – a country’s desire to make its own political decisions that they will pounce upon any reference towards ‘the English’ or ‘England’ that is not first prefaced with the words ‘Of course I love…’.  This is proof for them that, should Scotland vote yes to independence, anyone caught carrying a Dickens novel will be rounded up into a labour camp and force-fed porridge. 

Late last year our greatest living artist, Alasdair Gray, ended up on a ritual media bonfire for not unreasonably asking why there are so few Scots running our national arts organisations.  Admittedly, Gray’s use of the term ‘colonists’[1] to describe English migrants who take top arts jobs in Scotland as a springboard to a bigger one elsewhere was contentious, but it was in the context of a thoughtful and lucid analysis about Scotland’s historical relationship to England.

The censorious reaction to the Gray affair was telling.  Vast acres of the Scottish and English media were given over to excoriating him for racism, bigotry and, of course, anti-Englishness.  Yet Damon Albarn wrote Blur’s Modern Life is Rubbish and Parklife albums in the early Nineties with the expressed purpose of reversing America’s cultural influence over the UK.  Mike Smith of Food Records, Blur’s label, described the band’s ‘manifesto’ at the time as ‘We are proud to be British, so fuck America.’[2]  Ten years later Pete Doherty sang that, ‘There are fewer more distressing sights / Than that of an Englishman in a baseball cap’[3].  Neither Albarn nor Doherty were called anti-American bigots.  Instead Albarn was deemed the vanguard of the new cultural moment, Britpop, and Doherty the voice of a lost Albion.  We can only wonder why Gray was not treated similarly.

Things reached a new low last week when The Guardian – a highly-respected, left-leaning journal admired by many in Scotland – ran a Steve Bell cartoon in which Alex Salmond poses before the slogan, ‘Do You Believe Scotland Should Go _____ Itself?  YES/NO’[4]  The blank word, obscured by Salmond’s face, is clearly supposed to be ‘fuck’.  Despite what many wanted to believe (it was David Cameron’s opinion not Bell’s, it was just a joke, etc) The Guardian have confirmed the motivatons behind the cartoon: ‘It’s a commentary on Alex Salmond’s vision of an independent Scotland and reflects Bell’s view [that] it would be against Scotland’s interests.’[5]

If I think it would be against your interests to break a failing relationship with me, would I succeed by telling you to ‘go fuck yourself’?  If I did, would you take it as a ‘joke’ or even a ‘commentary’?  You might, rather, take it as further proof about the state of our relationship.

We don’t want to find ourselves in a situation where we cannot laugh at ourselves or are beyond satire.  But this is satire so broad and so ugly that it sails across the line into offensiveness.  Why would The Guardian ‘satirise’ a country simply wanting to make its own decisions anyway?  The aims of the Scottish independence movement – social justice, protection of public services, opposition to Conservatism – are the same ones which The Guardian themselves espouse. Can we imagine a mainstream Scottish newspaper, or even a website such as this one, running a slogan which says, ‘England Should Go Fuck Itself’?  Can we imagine The Guardian saying such a thing about India, China or France? To paraphrase Ali G, then: ‘is it coz we is Scots?’

Similarly, how are we to interpret an ICM poll[6] published in The Telegraph a year ago which compared Scottish and English attitudes towards independence. The Scottish percentage who want to break from the UK (40%) is roughly commensurate with the amount of Scots who believe they’d be better off by doing so (38%).  Only 23% of the 1734 English-based people surveyed, however, believe Scotland would be better off, despite 43% of them actually wanting Scottish independence.  We could say that the 20% disparity means they believe in democracy for Scotland, despite the consequences, until we spot the real reason: a hefty 61% of English respondants think that Scotland is ‘unjustifiably’ overfunded by London.  The results from the sample taken together, then, create this message: You are a burden, you’ll fail without us, and we want rid of you more than you want to stay with us.

In this context, the Steve Bell cartoon starts to make more sense.

These are the jibes of the spurned husband.  An entire audience of the BBC’s Question Time in Lancaster, for example. laughed and applauded at the idea that England’s nuclear waste should be dumped in Scotland[7].  Even Stewart Lee, considered by many the thinking-person’s comedian, wrote last year in The Guardian that Alex Salmond is a ‘coward’ who ‘reminds me of the mayor of a small provincial town [with] ideas above his station.’[8]  The piece was accompanied by a cartoon Salmond with red, demonic eyes.  While Salmond is, of course, open for criticism we should observe Lee’s likening of Scotland to a ‘provincial town’.  Shortly after Lee rhapsodies about much he ‘loves Scotland’ he regurgitates every cliché in the book – heroin, Jimmy Krankie, alcoholism, the Scottish diet – in order to prove it.  With friends like these, eh?

Media uproar: nil.  But why should we expect anything less when Salmond has already been compared by Unionist politicians and the media to Hitler[9], Mussolini[10], Milosevic[11], Stalin[12], Mugabe[13], Kim Jong-Il[14], Caligula[15], Nero[16] and Ceausescu[17]?  One would think Salmond responsible for the systematic murder and torturing of English people, instead of modestly proposing that political decisions about Scotland be made in Scotland.

Unionist Scots, who go out of their way to tell the electorate how ‘proud’ they are of Scotland, often exhibit a very strange form of pride indeed.  Ruth Davidson last year claimed, at the Tory conference in Birmingham, that 88% of Scots contribute nothing to the economy[18].  Johann Lamont, for her part, stated that ‘Scotland has a “something for nothing” culture’[19].  Even were it true, might Labour take some of the blame for this ‘culture’, since they controlled Scotland from 1997 to 2007?  No, the Scottish people themselves are, somehow, fundamentally flawed.  Labour’s Ian Davidson even made the outrageous assertion – in Parliament, no less – that Scots celebrate the Battle of Bannockburn because ‘hundreds of thousands of English people were murdered’[20].  We can imagine the reaction if, say, the SNP were to comment that the English celebrate the murder of Scots.  We can imagine the reaction were Alex Salmond to describe Cameron’s government as a ‘dictatorship’, as Anas Sarwar – again, in Parliament – described Scotland’s democratically-elected party[21].  Where were the censures, not least for non-parliamentary language?  There were none.  What did the media have to say?  Nothing.

Of course, opposition to independence and opposition to Scotland are not automatically the same thing (although they frequently are).  Neither is it possible to deny that nationalists are as capable of intemperate language as Unionists.  The reaction from Yes Scotland to this, however, has been one of disapproval and a plea for tolerance of their opponents’ views.  It would be decorous were the Better Together campaign to accept this gesture and promise similar regulation of their own.  Instead, irony-free, they posit the problem entirely with SNP supporters who ‘hurl abuse and denigrate anyone who disagrees with them’[22].  There goes the handshake.

Now, as it happens, I do love England.  I lived and worked in England for three years.  I visit there at least twice a year.  My ex-girlfriend, many of my cousins, and my god-daughter are all English.  Almost all of my favourite bands are English, as are many of my favourite writers and film-makers.  The intellectual and scientific achievements of the English are vast and to be admired, and the English working-class, in the main, especially in the North, feel more like kin to me than the Scottish elite.

I do love England.  What I do not love at all is the British state, and attacking it is not the same thing as attacking the English.

‘The United Kingdom of Great Britain’ is not a country, it is a construct, a backroom deal done in 1707 by the Scottish and English ruling class in their own interests and against the wishes of their people.  Britain is an imperialist machine which was designed to wage war and steal territory from other nations, and this is what it has done almost continuously, using military power, economics and, yes, torture[23].  The symbolic figureheads of British ‘democracy’, the monarchy and the House of Lords, exist to institutionalise privelige and perpetuate the class divide.  We can see this no more easily than in the current Tory/Lib Dem coalition (and will see it some more if we vote back in a Labour party who have also pledged to ‘ruthlessly’ cut public services[24]).  The briefly-progressive Britain which defeated facism in World War II, then introduced the socialist policies of the NHS and the Welfare State – the Britain which was celebrated by Danny Boyle’s opening ceremony at the Olympics – is in the dim and distant past.  The Britain we have to look forward to is one of permanent austerity, stunted democracy and the continued transferal of wealth from the poor to the rich.  Where Scotland figures in this no-one knows, since Westminster refuses to divulge its plan for Scotland post-2014, despite the Electoral Commission insisting that it do so[25].  This means they either have no plan for Scotland after the referendum (bad) or plan to punish us (worse).

These are just some of the many reasons why I wish for Scotland to be independent from the British state, not because I – or anyone else I know – ‘hates’ the English.  Scotland’s much-vaunted ‘anti-Englishness’, upon which our media love to report, simply does not stand up to statistical analysis anyway.  Murray Watson’s groundbreaking book, Being English In Scotland, reports that 8% of the Scottish population was born in England[26] (as opposed to 1.5% of the English population who were born in Scotland[27]).  All other immigrant groups together make up only 5% of the Scottish population, making the English by far the largest immigrant group in Scotland.  Given the presence of the English in Scotland increased by 84% in the second half of the 20th Century[28], one would have expected the usual rise in racial tensions that afflict most nations who experience the arrival of an ethnic group to such a degree.  Murray reports, however, that ‘evidence of anti-English violence [is] hard to find’[29].  94% of the sample of English people in Scotland that Murray interviewed said that ‘anti-Englishness was not a serious problem’[30].  We might contrast this with the unfortunate treatment of Irish immigrants in Scotland, despite the fact that, at its height, the presence of the Irish in Scotland never topped 7.2% of the population[31] .  Murray concludes that, ‘Compared with other migrant groups in Scotland, the English [do] not suffer from violence, widespread abuse, serious harrassment or discrimination’[32].  This, remember, is despite the English being by far the largest immigrant group in Scotland.

Scottish independence is not about ridding ourselves of the English, not least because there so many English people integrated here anyway, with jobs, friends and families, and because Scotland and England will always be right next door to each other.  People from both nations will still be free to live in, work in and visit each other’s countries anytime they like.  The cultural, social and familial links will remain and, yes, we’ll still be able to watch Eastenders on the telly.  We’ll just no longer be governed by Westminster.  Despite what Steve Bell might think, it really is as simple as that.  So let’s turn the other cheek to the anti-Scottish jibes and just get on with the business of creating a better country.  If we want to be a mature democracy after 2014, let’s start our growing now.  Maybe Scotland and England will finally then be able to look each other in the eye as equals.

Alan Bissett
Author, Performer and Playwright
alanbissett.com

 


[1] Gray, Alasdair (2012) ‘Settlers and Colonists’ in Hames, Scott (ed.) Unstated: Scottish Writers on Independence. Wordpower, p.104.
[2] Harris, John (2003) The Last Party: Britpop, Blair and the Demise of English Rock. Fourth Estate, p.79.
[3] The Libertines, ‘Time For Heroes’ (2003)
[4] http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cartoon/2013/jan/30/scottish-independence-referendum-question-cartoon?commentpage=7
[5] http://www.thescottishsun.co.uk/scotsol/homepage/news/4773243/Fury-at-racist-independence-jibe-cartoon.html
[6] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/scotland/9015374/Britain-divided-over-Scottish-independence.html
[7] httpv://www
[8] http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/feb/05/stewart-lee-salmond-scotland-independence
[9] Tom Harris & Ann Moffat.
[10] Lord Foulkes, Labour Peer
[11] Denis McShane, Labour MP
[12] Alan Cochrane, Daily Telegraph
[13] Lord Cormack, Conservative Peer, and Jeremy Paxman, BBC
[14] Lord Forsyth, Conservative Peer
[15] John McLeod, The Times
[16] Annabel Goldie, Conservative MSP
[17] Neil Collins, Financial Times
[18] http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/news/uk/scotland/article3561517.ece
[19] http://news.stv.tv/politics/191807-labour-leader-johann-lamont-demands-end-to-something-for-nothing-culture/
[20] http://www.newsnetscotland.com/index.php/scottish-news/6572-scottish-labour-mp-claims-scots-celebrate-bannockburn-because-english-were-murdered
[21] Ibid.
[22] http://www.heraldscotland.com/politics/referendum-news/yes-campaigners-launch-bid-to-silence-cybernats.20084686
[23] http://bellacaledonia.org.uk/2013/01/19/british-values/
[24] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/labour/9572944/Labour-will-be-ruthless-about-cutting-public-spending-says-Ed-Balls.html
[25] httpvs://
[26] Watson, Murray (2003) Being English in Scotland, Edinburgh University Press, p.27.
[27] Ibid.
[28] Ibid, p.27.
[29] Ibid, p.135.
[30] Ibid, p.127.
[31] Ibid, p.10.
[32] Ibid, p.143

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About Alan Bissett

Alan Bissett is a novelist, playwright and performer from Falkirk, who now lives in Glasgow. His plays, novels and short films have won numerous awards, including a Scottish BAFTA and the Glenfiddich Spirit of Scotland Writer of the Year 2012. His YouTube poem 'Vote Britain' has become one of the key texts in the Scottish independence movement.

There are 26 comments

  1. Torc Torrance

    My sentiments almost exactly – thank you for an insightful piece which clarifies the myths spread by the lackeys of Westminster.

    Mind you it does remind me of various conversations with the nominally English who identified themselves as Cornish or Yorkshire first and reflected tensions inherent since the Civil wars in England.

  2. Joe Murray

    Alan, thank you so much for your intelligent and articulate article; you touched on many important points – most of which I whole-heartedly agree. However, I suspect most of those it was aimed at will pay it no heed. However, there are many who may be unsure of where they stand in all that is going on will appreciate your words.
    The outrageous attacks on Alasdair Gray, especially by some who must have known better, was unforgivable. He appears rather unphased by it, though – but then, that’s Alasdair for you. His article can be found on his blog: http://www.alasdairgray.blogspot.co.uk/2013/01/settlersand-colonists-essay-byalasdair.html.

  3. cornubian

    You’re aware, I assume, that it’s not just the Scots that get such treatment. Just imagine someone from Cornwall “NOT WANTING TO BE ENGLISH”! The adjective ‘Cornish’ is fine for ice cream and pasties but heaven forbid one should use it to describe the national identity of ones heart. The convulsions that such an idea can cause amongst certain populations of state-nationalists from both the left and right is quite an amusing sight.

    What’s truly saddening however is when such narrow-minded and anglo-brit educated mentalities are found amongst the Scots, Irish and Welsh.

  4. MichaelJamesHeron

    Every time you have something to say, I stop what I’m doing to take it in. You’re one of the most articulate voices for the independence movement.

  5. Paul Jordan

    Well said. I’m an Englishman (Internationalist), I’ve not experienced even the faintest whiff of anti-English sentiment during the 3 years I’ve lived here. Politics in Scotland is clearly way to the left of England, well to the left of the SNP too for that matter, and Internationalist in outlook rather than Nationalist. The shit throwing from parts of England is pathetic and childish at best. Scottish Independence for me is about democracy and self-determination for the people of Scotland. A chance to give our values a go. For working class people who are currently being kicked back a century or two, Independence is a life line – grab it tight!

  6. Gregor Addison

    I recently came across a wonderful quote by Raymond Williams in an essay “The Culture of Nations” – “It is sadly also true that not only the majority people, with ‘their own’ nation-state, but also many among the minority peoples, regard this kind of nationalism as disruptive or backward-looking, and are even confident enough to urge ‘internationalism’ against it, as a superior political ideal. It is as if a really secure nationalism, already in possession of its nation-state, can fail to see itself as ‘nationalist’ at all. Its own distinctive bonding is perceived as natural and obvious by contrast with the mere projections of any nationalism which is still in active progress and thus incomplete.” And I can’t help but think of another quote, by Paulo Friere: “Self-deprecation is another characteristic of the oppressed, which derives from their internalisation of the opinion the oppressors hold of them. So often do they hear that they are good for nothing, know nothing and are incapable of learning anything – that they are sick lazy, and unproductive – that in the end they become convinced of their own unfitness.” And one last quote from W.E.B. du Bois: “It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at oneself through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity.” Scottish Independence is about democracy and self-determination, the rigth to chose the path that the electorate in Scotland want. Our status within the UK state leaves us in the waiting room of UK politics, waiting for England to vote Labour, waiting for England to become federalist, waiting on England to decide our future in the EU. It is not selfish to stop allowing others to make decision on your behalf.

    1. Spammo Twatbury

      It was. It wasn’t the least bit funny, but it was unfunny because it was terrible writing, not because it was anti-Scottish, which it wasn’t. It doesn’t belong with the rest of the examples here.

  7. John

    Brilliant writing and you are a real asset to the cause. First stumbled upon you at the march and rally last year. Hope you will be there for the next one!

  8. me fae greenock

    comeplete backtrack from bisset. i challenge anyone to watch this video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z-znkbMzi4A and be convinced that he, and
    i quote, “loves the english”.

    he’s quick to mention all maner
    of english stereotypes about the scots – alkie, smack heid,
    jings,crivens etc. but i suspect he’s the 1st to stereotype all english
    people as Bowler hat wearing, pimms sipping, rich, privelleged, and i
    quote – “greedy, selfish bastards” called Tarquin. the irony being alex
    salmond is a well to do, ex banker. is salmond a “greedy, selfish,
    bastard” in your eye’s too alan? i suspect not. he’s not english, after
    all.

    apparently, scots didn’t vote for the 2012
    olympics (speak for yourself, alan) but they will pay for it. hmmm. by
    that rational, i expect alan to be equally as outraged about the 2014
    commenwelth games, that “WE” didn’t vote for but “WE” will pay for it.
    i’m still waiting…….

    apparently those evil bastards from
    south of the border “scrutinise our currency, despite it being legal
    tender”. i’ve NEVER had trouble spending scottish money (be it Royal
    bank of scotland, Bank of scotland, or even clydesdale bank [how many
    other countries of 5 million people, or ANY population for that matter,
    have 3 different types of banknote?] so perhaps this [alledged but
    unfounded]confusion is justified?). i’ve lost count of the amount of
    times my northern irish currency has been scrutinized in glasgow, i
    accepet it as par for the course though and try not to use it as an
    argument for breaking up the united kingdom.
    NOTE TO BISSET – “scottish currency IS NOT legal tender, even in Scotland” http://www.scotbanks.org.uk/legal_position.php

    “OOR
    OIL” hmmm. the snp’s 1st line of defence. The union of scotland was
    established, by mutual consent, in 1707.this was shortly after a failed
    scottish attempt to colonise parts of latin america (the expresion
    “greedy, selfish, bastards” comes to mind once more). obviously if north
    sea oil was discovered prior to 1707 then scotland would have a cast
    iron case for claiming it as “oors”. post 1707, oil was discovered in
    Britain. Bisset would be the 1st person to be in uproar if oil was
    discovered off the coast of Portsmouth in britain, and hampshire
    suddenly, and only after 250 years, started exclaiming – “we waant
    independece fae ra rest o ye as we waant aww ra money tae wersel’s”.
    Alan and most nats try to portay themselves as “socialists” but their
    whole oil argument is based on the notion of “let’s make “US” richer and
    leave “they” english bastards, working class or not, tae rot”

    Alan
    uses the common cliche – “i identify with people in the north of
    england, more than i do with the elite in scotland”. I’m unaware of just
    how much time Alan has spent in southern working class areas like
    Deptford, New Cross, Bermondsy, brixton, tottenham, st pauls (bristol),
    romford, dagenam….i could go on for pages, but that doesn’t really fit
    into alan’s “priveleged” London paradigm.

    For me the issue is
    one of class. I dislike Elite politicians as much as most. I was
    educated in one of the toughest schools in one of the toughest towns in
    Scotland – Greenock, and therefore find it almost impossible to identify
    with Etonions like Cameron or bankers like Samlond. how many Etonian’s
    work on the front line in retail south of the border & scrutinised
    your “legal tender” bisso? so that was a pop at working class, english
    people in general and not just the bullington boys. The issie is of
    class, not one of English/Scottish.

    If you don’t want to be
    considered “anti english” fight for true independece like Salmon’s
    beloved Norway. otherwise (in the unlikely event of “independece”
    occuring) you’re still going to be governed by the same “greedy, selfish
    bastards” in brussels as you are now.

      1. Chris

        I see you’ve picked on some typos in order to dismiss the absolutely valid points this poster has made.

        Looking at this article, the inherent anti-Englishness is obvious. It ultimately comes down a simple pair of premises. First of all, it is probably fair to say that there is general agreement (across the UK) that there are serious problems in this country. And secondly, that all these ‘British’ problems are really the fault of the English, and therefore an independent Scotland would automatically be spared these problems.

        Mr Bissett lists the aims of the independence movement as “social justice, protection of public services, opposition to Conservatism”. This is simple not true. They may be representative of the desires of many people in the ‘Yes’-campaign, but the actual aim of the independence movement is the separation of Scotland from the rest of the UK. Those aims that Mr Bissett lists are identical to the aims of a number of Unionist parties. In fact, ironically, vastly divergent groups would claim the same aims – not just Labour, Lib Dems, Greens and Socialists, but Maoists, SWP, even BNP and EDL.

        (Incidentally, now that I mention the BNP – Mr Bissett’s defence of Alisdair Gray is abhorrent. Ultimately, what he was advocating is denying jobs to people based on where they come from. This is base prejudice. If Griffin denounced Asians in the British arts scene as ‘cultural colonists’ he would quite rightly be pilloried as a racist, but here Mr Bissett praises Gray for such an assertion against the English. When Pete Docherty sings about “an Englishman in a baseball cap” he is expressing his cultural experience in a song lyric, not actively trying to drive American artists out of their jobs. To compare the two is a kind of school playground tale-telling that just reveals further the author’s apparent grudge against England.)

        Anyway, back on topic, by conflating “social justice” and “separation from the rest of the UK”, the author makes his position clear. If the only way for Scotland to achieve social justice is by leaving the UK then he is quite straightforwardly telling us that everyone in the UK except Scots are anti-social justice. I’m sorry, but that’s just bull.

        Any Scot truly interested in social justice would want that justice for all the people of the UK, and yet the most fundamentally central tenet of the independence movement is that it is only interested in providing it for people in Scotland. Who cares about Manchester, Liverpool, Newcastle, Belfast or Cardiff?

        They can just sort themselves out. Splitting my time between Birmingham and Glasgow, I see two very very similar cities. Both once powerhouses of the Empire, both now belittled by London, both damaged by degrees of post-industrial collapse, both trying to forge new positive identities after mass immigration (Irish, Asian, and others), and dare I say it both sometimes mocked for their distinctive accents. If the independence movement have the answers to Glasgow’s problems, why don’t they want to help Birmingham too?

        I see this across Scotland. Dundee could be Stockport or Bolton. Fife could be Cornwall or Devon. And Aberdeen feels so like the NW coast of England it’s uncanny. You’ll have noticed the glaring omission: unfortunately nowhere in Scotland, or the rest of the UK, can rival London. If a Scot is against social injustice then they would be campaigning to redress the political and economic domination of the City London/Westminster on behalf of Scotland, Wales, NI, and the 85% of England which isn’t London, and for the vast majority of people in London itself who aren’t exactly reaping the benefits either.

        This idea of independence as the solution is inherently anti-English. It wants the best for Scotland, even if it is quite happily at the expense of the English. (I say English deliberately because the Welsh and N.Irish are so often portrayed by the independence movement as fellow victims while all English people might as well be bankers and Etonians).

        What we all, all of us across the UK, should be doing, is trying to reshape the nation’s political landscape. The rise in popularity of the BNP and then UKIP is evidence that the people of England want change one way or another. Racism or leaving the EU are absolutely not the right solutions by any means at all, but you get the impression that the people are crying out for somebody or some party to believe can make a real difference to the lives of ordinary people. Ironically, I wonder whether Mr Salmond might have been this person if only he hadn’t chosen to ONLY represent Scots.

        Anyway, this may not have all been expressed in the most coherent manner, but the point is, the whole independence debate, and indeed the inter-regional relations of the UK, might be much less bitter and much more purely analytical if authors like Mr Bissett could see the millions of ordinary hardworking people from across England as his fellow citizens rather than his enemies, brothers and sisters instead of ‘a spurned husband’.

        1. CW

          That’s an utterly ludicrous argument. Would you say to an Irishman, a Norwegian, a Hungarian, or a Lithuanian that because their respective countries are no longer part of political unions that they are selfish to the point of racism? Of course not. You’re obviously not entirely daft, but give us a bit of credit please. There is a legitimate debate to be had here and you know it. Most of the countries on this planet declared independence at some point or another, so if you want to call all these people racist, please do. But don’t try and pull the wool over our eyes and say that special rules apply to Scotland and only Scotland.

          1. Chris

            (Sorry for the long reply CW, but I’ve tried to address your points, thanks for the comment)

            I’ll admit I may have put it a bit strongly, and certainly I don’t want to accuse anyone of overt racism, but I think there is some point to be made. The other independence movements you mention are not really comparable to Scotland’s. Norway’s independence was not much more than a bit of a technical correction after an aggressively enacted but later largely nominal union, and the geography of Scandinavia had meant that union in any practical sense had never really occurred between Sweden and Norway. Ireland suffered 8 centuries of oppression under English and then British rule. War, oppression, famine. And all this while the vast majority of the people were completely disenfranchised and persecuted on religious grounds. And Hungary and Lithuania? These countries were freeing themselves from the Soviet Union, a totalitarian dictatorship in which political dissenters faced execution and hundreds of thousands were consigned to forced labour camps. You point out that most countries in the world declared independence at some point, which is of course true. However, these were generally declaring independence from an imperial power. Scotland, as part of the UK, WAS the imperial power. I think even the most ardent Scottish Nationalist would have trouble arguing that any of these situations are comparable to Scotland’s.

            I certainly take your point that there’s a debate to be had, but as part of this debate we should be able to question the motives of those who try to persuade us, and the form that their persuasion takes.

            Let’s compare it with UKIP. Farage wants the UK out of the EU largely because of 2 reasons: the cost of Brussels to the British taxpayer, and the jurisdiction of EU laws in the UK. Replace Brussels with Westminster and EU with UK, and you’ve got something not dissimilar to the SNP’s stance. But Farage’s motives are being rightly scrutinised: is his anti-europe viewpoint really just a new guise for old-fashioned british nationalism? Is this an outdated “fight them on the beaches” mentality, and is he simply appealing to a regrettable British (/English?) tendency to distrust the French and Germans?

            I don’t know what the answer is regarding Farage’s motives. And I don’t really know the motives of most of the supporters of independence. I’m sure the vast majority are simply seeking a better life for themselves and their families. But when we see people promoting “social justice”, and lamenting the fact that the revenues from the City of London don’t seem to travel very far north, but in the same breath demanding that not a penny of the oil revenues goes further south than Gretna, we must call out hypocrisy. When denigrating the English is paraded as “celebrating Scottish culture”, we must call that hypocrisy too. The same goes when a referendum on Scotland’s future is deliberately timed to coincide with the commemoration of a battle 700 years ago, as if it’s relevant.

            Maybe you’re right to suggest that I’m saying “special rules” apply to Scotland. Scotland has its own parliament, its own laws, with the likely arrival of devo-max at some point in the next few years, it may have complete fiscal autonomy, Scots play a prominent role in national politics, Scottish culture is celebrated across the whole UK, the government is providing considerable sums to try and ensure the survival of Gaelic, the tartan industry is booming, and we recently had a decade of Scottish PMs. My basic point is, this isn’t an uprising of a disenfranchised and persecuted people striving for a republic of their own. It’s a proposed separation which would retain some incredibly important cultural unions, such as the monarchy, the commonwealth, major sporting events, music, literature, and language. This is pretty unique, so yes, in a way, special rules do apply.

            I absolutely agree with you that there is a debate to be had, but to have it we must get discard of arguments based on petty and irrelevant hypocrisies, those that try to divide the people rather than the political entities. So when Mr Bissett highlights a clip of an audience in Lancaster laughing at was perhaps an inappropriate but clearly tongue-in-cheek comment, and provides statistics to try and “prove” that actually the English hate the Scots more, he’s basically saying to his readers: “Look at these English people. They laugh at us. They hate us. So vote for independence.”

            It’s not racist in the typical sense of the word, but rather it is trying turn the debate from a political-economic one into an ethno-nationalist one. No matter which side of the border and which side of the argument, if we wish to conduct this debate like we are living in a 21st Century democracy, we must not allow that to happen unchallenged.

          2. NorthBrit

            “when a referendum on Scotland’s future is deliberately timed to coincide with the commemoration of a battle 700 years ago”.

            11th September 1997.

            Hypocrisy?

            P.S. You absolutely must not allow overuse of superlatives on this incredibly important topic, ardent one, and “[pretty] unique”, while heading in the opposite direction, is not absolutely valid.

            Do special rules apply to specious arguments?

          3. me fae greenock

            When bisset starts describing English people in Scotland as “immigrants” his anti english pretence surrenders what little credibility it ever had.

        2. me fae greenock

          Thankyou Chris you express my feelings far more elequently than I can. I’d like to see myself what “northbrit” has to contribute to the argument rather than just point out obvious typos.

  9. Darren Carrigan

    fantastic article that speaks the truth, I fail to comprehend what led the Guardian to such an action in the first place as it his always been respectable in it’s coverage towards the Yes campaign, even reporting on events such as the huge outpouring of support when the cross party Yes group visisted Glasgow

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