The Tartan Elephant

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Scotland is North England but with a different name for reasons of tourism

A colloquial cliché

Last year saw an idiom become fashionable in daily conversation. Considering the mammal is destined to be wiped out it by ivory poachers, there were literally and figuratively herds of them everywhere. The phrase was … the elephant in the room.

If you wanted to sound smart you dropped the phrase into a debate, the big issue nobody dare discuss. Where is that elusive elephant this year? The cry goes up: “Behind you!”

Scotland voted by a large majority to stay in Europe. England voted out. How do UK parliamentarians deal with the will of the Scottish people? As they have always done – patronise it, reject it, or ignore it. Scotland has no voice.

On her way to meet faux president Donald Trump for a quick fix, prime minister Theresa May crowed “The days are over when the UK and the US intervene in the sovereignty of other countries”. Scots everywhere can allow themselves a wry smile.

Having your cake and sit on it

The United Kingdom’s Supreme Court ruled that the UK parliament must debate and vote on the efficacy of leaving the European Union. England won’t be ruled by referenda alone.

The Supreme Court ruling did two things: it reminded Scotland that any English judge with a wig on his head, straight seams in his tights, and a bottle of Scotch under his desk, can usurp Scottish Law in direct contravention of the Act of Union and Treaty. Secondly, it completely wiped out the dubious unionist claim Scotland’s few political powers constitute authority incarnate, ever-lasting, irrevocable. They have as much value as Scottish £5 note tendered at a BNP rally.

The Supreme Court stated categorically Scotland is North England but with a different name for reasons of tourism. The name has no meaning other than geographical.

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The Scots influence on the world has even reached the plains of the Serengeti

How did Scotland arrive at where it is now?

Paying attention to the wrong priorities and the wrong government proved fatal for Labour in Scotland. As their every utterance  grew indistinct from Tory ideology the SNP grew in popularity, a clear alternative to old school career politics. Most SNP politicians had taken up politics from others jobs, motivated by a heartfelt ambition to create a better society, unlike their Tammany Hall opportunists scratching backs for a share of the spoils of colonialism.

It was Union Jack McConnell’s administration that abandoned the first-past-the-post in local elections to introduce proportional representation. The door was opened. Districts once diehard Labour strongholds saw new talent appearing on the electoral register, people who wanted Scotland’s voice to be heard. Having Scotland’s voice heard was a novelty to voters, and they liked the idea a lot.

A cloak removed from alternatives

McConnell’s political error allowed a new democratic spirit to take off at grass roots level. Catholics loyal to the Labour party, who wanted a good degree of self-governance, an ambition invariably frustrated by a party beholden to London values, suddenly found themselves among like-minds their hopes open to discussion, Labour shibboleths challenged. In turn they saw the SNP as a classless, all-encompassing organisation that fitted their ideals.

Moreover, the SNP had a group of politicians every inch the match of Labour and Tory grandees: Alex Salmond, John Swinney, Michael Russell, Nicola Sturgeon, Angus Robertson, John Nicolson, and others, the Donald Dewers of their day but without the compromising attitude to sovereignty.

Within a few years the Labour group had gone through a pack of leaders in a frenzy to better the SNP’s habit of presenting the electorate with candidates of real ability. Labour’s band were not fit for the job, and all, including the current incumbent, Kezia Dugdale, strangely unable to communicate intelligence.

The new generation of SNP politicians knew their Scottish history thoroughly, and they identified the democratic omissions that Labour had been happy to ignore for generations. What is more, they could articulate solutions extremely well, to the embarrassment of Labour, Tory, and Liberal-Democrats. The public took note.

Rhetoric from Tony Blair’s New Labour of public sector reform such as the National Health Service soon crept into Scottish Labour’s vocabulary. In carbon copy ideology of the Tory party, long rejected by the Scottish electorate, Labour hacks talked of the “something for nothing” society, treating the notion of state assistance fit only for condemnation. This was despite social security a Labour creation designed for the humanitarian purpose of helping the destitute and the vulnerable stave off extreme hardship. State help was a right not a privilege. Now people heard their political champions suggest the state should back away from intervention in poverty.

People in Scotland of all political persuasion who had once made use of unemployment benefit or housing subsidy, and were all the better for it, help paid for by their own taxes, did not take kindly described as welfare scroungers. Scotland decided it liked helping the poor and needy.

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The café birthplace of Rowling’s Potter, the SNP a huge elephant in her house

SNP very bad because its so good

In retaliation, an unimaginative Labour group threw all their energies into portraying the SNP as a semi-evil cabal of plotters in the vein of Guy Fawkes, willing to blow up the United Kingdom for a single ideal. Labour fell back on empty slogans and jeering; policies fit for the new age they had none.

Labour’s dearth of progressive ideas reached its zenith when McConnell’s administration returned £1.3 billion of funds to the UK Treasury, every penny earned by Scotland, on the basis he could find nothing to spend it on. It was an astonishingly stupid thing to do and smacked of a minor official ingratiating himself with his masters.

Once the SNP took over administration as a minority party, and did so with tremendous gusto and efficiency much to voter’s approval, critics tried to avoid talking of SNP delivering popular policies such as removing the never-ending tolls that caused long traffic tail-backs on the Forth Road Bridge, a freeze on council tax, and phasing out of prescription charges.

Opponents concentrated instead on painting what they saw as the SNP’s less impressive ability to remedy social problems, such as booze violence, pockets of urban and rural poverty, and social inequality. That argument was swiftly lost by reminding Labour it had been in power over thirty years and had done nothing, absolutely nothing to mitigate Scotland’s social ills, nor the Tories before them. In any event, the Holyrood parliament had never been constructed to tackle those profound ills. That was Westminster’s job. But Westminster’s parties showed little regard for Scotland’s problems. If anything, they tended to exacerbate them by using Scotland as a test bed for conformity.

The more the SNP’s opponents blamed the SNP for everything wrong with Scotland, the more the electorate began to see that the most serious issues they endured were the outcome of 300 years of accepting Westminster supremacy.

This perception did a lot to attract non-SNP voters to overlook the core policy of the SNP they thought redundant, namely the ultimate goal of reinstating self-determination, full democratic powers uncoupled from a United Kingdom steadily falling apart at  the seams from corruption, scandals, endless revenue draining wars, fantasy economics, and indifference to public mood. People in Scotland looked at the SNP and saw a breath of fresh air and good governance, compared to old guard conformity and mediocrity.

Carpet bombing no Dyson could hoover up

Throughout the Referendum on Independence Scotland sustained an aerial bombardment of mega-blast proportions, a firestorm of black propaganda. It came from all sections of the British establishment, the entire English and Scottish press and media, including BBC Scotland keen to demonstrate its state broadcaster credentials, plus every newspaper pundit with fat fees to protect and a dubious reputation for truth. Puerile stand-up comics took a stab at belittling Scottish mores with nothing more than a few nutritional jokes and a very bad stage-Scots accent.

The BBC offered itself as the natural platform of truthiness to a raggle-taggle, scurrilous ‘Better Together’ campaign that relied heavily on scaremongering the population, young and old, with fabricated ‘facts’ and dire warnings of doom.

On first sight it was an odd assembly of bedfellows, but in reality they had a great deal in common. In 2011 the SNP had been given a landslide victory shocking the other parties and causing the forces of imperialism to close ranks. Labour the traditional enemy of Tory rule now glad-handed their political opponents giving the electorate the evidence they needed to validate their accumulating suspicion the old parties were a mirror images of each other. You could not tell them apart.

Labour in Scotland paid the ultimate penalty for its hubris and folly – it was all but wiped out, down to a single MP scraping through by the skin of his English Cumberland sausage.

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Scotland’s leader of the few Tory group told the Scottish electorate Heaven is on Earth so long as they vote to stay in Hell. She now counsels Hell is Heaven

Don’t shoot until you see the whites of their eyes

The independence referendum lost, the SNP didn’t turn in on itself squabbling and bickering. It maintained its stance, looking like a great champion dignified in defeat who might return for a rematch once his wounds healed.

Membership shot up from around 28,000 to over 130,000 in the space of a few months. The people of Scotland were determined their just demands would not be swept into the gutter like discarded fag ends in George Square the day after the plebiscite vote.

The leading figure of Scotland’s renaissance, Alex Salmond, resigned as First Minster but did not fade into obscurity. He rose like Lazarus and got elected again as a Westminster MP reinvigorated, ready to harass the wannabee Churchills, such was his enduring popularity. His enemies retired, lost their political posts, or worse, got elected to the House of Lords rewarded for selling their country’s rights to the lowest bidder. Salmond’s redoubtable colleague, Nicola Surgeon, took his place as First Minister, and proved to be more popular than Amazon’s Game of Thrones.

The enemies of democracy – there’s no other way to describe the outrageous attack on civil rights – thought eradication of the SNP would cleanse Scotland of rebellion. Carpet bombing the natives didn’t work in Vietnam, but hell, it might work in Scotland. There are too few trees for Jocks to hide among.

The venomous abuse thrown at Scotland and the Scots from official sources and from internet social sites is well documented in historical archives and analysis; there’s no need to repeat examples here, but it has continued almost unabated because a second referendum is likely to happen.

The damn Scots think Scotland belongs to them

With only 32% of England’s electorate backing them, Tories took power at Westminster. They began rolling back decades of progressive policies to impose more neo-liberal dogma. The worst scenario predicted by the SNP came about.

Prime Minister David Cameron, fresh from winning the Scottish Referendum by a small margin of anglophiles, the Queen still ‘purring’ in his ear, immediately proclaimed English laws for English votes, letting the Scots know they may have been induced to stay in the UK but they’re not entitled to the full English breakfast. Balls high, he laid down a Bill for a Referendum on membership of the European Union. His thought was to silence his own backbench whiners who believed only Etonians were fit to rule his native land.

The contradiction between their demands and Scotland’s was evident to everybody but British nationalists. Scotland wanted to join the international world on its own terms,  England wanted to exclude the international world on its own terms.

To the nation’s shock Cameron lost the EU Referendum, resigned, and the unelected Theresa May, an ordinary politician of no discernible ability, slipped into number 10 Downing Street as UK prime minister.

She wore an off-the-peg tartan trouser suit for the occasion, an urban icon created by clothes designer Vivienne Westwood. Unlucky for May and posterity’s indelible images, Westwood is a passionate advocate of Scottish independence.

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Theresa May arrives at Washington Airport to meet Donald Trump. Presumably on her return she will wave a letter in the air to proclaim “Deal in our time!”

History repeats itself

Vainglorious politicians never learn from history. When it comes to Scotland’s democratic rights England’s parliament has only two modes, indifference or riding roughshod over Scotland’s interests. It was the same in the late 1600s and it’s exactly the same today.

As in 1707, Scotland makes lain it prefers good relations with European nations, England does not. With some minor reservations Scotland voted overwhelmingly in the Brexit referendum to remain partners with Europe, as did 98% of loyal Brit Gibraltarians also ignored by the harbingers of British national chauvinism.

In a piece of superficial window dressing, a sixteen minute chat with Scotland’s First Minister, Theresa May promised that Scotland would be consulted on the new world order, which is the same as the old world order but without the protection of human rights. Listened to did not mean acting upon concerns and proposals. To English supremacists, cooperation is for frogs, wops, tulip chasers, Pollacks, and onion Johnnies.

It was a promise that was never going to be honoured, a classic folly of colonial mentality. Scotland is told yet again it is too small and too poor to participate in its own fate, it must accept an alien ideology or be prepared to shut down, blocked from all trade once England re-establishes its own trading routes. It is 1706 played all over again.

The distant rumble isn’t thunder, it’s an elephant stampede

To Scotland’s eyes the Tory party in London is weak, vulnerable, and as intolerant of other cultures as it can be. The British Labour party is wholly unable to stand up straight and support its flaccid leader, Jeremy Corbyn, let alone represent the hopes of the people who voted for his policies.

Liberal Democrats pretend they are a political party while sounding like a boy scout troupe lost in municipal park without a woggle or compass. Ukip is in total disarray if it ever had discipline, its former leader Nigel Farage taken leave of Blighty to spout inanities and flibbertigibbet on USA’s Fox news. Farage has become everything he detests, an economic migrant, his Ukip successor a burgeoning fascist in the Oswald Mosley mould.

To add to the Union’s woes the fragile peace of the Northern Ireland Assembly has broken up yet again on realising they have to much to lose cast adrift from European union.

Seen from a Scottish perspective, with the unpredictable Donald Trump in power, the only constant in an alarmingly fluctuating political world is the SNP. The electorate north and south of the Scottish border is faced with political parties proven inept, unable to govern effectively. The exception to this unprecedented rule is the SNP admired by the majority of Scotland’s electorate, and a good many English residents too.

Each and every one of those unionist participators in the real Game of Thrones maintain Scotland does not count – but think about that claim. In reality the fate of their personal ambitions hang on what Scotland does next.

If Nicola Sturgeon feels public animosity remains intense, that the population wants protection from the conflagration of English political backdraft, and she calls a second referendum on independence, the game’s a bogey for unionism and the British state.

The SNP has largely sustained Left-wing policies, and held on to only a few neo-liberal principles. Unique in its history, Scotland holds in its hands the fate of its sister nations.

The pachyderm in the Unionist room is no domesticated Indian elephant. It’s a very large angry tartan mammoth getting tetchier by the minute continually fed dry peanuts.

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18 Responses to The Tartan Elephant

  1. Alex Wright says:

    An excellent summary of the past and the present. Much appreciated.

  2. Grouse Beater says:

    Thanks, Alex. I’m unsure if others will agree with my conclusion, but that’s how I see the accumulation of events. Scotland’s decision will determine their fate and our future.

  3. Les55 says:

    Excellent summary

  4. Grouse Beater says:

    🙂 Readers like the occasional history essay, something of a surprise to me, so I think I might go back to my notes on the Darien Venture (oft called erroneously the ‘Damian Scheme) and harvest failure and see if there’s anything worth imparting there. (Anythin’, but listen to Trump and May sookin’ up tae each ither!)

  5. Thanks for this measured piece, GB.

    Yes we were ‘carpetbombed’ by the Brit Establishment, yet came within touching distance.

    I recall Mags Curran, whose whining drivel must have been worth 10,000 Yes converts alone, complaining that she didn’t want to be a ‘foreigner’ if she needed medical treatment while in England. Nonsense of course within the EU then, and even more risible now in light of the news from England this week that if you are obese, a smoker, or elderly in need of a hip or knee replacement, but can still hobble about in agony, Health Boards are scraping your operations or treatment, as an ‘efficiency saving’, ie., because of Tory Dogma cuts in public spending you are ‘the undeserving ill’.

    May will be right at home with Locker Room Trump who is scrapping Obamacare as they hold hands and leer at the camera. It won’t be Viet Nam carpetbombing by our media and the Red Blue and Yellow Tories next time. It will be Full Metal Union Jacket.

    During the Quebec 2 independence campaign, the Canadian Government commissioned Canadian airlines to fly pro Union Canadians into Montreal for mass Unionist rallies, and mounted the Mother of All Project Fears. Banks and businesses would leave, et cetera et cetera.

    We need only hunker down in the trenches for a few months until B Day 31st March. Trump and May are doing so much work for us. When the Brexshit hits the fan, Better Together will sound like the philosophy of a madman.
    We will do it next time.

  6. diabloandco says:

    ‘Better Together will sound like the philosophy of a madman’ God , I hope you are right .

    Grouse , the tartan and tweed pachyderms are fab!

  7. Grouse Beater says:

    Must admit I’ve done little homework on the Quebec issue, other than read their warnings to the SNP on how to beat brutal propaganda and tactics. (That’s the practical Scot in me.) But learning the Canadian government bussed in its supporters seems to fit the pattern of administrations that elect Public Enemy No1 the public! I wonder if Trudeau Junior would exploit the same methods in a Quebec rerun.

  8. MacMina MacAllan says:

    I have rather neglected inde blogs since the Scottish referendum but now with prospects of Inderef2 I have been resurrecting the old reading list.

    I have thoroughly enjoyed catching up with all your back numbers and very glad you are keeping the faith and still producing your excellent articles.

    Lang may yer lum reek.

  9. Grouse Beater says:

    Often I wonder who it is reading one essay at a time in a day – the statistics only show the number of readers set against published work, not actual names. Glad to have you back, re-energised and ready to fight for your civil rights! And my hoos lum is reekin’ logs at the moment.

  10. I’d love a re-run of the rickshaw ‘Bow Down To Your Imperial Masters’ farce.
    Do you think 100 MP’s would travel to Glasgow with their holdalls and laptops this time? Doubt it.

  11. Grouse Beater says:

    For me, the ‘Imperial Masters’ intervention was one of the great highlights of the Referendum debate. How will historians express it in their analysis of a nation’s ambitions.

  12. eva comrie says:

    Excellent – thank you!

  13. Grouse Beater says:

    You’re welcome. 🙂

  14. Mima Foreman says:

    Very well put.

  15. carthannas says:

    Thanks a lot. I really found this informative and enjoyed reading it. Look forward to the piece on the Darien Venture!

  16. carthannas says:

    Can you direct me to where I might read these warnings. Thanks

  17. Grouse Beater says:

    Hello, Carthanass

    Warnings came many and direct from Canadian individuals during the great debate in the run up to the Referendum for self-governance, usually in newspaper articles, and blogs written by key figures in the Quebec Liberation movement.

    There was constant advice on how to watch out for and handle scaremongering, the Right-wing antagonist press, false calls to patriotism, and the dismissing of civil rights.

    Also there was lots of anecdotal evidence about how Canadian government officials skewed facts and figures to create doubt in the mind of secessionists. (Scotland isn’t a secessionist nation in the same sense because our independence aims to keep the Union of the Crowns.) Unionists did and are still doing their damned best to portray the demand for real democracy as separatism, meaning isolationism, exactly the opposite of self-determination.

    You could try dropping key Canadian and Quebec words and phrases in Google and see what comes out.

    The House of Lords held an inquiry on how independence regained could-maybe might affect the constitution – England has none, it’s all scattered among laws and bills giving constitutional lawyers a good living for life!

    Here is the document: http://www.parliament.uk/documents/lords-committees/constitution/Scottish%20independence/Scottish-Independence-evidence-volume-24-April.pdf

  18. carthannas says:

    Thanks for the reply above

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