Murray Foote former Daily Record editor – 3-times Newspaper of the Year
Truculence is a lovely word. I have other favourites such as somnambulant and wind – not the intestinal kind – and confluence, words that slide off the tongue. ‘Truculence’ is one, and it sums up the Scottish psyche faced by its bigger more powerful neighbour.
Since a few nobles, clergy and opportunistic lawyers signed the Treaty of Union, Scotland’s relationship with England has been one long bitter opposition against rule by another country. The day Westminster levied increased taxes on Scotland, automatically channelled south, was the day Scots woke up to the realisation all was not well with the much-vaunted Union that was promised to bring an economic miracle.
England hiked export taxes on everything, from candle making, paper making and the premier industry, linen. Westminster decided Scots paid too few taxes, we were a bunch of malingerers, a familiar cry to this day. When it comes to English black propaganda they are seriously unimaginative.
Garden of Eden – where?
Far from the fabricated claims of an SNP making promises of a post-independence Nirvana, it was the Unionist pamphleteers of 1706 who promised marble pavements to walk upon and gold plates to eat off. When you think about it, that’s exactly what the sons of bitches promise now so long as we stay locked into the madness that is a post-European England. I’d like to say we’re not so easily duped these days but for the knowledge half of Scotland think themselves too stupid to run their own affairs.
The feeling of being taken for a ride has repeated itself down the ages exemplified by one of the architects of the phony ‘Vow’. Murray Foote, a right-wing tabloid newspaper editor of no visible morality, got smacked in the gob by an epiphany and announced himself a Yes voter. He has seen the light. God is an Indy Supporter. Hallelujah!
Right before your eyes, numpty
There were any number of similar Westminster cons and muggings Foote and his henchmen could have found but chose to ignore had they troubled to check Scotland’s recent history. The editorial line held fast: Scotland must remain a colonial territory, people like me are vile dissidents. Then came a blow to Unionism. After leaving his newspaper Foote did a volte-face and is now lauded for it. So far, so good.
Foote spends his time spreading the Word to anybody who will listen. There is no greater zealot than a firebrand who persecuted those who disagreed with his view of the world. Saint Paul is their patron saint. Foote probably gets paid for his efforts and for television interviews and articles. I don’t. There’s equality for you.
We are expected to be gracious for this changed man turned propagandist for Yes, unctuously thankful one more individual supports liberty and freedom. I’m pleased that he has changed his soiled underpants at last, but I have scorn too: the courageous thing to have done was make his announcement that he got it all wrong on the front page when he was editor.
History repeats itself
Merely looking at the Scottish economy from the mid-1950’s was enough to tell anybody, let alone a slow-witted newspaper hack, that so long as Scotland remained at the mercy of England’s economic agenda, so long did its economy remain in the doldrums. Scotland’s democratic deficit has remained a crippling, suffocating weight on progress.
We did not have the political mechanisms to raise our game. Why would any business company want to locate in Scotland if it did not offer better conditions than London? Wasn’t that the whole purpose of the various Darien schemes? – to avoid English tariffs and trade blockades, give Scotland it’s very own trading routes free from interference. The ambition was sound though the solution was deeply flawed.
An own goal
Foote could have changed the course of Scotland’s progressive history for the better, instead the Scottish Daily Record stopped it in its tracks. His newspaper made thousands of people unhappy, fired salvos of brutality at effective individuals in the independence movement, and consequently rendered Scotland’s legitimate right of self-governance weaker by delay, and economically poorer from the whiplash of Westminster vengeance.
Our evangelical editor contends it was Westminster’s denial of Scotland’s equal place at the Brexit negotiating table that altered his perception of SNP Bad to Scotland has a bloody good case. His dedication to the democratic principle has yet to manifest itself by joining the SNP, the one act that would cement his commitment to a fair society.
Taxed to Hell and back
Unlike the Irish, Scotland has used the ballot box not the bomb or bullet to make its feelings plain. It wasn’t always like that. We have picked up the odd rock and chucked it. In the face of an onslaught of authoritarian laws and harsh taxation, Scotland’s truculence boiled over into armed rebellion within a few years of the Union. Until then tax collection was a fairly good-natured, relaxed process. After 1707 almost 500 custom officials were sent to Scotland – placemen – to ensure we paid up. Tax collecting became a rough and rigorous occupation. Officials had armed protection.
There was the Malt Tax, the Salt Tax, the Window Tax, the Leather Tax, the Horse Tax, the Starch Tax, The Sugar Tax, the Soap Tax, – no wonder we were called unwashed – the Tree Planting Tax, the Roof Slate Tax, the Candles Tax, The Shoe Tax, the Silver Tax, the Roads Tax, the Arable Land Tax, the Good Teeth Tax – okay, I made that last one up, but you get the drift. We had become a servile nation. This was never the promise, the 1706 VOW, made to us by Unionists.
By 1709 England was at your door demanding a chunk of your hard earned groats and if wealthy, your sovereigns. If you refused they took your possessions. In retaliation – that hostile opposition again – tax officials got stoned. This in turn led Westminster MPs to say Scotland was becoming ungovernable. It wasn’t only the huddled masses who cried in pain, but also the rich who had enthusiastically sold off Scotland to line their pockets and now saw their pockets emptied again. They joined the defiant chorus.
The earls of Scotland gathered together to demand the Union be dissolved right there and then. The Earl of Oxford, in good colonial tradition, commented that the whinging of the Scots “resembled a man with toothache who asks for his head to be cut off”. The term grievance monkey was pretty well coined back then by insufferable English MPs.
The earls did their best and failed, the motion presented by the Earl of Seafield lost by a few votes. Seafield a Scottish aristocrat, who like Murray Foote had commanded the very centre of the Union campaign, had used every opportunity his status gave him to denounce adherents of independence.
Seafield is infamous for the phrase spoken at the mothballing of the Scottish Parliament. As far as he was concerned Scotland could now “be seen as the end o’ a lang sang”.
Foote cannot claim any credit for the fact that the Union is as insecure now as it was in 1709 and remained so until the First World War. He has stepped into the fray when the going is relatively safe, his newspaper sliding into oblivion.
Foote is welcomed by me to the world of common sense and social justice. But for the democratic destruction reaped upon Scotland by his disreputable lying rag of a newspaper, for the ferocious lies he published, for his paper’s repulsive racism, for the fact we might still be part of the EU had we secured self-governance again, Foote has a lot of explaining to do. And perhaps he should donate his speaking fees to a food bank.
Truculent? I’m goddam angry as hell. There is no mercy in my justice.