Looking out for Number One


From the plebiscite of 2014 a passing thought; did over-use of ‘independence now’ as the galvanising standard slogan contribute to the 2014 defeat? Indisputably, self-governance means political independence, but in the context of enduring over 300 years of England’s ill-disposed and ignorant rule that so many of us have become accustomed without really noticing it, the word ‘independence’ carries all sorts of connotations for those who have given it little thought in the past.

No borders – except around Scotland’s oil

One palpable reaction was a belief we were cutting off England and the English, as if Scotland is populated only by Scots. That egregious belief issued from all the black propaganda that talked of border controls and family as foreigners. In actuality self-governance ditches Westminster’s war-like right-wing priorities. We prefer to care for our own citizens and not think of what English interests prefer. In this instance ‘Number One’ is Scotland. The other reaction from people was bemusement – exactly what rights will independence bring to Scotland that we do not have already?

‘Independence now’ allowed opponents to claim we were isolationists, cutting ourselves off from the rest of world. I am pretty certain it scared the hell out of the nervous among us. What did independence mean in reality – what is that better place we aim to reach?

A better Scotland

For my part it was and remains constitutional change, the permanent implementation of full civil rights, not equal with England but enhanced. A nation cannot progress while its neighbour retains all power over it, including taxation and foreign affairs.

A ‘better Scotland’, to quote the phrase the Yes side adopted, has to mean everything that improves the lives of the majority: we own the land and the seas around it; we keep what we earn and choose how we spend it; full and robust participation in all aspects of national government; no secrecy; no secret service; no lobbying; a reformed law service catering for the poor; a protected social security service; safe banking; a safe NHS; a benign national broadcaster; the right to welcome immigration; the bulk of higher education for those born in Scotland; no involvement by the church in state affairs, tolerance and more tolerance, and so on and so forth.

Until recently, I wondered if the populace understood the detail, and if they did, how they thought it would alter their lives. Watching England disintegrate into the land of the white supremacist, people who voted ‘No’ must have a sick feeling in the pit of their stomach witnessing rather late the meaning of liberty, even if they still don’t see detail.  

What do I mean by democracy?

I used to think, school text fashion, democracy was a body of elected representatives whose sole task it is to protect citizens from war, privations, penury, and ill-health. Well, non-Union Jack wavers in England don’t believe we live in a democracy. You can hear them say it any day, adding, “I’m thinking of moving to Scotland.”

Looking at the spread of neo-fascist England outward from the House of Grotesques that is Westminster, in what sense is our society democratic? If you dare espouse views that are not in nature far-right orthodoxy you’re liable to be vilified by the press, our own Scottish press, the enthusiastic emissary of England’s rule.

Something happened to cause me to think deeper about my own government and our democracy. Today I’d answer, democracy is for the few and the special interests, not the people. I bet a majority of people agree with that sentiment.

My government is my enemy

Recently, taking legal advice on a matter of SNP libel, (libelled by others too) I was surprised to be told that for various reasons the lawyer felt it inappropriate to confront the SNP over the matter. For one thing he had a life’s membership of the SNP party.

The consequences of his honesty took a while to sink in. Government employees are elected by us to represent us. If what they do inadvertently or deliberately endangers the reputation of a citizen, and have adherents in the law system reluctant to take action, we are in trouble. My point is, we spend a lot of time condemning the Tory system of colonial control, we reject Labour’s years of dominating Scotland leaving it unable to achieve social progress, so what difference is there when the wrong kind of control seeps into a Scotland determined to do things differently?

Together with a few die-hard independence supporters who feel any criticism of the SNP is akin to sedition and who let you know in no uncertain terms, the episode with the lawyer left me wondering where democracy in Scotland starts and where it ends.

Private tyrannies

Our lives today are, for the most part, in the hands of international private tyrannies. They are as authoritarian, as totalitarian as any we have seen in history. The more governments remove regulatory controls over them by the simple action of withdrawing funding from the agencies established to maintain standards in public life, the more those global corporations control our lives.

The same holds true for Westminster. Too much power and they ignore Scotland, wilfully, with malice aforethought. Westminster is a tyranny. Its proponents take pride in acting like tyrants. We see the naked, unembellished power in action in so many ways.

For Scotland, democracy lies at a low level. The further up the scale you go the more it begins to disappear. We assume because we can complain and get remedy from out local council about pot holes in the road, or a rates overcharge, or the need for a new primary school, we enjoy living in a democracy. Well, at that level we do have a say in our community but not at a higher level. 

Just when we feel we can influence political matters at the national level, the opposite is the case. We are ignored, the Yes movement separated from government goals.

The public arena

In the late twentieth century and now in the twenty-first century, political parties and thus governments have become ciphers to big business. They are owned by big business, bought by corporations. Even a middle size business can have huge influence over governments by, for example, threatening to move across the border and so remove jobs and wealth from Scotland. Surely independence is about changing all that?

Once in government, a radical party has to remain radical if it is not to slip into keeping in with wealthy companies – that includes press barons who are part of the corporate system. So far, and to a reasonable extent, the SNP has managed that trick, with the odd exception of not publishing minutes of certain meetings with lobbyists, or Alex Salmond meeting Rupert Murdoch to ask him to locate his UK headquarters in Scotland.

Contrary to popular myth, both Tory and Labour were happy to see Scotland gain devolved powers. They gave us piffling local aspects to govern, the small stuff that leaves the British state free to control the big policies that go on to affect local democracy.

Detail, detail. What does this mean in detail? Here are a few case points: We want to rid students of the onerous debt laid on them by Labour, we can’t afford it, the UK Treasury pays us an annual allowance that won’t cover everything. We wish to implement radical new solutions to the disease of drug abuse. No can do. Proposals are rejected – drugs are a matter reserved to Westminster. We want to have a second referendum on our freedoms because leaving the European Union will hurt Scotland badly in so many ways, we are dismissed, told we cannot participate in that process. This is repression.

You devolve power to make it easier to control. That’s why the Tories are demanding Holyrood devolve many of the powers it has further, to local communities. It weakens Scotland’s ability to govern, to take the big decisions.

Removing civil rights

What we are witnessing in England, and trying to halt the spread to Scotland, is decision making removed from the public arena where we used to participate in it, shifted over to the private arena where it is out of our control. Did the SNP make that plain to voters during the Referendum debate? I don’t think it did.

The poor don’t see a point in taking part in mass demonstrations, no one listens to them, the middle classes are caught in the spiral of imposed austerity and feel emasculated. Those developments are not random, they are Westminster inspired, planned, a strategy.

The good news for Scotland was the eighty-odd percent who voted in the 2014 Independence Referendum, an entire nation politicised, hence it’s derided as ‘divisive’ by the opponents of democracy. The level of participation was phenomenal, unknown in a general election. Yes marches taking place in cities and towns strengthen that image of involvement to a high degree. The marches consist of people from all walks of life. That must irk our opponents. We are exercising too much democracy!

According to the Tory party, we are a rogue territory. Why can’t we shut up and accept our role? Fascism is on the rise in every aspect of our society. It is being tested, one outrage at a time, to see what we will accept. Detail, detail? We watch powerless as people are repatriated to countries they left decades ago, having lived in Scotland and contributed to their community – deported. I never thought I’d live to see the day entire families were wrenched apart in my own land.

I can be forgiven left with an unsettling feeling that the SNP has reached a stage where it is reluctant to confront seriously adverse colonial actions aimed to pacify and rob Scotland of its rights. You cannot fight neo-fascism with a tweet.

‘Look out for Number One’ is an unhealthy state to be in, and the same applied to my erstwhile lawyer who didn’t realise he was doing exactly that, something in all of us, I admit, amplified by the rise of celebrity, by institutional structures, by the propaganda system, by our education, by the media, by everything.

The spirit of the age

That wasn’t the the new spirit of the age I thought we were all struggling for. Westminster is determined to introduce inequality into all aspects of our lives, and exert power by diktat. This cannot be called equality, let alone democracy.

For the general population, things are at best stagnant, and for most people actually are declining. I don’t see or hear the SNP defying Westminster. Not one bit. I see them reply to this or that in scornful pronouncements but no organised open resistance, an indictment of our age that says, let’s be polite when faced by the onslaught of intolerance and bigotry and totalitarianism, let’s think of our image.

“The Scots are “chippy and meddlesome” said one Englishman I know. “It’s in their blood.” What he really meant but avoided saying is, we don’t have the intelligence or ability to run our own affairs. Our colonial masters are doing us a favour by imposing their will and their beliefs.

What I see is imposed obedience, not democracy.

Please count me out. I don’t want to ‘Look out for Number One’ if I can avoid it. A social revolution cannot accommodate a self-centred value system. That is why I expect my elected representatives to act defiantly at all times against oppression if we are to regain our liberty.



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14 Responses to Looking out for Number One

  1. Derek Cameron says:

    Thanks for this piece which amplifies a developing sense of dissatisfaction ( to put it politely ) in the independence movement over the gap between the rhetoric of the SNP and their actions, hobbled by UKGOV, to protect the rights and liberties of the people who live here and the vulnerable among us.
    What does Ian Blackford’s much quoted response to Westminster’s latest outrage ” Scotland will not stand for it ” mean in practice ? My trust in the definitely cunning ( just you wait and see ) but as yet unrevealed cunning plan is on the wane.
    Let’s see them confront and block the nonsensical deportation of people who contribute to our communities and the refusal to allow drug consumption rooms for example Playing the Westminster game will.look like failure on a massive scale when UK stops indulging us like the cat with a mouse and decides its time to bite our tiresome heads off. Let’s stop trying to placate the bully. .

  2. Hugh Wallace says:

    That counts as one of your best articles ever, GB. Despairingly insightful.

  3. junemax says:

    Thank you GB for writing this, a joy to read. Some bits were especially enjoyable (I suspect because they echo my own thoughts and feelings) – ‘you cannot fight neo-fascism with a tweet’ 👏👏👏 Likewise, so glad you too recognise ‘the Scottish people will be appalled’ trope is only regularly wheeled out to placate the frustration of the masses, but it’s threadbare. Recent events have led me into a deep cynicism of our political leaders so I now fear what has become our familiar supine posture in the face of daily degradation and humiliation amounts to a bit more than ”let’s think of our image’. 🙋‍♀️

  4. Grouse Beater says:

    Thank you, Hugh. I wrote it assuming people will find it boring if not discussing Boris or Trump in a facile or angry fashion. If I do that, if *we* follow that line we miss what’s really happening to our government..

  5. Grouse Beater says:

    Thank you, June. Do promote the essay. More readers, even those who disagree, make the effort worthwhile.

    Understandable cynicism is all part of the response the power elite want. We dismiss government and they pat us on the back and say, good, expect low taxes now, but avoid saying, and few civil rights.

    If you don’t mind, June, I’ll like to quote your initial sentence in a advertising tweet to encourage others to read the essay. 🙂

  6. James Waugh says:

    Thought provoking essay to say the least much of which I have to agree hopefully this will be a catalyst to widen the debate within the Indy Movement as well as the SNP and other Partisan Political Parties. We must not allow any form of a mini-me Westminster system to be embedded either in the Scotland Devolved in the Union scenario we have at present or in an Independent Scotland.

  7. Grouse Beater says:

    We are in complete agreement, James. The bugbear is how many people will be happy to accept the loss of democracy, so long as they can afford the few luxuries in life they feel they need.

  8. junemax says:

    By all means GB, I’ll disseminate widely. Pls go ahead and quote whatever you like.

  9. Paul Watson says:

    A good article but too many expect the SNP to do wonders, sadly they are constrained by the electorate they don’t have 50+% yet and don’t know how the electorate in general would react if they did indeed argue for civil disobedience what they do know is the Unionist media and the other Parties except the Greens would have a field Day! The SNP are on a tightrope and at the minute they are wobbling they need us to make it clear that we stand firmly behind them, of course the SNP aren’t perfect but they are the most likely way to achieve our Independence or should they do a Farage and say Taking back control?

  10. diabloandco says:

    There is an echo missing in Scotland , I speak to lots of folk keen to see us disengage from the mess of Westminster and the ever growing nasty nationalism south of the border but I don’t hear that same echo from our politicians.

    I know they get little air time to put forward points therefore they have to make better use of the time given and not be constantly defensive. I know they get bad press on a permanent basis in the ‘Scottish’ media but I would like to know what happened to’ rebuttal inc’ – I hear/see no rebuttal.

    The constant barrage of ‘ Scotland is crap’ gets me down. I want to hear my MSP’s. MP’s and MEP’s .standing up for my country and echoing the sentiments and needs of all those who live here not sitting on their bahoochie’s in abeyance to the useless liars ,fraudsters, manipulators of another country.

    And your article depressed me further!

  11. Grouse Beater says:

    Sorry, Diablo. (I’m nursing a heavy cold. Orwell wrote ‘1984’ when he knew he was dying of TB.) 🙂

  12. diabloandco says:

    Apology accepted – man flu’ is a terrible thing

  13. Neil Munro says:

    Great blog. Very thought provoking, but more than praise, I guess you need feedback.

    First, anyone who thinks in utopian fashion that independent Scotland is going to be devoid of sycophants, liars, bullies and buttoons is a fool, and anyone who says it is a liar.

    Second, the SNP has to follow the rules of the game in politics, because that is what the SNP is for. They are not a think tank, they are not a religious movement, they are not freedom fighters. Their job is to occupy political space in Scotland, so that others with worse intentions are prevented from doing so. Please do not expect them to be more than a political party.

  14. I boil it down to two words, Gb.
    The two words will be the same in independent Scotland as Occupied Scotland; “Fuck Authority”. 😉

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