I read the Times most Saturdays to keep up to date with the preoccupations of the ruling class. Which reminds me of the old saw about who reads which newspapers. The Times is read by those who run the country, The Daily Telegraph is read by those who used to run the country, The Daily Mail is read by those who would like to run the country, while Sun readers don’t care who runs the country, so long as she’s well built (I’ve edited that last phrase for more sensitive readers). I think the Guardian also featured but I can’t recall what their position was. Perhaps it was that it was read by those who think the metropolitan intelligentsia should run the country?
Anyway, this Saturday there were two interesting articles in the Times relating to Scotland. The first that caught my eye was a book review ‘Scots and Catalans – Union and disunion’ by J.H. Elliot. The reviewer was scathing of both Catalan and Scottish independence movements, declaring that they are both driven by passion (often in the guise of grievance) at the expense of reason. The title of the review says much about the reviewers own view ‘It’s all bagpipes, flags and fake history’ He goes on to assert, Scottish independence is ‘… all about the Gay Gordons, Irn Bru, that statue of Wellington with the traffic cone on its head and singing Flower of Scotland after six cans of McEwans’ So no passion there from the reviewer then, all clear common-sense.
Elsewhere the Parliamentary sketch writer Patrick Kidd offered his end of term report on the coming and goings in Westminster by offering various awards, such as the ‘Prize for summing up’and ‘Best Intervention’. Under the heading ‘Baby of the House’, Kidd wrote, ‘Not Mhairi Black, who is the youngest MP but someone with greater maturity, Zana Lewis, the 11 week old daughter of the Labour MP Clive Lewis, slept peacefully through a petulant strop by the SNP, who stormed out of the chamber en-masse while the speaker bellowed ‘order’ 28 times at them’ No insight was offered concerning the reason for the SNPs walk-out and no analysis of the impact, which shone a spotlight on the inequity of the EU Withdrawal Bill that the BBC had failed to highlight because viewers, apparently, weren’t interested! Or the boost to SNP membership which ensued from the walkout. So, once again, a perspective based on passion or reason? You decide.
Finally, on today’s Andrew Marr Show, in an otherwise balanced and coherent analysis of Brexit, John Major couldn’t help himself when talking about the various political parties. Having name checked the Conservatives, Labour, the Liberals (sic), when it came to the SNP however, he used the more pejorative ‘Scottish Nats’.
When accusing nationalists of being motivated by grievance and passion therefore and being uninterested in a rational exploration of the ‘facts’, the opponents of Scottish independence really need to look in the mirror. While they persist in this view, they fail to engage with the many real arguments that drive the quest for independence. Arguments such as why a country with the natural and human resources of Scotland lags behind many of our European neighbours. The democratic deficit which is forcing Brexit and its dire economic consequences onto a Scotland that voted decisively to remain in the EU. Or being hamstrung by the lack of access to those economic levers that are reserved to Westminster.
The good news is that as a result of their obsession with portraying Scottish Nationalism as simply about grievance and flags, British Nationalists will be ill prepared come IndyRef2 to provide compelling arguments for staying within the Union. They are likely therefore to resort once again, to fear tactics and ‘promises’ which, next time round, are unlikely to gain anything like the traction they achieved in 2014.