‘Tartanry & Tyranny’ John Lloyd and the State of the Union

Journalist John Lloyd had an article on Scottish nationalism called Tartanry & Tyranny in the Financial Times’ Life and Arts supplement (11 March 2012).

John Lloyd is not happy. In particular he is not happy about the prospect that Scotland will vote to revert to its independent state with all that means for the UK.

He makes a passing reference to Sir Walter Scott and George IV’s visit to Edinburgh in 1822. Only two years earlier the people of Scotland were fighting for reforms from repressive government in London which used all kinds of underhand tactics to silence the cries of the poor and disenfranchised. The brutal regime which hung and decapitated and transported Scottish workers was not on Lloyd’s list of reading, nor are the events of that year known to many south of the border. This was a difficult time for the British government so soon after the French Revolution and the subsequent wars with Napoleon (at times referred to as England’s war with Napoleon). But all that nastiness was set aside with the promotion of the circus of 1822. Then Colonel David Stewart and Scott leaders of the recently created Royal Celtic Society crafted a very different version of Scotland from militant radicalism of two years earlier. This new Scotland was attired in regimental short kilts presented as the ‘native dress’ of Scotland,  and George IV resplendent in kilt and pink tights in keeping with the aforesaid gentlemen’s theatrical tartan extravaganza nailed the myth of romantic tartan-clad Scotland so popular with new-born Highlanders.

This spectacle and its association with the invention of tartan although more correctly it should be the re-invention of tartan for it existed in subtler forms before they or the Sobieski Stuarts, fly guys that they were, cashed in on the clamour for all things Scottish. The Sobieski’s Vestiarium Scoticum claimed its tartans were ancient. It was all bogus but lapped up by Anglicised Scottish clan chiefs and clan tartans were born. So Highland dress was dished up as authentic and Scottish nobility, royalty and pseudo-Scots promoted Highland dress as a mark of respectability with an allusion of antiquity in place of the Highland plaid today best represented by the Lonach men.

It is arguable if the Scottish independence movement is led by Alex Salmond, as Lloyd would have it. Salmond leads the SNP and is First Minister but for Scotland’s nationalists he is not their leader. The Scottish national movement is greater than the SNP and has been building as a movement before Alex Salmond. Lloyd mentions something of this from his childhood in Scotland, recalling semi-joking references about ‘the English.’

He resents the implication that this assertion of self-determination by Scotland means he and people like him (with English and Scottish parents) will be expected to choose which part of the UK they feel loyalty to when it is Lloyd’s contention that he is happy to be loyal to the UK. So he has taken a unionist position and has made his choice. Why should he feel uncomfortable with that if it is what he believes in? Of course he does not live in Scotland. Perhaps if he did he would not feel as he does. I wondered what he would have thought if he had a French instead of English father. Would his loyalty have come down on the side of Scotland or France during the Six Nations? Does it matter? Perhaps post-independence Lloyd could take up dual nationality

For most Scots there is no such confusion. Nationalist or unionist when it comes to support for Scotland in sport they support Scotland.(Gordon Brown excepted) But Gordon Brown ‘s case is interesting. Here was a man trying to make it in the heart of the UK establishment – England – struggling to be accepted by England and if that meant identifying with England at sport then he would adopt that position. Whether or not it is principled at any level – well I’ll leave that hanging.

Brown like Lloyd went south to work. South is where much of the best paid jobs are concentrated. The south with its hidden subsidies which creates national institutions with all kinds of creative and lucrative careers. The pampered south-east to be more exact from where  Scotland is accused of being too well financed by England. Well Scotland is not interested in ‘handouts’. Scotland is not a child to be provided with pocket money. Scotland has a right to stand on its own feet. But try telling that to Lloyd who joined other Scots migrating south to the lure of work which has done so much harm to Scotland ( and other parts of the UK).

Lloyd reaches back in time for quotes from commentators to back up his position on nationalism. James Bryce had written in The Times in 1887 that ‘An Englishman has but one patriotism, because England and the United Kingdom are to him practically the same thing. A Scotchman has two, but he is sensible of no opposition between them.’

It was errant nonsense then and is errant nonsense now. The conflation of England with the UK and with GB is the result of England’s presumption of its dominance in this union. Confusion over what is English and what is British has been a justified source of resentment for Scots over the past 300 years – those who fought and died for the union  in what are commonly referred to as English wars/battles, who defended and ran the British Empire frequently regarded as the English Empire, the long transition of academics/education systems throughout the UK promoting England’s history as British: English monarchy, radicalism, education, agricultural systems, industrial revolution and unrest, political and social reformers etc etc while all valid but so too are those of Scotland (and Wales and Ireland) and these were/are relegated as too unimportant to mention. A union of unequal parts.

John Lloyd is aghast that no Scot will post independence be free to enjoy (if that is the term) HMS Pinafore from which such fine lyrics as, ‘For he is an Englishman!’ come. I am sure some will still wish to indulge in such entertainment even if the lyrics exemplify the erroneous conflation of English with British in the same way as Dad’s Army theme tune weekly tells us how ‘old England’ is repelling the Nazis. Lyrics written when Scots were largely cowed and astonishingly accepting of having our contribution to the war ignored.

To John Lloyd Scottish nationalism could be summed up in two words – ‘tartanry’ and ‘tyranny’ . He ridicules the notion of England oppressing Scotland. He backs his case with a quote from Eric Linklater’s Magnus Merriman – as if today’s movement for independence is comparable with the 1930s movement. No violence directed at Scotland by England means there is no case for independence according to Linklater and so too for Lloyd it would seem. And then there was/is?  ‘the material advantages of stability’ but there are more ways of being subjugated and the invisibility of Scotland in relation to the UK over decades, indeed three centuries, has been stark. Look at the difference in attitudes/press coverage there has been in recent months since England has awakened to the possibility of Scotland breaking up the UK.; the tartan-clad, haggis throwing peasants in the northern playground have become restless and resentful at being seen as tartan-clad, haggis throwing peasants who tug meekly their collective forelocks in the presence of ignorant, braying, indolent wealthy southerners who strike poses in kilts and tweeds as they indulge in their annual blood thirsty slaughter of our wildlife.

In Scotland we would prefer to have our people stay here and develop a strong economy with well-paid jobs instead of expecting our people to migrate south to the cosseted fiscal hotspot of London.

And no John Lloyd in Scotland’s schools we do not pass over the Industrial Revolution in England. This revolution which involved the brains and brawn of Scots. It is in England where the significance of Scotland is scarcely, if at all taught, hence the idea that the industrial revolution was purely an English phenomenon.

Then we come to Lloyd’s Braveheart moment. The film ‘that depicted William Wallace as a saintly warrior tortured to death by the English.’ Well he was wasn’t he? If not saintly then his torture and death was gruesome and intended to teach the Scots it should lie down in the face of English aggression. It is not unreasonable that a people remember the attack on its liberty. Why is it wrong for Scotland to remember its history without being accused of being maudlin when English history is revered for its battles and heroes?

Braveheart is not a great film but it did strike a chord with Scotland’s people at a time when they were becoming impatient with being relegated to second division status in the union.  It wasn’t hatred of the English that was being voiced in cinemas across the land it was the sound of anger and contempt for the UK establishment run from London for London. Scotland is full of English people living happily side by side Scots and there have been no slayings of any of them by claymore wielding nationalists to my knowledge.

Lloyd’s pompous observation ‘freedom was a British birthright, not just a Scottish one’ is remarkable for its silliness. I expect he was stamping his feet in annoyance as he typed those words.

In his eagerness to wave his Scottish credentials, Lloyd drags up the giants of the Scottish Enlightenment to reinforce his pro-union views but he stops short of returning to the actual forging of the union. The union brought into being against the will of the people. Like so many of us, Lloyd favours the pick n mix approach to evidence dredging.

He provides an example of the arrogant /ignorant/brutal face of Britain/union whereby any assertion of British as English is totally acceptable while a gentle reminder that Britain is made up of Scotland as well as England is considered the outpourings of a fanatical Nat. Quite extraordinary that anyone could accept this discrimination. Instead of the union think of the Soviet Union and how it enforced the use of Russian and the teaching of Russian culture and history in the Baltic states. How different is that to what has happened for three centuries with Scotland in this unequal union?  The blinkers are well and truly fixed to some faces.

A entertaining game is to turn the England/Britain arrangement around  replacing England or Britain with Scotland in the same way as England is so often used to mean Britain and the UK –  Scotland’s victory over Napoleon at Waterloo, Scot/Irish Agreement, Scottish primrose (why has England claimed the primrose for itself?) Lloyd however is happy to accept Britain as ‘generous extension of English culture’ – yes indeed.

Lloyd is fairly outraged that some Scots complain the union was forced upon this country. Just what does he think happened?  Yes a handful of Scottish nobles were happy to sell off the nation for a pocketful of English gold but that is hardly the same thing as saying ‘we’ (Scots) were complicit in creating the union. The move to form a union came not from Scotland.

Scotland has had so much of its contribution to this union airbrushed from the history books so much so that Lloyd’s wee concerns about Scotland’s renunciation of the state of union sounds very hollow indeed.

This was not a great piece of journalism and contributed nothing new to the debate over independence. In fact the tone was tetchy and resentful but we are used to that from commentators who have moved away and are surprised to see the old country is no longer content to idle away in a 1950s fuzz of grateful servitude to a union which has been weighted to benefit its SE corner.

The world has moved on from the 18thC Enlightenment, from Scott’s invention of the Scottish tradition of the 19thC, from Linklater’s kilted Tory nationalism of the early 20thC. We are where we are. The world is different. Any gains Scotland may have made through the union over the past 300 years are not relevant to the present time. We exist within a global economy. We no longer need to rely on a share of the union economy.

Scotland does not need the union. Scotland can be an independent state contributing to the wealth of Europe and the World.


9 Comments to “‘Tartanry & Tyranny’ John Lloyd and the State of the Union”

  1. Lena – apologies for the earlier return of hostility. Being called spineless is a bit crass though. (Makes unveiled reference to Lena’s problem page)


    You asked:

    ‘Why is there the need for so much antagonism?’

    Look at the history of conflict in the world. Choose a period. Any period. Scarce resources are usually the source of most conflicts – military, political, religious or social.

    Now take a guess at which cash rich resource Scotland possesses which Independence would deny Westminster access to.

    Plain and simple enough to make the connection?

    I assume you’re a nationalist. If not, you sound like one.

    Change your Braveheart Commando glasses. Your myopia is unbecoming for the protagonists of a brave new independent world.

    NB: I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt that the ‘pet jock’ epithet wasn’t aimed at me.


  2. This is a well-written and thoughtful article.

    I’m non-plussed with the suggestion on one of the posts that England is a military threat to us, post-independence.

    To quote longshanker: “Independence now can only mean schism and strife and destabilisation to a dangerous degree.”

    Let’s have a look at that scenario! What would be their reason?

    Our oil and gas fields? Our distilleries? Our tweed mills? Our wind farms? Our water? Our great sense of humour?

    Let’s get real, if this actually happened, it would be as bloody for them as it would be for us. Notwithstanding England’s propensity to pick on smaller nations, I doubt if the International Community would stand by and watch this aggression without sanction.

    But why? Why is there the need for so much antagonism? Why, if the ‘Sweaties’ and the ‘porridge wogs’ are such a drain, are they literally begging us to choose the Union? “Stronger together, weaker apart”? What does that mean?

    Is longshanker suggesting that England will give us ‘a doing’ if we choose self-determination over dependency; that, if we have the audacity to take all our toys with us, England will take them from us by force?

    This is an issue for the people of Scotland. Foreign politicians have no right to interfere, with their perpetual veiled threats, scare-mongering and lies; using their pet ‘Jocks’ to do the damage.

    It’s time for this nation to get up off its knees and take full responsibility for its future. If we screw it up, that is our affair, but we won’t. We will be successful!

    As I always say to our ‘friends’ south of the border: “Don’t worry about us, we’ll be fine. I truly appreciate your concern for our welfare, but I think we’ll manage without your guiding hand. Really!”

    Let’s be honest, we could hardly do a worse job than Westminster!

  3. Well there you go. So are all those primroses growing up and down Scotland are English? And how long have they been in Scotland?

    It occurs to me that they are the same as those in England and the rest of Britain which is why they are sometimes called the British primrose. I know there are different forms of primrose but surely the common British primrose, found throughout Scotland, cannot be called the English primrose.

    That really is botanical imperialism.

  4. The Scottish primrose, Primula scotica, is a different species from the English or Common primrose, Primula vulgaris. The English primrose is found all over Europe wheras the Scottish primrose is only found in Caithness, Sutherland and Orkney.

    • Primula scotica is also grown on Scotland’s premier wild flower farm in Angus by those nice folk at Scotia Seeds.
      P. scotica is purple with a yellow eye as distinct from the common primrose and it’s oft mistaken cousin the cowslip P. veris

  5. Thanks for stopping by to comment guys but keep the cool otherwise I’ll have to resort to moderation and I don’t want to do that. Cheers Lena.

  6. fourfolksache

    “Please God there aren’t many like you!”

    Check the latest Ipsos Mori Independence Poll and its conclusions. You’re out of luck bud.

    You don’t think ‘The resentment demonstrated in the FT article will swiftly turn to retribution’ if Scotland moves to impoverish England – check just about any period in Grating British history and the actions taken therein. FT articles like this one are only petty opening shots.

    As I’ve said elsewhere, there’s nothing more vicious than a contested divorce. I think even Sun King Alex of Salmond would prefer the devo max option. He’s a mostly shrewd and pragmatic political operator.

    ‘Get a backbone man!’

    What a Toxy-moronic thing to say. (Word play on oxymoronic just in case you’re wondering). It’s just as meaningless and unnecessary as me telling you to; Get a brain man!


  7. Nice debunking of the tartan myth. I always held Sir Walter Scott solely responsible for that, so thanks for the addition. I agree with most of the sentiments and propositions of this well argued piece. Cultural imperialism is a parasitic, spirit draining force.

    I do not doubt for a minute that the Scots are capable of running their own affairs. Preferably without the SNP.

    My issue, and the reason why I am a ditherer on the Independence debate, is due to the effect independence, at this period in history would have on our bigger neighbour.

    I covered some of these issues in your post on the McCrone report.

    Forgive me for paraphrasing the report, but it says that once the Scots waken up to the reality that we can afford to go our own way due to Oil resources, the only recourse for argument from pro-unionists will be in the social and political sphere. That has already come to pass. The crassest example being Bullingdon Dave’s visit to Edinburgh and appeal to the Scots sense of shared history.

    I genuinely fear the unknown potential alluded to by McCrone: “…it is now likely that transfer of North Sea oil to Scottish ownership would occasion much bitterness in England if not an attempt to forcibly prevent it.”

    In Ayrshire, I witnessed first hand some very unpleasant skirmishes between miners and state sponsored ‘outside’ police forces. Nothing like the Battle of Orgreave, but still horrible enough to make me physically vomit. (I had gone there out of a rubber necking sense of curiousity. I wish I hadn’t.).

    Given the manner in which the vested interests of UK Plc are prepared to operate, the potential for dissension, on so many different levels is scary.

    I don’t think they’d get away with invading us, not that we could stop them if they did, but there’s more than one way to skin a cat.

    Independence now can only mean schism and strife and destabilisation to a dangerous degree. To use game theory as a precedent, given the variables, I think the only reasonable alternative would be devo max. But then again, I just don’t know.

    Whit a heid nipper – eh?

    Sorry for the length of the post.

    • Typical ‘ Longshanker’ observation!
      I agree with the analysis but just can’t deal with the conclusion Please God there aren’t many like you! The resentment demonstrated in the FT article will swiftly turn to retribution if we vote No! How dare these impudent Jocks challenge us!
      Get a backbone man!

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