Posts tagged ‘the Guardian’

Jan 22, 2021

The Shame Game: an embarrassment of Scots

‘Nor are the many languages the enemies of humankind

But the little tyrant must mould things into one body

To control them and give them his single vision

(Zulu poet, Mazisi Kunene’s poem On the Nature of Truth from The Ancestors and the Sacred Mountain, 1982)

This blog was provoked by a Twitter storm over the activities of a young Scot on social media. She wasn’t advocating drowning kittens but had the audacity to recite her own poetry in Scots and highlight Scots vocabulary. For her crime Miss PunnyPennie aka @Lenniesaurus became the target of inciteful barbs along the lines of Scots is ‘just English spelt wrong.’

In the Sunday Times Tony Allen-Mills told readers her ‘ditties’ were recited “in a barely understandable Scottish burr.” Cliché heaven. He described her as a “controversial” linguist – in translation she speaks like many fellow-Scots speak when not talking to non-natives. In short she isn’t speaking proper English. Now it’s a funny thing that journalists and media commentators making a living commenting on others are very thin-skinned when it comes to their own behaviour coming under scrutiny. And so it was with Mr Mills or @TAMinUK as he is known on Twitter who became quite defensive and a little angry when his prejudices were pointed out to him. Then he inadvertently insulted the Gaelic language.

There’s a lot of it about. Last April The Scotsman (sic) newspaper ran a piece on 50 Scottish slang words translated: funniest and best sayings and slang phrases from Scotland and what they mean in English which began “Though English is the first language in Scotland” and listed as ‘slang’ Scots language words such as bonnie, braw, gallus, heid, lugs, ken. It was the 1960s Parliamo Glasgow all over again. And again.

50 Scottish slang words translated: funniest and best sayings and slang phrases from Scotland – and what they mean in English | The Scotsman

In 2014, the year the British state discovered a region called Scotland on its northern periphery, the Guardian newspaper printed a scoop exposé that Scots spoke differently from elsewhere in the UK. The article began with a joke which was apt because the whole piece was a joke. You know the kind of joke that starts, there was this Irishman or there was this Pakistani or there was this Scotsman. Scots speech is bloody incomprehensible! was the gist of it. Demeaning nonsense.

“It [Scots] even has its own dictionary” the author wrote. His mention of Scottish culture was  restricted to a single example – predictably Robert Burns. The expert on Scotland hailed from Cheshire, a son of a Scottish father. Presumably we have to take Mr Smith seriously because in common with lots and lots of ‘experts’ on Scots and Scotland he has holidayed in Scotland. Perhaps he should spend more time here for he exhibited considerable ignorance of his subject. Sassenach, he as erroneously explained was a derogatory term for an English person. It isn’t derogatory, it simply means southerner. Teucheter once a disparaging term Lowlanders used for a Highlander is very much still in common usage, in northeast Doric, and refers to a countra chiel.  

Scots: do you know your teuchters from your sassenachs? | Scotland | The Guardian

Also inaccurate was his assertion that Scots is spoken in the Lowlands, central belt and Grampian – Grampian?? I dinna hink so, min. He went on to mention Scots is really English, traced back to Anglo Saxon in the 11th century. That is true. As it is true that present-day English has its roots in the same Anglo Saxon. But it does not occur to the writer, Mark Smith, that since the English spoken today evolved from then, changing and adapting, with input coming from later invaders to these shores, mainly French and Norman so, too, did Scots – which developed as a language with those same influences plus Norse and Gaelic. So why is English regarded as a legitimate language but Scots having emerged in a similar way, not?  The answer is it is nothing to do with roots but the power structure of the Union. – beautifully encapsulated by Kunene as the little tyrant seeks to take difference and create sameness, uniformity. The uniformity of the tyrant’s values and, vitally, language.  

Unity through conformity has been the battle cry of every tyrannous power since the 16th century. It’s a simple enough dogma. Overpower. Dominate. Centralise. Subdue.   

Emerging nation states imposed unity through centralisation and suppression of potential rival cultural symbols and languages – demanding acceptance and adherence to those officially sanctioned by the state. In the UK the British state is essentially defined by the English language and England’s cultural traditions … afternoon tea on the lawn, cricket on the village green, red London buses – none of which have much relevance to Scotland. Would the British state be content to isolate the cultural mores of one of its other parts, let’s say Scotland, as emblematic of Britain or the UK – Burns, Irn Bru, tartan and ceilidhs? The short answer is no. English people would not accept Britishness defined through these symbols alone. And in tandem with symbolism comes language. The English language was imposed as the lingua franca, if you’ll pardon the expression, of the United Kingdom – an instrument intended to integrate all parts of the UK and eradicate difference.

Life for Scots was increasingly Anglicised. Scottish culture, languages and dialects systematically suppressed; in the early 18th century by legal penalty, later lifted, and then through the drip by drip of ridicule, sneering and derision that has also been experience by Ireland and Wales.

Scotland is not a nation of a single language. There is Gaelic, mention of which nowadays is always accompanied by an outcry along the lines of – they didna spik it here. It’s a dead language. Gaelic was spoken across Scotland from the 5th century. In common with the other nations of the UK, Scotland is a mongrel nation absorbing the languages of migrants. The different people who landed on our shores brought with them their languages to add to those already spoken in Scotland. Some ancient languages once spoken in Scotland have been lost altogether and others blended over time. Gaelic has largely preserved its distinctiveness but in common with probably every language, has absorbed new words to keep it relevant.

James VI outlawed Gaelic in 1616 when he decided Inglis (English) would be the language spoken in Scotland. Gaelic in retreat was disparaged by Lowlanders and has struggled ever since. Get them young applied then as now and schools were set up throughout Scotland, in every parish, to teach children English. Enforced uniformization was underway in the 17th century. A century later came the Union of the United Kingdoms, shortly followed by the brutal repression following the Jacobite risings. All aspects of Highland life were undermined.  Language is a powerful weapon in the mouths of people and the reason centralising powers feel compelled to control them.

In Scotland Gaelic suffered under the pressure of the capitalisation of society – common languages of commerce were Scots and English because those were the languages spoken in Lowland areas where trade was greatest. The same forces that came for Gaelic came then for Scots and Doric (although Doric’s roots in the countryside of the northeast was able to survive well into the 20th century.)  On a wave of Anglicisation the words that came out of Scots’ mouths changed. Much braid Scots words and expressions were expunged from ‘polite’ society that was complicit in undermining the language that had served the people very well since the 11th century and now branded, uncouth.  Scotticisms, as they were sneeringly termed,  were best dropped by any Scot with ambition who was advised to adopt the language of South Britain. The first Scottish MPs to sit in the Union parliament at Westminster in London were openly mocked for the way they spoke.

Across the many and disparate nations of the British Empire, English became the language of government; to enable commerce and trade and maintain greater control from London. Diversity, seen as potential weakness in Britain’s overall command.

All modern empires have used language to impose their values on conquered peoples. Suppress native languages, and by dint of this erode native culture, and impose the centralising power’s own language as the only official language of government and authority – and sometimes the only language permitted to be spoken or written. Spain banned all languages but Spanish throughout its empire in the Americas. Native languages were banned in Mexico from the start of the 20th century until 1935. The Portuguese behaved the same way in Brazil and France within its empire. Always the most effective means of imposing the official language of the oppressor was through schools, denigrating native languages spoken locally and thrashing the message home when resisted. In Wales, for example, speaking Welsh in schools was rigidly banned. Any child who dared speak his or her own language was humiliated and punished – some were made to wear a wooden collar with the letters WN for Welsh Not or Welsh Note carved into it.  

Following Union with England Scottish pupils were increasingly taught in English. Children speaking and writing in the language they communicated in at home were ‘corrected’ and forced to use English terms. By the middle of the 19th century Scottish names were standardised in registrations of births, deaths and marriages. By the 1872 Education Act the overwhelming use of English in Scottish schools was rampant or ramming up, in today’s parlance. In 1886 the Scotch Code made English mandatory in schools.   

In 1924 William Grant, a lecturer at Aberdeen Training Centre, editor of the Scottish National Dictionary and authority on braid Scots argued for teaching Scottish culture through the Scots language in schools. He denied the vernacular was vulgar, that Scots was in any way a corruption of standard English.

Grant understood the vital link between language and its literature. He deprecated the tendency to substitute English words for Scots ones and the loss of so much of the richness of expression of the language. We have a prime example of that today with the majority of the Scottish press adopting the English word jab in the context of a vaccination against Covid-19. The Scots equivalent is jag and it is this word the majority of Scots are familiar with however there are elements in Scotland who deride the term  – for purely ideological reasons. They see it as Scots trying to assert their difference from England – which it is and what is wrong with that? Why substitute a good – no better and more descriptive word for an injection because England has a different one? It’s the perverse reasoning of the extreme Unionism that everything English is by its nature superior to its Scottish equivalent. Their prejudice has roots that stretch back to the earliest days of incipient imperialism.  

William Grant died in 1946, the year in which a report on primary education in Scotland insisted English was the language of the educated person, not Scots. A fine example of how colonies are brought to heel – impose by punishment and law a set of values that are artificially defined as representative of the whole unified state and said to be its ‘norms.’

Deference to the English language and to England became ingrained into Scotland but perhaps the recent revival of interest in Scotland’s languages and dialects is a product of Scots new found confidence in who we are. Who we are is no second-rate people whose identity has been totally crushed and undermined over three centuries but a population that recognises we are the equals of everyone else – and so are our languages.

The Covid ‘jag’ promises hope, not only for escape from a dreadful pandemic but escape, too, from long years of humiliation and oppression as a nation with much to offer the world. But we need our voice to do it.              

Sep 17, 2014

Thank you all fellow YESers it’s been great!

The Yes Scotland Campaign

We’ve taken on the Tories

We’ve taken on the BNP

We’ve taken on the Orange Order

We’ve taken on the Labour Party

We’ve taken on the Britannia Party

We’ve taken on the Liberal Democrats

We’ve taken on the National Front

We’ve taken on Ukip

We’ve taken on the BBC, determinedly propagandizing on behalf of the Union

We’ve taken on the luvvies with their enormous egos and holiday homes in Scotland

We’ve taken on the distortions of our views, our desires, our ambitions in the press

We’ve challenged and sang and laughed and chapped on doors in the sun in the rain in howling gales

We’ve spoken at meetings and shrugged off abuse and attack

We’ve turned ordinary Scots into activists

We’ve introduced young people to political participation

We’ve challenged lies and more lies and dirty tricks

We’ve shaken our heads at political posturing and stunts

We’ve shaken our heads at Labour politicians advocating people do not use their democratic vote

We’ve faced up to the whole panoply of aggressive misrepresentation thrown at us by a mischievous media

We’ve used social media to counter media distortions and lies and censorship of our opinions and ideals

We’ve taken on millionaires and billionaires and city folk who aim to buy support

We’ve taken on self-serving corrupt politicians motivated by self-interest who feather their own nests with inflated expense claims paid for by people who are reduced to feeding their families from food banks

We’ve taken on threats and personal attacks from No supporters

We’ve countered the hysterical rantings of fanatical rightwing commentators

We’ve countered the hysterical ranting of Kensington lefties

We’ve grown more confident

We’ve loved being part of a movement that is positive and ambitious to help the majority in our little country of Scotland

We’ve taken the flak and shrugged it off because we’ve been empowered to speak out

Thank you all fellow YESers

It’s been great

Sep 15, 2014

Not narrow nationalism but popular democracy

Aberdeen Yes

A great deal of nonsense has been said and written throughout the Scottish independence campaign by a mostly hostile media.

We were told at the outset it was too long. Well here we are about to vote and interest in it is greater than ever. It certainly has caught the attention of the world media and even, the UK media, and that takes some doing when it comes to Scotland-related matters.

The Guardian is an example of a newspaper purporting to represent the whole of the British Isles when, in fact, it represents possibly a small community around SE England. Pick up a copy any day of any week, outside of the referendum period, and you’ll struggle to see any mention of Scotland whether in the politics section or sport.

The Guardian, therefore, cannot be taken too seriously when it claims to understand the Scottish psyche through this campaign. Curiously it regards itself as sharing with the campaign ‘some of the things that matters most to this newspaper and its readers.’ An eyebrow or two will have been raised around Scotland at this conceit.

You, the Guardian, are part of the problem which has led to the groundswell of support for re-asserting our independence.

You are wrong when you say that national identity is high on anyone’s agenda, certainly not for those of the Yes side. The same may not apply to the No side for they’ve supported the cry of Scots across the UK and even abroad who maintain they should have been given a vote. The Yes side see this referendum as the business of those who live in Scotland, who make their livings here, who raise their families here, irrespective of where they come from originally. It is not a franchise based on national identity at all but of location. You can be from Pakistan, England, Poland, Estonia and you are deemed to be Scottish and so entitled to vote.

‘Ugly nationalism’ has no place in the Yes movement, except as an invention by mistaken or mischievous opponents of the independence movement.

No, the view that this is a campaign of national identity, narrow nationalism or Britishness of the type Gove tried to introduce into England with all the nastiness that involves, is far removed from the pro-independence movement. Only No campaigners have been desperately declaring themselves patriots and passionate about Scotland, not the yessers. It is so misleading to suggest independence here is about narrow nationalism. It is a movement which has emerged from us being overwhelmed by at times a bullying and often indifferent Union partner happy to exploit Scotland’s people (industrially and militarily) and our resources and condescend us by ‘giving us’ a few powers of government so that there is an allusion of semi-autonomy. We are a partner we shouldn’t be ‘given’ powers we should be able to take what we want out of the Union.

The Guardian holds up the views of Charles Kennedy to knock back independence. He has not featured in Scottish politics for long (while still an MP) his voice is now unfamiliar here and he speaks for a discredited party of LibDems whose integrity is in shreds and who will struggle for votes in the future so why the Guardian thought he was someone who could shed light on the movement for change here is risible and another example of how out of touch the Guardian is with Scotland and its Scottish readers.

The newspaper’s editorial is spiteful in its accusation against the millions who support a radical shakeup of life in Scotland and reveals an unhealthy level of intolerance of opinion despite its opening statement about sharing some of our concerns.

No-one I have heard has ever uttered the opinion that they think the Scots superior to anyone else; inclusiveness is the overwhelming view.

I suggest the Guardian ca’s canny when going down the line that the Union better serves oldies relying on a state pension for UK pensioners receive among the worst pensions in Europe and the pension age if being pushed back towards 70 the age it was when pensions were first introduced – when few lived long enough to benefit from them.

Likewise with the NHS there can be few in doubt that privatisation will erode all but a tiny element of the once-great NHS. Only by Scotland getting away from its status as a pocket-money dependency will we have a hope of retaining a well-funded free at the point of access health service; as campaigning medical and nursing staff have argued.

The wealth that is created in Scotland will be used to tackle the obscenity of poverty in the 21st century in an oil-rich state but it can only be done when we rid ourselves of the corrupt back-slapping nepotistic establishment that pulls all the strings in the UK around Westminster and Whitehall.

There is little Scotland, as part of the Union, can do to raise the living standards of people across the UK but there is much it can do to use the massive oil and gas reserves we have along with the rest of our economy to improve life here in Scotland with our small population. The argument that risk shared across populations is manifestly untrue given the evidence that small western nations have the highest standards of living and well-being.

Scots are looking for big constitutional change. Labour says vote for them next year and they’ll reform the House of Lords. We’ve heard that one so often and what do we get? Labour Party MPs queuing up to wrap themselves in ermine, eager to grasp the daily allowance of the totally undemocratic Lords. No Labour we don’t want reform of the Lords we want its eradication.

Until recently most issues of the Guardian along with all other mainstream UK newspapers and BBC largely ignored us or patronised or ridiculed us. Fair enough, carry on doing that but don’t expect us to give you respect or play your games anymore.

Whatever the outcome of the referendum vote Scotland’s people have been reinvigorated and we will not be docile any longer.

Sep 8, 2013

The Banality of the Instagram in Syria: Jonathan Jones of the Guardian


The Syrian presidency’s Instagram account shows the banality of evil writes Jonathan Jones in the Guardian Saturday 7 September 2013.

Asma al-Assad, wife of Syrian president Bashar Al-Assad

(read the article here)

Jones is outraged by the Syrian leader publishing Instagrams which show Asma al-Assad dispensing food and kindness at the same time as the al-Assad regime attacks and kills its own people in this horrendous civil war.

How dare they squawks Jones. Well, how dare they indeed. They dare because pictures persuade and so Asma al-Assad is put into situations with children and the hungry to show off her husband’s regime in a good light.

Jones claims ‘It’s too simplistic to describe these images as “propaganda.” No it isn’t – that is exactly what they are. But you see Jones wants to fit his theory to Hannah Arendt’s phrase banality of evil which she applied to the normal and ordinary behaviour of extraordinary figures such as the Nazi Adolf Eichmann.

It is the apparent purpose of this article by Jones to apply self-delusion to al-Assad but is it?   Are his Instagrams self-delusional or are they simply a propaganda weapon?

These banal images which have Jones so worked up are his proof that al-Assad has succumbed to the fantasy existence of all dictators.

Perhaps Bashar al-Assad does exist in such a state but Jones has fails to demonstrate the truth of it. A picture is worth a thousand words as any politician in search of a baby knows.  The ones which illustrate Jones’ article may well be ‘”shameless” and “grotesque”’ but that’s the game and not one confined to the al-Assad regime or even to dictators.

In this simplistic and sensationally written piece Jones, who is I believe an art correspondent with the paper, tells us that ‘Dictators don’t just fool the people. They fool themselves first’. Well maybe aye and maybe no.

It is surely likely there is purpose behind the online publishing of these al-Assad Instagrams after all the ones in the paper are demonstrably political so it’s difficult to follow Jones’ argument.  

He asks the question if the regime really can believe such pictures of happiness and generosity can obliterate the dreadful images of death and suffering in Syria – well yes up to a point and for some people they can. That is their purpose and therefore suggests their use as propaganda.

When people were scratching a living during the hungry years of the 1930s wasn’t Hollywood pedalling myths about how wonderful life was in the States?  It was seen as escapism and a way of boosting the public morale through fantasising life in the States. It is not accidental that these things occur.

Jones suggests the Syrians ‘drug themselves with such images’ but how does he know? Couldn’t his argument be applied in less dramatic circumstances to most public figures?  According to Jones, ‘Dictators don’t just fool the people. They fool themselves first. Dictators’ private lives are often kitsch fantasy worlds that enable a ruler to believe in a myth that is then projected outwards and buttressed by violence.’   Where is his evidence that dictators any more than bog-standard politicians actually believes their own propaganda?

When Jones turns to Libya to strengthen his case he really has found a barrel to scrape when he cites photographs found in Muammar Gaddafi’s compound showing him and his children posing with pet camels along with a photograph of Condoleezza Rice.  Jones tells us these photos were not intended for ‘public consumption’ so were not propaganda. He says that Gaddafi liked to look at images of his private life (how does he know?) because they strengthened his sense of identity (how can he be sure?). It would be unusual for someone not to occasionally look through family photographs – which might include pets or indeed work colleagues – even if not of the stature of Condoleezza Rice.

 Does Jones and his family have any family pictures and if so does he look at them in private? If he does is his purpose to strengthen his sense of identity? Maybe that is a function of photos.  So what?


To clinch his theory Jones turns to Adolf Hitler without whom no work on dictators would be complete. Jones enlightens us about Hitler’s ‘private fantasy’ world. How does he know about this? Well it seems Hitler had a secret stash of photographs of Bavaria and Berlin. Even more damning he had pictures of his girlfriend Eva Braun and his dog. This is where I have to admit that I also have photographs of Bavaria, Berlin and dogs though none of Eva Braun.

According to Jones’ cod philosophy such images are ‘eerie’ and ‘props’ in building Hitler’s self-image. And he alerts us to ‘Hitler’s real relationship with Braun [being] a mystery – observers said he was awkward in her company.’  He lost me at this point.

It may be that if you are a budding dictator you would be well advised to steer clear of taking any family snaps because one day some simple soul might come along and find that pic of you and Fido and use it as evidence of your inherent malevolence. I suppose it depends what you were doing to Fido or indeed what Fido was doing to you.

To clear this up – if you are a dictator and place photographs on public display you are not presenting propaganda but creating your own mythic image and if you take snaps and don’t show them to anyone else you are still creating your own mythic image. And they have in common what exactly apart from photographs?

It’s a big stretch to suggest any politician/dictator who has his own photo album lives an empty and unsatisfying life…only the ones who come a cropper I would suggest, otherwise life is probably pretty cool for the average bigwig politico.

I wonder where Jones’ hypothesis would fit with, say, the US President. Obama speaks fine words quite a lot actually but then he goes and messes things up by bombing people and overseeing drone flights to destroy even more lives.

Bruce Thornton wrote in FrontPage Magazine, “The President said, ‘We cannot accept a world where women and children and innocent civilians are gassed on a terrible scale.’ Who’s he kidding” We already have, in Hussein’s Iraq. Change ‘gassed’ to ‘bombed,’ ‘fire-bombed.’ ‘hacked to death,’ machine-gunned,’ and ‘starved’ and you can cover the globe with the victims whose deaths on a ‘terrible scale’ we have ‘accepted.’

It may be that the Obamas do not take family pics or allow themselves to be photographed as ordinary people.


And what about that man whose name is now coupled forever with hypocrisy – step up Tony Blair. The man who gave us the Iraq war, who still kids on he’s a peace envoy for the Middle East – an earlier Guardian piece, ‘ Tony Blair is effectively one of the architects of Israel’s war in the Gaza Strip.’

His role as peace envoy still earns him headlines – more recently he voiced his fury that the West has not gone to war against Syria – peace as a flexible concept – but what is the difference saying one thing and doing another? Is it the image which makes hypocrisy so bad rather than words and deeds and defines a dictator-type personality? Now there is a man who is clearly delusional or is that megalomania we see strutting the world stage?  Perhaps Jones should turn his attentions to the Blair family albums – does anyone know if Blair has a dog?

Sep 12, 2012

Agnes, Jean, Ian Jack and Trident




Ian Jack’s Scotland is a sepia comic-cut, a wistful D. C. Thomson-inspired world which only exists in his imagination. Little old ladies, scones and genteel tearooms and no doubt un soupçon of och aye the noo thrown in for good measure.

The division of wealth is an east-west split in Scotland, he observes, which has some truth in it although I doubt his contention would survive real scrutiny. I’ll pass over his benchmark of wealth indicator, the existence of a Waitrose store, for he himself introduces an element of doubt over its applicability.

The essence of Jack’s article is the threat to Trident of a ‘yes-vote’ for Scottish independence in 2014 and the impact this would have on the Ministry of Defence workforce employed in and around the Faslane and Coulport bases close to Helensburgh where ‘Agnes’ and ‘Jean’ indulge in a post-high tea genteel bicker over who should treat the other.

It is Jack’s contention that the area, – “The most militarised district in western Europe”- is so dependent on maintaining the UK’s weapons of mass destruction that were an independent Scotland to banish Trident the impact on the region’s current relative prosperity would be severely threatened.

He hints at the English composition of the MoD’s workforce for he tells us – ‘English voices mingle with Scottish ones’ on the streets of Helensburgh underlining the point with an observation that the profusion of union flags decorating properties hint at a significant workforce which has migrated into the area from England. What will become of this 7000 of a workforce and a further 4000 peripheral jobs? he asks.

Similar circumstances were faced at Kinloss and Lossiemouth with Westminster’s cuts pushing for the removal of the RAF to England. There were grave concerns in Moray over ‘lost’ employment with all that would mean for the local economy. But much of the displaced military personnel followed their jobs south so reducing the number of ‘lost jobs’. As for civilians working with the MoD in Moray many were in lower paid work than their military colleagues – having fewer qualifications or employed part-timers. The point being non-skilled work is easier to find than specialised employment and many skills are transferable.

If the Trident bases go then it could be expected that, as with the Moray experience, a bulk of the MoD personnel would leave along with it echoing in reverse their migration north. The effect would be to reduce Jack’s 7000 although admittedly doing little to reduce concern over the estimated 4000 associated jobs which are likely to affect permanent or indigenous rather peripatetic personnel. Certainly Jack’s figures become improbable.

If Trident is removed from the area or scrapped then there are real issues regarding employment in this part of Argyll and Bute but should we be prepared to continue paying our taxes to maintain these nuclear defence jobs at any price?

Jack boils down his argument to three main points.

1. These MoD ports and defence infrastructure are big, so big that it would be hard to move them.

2. Their removal would destroy the local economy “for the sake of its (SNP) anti-nuclear principles”.

3. The “rump government of the UK” would struggle to build an equivalent base to retain Trident – “even if it could find a locality willing to take it.”

The first point demonstrates how out of touch Jack has become with the mood in Scotland.

As for point two – God preserve us from a political party sticking to its principles, eh Jack?

And three the idea that no other place outside Scotland would want this type of installation beggars belief – were we ever asked if we wanted it here?

The article peters out with Jack asserting that Trident will become an important bargaining chip in any independence negotiations. Indeed. He forecasts that by not replacing Trident the issue will just disappear by the 2020s, in which case Mr Jack what will happen to the 7000 plus 4000 workers you are so concerned about? Are they only important as a tool to knock the SNP/nationalist movement? Will your next piece be about the Ministry of Defence throwing its workforce on the nuclear scrap heap when Trident is finally abandoned?

The paucity of any proper understanding or conception of how Scotland has grown in confidence sufficient to challenge its exploitation as a dumping ground for the UK’s weapons of mass destruction would have Jean and Agnes spluttering over their Earl Grey teas and dropped scones.

For a columnist who formerly wrote pointedly and with sparkle his recent output has become disappointingly tired, stale outbursts of prejudice signifying nothing much at all.


Ref: Guardian Sat 8 September 2012

Gruinard and anthrax

Feb 26, 2012

We are all commentators now. A response to Ian Jack’s Guardian comments on online vitriol, Anglophobia and other matters

Ian Jack (the Guardian 22 Feb 2012) is upset at the often furious responses to online journalism or ‘nasty’ comments as he describes them. In particular he is astonished at how much vitriol is extended by writers of such posts in ‘face masks’. Expect that includes me then, on two counts.

Andrew Marr labelled us face masked types as socially inadequate. It is true there is a great amount of virtual anger around but the message is surely what is important not the messenger (masked or unmasked). Dwelling on the anonymity of commentators is a distraction. Think of us as the equivalent of world wide web’s Batman or Lone Ranger challenging unsavoury columnists hitherto given free rein to pontificate on all and everything. Socially inadequate Mr Marr? Och behave yourself. At least I’m no forelock tugging sycophant. Woops there I go again.

Until bloggers filled the virtual airwaves we had to make do with the ramblings of professional journalists – some good, some bad, some very, very bad. It was hard to get a word in because, frankly, the odd letter to the editor just doesn’t have the same impact as a full page spread with headlines and highlighted quotes available to the columnists.

Pompous politicians who rate themselves so highly that they are bound to feel their comeuppance is wholly undeserved – ‘an idiotic, pompous traitor to Scotland and the Scots’ does not appear over harsh as a put-down of George Robertson (one-time Labour MP and Sec. Gen of Nato) – certainly not compared with the attacks public figures in history had to contend with. Thin skinned indeed are our current politicians while not being averse to dropping the shit on other people when it suits them.

I do not condone very nasty abuse (perhaps difficult to define as it is not a scientific category) of individuals and I avoid sites where I know this goes on but criticism of anyone who places him or herself in roles which have an impact on others can be justified – just because someone might find condemnation hard to swallow does not mean it is not deserved.

Robertson is guilty of deliberate mud-slinging with his use of ‘cybernats’ which is his pejorative put-down of nationalists who challenge his views and assumptions and a term offensive to many who give legitimate support to Scottish nationalism through a means readily available to them.

Jack appears to be suggesting that traditional media commentators have greater legitimacy over their virtual cousins but it is likely that online bloggers will be every bit as qualified in terms of life experiences and academic qualifications as any newspaper or TV journalist and in some cases more so.

I take issue with Jack that political nationalism was ‘relatively new’ in the 1930s but there was a strong Left-wing antipathy to nationalism then which equated Scottish nationalism with tartan Toryism. The internationalism of the Left largely prevented it from seeing anything good in separate national identities although John Maclean was a believer in Scottish socialist republicanism. There has been a major political shift among many of the Left in their attitudes towards Scottish nationalism today.

I am astonished when I look back at the extent of acceptable sexism, racism, classism even within the past forty years – the world so much loved by those who are quick to deride political correctness and who still love to snigger at offensive and stereotypical attitudes and jokes. The rampant sexism of the swinging sixties would not be tolerated by today’s women although there are still dinosaurs who revel in their reactionary attitudes. And when did you last hear the word Sassenach? A quarter of a century ago it was common parlance in the media. It never was an insult – coming from the term for Saxons or early settlers into England) but espoused a difference between Scots and English. No one saw it as Anglophobic.

The pull of the south has been hugely damaging for Scotland – justified by some as ‘just following the jobs’ as if this is a reason for preserving the Union when it is a clear reason for abandoning this unequal partnership which pours investment in the economy of the southeast corner of the UK so disadvantaging everywhere else.

Once Scots fell into the vocabulary of dominant (domineering?) England to the extent England came to stand for Britain or the UK. To us today in seems inconceivable that such a level of collusion could have gone on but as we are too often reminded the past is a foreign country and it was there where the Union’s rotten core went unnoticed by the majority. No longer.

Anglophobia is offensive but tell me, Ian Jack, what is the Scottish equivalent? Or indeed the Scottish equivalent of Anglophilia? I doesn’t appear to have occurred to you to ask the question.

Jack ends by asking if ‘every separatist movement in these islands have a murky Anglophobic current as a necessary component?’ I think this another case of the over-sensitive George Robertson syndrome. It is criticism that is being objected to – that someone has the audacity to question what they stand for – so the criticism becomes lost and the messenger casually disregarded as ‘Anglophobic’ thereby avoiding any serious debate over the issue behind the comment.

We can live by lists if you want Ian Jack. You love England for ‘Dickens, Shakespeare, Elgar, Broadstairs, my wife and children, relatively warm summers.’

I could equally write I love Scotland for Stevenson, Grassic Gibbon (irrespective of his views on independence (and note the patronising dismissive phrase Jack uses, ‘romantic international socialist’ while his own views are far-sighted? Comfortable?), Allan Ramsay, Burns, the Cairngorms, waterfalls, sandy beaches, people with time for each other, clear bright air of Aberdeenshire. I’ll even take Dickens – he travels- as do Huerta Müller, Käthe Kollwitz, Neil Young – my cultural borders are not confined within my nation’s borders.

We are not all Anglophobes and I do not imagine the bloggers in the south are all – whatever that word is for haters of the Scots. Assertiveness is not bad and by not wanting what you want is fine – just not for me.