In case you missed Alan Bissett’s fantastic Vote Britain, here it is (text below)…
People of Scotland, vote with your heart.
Vote with your love for the Queen who nurtured you, cradle to grave,
Who protects you and cares, her most darling subjects, to whom you gave
the glens she adores to roam freely through, the stags her children so dearly enjoy killing.
First into battle, loyal and true. The enemy’s scared of you.
That’s why we send you over the top with your och-aye-the-noo Mactivish there’s been a murrrderrr jings! crivvens! Deepfriedfuckinmarsbar wee wee dram of whisky hoots mon there’s a moose loose aboot this smackaddict
Vote, Jock. Vote, Sweaty Sock. Talk properly.
Vote with those notes we scrutinise in our shops.
(might be legal tender but looks dodgy to me)
Vote for the Highland Clearances. Baaaaaaaaaa.
Vote for nuclear submarines in your water.
Vote for the Olympic Games you didn’t vote for
(but you’ll pay for it, you’ll pay for it).
Vote Conservative. Vote Lib Dem. Vote Libservative. Vote Condabour.
Vote with the chip on your shoulder.
Vote Labour. New Labour. Old Labour. Scottish Labour.
(Get back in line, Scottish Labour, HQ in Solihull will issue their commands shortly,
Just keep the vote coming in from up there thanks goodbye,
Vote for any argument you construct in your defence being ‘anti-English’.
Vote for Scots who make their career in Scotland being ‘unambitious’.
Vote for enjoying your own culture being soooooooo parochial.
Vote God Save the Queen and that bit about us crushing you all.
Hush. There there.
Vote for Scotland being refered to as a ‘region’, like, say, Yorkshire? Or East Anglia?
Vote for our voices dominating your media, but in no way telling you what to think.
Take a drink. Go on, son, take a drink.
Vote for oil revenue, which we ensure flows directly from us into you.
Vote for being told you’re the only country in the world that could not possibly survive and that without us you’d fall to pieces like children abandoned in the wild, caked in faeces.
Vote Daily Mail and Rupert Murdoch and
London London London most exciting city in the world darling
(Glasgow is a very violent place, is it not. Do you have art?)
Vote wth your heart. Vote Empire. Vote tradition.
Vote for our proud shared history of
Bringing Wealth and Prosperity to the World!
being on the right side just once and that’s only because it was against yer actual fucking Hitler
Vote for the #ScottishConspiracy at Westminster
(who really runs the show here eh – Blair, Brown – got your own in that time, we aren’t allowed to vote in Holyrood but there’s Archie McPhee pulling wee strings in our parliament when we wouldn’t even think about interfering in how you run your own affairs but while we’re at it, this referendum eh? A so-called referendum, is it? Have it now, make sure it looks like this)
Vote for very, very, very rich people patronising you.
Vote for Glasgow having the highest knife-crime rate and lowest life expectancy in Europe
due to our generosity. You may thank us at your leisure.
Vote for the absence of your history in our schools.
All Brits together.
Vote for our shock at your ingratitude!
Vote for us saying ‘Eh? Eh?’ when you open up your porridge mooth.
Vote for bafflement about why you want the England football team to lose.
We always want the Scots to win (except in referenda).
Vote for psychopathic villains with your accent in a soap opera.
Vote for tuition fees and student loans, ensuring that the brightest of your working-class
(since you still insist upon the term, although Our Leaders had it banned)
will one day rise and take their place in this great land.
Vote for us deploying strategic references to Braveheart to dismiss you all.
Vote for Robert Burns being called by Paxman ‘sentimental doggerel’.
Vote for The Iron Lady. Such a strong leader, gave this country backbone
(you didn’t really want the unions, industries or council homes, just made the place look tatty)
Vote for a deregulated banking class, lionising of the hardworkingwealthgeneratingjobcreatingentrepreneurs
who you will in no way refer to as ‘greedy, selfish bastards’. Give them your taxes.
Vote for foreign wars.
Yes, sadly, some of you will die. But you will return to a hero’s welcome
the Union Jack, proud symbol of integrity and honour, draped across your coffin
while your mother, dabbing at her eyes, recalls the words she learned in school
‘There is some corner of a foreign field that is forever England.’
Vote with your heart.
Just a short somewhat curt point to make today. In the independence debate, unionists are often heard to talk of the “Braveheart bilge”.
Now, whilst one would not wish to defend the historical accuracy of the film in question, I would just like to point out that William Wallace was quite a popular figure in Scotland before that film.
In fact, we built a f*cking huge monument to him (67-metres – 220 ft). You can go and see it if you like. It is rather nice. Also, inside it you will find information about how a certain class didn’t want it to be built and how it was funded in large part by donations from enthusiastic members of the public.
This article also features at Bella Caledonia.
I have been an Orwell obsessive since I was 11 years old when I read Down & Out in Paris & London. I was obviously too young to get all of it but I got a taste for his work early and it has stayed with me throughout my life. In fact, I know large sections of it by memory and went on a sort of pilgrimage to the house where he wrote 1984. Furthermore, I used to have a picture of him on my living room wall. It has now been moved to the office (or “smallest room” as it otherwise known) at the insistence of my girlfriend.
That doesn’t mean to say that I don’t think he was occasionally wrong (I’m even breaking one of his writing rules in the first half of this sentence just to see if anyone notices), but I think most people would agree that he left an amazing body of work behind.
I have also, since a young age, been a firm supporter of Scottish Independence. That said, for a long time the use of the word ‘nationalist’ has sat uncomfortably with me. It is clear to anyone who looks that the Independence movement is not nationalist in the way Orwell described it in Notes on Nationalism…
“Nationalism is not to be confused with patriotism. Both words are normally used in so vague a way that any definition is liable to be challenged, but one must draw a distinction between them, since two different and even opposing ideas are involved. By ‘patriotism’ I mean devotion to a particular place and a particular way of life, which one believes to be the best in the world but has no wish to force on other people. Patriotism is of its nature defensive, both militarily and culturally. Nationalism, on the other hand, is inseparable from the desire for power. The abiding purpose of every nationalist is to secure more power and more prestige, not for himself but for the nation or other unit in which he has chosen to sink his own individuality.”
I’ve never got patriotism at all. I mean I know Orwell approved of it but the essay he wrote about patriotism and nationalism is one of the ones I disagree with because I think the aspects of patriotism he disapproves of he has called ‘nationalism’, and the aspects of nationalism that he approves of he has called ‘patriotism’.
I don’t think Orwell could have been counted as a sympthathizer with regards to Scottish Independence. As far as I know the only time he talked about it in his writing was in the same essay…
“Welsh, Irish and Scottish nationalism have points of difference but are alike in their anti-English orientation. Members of all three movements have opposed the war while continuing to describe themselves as pro-Russian, and the lunatic fringe has even contrived to be simultaneously pro-Russian and pro-Nazi. But Celtic nationalism is not the same thing as anglophobia. Its motive force is a belief in the past and future greatness of the Celtic peoples, and it has a strong tinge of racialism. The Celt is supposed to be spiritually superior to the Saxon — simpler, more creative, less vulgar, less snobbish, etc. — but the usual power hunger is there under the surface. One symptom of it is the delusion that Eire, Scotland or even Wales could preserve its independence unaided and owes nothing to British protection. Among writers, good examples of this school of thought are Hugh McDiarmid and Sean O’Casey. No modern Irish writer, even of the stature of Yeats or Joyce, is completely free from traces of nationalism.”
There are so many ‘Orwell was right’ articles out there that it is refreshing to do an ‘Orwell was wrong’ one. In the paragraph I quoted above there is a lot you can take issue with.
For example in the modern context, given that we now all live in the American Empire, and that in many ways the UK is now a satellite territory of the USA (or Airstrip One if you like), ideas about protection of independence simply don’t count. Furthermore, from a historical point of view you could point out that because the UK exists, Scottish Independence does not.
You could point out that there is a lunatic fringe everywhere. You might also say that, in the UK, the majority of the type of right-wing nationalism that he describes is to be found in England.
I think it is also clear that the charge of “power-hunger” doesn’t make a lot of sense. A power-hungry Scottish politician would head straight to London in order to work in the bigger, stronger unit and would not see the benefits in working in a smaller state.
I’ll leave it to others to talk about MacDiarmid, Joyce and O’Casey.
Time of writing is important here though. The first appearance of the Notes on Nationalism essay was in May 1945 so it is safe enough to assume it was written sometime before the end of the war. Orwell during the war had called for a type of “honest propaganda”. We can’t say for sure but maybe this is what he was attempting with the essay.
So in what he says above, I do think he was wrong. Nevertheless, I think people who want independence should be very careful about word choice as the “nationalist” label is still one that is occasionally used to deliberately create false perceptions about what is going on. If not that, then from ignorance of the real situation people immediately assume that because the word nationalist is there then something rightwing and nasty is afoot. The Orwell essay I have been talking about is frequently brought up in these discussions.
After so long it is always difficult to change a name but it might serve if more people would refer to it as The Independence Movement rather than the nationalist one. And what is more… The Independence Movement sounds sexier anyway.
With this background I was rather surprised to come across a diary written by Orwell in Cranham Sanatorium in Gloucestershire a few months before his death.
Cranham, 17 April 1949
Curious effect, here in the sanatorium, on Easter Sunday, when the people in this (the most expensive) block of “chalets” mostly have visitors, of hearing large numbers of upper-class English voices. I have been almost out of the sound of them for two years, hearing them at most one or two at a time, my ears growing more & more used to working-class or lower-middle class Scottish voices. In the hospital at Hairmyres, for instance, I literally never heard a “cultivated” accent except when I had a visitor. It is as though I were hearing these voices for the first time. And what voices! A sort of over-fedness, a fatuous self-confidence, a constant bah-bahing of laughter about nothing, above all a sort of heaviness & richness combined with a fundamental ill-will—people who, one instinctively feels, without even being able to see them, are the enemies of anything intelligent or sensitive or beautiful. No wonder everyone hates us so.
“Oh look, don’t start with the fucking semantics shit again. You know what I call ‘semantics’? Wank!”
Malcolm Tucker in The Thick of It
I often find a lot of the discussion about Independence-Lite or Devolution-Max to be rather disingenuous. Usually it comes from media sources who have repeatedly shown that they are hostile to the idea of independence and who may have an interest in trying to create some kind of schism in the independence movement. Take this story from May as an example. For the record, when Salmond talked about it with Andrew Marr, here is what was said…
ANDREW MARR – When you present the country with your referendum proposals, are you going to give people a choice of two options – the status quo or independence – or is there a possibility of a third option, which is being called either ‘independence lite’ or ‘devolution plus’ whereby Scotland gets effective I suppose home rule but inside elements of the United Kingdom? Is that possibility going to be on offer?
ALEX SALMOND – Well the terminology I’m not sure, but I’ve heard it described as ‘devolution max’. Perhaps that would mean ‘independence minimum’ or something like that. But our position, Andrew, is this. We prefer a straight question and we’ve set out what that question might be. However, I’ve also indicated that if it was necessary to obtain the parliamentary majority in the Scots Parliament to have a third defined option on the ballot paper, which could be done with a couple of questions or by preference voting, then I would be prepared to discuss that and probably prepared to concede it as long as independence for Scotland is on the ballot paper, which is our sine qua non. That’s the thing we must have. People must have the opportunity to exercise a right of self-determination. But I’m not frightened of another option on the ballot paper as long as that option is defined and meaningful, as long as it’s something that people can understand and not some you know vague proposition.
This interview was in 2009 before the SNP’s huge victory in the Scottish elections so it is no longer necessary to do what Salmond suggested they might have to do, however they might still do this anyway.
The strategy seems clear enough to me and has been the same for some time and it is this…work toward full independence and between now and when we get it, take every power we can back from Westminster and up to Edinburgh. That isn’t too hard to grasp, is it?
This strategy is not a new thing. In the 104 years of the Scottish Office (1885-1999) some small powers were constantly being taken back for Scotland. This was partly due to the tendency all governments, legislatures and bureaucracies have which to increase the range of their powers and partly due to ideas about bureacratic efficiency[sic].
Current reasons and motivations for the transfer of powers from London to Edinburgh are maybe different from those in yesteryear but (as a non-member of the SNP) hopefully more power of self-determination and full independence are on the way. A bit at a time or all at once, however we get it, the important thing is that we get it.
It was very nice to see Ian Hamilton hasn’t lost any of his vim. Watch this interview from Newsnight Scotland to see what I mean…