Sunday, February 23, 2014
Today, we're a wee bit upset about Scottish Independence. But don't, please, regard this as a firebrand contribution to the debate about voting Yes or No this September. This is an observation, that's all.
I don't get a vote. I live in England. My family tree, as far back as it can be traced, says "Glasgow. Glasgow. Glasgow. Glasgow" Apart from me. There, it says "Edinburgh". (We moved back to Glasgow when I was a baby). In a minor irony, I have young relatives who have moved from England where they were born to Scotland where they will have a vote. By any measure, you couldn't actually be more Scottish than me.
But actually the vote's not the problem. When I read the parameters for voting - ie you have to actually live North of the Border - and more importantly read the wording of the question, its legal implications especially, I shrugged my shoulders. "My fault for not living there". Out of Scotland's 5 million residents, 4 million can vote and hopefully a large percentage will cast their vote on the day. I just won't be one of them.
No, the problem is the debate. Due to its polarising nature, yay or nay, I've suddenly found myself to be a "Unionist" which means that I must agree with such strange bedfellows as David Cameron and George Osbourne, which makes my flesh creep a little. It means I must oppose Alex Salmond (easier) and a variety of people whom I don't know. It means that everything I say is tinged with "Unionism" and "No" and "You would say that you fucking racist".
That last comment is why we're here today. On an online forum I was called an effing racist by a Glaswegian who had assumed that I was some southern tory toff. The anonymity of online forums (I'll gracefully accept the moniker "hypocrite" at any stage hereafter) has led to a breeding ground for witless, uninformed, brutal verbal assault, the likes of which hasn't been seen since the terraces at Wembley echoed to the sound of "If you hate the fucking English clap your hands" back in the day.
I'm not being overly sensitive here, wee flower that I am, all 6'3" of me, but I've become increasingly horrified by what's being said in my name. Simply because I'm Scottish. I'm getting stuff quoted at me now "from the papers" which makes my hair stand on end. I'm listening to my friends and neighbours (south of the border) expressing insult, umbrage and hurt at this kind of stuff. Thankfully, on a visit to Glasgow and Embra recently, I had the opportunity to debate with people I knew, almost all of whom are voting 'Yes' (to my disappointment) but absolutely none of whom 'hate the English' or anything approaching it. In other words, in real life, the debate takes place within normal parameters, but online it's one big brawl where the loudest, roughest, most scabrous get noticed.
I rarely get involved, but being Scottish, I read the online forums (mostly The Guardian) and get incensed at some of the things being said. I can't help but rise to the defence of my heritage, of what I think to be right. And this is the critical point. In what was my local in Glasgow, a huge great boozer dominated by mostly male arguments about politics and football what you try to do is argue among your group, or people beside you. You avoid the nutters, the drunks, the loonies who're drinking triple vodkas for breakfast or Buckfast for tea because that way lies fights. And nonsensical, witless, uninformed shouting.
The forums are the breeding grounds for this noise, the halfwits who've suddenly found a platform for their bleak, ignorant, claptrap that in any bar I know would involve a quiet retreat back to sanity.
Sure they've been there for a while now, in the Daily Mail online especially, it's just that I choose not to read them, or more importantly engage with them, on any subject. But now that the Independence Referendum is fully aflame, you just never know who're your talking to.
A perfect example came this morning. "Sad to see The Guardian now a tory rag". This, apparently, was because the Graun had had the temerity to report David Cameron's forthcoming speech in Aberdeen. The Guardian, just by carrying a story of national importance, had become part of the right wing propaganda machine, the military industrial complex, last seen blowing up it's own World Trade Centre. Proof that nothing was worth reading any more, it was all propaganda, worked out in a bunker somewhere, to mislead the innocent voters of Scotland.
Of course I've singled out a particularly stupid comment. But there are hundreds. Thousands. Every day now, wild and wooly opinions which fill the same white space as sensible political discourse. I can be called a racist, sworn at, black can be white and ultimately, of course, the ultimate put down. "Well you would say that you Unionist/No-voting/English" etc etc.
This noise we're hearing, this charmless, offensive effluvient will cease, of course, in September when the votes are cast and counted. Won't it? Well I hope so because the alternative is quite horrifying.
In the proposed divorce (like 'separation' that's become a politically loaded word, a surefire giveaway that you're a Unionist spy) from a marriage that's lasted 300 years, there's a strong probability that it won't go through and we'll be left with what?
On the English side a larger number of people than before who've just spent a year or two reading and listening to sensational tabloid insults and derogatory remarks. Not a majority, just a larger number of people than before - most of whom possibly hadn't bothered with politics previously - who now suspect that all Scottish people don't like them.
More worrying for me, however, is what is left on the other side of the border. If Independence goes ahead then we'll all be finding out soon enough what life will be like, a series of surprises for all of us I would guess. But the polls are consistently indicating a 'No' vote. There is now a substantial minority of nutters who've found their raison d'etre, their identity; to argue that black is white, that no matter what anyone says. They may be ignored in pubs, in the street, or at home (or possibly not, who knows?) but they've found a platform for their shouty views, as part of a national debate about identity, the future, politics. What are they going to do next?
In a positive note to end, it's not all the doom and gloom of newspaper online forums. There are two websites I'd recommend.
Wings over Scotland is pro-separation and is a well versed, logical collection of arguments, proposals and analysis. It's even got jokes.
Notes from North Britain is a blog from a professor of Public Law at Glasgow University and provides a clear, intellectually rigorous riposte to anything the Yes camp regard as important.
I read them both but tend to agree wholeheartedly with the latter!