Thursday, September 11, 2014
Today is a special day.
It began ordinarily enough, with a little orange juice and emailing, then some meetings and coffee, then lunch and a few drinks in The French. This is September 11, what appears to be the last day of Britain's Indian Summer, and, um, oh that's right. it's 9/11.
I regard 9/11 as the most important turning point in my life. I've written about it here before on another anniversary and am never really distanced from it. I texted the people who matter. They texted me too.
I missed out Tony Blair, because I don't know him, but I remember he went straight to the US as soon as he could after 9/11 (not as soon as me) and stated unequivocally that this was an attack on all of us. It was.
I wish more British people remembered 9/11.
But today's even more special. As well as being British, I'm Scottish too. It's impossible to be Scottish without being British (not vica versa, you can be English or Welsh or whatever) and I've been British/Scottish since the day I was born. Every Scot is a Brit.
But a week today, the Independence vote takes place (I've written about that too). It's become a loud, headline grabbing argy bargy. I've nearly reached peak indyref.. It is a voluble, cantankerous argument of such noise and shoutyness that I have virtually had enough. The problem is I care. I care because I'm Scottish. I've never been anything else and I'm not sure I ever want to be. I enjoy being Scottish. I like being Scottish. Just as much as I enjoy and like being British too.
In the last few days an avalanche of information has spewed forth. There's panic among the journalists, reflecting what they see as panic among the politicians. For those of us who've been here for a very, very long time, there's no political panic discernable. There's just a few days to go.
Banks are explaining why they would have to move after a Yes vote. Corporations too. Supermarkets are having to explain why prices will go up in Scotland. The oil companies have accused Alex Salmond and the SNP of lying about the oil figures, the wealth on which an independent Scotland would be founded.
Gordon Brown, the former PM, put it slightly more succinctly this evening in a speech.
"The SNP lie"
It's a cacophony, a deafening riotous assembly of flag waving, foaming at the mouth fanatics. It's a debate that is driving people mad, both within Scotland and without.
Thing is, it's important.
I can barely bring myself to speak to another person who wants to vote "Yes" because I've heard it all before, I've heard the arguments time and time and time again and not once have I ever heard anyone tell me exactly how secure a future independent Scotland might be, never mind the damage such a change would wreak on the rest of the UK.
So let me not draw you into the vicious, violent, unpalatable debate that is taking place right now. Let me point you in the direction of two civilised, persuasive pieces of writing which explain the situation.
Irvine Welsh, Chicago resident, but more importantly the creator of Trainspotting and a variety of other excellent novels, is a passionate supporter of the Yes campaign and talks about it day in day out on social media. He penned this piece for Bella Caledonia, a persuasive description of what independence means to him (and his peer group of which I am one). It's a strong, emotional argument that will win hearts and minds. It's worth the read. Here it is.
The other article is by a woman called Carol Craig whom I don't know. She wrote it for the Scottish Review, a forum for quality writing run by one of Scotland's top tier commentators, Kenneth Roy, whose academic medals shine as brightly as his journalistic awards. This is it.
I should agree with Irvine Welsh, but I don't. I agree with Carol's view that the unfettered optimism of the nationalists is a dangerous thing. We all want to be optimistic, but by ignoring the litany of cautions and questions being thrown at him, Alex Salmond is out there, flying high, just like Icarus.
Both articles make sense. Such unanimity begs the question why this stupid thing is taking place at all, but it's too late for that now. Here we are.
Oh yes, and it's Catalunya Day too. Happy Catalunya Day.
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!