Monday, 30 January 2012

The Psychology of Nationalism

An interesting debate on the effects of "independence" on Nicky Campbell's Big Question.

All the usual back-and-forth but, for me, two very interesting interventions that say a lot about the psychology of the two camps. On one side, mainly emotion. On the other mainly argument and logic. The facts as always in dispute.

In this debate, in a way that you don't get when professional politicians are interviewed in a formal setting, the emotional, faith-based character of the Nationalist position was made very clear. It started almost immediately with an intervention by Allan Bissett, a playwright,  who had hardly started (2.40 mins in to the recording) when he brought up "the Scottish cringe". Then the academic Ewan Crawford launched into a rant (around 21 mins in) about Scotland being "too wee and too poor" to exist as an "independent" country.  

The interesting thing about these arguments is that Nationalists are always attributing the "Scottish cringe" to others and claiming that the notion that "Scotland is too wee and too poor" is their opponents argument. In fact, in my long experience of debating with Nationalists, it's always the Nats that bring these things out in any discussion. Nobody else does, because nobody else believes it. It seems the ideas of the "Scottish cringe" and "too wee too poor" have unique and irresistible attraction for Nationalist activists: they just have to blurt it out.

Why is that? Why is it always the Nationalists, who claim to love Scotland so much, more than anyone else, who claim that, if you oppose "independence, you must be "anti-Scottish"; why is it the Nationalists who always bring up these negative arguments about Scotland and the Scots?

I'm no psychologist but it's as if they were transferring, in an almost textbook Freudian manner, their own their deepest fears and beliefs on to the other protagonists in the debate.We, the Nationalists, secretly believe that Scotland is "too wee and too poor". We, the Nationalists, suffer from this awful "cringe". But that's too painful to acknowledge, so we'll bring them into every argument and project them on to the non-Nationalists on the other side of the debate. "Look", we'll cry "you hate us"!

The overwhelming impression I was left from The Big Question with was of Nationalists externalising their own inferiority complexes and expressing them as "love o' ma country" with the converse belief that if you don't have feelings of doubt, inferiority and low self esteem, then there's something wrong with you...!!!?.

Maybe we don't need a referendum: maybe we just need more psychiatrists.... 

Tell me about this "Cringe" you think everyone else has....

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Part of the Union.. or maybe not? Eck prevaricates....

God Save the Queen! 

I'm glad I'm not a Nationalist:  the number of impossible things you have to believe before breakfast multiplies day by day.

Today's example;

On the Andrew Marr show today, Alex Salmond added another layer of confusion (or is it a smokescreen) by declaring that "the union of crowns was 1603, so the union could be dated from that time. It's SNP policy to keep the Queen , so that union would be maintained after independence". (about 26 mins in).

What is to be made of this statement? ...... is Eck being truthful, can you believe him? Is it credible? Is he, as rumour has it, infatuated with Liz and she with him? Is  he really a unionist mole? Would Joan McAlpine consider it "anti-Scottish"?

The fact is that SNP members have been strung along for the last eighty years on a desire for "independence" from the UK. No compromise, no fear. Not some weak, milk-and-water compromise that keeps the UK, the Queen, the Bank of England and most other UK institutions. What sort of "independence" is that?

Many people support the Nationalists campaign out of a desire for a republican state, free of fusty, dusty, anglo-monarchism and other decorations of the British Constitution. Many other haven't considered (why would you?) the possibility that their labours on behalf of "independence" would be co-opted into a monarchist plot to save the union by pretending to be "independent" while keeping the monarchy of all things! And the pound and the BoE and...etc. etc.

Why would any republican nationalist support such an enterprise?

Why would any Nationalist who has dedicated their adult life to "independence"?

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

The Unravelling Begins.....

Ever since the banks collapsed I have been arguing with Nationalists. I say it shows an "independent" Scotland would be vulnerable to big successful international companies which are headquartered in Scotland. Their collapse could bring down the economy. Nationalist say that it makes no difference. An "independent" Scotland would, for some unexpressed reason, not have its economy destroyed by the collapse of an over inflated economic sector.

Now oor wee Eck agrees with me....

It seems an "independent" Scotland would still want the Bank of.... wait for it.....

....wait f o r it..........

....England! ...

to pick up the tab, as "lender of last resort" to an "independent" Scotland. So if the banks collapse, lo! the English ride to our rescue....

Has there ever been such stupidity masquerading as "vision" in the history of our proud nation?

What this also shows is that, as you gently poke the Nationalist arguments, they fall apart.

Look for more unravelling.....

Monday, 16 January 2012

es ist eine komische alte Welt!

A Nationalist MSP called Joan McAlpine made some twitter remarks about politicians who don't support the Nationalists referendum being "anti-Scottish" and then defended these remarks in the Scottish Parliament. (see here)..

Tom Harris, Scottish Labour's "twitter czar" , spoofed the events in one of the many Hitler/Downfall videos that have been popular on the internet this last year or two.

Funnily enough, it was Harris who lost his position over the spoof. McAlpine, whose "crime" is at least, IMHO, equally as egregious, stays in position.

You can judge for yourself how funny Harris's film is, but I have a rule, reinforced by Godwin's Law, to steer clear of Hitler and Nazis. No matter how bad you may think your opponent is behaving, calling him/her "Hitler" is on the road to losing the plot.

Of course, calling your opponent "anti-Scottish" is just as offensive (assuming your opponent is Scottish). It's just like calling them traitors or quislings.

In my experience, it's a trap that Nationalists fall into too often: in fact you get the impression that they don't even try to avoid it.

McAlpine's remarks are a good study in how they do it.

On twitter she wrote “Interfering in referendum is anti-Scottish as is refusal to compromise on popular desire 4 powers to Scotland.”

Then in defence of criticism of these remarks she said "..“I was criticising behaviour, I wasn’t criticising people. People from all sorts of political backgrounds can be proud Scots. The issue here is the behaviour of the anti-independence parties coming together to seek to stop Scotland having a referendum at a time of our choosing."

The first thing to note is that "interfering in the referendum" is not "anti-Scottish". If Ms McAlpine means the Prime Minister of the UK has no place in discussions about the UK constitution then she's just wrong. If she means that the referendum is sacred and no-one, not even Scottish politicians, has the right to question it, she's plain bonkers.

As for "a refusal to compromise" on devo-max!!! How can that be "anti-Scottish"?

Devo-max, or the idea of more powers for Holyrood, is a straightforward matter of policy. You might think it's a good idea, you might not. But neither position is treason. You have to conclude that the SNP MSP is conflating "Nationalist policy" with some unchallengeable Scottish interests. Needless to say, these are not the same thing and opposing the SNP is not treason. In fact it's common sense, IMO.

The "defence" is even more revealing. McAlpine says “I was criticising behaviour, I wasn’t criticising people."

How, I ask you, do you criticise behaviour without criticising the people who are behaving in the way you don't like? You can't say, "He robbed a bank. He behaved like a bank robber, but I'm not calling him a bank robber. It's just bank robberly like behaviour by his bank robbing gang..." Aye right.

It gets even more convoluted with ".... The issue here is the behaviour of the anti-independence parties coming together to seek to stop Scotland having a referendum at a time of our choosing."

So it's not people who are behaving like traitors, it''s "parties". But parties don't "behave", parties are made up of people and people behave. How can a party beghave in an "anti-Scottish" way, but none of its members?

As for " to stop Scotland having a referendum at a time of our choosing.".. who pray is "Scotland"?.the SNP? Should that not be "the Scottish people"? In which case the sentence becomes "seek to stop the Scottish people having a referendum at a time of their choosing". The SNP is confusing SNP with Scottish people.

And whose is the "our" in "...a time of "our" choosing". Again what the SNP wants is being conflated with the interests of Scotland and the Scottish people.

To conclude. It is clear to me that Joan McAlpine was serious when she called her opponents "anti-Scottish". She meant it. She conflates the desires of the SNP with the interests of Scotland. From there it's no step at all to declaring opposition to SNP policy as "anti-Scottish). The idea of treachery is inherent in her rhetoric, which consists of weasel words in an attempt to conceal, but of which close analysis reveals, her real thoughts.

If you dare oppose the SNP, you are "anti-Scottish". That's the message. But still, she keeps her job and her tormentor gets the sack.

As Maggie Thatcher said, it's a funny old world!

Friday, 13 January 2012

How many many ??/?

The Herald reports that Canon Kenyon Wright, a stalwart of the Constitutional Convention, wants a second question on more powers for the Scottish Parliament on the referendum ballot because “a straight choice between independence and the status quo disenfranchises a large number of Scots who want neither”. In which case, logically and surely, there should be a third question to provide for those “disenfranchised” Scots who may wish to vote for fewer powers.

That may sound ridiculous, but there is a serious point to it. If there has to be a referendum then a straight “independence yes or no” is the only clear and coherent route to take. Including further options only muddies the waters, making a clear and acceptable outcome less likely and increasing the chances of the whole exercise ending in confusion, dragging on for years, and being decided in the courts rather than by the voters.

Last night on Newsnight, the blessed Paddy Ashdown made the point that more options dilute any result. (it's about 35 mins in).

For example, Option A gets 45%, Option B gets 35%, Option C gets 20%

Option A is declared the winner even though 55% didn't support it.

If option A is "independence", should we become "independent" based on a minority vote?

If option A is "Devo max" (whatever that is... but that's a different matter), do we follow that course, although a majority doesn't support it?

If option A is the status quo, won't Nationalists argue that the majority is against it and demand another referendum?

It's obvious that multiple questions create unclear outcomes. 

So the only acceptable, honest and coherent approach is to have a single in/out question. 

Of course, acceptable, honest and coherent may not be what our SNP masters actually want.

*I've redrafted this after complaints that, in trying to show that a three question referendum created "unclear" outcomes, the post was, in itself, "unclear".... 

I hope it's clearer now...

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Alex Salmond, closet unionist.

I've learned a few things in the last few days about the SNP's plan for a referendum on "independence".

The Nationalists want a referendum on "independence".

They don't want the Electoral Commission, a tried and trusted independent organasation, to conduct the referendum. Instead they want to for a "new body" responsible to the Scottish Executive. What this "new body" is or how it is to be constituted nobody knows.

They want to allow 16-year-olds to vote in the referendum, although they are not eligable to vote in other national ballots.

Their official position is that they want a single  in/out question, but their public pronouncements make it clear that they also want a second question on devo-max.

They want to dictate the date of the referendum with no consultation with any other person or institution.

They want to dictate the question(s) on the ballot with no consultation with any other person or institution.

They accept that, legally, the referendum will only be "advisory", but they want, nevertheless, to treat it as mandatory.

They reject offers of coooperation from Westminster that would strengthen their legal position.

It seems that the Nationalists are positively welcoming, indeed deliberately causing and creating, problems and difficulties with their key policy. The SNP's own plan is littered with obstacles placed there by themselves. It's as if they really want it to be challenged. As if they want delays and obfuscations and difficulties to hinder progress and undermine public belief in the very referendum they claim to is the culmination of 80 years of Nationalist agitation.

Puzzling, intit?

There are several possible explanations that I can think of to explain of this approach. Maybe they know they will lose and are preparing their excuses... government obstruction, legal challenges, perfidious albion....etc. etc. etc. and blah blah blah...

Maybe they want to recreate the Quebecios and unleash the dreaded "neverendum" on the undeserving and long suffering Scottish people.

Or maybe, and most intriguingly, Alex Salmond is a unionist mole, an entryist, a unionist spy, whose long term aim is the destruction of the Nationalist project.

What better way than to design a messy mish mash of an illegal, easily challengeable, destined to be losing, consultative/mandatory/onetwothreeoption "referendum". ....

Sorry lads, I tried, we lost.
Arise Sir Eck.... Well thankyou, Maam.

Horrified Coda

After I posted this last night I saw young Torquil Crichton of the Daily Record on Newsnight Scotland. He agrees that Eck is inviting a legal challenge but suggests it's so that the whole thing can drag on past the 2016 elections... and be used in the campaign by the Nats... recalcitrant Albion, blocking oor's no fair, michty me...

Help ma boab!

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Child poverty -v- Referendums...what choice?

Just seen the Scottish news on tv. The third story is that the Child Poverty Action Group CPAG (Scotland) has issued a report decrying the fact that levels of child poverty in Scotland, after falling, is now on the increase.

But what are we all talking about? What was the headline on the UK and the Scottish news? The bloody Constitution, that's what.

If there ever was an indication of the irrelevance of the Nationalist obsession with "independence" to the everyday existence of the real Scottish people, this is it.

Why oh why are we not working together to solve these real problems, poverty, unemployment, education, health... instead of being blown off course by bogus questions on abstract idiocies like "independence"?

Monday, 9 January 2012

The Quadrille Begins

So David Cameron has finally made a move in the long and tiresome when/which/this-parliament/early/later/maybe eve-of-bannockburn/one/two/how-many-questions/binding/non-binding referendum on "independence"/Devo Max/status quo.

When I say "made a move" he has had, apparently, some "discussions in Parliament" about possibly passing constitutional powers to the Scottish Parliament to hold a "binding" referendum. He has also, so it is said, discussed putting conditions on the referendum, including a desire that it happens sooner rather than later.

This modest toe-in-the-water move has been met with roaring outrage by the Nicola Sturgeon. "How dare the elected Government of the UK interest itself in matters of the UK Constitution?" cries Nat Number Two. "It is", says Nicola, "an unwarranted interference by the UK Government in the affairs UK Government". (clue; these are not direct quotes)..... you can hear Nicola's full intellectual writhing here..... and a thing of grace and beauty it is not....

Nicola Sturgeon insists that the SNP has a committed to hold a referendum in the second half of the parliament, but the SNP Manifesto only mentions that they will hold the referendum, and commits no timing to that act. Indeed their Consultation Document on the referendum, published a year ago, suggested that any referendum should be held "as soon as possible".

According to the Nationalists, the Constitution is their Constitution. If they want to hold their one/possibly two question referendum tomorrow, or next year, or 2014, that's up to them. The superior chamber in Westminster must have no say. It is, apparently, anti-democratic for Westminster to make the mildest proposal about a referendum in the UK, but not anti-democratic for the SNP to do the same....

This is a clearly ridiculous position. The SNP has, undoubtedly, a mandate for a non-binding, one question referendum on whether Scotland splits from the UK or not. It has a mandate to hold that referendum at any time during its term of office. But it has no need to wait until 2014 beyond its own calculation that it can manipulate the political situation to make a "break up the UK" vote more likely by its control of the political agenda in Scotland.

And the SNP is not the only party in power in the UK. The UK Parliament is superior in law to the Scottish Parliament and the UK Government has ownership of Constitutional matters across the whole of the UK.

It is sensible that both bodies have a say in matters pertaining to the referendum. The voters understand this even if Nationalist politicians would rather they did not. Reacting with shock-horror at the very thought that the UK Government might express a mild interest in constitutional matters within its own boundaries is to treat Scottish voters as the fools they most definitely are not.

One thing is clear in the interview, Nicola Sturgeon confirms that the SNP wants a single question, in-out referendum (it's at the end of the interview). That makes sense to me and it is as it should be. At least that's cleared up and we can now drop any second/third question nonsense.

Sunday, 8 January 2012

A Doleful Anniversary

On this day 8th January, in the year 1697 a Scottish teenager, Thomas Aitkenhed, was hanged at the foot of the mound in Edinburgh and his body buried at the gallows where he was killed. Aitkenhead’s “crime” was to oppose what he saw as the “fantasies” of religious belief. 

The charge read that Aitkenhead  

“... ... had repeatedly maintained, in conversation, that theology was a rhapsody of ill-invented nonsense, patched up partly of the moral doctrines of philosophers, and partly of poetical fictions and extravagant chimeras: That he ridiculed the holy scriptures, calling the Old Testament Ezra's fables, in profane allusion to Esop's Fables; That he railed on Christ, saying, he had learned magick in Egypt, which enabled him to perform those pranks which were called miracles: That he called the New Testament the history of the imposter Christ; That he said Moses was the better artist and the better politician; and he preferred Muhammad to Christ: That the Holy Scriptures were stuffed with such madness, nonsense, and contradictions, that he admired the stupidity of the world in being so long deluded by them: That he rejected the mystery of the Trinity as unworthy of refutation; and scoffed at the incarnation of Christ.” 

In truth Aitkenhead was guilty of no crime other than talking loosely in the tavern to a “friend” who reported their conversation to the church authorities. But in 17th century Scotland the Kirk had its own laws and its own courts. Alarmed at what they saw as too much free talk and free thinking which upset and opposed their own prejudices, and having the power to do so, the Kirk elders were determined to make an example of the lad. He was charged with blasphemy and duly hanged in the hostile presence of those who brought and prosecuted the accusation and who were reported to have tormented him even as the hangman’s noose was tightened around his neck. The historian Thomas McAuley said that "the preachers who were the poor boy's murderers crowded round him at the gallows, and. . . insulted heaven with prayers more blasphemous than anything he had uttered."

Ten years later in 1707 the Scottish and English Parliaments were united and in the following century the Scottish Enlightenment, one of the greatest flowerings of human thought in history, blossomed in the newly freed atmosphere of tolerance (relative) and freedom that ensued. 

Fifty years after Atkenhead’s killing David Hume published his “Treatise on Human Nature”, a sceptical inquiry which sought to explain natural phenomena from natural, not supernatural,evidence. Aitkenhead’s misfortune was to be born too soon, to be too free in his expression in a religion-dominated society and, probably, to be too young to think of the caution necessary in such an un-free atmosphere.

If ever there was a warning to keep church and state separate, and to ensure that government is secular and unprejudiced as to the personal beliefs of the citizen, the sad case of Thomas Aitkenhead echoes that warning down through the centuries.

Friday, 6 January 2012

Alex Salmond and the love that dare not speak its name

If there was a brass-neck championship of Scotland there's no doubt that oor wee Eck would be a prime contender. Taking advantage of the new released film in which Meryl Streep gives an "eerily accurate" (critics everywhere) impersonation of Maggie Thatcher, the First Comedian (FC) has been claiming that it was his interruption of a budget debate that led to Maggie's eventual downfall.

Which is rather strange since the same FC claimed a couple of years ago that "we" (that's us Scots, all of us, Eck speaks for us all, didn't you know?)  didn't mind Maggie's destruction of the Scottish economy. This is a mystifying misunderstanding of the real Scottish fury and hatred at these policies. Coming from a supposedly mature politician, it is a level of misreading which leads to the suspicion that Mr Salmond himself "didn't mind" Maggie's feral politics and he has just projected his Maggie Love on the rest of us. An easy mistake to make, especially if you are, as Mr S seems to think he is, The Appointed (should that be Anointed?) Voice Of Scotland.

Certainly, of the "successes" that the SNP claim over the last few years the Council Tax Freeze is a straight steal from the Tories. The consequential weakening of Local Government and cutting teacher numbers by 4000 are outcomes to make any Conservative leader salivate. So Eck has no especial objection to Maggie's economic vision and he has no practical objection to stealing Tory policies and he has no apparent problem with the results and outcomes of these Tory policies......

You and I might think that there is a measure of contradiction in these claims that, on the one hand, Eck love Maggie economics, and on the other hand, he claims the credit for destroying her career. There is even a hint of  Shakespearean tragedy: the bold young Eck loves his hero's economic policies but he also lights the economic fuse that brings about her downfall....


I always say "credit where credit is due". So all credit to Eck vis-a-vis Mrs T.... he admired her policies and doesn't mind who knows it.

As for "Eck Brings Maggie Down"..... as my young relatives would say .... puleeez.....