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Showing posts with label Newsnight. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Newsnight. Show all posts

Thursday, 18 April 2013

The Unholy Trinity – Monarchy, Military and Organised Religion: Thatcher’s funeral.

I blogged this back in December 2010. It was only a matter of time till an egregious example of this unholy linkage manifested itself. I thought maybe the Jubilee and even the Olympics contained the essentials, but until the Queen dies, Margaret Thatcher’s funeral is going to epitomises it. This group of blustering, pontificating Establishment types rather gave the game away in their attempts to defend it all.

We do this kind of thing rather well ..”, “Good PR …” etc.

One dissenting voice, with non-black attire to distinguish him from the funereal Tory, monarchical, military, religious mob said much of what had to be said, but of course defended religion in the process. Still

Friday, 3 December 2010

Another history lesson: the monarchy, organised religion and the military.

Two more extracts from Professors T.C. Smout’s A Century of the Scottish People 1830 – 1950 (first published 1986).


One great change in the second half of the century (the 19th century) was the erosion of ancient certainties regarding heaven and hell. Chapter VII, page 192

The destruction of the literal interpretation of the Bible was accompanied by twin European intellectual movements, in science and history. Chapter VIII, page 193

The European enlightenment had at its heart the Scottish Enlightenment, as medieval superstitions began to lose their iron grip on the peoples of the world. But in 2010, we have a world where secularism is in retreat, the separation of church and State is crumbling, (contrary to the cries of outrage from the churches that ‘militant atheism’ is rampant) and the main political fault lines that divide our planet have their roots in fundamentalist religious beliefs, specifically the three religions that have common Abrahamic roots – Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

The obsession of all three with the land of Israel (The Balfour Declaration) lies at the heart of this, and in most recent times we have had the elevation of religious differences to the centre of international conflicts by George W. Bush and Tony Blair, both of them Christian fundamentalists, by the fundamentalist leaders of the nation of Israel, and the  fundamentalists leaders of the Muslim nations, not to mention the even more extreme fundamentalist sects within all of these three major religions, from the Rapture Christians of the United States, through militant fundamentalism Zionism to Al Quaeda.

Politicians with secular instincts have little choice but to be part of this if they hope to be elected and occupy significant positions within their party and government.

In America, it is still political suicide for any ambitious politician to profess atheism or even agnosticism, and in the UK, although politicians may acknowledge such beliefs, they are well advised to keep them muted, and they are obliged to listen to, and take account of the often forceful views of unelected religious leaders.

Here in Scotland, the Scottish National Party has the unenviable task of coping with the historical religious divisions that exist in our nation between Catholic and Protestant, divisions that underlie the entire history of the British monarchy, divisions that are exploited by the unscrupulous, and this divide is now compounded by  a third, new dimension  - the number of Scottish citizens, many of them born and bred in Scotland, who adhere to the Islamic religion.


There is an absolute link between the monarchy, organised religion and the military in Britain that politicians ignore at their peril, with religious,  monarchical and military elements in all national ceremonies that relating to the blood sacrifice - past and present - of our young people in foreign lands: the people are enlisted into this blood myth through the jingoistic popular press and media coverage.

We will only achieve maturity as a nation when we can envisaged a great state ceremony of celebration of a momentous event, or the mourning and remembrance of the dead that does not include monarchical,  military or religious aspects.

I can conceive of a ceremony of remembrance that involves all religions and those of no faith, because death knows no boundaries of nation or faith. Believers from all faiths - and those of no faith - have died side by side across the globe in the ultimate bond of blood, death and sacrifice.

Saturday, 26 May 2012

The YES Campaign, Newsnight and Emily Maitlis

Yesterday’s television news coverage of the YES Campaign launch in Edinburgh was - to me - reasonable in scope, coverage and comment. From the brief morning coverage on the BBC News Channel, eclipsed by the Leveson Enquiry, through the lunchtime and evening news bulletins, both on BBC and STV, there was effective and balanced reporting.

Since it was Friday, there was no Newsnight Scotland, and I did wonder if Newsnight would cover it at all. But they did, and in thirteen and a half minutes, managed to confirm the deep suspicions of the legion of SNP BBC bashers that the BBC is institutionally and consciously biased against Scotland independence movement. I do not share that view, but this programme betrayed at the very least very poor editorial judgement, and at worse, a distinct anti-independence bias by the presenter, Emily Maitlis – or by whoever structured and scripted her approach.

She set the tone of the report in her opening remarks.

Sunlight and blue skies is about the best advert the nationalists could have hoped for today as they linked arms, fixed grins and launched their campaign for independence. But the Scottish Government doesn’t want to hold the referendum until 2014. And two years is a long time to hold a smile.”

The Allegra Stratton report that followed the cue, opening with a display of union jacks, plangent music and “It’s often called the most successful union the world has ever seen …”

It is indeed often called that, mainly recently, and almost exclusively by strident unionist propagandists. Not that that the rigorously impartial BBC would ever call for such a person to script Allegra’s lines, but as the intro went on, I had to fight down that ignoble suspicion. The First Minister’s opening remarks were briefly shown, then a quick segue to the Save the Union Campaign’s YouGov opinion poll. Allegra noted that the Save the Union Campaign were not yet up and running, but she and Emily were clearly going to remedy that by doing their job for them – all in the interests of balance, you understand.

So they ran their poll slides for them (note the base – source: YouGov pro-union campaigners). Do we really need the  Save the Union Campaign when we have the BBC, Allegra and Emily? Such a question would be churlish, and as a defender of the BBC, I would not dream of raising it. More slides, with a voice-over clip of Nicola Sturgeon on the currency and the decision to keep sterling.

Another Union Jack, shots of Westminster and more criticism of a monetary union, with a lot of “some say that” negative comments, then Professor Jim Gallagher is trotted out with much doom-saying about monetary union during the split up of Czechoslovakia. What Professor Gallagher’s position on independence is unknown to me, but I feel one might get a clue from the posts he has held (see Wiki link above).

Another clip from Lewis Goodall of the Institute for Public Policy Research on corporation tax. Allegra then re-enters in voice-over, with the faintly astonished comment that “The SNP have their own facts and figures.

It should be noted at this point that the YES Campaign launch was not – and was never intended to be – an unveiling of policies and arguments: it is the beginning of a two and a half year campaign where arguments for independence, already well-ventilated, will be fully fleshed out and presented to the electorate, and those arguments will come not only from the SNP but from a wide range of political views and organisations committed to Scotland’s independence.

However, instead of covering it as such, the BBC – or at least Newsnight - has clearly decided fill the gap created by the confusion and tardiness of the Save the Union Campaign by attacking policies before the debate has even begun. This was the whole thrust of the programme.

Allegra Stratton is clearly baffled as to why the Union is not being saved and what the hell is holding them back. She has been provided with an answer by the Labour Party, which she duly delivers. Alex Salmond is due to testify before the Leveson Enquiry in June. Great revelations will then occur which will create feelings of revulsion among the Scottish electorate over Salmond’s relationship with the Antichrist himself, Rupert Murdoch. This, of course, according to Allegra’s Labour script was what caused the SNP to “do badly in the local elections”.  The fact that there is not a shred of evidence for this Ladybird Book of Scottish Politics nonsense reveals the shallowness of the London BBC’s understanding of Scottish affairs and Scotland, which only periodically intrude into their metropolitan consciousness.

What it reveals about the Save the Union Campaign is that it will be Labour-dominated, locked in Labour’s old and failed smear-and-innuendo and incident-obsessed opposition politics (e.g. Megrahi) that have served them so ill in Scotland. Far from taking heart from this, it should worry nationalists deeply, because it will debase and degrade the great debate that must take place in Scotland.

Allegra Stratton’s report closes as it began, with a forest of Union Jacks and a saltire lurking in the bottom corner. But the worst was yet to come from Emily Maitlis

Emily acts as an essentially passive feed and prompter for Alistair Darling – on the poll, on the currency, on devo max and on the referendum timing - allowing him to preview his Save the Union Campaign arguments, such as they are, ahead of the June launch.

Then to Stewart Hosie MP, the SNP Treasury spokesman who is subjected to a very different agenda and style of questioning. Emily Maitlis puts Alistair Darling’s allegation that the Scottish people were being asked “to take unqualified (sic) risks at the most uncertain economic time”.

Stewart Hosie patiently explains the role of the Bank of England as the central bank, both for rUK and an independent Scotland, and makes the vital distinction between fiscal policy and monetary policy. But this doesn’t wash with Emily, who gets animated over the question in a way noticeably absent from her passivity with the admittedly soporific personality of “the former Chancellor”.

Emily gets excited over the European example and “ … it might not be a great idea to try and shoehorn two economies into one currency!” To her chagrin, Stewart agrees with her. She interrupts in a panic – “But you don’t know what would happen – you wouldn’t be able to make those decision independently.”

Emily returns to the poll – the Save the Union Campaign sponsored poll – and, voice and expression loaded with scepticism, says “Doesn’t it tell us a lot about your campaign that it’s [the referendum] not even on the table for two years?

As Stewart Hosie, a man of considerable dignity, intellect and restraint, comments on polls in general and “strange, skewed questions” in this one,  Emily Maitlis interrupts him -

The truth is if somebody offered you devo max, whatever that constitutes – a bit more power – the SNP would be pretty happy with that, wouldn’t they?”

Stewart Hosie:The SNP stands for independence, the SNP is campaigning for independence, and the campaign was launched today, Emily.”.

Monday, 30 April 2012


My views on the BBC are well-know by now, and it is clear that a number of nationalists don’t like my defence of the BBC. Since I have an aversion to repeating myself endlessly, here are a few links which say more or less all I have to say about the BBC and its relationship to the independence movement and the SNP.

BBC – Role and future
BBC - political coverage
BBC - hard to defend
BBC- Marr and Purcell
BBC - Call Kaye
BBC - Unionist bias

As can be seen, I have been critical of specific instances that I perceived as bias, inadvertent or conscious, and I will continue to highlight these. Occasionally I have been exasperated by the BBC and sometimes furious at it. So has every other political party, which is evidence to me that it is doing its job as a public service broadcaster.

Over the last five years I have watched thousands of hours of political coverage of news and Scottish affairs, and I have clipped, YouTube posted and commented on over 740 videos. (Most of these I have taken down – but still have on file – because of the workload in managing comments.)

A summary of my position on the BBC -

1. The BBC performs a vital role as a public service broadcaster and has done so since early in the last century. It is widely regarded internationally as the best public service broadcaster in the world.

2. Without BBC coverage of the SNP and the independence movement on news bulletins, political programmes such as Newsnight, Newsnight Scotland, the Daily Politics, the Sunday Politics, the Sunday Politics Scotland, the regular broadcasting of FMQs at Holyrood, The Parliament channel, Good Morning Scotland and radio news broadcasts and discussion programmes, its online sites and by specials devoted to elections and other matters of interest, the SNP would have not achieved the high profile and electoral success it has and Alex Salmond would not have become the towering figure he now rightly is in Scottish, UK, European and international politics.

3. Without all of the above BBC programmes, services, and the dedicated work of its highly professional producers, researchers, technical staff, presenters and commentators, I would have had no blog and no YouTube channel, and other bloggers and online nationalist newspapers would have had a gaping hole in their content. A vital platform for the nationalist case and the nationalist voice would have been absent, and an actively hostile press and indifferent commercial channels would have compounded that.

4. The vast majority of the criticisms I hear of the BBC result from an apparent ignorance of the processes of television journalism, television production and editing, news values, and the role of presenters, commentators and interviewers. They are also characterised by gross stereotyping, highly selective analysis and frankly, naivety.

5. There is also an ugly thread of what I can only describe as McCarthyism among some critics, in their constant references to the backgrounds, partners, spouses and general contacts of BBC presenters and commentators.

I do not think the background of commentators is entirely irrelevant, and I comment when I feel it is appropriate, but I do not expect BBC staff to have had no existence, life, political involvement or career prior to entering the Corporation, nor do I expect them to have taken monastic vows to have no personal views or political allegiances. I also think there should be a statute of limitations on how long they have to have their past roles and affiliations raked up every time they appear on television.

As far as the reference to spouse, partners, etc. is concerned, I think it is offensive and contemptible. BBC staff are not politicians, they are not legislators – they are not bound to make disclosures of interest as MPs or legal professionals are.


I will continue to comment on aspect of BBC coverage and editorial policy that I feel relevant, and to be trenchant in criticism when I think it is warranted. I don’t need any help with this.

I think the present pattern of criticism of the BBC by some nationalists is profoundly damaging to the independence cause in the crucial lead-up period to the referendum.

I have said all I have say on the BBC in general terms. Please do not offer me an endless stream of comments and emails on what you imagine to be examples of bias. Go to someone who will give you a sympathetic hearing, because I won’t.

Better still, start your own blog and YouTube channel and have your say in that way. Or write to the BBC, or do whatever you feel necessary. Leave me out of it – please ..

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

The UK political establishment – an arse with three cheeks? Coalition plus fake Labour Opposition? George Galloway thinks so …

Last night’s Newsnight addressed some vital questions about the giant rotten borough that the United Kingdom has now become, using as a springboard for the discussion the fact of George Galloway’s bombshell victory in Bradford, which caught Labour, the Coalition and the Westminster Village media pundits by surprise.

Jeremy Paxman had as his guests George Galloway, Will Self, Diane Abbott and Mark Field. The programme centred around Galloway and Will Self – Abbott and Young effortlessly demonstrated the utter irrelevance of Her Majesty’s Coalition Government and Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition to the reality of life in this Disunited Kingdom.

There was no LibDem, since they now don’t matter in any real sense, although Will Self oddly seemed to be representing a kind of LibDemmery – “I voted for them – I wouldn’t say I backed them!”.

Diane Abbott, probably a rich woman now from her long, cosy occupancy of a well-paid media sofa with Michael Portillo on the Andrew Neil show, still fancies that she somehow represents the ordinary people of England in these desperate economically and socially challenging times, living in that strange fantasy political dreamland inhabited by other rich Labour people.  Mark Field effortlessly epitomised the other party of privilege, private education and wealth, oozing the easy charm that cloaks the  brutal realpolitik of the Tory Party.

I have edited both of them out from my first clip selection: nothing they said mattered – they were the straight men, so to speak in the harsh social comedy duos of the stand-up comics, Galloway and Self, there as foils for the main action. (The full clip follows below.)

The discussion had a delightful opening sequence. Paxman, after a measured and calm introduction, then went for George Galloway in his normal, simplistic attack mode, which relies on politicians being polite and submissive in response, and relying on the advice their image consultants and spin doctors careful crafted for them, which of course results in them being eaten alive.

Interviewees who rely on their own experience, intellect and force of character therefore come as a rude shock to Paxman – one recalls our own First Minister, Alex Salmond reacting with tolerant amusement before demolishing Paxo, and I remember one Welsh academic who ate him alive some years ago by not playing his game.

Having floored Paxman and kicked him around the canvas a bit to demonstrate who was boss, George Galloway then made some vitally important observations, prompted by Will Self’s rather despairing but accurate analysis of the limits of Galloway’s real influence on the political process.

I would summarise the core of the discussion as follows -

Conventional three-party politics are breaking down in the UK, driven by distrust in UK political institutions caused by scandals on expenses, banking, cash for access, cronyism, corruption in the media and police and the manifest economic, foreign policy and social incompetence of two successive governments.

The growth of alternative forms of direct political action – “new ways of doing politics that don’t involve the political parties” -  in the form of demonstrations, alternative media groups and campaigning organisations such as 38 Degrees.

The gross inequalities in UK society, and the actions of successive governments that have widened them, rather than narrowed or eliminated them, coupled with active discrimination against the most vulnerable in UK society, and discrimination in favour of wealth and privilege.

The limitations and relative powerlessness of such groups to influence really big issues and legislation, still dominated and controlled by the Parliamentary system and the three big parties plus the unelected House of Lords.

Both Jeremy Paxman and Will Self – albeit driven by very different motives – forced George Galloway to acknowledge what his limitations had been -  and would be - in the Parliamentary system. He was compelled to defend his low voting record in his previous incarnation as an MP for Bethnal Green, in the opening acrimonious exchange with Paxo, by acknowledging that his vote wouldn’t have mattered, and to admit to Will Self that the same would essentially apply to his new position as Bradford MP.

Will Self referred to the phenomenon of political clan politics in Bradford – Bradree or Braduree, as good old Tammany-style politics, then telling said that there was a Braduree system operating at UK level – the political class offering sinecures in a closed loop. Galloway’s response referred to a parallel universe of privilege, wealth and private education, using the affable Mark Field as his example, saying he “might be from Mars to the streets of Manningham”. He defended himself against accusations of ethnic politics by citing the fact that the University ward of Bradford West - ethnically diverse and reacting to real issues rather than ethnic politics - had voted for him. But, asked by Self how he was going to reverse the policies, he said he could not reverse them but would “speak out” for his constituents. Will Self’s gentle rejoinder was that he would essentially be “sideswiping” Parliamentary politics as a lone MP.

Voices crying in the wilderness do matter, but only democratic politics changes things – that’s my firm view. One has only to look at CND, the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, now just past the 54th anniversary of its founding. It pains me to say it – and others feel strongly that I shouldn’t say it – that despite the huge efforts and personal sacrifice of thousands of people, often at the price of their safety and liberty over half a century, CND has achieved essentially nothing, in terms of its core aim – nuclear disarmament.

Each of the three major UK parties remain committed to WMDs, to Trident and the so-called ‘independent’ nuclear deterrent as a central plank of NATO.

The UK and the world has remained at risk of nuclear Armageddon since the start of the atomic age on 6th August 1945 – just after my tenth birthday – when the Hiroshima bomb was dropped, followed three days later by the Nagasaki bomb, indiscriminately killing, burning and maiming hundreds of thousands of innocent men, women and children and leaving a lethal legacy for many more.

In contrast, the independence of Scotland will achieve unilateral nuclear disarmament for Scotland, and may well force the reluctant rump of the former United Kingdom into abandoning their nuclear folly. This can only result in a reduction of nuclear tensions globally, and may well serve as a beacon of sense to the rest of the world.

This, when it is achieved – as it must be achieved, and will be achieved – will have been achieved by the ballot box, by the will of the Scottish electorate engaged in democratic politics and by the Scottish National Party.

(It is worth noting that Scotland and the Scottish National Party’s massive victory were treated as a footnote in the analysis offered by this programme.)

Galloway, a flawed, brilliant populist politician, a formidable orator, albeit one who has dissipated his talents, perhaps a bit of a political carpetbagger, nonetheless has his heart in the right place, and has the right human, international values.

He summed up the political system of the UK in his own inimitable way as an arse with three cheeks – The Tories, the LibDems and the Labour Party.

But it should be remembered that Galloway very recently was prepared to stand for election to become a pimple on one of those cheeks – the Labour Party in Holyrood.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Paxman with Alex Salmond - " certainly the picture of the patronising Englishman" - Irish Times

Paxo never learns - like the UK, he's past his sell by date, out of touch with the constitutional realities. As Mark Hennessy of the Irish Times dryly observes "Most people watching that  interview with Jeremy Paxman - I'm sure Alex Salmond would be very, very glad if he was to get more interviews like that by English presenters. It's certainly the picture of the patronising Englishman, and that's going to feed into the debate both in Scotland and indeed in the attitudes that perhaps will be taken abroad when people are looking at this from an outside audience."

Paxman's opening remarks - " ... what his country might be like if he get's his way and manages to bust up the United Kingdom. ..... But fear not: while Moses, sorry - Alex Salmond - didn't quite promise a land flowing with milk and honey, he did claim it would be a beacon of what he called progressiveness."  Not quite the respect agenda that David Cameron or indeed the BRITISH Broadcasting Corporation is supposed to be pursuing with the First Minister of Scotland - nor was the comparison of Alex Salmond to Robert Mugabe later in the interview.

But Scots are long past being offended by a relic of empire - a UK dinosaur - like Paxman. Like our First Minister, we are amused by him, and will find Paxo a place on the sofa of a chat show in the new Scottish Broadcasting Corporation to remind us of days past ...

Sunday, 10 July 2011

An antidote to the ‘Britishness’ nonsense talked in the Newsnight special

Rory Stewart OBE, Tory MP (born in Hong Kong, raised in Malaysia, education Dragon school, Eton and Balliol college, Oxford - Deputy Governor in two Iraq provinces for the armed US/UK Coalition that illegally invaded  Iraq. He served briefly in the Black Watch. His family originates from Crieff in Perthshire).

Asked if the break-up of the Union, compared by Paxman to a marriage, matters -

I think it matters very deeply, I think we’ll miss it terribly. It is something it is very easy to imagine you can tear apart, by I think like any relationship - any intertwined thing - once it’s gone, we’ll miss it and we will never forgive the government that tore it apart.”

This is emotional nonsense, with highly coloured, pejorative terms, delivered by a privileged product of the British Establishment, colonialism and Empire. He believes what he says - why wouldn’t he, with that background? He talks of the voluntary ending of a 300 year-old political treaty by democratic means and negotiation as a tearing apart, and the we he refers to, although he the thinks of it as the people of the UK , is in fact his own tiny, powerful, privileged class.

That class will miss the Union - you’d better believe they will!  They owe all they have to it - it has delivered for them, while marginalising, impoverishing and killing the rest of us in large numbers, especially the Scots.

And never forget, that historically, that class has always included Scots who were willing, indeed enthusiastic agents of British imperialism and the betrayal of the economic and social interests of their own people. And they’re still around …

Asked pointedly by Paxman what ‘we’ would lose, he replies

I think it’s a mistake to think we would lose economics (sic) - you can make economic arguments, you can make political arguments - you lose an idea: an idea of union, an idea of what was great about Britain - of England, of Scotland. And those are things that all of us feel.”

In the turgid emotional and now stagnant pool that is the unionist mind Britain, instead of being a geographical term for an archipelago - a group of islands - is conflated with a political entity, one that didn’t exist when the union with Scotland - a political and economic union - took place. He’s right - Great Britain is an idea, and its time is ending. If it’s any comfort to the Rory’s of this world, the Union of the Crowns - a much older pragmatic idea - looks set to continue.

Joan McAlpine, talking hard sense, leavened with humanity as usual, attempts to reassure those about to cry in their warm ale over the impending ‘loss’. Peter Davies, an English Democrat would like to return to the status quo ante, i.e. reverse the devolution process, rightly pointing out the self-serving political motives of Labour in using it to consolidate their Scottish hegemony (it didnae work, Tony!) but he is a realist, albeit a disgruntled one, about where we now are, and wants out.

Prompted by Joan McAlpine’s analysis of the real reason for devolution, Rory Stewart reluctantly concedes that “probably, in the end, it reflected the desires of the Scottish people. I think it would have been dangerous to fight it forever. But I think at the same time, Scotland and England can be independent … and Scotland is more independent in the Union than out of it.”

He goes on, however, that it is “reckless and unnecessary …” He is interrupted at this point by Paxman saying that it can be done. Rory acknowledges that it would not be a cataclysm, but “a crying shame …”

Faced with the English Democrat asking why the English are being discriminated against in the devolution settlements - as they are, in my view - he patronisingly tells his countryman (in Rory’s English persona) that he is “falling into the trap that the Scottish nationalists are setting - they are trying to make you feel that you are being discriminated against” to which he receives the robust rejoinder from Peter Davies “We are!”.

“Everything that they are doing is designed to try to make you feel resentful - you don’t need to …” This is half-Scot Rory talking about a large number of his countrymen and the elected Government of Scotland. Peter Davies rejoins that he is not resentful, but old Etonian Rory is in full patrician mode now.

You can be confident and proud of being British.”

Peter Davies, an Englishman, is more practical, and rejects the patronising tone. “I want what they’ve got - that’s not resentful.”

Gaun yersel, Peter, I say, endorsing his feeling that he is being discriminated against, because he is. Tam Dalziel said so, and since I am now from West Lothian, I support that other product of empire and privilege, the Laird of the Binns. At this point, Joan McAlpine made more relevant, hard economic and legal points, but Paxman prefers to stay with the emotion and the discrimination issue.

He questions the audience - do they feel discriminated against? He raises the nonsensical proposition that the English should be allowed a voice in the referendum, which some of the audience do. Could the English force the Scots to stay, even if they wanted to leave? This leaves the unfortunate audience member being prompted by Paxman looking confused, as well he might be, and asking that the question be repeated.

But Paxman gets little comfort - good old, English common-sense is prevailing. One of them recognises that some Scots actually may have more reservations about independence than the English.

Paxman seeks for Scots to answer his question, but yet again gets a robust answer from an Englishman, that it is a matter for Scots, not for them. Paxman then finds a straight-talking Scot, who says that all that will happen is that the English will lose a few more Labour MPs, and is sanguine about Scots continuing to get on well with the English, since they do so under “the pseudo independence we’ve got now.”

But Rory will have none of it - we are “in danger of turning friends into competitors, and opening up rivalries and crises of identity that none of us need or want.” He remains oblivious to the fact that this exists only in his mind and the minds of his narrow privileged class, not among the ordinary people, who recognise that the UK and the Union are not operating in their interests, but in the interests of Rory’s class - the British Establishment.

The Scottish audience member who spoke earlier points out gently to Rory, and cites former British empire members Canada, Australia and Ireland, where contacts, family ties and social relationships and economic ties are just fine.

Rory ignores this courteously stated point, and falls back on his Dad in Crieff, who is proud to be Scottish and British, and claims, with no evidence, that this represents more people in Scotland than the audience member represents, a discourteous, impertinent and unsupported statement.

I have little to say about the last few minutes of the discussion - it’s all there in the clip for those who want to analyse it.

I leave the last word on the UK and the Union to the distinguished historian, Norman Davies, on pages 870 and 871 of his magisterial work The Isles. I have selected quotes that seem highly relevant to me.


(1) The United Kingdom is not, and never has been, a nation-state.


By the terms of its inception in 1707, The United Kingdom has been prevented from developing either the federal or the unitary structures which have elsewhere fostered homogeneity.


It is essentially a dynastic conglomerate, which could never equalise the functions of its four constituent parts, and which, as a result, could never fully harmonise the identities of the national communities within its borders. The UK, for example, has no one established Church. (It has two of them.) It has no unified legal system, no centralised education system, no common cultural policy, no common history - none of the institutional foundations, in other words, on which nations states are built.


Like all ruling elites who wanted their citizens to form a coherent national community and to identify themselves with the interests of the state, the British establishment deliberately confused the concepts of citizenship and nationality. Indeed, in British usage, citizenship actually came to be called ‘nationality’, whilst citizens - or rather subjects - were called ‘nationals’. This linguistic manoeuvre did much to create the false impression that everyone who carried a British passport was automatically identified with the same national group.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Alex Salmond effortlessly deals with Paxman's predictable questions

Paxman deploys his usual repertoire of sarcasm, simplistic questioning and patronising manner. Alex has heard it all before, and deals with him rather in the way Spencer Tracy dealt with Ernest Borgnine in Bad Day at Black Rock - effortlessly and with one hand. The same old unionist script from Paxman, now a caricature of himself, like an old variety artist flogging the same tired old act round the Moss Empire circuit.

Some blog readers expected me to run the Newsnight Scotland Iain Gray interview. It was unutterably boring, and to listen to Gray’s evasion and excuses all over again is just embarrassing and is just to much to ask. So I passed gratefully on to the First Minister …

Of course, Paxman could have listened to John Swinney. But he didn't want to be confused by the facts. Fortunately Scottish voters do care about facts ...