At heart, I am a compassionate man. This is not immediately evident to some, because I am also a passionate man when in pursuit of an argument, and I can allow vigorous expression of a viewpoint to pass all too easily into hectoring, a mode I have nothing but contempt for in others. I am also guilty of sarcasm on occasion, defending it as heavy irony, which sounds more intellectually respectable. I even have recourse to ad hominem debating styles. (Since the political demise of Maggie Thatcher and Wendy Alexander, I have not used ad wominem styles, although Jackie Baillie has brought me close once or twice.)
My midsummer resolution is therefore to abandon these contemptible approaches, and allow all my natural qualities of sympathy, empathy - and any other pathy I can think of - to come into play.
Never let it be said, therefore, that I passed by a unionist politician, former spin doctor or commentator in distress, averting my eyes as they writhed in the helpless grip of failed ideas and arguments, struggling to rise to their feet and pursue their quest for long-lost ideals and values. A great wave of pity almost overwhelms me as I listen to their confused mutterings, as they rage against their fate, and I am moved to offer succour to the suckers. (Sorry - a momentary lapse there …)
So here is my guide to unionist politicians and commentators in their hour of greatest need as they try to answer the great question their wavering supporters ask - why should Scotland remain in the Union?
ADVICE TO DEFENDERS OF THE UNION
Stop pretending that you have any principles, ideals or values, since the evidence is stacked against you. Focus on fear, greed and naked self-interest. (This comes as second nature to Tories, but poses some difficulties for Labour and the LibDems.) Try to cultivate paranoia about things happening in far-off countries.
Stay away from the Monarchy. The SNP have nailed that one by committing to a constitutional monarchy after independence. And don’t go on about republicans within the SNP - there are at least as many unionist republicans as there are nationalists - maybe more in the Labour Party.
Play up the war and military thing, especially the idea of foreign wars as a job creation scheme.
Try and find a reasons for building ships, ideally aircraft carriers. No need for aircraft to put on them, or even for them to put to sea - it’s the Clydeside jobs, stupid!
The nuclear things can still play well if you’re careful - avoid words like Fukishima, pollution, radiation, waste, annihilation etc. Make sure the BBC doesn’t run The China Syndrome or any documentaries featuring Hiroshima or Nagasaki. If nuclear submarines bump into to each other, or get lost, or run aground, or crew members shoot their officers, try to pass it off as either a joke or an aberration.
Persuade parents that it’s a good thing for their adult children to give their lives in unwinnable and illegal wars. Make the most of the patriotic ones and quickly move to silence the ones who raise difficult questions. Don’t look for unionist politicians who have children on the frontline - they are as rare as hen’s teeth.
Keep attacking Alex Salmond personally, even though it doesn’t seem to work. Regularly remind Scots that he is confident, decisive, in control of his party, is an election winner, and cares about the poor, sick and vulnerable - sooner or later, they’ll come to despise these qualities, since they clearly don’t fit well with unionism.
Make sure that any legislation passed by the SNP is doomed to fail, especially if it is aimed at dealing with endemic problems in Scottish society like alcohol abuse, drug abuse, sectarianism and inequality. The best way to do this is to claim that any specific measures backed by law will be certain to fail, while emphasising that well-meaning ‘educational’ initiatives, leaflets, public information commercials, etc. produced by industry-funded and controlled bodies will sooner or later get results, although they is little evidence that they ever have or ever will.
Emphasise the need to move very slowly in enacting new legislation, because it is better to be 100% right at some nebulous point in the future than do something that is 90% right now when it is needed.
A few more deaths, stabbings, riots, violent assaults and chronic medical problems are a small price to pay for getting every clause, sub-clause, dot and comma completely accurate. This also serves the secondary objectives of making even more money for rich lawyers and giving the vested interests more time to find other ways to combat any law that might dent their profits.
Remember the following six key principles -
Politicians who make a real effort to help to tackle the problems of alcohol abuse, drug abuse, sectarianism and inequality by legislation are the enemies of freedom, big business and their right to make money.
The people are free to destroy themselves in any way they see fit, especially the young and the poor.
Their inalienable right to to destroy themselves and the society of which they are a part must be protected at all costs.
Those desperate for alcohol and drugs will be undeterred by any laws or restrictions that attempt to control their behaviour.
Ultimately, it’s the fault of those with the problem, not those causing it, and above all, it is the fault of the poor.
None of their problems matter so long as they remain British, but everything would get worse if Scotland was independent.
But do offer them well-meaning advice. Set up little stalls near riots, or in high street drinking dens, or in the notorious trouble spot at old firm games, staffed by persons with impeccable middle class credentials, to offer helpful advice about personal morality, self-control and the family.
A little bit of God and old-time religion won’t go amiss here. Offer free CDs of Abide With Me and The Old Rugged Cross as an alternative to the The Sash and the Soldier’s Song. Suggest the old 1950s Johnny Ray hit, Cry as non-inflammatory substitute for No Surrender. Correct misunderstandings that result in the singing of The Cry was no surrender - etc.
Show the dangers of singing Danny Boy, since either side of the sectarian divide can claim it as their own, and show that the SNP have overlooked this manifest danger.
Ensure that all attempts to prosecute under the new legislation are regarded as a breach of human rights, and refer them to the UK Supreme Court, which will instantly condemn the prosecutions and release the worst sectarian offenders back on to the terraces to resume their behaviour.
Make it clear that legislation will inadvertently criminalise the carrying of bottles of waters to football matches in case it is holy water, and that gurgling while drinking such suspect water may be seized on by the police as evidence of surreptitious sectarian chanting.
Demonstrate that anyone with anything green around their person or their property, e.g. grass, may be arrested. Show that wearing a blue tie (e.g. certain SNP ties) may be regarded as incitement to violence. Show that the SNP legislation risks criminalising the 12-bar blues, and therefore all jazz and popular music using this musical form.
Similar risks exist in relation to bluegrass music.
Get the cooperation of sympathetic newspapers, media news channels and lazy journalists, i.e. most of them, to publicise these and similar acute dangers of the new legislation. Ignore completely anything the police might say - what do they know about public order and criminal behaviour?
I hope the above advice, offered in a spirit of reconciliation, will prove useful to unionist politicians and commentators, - especially former spin doctors associated with failed or otherwise discredited politicians - who are anxious to re-invent themselves as media personalities, and achieve a new reputation as detached, disinterested observers of the new political scene, one that they have so recently monumentally misunderstood and misjudged.
Redemption must be open to all comers.