"Auferre, trucidare, rapere, falsis nominibus imperium; atque ubi solitudinem faciunt, pacem appellant." – They ravage, they slaughter, they plunder, and they falsely name it "empire"; they make a wilderness, and call it "peace."
The following post is an expansion on my response to Inverclyde’s Historical Links to Slavery Working Group: Gourock Coat of Arms Public Consultation. I have written on the Gourock Coat of Arms before, and I have a deep personal interest in it stemming from an early age. Therefore I felt it would be beneficial to share my response on this site. Inverclyde Council had pre-emptively planned to remove the Coat of Arms, concurrently with plans to de-colonise the Watt Institute’s museum collections.
I encourage any Gourockian readers to fill out the survey & hand it in by Wednesday 24th November.
The last post was a bit dowlie for my liking. I was still upset about the situation with the McPherson Centre, and frustrated. Fortunately, a couple of things happened since writing that post which reinvigorated my belief in Scotland and her people.
I’ve found great difficulty mustering the heart & will to post anything on the blog in the past few months. Everything since the election has seemed so counter-intuitively dark and dreich, a sense of failure clad in the gaudy rainments of victory. For all the gains we made since 2014, we still keep failing somehow. Almost as if I’m starting to understand the Cringe.
It still comes up long after the original franchise for the 2014 Scottish Independence Referendum was set: who gets to decide whether Scotland regains its independence or not?
Folk might think that my advocacy and membership of the Alba party means that I might have changed my mind on things other than my voting preference. In fact, I feel even more comfortable as part of Alba than I had in the SNP for a long time, a comfort I hope to affirm at the inaugural conference taking place in my own constituency of Inverclyde this September. Should the topic of whether the franchise in 2014 – that is, any adult of voting age in Scotland regardless of their national status – should stay the same for any future independence referendum, I will happily and heartily advocate that yes, it should.
My reasoninghasn’tchanged, and my conclusions have not either. If you live in Scotland, you get to decide its future. That’s how it works in other independent countries, so that’s how I think it should work for aspiring-to-become independent countries.
Nonetheless, there are some in the independence movement who argue that the question should be revisited:
The other point Alf made quite forcibly was on the franchise we should use for any confirmatory plebiscite. I also now agree to this point. It should only be those born in Scotland or of Scottish parental descent that are allowed to vote in any self-determination independence plebiscite. This should be extended to the global Scottish diaspora. In 2014 53% of Scottish born voters voted YES. It was those born outwith Scotland that tipped the balance in favour of the status quo.
Now, full disclosure: my hackles spring up whenever this subject comes up, because it’s deeply emotive to me. Having said that, I do want to explore it a bit more.
NICOLA Sturgeon was the first politician to be sworn into the sixth session of Holyrood as the new parliament formally got under way, with affirmations and oaths taken in a record number of languages.
Returning and new members took an oath or affirmation following last week’s election in which the SNP was returned as the biggest party for the fourth consecutive term.
Many MSPs made their vows yesterday in second languages, including Urdu, Canadian French, Scots, Gaelic, Orcadian, Doric, Welsh, Arabic and Punjabi.
It is believed to be a record variety of languages used in the swearing-in ceremony to date with newly elected SNP MSP for Edinburgh Central Angus Roberston taking his in German. Fellow SNP MSP Karen Adam made her affirmation in British Sign Language – a first for the parliament.
As an outward-looking, internationalist nation, it is a sign of good faith and sincerity in those traditions for Members of the Scottish Parliament to take oaths & affirmations in languages that are important to them. Nominally speaking, it underscores Scotland’s place as a nation among nations throughout the world, where languages of those nations and our own are acknowledged and highlighted, threads in the fabric of our national tapestry.
In an ideal world, this would be wonderful, a cause for great celebration and much rejoicing. But Scotland is not independent, and the affirmation every MSP took yesterday was not one in the spirit of internationalism, nor of solidarity with the people of Scotland within and without its borders – it is an affirmation of obedience, supplication, and surrender.
One of my favourite directors is John Carpenter. Even the least of his films are imbued with his creative watermark. 1978’s Halloween is the blueprint for all subsequent Middle-American anxieties about youth turned into grim slasher horror; 1976’s Assault on Precinct 13 is a nigh-unbearably tense thriller that manages to foster deep isolation in the middle of a crowded city; I would argue that 1988’s They Live is more relevant & socially resonant now than even at the point it was first released. His Apocalypse Trilogy, most overtly in the 1987 science-cosmic horror (and one of my very favourite films) Prince of Darkness, posits multiple interpretations of the end of the world. The third of the trilogy, 1994’s In The Mouth of Madness, is a homage to literary horror traditions from Lovecraft to King. But it’s the first – 1982’s The Thing – which has remained in the public consciousness the longest, finding Man to be the warmest place to hide its creeping dread.
I can’t even begin to explain The Thing, a loose adaptation of John W. Campbell’s “Who Goes There?” where the extraterrestrial, well, thing of the title manages to creep around everything from still-formidable Cold War Paranoia to self-destructive masculinity, fear of the loss of self to good old-fashioned existential cosmic dread, with a tightly-knit script, impeccable performances, brilliant production, and groundbreaking effects. But the most powerful – and most desperately sad – thing about The Thing is the erosion of trust in a close community. People who came to know one another, who relied on each other to survive in a deeply hostile environment that humanity was not equipped to inhabit without technology, started to betray each other and themselves in their rising panic about something that was not them.
I have been deeply fortunate in my voting life. Each time I have voted, it was with full heart & soul, because I truly believed in what I was putting on the ballot paper. This election, I had the honour of doing the same. No lingering doubts, no nagging trepidation, no bitter reluctance: the lilac and peach papers received their marks promptly & proudly, before being cast into the black void of the ballot box with their fellows, where they will be counted in due course.
As ever, no matter who you’re voting for, use this power. If voting didn’t change things, very rich & powerful people wouldn’t spend millions (if not billions) on campaigning for yours. Newspapers & television stations wouldn’t spend weeks of their time trying to convince you. Even if its a candidate with no hope, even if it’s a party that won’t form the next government, even if it’s to spoil your ballot, your vote is a covenant with society – to show the kind of society you want to be part of.
That’s how I voted. That’s how I’ve always voted. See you at the polling stations.
I will sharpen the tone on the angel’s tongue And wield a blow to unreality’s front Illusions flow out from this mortal wound As I wake to the sound of the lion’s roar
Ever since switching to Alba, I’ve made a sincere effort to be fair and even-handed to the SNP: it is obvious that the SNP are vital to the cause of independence, and I know my friends are no less dedicated to the cause than I or anyone else. But the question as to why I left does warrant more explanation, and I’m afraid it cannot be bereft of some criticism.
Many of my friends will be voting SNP/SNP (as I did in 2016) or SNP/Green (as many of my friends did in 2016) tomorrow. I voted that way because I thought they would deliver on the single, most important part of their manifesto:
We believe that the Scottish Parliament should have the right to hold another referendum if there is clear and sustained evidence that independence has become the preferred option of a majority of the Scottish people – or if there is a significant and material change in the circumstances that prevailed in 2014, such as Scotland being taken out of the EU against our will.
Some would say the Pandemic is sufficient mitigating circumstances, to which I cannot agree, for what illustrates the pressing need for independence more than being trapped in an insane United Kingdom with a robber baron perfectly happy to “let the bodies pile high” so long as his precious finances are unharmed?
One of the many friends I made when I officially joined the SNP back in 2014 was Abdul Majid – or, more properly, my Mammy’s friend, because she’s the people person. While the Abdul I know is not one for self-promotion, I believe it’s important for the Scottish Independence Movement to know who he is, and why his support for the Alba Party is so important.
Abdul is one of the key figures behind Scots Asians for Independence, one of the earliest campaigning groups to be established for the 2014 Scottish Independence Referendum: he served as its convenor. His activism advocating for peace in Kashmir led to a mention in the UK Parliament chambers courtesy of Glasgow MP, Alison Thewliss. His standing in both the Asian Scots and SNP community meant he was regularly consulted and invited to Bute House with the First Minister of Scotland, and was until recently a member of the SNP NEC.
I first met Abdul after being introduced to him by Mammy back at my first SNP conference as a delegate: we regularly met at fundraisers, adoption nights, and the St. Andrews’ Night Dinner (where we happily always seemed to end up seated at the same table). We found out quickly that Abdul was absolutely in love with Scotland: even with strong roots half a world away, he was belting out “Caledonia” with the rest of us, waving his flag as proudly as anyone else. Someone once told me that multiple nationalities is not like division, but addition: like multiple layers to a person’s being, not half-this or quarter-that. Abdul is a fine example of a many layered nationalist – one whose nationalism sweeps to all the nations of the earth, like another famous independence icon from the Indian subcontinent.
Now, Abdul and many of his friends & colleagues have signed up for Alba. He’s heading up a new organisation, Scots Asians for Alba, and seeks to continue his work to bring independence to Scotland. Just like the SNP, Alba is a party that advocates a Scottish Independence that includes all on our journey, be they born in Lesmagahow or Lahore, Milngavie or Mumbai, Kirkcudbright or Krakow. As a great man said, it’s not where we came from that’s important, it’s where we’re going together.
I remember attending my first “Yes” event, all those years ago. I was pleasantly surprised at how many folk were there, all sharing a desire for an independent Scotland – but nonetheless, acknowledged the trials which lay ahead. It’s almost a decade since I started the modern, “real” leg of my personal journey. Back then, Inverclyde was predicted to be one of the lowest Yes-voting constituencies in all of Scotland, and everyone seemed to know it: the best we could hope for was that our complement would be enough to contribute to the national vote. As it ended up, of course, Inverclyde was the 5th highest Yes result in all of Scotland. Then we went from an Opposition Party stronghold to one of the top ten SNP gains in both UK & Scottish Parliament elections. Then we were the 30th-highest Remain vote in the entire UK.
Inverclyde seems to have a habit of confounding expectations.