Mourning on the 19th of September

I fixed the original picture, because including the original is just too soul-destroying for me.

The Wallace Tower in Ayr will remain lit up in red, white and blue up to and including Monday 19 September to commemorate the life of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

– South Ayrshire Council

The insult to the memory of William Wallace, who refused to recognise the primacy of the English monarch, is obvious, and irrefutable – not that it stops some people from debasing themselves and others trying. But the insult to the supposed recipient of this tribute is also profound. Do you think Elizabeth Windsor, Queen of Scots, would be happy seeing one of the most important & revered heroes of one of the Home Nations being disrespected in such a way? If Elizabeth Windsor, Queen of Scots, loved Scotland as much as everyone claims she did, then would she not find this affront to his memory insulting at best, and despicable at worst?

Save for the dyed-in-the-wool monarchists, Never voters, and those pitiful nihilistic wretches who enjoy acts of cruelty even at the expense of their own dignity, no-one will remember this as a fitting tribute. Ayr is not wanting for buildings to light up in the Union Flag in tribute to Elizabeth Windsor – buildings which were not constructed & dedicated to the memory of a man who died in opposition to the notion of an English King ruling England, Scotland, and Wales. Yet they picked this monument, of all Ayr’s grand and magnificent buildings, to affix their devotion. All they will remember from this display is how breathtakingly crass it is. They won’t remember it as a touching tribute to the late Elizabeth Windsor. They will remember it as the gauche, cynical, imperialist display it truly is. It is not a symbol of a nation united in grief over a public figure, but of one forced into acquiescence regardless of how they feel.

Some folk are proud to be “Scottish and British.” Here, we see the reality of that situation, where the memory of a man who died because he refused to acknowledge another nation’s monarch as his was defiled – in the interests of a fake, phony “unity” that’s as fake and phony as the union it exemplifies.

Folk like Lindsay Hoyle would claim that the funeral of Elizabeth Windsor would be “the most important event the world will ever see.” Even the most devoted of monarchists would surely consider that hyperbolic. But for a great many Scots, even the very date of 19th of September is a day of mourning for another reason – one that happened eight years before. It was a day after a referendum, when the woman who died is alleged to have “purred” in response to the result, where the lies & false promises made to Scots were enough to steal away a nation’s freedom.

I mourn the Scotland that could have been on the 19th of September eight years ago. Mourn Elizabeth Windsor if you wish – it is a freedom that the UK Establishment would deny others if they could. I don’t think I ever could mourn, for the reasons above. For me, the 19th of September is a date for mourning a nation – something even greater than any individual, regardless of how powerful, influential, or remarkable they may be. And even if I mourn that Scotland alone – I am, of course, certain that I do not – I am content in knowing there is at least one soul who will remember the 19th of September for a different reason than the Firm would have the world remember.

I’ll stop mourning when our nation lives again.

The Woman Elizabeth Windsor and the Cult Image of Queen Elizabeth

These women’s scandalous way of life was observed by a sculptor, Pygmalion. Sick of the vices with which the female sex has been so richly endowed, he chose for a number of years to remain unmarried, without a partner to share his bed. In the course of time he successfully carved an amazingly skilful statue in ivory, white as snow, an image of perfect feminine beauty – and fell in love with his own creation. This heavenly woman appeared to be real; you’d surely suppose her alive and ready to move…

Orpheus’ Song: Pygmalion, Metamorphosis by Ovid (translated by Henry Raeburn)

The story of Galatea, first attested in Philostephanus’s De Cypro (The Story of Cyprus) but most well-known from Ovid’s Metamorphoses, is deeply tied to the history of the Cult Image. The sculptor Pygmalion crafted the statue of a woman from ivory. He was so taken with his creation that he fell in love with it: he prayed to the gods to make her real. Aphrodite heard, and granted his request. Various misadventures followed, and as is the case in mythology, variants emerged over time – but the central concept of a statue brought to life following the wish of the sculptor remained.

It came to mind with current events.

Voting for Independence in the Inverclyde Council Elections 2022

As the election is tomorrow, I thought I’d do my bit to note all the pro-independence, indy-open, or at least indy-neutral candidates standing in each ward. Every ward except Inverclyde East (where all three candidates have been elected automatically) and Inverclyde South have enough candidates for independence supporters not only to rank above open anti-independence candidates, but theoretically take all the available seats. This happened in Inverclyde West in 2017, where 2 pro-independence candidates and 1 neutral independent were elected. This should be the goal of every independence supporter across Scotland. Considerations about “democracy” and “fairness” are moot, because for as long as we are part of the UK, “democracy” and “fairness” never enter into the equation in the first place. This isn’t overriding democracy – it’s ensuring democracy, real democracy, has a chance to actually manifest with Scottish independence.

I won’t explicate the order in which I will be voting, nor will I make any particular recommendations. I expect Alba supporters to put Alba first and SNP supporters to put their candidates first: there is no real way to “game” the Single Transferrable Vote system, so it is honestly one of the most authentic methods. You really do vote for your first choice first, and your last choice last. Even if you can’t stand any particular candidate, or refuse to support their party, you can at least place them above individuals & parties who are actively opposed to independence. I leave to others arguments about local issues. My argument is that if the power station fails, it doesn’t matter how many lightbulbs you change or wires you reroute in your living room – you need to get the power going at the source.

So let’s break it down.

The Local Is National

No major party, it seems, is without blood on their hands. The cruelties and atrocities committed under the UK Government Party’s watch are well-documented and ongoing. Thanks to past Prime Ministers, the Opposition Party can count tens of thousands of innocents within and without the UK’s borders on their red ledgers. The moral cowardice of the Coalition Party makes them party to everything the UK Government enabled during that brief five year term which ended up decimating what was once offering an alternative to the destructive two-party dominance of centuries past. Even considering that the Scottish Government was not truly a national government with the powers and responsibilities enjoyed by nearly every other nation on the planet, I took great pride in the party I voted for and supported being something different.

When the new First Minister decided the “Scottish Executive” deserved a name more deserving of the Parliament it stood in, Scotland went on to flourish under a Scottish Government. 2007 marked the beginning of great changes, lasting even through the atrocious Financial Crisis: the rise in homelessness was stalled and reversed to almost half its previous level, as was educational inequality and crime levels; A&E waiting times for the Scottish NHS were significantly reduced from the previous government; the worrying rise in drug deaths was slowed since 2007; votes condemning and refusing to consent to war and exploitation were constant even in the face of international pressure. You could accuse the SNP of everything under the sun, but at least – at least – the SNP never voted to send our people to illegal wars. At least the SNP never let thousands upon thousands of our people die through negligence, incompetence, or malice. At least the SNP were an exemplar, a glimpse, of what an Independent Scotland could be – the good an Independent Scotland could do. Even if you’re on the other side of the constitutional divide, they were a party of government you could respect.

It breaks my heart to realise that it simply isn’t true anymore.

The Ghost of Burghs Past

The empty shield that once bore the Gourock Coat of Arms blazon at Gourock Park, removed by persons unknown (Picture from Greenock Telegraph)

The most erroneous stories are those we think we know best – and therefore never scrutinize or question.

– Stephen Jay Gould

It is no great surprise to see that Inverclyde Council has voted to remove instances of Gourock’s Burgh Coat of Arms from public view. The results of last year’s consultation were as follows:

Of the 205 respondents, 50 felt that the coat of arms should be retained (although a great majority of them were in favour of information boards to explain them); 77 felt the coat of arms should be changed or removed; and 23 didn’t know or weren’t clear about their views.

There were 29 comments left as part of the survey; 11 of these were strongly negative about the coat of arms (some respondents were ‘shocked’ and ‘horrified’ upon seeing the coat of arms for the first time), five were of the view that it is history and therefore cannot be changed, and two believed it to be inaccurate to describe the man as enslaved.

Inverclyde Now

And Councillors have acted accordingly:

COUNCILLORS have agreed that Gourock’s controversial coat of arms should be removed from display where practical.

The coat of arms includes a figure widely considered to be that of an enslaved man.

Councillors agreed that officials should now look into the practical issues arising from the decision and report back.

The coat of arms features at several Gourock buildings and on a stained glass window at the Watt Institute in Greenock.

Gourock Community Council use the coat of arms, and it is on the badge of the Gourock Athletic amateur football team.

The coat of arms was adopted in 1954 and was based on the burgh seal which dated from the 19th century. Gourock Burgh became part of the new Inverclyde District Council in 1975.

Inverclyde Now

The discussion & vote can be found at the 55 Minute mark on the Council’s Youtube site:

Ultimately, it was a nuanced and sensitive discussion, and I must give particular thanks to Gourock Councillor Chris McEleny for his considered words in what could easily have devolved into a heated and unproductive debate. I also appreciate the qualification “widely considered” on the Inverclyde Now article for reasons I’ve gone into before. It seemed more likely than not that the Council would choose to take the same route as other councils and local authorities, especially given the recent (and long overdue) reappraisal of Scotland’s history.

The question becomes, what now for the Gourock Man?

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Gourock Coat of Arms Public Consultation

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.

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We Do It To Ourselves

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.

Image courtesy of the McLean Museum & Art Gallery

This is – was – the Duncan McPherson Centre.

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Scots – All of Us or None of Us

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 reasoning hasn’t changed, 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.

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Vulgar Tongues

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.

– The National, 14th May 2021

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.

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