That Which Does Not Kill Us…


I’m flexible with my mental age. Sometimes I feel little different from when I was an eight-year-old: naive, enthusiastic, earnest, preoccupied with justice and fairness. When my friends fight, I feel like the small child when mummy and daddy are fighting, all petted lip and watery eyed. And other times, I feel as old as the hills: cynical, resigned, cautious, preoccupied with what’s best for everyone. And when my friends fight, I feel like the old grandfather butting in to stop an argument he has no right to impress upon.

Whether I am young or old in outlook depends entirely on whims of circumstances, but sometimes I find myself both at once: an ancient baby, a newborn elder. Maybe there’s something in it: new babies tend to look like old men.

… I think this metaphor’s running away from me fast, so I’ll move on. This is about people arguing on the internet, which seems like a big deal to all those involved, but probably isn’t that much of a big deal in the grand scheme of things – certainly not considering the battles yet to come.

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Questions for Yes Voters in Unionist Parties

The Sunday Herald has a piece on three candidates for the Other Party who hope to gain a place on the list in the election later this year.

Now, my instincts are to be welcoming: “great, a step in the right direction, more people who vote Yes from outside the SNP can surely help people understand this is a wide-reaching, grassroots movement not explicitly linked to party policy, and more pro-independence MSPs mean a greater likelihood of a pro-independence majority in Holyrood” right? I said a while back I was no longer interested in my life being ruled by hate. Yet pragmatism gives me cause to question just exactly what these three Yes voters are trying to achieve.


First of all we have Simon Macfarlane:

Simon Macfarlane, 45, a Unison official from Glasgow, said he is not a nationalist, but had voted Yes “with a heavy heart” for “very complex reasons”.

Think of the wave of enthusiasm experienced by Yes voters, many of whom had no desire or reason to vote at all beforehand. Think of the poll that suggested the vast majority of those recorded in the official result in September 2014 were not only convinced by the case for independence then, but definitely think Scotland should be independent. It’s a very strange tack indeed for Mr Macfarlane to campaign on a platform appealing to the very small minority of Yes voters who are not totally committed to the idea of independence. I mean, it’s nice to see minorities catered to, but the “I voted Yes for complex reasons with a heavy heart” demographic?

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2015 Highlights

A lot of people are glad to see 2015 go join 2014. I tend to be very ambivalent about years: love the good, hate the bad, you know? So while there were some truly horrendous things, there was also magic, and the winds of history carrying us to the Undiscovered Country.

So, here are the top 15 Wilderness of Peace blog posts for 2015, in order of publication.

17th October 2014: The Devo Files – Very glad it remained well-read up to the General Election period. I’m still kicking myself that I never got around to Messrs. Carmichael, Mundell & Murray – even if they still got elected, I wish I at least got around to them.

24th March: The Devo Files: Russell Brown (Dumfries & Galloway) – It’s funny to think I thought the then-MP’s 7,449 majority in 2010 was going to be tough for Richard Arkless – only for the result not only to be a 6,154 SNP majority, but for Mr Brown to be bumped into a distant 3rd place.

27th April: Why SNP? – The final great push to get Inverclyde’s first SNP MP, Ronnie Cowan, elected. Strange to think how unreal it felt at the count given the struggle we felt.

5th May: Engagement – The 2015 General Election campaign in Scotland encapsulated in a single image, and it’s a wee girl from Inverclyde.

27th May: Respect Is Earned – The hypocrisy of the Commons is well known, but to see it in action is another thing entirely.

5th June: “Uppity Jocks, Can’t You Take A Joke?” – In reference to a throwaway remark about Cromwell and slavery being an “answer to the West Lothian question.”

16th July: The Devo Files Return – A special edition coinciding with the election of Jeremy Corbyn as the Other Party’s new leader. Since there’s an election coming up where the Other Party’s “best” and “brightest” are still fighting over the list, they will likely return in a slightly altered format in the new year. (It’s very kind of Thomas Docherty & Anas Sarwar to seek election as MSPs, as it means my unfinished Devo Files for 2015 can be put to use!)

21st July: Scottish Votes for Scottish Laws – What would have happened if only Scottish MPs were permitted to vote on the Scotland Bill?

23rd July: Congratulations, Private Eye! – The esteemed organ presents a truly uncanny parody of the worst elements of SNP BAD unionism.

2nd September: Tongue Lashing With Friends – In which I extol the virtue and value of Scottish Gaelic in the 21st Century.

10th September: Long To Reign Over Us – A wee bit of Wings Over Scotland-inspired media analysis, where someone who called the SNP “illegitimate,” “dangerous,” “intolerant,”” racist,” and “tartan Tories” is cited as “a Scottish Nationalist.”

23rd September: Matters of Importance – I think a big issue here was that Social Justice means very different things over here, and over in America. In Scotland, we have a Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice, who campaigns and legislates on addressing inequalities. In America, it likely means the same – unfortunately, as with “political correctness,” the phrase appears to have been appropriated by intolerant bigots who don’t seem to understand the meaning of the word “justice” (or “social” for that matter), which conversely means that the debate devolves into angry shouting matches between opposing bigots. Bigotry, after all, does not delineate by political spectrum. In any case, I am perfectly happy to never again comment on American politics or social issues.

9th October: Better Things To Talk About – The Other Party is curiously reticent on discussing the party of the UK government’s conference.

2nd November: All The Things They Said – The Other Party made such a big noise about losing jobs at Faslane during the referendum, only for their Scottish members to decide to agree with the SNP over a year later. (Also the first appearance of “The Other Party” in reference to the Reds)

7th December: Old Unions Die Hard – The folly of pinning old party resurgences on 2 million unionists that don’t exist.

Resolutions for 2016


Quite a year for us all, I think. Independence supporters across Scotland, with their hearts still broken, immediately turned around and shook the foundations of UK politics by electing 56 SNP MPs – only three of the unionists left, almost symbolic in the irony.

It’s been tough, too. For all the SNP’s success, Scotland still – predictably – got another government we didn’t vote for. Heck, the UK got a government 63% of voters didn’t vote for – a democratic mockery that’s only been exceeded once in the UK Parliament’s history.

So, what’s next for me?

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A Free Media

It doesn’t have to be this way.

Journalism is a profession that prides itself on shaking foundations, rattling cages, tugging coattails, pestering and challenging and demanding answers from the Powers That Be. More than that, they are the keepers of time: they are the chroniclers of history, reporting what happens when it happens, for the benefit not just of the present, but future generations. Just think of that enormous privilege – and responsibility – to know that you are expected to report for the rest of human history.

I’ve been reading G.A. Ponsonby’s London Calling: How The BBC Stole The Referendum, which is absolutely essential reading not just from a referendum context, but to show what has come before long before the referendum was even a possibility: tearing up a party manifesto live on air (has even Fox News done anything like that?), suppressing news that damages their favoured party, all the way to the invention of scandals.

It didn’t have to be this way. The media in Scotland could have seen the growing support for independence and acknowledged that there must be *something* to it. They could even have adopted some semblance of balance by toning down the Gordon Brown worship. In a wild, crazy world, maybe even a few more newspapers – 30-45% of them, to reflect the pro-independence population over the campaign years – would actively back a Yes vote. They would be the chroniclers of a new age in Scotland’s history, nearly half of Scots wouldn’t be so disenfranchised with a media that seemed out to destroy them – and future generations would look back at them.

"Fiscal Autonomy" - now doesn't that phrase sound familiar?
Look at India’s struggle for independence. Hindi and Urdu journals like Payam-e-Azadi and Samachar Sudha Varshan supported Indian independence from the British Empire since the 1850s. Of course, the Empire responded in its usual subtle way with the Vernacular Press Act – a Gagging Act. But it would take more than that to shut them up, and soon libraries of pro-independence publications were printed, many run or edited by leaders of the movement: Bande Mataram, Harijan, Hindustan Ghadar, Kesari, Mahratta, Malayala Manorama, Mathrubhumi, Navajivan, Rast Guftar, Swadesamitran, the English-language The Hindu and Young India, and many more.

What will future generations think when they see our nation’s newspaper headlines during the storied road to the referendum? They’ll see nearly all of them against independence, even as support was regularly equal to opposition in 2015; nearly all of them anti-SNP even as the party eclipsed the other Unionist parties combined; and nearly all of them complicit with the three Unionist parties’ web of deceit and terrorising in a time when public contempt for those parties is at an all-time low. With independence now looking more likely than ever despite the peals of the disbelieving 30% who would never vote for it, certain elements of the Scottish media are looking less like the voice of the people, and more like the tool of an old order on the brink of collapse.


But nothing is set in stone. There is always time. There is always hope for redemption. We know there are pro-independence journalists, broadcasters, writers, crew, and tea runners. We even know there are those who are not pro-independence, but not as Forever British as the more vocal columnists. Most of them have converted to citizen journalism, activism, even political office. But how many more are waiting in the wings?

Ever since the referendum, certain commentators have lamented about the “majority” being “pushed around” by a “loud minority.” This is obviously in reference to the official result. But the truth is that they are a minority. Most of the very proud, outspoken columnists, writers and editors are not just No, they are Never. It isn’t just that Yes voters are massively underrepresented – the Nevers are greatly overrepresented. The Mail, Express, Scotsman, Times, Telegraph and sister publications are not just opposed to Scottish independence in the current political and economic climate: they treat it as nothing less than an existential threat. Just as voting No was falsely offered as a vote for Home Rule, those who voted No are falsely identified as those who would never vote for independence. People don’t like being misrepresented about as much as they don’t like being lied to.

So I reserve hope beyond hope for a Damascene conversion for some newspaper, somewhere in Scotland, without any actual expectations of change. Perhaps someone will start questioning why they’re framing the question as “why does nothing stick to the SNP?” instead of “why don’t the people believe anything we say?” Maybe they will start looking at the bigger picture as the UK continues lurching to the financial abyss. It could be some small thing we’d never expect. I’ll never forgive the media for the role they played in the referendum campaign – but unlike some voters, I never say never.

Like I said. There is always time.

Old Unions Die Hard

(Sincere apologies for the lack of online activity: various things going on behind the scenes. No health or legal issues or anything like that.)

Peat Worrier has the monopoly on esoterica for too long!

Rather interesting change of tack from the Blue Party (when is a purge not a purge? When it’s the Blue Party doing the deselection):

The Scottish Conservative party has ditched half its election candidates in an attempt to make itself Scotland’s second-biggest party in parliamentary elections in May.

The makeover sees a new breed of younger, moderate Tories replace many of the party’s longstanding candidates, as it seeks to appeal to voters from the centre ground.

According to allies, Ruth Davidson, leader of the Scottish conservatives, believes her party can capitalise on (the Other Party)’s leftward shift by positioning itself to appeal to the country’s 2m unionist voters, who opposed independence in the referendum last year.

Funny thing about those “2 million Unionist voters”: it’s balderdash on several levels.

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All The Things They Said

“I believe Scotland should be independent, but without Trident’s we’re defenceless – we just can’t take the risk. I hope you understand.”

“The only reason anyone even listens to us is because we have Trident. Trident’s the reason we have peace, and security, and freedom of speech. Without it, we’ll be walked all over.”

“Look around us. All those shipyards, IBM, the ropeworks: they’re all gone. What do we have left? If Trident goes, we’ll have nothing. Nothing. I don’t like it any more than you, but we have to protect what we’ve got.”

“The only thing stopping me voting for you is the jobs at Faslane. We can’t afford to lose Trident.”

“I’m so sorry, I would vote yes, but my son works on one of the Trident submarines, so… you know. I have to…”

Picture from 1979. Or 1997. Or 2014. Difficult to tell.

Do you have any idea how many times variations on those phrases came up on the referendum campaign? I heard it from frightened pensioners on the doorsteps, from young people stopping by our stall, from angry workers in our shop waving newspapers in our faces, from tea drinkers at church halls. Even folk walking in and out of the polling both on the day who felt some need to explain themselves – completely unsolicited, as if they were asking penance. Worst of all, I heard this from people who wanted to vote Yes, ached to vote Yes, believed that they should vote Yes – but they wouldn’t. Because they felt Trident was too important to lose – either because of the jobs, the protection, or both.

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