Thanks for all the well-wishes from everyone: I never like to jinx things, but I have been getting a bit better over the season.
So I don’t go all of December without a post, I thought it would be nice to have an end-of-year review of the Wilderness.
2017 has been a record year for the Wilderness, with the most views for the site since we started all the way back in April 2014 – as of this post, 136,516, handily beating last year’s 131,730 and absolutely blazing past 2015’s 67,495.
Here’s the ten most-viewed posts for the year:
5th January 2017
It gets tiring seeing the old ploys being trotted out. And they are ploys. Editors can plead innocence or ignorance all they want, but insulting your audience’s intelligence isn’t going to boost your ailing sales – or polish your tarnished image. “The SNP don’t really want independence” is such an obvious, obnoxious attempt at doublethink that I’m amazed some independence supporters buy into it, dismayed at what appears to be missteps by the party leadership, frustrated that we don’t have a new referendum next Tuesday no matter how much many of us want out of this nightmarish UK.
If the SNP didn’t really want independence, and are only interested in tugging along credulous nationalists and Braveheart dreamers to feather their nests, then consider: why is every major UK-wide party so deathly afraid of them they coordinate their efforts to stop them at every turn? Surely if the SNP’s goal is to manage expectations, to herd the willing flock into an equilibrium of always wanting independence but never actually achieving it, then how come they let us all get this far?
4th February 2017
Since the quiet demise of National Collective more than two years ago, Scotland’s culture has been in a strange place. Certainly artists and creators are still going strong, but powerful idiots continue to strangle cultural growth, amazing opportunities continue to be squandered, and people who claim to have Scotland at heart openly mock, undermine, and ridicule our history and achievements. For as long as broadcasting, telecommunications, and other levels of control do not reside in Scotland, then Scotland’s priorities will be undermined. As such, here’s an English comedian’s TV show impersonating Scottish politicians, because the UK has complete control over how we Scots see ourselves on television.
I’ve been working behind the scenes on two series: “Tae See Oorsels” and “As Ithers See Us.” It is, essentially, a review of various works of fiction with some connection to Scotland and the Scots. “Tae See Oorsels” focuses on works by Scottish creators, which may be set or produced in Scotland, and may have a focus on Scotland or its people; “As Ithers See Us” focuses on those works created by non-Scots. I’ve found that for all the shallow myth-making often ascribed to “Shortbread Tin” and “Hills & Heather” Scotland, there are a lot of truly insightful & fascinating works written by folk born outside our shores, some who’ve never even set foot here.
Did you know that Jane Porter’s The Scottish Chiefs was considered, at one time, to be one of the greatest and most popular historical novels ever written? Authors as diverse as H.G. Wells, Nathaniel Hawthorne, W.C. Falkner, John Breckinridge Ellis, and James Baldwin refer to the book in their own works, alongside the works of Scott & Stevenson; it was republished in several editions throughout Porter’s lifetime and beyond; it was adapted into Classics Illustrated, and illustrated by the legendary N.C. Wyeth, among others. It’s a top contender for one of the most influential Scottish books ever written. How many libraries do you think have it in stock? How many literature courses cover the book? How many people in Scotland have even heard of it?
We can’t rely on the generosity of the BBC or STV. We certainly can’t trust the UK Establishment. We can barely rely on our “own” institutions. It’s up to us to remember who we are.
9th February 2017
In the wake of the EU Referendum and the catastrophic-for-all-involved 2017 General Election, we’re seeing traitors everywhere – and, as usual, people look on “traitor” as if it’s a bad thing. What’s more, we’re seeing the word falsely applied to those who want to uphold the establishment as traitors. What kind of lunacy is it to accuse Gina Miller of treason, when her “crime” is to demand the the UK Parliament’s sovereignty is unchallenged? What sort of backwards thinking accuses UK judges of being traitors when they threaten to rule that the UK Parliament has to have a say in UK law? The word has lost all meaning – where once a traitor was someone who acted to challenge or upend the status quo, now people who want the rule of law to override “the people’s choice” – that is, the status quo in the UK for centuries – are branded that noble title.
Not that the EU referendum deserves to be called democratic or the people’s choice, of course: any decision which deliberately excludes the people most affected by it cannot be called “democratic” or a “choice.” But if the EU Referendum result uncovered the well-deserved antipathy the British public has for those who reign over them, that same Establishment’s actions since the referendum have done nothing to convince them they were wrong to do so. I just wish the people who rejected that Establishment would make better choices at General Elections.
22nd March 2014
The most-viewed post of the year by a substantial margin, and also one of the most personal.
I’ve sacrificed a lot for this. I used to go to Arizona and Texas to see friends & family – people I would never see otherwise. I haven’t seen them since 2014, because I realised that I could never leave Scotland until this work was done. There are people I will never meet again, who have passed away in the years since I last saw them. There are places connected by threads of memory that I ache to be away from. Then there are the things I want to do, the books I want to read, the things I want to draw and paint, even the silly wee things I want to buy and play. But this is something work all those sacrifices and more.
Many non-independence supporters mistake this for the love of a flag. On the contrary: this is about so much more. Scotland exists. It is a line on a map. It is a word in the history books, in dictionaries, in poem and song and fable. To some, that’s enough: for Scotland to be little more than a word, a story, an idea, for them to dress up for Robbie Burns Night once a year and pontificate on the inaccuracies of Holywood blockbusters. Some want Scotland to be little more than a fantasyland, a Middle-Earth that was once real – a tragic hero of a nation that once was. They want to play at being Scottish – dress up in Walter Scott’s mythological Highlands, pretend they’re brave doomed Jacobites – knowing that if they want to get back to “reality,” they can go back to big grown up Britain, who, after all, saved foolish Scotland from itself.
They don’t want what we want – a Scotland that isn’t fantasy. A Scotland that’s just as concerned with the mundanity of modern life – taxes, internet domains, area codes, boring numbers and reams of paperwork – as it is with the glamour of history and the romance of culture. They want Scottish Gaelic to be a relic, a quaint reminder of our curious past, a safe historical annotation to remind us of that time before We Were British – not a living, evolving, spoken language, and all that entails. They want us to remember Wallace and Bruce and Charlie as noble heroes who ultimately failed, to feel that even the greatest among us could not triumph in the end – to pretend we somehow lost the so-called Wars of Independence.
They want Scotland to be just a name, just a flag, just a line on a map. We want Scotland to be no more, and no less, than what every other nation in the world is – a country that’s real.
20th April 2017
I’m really depressed that my predictions for some of the SNP’s toughest battlegrounds weren’t far off the mark.
- There are 3 seats in Scotland held by anti-independence parties. Alistair Carmichael holds Orkney & Shetland with 41.4% of the vote and a majority of 3.6%; David Mundell holds Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale & Tweeddale on 39.8% and a majority of 1.5%; Ian Murray holds Edinburgh Southern on 39.1% of the vote and a majority of 5.4%. All three are under 2,000 votes away from an SNP victory.
- There are 6 SNP seats with less than a 10% majority: Berwickshire, Roxburgh & Selkirk (0.6%), East Dunbartonshire (3.95%), Edinburgh West (5.85), East Renfrewshire (6.55%), North East Fife (9.6%), and Edinburgh North & Leith (9.65%). Of them, Ruth Davidson’s party is only a threat in 2, and is only in second place in 1 (Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk).
- Ruth Davidson’s party were second place in 7 constituencies: Banff & Buchan (28%), West Aberdeenshire & Kincardine (28.8%), Angus (29%), Dumfries & Galloway (29.9%), Moray (31.1%), Perth & North Perthshire (32.7%), and Berwickshire, Roxburgh, & Selkirk (36%). These will undoubtedly be the primary targets for the UK Government.
- There are also 2 constituencies roughly coterminous with 2016 seats which the UK Government party won despite being in 3rd place in 2015: East Renfrewshire (22% in 2015, contains Eastwood), and Ayr, Carrick, & Cumnock (19.8% in 2015, contains Ayr). It should be noted that the SNP won the list vote in Ayr despite not electing an SNP candidate to the constituency.
- There are 4 seats where the UK Party could feasibly consume substantial numbers of Coalition/Other Party votes & leapfrog into at least 2nd place: Aberdeen South (22.8%), Edinburgh South West (20.2%), Ochil & South Perthshire (20.7%), Stirling (23.1%)
All the seats marked in red changed hands. Though I’m cheered that Edinburgh North & Leith, North East Fife, Edinburgh South West, & Perth & North Perthshire held off the Great Dark-Money Funded Tory Onslaught, I’m utterly gutted that several I did not expect the SNP to lose – Gordon, Glasgow North East – were indeed lost. Nonetheless, given Star Wars is still popular these days, perhaps there’s a certain irony in the UK Establishment spending all these resources in unseating the likes of Alex Salmond, only to find them now unfettered and unconstrained by the restrictions being a Member of Parliament entails.
30th May 2017
I really didn’t want to see my fears confirmed in this election. Corbyn took on the most incompetent, callous, hateful UK Government in recent memory, and still lost. Yet while the cause of independence saw several of our greatest representatives unseated thanks to an unprecedented interest in Scotland’s General Election candidates, they still could not finish the job. It did not matter whether the SNP lost one seat, or all of them – the result would be the same. Victory for the Union. Destruction of the SNP. Rejection of Separatism. Glory for Ruth Davidson.
If I was wrong about something, it was about Corbyn. I truly thought that even he, with the vast majority of his own MPs working against him, could possibly conquer the tottering May – but he could only have done it with the people of England’s permission. They denied it to him, and his own party cohorts in Scotland cheered as May’s candidates unseated SNP MPs, even as every single one meant Corbyn’s chances slipped away. My contempt for those who prefer a Tory MP to an SNP one – or even pretend that there’s next to no difference – is undimmed months later.
5th June 2017
I didn’t talk or campaign much this General Election, because I’m still absolutely furious it happened at all. I’m furious at Ruth Davidson’s party insisting that it’s wrong to make Scots go to the polls on an issue which they voted for in these exact circumstances, yet demand they go to the polls less than two years after the last General Election, less than a year after another referendum which Scots didn’t vote for, and a matter of weeks after Local Elections. I’m incensed at a media too cowed or selfish to realise that they’re being used and abused by an elite who couldn’t care less about them because they promise to maintain an unsustainable status quo. And I’m so angry at my fellow Scots – myself included – that we’re still entertaining the possibility of no referendum, let alone another failed one.
The complete, unmitigated disaster that has been the UK’s “negotiations” have taken me beyond agreeing to disagree with UK supporters, into downright anathema & antipathy. How can you possibly say that we’re better off now, when your argument is now “but it could be worse if we were independent?” If it’s a choice between being possibly worse off, or definitely worse off, guess which choice I’m going to make. Guess which choice I have zero cognitive dissonance over. Guess which choice I am confident I can defend to our nation’s children and grandchildren in the decades to come.
It’s so easy to be angry and despair. But. We have a way out. We have an alternative. We have hope.
21 July, 2017
Given recent polls which suggest that a significant number of pro-independence supporters still vote for Jeremy Corbyn’s party and that many of those voters think – against all evidence – that his party either oppose or will fight to overturn the gerrymandered EU Referendum result, the General Election result in Scotland makes a bit more sense (only a bit). I can only hope that the record of the 7 MPs which were elected this year will encourage voters to assess whether breaking the “SNP one-party state” was worth the relentless assault on the cause of independence which was so ruthlessly promoted in its wake.
The contempt they have displayed towards independence supporters should, hopefully, be a cold dash of water in the face of those who magnanimously lent their vote for the sake of a Corbyn government. I say this with no sour grapes – I get no pleasure in pointing out that neither independence supporters nor EU supporters will have any thanks from the likes of Paul J. Sweeney or Gemma Doyle. They will take your vote, and use it to oppose an independence referendum, oppose a second (hopefully non-gerrymandered) EU referendum, oppose even the halfway house of single market membership, and either oppose or abstain on all the things they’re supposed to actually challenge the government on.
I lost my trust in Corbyn’s party with the Iraq War. Many serving MPs either voted for that criminal act, were elected MSPs or councillors during that period, or are from the Blairite Cult which brought us here in the first place. The number of MPs from the party who opposed the war are outnumbered more than 5 to 1.
They’re long out of excuses.
5th August 2017
This was largely inspired by an episode of the impressively-produced Star Trek fan series, Star Trek Continues: while the focus of the episode was more on the sort of immigration tensions which have been fostered in the US and Europe over the past few decades, it is, in the best traditions of science fiction, a universally applicable story regardless of the time it is set or made. At least one person’s response to this was along the lines of “so you admit independence is risky? At least you’re honest, which is more than can be said for the SNP” – which is exactly the sort of destructive myopic comfort zone which got us into this mess in the first place.
27th August 2017
I think it’s unfortunately safe to say that, barring extreme circumstances, there won’t be a Scottish Independence Referendum in 2017. Not my ideal situation, as this complicates Scotland’s EU membership status, but given the Catalan Referendum aftermath, perhaps it was for the best not to allow emotions to alter the outcome. As I’ve said before, I still favour an independent Scotland in the EU, not for any love of the cowardly, antiquated, unimaginative heads of state who think protecting state borders is more important than protecting the right of self-determination, but of the people those heads of state should never forget they represent. It is not for Rajoy, or Verhovstadt, or Juncker that I advocate EU membership, but for the people of Germany, France, Malta – and, yes, Spain – who have shown their support for Scots, Catalans, and other people regardless of their constitutional beliefs. The European Commission can, in the words of one of their greatest creations, “go whistle.” It is not for them that I fight. It is for my family & friends across the continent, of the people who’ve come to live and work and love here yet were denied the opportunity to decide the circumstances of their status here – of the people who think of Europe as more than just lines on a map.
And finally, while this wasn’t the very most popular post of 2017, it is the one that means the most to me:
1st September 2017
I’ve been reading Red Thorn, a Vertigo comic set in a Scotland of the not-too-distant future. There are references to modern Scottish history: there was an independence referendum in the universe – past tense. Unfortunately, it appears that the mundane Scotland in Red Thorn is all too similar to the one we’re living in now, even apart from the beasties and bogies that spill in from the Otherworld – though frankly, I’d almost prefer Scotland’s greatest foe to be an ancient Romano-British War Deity. Whitburn’s David Baillie brings a very Scottish sensibility to the parareality romantic fantasy exemplified by Fables or The Sandman, beautifully illustrated by Atlanta’s Meghan Hetrick. With a Scots writer and American illustrator, it’s a lovely example of “Tae See Oorsels” and “As Ithers See Us” – the interplay of Scotland’s sense of self, and the world’s sense of Scotland.
It isn’t hyperbole to say that Scotland is facing opposition. Be it the tin-eared attempts to bolster Britishness by diluting Scotland the Brand, the insistence that nationalism has poisoned Scotland so much that Proud Scots But now insist on referring to themselves as North British (as if their ilk never did that before now), or the stubborn goblin that is the Scottish Cringe, it’s more important than ever for Scots to look at themselves, and for others to look at us.
To see ourselves, and for others to see us.
See you in 2018.