Mighty People of Independence

prof-dr-anna_macgillivray_macleodProfessor Anna MacGillivray Macleod of Kirkhill was the first female professor of Brewing and Biochemistry in the history of the world.

I attended the launch of The Mighty Women of Science, an alphabet picture book by Claire Forrest & Fiona Gordon, several months ago. I met Claire at the previous Glasgow Comic-Con, where she told me about the book. She wanted to publish an accessible, positive, informative book that celebrates and acknowledges the many contributions women made to the advancement of knowledge. I’m greatly supportive of such endeavours, and so I said I’d attend the launch.

The launch at Waterstones in Glasgow was very well-attended, and the talk was excellent. I’d like to share one anecdote in particular, which gave me much cause for reflection, and I think very relevant to what’s been going on recently in the world of Scottish politics.

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Mirror, Mirror

So, a couple of days ago, Tracey Ullman did a wee sketch featuring Nicola Sturgeon & Mhairi Black kidnapping beloved victim J.K. Rowling in an attempt to blackmail her into supporting not just Scottish Independence, but “Scottish Supremacy.” It’s yet another sketch that portrays an SNP leader as a maniacal Bond villain, a surprisingly popular meme amongst certain commentators.


In fairness, you can see why the British Establishment would cast the SNP as the bad guys: you don’t get much more British Establishment than James Bond.

You might think I’d be shocked, appalled, disgusted and outraged by this, as indeed I have something of a hair-trigger for this sort of thing.

On the contrary, I believe this to be hilarious. A fantastic work of satire, brilliantly biting, ruthlessly incisive, an absolutely merciless evisceration of its targets… it’s just that Nicola Sturgeon, Mhairi Black, the SNP, and the Scottish Independence movement aren’t the targets at all.

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The Boy Who Cried Fascist

“How did this happen?”

I keep reading this in articles, hearing this from talking heads, constantly this repetition of disbelief. All these journalists and commentators and analysts and “experts” who are utterly blind-sided by just how recent events have come to pass. I wrote a post about the false, illogical, and deeply insulting comparison of the Scottish Independence campaign to the worst elements of the Leave and Trump campaigns. Indeed, I found myself rather vindicated by the latest Question Time from Stirling, where Billy Mitchell (who, the BBC neglected to point out, was the UKIP candidate in the 2013 Coatbridge West by-election) actually seemed to agree with my central point:

Donald Trump was elected by the American people, and the people of Britain just can’t understand that the American people believe in democracy. And democracy has been lowered to mob rule; when you don’t like the decision of a referendum, you disagree with it, you go to court, & you get rid of it. The SNP should know this, because we had a referendum: we voted No, they didn’t like it. They had a referendum on Brexit, they didn’t like that, let’s go to court, we don’t like Brexit, and now they don’t like Trump!

Democracy has been overruled by mob rule, and those people have been on the losing side of every single election, and thank God I’ve been on the winning side of every one. Mob rule wins – no democracy, mob rule. The SNP were on the losing side on five different occasions: I’m the winner, they’re the losers, let’s get them out.

Everything he says is true. Well, apart from Trump being elected by the American people, democracy being lowered to “mob rule,” the SNP bringing the indyref result to court, the EU referendum being “overruled” at all, the SNP losingevery single election” (!?!) and most spectacularly, him being the “winner.”

Think he might be a bit sore about that lost deposit?

Think he might be a bit sore about that lost deposit?

But he is, indeed, on the “winning side” of the indyref, the EU referendum, and Trump, along with the white nationalists and supremacists celebrating this glorious change in the world’s political climate.

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The Appointment in Achnamara

There was a merchant in Baghdad who sent his servant to market to buy provisions and in a little while the servant came back, white and trembling, and said,
“Master, just now when I was in the marketplace I was jostled by a woman in the crowd and when I turned I saw it was Death that jostled me. She looked at me and made a threatening gesture; now, lend me your horse, and I will ride away from this city and avoid my fate. I will go to Samarra and there Death will not find me.”
The merchant lent him his horse, and the servant mounted it, and he dug his spurs in its flanks and as fast as the horse could gallop he went. Then the merchant went down to the market-place and he saw me standing in the crowd and he came to me and said,
“Why did you make a threatening gesture to my servant when you saw him this morning?”
“That was not a threatening gesture,” I said, “it was only a start of surprise. I was astonished to see him in Baghdad, for I had an appointment with him tonight in Samarra.”
– “The Appointment in Samarra,” as retold by W. Somerset Maugham, 1933

This is an old folk tale of a self-fulfilling prophecy: where the very act of attempting to avoid it coming to pass actually leads to its fruition.

I thought of this story, as I watched the Single Market and Trade (EU Referendum) debate in Holyrood today.

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The Northwest Passage

Hey... HEY! I've nae problems with your seccession dreams, but at least pick a different logo, like a two-headed bear or something.

HeyHEY! Look, I empathise with your secession dreams, but could you at least pick a different logo, like a star or a bear? Give it two heads, or something.

In Congress, July 4, 1776.
The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America, When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
– The United States Declaration of Independence

Back in 2014, Scottish Independence was something that only really mattered to Scots, Britons, and Europeans. On the international stage, the mood was generally “well, ok, I guess, whatever.” Most leaders did not speak out, though those that did were against independence.

Just over two years later, the story’s very different, isn’t it?

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Plenty of Wrong Answers to Wrong Questions

For anyone arguing that Scotland is being taken out of the EU against its will, think of the question on the ballot paper. Scotland was not mentioned. To believe that those who voted Remain would vote for independence, is naïve.
Jim Sillars, 27th June 2016

The First Minister has said that she wants to preserve Scotland’s position in the EU. That is fine, but quite what that means is also unclear. Of course, Scotland is not—and never has been—one of the EU’s member states. The vote in Scotland last week sought to preserve the UK’s status as a member state—not to insist that Scotland becomes a new member state.
Adam Tomkins, 28th June 2016

This referendum vote was conducted right across the UK, and the more than 1 million voters in Scotland who chose leave deserve representation. They do not deserve to be disenfranchised. For remain voters, it was clear that the vote was UK-wide and that the fundamental premise of the vote was the UK’s relationship with the EU. So, with regard to the motion, I cannot vote to welcome the overwhelming vote of the people of Scotland to remain, since I voted leave and since the basic premise of that is flawed and misrepresents the question that was asked in the referendum. The ballot paper did not ask, “Do you want Scotland to remain in or leave the EU?”
Elaine Smith, 28th June 2016

The proposition that I campaigned for and voted for last week—that the UK remain in the European Union—no longer exists. That was the proposition on the ballot paper. The proposition was not that I—or anyone else, for that matter—vote for Scotland to remain in the EU whatever the terms or the circumstances. I voted for Scotland to remain in an EU in which the whole UK was an influential member state.
Jackson Carlaw, 28th June 2016

The thing that I find most disreputable is that Nicola Sturgeon has spent the past two months trying to use my Remain vote and thousands of Scots like me to coop that into trying to leave the United Kingdom, and that’s not what anybody was voting on.
Ruth Davidson, 28th August 2016

When Jim Sillars is making the same point as Adam Tomkins, you know something’s a bit off, right?

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The Why of No

The next big step on the road to independence is underway: a national survey with the aim to reach as many Scottish voters as possible with their views on Scotland, independence, the European Union, and several other issues. Before the independence referendum, we were asking how they might vote: this time, we’re asking them why they voted the way they did.

It’s a crucial difference, and I’ll wager this is a primary reason it’s received such vigorous, diversionary opposition from avowed British Nationalists like Adam Tomkins:

Proof that intelligent people can also be incredibly stupid.

… That’s 3 words, Mr Tomkins. But then, Scots also said No to your party running either Parliaments, yet here you are.

… Mr Tomkins, we’re asking people why they voted No. It’s not a question with a binary Yes or No response.

Activist: (to voter) Why did you vote No?
Mr. Tomkins: We said No.
Activist: Actually, Mr Tomkins, I was talking to this voter, not you.
Mr. Tomkins: Yes, and we said No.
Activist: (turns to voter again) So, why did you vote No?
Mr. Tomkins: Didn’t you hear me, we said No!
Activist: (ignores Tomkins) I would just like to know what were your reasons for voting No?

Here is the Scottish Government actively engaging with No voters. They’re looking to ask them directly what they think. They want to know the reasons they voted the way they did, their fears, their hopes, their concerns, their ideas… And the response from one of Scotland’s MSPs is to butt in, answering for the voters. For someone so determined that the People of Scotland be listened to, why be so dismissive of this dialogue? Surely one would want the people of Scotland to say, en masse, exactly what they think of Alex Salmond’s Nicola Sturgeon’s separatist dream, embarrass and humiliate and mortify her, so there can be no doubt whatsoever that the cause of separation is dead in the water? If the case against independence is so unassailable, then why not prove it – better still, let the people prove it, once and for all?

Perhaps it doesn’t matter to him and his party. As long as they put the cross in the right box, the reasons didn’t matter: the result was the same, whether voters were British Nationalists like himself, or people aching for a Federal UK run by Keir Hardie’s successors. No means No – and his party gets to decide what No means, regardless of what No voters might actually have wanted. Even if the majority of No voters voted explicitly for the former Prime Minister’s Home Rule promises, that doesn’t matter – Westminster decides what No means. Anything beyond that’s a waste of time. Get on with the day job, Nats.

Or is there more to it than that?

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