Whoever Wins, We Lose

I could actually weep for some of the people in our country:

I genuinely don’t understand the logic of anyone whose view of Scottish independence is affected by who is or might be Prime Minister, or which party is in government. It very much suggests they haven’t understood the question.
– Some Numpty On Twitter Who Already Gets Too Much Attention

It is everything to do with the question – because “who is or might be Prime Minister/party of government” is never our choice. It is the choice of England, Wales, Northern Ireland, and Scotland together. One of those countries outnumbers the others 8 to 1.

More than that, it isn’t just who is Prime Minister now, or who may be Prime Minister in the future – it’s every single Prime Minister in my 35 years of existence on this planet.

My first Prime Minister was so beloved of my fellow Scots that the Number 1 song in Scotland on the week of her death was “Ding-Dong The Witch Is Dead.” My second Prime Minister (even if he is, in retrospect, far and away the best in my lifetime) led the UK to financial disaster and aggravated the forces which led the UK to where it is now through his sheer incompetence. My third Prime Minister is a war criminal who conspired to steal Scotland’s resources. My fourth Prime Minister sold even more of Scotland’s resources to mitigate his cataclysmic mishandling of another financial crisis. My fifth Prime Minister, who cannot be mentioned in the same breath as pigs in polite company, presided over cruelties, scandals, and catastrophes that would give my first Prime Minister pause. My sixth Prime Minister has become a punchline.

Six Prime Ministers in my lifetime, and arguments can be – and have been – made for each of those six being the Worst Ever.

At least until Seven.

So who will that be?

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Gone Both Ways

I presume, because the standard visual representation of the English language is that particular flag, its inclusion indicates to tourists that this map is in English. Of course, this isn’t much help when half the historic sites in Scotland have this flag flying, does it?

As far as possible, the public annals of the two countries should be revised. Errors and irritating expressions must be expunged (though in this matter our own histories are not so provocative as those of our neighbours), and a new history of Britain should be written with the utmost regard to accuracy.
– Sir Thomas Craig

If it wasn’t clear before, it should be beyond doubt now. The UK Government is hellbent on leaving the European Union without a deal, thanks to a mixture of complete cowardice on the part of pro-EU MPs of their party (save 14 honourable exceptions), the trademark negligence masquerading as incompetence of their former Coalition partners, the absence of 20 and the rebellion of 5 Opposition MPs. We cannot trust the mainstream media to take a stand, because they’ve been so blinded by the Golden Mean that they will grant a platform to actual fascism in the name of “balance.”

When the disgraced White House Chief Strategist taunts the “liberal elite” and calls Tommy Robinson the backbone of “this country” – the same Tommy Robinson who is openly funded by the same extremists who championed the current president – and even goes so far as to incite mass violence, you know what he’s talking about. This is the same man who met another would-be Prime Ministerial candidate with fascist connections. The same man who met with powerful & influential people in Scotland. The same man who approved hysterical smear stories against the Scottish Independence Movement and the SNP on his site – including one that called the current Scottish Justice Secretary an “Islamist-linked radical.” You know, those guys who some people compare to Scottish Independence supporters, despite most of them vehemently opposing Scottish Independence.

You may wonder where all this is heading. Well, I have a dark imagination.

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Top of the Year, 2017

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.

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The Country on the Edge of Forever

If you map it, it will come?

“My stories try to seduce the reader by disguising themselves as sensational entertainment, but are propaganda for democratic welfare-state Socialism and an independent Scottish parliament.”
Alasdair Gray

How many stories have you heard where the Axis won the Second World War?

Even before the war was over, stories of the Thousand Year Reich were published: Katharine Burdekin’s Swastika Night, written in 1937, started the trend which has almost become a subgenre in itself. Some of the foremost science fiction authors of the age, such as Isaac Asimov, David Brin, Fritz Leiber, & Norman Spinrad, wrote tales on this theme; some books, like Robert Harris’ Fatherland, were adapted to film; one of Star Trek’s most celebrated episodes (written by Harlan Ellison) featured this as a poignant dilemma. This has lasted into the new millennium: Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle was adapted into a hit series, as was Len Deighton’s SS-GB. It is understandable for so much fiction to revolve around this supermassive gravity well in our planetary history given the way the conflict shaped so much of humanity’s consciousness decades later.

What if we go to a Point of Divergence further back in time: what if the Confederacy won the American Civil War? Again, there are dozens of books on that subject, a mockumentary, and a recently-announced television series from the showrunners behind A Game of Thrones. Naturally, it’s more an American phenomenon, but it remains the deadliest war in United States history, and all the more bitter for its internecine nature.

How about further than even that – what if the Roman Empire never fell? Going on the alternative history database Uchronia, searching for “Roman”  yields 116 results (& another 77 for “Rome”) – that means 116 books, essays, or stories involving the Roman Empire or Ancient Rome. What if Elizabeth of England failed/was killed & the Spanish Armada triumphed?  Searching for “English” or “England” yields 94/129 results; “British” or “Britain” 189 /153 results.

What about Scotland?

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Rough Wooing


In December 1543, Henry VII of England declared war on the kingdom of Scotland, ostensibly because King James refused to break with Roman Catholicism as Henry did. In actuality, it was the just latest in a series of attempts by would-be Kings of All Britain to annex or outright destroy the other nations of the isles.

William Ferguson was uncompromising in his appraisal of the war:

Henry VII went berserk and resolved to read the Scots a bitter lesson, one that seemed all the more necessary as England once more stood on the brink of war with France. On 10th April 1544 the Earl of Hertford was accordingly instructed to ravage Scotland where he was to “put all to fire and sword, burn Edinburgh town, so rased and defaced when you have sacked and gotten what you can of it, as there may remain forever a perpetual memory of the vengeance of God lightened upon them for their falsehood and disloyalty. Hertford doubted the wisdom of such orders, but his mild protests were brushed aside; and though Henry VIII’s last campaigns against Scotland are usually jocularly dismissed with the Protector Somerset’s under the nuckname of ‘the Rough Wooing’, they were in fact the most savage and devastating of the numerous English invasions of Scotland. In the course of them many of the leading towns of Scotland were sacked and burned, and so were the chief border abbeys and many churches. English policy was simply to pulverise Scotland, to beat her either into acquiescence or out of existence, and Hertford’s campaigns resemble nothing so much as Nazi total warfare – ‘blitzkrieg’, reign of terror, extermination of all resisters, the encouragement of collaborators, and so on.
Scotland’s Relations with England: A Survey to 1707

The conflict was initially called the Eight (or Nine) Years’ War, but Henry’s proposal that his son Edward should marry the infant Mary led to its popular modern name – the “rough wooing.” Because of this particularly horrid period in Anglo-Scottish relations, I have an instinctive aversion to the very term “wooing.” I can’t hear or read it without wincing, because for me, it is not a term that evokes love or romance, but political machinations and bloody conquest.

But that’s just me. I realise not everyone reads or hears the word “wooing” and immediately thinks back to the Anglo-Scottish Wars, the weirdos.

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Impireachd nan Gàidheal

Wee Ginger Dug delighted me a couple of days ago with this beautiful Gaelic map of Inverclyde, part of a series of maps of Scotland he plans to produce:


Yet because Mr Kavanagh is a Scottish Nationalist who just happens to be one of the most prominent advocates for our national languages, he was the subject of much criticism by the usual suspects within hours:


I can only assume Mr Gallagher is equally outraged by all the Spanish, French, and German maps of the UK which dare to “rebrand” Britain as linguistically Spanish/French/German…

They’ve insisted that Gaelic was never spoken in places which have Gaelic names. But no one in Edinburgh / Fife / Dumfries ever spoke Gaelic, they say, oblivious to the fact that all of those places contain significant numbers of Gaelic place names which prove that Gaelic was indeed once spoken there. In Scotland Unionist ignorance of Scottish linguistic history is touted as good sense and erudition. The truth is that Fife was at one time solidly Gaelic speaking, that Gaelic was still spoken in Dumfries and Galloway until the 18th century, and that there are plenty of Gaelic placenames in Midlothian created by Gaelic speakers who once lived in Edinburgh.

It’s a similar case in Inverclyde – one of those weird places, with a significant history of Highland & Irish diaspora, and absolutely saturated with Gaelic place names… where “nobody actually spoke Gaelic.” One wonders where they think the name Inverclyde comes from.

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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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No True Proud Scotsman


“You know that’s three English blokes at a wedding?”

Why is it “No True Scotsman”?

The term is generally used as a description of a particular type of argumentative fallacy: namely, an ad hoc justification for an unreasoned and/or unjustified assertion or generalisation. Yet why “No True Scotsman,” rather than – say – “No True Englishman,” or “No True American”?

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The Scottish Parliament passed a motion instructing the Scottish Government to begin negotiating with the European Union. The  motion was carried 92-0.

“Oh, but you’ll never get in! Belgium & Spain will use their veto! You’ll be put to the back of the queue! You can’t inherit the UK’s special place! Stay in the UK, you’ll get a better deal!”

Watch this.

Then watch this.

Sometimes, you find yourself realising that you are witnessing an incredible moment. You almost step outside yourself, a spectator on reality, where you realise that you are witnessing history. Sometimes, it feels like you’re watching theatre or film: you can practically hear the swelling orchestra, the singing strings, the pealing horns, the beating drums. Tell me you didn’t hear the orchestral score of history itself. This is history.

Now let’s see the BBC version.

As another BBC presenter said… “Don’t know what to say to that, actually.

All Unions Are Not Equal


Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle was recently adapted into a 10-part miniseries. This pillar of alternate universe science fiction posited a branch of time which diverged from ours with the assassination of Franklin Roosevelt: the Axis won the Second World War, conquered the Commonwealth and USSR, and occupied the Americas.

A common refrain from many in the Leave camp is “why do the SNP want independence from the UK, only to hand it over to Brussels?” Such a baffling false equivalence between the constitutional monarchy of the UK and the supranational union of the EU can only be the result of one thing – a parallel universe, where the EU truly is to the UK what the UK is to Scotland.

In this bizarre world, the European Union is a unitary state in the United Nations. It is composed of four nations: Britain, Ireland, Denmark, and the vast Western Europe, many times larger than the other three put together. The capital city of Europe is Brussels, in Western Europe, which is also the location of the parliament. In recent years, Britain has reconvened parliament following a historic referendum: they have responsibility over health, education, local government, law and order, social work, housing, economic development, transport, environment, agriculture, forestry, fishing, sport and culture, with 63% of total public spending from the EU devolved to the British Parliament. However, Brussels still has control over the European Constitution, civil service, defence, national security, foreign policy, immigration, fiscal and monetary policy, oil revenues, trade & industry, income tax, corporation tax, VAT, employment, social security, nuclear energy, and broadcasting.

I watched a current affairs programme from this strange alternate universe….

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