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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Watch Your Step, Cassandra: Hawthorne Is Watching

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An Outside Context Problem was the sort of thing most civilisations encountered just once, and which they tended to encounter rather in the same way a sentence encountered a full stop.

The usual example given to illustrate an Outside Context Problem was imagining you were a tribe on a largish, fertile island; you’d tamed the land, invented the wheel or writing or whatever, the neighbours were cooperative or enslaved but at any rate peaceful and you were busy raising temples to yourself with all the excess productive capacity you had, you were in a position of near-absolute power and control which your hallowed ancestors could hardly have dreamed of and the whole situation was just running along nicely like a canoe on wet grass… when suddenly this bristling lump of iron appears sailless and trailing steam in the bay and these guys carrying long funny-looking sticks come ashore and announce you’ve just been discovered, you’re all subjects of the Emperor now, he’s keen on presents called tax and these bright-eyed holy men would like a word with your priests.

— Iain M. Banks, Excession

It is now 78 days until the Scottish Local Authority Election. Historically speaking, these are frequently the second-lowest attended elections in Scotland, which is understandable, given the prominence and perceived hierarchy of the UK Government: according to the Westminster hierarchy, the UK Parliament is at the top tier of government, with the Scottish Parliament next, and local authorities third. Here in Scotland, things are a bit different: in Scotland, the people are sovereign. As local authorities are the closest to the sovereign people, they are crucial to the political conversation. Is it any wonder, then, that the elite insist on putting Westminster first, Holyrood second, and local authorities last, when an argument could easily be made for the very reverse?

But that’s all by the by. I will once again be campaigning for my local SNP candidates in this election. Yesterday, several of them were approved by the Greenock & Inverclyde Branch & Constituency to go forward. There is still time for anyone else to throw their hat in the ring, but we don’t exactly have a surplus of that particular resource.

(Time, that is: we have plenty of hats)

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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.

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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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Where We Are, And Where We’re Going

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“So that’s it, then? We’re leaving the EU, the single market, the customs union, all that.”

“That’s right.”

“But Scotland voted Remain.”

“No, the UK voted Leave. Scotland voted No, therefore, chose to abide by UK-wide decisions – including the EU referendum.”

“Voting to stay in the UK doesn’t mean voting for Scotland to be treated as a region, and have its democratic mandate ignored.”

“Well, you should’ve voted Yes then, shouldn’t you?”

“But you told us that voting Yes meant we would be leaving the EU.”

“That’s right.”

“So if we wanted to stay in the EU, we were to vote No.”

“Yup.”

“So we voted No, but ended up being taken out of the EU anyway.”

“Aye.”

“So if we voted Yes, we’d be out of the EU. If we voted No, we’d be out of the EU. So you’re basically saying that Scotland has no way of staying in the EU, even though we voted 62% to Remain?”

“Correct.”

“Even though dozens of EU ministers, officials, and politicians have outright stated that if Scotland wanted to stay, it could stay?”

“Ah, but Spain and Belgium-“

“If Spain, Belgium, or any of the 27 countries were serious about preventing Scotland from retaining or regaining EU membership, then why are so many EU politicians, ministers, and officials saying Scotland could stay? Why would they say Scotland could stay if there was a possibility we could not?

“Ah, but the deficit-“

“The same applies. If the deficit was a barrier to Scotland retaining or regaining EU membership, then why are so many EU politicians, ministers, and officials saying Scotland could stay?

“But, but, all the separatist movements”

“Everything you say – anything you say – does not address that simple question. If Scotland could not retain or regain EU membership – whether it’s because of vetoes, deficits, or fears of separatist movements – then why are so many EU politicians, ministers, and officials saying Scotland can stay?

“Why don’t you respect democracy? The UK voted to leave the EU, and you don’t want to: Scotland voted to stay in the UK, and you want to Leave!”

“If England & Wales want to leave the EU based on a vote compromised by a gerrymandered franchise, that’s their business – just as if Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Gibraltar want to Remain in that same vote. The people of Scotland voted for a party with an explicit manifesto commitment to hold a second independence referendum in these exact circumstances.”

“But we were voting as Britain, not England, Scotland, Wales & Northern Ireland!”

“That’s not what you told us during the independence referendum: it was all about being a Partnership of Equals; of Scotland leading, not leaving, the UK; of solidarity with the people of England and Wales without sacrificing our distinct Scottish identity. By saying we’re voting as if Britain is one nation, you’re refuting your own arguments about this “family of nations.””

“So you’d just swap London rule for Brussels rule?”

“The EU doesn’t pretend to be a country. The UK didn’t have to get permission to hold a referendum. Brussels didn’t control the UK’s media coverage through the entirety of the campaign. Stop trying to pretend the UK and the EU are the same – otherwise, why would you favour one and not the other?”

“Why are you so against British independence, you hypocrite?”

The UK has never been anything but independent. Don’t confuse empire and dominion with sovereignty and self-determination.”

“Och, why don’t you just get on with it and hold indyref2 already?”

“Don’t mind if we do. You’re welcome to join us.”

Let’s Do The Time Warp Again

therealalancochrane

Let’s play a wee game.

I’m going to take some statements, like this, from The Telegraph’s latest editorial:

After the Brexit vote last June, Miss Sturgeon said another independence vote was inevitable; now she has backed away because she knows she would lose it and scupper the separatist cause for generations. If she really has the interests of her fellow Scots at heart then she would drop this empty threat and help Mrs May deliver a Brexit in the interests of the entire nation, Scotland included.

Some of these statements may have been taken in the past year, in the wake of the First Minister reasserting her existing position regarding a second independence referendum, and her direct interaction with several prominent individuals in the European Union. Some may be from prominent supporters of Scotland as part of the UK; some may be from supporters of Scottish independence. Some of them may have been altered to replace Alex Salmond with Nicola Sturgeon, and are taken not from this week, but years ago.

Can you tell who said these things, and when?

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Rough Wooing

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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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