Monday 9 March 2015

The achilles heel of Scottish nationalism is the whine of the loser

What do you think of this cartoon from the Guardian's Steve Bell? I must admit that it is moderately amusing, but not one of his best efforts. The reader's eyes take it in, his lips smile and he then passes on to the next item.

Unless, of course, the reader is a part of Scottish nationalism's Achilles heel; namely sanctimonious, self-righteous gittery of the highest order. As I write, the web is full of outraged protests at this latest example of waycism, and English bigotwee that is all directed at the poor Scots who labour under the heel of the wicked colonial rulers in London. Even Wings Over Scotland has fallen for this nonsense and its owner is usually far better than that.

Pathetic, isn't it? Not only is it pathetic, but these are the cries of losers, and by definition, life's little losers never get anything. Scotland is better than that.

Let me be honest, and remind you that I only moved up here two years ago. My first night in Edinburgh consisted of a chippy meal and then my first, but by no means my last, pint of heavy in the pub that would soon become my haunt. 

The chips tasted delicious and I asked the bloke behind the counter to explain the secret. The answer was that they use beef dripping to cook with. That's right, proper beef dripping that I haven't seen in England for over a generation is still regularly used north of the River Tweed. 

As for the pub, what can I say? It was and is a working man's swill shop, with a great masculine atmosphere and I was in the seventh heaven. England I am sad to say has poncified far too many of her pubs, but Scotland keeps them alive and kicking on almost every street corner. (By the way, if you have never glugged a pint or three of Scottish heavy then you cannot call yourself a drinking man. I recommend 80/- from the Caledonian brewery.)

The point here is that Scotland is the part of Britain that did not change after 1979, and refuses to change to this day. Northern England had to make its compromises with the South, because the bulk of the population is based down there, but Scotland is dominated by her central belt of industrial towns and cities. Put another way, Manchester had to accept changes through gritted teeth because Mancunians are a small minority in England, but Glasgow could give the two-fingered salute because Weegees are an almost dominant proportion of the whole country. So it's the middle class who will have to make concessions in Scotland to get some of what they want, not the working class.

So why the whining? Why the pretence that Scotland is a colonial territory made up of natives who get their arses kicked by English district commissioners? It reminds me of the whine put out by Hungarians in 1919 when they tried to distance themselves from Austria-Hungary's actions in the Great War. Or post-1945 Austrians who did their very best to convince themselves that they had actually not been enthusiast participants in Greater Germany.  A friend of mine likes to tell the story of his late father-in-law who was a Dunkirk veteran. (Pause for effect) "He served in the Das Reich division of the Waffen SS." (Pause again) "But he was still at Dunkirk; just playing for the other team." So they are not all whiners, but there are enough of them around to irritate.

Once upon a time, Scottish nationalism did not adopt this whining tone of loserdom. Time was when members of the SNP would make it plain that Scotland was just as much a Mother Country of the British Empire as England. Maybe more so, when you think about all those Scottish administrators and soldiers who knew how to handle natives.

I am old enough to remember July 1967 when Lt. Col. Colin Campbell Mitchell ordered his Argyll and Sutherland  Highlanders to march in parade dress into Crater, a district of Aden where some British soldiers had been killed the month before. The tune they played was Mony Musk:

Then Argyll Law was imposed on the town.The Standard Bank was taken over as regimental HQ and renamed Sterling Castle. Snipers were placed on the roof with orders to shoot anyone who looked even remotely dodgy. Years later a still  stunned BBC reporter remembered asking Mitchell about that at the time and being given the insouciant reply: "It was just like shooting grouse - a brace here and a brace there."

Clearly the empire cannot be restored, and nor do we want it to be: it cost far too much money to run towards the end, anyway. However, back then there was more than enough common ground to keep the British together under one roof. That has changed and if Scotland wants to repair the damage done since 1979 - and have revenge for it, let's be honest - then it is time for a divorce.

However, Scotland must not appear as the pathetic wife who whines about her husband's behaviour because all she will get is everyone's pity and nobody's respect. Scotland should take the view of the outraged husband whose wife has changed whereas he is quite happy to stay the way that he always has.

In other words: the best of the Britain that we all love is to be found north of the River Tweed!


  1. Whilst there are always a few who get a bit more worked up than is necessary, I do think you've missed the point on this one. Whether Scotland is, or isn't a "colonial territory" is an irrelevance, it's not about that.

    This isn't about what side of the referendum you were on, or whether you support the SNP (or at least it certainly shouldn't be). Were he making these sorts of jibes on the basis of class, gender, religion, skin colour, or indeed (any other) nationality, there would be very little disagreement.

  2. I don't know what post you read, but it certainly isn't the one that you are commenting on.

    The whole point is that people who whinge about class, gender, etc, are so sad and pathetic that whining is all they can do. Did the miners whine in 1984? No, they bloody well did not, and neither did any of the men who walked out on strike in earlier years. Back then if management scum wanted something they had to damn well hope that the union was in a good mood to even talk to them.

  3. No Jack, these sort of jibes would be perfectly 'acceptable' unless made towards some percieved 'victim' group, i.e. non white ethnic minorities, gays etc. It's still fine to mock the French, the Germans and of course the English because these people are considered able to look after themselves. Proclaiming yourself oppressed is a rather pathetic tactic if a frequently successful one.

  4. I didn't say anything about being oppressed.

    Personally, I don't find humour which relies on tired, outdated stereotypes to be particularly funny - and I'm surprised that Steve Bell should have any truck with that sort of thing, as he used to be so razor sharp.

    Of course it's "fine" to mock any group of people, and I would defend to the death one's right to do so - but that doesn't mean people aren't allowed to be offended.

  5. I have already conceded in the original piece that this is not the wittiest Steve Bell work.

    In your first comment you implicitly lumped Scotland in with several loser groups, in effect saying that the country needs the same pity that we give to mouthy wimmin and lippy ethnics. What you may have forgotten is that the pity comes with a healthy dose of contempt - do you really want that for Scotland?


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