Beggar Nation

When reading of the ‘German Forest Boys’ first words: “I’m all alone in the world, I don’t know who I am. Please help me” – I couldn’t help think of John McTernan wandering around in post-Blair Britain with only his weekly indulgence by the Scotsman to orient him.

As my learned friend LPW described the ‘political leprosy of the Scottish Tories’ perhaps we could describe the Tories Unionist bedfellows as suffering from sort of political aneurysm. Like goldfish gupping around the Westminster bowl they mouth the same words that is ushering them further into political wilderness. These are the Friends of Chumbawamba Do you suffer from long-term memory loss? I can’t remember.

Will nobody tell them?

Certainly the recent performances of Danny Alexander, Willie Rennie and Michael Moore have been unconvincing push-button retreads of familiar incantations. And, no doubt we’ve grown accustomed to material like the Daily Mail and the repellent Kelvin (‘The fact that anybody is in work in Scotland is due almost entirely to the wealth created by the clever and resourceful people in England’ ) or Ross Clark (is this a series?!) describing how “The message for English voters is: Granny McTavish is living it up at your expense.” These articles are reminiscent of the old anti-Irish cartoons that littered the early rags (see picture). The print version of John’s article had a similar offensive cartoon, but I’ve mislaid my Telegraph, so this online version will have to do.

But John’s recent utterings need some sort of response. The other week Scottish Labour’s sage wrote a piece describing Scotland as a “mendicant nation*, always looking for more”. In short, we are beggars. John’s been on Twitter trying to deny this and claiming that he meant the SNP not the people of Scotland, but it’s clear and plain:

“This is the first dirty secret of Scottish politics: that Scotland is doing very well, thank you. When it comes to public spending, it is a mendicant nation, always looking for more.”

While Bella fumed and fettled Kenneth Roy responded with characteristic clarity before picking apart McTernan’s argument like a child picking the legs of an insect: “The burden of Mr McTernan’s message is that we get far too much and that what we do get we misspend. Did he believe this in 2007 when he was representing the Labour Party in Scotland? If he did, then I paraphrase only slightly the immortal words of John Junor: I think we should have been told.”

Roy gently points that comparing like with like in education is pointless as childrens of different ages sit different exams to different curricula, whilst on health: “A Nuffield Trust inquiry found that Scotland has the highest levels of poor health in the UK; we are plagued by what the Scottish Government rightly calls ‘deep-seated issues of deprivation’. We spend more, we queue longer, because we suffer worse health than our friends in the south.”

Of course to say McTernan has previous is like saying Mags Hayney has a bad rep. In 2008 The Times reported:

“DES BROWNE (remember him?), the Scottish and defence secretary, was under pressure this weekend to sack one of his top aides for describing Scotland as a “narrow, Presbyterian and racist” country. John McTernan, a special adviser to Browne and former Downing Street aide to Tony Blair, made the comments in a personal e-mail to a Labour politician.

The document was obtained by The Sunday Times under freedom of information legislation. McTernan, who was among those cleared of wrongdoing in the cash for honours affair, wrote to Karen Gillon, a Labour member of the Scottish parliament, before a visit to Sweden: “If you’ve not been to Sweden before, I think you’ll really like it – it’s the country Scotland would be if it wasn’t narrow, Presbyterian, racist etc. etc. Social democracy in action.”

Alex Salmond, the Scottish first minister, said last night that the remarks showed Labour’s true “contempt” for the Scottish people, and questioned why McTernan should keep his publicly funded £99,000-a-year job.”

Fast forward to today and across at The Spectator, Alex Massie called the diatribe: “less a blast against Alex Salmond’s monstrous regiment than an assault upon Mr McTernan’s colleagues in the Scottish Labour party.”

The reality that Scotland contributed 9.4% of the UK’s revenues and received 9.3% of the UK’s spending is wasted on Labour’s McTernan, but is it wasted on Scottish Labour Party members? Where are the articulate positive Scottish Labour voices that can say something positive and interesting?

As my good friend and Iberian expert Frankly puts it: “Whether Mr Angry of Tunbridge Wells cares to accept it or not, and he does not, Scotland pays its way and can afford to go independent” (Scotland Subsidizing Blighty)

The facts about finance and economy are not really the issue here though. The issue is the steady stream of (now mainstream) bile and the ‘cultural realignment’ we’re seeing from south. How to respond?

Hardeep Singh Kohli has some answers and a novel take on the question of ‘Who Benefits’ (‘Forget the boost for Scotland – it’s the English who would really benefit from a disbanded Union’):

“The thing is, the English need to find themselves. Whether we like it or not, the future of the Union lies in the hands of the people. While the English have no suffrage option to express their will to be independent, the Scots do. And many think they will. The irony of all ironies is that a Union decided by a king will be undone by the people. And England will gain its independence by default.”

As always he’s funny, and some of this is true. But the narrative of destitution and dependency carried by the three Unionist parties is demeaning to us all. It begs the question:

What does it take to make the people of Scotland angry?

* The term mendicant (from Latin: mendicans, “begging”) refers to begging or relying on charitable donations.

Comments (4)

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  1. Scottish republic says:

    At the beggars’ banquet, the chimera of Alexander-Moore-Murphy-Cameron-andwhateverotherBritnatsthrowtheirhatsinthering is flapping its slimy tentacled serpentine forked tongue and the poison spit out is anathema to decent society and is a blackened stain to be disinfected with aspiration, hope, imagination creativity and liberty.

    Alba gu brath

  2. James Morton says:

    The unionists stance is seems to be based on two prongs of attack. One is a sort of wishy washy rose tinted harkening to another time, but devoid of any intellectual content. The other is the constant negative anti-scottish, too poor, too wee, too silly to be in charge of anything, and don’t know how to spend money blah blah blah.

    Both arguments don’t work – they are the sort of ad hominem attacks we have come to expect and it irks us – and so we either stay away or we switch to the SNP because they actually came across as wanting to be the scottish government.

    When you get these attacks – let us simply refer to them now as brainfarts – you see a deafening silence from so called unionist parties here. It could intense discomfort from some sort of cognitive dissonance – defend scotland and lose the argument, defend the attack and lose the argument. Better to stay silent then, and hope for the best? Seems to be the approach they have taken.

    But surely all they are achieving is playing to the wrong audience? If the polls show that the idependence vote is split about 38/39 then the real battle space are the don’t know crowd – living in scotland. And not the daily mail reading John Smith of dunny-on-the-wold?

    If it has been showing that negativity does not work – why do they keep insisting on using it as a tactic. I have to wonder now what audience they are actually playing to…I suspect its not a Scottish one.

  3. Scottish republic says:

    They don’t have a positive cas for the union as far as I can tell.

    That said, people will have to be convinced that change is in their best interests.

    The election of another Tory government would help there.

    Labour now currently wandering off further to the right may also help (Purple and Blue).

    What is absolutely necessary is a clear vision and economic arguments preented simply, over and over again till it gets into the Scottish psyche.

  4. Frankly says:

    Why is “the repellent Kelvin” so repellent? Because he is playing to an audience which he understands, even if only instinctively, and that audience is the English, or at least a core element of that national community. Who are the English? What are they? While reluctant to entertain sweeping generalizations myself, I offer you this one:

    “The French want no one to be their superior. The English want inferiors. The Frenchman constantly raises his eyes above him with anxiety. The Englishman lowers his beneath him with satisfaction.” (Alexis de Tocqueville, Journeys to England and Ireland, 1835)

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