For the Record

The extraordinary outburst against Joan McAlpine’s first column for the Daily Record has exposed a fault-line in Scottish politics. Read it here. It is an unremarkable commentary on the relationship between Scotland and England within the British State and a joke about the dependency culture that is the usual caricature of Scotland from down south. It repeats the point made in the SNP Manifesto – why would you give your wages to your next door neighbour then ask for them to give a portion of it back each month?

“Here’s the deal. She hands over all her assets to him and he will give her a handout in return. He’ll decide the amount, but she can then spend it as she likes. Who can argue with that? But if she gets uppity, mind, her money will be cut. She should remember how lucky she is.”

There’s nothing inappropriate in this metaphor: “Sometimes, translating a political relationship into a human equivalent makes us see things clearer.”

So how do we account for the mass hysteria that followed? Ian Smart said: “She should have been forced to apologise or expelled.Virtually no reaction could be OTT. It is a nauseating metaphor that has no place in civilised debate.” Angus Macleod stuttered that: “Joan, if I was English I’d be deeply offended by your column.” A sort of groupthink quickly forms on twitter and normally even-handed/minded folks like Natalie McGarry and Kate Higgins being swept along on the tide of fake-horror and distaste.

Some of this is just twitter-frenzy.

But reading the article you have to be left astonished at the stooshie. Something else is going on. That something else has three parts.

First the Daily Record is the Labour Party’s dead-tree news-sheet. This is the holy-grail of Scottish Labour orthodoxy. This is the paper that published the famous scare that ‘cheap bevvy to end under SNP’.  Remember Torcuil Crichton’s faux-pas on the Lib Dems? This article being published today is deeply unsettling for the comrades of the People’s Party.

Second, Joan does something that British politicians REALLY don’t like. She talks about power and makes relationships explicit in popular terms. This is virtually unheard of and very dangerous territory.

Third, Joan is a high-profile, clever woman with the gift of the gab and the power of the pen. I suspect she’ll roll out this sort of stuff week on week, appealing to women across the heads of the usual media filter. Deeply threatening stuff. The women’s vote is there to be won, and could be a key to YES. Her themes aren’t just about the rampant social inequalities of contemporary Britain – social geographer Danny Dorling writes in Injustice:

“In countries such as Britain people last lived lives as unequal as today, as measured by wage inequality, in 1854, when Charles Dickens was writing Hard Times – they are about describing a contemporary Scotland.

“The anti-independence parties – Labour, Tory and Liberal Democrat – have formed a united front to tell Scotland she isn’t capable of controlling her own economy, taxes, resources, benefits and pensions. They are just like the sexist old dinosaurs who insist men should handle the finances. Fortunately, that kind of prehistoric attitude is dying out in families. So why put up with it in politics?”

The abuse of the nationalist movement by the mainstream media is well documented elsewhere, we have become totally inured to it. Salmond pallying up to Murdoch is a terrible mistake. Some people have very short memories (see pic). But the mock outrage over Joan’s article shows just how sensitive the unionist parties are to the nature of the relationship she describes being laid bare and the sheer terror that the press they take for granted might desert them.

Comments (63)

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  1. Couldn’t agree more. Elderly, unwell lifelong Record reader and Labourite relative read the article and agreed that this was how she saw the relationship and had never heard or read it spoken so succinctly. Similarly young professional academic in her early forties read it and agreed completely.

    1. bellacaledonia says:

      It’s taboo to talk in these terms.

      1. Iain Anderson says:

        Provocative yes, but I think the comments from other parties is OTT…..Joan has deployed her journalistic flair to encourage the reader to think ….some of our friends in the labour are agin this..no surprise…….does anyone think Joan was downplaying domestic abuse..I think not…..by the way, reckon BIll Walker will resign from party before pushed…he is in a very uncomfortable place

  2. lenathehyena says:

    Perhaps the outrage was over the clunky prose.

    1. Remember we’re talking about Record readers used to the musings of Jackie Bird…

      1. lenathehyena says:

        Never having read the Record before and unlikely to read it again I’m not sure I appreciated this brief acquaintance with the Ranger.

    2. JBS says:

      Well, I’m not a Record reader and I thought it was rather good.

      Clunky prose that says something is better than honeyed prose that says nothing.

  3. I’ll harp on one last time: Douglas Alexander’s divorce and splitting up the family 1999 tirade was a lot more menacing and nasty.

  4. Do we have any stats on how this approach of hers is going down with female voters?

    My concern is that many people will not read the story but will, instead, pick up on a general conversation in which she is said to be comparing the union to an abusive relationship, but without the specificity in her her wiords – leading them to feel she’s trivialising such issues, which could cost her votes (especially women’s). So I’m yet to be convinced this isn’t a political misfire.

    Giving the stage of the debate we’re at, I also wonder if there is a deliberate attempt here to draw out some of the most aggressively contested arguments and inferences associated with it, to take them on whilst there’s still time for the public to forget if it all goes wrong.

    1. baffiebox says:

      A fair point Jennie. I would imagine there will be less risks taken the closer we appraoch the big day.

      Something that’s really annoying me though is the deliberate suggestion from some that Joan painted the domestic relationship in terms of an abusive husband. I dont think this was at all and I was surprised at so many people regurgitating that angle. I mean, was “abuse” even mentioned?

    2. bellacaledonia says:

      I’m sure some stats will come out. The reality is she really didn’t compare the union to an abusive relationship. But you’re right that could come out in the spin-room.

      1. 3psteve says:

        She really did!

        From the article “Eventually she recognises the relationship for what it is – an abuse of power.”

        From the Women’s aid website:

        “In Women’s Aid’s view domestic violence is physical, sexual, psychological or financial violence that takes place within an intimate or family-type relationship and that forms a pattern of coercive and controlling behaviour.”

      2. Doug Daniel says:

        Sorry Steve, but an abuse of power does not equate to physical violence, or even mental abuse for that matter. It just means being in a position of power and using it immorally, like the way the Tories are hell bent on giving rich people a tax cut, just because they can.

  5. baffiebox says:

    In fairness, the article probably grates, not just because it’s pretty low-grade, but because people aren’t used to reading this sort of political angle in our tabloids. The sharp intake of air on twitter confirms that people almost cant believe that this sort of opinion piece is being written on that kind of platform. It’s a sad reflection on Scotland and the stranglehold Labour has had on us for over two decades that we recoil at such a brutal and raw nationalist piece. But if we are being honest, there have been one thousand and more articles over the years that have been just as provactive and brutal as Joan’s column about the SNP. Scotland grew to accept that the nationalists were fair game though and we came to accept and tolerate Labour’s view of the world.

    I think the article is p*** but then Ive long thought the Record was p***. We need to find a better angle than this, not because of the faux-outrage on Twitter, but because we should aspire to be better than what has gone before. Joan’s article is not it.

    The least said about the reaction of Angus MacLeod and Ian Smart, the better. Ive been very embarrassed by a couple of things today, and it certainly wasn’t Joan’s article.

  6. Now why exactly has a staunchly Labour paper hired an outspoken nationalist MSP? Why exactly do they think that her views should be spread?

    McAlpine’s article was highly insulting to anyone who’s suffered domestic abuse and wrong on so many levels. Coming after her “anti Scottish” comments the other week, I think she’s a liability to the pro independence cause.

    1. bellacaledonia says:

      This is just nonsense Caron. Can you point to the reference to domestic abuse? Do you mean the phrase domineering? Is that really what you mean? The only other alternative is the sentence “Eventually she recognises the relationship for what it is – an abuse of power.”

      Are you suggesting that its a cunning ruse for Daily Record to con the SNP?

    2. Doug Daniel says:

      Joan’s article was not even in the same league as Malcolm Bruce’s little tirade against self-determination movements around the world, most of whom do not have the luxury of having been a peaceful struggle like ours:

      “South Sudan, Republic Srpska, South Ossetia, Kashmir, Basque Region, Catalonia, Chechnya, Greenland, North Cyprus, Transnistria… Do we really want the world to break up into a growing list of tiny countries nursing their grievances through the international community”

      Chechnya, South Ossetia and South Sudan are just tiny countries “nursing their grievances” eh? Now that really IS insulting.

      1. Alex Grant says:

        Absolutely Doug but Caron, who I thought had more sense, cannot see this and found no fault whatsoever in her leaderships insulting anti democratic and certainly hot Federalist tirades. In fact she positively waxed lyrical about them!

      2. I certainly struggle to see how anyone could call Greenland tiny

    3. Don McC says:

      At the end of the day, the Record is a business. Rather than some uber conspiracy to “out” the nats, the Record, with it’s year on year fall in sales, is desperately trying to keep itself relevant with Scottish readers. After all, there’s only so many pages you can print about the plight of Rangers and, by all accounts, not even Glasgow readers care that much about Johann Lamont’s labour party. The few column inches given over to that great statesman, Mr Willie Rennie, have done little to halt the Record’s slide into the same obscurity Scottish Labour (not to mention the Scottish Libdums) are facing.

      Joan has a way with words that can leave a bit of distate in the mouth. The reason for that isn’t just down to the phrases she uses or the analogies she conjures, it’s because she’s actually using similar tactics to the likes of your own party, who are desperately trying to out nasty the other Unionist parties and desperately trying to out Union the other Unionist parties (getting rid of Salmond is more important than the future of Scots according to both Malcom Bruce and the rest of a despicable party that have sold their principles down the river for nothing more than photo opportunites and ministerial salaries – now that’s highly insulting to Scots who just want a better Scotland). Luckily, after the next GE, when the results of both Scottish council and Holyrood elections are known (with the very real possibility that the Libdums will be almost eliminated North of the Border), an emphatic tory victory at Westminster will ensure Clegg is gone and real Libdems, with real liberal and democratic principles who aren’t enthralled with the likes of Rennie and Bruce will be able to reclaim their party and those champions of Home Rule will, after a mere 100 years, finally sit down and actually define what Home Rule means, safe in the knowledge that they now have no means to deliver it since they’ll be out of power with zero chance of getting back into power.

      Of course, at that stage, it could be a moot point with Scotland realising that hanging about for another 100 years while Rennie decides what Home Rule means isn’t the smartest of moves.

  7. Jen says:

    Personally, I don’t get the fuss. Joan didn’t write anything offence, just used a comparision that all can understand easily.

  8. Doug Daniel says:

    Joan-bashing is getting extremely tedious. There’s not a single line in that article that compares the relationship to domestic abuse, yet that’s how it is being described in Better Nation.

    I’m not even sure what the fuss is about. I’ve seen this metaphor numerous times, just not in the pages of the Daily Record (and Hugh Trowsers above is absolutely correct – the far more tenuous “splitting up the family” metaphor is regularly trundled out by unionists). If anything, she’s not being hard enough – one could quite easily draw comparisons to the way parts of Glasgow have been left to rot wile London dined on our oil, and children who are neglected to near criminal proportions.

    Joan-bashers should perhaps keep one thing in mind – the more people call for her head, the less remarkable it becomes when people do so. The next time she says something that riles people, the reaction from others will just be “oh, not more moaning about Joan McAlpine”. If she eventually says something that actually crosses the line, it’ll get ignored.

    Am I the only person who understood what the underlying message of The Boy Who Cried Wolf was when I was at school?

  9. Don McC says:

    I think the faux outrage, outrage that only the foolish really buy in to (or propagate), is a desperate attempt to dismiss the message behind her column. After all, regardless of how badly you think Joan delivered that message, can you argue against the actual underlying theme?

    Why is it okay for Unionists, including those champion of home rule (who actually don’t have a clue what they mean by home rule), to resort to emotional analogies to describe the relationship between Scotland and rUK (as long as it’s seen from rUK’s viewpoint) but it’s a hanging offence when that view is reversed? Is it because the pro-Union argument is actually very, very weak indeed?

    1. 3psteve says:

      Spot on. All the people who talk of seperation, divorce and breaking up Britain don’t have a leg to stand on when it comes to criticising Joans analogy.

      But that said, she really is comparing the relationship to one of domestic abuse and that’s a bit crap, although not the end of the world people like Ian Smart seem to think it is.

    2. Doug Daniel says:

      Because the emotional argument is all the Positive Case for the Union is built on, so if we take that away from them, they’re reduced to exposing their true reasons for wanting to stay in the union: an irrational fear of cutting the apron strings, or in some cases, an unhealthy fetish for ermine.

  10. Indy says:

    Jenny I don’t think there will be a huge cross-over between people reading all the outraged of Morningside comments on twitter and folk reading the DR.

    You could go over the article with a fine toothed comb and say well maybe she should have talked about a one-sided unequal relationship rather than an abuse of power because they have all homed in on the word “abuse” to equate with domestic abuse – but at the end of the day it doesn’t matter that much. She made her point!

    Actually Doug the article on Better Nation refers specifically to domestic VIOLENCE. Pretty disappointing that they left that up cos it is just factually wrong. No debate possible – just plain wrong.

    1. Doug Daniel says:

      You’re right – we all know what people mean when they say “domestic abuse”, but it can be argued it is a reference to mental abuse etc. But there is no hiding from the term “domestic violence”.

  11. longshanker says:

    I don’t get the fuss at all. I thought it was a pretty competent piece. I couldn’t help myself though and composed this as a reply. http://wp.me/p2for3-4V
    Please let me know Bella if posting links like this is unacceptable.

  12. Indy says:

    The other point to remember here is that some of the same people who are now faking outrage about the use of the term “abuse of power” – equating it with domestic violence – actually accused the SNP of going OTT when they complained about the use of the term getting a doing!

    You really couldn’t make it up!!!!!!!

    1. Siôn Jones says:

      CyberUnionists trying to outdo what they describe as CyberNats. Rule Brittannia, Brittannia waives the rules!

  13. mhairi says:

    I thought it was an excellent article, and the reaction amply demonstrates how scared the Unionists are at the scrutiny that the union is going to get over the coming months. Demanding that Salmond named the date was an own goal for the unionists as it gives a specific timeframe, and an acknowledgement that independence is up for grabs.

    It also gives us an opportunity to shape the kind of independence that we want. The unionists are in a mess – they cant agree a strategy to keep the union so they are relying on hystrionics – while that will work for a one off, it cant stand up to the kind of sustained analysis that the union is going to attract.

    We need to start thinking less about Britain, and more about Scotland – about the Scotland that we want to see. We have an opportunity to build a new nation and that should not be squandered, but it is worth looking back at the UK state and its faults to determine what we want eradicated – Lizzie, NATO and Trident come high up on my agenda.

    1. bellacaledonia says:

      Spot on Mhairi

  14. Lothian Sky says:

    We need NATO, at least for now, and maybe for a generation.
    Being in NATO will carry us over the finishing line. We need a convincing defence policy, and one air base isn’t cutting the mustard.

  15. Castle Rock says:

    Don’t understand what the stooshie is all about. As a comparison it’s not the best that I’ve read but neither is it the worst, as analogies go it’s really not that bad.

    We’re clearly in an unequal relationship and a lot of people are not happy, are the dependency supporters now trying to argue that we should put up and shut up? Douglas Alexander would certainly support that.

    Some of the stuff that the LibDems, Tories and Labour Party come out with is far more insulting and sinister but because we’ve suffered it for years then they seem to think that we should accepted it as the norm. Times have changed but unfortunately with some of the diatribes coming out of the LibDem and Labour Party conferences clearly they have not.

    Is it not just because the article was published in the DR that the last of the dependency supporters are getting desperate so they have started to wail and gnash their teeth that wee bit louder?

    The writing may not yet be on the wall but it’s reached the pages of the DR so we shouldn’t be too surprised that they are wailing.

  16. Anon says:

    Abuse of power in a political sense – off the top of my head:

    UK Government deliberately pre-empting Scottish Government consultation on referendum bill with hastily cobbled together consultation of their own, along with not even thinly veiled threats that should Scottish Government dare to have more than one question on referendum, worded exactly as Westminster wanted, they would take them to Supreme Court.

    UK Labour Government signing “deal in the desert” Megrahi Prisoner Transfer agreement with Libya without informing Scottish Government. Labour Party then attacking SNP for releasing Megrahi on compassionate grounds.

    Or how about going back to 99 when they passed an order with no consultation or justification that took 6,000 sq miles of Scottish sea and sea bed out of Scottish jurisdiction? Just because they could.

    Or the decision when joining the Common Market that the fishing industry was expendable – but don’t bother telling anyone that, they’ll just start moaning.

    I don’t need to mention the McCrone Report do I? Or is it just our silly nationalist hypersensitivity that makes us think sitting on the knowledge that oil revenues could have completely transformed the Scottish economy while simultaneously telling Scots that independence would make their country as poor as Bangladesh is an abuse of power?

    Come to think of it that sounds a lot like coercive and controlling behaviour to me actually.

    I think you are dead right Mike. This is about people not being able to handle something being pretty baldly stated.

  17. MajorBloodnok says:

    The louder they complain the closer you’ve come to hitting the mark.

    I used to wonder why, if the case for the union was so self-evident and so strong that it was not being made, backed up by the numbers, rather than scaremongering and insults. The problem is of course is that if they did publish the numbers the game would be up and we’d know exactly how much they needed us, rather than the other way around.

    So, let them shout and bluster, it only means that the truth is getting out, and they don’t like it!

  18. Just posted this on Beter Nation’s shock horror McAlpines says it as it is page …

    Now the question of who is going over the top here, is one that Better Nation needs to hold a mirror against itself.

    McAlpine’s main point is Scotland can either play the ‘battered, dependent, wifie always waiting for her man (in the shape of Westminster) telling her what to do or stick two fingers up to Westminster and get out of a politically abusive relationship.

    The problem for the left in Scotland is to wake up to just how dependent it sees itself on what ever the Labour Party says is right rather than thinking for itself. Political correctness gone wrong will not save this benighted Union – it is well passed that.

    If all you can whine about is the metaphor being used then you have already lost the argument with yourselves let alone anyone else.

    Labour is not a socialist party and has not been since the electoral disaster of Micheal Foot. The party’s policies are so far to the right of centre they are indistinguishable from the Libdems or Tories. On Radio 5 Live today Milliband was ripped to bits by callers for being inadequate, a poor leader and then rest.

    Here’s the game now on in Scotland – you are either for independence or non-existent ‘jam tomorrow’ from Westminster. Ms MacAlpine is in the former and is clear in saying it. Now just where do the Better Nation whiners lie because running down Scotland and ‘jam tomorrow’ just is not cutting it and the argument for the status quo does not add up. How will devo-max work as the Westminster Government will not countenance it on the referendum and have no White Paper in place to support it.

    Kirsty – you maybe very PC about domestic violence – it is just a shame you are not as awake to the serial rape and abuse of Scotland over the centuries.

    1. George Mackin says:

      Serial rape and abuse of Scotland over the centuries. Purrrlease.

  19. Barbarian says:

    I think people need to take a step back and stop the outrage over the criticism of Joan’s article.

    There is a genuine concern that she is rapidly becoming a political liability for the SNP. She has excellent journalistic skills, but she is also outspoken. In addition, being a close ally of Salmond means she is a high profile target for both unionist media and politicians.

    Peter – Better Nation is a damn better blog than one or two other high profile ones I could care to mention. They encourage balanced debate, rather than suck up to the SNP’s backside and jump on the slightest criticism of Salmond or anyone else in the SNP. That blog does more to attract the undecided voter to the nationalist cause than those sites where rabid and venomous comments seem positively encouraged.

    1. bellacaledonia says:

      Interesting point. Is the outcome of that argument ‘don’t be outspoken’. I don’t think anybody should be cowed and not speak their mind. I want to hear my elected members views (if they have any). Also, while Better Nation is edited by a Labour supporter and has a ‘balance’ – I’d like to hear voiced beyond the binary of SNP-Labour, or even Indy-Union. I want to hear voices from round the world, experimental, innovative, radical. The problems we face are unlikely to be solved within the still waters of a very small pond.

      1. RevStu says:

        “Also, while Better Nation is edited by a Labour supporter and has a ‘balance’ – I’d like to hear voiced beyond the binary of SNP-Labour,”

        Better Nation has no SNP supporters on board. Its current editorial staff comprises, as far as I can ascertain, two Labour Party members, one Green Party member and a floating voter, and a stated policy of deleting comments from nationalists because they “frighten off” pro-Union contributors.

      2. Don McC says:

        “and a stated policy of deleting comments from nationalists because they “frighten off” pro-Union contributors.”

        And what’s unbalanced about that, Rev? Nats should know their place and keep their views to themselves. Labour supporters will talk on behalf of Scotland, don’t need nats. At least, that’s what Barb seems to think.

  20. I am somewhat stupefied by some of the reactions to this piece, not so much by the Unionists but by one or two Nationalists who have also slated it on twitter.
    I really don’t get why they don’t understand analogy and metaphor, but It seems that they don’t.
    Could it be with the Unionists that the reason they are howling is because the truth hurts and they don’t like it! Having to look closely at oneself in the mirror is not always a pleasant thing.
    If anything Joans comments were much lighter than comments I myself have made in the past along similar lines.
    So, yes..good for you Joan for exposing in clear easy terms what has been transpiring for centuries. Nothing to apologize for.

    for those who have an interest in my blunter comments, here are a couple of links.

    http://auldacquaintance.wordpress.com/2011/11/20/too-wee-too-poor-too-stupid/

    and

    http://auldacquaintance.wordpress.com/2012/02/21/gold-letter-day/

    I make no apologies for any of what I say ….So don’t even ask!

  21. Scott says:

    An observation: none of these robust defenses of the McAlpine piece addresses or even mentions the Bill Walker allegations, which are clearly central to the outrage (real and feigned) expressed on Better Nation, Guido, etc. An unpleasant whiff of counter-groupthink?

    1. Doug Daniel says:

      Personally, I wouldn’t have even joined any dots between the two if it hadn’t been for Better Nation doing so. I see no need to mention them unless you believe Joan was comparing the union to domestic violence, which she clearly wasn’t. Trying to link it to Walker’s behaviour is far more insulting than anything she said in the article.

      1. Scott says:

        No, McAlpine doesn’t directly compare the union to domestic violence; she compares it to a marriage characterised (perhaps fundamentally) by ‘abuse of power’. You don’t have to be agin independence or the SNP to find the resonance with the Walker story deeply uncomfortable. McAlpine figures Scotland as a woman ‘trapped’ in an unequal marriage which has lost its moral legitimacy. Her fellow SNP MSP stands accused of subjecting numerous wives to exactly that plight. If you can’t see how the rhetoric of Scotland’s (female) victimhood seriously jars in the light of that, I think you’re kidding yourself.

        The Walker thing aside, McAlpine seems to deliberately play on women’s ‘instinctive’ fears of being trapped in abusive relationships (‘dependence leaves you vulnerable and exposed’) in developing this analogy. Dodgy stuff; let’s leave the fear-mongering to the other side.

      2. Doug Daniel says:

        Abuse of power and domestic abuse are two entirely different things. In fact, you could even argue that domestic abuse comes out of a position of weakness – the husband has no power over the wife, so he hits her or mentally degrades her in order to bring him down to his level.

        Subtle difference perhaps, but these sort of subtleties are important.

      3. Scott says:

        Honest question: do you mean to map this analogy back onto the union?

        (‘you could even argue that domestic abuse comes out of a position of weakness – the husband has no power over the wife, so he hits her or mentally degrades her in order to bring him down to his level’)

  22. Scaravilious says:

    The attacks on the SNP for Pallying up to Murdoch and now this come down to the one same thing. The Unionists are scared that they are losing control of the main stream media and now the people of Scotland will find out the truth.

    Sites like this one are great, but only reach a small number of people who are A) interested in politics and B) probably back the SNP anyway. However these two newspapers reach a lot more people, and more importantly people who don’t necesarily vote SNP and could be persuaded to do so this time.

    The Unionists do not have a problem with what Joan McAlpine is saying, they have a problem with WHO she is saying it to!

  23. From the article itself: “Sometimes, translating a political relationship into a human equivalent makes us see things clearer.”

    Sadly, not on this occasion. The British state is a class-pact which is unstable at the Celtic fringes. The independence referendum (in which I will be voting ‘yes’, of course) is an opportunity to destabilise that class pact from Dundee to Dalston to Derry. For this reason, the metaphor of a two-person partnership is simply a dangerous misrepresentation of the true situation.

  24. James Morton says:

    We have more than two years of this badinage between the two camps. One of the reasons the Unionist camp want the referendum now, is that now is the most critical time when scare stories might just work. But the longer it runs and all the Unionists have is scare stories and mock out-rage at being labelled anti-scottish or abusive, the more people will switch off. They keep talking about putting forward a positive vision of the Union, but cannot articulate it in any meaningful sense without reinforcing the “too wee – too poor” image of the country.

    Listening to the Lib-dems waffling on about being guarantors of change and allowing the SNP a place when they lose – frankly beggars belief. They are enablers of some of the most regressive and destructive policies. I want the union ended, because I fear what will happen to our hospitals and our schools and our public services. The coaliton are simply not to be trusted anymore.

  25. Alex Grant says:

    The lesson from this, if there is one, is that Nats need to be like Caesar’s wife ie above reproach. Not something that has to bother our Unionist friends in the establishment!
    However just like I would counsel any CyberNats not to afford them any ammunition the same goes for every MSP? But to attempt to connect the article in any way to Bill Walker is so disingenuous to beggar belief – so Barbarian’s comment about the balance demonstrated by Better Nation is to put it mildly questionable! I don’t recall Better Nation getting outraged at real Labour bullying?

    1. RevStu says:

      Just to note the obvious – Better Nation’s piece is penned by a Labour Party member and activist. It’s perhaps rather naive to expect it to be anything other than smear and opportunistic propaganda.

    2. Don McC says:

      What Davidson’s alleged threat and subsequent policy even mentioned on Better Nation? There’s balance for you.

      1. Don McC says:

        Policy? I mean’t, of course, apology.

  26. Donald Adamson says:

    Joan McAlpine’s ‘crime’ would seem to be that, in the context of making an analogy between Scotland’s relationship to Britain and a woman’s subordinate position to a “domineering man” in a relationship, she used the offending term “abuse of power” to drive home the analogy. All that many of her critics need to know is that she used the term “abuse” in the context of a domestic relationship. Her critics have concluded that she must, therefore, be comparing Scotland’s relationship to Britain to domestic abuse. But isn’t the sanctimonious outrage of these critics itself analogous to an unfortunate situation in England a few years ago when a mob attacked an innocent paediatrician because they confused paediatrician with paedophile?

    In domestic abuse, or rather systematic domestic abuse, it is the psychological terror, the constant fear as much as the physical and verbal abuse itself, that is so debilitating. Had Joan McAlpine really been making an analogy between Scotland’s relationship to Britain and domestic abuse she would surely have drawn on other arguments to support her case. For example, she might have cited the prospect of armed guards at Gretna, Scotland being evicted from the EU, an independent Scotland being left defenceless, moneyless and being characterised as a feckless dependent unable to cope alone in the modern world without her partner.

    Perhaps as the Record’s new “agony aunt”, Joan McAlpine could do a follow-up piece to help her unionist critics manage their anger better. She could, for example, compare the prospect of the end of the union to bereavement. There are, reputedly, five stages of bereavement – denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. Clearly, many unionists are still in the early stages of bereavement and they’re going to need careful counselling to help them cope with what is going to be a very painful process for them. It looks as if the Record understands this only too well and in employing Joan McAlpine as their new agony aunt, they’ve made an inspired choice.

  27. 3psteve says:

    I really have to come back on this.

    I respect people (like Mhairi above) who see this for what it is – an analogy between domestic abuse and the relationship of Scotland to England – and nevertheless defend it on the basis that it’s a valid comparison. I personally disagree, but am also struck by the fact that many people, including a lot of women, feel that way about Scotland’s place in the union and that can’t and shouldn’t be dismissed. Maybe, despite all the outrage Joan’s piece will speak to people in a way I hadn’t anticipated.

    Unionists, instead of being dismissive, might want to ask themselves how we got to a situation where people feel that way about the union, and realise they need to tackle that head on if they’re going to make the case for retaining the union. If they’re relying on fear, then debates like the one we’re having here will chip away at that fear over the next couple of years.

    But it really, really, is comparing Scotland to a wife who is being domestically abused. Take a look at the kind of controlling behaviour being described:

    “But the husband complains she can’t be trusted to manage her own money. She would squander it…… How selfish and greedy is she to even suggest keeping it to herself…….He’ll decide the amount………, if she gets uppity, mind, her money will be cut. She should remember how lucky she is.”

    I worry that people can’t see that what is being described there is domestic abuse, because I worry that if someone described that situation in real life people will be similarly dismissive of it.

    1. Indy says:

      This is maybe an age thing. The kind of relationship Joan is describing – that is how my granny lived. It’s probably the way a lot of peoples grannies lived. The man did control everything – even the wife’s earnings. And the wife was expected to have the tea on the table at a particular time. And when he was finished he went down to the pub while she washed the dishes and then did more endless chores. That was her life.

      Without being too mystical about it I think many Scotswomen – well, many women full stop – will have a kind of generational memory of that.

      Yes, it is not how modern women live and what modern relationships are like.

      That’s the whole point of the article as I would see it. That kind of marriage, it belongs in a museum. As does the Union.

    2. Scott says:

      ‘I worry that people can’t see that what is being described there is domestic abuse, because I worry that if someone described that situation in real life people will be similarly dismissive of it’ – hear hear. Precisely why more care should have been taken with such an emotive choice of metaphor.

      That said, the analogies employed by her defenders here on BC strike me as far more disturbing than anything Joan wrote.

      Scotland as victim of ‘serial rape’, century after century? Or ‘colonised’ just like Native Americans?

      Beginning to see why Salmond has placed the Pandora’s box of victimology on the top shelf (‘Scotland is not oppressed’), at least for the time being.

      1. George Mackin says:

        Scott, Well said.

        I found her comments on the sectarianism deeply stupid and offensive.( I remain to be convinced she is an asset to that party; the very week Bill Walker is under scrutiny for alleged domestic abuse seems to suggest that she lacking in political nous.

        The subsequent and inevitable spat between the two political parties , (who to me in many ways are as hard to separate as the two Proclaimer brothers) – would seem to confirm the term – ‘the narcissism of small differences’.

        Many people in Scotland over the centuries have suffered but if we are to openly talk about oppression then perhaps Scots need to take a long hard look in the mirror, before they talk about rape and abuse.

        “The big boy did it and ran away” and that big boy happens to be England. Yeh, right. What about Scots who oppress Scots and people further afield even today, as we speak. What about the SNP’s odious sycophancy to the British Monarchy, the British Army and nasty little business spivs who would seek to oppress us in an semi independent monarchist state.

        Waving a flag does not set you free and the 1707 Act is not the only cause of Scottish People’s woes. There is more to politics than the national question.

        New Labour may be on the last legs politically but to also to heap on all the blame for Scotland’s problems on it (whatever Scotland my be) is just plain daft and politically a turn off.

        An independent Scotland offers a chance to think anew about what we mean by tby democracy and freedom, whilst I am excited about the end of the British State these stair- head rammies leave me cold. I’m bored with them.

        I know they are a lot of decent people in the SNP, but Nineteenth Century nationalism is such a turn off for a lot of people and that is a shame, because if we are to achieve the break up of the British State we need to create a big tent.and also to tak tent.

        Well said Kate Higgins, by the way.

  28. vronsky says:

    If the unionists wish to compare independence (‘separation’) to divorce it is entirely fair for a nationalist to extend the metaphor. But let’s be clear: the complainants are not ‘unionists’. They are the conservative establishment, don’t dignify them with any other description. The unionists in Ireland or India or Indonesia or Mars or anywhere were never concerned with abstract argumentation about the worth of a partnership – they wanted to retain vassals and resources, and that’s all. If there’s a positive case for a compulsory and inescapable union, then it must ghost awfully close to the positive case for rape, murder and robbery.

    When did honestly speaking your mind become distasteful? As an activist, I’ve seen too many sink into salaried silence and media-acceptable mouthings of unexamined orthodoxies (some twit above wants us to be in NATO – Jesus Christ). So good for Joan, and hurrah for being ‘outspoken’.

    A radical can be dragged down to drown in the dull establishment pond of conformism and safety. Joan’s splashing and swimming and trying not to sink. Good for her. Go lassie go!

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