Is it Cos Wur Scots?

31.01.13: Steve Bell on the wording of the Scottish independence referendum


In the first of a series of monthly columns published jointly by Bella Caledonia and National Collective, author Alan Bissett looks at what’s behind the creep of anti-Scottishness seeping into the pages of the English (and Scottish) media

It’s an accusation of which we’ve become weary in the independence movement: we hate the English.  Our aspirations to redistribute wealth, remove nuclear submarines from our waters, prevent involvement in foreign wars, and make Scotland a modern, healthy, fair democracy?  All motivated by pure anti-English bigotry.  So desperate are the opponents of – heaven forfend! – a country’s desire to make its own political decisions that they will pounce upon any reference towards ‘the English’ or ‘England’ that is not first prefaced with the words ‘Of course I love…’.  This is proof for them that, should Scotland vote yes to independence, anyone caught carrying a Dickens novel will be rounded up into a labour camp and force-fed porridge.

Late last year our greatest living artist, Alasdair Gray, ended up on a ritual media bonfire for not unreasonably asking why there are so few Scots running our national arts organisations.  Admittedly, Gray’s use of the term ‘colonists’ to describe English migrants who take top arts jobs in Scotland as a springboard to a bigger one elsewhere was contentious, but it was in the context of a thoughtful and lucid analysis about Scotland’s historical relationship to England.

The censorious reaction to the Gray affair was telling.  Vast acres of the Scottish and English media were given over to excoriating him for racism, bigotry and, of course, anti-Englishness.  Yet Damon Albarn wrote Blur’s Modern Life is Rubbish and Parklife albums in the early Nineties with the expressed purpose of reversing America’s cultural influence over the UK.  Mike Smith of Food Records, Blur’s label, described the band’s ‘manifesto’ at the time as ‘We are proud to be British, so fuck America.’  Ten years later Pete Doherty sang that, ‘There are fewer more distressing sights / Than that of an Englishman in a baseball cap’.  Neither Albarn nor Doherty were called anti-American bigots.  Instead Albarn was deemed the vanguard of the new cultural moment, Britpop, and Doherty the voice of a lost Albion.  We can only wonder why Gray was not treated similarly.

Things reached a new low last week when The Guardian – a highly-respected, left-leaning journal admired by many in Scotland – ran a Steve Bell cartoon in which Alex Salmond poses before the slogan, ‘Do You Believe Scotland Should Go _____ Itself?  YES/NO’  The blank word, obscured by Salmond’s face, is clearly supposed to be ‘fuck’.  Despite what many wanted to believe (it was David Cameron’s opinion not Bell’s, it was just a joke, etc) The Guardian have confirmed the motivatons behind the cartoon: ‘It’s a commentary on Alex Salmond’s vision of an independent Scotland and reflects Bell’s view [that] it would be against Scotland’s interests.’

If I think it would be against your interests to break a failing relationship with me, would I succeed by telling you to ‘go fuck yourself’?  If I did, would you take it as a ‘joke’ or even a ‘commentary’?  You might, rather, take it as further proof about the state of our relationship.

We don’t want to find ourselves in a situation where we cannot laugh at ourselves or are beyond satire.  But this is satire so broad and so ugly that it sails across the line into offensiveness.  Why would The Guardian ‘satirise’ a country simply wanting to make its own decisions anyway?  The aims of the Scottish independence movement – social justice, protection of public services, opposition to Conservatism – are the same ones which The Guardian themselves espouse. Can we imagine a mainstream Scottish newspaper, or even a website such as this one, running a slogan which says, ‘England Should Go Fuck Itself’?  Can we imagine The Guardian saying such a thing about India, China or France? To paraphrase Ali G, then: ‘is it coz we is Scots?’

Similarly, how are we to interpret an ICM poll published in The Telegraph a year ago which compared Scottish and English attitudes towards independence. The Scottish percentage who want to break from the UK (40%) is roughly commensurate with the amount of Scots who believe they’d be better off by doing so (38%).  Only 23% of the 1734 English-based people surveyed, however, believe Scotland would be better off, despite 43% of them actually wanting Scottish independence.  We could say that the 20% disparity means they believe in democracy for Scotland, despite the consequences, until we spot the real reason: a hefty 61% of English respondants think that Scotland is ‘unjustifiably’ overfunded by London.  The results from the sample taken together, then, create this message: You are a burden, you’ll fail without us, and we want rid of you more than you want to stay with us.

In this context, the Steve Bell cartoon starts to make more sense.

These are the jibes of the spurned husband.  An entire audience of the BBC’s Question Time in Lancaster, for example laughed and applauded at the idea that England’s nuclear waste should be dumped in Scotland.  Even Stewart Lee, considered by many the thinking-person’s comedian, wrote last year in The Guardian that Alex Salmond is a ‘coward’ who ‘reminds me of the mayor of a small provincial town [with] ideas above his station.’  The piece was accompanied by a cartoon Salmond with red, demonic eyes.  While Salmond is, of course, open for criticism we should observe Lee’s likening of Scotland to a ‘provincial town’.  Shortly after Lee rhapsodies about much he ‘loves Scotland’ he regurgitates every cliché in the book – heroin, Jimmy Krankie, alcoholism, the Scottish diet – in order to prove it.  With friends like these, eh?

Media uproar: nil.  But why should we expect anything less when Salmond has already been compared by Unionist politicians and the media to Hitler, Mussolini, Milosevic, Stalin, Mugabe, Kim Jong-Il, Caligula, Nero and Ceausescu?  One would think Salmond responsible for the systematic murder and torturing of English people, instead of modestly proposing that political decisions about Scotland be made in Scotland.

Unionist Scots, who go out of their way to tell the electorate how ‘proud’ they are of Scotland, often exhibit a very strange form of pride indeed.  Ruth Davidson last year claimed, at the Tory conference in Birmingham, that 88% of Scots contribute nothing to the economy.  Johann Lamont, for her part, stated that ‘Scotland has a “something for nothing” culture’.  Even were it true, might Labour take some of the blame for this ‘culture’, since they controlled Scotland from 1997 to 2007?  No, the Scottish people themselves are, somehow, fundamentally flawed.  Labour’s Ian Davidson even made the outrageous assertion – in Parliament, no less – that Scots celebrate the Battle of Bannockburn because ‘hundreds of thousands of English people were murdered’.  We can imagine the reaction if, say, the SNP were to comment that the English celebrate the murder of Scots.  We can imagine the reaction were Alex Salmond to describe Cameron’s government as a ‘dictatorship’, as Anas Sarwar – again, in Parliament – described Scotland’s democratically-elected party.  Where were the censures, not least for non-parliamentary language?  There were none.  What did the media have to say?  Nothing.

Of course, opposition to independence and opposition to Scotland are not automatically the same thing (although they frequently are).  Neither is it possible to deny that nationalists are as capable of intemperate language as Unionists.  The reaction from Yes Scotland to this, however, has been one of disapproval and a plea for tolerance of their opponents’ views.  It would be decorous were the Better Together campaign to accept this gesture and promise similar regulation of their own.  Instead, irony-free, they posit the problem entirely with SNP supporters who ‘hurl abuse and denigrate anyone who disagrees with them’.  There goes the handshake.

Now, as it happens, I do love England.  I lived and worked in England for three years.  I visit there at least twice a year.  My ex-girlfriend, many of my cousins, and my god-daughter are all English.  Almost all of my favourite bands are English, as are many of my favourite writers and film-makers.  The intellectual and scientific achievements of the English are vast and to be admired, and the English working-class, in the main, especially in the North, feel more like kin to me than the Scottish elite.

I do love England.  What I do not love at all is the British state, and attacking it is not the same thing as attacking the English.

‘The United Kingdom of Great Britain’ is not a country, it is a construct, a backroom deal done in 1707 by the Scottish and English ruling class in their own interests and against the wishes of their people.  Britain is an imperialist machine which was designed to wage war and steal territory from other nations, and this is what it has done almost continuously, using military power, economics and, yes, torture.  The symbolic figureheads of British ‘democracy’, the monarchy and the House of Lords, exist to institutionalise privelige and perpetuate the class divide.  We can see this no more easily than in the current Tory/Lib Dem coalition (and will see it some more if we vote back in a Labour party who have also pledged to ‘ruthlessly’ cut public services).  The briefly-progressive Britain which defeated facism in World War II, then introduced the socialist policies of the NHS and the Welfare State – the Britain which was celebrated by Danny Boyle’s opening ceremony at the Olympics – is in the dim and distant past.  The Britain we have to look forward to is one of permanent austerity, stunted democracy and the continued transferal of wealth from the poor to the rich.  Where Scotland figures in this no-one knows, since Westminster refuses to divulge its plan for Scotland post-2014, despite the Electoral Commission insisting that it do so.  This means they either have no plan for Scotland after the referendum (bad) or plan to punish us (worse).

These are just some of the many reasons why I wish for Scotland to be independent from the British state, not because I – or anyone else I know – ‘hates’ the English.  Scotland’s much-vaunted ‘anti-Englishness’, upon which our media love to report, simply does not stand up to statistical analysis anyway.  Murray Watson’s groundbreaking book, Being English In Scotland, reports that 8% of the Scottish population was born in England (as opposed to 1.5% of the English population who were born in Scotland).  All other immigrant groups together make up only 5% of the Scottish population, making the English by far the largest immigrant group in Scotland.  Given the presence of the English in Scotland increased by 84% in the second half of the 20th Century, one would have expected the usual rise in racial tensions that afflict most nations who experience the arrival of an ethnic group to such a degree.  Murray reports, however, that ‘evidence of anti-English violence [is] hard to find’.  94% of the sample of English people in Scotland that Murray interviewed said that ‘anti-Englishness was not a serious problem’.  We might contrast this with the unfortunate treatment of Irish immigrants in Scotland, despite the fact that, at its height, the presence of the Irish in Scotland never topped 7.2% of the population .  Murray concludes that, ‘Compared with other migrant groups in Scotland, the English [do] not suffer from violence, widespread abuse, serious harrassment or discrimination’.  This, remember, is despite the English being by far the largest immigrant group in Scotland.

Scottish independence is not about ridding ourselves of the English, not least because there so many English people integrated here anyway, with jobs, friends and families, and because Scotland and England will always be right next door to each other.  People from both nations will still be free to live in, work in and visit each other’s countries anytime they like.  The cultural, social and familial links will remain and, yes, we’ll still be able to watch Eastenders on the telly.  We’ll just no longer be governed by Westminster.  Despite what Steve Bell might think, it really is as simple as that.  So let’s turn the other cheek to the anti-Scottish jibes and just get on with the business of creating a better country.  If we want to be a mature democracy after 2014, let’s start our growing now.  Maybe Scotland and England will finally then be able to look each other in the eye as equals.

Comments (68)

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  1. lauraannham says:

    Fantastic argument – perfectly balanced, and cutting right to the point.

    A lot of what the British media – English and Scottish – say about Scotland and anti-Englishness horrifies me. It’s so bigoted, and no one would stand for it if it were about another group of individuals who want the freedom to govern themselves.

    PS Errant period -“example. laughed” 9th paragraph down.

    1. bellacaledonia says:

      Fixed, thanks.

      1. Lachie Macquarie says:

        Mathew, I spent 30 years down the road and I was told many’s the time to fuck off back to Sconnie, back, water duck, usually when I defended the French, you probably know what I mean?
        Now back in rural Argyll, the English couple next door to me were saying that everybody in the village is English and were very surprised to be told that they could vote in the referendum. However, they are convinced that we could not go it alone without the support of the our friends in the South. I guess that a lot of English migrants/settlers/economic migrants, whatever you want to call them, have the same idea and would be voting No? Is that an 8% hurdle straight away?
        Aye it’s a funny old life?

        1. Matthew Perren says:

          Sounds very familiar. I’m sad though that the English folk you’ve spoken to want to make a choice on the basis of gut feeling. I want to properly understand what the choices open to me will mean for me, my family and this country that I love. And THEN I’ll decide.

          We’re not all the same!

      2. V1cr says:

        Privelige? Facism?

    2. I have no love for Westminster and see the (in the main) English people are in the same boat,its the Westminster MOB I want rid of.People are people wherever I go some I like some I am indifferent to,but I would never judge a nation because I met an idiot from there,as we have plenty of our own,and would not like to be disliked because of them.I do dislike the idea of Westminster trying to rule all of the UK by this divide and rule practice.We must run our own affairs as must England also run its own affairs.I don’t give the Woman next door my wages for her to run my house why should any country be in this position?

    3. tam says:

      Yeah. OK. Jock. You’ve convinced me. Why don’t you all fuck off then

  2. Matthew Perren says:

    I broadly agree with everything you say Alan. Yet I am dismayed at the domestic manifestation of the debate. As an English person who has chosen to love here for the past 20 years I find myself actively dismissed from the independence debate. Apparently, according to three separate individuals on three separate occasions over the past 6 months my opinion on the matter of independence is already known in spite of it never having been sought. In 20 years the only previous instance of anti-English sentiment I ever encountered was when I was told to “fuck off back where I came from” by a Dundonian drunk in a Rose St bar. Oddly he didn’t feel that he ought to return to Dundee.

    So it’s currently pretty tough for the 8% to think clearly about the future of the country we love (remember we chose to live here rather than the country we were accidentally born in) when many of our fellow residents seem to want us out of the debate and, I suspect back where we came from.

    It would be great if the argument were being conducted by individuals as lucid and generous spirited as you but, sadly, it’s not.

    Oh, and to have my favourite writer (I wrote my dissertation about “Lanark” back in 1985 when there was no bibliography I could draw upon) brand me a colonialist stings a bit. It can no more be dismissed than the crass instances of anti-Scottishness you quote.

    1. lauraannham says:

      Actually, you’re eligible to vote in the referendum – because of your residency in Scotland, whereas I’m not (I was born/raised in Edinburgh but live abroad) – so you have more say than me! I’m sorry you feel you’re being actively dismissed – that’s unfair.

      1. Matthew Perren says:

        Thanks Laura, I know I’m eligible to vote. I’m as well informed about the debate as it’s possible to be given how evasive both parties are on the fine details!

      2. mochridhe says:

        Quite right too, since you don’t pay taxes here. It’s bad enough we have nostalgic millionaires in Monaco and the Bahamas having a massive say in scottish affairs

    2. bellacaledonia says:

      Actually. not only does your view – and more importantly your vote – count the same as the next person, you weren’t branded a colonialist, you were ‘branded’ a settler and your contribution, like many that arrive here from elsewhere was celebrated by Alasdair Gray. You are not dismissed at all.

      1. Matthew Perren says:

        Oh I know it counts! But it feels very much as though I can’t ask legitimate questions about how an independent Scotland will work, how will it structure and pay for it’s bureaucracy; what kind of revenue it can hope to generate etc without people assuming I’m a no voter. In some otherwise very well informed people this generates considerable hostility.

        What I really want to do is to understand what the two propositions really mean and I find my racial origin is throwing up a barrier.

        1. bellacaledonia says:

          Certainly no barrier here. Your views / awkward questions very welcome too.

    3. peterswain33 says:


      My wife and I are originally from England but very happily settled here in Scotland. We have never encountered any anti-English feeling at all. There is sometimes opposition to “the English”, but we’ve never experienced any ill-feeling towards individuals from England. We have always been accepted, and I believe that is mainly because ever since we came here 23 years ago we’ve been keen to get involved in our local community. People are sometimes resented when they move to a new area and don’t show any interest in it. (I’m not trying to suggest, by the way, that this applies to you).

      We have been members and activists in the SNP for 15 years, and have been welcomed into the Party with open arms.

      1. Matthew Perren says:

        Generally that’s been my experience too. I’ve lived and worked in Edinburgh for 20 years and have been on the board of the Edinburgh International Book Festival; a founder trustee of the City of Literature and am actively involved on the Parent Council of my daughters’ primary school. However I’m saddened by the inability of some in the yes campaign (see some other comments to this article) to imagine that there are those like us who might vote “yes”.

      2. Albalha says:

        It’s fairly clear to most people that many residents of Scotland, wherever they come from, will be voting YES, the ‘all YES voters are anti-English’, seems to be a firmly held view by many in England, that’s my experience anyway.

        I just wish we could move beyond it, it’s a firmly held belief that will take time to change. My hope is that post a 2014 YES vote, as many a commentator has said in the past, we can all move on.

    4. Anne Gorman says:

      I’m sorry that you were abused in this way. The sensible people among us are not anti English, but unfortunately there are ignorant people everywhere. You are entitled to vote in this referendum. It’s not about ethnicity it’s about your residency and the fact that you contribute to this society.

  3. Albalha says:

    “So let’s turn the other cheek to the anti-Scottish jibes and just get on with the business of creating a better country. If we want to be a mature democracy after 2014, let’s start our growing now. Maybe Scotland and England will finally then be able to look each other in the eye as equals.”

    You see I thought we had moved beyond this. Undoubtedly there is still a great appetite to stoke the flames of the ‘Scots who want independence don’t like the English’ fire.

    Why get into ‘but some of my my best friends are English’ in response as the author does?

    I worked in a London newsroom a few years ago and not a day passed without some low level anti Scottish jibe, usually along the lines of ‘when you’re independent I hope you take all Scots with you back North’.

    I saw it as their problem, not mine. Why indulge it?

    Yes point it out, yes challenge it but let’s not get into the classic I’m not racist because some of my friends etc. It’s not going away anytime soon, it is, after all, a deep seated mindset.

    Yesterday I tried to follow the Herald story about the anti-English twittering, though haven’t seen the tweets in question. No wonder people get put off organised politics.

    So I agree let’s get on with the business of creating a better country but let’s not get too hung up on when, if, there will be a sense of seeing each others as equals.

  4. Paul Cochrane says:

    Brilliant and precise.

  5. What will happen to Scotland if the referendum should fail to produce a yes vote? Think Warsaw Ghetto.

  6. iain taylor says:

    My desire for independence stems from the undemocratic nature of the Westminster regime, and thanks for emphasising and empathising with that.

    In parallel to Matthew’s concerns, English are just as welcome here as my Irish, French, Hungarian, Latvian, Slovak & Polish friends & colleagues. I don’t think of any of them as foreigners, or indeed as settlers or colonists (however you define that). Just fellow Europeans/Brits.

    On the other hand, in the last 12 months 2 or 3 of those English friends & colleagues (when asked their views) announced they will leave Scotland if we vote yes in 2014. The (Scottish) husband of one of them was quite taken aback. He has a well established business here.

    That attitude – and I’ve no idea how widespread it is – is unfortunate when you think it through.

  7. muttley79 says:

    Very good article. Yes, there are plenty of Scottish people who equate support for the SNP and independence with anti-Englishness. I think it is to do with British Nationalism more than anything. When you look at all the small states in Europe it is difficult to see what their problem is with the idea that Scotland should take responsibility, and run her own affairs.

  8. douglas clark says:

    Well, I don’t equate support for the SNP with anti-Englshness. What I do see is complete ignorance, on their part, of any difference at all. That is their problem, not mine….

  9. fourfolksache says:

    Great article. Sadly most of the English residents in Scotland seem to be of the type referred to above ie at least no voters or I’m off type! And given they are 8% of the voting population they could be the people who help win the No vote – if it happens. That is quite an imposition?

    1. Angus McPhee says:

      That’s interesting, most of the people of English origin I’ve spoken to have been more inclined to vote yes (and generally better informed on the issues) mind you they have all also been left leaning as well so I can’t claim my observation to be representative.

  10. David McCann says:

    Splendid and timely article Alan. One of my favourite quotes is by that great socialist and Scottish nationalist Cunninghame Graham.
    ‘’The enemies of Scottish Nationalism are not the English, for they were ever a great and generous folk, quick to respond when justice calls. Our real enemies are among us, born without imagination”
    Note. He does not specify the nationality of ‘those born without imagination’.
    BTW Mathew, many of those driving the Yes campaign are English, including the Director of Communications. I’m sure if you contact him or any of the team, your views will be welcomed.

    1. Matthew Perren says:

      That’s a brilliant quote, David. Thanks for your generous response. I feel I should have subscribed to this blog sooner!

      1. David McCann says:

        Yoy are very welcome sir!

      2. David McCann says:

        As you can see, I cant tell u from y!

  11. Joe Lampard says:

    Does that mean that my late father was like EDL Abdul?

    He was an Englishman who lived in Scotland for nearly half his life (married a Scottish woman and brought up two Scottish sons) and he was a staunch supporter of Independence and a card carrying member of the SNP for a number of years. Am I to assume that he wanted self governance for Scotland simply because he was an anti-English bigot or is it slightly more complicated than that?

    There certainly are a minority of anti-English people in this beautiful country of ours… he was once told to “fuck off back to your own country” by an elderly, asian shopkeeper in Glasgow and we had windows broken at our house by stone throwers on a fairly regular basis (it stopped pretty soon after my brother and I were big enough to dish out summary justice).

    As for the “vote yes and i’m off” brigade, best of luck to them if they want to move back down South to a country which is being systematically torn apart and stripped of social justice by the incumbent government.

  12. Patrick S Hogg says:

    Fine piece Alan. The elitist state of London drains the vitality out of every other part of England and Scotland like in the Matrix. When we get Independence I would hope many more people from Yorkshire and the North of England will come join us – and others who cannot stand Tory policies and living under the iron fist of Banker-led austerity. A radical Scotland can lead the way………….

  13. Angus McPhee says:

    Wow, did you read his previous post? your response seems to confirm exactly what he’s saying.

    1. Donald MacDonald says:

      Yes, a ridiculous comment, but I’m tempted to cut him some slack because, if he is from Burdiehouse, he probably cannae help it.

    2. Angus McPhee says:

      Furthermore, a quick look at Mathews CV would have told you that he would be an ideal person to be on the board of the book festival based on his previous experience in the book trade.
      A founder trustee, by definition does not go into an organisation but is part of setting one up.

      Not only that but his reference to those positions were in response to another poster’s comments and as far as I read them intended to confirm that posters positive view about contribution rather than showing off his status and privilege.

      You seem to be arguing against the contention that his view and contribution is often dismissed by dismissing his contribution.

      1. Matthew Perren says:

        Thanks Angus. Didn’t trust myself to reply!

  14. CW says:

    Excellent stuff. This has been a longstanding problem that has noticeably intensified. Heavyweight voices such as Neal Ascherson and Tom Devine have both observed and criticised this trend. It is thoroughly depressing to see so many Scots rushing to apologise for it. What I would disagree with you about is The Guardian, which is an increasingly ridiculous publication. It’s not much more than a bourgeois lifestyle magazine for plastic metropolitan leftists. Just as a wee note – Stewart Lee was actually parodying cliched responses to the movement for Scottish independence. He is in fact very knowledgeable about Scottish culture and believes an independent Scotland would be a positive thing.

  15. felibrilu says:

    I have to say I think what the cartoon refers to is the incident where David Cameron allegedly swore at SNP MP Angus Robertson. Steve Bell is suggesting it was an own goal by Cameron. That’s why in the cartoon Salmond has his thumb up because he’s calculated that the swearing episode will engender greater support for the ‘yes’ campaign. So what Steve Bell is saying is that by behaving boorishly and disrespectfully, the unionist campaign (in this case specifically Cameron) are making a ‘yes’ victory more likely.

    In addition, I think he is also suggesting that voting ‘yes’ would be a mistake for Scotland, not least because it’s possible that having got rid of one lot of self-centered, pompous politicians, it’s perfectly possible that an independent Scotland will still have self-centered, pompous politicians ie that the political class will not really be any different and ‘f**king off’ will in fact, make little difference. It’s his opinion and he is entitled to express it. Just as others are entitled to disagree.

    It is interesting how it has been interpreted. The author mentions that certain responses have the ring of ‘the jibes of the spurned husband…’. I think the analogy is apt. To me it feels that at this point in the relationship, Scotland has threatened to leave, so England is sitting in the pub, slagging off Scotland to his mates and saying ‘well, if she/he feels like that she/he can just ‘f**k off’. Then Scotland gets to hear this and gets mad, saying ‘That b****rd doesn’t even care enough to try and get me to stay.’

    It’s possible that at some point in the next year or so England might say something like ‘I know it’s not been easy; how can I change to make this relationship work?’ For me, at least, it’s disappointing that this response has not yet been mooted by anyone in Westminster. I suspect that it will be raised only if the likelihood of a ‘yes’ result appears to be growing.

    But what will be interesting is that, if the offer of change is forthcoming, what Scotland’s reaction will be – whether Scotland then suggests some things that could make a difference ( ie fixing the democratic deficit) or will just say ‘Sorry, but it’s far too late for that.’

    1. keef22 says:

      I presume in all honesty that should Westminster countenance the proposal of ‘jam tomorrow’ as a last ditch response to the growing yes vote- they’ll be met by a reaction something akin to Steve Bell’s cartoon sans the word Scotland, substituted by the word Westminster.

  16. felibrilu says:

    Sorry, on re-reading this – “….that by behaving boorishly and disrespectfully, the unionist campaign (in this case specifically Cameron) are making a ‘yes’ victory more likely….” – I should clarify that I don’t mean that the unionists consistently or frequently behave boorishly or disrespectfully, just that Steve Bell is saying that if anyone does behave rudely the effect could well be to drive bystanders into the opposite camp.

    Apologies for the lack of clarity.

  17. bellacaledonia says:

    Was at football this afternoon and catching up with Bella comments. Have just removed one of them because it was offensive and little more than trolling. Yellow card. Another strike and yer out.


    1. Angus McPhee says:

      Feel free to delete my responses to it as well (and this) as they have little relevance now.

  18. ich bin ein burdiehouser says:

    Delete the comments if you wish – the fact remains that two posters now have form for coming on to your site and shifting the conversation away from the content of the main piece.
    Its called ‘concern trolling’ – and if you knew a little bit about online sites, you would see people are, under the guise of ‘concern’ coming on here and trying to dilute the conversation.

    Firstly we had laura concerned over a post independence ‘backlash’ against the english and now we have a shift back to the comments of alisdair gray, yet again.

    What is clearly going on here is that the independence question is forcing people who may have been rather entitled in the past to perhaps examine quite how they came into that post, that nice house, that nice car……was it as a result of priviledge ? Or talent ?

    I’m seeing a lot of denial here, with the reactions here and elsewhere, with the establishment stealing the language of the oppressed and painting themselves as victims should be called for what it is.

    Why else would you mention your job unless it was somehow to gain respect and preferential treatment ? I’m sure Kevin would not have deleted my comment had you hailed from finance.

    But there you are, with your restraint and manners – quietly shutting down debate.

    1. IBEB –
      Tricky one, I know, but any way you could rework the ‘banned’ comment in such a way that you don’t receive a red-card, but make the following comments comprehensible?

    2. lauraannham says:

      Excusez-moi! Gabh mo leisgeul! Am I not allowed to posit a thought? Especially if it’s linked to what the blog was about. Dear lord, there is a lot of backlash against someone mentioning there might be a backlash. I say one thing you’re not keen on, “concern trolling” apparently, and you made all sorts of assumptions about me being against independence.

      I read the post. I thought, hmm yeah good thoughts, but he didn’t mention repercussions. I’m entitled to voice my thoughts. I honestly think you have made a mountain out of a molehill. I’m not trying to dilute the conversation at all. I’m trying to talk about things I’m interested in.

      Everyone should be allowed to voice their opinion as long as it isn’t offensive. I don’t feel I can now. It’s not fair to say some people dilute the conversation when they’re just trying to explain how they feel/what they think. My views and thoughts are as valuable as anyone else.

      You know, I read this blog because I don’t live in Scotland anymore, and I want to feel connected to what’s going on, even if I can’t vote. I want to see what other people think, and discuss things. But this site….it feels, at the moment, dominated by angry, older male football fans, who lash out at people who are “less Scottish” than themselves, or have slightly different views, or anything that could possibly, possibly be against independence. And hey, I like hearing about people’s concerns. I want to hear people’s stories. This should be a comment section where people can discuss their stories, their lives, their thoughts on independence and identity. So what if some of it is a wee bit off-topic? We’re brainstorming here!

      I think this kind of angry picking on people is destructive and doesn’t help us. I thought this website was supposed to be a platform for people interested in talking. But I’m “diluting” the conversation? Personally, and feel free to disagree, but I think the best way to move forward as a nation – and indeed as the media – is to talk freely and without constraint and censure, listening to everyone, talking things through in a well mannered way.

      By the way – you should read Amanda Palmer’s blog. She welcomes such “dilution” and none of her commenters pick on each other – they offer help, solutions and support. THEY ARE A COMMUNITY.

      I’m actually really upset you think my contribution is diluting the conversation.

      1. bellacaledonia says:

        Laura we desperately want the conversation subverted, diluted and made more complex, otherwise the ‘pool’ becomes very tired, very stagnant and quite useless.

        Your comment: “I want to hear people’s stories. This should be a comment section where people can discuss their stories, their lives, their thoughts on independence and identity. So what if some of it is a wee bit off-topic? We’re brainstorming here!” could almost be used as the benchmark for a new comments moderation policy.

        How to manage this? We don’t want to censor people but if your aim is to basically limit, constrain or shout people down, please don’t.

        1. lauraannham says:

          Um, I don’t want to shout people down at all! I think I’ve made it pretty clear how I feel – I feel shouted down, limited and constrained. Everybody be cool.

          1. bellacaledonia says:

            No you misunderstand Laura – I was talking about the people shouting YOU down.

      2. Angus McPhee says:

        Please don’t confuse the site with the views of a single commenter. I think it’s been made clear that your views are welcome.

    3. bellacaledonia says:

      Debate on ideas and politics always welcome. But the deleted post was neither, it was offensive and out of order. Bella wont censor nor limit debate – we’ll try and expand it – but if a Comments Section is to have any value it has be a respectful supportive place for anyone to discuss ideas and politics without getting personal abuse or mobbed.


      1. lauraannham says:

        Glad to hear it – never saw the deleted comment as am in a different time zone and was asleep 😛

  19. Albalha says:

    I wasn’t sure who Alan Bissett was so had a look, his Vote Britain poem encapaulates ‘it’.

    Also interesting, imo, the dialogue that followed on BC, here both links.

  20. James Coleman says:

    Now that all the huffers and puffers off topic have had their say can we get back on topic.
    This was a very good article until we reached the point where the usual bone was thrown to the English to show that we are ‘nice’ lovely people and not in any way ‘racist’ about them

    “…Now, as it happens, I do love England. I lived and worked in England for three years. I visit there at least twice a year, blah, blah, blah…”

    It then drifted away from the main thrust of the article. And that thrust was the fact that Bell’s cartoon was disgraceful racism and should have been attacked vigorously not only by Scottish and English newspapers but by the YES campaign. It was a gift for it and should have been used. Instead we got the usual platitudes and exhortations to turn the other cheek and not to descend to their level.
    It is a fact that there is a creeping political correctness developing in Scotland where some now consider that the English should not be criticised under any circumstances and that ANY such criticism is ‘racist’. On the other hand the same people do not think it is ‘racist’ for the English to make similar criticisms of Scots, viz Bell and the Englishman with the necrotic brain on Question Time. The English have always had the view that it is OK to criticise and make banter about the Scots as is shown by the anti-Scottish ‘racist’ articles that regularly appear in the media. But when the banter is directed at them they turn tail and run immediately to the race relations people.

  21. James Coleman says:

    I have just found out that in fact the Scottish Sun has an excoriating piece with picture on its web site accusing Bell and the Guardian of racism. (Is it was it in the paper version?)

    Comment by the Guardian … “But a Guardian spokeswoman said: “It’s a commentary on Alex Salmond’s vision of an independent Scotland and reflects Bell’s view it would be against Scotland’s interests.”

    So I suppose it is OK for me to comment that, “Cameron is a dumb assed Englishman” because it reflects my view that his vision of the Union is against Scotland’s interests?

    1. Lachie Macquarie says:

      James, Crooked Nose could also be a dumb arsed Scotsman, if he so wished? Maybe one day he will let it slip, that he is related to Cameron of Locheil and he will booted oot of the Tory party.
      “Salmond has already been compared by Unionist politicians and the media to Hitler, Mussolini, Milosevic, Stalin, Mugabe, Kim Jong-Il, Caligula, Nero and Ceausescu?” If I were being compared to a dictator I think I would prefer Kim Jong-Il, I don’t know why.
      It saddens me that the Gruniad is being so negative about Scottish Independence, as you would think that it would support the general cut of the SG’s gib. I guess that the metropolitan lefities, feel somewhat affronted and disdainful, equating nationalism with bigotry and hatred.

  22. IanL says:

    There are drunks, thugs and morons in every culture and country. I have lived and worked in both Scotland and England. “Doon Sooth” when my accent was heard, i was often given respect, but was also threatened with violence on several occasions (but only if outnumbered at least 3 to 1). I’ve also been called a Scotch Bastard and told to F-off back to Jockland. Mostly though, i was treated as just another bloke and made welcome wherever I went. Scotland is different, the Scots are different, and our English neighbours recognise that. That makes some fear us and some hate us, but most just wish us well.

  23. annie says:

    Great article – thank you.

    It does appear to be the case that the English AND Scottish MSM just can’t help themselves from jumping on the despicable ‘Divide and Rule’ bandwagon. Ironic that it’s now coming back to bite them on the arse!

    To paraphrase Cynthia Moore’s ‘Too Black’:

    I am defiant if I SEPARATE
    Much better to ASSIMILATE
    They consider my uniqueness STRANGE
    They call my language SLANG
    They see my confidence as CONCEIT
    They see my mistakes as DEFEAT
    My questions mean I’m UNAWARE
    My advancement is somehow UNFAIR
    To voice concern is DISCONTENTMENT
    If I stand up for myself I’m too DEFENSIVE
    If I don’t trust them I’m too APPREHENSIVE
    They consider my success ACCIDENTAL
    They minimize my intelligence to POTENTIAL
    They take my empathy for WEAKNESS
    They take my silence for SPEECHLESS
    My character is UNDERRATED
    Pride for my country makes me TOO SCOTTISH

  24. There’s a lot I like about this essay but not the idea of ‘turning the other cheek’ or the need to justify Scottish national identity as not being anti-English. I lived in the town of Cheddar during the early stages of the 2006 World Cup. St George Cross bunting everywhere. Can’t remember one time when it was opportune or wise to say something along the lines of well I’m Scottish but that doesn’t mean I’m anti-English. I imagine it would have got me some strange looks. People were more appreciative of my criticisms of the English team and tactics, and you can extend this to politics. It’s better to reply to jibes about being Scottish with aggressive criticism of the state of democracy in England. So we have notions of a democratic intellect, fine. The English have a history of ‘town-hall’ democracy and that that is repressed by Westminster with its top down ‘democracy’ is something to be pointed out at every opportunity. When’s the last time you heard Dimbleby ask the audience for a show of hands on English national identity vis-a-vis British national identity? It doesn’t happen, and for obvious reasons that could be satirised to good effect.

  25. Renee says:

    You can’t oppress the oppressors. These English cries of Anglophobia are ridiculous.

  26. manandboy says:

    In this debate, the Yes campaign cannot hurt the Unionists.

    But the Unionists, via the BBC, STV, Sky, Radio & Press, all anti-Independence,

    can certainly hurt the Yes Campaign.

    We saw that today in the Lally case.

    It’s not David versus Goliath.

    It’s David versus 5 Goliaths.

    But even with 5,

    the Goliaths lose in the end.

    Only the votes count.

    Mine’s a Yes.

  27. Sooz says:

    Interesting that so many outwith Scotland are quick to criticise UKIP for their racism, yet don’t recognise racism towards Scotland as being similarly offensive. I think it stems partly from the fact that our vision of what Scotland could be is so different to that offered by Westminster and rUK that we’re a threat. We’re not affirming what it is to be “British”, because we’re creating a new political paradigm and a better society than the one we’re forced to accept under Westminster’s rule. We’re saying “we don’t relate to a Britishness that will tolerate thousands upon thousands suffering under the crushing weight of austerity; we welcome people to Scotland and value their inclusion as Scottish citizens; we reject nuclear weapons as barbarous; we aspire to lift all of Scotland’s people up, create opportunities and rebuild our industries; we intend to forge an equal, fair and just nation”. You can see why so many are clutching their pearls: we don’t “fit” because we choose not to “fit” and that’s deeply unsettling for those who don’t cope well with non-conformity.

    Of course, many in rUK are right behind us and wish they too could be altering the UK’s direction. They admire our ambition and they hate what’s happening under Westminster rule. They “get it”. For those who don’t, or won’t because it’s not in their political interest to do so, it’s easier to throw barbs, patronise and undermine, rather than raise their game and talk about independence for Scotland in a way that respects our ambitions and smoothes the road ahead.

    As for being anti-English – I’m an English Scot. Moved here some years ago and felt I had finally come home. In the years I’ve been here, only three people have made anti-English insults and two of them were drunk. I feel welcome, included and wonder why I didn’t move here sooner.

  28. An interesting article, Alan, but can you please not refer to Alasdair Gray as “our greatest living artist.” He is not a painter. That sobriquet used to be given to Ian Hamilton Finlay. He too was not a painter, more a clever landsdcape gardener and sometime poet. Throwing ‘best,’ ‘greatest,’ and the like cheapens and denigrates.

    A Fart in the Wind grousebeater.wordpress

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