The Semiotics of See You Jimmy


Sir Chris Hoy’s contribution to national debate is part of a pattern of counter-intuitive evidence. It’s double-speak. In really simple terms, it doesn’t make any sense. One of the things he said was: “It would not be quite as simple as just saying, ‘there is a Scottish athlete, they have won a gold medal, therefore that’s a medal for Scotland’.

Er, yes it would.

This approach to seeing the world can only be understood in the context of the inferiorism perpetuated and nurtured by the Unionist campaign. Part of this is a deliberate campaign of distortion and propaganda, but most of it is the general view understood by the general populace.

Here’s three recent examples of this.


When the Prime Minister came to Scotland in April he focused entirely on defence. The unionist message has been relentless. Cameron stuck to the script:

“Being part of the UK opens doors for the Scottish defence industry around the globe. Scotland counts for more on the world stage because it is part of the United Kingdom and Scottish defence jobs are more secure as part of the United Kingdom.”

Yet this week we saw French firm Thales take a huge contract. Thales has won a 10-year deal to service the Royal Navy’s hi-tech submarines and ships. The Ministry of Defence  confirmed the deal, which it said was worth at least £600m.

Thales will provide maintenance and repairs for 17 offensive and defensive systems across the fleet including the Astute, Trafalgar and Vanguard class of submarines. It would also cover Type 45 warships, the MoD said, helping it save an estimated £140m over the decade.

The reality is that Scotland is not served well by the Ministry of Defence. We pay far more than is spent in Scotland on defence; we have the low-paid, dangerous jobs of guarding operating nuclear submarines and the rusting hulks of dozens of decommissioned subs. The MoD has even reneged on its promise of increased troop numbers based in Scotland.

The Thales contract at a stroke made a nonsense of Better Together’s arguments.

The argument that: Scotland will lose out to defence jobs if it becomes independent is contradicted by daily reality. Scotland is losing out as part of the union.


The issue of Scotland’s place in the world has spun around 180 degrees as the Conservative Party went into meltdown after UKIP’s Revolt of the Shires.

But this theme of counterfactual oddities goes on. For years we were brow-beaten by the story that a referendum would damage Scotland’s economy, the very act of even considering self-determination would fundamentally destabilise our society we were told ad nauseam. Yet now the ruling party in Westminster has tabled a plan to hold a referendum to withdraw us from the whole of the EU. The silence is deafening.

As Angus Robertson has said: ““Scotland’s interests lie in fighting our corner in the European Union, but we are prevented from doing so by a Tory Government at Westminster that is obsessed with their plans to drag us out of Europe.”

New Gold Dream

Finally, let’s look at elite sport. There’s something really odd about Sir Chris Hoy’s logic: Scottish athletes and sports men and women often have to travel outside the country at the moment under the Union, because our facilities are often not good enough. Therefore, under independence things will be much harder.

Got it?

It’s an almost comically stupid argument.

Aside from the whole question of prioritising elite athletes in some desperate search for national profile and some weird obsession with ‘sporting achievement’ in a time of acute economic depression – the arguments put forward by Hoy (and then defended desperately in the media) are bizarre.

Why couldn’t / wouldn’t an independent country be able to compete? There’s a lot of myth-building about sporting excellence.

Scotland Tonight even asked (seriously) ‘Would other countries want to compete with an independent Scotland?’ Both speak to a deep-seated inferiorism, as does the whole European narrative (how will we possibly make our way in the world?) and the whole contorted defence debate centres around an inability to think beyond Scotland as a sort of on-call international squaddie left squabbling over jobs at radioactive Rosyth.

Why Does Anyone Believe any of this?

Because these arguments don’t actually make any sense, they survive, thrive even only in the context of a supreme insecurity nurtured and cherished by some and unconsciously drawn on by many.

The phenomenon is well noted. Beveridge and Turnbull (1989), Young (1979), Nairn (1977), Fanon (1967) all explore the idea. Writing in Scottish Affairs in 1994 Linda Cusick writes: “These have had hegemony over Scots’ perceptions of themselves to such an extent that they have a systemic quality. The semiotics of Scotland are regressive in cultural terms, and in their political manifestations lock us into subordination and dependency.’

Frantz Fanon (1967) writes: “Every effort is made to bring the colonised person to admit the inferiority of his/her culture.” Cusick suggests: “Once self-doubt is created, resistance to foreign rule is weakened, while for the coloniser self justification is achieved with a belief that were it not for his interventions the colony would slide back into barbarism.”

We live with the cultivation of popular assent around some core idea: ‘we are generally incapable’ is reiterated daily by consensus builders and the media elite.

An understanding of this process and a widespread conscientization may be one of the best outcomes of the referendum process as we begin to figure out who runs this place and how we can overcome them.

Comments (37)

Join the Discussion

Your email address will not be published.

  1. Surely it’s conscientisation Pedantry aside great post

    1. bellacaledonia says:

      Actually, if you want to be pedantic it’s conscientização … : )

  2. David McCann says:

    Permit me to paraphrase John Pilger.
    “Something is changing in Scotland that gives cause for optimism. The Scottish people have probably never been more politically aware and prepared to clear out decrepit myths and other rubbish while stepping angrily over the babbling brook of bullshit.”

  3. The tale reminds me of the Oz words of wisdom,”If you don’t know the answer baffle them with bull-shit”

  4. heathermclean19 says:

    Only this morning, I heard on the local radio station that Dundee’s Remoloy Factory, which employs disabled people, has lost the £6 million contract to make and supply military clothing, to a company in Africa. Remoloy has been fighting for survival and this will probably ensure its closure, throwing it’s disabled workforce on the dole. This in turn means they will then need to claim benefits instead of earning a living!! Don’t even mention the repercussions of this – eg bedroom tax etc!! The whole thing absolutely disgusts me – we are in no way shape or form ” better together”

  5. Pat Carroll says:

    excelleht article – especially loved Pilger’s quote!

  6. David Lee says:

    It’s sad that Chris Hoy seems to think that he had to overcome his Scottishness to be successful.

    Also, wanting to bask in the reflected glory of Team GB gold medals must be one of the dafter reasons for voting No I can think of.

  7. Michael says:

    Very good post, Mike.

  8. Joe Gibson says:

    The big word in SIR, Chris Hoy is exactly that S I R, he has been anglisiced as I call it some would call it brainwashing. He has lost his identity.

  9. Doug Daniel says:

    The deliberate perpetuation of the Scottish inferiority complex is one of the most disgraceful acts of unionist politicians and media organs. Never mind the oil lies etc, as a populace we’ve essentially been subjected to decades of mental abuse. Once we’ve been independent for a wee while and the sky hasn’t fallen in on us, I expect people who have spent their lives being duped by the stories will look back with a real sense of anger at being lied to for so many decades – and so they should.

    While I want us all to work together to make Scotland a success post-Yes – indy supporters and unionists alike – I sincerely hope those who have been most responsible for making people feel inferior find themselves severely marginalised. For instance, I want to see the Labour party rediscover its roots, but I want people like Brown, Darling, Lamont, Sarwar, Alexander and Murphy to play no part in it. They’ve fought so hard to keep Scotland in it’s place, they don’t deserve to be part of the inevitable success.

  10. @ Charles

    “If you can’t dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bullshit”!

  11. Barontorc says:

    DD – need I say that the BBC is at the very forefront in all of this. The apologists who hark back to the ‘Home Service’, ‘BBC World Service’ , ‘the BBC a lone voice for freedom during the war’, etc., are right to acclaim what this service did at that time in support of Britain’s fight-back and morale, but when it comes down to the internal situation within the BBC’s own ‘UK world’ – anything that is not ‘Team GB’ will be attacked for attacking their establishment UK.

    Hence, why Scotland’s push for self-autonomy, based on self-worth and self-determination is undermined as a matter of factual UK necessity.

    Chris Hoy, Andy Murray and any other achieving athlete will be encapsulated as a GB asset, but dropped like a hot potato if they show any inclination to be seen as other than Team GB.

    Look at the treatment of Graeme Obree – a world champion record holder who was ignored and pushed aside for an English model – Chris Boardman.

    When the SFA told Seb Coe to go take a jump – there would be no support from them for a Team GB football team his attitude was fuck-em !

    All this – and that’s without going into the farcically obvious bias of their political army. Sure enough, we really do know our place – and that’s well outside the leeching GB estate! It has to be YES and the bookies odds are dropping like a stone towards it!

    1. Clydebuilt says:

      Soon after the SNP won the 2011 election and it became obvious that a referendum was coming Susan Eglestaff stated that politician’s should not use the Commonwealth games for political purposes. I haven’t heard her issue the same warning to politicians re. the grotesque commemoration of the start of WW1.

  12. Bill MacDiarmid says:

    I have a Pakistani friend, living in Lahore. He is subject to all sorts of discimination because he is part of the Christian minority. But do you know what, he is a proud Pakistani. He loves his country and its people. He is proud of its independence from India. He keenly supports the national cricket team. What does that tell us about the Gordon Browns and Jim Murphys of this world. Scotland is indeed a strange place.

  13. Wullie says:

    The whole honours business is a bizarre farce, a knighthood for pedalling a bike points up the fact that an independant Scotland needs to scrap all this nonsense and relegate the Barons Springburn & Cardowan, Lord McConnell of somewhere extremely daft, Lord Ffoulkes and Sir David Steel & Co, to the wheelie bin of history and bang the lid tight shut to keep the cats out.

  14. Hi Bill,

    Yes there’s something much more going on here than just discrimination and being put down and made to feel inadequate (which is bad enough).

    It’s being pulled into the bullying side of the equation, being ‘better’ because being part of the bullying years of empire building and ‘punching above our weight’ and obeying the big boys, and being on their side in order to feel better about . . . I remember the look on Blair’s face when he had met with Bush to push the war against the wishes of the vast majority in Scotland, England and Wales. It was the look of the head boy having met the headmaster, and then I looked at Bush and it was the same look, and for a while I thought maybe Murdoch was the master . . . but actually no one was and no one is . . . the bullying and bribing of the upper classes so they act out this fantasy and pull those on board who prefer to bully than be bullied.

    There is much more going on than ‘supreme insecurity’ – it is what happens when you have accepted being part of the bullying side (probably because the option was so awful) . . . but then this runs deeper than class and country, it is also a whole culture, a whole way of life, the mad economic growth machine that is bullying the seas and forests and people far and near, fearing that if we don’t then the machine will stop.

    So, yes, great article that cuts deep, but I think we’re going to need to cut deeper than class and country if we are going to become conscious of the patterns that tie us tighter the more we flail to be free of those ropes. Which is why tone is so important, and staying light and sharp and with a hint of the smile that knows this is a game, and a game that matters, but a game nonetheless, and one we wouldn’t be pursuing if the culture as a whole wasn’t smashing us up against a brick wall. We need to be playing for something far more than independence, not just to have a chance of winning this battle, but so we have a chance of winning or ending) the war . . .

    1. Clydebuilt says:

      Very well said!

  15. Dave Daniel says:

    Bill MacDiarmid: I think you’ll find that “the Gordon Browns and Jim Murphys of this world” also love their country and its people. And no doubt cheered on its athletes during the Olymics and Paralympics. What Nats fail to realise is that for those who do think we’re Better Together that country is the UK. But I suppose by saying that I too will be labelled a traitor. Scotland is indeed a strange place.

    1. Clydebuilt says:

      it’s not a case of Nats not realising ” that for those who do think we’re Better Together that country is the UK.”
      It’s a case that decisions taken in Scotland will be better for Scots than decisions taken in Westminister, where we have no say in the decisions because of our low percentage of MP’s
      It’s about creating a more equal society. For me a Nationalist it’s got nothing to do with people in the better together’s sense of nationality, it’s about social justice. Something that can’t be achieved for Scots from within the British state with England’s politics going towards the right.

      1. wanvote says:

        You’re spot on – it is about the opportunity to create a more equal society in Scotland and it is now more obvious than ever before that even with devolution this could never be achieved for Scots from within the British state. As far as I’m concerned those in the better together campaign can hang on to any national identity they wish but I am fed up with them telling me what my own national identity should be. I’m beginning to take it personally nowadays 🙂

  16. Macart says:

    Don’t know about anyone else, but I’m done being told what I can’t do. I’m done being regarded as a surly scrounging lodger. I’m done receiving handouts of my own cash and then being told what to spend it on. I’m done having our contributions to UKPLC, whether in terms of natural resources or of people, ridiculed and belittled. I’m so done at watching our kids being forced to emigrate to find better life chances. And I’m way more than done having my children’s future and aspirations stepped on from a great distance.

    So I guess that makes me a YES vote then.

  17. walter kirkhope says:

    Whilst I agree with most of what has been written both above and below the line I can’t help feeling that the point of Chris’ statement has been overlooked here. If he is simply saying that a Scottish gold in team GB would not automatically translate into a gold for team Scotland then that is surely common sense.
    A number of golds were won in a team capacity (two or more athletes together). It stands to reason that the two best rowers (eg) from a population of 60 million are likely to be better on average than the two best rowers from a population of 5 million. Even if we had the best rower the next best Scottish rower might be ranked 10th in GB, making for a weaker, and on average less successful team. It’s arithmetic surely, not unionism?

  18. David Smillie says:

    I spent years reacting against this kind of superior, anti-Scottish crap because my parents brought me up to defend my nation. One thing I noticed was the number of Scottish people who treated me as a kind ‘of-spot-the-loony’ character that had to be patronisingly shown that GB was so incomparably superior that I should never embarrass them by mentioning Scotland. By God we’ve been colonised inside our heads! I’m really looking forward to the day when we reject this rubbish forever and start thinking and acting for ourselves. As has been pointed out, the indy debate has really let the cat out of the bag and lots of nasty little corners of our relationship with GB are now having light shone into them. Long may it continue.

  19. AlexMontrose says:

    GOOOAAAAL, No messing about here, the ball played up to centre forward Mike Small, instantly controled and smashed into the net in no more than a blink of the eye.

    No tiki taki required.

  20. wanvote says:

    Great post and excellent links that I am reading and will no doubt re-read many times.

  21. jdmankj says:

    Cant help thinking about all the naysayers who will live out their old age wondering why they got it so wrong and why they didn’t have have the courage to support their country when it needed them

  22. Robert the Bruce says:

    What a lot of pish by mike Small

    1. CW says:

      Thanks for your insight Rab.

  23. longshanker says:

    Couple of things Mike. (Unless of course you deign to ban this comment)

    You can’t be made feel inferior unless you give your consent.

    So maybe you should give up the ‘meme’ of, and misplaced reference to, ‘inferiorism’, it’s tedious and only seems to be a stick to beat your readers with.

    Quoting Frantz Fanon. Come on FFS! The Scots played just as big a part in the colonisation of a quarter of the world as the English. And in terms of population proportion, more so.

    I’m not anti-Indy in the least, but this kind of grievance confirmation doesn’t actually add to the debate, it detracts from it.

    In short, the sentiment of your piece is ugly. There are plenty of potential reasons for positively voting Yes. To shrug of a supposedly imposed ‘inferiorism’ by our allegedly ‘colonial masters’ isn’t one of them.

    Nil points. Try again.


    1. Alasdair Frew-Bell says:

      Without the cooperation of the people of the Indian subcontinent the British would have been unable to hold India. We Scots have cooperated in like manner with our “colonists”. We have accepted a lower cultural status vis à vis our neighbour. We have helped them in their aggressive conquests and basked in the questionable glory. Many leading Scots in the past have been proud to call themselves English or to speak of England as the home of a modern civilization the equivalent of ancient Greece and Rome. This condition survives in a modified form and infects our psyche to the extent that, to many, it has become normative. Chris Hoy and George Galloway are exemplars of the neurosis of perceived cultural inferiority. The notions behind Better Together reflect a view that left to our own devices we would fall apart and turn third-world within a year. The fact that Scotland is perceived by even English commentators to be a better governed country than England negates that. Our country and her people have been truly screwed up by our subordinating relationship with England. We have created a fabulous entity called the United Kingdom in which we fancy we are equal partners. History, of course, reveals nothing of the kind. Facing up to this demon is a prerequisite for independence. The people of India did so, and so must we.

  24. longshanker says:


    *To shrug off*

  25. Clydebuilt says:

    wanvote says:
    June 1, 2013 at 18:11

    “I’m beginning to take it personally nowadays” 🙂

    Don’t take it personally, get out thereand spend every day from now till the referendum working to bring around an independent Scotland.

    It’ll be worth it!

  26. Clydebuilt says:

    Frantz Fanon (1967) writes: “Every effort is made to bring the colonised person to admit the inferiority of his/her culture.” Cusick suggests: “Once self-doubt is created, resistance to foreign rule is weakened, while for the coloniser self justification is achieved with a belief that were it not for his interventions the colony would slide back into barbarism.”

    Last week George Galloway told us that When Scotland became independent and failed economically, we would turn on the poles and other imigrants.

    1. jdmank says:

      “Last week George Galloway told us that When Scotland became independent and failed economically, we would turn on the poles and other imigrants.”
      if he did say it he was repeating Ian Smart who originally said that

      “Better 100 years of tory rule than a failed Scotland turning on poles and p**s ”
      the man is vermin and his own brother agrees

  27. annie says:

    Saturday night at Coloursfest’s NuGeneration stage, my daughter, Iona, dedicated this tune to Bella with the words, ‘This yin’s for you, Bella Caledonia!’

    Eagles – Sander Van Doorn

    Her way of communicating YES and Bella through popular music semiotics 🙂

    1. bellacaledonia says:

      Wow! Thanks

Help keep our journalism independent

We don’t take any advertising, we don’t hide behind a pay wall and we don’t keep harassing you for crowd-funding. We’re entirely dependent on our readers to support us.

Subscribe to regular bella in your inbox

Don’t miss a single article. Enter your email address on our subscribe page by clicking the button below. It is completely free and you can easily unsubscribe at any time.