2007 - 2021

The Scotsmans ‘Arts’ Coverage


The 5 Artists in Search of a Country event at the Assembly Rooms was an antidote to the widely recognised absence of focus on the referendum at this years festival. Theories vary about why this might be (this is pre-Mills declaration of fascination with events of 1917). They range from:

1) It’s not very interesting
2) No-one really cares
3) It doesn’t make very good drama
4) No-one’s actually from Scotland at the festival
5) It will all kick-off next year.

Whatever. Who cares? This is about an event that did happen not performances never commissioned.

The event was reported in The Scotsman under the bizarre headline of ‘Scottish independence: ‘About people, not Salmond’ – and the odd observation that “Elaine C Smith moved to distance the campaign for Scottish independence from Alex Salmond” as if that was the thrust of Elaine C Smith’s contribution.

Further revelations by the reporter included the revelation (scoop of the century?) that: “Supporters of a Yes vote also insisted at the event that it was possible to feel British and vote in favour of independence” (surely just a banal fact of reality).

Then the author turned playwright David Greig’s words by saying:

Mr Greig said he had a “profound distrust” of nationalism, but believed that independence offered a way for the country to shake it off. He added that the decision over the future of Scotland should not be guided by “ethnic identity”.

Both these quotes are true – but the context in which they were made is very different from how it is presented.

Greig is talking about shaking off British nationalism, of the kind we have seen recently with the Olympics and the Jubilee and will have sponsored, endorsed next year as we are forced to ‘commemorate’ a war that killed 37 million people.

When David Greig talks about “ethnic identity” he is talking about the fact that what appeals to him is that the language and focus of the entire independence movement is NOT about ethnic identity.

The way the author presents it it seems to be an obstacle to overcome. This is a deliberate misrepresentation. I wouldn’t have brought his up had the same journalist not phoned me and berated me for an article we wrote which wrongly stated that the Herald reported a story before the Scotsman did. We agreed and quickly changed it. I wonder whether the Scotsman will do the same?

Finally, a ‘Ms Lindsay’ who we’ve not had referenced before says: “A lot of people do shy away from the argument if they are told they are stupid or haven’t thought about it. I really dislike that style of debate” as if this was a precis of her thoughts. The whole report is a very odd piece of propaganda masquerading as arts journalism for the festival. I suggest that events are filmed as often as possible and each time this happens the journalists political agenda and distortion is exposed.

Most of the artists who took part had never met each other before, four of the five talk explicitly of their shift from No to Yes or from No to Don’t Know, or from or from Don’t Know to Yes or from Don’t Know to Don’t Know (!). They represent articulate non-tribal voices exploring meaning and values in their society. Each of them are award-winning in their genres. Why they are so threatening to The Scotsman is a mystery, but what is clear is that we need better standards of journalism in this country.

There is no need for any of this. This is petty and stupid propaganda. Why can’ they just report the event properly?

Here is the event, which was organised by the Scottish Independence Convention – make your own mind up:

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  1. bellacaledonia says:

    #NoFest continues with this from The Independent: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/media/tv-radio/witty-lucid-sharp-andrew-marrs-back–and-its-bad-news-for-alex-salmond-8770920.html

    Why is it bad news for Salmond?

    Or this? http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2013/aug/17/william-mcilvanney-independence-manifesto?CMP=twt_gu A major writer backs independence but it is re-spun as terrible bad news?

  2. Abulhaq says:

    As one who has a lot of difficulty with this “British” thing I am perplexed by the logic that runs one can vote for independence and still cling to a British identity. Seemingly, the SNP officially courts this fuzzy perspective. Surely the whole thrust of restoring our national sovereignty is concerned with sloughing this obsolescent, constricting carapace of a “second identity”, one that is fundamentally imperialist and anglocentric, and to begin to recover and regenerate our share from the few scraps of national patrimony we can still recognise as historically and authentically our own. In effect, for me, that means jumping over the North Brit confected tartanry and Walter Scotchery and rediscovering the genuine. And the genuine is not to be found anywhere in the box marked British. Logically, if you want to stay a cultural Brit vote no. Being unashamedly a “small country” nationalist I find the notions articulated by some on the Yes side on this issue utterly confusing and primly mealy-mouthed.
    By the way, “small country” nationalists, Scots, Armenians, Catalans etc do no harm. If only the British variety could claim as much.

    1. bellacaledonia says:

      Yes you’d hope that the process would lead to widespread questioning and re-evaluation of cultural identity, and for many it will, and already has. I think the point that’s being made is that for some their British identity is something (for me inexplicably) they hold dear, but that this doesn’t necessarily have to prevent them taking part in democratic renewal. Does that make sense?

      1. Abulhaq says:

        May they soon come to their senses. Truly independence entails much more than just a comfy chair at the UN but a rediscovery of our authentic self. Existential, philosophical, ideological and cultural issues that Brit politics has historically lacked the capacity to deal with. I do hope that the new Scotland develops such a faculty. We need to shed rather more than our external chains, the intellectual shackles need to go too.

  3. Juteman says:

    My take on it is that we live on the island of Great Britain, and will continue to do so when independent.
    If some Scots want to retain a sense of Britishness after independence, then that is up to the individual. Nobody has the right to define anothers personal sense of identity.

    1. Abulhaq says:

      Individual identity is a matter of personal preference. Our national identity, however, is not. From my perspective the muddying of the waters caused by retention of the British element impedes our development beyond the given. We Scots did substantially contribute to the fabrication of the supra-identity of Britishness, read Linda Colley on the subject, but that has served its “purpose”. The specifications are in the course of changing. The old imperial measurements no longer correspond. We have rather a lot of politico-cultural catching up to do. Most European “minorities” went through all this at least a century ago.

  4. Juteman says:

    I disagree. I’m Scottish, although my ‘national’ identity at this moment in time is British citizen.

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