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Grangemouth doesn’t register on the British newsstand. Wrong country. It’s funny to see these front pages as a snap-shot. It makes me feel almost entirely cut-off from this political culture.

But Martin Kettle, over at the Guardian is to be congratulated (Grangemouth could help shape the Scottish referendum‘ ). He’s maybe the first serious London commentator to actually tune-in to what’s going on and to pick up on Commonweal and the deeper debate.

He writes:

Listen to the debate now taking place in Scotland, and it is clear that this societal argument for independence is at least as important as the constitutional one. Yet this should not be a private conversation for Scots alone. With very little alteration Scotland’s societal argument is one which applies in the rUK too – England in particular – and across much of the European Union.

Certainly, no one who listened to the debates at last weekend’s Scottish National party conference in Perth could have been in much doubt that the SNP is now putting a societal critique of the UK’s embrace of inadequately regulated market capitalism at the heart of its independence argument. Naturally, the constitutional argument remains crucial – independence as an expression of nationhood. But the SNP is increasingly making a louder argument based on societal objectives.

But good luck to him bringing these issues to a wider British audience. As the media landscape above graphically shows the obsessions of the now largely tabloidised politics are, variously, the scraping deference of Celebrity Feudalism, the weather (it’s going to be windy!), an ongoing obsession with the McCann’s, Ant and Dec, or, to their credit in the Independent and Guardian, the off-the-leash activities of America’s security agency.   Most point to a society dominated by the deeply trivial and celebrity culture, with little room for debate about, well, anything. The saddest thing about mainstream Anglo-British culture is not the virtual policy merger between Labour and Tories and Liberals (“deeper and tougher”) – nor the strangehold of the print media – it’s the grip of an unthinking unquestioning outlook which holds sway.

It’s the result of a deep-seated idea of self-import and entitlement that ends up with a sense of natural order. Contrast that with the reality – as pointed out by David Greig – that the independence debate allows us to explore every aspect of our national life and ask ourselves the question – ‘does it have to be like this?’

In this sense Yes has already won the independence referendum. By creating a vehicle for hundreds of thousands of people to ask: Who are we? Who runs this country? Why is it like this? We have won. It lacks credibility to think that anyone genuinely undergoing this process would allow the current order to continue.

But will it, can it, as Martin Kettle suggests transfer to a pan-Britain debate?

Sadly, I think not. The dead-certainty of English politics makes it extremely unlikely. The Daily Mail splashes today with a (slightly desperate) “Don’t sign this toxic charter to gag the Press, Queen urged: Urgent warning from free speech groups around the world” (all of which is, naturally complete nonsense defending the indefensible). But it’s a beautifully captured moment of Anglo-British torpor in the face of relentless change.

Whilst Martin Kettle’s insight is refreshing it’s also almost completely isolated. Most ignore the process entirely or see it through the dark prism (consciously or not) of subsidies, or personalise it entirely around Salmond. What features most strongly in the visual feast above is what Tom Nairn has called a ‘Blind Brit Preservationism’ – it’s the idea to do nothing because nothing needs done. It affects English politics but also informs everything for Better Together. It’s where Project Fear emanates from:

Blind-Brit preservationism is the one hope for the Scots and the Welsh – as, more obviously, for the Ulster Protestants. The periphery must cling forever to the cadaver of the imperial Nurse, out of fear of something worse.

As Cameron flits in and out of the debate, ducking and diving for cover, your reminded that we haven’t really moved on from John Major’s heyday, who said, shortly before disappearing in a deluge of sleaze:

The Scots just feel left out of things up there, and I have a good deal of sympathy with that. I ought to go there much more often and so should the rest of the Cabinet. If they see us around more, they’ll feel a lot less cut off.

If only it had been that simple.

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  1. James Coleman says:

    Another addition to the largest family of benefits scroungers in the UK. They are the root source of all that is wrong with the UK, the snobbishness, the private schools, the pompous self importance of the ‘elite’, the feeling of entitlement by the rich, the lack of compassion by the wealthy, the passing round of bits of paper to make a fortune, if you can gain entry to the ‘club’.

  2. 2012nancy says:

    Good article; I’ve often thought that if more folk in Scotland realised the difference between what and how things are reported the Scottish Press compared to the UK/Home Counties press they would be more aware that this is a different country. (Sorry to be a pedant but there’s a wee typo – ‘your reminded’ should be ‘you’re reminded’.)

  3. Abulhaq says:

    The economy “recovers”, a future English monarch is baptized and all is rosy in…London. The rest of England isn’t looking too healthy but that is largely their rotten fault; anybody with any ambition would move to London, wouldn’t they? Grungemouth sic ? never heard of it.

  4. Democracy is at the core of independence and far too many people don’t realise that we have a Monarchy and in a monarchy there is NO DEMOCRACY I cant for the life of me understand why somebody would presume superiority over others because of who’s bed they were born in.

  5. Ian G. Scott says:

    Aye, but press readership is going down and down. On the other hand, I can’t remember a Scottish news story getting so much coverage on BBC England and Wales (aka National) News since UCS. Could it be that the same forces of international capitalism that are driving the closure of Grangemouth in an attempt to scupper a Yes vote in the referendum are also encouraging the BBC to run a story calculated to attack Scottish self confidence as part of what Jim Sillars has christened Project Fear?

    1. Abulhaq says:

      Scottish news is always bad news. Can’t remember ever seeing a positive report about the country on BBC tv. A pattern unlikely to change in the run-up to the referendum.

    2. Holebender says:

      It wasn’t Jim Sillars who christened Project Fear. The name first appeared in a Herald article which revealed that it was Better Together’s very own in-house name for their campaign.

  6. alister7 says:

    I’ve noted this phenomenon before and have written a bit about it. The apparent indifference of England to Scottish independence is quite intriguing. It barely features in the media down south. I can’t make up my mind if this is because they are so convinced that independence won’t happen, or because they just don’t care that much. Only the political elites in London seem to be obsessed by keeping Scotland in the UK. I wonder why?

  7. Phil says:

    “Grangemouth doesn’t register on the British newsstand. ” Not totally true. Radio 4 news broadcasts gave passable analysis of the Grangemouth lockout.

    1. bellacaledonia says:

      I’m looking specifically at the print media (there’s a visual clue accompanying)

  8. Tartanfever says:

    Yeah, really enjoyed the bit in Martin Kettle’s article where he told us how easy the Scottish Government has it because they don’t have to make any difficult cost cutting exercises unlike Westminster.

    What a joke. Osbourne’s the one who can’t do the cost cutting because he’s still borrowing £10bn a month, and if he does want to make cuts, he can make them on Scotland as our lack of tories and the ineffectiveness of our voting power make us sitting ducks.

    As for this last paragraph:

    ‘The Scots just feel left out of things up there, and I have a good deal of sympathy with that. I ought to go there much more often and so should the rest of the Cabinet. If they see us around more, they’ll feel a lot less cut off.’

    what a patronising tosser.

  9. ronald alexander mcdonald says:

    The irony of the quote attributed to John Major is I believe he genuinely meant it. The representatives from mother England should come to Scotland more often to pat us on our heads and tell us everything is ok. The British establishment relies a great deal upon the inertia of the public. Maybe it’s not that surprising after 30 odd years of governments slavishly adhering to the whims of The City of London financial centre and all that entails.

    Hence their medias’ brainwashing attempts to promote trivia as essential parts of Britain. Didn’t the Olympic Games make you proud to be British? The Royal Baby, celebrity obsession etc. It certainly takes the heat away from the important issues.

    Hopefully Grangemouth can motivate some to wake up and smell the roses!

  10. florian albert says:

    It is hard to disagree with much of what is written by Mike Small. This evening the BBC 6 O’Clock News led with the story of Madeleine McCann.
    That said, there are serious problems with journalism closer to home.

    A month ago, how many Scots – particularly those who watch Newsnight Scotland and read the Herald/Scotsman – would have known;
    what INEOS was ?
    that the largest industrial complex in Scotland was owned by a Swiss based private company ?
    that this complex was running short of North Sea gas ?
    that it was (or so its owner claimed) losing £10 million a month ?
    that its survival plan involved importing cheap energy from the USA to process here ?

    Not many, I would think. That is why this week’s events at Grangemouth have been such a shock.
    Too much Scottish journalism (including Bella Caledonia) involves denouncing what somebody on the other side of the constitutional divide has said.

  11. Virgil Caine says:

    Here is something I just thought about – three years time in an independent Scotland, the workers go on strike again (when they are legally allowed to again – what a crock of shit that is!) and Ineos plays a similar card, what then plays out differently and how?

    1. Abulhaq says:

      Only in the British state is primary infrastructure, energy, transport etc allowed to be foreign owned. Continental Europeans know better; a difference we need to learn from.

  12. You’ve been somewhat selective (not for the first time), Mike, haven’t you?

    The newspaper to which I would give highest rating for objective coverage is the FT. My knowledge of and interest in financial matters is very low but I value in-depth objective analysis of policy matters highly.

    The headline of the FT’s lead story on Thursday (24th October) read: “Edinburgh and London unite in push to save Grangemouth”.

    The FT is neither the cheapest of reads nor the easiest, but… This weekend’s edition (26th/27th October) includes an in-depth and thought-provoking article by Richard Lambert entitled “British business must rebuild trust – or be forced to”.

    With one or two notable exceptions, I would rate as weak the quality of reporting and analysis of current affairs (Scottish and otherwise) by the media (print and broadcasting) in Scotland.

    1. bellacaledonia says:

      Selective? Guilty as charged. The image was taken fro a website called Paperboy, which didn’t include the FT. I don’t an didn’t doubt that there’s some coverage of the issue in England, my point was that in general it didn’t register and was swamped by royal ‘news’ and celebrity trivia.

      This is true, isn’t it?

      Of your statement: “With one or two notable exceptions, I would rate as weak the quality of reporting and analysis of current affairs (Scottish and otherwise) by the media (print and broadcasting) in Scotland” – I completely agree

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