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Future Focused

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What is the source of people’s fear and lack of confidence? Some of it is inculcated by the No campaign, but some of it goes far deeper in our history and our psyche. At a recent public meeting Lesley Riddoch bemoaned two of these. First a deep-seated fear that somehow the land was ‘no good’, a folk-meme that has played into the hands of the landed classes who would be ‘stewards’ of this ‘difficult place’. Second is a fear – often repeated or stoked for whom it may benefit – that the ‘brain drain’ – whether it be from forced clearances in the 18th or 19th C (Fuadach nan Gàidheal) or from opportunity in the 20th – has resulted in the best people leaving. This is an idea fostered either by those who have left, or those who want to cultivate a sense of inferiorism for those remaining. It’s an odd and an old myth given a re-run by Ian Jack this weekend (‘Scottish émigrés are well-placed to see the true value of friendly union‘): “My main impression … is that Scotland is gradually being emptied of its population, its spirit, its wealth, industry, art, intellect and innate character,” wrote the poet Edwin Muir anxiously in 1935, but people of my father’s generation put it more simply: “All the best folk have left.”

Jack, whose main function seems to be to wallow in perpetual reverie for the 1950s, steam railways and the Isle of Bute is faced with a sense of personal loss about a post-Yes settlement. His sense of being stuck in the past is clear: “In Scotland, the critics of the unionist Better Together campaign say that it has failed to offer “a vision” to compete with independence. That, of course, is hardly possible. Campaigners for the status quo can only point backwards, towards real or imaginary achievements, as David Cameron has tried clumsily to do.”

Is that true? Why couldn’t those who advocate British identity and the great benefits mark a course for a future? Jack chunters on: “The great awkwardness of Scotland’s story from this nationalist perspective is that its golden age of innovation and enterprise came together with England’s in the 18th and 19th centuries. Those times may have gone, and the British Linen Bank with them, but great institutions without parallel in the world such the British Museum and the British Broadcasting Corporation still persist.”

I’m unable to comprehend a future without the British Museum, a low blow particularly after I’ve scarcely recovered from losing the great British Linen Bank. But this sort of melancholic forced-backwardness isn’t shared across London in Andrew Marr’s deeply-flawed essay for the New Statesman’s special ‘Scotland issue’ . Exploring a rather partial and odd concept of ‘Borgen Nationalism’ he asks what Unionist writers/artists could do to re-imagine or re-articulate Britain for the future:

But Britishness itself? Where would it even start, geographically or imaginatively? Are the British generations left with nothing more than yet another celebratory programme about the First World War? Institutions such as the NHS, the monarchy and even the BBC have already been reimagined for Scottish circumstances so they won’t do it. Like many others I was moved by the opening ceremony for the London Olympics but it was, in its 1945-welfarist way, as nostalgic as any kilted Bannockburn gathering.

If Labour can lead the way on Devo Something (Max, More, Plus…) then that would be interesting. There’s no sign whatsoever they can agree amongst themselves never mind take this idea and make it policy at UK level with their Unionist comrades. The whole venture has the stench of revanchism – a last ditch effort as they beel about blindly for answers to questions they don’t understand. But a decentralised Britain would be a step forward. A demilitarised one too, but these same parties hold dear to the military hardware as if it’s an intrinsic part of their (our?) DNA. A future Britain not defined by its Atlantacist ties to America but a keen partner in Europe would be a refreshing and enticing prospect. None of these ideas has any hope or signs of fruition. Britain remains a doggedly centralist, anti-European, imperial power for structural reasons of State which have become embedded in London political culture.

Marr, mistakenly juxtaposes ‘true nationalism’ (MacDiarmid) with Kathleen Jamie, part of a ‘milky alternative’. It’s this inability to see our dynamic pluralist forward-looking movement as key, that ties Marr to Jack, swithering in slightly bewildered negativity as a mass grassroots movement begins to find its feet, its voice and its future. “Come all ye” the country says.

Comments (26)

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  1. andygm1 says:

    I will take no lessons from Marr whose blatant prompting of Barrosso on his show to come out with his anti Scottish threats marked a new low in his reputation. That’s saying a lot after the revelations of the shenanigans in his personal life.

    Marr is a Unionist stooge who is working hand in glove with the No campaign, but without the guts to come out and admit it.

  2. PSH says:

    Top notch Mike. The mediocrity of the austerity neo-liberal right wing endorsing ‘socialists’ is jaw-dropping. Labour MP’s are like cats in a sack fighting for their jobs and credibility, stuck in their ethereal bubble of unreality. I would not trust them to organise a proverbial piss-up in a brewery. They are unfit to run Scotland even with limited powers. I TRUST the administrators we have in Edinburgh just now to run all of Scotland, although I would like to see a some other policies added to the White Paper. Tory Whitehall Empire minded elites (the public school boys who are born to rule) will get nastier as we close in on the 18th Sept as the ‘pesky Scots’ should not dare to demand any form of EQUALITY..Their Welfare State guru Mr james Bartholomew points the direction of the Welfare State: it will be dismantled and destroyed as private insurance schemes take over. If the Tories get in for another term, God help the North of England……as they have not alternative vision to turn to.

  3. bringiton says:

    Politics and economics are something which have become detached from ordinary working people.
    It is only the concern of the political elite in London who have been genetically programmed to make decisions on our behalf.
    Or so they would have us believe.
    Life is about people and not corporate profit but until we rid ourselves of Thatcher’s devotees in the Westminster political parties,nothing will change.
    If we in the YES campaign are successful in energising the silent (as in don’t see the point of voting) majority,then we may be lucky to see real political parties emerging who truly represent the views of their electorate.
    If not……..
    Excellent stuff Mike,thanks.

    1. bellacaledonia says:


  4. Clydebuilt says:

    March 2, 2014 • 18:32

    “Marr is a Unionist stooge who is working hand in glove with the No campaign, but without the guts to come out and admit it.”

    Aye he’s certainly a Unionist stooge. It might not be a lack of guts holding him back from admiting it. The wiley ones think they will be more use pretending to be on the fence. Finally coming out nearer the date hoping to have more influence.

  5. iainmacl says:

    There’s a broader issue about the relationship of those who have emigrated ‘down south’ in that, as a number admit, some of them have done rather well out of the British system. Fearing repercussions after an Indy vote for their particular status and suddenly becoming ‘foreign’ and hence it being questioned why so many of them are in such work, is part of the insecurity that feeds their animosity towards YES. Of course, this fear is unnecessary, but the uncertainty of how they redefine their concept of self in such a new political arrangement is at the heart of it. Furiously fighting against the sheer nerve of their uncouth relatives back home daring to pull the rug from under their slippered feet. It’s a completely distorted worldview and one in which self-interest is subconsciously (I’m being generous here) conflated with a sense of ‘trans-nationalist cosmopolitan sophistication’. Of course, it’s a nice, tame middle-class, radio 4 sort of version of some of the stuff Franz Fanon and others wrote about. 😉

    1. bellacaledonia says:

      Yes there’s a self-serving and self-reinforcing aspect to some of it: “Ive left and I’m clever aren’t I?’ But I do think we should always celebrate our diaspora and our internationalism!

  6. I look at those who perceive their “lack of ability” and think to myself”oh! fuck” sorry but the only way I can say/think it.

  7. iainmacl says:

    oh and those of us who are in exile but somewhat further afield, think it utterly ludicrous that Scotland should be anything but a full, independent state. We work across borders every day, we have different health, education and welfare systems. We argue over how useless our politicians are, how best to sort the economy, the relationship with the EU, all that stuff…it’s all normal political discourse, part of everyday life everywhere and yet, somehow, alone of all the nations those advocating independence for Scotland are expected to have answers to everything, a detailed blueprint of minutiae. Independence doesn’t bring certainty, it brings possibilities – and maybe that’s what is scariest of all for those in the no-mebbe camps.

  8. douglas clark says:

    There is amongst the London chatteratti, a great desire to talk about their childhoods. History lessons in balmy quadrangles where the master taught of glorious victories to enthralled pre-pubescent children. These dreams are a misremebarance of things past, misremembered by the historians of the victors and taught through schools to the grandchildren and great grandchildren of the winners.

    It is unfortunate that, despite all evidence that there are no continuations from these dreams to the present reality, they continue to offer them. And so it goes. Historical inexactitudes as a model for future failure?

    What should we make of Scots that denigrate Scotland?

    Maybe it is a sophisticated form of Stockholm Syndrome where the people who attack your group, but not you, are idolised as ‘right’ and your group is, by default, wrong. After all, as an individual, being North British never kept you back now, did it? This isolation of the individual from the group is very pleasing to those in ultimate control of your career, your life and your future. It is hardly surprising that ones entire intellect becomes beholden to serving that end. How it is seen in the smaller group that gave you birth, nurtured you and allowed you to fly free, is another question altogether.

    1. bellacaledonia says:

      Well said, clearer than I can put it …

    2. Reider O'Doom says:

      I’ve believed for 25 years that this form of collective Stockholm Syndrome exists. It’s only in the last year or so that people haven’t looked at me as if I’m completely crazed when I bring it up. In the last few weeks it seems to have gained such currency that it’s even started being referred to (on FB etc) as Jockholm Syndrome.
      Taking ownership of our own failings – collectively or as individuals – is only ever a positive step.

  9. Fay Kennedy says:

    I encounter this kind of attitude in the land down under and too often from Scots unfortunately. It completely dismays of course when I think about how mislead and ignorant so many of my kin are of their history and the current politics of the UK. Among family and friends I am a lone voice but it only makes me more committed about the possibility of Scotland coming to be something that I could only have dreamed of.This is a historical moment and for those who are aware of that we need to keep going with courage and commitment.

    1. Don McKillop says:

      My first post and unfortunately it is a negative one. I have lived in Melbourne for 50 years now and what you have stated is the opposite of what I find. All my friends are in favour of a yes vote, and that includes not only my Scot’s friends but those from Manchester and Yorkshire. Even the German side of my family want Scots to vote yes. It is a nonsense to say Australians are against Scotland breaking up the Union, I can assure readers of this site it is the opposite.

      1. Reider O'Doom says:

        Agreed, Don. I am currently an ex-pat and have been several times on-and-off in the past. My experience is that far-flung Scots yearn for an independent Scotland.
        My own yearning is such that I will be ending work here (in Spain) in July and moving with my family back to Scotland. I have no job to go to, but I would walk through fire to cast my YES vote.
        After that? Time, then, to help build a better Scotland.

  10. Andy Nimmo says:

    I’ve been intrigued by the apathy of so many of my countrymen.
    If you think about Glasgow Rangers for example. Ask their supporters do you think it’s right that your once proud and great club is being torn apart by successive spivs,con men and charlatans out to line the pockets of the already rich and the vast majority will say NO. Ask the same supporters do you think it’s right that your once great country is being torn apart by successive spivs,con men and charlatans out to line the pockets of the already rich and too many will say carry on chaps.
    I’m also intrigued by the term National Psyche and have touched upon it in my blog ‘Mrs Scotland – A Victim of Domestic Abuse? You can read it at http://justinfayresweeklyrant.wordpress.com

  11. douglas clark says:

    Thanks for that. It is up to us to sieze the day.

    saor alba.

  12. florian albert says:

    Yet another article much of which consists of Journalist A commenting on Journalists B and C.

    It starts with a question about people’s fear and lack of confidence. There is a real problem here but suggesting that it has been created by the No campaign is risible.
    Scotland’s lack of confidence derives from its recent (20th century) history. It started that century as one of the leaders of industrial technology. As the century went on, this lead was lost and the industrial society that had been created collapsed. Much of west central Scotland has never recovered from this. Nobody, least of all the Scottish Left, has come up with a viable replacement for the post industrial communities. A visit to Kilmarnock, Dumbarton or another 20 towns that could be named will show this.

    1. bellacaledonia says:

      Not really. I was trying to look at the reality that the claims for the Union struggle to make any vision of the future and explore why that is. Putting peoples lack of confidence – areal phenomena – in some sort of historical context is hardly ‘risible’.

      1. florian albert says:

        ‘What is the source of people’s fear and lack of confidence. Some of it is inculcated by the No campaign.’
        That is what was written and what I described as ‘risible.’
        As for it being ‘ a real phenomenon’, I wrote, ‘There’s a real problem here.’

        1. bellacaledonia says:

          Are you normally this rude?

      2. florian albert says:

        In response to Bella Caledonia (14.33. March 5th 2014)

        I am genuinely surprized to be described as rude.
        I believe that I made a legitimate point about the suggestion that the No campaign was partly responsible for Scotland’s lack of confidence.
        If it suggested that ‘risible’ is rude, I would say it is no more rude than the comment that Ian Jack ‘chunters on.’
        There is a wider point here. Bella Caledonia attracts commentators who – in the main – support it.
        This strikes me as a rerun of 1979. Supporters of devolution/independence failing to realize that there is a huge section of the population that it is failing to connect with.

        1. bellacaledonia says:

          Were very open to people who don’t agree with us, but we have a lower tolerance level than some sites about people being rude or abusive. Having dialogue with people you don’t agree with is one thing, being abused by them is another.

          Ian Jack does chunter on.

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