From Scotland with Love *


By Mike Small

What a weird empty election campaign characterised by selfies, twitter-spats and endless debate about the outcome itself. Like the political equivalent of the mobile phone we’ve ignored the here and now for the somewhere else.

Convergence, daily polling releases and stage-managed photo-opportunities made this election more of a spectacle than a serious public discussion of policies or politics. This has been about bacon rolls and Ruth Davidson sitting on tanks and steam trains.

It has been both the most important and the most meaningless campaign ever.

Where has there been serious debate about our ecological future? (and the Greens are complicit in this). Where has there been serious discussion about international affairs? These massive issues have just been absent.

The commentators all agreed this was boring, dull and dreary as a weary cynicism took hold south of the border to be enervated only by a regular dose of Jockophobia. People slagged Miliband for talking to Russell Brand, Cameron for his fake ‘pumped up’ phase, Nick Clegg for being Nick Clegg and Farage for being a shallow dirty opportunist.

But messages from north of the border have rained-down an endless positivity. The fresh thinking of Commonweal, the emotional energy of the Greens, the continuity of Women for Indy, the edge of RIC and a hundred other projects have combined to create a residual energy bank from the Yes movement. The simple reality that 4 million people are registered to vote in Scotland is something we created.

It seems like one country is pegged down by a sort of fog of ambiguity, disinterest and ennui, not helped by a political ‘alternative’ that is desperately uninspiring, while another is still awash with a positivity that is as undeniable as it is unexplainable.

Go figure.

We seem to have undergone some kind of massive role-reversal. We seem to have one nation that is bitter and chippy and disillusioned and another that is increasingly confident about its place in the world. While England seemed precoccupied with Scotland, Scotland was going about its business, gallus and still imbibing with Yes movement good vibes.

Like the slightly desperate efforts to make Ed Miliband into a ruthless ‘back-stabbing’ mercenary, the idea of Nicola as a mad vicious separatist dissolved into a puddle of its own absurdity. Her mantra of ‘no referendum’, and her relentless message of moderate reasonable sensibleness was hard for even the most hardened hacks to re-convert in vicious spin. They tried.

But Scotland’s voice has meant we are the positive light in a dark and negative campaign – we will have increased turnout and voter engagement not just because of the beatification of Nicola Sturgeon nor the emptiness of the alternatives but because Britain is cracked, and people are wising up to this reality.

Questions of ‘legitimacy’ do nothing but feed the impression that Scotland is a barely acknowledged, barely allowed Northern neighbour.

Simon Jenkins has written that: “Scotland can be simply disposed. The Scots appear fed up with the English, and the English with the Scots. No amount of subsidy, economic scaremongering or fake emotion can overcome this message from north of the border.”

It’s a stunning comment amongst many.

This election is the first step on a longer journey.

Step out, step on.

  • This title is used simply to annoy my good friend King Creosote


Comments (22)

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  1. hossmackintosh says:

    Thanks Mike and the Bella Team,

    It is up to the voters of Scotland now but they are better informed than they have ever been thanks to your hard work.

    All the best to the Bella team.

    And here’s to an SNP Bonanza of MPs!

  2. douglas clark says:

    “her relentless message of moderate reasonable sensibleness…”

    She’s doing it, and she’s doing it deliberately!

  3. kate says:

    of course.

    at the same time sturgeon’s dresses are nearly always red or orange now. i think this is intended to create (subliminal) identification with traditional labour values.

    Sturgeon has offered UKLabour peace so often that if a tory press-business imposed tory govt follows the election reasonable blame cannot fall to her or the SNP.

    To claim victory with authority miliband needed to talk up the democratic legitimacy of all scottish, welsh & NI MPs.

    It is possible miliband has been paid off not to form a government, given his statements amount to a refusal of the possible avenues to becoming PM.

    Sturgeon’s relentless peacemaking offers to UKLabour, endlessly repudiated by them, allows the SNP to be more combative later in following its goals, whatever they may be under another tory UK govt – where progressive reforms will presumably be off the agenda.

    i think the SNP’s goals will be to show how little further power Scotland’s govt will have, how UKLabour refused to govern because it would not work with scotland & thus would not protect scotland from further austerity, how much worse austerity subsequently is and to prepare for the next independence campaign, by then acting on popular demand. If elected, who better than salmond for a fighting role?

    Sturgeon & salmond may produce a binary performance- good cop/ bad cop, female/ male, restrained/ passionate, humble/ arrogant, using faux contradictions between the two leaders while both work a joint game plan decided probably without consultation even with SNP MPs.

    Real democracy is hopefully for another day, in another more participatory political culture with more open & democratic institutions.

    At least when Sturgeon & co claim authority to represent scotland’s people is bestowed on them by the electorate it will pretty much be true, for the present – & much truer than for any other UK nation

  4. Justin says:

    This is all well and good — present and correct. But I don’t believe Ruth Davidson was actually IN that tank. I may be wrong, she might have been inside…but all I saw was the leader of the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party ON a tank. Like I’ve been on a plane or on a holiday.
    Your spot of the dreadful role reversal of the English and the Scots is canny and troubling. What price Trident now?

    1. Legerwood says:

      Ms Davidson was in the tank a la Mrs Thatcher.

  5. ScottieDog says:

    Yes Mike, hugely frustrating debates that talked about symptoms rather than the underlying problems in our society. the mention of the deficit and what to do with it – mulling over a gastric band without ever thinking how I got to this size.

    So tomorrow we will still continue to have an all powerful financial establishment which continue to run government through sweetners and non-exec non-jobs on the company board.

    We will be governed by people who don’t actually understand the role of banks and money in our economy. They will continue to be advised by neo-classically educated civil servants who also don’t understand the impact of money and banks in our economy.

    Problems will compound, our politicians will blame each other and the most vulnerable will continue to suffer.

    Will leave you with a sobering stat….

    Thanks for all your good work Mike.

  6. Thanks for your splendid contribution to the election campaign Mike!


    A clear choice.

    The same Tax & Spend socialists who always crash the Economy; or the Tories who are always called upon to clean up the mess.

    Last time shackled in coalition, so the rescue only half complete. This time as a majority government or again in coalition with the Liberals, the Tories certainly deserve the mandate to continue the job:

    1. tartanfever says:

      ‘so the rescue only half complete’ –

      yep, senior tories are very unhappy that the suicide rate among benefit ‘defrauders’ as you call them has only risen 30% over the last few years and not the desired 75%.

      another tory failure.

      1. broadbield says:

        Nevermind, IDS has the answer. His “independent” and bizarrely named think tank, the Centre for Social Justice knows exactly what’s wrong. It’s the people themselves – they are wholly responsible for their own misfortune. Nothing to do with government policy. There’s a wonderful photo of him on the website, looking every bit like Harry Lime in a run down estate – and we remember how Lime sold black market penicillin with horrific consequences for those who took his medicine. Is there a comparison here?

        The UK election has, for me, been one of the most depressing I have endured – the lies, the shallowness, the failure to lead, the relentless populism, the way Labour has danced to the Tory tune rather than arguing for fairness, equity, redistribution, public ownership, what used to be called socialism (no longer in their vocabulary) lest they upset their corporate masters, but mostly the lies from the 3 uk parties. By contrast, (yes, I’m biased) the SNP campaign led by NS has been a breath of fresh air.

    2. Richard Anderson says:

      Growth at 0.3% of GDP, national debt doubled, deficit at £100bn, manufacturing at 2% GDP, despite more jobs, tax take remains stubbornly low. Deficit that was due to disappear will not do so by 2020, if you believe the IMF, without further cuts. That’s success for you. Then we have EVEL without the allocation of a budget or devolution of responsibilities. You want MORE of this?

  8. gerry parker says:

    Thanks for everything Mike and the Bella Team.

    onwards and upwards.

    (had a great day through in Burntisland then Kinghorn on Monday.)


  9. allan thomson says:

    That’s conviction politicians for you!

  10. emilytom67 says:

    All of the named Sottish “parties” above gives me great hope that we in Scotland can actually make changes for a far far better society,”small acorns to large oaks”Saorse Alba/Erin go Bragh and whatever it is for Wales.

    1. Dean Richardson says:

      Cymru am byth, if I remember correctly.

      Let’s hope our neighbours break free from Westminster. That way, maybe we in England will realise how phoney all that Britishness is, and start being true to ourselves, and start building a more mature relationship within these islands.

  11. As the Tories have never won any election (and thereby had a mandate) in any Parliament / Assembly since 1992, it’s maybe little surprise they revert to their cheerleaders in the press to create one for them.

  12. John Page says:

    Thanks, Mike I really enjoyed this piece………especially your reminder about the environment.
    I think the next 2 years (Holyrood and Council elections) are going to be crucial……..the new members of the SNP and the Greens need to really emphasise a coherent agenda on anti fracking and green investment in transport, housing and food security

    1. Darien says:

      Don’t forget to emphasise jobs (i.e. real jobs, not all public sector), or is that not part of the Green’s ‘strategy’? Patrick Harvie appears to dislike economic growth, so where is his jobs agenda? Are we all supposed to live off the public sector in this ‘zero development’ green utopia? Has he not noticed Scotland has crumbling infrastructure compared with most developed nations? Is he aware that Scotland is not a competitive economy due to lack of investment in infrastructure past 40-50 years? A sustainable competitive economy is what we need to strive for. The Green’s have still to figure this out. What’s his big idea? Its easy to oppose every business development idea that comes along, but where are we heading if we have zero development? Continued economic decline seems to be the obvious answer.

  13. Assayer says:

    The advancement of the general education and understanding that the Scots people now possess on the matters of statehood and union is a significant and positive step forward; unprecedented in mature democracies. The English are now frightened. They had a shock during the Independence referendum which drew forth their inherent arrogance and cowardice, their victory distilled jeering dismissal of all things Scots and if left unchallenged would have buried all Scots aspirations, relegating an entire nation to that of a historic anomaly that now does its Saxon master’s will. The second knock on the door of reason, today’s results North of the border, leaves them reeling. Whilst the union has narrowly survived they have only Union to show for it, not their long enjoyed hegemony.

    1. Saor Alba says:

      The British State are frightened Assayer, as are the adherents to that state, including some Scots. Please don’t generalise on the English. They are not all as you portray them and your statement below

      “They had a shock during the Independence referendum which drew forth their inherent arrogance and cowardice, their victory distilled jeering dismissal of all things Scots”,

      is as bad as any I’ve heard from Cameron or Milliband or Farage. I hope you can spot the irony in your own statement. Don’t descend to Murphy-like sound-bites or to the hatred if the Westminster clowns.

      Consider the wonderfully clear and intelligent post (above) from Dean Richardson, who emphasises the need for mature relationships. The English nation will rediscover itself and there is no need for anyone here to shout them down. There are many arrogant people up here as well. It is the arrogance of the Union that is our common enemy.

  14. Darien says:

    ” 4 million people are registered to vote in Scotland ”

    Don’t forget that a couple of hundred thousand of those registrations were folk who really live in England and who have property in Scotland and registered in order to vote No last September. Plus the tens of thousands of students from England studying in Scotland. Plus all the friends of friends with property in Scotland who registered to vote No. I suppose this means all these folk will be able to vote twice at this election. Postal votes seem so easy to fiddle – its not as if our local councils have a clue as to what they are doing. If you say you live at an address in Edinburgh or St. Andrews that’s it, and no checks that you don’t also live in Saffron Walden or Aldeburgh.

  15. Clydebuilt says:

    In Today’s National were told that Old folk in Care homes have lost their votes in this election, despite assurances that anyone registered to vote in the Referendum would be able to vote. As most of these votes would be Postal. Can we expect this wil be another avenue for electoral fraud.

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