Scotland Continental

Idioma de EuropaflagsColumba, herring, Burns and Ossian helped put Scotland in Europe a long time ago, argues Neal Ascherson.

In those stunned days after the Brexit vote was declared, John Swinney spoke to the Scottish Parliament. The Scots had voted to ‘Remain’, but the English UK majority had voted to ‘Leave’. Swinney had to explain why the First Minister wasn’t there to speak for herself at such a moment. And he gave an impressive reason. On hearing the shocking news, he said, she had at once gone to Europe.

‘Gone to Europe?’ It didn’t occur to him that Nicola Sturgeon and John Swinney and some five million others in his nation were already living in Europe and its Union. But that verbal gaffe was all too revealing. If you are Dutch or Czech, Europe is simply ‘here’, for better or worse. For most Scots, even the most Europhile, their sense of Europe is still that it’s somehow ‘over there’.

It’s of course to do with insularity – living on an island. The Scottish island awareness is much less aggressive than the English (‘God dug the bloody Channel for us, so why do we keep trying to fill it in?’). But the Irish live on an island too, and over two generations the sense of being European has been grafted into Irish identity. Religious affinity played a minor part. Much more important was the notion that membership of Europe, in which France and Spain had historically supported Irish struggles, finally brought Irish independence out into the bigger world and beyond the heavy shadow of Great Britain.

Some of those Irish motives can be seen in Scotland’s vigorous vote to ‘Remain’. Material things were important: Scotland’s reliance on EU support programmes for infrastructure, farming and social purposes was always more obvious and less dispensable than that of the rest of the UK. Immigration from Poland and the Baltic republics was encouraged by Scottish governments, in complete contrast to Westminster attitudes. Higher education will suffer painfully without its European students and teaching staff. (Fisheries were the exception: I’d guess that almost everyone in Scotland connected with the fishing industry voted Leave).

But there were political motives too: the resentment at a referendum all too clearly engineered by an English Tory faction, and the fear that the UK’s massive English majority could force upon Scotland a huge strategic change which Scots did not want. And – as in Ireland – there was the widespread idea that EU membership could be used to spread international recognition of Scotland’s distinctness and – for many – as a path towards national independence.

Scotland’s historic relationship with continental Europe has been spasmodic. The ‘Columban’ period sent Iona missionaries and their disciples across west-central Europe. The mediaeval ‘Auld Alliance’ with France helped at times to protect Scotland’s independence against English incursions. In the early-modern centuries, Scottish settlers colonised the Vistula basin , established trading posts in the Low Countries and Atlantic France, and provided thousands of mercenary soldiers and officers who devastated the continent with almost every European army, including Russia’s. The leaders of Scotland’s Presbyterian Reformation, often under threat or subject to actual persecution, took refuge in the cities and universities of the Netherlands throughout the seventeenth century.

But the Unions of 1603 and 1707 steadily turned Scotland’s emphasis away from Europe and towards the North Atlantic, and then towards the expanding British Empire in tropical continents. France, once invoked as the natural ally against England, now became the enemy threatening ‘British freedom’ , whether led by Louis XIV or Napoleon. The 18th-century Jacobite rebellions in Scotland, growing in scale and intensity, involved vain attempts to revert to that older pattern of invoking French or Spanish support against English pressures.

After the Union, as educated Scots learned to suppress remaining nostalgia for independence, national feeling in Scotland often went into displacement activity – passionate commitment to somebody else’s liberation . James Boswell’s promotion of Corsican independence and its hero Paoli is one example. Another is the extraordinary surge of Scottish enthusiasm for Poland, after that nation was partitioned and suppressed in the 1790s.

The poet Thomas Campbell made Polish independence the cause of his life. Another Scottish example was the response to the failure of the 1831 rising against Russia: a colossal Whig banquet in Edinburgh’s Assembly Rooms which was planned as a fund-raiser for ‘Polish exiles’.  Several hundred worthy male guests took their seats (their wives packed into a gallery at the back) for a feast which lasted from afternoon to one in the morning, heard something like sixteen long speeches about Polish rights and history and drank at least as many toasts to Poland’s freedom. (A single Tory was present. When he objected that all this independence chatter might give the Irish ideas, he was shouted down).

If Scotland’s awareness of other European countries was intermittent, European awareness of Scotland was pretty unfocused until the late eighteenth century. The awakening took two forms. One was material: the whole Russian empire, for example, came to eat Scottish herring, while ‘improvement’ and early industrial development brought Scottish engineers and agricultural experts from the Lowlands to estates and cities all over central and eastern Europe.

If Scotland’s awareness of other European countries was intermittent, European awareness of Scotland was pretty unfocused until the late eighteenth century. The awakening took two forms. One was material: the whole Russian empire, for example, came to eat Scottish herring, while ‘improvement’ and early industrial development brought Scottish engineers and agricultural experts from the Lowlands to estates and cities all over central and eastern Europe.

The other Scottish influence was cultural. Almost every European and Russian intellectual read ‘Ossian’, which reinforced Johann Gottfried Herder’s theories about the validation of ‘historic nations’ through a heritage of ancient epic poetry. An imaginary Scotland now emerged, a foggy moorland in which tragic giants moved among lonely burial cairns, soon to be joined by the ‘romantic ‘ cast of Walter Scott’s translated best-sellers. As the nineteenth century began, the works of Robert Burns were translated into many European languages, overlaying the image of a land in which picturesque loyalties bound laird to tenant or chief to clansman with the picture of a more astringent, individualist Scotland. Scholars today may have doubts about Burns’s commitment to revolution; the European revolutionaries of the liberal-nationalist insurrections half a century later had no such doubts. The Scots, for them, were a people who had seen through the pretensions of rank, birth and privilege; Burns, they thought, would have carried the same red flag. In Berlin, off Friedrichstrasse, you can still find a bronze wall-plaque where revolutionaries defended a barricade in 1848, and it carries a German translation of ‘A Man’s a Man ..’ In European fiction, hardy, self-sure Scots appear as characters – for instance, in the historical novels of Henryk Sienkiewicz. And Joseph Conrad invented iron-willed Captain MacWhirr, in Typhoon: ‘Facing it – always facing it – that’s the way to get through’.

Through almost all that past, up to the twentieth century, Scotland has seen itself as a ‘donor’ nation, a country which people wanted to leave as emigrants rather than to enter as new settlers. The second world war began to change that: not only through the stationing of a Polish army in Scotland but through the presence of many thousands of German and Italian prisoners of war . Many of these ‘foreigners’ chose to stay and settle, joining the large Italian community which had suffered from xenophobic outbursts at times but which had none the less become absolutely rooted in Scottish society. The year 2004 opened Britain to free movement from the post-Communist countries which had joined the European Union, bringing Scotland to the point at which Polish is now the nation’s second language (or third, counting Scots), more widely spoken than Gaelic or Urdu.

The Brexit moment hits Scotland at a time when the sense of European identity is still shallow-rooted, in spite of the ‘Remain’ vote in July. It’s suggestive that there’s a steep increase now in Scots applying for Polish passports, usually on the grounds of a Polish grandfather; these are people prepared to take a big identity-stride in order to stay European. But the Scottish Government’s desperate efforts to maintain a recognisable Scottish presence in the EU after Brexit still don’t have the popular support they deserve.

Almost half the nations in the EU are Scotland-sized, around five million or a bit more or less. An independent Scotland would fit well into some of these smaller-nation groupings. But it’s argued now that the notion of a nice, social-democratic Scanwegian Scotland is no longer convincing; partly because old-fashioned social democracy in these Nordic/Baltic nations has weakened and changed and partly because Scotland’s main problems are not Scandinavian. They are the legacies of Scotland’s breakneck heavy industrialisation and urbanisation in the last 150 years – and of the almost total collapse of that economy. That is not the portrait of Denmark or Finland.

Almost half the nations in the EU are Scotland-sized, around five million or a bit more or less. An independent Scotland would fit well into some of these smaller-nation groupings. But it’s argued now that the notion of a nice, social-democratic Scanwegian Scotland is no longer convincing; partly because old-fashioned social democracy in these Nordic/Baltic nations has weakened and changed and partly because Scotland’s main problems are not Scandinavian. They are the legacies of Scotland’s breakneck heavy industrialisation and urbanisation in the last 150 years – and of the almost total collapse of that economy.

But, as it happens, it is the portrait of a good many other small nations in the EU. These are countries which emerged after 1989 from the collapse of Communist regimes. There, as in Scotland, heavy state industries closed down, their workers living in vast public housing schemes were stranded and money drained out of the welfare state – leaving populations plagued by ill-health and struggling to survive in a market economy.

There are two possible approaches. One is to stand back and let market forces rip: what survives will be what – and who – deserves to survive. The other is to attack such problems head-on. That means heavy-lifting solutions – the temporary use of state subsidy and interference in the market on a scale which the present European Union bans. But if an independent Scottish government chose the second way, calling for the revolution in social and economic thinking which is so overdue in the European Union, Scotland would find many allies.

Comments (28)

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  1. Crubag says:

    A fair article overall, but for balance:

    “The Scots had voted to ‘Remain’, but the English UK majority had voted to ‘Leave’.” Should be “The Scottish majority voted to Remain (as indeed voted No)…”

    At 40%, the Scottish leave vote is not insignificant, and given that we haven’t been swallowed up by a space monster, or whatever else Remain were promising, that could well go higher if there was a re-run.

    And the author is right in highlighting the current constraints that the Union brings for smaller nations, but it is not a stable union. Without the UK as a the blocker/scapegoat, the other members will need to consider if they really do want a closer union – with a common budget and common taxation policy to go with the common currency – or a looser union than at present.

    1. Juteman says:

      A fair comment, but 38% voted to leave, not 40%.

  2. florian albert says:

    I recently re-read ‘Games With Shadows’, a collection of Neal Ascherson’s journalism from the 1980s.
    If anything, it was even better than when I first read it around 1990.

    This article is a disappointment. The truth is that, as he himself admits, Scotland has little sense of itself as a European nation.
    At the end he suggests a way forward for Scotland, ‘temporary use of state subsidies and an interference in the market’.
    Unhappily, he stops there. The devil is in the detail of deciding what the state should do once it has made this decision. In the past, it involved propping up industries to protect jobs; admirable but unsuccessful.
    The Scottish state does not have a good record of basic things such as ensuring that school pupils learn to read and write. How many Scots would have confidence in the state to pick the appropriate vehicles to bring about economic renewal ? Enough confidence to want their taxes used in this way ?

    1. Graeme Purves says:

      Scotland has a strong sense of itself as a European nation. It has a strong tradition of progressive social, economic and spatial planning and a proud record in educating it’s people dating back to at least the 16th century. You don’t appear to know very much about the country at all.

      1. florian albert says:

        ‘ a proud record in educating its people’

        This may have been true in the 16th century. Sadly, in the 21st century it is not so.
        The First Minister has made dealing with the ‘attainment gap’ her first priority. (‘Educational apartheid’ as Gerry Hassan calls it.)
        This when the SNP has been in power for nearly a decade.

        1. Graeme Purves says:

          That’s the flimsiest of spin! The “attainment gap” is not a new thing. It is a post-industrial phenomenon closely associated with class and social deprivation and was there long before the SNP formed a government. We are lucky in Scotland that we have a broad political consensus committed to closing it.

          1. florian albert says:

            You describe the attainment gap as a post-industrial phenomenon. Scotland’s industrial society started to collapse in the 1960s and by 1983 it was largely gone.
            Now, more than 30 years later, there is a broad political consensus that something must be done.
            Your comment reinforces, rather than undermines, my criticism of Scottish education.

          2. Graeme Purves says:

            The attainment gap has a much longer heritage than you suggest, dating back at leas to the inter-war depression. Scotland has a deeply entrenched geography of disadvantage which corresponds closely to the Scottish Coalfield areas of Ayrshire, Lanarkshie, the Lothians and West Fife. To an extent, this was masked by economic buoyancy and full employment before the crash in 2008, but it has emerged against since. Tackling it is challenging, because it can’t be done using educational levers alone. It requires a co-ordinated suite of social, educational, economic and cultural measures.

            To present this policy challenge as an example of SNP ‘badness’ is a banal and facile piece of propaganda bereft of historical perspective.

  3. Alf Baird says:

    “Higher education will suffer painfully without its European students and teaching staff.”

    Discuss, with reference to Scotland’s long-term weak economy, worsening inequality and widening wealth gap, with only around 25% of Scots educated to degree level, with Scots academics now making up only around a third of academic staff at our ‘elite’ universities and falling, with our ‘elite’ university focus on welcoming mainly the children of the wealthy global elite (incl. their higher student fees), and with over 80% of PhD students at elite uni’s (i.e. ‘our’ future academics) also coming from outside Scotland.

    Wha’s like us? Damn few other European nations, that’s for sure.

    1. Legerwood says:

      http://www.independent.co.uk/news/education/education-news/scotland-the-best-educated-country-in-europe-claims-ons-report-9497645.html

      Something confirmed by the OECD report on Scottish Education in December 2015.

      Room for improvement in some areas but not as black as some would like us to believe.

  4. A. Hamilton says:

    As a Doctoral student in German and Central European History, I feel compelled to challenge Neal Ascherson assertion to the notion of ‘the Romantic Historical Nation’ and the fusion of an imagined collective past on contemporary politics and power and the notion that liberal collective identity is predicated on the Nation as State.

    ‘..Almost every European and Russian intellectual read ‘Ossian’, which reinforced Johann Gottfried Herder’s theories about the validation of ‘historic nations’ through a heritage of ancient epic poetry…’

    Non more so than the Nazi party (and in fact all fascists of the time, left and right – it is a shifting process not an absolute) who embraced ‘primordial modernism’ and ‘invented historic nations’ through ‘invented histories’, and a static notion of ‘national songs and poetry’ over and above a questioning liberal changing and shifting order (when that order challenged, they called it degenerate). This celebration of the primordial collective will of history is pandering to the causality of extremism.

    Such notions, as expressed in this article…

    ‘An imaginary Scotland now emerged, a foggy moorland in which tragic giants moved among lonely burial cairns, soon to be joined by the ‘romantic ‘ cast of Walter Scott’s translated best-sellers. As the nineteenth century began, the works of Robert Burns were translated into many European languages, overlaying the image of a land in which picturesque loyalties bound laird to tenant or chief to clansman with the picture of a more astringent, individualist Scotland. Scholars today may have doubts about Burns’s commitment to revolution; the European revolutionaries of the liberal-nationalist insurrections half a century later had no such doubts. The Scots, for them, were a people who had seen through the pretensions of rank, birth and privilege; Burns, they thought, would have carried the same red flag. In Berlin, off Friedrichstrasse, you can still find a bronze wall-plaque where revolutionaries defended a barricade in 1848, and it carries a German translation of ‘A Man’s a Man ..’

    ‘…were the fundamental justification and rallying point around which the 20th century Fascist movements excused their actions and existence. They also almost universally appealed to a false sense of equality, of breaking the old established hierarchy and order and reinstating it with a more ancient myth of a ‘national type’ that almost always rhetorically rejected rank – the issue was about ‘belonging’ to a specific group which being a group, had no rational space for the individual and thus no hierarchy (even though in practice this was an utter nonsense.) A Man’s a Man… so long as he belonged to the culture, language and struggle (which ever on that may have been – there were many in 1848.)

    Herder ‘theories’ of nationalism (unlike Kant who was a deep and vocal Anti-Semite and a faux Cosmopolitan) may have ostensibly been grounded in a Liberal Cosmopolitan but they are any less troubling for it – Herder for the most part was skeptical of rejected the metaphysical postulations commonly associated with Neitzsche, Fichte (Wissenschaftslehre ) and of course Hegel that was the intellectual influence on 20th century German and Central European Fascism.

    Also it must be pointed out that Herder rejected Prussian, Bavarian or Austrian nationalism as narrow and parochial and opted for a wider Germanic nationalism, more akin to British Nationalism than Scottish. Ditto with Polish, Russian, Baltic or Balkan Nationalism. Herder gave intellectual voice to the very troubling notion of Pan Slavic Nationalism and Pan Orthodox Nationalism – the consequences can be seen today in Greece’s Golden Dawn and the far right in Putin’s Russia, Serbian romantic nationalism, and as a counter force the reaction in Hungary, Turkey, Germany, Scandinavia. All these nationalisms are part of the same jigsaw puzzle (and that includes Scottish nationalism).

    It is claimed that Herder ostensibly rejected the notion of ethnic nationalism due to it not being based on a pseudo scientific Darwinian construct (primarily because he lived prior to Darwin). However, just as there was never any truth in Social Darwinism there is equally no truth in the notion of a single indivisible root (cultural and linguistic) of a single people – Herder, in part, helped invent Aryan Germany and laid it’s foundation. The idea that the Pan Germanic people and nation were descended from the ‘High and Noble’ enlightened Indo-Persian Empire, as opposed to say the base unenlightened ‘parasitic Jews’ who were not.

    And the the Nazi’s adopted Herder entire, precisely because there was no overarching ethnic unity among the disparate pasts and histories – cultural, linguistic, ethnic – of German states. Pomeranian was a long way from Austria just ass Prussian Konigsberg was a long way from the Alsace (All four you will note are no longer within the contemporary German state ).

    Herder’s notion of the ‘Volkgeist’ was perhaps the most damaging and most violently perversion of human history of the modern age. It was an absurd and dangerous fallacy that led to the Holocaust. To replicate that with an Ossiangeist (a constructed completely false history) as many Scottish romantic nationalists do is troubling to say the least. I won’t mention Hugh Macdairmid. The history of modern states are culturally, linguistically, politically and ethnically disparate. There is no such thing as a truly liberal nationalism.

    As their was no genuine ‘primordial’ cultural or linguistic unity to any modern state, in order to justify their nationalism, 20th century fascists instead had to ‘invent’ a unified culture and seamless history and in order to create the necessary false division with others. They then fused this with the political and I’m sure you know the rest. It was only ever about the delusions of power and not about genuine culture or history which is fluid; for Italian nationalists it was the seamless link to the great Roman Empire and Romulus and Remus; the Germans, the Aryan ‘Enlightened’ folk myth, the English/ British, Arthur and Camelot and so on. They used this created myth to undermine the liberal notion of rights which rejects such a collectivist and singular notion of history and the primacy of the individual.

    Simply put the Volkgeist ‘the spirit of the Volk’ had no choice but to be Aryan, and indulge in the Aryan lie. The notion of ‘the eternal nation’ is one of the most terrifying in history. Please don’t wrap it in a Saltire.

    As for the rest of the article, the selectiveness of the history is at points bizzare. I won’t go through them all except perhaps to point out that the Irish also rejected the EU in a recent referendum, that Westminster was the only institution to fully and completely open it’s door to free movement under New Labour (unlike Germany, France, Sweden, Denmark etc), and to point out that Denmark only really moved to industrialism as late as the 1970’s and like the other Scandinavian countries was predominantly historically agricultural based on universal landownership rather than strict feudal hierarchy as in Scotland or our 400 + years of industry. Simply put Scandinvian Social Democracy and Equality is predicated on those states always being equal and not so much because of contemporary policy. It is also predicated on close social unity – foreigners are not particularly welcome – see Danish immigration policy and the success of the organised far right in recent elections -who use uncomfortably similar language to Scottish Nationalists – anti establishment, defining themselves against an other; the fishing industry in Scotland does not constitute the 1 million or so who voted to leave the EU in Scotland, nor the larger group who abstained. And the primary place of refuge for persecuted Scottish refomers was England. Indeed John Knox spent much of his life in England under the protection of the Church of England.

    One final point of contention regarding Scotland.

    ‘…Through almost all that past, up to the twentieth century, Scotland has seen itself as a ‘donor’ nation, a country which people wanted to leave as emigrants rather than to enter as new settlers. The second world war began to change that: not only through the stationing of a Polish army in Scotland but through the presence of many thousands of German and Italian prisoners of war . Many of these ‘foreigners’ chose to stay and settle, joining the large Italian community which had suffered from xenophobic outbursts at times but which had none the less become absolutely rooted in Scottish society. The year 2004 opened Britain to free movement from the post-Communist countries which had joined the European Union, bringing Scotland to the point at which Polish is now the nation’s second language (or third, counting Scots), more widely spoken than Gaelic or Urdu..’

    It’s curious that you omit by far the largest and most influential immigrant groups into the Scottish nation, those being the Irish and English. Is it perhaps because their otherness is ‘imagined?’

    1. Broadbield says:

      I can’t really make out what you’re trying to say about nationalism. I think most of us know there’s no such thing as a cultural, ethnic, linguistic or any other kind of unity – we are all the descendants of immigrants since the last ice age, and genetically less diverse than those living in parts of Africa. But I feel Scottish and I want us to be in charge of our own affairs. That’s enough for me.

    2. Graeme Purves says:

      My, that was a bit of a ramble!

  5. Richard MacKinnon says:

    I have no issues with Neal Ascherson’s article up until the last paragraph. The article preceeding deals with Scotland’s past and present and like I say Neal undestands and describes how we got to where we are with no complaints from me. But it is his ideas of Scotland’s future path(s) in this last para that I have to take issue with.
    “There are two possible approaches. One is to stand back and let market forces rip:……………… ” (bad?) and, “The other is to attack such problems head-on. That means heavy-lifting solutions – the temporary use of state subsidy and interference in the market on a scale which the present European Union bans. ” (good?)
    I disagree with Neal. Borrowing money, which is what ‘state subsidy’ means, for others to pay back at a later date is wrong, which ever way you dress it, call it ‘heavy lifting solutions’ it does’nt change the fact, it is morally indefensible for a government to spend money it has not raised itself.
    But I am not alone in my disagreement with Neal’s conclusions; on his own admission the EU disagrees with him as well. They, the organisation that Neal Ascheson respects so highly does not allow member states to borrow money to subsidise domestic industry.
    I dont see the point of proposing unworkable ideas or am I missing something here? is Neal Ascherson looking ahead to a time when Scotland as part of an independent UK may be in a position to run up debt without restraint?

    1. Graeme Purves says:

      As Richard Murphy never tires of telling us, there has never been a better time to borrow money.

      1. Richard MacKinnon says:

        Graeme,
        I dont know who Richard Murphy is I am sure he is of good stock but he is wrong about borrowing money. There is never a good time to borrow.

        1. Graeme Purves says:

          Richard Murphy is Professor of Practice in International Political Economy at City University, London, and a leading expert on public revenues and taxation. I think he knows what he is talking about.

          1. Broadbield says:

            Even as PFI was getting a toehold under Brown to keep public expenditure of the balance sheet (zombie accounting) more enlightened folk were saying it made more sense to borrow as interest rates then were low. Now, they are stupidly low, so the argument is even stronger. Borrow to invest, most non-neoliberal economists would agree.

  6. bringiton says:

    We are about to experience an onslaught of EU bad UK good propaganda from HM press over the next 6 months with lots of stories about the “opportunities” leaving the EU presents.
    However,it cannot hide the fact that at the root of the situation is the refusal by England’s parliament to share sovereignty with anyone,and that includes Scotland.
    If we just roll over and do nothing,it will be an acceptance by Scots of this reality and that the so called union of British nations is no longer.
    The existence of Scotland’s parliament will definitely come under threat from Tory governments who will feel free to do pretty well what they like with us.
    Much more at stake for Scots than simply just trading arrangements.

  7. florian albert says:

    Graeme Purves

    ‘The attainment gap has a much longer heritage than you suggest’
    I did not refer to when the attainment gap started.

    You started praising Scottish education and have now reached the point of accepting that, for a couple of generations, it has not been good for working class children.

    It is not about SNP badness. It is about SNP mediocrity. It is about the SNP continuing to fail as SLAB failed. It is about the SNP appointing somebody – Angela Constance – to be in charge of education. (Like a succession of SLAB education ministers, she proved out of her depth.) It is about the SNP continuing with Curriculum for Excellence because it had no ideas of its own and failed to see, as so many teachers did, that it was ‘mince’.

    1. Graeme Purves says:

      A weak response. Your time-frame was clearly and explicitly post-war deindustrialisation, a process deliberately accelerated by Westminster governments under Mrs. Thatcher in the 1980s.

      But I suspect your primary concern is not with improving educational attainment.

      1. florian albert says:

        When I point out that Scottish governments, both SLAB and SNP, have failed to give young Scots a decent education, your response is insult and innuendo.
        The failure of Scottish schools is our failure. We should have a sense of shame.

        1. Graeme Purves says:

          That’s because the claim you are making is an absurd piece of propaganda and doesn’t merit further comment. Young Scots do get a decent education. The issue that policy is seeking to address is differential attainment.

          1. florian albert says:

            ‘Young Scots do get a decent education.’
            Do they get a very good education ?’ I would say that many do but that a significant number of youngsters do not.
            What you call differential attainment others call educational apartheid. The fact that the SNP government has made it its main priority – at least in theory – suggests there is a massive problem.

          2. Graeme Purves says:

            My proposition would be that the great majority of children in Scotland already get an education which is some considerable way better than “decent”, but that we should continue to try to do better. Your propositions (see above) were that SNP and Labour administrations had failed to give young Scots a decent education and that Scottish schools have failed. Both are absurd distortions of reality for the purposes of political propaganda.

  8. florian albert says:

    My view is that many children – mostly in the least prosperous areas – get a mediocre education.
    There are a number of reasons for this. Political indifference is probably the main one. The SNP has stated it is now its main priority. We will see if this amounts to much.
    Forget about ‘political propaganda’. Respond to what I have written.

    1. Graeme Purves says:

      I have, of course, already done so, but I am happy to recapitulate.

      Your claims fall within the realm of propaganda because they are driven by political prejudice and a determination to allocate blame rather than any desire to understand the nature of the problem or identify possible remedies. They lack historical perspective and are framed too narrowly on the performance of the educational system given that poor educational attainment is strongly correlated with social disadvantage and a range of social, economic and cultural measures will be required if it is to be addressed successfully. Finally, they seriously misrepresent the performance of staff in our schools and the achievement of pupils in general. All that said, it is apparent from your insistence on making them, that they meet some strong personal emotional need.

  9. florian albert says:

    ‘Your claims… meet some strong personal emotional need.’

    Thanks for your amateur psychoanalysis.

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