2007 - 2021

Gaslighting Scotland

It’s the marching season in Belfast and Glasgow. The ethno-religious superiority of the Protestants will be on display emboldened by their pact and their raid on the coffers of Westminster. It’s the pinnacle of Britishness, a hyper-nationalism. Let’s hope it goes well.

What we have here is the emerging outline of an authoritarian regime based on traditional ‘values’, fear of “other”, homophobia and an appeal to the abstract ‘Nation.’ It’s only possible to create such a regime with a level of passivity to rapid change. Culturally the value that’s being celebrated today is obedience.

The New Patriotism

From Priti Patel to Wendy (“None of us need to know”) from Plymouth through to Angela Leadsom’s extraordinary call for “patriotic broadcasting” to Ruth Davidson being appointed a Colonel, to David Davis – who resigned over ID cards but is now introducing them for EU citizens, to the dirty deal done with the DUP, we are entering a new era of extreme British nationalism based on an unquestioning loyalty and quietism.

If this was happening in an another country we would look-on astonished and alarmed as this move to the right and to the use of authoritarian language appears before us.

This false sense of “national unity” is being evoked from a group of politicians desperately pulling together as they enter a minefield of negotiations they are ill-prepared for. They are evoking and stoking a new and sinister patriotism.

Leadsom the leader of the House of Commons said: “It would be helpful if broadcasters were willing to be a bit patriotic. The country took a decision, this government is determined to deliver on that decision.”

Emily Maitlis, who was presenting the show, asked Leadsom if she was accusing broadcasters of being unpatriotic .

“Are you accusing me of being unpatriotic for questioning how negotiations are going, questioning whether you have the position of strength that she said she wanted?”

Leadsom replied: “I’m not accusing you of anything, Emily. I’m simply saying we all need to pull together as a country. We took a decision a year ago today to leave the European Union, we have a very strong hand and we are very well prepared for the negotiations.”

This is a threat to a free media (and we didn’t take a decision a year ago.)

The devolution settlement is being undermined at every turn, and the very concept of the Opposition is being re-framed.

Priti Patel the International Development Secretary, and co-author of ‘Britannia Unchained: Global Lessons for Growth and Prosperity’ the most right-wing tract to appear in Britain for a great many years, said of the Labour Party:

“Their role should be in supporting the Government, supporting the Government through these negotiations and also supporting our 12 negotiating objectives as well…We have set out our negotiating objectives. These are not objectives that should be fought across in the United Kingdom, as if we were having a rerun of the referendum last year.”

Patel wrote Britannia Unchained with Dominic Raab, Kwasi Kwarteng, Chris Skidmore, and Elizabeth Truss – all members of a new far-right Conservative parliamentary faction called the Free Enterprise Group.

Raab wrote a paperfor the Centre for Policy Studies (CPS) – one of the radical right’s most forthright thinktanks – urging that “the definition of fair dismissal should be widened … to encompass inadequate performance … [This] would help employers get the best from their staff.”

These aren’t rogue backbenchers or the old school “Hang em and flog em” brigade that used to appear on the fringe of the Conservative Party. Those are the people running the show.

This is the cabinet.

Traditional Values

Ruth Davidson is about to marry an Irish/Catholic woman and her sexuality is frequently flaunted as proof-positive of her progressive credentials, and yet the Tory party seems riddled with homophobia.

Stephen Kerr, the new MP for Stirling is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. One of their key messages is that “Marriage: defined as a man and a woman”. Last week the Sunday Herald revealed last week that gay men were “outed” by homophobic church leaders when Kerr was a high-ranking figure in the church amidst further fears that the church had a policy of getting its representatives into positions of political power “Revealed: Tory MP in fresh equality row over church’s stance on equal marriage and ordination of black priests”.

The Sunday Herald reported:

“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints did not allow black people to become priests until June 1978 when it was said “the Lord revealed” that all “worthy men” could be ordained whatever their colour. Kerr was asked why black people had second-class status in the church when he appeared on Channel Five programme Do you believe in?, broadcast in August 1998. He said: “I don’t know. We don’t know. None of us know. Only God knows.”

Now we’re told that the newly appointed Work and Pensions Secretary Stephen Crabb has links to a ‘gay cure’ organisation.

Pink News reported that the MP employed interns in his parliamentary office through a scheme organised and funded by Christian Action Research and Education (CARE). CARE has previously sponsored events which refer to gay and bisexual people as “sexually broken” and advocating that they can become “ex-gay”.

The Conservatives may find their new allies to share some of their own questionable ‘values’.

Ian Paisley Junior’s father founded an organisation called ‘Save Ulster from Sodomy’.

Paisley Jr has spoken of his “hatred” of homosexuality, saying: “I am pretty repulsed by gay and lesbianism. I think it is wrong. I think that those people harm themselves and – without caring about it – harm society.”

His views are shared across the party. Gregory campbell, the MP for East Londonderry has described homosexuality as:  “an evil, wicked, abhorrent practice. My opposition to that is based on the Bible and also based on natural justice and I know many people who do not share my Protestant faith but who would share my opposition to homosexuality because they believe it is something which would corrupt society as a whole, and is something so radically awful as to merit total and utter opposition. You’re not even talking about someething which is a run of the mill sexual practice but something which is totally and utterly depraved. The AIDS scare which is currently running through America is proof that homosexual practice is something which calls upon the curse of God.”

“I would see homosexuality as something which merited the curse of God.” He continued: “AIDS came about because of sexual contact between homosexuals. Now that to me is something which shows in a small way that there is more than just human opposition to homosexuality.”

It will be interesting to see how the libertarian wing of the Conservative Party deal with the explicit homophobia of their Protestant brothers.

Under the new patriotism, all principle should be set-aside for the common good.

This is a bonfire of human rights akin to the bonfire of red tape thats become so unpopular recently. Women’s rights are undermined by the alliance with the DUP that have been steadfastly against the right to an abortion for years, an issue quietly forgotten about in the furore. Now we’re told that “EU citizens living in the UK will be forced to apply for identity cards after Brexit”. 

And of course at the very heart of the DUP worldview is an aversion to catholicism. As David Jamieson has outlined their vision is inspired by a religious fundamentalism:

“The DUP is only partly the product of British Nationalism and political loyalism. Its world view is deeply impacted by religious thought.”

“For Paisley, the Plantation of Ulster in the 1600s, which saw English and Scottish Protestant farmers colonise parts of the North West, was an important part of God’s plan for the world – and for the end of the world. Liberalism made a major impact on Protestantism, and other religions and denominations, throughout the twentieth century. Paisley thought this “apostasy” was part of the end of the world, foretold in the book of Revelations in the Bible. He resisted liberalism – insisting on a fundamentalist interpretation of the Bible. He especially resisted ecumenism, the movement towards reconciliation between the world’s Christian denominations. ‘Protestant Ulster’ would hold out against the tide.

He believed these developments were part of a global conspiracy, conducted by the Catholic Church and the Pope, who he believed was the anti-Christ foretold in Revelations. He believed that the Irish Catholic community’s demands for reform of the sectarian state were stimulated by the conspiracy, as were the republican movement and mainstream unionism.

The EU was also part of this “Romanism”, and he resisted it all his life. In 1988 he heckled Pope John Paul II at the European Parliament and held a poster claiming he was the ‘anti-Christ’.

These eccentric views are not incidental to the DUP, and its rise and success during the Troubles. It’s religious fervour reinforced the DUP against any temptation to compromise with the Irish Catholic community or the British state to bring the conflict to an end.”

So there is a convergence of several strands of bigotry, racism and misogyny combining together in this sordid deal to prop-up May’s regime.

It’s about to go up in smoke.

Gaslighting Scotland

Gaslighting is usually a process of deliberate manipulation and that may be being too generous here.

The vision of Colonel Ruth in khaki is not remotely intimidating, it is adjust a symbolic nod and a wink to those who have their antennae tuned to the signs and the signifiers that a politician in uniform offers.

It is worth noting the very last sentence of the agreement between the DUP and the UK govt that keeps this regime clinging to office. It reads: “Both parties reiterate their admiration for the courage and sacrifice of the police and armed forces in upholding democracy and the rule of law and will never forget the debt of gratitude that we owe them.”

Yesterday the former UVF commander for north Belfast and south east Antrim, Gary Haggarty admitted five murders for which he was given five life sentences. These will be significantly reduced as he is an assisting offender under the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act (SOCPA).

We’re told that: “The BBC understands he told his interviewers that some of his Special Branch handlers not only protected him from arrest and prosecution, but also actively encouraged his activities. Those allegations are the subject of a separate, parallel investigation by the Police Ombudsman. The public prosecution service is to decide whether to prosecute two retired Special Branch officers based on files sent by the Police Ombudsman.”

I don’t think we all need to wait on tenterhooks for that one.

And the Irish Times today revealed  “fresh documents which allege waterboarding was used by the British Army and the RUC in the North in the 1970s have been uncovered by a Derry human rights organisation.”

Upholding democracy and the rule of law.

The last few months has seen the light being dimmed on democracy in Scotland.

The routes to democratic expression are being shut down by a woman now posing in a military uniform – declared the victor in an election she clearly lost.

Significant parts of the constitution and landmarks of peace are just slid away without question.

The DUP deal announced today has other immediate impacts.

Since 1991 the British government has tried very hard to maintain a position of neutrality in Northern Ireland. The DUP deal scuppers that and not only undermines the peace agreement but also any efforts to set up a new power-sharing executive.

At a stroke the Barnett Formula is essentially shredded without the need for proper consultation, discussion or process.

Authoritarian regimes don’t emerge all of a sudden with jackboots and high-kicking soldiers. They emerge out of extreme values becoming mainstream and human rights being eroded as we dutifully consume and go about our daily lives exhausted by the quiet horror of it.

There’s a fear of diversity, there’s a regression and an assault on human rights. There’s a celebration of state power and an anticipation of a response. We still haven’t seen the Grenfell Tower tragedy play out and the reality that is spilling out is not a pretty picture.

This isn’t going to be the Summer of Love.

Remember when we were the divisive nationalists, and Britain was presented as the source of stability, the rock of economic and cultural certainty? It doesn’t seem so long ago.








Comments (17)

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  1. Kerly says:

    This march to freedom seems to be going in a different direction than we thought unionists are not taking it very well . Lets hope as we get nearer our goal they don,t import the ulster violence

  2. bringiton says:

    Had Labour in Scotland come out in support of Scottish independence during the 2014 referendum,none of this would have happened.
    Cameron’s successor would not have held a referendum on the EU and the Tories in Scotland,without Labour support,would be the minority party they really are.
    Labour in Scotland have some things in common with the DUP,their need to cling to the British state in order to justify their existence and driven by hatred of “nationalists” for the same reason.
    Whether Scottish unionists like it or not,they are now tainted by association with the Orange Order and Ireland’s DUP extremists.
    I think the majority of Scots will find this repellent and will be asking themselves about continuing blind obedience to such a state.
    We can do do much better,not together.

  3. ronald alexander mcdonald says:

    Mike, you have written many good articles, but this is your best yet.

    An extremely honest piece and depressingly accurate.

    1. ben madigan says:

      totally agree – an excellent, thought-provoking article

        1. Valerie says:

          Just to add my voice to those compliments. It’s an excellent, if depressing summary of where we are, and frankly, it’s scary.

          We are witnessing some very deliberate actions to open Scotland up to having a much more flagrant display of Unionism via the OO. Emboldened by their wins in the local elections, and now the DUP at the heart of UK govt.

          May couldn’t scupper the SNP sufficiently in Scotland, so this plan is to smother with overt Unionism.

          The DUP have no intention of returning to Stormont, why would they, when they can pull the strings in London.

  4. florian albert says:

    What the DUP has done is what the SNP would have done in similar circumstances; cut a deal which is advantageous to their supporters.

    The DUP, like Scottish Labour before 2015, has its most capable people at Westminister. Dodds and Donaldson are clever and tough negotiators, as Sinn Fein discovered after the Good Friday Agreement.
    The DUP has got a billion for the Six Counties and can claim to have helped protect pensioners across the UK by demanding, and getting, the triple lock on pensions and no means testing of winter fuel payments. (Personally, I think that paying less to pensioners would have allowed more to be paid to young people.)

    The Mail/Sun campaign to scare people with memories of Corbyn’s association with the IRA a couple of decades ago was a total failure.
    Mike Small bringing up the ‘Save Ulster from Sodomy’ campaign is likely to meet a similar fate.

    1. Sadly comparing the influence of Murdochs’ Sun and Dacre’s Mail to Bella is a little generous to Bella Florian.

      Is there a factual error you’d like to contend with in the article?

  5. Calum McKay says:

    “The devolution settlement is being undermined at every turn, and the very concept of the Opposition is being re-framed.”

    I see this too, fishing control will not come back to Scotland post brexit, it will be used as a bargaining chip for items more important to the uk government, e.g electronic passporting of Euros via city of London banks.

    The need to pull together being advocated by the uk government, the Dunkirk spirit is something I predicted would have if brexit “ever” happened (I didn’t think it would),. Circling the wagon, scapegoating of others and no discent with n the ranks. I thought the uk would get nasty, but I never thought they would be so clueless and Mrs May be such an incompetent.

    For me the answer is to get the “Yes Movement” up and running across Scotland immediately, organised locally and nationally, whilst the SNP wrestle with reducing budgets and managing a country.

    Another key point for me is that the SNP must never be an agent at any cost for managing the brexit exit for Scotland on behalf of the uk government. We did not vote for it, I am European and I want to stay that way or be seen to be dragged out against my will.

    Helping the uk government, under the guise of more powers is a con on the electorate and benefits only the unionists. Even if the SNP lost short term support by continued opposition of brexit, in the long run they would gain respect, votes and ultimantely indpendence by being proven right that brexit is economic suicide, especially and importantly for our young people.

    Lets be blunt, the uk government has no benefit in seeing devolution suceed, it will do everything overt and covert to ensure it fails or merely perpetuates the status quo, the last thing the uk wants is a confident Scotland that seeks outward relationships with EU.

    Lets get the Yes Movement up and running!

    1. Chris Clark says:

      Absolutely on target. The Scottish Government should have nothing to do with Brexit negotiations but instead represent the 62% who voted to remain in full membership of the EU. The increasing reluctance of the SNP, as a political party, to promote its manifesto pledge for full Membership of the EU must not be allowed to blunt Scotland’s clear need to stay with our friends in Europe, and the active support for an extra-political Independence campaign. The case for Independence and self-Government has never been stronger and we must shout that out loudly and clearly.

    2. Wul says:

      Totally agree.

      We can’t sit & wait for the SNP to fight & win the case for a better Scotland. It needs to be a much bigger, broader movement.

      If everyone who voted “Yes” in 2014 chipped in a fiver, it would produce an £8m campaign fund. That would be a useful resource.

      We need easy to understand information (like really basic, simple stuff with pictures, just like a tabloid) to reach as many people as possible explaining the various ways that the UK & Scotland is being shafted & robbed of its wealth.

      We need a properly worked out vision of a better, independent Scotland warts & all. Again it needs to reach as many people as possible. (Common Weal are doing great work in this area but the content needs grossly simplified & turned into visuals, again tabloid style)

      Too many of the chattering classes forget that most normal people are totally turned off by policy papers, percentages, lots of words and all that. We need to answer the question: “what’s in it for me & my weans?”

      My starting point in moving to “YES” was the realisation of the uncountable wealth being leached from our country by centuries of parasitic self-interest by the great & good. It’s a powerful motivator.

      We should forget about winning over the 30% – 40% who will be horrified by any radical vision for Scotland. Ignore them, they are irrelevant. (That’s the way the Tories view us)

  6. Lochside says:

    Great and insightful analysis Mike. And a sobering one too. While the unnumbered and unnamed corpses lie mouldering in the burnt out monument to greedy capitalist indifference at Grenfel, let’s reflect on the depth of deep state strategy behind what this article is about.

    David Torrance was among a coterie of right wing Britnat scribes who unwittingly (?) tried to smear the SNP and Yes movement with the meme of ‘ Ulsterisation’ if Scottish politics.

    Well I hope he and his scurvy band are happy. It’s finally arrived and we now have an unholy alliance of britnats and OO Tory loyalists, the ragged arse camp followers led by a colonel Blimp figure who is apparently immune to any media criticism or scrutiny regarding her multiple volte face positions on just about every policy under the sun.

    Much worse is however her rabble rousing drum beating mono sloganeering and absolute denial of the Scottish people’s sovereignty and democratic votes.

    Our stinking media one day will pay the heavy price for their silence over all of this. They don’t appear to understand or care that by protecting this absurd caricature of a politician and her bosom buddies in slab and fiddems that they are collaborating in their own eventual extinction.

  7. Kerly says:

    I love indy forums but cannot properly join in as I don,t have the ability to express myself in writing so I can help by delivering leaflets and going on marches for independence and if we get any trouble from unionist I,l at least be a help in facing them down
    Saor alba

  8. William Davidson says:

    As Florian Albert points out the D.U.P. have simply done what the S.N.P. or any other party would have done in their position, i.e. screw as much money out of the Tories (or Labour) as possible. All of the cash appears to be earmarked for projects which will benefit everyone in N.I. and a large section of the population of the wider U.K.. I certainly look forward to work being done at the notorious York Road junction going into Belfast, where I’ve spent happy many hours sitting in traffic jams. If Nigel Dodds is to believed the D.U.P. were in talks with both Tories and Labour in 2010 and 2015 in anticipation of a similar scenario and at the latter date with, er, the S.N.P. as well. Cue much hypocritical faux outrage.

  9. Aimee Houghton says:

    “If this was happening in an another country we would look-on astonished and alarmed as this move to the right and to the use of authoritarian language appears before us.”

    As an American who is watching in horror as democracy is being destroyed by religious fanaticism, bigoted nationalism, and the coddling of the 1% right before my eyes in my own country, I’m equally saddened by what I see happening in the UK. I may have been born in New York, but my soul is truly at home in Scotland. I visit often and have travelled extensively throughout your amazing land. I’ve watched your elections late into the night, fascinated to see you charting a path of self-determination.

    But the disheartening conclusion I have come to recently is that Theresa May is to Donald Trump what Margaret Thatcher was to Ronald Reagan. And the subsequent consequences will plague both our countries for years to come.

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