The Heavy Bear and the Jellyfish

“After the General Election in 2017, and sometime distant, will future political historians be asking “Is there is such a thing anymore as a Tory, or a nationalist, or a socialist?” Or have we all morphed into the “nerve net” of gloop that is the first past the post parliamentary system?” asks George Gunn,  From The Province of the Cat.

What is happening to our little country? Every time I see our “beloved leader”, our “national treasure”, Nicola Sturgeon on TV now, these lines from the American poet Delmore Schwartz come into my mind

“The heavy bear who goes with me…
Stumbles, flounders, and strives to be fed
Dragging me with him in his mouthing care,
Amid the hundred million of his kind,
The scrimmage of appetite everywhere.”

That “heavy bear”, for Nicola Sturgeon, is the dilemma of the SNP in government in Scotland when they do not, cannot, really govern because such a block-granted body is not actually a “government” as they do not raise and spend taxes, or write or adhere to or amend a constitution of the nation’s design. What every “government” in Holyrood is, up to this point in history, is an administration. They can shuffle things around fiscally until they are tartan in the face and declare that they have a different set of priorities to the masters of cruelty South of the border, which are all to the benefit of the Scottish people, but at the end of the day the structure the politicians in Edinburgh operate in has been set up by politicians in London and what the keepers of the keys in Westminster desire more than anything else is control.

Devolution is not, obviously, independence. Nor is it Home Rule either. It is not realistic, as last month’s election proved, to expect that devolution can lead to independence. The Holyrood assembly was set up to be a “parliament” which trapped the Scots into the British State and so far, with a peedie wobble in 2014, it has served the British state well.

The “heavy bear” that goes with Nicola Sturgeon is also called reality. It is the sticky paradigm of containment. Last week the Fraser of Allander Institute warned that the Scottish economy, in terms of Gross Domestic Product, fell 0.2% from last October to December and, if trends continue this way, is heading for recession. In other words, we are flat-lining, guddling along at the bottom of the economic tank like a weakened monkfish. This is a result (or manifestation?) of the British dystopia that deliberately, as policy, allows something as potentially dynamic as Scotland to decline, while at the same time continuing to pull our monetary strings.

The reason the Scottish economy is dysfunctional is that it is a branch economy of the of the UK where the economy central is in London and the South East of England. Scotland has few surviving centres of industry anymore and even fewer industrial or corporate headquarters. The infrastructure we have is so under invested in that it barely manages to chug along. Anyone who steps onto a Stagecoach bus or a Scot Rail train out with Edinburgh and Glasgow could be forgiven for thinking that they were in a third world country, or that they had gone back to the future, beyond the Berlin Wall pre-1989.

From where I write this in Caithness there are unspecified millions being spent on the decommissioning of Dounreay. “Unspecified” because there is the official published budget and then there is the reality that the process of dealing with this highly radioactive mess will take far longer than the declared time-line in the Nuclear Decommissioning Authorities plan. Anyone who tells you nuclear power is cheap then send them to go to Dounreay and let them see the genuine cost of nuclear energy. That is if they get to see anything and don’t get lifted by either the MOD police or the Civil Nuclear Constabulary, all gunned up to their counter-terroristic back teeth. This will remind you, if you didn’t already know, that every nuclear site in Britain is a military installation. Every month in Caithness the evidence of this passes our doors on trucks, trains, and on boats from Scrabster and on US military planes from Wick airport. Trucks, trains, boats and planes: it is as if every-day life in Atomic City (Thurso) is now conducted to a musical soundtrack of Cher and The Mammas and the Pappas mixed by the DJ Lucifer.

Meanwhile off our coast in the Pentland Firth is enough tidal power to keep the entire country of Scotland going indefinitely. If ever there was an instance of the branch economy and of a policy of non-investment then here it is. What can a devolved administration in Edinburgh do about that? The answer, so far, is very little. The media, of course, refuse to look this far North for news stories, let alone energy or political solutions. Instead they harp on about the down-turn in the North Sea oil field (which very few journalists know anything about) as if the price of a barrel of oil is the result of some act of divine providence which we will have to live with, instead of pointing out that it is the direct result of a crazy trade war between Saudi Arabia and Iran which drags in both the USA and Russia This is the one in which the Saudi’s pump oil and gas into an already over-supplied market in order to destabilise their enemies. This proxy war with Iran fuels the madness in Syria where all four powers get to shoot guns at each other. That, I am afraid, is “the heavy bear” who goes with all of us.

The other spectre which haunts Nicola Sturgeon is that of Jeremy Corbyn. A lot of the 500,000 lost votes went to him. I say “him” as opposed to the Labour Party because, in Scotland, just what is that? I know that arithmetically 13 Scottish Tory and 7 Labour MP’s were elected to Westminster, but because Jeremy Corbyn decided to take on the Tories and put forward many policies which appeared to the young to be radical, even though they were, historically quite modest, some even borrowed from the SNP, the result was that most first-time voters in Scotland voted Labour. A lot of the older generation and the middle class voted Tory and whether that was entirely down to Brexit or the new sectarianism of union v independence is debatable.

One anomaly of the first past the post system is that the Lib Dems managed to return an MP for Caithness and Sutherland and Easter Ross with only a 0.7% increase in their vote and that was still a good two thousand votes ahead of the SNP. In the Far North we will learn, yet again, that having a Liberal Democrat laughing gnome as an MP is an expensive business. Prior to Paul Monaghan (SNP) we had a King (Lord Thurso), now we have his fool.

Yet another other “heavy bear” who goes with Nicola Sturgeon, and with all of us on these islands, are the Tories. The despicable deal Theresa May has done with the DUP is to prove that the Tories do not have friends. They treat everyone as enemies. The people of Northern Ireland, I suspect, already now this. The DUP are in it for the bung and they will keep returning, gangster-like, as long as the need is there and cash is forthcoming. With “money trees” in such lucrative gardens as the Virgin and Cayman Islands this harvesting could go on for a long time. The question is: what are the Scot’s “in it” for, exactly? We get no bung but we are obviously seen as enemies.

As the political crisis of the UK deepens and turns into an economic one, and as London’s relationship with the EU disintegrates and everything else they touch either turns sour or comes off the rails, it will be up to every area of civic society and every individual in Scotland to develop a coping mechanism. So far, for the SNP, it is clinging to the myth of being a competent government. Each successive SNP minister puts forth the narrative of the golden thread of competency which they claim runs through everything they do. This “golden thread” could as easily hang them, even if, to mere mortals, it is invisible. My way of retaining a sense of humour, never mind a sense of proportion, is that when I see any Tory politician on TV or blethering non-sequiturs in the papers, I think of jellyfish.

Jellyfish don’t have what is commonly understood as a central nervous system, but rather something called a “nerve net”, by which the creature feels its way about the ocean. So, you can reasonably say that technically jellyfish don’t have brains. But jellyfish can also clone themselves so that when one is cut into two the pieces can regenerate and create two new organisms. Some jellyfish are also immortal in that certain species can return to the polyp stage in times of stress. It could be that jellyfish are much smarter than the Conservative and Unionist Party? In the past decade, unlike the Tories, jellyfish blooms have been responsible for shutting down nuclear reactors which often rely on ocean water intakes. The jellyfish swarms can clog the intake pipes, forcing facilities to stop operating temporarily. It hasn’t happened yet, as far as I know, at Dounreay. But it has happened at Torness, in 2011.

According to the Treehugger website,

“Jellyfish and jelly-like sea creatures come in an immensely diverse range of forms. Animals that are typically called jellyfish belong to the phylum Cnidaria, which includes over 10,000 species. However, some jelly-like animals, like the comb jelly, belong to the phylum Ctenophora. This taxonomic difficulty has lead marine biologists to ask if there’s even such a thing as a jellyfish?”

After the General Election in 2017, and sometime distant, will future political historians be asking “Is there is such a thing anymore as a Tory, or a nationalist, or a socialist?” Or have we all morphed into the “nerve net” of gloop that is the first past the post parliamentary system, with “The scrimmage of appetite everywhere”, as Delmore Schwartz put it? There is a wild theory, presently under research, that jellyfish could take over the ocean.

The biggest “heavy bear” who goes with Nicola Sturgeon is the drastic need for radicalisation and change. Standing up or being strong for Scotland and variations on the theme has proved to be useless, even as a slogan You can stand as long as you like but if you are powerless to implement radical policies such as a land tax or put into practise radical change, for example in lowering the vote to include sixteen year olds, then “standing strong” is not only pointless, it’s an illusion. Parliamentary politics is like a church, and as Mark Twain has pointed out :

“A man is admitted into a church for what he believes, and is turned out for what he knows.”

If there is to be a second referendum on independence for Scotland then what “strives to be fed” in Scotland, to quote Delmore Schwartz again, is cultural education. A people without a cultural consciousness are a people without a political future.

Comments (9)

Join the Discussion

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. Alistair Livingston says:

    Very good.

    “As the political crisis of the UK deepens and turns into an economic one, and as London’s relationship with the EU disintegrates and everything else they touch either turns sour or comes off the rails, it will be up to every area of civic society and every individual in Scotland to develop a coping mechanism. So far, for the SNP, it is clinging to the myth of being a competent government. Each successive SNP minister puts forth the narrative of the golden thread of competency which they claim runs through everything they do. This “golden thread” could as easily hang them, even if, to mere mortals, it is invisible.”

  2. bringiton says:

    Perhaps the SNP policy of trying to convince Scots that,yes we can govern ourselves competently (not too stupid) has failed to overcome the cringe factor.
    Perhaps it never will.
    There is something deeply disturbing about a mentality which prefers to have a neighbouring country make decisions on your behalf and does begin to make me think that perhaps,yes we are too stupid).

  3. Alba woman says:

    Thank you for a beautiful piece of writing. I wish I could write as calmly as you about what is happening in Scotland. The set of Tories we have in England and Scotland are indeed “heavy bears”. They stumble and flounder but there they are making sure of their territory of hate and division.

    You did not mention the other “heavy bear” The BBC and the MSM. Day and night they roar propaganda that links in with their Tory masters.

    You mention the idea of cultural education as a potential way ahead. I would be very grateful if you could develop this theme. We, who are working on the ground, need all the help we can get.

    1. Alf Baird says:

      “cultural education” in Scotlan an awwhaur haes tae stairt wi oor (Scots) langage – though Scotland’s ‘Culture’ and ‘Language Minister’ and Government carry too much of the cultural cringe and political fear to force (aye force!) Scotland’s over-Anglicised schools and universities to teach oor ain mither tung – tae aw oor bairns an fowk, juist lyke ony ither kintra daes.

      Braw airticle George, bi the wey. Many Scots are certainly for the moment still asleep, like Brigadoon: “A people without a cultural consciousness” and therefore “a people without a political future”, destined for endless colonial exploitation by the same ‘administrative Power’ 50+ other colonies threw out long ago.

  4. Davy says:

    Excellent article – thanks George.

  5. Willie says:

    The Scots cultural conscience has in my view awoken, and awoken quite considerably these last twenty years.

    What has not I think awoken is our dependency culture. This for many is the inbred rock, that aided and abetted by the BBC and other establishment ilk, caused us to narrowly lose the referendum.

    It is an inculcated fear that unless addressed, and it is difficult to address with a limited Parliament, will cause us to remain for ever.

    Escaping the clutches of the Great British empire has always come through civil unrest.

    The guid Scots tongue or everyone’s ability to speak Gaidhlig will make no difference.

    Inbuilt dependency equates to inbuilt subservience.

  6. Colin Mackay says:

    Good article although there are clear issues the Snp have turned up their nose at. Council tax should have been phased out and reformed by now. Local government is still the most bloated in Europe and should have been reformed by now. Transport could have made the shift away from car over everything else focus but it hasn’t, if anything the opposite. Use the powers we have and use them well, win people over with radical change.

  7. Doug McGregor says:

    I sincerely hope that senior SNP figures will read this essay . The sense of stultification in our Scottish Government is there for all to see. Whilst I see the need for a good social security system , it does preoccupy most of everything they do or say . This may play well with pressure groups who are always vocal but for the majority of the population is something , they frankly , would rather not think about. The call in this article for some real action or change that we can all invest in is urgent if this project is to stay on the rails. Waiting for the inevitable Brexit mess to initiate something for you is not a policy or strategy , SNP get radical!

  8. Duncan Macniven says:

    The SNP have lost the Highlands by their own arrogance and centralising mentality. I have never voted anything but SNP and will continue to do so. I am presently caravanning in Caithness having spent a few weeks in East Rosshire. Having driven from Tain to Dunbeath I was reminded just how bad that part if the A9 is compared to further South.
    The SNP have failed the mothers of this part of Scotland by failing to insist on maternity services staying in Wick, and instead transferring expectant mothers 100 miles to Inverness over one of the worst A class roads in the UK. Stress enough being pregnant and perhaps in labour, to subject parents to this further stress is unforgiveable, when there is a unit nearer. If it is unattractive for consultants to work there then bloody well make it attractive.
    Financial incentives are used as an excuse to justify MPs grasping 11% whilst voting for a pay cap for these essential workers. Vomit inducing hypocrisy.
    The SNP were quick to stop Monklands A&E shutting to help them to victory in 2007. They have by turning their back on the Highlands shot them selves in the foot.
    Lets see some good stuff for the Highlands to stop the downward spiral of economically active families. Lets see an architectural statement like the Forth Crossing. How about some improvements to this part of the A9 it is crying out for some viaduct bridging for Berridale, Latheron and other dangerous hairpin bends. Lets see a new hospital for Caithness with modern facilities. A long overdue upgrade for Golspie Lawson Memorial to A&E and full surgery facilities. Make it financially attractive for consultants and specialist staff. Reverse this Highland decline and secure the place against the ravages of remote indifferent governments.

Keep our Journalism Independent

We don’t take any advertising, we don’t hide behind a pay wall and we don’t keep harassing you for crowd-funding. We’re entirely dependent on our readers to support us.

Subscribe

Don’t miss a single article. Enter your email address to subscribe for free here and receive Bella direct to your inbox.

 
Bella Caledonia