2007 - 2020

The Magical Kingdom

As the Prime Minister tours her United Kingdom the level of estrangement, disaffection and political bad feeling is unparalleled. In banning a newspaper they didn’t like, the No 10’s press team is operating like a Sarah Huckabee Sanders tribute act. It provoked statements of solidarity from journalists including Paul Mason, Paul Hutcheon, David Leask, and Stephen Daisley, and MPS including the LibDems Christine Jardine who compared it to both Donald Trump revoking the White House press pass of CNN’s Jim Acosta, and Alex Salmond’s decision to ban journalists from The Telegraph, the Daily Mail and Daily Express from his resignation press conference after the 2014 referendum on independence.

The media ban even provoked this exchange on Sky News:

 

Two things are worth noting. The first is the idea that The National reporters were going to “protest” is both laughable and insulting to the professionalism of the National team and shows the chasm in understanding between some sectors of Scottish and English political journalism, and second the idea that this story will be “all over” the Scottish media shows a very feeble understanding of the media landscape in Scotland. But that’s no surprise.

From Troon to Bridge of Weir

What the action does tell us is that certain areas of our supposed United Kingdom are considered so other, so alien, that normal principles of democracy and media are suspended. This in a state where Scottish Government modelling shows even a free trade agreement will mean by 2030, Scottish GDP £1,600 less per head compared with EU membership. This in a state where 62% of people voted against cultural exclusion and economic breakdown. This in a state where at least half the population want to exercise their right to self-determination.

What the press ban tells us is more than the No 10 Press Office being “feart” or “incompetent”, it tells us a deeper story about British politics and the profoundly damaging impact of the nationalist fervour that has created the Brexit crisis, a crisis which is partly the culmination of a deep and long-running crisis of English identity and partly the impact of forces wanting to create a different model of economic policy, for whom even the captured and hollowed-out British system was inadequate for their extractive aims.

Way back in 2012 Theresa May (then Home Secretary peddling hate vans around London) visited Troon and produced a typically sclerotic speech mouthing nonsense. She started off with the observation that: “It’s a real privilege to be here in Troon today. What a beautiful town it is. So typically Scottish: the stunning coast line, friendly people and of course the famous golf course.”

She continued: “I want Scotland to be part of the United Kingdom. Because ladies and gentleman, I believe in the Union. A shared past. Centuries of being together. The Union, for all its history of ups and downs, is to be cherished. I have no doubt that Scotland could survive outside the United Kingdom. But together we are stronger. Stronger on the world stage. Stronger in protecting our sovereignty in Europe.”

 

The idea of the union as a sort of sacred, quasi-mystical thing to be “cherished” despite its “ups and downs” isn’t something your hear much about these days. It’s almost quaint to recall the framing used in the past.

It’s a vision of unity and our place in Europe that is darkly comic know as we stand on the brink of economic uncertainty and potential catastrophe wrought by English nationalism and xenophobia and the power plays within the Conservative party of a handful of public schoolboys.

That vision of Britain as an outward-looking entity through which we stepped into the world in a strengthened state is completely shattered by the Brexit phenomenon and it’s a political argument that can’t be re-invented or restored.

So too is the notion of equal partners with which May ended her speech in 2012:

I’m pleased to have this opportunity to talk to you about a future in which Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and England continue to flourish side-by-side as equal partners. Different and proud to be so.

That fantasy from the Magical Kingdom is gone now.

 

Comments (6)

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  1. William Ross says:

    Mike

    I was simply amazed by May`s latest gambit of flying up to Scotland, entering a single controlled space for a managed discussion and zooming off. It reminded me of an earlier visit to Crathes Aberdeenshire. I just do not get it. Stumped.

    However, I do not get you or the Scottish government either. Anyone who purports to tell us in detail of how our country is going to be faring 12 years into the future is simply selling snake-oil. It is laughable.

    Seemingly, Scotland is a country in which 62% of the people “voted against cultural exclusion and economic breakdown”. Sorry I do not remember that particular vote. However, there was a Brexit vote on 23 June, 2016 in which 62% of the voters in Scotland voted FOR THE UK TO REMAIN IN THE EU ( and nothing else). Beyond that, 1 million Scots also voted for the UK to Leave the EU. They are presumably just dupes or worse. Non-people in the eyes of BC?

    How can you keep on re-cycling the same old rubbish. You and I know that Scotland is not and never could be an “equal partner” in Union. If we were we would have the same number of MPs as the English……….

    William

    1. I never said that the people who voted No were dupes or non-people.

      To say such would be insulting.

      The economic forecasts come from both independent think-tanks and the UK govt (!)

      Maybe yo didnt read the article properly? You say: “How can you keep on re-cycling the same old rubbish. You and I know that Scotland is not and never could be an “equal partner” in Union” – which is the point I make (?)

    2. Austen Keith says:

      Very silly comment, I will use an analogy that I read the other day from a unionist who hadn’t thought it through clearly, If the EU had a referendum across all 28 countries about a proposed law or resolution that would affect all citizens and the UK populous overwhelmingly voted against that proposal and subsequently the proposal was approved, do you honestly think the UK Government would not respect the wishes of the UK citizens and fight tooth and nail against it, irrespective of the syntax of the question proposed to the electorate?? Of course they would, or the people, Media and the political party’s members would be up in arms and rightfully so.

      The main problem here is that if that scenario did occur the UK would invariably use their Veto, something denied the members of this now defunct excuse for a union of equals!!

    3. Angus says:

      An ellipsis has three full stops…

  2. John Monro says:

    Hello,

    I love reading the Bella Caledonia from my home in deep New Zealand. I am an expat Anglo-Scot, but my Scottish heritage somehow has become more important to me as I age. I think Scotland should become independent, New Zealand gives a good example of a small nation that can thrive on its own. We don’t avoid any of the political and economic problems that beset other nations, and the competence and honesty of our politicians is no greater. For the most part we’ve avoided the inbuilt and historic layer of wealthy privilege of the UK and other countries but since New Zealand become a neoliberal paradise in the 1980s, we’ve assiduously built a very unequal society and a new powerful clique of wealth and business power – happily accommodated by right wing politicians, but given far too much notice by a timorous centre-left Labour. But, it is New Zealand’s own bumbling and incompetence and we are answerable to no-one else, in theory. But, note this, we signed a free trade deal with China some years ago; I was very much opposed, as I feel China is a malign and corrupt nation (I am not against trade on WTO terms) and now the moral chickens are coming home to roost as China exerts its authority in the region, both openly and surreptitiously. China now represents a huge part of our export economy, easily threatened by China, and successive New Zealand governments, both Labour and National have been dancing around the problem for some years; you can’t see the muzzles, but they’re there, and there’s a very big carpet in the Parliament buildings under which such issues might be found.

    So if you want independence, I find it really strange that Scotland would wish to be a full member of the EU. I would have voted to remain in the EU, partly because my three daughters who live in the UK, would wish to remain and because, on balance, continued membership was probably the best option (The referendum was a very stupid idea promoted by a political incompetent ) . The EU is a non-democratic overbearing body, totally immersed in neoliberal economics. That Scotland’s vote for remaining in the EU came shortly after Greece’s fiscal torture is odd, to say the least. And Ireland’s history of having to bail out its banks and impoverish itself to save Deutschebank should have been sufficient warning as to small country’s vulnerability to severe bullying from the EU. For Scotland to “escape” it’s union with England, Wales and N Ireland only to tie itself to the EU is bizarre. The solution for Scotland might be a Norway type arrangement. And indeed there’s no guarantee that Scotland would be accepted into the EU, as a new nation there’d be no record of you meeting the requirements of membership, and it’s likely Spain might veto this. And if Scotland were to be accepted, it’s more likely you’d have to join the Eurozone.

    Scotland voted to remain part of the UK and as members of the EU. But if you eventually get your independence, don’t sacrifice this on the alter of the EU. Of course, perhaps the UK might yet remain, who knows, in which case an independent Scotland would have to negotiate its own relationship, and who knows what shape the EU might be in by this time?

    True independence for Scotland and full membership of the EU are mutually exclusive, particularly so if Scotland wishes to live up to its enlightenment traditions. (You could then ask why I’d have voted for the UK to stay in the EU if I valued the nation’s “independence”. Well, that’s easy. Leaving the EU is not the opposite of staying, the opposite of staying was joining in the first place. As members we needed some rather more important issues and a greater degree of consent than the minimal majority to leave). The world’s problems are enormous and increasing. With a relatively low population and great renewable wind energy resources, a well educated and socially cohesive population, you could easily envisage a small progressive nation making a sustainable way in the world. You will have to abandon the extreme capitalism and globalisation which is now trashing the planet, and you may have to do this on your own. And why not? You live in the world’s most beautiful country, apparently (even more than New Zealand!) but mostly you should be determined to live in the world’s most progressive and happiest, all to be celebrated on a regular basis with a small tot of your very best malt.

    And as to Theresa May in Scotland, she’s totally irrelevant to the existential issues we all face.

  3. William Ross says:

    A few comments.

    Mike:

    Economic forecasts trying to tell us what we will earn in 2030 are nonsense no matter who publishes them. The UK Governmnet predicted that we would lose half a million jobs in the year following a Leave vote. As it happens rates of employment have never been higher. Check out some factual arguments here: David Paton: A riposte to the Project Fear narrative promoted by The Economist

    If you know that we are not equal partners in the UK why flog that old stupid horse?

    Austen:

    I am not sure I get what you are arguing. I made the point that 62% of voting Scots in the 2016 referendum voted for the UK to remain. If Scotland is a country it will always have a democratic deficit in the UK. That is why I am for genuine independence. I voted to “take back control” in 2014 and 2016. The Scottish people, however, agreed to remain in the UK in 2014. Thus, any vote on the overall constitional position of the UK is of necessity a UK matter. End of story?

    You do not understand the way the EU works. All EU law affects all citizens. The great majority of EU laws are passed by QMV. Thus the UK has only a very limited veto. Only the EU Commission can introduce new law.

    John

    You are a breath of fresh air from the Antipodes. How odd indeed for the preening leftists of BC to ignore the beating their beloved EU gave to Ireland and Greece. But nothing the EU could ever do will lessen the medieval religious faith which these people have in the EU. As you rightly say, their politics are “bizarre”.

    William

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