The Abyss of Blunders: From The Province of the Cat

The Union between Scotland and England in 1707 was achieved through corruption and because of corruption it will be undone. In the week that saw the Rosebank oil field being given the green light and in the previous week we witnessed the Prime Minister Rishi Sunak turn back into front and down into up with his abandoning of any sort of commitment to “net zero”, and so it was we observed the corruption continuum in grim operation. Why is this? Surely honest to goodness government is easier?

In Westminster the Tories still dream in sepia of the British Empire. It was their “golden age”. But as Salman Rushdie has said in a recent interview, which marked his return to public life after the cruel attack upon him,

“And the thing about the golden age is that it never existed, and the myth of the golden age is always used to justify actions in the present. In England, the Brexit catastrophe was the result of another golden age myth, which is: ‘England used to be this glorious country and it could be that glorious country again, if only we could get rid of all these foreigners.’ Of course they neglected to mention to the electorate that the reason England was so prosperous was that it had spent 200 years plundering the rest of the world.”

This plundering was the big “thing” that made England “great”, but had to be disguised as “British” and as “progress and civilisation” in order to present a suitably cosmetic face to the rest of the world. Yet the rest of the world knew that it was the supremacy and consolidation of the English interest that was the driving energy of that Empire: England and her possessions were the core. Imperial unity was never easy to maintain. It still isn’t even in the rump of Empire that is left. Each of the possessions, over time, became a colony and it was always difficult to guarantee the loyalty of the local inhabitants. The American Revolutionary War of 1775 – 1783 was the first and most dramatic rebellion and succession. South Africa, as the 19th century turned into the 20th century, proved an equally painful experience in geo-political reality for English Imperialism. Both these thwarting’s of English possession were the result of arrogance, ignorance and blunders.

Scotland in the 21st century promises to be another instance of what Sir Alfred Milner, the High Commissioner for South Africa (1897 – 1905), described in a letter, written before the outbreak of the Boer War, “The more I know about it, (the Cape Colonies) the more profound is the abyss of our blunders in the past.”

Colonial settlers are one thing, natives populations are another. The natives always present the greatest difficulties for the colonial government and for their home government back in London. The perennial question is how can the will of the minority prevail over the collective desire of the majority? No Empire in history has been the recipient of a miracle and the English Empire, the little that’s left of it, is no exception. Because it will take a miracle for them to retain Scotland as the abyss of their blunders continues to open up, almost daily. Rishi Sunak’s two weeks of U-turns and the go-ahead for the Rosebank oilfield, 80 miles West of Shetland, being the latest example of arrogance, ignorance and blunders. There will be more of the same forthcoming as the Scottish political situation worsens and the worlds political stability deconstructs due to war, corruption and climate change. The Tories political blundering ensures the former and their counter-productive environmental actions exacerbate the latter. And all the time we are mesmerised by the corruption of the Westminster democratic illusion. A state of affairs so accurately described Dr Elliot Bulmer in the Sunday National (24.09.23),

“(The Westminster) Parliament is all powerful , yet often powerless. It can decide all things, but rarely does more than ratify decisions made elsewhere. It is sovereign but sidelined. We saw evidence of the side-lining of Parliament last week. The Prime Minister announced his new watch-the-planet-burn anti-environment policy not by means of statement to the House of Commons (but on TV). This is against the Ministerial Code. But the Prime Minister is the one who enforces the Ministerial Code, so little can be done.”

In other words, the Prime Minister can do pretty much what he likes. Internal autonomy and “responsible government” are not the same as independence or the truth. This is the current Scottish reality. The oil fields in the North Sea and West of Shetland ensure that Scotland’s colonial status must be preserved if England is to avoid the abyss. The free market which is anything but free but which prevails in Westminster ensures that nobody, other than a few financiers and oil companies, benefits from Scotland’s oil. It is sold off on the international market. The Exchequer in London pockets the tax but that seldom benefits the Scottish people. Across the North Sea sits Norway as a physical and fiscal example of what is possible to achieve when you shake of your colonial fetters and act in the interests of your citizens. The subjects under English monarchical rule can only dream of such a possibility. To the majority of Scots, locked into Little England’s shrinking Imperial domain, it sems as if the abyss is seeking them out. It is important to note that the major player in the Rosebank oilfield is Equinor, formerly Statoil, the Norwegian government controlled oil company.

If you are to believe the red top press and the BBC England’s blundering Imperial policy towards Scotland is working. But the verge of triumph is also the verge of the abyss. England has made Scotland a dangerous anachronism – a quasi-independent nation within the UK, the only Empire that is left to them. No cacophony of drum beating, flute playing and flag waving, or a retreat into a reactionary island fortress, can veil in illusion the true state of Little England’s shrinking Empire. The reality is a mismanaged decline. The power so beloved of the race patriots in the English Conservative and Unionist Party has long gone and is forever out of reach and no amount of anti-EU passion will bring it back. The reality is that the Tories, in all their policies, are weak and negative. Their day is done. When the Imperial parliament in London can no longer control trade or defence what future does the residual dream of Little England’s Empire have? History tells the dispassionate observer that it is far too late for all of that nostalgia, that the dream itself is the true anachronism and that Scotland’s journey to independence cannot be halted either by denial in Westminster or by anti-progressive sabotage in Holyrood.

Also it would appear to the dispassionate observer that Westminster’s tactic in dealing with Scotland is to work up a crisis, to object to any legislation Holyrood passes, in other words to pick a quarrel and then let events force the crisis. A stable, successful Scotland is a threat to Little England’s Empire. Scotland must be forced to be seen as dependent, incompetent and a fiscal basket case. Scotland must be shown to need England. However, time is not on the side of this depiction or tactic.

The motto of the Clan Gunn is “either peace or war (battle)”, or “Aut Pax Aut Bellum” if you prefer. Sometimes as I walk along the beautiful sandy strand of Dunnet Beach, thinking about these things, it is unfortunately not peace I see in the future relationship between Scotland and the rump of the English Empire. The absence of peace is the decent into the abyss of blunders. Perhaps the biggest blunder of all is the unwillingness to notice or to listen. Battle is historically the default position of the English Empire. Other than in Ireland these Imperial battles and the associated spilling of blood have occurred far away in such places as the Caribbean, Africa, India and in Asia generally. In the modern era surveillance has replaced, but not exclusively, the need for military campaigns, destruction and torture. Having said that it is increasingly common knowledge that the agents of Empire do pretty much as they please. No internal or external criticism of such a state of affairs ever sees the light of day. The abyss has many layers and myriad forms.

For its wealth in oil and gas, renewable energy – especially offshore wind, hydro and tidal stream – clean fresh water, natural harbours for the fleet of nuclear submarines, world class university education, highly prized food and drink and much more besides, Scotland will not be allowed to reinstate her sovereignty and become an independent nation in the eyes of the world. Scotland is far too valuable as a colony. And no matter what the apologists for England’s power say, those who falsely proclaim that Scotland is not a colony, the aspiration for self-determination will be, must be, resisted at all costs. The more England sets her face against constitutional change the more she drags herself into the abyss. The agents of the status quo are loose amongst us and are working away at every level of Scottish society to alter the course of history. They will not, must not, succeed.

This current Tory government is building a dream machine to make time go slower, or go backwards. Ever since the announcement of the green light for the exploitation of the Rosebank oilfield – which the BBC keep saying has 300 million barrels of retrievable hydro carbons when in fact it is 500+ million barrels – across the media has been paraded a procession of apologists for oil and those who seriously tell us that night is day and that everything is fine and that nothing will change no mater how much oil, petrol and diesel we burn. It has been quite amazing, if not surprising. On Radio Scotland the first sceptical voice raised was that of the First Minister Humza Yousaf. This is also quite amazing, but again not surprising. He has no power over energy. The Empire keeps it close.

It is as if the Tories and the media have taken some kind of hallucinogenic drug and have lost all sense of space and time, in and out, or right and wrong. Absolute whopping lies about how the Rosebank development will have little or no effect on the environment are passed as facts, with no journalism applied, no questions asked, no alternative point of view given air time. Carbon capture and storage is a relatively untried technology in relation to off-setting the burning of fossil fuels, but media capture and storage is a highly successful technique when it comes to greenwashing. All this when 20% of the population support Just Stop Oil and are prepared to break the law in order to do so. The methods of Just Stop Oil attract media attention, but their message does not. The Tories break the laws of nature and of humanity when they open new coal mines, pollute rivers and drill for and exploit huge new oil fields – the Cambo oilfield (78 miles North West of Shetland) is next and will produce at a conservative estimate 50,000+ barrels of oil per day for 25 years. Either Rishi Sunak or “Sir” Keir Starmer, if and when he is in power, will announce the go ahead for this field very soon now that Rosebank is to proceed.

This is how the Empire has descended into the abyss and has displayed no directional awareness other than in destroying the liveable environment of the planet. All the multiple crisis we witness at home and around the world, with the exception of earthquakes and volcanoes, are man-made. Canada is burning and Libya is flooded. On Radio Scotland, in relation to the Rosebank oil field, all the talk is of jobs and the economy. On a dead planet there will be no jobs and no economy.

©George Gunn 2023

Comments (34)

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  1. Graeme McCormick says:

    great article but one error. Humza has power over energy He can tax the heritable assets of the energy producers and distributors. s80I of the Scotland Act. that is a far more devastating power than regulation of tariffs. He charges the companies a figure to match say 75% of the private and commercial. consumers pay in Scotland and pays it back to the consumers. The pipes and cables, etc. are known on industry plans so he sets a charge per metre. Really quick and easy to introduce and enforce.

  2. Meg Macleod says:

    And very soon if the global policies continue..this article and point of view will inevitably be censored .
    I can’t remember who said it but the more corrupt a system becomes the more blatantly stupid are the decisions they make believing themselves infallible

  3. Jim Aitken says:

    While supporting the thrust of this article I feel it must be pointed out that it was also Scotland’s empire. Scots played a key role in this imperial project. They were not only soldiers but also slave owners, plantation owners, clerks based in numerous London offices, sea captains and doctors on board the slave ships, merchant traders and governors in all the colonies. We go nowhere without acknowledging this. The empire is over and so too is the large industrial spin-off that came from it. We are living now in the ruins of empire sustained only by the myth of greatness that the Tories keep trying to stir in the minds of the masses. Yes, it gave us the catastrophe of Brexit. If only we had a politically savvy SNP to move us out of these ruins.

    1. Hugh McShane says:

      Everyone emphasises the Scots Empire role- what else could they do? My paternal granny was born in the hill town of Simla-guess why? – my dad was an 8th. Army vet. from Bone to Trieste, tory voter all his days- Boomers like me have seen the permanent reduction of Conservatism to a kind of gadfly rump in Scottish politics since the 50’s- the Centre can no longer hold….

      1. 230929 says:

        No one’s blaming Scotland for its imperialism. We’re only questioning the victimisation of Scots as a colonised or even as an enslaved people by pointing out that the Scottish Enlightenment colonised at least a third of the world via the conquests and migration of its celebrate diaspora.

      2. John says:

        In the 19th and first half of 20th century many Scots were actively involved with, supported and benefited from British Empire.
        It does the cause of independence no good not to acknowledge this as it looks as though we consider Scots as superior to others during this period and it is historically incorrect. Even before 1707 Scotland did not have a great history in Ireland- the consequences off are still to be seen to this day.
        As someone who supports independence I would suggest acknowledging Scottish people’s role in Empire but emphasising that this was carried out as part of UK and that an independent Scotland views all other countries as equal and independent. We need to be big enough to be honest about our past – how else are we expected to learn for the future?

        1. Hugh McShane says:

          I fully agree- my main point is my assertion that the experience of WW2, + post-war governments represents a lasting rupture with ScotBrit attitudes, especially. the Tory variant thereof. We are never returning to UK-as-safety-comfort blanket, unless population movements augment the numbers who wish to be British in Scotland- always a problem wherever it occurs.

        2. SleepingDog says:

          @John, Scotland’s Empire “carried out as part of UK”… well, not for want of trying it solo:

          And before that, the Kingdom of Scotland had some expansionist phases, I gather. Colonisation and Empire were not alien practices.

          1. 230930 says:

            During the first War of Independence, Robert the Bruce fought imperial wars in Ireland to subjugate them till ‘all the isles, great and small, were brought to his will’. It’s believed on the scanty evidence available that his intention was to install his wee brother, Edward, to the vacant high kingship of Ireland and open a second front against England by attacking the Isle of Man and Wales with a joint imperial force.

            Wee Edward’s army fed itself by pillaging and spread disease, which caused increasing unpopularity among an Irish population that was already experiencing starvation from the pan-European Great Famine of 1315–1317. It was eventually sent home to think again by an Anglo-Irish force at the Battle of Faughart at the end of 1318.

  4. SleepingDog says:

    And this is what ‘governing in poetry’ looks like.

    1. Niemand says:

      You’re incorrigible 🙂

      1. SleepingDog says:

        @Niemand, and one could argue that the First Ministerial career of Nicola Sturgeon ended after being publicly asked to translate the poetry of her administration’s policies into prose, and conspicuously failing to do so.

    2. 230929 says:

      I think Mario Cuomo’s political experience was rather that you campaign in ‘poetry’ (to inspire voters with your vision for the future) and govern in ‘prose’ (to deal with the practical realities of being in office). The expression is meant to be read figuratively rather than literally.

      Of course, Mario Cuomo was an *rs*: it isn’t the job of poetry qua poetry to inspire or communicate anything; it’s just to be aesthetically pleasing or ‘beautiful’.

      1. Time, the Deer says:

        That’s an inherently anglophone (and bourgeois) opinion regarding the function or purpose of poetry. Not all languages/cultures share the view that its only ‘job’ is to be ‘aesthetically pleasing’ – the Gaelic bardic tradition being just one example.

        1. 230930 says:

          It is indeed; though I inherited it more from German-speaking theorists of art than from their anglophone equivalents, who traditionally tend to see the function of art rather in terms of emotive and/or spiritual expression.

          Like everyone else, I can’t escape my history. Meta-ethically, poetry is just how people find it; and how people find it depends in their particular historical construction – which meta-ethical theory is something else I’ve inherited from the germanophone and francophone worlds rather from the worlds of English or Gaelic speakers. As Kierkegaard said: I speak without authority, from within my own cultural horizons. And as Gadamer said: our hermeneutical task as human beings is to be forever expanding those horizons through open (free, equal, and unreserved) intercultural dialogue.

          1. Hugh McShane says:

            Gee whiz, Spock! I’m outta here!

          2. 230930 says:

            Nae simple rhymes for silly folk
            But the haill art, as Lenin gied
            Nae Marx-without-tears to workn’ men
            But the fu’ course insteed.

            Hugh MacDiarmid: ‘Second Hymn to Lenin’

          3. Time, the Deer says:

            You could have saved us all wading through that overwrought pish and stopped at your third word there.

          4. Hugh McShane says:

            It’s 6 digits specialty..

          5. 230930 says:

            I could indeed, Deer; but where’d have been the fun in that?

            And, of course, you could have stopped wading when you got to the third word; none was forcing you to keep going.

            As Nietzsche says in his essay on the Genealogy of Morals, ‘Gin some body canna ettle thir scrievins, nor they dirl he’s lug, I wat the faut mauna ay be mine.’

          6. 230930 says:

            It further occurred to me this morning, as I walked up to the Scrape linns above my cabin, that ‘poetry’ is itself a peculiarly Greek concept, which has, through the offices of European imperialism, long since colonised other cultures, distinguishing their speech also into ‘poetry’ and ‘prose’.

            European imperialism has also colonised other cultures with its meta-ethics, the theories by which we, as ‘Westerners’, ascribe value to things. Thus we value what we appropriate as ‘poetry’ according to its utility (in telling stories, expressing moods or sentiments, or revealing truths) and/or its sensuality and/or its intrinsic virtue, depending on which theory of value our evaluation assumes.

            It seems that the kind of ‘poetry’ I want, according to how I’m culturally constructed by the historical milieu I inhabit, is one that, in my making of it as a writer or reader, speaker or hear, brings me joy, irrespective of its utility as narrative, lyric, or revelation, and irrespective of whether or not it’s sui generis ‘virtuous’ (good in and of itself).

            Other people might want some other, more utilitarian or virtuous kind of ‘poetry’ (or some analogous but to me ‘alien’ language game that doesn’t fall under the colonisation of ‘poetry’ at all), but that’s alright. We each must make of things what we will.

          7. Hugh McShane says:

            Obviously there’s a big fan of Ludwig’s “whereof, thereof” aboot here!

          8. 230930 says:

            Spot on again, Hugh. ‘The limits of my language mean the limits of my world.’ is axiomatic to my practice. That’s why it’s imperative to be continually deconstructing the limits or horizons of one’s own language/world in one’s own reading and writing. This is one of poetry’s utilities; it reconfigures the language/world of the poet and her reader through the coining of new metaphors and images by means of which they make sense of their experiences.

  5. Mike Fenwick says:

    Opening sentence: “The Union between Scotland and England in 1707 was achieved through corruption and because of corruption it will be undone.”

    Offer this post from elsewhere on social media related to that opening sentence.

    Why does this very specific paragraph from the Declaration of a Sovereign Scot – use the word independent?

    Exercising my Claim Of Right as a Sovereign Scot, I declare:

    “I do not consent to the terms of, nor the continuation of, the Treaty of Union established through the Acts of Union in 1707.”

    In 2014 the word – independent – was used. “Should Scotland be an independent country?”

    The UK Supreme Court used the word – independent – in this extract from their ruling:

    77. “The purpose of the Bill is to hold a lawful referendum on the question whether Scotland should become an independent country.”

    The use of “be independent”, and the even worse “become an independent country” suggests that Scotland never had been and isn’t now an independent country. It was and it is!

    There is only one question that is fundamentally required to be asked and answered – and it is over whether the Treaty of Union is allowed to continue or should be ended.

    If you read their ruling you will find the UK Supreme Court agree!

    This is a further extract from the UK Supreme Court ruling (drawn from the very same 77. as above):

    77. ” … encompasses the question whether the Union between Scotland and England should be terminated …”

    Which is precisely why the Declaration of a Sovereign Scot says this:

    Exercising my Claim Of Right as a Sovereign Scot, I declare:

    “I do not consent to the terms of, nor the continuation of, the Treaty of Union established through the Acts of Union in 1707.”


    All of which may/may not prompt the question – What is the Declaration of a Sovereign Scot initiative. Details and background available via this link:

    1. Mike Fenwick says:

      Erratum – and apologies re above.

      Sentence should read:

      Why does this very specific paragraph from the Declaration of a Sovereign Scot – NOT use the word independent?

    2. 230930 says:

      Yeah, this was the big hole in the referenda (the matter) that the Scottish government put to the Scottish electorate in its 2014 referendum: it lacked a clear and unambiguous idea of what ‘independence’ would be in the case of Scotland. This left sceptics like myself unsure of just what we’d be voting for or against and led us to vote instead for ‘neither of the above’.

      I suspect that ‘independence’ is used by those who want us exit some union (whether the UK, or the EU, or whatever) because of its positive emotional connotation rather than any dispassionate ‘scientific’ meaning it might have as a concept. That’s why its champions get so upset when we use words like ‘separation’ and ‘secession’ instead, which are less positively affective. It’s all about manipulating our sentiments to produce the outcome they desire, which is to get us to buy what they’re selling and vote for their cause.

      I also suspect that, under the cover of the rhetoric of ‘independence’, what its champions want is for the state (and those who can control it) to be unconstrained in its decision-making and executive power by its affiliation to some larger, more comprehensive jurisdiction (whether that of the UK, or the EU, or whatever). This is all well and good, but I don’t see what practical difference this national ‘independence’ would make to the lives of those individuals and neighbourhoods (civil society) who are subject to that power, to our own local ‘independence’.

      I’d always much rather be in a democratic union with other people, the governance of which is constrained by the principle of subsidiarity, than in an ‘independent’ nation state, and the larger the union the better.

  6. Caligula says:

    I think the formation of G. Britain was based on the desire of the Scottish upper class to gain access to plundering the English empire, and the desire of the English upper class to save money on wars. This was very pre-democracy when Scotland was a feudal / tribal society with a national identity based on the post-reformation (ie civil wars) pan-Scottish taliban-like Church.

    1. 230930 says:

      The UK was largely based on the need of Scottish investors to gain access to English markets to save the nation from bankruptcy following the Seven Ill Years of the 1690s, on the one hand, and, on the other, the need of the English Crown to secure its northern border against the threat of future invasion by the French. The Stuart dynasty, which held both the English and Scottish Crowns, along with the so-called ‘Scottish Party’ at the royal court, also had a long-standing ambition to unite both of its kingdoms into a single political state, an ambition which the ‘English Party’ at court vigorously opposed. The Scottish Party eventually got its way when it threatened to dissolve the personal union of the Crowns on the death of the Queen Anne, which would have compromised the security of England’s northern border.

      This, indeed, all took place in pre-democracy days. The revolution that overthrew the regime of absolute monarchy and left the Crown subject in the exercise of its power to the parliaments in both its kingdoms had only just recently taken place in 1688, and it was a couple of centuries yet before the demos got even a sniff of government anywhere in Britain.

  7. Hugh McShane says:

    As a fellow graduate of Riddrie Public Library, albeit in the 50’s, 10 years after its greatest alumnus, I suspect 6d’s preference for CM Grieve quotes over Alasdair Gray’s is indicative of an ubermensch cosmopolitanism in love with word-soup!

    1. 230930 says:

      Spot on, Hugh! My preference is indeed (In Memoriam James Joyce) for a MacDiarmidean cosmopolitanism, a vision of world language or ‘word soup’, a hermeneutics, if you will, that seeks to ‘overcome’, ‘exceed’, or ‘go beyond’ the present constraints or horizons of one’s own culture in the manner of ein Übermensch.

      But, of course, this is all p*sh.

      1. 230930 says:

        It’s also difficult to quote Alasdair because his postmodernist gesturing continually undermines (overcomes, exceeds, surpasses) what he says. Chris nearly always just said what he meant, though his contrarian temper and restless trolling often led him to contradict himself and confound his readers, which was his great virtue as a writer.

      2. Derek Thomson says:


  8. Niemand says:

    O/T and not important but am I right in thinking a couple of articles between 21st and 27th Sep have been removed?

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