Unionist commentators and the tolanometer

When I was a wean, I went to a Catholic primary school that happened to be in a different parish from the church where I got dragged to mass of a Sunday.  From time to time one of the priests would visit the school in order to talk to all the children from his parish.  I used to dread the announcement that we had to go along to see Father Tolan.  Father Tolan had a superpower.  He could make time stand still when he spoke.

Father Tolan droned on in a monotonous tone.  I can’t actually tell you what he was talking about, except that it probably involved Jesus.  His little chats never lasted longer than 10 minutes, but they seemed like they went on for hours.  He had nothing to say that was of any relevance or interest to a 10 year old obsessed with apemen, dinosaurs, and languages.  There was nothing for it but to count the flakes of dandruff gently settling on the shoulders of his black suit and wish it was dinner time.  Over 40 years later, and Father Tolan remains my own personal boredometer.

Folk south of the border seem to have woken up to the fact that Scotland is about to hold an independence referendum, and they’ve taken to expressing their opinions about it in the comments sections of the newspapers.  Which they have every right to do and is perfectly reasonable and fair.  But for those of us who have been arguing, campaigning, debating, and discussing Scotland’s future for pretty much the entirety of our politically aware lives the opinions of uninformed non-participants in Scotland’s referendum score over 5 tolans.  I’ve long since given up paying attention and am counting the flakes of dandruff that settle over their oft-cited irrelevances.  If I enjoyed being lectured like a small child, I’d have been happy to trot along to see the priest.

There are a number of common themes.  Those on the right harangue us about currency and how we’re surrendering to Brussels, or possibly Berlin as some of them are under the delusion that they’re still fighting WW2.  Those on the left harangue us about currency and how we’re betraying the working classes by pandering to nationalism – which is just the same as fascism you know.  There’s a generous sprinkling of nutcases who bring up ancient history and genetics.   And there is the overwhelming consensus that it’s all about the sly manipulations of a wily Alicsammin.  He’s always wily, just like the coyote in the roadrunner cartoons.  But Alicsammin’s ACME independence rocket sled has a fatal flaw they cry, and then raise some point which people who’ve been paying attention have long since debated, discussed, and put to bed.

Above all there is a boundless capacity to see anti-English racism in innocuous remarks which don’t refer to English people, even obliquely.  It’s a strange thing, taking offence.  If you go around expecting offence, then you’ll certainly find it.  When you are convinced that the person you are debating with is motivated by anti-English racism, you will see anti-English racism in every utterance they make.

Then there are the assumptions, more legion than the Romans who marched off into the Caledonian wilderness and never returned.  “Scotland wants independence, but wants England to keep underwriting its debts,” they sniff contemptuously.  The assumption being that Scotland is subsidised by the goodwill and deep pockets of English taxpayers.

But they’ve got it the wrong way around.  Scotland does not rely on the UK Treasury to underwrite it.  Quite the reverse, Scotland was underwriting the UK Treasury even before the oil was discovered, and has continued to plough billions into the UK economy, specifically the London economy, ever since.

The real reason that the Scottish Government wants a currency union has nothing to do with wanting the UK Treasury to continue underwriting Scottish debts, and everything to do with ensuring that Scottish independence does not provoke a crisis in the rUK’s economy once it is deprived of the billions it sooks in from Scotland.  An economic crisis in the rUK would not be good for Scotland’s economy.  But the bottom line is that it’s not Scotland which requires underwriting, it’s the UK Treasury.

It’s not Scotland’s economy which is unbalanced and risky, Scotland hasn’t put all its eggs in the basket of the City of London – which is considerably more volatile than Brent crude.  Standard and Poor’s recent report into the credit status of an independent Scotland pointed out that it only considers reliance on a single economic sector to be overlarge when it exceeds 20% of the total economy.  Oil and gas make up just 16% of Scotland’s GDP, and even without the oil Scotland’s economic output per head of population is greater than that of all UK regions except London and the South East.  The Standard and Poor’s report characterised Scotland’s economy as “rich and diversified”.

But try pointing that out to yer average Unionist commentator in the pages of UK newspapers, and you’ll be answered with a snort of derision, some very predictable comments about deep fried Braveheart welfare junkies, and accusations of anti-English racism.

It’s not really their fault, having arrived late at the independence debate party bearing no gifts but a tin of bile concocted by the Sun, the Telegraph, the Mail and the Guardian.  All they have to go on are their stereotypes and prejudices reflected through the distorting prism of UK media coverage of the debate.  They’ve been told for decades that Scotland is poor and depends upon cash transfers to keep us in free education and prescriptions for methodone.  They’re not going to be shifted from that view by people they are already convinced are anti-English racists, no matter how many economic papers or citations you give them.

This weekend Davie Cameron will make another of his flying visits to Scotland to add some fuel to the fires of Unionist prejudice, and will doubtless run away again before he can be challenged.  Not that the assembled media hacks are keen to challenge him.  The comments sections of the papers will rise to 10 tolans.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t engage with these people, I have nothing but admiration for those brave souls who engage in missionary work amongst the benighted.  But we should only do so in the knowledge that it is a waste of time and energy.  They don’t have a vote and they’re not going to change their minds anyway.  We need to concentrate our efforts on persuading people who do have a vote, and who experience the reality of Scotland – not the caricature of our country found in the pages of the Telegraph and in David Cameron’s speeches.

The independence campaign has moved into a new phase.  On the Unionist side there is a barrage of negativity, fear, hatred and odium.  These are distraction tactics.  The correct response is for us to focus our efforts where it makes a difference.   That’s a lesson Father Tolan never appreciated.

0 thoughts on “Unionist commentators and the tolanometer

  1. The true financial worth of Scotland to the UK treasury will only become apparent after a Yes vote.
    It won’t be a pretty sight.

    • By an eerie coincidence that may or may not prove that there really is a god, Father Crilly did bear an amazing resemblance to Father Tolan.

      I think Danny Alexander is Father Dougal. Neither understands the difference between small and far away.

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  3. I occasionally take a wander through the fragrant corridors of the BTL comments in the UK MSM It is not a welcoming place if you have the afront to be Scottish. (I never comment though)

    It is sometimes easy to forget that out of an English population of about fifty million there will be more than a few nutters that will float to the surface. It is definitely the lack of basic understanding that frustrates. I am often left wondering about their motivation especially those who seem to spend an extraordinary amount of time commenting on this subject. (Aye you know who I mean!)

  4. Oh Jeez Paul, I wish a had penny caramel for every crack pot theory on why we’re voting YES I’ve seen just in the past month. I could open a sweetie shop tomorrow. My personal favourite is the whole ‘its only cause you hate the English’ cobblers. Doesn’t matter that the vast weight of evidence completely scraps said theory. It doesn’t matter how carefully you phrase a post, ensuring that you specify Westminster or Whitehall, Parliament or other institution. Somehow when translated by the average britnat it filters through to them as England or English. At which point retiring from said conversation with some grace is almost impossible to achieve.

    I honestly believe independence for Scotland will be good for England and English politics. A much needed enema and shock to the system. A time for reassessment and new directions all round. I’ve simply lost the will to reply when challenged with the usual pub psychology approach these days. 🙁

    • You can say things which quite specifically relate to the Westminster Parliament and only the Westminster Parliament, but then they’ll turn round and say “You’re just using Westminster as code for English.” (No. If I want to refer to English people, I will say “English people”. I understand the difference even if you don’t. And me an almost foreigner too.) A thoughtful and sensible article about the economic imbalance between London and the rest of the UK prompts the reply “Hater! You’re just jealous of London’s success.”

      Now every time I tell my English other half that he needs to wait 10 minutes before I’ll make him a cup of tea, he says: “That’s just because you hate the English.” Mind you, at least he’s taking the piss, unlike BTL comments in certain publications.

      I agree with your assessment, Scottish independence will be good for England – and excellent for Wales. It may even bring about a solution to Northern Ireland’s problems that will stand the test of time.

      I’ve given up even reading the comments these days. You used to see helpful and interesting information there, but nowadays you’ve got to wade through oceans of dross in order to find it.

      • Must admit to just skimming them myself recently. But yes, I agree its getting hard work.

        Still I find the mainstream handy for posting links back to pro indy sites. Well, they have to be good for something and free advertising is a pretty good reason for a visit. 😉

  5. Mr. Dug,
    Thanks for your blog.You inspire me to political activity I haven’t felt in thirty years.

  6. Down here in Carlisle I hear all this crap every single day, see it in any newspapers I’m unfortunate to see in the mess room or see it on the constant BBC rolling propaganda televisor that’s constantly on in that same spot. I really can’t wait to escape from it. Even if I only get as far as Moffat!

  7. I remember the late Father Tolan very well: such a dreary voice. I once had to speak to him so I could get some piece of paper from him for my marriage and he was more interested in unimportant technicalities. Sound familiar: YOU CAN’T!! His dreary voice recalls the wall-to-wall misinformation we are subjected to on a daily basis in the UK press. However, the people will decide and the people have a habit of disobeying the high heids yins in the future rump rUK – or shouldn’t we call it fUK?

    • I’ve just realised it’s father Stone? the guy who holidays on Craggy Island every year and bores Ted and Dougall witless. He doesn’t exhibit any signs of pleasure when he’s visiting, but he looks forward so much to his visits. I’ll have to dig out the episode and and savour it.

  8. An excellent post, we all have had our Father Tolan types who we stopped listening to before they even started and mine seems to be the whole Better Together types. I also have stopped reading newspapers, well unless I am forced to and have even stopped joining Macart on the comments. Seemed to me that the racism which was quite uncalled for, has just got worse and worse. Those who comment in England are convinced they are right, they also confuse the SNP with the BNP, that is the only Nationalism they recognise.

  9. Well written, but they are not listening. I have a number of relatives born in Scotland, but who have lived and worked in England for many years and I can tell you that they don’t get the independence issue at all. Now remember these are Scots,but they have been brainwashed over the years by the M.S.M, Dr John Robertson of the U.W.S called it mind control, and they genuinely believe that they, the native English, support us in every way, especially financially. I will be on a family holiday later this summer with them, and I know that they will still be puzzled why we want to “leave them”. I will find myself repeating the same reasons that it’s nothing to do with the English people, it’ Westminster we want shot of, and the sooner the better.

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