Where are we going as a nation, and why are we in this handbasket?

You can’t go to the shops for the messages these days without having to dodge the missiles being thrown by hordes of angry yes voters across a barricade of burning car tyres blocking Cumbernauld Road. Inside every shop there’s an irate man with a blue painted face spouting anti-English insults and calling for the reintroduction of hanging for everyone who refuses to learn Gaelic. Meanwhile pensioners clutching poly bags run in terror past Parkhead Forge to escape the whirling blades on the wheels of a van bearing a Vote Yes sign. But you’re not even safe at home. Throughout the land families cower in fear of the late night chap on the door, it will be an SNP fanatic who’s going to stab you unless you agree to vote yes more quickly than a blink in Alistair Darling’s eye. It’s so bad that Better Together can’t put forward any speakers for public debates, out of fear that their supporters will be dragged from the hall and stuffed into a wicker man to be set on fire to propitiate the ancient Celtic god Alicsammon, the sybil of secession. Even potted plants are biological weapons in this war. It’s referendum carnage.

All of this must be true, because it’s regularly reported in the media. But then, so are sightings of Nessie.

It’s a strange thing. Apparently no voters are being terrified into cowed silence, too afraid to speak out despite having the support of the entire apparatus of the British state and most of the mainstream media. Love for the Union is the love that dare not speak its name, yet every day it’s plastered all over the front pages of the Mail, the Telegraph, the Record, the Sun, the Guardian and the Scotsman, like a page three model with a come hither tease and a premium rate phone line. Better Together have helpfully provided an astroturf lawn for Vote Nob Orders picnics. The telly, and the BBC in particular, is chock full of the Joy of Great British Unionsex, demonstrating all the positions in which you can be shafted yet still convince yourself that you’re in a partnership of equals. It’s not like no voters are bereft of support, it’s not like there is no one who wants to encourage them to speak out, it’s not like there is no one to give them information and arguments they need to state their case.

What we’re seeing now is what happens when a scaremongering campaign goes wrong. Better Together set out from the assumption that support for independence was the preserve of a relatively small minority. And back when the campaign started this was true. Opinion polls regularly showed that most Scots did not want independence, and most Scots placed constitutional issues quite far down their list of political priorities. So Better Together decided that it would win the referendum by ensuring that this state of affairs continued. No voters were to be taken for granted, in the way that Scottish voters are always taken for granted by Westminster politicians, and they’d concentrate on scaring the shit out of the don’t knows while demonising yes supporters as SNP fanatics that no reasonable person would wish to associate with. All that was required for this campaign to work was domination of the airwaves and the printing presses, and they had that.

But it didn’t work as planned. What they didn’t count on was an effect that they themselves had created – the widespread public distrust and outright hatred for our political classes. No one loves Westminster except those for whom it’s the mainline terminus of the gravy train. If you had a quid for every time that Westminster broke a promise, you still wouldn’t have enough to pay your English daughter’s uni fees.

So across Scotland, people began to ask the question – where are we going as a nation, and why are we in this handbasket? Gradually the realisation dawned even on many who were predisposed to vote no that we’re up shit creek and the paddle has been privatised. Previous no voters realised that voting against the continuance of the Westminster system isn’t voting to end a glorious era, it’s voting to end a greedy error.

The fearbombs were exploding on a daily basis in the media. And were getting more and more extreme, and less and less believable. There’s only so long that people will accept being treated like idiots, do it long enough and those people are going to rush to accept the first chance they have of giving you an almighty kick up your smug self-serving backside. It’s not like they had a high opinion of Westminster politicians to begin with.

The campaign broke out of the party political rut, where it could have been contained within the regular ding dongs of the licenced party trolls. It spread to non-party groups, it became a mass movement. But even that could have been contained. Containment and demonisation worked with the anti-globalisation protests, which helpfully assisted in their own demonisation by smashing up the centre of London. But these protests were also unfocused, a howl of rage against an unjust and unfair political and economic system, without a clear plan of action to take beyond the demonstrations.

There has been no campaign in recent British political history like the Scottish referendum campaign. Referendums* aren’t commonplace in the UK, and when they do occur they are usually hedged around with qualifications, obstacles and ah-buts from the political parties. The farcical AV referendum was devised so that voters were offered quite possibly the only alternative system of voting that was worse than First Past the Post, and it was a vote carefully depicted in party political terms – embodied in the lying liar Nick the liar Clegg. Voting against AV was more a vote to kick the lying liar Nick the liar Clegg in his lying nads. Did I mention he was a liar? The result was a vindication of Westminster. And Nick’s lying nads are still well padded. Westminster’s backroom machinations behind Scotland’s 97 and 79 referendums are well known. The independence referendum is a referendum whose terms have not been determined by Westminster, and for that reason alone it is is unique.

In the shape of the Scottish referendum, Westminster is faced with its worst nightmare. It’s a referendum whose terms they have not set and did not control. It’s a popular mass campaign beyond party politics, whose activists have little interest in party political point scoring. Alicsammin is a big fat liar you say? And this should bother me why exactly? I’m not voting for Alicsammin. I’m voting for independence. But worse than that it’s a focused campaign, with a very clear political objective – a yes vote in the referendum. Political goals don’t come more focused than a single affirmative word.

A focused mass movement in a campaign beyond their control – no wonder they’re scared of us. Yes supporters should not be discouraged or even angered by the increasingly hysterical shrieks in the UK media. It means they’re still losing.

It will get worse over the next few months. Expect all-out doomageddon on the one hand, and a red white and blue bunting-fest on the other when the polls start to show yes is in the lead. They have no other course of action open to them, but it will be self-defeating. The no campaign is already disintegrating – Labour MEPs confirm that Scotland will of course be admitted to the EU, Danny Alexander admits that there will be no border controls, the UK Government admitted that pensions will continue to be paid. One scare story after another is admitted to be false, and with every admission another little piece of Better Together’s credibility dies. All that is left are the shrieks and the slurs, and the desperate attempt to rally the troops with the pageantry of wars long over.

The more they shriek, the more they attempt to diminish, abuse and demonise, the more they depict a reality that ordinary voters in Scotland cannot recognise, the more people in Scotland wonder how we can possibly be better together with a political system which holds us in such contempt.

We can step out of the handbasket, and decide on our own destination.  It’s a promise that comes with home made jam.  That’s a promise that Westminster cannot compete with.  And yes will keep winning.


*Pedant’s note: I refuse to stop banging on about this.  The plural of referendum is referendums. Referendum in Latin is not a noun, it’s a gerund, a part of the verbal system. Latin gerunds do not have plurals, and the Romans weren’t overly keen on mass participatory democracy either. Neither is Westminster come to that, but that’s by the by. English has gerunds too, and they don’t have plurals either – although English confusingly uses its gerund ending -ing for a variety of other grammatical purposes which can sometimes be pluralised. In the sentence “I like monstering”, monstering is a gerund, but in “I like a good monstering” it’s a noun.  You can pluralise nouns, or at least most of them, and some gerunds are also used as nouns.  But you can’t say “I like swimmings” in the same way, because swimming is only a gerund, or a present participle which can’t be pluralised either.  Referendum in Classical Latin was like swimming, not like monstering.

Gerunds in Latin take the same endings as neuter singular nouns. Referenda is what the plural of referendum would be in Latin if it were a neuter singular noun. But it’s not a neuter singular noun, it’s a gerund. The only reason a plural is required is because the word was borrowed into English as a noun and the rules of English grammar demand that nouns have plurals. So since referendum only requires a plural due to the demands of English grammar, not Latin grammar, the only appropriate plural is the English plural referendums.  Referenda is bad Latin, and using it just makes you sound like a pedant who has mispedanted.

Boris Johnson gets it wrong, and he’s an Eton and Oxford educated Classicist apparently. I went to a comprehensive in Coatbridge. Sic id fellitā Boris. That’s Latin for ‘So suck it up Boris’, only ruder. Because we can do monstering in Latin too.  Now go and write it out 100 times.

0 thoughts on “Where are we going as a nation, and why are we in this handbasket?

  1. I have to say I’m getting rather amused now at the predictable shrieking of the Unionists, the MSM & their rabid online followers. It’s a frenzy which feeds on itself with ever-increasing desperation.

    And why? Because we’ve proved it doesn’t work.

    So they turn the volume up to max. Like a UKIP tosspot who just speaks a lot louder to the furrin folk (cos that always works), we’re being subjected to the same tactics.

    It’s the classic strategy of a pathetically dismal campaign, which unsurprisingly, can’t read the writing on the wall.

    Roll on the 19th Sept!

    Having read your latest offering Paul, I seem to have a song in my head ….

    ” We’re on a road to nowhere
    Come on inside
    Takin’ that ride to nowhere
    We’ll take that ride

    I’m feeling ok this mornin’
    And you know
    We’re on the road to paradise
    Here we go, here we go.”

  2. All they have left is fear and name calling. I mean that’s what it all boils down to.

    Not debate, not discourse, simple and unambiguous playground insults. We’re nats, xenophobes, economic illiterates, Sammin sycophants, lefty fantasists, mind slaves, you name it we’ve been called it and worse.

    We’re still here and growing, a testament to the sum and substance of BT/Westminster arguments and the patience and commitment of the YES campaign.

    They’ve lost that argument. Their only support is the media and without it they are done. They know it, we know it and they’re afraid. The more afraid they become the more they project this fear and paranoia through the media. This weekend marked a fresh low point for the laughingly titled ‘Better Together’ as they sought to instil yet more social division in Scotland’s electorate. Attempting to foment distrust of English born furren types who might vote no in our midst. Looking to provoke a reaction. HOPING to provoke a reaction. Pretty grim.

    They’ve misread us yet again.

    This is NOT and NEVER has been about ethnic division. Its about political division, about governance, about returning a government for the people, by the people. (I’ve heard that before somewhere.)

    Westminster is not a government of the people. Its government of self interest, based on social inequality. We fix things by providing a system of government which serves the needs of ALL the electorate, not just the top ten percent. We fix things by putting the service back into public servant.

    Lets leave the name calling and fear mongering to those who deal in fear and uncertainty as a means of control. We deserve better than that and we are better than that. We will talk to people about the kind of country THEY want to live in.

  3. As the sign said (dipthong) “Si hoc signum legere potes, operis boni in rebus cybernatis alacribus et fructuosis potiri potes!”……..obesa non cantavit Boris and hopefully she will be singing Scots wha hae…..!

  4. Talking of the EU what did we see in our media about the debate with the five candidates for the Position is vacating in October that was on European TV? I’ve seen one snippet about Independence but that is all.

    Does anyone know where I can get to see the rest?

  5. As a fellow pedant, I would have thought that English gerunds do indeed have plurals, such as ‘readings’, ‘hearings’ ‘signings’, etc.

    • Those words are all count nouns – they can come after a definite or indefinite article. You can say “He gave me a hearing.” In English, it’s really more accurate to refer to the -ing form of the verb than to use traditional Latin grammatical terms like gerund. English -ing forms have a much wider range of grammatical uses than Latin gerunds.

      The English -ing form of verbs is more like the Celtic verbal noun than it is any Latin verbal category – or even the equivalent verbal category in other Germanic languages. Some linguistic researchers say that the range of uses of -ing forms in English is evidence of Celtic linguistic influence.

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  7. A young friend of mine born in Scotland of English parentage and staying in Cork City was proposing to come over with some of his pals to do some enthusiastic work for the YES campaign. I thought I better warn him of the desperate climate of misinformation coming from the NO side so here is what I had to say to him.

    When you are doing anything for the YES campaign it is very important that you don’t give the press the slightest scope to get a “story” that they can twist to the advantage of Westminster’s NO campaign. It is a very dirty game of misinformation and downright lies that the whole power of Westminster is geared up to mastermind behind the scenes. They pretty well have the whole media (BBC and press) primed to pounce on any opportunity they can find to get undecided voters to distrust Alex Salmond, the SNP and the whole YES campaign in general. Truth and honest facts don’t come into their campaign. Anything goes no matter how dirty. If the media print the lies then they take on the appearance of reality and that is all that the NO campaign cares about – getting out through the media the twisted “reality” that they want to use to scare the vulnerable people they are targeting – the ones who rely on the media to tell them what to think.

    It is a very unequal contest when the State uses all its considerable powers to deceive a section of society like this. Of course it is nothing new for the British State to be putting out misinformation and hiding the facts from the populace, but what is happening in this case is that there are some very smart and articulate people in the YES campaign who day by day expose both the lies on one hand, and on the other the the real facts that the government wants to hide. It is a relentless contest but we are winning through to the truth and then spreading it through the internet and and from there it is carried to public meetings across the country.

    Since they control the press however we have to watch our step every inch of the way. They are simple desperate to get any kind of story they can twist to their agenda, fill with poison and fire at the YES campaign whither in the papers or on BBC. Usually both papers and BBC sing from the same hymn sheet as they are primed to do. Of course it is a really shocking state of affairs that any “democratic” government should run such a highly organised misinformation campaign against any section of its populace but we just have to live with the reality of this and just keep doing the things we are good at to counteract their campaign.

    So like I say if you are doing anything for the YES campaign watch your back and don’t give “the department of misinformation” any ammunition.

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  9. Whether gerunds are correctly used or not, the trouble is there are gullible people out there, people who have been raised to believe Scotland is just a wee, poor, backward appendage to Greater England. They gulp down such unionist garbage, and may not like the taste, but believe it’s for their own good. Time to swap what they’re being given to drink.

  10. YOu’re not voting for alicsamin indeed but I have to say this is one of the biggest excuses for NO that I have been hearing. The personalisation of the debate is working for some and this has to be tackled. I can only assume that when the campaign gets going for sure the NO will go full out on alicsammin while alicsammin himself will become more involved and visible and thus fall into that trap.

  11. Alex Salmond enjoys a high rating with the voting public and scored a majority in Parliament against the odds. Any interviews he has given sound eminently reasonable and good humoured. So let’s not get too upset over the MSM’s hysterical reaction to him, the SNP, the Scottish Government, Scottish people, Scotland, Europe, the universe etc. Look at the alternative!

  12. A brilliant article and I see there’s more on the Herald criticising AS by Torrance – ‘Indeed, Mr Salmond has always delighted in launching deeply personal attacks on his political opponents’.

    This would be funny if it wasn’t so serious as AS is the most demonised politician in the UK.

    I know a lot of people don’t like Alex Salmond but really do they prefer Cameron, Gideon et al?

    We have to keep pushing it’s not about AS and hopefully we will get through to enough people to push through a yes.

    • ‘This would be funny if it wasn’t so serious as AS is the most demonised politician in the UK.’

      We have UKIP’s Farage as well. Probably truth in what you say

  13. When you say that ‘independence was the preserve of a small minority’ before this campaign, I can’t agree with this. For some years before the referendum was announced support for independence stood at around 33% which I would describe as a significant minority. When you also consider that public sector workers, of whom there’s no shortage in Scotland, would be committing career suicide to come out for independence then the indy side was always going to get good support. The real difficulty has been to identify the size of the anti-independence faction; Tories, the Orange Order, Rangers supporters and a few other groups. Even here, 27% of English-born residents and 20% of Rangers supporters are thought to support independence. Seriously, the British government has badly misjudged this one: at the very least it’s on a knife edge.

  14. “Now go and write it out 100 times.”

    You’re not going to cut our balls off If we’re not done by sunrise, right?

      • Heh. Hope they remember to drive on the right side of the road over here.

        P.S. Please have them bring a case or two of Irn Bru. Loved that stuff when I tried it, but can’t find it around these parts.

  15. Nice explanation of referendums, I didn’t know that.
    In the same spirit, may we now reinstate data and media as plural nouns? ‘The media ARE biased’, not ‘the media IS biased’.
    While we’re being pedantic, can we
    ‘refuse to tow [not ‘toe’] the line’
    ‘rein [not ‘reign’] in our baser instincts’
    Spelling is just spelling, but the meanings of these metaphors are lost if the wrong word is used.

  16. Huge thanks for a wonderful piece several genuine laughs out loud and even more for superb explanatory pedantry. I shall never say ‘referenda’ again (and presumably the same goes for ‘stadiums’ – or does it?

    • I’m not a fan of Latin or Greek plurals in English, so I’d always say stadiums and hippopotamuses and not stadia or hippopotami. Actually I’d just say hippos, but you know what I meant. And I wouldn’t say stadiums either, I’d say “Isn’t there something not involving sport on the other channel?”

      I really don’t have an opinion one way or the other whether other people use the Latin or Greek plurals or the English ones. Feel free. It’s just referenda that annoys me, because there’s never anything more annoying than someone being WRONG on the internet, and because using it crosses the line between admirable erudition and showing off going I’m pure dead edumacatit then tripping over a dictionary and falling flat on your face. I just enjoy pointing that out. Especially when it’s Boris Johnson.

  17. Damn. Just posted ‘referenda’ elsewhere. Learnt!

    Decades and generations of propaganda of you’re TW, TS, TP have, unfortunately, done their work. I blame it squarely on the Labour Party. Let’s hope we can overcome it.

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