A reason to be cheerful

It’s time to be cheerful, and not just because I’m about to see my American other half for a two week visit during which we plan to go to the Highlands and then to London for a few days. It’s time to be cheerful because despite any local difficulties that the independence campaign might have faced recently, we’re on the right side of history. More and more I’m convinced that we are no longer engaged in a debate about whether Scotland could or should become an independent country again, we’re in a debate about the timing. This is a debate about when Scotland retakes its historic place amongst the independent nations of the world, not a debate about if. We’re debating the tense of the verb, not its conditionality, because Scotland’s condition is that of a country which is on the path to statehood.

I’m cheerful because of the response of the usual British nationalist suspects to the author Andrew O’Hagan’s speech to the Edinburgh Book Festival in which he set out his reasons for shifting from support for the United Kingdom to support for Scottish independence. I’m cheerful because that response was lacking in intellectual rigour, lacking in imagination, lacking in humanity. I’m cheerful because their pathetically sneering response was entirely predictable. I’m cheerful because the massed commentariat of the British nationalists had no coherent reply. I’m cheerful because they have no coherent case for Britishness. All they have is a dismissive sneer, a contemptuous snort, and a graph. To be fair to them, graphs are the closest that they have to imaginative literature.

It is very noticeable that the creativity, the imagination, the soul and the spirit of Scotland are almost entirely on the side of independence. Where are the artists, the poets, the novellists, articulating a British Scotland that sings and soars? They don’t exist. The Scottish incarnation of British nationalism has no soul. That’s important, because a nation doesn’t tread the path to independence to the tune of an accountant, and particularly not to that of an accountant whose objectivity is highly suspect.

Nations are sung into being, they are versified and live in the stories that are told on cold and wet nights around the flicker of a fire. The story that the Scottish independence campaign imagines is the story of a nation founded in tolerance, a story that all those who hear can choose to be characters in. That’s the Scotland that we sing about. It’s a Scotland that is limited only by our imaginations.

Nationhood is a creative act of the imagination. A nation exists in the stories its people tell themselves, in the poems that they recite, in the songs that they sing. It is a creation of the imagination. The vision of the Scotland that independence supporters seek is a creative act. If you have no imagination, you have no nation to call into being. British nationalism in Scotland is a desert of dreams and a bonfire of hope. It promises nothing and delivers less. It has no visionaries to lead the way. It has no light in its darkness. British nationalism in Scotland is a journey that aspires to arrive at mediocrity but always ends in despair. It depends for its survival as an ideology on creating nothing but doubt and fear.

I’m cheerful because when they were confronted with an erudite and creative man who spoke about a future Scotland that he called into being by the power of his imagination, British nationalists replied by complaining that he wasn’t being limited by their narrow vision of Scotland. They complained that a creative artist wasn’t being inspired by a British nationalist accountant. How dare anyone dream. How dare someone state that dignity has no price. How dare anyone look at the graph and laugh. But they had no response to the poetry in his soul. All they had was snideness and sneering, the comments section of the Scotsman writ large. That’s not going to inspire generations of a nation. It’s the last resort of those who know that their intellectual cupboard is bare.

I’m cheerful because independence is an act of creation and the creative people in Scotland overwhelmingly support independence. Nations don’t choose a particular path because someone draws a graph about the price of oil or claims about a deficit. They choose a particular path because the poets amongst their people sing of something better. For some years now, Scotland has been singing of a better future, one that Britain can’t offer.

I’m cheerful because the British state is being hollowed out from within by those who claim to love it. One by one the pillars of British rule have been eaten through by the termites of Westminster. They are no longer even pretending that there is a Union worth its name, all there is is a Westminster that’s greedy for power and which refuses to acknowledge that Scotland wants different things. Yet the Union between Scotland and England can only survive as long as both parts want broadly the same future. Brexit has shattered what was left of that tattered delusion. And Westminster responds by trying to silence Scotland. It responds by gloating about how its silences Scotland. The music has stopped. The poets are silent. The stories are not to be told.

There is no dreaming in the Union. There is no one singing the song of a better Britain that Scotland is at the heart of. There is nothing to inspire, no creative act of imagination. There is nothing to unite, nothing to energise, enthuse or rouse the soul, nothing to animate. This is a United Kingdom which is still walking but which is already dead.

Nations become independent because of their story tellers, their makars, their dreamers. They tell a story of a better land and by the act of creating the tale they bring it into being. To become independent is a creative act and Scotland is a nation of poets, of singers, and of story tellers. That’s a reason to be cheerful.

Peter is arriving on Sunday, but I’ve got a few things to do before then. He’ll be here for two weeks and during that time I won’t be blogging. Sam Miller (Macart) will be looking after you in my absence. I know he’ll keep you engaged and informed.


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0 thoughts on “A reason to be cheerful

  1. Pingback: A reason to be cheerful | speymouth

  2. They strained every sinew. Exhausted every argument. They had the support of the entire UK establishment. They had hate bombs and love bombs. They sneered, they jeered, the browbeat and bullied. Even then after all that, they could barely manage more than 55% And even that was with a vow they had no intention of honoring.

    But they never tried to make anyone “want” to be British. Strange that.

    That says far more about the union and British nationalism in Scotland. Its simply thunderous.

    “It’s shit being British- don’t leave us Scotland.”

    • “They never tried to make anyone “want” to be British”

      I really think you’ve put your finger on it there, D.A. All they have left is a defensive rearguard action, and step by step they’re forced to retreat, one by one their troops fall or desert. There can only be one outcome, the only question is “How long?”

  3. Indeed. Torrance’s drivel in the Guardian was even more delightful than usual. Didn’t realise he had such an inferiority complex but I suppose the haircut gives it away.

    Have fun!

      • I agree. I’ve just read Iain Martin’s patronising piece in the Times re Alex Salmond apparently being the equivalent of Paggliacci on his last legs and using Salmond as a lesson for Corbyn – something about the fate of populist clowns! Dire stuff indeed.

        The song of a nation – yes. I wonder if Nostradamus made any references to the silencing of Big Ben – chuckle chuckle!

  4. Thank you so very much for those cheerful and inspiring words Paul. Go and have a wonderful two weeks with Peter and come back to us reinvigorated.

    Bless you.

  5. You know, by god you’re right! It’s crept up bit by bit and now it’s astonishing how different we really are..up here in the “frozen north”. We are all singing while the sour are eating their anti acid medication!
    Have a brill time, we’ll keep Sam company meantime. ;D

  6. Scottish, good looking, intelligent & creative? It doesn’t get any better than this ☺️😊😁😍😎💙💙💙. Enjoy yer fortnight wae Peter mate you’ve earned it, love & many blessings to you both, slàinte mhath x

  7. YES. It’s coming yet, for aw that. One bit of decency at a time, one conversation, one myth busting fact and one person at a time.

    We can feel it – not overconfident, just steady and constant, not giving up, not going away and aye yes for aw that.

    Have a great time on your hols, may the weather be better for you both.

    Thanks again, as always.

  8. Agreed. It is now clear to everyone that this ‘union’ that Scotland was forced into is a damaging union, a union to keep Scotland repressed at all cost for the benefit of Westminster. We can all see it has no benefit to Scotland whatsoever. In fact it is holding Scotland back and everyone knows it.

    The only question now is, next time, does Scotland have to courage to overcome the relentless lies and fear stories that the unionists will use to frighten us out of a better future.

  9. No writers, novelists, artists of British Nationalism? One stands out. Keeps drawing attention. JK Rowling. Bless her poor dear soul.

        • Never having read (or watched) any of JK’s work I’m not in a position to criticize. But literature? I doubt that very much.

          Paul’s writing, on the other hand, is both inspired and inspiring.

          “One by one the pillars of British rule have been eaten through by the termites of Westminster.”

          • I have to admit that I loved the Harry Potter books and the fantasy world they described. However, that is where my appreciation ends. As so often happens, Ms Rowling has completely forgotten her roots since she became one of the richest women in the world.

          • Indeed didn’t Scotland give her shelter and support when she found herself poor and alone, thus enabling her to create her books?

            The stories are innocent enough on the face of it. However there is the subtext of a world controlled by a secret and powerful elite … I really hope that just came out of the BritNat subconscious.

          • Och, Wendy, tha mi gu math duileach. I never intended to spoil your reading pleasure. I suppose we all secretly yearn to be ‘special’, at least at times when we’re feeling isolated and alone. Actually now I think of it like that it starts to make a lot of sense. Compensation for not having close family etc. around maybe? Anyway it’s harmless as long as it remains fantasy, it was when she started meddling with politics that it took on a sour taste.

          • Please don’t be sorry … nothing which makes one think is ever a bad thing. As you say it is harmless as long as it remains a fantasy – and I couldn’t agree more about Ms Rowling’s ventures into politics. “The cobbler should stick to his (her) last!”

  10. You just need to compare the Wings twitter feed to that of Scotland in Union to see the truth in Paul’s words. While Wings is funny, sharp, educational and irreverent, Scotland in Union in dour and oppressive.

  11. Oh David Torrances response was woeful . In fact he more and more reminds me of those adverts for Collin Bang. ” Do you struggle to stay awake, do you have sleepless night?” Well here’s turgid, guaranteed to have you sleeping with in 10 seconds as David rehashses the same theme over and over again.Turgid – available in all unionists media .
    Great post Paul and added to Andrew o Hagans piece put a wee spring in my step .
    Enjoy your break, you’ve certainly earned one

  12. Thank you Paul for such an uplifting post. Have a very happy time with Peter and come back refreshed to fight the good fight for our independence.

  13. Wow! You encapsulate being Scottish perfectly, such creative and imaginative writing, I had tears in my eyes by paragraph 4, what a wonderful piece of writing, thank you for your positive and cheery words of wisdom. You always get it just right Paul.

    Have a lovely holiday with Peter. x

  14. O Hagan’s speech is now to be found in full (and it is very full!) both at The National and also on Bella. Since it is so long, it’s probably worth repeating what I think are his most quotable gems (they seem to have got buried in the comments several WGD blogs back). So here we go :

    ————-
    It was too little commented on at the time how events in the Supreme Court revealed a blundering attitude towards Scotland’s integrity

    For those of us who had always supported the idea of the United Kingdom, it was a shattering moment, to see how willing May was to ride rough-shod over Scotland’s discreet authority, enshrined in the Scotland Act of 1998 and located in the Sewell Convention, so that she could hold onto power and please the Brexiteers whom she had formerly opposed.

    It was hard now to resist the fact that Britain was being smashed by those who claimed to defend it, and that Scotland would probably be a better country for all that.

    Scotland used to feel too sorry for itself, and was once addicted to historical injury, but that notion is now as old as the people who said it, and I should know because I’m one.

    Politicians believe in power; writers believe in dreams.

    It is not at base a political argument, but a philosophical one, a humanitarian one, an ecological one, putting the rights of all men and women, and all children, before the fears of a class of account-holders … Letting Scotland take its place at the table of modern nations relies on your bravery in thinking again.

    The moment a nation reached intellectual maturity it became proud rather than vain.

    Britain has mismanaged itself out of existence, and Scotland may not be the beneficiary, but it can certainly be the escapee, free to succeed or to fail in its own ways. At least we will enjoy the dignity of not endlessly repeating a history that we know has come to an end.

    We were addicted to that narrative, the imperial story and then the neo-liberal account of how a capitalist society must be, and it built many buildings, deregulated many a city, and boosted many a criminal network, whilst keeping the powerful in power and the poor in their place.

    The problem, in a sense, with 2014, was that Alex Salmond was too emotional and so was David Cameron. The thought of a reconstituted Scotland might give rise to emotion, but it should not be an emotional decision, and too much emotion has always unbalanced the case. If Mr Salmond had thought more about the currency question and less about how to unfurl a saltire flag over the Centre Court at Wimbledon, we might be standing now in the independent republic of Scotland, but equally, if David Cameron had thought less about what was won and lost on the playing fields at Eton, and denied himself a round of silly buggers over Europe, the death-knell of the Union might have been delayed.

    Those of us … who can remember a simpler world before hand-held devices — devices with more computing power than it took to put a man on the Moon — may believe the Net is just another of life’s spaces, but it is not — it has become the space of all spaces, and it seems inevitable now that nations will be, in some important respect, subsumed by it.

    Compared with the new communities of the Internet, Britain seems like a minor abstraction — all pomp and no circumstance. ‘GREAT BRITAIN’: the name we once gave to a situation we were in, where we traded our sovereignty for empire, before the empire was gone.
    ———-

    • There was one sentence:

      ‘The major parties won the referendum but lost the future’

      in these few words, he says it all

      • True, but they still had a chance. They might have recognised that it had all ‘changed utterly’, and e.g. sought to restructure the UK as some kind of genuine balanced confederation. Their stubbornness alone has condemned them.

  15. Have a great time and come back to the fray refreshed, you are an inspiration, and I hope the wee dug has a blast too 😁

  16. Have a great break, WGD. Hope to hear you when you hit your stride again down here in the SW in September.
    Peter will be arriving on the back of Hurricane Gert, travelling from the eastern seaboard at the same time. Wishing him good weather when he is here and hope he can get to see the Highlands without the mists.

    Let’s hope for Shelley’s wild West Wind too. I’m restless waiting for a change in Scotland’s fortunes.

  17. Inspiring WGD and you are such a beacon of hope! Keep writing and inspiring. Have a wonderful holiday with your partner and the dug.❤️

  18. You are right Paul. I too feel the inevitability of this act of creation.

    The prosperity and progress brought about by the writings of Adam Smith and the activism of James Keir Hardie, the social contract between capital and labor, was conceived, and first bore fruit, right here in Scotland. This is our heritage. A heritage that gave birth to the modern world. It fills me with fierce pride just to think about that. I am thrilled at the prospect of making our own decisions without first clearing it with Cedric in Whitehall.

    And it’s about bloody time we showed the world how the contract between capital and labor should be applied.

    We are denying this, our own heritage, by clinging to this “Union.” A magical land of happiness and tranquility. For over 300 years. Brought to you by Disney. Or what passes for journalism in Britain. I get them mixed up sometimes.

    Devolution, of course, was designed to be a trap. It fills me with pride we overcame even this. Placed within the confines of this byzantine imperial anachronism called the United Kingdom, we were never ever meant to get as far as we actually have. I am also fiercely proud that we have engineered this act of creative destruction, in the most civilized and peaceful manner possible. We are a helluva people.

    The UK is just a badly flawed commercial contract and we should just tear it up. Printing money is the only thing keeping it afloat. In the interest of all the shareholders, the people, UK Plc should be placed in receivership and its assets distributed to its primary creditors – the people who live in it.

  19. Have a great break, Paul.
    The British Nationals have nothing left with which to threaten us.
    The Dead Tree Scrolls are paying for any old Scotland shite, no matter how badly written.
    Torrance is a joke, a burnt out hack, who will write any old guff just to cling on to the British Nationalist Propaganda gravy train.
    Their days are surely numbered.
    See that oil of ours? What a curse it has been.

  20. I agree with all of that, but there is more, much more.

    Scotland has a vastly better resource to population ratio than the rUK, in everything, from agriculture to fishing and fish farming to energy production to timber production to quarrying. Scotland is in fact food and drink secure, unlike the rUK which could only feed half its population.

    The rUK has the worst pro rata manufacturing figures in the developed world beyond a couple of tiny tourist resort or tax haven ‘countries’.

    It is bottom of the league table on equipment investment as a percentage of GDP which is the one area which could do something about the appalling level of manufacturing. But “We don’t bash metal.” to quote arch-neoliberal Mandelson.

    All it has going for it is the money laundering, currency speculation, leveraging of debt, quantitative easing and other scams or ways to skim off money by the City of London and income from arms sales. I’ll leave you to decide where those sit on the morality spectrum.

    And the CoL GDP could and probably will disappear overnight in a post-Brexit scenario. It doesn’t bear thinking about.

    It is an economic disaster of monumental proportions in the making.

    So we should not in any way give ground on the economic argument.

    Also, in addition to the lauded contribution of Scottish dreamers, we should not neglect the very great historical and potentially future value of the Scottish ‘realists’. The physicists, inventors, engineers, medical researchers, philosophers, economists (i.e. genuine ones) and philosophers either.

    • chicmac,
      well said.
      Scotland is a vastly rich country with a talented population to match.
      We are 5.4 million souls living on a patch of this Earth larger than England if we include the islands, O&S, the Hebrides, surrounded by fish oil and gas, vast reservoirs of fresh water, forestry which supplies 70% of England’s timber, with the massive renewables potential of wave wind and solar . We are a sekf sufficient nation.
      The British Nationalists know this.
      My street cred has gone up somewhat when the Grauniad deleted my comment on Torrance’s latest too wee too poor contribution.
      He’s still banging on about the deficit, and the disaster that the Chief visited upon rUK by locating oil in Scottish waters, which is a nightmare for any economic development in an Independent Scotland..
      Doubtless my observation to the readers Down There that Torrance has been peddling Scotland Shite Up Here for yonks prompted the Gaurdian forum ‘community’ to complain and have my vile cybernat comment deleted.
      Scotland Independent, within the EU, will thrive and prosper in all sectors of a modern outward looking economy, in manufacturing, IT, Finance, Agriculture, Aquaculture, tourism, renewable energy, Higher Education, and so much more.
      Yet Dead Tree Scrolls British Nationalists like Torrance delight in spreading the lies in an English ‘paper that Scotland is shite, and would wither and die without the largesse of our English Overlords.
      Findo Gask Advertiser for Torrance methinks.

      • Well said chicmac and Jack, I have said before I don’t need to comment when you lot say most of the time what I think, we need to keep promoting the fact that Scotland is financially and with the talent within its people to run its business. Like any other Country Scotland is a business, it is the business of everybody who lives within its borders, and the main ingredients needed to run that business are the natural energy reserves you have described plus the people with the talent to produce the wealth in manufcturing and farming etc. We could have one of wealthies and best run Countries in the world.

  21. Thank you for this wonderfully lyrical description of what it is to aspire to Nationhood and the creativity that makes a Nation. You are one of the poets / story-tellers of whom you have written, Paul, and you have given us all a reason to be cheerful. The “Like” button at the foot of this post is wholly inadequate to express what it made me feel.

    Enjoy your holiday (give my love to The Highlands, where my heart definitely resides) and return to us in a couple of weeks refreshed and invigorated.

  22. Have a good break Paul. Love between two people is everything.

    This is a great article. Enjoyable.

    Looking forward to your blogs Sam. “MacArt rules OK”. At least for a fortnight!

  23. At the risk of sounding insulting, and I support your guid work for Independence, so I’m not being nasty, but yer recent post is middle class nonsense. Poets n artists? The only one’s I’ve met are from probable pubs, including A. Gray & Kelman , and they never pontificated about erudition as much as you. Tis no necessary bonny lad. x

    • You are being condescending Alastair. Do not criticise others writing for your own lack of literacy.

      I get your point but it is in my opinion wrong.

    • I’m not entirely sure where your comment was coming from but I feel it is a trifle harsh. To my mind, Paul is absolutely correct. “Middle class nonsense”? You sound more like a commenter on one of the Hater rags than on this blog. “pontificated about erudition”? Without poetry and inspiration NO movement can go forward to victory …. check the history books, Mr Pelan, check the fire-side stories, the writings and lyrics of past struggles. If you are not inspired by what Paul has written, then I am sorry for you.

  24. A very uplifting piece Paul , and have a good break .
    A recent independence live broadcast by Catriona Stevenson ( scottish history police ) highlighted obvious differences between the nations that inhabit this island ,

    What struck me was a reference by Catriona I dont know if its true or not , but it made sense, she said Gaelic has no perceivable word for property and belongings etc “mine” , and it belongs to “me” , this combined with a social conscience and a regard for you neighbours and people around you , the absence of ME ,ME ,ME, was very evident in what she said ,

    That comes across in Andrew O’Hagan’s speech , so widely rubbished by unionist supporters, Paul is right they have nothing to offer , no dreams of a future that is possible , an Accountant dosent improve society people do , caring people .

    Have a good break Paul , we know your blog is in safe and trusted hands .

    • Well Gaelic doesn’t exactly have an equivalent of ‘have’, you have to say that something is ‘at’ you, which doesn’t imply ownership, or that it’s ‘to’ you which does.
      Tha cù agam = I’ve got a dog, there is a dog with me (but it could be anybody’s)
      Is leam an cù sin = That dog is mine, belongs to me.

  25. Dear, ‘Cheerful’ one, and moran taing! (many thanks!), for your thoughtfully composed article. I’m entirely in agreement with your reaction to Mr. O’Hagan’s excellent lecture, and very pleased to see your relevant article, also. You have written in a much more competent style than I’d ever manage – thank goodness that we have people like yourself who are capable of doing so! Our Yes movement is certainly evolving steadily and being more enriched as it does so. Our independence is on the eve of being reborn… having been suspended for far too long – Saor Alba Gu Brath!

    Ewen

  26. I am moved by Paul’s imagery of folk listening to stories at a fire, and it minded me of my long lost grandad, surely and swiftly lighting his own fire, while i helped him pleat the paper, holding close the warmth of the day, toasting our supper, keeping my child’s fear of the dark at bay, safe, secure.

    Every evening now, when I light my wood burner, I sit back on my heels, waiting to hear if its lit. There is that imperceptible pause in time, I hold my breath a moment, a magical moment, and intently listen to hear that first, faint crack of wood sparking. It;s the same pause of time the earth takes, holding its breath at that exact moment the ocean tide turns, time pauses and then goes on, like before but not like before.

    That’s where Scotland is now. We have heard the first spark of the fire catching, the faint crack of the tide turn. The fire is slowing burning to a bright, clean blaze that cannot be extinguished. The tide has turned..

  27. A wonderful article today and as an Artist very inspiring to me personally!! Something I find interesting is that although I’ve supported Indepenance since the dawn of New Labour and will not change my vote, I have always wanted to hear the Unionists positive arguments to stay with them, particularly at the time of the Referendum in 2014. Here we are in 2017 and moving towards a new vote { we all hope!!! ] and we have yet to hear any positive reasons for the Union. ” Project Fear” still rules but there must be something they could argue that isn’t based on negativity! I think you have it in a nutshell here – they lack the vision, and ” poetry” and creativity to say anything hopeful and positive about our Country and its position in the World. We must take our future in our own hands to move on.
    In the meantime enjoy your time off – if you are on Skye you and your partner are welcome to cup of tea in Sandbank Studio in Broadford, Skye if you visit the Island!!!!!

  28. Firstly, enjoy your time with Peter. A well deserved distraction.

    It is futile to try and distil Andrew O’Hagan’s lecture into a few sound bites; there is a lot there. For ages we have had to endure attacks on Scotland’s physical realm where, whatever the subject – health, transport, energy, food etc., there will be some belittling snide remark trying do down Scotland. But you cannot kill an idea or a vision and, in his prose, O’Haggan exemplifies that vision. If you have not yet done so, go and read it. http://bellacaledonia.org.uk/2017/08/16/scotland-your-scotland/

    It was entirely predictable that certain scribblers would pop up to deride and denounce. To them, re-read one sentence…
    “It’s often a failure of intellectual curiosity that causes us to learn nothing form our own experience: we merely defend what we’ve said before, make a god of what we are known to believe, regardless of changes in the circumstances before us, because that makes us feel better, and feel that we were right all along.”

    Then look in the mirror and consider that has not, “Britain … mismanaged itself out of existence”?

  29. For Scots,there will be a choice of either being British or European.
    The constant accusation from unionists that we are narrow minded nationalists who want to separate and isolate ourselves from the civilised world (England) will now be aimed at them.
    Their choice,British or European.

  30. Wonderful piece Paul! I really believe that there is a whiff of change in the air. It is coming yet for a’ that.
    Have a great break with your partner and wee ginger. Macart will keep us informed with his insight.

  31. “Let the people sing their stories and their songs,the music of their native land,their lullabys and battle cries of songs of hope and joy,now join us hand in hand”A good starter possibly not fully appreciated in every quarter but belt it out.

  32. Pingback: A reason to be Cheerful: | By the Mighty Mumford

  33. Oh to have your optimism Paul, it’s not just “creatives” that get to vote. There’s still an awful lot of people that need convincing and a huge portion of them won’t even entertain the conversation.

    A few high profile converts simply isn’t enough and while the vocal unionists may have “nothing to offer” (of substance) what they are actually offering is confirmation… what their readers/listeners want to hear, neither facts nor reasoned argument are much good if nobody’s listening. We still have no way to counter that.

    Sorry to be so pessimistic.

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