The failing campaign for a failing state

Last night STV’s flagship politics show Scotland Tonight had a special feature on the This Islands conferencette in Newcastle. The programme was blurbed, “With rising opinion poll support for Scottish independence, how should those who want to preserve the UK respond?” There was no equivalent report on how those who want independence should respond. I was shocked, shocked I tell you. Never saw that coming. Nope. In the end the programme didn’t really tell us anything new, but then neither did the This Islands conference, so that was fair enough. It came from a strange parallel universe, where the Labour party in Scotland hadn’t been destroyed by going into alliance with the Tories in Better Together. It would appear that This Islands’ big idea to save the UK is to call Better Together by a different name in the hope that no one will notice.

Apparently 300 people attended the event. 60 of those there were speakers, there was an unknown number of journalists, which presumably left around 200 or so actual attendees in the half empty hall, some of whom would struggle to locate Scotland on a map. So it was very nice of STV to give this marginal organisation so much publicity. It would have been nicer still if STV had devoted similar time and resources to the Build conferences organised by the Scottish Independence Convention. Those conferences were actually held in Scotland, and attracted many more punters than This Islands could manage. However for some bizarre reason that no one can comprehend – no I can’t think of what it could be either – it’s thought that the Scottish public will be far more interested in attempts to resist independence than in attempts to achieve it.

For This Islands, division is something caused by other people. It’s blind to the English nationalist elephant in the room, because to admit to its existence would destroy the very myth that the organisation is founded upon, that rebranding English nationalism as Britishness somehow magically insulates the UK from English nationalism and it’s only the nationalisms of others which is problematic. Gordie Broon’s keynote speech entirely failed to mention the possibility that English nationalism or British nationalism could even exist. Instead he railed against something called Brexit nationalism. He even refused to acknowledge that British nationalists in Northern Ireland had anything to do with British nationalism, calling them “Ulster nationalists” in a pathetic attempt to absolve the British state from any responsibility.

The key to successful politics is to engage with society as it actually exists, not as you’d like it to be. On that criterion, These Islands has failed even before it’s started. The essential failure of opponents of Scottish independence is to give a credible answer to the question of what structures within the British state can protect Scotland from the malign effects of English nationalism. There are none, and for any to exist they must first attain majority support within an England which is already politically defined by the right wing Conservative resentment that gave us Brexit. The fundamental stumbling block for Scottish “Unionists” is that the greatest threat to unionism is England. England’s exceptionalism has no place for Scottish political distinctiveness.

Scotland, we were told, is one of the most divided countries in Europe. Cue hang wringing and condemnation of those vile nats who were to blamed for dividing Scotland by offering the prospect of a Scotland that’s confident, secure within itself, and where political choices are made by governments directly accountable to the people of Scotland. The solution to this division is not to have a political resolution through a referendum, the solution to these divisions is for those who see a different future for Scotland from the miserabilist vision on offer in These Islands to shut up and go away. That will solve it.

Instead we got Wullie Rennie telling the delegates that Scotland already has quite enough powers. There’s no need for a Scottish immigration policy, or Scottish powers over social security. Devolution has gone as far as it’s going to go. In doing so Wullie destroyed the tattered remnants of another of Better Together’s arguments from the last time round, the carrot in the form of a promise of a stronger Scottish Parliament. Not that anyone is going to believe another Vow.

We got speakers lining up to present graphs showing us how poor Scotland is, how hopeless, how inadequate. In the absence of a positive case for a Scotland remaining a part of Brexit Britain, we got a diet of fear and scaremongering. Tonight These Islands is gonna party like it’s 2014. Nowhere was there any recognition that a so-called union that can only be maintained by telling one of its constituent parts that it’s an economic basket case is a union that has failed on its own terms. A union that has reduced Scotland to poverty is a union that isn’t fit for purpose.

What the conference did display, albeit unwittingly, was the palpable and overwhelming fear amongst those attending of the possiblity of another Scottish independence referendum. Like many organisations which oppose independence, there was considerable focus on the past, on the supposed glories of shared history. The real reason that there’s so much focus on the past amongst supporters of the British state is because a British future has nothing to offer Scotland. Another referendum is a terrifying prospect for them, because they know that it’s supporters of the UK who have themselves destroyed the arguments deployed against Scottish independence the last time. They know that they have nothing to say, nothing new, nothing to offer. And it terrifies them.

A Brexit Britain can’t lecture supporters of Scottish independence about parochialism and nationalism. A Brexit Britain led by the populist Johnson with his extreme right wing Spads can’t lecture Scotland on the dangers of political extremism. A Brexit Britain that seeks a glorious isolation insulated by the delusion of English exceptionalism can’t lecture a European leaning Scotland on the need for unions with other nations. These Islands are a failing organisation trying desperately to prop up a failing state.

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50 thoughts on “The failing campaign for a failing state

  1. 5th para “hang” v “hand” otherwise 👍
    Noted the clip earlier of Rennie on Indyref2 about scottish powers, and another from Kevin Hague of SBUK saying of Indy “We need more English accents in this debate”… Presumably Englishscotsforyes are insufficient, but at least it answers the puzzle why Newcastle and why Rennie and Leonard were invited… Hague of course was on Twitter gushing about the STV feature…
    Desperation really…

  2. Aye they’re feart all right. Glad you gave us this summary as I cannot get Scottish tv, thankfully in my opinion.

    You highlight an extremely cogent point about what will they use to scare Scotland that hasn’t already been used?

    Too wee…tick
    Too poor…tick
    Too incompetent…tick

    Been there, done that produced lots of facts and books and laughed heartily! They are f**ked.

  3. People like John MacKay should try to get to the bottom of the growing desire of Scots wanting to dissolve the Union, by being unbiased enough to cover subjects such as the theft of our oil (McCrone Report / Stolen Seas), Scotland being used as a nuclear waste dumping ground, making us a target for terrorists (Trident), getting dragged into illegal wars, the fear of fracking, the skewed GERS figures etc, etc. I also wonder why he’s avoiding interviewing people like Paul, Gordon MacIntyre-Kemp, Professor John Robertson, Richard Murphy and so on, as they, the STV, can find the time and money to send individuals like Colin MacKay down to England to interview people like Kevin Hague, FGS.

    An 8 minute snippet of the Better Together2 conference.

    It comes across to me that they know that it’s tick, tock time for the Union, they no longer have any carrots to dangle, their scaremongering didn’t work (a 2014 pyrrhic victory) and they can’t conjure up the troups like AUOB: That is unless they choose to run alongside the OO marching debacles waving their Union Jokes.

    • Thanks Petra, hadn’t seen the parade so pleased to watch it in it’s entirety.
      A brain-storming session for BT2, and they invite Rennie, Leonard, Broon, etc 🤣 Sheesh… Desperate stuff…

  4. maybe the boys have to go back to the counting school.
    A very empty hall, 2 rows of TEN seats and hard to work out the number of rows back as the camera angles used limit the ability to see, certainly not 300 people in the audience.
    More like half of that.
    Anyway the boys at STV want to keep the salary for a wee while longer, lets not upset SIU/ these islands with the idea that they aren’t onionists.
    Dear gordie, 2014 was a long time ago, Harold Wilson said ‘A Week is a LONG TIME in Politics’.
    Why don’t you use some of the doris lines like dead in a ditch or even your own ‘The bestest wee government Powers in the World’ or words to that effect.

  5. Time has not been kind to the Clunking Fist. These days Gordon Brown’s gnarled wizened slack jowled face reminds me of one of those porcelain Town Crier Toby Jug beer tankards.
    There was the Old Dinosaur, and assembled Nobodies, banging on about Federalism and Scotland the divided nation again.
    We should all be God Fearing Unionists attending the kirk or chapel every Sunday, toasting HRH and voting for Mags Curran or Malcolm Rifkind, like the Good Old Days, when we knew our place, and let Brown Blair and Thatcher get on with robbing us blind, and polluting our land with nuclear subs and grouse moors.

    It is noted that they held this in England.

    Tehey wouldn’t dare try this nonsense anywhere in Scotland, the land of their birth.

    Blair MacDougall, Willie Rennie, Kevin Hague, and various other Nonentities selling Scotland short. There is a name for such an animal, who would betray their country for money.

    STV is the ‘commercial’ wing of the British Nationalist Better Together Propaganda Machine.

    It is a constant wonder that all of the Hacks and broadcasters peddling their wares in Scotland are True Blue Brit Nats.
    What are the odds?

    Who paid for this grubby wee non event?
    Kevin Hague?
    They know that it’s coming; the sooner the better.
    Meanwhile Tom Gordon writes about Miss Whiplash in drag at a primary school.

    Does he get paid for this trash?

    God give us patience.

  6. Thanks for this Paul. I had been trying online to get info about that jamboree in Newcastle.

    I am encouraged that they have no plan other than lie about statistics on the economy which are available to all.

    For instance in trade England has had a deficit of 54% on average over the last ten years where its imports are higher than exports. Scotland on the other hand had had an average surplus of 24% over ten years. Who is the basket case then. This data is easily found in the HMRC trade statistics. This makes the U.K. figures bad obviously as England is a large part of the whole.

    No part of England had had a trade surplus since 2002.

    Better together.

  7. Just listened to Ian Duncan Smith on the radio.
    Irony he ignores.
    ‘We need Experts to negotiate with the EU’.
    Old Gove said we had had enough of experts.
    Now the EU are saying they need to see infrastructure being started on the Northern Ireland to RUK border, the one doris says we’re not doing.
    We hold all the cards said Davis.
    Donkeys we are led by.
    Never mind we managed to get a nice new blue cover for the passports, pity in a way that the cheapest place to print them was in Poland.

      • Genuine question, as a non-Scot, Legerwood.

        I’ve seen the saltire many times on a sky-blue background as well as on a darker blue background. (Obviously, on the ‘triple cross flag’ – which doesn’t feature my country – it’s a kind of navy blue).

        Which blue is the correct one for the Scottish flag of St Andrew’s Cross?

        Thanks in advance.

        • The shade of blue in the Saltire has varied over time from light/sky blue to Navy blue but in 2003 a Committee of the Scottish Parliament decided, after taking advice from various sources including the Lord Lyon King at Arms, that the blue should be Pantone 300. This is a slightly lighter blue than the navy blue used in the Union Jack

  8. I’m just wondering if this kind of oddball sideshow and its exposure by the likes of STV has in fact crossed into the realms of risibility, a miserabilist collection of reality-denying Uriah Heeps that only invite public contempt, not support. A kind of unwitting Spitting Image tribute act. I mean, who takes weary has-been’s like Jawjut Broon or idiot never-were’s like Wee Willie seriously these days?

    It’s all increasingly verging on the desperate. And it shows.

    They are busily destroying their own reputations and taking their fading parties down with them. So the more publicity they get the better, surely?..(!)

  9. Spotted the wee scumbag Alexander – the brother Douglas – in the background at this Better Together mark2. I thought he must have emigrated somewhere to be honest. Happy not to see him again for another 5 years.

  10. ” British jobs for British workers”
    Who said that was it Nigel Farage,Oswald Mosley, Gordon Brown.

    Aye Broon is a British nationalist as is the labour party but never admit it

  11. Scotland Tonight – David Steel report.

    John McKay says it is a sad end for such a prominent career. I doubt he would say that if it was an SNP politician.

    Steel sat all those years as a presiding officer in the Scottish Parliament knowing what crimes Cyril Smith had committed.

    Steel covered up for a criminal who committed a large number of crimes against children. Steel should be getting prosecuted but because he is a Britnat politician he gets sympathy from the Britnat media. Disgusting. Disgusting.

    British values for you.

      • Sorry Chicmac – no excuses for Steel. Steel himself testified at the enquiry on TV that Smith confessed to his crimes in a one on one discussion with him when Steel was party leader.

        Steel still thinks he did nothing wrong. Unbelievable.

        Steel covered up crimes and allowed Smith to continue to commit more crimes in the future. Julian Assange is in the dock right now for telling the truth but Steel is allowed to while away his years in the H of Lords after covering up horrendous crimes against children.

        Derek MacKay gets about 10 days of hounding from STV for not committing an actual crime but Steel gets sympathy from STV for committing a crime and facilitating subsequent crimes against vulnerable young children in care homes.

        There is a nasty smell coming from Pacific Quay.

      • Perspective ? The Cyril Smith business was covered up by all and sundry, his perversions were neither unique nor isolated nor unknown to others. The “old boys network” including the police and press protected such people, and in some respects still do so today.

        Those who covered up for Saville (even recently) have never been exposed, the Prince Andrew fiasco still rumbles on, and there will be many more who slipped away quietly, we don’t the half of it and never will.
        Therefore I cannot condemn Steel for his role in what was effectively “normal” for the period but has revealed his viewpoint decades later, would that others were more forthcoming….

        We need not delude ourselves that perversions are not alive and well today and those revealed are but the tip of an iceberg, all recorded in black books waiting for the day when leverage is required of the living or dead by manipulators…

        • “Therefore I cannot condemn Steel …….”

          Bob, so because others were covering up crimes it makes it ok for Steel to have done the same – really – the covering up is criminal in itself – so you are condoning this.

          Steel in his recent statement still believes he has done nothing wrong.

          In my original post on this matter it was not my intention to provide new info about Steel, as I thought it was common knowledge, but more to comment on the fawning way Scotland Tonight covered the matter. Not a word of sympathy on Scotland Tonight for all the children abused by Smith. All the sympathy was for Steel.

          I am more than happy to condemn Steel, Smith and Scotland Tonight.

        • Sorry Cubby it was not a binary Condone/Condemn 40 years ago, it is not now even from a different perspective, and I’m not excusing what transpired.
          From one article – “The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse said there had been a “significant problem” of deference towards people of public prominence. Its report said political parties and police had turned a “blind eye”. ” –
          Steel was roped into that summary “people” criticised on the basis of his own evidence to the Inquiry, but I would ask where were the hundreds who covered up for Smith’s perversions all those years before it landed on Steel’s desk after the fact in 1979, and on which this furore relies ?

          A modern retrospective has been applied to Steel’s decision not to formally notify Police, but I do have trouble with his logic… Aside Steel’s allegiance to Smith as a fellow liberal, as the Inquiry acknowledged the Police had been involved in covering it up for many years before with officials and politicians, and any formal complaint would have disappeared alongside Steel had he dared pursue it, there were too many involved…

          Corruption continues, cover-ups continue, abuse of power continues, but let’s have a go at an old man because he didn’t fart against thunder in 1979, yet felt compelled to put the record straight to the Inquiry in 2020… Will I condemn him ?No.

          • 👎🏿👎🏿👎🏿👎🏿👎🏿👎🏿👎🏿👎🏿👎🏿👎🏿👎🏿👎🏿👎🏿👎🏿👎🏿👎🏿

  12. Scotland Tonight – David Steel report.

    I saw the programme. Bernard Ponsonby got it right. He said that David Steel should have reported Smith to the Police, but no he just went on and recommended him for a knighthood.

    • Petra, this, the Press Release following Smith’s death.

      “Nick Clegg leads tributes to ‘larger-than-life’ ex-MP Sir Cyril Smith
      Friday 3 September 2010

      Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg tonight led tributes to “larger-than-life” politician Sir Cyril Smith, who has died at the age of 82.Mr Clegg said he was “deeply saddened” to hear of the death of Sir Cyril, who served as the Liberal and later Liberal Democrat MP for Rochdale between 1972 and 1992.
      He praised the veteran figure, who was famous for his distinctive appearance and frequent television appearances in the 1970s and 1980s.
      Sir Cyril, who was said to have weighed 29 stone at his heaviest, could be disdainful of Westminster, once branding Parliament as “the longest running farce in the West End”.

      The “lifelong bachelor” (my parentheses) was made an MBE for his public services in 1966 and was knighted in 1988.
      Mr Clegg said: “Cyril Smith was a larger-than-life character and one of the most recognisable and likeable politicians of his day.
      “I am deeply saddened to hear the news of his death today, and offer my sincere condolences to his family and friends.
      “Everybody in Rochdale knew him, not only as their MP but also as a friend.
      “He was a true Liberal, dedicated to his constituency, always showing great passion and determination.
      “Cyril was a colourful politician who kept the flame of Liberalism alive when the party was much smaller than it is today.
      “Rochdale and Britain have sadly lost one of their great MPs, and I think we can safely say there will never be an MP quite like Cyril Smith again.”

      Former Lib Dem leader Sir Menzies Campbell said: “Cyril Smith was a one-off in British politics. His views were always forthright and he did not suffer fools gladly.

      “His service to the Liberal cause was immense and whilst in recent years he suffered from poor health, his commitment was as robust as ever.

      Lord Steel of Aikwood, a former leader of the Liberal Party from 1976 until 1988, said Sir Cyril was a “warm-hearted” colleague, adding: “He was first and foremost Mr Rochdale.
      “His by-election victory picked up the Liberal Party from the disastrous 1970 election when we had only six seats and started our recovery.”

      Famously outspoken with a typical Northern bluntness, Sir Cyril never made it to the leadership of his party.
      During a political career spanning decades he changed parties three times and in 1976 suggested the formation of a completely new Centre party.

      From humble beginnings in Rochdale he won a scholarship to Rochdale Grammar School for Boys, honing his debating skills at the local Unitarian Church.

      Elected to Parliament in 1972 in a spectacular landslide victory over Labour in his home town, he began his resolutely independent career at Westminster despite his party affiliation.
      He became party spokesman on employment and chief whip but rejected calls for him to stand as the party leader.
      He finally retired from Westminster in 1992.

      Willie Rennie was Lib Dem MP for Dunfermline and West Fife from 2006 to May 2010, then SPAD for Michael Moore LD SoS for Scotland for a year until 2011.

      Cyril Smith, the Jimmy Savile of the Lib Dems.

      I am certain that Rennie knew nothing about the 144 complaints of sexual abuse of minors, levelled against Smith, his arrest, and release by Greater Manchester Police and allegations of a cover up.
      Any Comment from Clegg and Lord Ming?

      • You couldnae make it up Jack. An absolute disgrace and yes they ALL knew that he was a disgusting paedophile, but party before country. Party before the people. Party before the molestation of children. It just scunners me to think of how “holier than I” Rennie went on about Derek MacKay recently and Mark MacDonald before that. One thing for sure was that they got it right when they said that he was a “larger than life character”. I’m sure that the boys that he sexually assaulted and raped would agree with that one.

        David Steel is livid now. Livid, I reckon, because he feels that he’s been made a scapegoat out of hundreds of politicians who have been covering up for their paedophile colleagues, past and present, and getting away with it.

  13. Neatly done.

    I’ve never heard a positive case for retaining political union. Not. A. Single. One.

    I’m sick of semantic bullshit and politicians dancing on the head of a pin t’boot. They lost the moral argument against independence, self government and democracy before they even opened their mouths. Didn’t stop them from undermining democracy though. Didn’t stop them from misrepresenting major demograhics. Didn’t stop them from fibbing their collective asses off either, but that’s by the by. End of the day, the greedy and the hateful provided excuses for the uncertain and intimidation toward the fearful.

    They also lost the argument on the ability of Scotland’s population to prosper. There are far too many examples the world over of same sized and smaller nations prospering with far less resource to command.

    To those who voted away the identity of their fellow citizens for greed. How’s that working out for you in Brexit Brittania? Still got a business? A home? An overdraft? A wage packet? A pension? How are they looking today? At best, fairly ropey. At worst, they’re gone already.

    To those who were intimidated into voting no in 2014. There is another way and we do have your back, but we’ll need your help to make the change.

    Worth a thought for both camps about now.

    • You quite often get the impression that Colin MacKay and Bernard Ponsonby are independence supporters versus Toodleoothenoo, Brewer etc.

      • Now and again MacKay and Ponsoby give you an inkling of what professional journalism/ broadcasting could be like in Scotland without the poisonous influence of Britnat propaganda.

  14. It’s about time that Holyrood legislated the following

    1 you can stand for the constituency. Or you can
    stand for the list. NOT BOTH.

    2 all donations and funds to political parties and
    individuals, to come from verifiable scottish
    accounts on which all appropriate scottish taxes
    have been paid (money laundering legislation
    should be satisfied)

    If it is not possible to introduce and pass these laws at Holyrood, why not ??
    Surely our legislator can tidy it’s self up

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