The independence referendum campaign of 2014 might not have succeeded in leading Scotland to independence, but it did succeed in normalising the idea of independence and making it the most important issue in Scottish politics. This coronavirus outbreak is a human crisis, but it also has political ramifications. During the crisis, of course our focus needs to be on ensuring that people are safe and well, that medical staff have the protection and resources that they need, that people who are ill receive the care and treatment they depend on, and those who cannot work receive the financial support they require. However those of us who are stuck at home now have plenty of time to think about the kind of country we want to live in once this epidemic has run its course. We have plenty of time to make note of the selfish and entitled behaviour of those at the top of the social food chain. We have plenty of time to consider how we want our society and politics to change.
There have certainly been many instances of coronavillians, and this crisis has only just started to bite. We’ve seen the grasping entitlement of some super wealthy businesspeople, who have been laying off staff without pay while insisting that they personally will take no financial hit to their obscenely large fortunes. We’re looking at you Richard Branson, Gordon Ramsay, and Tim Martin. We’re looking at the call centres that have insisted that their staff come into work, crammed into offices next to one another to deal with phone calls that they could be dealing with at home. We’re looking at Next. We’re looking at Sports Direct. It seems that we live in a British state which when it calls upon the citizens to make sacrifices, they mean that ordinary people should sacrifice their health and their lives for the bank balances of the rich.
But the crowning example of coronavillainry is Charles Windsor and his selfish and reckless disdain for advice not to travel to holiday homes in rural areas. There are serious questions about when he started to feel ill, about how he received an NHS test which is denied to NHS workers. This is man who is so up his own arse that he instructs his valet to put the toothpaste on his toothbrush. A man who insists that his friends call him sir. A man whose first instinct in his own privilege. He does that because other people enable him.
We keep hearing in the Scottish media that Prince Charles is known as the Duke of Rothesay when he’s in Scotland. No. He isn’t. When he’s in Scotland he’s know as “thon selfish prick Cherlie.” One of the ways in which the privilege of this massively wealthy, pampered, and entitled family is perpetuated is because we all keep referring to them by the titles that they give themselves. The head of state of the UK is not Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the whateverth. She’s Mrs Elizabeth Windsor. Her heir is not His Royal Highness Prince Charles, Prince of Wales and Duke of Rothesay. He’s Mr Charles Windsor. By referring to these upper class billionaires by titles, we reinforce their privilege by placing them above ordinary people. So we need to stop doing it. Language matters. It’s Elizabeth Windsor, Charles Windsor, and William Windsor. It’s time we stop deferring to the pretensions of the pampered.
What applies to the Windsors applies by the bucketful to members of the House of Lords. The titles of the likes of Baron McConnell of Glenscorrodale, or Baron Forsyth of Drumlean, are justifications for patronage. It is a means of legitimising failed politicians who continue to rule over us and to make our laws and influence our legislation and public policy despite the fact that they have been rejected at the polls. The rest of us should start by refusing to use or to acknowledge these pretendy titles awarded to political failures, rejects, and retirees by their pals. Calling Michael Forsyth Mr Forsyth is more politeness than he deserves.
If the independence referendum campaign of 2014 succeeded in normalising the idea of independence, we should ensure that this coronavirus epidemic normalises the political idea of equality, equity, and fairness. Republicanism needs to be brought into the mainstream of Scottish politics. It needs to become normal and mainstream to discuss the issue of this country becoming a republic.
It’s peculiar indeed that the SNP leadership remains loathe to discuss the idea of a Scottish republic, given that Scotland consistently tops all opinion polls as the part of the UK with least support for the monarchy. In a poll carried out in 2018 only 41% of Scots said that they supported the monarchy. 28% said that they opposed it, and 27% said that they were ‘ambivalent’. Given the distinct lack of interest in Scotland for recent royal wedding celebrations, it seems safe to say that with the exception of those of a flute band and Tory persuasion, even those who do still support the monarchy in Scotland are far less enthusiastic in their support than those elsewhere in the UK.
There is widespread public anger in Scotland about Charles Windsor’s selfish and reckless behaviour during the coronavirus epidemic, behaviour which put the public at risk and which ran directly contrary to the government advice the rest of us are obliged to follow. That points to a considerable lack of patience in Scotland for a royal family which thinks it’s better than the rest of us because it’s descended from German aristocrats who ripped off the peasantry of the Electorate of Hannover. It suggests that the 41% support for the monarchy in Scotland is support which is conditional on members of the Windsor family not acting like entitled dicks. It suggests that the 41% support for the monarchy is less support than it is toleration.
However despite clear evidence in Scotland for widespread distaste for the privilege and the nauseating sychophancy which the Windsor family receive in the UK and in the media, no one in the SNP leadership dares to speak the R-word. Instead they continue to defer to the privilege and pomposity of the hereditarily entitled. This cuts across any divisions within the party. Alex Salmond is a noted monarchist who wanted to retain Elizabeth Windsor and her heirs as head of state if Scotland had voted yes in 2014. Nicola Sturgeon dodged the question when asked about Charles Windsor’s selfish disregard for advice not to travel to holiday homes in the Highlands and noticeably refused to criticise him.
I am not suggesting that we open up another division within the independence movement between those who want a republic and those who support the monarchy. However we do need to start constructing a vision of the possibilities that open up to Scotland once we achieve independence. We need to start to talk about the better nation that only becomes possible with independence. We can build a more egalitarian and equal country. We can build a country where no one enjoys undue privilege as a result of their genes or political patronage. We should begin to debate the nature of Scotland’s head of state and ways in which our political class can be held to account. And we should start talking about other ways to ensure and nourish equality of opportunity. What steps can be taken to ensure that the likes of Tim Martin don’t treat their staff so poorly. How can we reform our tax laws to ensure that the rich pay their fair share. We should start to discuss the merits of universal basic income schemes.
We may be stuck indoors, but that means we’ve got plenty of time to think and dream of the better country that we can build on the other side of this crisis.
I’d like to give a wee shout out to Jim McWilliam of Jimbo’s Chilli Sauce who has very kindly sent me a chilli sauce care package to get me through the lockdown. His new Declaration Sauce is the best BBQ sauce I or my American husband (who takes his BBQs very seriously!) have ever tasted. It’s spicy and fruity which a delicious kick. Declaration Sauce is named to celebrate the 700th anniversary of the Declaration of Arbroath, and the label was designed by the very talented Alison Stell, AKA DefiAye. It’s only one of the many delicious sauces that Jimbo’s produces. Independent sauces for an independent Scotland!
Give Jim a follow on Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/JimbosChilliSauce/ and follow Alison on Twitter: Brave @defiaye
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