Few of us are surprised that the British government could have locked down earlier but didn’t, that it could have tested more but didn’t, that it could have provided protective equipment but didn’t. What is truly amazing is that there are still British nationalists on social media who are getting upset by Scottish things having Scottish names. They’re not going to be happy until Scotland is abolished and becomes The North North of England. And if you are unhappy with that idea they’ll scream at you it’s because you’re an anti-English racist. Amazing eh, the all-powerful all-conquering Brits, oppressed by a hospital name.
It seems that the closer we get to independence, the more that it becomes an acceptable and mainstream idea in Scottish politics, the more that support for an independent Scotland spreads amongst the public, the more intense that the cringe becomes in that minority who define themselves as primarily British. It’s gradually becoming more concentrated and more virulent as the pond water of British identity evaporates away in Scotland.
So while we’re on the topic of names for places, a subject particular dear to the heart of a person whose hobby is producing maps in Gaelic, the moans of the British nationalists only serve to remind us just how colonised our public spaces are. We have Union Streets and George Squares, settlements and farms bearing 18th century estate names which replaced the original Gaelic or Scots. It’s a sign of just how used to this colonisation of our mental landscapes that we’ve become that the idea of a map of Scotland in Gaelic should provoke such fury amongst British nationalists. How dare anyone seek to produce a map of this country in one of its own languages.
It might have taken the coronavirus epidemic to bring it into focus, but recently there’s been even more panic than usual from British nationalists in Scotland who are complaining about the most anodyne expression of a Scottish identity. We’ve had Ian Smart bemoaning the public service announcements from NHS Scotland on account of the fact that they contain the word Scotland. We’ve had the yellow dress wummin who was on Question Time and was then found to be the treasurer of her local Tory party before she was suspended from the Tories for being too unpleasant even for them, which is quite the achievement. She was girning that she’s not going to sign up for the scheme that’s been set up to encourage volunteers to help out our hard pressed NHS and other social services during the epidemic because it’s got Scottish in its name and that’s just not British. And then we had Wee Dougie and his pursed lips, twitching the net curtains of his Twitter account to snipe at the decision to name the new temporary hospital that’s been set up in the SECC the NHS Louisa Jordan, after a Scottish nurse who worked in field hospitals in Serbia during WW1.
Wee Dougie has been joined online by hunners of beeling British nationalists, about whom we have to make the usual disclaimer that they’re not nationalists because they’re British and their nationalism is better than other nationalisms by virtue of not being nationalist at all. To be fair, this is a population group which is at much higher risk from coronavirus than the rest of us. Being spittle flecked is a recognised means of transmitting the virus. The green ink gang from Scotland in Union must be shitting themselves.
The staunch mob are insisting that it doesn’t matter what the Scottish government calls the new hospital, “everyone” is going to call the new hospital the NHS Nightingale. That would be “everyone” in the sense of the dollies that they use to point out the body parts where the nasty cybernats touched them. I’m going to start calling the new hospital Seirbhis Nàiseanta Slàinte na h-Alba Ospadal Liùsaidh Nic Shiùrdain just to annoy them even more. If these people were as staunch as they claimed to be they’d refuse treatment at anywhere except the Queen Elizabeth or the Royal and insist upon being seen by a doctor wearing a union fleg face mask who’d recite Winston Churchill’s fight them on the beaches speech instead of giving them any medicine. Sadly, there is no cure for chronic cringe.
Of course what is really getting the red white and blue goat of the perma-angry British nationalists is that they realise with every passing day just how tenuous a grasp the UK has upon the sympathies of most people in Scotland. The head of state in waiting, Charles Windsor, sparked off genuine fury amongst a huge segment of the Scottish public with his selfishness and entitlement. He did Britishness no favours by associating it with a pampered thoughtless man who spread the coronavirus in Scotland by ignoring the advice not to travel to a holiday home or the countryside that the rest of us are expected to abide by.
It was made even worse by reports that an Acute Respiratory Infection team had to leave their busy posts in the local hospital to travel to his holiday home to test him, his wife, and their retinue. There are also reports which NHS Grampian has neither confirmed nor denied that “protocol” demands that an intensive care bed in the local hospital is reserved in case Charles or one of his household requires it, so that there’s one less bed available for a local person who needs it, at a time when there’s already a shortage of intensive care beds. We’re all in this together, indeed. If we could ensure that it was one of the union fleg waving sychophants who had to go without in order to make sure Charlie is looked after, it might not be so bad.
Meanwhile we have the nauseating sight of Conservative Health Minister Matt Hancock, who has had a surgical operation to remove what remained of his spine, saluting “our immigrant NHS workers”. Matt wants us to forget that his party have spent the past decade demonising migrants, underfunding the NHS, and now he wants to pose as a champion for wiping out NHS trusts’ debt to the UK government without wanting us to wonder what sort of government causes the NHS to get into debt to it in the first place. But Charles Windsor is well looked after at your expense. There’s your real British values right there.
The British nationalists are angry and afraid because they can sense that the UK is changing, and it’s changing in a way that weakens even further the already diminished sense of Britishness in Scotland. This epidemic, and the many and manifest failures of Boris Johnson, will have political consequences once it’s over. We’ve learned that the British model of politics as pursued for many years is fundamentally broken. We’ve learned that it’s low paid staff who are the ones who are truly essential in order to keep things running in a crisis. It’s the supermarket workers, the delivery people, the NHS staff, the cleaners, the transport workers. We’ve learned that public services are crucial to the maintenance of a civilised society, and that farming them out underfunded and under resourced to private sector franchises weakens and undermines all of us. And we’ve learned that the so-called wealth creators who have been feted and rewarded by successive British governments are looking after their own interests and demanding bail outs from the safety and comfort of their country homes.
A crisis always has political consequences. The bigger the crisis, the greater the consequences. There have been no crises greater than the current one since WW2. Those who are best placed to make political gains following a crisis are those who have the answers to the problems that the crisis highlighted. In Scotland, that’s the independence movement, not the intellectually bankrupt British nationalists complaining about names, flags, and a lack of deference being paid to cosseted royals.
The frothing British nationalists on social media can sense that too. That’s why they’re so angry. It’s because they’re afraid. Confident and self-assured people don’t need to get angry over symbols. They have no ideas, no vision of a better Scotland. But we do, and that’s why we’re going to win. Theirs is the terror of an ideology that knows it is history. That’s what’s wrong with these people. We on the other hand have the confidence of a movement that’s making history.
And finally, because we could all do with some cheering up during these difficult times…
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