Raymond Williams, the Welsh critic whose lectures I was once privileged to attend (free) as a student in England, wrote in Culture and Society (1958) these words I have tattooed on my heart:
“There are ideas and ways of thinking with the seeds of life in them, and there are others…with the seeds of a general death”
That is all you know in Scotland, and all you need to know.
Elsewhere, judging by the papers on Sunday 14th, there may be some catching up to do.
Jeremy Paxman in the Telegraph, for example, having sneeringly dismissed our wee exercise in democracy for years, does now seem to be having hysterical fits of the abdabs…On every point of substance, Mr Paxman manages to be professorially patronising and woefully ill informed at the same time. He also seems to imagine that shouting at us just a bit LOUDER will make us understand…like those bloody people who pretend they don’t speak English. And that addressing us collectively as Hamish will somehow be endearing?
I love England. I love London especially (though it isn’t really part of England economically, and hasn’t been since the City decided that this island didn’t need to make anything other than money any more…which is a rather more relevant piece of history than the usual careless pencil sketch of half remembered cobblers about the Darien scheme.) What has happened is that Britain has been abandoned by the very elite who are suddenly alternating day by by day between…”We love you” and “we’ll hurt you” What is different about Scotland is that we have always had somewhere to go. And after fifty years of it not making a blind bit of difference how we voted (as Scotland) in UK elections, we’ve decided that we’d like some democracy to go along with our nationhood. We wish our brothers and sisters well and hope they follow from our example. And advise Mr Paxman and his ilk that screaming hissy fits are neither effective or particularly dignified.
His is an extreme case, but far from isolated, so may I offer the following general corrective.
Despite what you may have heard or read in all newspapers and television…it’s not all about Salmond. He is not our “leader” Neither are we somehow under his control or even influence in many ways. Readers outside Scotland should understand that the panic of the last few days is happening because of the arrogant assumption of a No vote and hence there being no preparation for a Yes vote . You are getting a very blunt and ill-informed picture because no one has been paying serious attention . My worry about this is that our achieving democracy and self-determination for ourselves will be read as being all about YOU. It isn’t. We might think that your electoral choices are eccentric and hence want to disassociate ourselves from them, but there is no animosity or rejection here…from the vast, vast majority of us.
We have our share of nutters…who doesn’t?…but it has been in the interests of the No campaign to scare Scottish voters by misrepresenting the Yes campaign as wholly an SNP project. But this is nonsense. The SNP has around 30% support (which is why Cameron was so confident, being misled by Labour in London who still think Scotland is their temporarily lost ball) ) So almost as much support for Yes is coming from people like me who do not think of themselves as nationalist. This may be hard to credit…but a consequence, unintended or not, of what is clearly a false picture of Scotland presented to Scots…is that the same wholly false picture has been presented to the English, many of whom, if the Mail and Telegraph are to be believed (!) now think we wear jackboots under our kilts. It is the responsibility of all of us of goodwill in these islands to calm down and adjust to the new reality. Which is why Mr Rawnsley, (for example) your prediction that negotiations will (for reasons based on the above misapprehension…that we all hate all of you) be “nasty, brutish and prolonged” is not only unhelpful to all of us. But it implies that when David Cameron signed the Edinburgh Agreement he didn’t take it at all seriously. And I hope that’s not true.
Cameron was badly advised (by the Labour Party who thought all voters in Scotland belonged to them) that the SNP’s support of 30% was the same level of support there would be for independence. Hence his being caught totally surprise by the NON nationalist surge…from traditional Labour voters. Cameron still thinks this is about us “kicking the effing Tories” as he put it. But we’ve been kicking the effing Tories since 1955. (to little effect) This is about kicking the effing Labour party. And THAT is the historical change. It is very sad that the arrogance and ignorance of the political class have kept English voters in the dark about what is happening. The “more Powers” nonsense betrays that the elite treats the English electorate with exactly the same contempt as we’ve been treated for the last two years. The chickens are coming home to roost. As are the Scots. No offence intended. That’s just the way it is.
The New Reality is going to take a bit more faith and preparation from all of us.