23 June 2009

Wilson & Grahame: where do we find these people?

This is a post I’ve been meaning to write for a while. As is prominently displayed in my sidebar, I am a member of the Scottish National Party. That does not commit me to every morsel of comment every party member makes. I believe that Scotland would be better off as an independent country. Westminster constitutionalism and distant rule has allowed Scottish institutions to meander along, their corporate life undisturbed, their conceptual basis and normative framework unexamined. Scots have been permitted to be politically irresponsible for far too long. Devolution, for me, is thus a process in which the people can realise the extent of their own strength, but also their responsibility for what happens in Scotland.

As I have made plain in many posts here, I regard Holyrood as still in something of an adolescent phase. Responsibility and innovation both are still, largely, shirked. Progress is being made. The centralising instincts of Westminster persist, and the stabilising “federal moment” for the United Kingdom continues destructively to be postponed. The Union continues to look uncomfortable, the case for continuing unity increasingly fractured, uncertain, bloodless. Those of us disposed to waver, potentially purchasable by such a stable federal compromise, are unlikely to be moved to doubt our nationalisms by the present constitutional proposals.

The allure of the case for a fully independent Scotland thus persists. That said, however, as I hope will be apparent, I heartily loathe a segment of Scottish ‘nationalist’ opinion. The gurning ‘cybernat’ is a ludicrous caricature, only half conscious of the shallowness of (usually his) argument, he is blithely confident in his roughly-elucidated and conceptually measly contributions. Hearts may be in the right place. Brains are not always in evidence. I don’t mean to sound like a crippling snob. I certainly don’t believe that one’s political contributions must be woven in floral verbal garlands, nor needfully informed by reading dismal passages from John Rawls or Marx or whatever. Basic decency, honesty, forthrightness all are crucial civic virtues. Education does not good judgement make. Nevertheless, I think it is crucial that party members do not excuse rank and crapulous stupidity from our tribunes on a party political basis.

While Scottish Unionist is interminably dreary in dredging up the bastardised and quasi-rationalised offerings from the more flaming corner of nationalistic opinion from the web, on one level we must concede that he is correct to insist on the contemptibility of much of this. I have no more love for the snaggletoothed smiles of moron nationalists than I do for the sly invective of their cousins of the unionist-enthusiast persuasion. This is simply consistency and fairness.

That is why one ought to denounce the flatheaded Bill Wilson MSP’s bizarre submission that supermarkets should replace their turnips with ‘neeps’ or “tumshies”, potatoes with ‘tatties’, blackberries with ‘brambles’ and most obscurely, the plain old plume of spring onions with “syboes”. That last one is a mystery to me. If I consulted the label, I’d be mystified. I await with horror the enabling legislation he will table to ensure that such labelling becomes mandatory. Can one possibly, possibly perceive of a less worthy venture for an MSP’s time which might further underline his truly Herculean mediocrity? Scottish nationalists should repudiate this sort of gauche, meaningless nonsense and boot its author out of the pathetic frog-perspective offendedness which seems to be consuming too much of his time. While I accept that there are questions one can reasonably ask about unreasoning and snobbish hostility towards “Scots” vocabulary, rebuking critics are correct to suggest that the effort Wilson is expending here is the equivalent of piss up a wall.

As if this wasn’t sufficiently enthralling, we’ve been bounteously supplied with another shrill and counter-productive note of SNP invective from Christine Grahame MSP this week. Apparently the National Library of Scotland invited one of its staff members – and I would agree, this sounds equally moronic – to tuck away a few of his saltires, or his Lion Rampant, or his personalised tartan chair, lest they intimidate non-Scottish colleagues.

No doubt Grahame responded proportionately, do you suppose, cautious not to squander political capital in purposeless kilt-squeezing of the most objectionable and witless character, doomed only to alienate? Did she hell. The ex-teacher turned advocate turned politician ignited her inner Mel Gibson, thundering that this was a “completely unacceptable slur on Scotland's national flag”, continuing that:

“I would have thought that in the National Library of Scotland of all places they would have understood and appreciated the place the Saltire has in Scottish hearts as one of the oldest national symbols in existence. Instead it appears that senior management have embarked on a deliberate assault on the flag of Scotland, trying to purge it completely.”

The references to “assaulting”, “purging” and “slur” are patently idiotic, wildly hysterical. Moreover, with half of one's mind on the wider resonances of these phrases in our culture, particularly the “purging”, makes me profoundly uncomfortable. Too often, it is left to hostile commentators to sharply remonstrate with characters like Grahame and Wilson and tip scorn over the manufactured outrage and laughable projects which they expend their pointless energy on.

It is important, I think, for folk to recognise that there are equally dubious nationalists, seeing these schemes for what they are, and disassociating themselves from them. In this sense, I’m glad that this pair of MSPs have helpfully put their poor judgement at my service in such a timely manner, and that I can contribute to the rightful and excoriating ridicule heaped on this pair of dullards. And crucially, remain a nationalist still.


  1. Nat on your life23 June 2009 at 23:32

    Well said that man.

  2. Och Graham, is a flake, but essentially harmless. Like Foulkes in a blonde wig, if you will.

    I liked the Scots in supermarket story. I tire of blackberries over brambles. I refer to my phone as a bramble.

    Use of Scots in schools is reaping huge rewards with kids who were told to keep their ain tongue in the playground and out of the classroom.

    Rather than giving into the globalisation of the Lingua franca, I like the fact that wee wifies can do their messages and ask for a panloaf, mashloch, scallions, grice, capon, coney, cran and clootie without getting the dry boak frae a kenspeckled loon.

    I suggest Mr Peat Worrier that you fail to grasp that these are populist measures of out-plebbing the Unionists, by Wilson and Graham which will result in more Post, Mailand Express and Record readers being aware of their own, hitherto hidden culture and those Nationalist politicians endeavouring to preserve it.

  3. These campaigns (see also La Grahame's plan to dig up Mary Queen of Scots and reinterr her in Holyrood) are a pox on nationalism, an embarrassment to the body politic, and no more likely to attract readers of said titles than the Maximum Eck dancing naked through their nightmares. If any other Uncle Monties out there think otherwise they're aff their heids.

  4. Good morning Lallands. I know you don't mean to sound like a crippling snob but you do. :)

    Like Monty I'm all for saving our culture and if that requires having a few hysterical MSPs then so be it.

    Now I'll be labelled as a gurning cybernat. Never mind, I've been called much worse. :)

  5. I just wish there was more of the *other* kind of nationalist in the media... there is too much emphasis on silliness which rightly puts those who are not yet convinced off.

    I'm bored of people assuming that because I'm nationalist-leaning that I must be a crazed kilt-worshipping dough-heid.

    I don't think the intellectual arguments are focused on sufficiently, with the result that plenty of intelligent people who might otherwise be interested ignore the SNP as a waste of time.

  6. I agree to an extent Mr Worrier. I do think Mr Wilson is trying to mine a seam of populist sentiment but I also think that there is a more worthy element to his suggestion.
    Culture lies in the difference and much of that is framed by language. The present situation vis a vis Scots words and usage (I would hesitate to describe Scots as a language nowadays), means that many of us feel these words are somehow illegitimate and that has the effect of undermining confidence in our distinctiveness, our culture.
    Is that important? I think so. It can certainly be damaging, not just on the national cultural level, but on the individual psychological level.

  7. "Foulkes in a blonde wig"! I can already envisage Ms Grahame's defamation writ winging its way towards you as I type, Montague Burton.

  8. I suppose I'll just have to submit to the characteristics nature has blessed me with, Subrosa. ;) Although, being such a polite young man, I'd never presume to allege you were even capable of a single, isolated "gurn"!

    My sympathies are very much with the point Laurence raises. In part, starting to write this blog in early 2009 is my attempt to express a different sort of nationalism than one more regularly observes. I hope, in this, to be contributing positively to a wider, more differentiated picture of the nationalist cause.

  9. I agree with you in principle. Having said that, the National Library 'banning' of the Saltire was on the front page of the Daily Record today. The most pro SNP front page I have ever seen.

    I do not suggest that there is method in CG's madness, but the accidental outcome may net us a few more votes....

    Re. Bill Wilson.. No excuse and nothing gained from his potty rant.

    Spring onions are still called syboes by Glaswegian people of a certain age by the way.

  10. Mr or Mrs Anonymous, unlike the other Uncle Monty, I do not mean to have you, even if it must be burglary.

    The problem Ms Graham created for maximum self flag wrapping could have been quietly solved if she'd merely spoken to the Minister responsible for the SNL. However, it did kick off the whole 'Whose flag is it?' debate...

  11. Great post. I agree almost entirely.
    I covered the Bill Wilson story myself, albeit far less eloquently here http://bigrab.wordpress.com/2009/06/22/bill-wilson-what-a-tumshie/
    Glad to have found you.