15 April 2010

Scotland silenced? #ScotlandSpeaks

Trussed up, hands bound to prevent anything so spontaneous as applause - cautioned to gag themselves and utter not a word as Cameron and Clegg and Brown exchange tormenting remarks - I feel sorry for the audience attending tonight's much-anticipated leaders' debates.

Their voices corked away, they're merely meat in the room, a cheap way of heating up the chamber without turning on all the central heaters as they sweat away the night in silence. Here in Scotland, of course, we can sympathise with their plight. For tonight, those of us who support the SNP and those who don't, look down at our hands and see the same chains. We cannot clap - cannot raise our hand and say - "Not so Mr Cameron, look here, my copy of the Scotland Act says you don't speak for Britain! Your plans don't hold for me!" No wriggling digit to prod the sections making clear that Clegg's comments are irrelevant, or that Brown has it wrong when he talks about "our country". If our hands were permitted the grace of motion, we could feel about in our mouths and discover, like the audience, our tongues have been tacked down. No amount of pulling seems to free this simple organ that lets us pronounce our views, exchange our arguments,  enter the political conversation or submit our case on equal and fair terms to the Scottish voting public. Like that audience, we don't get to ask the questions which actually concern us. We can't interject when false three-way choices are blithely discussed in our presence, like that audience. Instead, like them, we sit, motionless and soundless while the telecasters make their undeclared contribution to Labour and Tory and Liberal Democrat campaigns, memorialising a dishonest three-way choice.

For us, we have to keep our copies of the Scotland Act 1998 open all the time. Rapid glances have to constantly check against its sections whether in the devil detail and gusty "vision" these three Westminster men are contesting and jousting over - one breath of it refers to us.  Thankfully, however, there is one difference between us and the audience. While they're wedged like sardines, row on row, with facefuls of this fishy enterprise - we can turn off, or tune in elsewhere. Might I suggest you take a moment and spend a couple of minutes with Alex Salmond, who neatly and briskly sums up why you might want to vote SNP on polling day and why our total exclusion from these debates is aberrant, and a sin against fairness in our Scottish democracy.


  1. One of the benefits of being engaged in prolonged study of devolution is having memorised large portions of the Scotland Act.

    For the next debate, I might wheel out some of the exampled of Cabinet ministers having no control over their field in their own constituency. Always something which annoys me and I suspect would annoy English voters if they knew what they were stuck with in comparison to Scotland.

  2. Its not the best party piece I can imagine, Hythlodaeus, nor do I imagine that it furnishes you with gay wit and repartee to charm any pants off - but I'm a esteemer of all knowledge, so I'm sure it has its use in context! These debates do concern me, however, for the reasons I mention in the post linked to above. Nobody is aided or emancipated by a confused understanding of who does what and where change or guilty stability really originates.

    Your second bit reminds me of a book called 'The Unspeakable Scot' (1902) by a chap called T.W.H. Crosland. Its a racist tract on the Scot's national character, but is also at times rather witty and occasionally amusing. The author rails against any number of things - but particularly disliked the Scottish Westminster politicians of his own day.

    You can read the whole text (or just have a digital thumb through) here. Its curious stuff.