9 December 2012

For A' That ~ Episode 7 ~ Creative Recountancy...

With December drawing in, bare branches and rime-edged mornings, we're onto episode seven of the For A' That podcast, dishing up weekly doses of timely and untimely thoughts about the state of the nation, as we inch slowly towards 2014.  Today, Michael and I were joined by Kevin Williamson, who is a gentleman with a finger in many artistic and non-artistic pies, including the Bella Caledonia blog, and Rory Scothorne, who is a co-founder of the National Collective project, who joined us on the show from the other side of the Atlantic ocean. 

This week, questions of Culture emerge as our major theme, in a blether ranging across the latest challenges faced by Creative Scotland, comfort and discomfort with a Scottish voice in film, literature and music, and how artistry and political conviction marry (and may not always comfortably marry). 

In more conventional political terms, we also chewed over the virtues and vices of the thinking underlying Nicola Sturgeon's latest speech. What challenges might it pose to the Labour party and the Better Together campaign? More generally, is it helpful to think of Scotland a more left-inflected nation, politically, than our southern neighbours, or is this a unconvincing myth? How does thinking - and perhaps divergent thinking - about class in England and Scotland feed into this?

Lastly, Michael spotted a tale in the Scotsman about funding being funnelled by the Economic and Social Research Council into academic fellowships to study the implications of Scottish independence.  We discuss his anxieties. As usual, you can lend your ears to the show directly here.

Alternatively, you can download the latest edition of the podcast here, or lay your paws on it via iTunes.


  1. 'More generally, is it helpful to think of Scotland a more left-inflected nation, politically, than our southern neighbours, or is this a unconvincing myth?'

    It is a myth surely. As someone pointed out the other day, the SNP itself in the last few decades has gone from right wing to left wing to an odd mixture of both. As for being a bulwark against the tyranny of world capitalism, according to Torrance and others Salmond has come to believe in the Laffer Curve and low taxation, the twin pillars of neoliberalism. If independence comes in 2014, there is no earthly reason why in a few years a right-wing Holyrood might not be glaring over the border at a left-wing Westminster.

    Taking a longer historical perspective, the vision of a rooted carey-sharey Scotland melts like a Tunnock's tea cake in a microwave. Dundee in the Edwardian era (see Tom Devine's To the Ends of the Earth) was a city of contrasts that shocked visitors - rapacious capitalists at the top, desperately poor people at the bottom and a middle class doing rather nicely, thank you.

    I mind being at a book launch at the Signet - a friendly aristo pointed out to me a plump huddle of advocates disappearing into a room and saying something like 'they will always do fine no matter what happens to the rest of us', meaning the Scottish middle classes in general. For sure.

  2. Edwin,

    Funny you should say that. After Kevin's argument that distinctions of class are more pronounced in England than in Scotland, and that bourgeois Scots identify more closely with the political ambitions of their fellow citizens - I was just about to raise a contrary point, when a disagreeable bolt of lightning blasted through the podcast, knocking us offline and zapping the conversational flow. I didn't end up making the points, similar to those you raise. An issue to revisit on a future show, perhaps.

  3. Groundskeeper Willie11 December 2012 at 09:59

    I think Jim Mather was right when he said that any notion that an independent Scotland would be a left wing country is delusional nonsense.

    You have to look back at the political landscape in Scotland before the SNP became a force in electoral politics and at how strong the Tories then were to get some idea of what a post independence landscape would look like.

    One assumes that once the SNP have achieved their goal of independence the party would melt away and the Tories would re emerge from the slush.

    It's not a coincidence that the once Tory strongholds are now SNP strongholds and that chronologically the fall of the Tories foreshadowed the rise of the SNP.

    Salmond gave a bit of a hint with his 'we didn't mind the economic side so much' gaffe. The truth is a lot of his voters in Banff & Buchan probably did feel that way.

  4. A left-inflected Scotland? Both myth and reality surely? But this image was created by Labour in Scotland to further its own ends well before the SNP co-opted the image and many of Labours policies. The SNP had identified that it needed to at least break even in the "left-inflected" wards of Glasgow to win political power.

    The "tartan tories" label which was sneered at so much by 'Scottish' Labour while directed at the SNP is now worn with pride by Johann Lamont . She sits alongside the tories and requires the Labour party in Scotland to sit alongside the tories at all levels of political power not only to oppose SNP policies but also the policies she has identified as central to her beliefs e.g. nuclear weapons.

    Of course it's not a very productive way of thinking about Scotland but that was never it's intention when dreamt up by Labour. That Scottish Labour sympathisers now question its own dearly held myth of 'Red Clydeside' is surely something of a turnaround?