24 December 2015

♫ One more sleep til Christmas ♫

With a wee piece in the National this morning on yesterday's minimum alcohol pricing decision, I hang up my wig for the year. I'm done. Just one more sleep till Christmas. The cider is mulling. Great trenches have been hacked from a fat, plumptious pork pie. The Muppets have been deployed, and Marley and Marley are summoned. 

2015 has been a splendid, but also a curious, and sometimes disorienting year. In the wake of the general election, I wrote a lengthy piece for the Drouth on how that remarkable election put an axe to the root of a great deal of what we once took for granted in Scottish politics. 

"Much of what once was solid in Scottish public life has melted into air. Our politics, which for so long seemed dominated by steady and dependable assumptions, has become strangely contemporary. The old maps and charts give out. Poles have reversed, polls have reversed, and the compass doesn’t understand its points."

There are two bereavements here. Labour's collapse must be the subject of grief for its hard-working and committed supporters. But what has generally gone unnoticed is how unprecedented success challenges - and challenges quite fundamentally - the outlook of longer term SNP supporters.

"The SNP is no longer a party for losers, for outsiders, crackpots and contrarians. It is no longer a party condemned to perpetual opposition. The lifelong holder of minority opinions now finds himself in common company with a great part of the nation. The party’s core ambition – independence – has not yet secured majority support, but has been thrust into the mainstream of UK and Scottish politics for the first time in this nation’s history since the Union of 1707. Politically, this may be the source of understandable glee for Scottish Nationalists. But psychologically, we should remember the secret tie between wound and weapon. Remember that the hater is somehow invested in the object he hates, the opposition in its opponent. Scottish Labour’s humbling is at once gratifying and disturbing because it knocks through one of the structuring pillars of Scottish political life. You derive a sense of freedom from the act of destruction, but also one of anxiety. What now?"

As the end of the year approaches, I've seen nothing to suggest that we've properly come to terms with this transformation. The 2016 Holyrood election will - understandably - encourage a continuing preoccupation with the crucifixion of the Labour Party. But for the Nationalist government, 2016 will inevitably be the bringer of dramatic choices, and decisions about "taking sides in Scotland as well as taking Scotland's side." The holding position of the 2015 budget, perfectly cannily, defers most of the most dramatic choices. 

But to govern, as they say, is to choose. 2016 is Nicola Sturgeon's moment to go forth, and swither no more. The Holyrood manifesto will speak volumes. Can we expect a powerful SNP government, given an unprecedented democratic mandate to reshape Scotland, fizzing with ideas, to attack a political mission with zeal? Or will we see a re-run of 2011’s slick but policy-lite “team, record, vision” campaign? Tricky questions for the New Year. 

For today, however, all that remains is to thank you all for your attention and your visits, your many kindnesses and your comments and contributions here on Lallands Peat Worrier over the last year. I hope it has been diverting. May your puddings be well figged and your claret fine and fruity. Have a splendid Christmas, and a nourishing break.


  1. Thanks for all the cutting through of the undergrowth this year.
    I for one appreciate it hugely.
    Merry Christmas.

  2. And a very Merry Christmas to you from a former crackpot.

  3. Thank you once again for all your explanations of difficult matters - explanations as valuable to we unionists, as to those in your own camp, if indeed one can speak of two camps, which actually I doubt post-referendum. There are both Yessers and Nossers of whom it may be said, as Dr Johnson put it,

    "Some claim a place in the list of patriots, by an acrimonious and unremitting opposition to the court. This mark is by no means infallible. Patriotism is not necessarily included in rebellion. A man may hate his king, yet not love his country.”

    Too many of us distrust dissent. And as the good Doctor tells us,

    "It is unpleasing to represent our affairs to our own disadvantage; yet it is necessary to shew the evils which we desire to be removed.”

    On the bright side, we have the likes of yourself, Kevin Hague and Andy Wightman and others who can talk to the mind and spirit, and not the hand.

    1. You're comparing Andy to Kevin Hague? I'm sure he'll thank you for that...

    2. Ah that reminds me - one of the nicest exchanges on Twitter, from last May -


      Some times we should defer to resemblances rather than differences. I am quite certain - for example - that when reading The Poor Had No Lawyers, Kevin made it past Andy’s opening attack on Robert the Bruce - which I am equally certain was an unscaleable wall for many blood-and-soil nationalists.

      Merry Christmas to you Conan & to all haunters of the peat land.

  4. Compliments of the season to you and yours.