“I see that you spend a lot of time tweeting about Scottish independence…”
“I do!” I laughed with surprise.
“Over 30,000 tweets in the last… err… day?”
For a moment, the note of diabolical assurance in the journalist’s voice was suspended and there was an impromptu familiarity between us. He sounded disappointed or even upset. “Everybody should take an interest in politics,” I hastened to explain.
“But you can’t even vote in the referendum. You live on the fucking moon!”
“Letter From the Man in the Moon (3)” (January).
Internet trolls who spread hate online face being locked up for five years, prosecutors warned last night.
The intervention by the Crown Office comes amid growing concern over online activists allying themselves with the pro-independence movement.
Last night, as calls escalated for the SNP to intervene to curb the wave of online abuse, it emerged that the Crown Office is planning a shake-up of prosecution guidelines to ‘get tough’ on the trolls.
The Crown said anyone found guilty after being prosecuted before a sheriff and jury for offensive or abusive tweets or online comments faces being imprisoned for up to five years.
The Scottish Daily Mail, “Cybernats unmasked: Meet the footsoldiers of pro-Scottish independence ‘army’ whose online poison shames the Nationalists” (January).
For – and here we start to approach the nub of the problem – there is an unbreakable rule laid down by the common agricultural policy. If you want to receive your single farm payment – by far the biggest component of farm subsidies – that land has to be free from what it calls “unwanted vegetation”. Land covered by trees is not eligible. The subsidy rules have enforced the mass clearance of vegetation from the hills… This money should be renamed the flooding subsidy: it pays for the wreckage of homes, the evacuation of entire settlements, the drowning of people who don’t get away in time, all over Europe. Pig-headed idiocy doesn’t begin to describe it.
George Monbiot in The Guardian, “Drowning in money: the untold story of the crazy public spending that makes flooding inevitable” (January).
The lady sounded massively relieved and then very jolly. “Oh yes, I can tell you that your pub is unaffected.”
“My goodness. Really?”
“Yes, some farmers went there and put sandbags all around it. The water didn’t reach it in any case.”
“But this is incredible. My pub is facing the river…”
“Gosh, whoops!” the lady chuckled anxiously. “You said the Green Man?”
There was some frantic rustling down the phone.
The lady was back. “I’m sorry, the last person stuck all of these post-it notes to the computer screen and I was looking at the wrong one. I’m afraid that the riverbank collapsed and your pub slid down on to the river’s bed. We couldn’t save it, I’m sorry.”
Mr Rosedhu thanked the lady.
“Enter the State!” (February).
I have flirted with UKIP and I find them charming. They perk me up and put a song on my lips and leave me feeling more sanguine about British politics. Yet there is no worldly reason why all of the creaking infrastructure of the Left, its unions and Labour party, cannot be made over with UKIP materials. I am not “a Eurosceptic” – the term is superfluous when one is a democrat – and I am not about to quit the Left on the basis that it cannot be reconciled with democracy. It can.
“How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love UKIP” (March).
Mr Salmond, who is in the US, paid tribute to the politician with whom he had many robust exchanges. The First Minister hailed Ms MacDonald as “one of the great rallying figures of Scottish nationalism”. He added: “From her Govan by-election victory in 1973 she had a profound role in Scotland’s home-rule journey. Very few politicians are recognised and known to the public by their first name – Margo was. Even fewer have the profile and talent to be elected comprehensively as an independent candidate – Margo had. I saw her only last week to talk tactics on the independence referendum. Despite great physical infirmity, she dispensed wise advice and her enthusiasm and commitment to the independence cause was bright and undimmed.”
The Scotsman, “Tributes as Margo MacDonald MSP dies aged 70” (April).
“Tyche, Goddess of the City” (May).
Cultural nationalism is always sinister when encountered in a political context. The Scottish nationalism of such writers as Tom Nairn and the late Stephen Maxwell lacks the straightforwardness of a bald demand for more democracy. It will not suffice to say that these thinkers are simply democrats – they are nationalists, and their nationalism entails something more rounded and existentially cumbersome than just the terms of the contract between a citizen and a certain state. They have taken the liberty of importing nationalism from the civic sphere into your very identity.
Do you want it woven into your human fibre, this most banal and vacuous of all ideologies? Cultural nationalism privileges the supposed cultural properties of a nation, however unremarkable or inauthentic, simply because they are national. It concocts a “national character” out of those attitudes and prejudices which are designated, for whatever spurious reason, “national characteristics.” The gigantic question of why we cannot live happily without this existential clutter is answered with eternal, ringing silence.
“Options for Edinburgh: Scottish Nationalism or City Statehood? (1/5),” (May).
The 18th-century Scottish Enlightenment further encouraged enthusiasm for Britishness north of the border, with Alexander Wedderburn and his fellow contributors to the Edinburgh Review coining the term ‘North Britain’ to describe their country. This espousal of Britishness by enlightened Scots in no sense diminished their sense of Scottishness. Rather their display of what later became known as hybrid or hyphenated identity expressed their conviction that it was as part of Britain that Scotland had its best chance of thriving and improving.
Ian Bradley in History Today, “Britishness: a Scottish Invention” (May).
I can’t quite decide what’s worse:
– the quality of the writing
– the depiction of Gaelic culture as backwards & Lewis as some backwater (not heard of HebCelt then?)
– the idea that FM & DFM of Scotland would rejoice over death
– that Scotland, of all places, would rejoice at cutting funding artists (you’re up to date on the cuts to arts funding in England & the attitudes to funding arts there then?)
– that you publish this demonisation of Alasdair Gray on the day he buries his wife;
Or the nasty gleefulness displayed as you hurl a bus full of my friends off a cliff.
Perhaps you should grow up before making any more contributions to the debate.
One of the many comments which greeted Tychy‘s “On the Road with National Collective” (May).
Of course, the socialism is comfy and nostalgic, rather like an old bedtime story. The people are sovereign and they just need to reassert themselves, and it is as simple as that. Sillars wants a mass housing programme, pursued with some of the traditional socialist “audacity” of Nye Bevan. He thinks that more Scottish oil should be allocated to Scottish motorists, to fuel domestic tourism. The SNP make vague pledges about the financial benefits of independence, with an extra thousand pounds in your hand every year (or whatever it is), but Sillars’ vision seems to be both dreamier and more substantial.
“The Socialist Case for Independence” (June).
Of course, some will say that worrying about our economic prospects is poor-spirited, because those people take the view ‘I’ll be skint if I want to and Westminster can’t tell me otherwise’. I’m afraid that’s a form of ‘patriotism’ that I will never understand. It places higher importance on ‘sticking it’ to David Cameron, who will be long gone before the full consequences of independence are felt, than to looking after your own. It prefers the grand ‘up yours’ gesture to considering what you might be doing to the prospects of future generations.
JK Rowling, “JK Rowling Explains Why She is Supporting the Better Together Campaign” (June).
Prosecutor: And how were you consequently affected by your ordeal?
Skywalker: I tried to bury the experience and move on, but the memories kept flooding back. I attempted to commit suicide several times and then I returned to my home planet of Tatooine and became an alcoholic. I wanted to die and I would sometimes catch myself trying to will my heart to simply stop beating. The worst thing was thinking that I would never be believed. Everybody said that Yoda was such a merry little chap and that he had done so much good work for charity, campaigning against the Dark Side. People would assume that I was a fantasist or an adventurer.
Judge: Oh, but we must hear a word from the defence.
Defence [very gently]: Mr S, the prosecution claim that after your alleged ordeal, Mr Yoda went on to abuse young Jedi initiates for a further three hundred years. Were this to be true, do you not think that you might have had a responsibility to notify the authorities about his true character? By this, I mean a moral duty to the rest of the galaxy?
Skywalker [affronted]: I am a victim. I cannot possibly be expected to answer such impertinent questions.
Elements of the dossier may indeed have been “credible”, but it’s likely that anything valuable was hidden among dross: most of the news reports on the subject out today appear to have overlooked the important detail that Dickens was an extravagant conspiracy theorist who helped to contribute to the “Satanic panics” that emerged in the UK just a few years later…
Richard Bartholomew, “Geoffrey Dickens: Child Abuse Claims and Satanic Panic” (July).
“Tychy @ the Fringe 2014” (July).
There is some fun audience interaction in this show, but the most powerful moment is also the simplest. The compere stops to survey the audience and she requests that they call out where they have travelled here from. As countries and cities begin to fly through the air, it is like lights coming on across the globe: England, Ireland, New York, Spain, the Cayman Islands, the Netherlands, California. In this moment, the Māori have the whole world at their feet.
“Tychy@ the Fringe: Haka” (August).
It doesn’t take much investigation to see that the Tricycle’s decision is rank with hypocrisy. Just as Israel seems to have become a unique pariah on the world stage, despite the ongoing atrocities committed or spawned by other states – not least those in the Western, Israel-bashing world – it seems Israeli funding is similarly unique in its corrupting power. So much so that the Tricycle can slam UKJFF for receiving a small amount of money from the Israeli Embassy while itself taking £720,000 from the UK Arts Council – a wing of the British state, which is hardly known for its pacifism.
Tom Slater for Spiked Online, ‘The Edinburgh Fringe has failed us – and failed freedom’ (August).
“It’s Complicated” (September).
Such is the makeup of Yes that it will never be satisfied until it has achieved its goal: an independent Scottish state. For Yes to give up on this raison d’être would be like the Labour party abandoning working people. Fortunately the British state regards the independence movement as a sort of populist tantrum or as a lot of fuss which can still be pacified. If Yes miss out on winning the big glamorous holiday prize – their state – they will nonetheless get further devolution as a runners-up prize. What the half of the population who voted for the Union will win is altogether less clear. A No will not be interpreted as a lack of faith in devolution, even though barely fifty per cent of the electorate voted in the last Scottish parliamentary election.
The masses are essentially being told that they want localism: either a local independent state or more pronounced local powers than exist at present. That they might want a more democratic Unionist state is apparently too far-fetched to be countenanced.
“#Indyref Anguish: How to Lose” (September).
The shopping list of ‘positive’ ideal goals could never tally up, the desires of the Yessers were incompatible and contradicted each other, but to raise this was seen as being ‘negative’. Every kind of Yes had to be included, and this meant there could be no debate. Instead there was a kind of self-censorship and conformism. The Yes camp had turned itself into a recruitment machine which had to silence dissent and differences between the many clashing interest groups under its banner. This was what YES had started to mean – it meant YES to everything – everything is possible – so don’t question anything. You couldn’t talk about what would happen after the referendum because then all the conflicts between all the different desires and factions would emerge.
Ewan Morrison, “YES: Why I Joined Yes and Why I Changed to No” (September).
The Yessers’ constant resort to David Cameron et al as a weapon against doubters every time they’re on the back foot doesn’t encourage much confidence in this supposedly new politics, in my view. The Labour Party have spent years demanding my vote on the grounds that otherwise, the Tories will vandalise the place. This is called Blackmail and I was never much receptive to it from men and women in red rosettes. In fact, I really didn’t like this game when it was called Support our cause or you are helping Saddam Hussein to victory and I like it even less when it’s my own arse on the line.
The Flying Rodent, “Fuck It” (September).
But my soul smarts today. The atmosphere here feels heavy. Glasgow has pulled on a coat of cloud, and under that sunless, airless atmosphere, folk toddle on, with clay feet. Today, it feels like we’re living under a low sky… I thought I was reconciled to the outcome. I was wrong. For the last couple of days, my hunch has been that we’d lose, and lose bigger than the final polls predicted. So it proved. When the first Clackmannanshire vote came in, it was like opening a coffin lid.
The Lallands Peat Worrier, “Under the Low Sky” (September).
We know that you are completely exhausted and utterly heartbroken. We are too. On face value we lost, but there is more to the result than meets the eye and this was anything but a fair fight. Two years ago, we started off with Yes on a poll of 25% and yet we ended up with 45%. The sheer resilience of the Yes movement in the face of the full might of the British state, corporate and media power, that was designed to demonise, smear and alienate anyone who chose to side with it will not die down.
National Collective, “Statement: How We Won And How We Will Win” (September).
But the relief is nonetheless stunning… And those of us who are on the Left would quite like to have the Left back now please. For the last two years, the Scottish Left have been hired out to the SNP; they have been mingling with strange, inappropriate companions; and they have purposefully avoided addressing the tens of millions of ordinary people who, through no fault of their own, happen to live in and to the south of Berwick-upon-Tweed. The Scottish Left haven’t been able to convince 64 million of their countrymen to prioritise the NHS and so the solution has been to deny they were ever their countrymen in the first place and flounce off.
“#Indyref Anguish: Failed State” (September).
“A Thousandfold” (November).
A significant section of the Conservative party has become Bennite: ardent followers of the views espoused by the leftwinger Tony Benn, who died earlier this year. The rightwing Bennites do not look to their leadership for guidance. Like Benn used to do, they follow other lines of democratic accountability. Due to a matter of deeply held principle, the leader can never count on their support, even when he seeks to appease them… Of course, there are big differences between Benn’s overall beliefs and the Tory Bennites. He was a socialist and they most emphatically are not. Benn regarded the state as a benevolent force, and sought wider state ownership, while a lot of the Tory Bennites want government to play a much smaller role. But in the importance they attach to democracy, and in their interpretation of what form democratic politics should take, they have much in common.
Steve Richards in the Guardian, “Tony Benn – the new face of the Tories” (October).
A paralysed man has been able to walk again after a pioneering therapy that involved transplanting cells from his nasal cavity into his spinal cord… Prof Geoff Raisman, chair of neural regeneration at University College London’s Institute of Neurology, led the UK research team. He said what had been achieved was “more impressive than man walking on the moon”.
Fergus Walsh for the BBC, “Paralysed man walks again after cell transplant” (October).
So why aren’t our politicians talking about this? Why doesn’t Ed Miliband stand for election next May on the pledge that he will cure diabetes? This would be my sort of election. UKIP would announce that every pint-swigging British patriot will receive an infinite supply of new 3D printed livers. Perhaps some fringe party would introduce a manifesto pledge to deliver immortality.
For this article to go back to reality might not involve going very far. But to step out of science fiction and back into the realities of regenerative medicine, a limitation of this field is that the science remains depoliticised.
“End Our NHS” (December).