By Derek Bateman
Damn! I’ve been trying to keep to my own agenda and not be side-tracked by others. But when I read the Guardian with mounting disbelief, I realised I was off chasing someone else’s hare again.
Here is a key sentence from Martin Kettle’s column… ‘Nationalist opinion could become more militant if the talks become bogged down. Even acts of violence are not inconceivable in certain circumstances or places…’
He’s talking about a post-vote scenario in which things, he suggests, might get nasty. Well, it’s a theory. But that word ‘violence’ hit me like a slap in the face. Where did that come from?
We can all postulate and theorise but when someone in the mainstream starts to talk about constitutional politics turning to violence, he steps into very tricky territory. Journalistically, I expect that to be based on something – anything. And, of course, it is – the Irish Treaty of 1921. Yes, modern, democratic Scotland will resort to civil war if we’re not happy with the settlement.
How do you draw the comparison? Who are the Provisionals and who the Republicans? Who is Collins, who is de Valera? Where are the guns? Where is the hatred? Do we have a militant, hardline cadre of nationalists with explosive dumps in the Campsies?
This is reaching to the bottom of the barrel for justification and it isn’t credible. As a professional, Kettle should be able to say words to the effect… ‘nationalist insiders are worried that extremists might’ etc…or ‘police suspect a handful of hardliners are prepared to’ etc…or ‘academics fear the possibility of trouble’ etc. In other words, he should quote anything that can purport to be a source of such a statement. For the author to assert this himself is downright irresponsible.
Our campaign has been democratic, transparent, constitutional and peaceful throughout. I can’t think of anything in the current debate which has hinted at trouble or who might cause it. I do remember sporadic acts of explosives in use in the seventies when nationalism was still largely incoherent and diehards copied the efforts of Irish nationalists.
The last time anyone seriously mentioned violence to me in the Scottish context was in the 1980s when Adam Busby was claiming responsibility for bomb blasts in Ireland on behalf of the Scottish National Liberation Army (him) and a senior Tory told me he’d believe there was demand for devolution when Scots started knocking in the windows on Princes Street.
Modern Scottish nationalism is unblemished in this respect and there is nothing in the current legal arrangements for the referendum to leave any room for doubt. This is democratic. So where is Martin Kettle getting his information that leads to the suggestion we might fall upon each other if, for example, Trident takes longer to remove than we thought?
I think this is a silly, unresearched, desperate little reference which insults the movement and Scotland itself. He has a long-term, trusted and knowledgeable correspondent based in Edinburgh. Did he consult Severin Carrell before writing this?
He says it isn’t beyond the bounds of possibility and of course he is right. It isn’t beyond the bounds of possibility that David Cameron might declare a Yes majority insufficient, either. It just is very far down the scale and to drop it into the debate is to offer encouragement to any deranged idiot and to add a frightening element to a fair debate that doesn’t need this type of ill-informed intervention.
He also uses this piece to suggest strongly that there will be nastiness after a Yes vote, that people are just pretending to be nice right now but it will all kick off immediately afterwards.
‘Salmond talks as though the negotiations following a yes vote would be straightforward, respectful and informed by mutual trust. Why should that be so? They would more likely be devious, antagonistic and riddled with mutual suspicion, as well as largely meaningless until after the 2015 general election.’
Why not mutual trust? What is it about the British that everything is fine until they lose. This strain of unpleasantness runs through everything they do. They smile and say ‘of course, we’re happy to discuss it’ and then threaten us, unilaterally withdraw access to joint resources and hint at retaliation. Is this really a Union at all? It increasingly sounds to me like master and servant and master will tolerate independent thought from servant only so far and then, by god, watch out – they’ll turn nasty.
This, remember is the Guardian, not the colonially-minded Telegraph.
However, I also think Kettle completely misunderstands what will actually happen after a Yes vote and it isn’t just Scotland and the Scots he doesn’t understand – it’s Britain and the metropolitan elite he himself inhabits.
The moment a Yes is declared, the entire British machine moves into diplomatic mode. The first act is to be magnanimous by accepting the result with good grace. The second is to set the tone by appearing reasonable and, even while doing their utmost to get the best deal they can, they will present to the world an image of refined Brits maintaining their dignity.
To be brutally frank, the loss of Scotland is the last vestige of a once ‘great’ country slowly sinking below the horizon. They must at all costs pretend the opposite is true, that this is a blip and nothing more. It will be the confirmation of an historical truth, that Scotland is returning whence it came and that the game of empire is over. Rule Britannia.
I think that while they pick over the pieces in private, to the world at large they will be desperate to look statesmanlike and even gentlemanly in keeping with their carefully cultured international image. The eyes of the world will be upon them and the last accusation they want to hear is of bullying and cheating a smaller neighbour who has just done what the UK constantly tells others to do – expressed its democratic wish.
That image would be disastrous for the UK and the West in general when viewed from Moscow, Ankara, Kabul, Baghdad, Mogadishu, Tripoli and other theatres where the British like to strut. And imagine the global horror if friendly Nordic countries, or Berlin, or even Washington let it be known London was being nasty and thuggish with the Scots…
Let’s leave the predictions of doom, of nastiness and violence to the London media as another display of their epic ignorance and defeatism.
Courtesy of Derek Bateman