Lend me your cliché … as we approach our date with destiny


By Kenneth Roy

The big words are out in force in this morning’s Scottish (or pretendy-Scottish) newspapers; also, foreign words. Worrying adjectives are having an excellent day too. As the constitutional ‘debate’ warms up, there is a bidding war in the language of crisis.

The word of the day award goes to Alan Cochrane, Scottish editor of the Daily Telegraph. You don’t get too many braggadocios to the pound these days, but here it is in the opening salvo of Mr Cochrane’s think piece:

‘The braggadocio was there – he doesn’t leave home without it’.

This is a reference to our dear leader. Mr Cochrane on the other hand, is a man who doesn’t leave home without words like braggadocio swirling around in his frighteningly clever head. But as the Scottish editor, he really ought to have a word with his own journalists. They appear to think that Auchinleck, home of James Boswell and of Scottish junior football, is spelled Auckinleck. When the Daily Telegraph can spell Auchinleck, its views on the braggadocio of our dear leader will be taken more seriously.

Mr Cochrane is in no doubt that Mr Salmond ‘blinked first’ in his stand-off with the coalition government and that he was panicked into his announcement of the date – or at any rate the season – of the referendum. But in this belief the Scottish editor is almost alone. Most other newspapers believe, or affect to believe, that, in the words of Jon Snow on last night’s Channel 4 News, the first minister ‘pulled a fast one’ on David Cameron.

The Daily Record had fun with ‘Revenge is Tweet’ – Nicola Sturgeon’s 110-character announcement of autumn 2014 – which was almost as long a message as the 56 words poor Torcuil Crichton was allowed on that paper’s front page to summarise the complex scenario unfolding.

The foreign words – disobeying George Orwell’s sensible dictum that there are enough serviceable words in the English language without bothering with anybody else’s – appeared in the Scotsman’s leader.

‘Carpe diem’.

This was the first, cringe-making sentence. It continued: ‘With a theatrical flourish and the sense of daring self-confidence which has made him the pre-eminent politician on these islands, Alex Salmond seized the political day….’

Carpe diem. Seize the day…get it? Or would you rather just hide in the nearest cupboard?

An athletic-looking chap – not the dear leader, then – in suitably dramatic silhouette is running with the flag, perhaps to that feelgood factor known as the Commonwealth Games and onward to his inevitable date with destiny.

Under the headline ‘1,000 days to decide our future’ – nuanced in David Maddox’s piece to ‘roughly 1,000 days’ – the Scotsman has a Saltire-clothed map of Scotland with a pair of nasty looking scisssors casting a shadow over the Borders and threatening such unionist countenances as Allan Massie and Alasdair Hutton. Arran is covered in snow. Bute has disappeared. There is no hint, either, of Shetland, which may have decided to do the decent thing and annexe itself to somewhere Scandinavian.

Oh dear…we have ‘Dates with Destiny’ across pages 4 and 5. Hang around – I have more dates with destiny to bring you later. But, more promisingly, we have ‘Trump Card’, which I take to be a small exclusive advertising The Donald’s intention to launch the Salmond campaign on the first tee of the world’s greatest golf course. It turns out to be just another puff for the dear leader. ‘The No campaign,’ muses Scott Macnab, ‘must wonder how they can stop the man’. How soon before the man becomes The Man?

The first of the Scotsman’s dates with destiny is Thursday 4 September – ‘a date that would allow the SNP to capitalise on the feelgood factor of the Commonwealth Games’. Just how good we feel about the Commonwealth Games rather depends. Still, the Daily Telegraph’s Simon Johnson is another convert to the ‘feelgood factor’. Like ‘dates with destiny’, this is a hand-me-doon cliche which is likely to be heard much, more more in the weeks – well, months – actually years – to come.

More dates with destiny in the Herald. No, just the one. ‘Alex Salmond last night defied Westminster to clear the way for Scotland to meet its date with destiny,’ enthuses chief Scottish political correspondent Robbie Dinwoodie. The Herald, like its Edinburgh rival, also reaches for the Saltire for its front-page image – but without those disturbing scissors. An athletic-looking chap – not the dear leader, then – in suitably dramatic silhouette is running with the flag, perhaps to that feelgood factor known as the Commonwealth Games and onward to his inevitable date with destiny.

I have not mentioned the Guardian’s Severin Carrell. He may complain if he is left out, so I must report that he believes the United Kingdom is ‘on track for a grave constitutional clash’. He’s not alone there. Grave constitutional clashes are all over the shop.

The mainstream Scottish media – MSM for short – has a decision to make about the constitutional question. In the face of collapsing sales caused by the continuing drift of readers and advertisers to the internet, how much space should the newspapers give to the great ‘debate’, such as it is? Is it thought to be a circulation winner? Or might it be something of close interest to no more than a few thousand devoted anorak-wearers? The Sun seems to have made up its mind already. It leads its front page with the story of a woman who lives with a horse. The splash headline: ‘Neigh place like home’. Wouldn’t ‘hame’ have been better?

I’ll tell you what we need to survive until the autumn of 2014. We need some new cliches.


Courtesy of Kenneth Review – read Kenneth Roy in the Scottish Review