by Ben Borland
A CONTROVERSIAL English author was accused of a “racist rant” yesterday after describing Scots as “rotten sporran danglers” who live “high on the hog” courtesy of taxpayers south of the Border.
Quentin Letts, a well known television personality and newspaper columnist, said the “haggis had hit the fan” following the SNP’s landslide election victory, led by the “sausage fingered radical” Alex Salmond.
Letts, writing in the English edition of the Daily Mail on Saturday, describes himself as a “once-proud unionist” who now supports Scottish independence because it would “save us money”.
The article was criticised by Scottish politicians yesterday and enraged users of Internet sites such as Twitter, from both sides of the Border. One user vowed to report him to the Press Complaints Commission for his “diatribe against the Scots”.
In the article, Letts writes that the English have had to “endure a lot of Scottishness” and “for years put up with John Reid and Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling and Robin Cook telling us what to do.”
“Power to the Scottish people,” he concludes. “Let them decide. If they want to go, let it be with our blessing. It might finally stop them complaining.”
He adds: “The exact figures are disputed but the Labour Party calculates that UK subsidies are worth £14billion a year to Scotland – that’s £2,600 for every person in Scotland. And still the rotten sporran-danglers complain!
“One-time demagogue Mr Salmond, to be fair, has dropped the anti-English rhetoric in recent years. Although there remain fundamentalists in the SNP who will conclude every political utterance with a sally against the Sassenachs, their leader has become more of a gradualist.”
Letts, who describes himself as being of “Scottish, Anglo-Irish and Canadian” descent, is a former public schoolboy from Cirencester, in Gloucestershire. Well known for his outspoken and often inflammatory views, he writes for a number of newspapers and regularly appears on TV.
Two years ago Labour peer George Foulkes criticised him for coining the “snobbish and sectarian” nickname “Gorbals Mick” for former Speaker Michael Martin.
Yesterday the former Lothians MSP described the writer as an “arrogant mercenary” and an “agent provocateur” for the right wing of the Tory party, who was not speaking for the vast majority of English people.
“He has been doing it year after year, picking on people and Scots in particular,” he said. “He has had a go at me and he orchestrated the vendetta against Michael Martin.
“I think he is trying to provoke people in Scotland into a reaction and the best thing to do is to just ignore him.
“He is very happy to come up here and enjoy our hospitality when he is a reviewer at the Edinburgh Festival every summer.”
A spokesman for the SNP added: “Quentin Letts is right about one thing – the right of the people of Scotland to decide their own future.
“The reality is that Scotland more than pays its own way in the UK, as the official figures show. And an independent Scotland would continue a social Union with our friends and neighbours in England.”
The row comes amid growing signs at Holyrood that the Nationalists are preparing to argue for “independence lite” rather than a full breakaway from England.
Yesterday, the former SNP fundamentalist Jim Sillars said sharing defence, social security and foreign policy with England was the way forward, rather than the “full enchilada”.
However, a source at the Scotland Office said it would not be up to the SNP to pick and choose which parts of the Union they would like to retain.
He added: “Imagine going home and telling your wife you still wanted to be married to her, just not at the weekends.”
Courtesy of the Sunday Express Scotland