Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Our Morality

Tom Morton writes:

"Their morality," thundersqueaked Nicola Sturgeon at the recent SNP conference in Perth, "is not our morality."
She was talking about the Tories, but as in the much flaunted myth of "civic nationalism", there was an ethnic tinge lurking beneath the rhetoric.
Just as it's open season on "Old Etonian toffs" on the grouse moors of Govan, while the former pupils of Loretto, Glenalmond, Fettes, George Watson's and Merchiston stalk the deer forests of Holyrood in lordly fashion. They're not like "us", "down there".

"Civic nationalism" is the buzzphrase used by the separatist camp to deflect any hint of comparison with the kind of nationalism that led to bloody mayhem in the Balkans.
Or, even more inflammatory, any reminder of the SNP's flirtations with fascism in the 1930s, courtesy of such figures as barrister Andrew Dewar Gibb and the poets Douglas Young and Hugh MacDiarmid.
Civic nationalism defines a community not by its borders or ethnicity, but by a shared set of political values, and the shared democratic visions of its people.
Sort of like, well, Britain.

But for Sturgeon, the sharing of those values stops 10 miles north of Carlisle.
Carlisle, with its English Street, its Botchergate, its quaint 440-year-old law that demands the whipping of any Scotsman "found wandering".
Carlisle, "down there".

I write from Shetland, where "down there" can mean John O'Groats.
Where "us" does not reach further than Sumburgh Head.
Where one local crofter, asked about Scottish independence, allegedly replied: "Well, in London they don't care about us. But in Edinburgh, they hate us."

I am not a Shetlander, having spent most of my life in west central Scotland, and I have an affection for Disneyburgh that extends beyond its nae-knickers poshness and self-satisfied capital cool.
But I can't see why folk from Auld Reekie, Glasgow, that Dear Green Place or any other part of Scotland should be perceived as being somehow morally better, more enlightened, even more leftwing than those across that invisible border.

Much is made, in separatist circles, of the fact that Scotland labours under the yoke of a government it did not vote for.
Scotland, they say, has but a single Conservative MP and is a repository of equality, loving kindness and a fervour for linked-arm semi-socialism.
Those bastards in Carlisle, Durham, Newcastle and suchlike Tory hotbeds: they did this to us.
May they rot in hell with that Maria Swiller and her horrid ilk.

A wee look at history reveals a rather different story.
A fascinating analysis by Graham Cowie, a public law postgraduate at Glasgow University (and avowed Liberal Democrat), of the Westminster vote in Britain since the second world war reveals the following: Scotland has voted for a Labour government at Westminster in every election since 1945, except for 1951 and 1955.
Which means that between 1997 and 2010, the government was one a majority of Scots voted for.
But in 1951 the vote was tied at 37 seats to Labour and 37 to the Conservative and Unionist party, with one Liberal. A tie.
And in 1955 Scotland voted for a Tory government. The year I was born.

Since the war, Scotland's voters have failed to get their government of choice for a total of 34 years and 10 months.
But for the Welsh it's 39 years and three months. Northern Ireland? Fifty-two years and four months.

And as for the English?
Well, there's a lot of "them" "down there".
For 10 years and seven months since the war, including the current Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition, the UK government has not been the one that England voted for.

So it's complicated. It's statistics. ut that's first-past-the-post democracy.
As for Scotland, when we look at votes, how representative is the SNP administration at Holyrood?
There's an overall majority, but they achieved 45% of the constituency vote and 44% on the regional lists.
On a 50% turnout.
Less than half of half the electorate.
That's not "most Scots".
It's not "us".
It's not me.

Here's a thing: I'm from Carlisle.
On 31 December 1955, Hogmanay, my Scots-born parents were in the city. Living there, indeed, not on some desperate antepartum race for the border.
They were back in Glasgow within months, but my birth certificate is English, red-on-cream, and one flourish of it should prevent any horsewhipping incidents. I keep it handy just in case.

Maybe that's why I hate borders.
Why I believe in solidarity with those strange folk who dwell "down there", who wish to work together for a fairer, more equal society.
And why I despise the way issues of health, childcare, justice, fairness, poverty and unemployment have been reduced to nothing more than a line in the land.

No comments:

Post a comment