He marched Scotland up to the top of the hill (of beans)… and marched it down again

 

(c) The Guardian

 

The Smith Commission, the cross-party entity convened by the UK government shortly after the Scottish independence referendum to discuss and recommend what further powers could be devolved from London to the Scottish Parliament, has just delivered its verdict.  In the mainstream press there’s been much trumpeting about the new powers being recommended.  SCOTLAND TO CONTROL £14 BILLION OF INCOME TAX AND WELFARE BENEFITS IN CROSS-PARTY DEAL squawked a Guardian headline on November 27th.  14 billion pounds?  Wow.  That’s a lot.

 

However, back in September, nearly all the mainstream newspapers urged their Scottish readers to vote ‘no’ to independence.  And as the commission is widely viewed as a face-saving measure for the majority of Scottish voters (55%) who did just that and voted ‘no’ to independence – okay, they’ve been told, you’ve rejected outright independence for your country but, don’t feel bad, Scotland will still get more independence, within the framework of the UK – I think the newspapers’ grand claims for it can be taken with a wee pinch of salt.

 

The response to the Smith Commission’s recommendations from independence supporters has, predictably, been less positive.  Indeed, the Reverend Stuart Campbell at the website Wings over Scotland took issue with the above-mentioned Guardian story and pointed out that the Scottish Parliament has always had control of 14 billion pounds of income tax and welfare cash, in the form of the block-grant system – the money was collected by HM Revenue and Customs, given to the British Treasury, earmarked for and finally delivered to Scotland.  “Post-Smith Commission (assuming the recommendations are implemented in full), it’ll still be collected by HMRC, it’ll still be given to the Treasury, and it’ll still be passed to Scotland as a lump sum.  It’ll just have a different badge on it.”  I know Wings over Scotland is pretty partisan and Campbell can go over the top with his rhetoric.  But he’s forensic in his research and is good at sniffing out the inconsistencies between what politicians and journalists have claimed at one place and time and what they’ve claimed at another.

 

http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/nov/27/scotland-scottish-parliament-power-14bn-income-tax-welfare-cross-party-deal-lord-smith

http://wingsoverscotland.com/how-to-lie-without-even-trying/#more-64004

 

Meanwhile, Iain MacWhirter, political columnist with the Herald and Sunday Herald, has argued that going with the commission’s recommendations and giving the Scottish Parliament power over income tax but precious little else is “an exercise in control-freak minimalism that will serve to lock Scotland in economic decline.  The proposals to hand control of income taxes to Scotland, but not the full range of taxes like national insurance, wealth taxes, oil and gas revenues and so on, is a transparent fiscal trap.”

 

http://www.heraldscotland.com/comment/columnists/power-over-income-tax-only-will-doom-scotland-to-a-downward-spiral.25879072

 

I’ll limit my comments to three areas here.  Firstly, despite the hullabaloo generated in the British media about all of this, I think we can all accept that there are a few things that still won’t be devolved to Scotland.  Actually, there are an awful lot of things that won’t be devolved to Scotland.  These are the items that’ll remain in the control of Westminster:

 

The state pension; Universal Credit; bereavement allowance and payment; child benefit; guardian’s allowance; maternity allowance, statutory maternity pay; sick pay; widowed parent’s allowance; the National Minimum Wage; the Equality Act (2010); all benefits related to the Department of Work and Pensions’ Jobcentre Plus; setting the way money is raised to deal with Energy Efficiency and Fuel Poverty; all aspects of Income Tax apart from rates and thresholds; all aspects of VAT apart from “the VAT receipts raised in Scotland by the first ten percentage points of the standard rate of VAT which will be assigned to the Scottish government’s budget”; the licensing of offshore oil and gas extractions; Fuel Duty and Excise Duty; “the power to levy an additional UK-wide tax in the UK national interest”; the health and safety legislative framework; Corporation Tax; Inheritance Tax and Capital Gains Tax; National Insurance Contributions; and the taxation of oil and gas receipts; the Block Grant to Scotland operated through the Barnett Formula; and decisions about xenotransplantation, embryology, surrogacy and genetics.

 

I suspect more than a few Scots voted ‘no’ in the referendum believing they’d been promised ‘devo-max’ if they stayed in the UK.  In other words, they’d get a Scotland where everything relating to domestic matters was dealt with by Scottish politicians in Edinburgh; while politicians in London only took care of the really big things relating to Britain’s interests on the world stage, like defence matters and foreign policy.  But don’t worry, Scotland.  You’re not getting any say in defence or foreign policy either.

 

You can read more about these many omissions here, at the website Bella Caledonia:

http://bellacaledonia.org.uk/2014/11/30/the-smith-commission-and-the-westminster-cartel/

 

My second point is that what the commission recommends being devolved to Scottish control is just that at the moment – a set of recommendations.  It’ll be fascinating – though very likely depressing – to see what actually gets turned into devolved powers in the long run.  I certainly can’t see many of these recommendations being enacted by a Conservative government in Westminster, with a horde of English Conservative backbenchers braying about what they see as the Scots being unfairly favoured at the expense of the English.

 

Nor do I see the prospect of many of them being enacted by a Labour government, which will have its own back-bench interests to placate.  For example, the much-vaunted recommendation that the Scottish parliament has control over air passenger duty, charged on passengers flying from Scottish airports, is likely to be challenged by Labour MPs representing constituencies with or served by airports in northern England.  And incidentally, Labour’s coven of backbench Scottish MPs are probably the most fervently anti-devolution lot around.  They’re terrified by the thought that, as more power devolves to Edinburgh, they’ll lose the perks and privileges that they enjoy as Scotland’s supposed representatives in London.

 

Finally, I find it telling that the main proponent of the message to Scottish voters that “you’ll get more power over your own affairs if you actually vote ‘no’ to having more power over your own affairs”, was Gordon Brown — the MP for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath and the not-much-missed Prime Minister of the UK from 2007 to 2010.  The other day, Brown announced that, come next May, he’ll be stepping down as an MP.

 

During the later stages of the referendum campaign – with the mainstream media acting as his cheerleaders – Brown stressed his determination to see Scotland accrue more powers while it continued as a part of the UK.  So I assumed that he’d stay active in politics until he was sure that all the things he’d promised Scots would come their way in the event of a ‘no’ vote really were coming their way.  But no, Brown got the referendum-result he wanted and he won breathless plaudits from a right-wing media that, when he was PM, had liked to portray him as a turnip-headed nincompoop with tyrannical tendencies and a severe personality disorder.

 

And now he’s buggering off.  What a big tube.

 

Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?

 

From 3.bp.blogspot.com

 

Well, the day has arrived.  Today, September 18th, is when the people of Scotland go to the polls and vote on whether or not their country should become independent again.

 

Nothing would make me happier than if a majority voted ‘yes’ to independence, but I’m afraid that – habitual pessimist that I am – I’ll have to stick by the predictions I’ve made in earlier blog-posts and say that I don’t think it’s going to happen: this time.  I know that recent opinion polls have said it’ll be close and one or two have even put the ‘yes’ vote in front; but I think the lead shown by the ‘no’ campaign in most opinion polls will translate itself into a majority when the votes are counted.

 

Considering the massive number of apocalyptic threats on one hand and massive number of wild promises on the other that’ve been flung at the Scottish electorate by the British political, business and media establishments over the past two years, it’s amazing that anyone is minded to vote for independence at all – never mind a proportion that could be close to half the population.  However, I think the sheer volume of pro-UK propaganda will, ultimately, have a decisive effect on how the vote goes.

 

Ever since the polls suggested a fortnight ago that the gap between the sides was narrowing, there’s been a non-stop bombardment of it: Unionist party leaders like David Cameron, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg (plus a woken-from-hibernation Gordon Brown) seemingly promising Scots the earth if they stay in the UK, without giving much detail about what’s on offer; and simultaneous tales of horror about how every business in Scotland, from RBS and Standard Life down to the wee sweetie-shop at the foot of Cockburn Street in Edinburgh, will relocate to England in the event of a ‘yes’ vote.  Why, it sounds like even Visit Scotland will have to move operations to London and rename itself Visit England if the Scots are stupid enough to vote for self-determination.

 

Also, what I think of as the ‘Gideon Mack’ factor – taken from the novel of the same name by James Robertson – may play a role in deciding the outcome.  In Gideon Mack-the-book, Gideon Mack-the-character steps into a polling booth on the day of the 1979 referendum on setting up a devolved Scottish assembly: he suddenly takes cold feet, his support for the assembly melts away and he finds himself against all his expectations putting a cross in the ‘no’ box.  The other day, hoping to inspire such last-moment jitters, David Cameron called on Scots to think carefully while they ‘stand in the stillness of the polling booth’.

 

However, I’m optimistic in the long term that Scotland will be independent.  Just as the failed devolution vote in 1979 didn’t prevent a devolved Scottish parliament being created in 1999, so I think a failed independence vote now won’t prevent it happening later.  One thing the referendum has succeeded in doing is making people aware of politics and making them listen to what politicians are saying.  And when they start seeing the promises made by the unionist leaders evaporate, and the threats about what’d happen in an independent Scotland materialize anyway in a Scotland that’s still part of the United Kingdom, opinions will change.

 

Here’s what I predict will happen if – as I strongly suspect – Scotland votes ‘no’.

 

Downing Street, September 19th, after the final result has been declared: David Cameron and George Osborne pop open the bottles of champagne while Cameron’s take-no-prisoners Australian spin-doctor Lynton Crosby starts planning his master’s campaign for the 2015 General Election.  In the 2015 campaign, the old Etonian will be proudly rebranded as ‘the Prime Minister who saved Britain’.  Already, Alistair Darling begins to look like the Tories’ useful idiot.

 

Led by the Daily Mail, the press begins a vociferous campaign to force Alex Salmond’s resignation as Scottish First Minister now that the independence cause he’s championed has been defeated.  Many London-based tabloids publish sneering pieces mocking the Scots as whining subsidy-junkies who’ve finally realized what side their bread is buttered on.  These pieces, strangely, don’t appear in the same newspapers’ Scottish editions.

 

This subsides after two or three weeks as Scotland disappears off Westminster’s radar again and the press hunkers down for the next big story – the 2015 General Election.  The Mail, Express, Telegraph and Sun re-align their artillery, away from Salmond and towards Ed Miliband, whom they spend the next months portraying as a weak, out-of-touch socialist bumbler who’ll run Britain into the ground if he gets the keys to number ten.  Labour Party politicians start complaining about ‘bias’ in the media.  This provokes great Schadenfreude from certain people north of the border.

 

2014 comes to an end and the New Year’s Honours List is announced.  Certain individuals are rewarded with knighthoods, OBEs, CBEs, MBEs, etc., for their services in keeping the United Kingdom united.  There’s a gong for Keith Skeoch, Executive Director of Standard Life, the company that threatens to leave Scotland every time there’s talk of constitutional tinkering that might give the place more autonomy.  (He’s also a member of the Board of Reform Scotland, which according to author and former ambassador Craig Murray is a ‘neo-conservative lobby group which wants to abolish the minimum wage, privatise the NHS and pensions, and further restrict trade unions’.)  Lord George Roberson of Port Ellon KT GCMG FRSA FRSE PC is awarded a further medal for his tireless struggle against the international ‘forces of darkness’, which would’ve undoubtedly been bolstered by a Scottish ‘yes’ vote.  Should this medal be the Grand Order of Britain (GOB) or should it be the Supreme Honour for Integrity, Tenacity and Excellence (SHITE)?  Perhaps he should get both – George Robertson GOB SHITE has an appropriate ring to it.

 

Elsewhere, Gordon Brown becomes Lord Brown of Shrek’s Swamp.  Alastair Darling becomes Lord Darling of Tracy Island.  And will that supposed socialist firebrand George Galloway, who’s spent the past months warning that an independent Scotland would be a hellhole of racism and sectarianism, abandon his left-wing principles and accept a peerage?  I wouldn’t be surprised.  He’s shameless enough.  He could be Lord Galloway of Nonsense-on-Stilts.

 

Scots who’d assumed they’d get substantial new powers from Westminster after a ‘no’ vote are perplexed to discover that those powers are less spectacular than promised: a bit more say over social care here, a bit more say over the railways there, a few additional tweaks, nothing else.  This is hardly surprising.  The stuff promised by Gordon Brown was promised by somebody – an opposition backbench MP – in no position to promise anything.  Meanwhile, on the day that Cameron, Miliband and Clegg descended on Scotland en masse (following the shock of a sudden tightening in the opinion polls) and offered everyone the moon on a stick, William Hague – deputizing for Cameron in the House of Commons – reassured backbench Tories that these promises were merely the equivalent of electioneering promises.  There was no guarantee that they’d ever be passed into law.  At the time, oddly, Hague’s comments didn’t get much coverage in the newspapers.

 

Whichever party wins power in Westminster in 2015, Conservative or Labour, the brutal austerity measures continue.  They come hard and fast under Prime Minister Cameron, slightly less hard and slightly less fast but painfully longer under Prime Minister Miliband.  As the money-pot gets smaller, so the share of it allocated to Scotland shrivels up too.

 

The Scottish Rugby Union decides to stop playing Flower of Scotland as the Caledonian anthem before international rugby matches, because the line that goes, “…we can still rise now, and be a nation again!” is attracting too many embarrassing jeers from opposition fans.

 

Astonishingly, Alastair Darling’s prediction that North Sea oil would run out in 2017 proves to be wrong.  The black stuff, contrarily, keeps on flowing, through the 2020s and 2030s and beyond.  However, no complaints are heard coming from the UK Treasury.

 

A few years from now, the implementation of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) sees the National Health Service in Britain become a lucrative new market – a veritable smorgasbord of pickings – for transnational companies whose priority is profit rather than the care of patients.  North of the border, the NHS is supposedly the Scottish NHS, a distinct and separate entity.  But when the devolved administration in Edinburgh stresses its distinctness and separateness and tries to exempt it from TTIP, which is privatising / ravaging health services elsewhere in Britain, those private companies take the administration to court.  In court, the companies win their case by arguing that Scotland and its NHS aren’t distinct or separate.  Scotland’s merely a region of a country, the UK.  After all, didn’t its population vote to confirm that regional status back in 2014?

 

London keeps on expanding, sucking investment and talent out of the other parts of the UK, including Scotland.

 

Sooner or later, the day arrives when Nigel Farage’s greatest and wettest dream is fulfilled: a UK-wide referendum on continued membership of the European Union is held and it results in a UKIP / Tory majority in southern England voting to leave the EU.  A majority in Scotland vote to stay in it, but they’re outnumbered by the anti-European brigade down south.  All those old scare stories about an independent Scotland being booted out of the EU suddenly look hollow.

 

Boris Johnston, a man whose concept of British geography doesn’t extend beyond the M25, becomes British Prime Minister…  But no.  It’s time to abandon these predictions before they make me suicidal.

 

I suspect the constant refrain in a post-‘no’-vote Scotland will be the same question that Johnny Rotten – sick to the teeth of the manipulations of manager Malcolm McLaren – put to his audience at the end of the final concert by the original Sex Pistols at San Francisco Winterland in January 1978: “Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?”  As people in Scotland realise they’ve been cheated, I think momentum will build again for independence.  I only hope that in the meantime the place doesn’t endure the sort of punishment it received, courtesy of Margaret Thatcher, between the two devolution referendums in 1979 and 1997.

 

But maybe all my pessimism will prove unfounded.  Maybe tomorrow I’ll be in a state of shocked euphoria.  We shall see.

 

Come on doon, Mr Broon

 

(c) The Guardian

 

With just two months to go until the referendum on whether or not Scotland should become an independent nation, it’s interesting to see what narratives have emerged in the mainstream media.  Or to give it its unofficial title, the pro-Unionist, pro-‘no’-vote media – for only the Glasgow-based Sunday Herald newspaper has so far come out in favour of a ‘yes’ vote.

 

One narrative holds that all the abuse related to the referendum currently flying around the Internet and the Twitter-sphere is being directed by ‘yes’ supporters towards ‘no’ supporters.  That’s because those kindly, peace-loving ‘no’ supporters, whose number includes members of the far-right British National Party and Scottish Defence League, Nigel Farage and his Europhobic, immigrant-phobic chums in UKIP, those bowler-hatted, Pope-fearing gentlemen in the Grand Orange Lodge of Scotland and people who take everything in the Daily Mail as gospel truth, would never say a nasty word against anyone.

 

Another narrative holds that Scotland, if it was foolish enough to vote for independence, would be immediately expelled from the European Union and made to wait for decades in a long queue for membership behind more prosperous and stable countries like Kosovo and Albania.  And probably Somalia, South Sudan and North Korea too.  Alright, those last three countries aren’t actually in Europe, but surely the powers-that-be in Brussels would sooner let them into their club than let in the political, social and economic hellhole that an independent Scotland would undoubtedly be.

 

Meanwhile, another narrative has recently emerged.  This one concerns Gordon Brown, son of a Scottish kirk minister, school pupil at Kirkcaldy in Fife, graduate of Edinburgh University and Labour Prime Minister of Britain from 2007 until 2010.  Gordon, it seems, has stepped into the limelight again to take part in the Scottish referendum debate.  Not only that, but he’s galvanising the ‘no’ campaign with bold proposals about how Scotland could remain in the UK, confident and proud, under a federal arrangement that sees all four home countries have a healthy dollop of self-government whist staying ‘British’.  And allegedly people in Scotland are lapping up his words because, unlike in England, where poor Gordon was and still is regarded as a hapless clod, the Scots have massive amounts of respect for him.

 

Writing in the Guardian late last month, columnist Jonathan Freedland opined: “North of the border he is seen as a national heavyweight, the last of a leadership class that included the late Donald Dewar, John Smith and Robin Cook, and is therefore automatically granted a hearing.”  And in the New Statesman just the other day, the Daily Mirror’s associate editor Kevin Maguire gushed about Gordon’s continuing in-tune-ness with the Caledonian mind-set.  Reviewing a new book by the ex-PM about his native land’s constitutional future called My Scotland, Our Britain, Maguire wrote of how “Brown poses one of the greatest threats to the nationalist cause, through his popularity in Scotland and his conviction that his country thrives in partnership with the rest of the nation.”

 

I have to say that all this is news to me.  I’ve lived in Scotland on and off during the time of his premiership and during the four years since David Cameron evicted him from Number 10, Downing Street, and I can’t say I’ve experienced much of the Gordon-love that’s supposed to prevail.  The Scots certainly haven’t spent the post-Brown years humming the mournful Jacobite ditty Will Ye No Come Back Again? whilst tearfully envisioning poor Gordon as a latter-day Bonnie Prince Charlie.

 

Yes, they got annoyed at how, when he was PM, right-wing English newspapers, politicians and rent-a-gobs would sometimes lay into him on account of his Scottishness.  Most notoriously, that petrol-headed Neanderthal Jeremy Clarkson once described him as a ‘one-eyed Scottish idiot’.  And yes, they did prefer him to Tony Blair.  But then again, they’d prefer anyone to Tony Blair.  You could genetically engineer a human being with spliced-together DNA from Robert Mugabe, Simon Cowell, Donald Trump and Darth Vader and he’d be more popular than the smug, smiling, lying, warmongering, mass-murdering Tony Blair.

 

For one thing, I can’t see how anyone in Scotland could be bursting with love and affection for Gordon Brown when, between 2010 and very recently, they’d hardly seen hide or hair of the man.  Although he’s still Member of Parliament for the constituency of Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath, his attendance record at Westminster has been dire.  By the end of October last year, he’d appeared in the House of Commons to speak just half-a-dozen times.  He even missed last August’s vote on whether or not Britain should intervene militarily in Syria, an event where surely a former PM should have rolled up and pitched in his tuppence-worth.  As his local news website Fife News Online commented at the time, “It is the most basic duty of an MP to turn up and represent his or her constituents when there is a decision on whether or not to go to war.  Unless there was a grave family emergency, Mr Brown, as the most recent ex-Prime Minister and the current MP for Kirkcaldy, had a duty and an obligation to be there.”

 

And then there’s the fact that Gordon’s proposals for Britain being reconstituted as a multinational state with four separate parliaments are, to be honest, a load of flannel.  There isn’t the remotest possibility of federalism being offered by the Conservative or Labour Parties, whichever one of them wins the next British general election, and south of the border there’s little appetite for the setting up of a purely English parliament – which is a shame, as I believe English people are as ill-served as anyone else by the current, centralised, out-of-touch and generally up-its-own-arse system at Westminster.  In fact, would the denizens of the House of Commons, and those well-heeled ones in the House of Lords, ever agree to a new political structure that would greatly reduce their powers?

 

To paraphrase the New Testament: I say unto you, it is easier for Alex Salmond to go through the eye of a needle.  Or for George Osborne to enter into the Kingdom of God.

 

Then there’s another conundrum.  If Gordon believes federalism is such a terrific idea, why on earth didn’t he try to enact some of it when he had the power to do so, as Prime Minister?

 

No, I’m highly sceptical of old Gordon’s motives in this.  I’m afraid I find myself agreeing, for once, with those Hooray Henrys who write for the right-wing Spectator magazine.  One of them sneered at his recent entry into the Scottish-referendum debate and speculated that, since the opinion polls indicate that the ‘no’ side is most probably going to win, Brown was clambering onto the ‘no’ bandwagon at this point as a low-risk way of helping to rehabilitate his reputation.  With a majority of Scots voting to stay within the UK, he could then claim that his late intervention had helped to save the day – even though the vote was going that way anyway.

 

And as for the claim that all Scottish people love Gordon Brown made by Kevin Maguire, a native of South Shields in Northeast England, and by Jonathan Freedland, an out-and-out southerner who was educated in Hampstead and Oxford, I can only put this down to ignorance and overgeneralisation.  Maybe Maguire and Freedland think this is so because Gordon is big, dour and grumpy and looks a bit like Shrek.  And as everyone knows, that’s how they all are up in Scotland – big, dour, grumpy and looking a bit like Shrek.  Including the ladies.

 

(c) Dreamworks

 

J.K.’s millions

 

(c) Huffington Post

 

I like J.K. Rowling, I quite like the Harry Potter books and although I support independence for Scotland I respect her decision, which was plastered all over the British media yesterday, to donate a million pounds of her money to Better Together, the organisation campaigning for a ‘No’ vote in the referendum on Scottish independence being held this September.

 

Indeed, the only thing that surprises me is that she hadn’t donated to Better Together earlier.  In 2008, she donated another million to the Labour Party, run at the time by her friend and then-Prime Minister Gordon Brown, for the reason that she believed Brown had “prioritised and introduced measures that will save as many children as possible from a life lacking in opportunity or choice.”  This didn’t save her from the sneers of the British press – most of which is right-wing, doesn’t like the Labour Party and at the time was dedicated to deriding, ridiculing and tormenting the hapless Brown.  HARRY POTTER AND THE PRISONER OF DOWNING STREET was a typical newspaper headline back then.

 

(c) The Courier 

 

The press will, I’m sure, be kinder about her donation to Better Together, which is helmed by Brown’s old chancellor Alastair Darling.  (Brown has emerged from the woodwork recently to make some anti-independence noises too, although he has avoided getting closely involved in Better Together, no doubt because of the enmity that exists now between him and Darling.  Actually, Brown seems capable of having a feud with his own shadow these days.)  If there’s one thing it detests more than the Labour Party, it’s all those nationalists, greens, socialists, rogue Scottish Labour / Liberal Democrat / Conservative Party members and politically-unaffiliated people who favour Scottish independence.  Or to give them their collective British-media name, ‘Alex Salmond’.

 

As I say, I’m happy for Rowling to do whatever she likes with her money, but I’d have expected her – considering the media misrepresentation she’s suffered in the past – to choose her words a little more carefully when she announced her donation.  The English-born but resident-in-Scotland Rowling wrote of “a fringe of nationalists who like to demonise anyone who is not blindly and unquestionably pro-independence and I suspect, notwithstanding the fact that I’ve lived in Scotland for twenty-one years and plan to remain here for the rest of my life, that they might judge me ‘insufficiently’ Scottish to have a valid view…  However, when people try to make this debate about the purity of your lineage, things start getting a little Death Eaterish for my taste.”

 

She’s saying, then, that after making this donation she expects to get abuse from certain pro-independence Scots who don’t think the referendum is any of her business.*  That’s because she isn’t Scottish — she’s English.  Such people put her in mind of the evil cult of wizards in her Harry Potter novels, led by Lord Voldemort, who promote the purity of the wizard race and despise other breeds like humans (‘muggles’) and half-human / half-wizard people (‘mudbloods’).

 

Now there are undoubtedly a few racist halfwits in Scotland who want independence because of antipathy towards the English – offensive loudmouths who believe that everything that happened in Mel Gibson’s Braveheart is historical truth.  That said, during my time in Scotland I’ve also met a few offensive, loud-mouthed, English-hating, Braveheart-loving halfwits who supported the Labour or Conservative Parties and this September will be voting ‘No’, just as J.K. Rowling will.  But I’d argue that most Scottish-independence supporters back the cause because, simply, they want to see Scotland run by the people who live there and not have unrepresentative Conservative and Nu-Labour governments foisted upon them from Westminster.  This is a sentiment that has nothing to do with ‘lineage’ or ethnicity or whether you’re Scottish or English.  (There are some 400,000 English people living in Scotland, including Rowling, and they will have the right to vote in September’s referendum – quite properly.)

 

In fact, during the recent European Elections, while both the Conservative and Labour Parties were warbling about cutting immigration in the hope of extracting some votes from Nigel Farage’s fruitcake United Kingdom Independence Party, the main pro-independence parties in Scotland, the Scottish National Party and the Green Party, were the ones that were unashamedly pro-immigration.  Conversely, those creepy organisations in the UK and Scotland that are heavily into such things as lineage, indigenousness and ethnic and religious purity  – UKIP, the British National Party, the Scottish Defence League and the Scottish Orange Order – all support a ‘No’ vote.

 

J.K. Rowling said it was a ‘fringe’ of pro-independence supporters who reminded her of Death Eaters, but, given the past rough rides she’s had from the press, she must have suspected that the newspapers were going to have a field day distorting what she said, in order to discredit the Yes campaign.  Indeed, yesterday’s headline on the main web-page of The Independent was J.K. ROWLING CALLS SCOTTISH NATIONALISTS ‘DEATH EATERS’.  Expect to see a slew of newspaper cartoons over the next few days depicting Alex Salmond minus a nose, clad in a black robe and hanging out with a giant white snake à la Lord Voldemort, and the message being driven home that anyone who favours an independent Scotland is a racial-purity fanatic who probably dabbles in the black arts.  It must be true, because J.K. says so.

 

Actually, I wonder if the author feels comfortable that she’s now aligned herself with the Daily Mail, the Scottish edition of which has been one of the most vitriolic voices against the independence movement.  After all, in September 2013, the Mail published a story where it said Rowling had accused people of ‘stigmatising’ and ‘taunting’ her at a Scottish church where, as a single mother, she’d done a few hours’ filing and typing work each week.  No, Rowling pointed out, she hadn’t said this – she’d written in an article that one woman visiting the church one day had referred to her as ‘the unmarried mother’.  The Mail subsequently apologised to her and paid damages.

 

Rowling’s dislike of the Daily Mail generally inspired her to make Vernon Dursley, who in the Harry Potter books was the hero’s disagreeable uncle, a Mail reader.  As the journalist Catherine Lockerbie noted, “Harry’s Uncle Vernon is a grotesque philistine of violent tendencies and remarkably little brain.  It is not difficult to guess which newspaper Rowling gives him to read.”

 

Another newspaper noted for its anti-Scottish-independence line is the Daily Telegraph.  Indeed, its Scotland correspondent Alan Cochrane is so furiously against the idea that at times in his articles he does a convincing impersonation of a man who’s had his brain surgically swapped with the spleen of a rabid dog.  Already the Telegraph has given prominence to the fact that news of Rowling’s donation has prompted some rude things to be said about her on social media.  The Telegraph’s indignation at this is particularly rich, considering that in 2012 the newspaper, and its readers, didn’t react kindly to the publication of J.K. Rowling’s ‘adult’ novel A Casual Vacancy, which was full of class, political and social themes and dared to sound – whisper it – left-wing.  As I wrote a few months afterwards:

 

“One nasty little Telegraph article, in a bitchy-schoolgirl sort of way, was this one written by Jenny Hyul a couple of months ago to coincide with the release of A Casual Vacancy, the first adult novel by J.K. Rowling, Scotland’s most famous English inhabitant.  It makes various snide comments about Rowling’s middle-class background and wonders why Rowling should have the temerity to attempt to write a novel of gritty social realism…  In the thread at the bottom of the article, of course, Hjul hands over to the inevitable Telegraph trolls, who pour scorn on Rowling for her writing (‘rubbish’), her politics (‘a Marxist’) and her looks (‘Bleurgh’).  Yes, there may be a few anti-English bampots roaming loose in Scotland, but if Ms Rowling has to tolerate dickheads like those in the Telegraph-reading English Home Counties, I can see why the poor woman feels safer north of the border.”

 

Still, I’m glad that J.K. Rowling has stated her determination to stay in Scotland whatever the result of the referendum.  For the record, I very much doubt that Scotland will win independence this year – the pro-Union political, media and business establishments have spread enough misinformation and negativity to ensure the result goes their way – although I do think it will happen in one or two generations’ time.  Hopefully, the creator of Harry Potter will still be around to see that.  And maybe one day an independent Scotland will appoint Ms Rowling as its National Book Czar, tasked with encouraging Scottish children to do more reading.  Cue a photo op on the steps of Bute House with her and the world’s most venerable national leader, President Irvine Welsh.

 

(c) Little, Brown

 

* And indeed, she has received some abuse, including a vicious tweet that seems, bizarrely, to have emanated from a charity organisation in Edinburgh.  Such abuse is abhorrent.  For the sake of balance I should mention that the lottery winners Colin and Chris Weir, who donated a lot of money to the Yes campaign, have also received abuse online, which is abhorrent too.