Another 25 Scots words that must not die

 

Today is January 25th and this evening is Burns Night – commemorating the 257th anniversary of the birth of Scotland’s national bard and globally-loved ‘ploughman-poet’ Robert Burns.  And as usual, I’ll mark the occasion by listing 25 words and expressions that I like from the medium in which Burns wrote his poetry, the Scots language.  25 words and expressions that, despite the onslaught of modern-day standardised TV-friendly, IT-friendly English, still appear in speech and writing north of the border.

 

From etims.net

 

Bertie Auld (adj), as in “It’s Bertie Auld tonight!” – rhyming slang for ‘cauld’, the Scottish pronunciation of ‘cold’.  Bertie Auld was a Scottish footballer who played for Celtic, Hibernian, Dumbarton and Birmingham City and whose finest hour was surely his membership of the Lisbon Lions, the Celtic team that won the European Cup in 1967.  I first encountered this term when a character used it in an Irvine Welsh novella I was reading, contained in Welsh’s 1994 collection The Acid House and called A Smart C**t.  (Yes, Irvine is so hard-core that even his story titles have to be asterixed.)

 

Breenge (v) – to go, rush, dash.

 

Callant (n) – a lad or young man.  The Common Riding festival held annually in the Borders town of Jedburgh is called the Callant’s Festival.  Accordingly, the festival’s principal man is called the Callant.

 

Carlin (n) – an old woman, hag or witch.  Throughout Scotland there are stone circles, standing stones and odd rock formations that are known as carlin stones, presumably because people once linked them to the supernatural and imagined that witches would perform unsavoury rituals at them.

 

From themodernantiquarian.com

 

Dunt (n / v) – a heavy but dull-sounding blow.  The word appears in an old Scottish saying, “Words are but wind, but dunts are the devil,” which I guess is a version of “Sticks and stones will break your bones, but names will never hurt you.”

 

Eejit (n) – idiot.  Inevitably, in 2008, when Dundonian poet Matthew Fitt got around to translating Roald Dahl’s 1980 children’s book The Twits into Scots, he retitled it… The Eejits.

 

Flyte (v) – to trade insults in the form of verse.  This combative literary tradition can be found in Norse and Anglo-Saxon cultures, but flyting was made an art-form in 15th / 16th-century Scotland by poets like William Dunbar, Walter Kennedy and Sir David Lyndsay.  There’s a poetic account of one flyting contest between Dunbar and Kennedy that’s called, unsurprisingly, The Flyting of Dumbar and Kennedie and consists of 28 stanzas of anti-Kennedy abuse penned by Dunbar and another 41 stanzas of Kennedy sticking it back to Dunbar.  According to Wikipedia, this work contains “the earliest recorded use of the word ‘shit’ as a personal insult.”  Thus, flyting was the Scottish Middle-Ages literary equivalent of two rappers dissing each other in their ‘rhymes’; and Dunbar and Kennedy were the Tupac Shakur and Biggie Smalls of their day.

 

Gallus (adj) – a word that’s probably used by one or two Glaswegians when describing themselves, meaning bold, cheeky, reckless, show-offy and irrepressible.  However, the online Collins Dictionary tells me that gallus is derived from the word ‘gallows’ and it originally meant ‘fit for the gallows’.  Which is appropriate in a way.  On a few occasions I’ve tried to have a quiet, reflective pint in a Glaswegian pub, only to have my space invaded and my meditation disrupted by a would-be gallus local wanting to entertain me with his amazing patter.  With the result that I’d have liked to see that gallus Glaswegian strung up on a gallows.

 

From wikipedia.org

 

Gloaming (n) – The period after sunset but before it gets completely dark.  It inspired the famous 1911 song Roamin’ in the Gloamin’, written and performed by Sir Harry Lauder.  The song’s chorus goes: “Roamin’ in the gloamin’ on the bonnie banks o’ Clyde / Roamin’ in the gloamin’ wi ma lassie by ma side!”  There’s also a song by Radiohead called The Gloaming, found on their 2003 album Hail to the Thief, which you’ll be surprised to hear is a wee bit less jaunty than the Harry Lauder song.

 

Guddle (n) – a confused mess (similar to a ‘muddle’).  Guddle also exists in Scots as a verb and means to catch a fish with your bare hands, using the mysterious technique of tickling the fish’s belly.

 

Harled (adj) – a harled building has had its external stonework covered in a mixture of lime and gravel, giving it a roughcast coating that protects it against the worst of the Scottish elements.  Famous harled buildings include Stirling Castle and Aberdeenshire’s Crathes Castle.

 

Hirple (v) – to hobble or limp.

 

Howk (v) – to dig, rake or poke around in.  Once upon a time, the activity of manually picking potatoes out of the ground was called tattiehowking.  A more abusive derivation is binhowker, meaning someone who has to find sustenance by rummaging in other people’s bins.

 

Jakey (n) – a down-at-heels, worse-for-wear vagrant with an alcohol dependency – the alcohol in question usually being Buckfast Tonic Wine or Carlsberg Special Brew.  The Scottish-based, English-born bestselling author J.K. Rowling is sometimes referred to as Jakey Rowling by Scottish-independence enthusiasts, irritated at her high-profile support for Scotland remaining part of the United Kingdom.

 

(c) The Sun

 

Janny (n) – a janitor.

 

Kent yer faither! (idiom) – (I) knew your father!  In other words, “Don’t give yourself airs and graces because I know you’re from humble stock, same as the rest of us.”  I’ve never heard anyone use this as a putdown, but I’ve heard folk complain about the ‘kent-yer-faither syndrome’ in Scotland, i.e. Scotland’s a place where if you manage to improve yourself and be a success, you have deal with a bunch of jealous, moaning gits trying to cut you down to size.

 

Makar (n) – a poet or bard.  In 2004, the Scottish Parliament established the post of ‘Scots Makar’, i.e. a national bard or poet laureate.  The post has been occupied by the late Edwin Morgan and, since 2011, by Liz Lochhead.

 

(c) STV

 

Rammy (n) – a fight or brawl.  A stairheid rammy is a brawl that breaks out among the womenfolk in the staircases and on the landings of Scotland’s urban tenement buildings.  During the run-up to the Scottish independence referendum in 2014, stairhead rammies took place in Scotland’s TV studios too.  A television debate between then-SNP deputy leader Nicola Sturgeon and Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont was described afterwards by journalist Ruth Wishart as “a right good stairheid rammy” that “made strong men avert their eyes”.

 

Scooby (n), as in “I havenae a Scooby” – rhyming slang for ‘clue’, as in “I haven’t a clue.”  Scooby refers to Scooby Doo, the famous American TV cartoon dog who accompanied some ‘meddling kids’, without whose investigations many, many, many criminals “would have gotten away with it.”

 

Shilpit (adj) – thin, pale and weak-looking.

 

From bushcraftuk.com

 

Spurtle (n) – a long wooden utensil once used in Scottish cooking, sometimes a spatula for turning over oatcakes, sometimes a stick for stirring porridge.  I can’t recall the name of the story it was in, but I vividly remember reading a description of a sheep’s carcass lying on a Scottish hillside with its four stiff legs “sticking up like spurtles”.

 

Thrawn (adj) – stubborn, obstinate and bloody-minded, inclined to do the opposite of what everyone urges you to do.  However, there’s a macabre short story called Thrawn Janet by Robert Louis Stevenson, in which the word has a different meaning – ‘twisted’ or ‘deformed’.  The title character is described as having “her neck thrawn, and her heid on ae side, like a body that has been hangit

 

Trews (n) – tartan trousers, once worn by Scotland’s southern regiments and regarded as a traditional garment of the country’s Lowlands (although in reality, like kilts, trews originated in the Highlands).  I’ve heard it said that trews were the prototype for the tartan plus-fours that golfers used to wear.  Scotland’s ebullient, publicity-loving former First Minister Alex Salmond had a fondness for trews and was pictured wearing them on several occasions.  Although looking at those pictures now, I think that even the world’s biggest Salmond-admirer would have to admit that Alex Salmond + trews = sight for sore eyes.

 

(c) The Daily Record

 

Vennel (n) – an alleyway or narrow lane.  See also wynd and close.

 

Winch (v) – to be romantically involved with someone; though I’ve heard it used in more graphic situations where it clearly meant ‘get off with’ or ‘stick your tongue down the throat of’ someone.  Winch is a verb that seems to add some effort to the act of getting romantically acquainted – it makes it sound like it requires heavy lifting.  Yes, if you’re going to winch someone, you’re going to have to grit your teeth and shed some sweat.

 

(c) Hanna-Barbera Productions, Inc

 

Wings versus wizardry

 

From harrypotter.wikea.com

From wingsoverscotland.com

 

Some time ago I had a good friend who moved into a charming little cottage in a charming little village perched on an estuary-mouth on the English coast.  The village was known locally as ‘The Ferry’ and she found its inhabitants warm and welcoming.  There was one topic, however, that caused their countenances to darken and their voices to grow ominous.  “Whatever you do,” they’d say to my friend in a warning tone, whilst glancing fearfully towards a hall in the village centre that hosted, among other things, the meetings of the local residents’ committee, “whatever you do, don’t get involved in Ferry politics!”

 

I sometimes wonder if J.K. Rowling, the English-born bestselling author of the Harry Potter novels, has questioned the wisdom of getting involved in the politics of the charming little place to which she moved, back in 1993: Scotland, which is on the English coast too – right up on top of it – and also has a local residents’ committee, which holds meetings in the Scottish Parliament Building in Edinburgh.

 

Ever since she announced that she was donating a million pounds of her money to Better Together, the organisation that campaigned successfully for a ‘no’ vote in the referendum on Scottish independence last September, it seems J.K. has rarely been out of the newspapers.  Often this is because she’s been in unseemly twitter spats with supporters of Scottish independence who’re narked about her intervention in the referendum.

 

There was another spat two days ago when the author attended the Rugby World Cup match between Scotland and Australia – which, against all expectations, Scotland came within a hair of winning.  Indeed, Scotland would have won it if the South African referee Craig Joubert hadn’t made an error in the final minute and awarded a match-winning penalty kick to Australia.  By the way, I’m not saying that because I’m biased towards Scotland.  The sport’s governing body, World Rugby, have since said Joubert was wrong to give Australia the penalty.

 

In the midst of the excitement and eventual heartbreak, J.K. was exchanging tweets with the Glaswegian journalist, novelist and TV presenter Muriel Gray.  Like J.K., Ms Gray is no friend of the Scottish-independence cause.  Their musings about Scotland’s heroic but ultimately doomed rugby performance were interrupted by the arrival of a tweet from one Stuart Campbell, who calls himself ‘the Reverend’ Stuart Campbell to differentiate him from the football player Stuart Campbell.  His Tweet told J.K. and Muriel bluntly: “You two can both f*** off.  You don’t think we’re a nation at all.”

 

The Reverend Stuart Campbell is a former games designer and journalist and these days he runs a political website called Wings over Scotland.  This is devoted to Scottish independence and to uncovering errors, inconsistencies and contradictions in the coverage that the mainstream British media gives to Scotland, to the independence cause and to its main proponent, the Scottish National Party.  Nearly all the established media outlets north and south of the border hate the idea that Scotland might one day leave the United Kingdom and their Scottish coverage is pretty one-sided.  The Reverend felt that someone had to challenge them on this coverage.  He was, he said, “fed up of shouting at the TV when Newsnight Scotland was on.”

 

(c) STV

 

Wings over Scotland has a busy and lively twitter feed, but after the Reverend sent that particular tweet it got very busy.  And lively.  He groused that “Rowling’s set a million bed-wetters after me,” for soon he was being accused of being “vile”, “bitter and twisted”, “everything that’s wrong with Scotland”, “everything that’s wrong in a human,” a “narrow-minded tosspot”, “a bitter wank”, a “Neanderthal demagogue”, “the biggest fascist on twitter / planet”, “a dysfunctional f***wit” who eats “bile for breakfast”, etc.

 

At least there was one upside.  “J.K.’s wee troll army,” he tweeted later, “have taken my mind off that clown Joubert.”

 

J.K. Rowling herself responded: “I know Scotland’s a nation.  I live there, you see.  I pay tax there and contribute more than bile there.”  And it wasn’t long before Scottish National Party leader and Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon tweeted herself: “Note to my fellow independence supporters.  People who disagree are not anti-Scottish.  Does our cause no good to hurl abuse (and it’s wrong).”

 

Predictably, the story was soon all over the media – starting in the UK edition of the Huffington Post, which ran the headline: J.K. ROWLING JUST PERFECTLY HANDLED A SCOTTISH RUGBY FAN’S MISDIRECTED ANGER.  The Huffington Post headline was a fair indication of whose side subsequent newspaper articles would take: J.K. is lovely, the Reverend is ghastly.  Poor old Muriel Gray’s role in the affair, incidentally, was soon forgotten.

 

Well, I like Wings over Scotland, which admittedly can be brutal but is no more brutal than the political and journalistic worlds that it scrutinises.  And I also like J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter novels.  Though not so much the later ones and definitely not Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.  (I mean, what was going on there?  All those horcruxes to destroy and all those sacred objects to track down…  And Neville Longbottom producing the Sword of Gryffindor out of the Sorting Hat at the end – how did that happen?  Jesus, J.K.!)  So where do I stand regarding this stramash between the two?

 

I agree with Nicola Sturgeon.  People are entitled to cheer on Scotland in a sports match if they want to.  Even if they voted ‘no’ in the referendum to stop Scotland becoming independent.  Yes, which is illogical because, strictly speaking, Scotland shouldn’t be participating in the Rugby World Cup at all because it isn’t an independent country like Australia or Japan or Italy are.  But…  What the hell?  It’s only a game.  (Not that it felt like only a game the other day, when Craig bloody Joubert blew his final whistle.)  And I think the Reverend made an arse of himself when he sent that abusive tweet.  To be fair, he did so at a traumatic moment and I suspect he’d consumed a few beverages by that point too.  As I know only too well from personal experience, people say stupid things when they’re ‘tired and emotional’.

 

At the same time, though, the media coverage of this has been pretty hypocritical.  For instance, J.K. has been cheered and the Reverend booed by journalists like Chris Deerin and Alex Massie, both of whom have taken the shilling from the Daily Mail, a newspaper that’s caused J.K. much distress in the past.  In 2013 the Mail had to apologise to her and pay her damages after it misreported some comments she’d made about the congregation of a Scottish church where she’d worked part-time in the 1990s.  She also hates the negativity with which the Mail portrays single mothers – as she was once – so much so that she made it the favourite reading matter of the Dursleys, the reactionary and oafish human family whom Harry Potter has to live with when he isn’t at Hogwarts.

 

From aidanmoher.com

 

One wonders how Britain’s mainly right-wing newspapers would treat J.K. these days if she hadn’t thrown her hat into the ring during the Scottish independence debate and come out as an opponent of the Scottish nationalists – because her previous political activity had been in support of another of those newspapers’ bête noirs.  In 2008, she donated a million pounds to the Labour Party, run at the time by her friend and then-Prime Minister Gordon Brown.  Much of the British press, which had been busy deriding, ridiculing and tormenting the hapless Brown, sneered at her for this.  HARRY POTTER AND THE PRISONER OF DOWNING STREET was a typical headline.  If J.K. had never opened her mouth about Scottish independence but had remained vocal in support of the Labour Party, I suspect many journalists now wouldn’t be treating her as a cool and courageous slayer of Scottish-independence trolls but as a demented old socialist bag-lady.

 

These days J.K. still supports Labour, though quietly.  After this year’s general election, which saw the Scottish branch of the Labour Party – led by the inept Jim Murphy – lose 40 of its 41 previously-held seats in Scotland, she tried to console Murphy by making him an honorary member of the House of Gryffindor at Hogwarts.  Hmmm.  If Jim Murphy had been there at the time of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, and had applied his talents to the climactic Battle of Hogwarts, I suspect Lord Voldemort would have won and would now be ruling the universe.

 

This might seem sacrilegious to those millions of pubescent schoolkids the world over who worship her as the creator of Harry Potter, but I don’t think J.K. is as sweet, pure and fluffy as her reputation suggests.  She’s a shrewd and calculating operator, I reckon.  When she entered the Scottish independence debate, she was quick to invoke her world-conquering franchise.  She wrote about “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 didn’t say all supporters of independence were like Death Eaters – the fascistic cult of wizards in her Harry Potter novels, led by Voldemort, who promote the purity of the wizard race and despise other breeds, such as humans – but the press were only too happy to report that she had, with headlines like J.K. ROWLING CALLS THE SNP DEATH EATERS.  And I’m sure that Rowling, with her past experiences of being misquoted by newspapers, knew what would happen when she used such loaded language.

 

J.K. also knows how to weaponise herself on behalf of the Labour Party.  A few days before this year’s general election, when the polls were predicting that the Labour Party would suffer an absolute humping from the SNP in Scotland, J.K. happened to speak to the press about the twitter abuse she’d had from pro-independence supporters during the referendum campaign.  Thus, a rash of J.K. ROWLING TALKS OF ABUSE FROM SNP TROLLS-type headlines appeared in the newspapers just before the Scottish public, a good proportion of whom were thinking about voting SNP rather than Labour, headed down to the polling stations.  Perfect timing, I’d say.

 

To conclude.  The Reverend should be sorry for behaving like a knob and next time, after a traumatic sporting event, he should think before he tweets.  Apart from reasons of basic human civility, it’s in his own interests.  The journalists of the British media loathe Wings over Scotland because it has the temerity to subject their pronouncements to forensic scrutiny.  They’ll do anything for an opportunity to give its founder a kicking.  And on this occasion, he certainly gave them an opportunity.

 

At the same time, I don’t think J.K. is as saintly as the newspapers make her out to be – and they only say she’s saintly when it suits their purposes.  I’m not claiming that under her cuddly exterior she’s mean and ruthless, but I do think she has the guile to make a bloody formidable politician one day.  Though by saying she has the makings of a good politician, I’m in danger of implying that she is mean and ruthless.

 

Incidentally, J.K., should you ever stumble across this blog-post and feel I’ve been unnecessarily harsh on your character, don’t worry.  You can always chastise me by making me an honorary member of the House of Slytherin.  Come to think of it, I’d like to be a member of the House of Slytherin.  The kids in Slytherin are cool.  They get to dress stylishly in black, and strut around, and sneer imperiously, and snarl things like, “You’re a dickhead, Ron Weasley!”

 

Yes, they’re far groovier than those wretched goody-two-shoes diddies in the House of Gryffindor.  I mean, that’s where Jim Murphy hangs out, for Christ’s sake.

 

(c) Warner Bros / Heyday Films

 

Definitely the last ever 2015 election post

 

This, I promise, will be my final comment on the UK general election, which took place on Thursday.  Thereafter, normal service will be resumed on Blood and Porridge.  Yes, I will return to writing about my usual topics, which are James Bond, Father Ted, graveyards, obscure British horror movies and the sexy places I have visited.

 

During the campaign that preceded it and in the actual results it produced, this election has sucked and yet, perversely, it’s felt rather enjoyable too.  Here are five reasons why it sucked; and five more reasons why, at the same time, I enjoyed it.

 

WHY IT SUCKED

 

One: social media.

The Twitter-sphere and Internet generally are infested with abuse-screaming bampots of all political persuasions.  Vilely insulting other people who disagree with your political views, from a keyboard, at a safe and hidden distance, is abhorrent.  It’s a practice, however, that’s best dealt with by ignoring it.  Unfortunately, with Britain’s newspapers, we have a partisan traditional media that both mistrusts and misunderstands the nature of modern information technology; and treats it as an easy source of outrageous comments that can be held up and waved in your headlines as supposed proof that all your political opponents are foul-mouthed lunatics.

 

It possibly wasn’t a coincidence that the world best-loved and most fragrant lady novelist, J.K. Rowling, suddenly appeared in the Scottish – Labour Party-leaning – newspapers two days before the general election; where she talked about the online abuse she’d suffered last year at the hands, or tweets, of Scottish-independence supporters after she intervened in the independence debate and said it was a bad idea.  Yes, I think the timing of these sudden J.K. ROWLING TALKS ABOUT LAST YEAR’S TWITTER ABUSE BY SCOTTISH NATIONALISTS headlines was a wee bit suspicious – they hit the newspapers at the exactly the same moment that the Scottish Labour Party was breaking the emergency glass and pulling out her old friend, former Prime Minister Gordon Brown, to try to save the party’s skin in Scotland.  (It didn’t work.  Scottish Labour ended up losing 40 of its 41 seats to the Scottish National Party.)

 

Predictably, J.K. Rowling is now getting more abusive tweets from the SNP’s lunatic fringe – which makes her Twitter stream a surreal place, where messages like “J.K. Rowling, you’re a traitor to Scotland!” alternate with ones from schoolgirls in South Korea asking her what Hedwig the Owl’s favourite flavour of cheese is.

 

From screenrant.com 

 

On the Internet, you’ll find psychotic SNP supporters, and psychotic Labour supporters, and psychotic Tories, and psychotic Greens.  And psychotic Quakers, and psychotic Buddhists, and psychotic Jedi Knights, and psychotic Coldplay fans.  If you’re going to use the new media that the communications revolution has spawned in the last 20 years, you have to accept the existence of such basket-cases as a sad inevitability and ignore them.  Especially if you dare to offer anything resembling an opinion.

 

And journalists, please stop wading into this online mire searching for stories.  Go into the real world and find some real stories instead.

 

Two: Russell Brand.

I don’t hate the hirsute and ubiquitous Russell Brand, even if I think he was a stupid dick a while ago to advise young people to disdain the democratic process and avoid voting.  I don’t even think it was foolish of Labour leader – former Labour leader – Ed Miliband to talk to him shortly before this election and persuade him that voting is actually a sensible thing to do.  In fact, Ed even persuaded Russ to endorse Labour.

 

What I find irritating is that after Ed had lost the election, Russell Brand immediately declared that he’d made his pro-voting (and pro-Labour) comments in the heat of the moment and hadn’t really meant what he’d said.  Though as soon as he’d disassociated himself from poor Ed, the electoral loser, he then predicted five years of strife under the new Conservative government and urged his followers to behave with ‘compassion’.

 

Which makes it sound like Russell was not only trying to have his cake and eat it; but also to take that cake to bed, and subject it to sustained and vigorous foreplay, and grease it with lubricant and shove it up his arse.

 

(c) The Independent

 

Three: the mainstream press. 

I’ve already written that the majority of Britain’s national newspapers are owned by a half-dozen super-rich, tax-dodging, far-right-wing gits, so I won’t mention that fact again.  (Oops.  I just have.)  Correspondingly, most of these newspapers’ election coverage had to be taken with an amount of salt equivalent to the annual output of the world’s largest salt mine.

 

And as I’ve written before, the coverage of Scotland in the right-wing press before the election was depressingly shrill and xenophobic.  Nor has it stopped during the three days since the Scottish voting public gave a huge mandate to the SNP.  Bruce Anderson, for example, has raged in the Daily Telegraph about ‘half the population of Scotland’ being ‘in the grip of religious hysteria’.  Meanwhile, Daily Mail columnist Jan Moir wrote a piece responding to the Scottish results with this charming headline: VILE BIGOTS HAVE MADE ME ASHAMED TO BE SCOTTISH.

 

You may remember that following the death of gay pop star Stephen Gately in 2009, Ms Moir wrote a homophobic column about him that resulted in 25,000 complaints being made to the British Press Complaints Commission.  So funnily enough, the words Vile bigot has made me ashamed to be Scottish are precisely what appear in my head whenever I hear mention of Jan Moir.

 

Four: denial.

To return to the Scottish Labour Party…  Although I don’t support them, I have actually felt a bit sorry for them since their Thursday-night slaughter at the hands of the SNP.  Particularly piteous have been the expressions of denial made by their (now nearly entirely unemployed) politicians: “It’s not our fault!”  “The public didn’t listen to us, the fools!”  And so on.

 

Mind-boggling rather than piteous, though, has been the reaction of their boss Jim Murphy.  Despite losing his seat, and despite his party’s number of MPs going from 41 to one under his watch, Jim is still there.  He maintains that he’s still the right man for the job of Scottish Labour Party leader.  He reminds me of the black knight in Monty Python and the Holy Grail who insists on continuing to fight after having his arms and legs cut off: “I’ll do you for that!  Come here!  I’m invincible!”  (King Arthur: “You’re a loony.”)

 

(c) The Daily Mail

(c) Michael White Productions

 

Mind you, J.K. Rowling did try to console poor Jim by making him an honorary member of the House of Gryffindor at Hogwarts.  Though I have to say that if Jim Murphy had had any authority at Hogwarts at the time of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Lord Voldemort would now be ruling the entire universe.

 

Five: the Tories won.

Well, obviously.  And bollocks!  They’ve just brought back Michael Gove.

http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2015/may/09/michael-gove-reshuffle-rivalry-theresa-may-cabinet-conservative

 

 

BUT…  WHY I ENJOYED IT.

 

One: social media.

Yes, the social media aspect of this general election sucked but, paradoxically, it was brilliant too.  I say that as someone who remembers how elections were in the olden days, when for your information you depended on supposedly-learned authorities penning pieces in the newspapers or pontificating on TV.  Basically, it was a case of well-to-do Oxford / Cambridge-educated political pundits telling us, the plebs, how things were and what to do about it.  And if you wanted to participate in the debate – well, you sat down and penned a letter and sent it off to a newspaper, in the dim hope that it might be published a few days later.

 

Compare that with now.  Blogs, Twitter, Facebook…  And probably a hundred other innovations that are too new and trendy for someone my age to even know about, let alone understand and use.  Lord George Foulkes can say something pompous and stupid and 30 seconds later you can be in his Twitter stream taking him to task about it and calling him a tube.  If that isn’t proper, participatory democracy, what is?

 

It also, incidentally, made this election incredibly funny.  Political satire is now something the entire population can indulge in, immediately, rather than having to sit down passively and read Private Eye magazine or watch Have I Got News for You.  Some of the jokes, quips, barbs and (courtesy of Photoshop) visual gags whizzing around the Internet have been brilliant.  I particularly like the one about the sartorially eccentric George Galloway, recently deposed MP for Bradford West, now having time to start ‘his Victorian ghost-hunting psychic detective agency’.

 

(c) The Daily Star

 

Two: bloodshed!

Galloway was just one of many politicians who suffered defeats in this election.  In fact, there were more heads left rolling in the dust than there were in several seasons of Game of Thrones.  It felt like a particularly gory afternoon spent at the coliseum in Ancient Rome – lots of sadistic entertainment for the audience, though probably not much fun for the gladiators.  This is remarkable when you consider how even the election that caused the most dramatic reshaping of the electoral landscape in the last 20 years, 1998’s one when Tony Blair trounced John Major, produced just one memorable casualty: Michael Portillo.

 

This time though, we saw the demise of Dougie Alexander, Jim Murphy, Vince Cable, Simon Hughes, Danny Alexander, Charles Kennedy and Ester McVey.  Plus most spectacularly of all, Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls lost his seat by a few hundred seats.  Cue a million cruel Internet jokes about Labour getting its Balls cut off.

 

Three: Scottish people ignored the mainstream press.

Despite the Scottish newspapers spending the half-year prior to the election braying about how brilliant Jim Murphy was – facilitated no doubt by Murphy’s shifty but supposedly press-savvy spin doctor John McTernan – nobody in Scotland paid attention.  Result!

 

Four: failure of loonies.

The leader, sorry, ex-leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party and hence Britain’s right-wing loony / fruitcake in chief Nigel Farage – he was enthusiastically backed by the Daily Express, which says it all – stood as a parliamentary candidate in the constituency of Thanet.  He was, however, beaten and this failure prompted his resignation as UKIP leader.  When the result was announced, the face of comedian Al Murray, who ran as a joke-candidate against Farage, was an absolute picture.

 

(c) BBC

 

Talking of loonies and fruitcakes, I was delighted that Susan-Anne White, the demented evangelical-Christian candidate in the constituency I’m originally from, West Tyrone, garnered just 166 votes on the night.  Or as the Google election-results service put it, ‘0%’ of the total.

 

Five: be careful what you wish for, Tories.

In 1992, John Major pulled off a remarkable result for the Conservative Party.  He won a narrow majority – one that nobody had expected, but a majority nonetheless.  Yet within a year, his government was a shambles.  To keep his slender majority intact, Major had to devote his entire energy to threatening, appeasing and pleading with a large contingent of far-right-wing Conservative backbenchers, whose xenophobic, Europhobic, ‘hang-’em, flog ’em’ mind-set was barely distinguishable from that of UKIP today.

 

23 years later, we find David Cameron in the same situation.  He may be looking smug at the moment, but I suspect that smugness will evaporate very shortly as right-wing / moderate-wing civil war threatens to break out in his party.  I will, of course, be here to write about it when it happens.

 

Myths of the Cybernation

 

(c) BBC

 

Recently I wrote about Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling’s decision to donate a million pounds to Better Together, the group campaigning for a ‘No’ vote in this September’s referendum on Scottish independence.  Since the donation was announced the Scottish media has been full of reports about Rowling receiving abuse online from ‘Cybernats’, the nickname given to pro-independence supporters who take to Internet forums, the Twitter-sphere and the opinion threads of newspaper websites to vociferously air their views.

 

Last week, Scottish politics was also witness to Lally-gate.  This involved Clare Lally, mother of a disabled child, who contributes to the Scottish Labour Party’s shadow cabinet as a ‘Carers’ Champion’.  There’s been speculation too – incorrect speculation – on pro-Scottish-independence websites that she’s Claire (with an ‘i’) Lally, who’s the daughter of the Labour Party’s former Lord Provost of Glasgow, Pat Lally.  At a recent Better Together campaign-launch, Clare Lally was introduced onstage as an ‘ordinary’ woman who wanted the union between Scotland and England to continue.  She gave a powerful speech arguing that Scotland’s National Health Service, so important for her child’s wellbeing, was better served by Scotland remaining in the UK.

 

Campbell Gunn, an advisor to Alex Salmond, Scottish National Party leader and most prominent figure in the Yes campaign, subsequently contacted a newspaper and claimed that Better Together was being disingenuous in presenting Clare Lally as an ordinary member of the public.  She was, Gunn said, involved in the Labour Party and also Pat Lally’s daughter.  However, Gunn – who, as a former newspaper editor, should have been more scrupulous about checking his facts – had got this information from a pro-independence website.  He was wrong in identifying Clare Lally as Claire Lally.  Also, the idea that as a Labour activist she isn’t an ‘ordinary’ person is debatable at least.  Does dabbling in politics in your free time, as opposed to being a politician or a paid political campaigner or aide, strip you of your right to call yourself an ordinary citizen?

 

Once his mistake was pointed out, Gunn apologised to Lally, though she chose not to accept his apology.  Meanwhile, Lally received online abuse from certain Cybernats who were riled by what they’d read about her on the Internet.  This prompted some of the press to allege that Gunn, and by extension Salmond himself, had coordinated a ‘smear’ campaign against Lally.  Looking at the evidence, I can’t see how this is true because Gunn seems only to have reacted to the same online information that the anti-Lally Cybernats reacted to.  There’s no evidence that he organised other people to do anything.  He did brief a newspaper about her, at least partly inaccurately, which he apologised for.

 

However, late last week the press and many politicians were in uproar.  John McTernan – an advisor and Director of Political Operations to Tony Blair from 2004 to 2007, and later a communications director to Julia Gillard when she was Australian Prime Minister – appeared on a TV current-affairs show and insisted that the online abuse levelled at J.K. Rowling, not just Clare Lally, had been orchestrated by the Scottish National Party too.

 

Before I write anything further, let me state unequivocally that anyone tweeting or posting online threats or abuse against J.K. Rowling, or Clare Lally, or anybody else, is an arsehole.  I read on the BBC news website yesterday that the police are investigating the abuse against Rowling, and that’s good.  I hope they do the same against anyone who slandered Lally.

 

However, I would like to discuss certain myths that have appeared about the Cybernat phenomenon and about the Internet’s effect on Scottish politics and on politics generally.  It suits the agenda of most of the mainstream media in Scotland, which is overwhelmingly anti-independence, and it suits most of the main political parties in Britain, in whose interests it is for the Union to continue, that these myths should be accepted as fact.  Here are seven such myths, plus my reasons for believing why they are myths – nothing more.

 

One.  We were all much nicer before the Internet came along.

 

Well, that’s ridiculous to anybody who can remember life before the mid-1990s.  Of course people have always gossiped maliciously, name-called, bitched, backstabbed, slandered and assassinated other people’s characters.  It’s been a sad fact of life for as long as human beings have lived in communities.  I come from a small town with about 8000 inhabitants, so I can testify to what happens when folk gather in groups of more than one and the conversation turns to the foibles of their neighbours.  The complication imposed by the Internet – where people gather in virtual communities and chatter scurrilously in threads and forums – is that it creates an online record of what’s been said.  If the poison isn’t spat into the victim’s face but spat behind his or her back, it’s still there for the victim to find.  Or for someone else to bring to the victim’s attention.

 

By the way, I find it hilarious that the people making some of the most indignant noises about online abuse are the political community, who’ve been maliciously gossiping, name-calling, bitching, backstabbing, slandering and assassinating characters since the days of Machiavelli, if not since long before.  At least, they’re indignant when they think it’s in their interests to be indignant.  It’s particularly ironic that John McTernan has been expressing his indignation so loudly, considering the past form he has in this area.  If you’re to believe a report about his period of employment with Julia Gillard that appeared last year on the Australian ABC news website, “he encouraged Labor staffers to mobilise so-called ‘Twitter armies’ to ridicule the Tony Abbot-led opposition and attack individual Coalition MPs online, which he would later point out to journalists as proof of public opinion.” (http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-12-11/leaked-emails-reveal-aggressive-style-of-john-mcternan/5149158.)  Which makes his outburst last week a bit rich.

 

(c) www.new.com.au

 

Two.  The only abuse online is about Scottish independence.

 

If you don’t use the Internet that much – and coming from a rural background, I know many people who don’t – and depend on traditional Scottish newspapers for your information, you could be forgiven for assuming this recently.  It’s twaddle, of course.  You only have to read the comments that quickly fasten themselves, like flies to a piece of excrement, to the threads below any political story on a news website to realise this.  In most cases the story has nothing to do with Scotland.  An article the other day on the Guardian online, in which Helena Bonham Carter expressed admiration for David Cameron, attracted some epigrams you wouldn’t repeat in front of your grandmother – one described the Conservative PM as a ‘gammon-faced p***k’.  Meanwhile, any article in the Daily Telegraph or the Spectator that touches on the topics of immigration, multiculturalism or political correctness is guaranteed to cause an outbreak of racist sniping underneath.  I can’t bring myself to look at what readers post on the Daily Mail or Daily Express websites, for fear of losing all faith in humanity.

 

And this isn’t confined to politics.  Observer columnist Kevin McKenna noted the other day that “(w)hat some of Scotland’s top football writers, such as Graham Spiers and Tom English, have had to endure on Twitter these past few years far eclipses in volume and intensity anything encountered in the referendum campaign.”  (http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/jun/14/better-together-mistakes-scottish-independence.)

 

Three.  The online referendum-campaign abuse all comes from Cybernats.

 

Here is more misogynistic abuse I’ve seen flying around the Internet during the past week, since news of J.K. Rowling’s donation broke:

 

“…that bitch…”

“…beat it ya ugly cow…”

“…why don’t you f*** off?  That way you might start being a credit to your country.”

“…up your hairy arse.”

“…does ma tits in, get off the f***ing tv ya slut!”

“…what a bitter wee wummin she is.  Typical… selfish boot.  Begone bitch!”

 

However, none of these comments were made about Rowling or Lally.  They were directed at Nicola Sturgeon, Alec Salmond’s deputy, by unionists.  It doesn’t surprise me that she gets this abuse, considering that the No campaign has the support of unsavoury outfits like the Scottish Defence League, the British National Party, the Scottish Orange Order and UKIP.  Incidentally, there are vast amounts of abuse online aimed at Salmond himself and I’ve also seen invective against other well-known figures who support independence, such as Pat Kane and Hardeep Singh Kohli.

 

From politicalhome.com 

 

However, the mainstream Scottish media and pro-Union politicians seem happy to ignore this side of things.  It goes, after all, against the narrative they’ve been pushing in the referendum campaign, i.e. that Scottish cyberspace is infested with nasty Cybernats attacking and bullying nice, peaceful Unionists – and that’s the only online bile there is.

 

Four.  All the J.K. Rowling abuse came from Cybernats.

 

No doubt some or a lot of it did, but not all of it.  At the time a leading Scottish Liberal Democrat activist retweeted an offensive anti-Rowling comment and asked, “Is this the sort of Scotland we want?”  If she’d actually checked the tweet, she’d have found that the perpetrator was an Irish guy, with strong Irish republican and pro-Palestinian sympathies, who lives in England.  So her question about Scotland was somewhat redundant.  Also, when the Glasgow tabloid the Daily Record tracked down another person who’d sent offensive tweets about Rowling, he claimed not to have political views one way or the other in the referendum debate and described himself as a ‘wind-up merchant’.  (http://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/news/scottish-news/troll-claims-joking-sent-vile-3685196.)

 

So the mainstream media and pro-Union politicians can’t claim that all the anti-Rowling abuse came from SNP and Scottish-independence supporters.  There are plenty of idiots out there, with no interest in politics, who are happy to stir things.  And though I don’t hold political parties in high regard generally, I don’t think they can be held responsible for the ravings of idiots.

 

Incidentally, as I’ve said before, anti-English sentiment in Scotland isn’t solely the property of people (a minority of people, I’d hope) who support independence.  In my time I’ve met folk with impeccable Labour-supporting or Conservative-supporting credentials, and who’ll surely be voting ‘no’ this September, who didn’t need much encouragement before they went running off at the mouth about ‘them bastard English’.

 

Five.  Thanks to the Internet, you can no longer have proper democratic discussion.

 

It’s significant that the man credited with inventing the term ‘Cybernat’ to describe supporters of Scottish independence who are active online is former Labour Party MP / MSP George Foulkes, or Lord Foulkes of Cumnock as he calls himself these days.  He’s precisely the sort of pompous old-school political balloon who isn’t used to having his pronouncements from on-high challenged by the great unwashed, as they are nowadays, instantly, via social media.  Despite the presence of many online basket-cases, I generally find it refreshing that you now have the freedom to, immediately, get back at some self-important politician or political journalist by firing off a tweet, email or thread-comment.  It feels like the Internet brings democracy and political debate a little closer to ‘the people’.  Which is surely a good thing these days when the political culture of Westminster seems so remote from and out-of-touch to ordinary people in all other respects.

 

From lallanspeatworrier.blogspot.com 

 

For the likes of Lord Foulkes, of course, electronic media’s ability to bring down the barriers between the politicos and the plebs is something to be lamented, not celebrated.  Neither is the new media popular among those traditional disseminators of news and views, the newspapers – who are seeing their readership figures decline precipitously as more people turn to the Internet for information.  So don’t expect this issue to get a fair hearing, either.

 

Six.  Those Cybernats have poisoned the political debate in Scotland.

 

The Herald journalist Iain MacWhirter, who had the thankless job of reasoning with John McTernan on TV last week, summed things up.  He likened the Internet to a sewer where you’ll find mindless abuse aimed at anyone and everyone, anything and everything, if you go looking for it.  Unfortunately, the mainstream media only wants to find, and hold up for public scrutiny, examples of the effluent that’s flowing from extremists on the Yes side because that suits their agenda.  A blind eye is turned towards the effluent flowing from extremists on the No side.

 

But this online crap doesn’t have to intrude on the independence debate.  We can get on with meaningful discussion of the issues, listening only to contributions made by people who have brains.  Indeed, there were good pieces last week by Pat Kane in the Independent and by Mairi McFadyen at the artistic campaign group the National Collective, which responded to J.K. Rowling’s stance with grace and decency, whilst gently disagreeing with some of the points she made about independence.  There was also a thoughtful article, in favour of a Yes vote, by Deborah Orr in the Guardian the other day.  I don’t know if the No side has produced any pieces with a similar eloquence – but I’m sure in the 90-plus days remaining until the referendum, the well-known novelist and No supporter Alan Massie can get off his bum and write a couple.

 

However, a civilised discussion will be difficult if pro-Union journalists and politicians insist on delving into the Internet sewage pipe in the hope of finding more pieces of tartan excrement that’ll advance their cause and / or advance their careers.  (And meanwhile, those many pieces of Union Jack-patterned excrement bobbing around online will continue to be ignored.)

 

Seven.  Those Cybernats have whipped up so much hatred in Scotland that we’re all going to die.

 

This seems to be a theme with Alan Cochrane, the curiously passive-aggressive Scotland correspondent in the Daily Telegraph.  When Cochrane isn’t penning furious pieces about the evils of independence, the SNP, Alex Salmond, etc. while steam pours out of his ears, he affects a piteous tone and laments about how lovely and peaceful Scotland used to be, before this horrible referendum and these horrible Cybernats came along.  Now everyone’s at everyone else’s throats and as a result Scotland is going to be scarred by divisions forever.  Everything about this referendum is so divisive, cry Cochrane and his ilk.  Divisive!

 

Well, I’ve heard discussions about independence in the street, in the pub, even occasionally in my Dad’s kitchen, but I have yet to see any aggression or violence.  I haven’t even heard anyone raise their voice.  If you really want a political issue that was divisive, to the point where it generated mass violence, you should look back to the miners’ strike or to the poll-tax riot in London – both of which happened during the reign of Margaret Thatcher, the great mother-goddess of the Conservative Party, the Daily Telegraph and Alan Cochrane.  For people who remember those days, this bleating now by unionist journalists and politicians about the divisiveness of the independence debate is so much guff.

 

Maybe what’s disconcerting for the political and media establishments is the fact that a lot of ordinary people are actually thinking about, talking about, being engaged by the issue.  It looks like the turnout on the referendum day could be astronomical – the highest voting turnout in Britain in decades.  This rather upsets the establishment narrative that nowadays the public aren’t interested in (and / or are too stupid to be interested in) politics.

 

Meanwhile, a recent article by Alex Massie – son of Alan – in the Spectator made the following point: “If Scotland’s independence campaign is notable for anything it is unusual for being remarkably civilised.  Violence, generally speaking, has no more than 140 characters.  No-one has died.  No-one anticipates, I think, civil unrest regardless of the result in September.”  (http://blogs.spectator.co.uk/coffeehouse/2014/06/the-shocking-secret-truth-about-scotlands-independence-debate-it-is-civilised/.)  Those politicians, activists, journalists, bloggers and political anoraks who live in an overheated online bubble may not realise this, however.  Perhaps they need to take some time off from their keyboards and get out of their bedrooms.

 

From scot-buzz.co.uk

 

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.