I suppose the big story of the week was the SNP administration’s abysmal failure to live down to the expectations of British nationalists who had spent several days eagerly anticipating bad news on Scotland’s economic performance. Like bairns awaiting Christmas, the spokespersons for the British parties and their chums in the media chattered incessantly about what the big day would bring. Would it be superbly awful? Or just satisfyingly bad? Could it possibly be magnificently catastrophic? Or was that too much to hope for?
In the event, it was to be a crushing disappointment for those whose most fervent desire is that Scotland should founder so disastrously as to make the listing wreck of the British state look like a rescue ship. Not only did the hated SNP fail to deliver the hoped-for recession, they had the damned impertinence to achieve an economic growth figure four times that of the UK!
All of which was doubly galling for the British nationalists due to the fact that they’d put so much effort into stressing that the SNP alone was responsible for these results. The British parties had sought to forestall any attempt to explain away the expected poor performance by reference to the chaos of Brexit or the austerity fetishism of the British political elite. The blame belonged entirely on the shoulders of the SNP. Which made it just a little awkward for the British parties to then deny the Scottish Government credit for what turned out to be a relatively excellent set of figures.
Not that bitter Britannia’s North British tribunes were to be deterred. They simply don’t do contrition or good grace. While the comparable figure for Germany of 0.6% was spoken of in positive terms such as ‘surge’ and ‘acceleration’, and even the UK’s 0.2% was described as ‘powering ahead’, Scotland’s growth rate of 0.8% was held to betoken a ‘narrow escape’ which only just avoided recession.
At 0.5%, France’s growth figure was cheerfully hailed as being much better than the forecast 0.3%. Scotland managed to beat the dire predictions from the undead of Project Fear by a full percentage point, only for us to be told this was more cause for gloom and misery than for even the most subdued and cautious celebration.
Nothing good can ever happen in Scotland. Nothing that happens in Scotland can ever be good. All is collapse. All is crisis. All is calamity. Because that’s the only way the Union can look good by comparison.
This grinding negativity is pernicious. It can grip a nation, warping its image of itself. It can become a self-fulfilling perversion of reality.
In a recent article, Neal Ascherson echoed Alasdair Gray’s famous line about working as if you lived in the early days of an independent nation as he urged that Scotland must “act as an independence nation”. In that, he was undoubtedly correct. Where he goes wrong is in misidentifying where we are now. He is infected by the grinding negativity disseminated by the British state’s propaganda machine.
In devising a political campaign, as in planning a journey, it is essential to know where you are starting from. There’s an old joke about a facile stereotype of an Irishman who, when asked for directions, replies that if that were his destination then he wouldn’t start from where he was. (It’s the way I tell them.) British nationalists are obviously aware of this story. They seek to persuade us that independence is a forlorn hope because we are in a place from which independence cannot be reached.
The importance of challenging this misrepresentation of where we are now was brought home to me by a couple of other articles that surfaced in the week just past.
The first was a truly appalling piece by Mandy Rhodes for Holyrood Magazine which asserted that the SNP is “in a dismal place right now”. An assertion supported by nothing more than a mechanical parroting of some of the choicest fallacies informing the cosy consensus of the British media.
The other is a piece in The Orkney News by Jeffrey Adams which proclaims that “Scotland is a worthy success story” and urges all of us to ensure that this message is heard throughout the Brexit process and beyond, to whatever future Scotland chooses.
How are we to know what choices are available to us if we don’t know where we stand right now. How can we perceive future possibilities if we are deceived about our present circumstances? How can we set a course for a better future if our compass is being manipulated by those who would rather see us driven onto the rocks?
Now, before anybody jumps on it, I am perfectly well aware that the first of these articles relates to the SNP while the second is about Scotland. But what I am talking about here is the different versions of our reality they present. The different starting points they define. Given its critical importance to both the manner of Scotland’s governance and the progress of the independence movement, the state of the SNP is every bit as significant as the state of the economy or any other aspect of Scotland the nation. We must have a reasonably accurate impression of where we are if we are to figure out how to get to where we want to be.
Which is why it is vital to understand both that Scotland is not the place described by British nationalists and that the SNP is not as portrayed by its rivals and enemies, either within the independence movement or ranged against it.
Don’t listen to scornful naysayers! Pay no heed to the sour voices of doom! The reality is that Scotland is in a pretty good place. Independence is within our reach. And the SNP is perfectly capable of fulfilling its role as the lever by which we will prise ourselves out of the British state.Views: 6532
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