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This is not a blog which expresses instant opinions on current events. It rather uses incidents, books (old and new), links and papers as jumping-off points for some reflections about our social endeavours.
So old posts are as good as new! And lots of useful links!

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Wha's Like Us? Part 12 of the Scottish commentary

It occurred to me this cold, windy morning in the Carpathian mountains that I hadn’t seen any articles subjecting the discussion on Scottish Independence to “discourse analysis” – cold and windy mornings in the mountains tend to bring on such thoughts! 
When I googled, I found three - but written, it seemed, by undergraduates with all the preliminary regurgitation this requires of obfuscating theory – this one’s exploration of the language of the main campaigns was vaguely interesting. Another paper’s analysis (in (2006) of ex-First Minister Jack McConnell’s speeches was simply inconsequential and outdated 
And this one’s application of “frame analysis” to 4 Scottish Leaders’ speeches was very disappointing – the discussion being limited to the four obvious constitutional scenarios rather than a typology of arguments which an earlier post of mine had indicated were overdue in the debate

One contribution (in the discussion thread which the Guardian had a few days ago on the issue) should figure in any such typology. It asked simply why we apparently think that the Scottish political class will be able to shake off the disease which has afflicted all other political classes in Europe in the post-war period – and to which I;ve referred frequently in this blog (in deed only yesterday)
I'm an Englishman living in Largs.  Funnily enough. I'll be voting 'no' in the referendum.I totally understand the desire of Scots (like many, if not most, non-southern English) to be shot of Westminster, but the premise that 'we' would be better off governing 'ourselves' is flawed on a number of levels, not least because it assumes that Scotland doesn't (or won't) have a political class which is emotionally and practically distinct from the rest of its population. This is arguable, of course; but one lesson of 1707 is surely that when it comes to realpolitik, Scotland's leaders are historically no less self-serving than anyone else's.T
his won't be popular, either (especially coming from an Englishman), but part of the problem an independent Scotland faces is that it is a fragmented country. I would be interested to know what most Highlanders nowadays think about national identity, but certainly prior to the Act of Union (and, arguably, for a very long time after that) most Scots did not consider highlanders to be Scottish at all. Surely, the actual political (and even cultural) differences (beyond a simplistic 'Yes' and 'No') between highland and lowland Scots, rural and urban Scots, or Scots from the industrial West and Lothian are far greater than any great unifying national identity. 
From a purely practical point of view, I really believe that devolution has allowed the Scottish Parliament the freedom to do the wonderful things that it has done (from no tuition fees, to freedom from prescription charges, to consistently higher per capita health spending) without having to face some of the hardest choices when it comes to the possible risks of independence.In the end, very little about the realities of an independent Scotland is certain, so it remains a largely emotional debate.
Despite how this post might read, I don't favour the status quo; but swapping one political class for another (just because they're 'our own') seems self-delusional to me.

Scottish Review is the only Scottish journal I know which gives space to critical voices which challenge the conventional wisdom (its tolerance knows no bounds – they have several times allowed the murderous George Robertson a voice). Significantly it’s totally independent and electronic .
And, without the scandalous tone found in newspapers, the Review documents the failings of the Scottish professional class which holds such power in Scotland .
One of the things which makes me keep an open mind during this debate is the over celebratory “Wha’s like us?” tone of the contributions. True that phrase seems self-deprecatory but in fact we can outdo the Romanians any day in the scale of our claims to what we’ve contributed to the world…….
And I find it interesting that when I googled the phrase I came across the thoughtful website of someone who had been Deputy-Leader of the Scottish National Party. Like a lot of others he has now parted with the Party – although he still favours independence.

My conclusion is that we are disputatious people (don't get me started on religion!) with a supine media and bloated professional class with a great sense of its self-importance – elements which we need to bear in mind as we contemplate future scenarios………….

I well understand that this will be construed as defeatist thought by those who hypothesise that Scotland will be given a great psychological boost by its partition – as discussed in the Volokh blog 
Defeatist or realist - it would be useful to see some rather clearer assessments of this "separation boost".........

PS also while googling I found this interesting Guide to the debate.
And also this great background article from Etudes Ecossaises (in English!)

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