coronavirus covid vaccination Equalities Fascism Human Rights Immigration Independence International Journalism Media Scotland Scottish Independence Ungagged Writing Val Waldron

Obstacles to Indy

The result is a dumbing down of news, couched in hysteria. A sticky web of hopelessness can engulf us, leading us to believe that it’s essentially all our fault. That we are confused, and we want too much, or we don’t demand enough. The subtext, often with the help of (unannounced) politically motivated contributors and pressure groups, and aggressive, confrontational interviewing is that the Scottish Government has lost control, but without the analysis and context in terms of available powers.

With the Olympics cranking up, I’m thinking surmountable hurdles rather than roadblocks to our independence. Sometimes it’s hard to put a positive spin on things when the odds seem against us, the polls are volatile and it’s all a bit of a struggle, but it’s down to the incredible persistence of the core of the Yes movement that we are where we are and have not lost momentum.

The full text of the saying attributed to the ancient Chinese General Sun Tzu goes ‘Know thy enemy and know yourself; in a hundred battles you will never be defeated.’ Let’s go with that and keep the eyes in the back of our head wide open.

The backdrop to our planned exit from the UK increasingly develops as a picture of creeping fascism. That’s not a term that everyone is comfortable with when describing the populist Tories and their policies. But how else should we interpret Patel’s threats about changes to The Human Rights Act, which at the very least will result in the dumbing down of investigative reporting under the threat of criminalisation of certain journalistic practices. Or the cutting of the overseas aid budget, or the criminalization of asylum seeking and assisting desperate refugees. The obscene amounts spent on trying to prevent people from landing after a treacherous journey at sea could be better and more humanely spent in the re-settlement of asylum seekers  in our communities. It’s not about the money though.

The UK government thrives on the constant othering of people and communities outside of their domain. It’s how they Got Brexit Done, and get away with ignoring the Windrush community and describing those who are fleeing war-ravaged countries as a ‘problem’. Focusing on the people smugglers as the proposed solution hits the spot for many but is a cynical side-step from responsible governance.

The othering approach includes Scots. Scotland is portrayed as a nation of takers, only as useful as the natural resources, the sense of empire and the taxes we provide, but not in any way capable of making our own decisions. Hence the gradual erosion of Holyrood’s powers. They are engaged in a war of attrition against us on many fronts, insidiously covering our lives with union jacks.

PM Johnson’s (please don’t call him Boris) infrequent visits to Scotland are described tongue in cheek as one of the greatest assets to independence, but is that also (still) the case with the flags and the excoriatingly patronising certainty with which they repeatedly try to put us in our place? It can become exhaustingly normalising for the average busy voter. We can’t let it happen.

One mainstream daily newspaper, The National is aligned with the Independence Movement, and tries to be all things to it, from tabloid to broadsheet. There’s still a battle in several outlets to keep the paper edition in full view and in stock, and listening to our state broadcaster, you could be forgiven for thinking that the BBC feels emboldened to assume that independence is something of a niche interest.

Radio Scotland used to be my go-to station, and in many ways it still is. The main problem is the populism of the peak time news agendas, the quality of the interviewing, the daily call-in programme and the skewed editing of on-the-hour bulletin headlines. Increasingly it feels that it’s not talking to me or anyone who actually wants to hear comprehensive balanced news, or who does not despise this country. It’s certainly not for the feint hearted independence supporter.

It’s not all bad. Not by a long shot. There are some very respectable contributors (albeit often cornered to submission by aggressive questioning or quoted out of context.)  It’s not GB news nor as trash-worthy as most of the competitors and it may be slightly more reformable that the EU, but you really need the time and inclination to dig deeper into the schedules to hear international news and analysis and context.

There is no definitive dictionary definition on the difference between impartiality and amorality. Tune in on Saturdays between 9AM and 10AM, for instance and there’s a good chance of hearing a reporter’s notebook. Maybe a realistic estimation of the pandemic picture globally, and possibly within the context of vaccine availability, political and economic structures. Maybe a realistic sketch of the treachery and inadequacy of Johnson as PM, or some discussion on news and events between contributors with opposing constitutional views.

Compare this with something infinitely more cynically disposed to mimic this impartiality. Eat breakfast, attend to the kids’ needs or drive to or from work against a backdrop of dizzying and rapid oscillation between conflicting viewpoints. The many interviews with business owners (sometimes, such as in the case of Travel agents termed as ‘experts’) on their plight under covid, are landed upon us back-to-back with scientists or others who may be better equipped to warn against the opening up of same businesses. There are many examples of chaotic or skewed (mis)reporting on a daily basis, not least relentless attempts by media and opposition to paint the FM’s stated vaccination targets as failure, due to the unenforceable take-up rate.

The result is a dumbing down of news, couched in hysteria. A sticky web of hopelessness can engulf us, leading us to believe that it’s essentially all our fault. That we are confused, and we want too much, or we don’t demand enough. The subtext, often with the help of (unannounced) politically motivated contributors and pressure groups, and aggressive, confrontational interviewing is that the Scottish Government has lost control, but without the analysis and context in terms of available powers.

Regular contributor Prof of Social Psychology Stephen Reicher said that 83% of people in England don’t buy into ‘Freedom Day’ in spite of the hype on all media outlets. There was also a media agenda indicating that it was akin to a thought crime to support Italy against England (due to the promise of an endless stream of 1966 type reporting) in the Euros. We heard plenty on Andy Burnham’s outrage about the FM’s advice not to travel to Manchester and surrounding areas due to covid rates. How dare she act as a leader. The reporting is often divisive and designed to manufacture a streak of ‘Narrow Nationalism’ between us and our neighbours south of the border, over 10 million of whom did not vote Tory.

All of this matters. Not everyone has time to contextualise the items that we are fed daily as News into something that we can work with. Yes, we do need to know how the NHS or the Justice and Education systems are coping/failing in parts, but there’s a definite ‘Isn’t Scotland rubbish!’ theme, again without the context of funding, available powers and comparative successes.

We need and want to be connected to the networks and channels that will ensure a smooth transition, socially as well as economically and practically with our neighbours and trading partners, when we achieve independence. At present BBC Radio Scotland could easily re-brand as ‘BBC Radio UK in Scotland’. They just haven’t thought through the openings and possibilities for them in the Scottish Broadcasting Corporation one day.

We also need to and want to be connected to, and influential internationally. That’s why we voted remain. Without that connection we’re left with a sense of being adrift as a potentially progressive entity in a difficult and often hostile world. In reality we’re not alone. The top headline for everyone should be the climate emergency, as fire, flood and pollution engulf much of the planet, and we could contribute so much more in unison with more progressive countries.

The unionist opposition to independence, or Better Together Mark 2 is likely to be more of a thorn in the side than an obstacle to independence. They have no competent position for staying in the union outside of emotional attachment, which grows weaker for so many as a sinister British Nationalism imprints itself on our daily lives. Ruth Davidson may well be the new secret weapon and she may be offered a ‘Save the Union’ position from the House of Lords, but things move apace, and just how much stomach do people have for Yesterday’s men and women, and is an ermine clad Tory really an attractive enticement? The leader of the Ruth Davidson Party has quite likely had her day. It’s also possible that the Labour party may retain some kind of muscle memory about the pitfalls of getting into bed with the Tories, though there’s little sign of that to date, as they continue to vie for Scotland’s Party of The Union position in spite of the growth of support for independence within its ranks.

Despite the constant refrain that a s30 will never be granted again, we do hear a lot about the ballot paper options. So far opposition offerings are; a 3rd option for home-rule/Federalism; a confirmatory referendum after a Yes vote; the extension of the vote to Scots living outside of Scotland; a 70% ‘pass’ rate for Yes, and sadly, from within the movement itself, a sniff of ethnic nationalism that would entitle only Scots born residents within Scotland to vote.

That leads succinctly and finally to the most bizarre of all obstacles, the splits within the Yes movement. To date there is nothing to determine that the SNP/SG have deviated from the pre-election pledge to attend to the Covid ‘crisis’ (not wait until the pandemic is over – another misinterpretation) prior to a referendum being held, 2023 being a likely date. There is a continuum of views on this within the movement, from acceptance/support through to visceral hatred and sabotage of the SNP. It would also be fair to say that there is a range of more considered concerns about the timing and nature of an actual campaign.

The public undermining of the SG position from within the SNP continues apace, perhaps shielding the altogether more dubious agenda; support for aspects of the culture wars that rage throughout the UK and the western world. Standing shoulder to shoulder with this contingent is The Alba party. It’s difficult to know whether public hating and attempted destruction of the SNP and FM is ignorance of the damage done to the movement as a whole, or plain stupidity, far-right insurgency (though I’d prefer to steer clear of conspiracy theories) or a mixture of everything. Certainly impatience plays a large part of the equation, and as a theme in itself, has impacted the movement strongly, with the potential for doing serious damage.

Our progress towards independence is dictated by those of us who are not currently politically engaged. It sounds like a simple solution to say that they’ll want it once the campaign gets going, but we over-shoot at our peril. I do not believe that we’ll get another chance at this for the foreseeable. Believe what folk are telling us about this even if patience feels counter-intuitive in the face of everything highlighted here. We can still use every opportunity to listen and assist, whether on an individual basis or through our grassroots channels.

There are a number of alternative news outlets out there including Ungagged. Tune into the podcast every week at leftungagged.org for a taster of what’s on the agenda. Suits busy lives!

Val Waldron

 

 

 

 

 

 

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