Saturday, 5 January 2013

Sanctus Espiritus, is this what we deserve?

The adverse publicity arising from Nationalist guru Stephen Noon's recent suggestion that the SNP might suffer an existential crisis in an independent Scotland probably did the independence movement more harm than good, but his thesis was probably born of Yes Scotland's attempts merely to distance itself from Alex Salmond and Co rather than anything more compelling.
Of course, in addition to attempting to portray the pro-independence movement as a broad church rather than merely an extension of the SNP, Yes Scotland's more existential approach to the question of Scottish self-determination also seemed designed to deflect attention from the SNP's difficulties regarding substantive policy detail, not to mention that arising when the likes of the socialists, Greens and the odd right-winger are brought into the equation.

But in his essay Stephen Noon couldn't resist having a few digs in relation to specific policy areas in the context of the UK, which is arguably where he came more unstuck than regarding the SNP's future.

For example, he claims: "And, most damaging of all, the failure of financial regulation on a massive scale, with a system designed to protect and promote the masters of the financial universe in the City while expecting the rest of us to pay for their mistakes."

While of course Alex Salmond said regarding this shortly before the UK's banking system nearly imploded:
“We are pledging a light-touch regulation suitable to a Scottish financial sector with its outstanding reputation for probity, as opposed to one like that in the UK, which absorbs huge amounts of management time in ‘gold-plated’regulation.”
And who was "one of Alex Salmond’s most trusted advisers for almost two decades"?!? Mr Noon followed his criticism of the UK's financial regulation by saying: "It takes a uniquely warped view of the world to believe that an independent Scotland couldn’t or wouldn’t do better than this."

Er, hello? "Uniquely warped" indeed. And isn't it the case that the SNP now wants the UK to continue to regulate Scotland's banking and financial services industries, even after 'independence'?

So Mr Noon's encroachment onto 'utilitarian' rationales for independence rather than his more 'existential' remit perhaps reminds us what he's been up to until relatively recently, which hardly does him any favours.

Likewise, Mr Noon's personal website (replete with .eu domain) informs us that he's recently completed a postgraduate degree on "The interaction between international law and European Union law", while he's currently researching for a doctorate on "Internal Enlargement of the EU: legal issues around Scottish independence". Which nicely brings to mind Alex Salmond's near-existential personal difficulties regarding the question of legal advice on Scotland's EU membership. No tittering, please.

Mr Noon also witters on at some length about the fact that the UK is now one of the world's most unequal societies, but that: "We know there is an alternative to this Westminster way of structuring society and dividing the spoils. We only have to look across the North Sea to the Scandinavian nations, countries that sit at the very top of world wealth, equality and wellbeing league tables. If we so choose, Scotland can move towards this fairer, more social-democratic way of living."

Which in turn brings to mind the fact that Yes Scotland is being bankrolled by Euromillion winners Colin and Christine Weir, who demonstrated their concern for the impoverished by posing for photaes spraying champagne around etc. Of course, we'd all like to win a huge dollop of cash and do something useful and fulfilling with our lives and not have to worry about money, and wish the likes of the Weirs no ill-will. But I'd be buying a few nature reserves rather than a garage full of Ferraris (say), and I certainly wouldn't be flaunting my wealth and rubbing others' noses in it à la the Weirs. And which in turn perhaps says something about the self-righteous and hypocritical nature of Yes Scotland.

Which by the same token underlines the near-ubiquitous otherworldliness of so much in politics, and there seems to have been a bit more of this around than usual recently. For example, in the same pages as Stephen Noon's ramblings another Nationalist with more brains than common sense - former MSP Andrew Wilson - havers on about optimists leading happier, healthier, wealthier lives than pessimists. Which I don't doubt for a minute, but it's almost certainly the likes of the Noons and Wilsons who've turned me from an optimist to a pessimist, and very probably curtailed my life expectancy as a result. Which of course concurs with Andrew Wilson's thesis, but not in the way he (presumably) thinks. On the other hand he does get it spot on when he says of Scotand's devolution project:
"Of course, no Rubicon had been crossed. For Scottish politics there was always a fast-track bridge back over the river to politics as usual. And as the klaxon sound of inter-party noise and fury has risen over subsequent years, so the connect with our hopes and fears has been lost."
However, he perhaps spoils this by appearing to claim the following regarding Scottish independence: "The opportunity now presents itself for all political leaders to play their part in positively framing the route they ask us all to take."

Which ironically has probably taken another few minutes off my life!

Then there's the likes of commentator Lesley Riddoch, who likes to think she inhabits the "real world", but this just seems to mean she's not a politician and is non-partisan. Her real world seems to consist largely of the comment pages of the Scotsman and the television and radio studios. Or the Scotsman's theatre critic Joyce McMillan, who cites Scotland's "thriving creative life" as presaging bringing "people together again, to fight for more democracy, more social justice, more real freedom for ordinary people, more respect for ourselves and others". But if she's referring to the likes of the arty-farty types at the National Collective, the Union Jack-burners at Bella Caledonia or the MacLuvvie community more generally, then I suspect their relevance to the great unwashed will be marginal.

As will the likes of the Radical Independence Conference attended by many of the elite of the MacCommentariat like Gerry Hassan and Andy Wightman, which is probably more likely to represent an awkward squad and occasional embarrassment for mainstream nationalism rather than something to enthuse the masses. For example, Andy Wightman recently cited this pretentious, elitist and inaccessible bullocks from an academic as an "excellent discussion", and in an essay advocating a "fairer and greener Scotland" suggested "leaving a lot of that North Sea oil untouched and a moratorium on further exploration".

Er, hello? Again. Of course, it was Mr Renewables himself - aka Alex Salmond - who recently bragged to the Scottish Parliament about our "enormous, ENORMOUS" oil and gas reserves (first minister's emphasis) and even this new year has claimed that Scotland's oil and gas sector is a "sunrise industry" and blawed that his SNP Government's strategy "sets out the aim of maximising recovery of oil and gas".

Then there's the likes of a radio interview - usefully transcribed on uber-cybernat blog Wings Ower Bath - with an Englishman who's moved to Scotland and has seemingly been converted to independence while living here. He says, inter alia:
"When I first came up here, I think I shared that view that a lot of the Scottish Parliament politicians were a bit second-rate, they were a bit ordinary and dowdy-looking – you think about people like Nicola Sturgeon and Joan McAlpine, and they’re the sort of people you imagine standing behind in the queue in the supermarket. But then I’ve come to realise that actually that’s what you want in representative democracy – you want people who represent their constituents, who ARE like us. You don’t want this kind of Teflon superheroes who are out of touch and belong to an elite class that have no idea about the price of a pint of milk."
Er, hello? Again. In fact the SNP cooncillors in my own ward don't even seem to know what's going on under their noses - or don't care - so what price the likes of Nicola Sturgeon and Joan McAlpine? Perhaps Holyrood's "elite class" are slightly less "out of touch" than Westminster's, but elite and out of touch they surely are. However, perhaps the problem with the [insert politically correct term for an Englishmen living in Scotland and who's been converted to the independence cause] is that while the above might convey the impression that he's some kind of man of the people, he is in fact a medieval history lecturer at St Andras University. And here was me thinking he was sweeping the flares! Perhaps he should have stopped at the end of where he says: "I shared the view that a lot of the Scottish Parliament politicians were a bit second-rate."

Onywey, since the nation is clearly waiting with baited breath on Planet Politics' own future strategy mentioned in last week's post, the above is merely intended to underline the fact that mainstream political discourse doesn't seem to have much relevance to this blogger, which indeed provided the original rationale for this site, as the title and sub-title of the blog suggests.

So to put the nation out of its collective misery my next post will outline this blog's future direction. Once, that is, I've decided what it is!

(So there I was trying to think of a clever Dick title for the post and here was Dutch symphonic rockers Within Temptation's 'Our Solemn Hour' playing on my iPod. So I looked it up and it just about works in a slightly blasphemous sort of way, but maybe makes me seem more erudite than is perhaps the case. But it's certainly not that I've come over all religious or anything like that!)


Grahamski said...

Hi Stuart

I've been trying to write a post for about a month now pretty much along the same kind of lines as your cri de coeur above.

Unlike you I am a partisan in this debate, a member of the Labour Party - all be it from their anarchist wing (current membership: one).

Somehow I've never had much support for my view that folk shouldn't serve more than two terms, can't think why...

Anway, back to my attempted post: I couldn't get past, 'I hope we don't have to suffer another tsunami of SNP bullshit this year'.

And that was it.

Your post was far more eloquent and thoughtful.

Plus ca change...

Iain McDonald said...

Sorry, but a personal attack on the Weirs is pretty despicable. You claimed they:

" ... demonstrated their concern for the impoverished by posing for photaes spraying champagne around etc
I certainly wouldn't be flaunting my wealth and rubbing others' noses in it à la the Weirs.

I think you owe them an apology. They appear to have been giving substantial amounts to good causes, which you patently dont care about, or know about. That they appear to support independence is enough for you to smear them? Disgusting.

From the Telegraph:

For most lottery winners, a future of dream homes, yachts and lavish holidays beckons.

But Britain’s biggest winners have donated nearly £30,000 to fund an operation for a disabled three-year-old whose mother wrote to them pleading for money.


But last autumn they donated £1m to the Scottish National Party, the largest gift in the party's history.

In August they gave a five-figure sum to buy a prosthetic limb for Kieran Maxwell, a 13-year-old cancer patient from Heighington near Darlington.

Other good causes they have supported include the historic Waverley paddle steamer and a local elderly care home.

Stuart Winton said...


Thanks for that, indeed I had noticed you'd not blogged for a while ;0)

Iain McDonald

'Owe the Weirs an apology' for what?

For flaunting their wealth when others are suicidal over maybe a couple of grand, say?

And your 'good causes' defence is pretty predictable. However will they manage now that they must be down to their last £150 million or so?

Are you saying that someone who puts a couple of pounds in a charity box can thus be excused for their other less charitable conduct?

Good on them for giving some money to deserving causes, but that wasn't really the point I was making.

And as regards your more political point, if they'd been Labour supporters and gave a million to Better Together, can you imagine the Nationalist reaction, and rightly so?

Bill said...
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Bill said...

I see the point you are making in this article and to some extent share your views. However it really is no business of yours (or mine) to criticise what people do with their own money. As you probably are aware I am certainly no supporter of the SNP, far less of Labour and not really any longer a particular supporter of the Conservatives (although that is, again as you probably are aware, where my instinctive sympathies lie); least said about the LibDems the better. There is no obligation on people to do what some others may consider "good deeds" with their own money, always provided that what they are doing with it is in no way illegal, which certainly does not seem to be the case here.

I've hardly been blogging on 'political themes' or at all really for the past couple of years, partly for personal reasons which I won't go into here, partly as a result of general disgust with the descent into yah-boo politics of much of the debate relating to the possibility of Scottish secession from the UK (or what the SNP chooses to call 'inependence'); if/when a referendum is held I shall certainly be casting my vote - I suppose there is little doubt about which way I shall be voting ;)

Happy New Year :)

Iain McDonald said...


"'Owe the Weirs an apology' for what?

For flaunting their wealth when others are suicidal over maybe a couple of grand, say?

You're really trying to suggest it's the Weirs "spraying champagne around etc" that you find so upsetting? That constitutes "flaunting"? Isn't that what other lottery winners do? There have been 3000+ others made millionaires by the lottery, I doubt you are going to attack them all personally. You are presumably quite happy for the others. What is so offensive here? That they went public? Or that they gave to SNP?

My point about their charitable gifts was to make the point they haven't been "flaunting" their new found wealth as you claim, instead they have apparently been putting it to good use. Better perhaps than many who did not allow their details to be made public, thereby avoiding the requests for help that the Weirs seemingly have responsed to at times. I seriously doubt people go public with a huge lottery win to "flaunt" the fact.

So no, sorry, I'm not buying it at all. You attacked them because they gave money to the SNP. Thats what this article is about, which is fine, attack the SNP and the Weirs for giving money to the SNP. Attack them for being pro independence, if you want.

But don't invent reasons to dislike them.

(just for the hell of it, I googled uk political donors. In 2011 Tory 14million, Labour 11million, libdems 4million, snp 2million. Did all of those wealthy donors also "flaunt" their wealth?)

Stuart Winton said...


Fair enough point, but in relation to the Weirs:

- They CHOSE to pose for photos with a cheque for £161 million and spraying champagne around, which of course they knew would be all over the papers and TV. They didn't have to do that.

- They CHOSE to get involved in high-level politics and bankrolled the SNP and/or Yes Scotland.

- They CHOSE to sit in front row seats at Yes Scotland's launch.

- They CHOSE to court publicity for the money they've donated to good causes.

Thus in that context I think they're fair game for reasonable comment, and I don't think I've said anything that's particularly unreasonable.

Even if they'd just posed for the photos etc then they'd have never been mentioned on a political blog like this, but they can't get involved big-style in politics and put themselves in the public eye in the way that they've done without inviting comment, and of course some of that will inevitably be adverse. To think otherwise would be a negation of free speech. And I'm quite sure they're well aware that such criticisms would be made.

Iain, many of the points made above to Bill are also relevant to your own post. In addition however, I'm not sure how you can consider that the photos etc *don't* amount to 'flaunting' their wealth, so we'll just have to disagree on that.

Likewise, I don't think the point that many other lottery winners have taken part in similar photo opportunities is at all relevant, because that's self-evident and, more to the point, none of them *had* to do it. And of course many don't, and as I said in the post I wouldn't do it either, which was my essential point.

As for attacking other lottery winners for doing the same thing as the Weirs, again that's not really relevant, because the vast majority aren't putting themselves in the public eye in the context of high-profile poltics. This is a politics blog and if the Weirs had merely done the champagne and photos bit then disappeared then they'd never have been mentioned on here.

Which leads on to your point about attacking the Weirs because they gave money to the SNP. Er, yes, that was the whole point of mentioning them in the post!! It's no great secret on my part as you seem to be trying to portray it.

As for the other parties, yes indeed that's also a tad self-evident by now, but one of the problems I have with supporters of independence is that the same things they criticise in the context of Westminster seems to be perfectly acceptable in the context of the SNP and the independence movement more generally.

As indeed your response to my post would seem to demonstrate.

Iain McDonald said...


we will obviously have to agree to disagree. I don't have any problem with your political point of view, or criticism of SNP, or criticism of the Weirs entering the political arena. That's politics.

Your criticism of the Weirs however didn't relate to politics, even if politics was clearly your purpose. You attacked them personally for having the luck to win the lottery, and doing what many winners do which is celebrate publicly. You implied they didnt care about the "impoverished" BECAUSE they celebrated their incredible luck, even though they are well known to have helped friends family and complete strangers with their winnings.

And to be clear, I certainly don't speak for the SNP, I'm not a member of any party, and I have voted for Labour in every general election since my first in 1992. I've never seen anyone personally attack lottery winners as "flaunting" their win before, it seems incredibly petty regardless which party they happen to support. If others have done it then they are equally petty.

Stuart Winton said...

Iain, you're slightly misrepresenting what I said. I didn't say the Weirs didn't care about the poor, I merely claimed (to paraphrase) that celebrating their good fortune in this way is insensitive given the circumstances of so many others. You seem to think I'm the only one who thinks that, but I'm quite certain that's not the case. And helping out a few friends and a small number of strangers doesn't redeem them in that regard.

And I didn't "attack them personally for having the luck to win the lottery". The link was to Yes Scotland and the fact that they bankrolled that, and also the hypocrisy of Yes Scotland and the SNP with regard to a more unequal society. You can hardly celebrate winning £161 million on the lottery - which of course comes out of the pockets of some of the poorest in society - and then complain about increasing inequality in society without attracting adverse comment.

Longshanker said...


I like the meaner attack style demonstrated here.

Whatever you hope to do with Planet Politics I hope it's more like this post.

I like the edge of impatience with the faux Caledonian hoi oligoi who regularly infect the indy debate like an embarrassing rash that won't go away.

On the Weirs, I thought you might have mentioned the attempted donation limitation from donors outside of Scotland.

It's almost as disngenuous as the justification for the 16/17 year old vote francshise. Especially when you've got a raw million quid in the bank.

Keep up the good work. I look forward to whatever it is you have in mind.

Especially if it's more like this.


Stuart Winton said...

Thanks, Longshanker. Indeed what I had in mind is a bit 'edgier' and more personal - and in fact the two aren't unrelated - than what I've been blogging about hitherto.

Which seems like a good idea some of the time, while at others I suspect it might send me to an early grave!

So I keep swaying between that and shutting up shop altogether.

But carrying on in the current vein isn't really an option after four years of more or less rising AND sinking without trace!!

Bill said...
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Bill said...

It is their money, Stuart. They have every right to do with it exactly what they wish.

As you well know I am no supporter of the SNP (heaven forfend!), but I absolutely refuse to get on my high-horse, as you do, to criticise them. If they wish to spray champagne around (waste of good champagne, but passing on..) or give some of it to causes they support (such as the SNP) or other people they consider deserving of support (the person who needed an artificial limb), then good luck to them.

Personally I wish them a long and happy life with their good fortune. That is really all I wish to say on the matter.

Stuart Winton said...

And of course you never get on your 'high horse' either Bill!

And indeed I think you're ignoring my point a bit. As I said if they'd chosen to do things privately then they'd never have been mentioned on a political blog like this, but they chose to donate to the SNP/Yes Scotland etc, and appear at the launch shindig, so it's not just a question of choosing what they spend their money on in private.

Anyway, getting away from the personal point, the wider political issue is surely the hypocrisy of those like Alex Salmond and the SNP who moralise about widening inequality yet think that a couple winning £161 million on the lottery is "fantastic for Scotland". Fantastic for the Weirs of course, and indeed for anyone winning a signficant sum in a similar manner, but I can't really see how this good fortune permeates into the wider Scottish nation, except to the extent that a small number of people benefit more than the average, taking into account those whose wealth is diminished slightly to buy the lottery tickets funding the winnings.

I think that's the utilitarian argument - the greatest hapiness of the greatest number - so perhaps Nicola Sturgeon should take note!