Sunday 26 October 2014

Nationalism has turned Scotland into a place of whisperers.

All through the referendum campaign I’ve been working on other writings. However interesting the machinations of Scottish politics may be, it is after all necessary to think of other things. I sometimes write about philosophy/theology and Russian literature, I sometimes write a little fiction. It’s for this reason that I haven’t been able to write a blog for the past few weeks. We all need a bit of a break sometimes.

There’s been a lot of curiosity about me, some from friendly sources, some from less friendly sources. There will be the chance soon to find out some back story. Fiction is fiction, but it’s all grounded in experience. No-one makes anything up ex nihilo. So a little patience, nationalist friends, and you can dig around some more. One way to tell a story is to reverse everything and imagine what it would have been like from the opposite perspective. It’s quite an interesting experiment. Try to see things from the other person’s point of view. You often find out something interesting. Anyway, when my book is ready, I shall announce it here and those who want to read further may do so.

I know that it disappoints my nationalist friends that they have been unable to find me in the telephone directory. No doubt you intended to offer congratulations. It’s almost universally assumed that I write under a pseudonym. But this is not true. I was born with this name and still use it in everyday life. My father’s surname was Deans and my mother loved Walter Scott. They named me Effie because she was beautiful and flawed. We are all flawed. 

I also acquired a long Russian surname from my husband. I was married in the Soviet Union, and for the first few years I lived in a city where foreigners were not supposed to live. For complex reasons, that it is unnecessary to go into, we were given exceptional permission, but I could not obviously advertise myself as a foreigner. My Soviet passport had a Russian first name and patronymic that would not immediately tell people that I was from somewhere else. If you introduce yourself as Effie with a patronymic formed from a name like Alan it’s pretty obvious you’re not from Gorky. I used this name professionally in Russia and I do here. But friends and my husband have always called me Effie Deans. That’s also what’s still on my British passport. It’s one heck of a lot easier anyway to use that name here when phoning up for a hairdresser’s appointment.

I’m terribly disappointed to tell you, my dear nationalist friends. But no I’m not going to tell you my long Russian name. You may hunt if you please. But the creepiness of your hunting is a good enough reason for my coyness, don’t you think? Besides, I attended something as close as I ever thought possible to a Komsomol meeting in Aberdeen a couple of weeks before the referendum.

The Komsomol was the Soviet Youth organisation. As well as the Marxism-Leninism lectures, you had to attend meetings. I learned to keep silent and be very coy and shy while living in a land where you had to be careful what you said. People have the wrong idea of the Soviet Union. In some respects it was far better than Russia today. Most people were much better off then than now. There was much less crime and there were better opportunities for achieving success through study. But you had to tow the party line and I had to remain silent. As Wittgenstein put it “Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.” Until my Russian was good enough, so that no-one could guess where I was from, I spoke as little as possible. I had a persona that was very, very shy, that hid in the corner at parties. Later people believed I was from one of the Baltic states and was speaking Russian as a second language. But still I remained silent about what I could not speak about. Everyone did. We whispered when we were very sure of who we were talking to. Even then we were careful.

Well, my Komsomol meeting in Aberdeen involved a planted question from someone who I strongly suspect is a nationalist, and a thinly veiled lecture on the merits of independence from someone very senior. This person had not been in Scotland very long and I doubt very much knew any of the arguments for independence a year or two earlier. But suddenly I was listening to an independence convert. Everyone in the room kept silent. No-one including me put forward a counter argument. We, too, knew when it was necessary to speak and when it was necessary to keep silent.

When meeting colleagues in the days before and the days after the referendum, we were careful to check that everyone was a known No voter. Then we supported each other. We had a celebration lunch on the day we found out that the UK was safe. But we were quiet about it. We hid our support for No. So did most of Scotland. When I stood at the bus stop with people who I didn’t know, no-one mentioned the most important event of Scottish history in 300 years. We all kept silent. We still keep silent. Don’t mention the referendum.

I heard a rather sad story recently of two friends who chose not to remain silent. They were both No voters, but one of them was convinced by the SNP lies about the NHS. She was scared because she wasn’t very healthy and would need treatment. She was so scared, she didn’t believe any arguments about how the NHS was in no way under threat and how it was devolved. SNP lies destroyed this friendship, and the two no longer speak to each other and look the other way when they pass in the street. Better by far to stay silent.

Now a few weeks later, it all still feels very Soviet. My husband’s relatives were harmed approximately equally by people on the far left and people on the far right. We find the far left no less offensive than the far right. It should be as socially unacceptable to say you are a communist as a fascist. If you consider yourself a Marxist/Leninist/Trotskyite, I think, you are a supporter of a political ideology that killed massively more people than Hitler. I think it shameful. It’s shameful because it is the root of what makes us have to keep silent.

There is something happening in Scotland that is fundamentally anti-democratic. People who intend to use illegal means to overthrow unwelcome democratic decisions are revolutionaries not democrats. Again this must be shamed and shunned. Using democracy to achieve undemocratic goals or to achieve revolution likewise is the tactic of the totalitarian.  What started out as a necessary grieving process, which we were all willing to indulge, has morphed into an attack on Scottish democracy.

Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon agreed that the referendum would “deliver a fair test and a decisive expression of the views of people in Scotland and a result that everyone will respect.” Neither have respected the result. Instead they have talked in sometimes veiled words of revolution. Words like “decisive” and “respect” have clear meanings. You simply cannot try to overturn a decisive referendum in the space of a year or two and also respect the result. To try to do so is fundamentally undemocratic. It is absolutely shocking to me that with one or two exceptions there is hardly a Yes voter in Scotland who gets this.  

Scotland will never become independent. If we were destined to become independent, we would have done so a month ago. The UK has changed with the result. The British government consensus that Scotland had the right to secede no longer holds. This is not advertised very strongly so as not to inflame the situation, but it is most certainly the case. No UK government will ever grant a second referendum, and because constitutional matters are reserved, Scotland has no legal route to independence. If the SNP could persuade less than 45% to vote for negotiated independence, does anyone seriously think they can persuade more than 50% to vote for unnegotiated illegal independence? Sorry, friends, that way lies chaos, sanctions, closed borders, poverty madness and totalitarianism.

I would go back to Russia before enduring such nationalist nonsense. I have relatives in Russia and so follow closely what’s going on. For all Putin’s faults, and they are worse than most people here realise, Russia feels a rather freer society than Scotland does at present. They may have rigged elections, but at least I no longer have to remain silent. I can talk about anything I please in cafes and on the streets. 

If you like my writing, please follow the link to my book Scarlet on the Horizon. The first five chapters can be read as a preview.