Friday, 22 June 2018

Beware Shops Selling Swedes

It’s easy to mock those Scottish nationalists who spend their time looking around supermarkets for Scottish produce labelled as coming from Britain. There are other Scottish nationalists who want various vegetables to be called by their Scottish rather than by their English name. I imagine some want to go round Tesco and have everything labelled in triplicate and translated into both Scots and Gaelic. Quite what would happen when the cost of all this translating was passed onto Scottish consumers is not mentioned, but perhaps English consumers could be forced to pay for the translations on the grounds that they had oppressed Scots and the various languages we tend not to speak that much unless we are particularly desperate to show that we are not English.


 Taigeis, sneap is buntàta or Haggis neeps and tatties

It is of course incorrect to describe Scottish products as coming from England, Wales or Northern Ireland. No doubt mistakes are sometimes made. A carrot grown in England does not have a kilt round it and so might just be mistaken for a carrot grown in Scotland. There is not a red hand telling me that this potato is from Northern Ireland and so it might get mixed up with a Welsh potato which likewise is unable to breathe fire like a dragon.

Some products though are associated with certain places, but I find it hard to imagine that people from Melton Mowbray spend their time going round supermarkets hunting for mislabelled pork pies. They certainly wouldn’t object to the pork pies being described as British, for the simple reason that they are of course British.

Scottish nationalists do not like the truth that we voted to remain a part of the UK in 2014, but we did. The UK is a unitary sovereign nation state with powers devolved to some places but not others. But these powers are delegated and could be withdrawn. It would not require a referendum in Scotland or anywhere else to do this. That is merely a political convention. It would require an Act of Parliament and a majority of MPs. Scotland’s position in the UK is therefore not analogous to Luxembourg’s position in the EU. To suppose that Scotland is not a part of the UK as some Scottish nationalists do is to oddly suppose that we are already independent. But this is to fail to recognise that the words “country” and “nation” that are correctly used to describe Scotland can be used in different senses. They can be used to describe independent sovereign nation states. This is the typical usage. But they can also be used to describe places like Scotland. You cannot conflate these meanings and use them to deduce that Scotland is or ought to be an independent nation state, any more than you can deduce that Fife ought to have a king, the “Black Country” ought to have a seat at the United Nations and that you ought to be able to sail all the way round the Black Isle.

The national flag of the UK is the Union Flag and the adjective that is most typically used to describe people and things from the UK is “British”. So while it is incorrect to describe Malt whisky from Scotland as Welsh or to put a Northern Irish flag on the box, it is perfectly correct to describe it as British and to use a Union Flag.     

There is however a deliberate SNP tactic to change the reality that Scotland is part of the UK by pretending that we are not. It is for this reason that the pettiness over food labelling is both silly and slightly sinister.

There are two sorts of Scottish nationalists, the patient and the impatient. We all recognise the impatient. They want independence now. They want to repeat the independence referendum even when polls suggest they would lose. They reason that they were way behind the last time, but caught up and might have won. Maybe next time they could win by a neck. Maybe they could. I lack a crystal ball and politics is even more difficult to predict than it was a few years ago. But I like the Pro UK argument even better now than I did in 2014.

Impatience is rarely a good strategy. I worry far more about the patient Scottish nationalists. In the great scheme of things these people reason that it doesn’t much matter whether Scotland achieves independence soon. They are right of course. If an independence supporter is concerned only about himself, then he will worry that he won’t get to see the Promised Land. But an unselfish nationalist will not worry about what happens to him, but rather what happens to Scotland. Unselfish strategies tend to involve better planning than selfish ones. They also have more chance of success.

The impatient nationalist might lose a second independence referendum and set back the cause of independence for decades, perhaps forever. The SNP gradualist sees this and focusses instead on making little steps towards the eventual goal.

What are these little steps? First set up a Scottish Executive. Thanks Labour. Thanks Lib Dems. Next become the biggest party in that Parliament and immediately rename yourself the Scottish Government. Next centralise everything in Scotland so that it is under the control of that Government. Next take control of education in Scotland so that everything is taught in such a way that it helps the cause of Scottish independence and hinders the cause of the UK remaining intact. Next do everything you can to emphasise the distinction between Scotland and the other parts of the UK and do nothing to emphasise that we are all actually part of a single unitary and united nation state. Gaelic road signs are one more step along the road to the Promised Land. Removing Union Flags and the words United Kingdom and British from food stuffs in Tesco may seem petty and trivial, but it chips away at the idea that Scotland shares something with our fellow British citizens.

Each of these little steps may seem unimportant, but taken together the SNP hopes that in time children will grow up in Scotland with no sense of having a shared identity with people in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. When that happens then independence happens as a matter of course.

Most countries that become independent don’t worry at all about what currency they will use or whether they will be financially better off after independence or worse off. They choose independence because of their identity and frequently their language.  No-one in Latvia or Ukraine worried about giving up the Rouble. They simply don’t care about the details.

The Pro UK task is therefore first to take back control of the Scottish Parliament from those who wish to break up the UK. Secondly we must with the help of the UK Government emphasise all that we share with our fellow British citizens. Then we must point out all the things that are truly great about British history, about life in the UK today and how we have a wonderful future to look forward to. Over time we too must make gradual steps to enhancing our shared identity.

In the end the argument is not about currency. Nor is it about what might or might not happen to the Scottish economy if we ever became independent. We are allowed to point out the disadvantages, but they were not decisive for other independence movements in the past and they ultimately will not prove decisive here. We are a family in the UK and over the centuries we have intermingled. It is perfectly reasonable that we have a shared identity and live in a single nation state. Scottish nationalism wants to destroy what we share and create a single Scottish identity that rejects our fellow citizens in England Wales and Northern Ireland. We must be wary of the impatient nationalists, but by far the greater threat comes from the patient ones.  We too must be patient and fight for the long term.  Only in this way can we defeat Scottish nationalism forever.


16 comments:

  1. In respect of the above disquisitons, I can offer a small measure of comfort. This will be qualified, however, by a quantum of caution.

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  2. Excellent piece. You should send this to the Government i.e. the UK cabinet and to unionist politicians everywhere.

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  3. The unionist politicians give the impression of not having a clue or a care in the world about cultural, social or symbolic issues.

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  4. The Melton Mowbray Pork Pie Association, having secured Protected Geographical Indication status for their succulent product, are now no longer subject to the fears that inspired and drove their long campaign.

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    1. The same obtains for the Cornish Pasty Makers' Association

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    2. I can set Effie's mind at rest: reprographics professionals assure me that, far from adding to costs, bi- and multi-lingual labelling makes no difference to packaging costs.

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    3. Moreover, a relative who understands these things tells me that distinctive geographical origin strengthens the identity of a brand. Consequently, it will enhance the marketability of a product.

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  5. Scottish Labour and Unionists telling folk not to be proud of British Identity, to celebrate it, or to be "BritNats" is a MASSIVE problem.

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  6. There are occasions when people undertake a venture that, while would not ever attempt such oneself, compels one to a express a certain respect for their determination.

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  7. I used to be a keen Philatelist a few years ago, rummaging around stamp emporiums I never once came across a Scottish stamp as rare as a 'penny black'only ones with a King or Queens on it!!!

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    1. Thank you for that aperçu.

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    2. The qualities of many comestibles and potables are proclaimed by their geographical origins. We only have to think of Welsh lamb, the roast beef of old England, or Scotch whisky ( the latter transcribed into more alphabets than I can count.

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    3. By the way, I should not want it thought that I would recommend translating the names of products in every instance. I am as fond as anybody of a dra of Glayva, and would not object to a label's also bearing the correct Gaelic spelling of 'Glé Mhaith'. However, even the most devoted afficionados of the juice of the barley might bemused by the literal English rendering of 'very good'.

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  8. I would, however, be very concerned at anybody's attempting to promote foodstuffs commercially under the label of 'British'. This is for historical reasons that cannot be alleviated easily or soon.

    The the word 'British', in connection with comestibles of any kind, smacks of boiled cabbage and of tinted paint-stripper in wine bottles. It conjures up the colour grey, the pale greyish paper of ration books and the grey of cold meat on a cold plate in the cold light of a Sunday afternoon. My parents would shudder at the expression 'British Restaurant' (as howling an oxymoron as 'Brexit plan' or 'Lord Archer'). While English wine has now, after being so rudely interrupted, begun to regain its rightful place in the glasses of discerning drinkers, that which is styled 'British wine' evokes horror and derision. The same is so a fortiori of ' British sherry'. A fortissimo therefore I could not conscientiously advise anybody to invest their hard-earned in 'British whisky'.

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  9. It follows from my remarks above that I would never recommend translating 'vodka' as 'little water', or 'terracotta' as 'baked earth'.

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    1. A Welsh friend asks me to add that bakeries in his country leave 'bara brith' untranslater, since 'speckled bread' would be too offputting.

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