Friday 28 February 2020

The English Appreciation Society of Scotland

There is a view I like on the west coast of Scotland which takes in the islands of Raasay and Rona, behind them Skye with its Cuillins and in the far distance the Outer Hebrides.  It is perhaps the best view in Europe if you can find an evening in June with the sun about to set and fine weather.

Scotland is the prettiest place in Europe, but our beauty is flawed. It is flawed by weather, but with patience you will find sunshine, moderate warmth and calm winds. But our beauty is flawed in a more fundamental way by three things that are interrelated. There are three hatreds in Scotland like Macbeth's three witches. 

The worst hatred is sectarian.

The second worst is hatred of England.

The third worst is the most recent. It is hatred of Britain.

We are fortunate at least that sectarianism is geographically limited in Scotland. We must be grateful that it rarely amounts to more than the singing of unpleasant songs, insults and some relatively small-scale violence. But it is deeply shameful that large numbers of Scots hate each other because of religion and ancestry. It is awful that they judge each other based on their names and the schools they went to. It is vile that they blame each other for what happened in another country at another time and that the bitterness of these past conflicts is kept guarded, protected and preserved as if it were something holy.

The history of Great Britain involves a great deal of conflict between Scotland and England. But it was all a very long time ago. If memory serves, the last conflict ended in 1551. The Jacobite Rebellion of course was not a conflict between England and Scotland, it was a conflict about who would rule Great Britain. There were Scottish and English Jacobites, just as there were Scottish and English Hanoverians. Scottish Red Coats fought everywhere including at Culloden.

These same Scottish regiments have achieved greatness with their English comrades. Instead of fighting each other, together we have helped save Europe from being dominated by Napoleon, the Kaiser, Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. It is a far better record than the one we had when our island was divided and ruled by absolute monarchs.

The most perverse thing is that some people in Scotland still refer to our neighbours and friends as “The Auld Enemy”. Germans have a better relationship with Poles than far too many Scots have with English people. Most Europeans have moved on and forgotten the battles that were fought in the past century at places like Tannenberg and Lemberg that cannot today even be found on maps.  But we still remember 1314 like Serbs obsessing over the Field of Blackbirds (1389) forever demanding to refight it so they can get back Kosovo. How do you say  "O'er land that is lost now" in Serbian.  Where else in Europe is there an anthem based on events in the Middle Ages?

We ignore centuries of peace and cooperation in order to resent something that happened when there were lords and serfs and feudalism and no freedom whatsoever.

Without sectarianism and without hostility to England there would be no Scottish nationalism. It is something that we learn from the cradle, from our friends and from the sports that we watch. "Everyone hates the English Rugby team". It’s in our jokes and our assumptions. I remember a little English boy when we were both about five. We all made it absolutely clear that there was one preeminent characteristic in the world “being Scottish” and he didn’t have it. We make it so that our nearest neighbour didn’t ever quite feel at home here. We left him isolated and alone. Forgive us Father for we knew not what we did. 

Those sectarians who think the problems of Ireland can be solved by unification and that the key task for anyone descended from Irish people is to take revenge on the Brits for any and all past wrongs, delight in the chance that Scottish independence would give them to stick it to the Brits in two ways. It would both break up Britain and make it more likely that what was left couldn’t hold on to Northern Ireland. Scottish independence might succeed where bombing failed. No wonder the Dáil Éireann cheered on Nicola Sturgeon like Palestinians cheering on 9/11.

This modern hatred of Britain is almost completely new in Scotland. It didn’t exist from 1745 to 1945. As I a child I never once came across a Scot who was hostile to Britain as opposed to England. I never met anyone who went on about the British Empire or called our flag a “Butcher’s Apron”. I never met anyone who thought that Scotland was a colony or that we were in some way occupied. We learned these things from o’er the water and from a land that was full of Troubles. Some of us would like to import them. 

Modern Scottish nationalism was able for the first time to combine sectarian hatred of the Brits with Scottish hatred of the English. Two ancient grievances and the recruitment of the green half of Glasgow gave rocket fuel to the independence movement.   It could take revenge for past wrongs both here and in Ireland. It could unite Ireland by partitioning Britain.

Scottish nationalism is founded on a grievance. There was some ancient wrong done to us when we ceased fighting with the English and united with them instead. All would have been well if only we had just kept on refighting Bannockburn, Flodden and Pinkie Cleuch. 

We blame “Westminster” for everything and never take responsibility for the fact that the SNP controls nearly all the areas that affect our daily lives like, health and education. They are never blamed because that would mean blaming ourselves. But Westminster is just a group of MPs that we also vote for. So, unless we are blaming our own Scottish MPs, we must be blaming English, Welsh and Northern Irish ones. We must be blaming the Brits, the greatest number of whom are English. 

This won’t do. It is time for those Scots who love Britain to sharply distinguish ourselves from those who don’t. We must recognise that the foundation of Scottish nationalism is hatred of the English. We must do the opposite.

My friend Tom Gallagher had an idea. I think it’s a great idea. I hope you agree. There should be an “English Appreciation Society of Scotland”. Our members would be saying to the four hundred thousand English people living in Scotland that we are glad that you are here. We would be saying to our fellow countrymen in England that we not only want you to visit us as often as possible, but we would be delighted if you chose to live here. We would hold the opposite view to the “Anyone but England” crowd, because we would recognise that this is hurtful, not funny, and helps the SNP. We would recognise that the 800,000 Scots living in England get next to no abuse from their neighbours and that it shames Scotland that we don’t always treat English people in the same friendly way. We would aim to get every Pro UK Scot to express his or her appreciation for England, because we desperately need English support to defeat Scottish nationalism. We cannot fight alone. We need you, just as we needed you at Alma, Amiens and Alamein. 

We need to do two things to make Scotland not only the most beautiful place in Europe but also the most pleasant place to live. We need to dig out the roots of sectarianism and hostility to England and sow the soil with salt so that these weeds can never grow back. 

We need to make it absolutely clear that both these ancient hatreds have no place in Scotland. If we could only get rid of hatred of the English, we would automatically get rid of hatred of the Brits, because they are one and the same hatred.

An English Appreciation Society led by a famous non-political figure would revitalise Scotland and allow us to move on from the hatreds of the past and perhaps heal the divisions of the present. These wounds from the Middle Ages have been left to fester for far too long. 

With friendship and appreciation of our nearest neighbour we would also move on from any desire for separation. After all divorce is founded on dislike and hatred rather than friendship and love.

Tuesday 25 February 2020

The SNP must stay out of schools

Parents in Scotland may differ with regard to politics, but they almost always share a desire that their children grow up healthy, do well in school get married and have children of their own.

I wonder how many Scottish parents of a five-year-old boy want him to return from school one day only to tell them that from now on he wants to be a little girl. How would you react if this happened?

The first thing I would do is tell my little boy not to be so silly. He could of course wear dresses if he liked. He could play with whatever dolls he wanted. But I would desperately try to get him to snap out of it quickly, because I would know what would follow quickly if I he didn’t.

 If he insisted that he really was a little girl and that he wanted to be called she or some other pronoun, if he wanted to change his name from John to Jane, I would know that the game was up. If I persisted in saying that he was a boy, if I called him John and refused to use the word “she”, he would most likely tell his school, or his named person or someone else and I would rapidly face the prospect of having to go along with his sex change or losing him entirely.

At this point the medical authorities would get involved. John would be encouraged at every point to believe that he really could become Jane. I might continue to believe that it is simply impossible to change sex, but I wouldn’t be allowed to tell him this. At some point he would be asked if he wanted to go on medication that would delay puberty. If he continued down this path, he would eventually be offered surgery and medical science would do its very best to turn my boy into a girl.

This girl of course would never be able to have children. She would probably never marry and the surgery she underwent might anyway not solve the problem. Whatever had caused the desire to change sex, whatever unhappiness that was there in my five-year-old, might still be there all those years later. She might indeed as an adult realise that it was all a grotesque mistake. But there would be no going back. Not really.

Even if my boy changed his mind after taking the puberty blockers for a few years, even if he decided that he really was a boy aged fifteen and prior to any surgery, it might still be too late for him to have children. The puberty blockers might have stopped that chance forever.

It is for this reason that I really don’t want drag queens coming into primary school. I don’t want little children to be told that there are one hundred genders and that they can pick any one of them. I don’t want school kids to be told that gender is fluid and a choice and how anyone at any time can change from being a boy to a girl and vice versa just by saying it. I have heard stories of whole classes deciding to change sex. I have heard that the number of children deciding they are not really boys or really girls has grown exponentially in the last few years. I don’t want children to hear any of this, because I think it is an hysterical delusion, but worse than that when a small child learns his teacher’s lesson, follows the crowd,  or thinks wouldn’t it great to be a drag queen he sets himself on a path which may well lead to legalised genital mutilation, sterility and most likely unhappiness.

It’s not a game. Mhairi Black may think she is being very woke taking a drag queen called Flowjob into school. The SNP may think it shows their liberalism that they encourage small children to switch gender. But I wonder is this really what independence supporters want for their children?

Most Scottish parents are willing to be tolerant of other people. We don’t want to be nasty about transsexuals, homosexuals or people who have different beliefs and are from different places. But we want our children to grow up to be like us. We don’t on the whole want John to change into Jane and nor do we want him to make his living giving flowjobs.

There are some people who love to be woke. But they are the minority. The rest of us have to make it absolutely clear that we remain tolerant, but we want no part of drag queens coming into schools and we are sick of SNP indoctrination masquerading as education. School should neither be about political correctness nor indeed about politics. It should be about learning to grow up to be decent citizens like your parents. Scotland will have no future at all if our little kids don’t grow up to be husbands and wives. It would be best therefore if the SNP stayed out of schools entirely. No politicians ever visited my school.

Waiting for the drop

Yesterday I was informed that in 2013 I physically assaulted two people at my work. When I asked what I was supposed to have done and to whom, I was told that this was confidential. When I asked whether there was any physical evidence that I had assaulted these people, I was told that there was none. There were no photographs. Neither of the complainants had gone to a doctor. In fact, there was no evidence at all that I had done anything wrong apart from their witness statements. When I asked whether there was more than one witness to each of the supposed assaults, I was told that there was only one. In each case someone has accused me of physically assaulting them at some point in 2013, but the
re was no more evidence than that. How am I to defend myself?

The problem is that I can only very generally remember 2013. I couldn’t tell you for certain what I was doing on any day in that year. I simply don’t remember. I might be able to look up diaries or check other sources of information, but otherwise if you asked me what I was doing on November 15th, 2013 I wouldn’t have a clue. I couldn’t even tell you with certainty that I was in the UK. I might have been on holiday.

So if I don’t know who has accused me and I don’t know what it is I am supposed to have done or when, I have no way of saying I didn’t do that, because I don’t even know what that refers to. I might remember generally that I have never physically assaulting anyone, but I can’t specifically defend myself against an accusation unless I know what it is.

My guess is that if someone accused me of physically assaulting them five years ago, but with no more evidence than their witness statement, no-one would even bother to investigate. Likewise, if I said that my house was broken into five years ago, but I have no evidence for this apart from my witness statement, the police are not going to waste any time trying to discover the supposed criminals. If I say that I witnessed a murder, but there is no evidence even that the supposed victim is dead let alone that I saw it, my witness statement will not be taken seriously. I will likely be accused of wasting police time.

I disagree with Harvey Weinstein’s lifestyle and morality, but justice ought to transcend differences of opinion. We have rules about evidence for burglary, for murder, for physical assault and for fraud etc. that depend on objectively verifiable facts. Everyone is innocent until proven guilty and in order to be proven guilty there has to be evidence that proves that guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. I am in no danger of going to jail for burglary unless witnesses can establish that I broke into the house, my fingerprints were found at the scene of the crime, the stolen goods were found in my house or unless I make a confession. No judge is going to send me to prison because of a single witness statement about a burglary that happened five years ago for which there is no other evidence.

But somehow, we have established a class of crimes, which must be investigated even if there is only a single witness who states something happened years ago and there is no other evidence at all. This single witness statement which would not be enough to convict someone of burglary, murder, physical assault or fraud, is taken seriously in only one type of case. These cases always involve sex.

Why should there be a special class of crime for which the normal rules of evidence are suspended? Would you feel safe if a single witness could convict you of burglary, murder, physical assault or fraud, even if there was no other evidence? I wouldn’t. So why should that single witness be enough to convict someone in a case involving sex?

There is something deeply unjust going on in the world at the moment. People’s reputations are ruined because someone makes a claim, which may or may not be true, but for which there cannot possibly be any other evidence.

Imagine there was a ceilidh in Aberdeen in 2013 and I went to it. Imagine if now in 2020 a man complains that I put my hand up his kilt and sexually assaulted him. How am I supposed to prove whether I did, or I didn’t? The only witnesses are me and the man. Who are you supposed to believe? There may be all sorts of reasons why this man wants to ruin my reputation. On the other hand, I may have assaulted him. But it is simply impossible for us to find out now.  He should have complained there and then during the ceilidh in 2013. Perhaps then it might have been possible to determine what happened. But there is no point whatsoever waiting five years and then making claims that cannot be verified either way.

I have no idea what Harvey Weinstein did or didn’t do. But I dislike intensely how people’s reputations are being ruined because of accusations that cannot justly be proved one way or the other. We have already seen how Cliff Richard’s life was shattered by accusations that turned out to be false. Leon Britton died while being accused of abusing children based on evidence that later turned out to be discredited. Other people’s lives have likewise been ruined because of accusations about things that supposedly happened decades ago.

Sexual crimes are as serious as any other crime and people who commit them deserve to be punished severely, but the evidence that convicts must be just as strong as in the case of burglary, murder, physical assault and fraud. This is not least because sexual crimes are so serious, are rightly severely punished and have a more damaging effect on someone’s reputation than most other crimes.

I think Metoo has become a very dangerous witch-hunt, which is leading to great injustice. For this reason, it is deeply immoral. The only way to stop it is this. People who make claims of any form of sexual assault must be told that they have to make the claim immediately and provide evidence which corroborates their claim to having been assaulted. Making a statement that you were sexually assaulted five years ago without any other evidence should have no more likelihood of conviction than making such a claim about a physical assault or a burglary.

There is not a special class of witness whose evidence ought automatically to be believed. We do not in Britain think that the witness statement of one man is worth that of two women. It would be equally contrary to justice to suppose that when a woman accuses a man of sexual assault that she ought automatically to be believed.

Women’s lives are being ruined by sexual assault and to make it easier for them to convict those they accuse they are routinely given anonymity. But the lives and reputations of those who are accused are often ruined too. Cliff Richard, I suspect, is at least as damaged because of the false accusations made against him as many victims of sexual assault. For this reason, only those actually convicted of sexual assault should have their names revealed in the papers.

Harvey Weinstein has been convicted, but none of really know what happened in the rooms where the crimes occurred. None of us know beyond a reasonable doubt, because all we have is conflicting testimony. We would all be justly terrified if we could be convicted of murder, theft or physical assault by a single witness who asserted with no more evidence than the mere testimony that we committed a crime.

Imagine if murderers could be sent to the gallows merely because one witness said they killed. Imagine if there wasn’t even a body, a weapon, or a fingerprint, but a single statement that had to be believed put your head in the noose. Imagine what you would feel like standing there waiting for the drop.

Sunday 23 February 2020

The demographics of Scottish independence

The population of Britain before the war was around forty-five million. It is has grown by about twenty million. The population of Scotland on the other hand was around five million and it has grown by only a few hundred thousand.  The British population as a whole has grown largely because of immigration from Europe and elsewhere, but this growth is concentrated in England and especially in London. Scotland by comparison remains mostly empty and mostly as it always was. In the big Scottish cities, especially Glasgow, other languages can be heard, but the vast majority of Scottish residents were either born in Scotland or in other parts of Britain. Our largest “minority” by far (over 400,000) are from England.

Why should Scotland have such a different post war demographic to England? English cities are multicultural and multiracial in a way that Scottish cities and especially the Scottish countryside are not. Yet everyone who has moved to Britain since the war could have chosen to live in Scotland. Why didn’t they?

 Every single person in my rural Aberdeenshire school was white. Even in Aberdeen in those days it was rare to see someone who looked as if they were from elsewhere. With the beginning of the oil industry I met people from other parts of Britain, but I hardly met someone from outside Europe until I studied in England.

Our ignorance of multicultural life meant that we had a shocking set of prejudices. Dubious jokes were told. Shameful words were used, because we knew no better and hadn’t mixed with people who might be offended by these words. England taught me about race and tolerance. It was in England for the first time that I met people who didn’t care at all about race or where someone was born or where their parents came from. In my youth it was Scotland that was racist not England. Perhaps this is why people from other races did not move here.

Scotland like everywhere else in the Western world has a problem with demographics. We have given birth to too few babies for decades and our population is aging. In the long run the best way to solve this problem is to make it easier for women have lots of children. If you want more taxpayers twenty years from now, then pay women to have children. Free childcare would benefit the country far more than free university places. But in the short run Scotland needs to attract people to live here from elsewhere.

Nicola Sturgeon would apparently like Scotland to have a more open immigration policy than Britain as a whole. But if Scotland could issue its own visas right now, what would stop those people getting on a train to move to London? If an independent Scotland were to rejoin the EU, why would we be more successful then at attracting EU residents than we have been up to now? Few EU citizens chose to live in Scotland, because they had better opportunities in other parts of Britain. Unless these opportunities improved, they would not be attracted to Scotland anymore than they are now.

The demographics of the EU are no better than in Scotland. Everywhere has a shortage of babies, an aging population and too few taxpayers. There is therefore an inherent limit to the number of workers who can come from the EU. If you can pay them a lot more than they can earn at home they will come, but this is harder as Eastern Europe is much more prosperous than it was twenty years ago.

If you really want to attract workers, you must look outside the EU to those places where women have lots of babies. Not merely will you get as many workers as you please, these women will tend to give birth to more babies when they get here. But they will still want to live in England, so you will have to do something to stop them moving there. This something was tried in Berlin.

The biggest demographic problem that an independent Scotland would face however would be an exodus of our present population. Every Pro UK person I know has an escape plan. There are nearly half a million Scottish residents who were born in other parts of Britain. What proportion of those would leave?

Many would leave because they would not want to be turned into foreigners in what had previously been their own land. Others would leave because Scottish independence would damage their job prospects, their savings or their house price. How many Scots would immediately move their money over the border? I would expect capital controls as soon Scotland became independent because the prospect of devaluation would lead to capital flight. This is just about the quickest way possible to wreck an economy.

Scottish independence would therefore at least initially make the demographic problem worse. It is quite clear that it would lead to higher taxation and cuts in public spending, not least because the money Scotland receives now from the British Government would have to be made up somehow. But high taxation and public spending cuts would hardly make Scotland more prosperous. So once more there would be a temptation for Scots to move to those parts of Britain with better prospects.

The greatest source of immigration into Scotland is from England. But Scottish independence would cause this to significantly lessen. If Nicola Sturgeon were really concerned about increasing Scotland’s population, she would encourage migration from within the UK. She doesn’t of course because these people are unlikely to vote for independence.

There are nearly sixty million Brits who all speak English and can usually understand Scots who can live and work in Scotland immediately without any need for language classes or retraining.  But it is the SNP who discourages these people from moving by continually threatening that they will end up living in a foreign land.

Scottish independence would cut off our supply of Brits, it would cause an exodus from Scotland of people and capital and it would leave us having to fill the population gap not from the EU, but from those countries with growing populations outside the Western world. Scottish independence would indeed change the demographics of Scotland, but not necessarily in the way the very monocultural independence marchers expect.

Saturday 22 February 2020

Club 18-22

I haven’t been back to Cambridge for many years. I doubt now that I ever will. There is a tension there like a runner just before a race. It never quite relaxes. It builds up and builds up until after a few years you let out a gasp and realise you haven’t quite been breathing properly for almost as long as you can remember. But it’s also an ideal. There is a college where you knew everyone. A bar where there was usually intelligent conversation. There are people like you, and you are not alone for perhaps the only time in your life. Afterwards you search for something similar, someone similar and never quite find them. But you daren’t go back again, because each time you did it had changed. You were no longer a part of it. It was a place where someone else studied now.

I remember most the library. You were allowed to bring a pencil. Nothing more. Your books were checked as you left. If you wanted to photocopy something you had to hand the book to someone who did it for you. There was a café if you wanted to socialise and a smoke-filled room without windows if you wanted to smoke. Elsewhere there was silence. There were no laptops.

I still spend quite a lot of time in libraries, but I find myself driven to the margins. You see I read books. I make notes on pieces of paper and I long for silence.

I find that I can read something reasonably easy on the bus even if there is chit chat. If someone is speaking loudly enough into a mobile phone, I might lose my place, but I can usually filter out the noise. I am lucky that few people here talk to strangers. I read all of Walter Scott on the bus. But if I am reading in a foreign language, I require silence and any distraction makes the task impossible. I somehow need to hear the words to keep the sense. Even whispers make me lose my place. The tapping of a keyboard is like the ticking of a clock in the middle of the night when you can’t sleep.

The library where I study is noisy. It’s very noisy. There is a café on the ground floor and the noise travels upwards because someone thought it would be a good idea to make everything open plan. There are as few walls and roofs as possible in a building that is still a building. I long for the ugliness of the library in Cambridge with dirty bricks, small windows, darkness and places where you could hide.

There are still books in my library. There are rows and rows of them. There are more stored away, but I rarely see anyone reading them. Everyone is staring at a screen rather than staring at a page. Frequently one computer isn’t enough. It reminds me of a one-man band when I see someone sitting at a desktop computer with a laptop on their knees plus a tablet and a mobile phone. Such computing power could have cracked the Enigma code in a millisecond except 1940s students could only do so because they read books and wrote on pieces of paper.

The modern method of study is this. First, we sit down with our friends and we open our laptops. We bring up our lecture notes which tell us what we missed and what to read. Everything we have to read is in our own little virtual learning environment. After a minute of this, we check our Facebook page, watch a YouTube video and chat to our friend. We repeat this until we feel we’ve studied enough.

There used to be lots of places in my library where at least in theory I could study in silence. But I studied alone. The rooms designated for silent study without laptops were unused, except by me, and so they were converted into places dedicated to communal learning. But I don’t do communal learning. I read books. I think about them. I write. I do this always on my own. I don’t collaborate. I prefer to leave that to the French.

So, there is now only one tiny little room where I can study without having to listen to the tap tap tap of the laptop. I patrol it and guard it as if it were the Last of the Mohicans. I drive out the laptops and the whisperers and I tell courting couples that there is no petting. Do it everywhere else but not here. Here is the only place left for study.

Since the beginning of writing people have studied like I do and books or something similar to books have been stored in libraries. But in the space of a little over twenty years we have made this method of study obsolete and we have reached the stage where we might as well digitise all the books and gather the physical copies into a heap and burn them. Everything that has ever been written can now be stored on a device that fits into my handbag. But everything important that was ever discovered was discovered by someone reading a physical book and writing on a piece of paper. If we lose that who knows, perhaps we lose everything.

I see no studying when I walk around the library. I see socialising. I see boys and girls trying to pick each other up.  I see no thought. Most of what we study except science and medicine doesn’t matter in itself. What matters is that people learn to think for themselves, to argue coherently and if possible, to develop original ideas. But this requires concentration. It requires hours of silence struggling with a text you barely understand. It requires you to switch off the laptop, switch off the mobile phone and to work hard without distraction.

Every time I see a laptop open, I see a brain cell dying from starvation. Every time I hear a phone beep, I see a thought that might have reached profundity lying drowned face down on the surface. Every time I see group study, I think they would benefit more from a four-year Club 18-22 holiday in Spain. They would have the sex and the beer that they come to university for. It would all be much cheaper for the Government and they would benefit more from the Spanish that they might pick up than the eBooks they pretend to read and the degrees that can be passed without studying.

Wednesday 19 February 2020

Neither European nor a Union

The purpose of history is not to explain the past. It matters little what the Romans did or did not do. The purpose is to explain the present.

The key date in European history is 1870. The key place is Ems. If you understand this you understand everything not so much about then or there, but about here and now.

Modern European history turns on the German question. It explains what is happening in Germany, France and the EU generally and it also explains what just happened in Britain.

Germans have been united and divided for centuries and it has never been quite clear where Germany was. They were united first into the Holy Roman Empire. But this loose collection of places that were neither Holy nor Roman nor an Empire included people who were not Germans and didn’t unify those Germans that it did include. This was our problem.

 Mars-la-Tour, 16 August 1870. Emil Hünten, 1902.
Napoleon humiliated Prussia at Jena–Auerstedt (1806) and Austria at Austerlitz (1805). France with the help of many who were not French became the dominant European power, requiring the combined forces of almost everyone else to defeat it twice at Leipzig (1814) and Waterloo (1815). France since then has been trying to relive the glory days rather like Greece has been trying to relive the days of Alexander and Aristotle. Both have failed.

Napoleon dissolved the Holy Roman Empire, but this just left the question of how Germans could unite again into a second Reich. They spent until 1870 trying to find a way. Should Germany include all German peoples (Großdeutschland) or should it leave out Austria (Kleindeutschland). The problem was that Austria had its own Empire, much of which wasn’t German at all. How could you include Austria in Germany without splitting up its Empire thereby turning Austria into Ruritania?

Napoleon really was a second Alexander, but just as Alexander wasn’t Greek, but rather Macedonian, so too Napoleon wasn’t really French but rather Italian.
But the French delusion that Napoleon could be repeated regularly, and that French greatness could return caused it to declare war on Germany three times in 1870, 1914 and 1939. On each occasion disaster and humiliation was repeated rather than the reincarnation of Napoleon.

The causes of the Franco-Prussian war (1870) are among the most absurd in history. An argument over who should be King of Spain and a perceived insult to the French at Bad Ems turned out very badly indeed for France.

Helmuth von Moltke had built on the Prussian reforms and lessons learned since 1806. He had defeated Denmark and solved the Schleswig-Holstein Question in 1864 and thereby prepared the ground first for a grudge and second for a defeat of Austria and Saxony at Königgrätz in 1866. Moltke was efficient. He understood supplies and he understood strategy. The Prussian army converged at just the right moment trapping the Austrians in a barely remembered battle involving nearly half a million men. But the best was yet to come.

The French had learned nothing since 1815 and with red trousers, arrogance and without a plan took on a Prussian army in the process of turning itself into Germany. The Germans got behind the French at Mars-La-Tour and a 30,000 man Prussian corps took on and withstood an 160,000 man French Army. In perhaps the most heroic act in all military history von Bredow's cavalry brigade charged the whole French army, lost half its strength but triumphed over death itself by sealing the doom of hundreds of times its own number.  

Von Bredow's few suffered 50% casualties, but effectively won the war

Next at Gravelotte (a far bigger battle than Gettysburg) the French army ended up besieged, impotent and divided. The mopping up at Sedan not long after was a mere formality. Napoleon III himself was captured.  Later Paris was besieged and experimented with revolutionary communism before the final collapse. 

It was as Zola described it La Débâcle. The French should never have started the war in the first place and were outthought and outfought during it. The modern German Army became the greatest force in Europe from 1870 until 1945 and not merely the French, but all of us would suffer the consequences of French folly and ineptitude.

Since 1870 Germany has been too strong for Europe and the issue has been how to contain Germany within Europe while preventing it taking over everywhere. The German population outnumbered anyone else. The German Army perfected by Moltke with a uniquely effective staff structure and training regime could not be defeated either by France, Britain or even Russia on its own. A system of alliances grew up therefore between 1870 and 1914, which turned European diplomacy into a game of dominoes triggering each other into eventual mobilisation and war.

But these alliances barely contained a Germany capable of very nearly defeating Britain France and Russia in both 1914, 1940 and 1941. Sedan was repeated in 1941 and if anything, 1941 was a worse humiliation than 1870. Only miracles saved Britain and Russia from defeat at Dunkirk and the gates of Moscow.

It is in this context that we must understand the EU.

German war aims in the Septemberprogramm 1914 were to create a Mitteleuropa economic association and for buffer states around Germany to be under German hegemony or sovereignty. In essence therefore Germany won the First World War. It just took it rather longer than four years. It took two catastrophic defeats to get there, but in the penalty shoot out the Germans always win in the end.

Germany’s defeat in 1945 was surely the most decisive in history. The Allies set out to teach Germany the folly of waging war. Nearly every city was destroyed. In parts of Germany nearly every woman was raped. Land that had been German for centuries became Russian or Polish or Czech. Germany itself was partitioned and occupied for half a century. Yet Germany triumphed.

How to unite Germany and Austria had baffled Germans in the nineteenth century but the EU provided the answer. It was Großdeutschland only a little grosser than anyone thought possible. The EU includes everything “Von der Maas bis an die Memel” [From the Meuse to the Memel, i.e. from Belgium to Lithuania]. It includes all of the former Austro-Hungarian Empire. It included the Burgundians and for the first time since the days described in the Nibelungenlied these people would be under German suzerainty. All this has been achieved not by German force, but by German soft power. Once you are in “ever closer union” and especially once you are in Euroland there is no escape.

From the ashes of the 1945 Götterdämmerung, with the Burgundians of SS Charlemagne (französische Nr. 1) fighting on to the last against the new Atilla, arose a new Reich. “Meine Ehre heißt Treue” [My honour is called loyalty] has been the German tragic flaw since the Nibelung. It leads to exaggeration. It leads to the whole flaming roof falling in. It is what has made Germany great, efficient and wonderful, the peak of European culture, with the best philosophers, the best composers. But it also has given us something terrible.  Something worse than anything else in history.

The EU exists because of the combination of German greatness, strength and efficiency and French decline and weakness. The French language declined from literally the Lingua Franca, spoken by Russian nobles in 1812 better than they spoke Russian. French is now a subject that is not worth studying. It is spoken hardly anywhere you would want to go except perhaps France. But French pride and nostalgia for what has been lost won’t admit this. So, the EU remains a Babel using someone else’s language to unite what therefore cannot be united.

The model of protectionism and living beyond your means required to protect French inefficiency, plus the need to subsidise the French unwillingness to work means that both Germany and France get what they wanted from the EU. France gets German reparations in perpetuity and gets to take the whole of August off, gets to retire before it has earned its pension and gets to go on strike endlessly while maintaining a living standard it doesn’t deserve. But the price is that France remains Vichy. German soft power dominates it just as hard power dominated it from 1940 to 1944.

The price of the EU is that Europeans no longer give birth to enough European babies. It is too expensive to give birth. It is too painful and tiresome, and it stops European women having careers and doing what they want to do. The European Welfare model plus feminism, plus open borders and mass migration means that gradually the rather arbitrary continent of Europe will cease to have any meaning. The planks of the ship Europa will be replaced until there is no wood from the original left. The EU will welcome this and celebrate it and commission someone to carve a monument to a diversity that includes the whole world. For today the EU belongs to us. And tomorrow the whole world. Or is it the other way around?

There is no European identity and nothing to hold the EU together but force. It’s not so much a European Army that will do this, but the realisation that soft power is a far more powerful force than soldiers. This was the lesson Germany learned in defeat, that the rest of us ignored in victory.

But the European Union has an incoherent unity. It is the equivalent of the Holy Roman Empire. Some wit will eventually write that the EU is neither European nor a Union.

Unfortunately, we await a new EU Götterdämmerung. The Burgundians are Germans once more, because the whole of Europe has become German vassals. But the loyalty is thin. Like “lost honor among thieves.” The EU wants us to give up the “meum-teum sense”. What’s Greek is German, what’s German is Greek. We are all just Europeans. But they resist paying reparations to anyone but the French. Greek debts are Greek.

Götterdämmerung  [Twilight of the Idols] based on the German ur-myth the Nibelungenlied
The French will continue to accept the bargain they made out of necessity. The only French foreign policy goal is to avoid being invaded for a fourth time. But the French are still French. The once dominant German language was driven out of Elsaß-Lothringen and Gallicization imposed on the lands that were lost between 1871 and 1919.

There is no common language that will unite Europe because the French refuse to allow it. This is the tragic flaw at the heart of “ever closer union”. But the EU will beat, on boats against the current dreaming of Charlemagne and hoping that it will be fourth time lucky. But it will be borne back ceaselessly into the past doomed to repeat one last twilight once again. Let us hope that the end of the EU empire when it comes will be neither like 1806, 1918 nor 1945. 

Now do you see why it mattered that just like in 1870 the British could watch from afar and not take part? It's not about 1870. It's about now and the years stretching ahead of us. 

Saturday 15 February 2020

Why I'm not a Unionist

There’s a long street in Aberdeen called Union Street, but the name has nothing to do with England and Scotland. It was named after the Act of Union between the Parliament of Great Britain and the Parliament of Ireland in 1800.

The Conservative Party is officially the Conservative and Unionist Party. But the Unionist bit is due to the merger in 1912 with the Liberal Unionist Party that broke away from the Liberal Party because of opposition to Gladstone and Irish home rule.

I oppose Scottish nationalism. I’m not a Unionist. I’m British, not Irish. I block anyone who on either side who uses the quite hideous and insulting "Yoon" not least because I don't wish to interact with anyone so stupid as to think Unionist begins with a Y and includes a "oo" sound.

The correct name for those who want independence from a larger sovereign nation state is “nationalist”. It is also correct to use the word “nationalist” to refer to those who wish to unite several nation states into a larger whole. But it is incorrect to describe those who wish to maintain the territorial integrity of a nation state that already has either separated or united as nationalists. Such usage of the word would imply that every nation state in the world is full of nationalists, which would render the concept meaningless.

James IV married Margaret Tudor in 1503
I am not a Unionist because I do not believe that Britain is a Union of four countries. I am not trying to maintain this Union. Rather I think that the word “Union” in relation to the Britain is obsolete and refers to something that happened long ago.

We know that because Elizabeth the First died childless the closest heir to the throne was in Scotland. Henry the Eighth’s sister Margaret had married James IV of Scotland. She gave birth to James V whose wife gave birth to Mary Queen of Scots, who gave birth to James VI. The rest as they say is history.

This was how places all over Europe united in those days. The various parts of what we now call Spain came together to form united kingdoms. But we don’t call them united kingdoms now. When Isabella Queen of Castile married Ferdinand heir to the throne of Aragon in 1469, they set Spain on the path to unity. But it would be absurd to suppose that Spain today was the united kingdom of Castile, Aragon and the various other kingdoms that later formed the mix. Those kingdoms by uniting ceased to exist and became lines on a map just as in prior centuries the uniting of kingdoms had caused places like Wessex, Mercia and Strathclyde to cease to exist. It is as absurd to suppose that Britain is a Union of kingdoms as it is to suppose that modern England is such a Union or that Scotland is. Present days countries are the result of these Unions annulling kingdoms not preserving them.

Scottish nationalism depends on the assumption that the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is the equivalent of the European Union. Unionists are those people who want to preserve this Union of sovereign nation states. Independence supporters are those who want to leave this Union. Scottish nationalists always assume that Scotland already has all of the qualities associated with being an independent sovereign nation state. They use this to prove that Scotland ought to be one. If you once grant their assumption, then the conclusion follows of itself. It amounts to sovereign nation states ought to be sovereign nation states.

This is the mistake that Theresa May made when she used the word “Unionist” to refer to her desire for Scotland to remain a part of the UK. It effectively granted the SNP’s assumption about Scotland. So too every time the Scottish Conservative Party bangs on about our precious Union or when we had a campaign called “Better Together” we accept the SNP’s assumption that Scotland is in some way already separate.

It would be unimaginable for people in the United States who all support the territorial integrity of their country to describe themselves as Unionists or to argue that it was better for Vermont to be together with Mississippi. Rather they don’t think of these places as being separate at all and cannot imagine them ever being so.

In every other European country, the process by which the various parts were united into a whole has become a matter for history. Kingdoms which were once independent are now lines on a map and don’t in any way think of themselves as separate. This didn’t happen accidentally. It happened through a process of unification in education, culture, identity and language.

Only in Britain did we allow separate identities to be maintained and a fiction to develop that our country contained four countries. Only in Britain did we play international sport with each other, because in the beginning only we played these sports. Only in Britain did we carefully preserve our separate identities so that we could call each other Unionists.

If we had gone through the process of unification that France, Germany and Italy imposed on their very different peoples we would have no problem with separatism now. It would have been annulled. But we didn’t. Because we only thought that unity was a problem only with Ireland.

This is why Unionist refers to Irish politics, not British politics. Nationalism is a nineteenth century phenomenon, but the only part of the British Isles that was affected then was Ireland. While waves of nationalism caused revolution in Europe, Britain was immune. Scottish independence supporters were as rare as Jacobites in 1845. It was this that made us complacent while the rest of Europe fought to hold itself together.

We must cease thinking of ourselves as separate from each other. This only helps the separatists. If you think of yourself as primarily English, Welsh, Northern Irish or Scottish, you are part of the problem. The official name of our country the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is itself an anachronism. It is too long. It implies that we are really ruled by a King when in fact we are ruled by a parliamentary democracy and it implies division. The short form Britain is far preferable. Britain is to British as Italy is to Italian. It matters not one little bit that Italy includes more than its geographical boot and ball, but also has a large offshore island. So too Britain includes Northern Ireland. When people in Belfast say we are British, they are not mistaking the island on which they are living. So too people in Sardinia when they describe themselves as Italian are quite aware that they don't live on a peninsular.

Don’t think of Britain as the Union of anything. Cease thinking of our country as made up of four separate parts, united by something that happened in 1605 and then again in 1707 and 1800. We are not four. We are one. The process by which we united centuries ago is just that ancient history. It's something remote like Gettysburg or Valley Forge.

Wednesday 12 February 2020

Hate covers a multitude of Sinns

I was a student during the troubles, and I came across a lot of people from Ireland. It always became clear after just a little bit of conversation where someone was from. Both communities from Northern Ireland frequently wanted to escape to Britain and this was often the case with those from the Republic too. There was difference, however and not merely with an accent. If you scratched the surface, if you dug a bit deeper in conversation a chasm emerged. Those who considered themselves to be British were universally opposed to Sinn Féin and the IRA. They condemned terrorism and what it had done to their lives. Those who considered themselves to be Irish might also condemn terrorism, but they universally sympathised with Sinn Féin’s aims and found reasons to justify the IRA campaign.

It’s rather like the response to the attacks on the Twin Towers. There were those of us who condemned and found no excuses and those of us who thought America deserved it. If America hadn’t fought this war or that war, if it hadn’t supported Israel, then these things wouldn’t have happened.

I had so many conversations where Irish terrorism was condemned on the surface, but there was always a “but”. This but might go back to Oliver Cromwell or it might be more recent. It became clear to me that Irish victims of the British Army were always more important than British victims of the Irish Army. Most of those who died in the troubles have been forgotten, except where the British did something awful. Somehow the death of one Irish person killed by the Brits is worth ten Brits killed by the Irish. We remember and investigate one day in Londonderry while ignoring all the rest. Just as we remember one famine in Ireland while ignoring that in the same years there was famine in the Highlands of Scotland. There is only Irish grievance.

Ireland has a reputation as a place where lots of fun can be had. There are great pubs with music and the people are friendly. But the craic has a mask that sometimes slips. If you look carefully through the cracks you don’t always see the friendly face.

Ireland and the Britain are independent nation states. It was Britain’s right to leave the EU just as it was both of our right to choose to join at the same time. Brexit has never been any of Ireland’s business.
There is an international border between Ireland and Northern Ireland. But Ireland chose to treat it as an internal border with the hope of preventing Britain from leaving the EU at all. In the process we have had more Brit bashing than usual in the past few years.

The result is that once more the supposed friendliness turns out to be just on the surface.  The mask slips and the most popular party in Ireland is Sinn Féin.

We used to think that Northern Ireland was different. The nationalist community hated Britain while taking British money, British benefits and British jobs and voted for a party whose spokesmen used to be voiced by actors. We accepted this as a specifically Northern Irish phenomenon. Nearly half the population supported terrorism. But the Republic was meant to be different. This was a place where you went on Hen nights. This was a place where all was joy and laughter. And now one in four turns out to be just the same as the nationalists in Northern Ireland.

There was tacit support for the bombers in the Republic and certainly Ireland was willing to benefit from thirty years of bombing. Britain signed the Belfast Agreement because we wanted peace. We hoped that we were making peace with an Ireland that was not dominated by terrorism, but it looks now as if we were mistaken.

Peace in Europe since World War II has depended on everyone accepting the unchangeability of international borders. This is true everywhere except in Ireland. What has just happened in Ireland is the equivalent of a quarter of the electorate of Germany voting for a party that wants parts of Poland back. Under those circumstances how could Poland be expected to carry out normal international relations with Germany?

British citizens in Northern Ireland must be protected from a neighbouring state that has gone rogue. The leaders of Sinn Féin may be softly spoken, but it is a careful mask that covers a multitude of sinns. The IRA still pull the strings and if the ballot box doesn’t succeed there is still the old threat. The Irish electorate has just voted for criminals who run cross border rackets, people smuggling, extortion and worse. Was this why they were so concerned that there wouldn’t be any border checks? It might damage the profits.

The British Government cannot allow an Irish veto on trade talks to do any more damage to our national interest. Better by far to plan now to leave with a minimal deal. We cannot allow Northern Ireland to be held within the sphere of influence of a state where support for terrorism reaches the level of Gaza and the West Bank.

If any other European state reached Irish levels of support for terrorism it would be considered a pariah. But somehow Ireland gets away with claiming the territory of its neighbour in a way that would be considered disgraceful anywhere else. Britain cannot allow this continued threat to our citizens to continue. We must reassert British sovereignty in Northern Ireland without condition and forever. If the Irish don’t like it, let them resort once more to what they do best: hatred and bombing. But this time let them be more honest about who is fighting for them and that they share the same cause and the same goal.

There can be no Belfast Agreement with a country that hates us and supports terrorism. We have a long history of defeating nationalists and socialists, here and elsewhere.

Friday 7 February 2020

The 120 days of Scotland

In Moscow Lavrentiy Beria head of the NKVD used to cruise around in his limousine looking for cute girls. When he found what he was looking for he would point her out and have her brought to his dacha. There would be wine and food and afterwards he would sleep with her. On departure the girl would be given a bouquet if she accepted it, she had consented if she refused, she was arrested. Being arrested by the NKVD was not healthy in those days. The same story no doubt applied to cute boys.

This is the trouble with progressive politics. Those who are most concerned with collective morality (workers of the world etc) are least concerned with personal morality. Those who believe in free markets and individualism are most likely to give their time and money to help others. Those who think the state should force us to be good leave morality up to the state and think their collective virtue makes up for their private life of a libertine.

Something happened to Scotland when the SNP first won a majority in the Scottish Parliament. It wasn’t just that since then the only issue of political consequence has been independence. Perhaps more importantly we have entered a strange period when members of our ruling party think that everything is permitted.

The SNP is a single-issue party and everything that wants the same goal as the SNP is the SNP. There may be Labour for indy, Women for indy even Tories for indy, but these are all just front organisations. When Father Karras tells the Exorcist that there are multiple devils inside the little girl, Father Merrin replies simply, “There is only one”.  

There is only one party and there is only one goal. Getting to that goal justifies anything.

A few days before the independence referendum in 2014 I sat through a talk given by a very senior member of a university where the benefits of independence were carefully explained. The person explaining them had an English accent and had arrived at the university only a few weeks before. The idea that someone from the south of England had suddenly become an independence supporter is of course quite preposterous. Someone very important had made a phone call. No one in the audience who supported No said a word. Only Yes supporters spoke.

Since then our schools have been give a “curriculum for independence” with Tartan days and Scottish days and Caledonian days and the history of Scottish this and Scottish that.

Scottish journalists who I vaguely remember opposing independence have gradually moved towards support. There is hardly an unequivocal Pro UK voice left.

The police have been centralised and brought under the political control of the SNP. It has hardly made them more efficient at catching criminals, but we are all rather careful about what we say. It wouldn’t do for PC McPlod to think we were being cute.

The Scottish courts agreed with the SNP about Brexit. Who knows what else they might agree with them about?  

Meanwhile a steady list of SNP MPs, MSPs, councillors and supporters have been suspended from the party for a variety of reasons. Some of them have been later cleared of any wrongdoing. We should no doubt be grateful that the SNP suspends them. Yet something smells.

There are rumours in Scotland. There is a sense that stories are buried, and that people are not what they seem to be or purport to be. We don’t know what is true and what is not true.

This all reminds me of Russia. I remember having conversations with my teachers in the early 1990s when it first became possible to talk openly. They were frightened because their whole worldview was founded on lies. They couldn’t distinguish between truth and falsity and the sense of disorientation was quite overwhelming.

What has been going on? Has Scotland become some sort of cesspool, where crimes have been taking place but not noticed? Don’t ask. Don’t tell.

Who is really married to whom? Is it all fake? A front to mask a truth that dare not speak its name for fear that it might damage the cause. Who is having an affair with whom, but no one knows, or dares say? What injunctions are in force to prevent us from doing more than make hints? What names, which famous names dare I not mention for fear PC McPlod would think me pretty?

We are in the 120 days of Scotland. They seem like years. It is our lot. What new scandal will arrive? Who next will have to be suspended from the SNP? How many would have been suspended if only we had been allowed to find out about it? Lot’s wife wasn’t really his wife, she was living with another woman and he was chasing after little boys. Scotland will not burn. We have a golden coo called Indy.

God is dead and everything is permitted.