Friday 29 May 2020

MacHack, what was your price?

Sometime back in 2013 or 2014 a Scottish politician or journalist became aware of the biggest story of the year, but he kept silent. He didn’t ask a question about it in the Scottish Parliament and he didn’t write about it in a newspaper or broadcast about it on television. He decided to keep silent, even though a revelation about the First Minister may have had a major influence on events in September 2014 when we held a “decisive” once in a lifetime vote on Scottish independence.

We have a close-knit community in Holyrood. The press, the politicians and the civil servants socialise together and their friendships, loves and marriages frequently cross-party lives. Many have known each other since childhood, many more are the children of previous generations of the Scottish establishment. Are we to believe that none of these people heard anything whatsoever? Were there no whispers. Did no one see “ein Mensch geht um die Ecke” [a man going round the corner]?

Of course, no one saw.

Und MacHeath, der hat ein Messer
Doch das Messer sieht man nicht

And MacHeath, he has a knife
But the knife you don't see

This is Scotland. Kurt Weill’s Weimar Germany may have been decadent and would soon get worse, but the German press would still have been more likely to point out that MacHeath had a knife than our MacHacks would mention that someone from the SNP did something with his dirk that he ought not to have.

The Scottish press missed the biggest scoop of the century or else buried it, but something worse happened after September 2014.

As the block Scottish Labour vote transformed en masse into a block SNP vote our Labour supporting media and establishment made a similar transition. 

There was a change in Scotland when the SNP were first elected in 2011, but it was as nothing to the change that blew through the country like an autumn gale in the winter that followed the No victory in 2014. It somehow caused people to give up just when they had won. The fierceness of the SNP counterattack was too much for them. As their beloved Scottish Labour collapsed so did they. It left something empty in Scottish politics where the opposition was supposed to be.

As a child I would read the Press and Journal and listen to Mary Marquis on Reporting Scotland. It was dull, but useful reporting. If I wanted to know the price of a Turra Coo at the Mart I would get it from the P&J. The intrepid reporter would be paddling in the sharn [muck] to get at the truth. Reporting Scotland reported about Scotland. It did a good job without pretending to be something that it wasn’t. But it wasn’t enough. It agitated for a “Room of its own”, but instead of becoming Shakespeare’s sister it got a "Scottish Six" that no one watches and a TV channel paid for by a Britain it despises.

What is it about Scotland that so many of us behave like robots with our politics? First you could put up a donkey for a Labour seat and it would win now you put up a sheep complete with its crook and it would win the same seat by bleating “Baa Baa Yes Sheep have you any oil?”  

I haven’t learned anything insightful about the inner workings of the SNP from any Scottish journalist. I haven’t read anything the SNP doesn’t want me to read. There are no damaging leaks from Scottish civil servants or ministers. If there is a Jock BernStein and Hamish Woodward exposing the heart of the Scottish Government I have not read them.

The same can be said for the opposition politicians in Holyrood they refer to their SNP opponents as colleagues and defend them even when they chase after little boys. There was even a sisterhood. We can be friends with people we disagree with as is the case also in Westminster, but at least the fight is for real there.  In Holyrood it’s all rather pretendy.

Ruth Davidson is a first rank politician as is Nicola Sturgeon, but every other Scottish politician of note is either based in London or made their name there. It as if we ended up with the second team.

While journalists in London go on a feeding frenzy when they spot Cummings in the water Scottish journalists never stick the dirk in let alone twist it. Their opinion pieces are derivative and follow the same middle ground sharn in which all Scottish politics is mired. No one dares to question this slightly left-wing consensus. No one makes life uncomfortable for Sturgeon.   

The Scottish Conservatives think of the UK as if it were their beloved EU. They think it is held together by subsidy and that this subsidy makes us “Better together”. It is a narrative of managed decline and it prevents them from questioning the SNP’s assumptions and attacking their record. They fear that in attacking the SNP they will be seen as attacking Scotland. They therefore accept the conflation of SNP and Scotland that is central to the SNP's success. This is why they are unable to make a positive case for Conservatism, free markets and Britain. There is hardly an original Conservative thought that steps outside of the Holyrood consensus. Scottish Conservatism still hasn't got over the trauma of dying through wipeout in 1997 and the constant need to atone for Margaret Thatcher and being that most awful thing in Scotland a Tory [Sturgeon's pronunciation]..

It is for this reason that they never really oppose and therefore are never really an opposition. They apologise for existing.  

Meanwhile we get hagiography from the Scottish media who wait at the bottom of Mount Sinai for Sturgeon to give us her Covid commandments. It would be one thing if it were only The National who bowed down to St Nic, but when did any other paper or TV programme report about Sturgeon in a way comparable to the criticism that Johnson and Cummings faced? When did a Scottish newspaper probe Sturgeon's lockdown movements if any.  When did you last read an article that took the SNP and their leader apart piece by piece? Can you people even write one?

The song ends just as it began in 2013 or was it 2014.

Und die minderjährige Witwe    
Deren Namen jeder weiß
Wachte auf und war geschändet
Mackie welches war dein Preis?

And the minor-aged widow,
Whose name everyone knows,
Woke up and was violated
Mack, what was your price?

There is a story about Covid in Scotland that needs to be told. It is the biggest story of the year, but the chummy club of Scottish Press and politicians will once more look the other way.

Scottish children are paraded in front of the camera like Young Pioneers and go down on one knee in devotion to the blessed Nicola. This comes from a supposedly impartial broadcaster. Yet this same broadcaster has reporters who know the name that everyone knows, the mistakes that were made, the lives that were lost and the rules that were broken. The politicians in Holyrood know these things too. It is this that makes me feel violated every time I realise that Scotland is living a lie. 

If there were a break-in to a MacWatergate building and an insider telling the truth you'd never demand Nicola Sturgeon to sit in the back garden of Bute house while you fired questions at her. 

Our whole country has become a Potemkin village propped up by our politicians and our press. One day we will all look round the corner and see the reality. At that moment the whole Scottish establishment will look like the apologists for Stalin who pretended they could see neither Kulaks being sent to the Gulag nor starving millions dying because of collectivisation.

Our press sees only what the SNP permit them to see. In the same way they can see no dirk, Nelson could see no ships. Only later will they face the devastating question.

MacHack, what was your price?