Saturday 15 July 2023

The clown prince of Scottish nationalism


I have an image of a certain sort of Scottish nationalist listening to heavy metal guitar riffs while shouting Angus as Angus MacNeil plays still louder and more heavily on his guitar while shaking his head rhythmically to the music. MacNeil it turns out is the ultimate SNP headbanger.

You're a whole lotta nationalist.

A whole lotta nationalist.

Whole lotta Angus.


I think the first time I became aware of MacNeil was when I came across the quite unbelievable story of 36-year-old MacNeil while a married father of three buying drinks for a girl of 17 and her 18-year-old friend and taking them both to bed for a heavy petting session.

Apparently, such foolishness is disapproved of in the Outer Hebrides, but MacNeil remained an MP and is still an MP now.

Gradually I began to hear more of MacNeil. Whichever Alba policy, whichever Alex Salmond idea, whichever form of turning a General Election or a Holyrood Election into a de facto referendum on independence he was either behind it or on top of it or heavy petting it.

If Mr MacNeil were honest, he would have left the SNP to join Alba long ago as some of his colleagues did, but Mr MacNeil rather enjoys the benefits of being an MP and no doubt this is why he reacted with such fury when criticised by his whip for a £7000 trip to Qatar.

Mr MacNeil may be a nationalist fundamentalist, but his three trips in three years to Qatar have not obviously advanced the cause of Scottish separatism.

Indeed, if he had been honest he ought to have pointed out that if he got his wish there would be no UK Qatari bilateral relations as the UK would have ceased to exist.

Mr MacNeil did explore the Qataris involvement in building tunnels, but it would have been more useful for the Hebrides if he had explored the SNP’s inability to build ferries.

There is something quite delicious about Mr MacNeil. He campaigns for Scottish independence while being from perhaps the most dependent part of the UK. The cost of every single public service including healthcare, post and the supply of shopping depends on subsidy from the other parts of the UK. There would be no Gaelic television for the dwindling band of speakers in Stornoway to watch if it was not paid for by licence fee payers who don’t speak Gaelic. His constituents would be reduced to foraging for limpets and would have to rely on coracles to travel anywhere else if the Hebrides were independent, but in fact the Hebrides has a far better claim to independence than Scotland.

Angus MacNeil is quite unlike other Scots. He is like a representative of a former time when Scotland was divided between the Lowlands and the Highlands. This clash of cultures is ably represented in Walter Scott’s Rob Roy. The Gaelic speaking Highlander is culturally and linguistically foreign to the Glasgow merchant Bailie Nicol Jarvie. MacNeil is just as foreign. He speaks and writes English as if it were not his first language. Perhaps it is not. He neither speaks Scots nor does he really have a Scottish accent. At least his accent doesn’t remotely resemble the one where I come from. It’s not clear he is Scottish at all. In which case he has a very good argument for Hebridean independence. Perhaps it can too apply to join Norway.

The dispute between Mr MacNeil and his chief whip seems cultural as much as political. MacNeil’s reaction is straight out of Walter Scott. His honour is offended, even though he has been caught stealing cattle and plotting Jacobite subversion, he still puffs himself up all innocence and vanity ready to lead a Highland charge to maintain his innocence.

When he is suspended for a week for going to Qatar instead of voting in the House of Commons, MacNeil unilaterally declares himself independent and sets out the conditions upon which the Hebrides will deign to rejoin Scotland. Perhaps such pompousness was commonplace in Scotland when everyone north of Perth spoke Gaelic.

There was a land of Cavaliers crofts and peat bogs called the Highlands. Here in this pretty world, Gallantry took its last bow. Here was the last ever to be seen of Claymores and Lochaber axes, of clan chiefs and their clansmen. Look for it only in books, for it is no more than a dream remembered, a Civilization gone with the wind.


Mr MacNeil would fight a duel to defend his honour at anyone who dared accuse him of going to Qatar three times for no purpose for the money, the wine, women and song, because there were no women, there were no songs and Qatar forbids wine, just as the Hebrides forbids three in the bed with girls half your age.

But there is something absurd equally about the SNP suspending MacNeil for essentially telling the truth about the SNP being useless at achieving independence and for refusing to retake the whip. Don’t worry Angus. No one was going to whip you. In English to whip doesn’t only mean what you do to the bare bottoms of wee lassies.

What would it take for Nicola Sturgeon and Peter Murrell to be suspended from the SNP? I honestly don’t know, but clearly being arrested and suspected of financial mismanagement is not enough. Nor is hiding the SNP’s campervan, which it neither needed nor knew about. Perhaps using a French tickler with someone you are not married to would do the trick, but who knows perhaps MacNeil used one and wasn’t suspended for it.

It turns out that there is one rule for the MacNeil and another for the Sasannach speakers who learned their language from Sasainn [England], which is all the more reason for the MacNeil to unilaterally declare independence from 99% of Scots.

Mr MacNeil is impatient, but the objection about lack of SNP success in achieving independence is really an objection against Scottish voters. There is not a sustained majority in favour of independence and many of those who theoretically want independence don’t want it anytime soon if indeed they want it at all. You fail now for the same reason you failed in 2014.

All of the alternative schemes come up with by Wings, Alex Salmond, Angus MacNeil or indeed Humza Yousaf amount to threats of a unilateral declaration of independence unless you give us what we want. But it is as likely that Scotland declares independence in this way as it is that the Hebrides does so, because it would leave us foraging for limpets. Everyone knows this so the threat is empty. It is mere pomposity, which is why Angus MacNeil is the clown prince of Scottish nationalist fundamentalism. Everything he does is foolishness.