Monday, July 21, 2014

Deafened by the static: Separatists are listening only to their own noise

A slightly different version of this was printed in The Shetland Times published on Friday, in print only.  I tweeted on Friday, when one irate offline reader described it as ‘utter shite’ on social media, that I would not be blogging the piece until after I’d finished my weekend run of Morton Through (To) Midnight radio shows.

So here it is. Three days have passed since the column’s original publication; Sunday saw an old friend resign as writer for the local magazine I edit, Shetland Life, appalled by my ‘rant’. Judge for yourself. Oh, and there’s a piece by Ian Smart which covers similar ground  here:

It’s been interesting, over the past couple of weeks, to see some of the most strident MacMeeja Yessivists cautiously modifying their public stances as  the quiet majority for ‘No’ becomes more and more evident.

Even in the event of  a ‘No’ vote, Scotland has changed, changed utterly, seems to be the emerging line. A new political discourse has been born, and we are in the glorious sunkissed uplands of a country irrevocably bound for alteration. Just...not yet. Because there is the beginnings of an acceptance that on 18 September, Scotland will vote to remain part of a United Kingdom. The cover-up of exposed backsides, and their ‘Yes’ tattoos, has begun.

Still, some established chatterers are convinced that the Great Turnaround achieved by the SNP in 2011  could repeat itself, that the bookies’ odds against ‘Yes’ are a delusion offering potential profits to the daring (currently, we’re looking at 1/5 to 1/9, averaging at 1/7). I’m fairly sure the wishfully-thinking Yessers are confusing a low-turn-out  PR protest vote with a (hopefully) high-turn-out yes/no referendum. Also, remember the way the SNP focussed that 2011 vote on Alex Salmond as an individual? It’s notable that personalised Salmondism has waned drastically and the ‘Yes’ campaign has tried, strenuously, to keep his profile low. It’s surely the contemptuous giggle which offends most. 

But more importantly, I think the trumpeters of a ‘Yes’ victory have been deluded by something else: They have confused debate with the sheer blaring noise generated by their own internal conversations. They want it to be so. They say, loudly and at interminable length that it shall be so. Everyone on their online social media feeds seems to agree with them. Therefore it must happen. But those social media feeds are curated by their owners, with numerous blockings and dismissals. They’re all ‘friends’. And so the separatists have listened to their own chatter, deafened to everything else by their own static.

In the physical, public-hall-world, the so-called ‘debates’ have been packed with disciplined, briefed, crib-sheet armed Yessists. The ‘pre-discussion show of hands’ approach has frequently been traduced by those pretending to be ‘don’t knows’. The people who will vote ‘no’ have not bothered to turn up, are too bored by the whole thing to comment either audibly or online, or have been scared into silence. Either by sheer, unreasoning, bullying shoutiness or - a nod-and-wink official 'Yes' policy, I’m certain - by personal vilification: if in doubt, play the man (or woman), not the ball.

Please, don’t tell me ‘it’s just as bad on the other side’. As recipient of some foul-mouthed gibbering from The Worst of Separatism, and a long-time online observer of both camps, I can tell you it isn’t.

Of course, all the firepower, most of the action, has been in the central belt of Scotland. As one ‘Yes’ campaigner said to me, ‘that’s where the votes are’.  It was predictable that English journalists sent north to witness Scotland’s wasting of energy, resources, time and money on the independence ‘debate’ would be seduced by the Youth-Fellowship-come-and-have-a-caress evangelistic rhetoric. Much of it comes from shiny-cheeked organisations with ill-advised, all-too historically resonant  names such National Collective and Common Weal, Yestival (Smiley Face!) and, God help us, ‘The Third Force’. Does no-one read history books? Or see the parallels with mindless, happy-clappy  fundamentalist religion? If you’re creative and arty, comes the message, hands in the air, sway gently! You MUST support separatism. And if you don’t, better shut up or you could find it tricky getting a gig, especially in Oor New Caledonia. Cuddle and carrot, sanction and stick.

I had a journalist up here recently (one of many, it should be said; everyone’s fascinated by The Shetland Question(s), to which the answer is always, always no, we don’t want a separate Salmondland, and no, we don’t want to be part of £100-a-pint Norway).  He was genuinely appalled at my conviction that there will be a ‘No’ vote, probably near the long-standing Scottish UK/Nat percentage split of 60-40.  That was not his impression from talking to, well, other nationalists. And besides, remember 2011. Freedom!

He’s right in one sense. If those who have all along quietly supported a United Kingdom get complacent, if they fail to turn out on 18 September, there is a risk that the NatMachine’s ruthless ability to mobilise its central belt supporters  could actually bring us close to an irrevocable vote for separation. So it is absolutely crucial that those who hate borders, who stand for equality and justice for everyone, irrespective of creed, race, education or geographical location, comes out and votes ‘No’. And actually, I do not believe that those  Labour supporters who failed to turn out back in 2010, opening the way to Salmond’s appropriation of power, will fail to stand with the party’s policy on social justice for all. Which is, for me, the one moral choice.  

Also: As the likelihood of a ‘No’ vote grows, elements on the lunatic NatFringe have begun muttering about (a) vote rigging and (b) preparing for ‘direct action’. This is (a) the empty posturing of the daft, and (b) threatening behaviour which clearly implies, under Scots Law, a Breach of the Peace.

After the ‘No’ vote, there will doubtless be sackcloth, ashes, rending of garments, petulant screeching. There could be closures of and mergers of newspapers and doubtless, a few flouncings-off to holiday homes in the Dordogne and Algarve by huffy pop stars and pundits alike. The SNP Holyrood administration  will be exposed as a one-issue campaigning sham, and I expect that any ‘completely altered political environment’, will come down to an utter loss of appetite for the dangerous romantic delusion that is nationalism.


Anonymous said...

Bravo! There are few who've been brave enough to stand up from the beginning of this shitey referendum process to say No, enough now. Now, gies another song.


Ian Collacott said...

I will vote Yes, and don't recognise myself as fitting your description of Yes supporters. I'd be interested to know how you think social justice, good healthcare and a fair society will be better served by voting for the most highly centralised government in Europe (Westminster) and the only EU government to be elected by a pure first-past-the-post system, which may lead to grotesque variances between parliamentary representation, and the proportion of votes cast for each party.
I'd also be interested in how you think we'll have no borders problems when we end up, as polls suggest, with a vote in favour of leaving the EU, and a Tory/UKIP coalition government (which is likely to happen if between them they could amass a majority of seats). How can you believe that a right moving Labour Party, which seems to have forgotten it is meant to offer different policies from the Tories, and what a fair society looks like, offers any hope to the majority of voters?
In my 60s now, I am a lifelong Labour voter who voted SNP in the 2007 Holyrood elections as a protest, and who then voted SNP again in 2011 as they were pursuing the sort of social policies which I support. At that time, I was a No voter.
However, the more I have read about the referendum issues, and the more I have looked into the accuracy of some arguments put forward by "Better Together", the more my views have changed. I will now vote Yes, and cannot conceive the circumstances under which I would again vote for a self-interested, complacent, and socially conservative Labour party.
In the end, our views obviously differ. I respect your decision to vote in favour of the status quo, but think in the long term a No vote would ill-serve the population of the whole of the UK.

henri hannah said...

I do recognise the description: evenagelical nationalism, it's not difficult to stumble across, a bit like those Gaelic language freaks who want to return to a 12th Century liguistic map of Scotland,complete with road signage.Out doing the Taliban by a century.

Theree is more than one Yes campaign - not all them primarily concerned with the benefits of an independent Scotland. When the the selotape come off the Yes envelope the fualt lines will develop into the People's Front of Judea V the Judean People's Front.

The idea that the EU is preferable to our neighbours, to whom we export 70% of our products and services and with whom we share a common language is laughable.(Language is the fault line in Ukraine. It's why the EU can never be a country, it has no common demos, a people of the state, united by a common language)

Much of the case in Scotland's Future is made on the basis of common sense and logic, the only characters never to appear on the wolrd political stage, wheras self interest and bullying are omni present.

To every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. the idea that there will be a fraternal kiss goodbye and inspirataional lessons all round is utter naivity. Sibbling rivalry getting increasingly out of hand is what will happen: it'll be a difficult negotiation, disappointing and divisive and doubtless set everyone back decades.

At least that's the view of Tom Devine and I find it compelling.

Anonymous said...

All u need to know about Tom Morton and his twee life as a crofter and "writer" is, he is just another Englishman who has settled in a rural part of Scotland and now pontificates about Scotland like he belongs here.
Had never heard of u till u blogged to slag of Scots. Please enjoy your stay in our Country. We won't be offended if you leave after independence.

Unknown said...

one thing is clear as the debate progresses is the increasingly shrill and bitter tone of the no-ers, of which this is a good example. my belief is that they do understand they have lost the debate on most levels and are spitting the dummy and complaining about the existence of the debate, or attacking personalities. shame really, and shame that they cannot accept being wrong and that the only moral choice is to vote against westminster, which is way past it's use by date.

Derick said...

Ah, Tom

More straw men. All those frothing 'nats', where are they in real life?

Like Ian Collacott I simply don't recognise your description of Yes supporters. It is a real joy to be campaigning with people of other parties and none (our local Yes group has a majority of non-party people). We remain relentlessly cheery and positive. No kittens have been harmed in the campaign.

You seem to have a bit of an obsession with the SNP. You can get tablets for that.

Socrates MacSporran said...


I will be voting Yes, because I think the vote on 18 September will be our best chance to forge, at long last, the Scotland which best suits the Scots.

I think the final result will be tight, it will be a close-run thing and, while I hope Yes wins, I appreciate the final outcome, either way, is never going to end the debate,

Yes, the Yes side has been making most noise on social media, but, they have been forced into this by a definite bias in favour of Better Together by the mainstream media.

The Yes side may well, be listening only to their own noise - for the simple reason, the No side's campaign has been so-negative, or, increasingly as the big day closes, amounting to downright lies and half-truths.

Still, enough people may prefer the status quo, or what they think will be the status quo, may prefer BT. But, I doubt it.

The Yes group has motivated and inspired a lot of people who otherwise feel, in Westminster elections in particular - my opinion doesn't count.

They have identified and tapped into dissillusioned natural Labour supporters.

The normal rules and expectations don't count this time - this one is different.

Fair play to you for coming off the fence on this though.

Anonymous said...

Words fail me, I always thought Tom Morton was a serious journalist. That article is just vile.

Allan D.S. Smith said...

Well said Tom Morton. To the point and entirely accurate.

Particularly so regarding the Yes campaign's "debates" being held in halls up and down the country. Some well attended, some not so.

The one thing I will say is that if you attend one of these orchestrated back slapping exercises as a No voter, you'll be less than welcome and shouted down by the separatists who take exception to your very existence.

I know as I have been to 3 since the turn of the year.

It's best not to confuse them with facts Tom. Their collective minds are made up!

Well said again Sir!

Unknown said...

again on this thread we have nastiness from one side only :(

Murdo Macdonald said...

I don’t think it ever occurred to me to vote no. I want Scotland to be a country like any other in which we can take it for granted that our culture is properly represented internationally. That is not the case at present. I’m a university professor whose area of interest is Scottish art. It saddens me when I see opportunities lost through lack of vision. As recently as 2012 the National Galleries of Scotland failed to include any Scottish painting in a major international touring exhibition. One critic called that failure ‘inexcusable’, another called it ‘inexplicable’. A third wrote ‘what the hell is going on?’ So I’m voting YES because I’m an internationalist.

As a student in the late 1970s I became acutely aware of how little information was available to me about my own culture except in the form of stereotypes. What I wanted was a vision that treated Scottish art and ideas as a normal part of an international context. I found what I was looking for in the work of George Davie, author of The Democratic Intellect. But by the time I was studying with George at the University of Edinburgh, his message about the everyday international significance of Scottish intellectual culture - from Robert Burns and James Clerk Maxwell to Patrick Geddes and Sorley MacLean - was more or less ignored in Scotland, despite strong interest in it in places like France and Australia.

So it was George’s students, myself among them, who commissioned and edited his second book, The Crisis of the Democratic Intellect, published in 1986. The publisher was Polygon, at that time owned and run by students. It had a remarkable list, which included Billy Kay’s Odyssey, the ideas magazine Edinburgh Review, and work by James Kelman, Agnes Owens, Liz Lochead, Ian Rankin, and Robert Alan Jamieson. Edinburgh Review became part of the support network of the Free University of Glasgow, which ran the Self Determination and Power event at the Pearce Institute in Govan in 1990. Through the agency of James Kelman, that event brought together on one platform both George Davie and Noam Chomsky.

Davie made me aware of Westminster’s treatment of Scotland as a subaltern culture, that is to say a culture not in control of its own standing either nationally or internationally. Such subaltern patterns have repeated recently as we see adherents of the sad remains of the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats trotting about doing the will of the old imperial Tories, like trusty, subaltern servants. They don’t seem to realise that they are perpetuating the forms of a long-dead Empire. It’s touching in its out-of-touch-ness.

It would be nice to think that the BBC was merely out of touch, but the active dumbing down of Radio Scotland suggests a more deliberate commitment to the advancement of ignorance. In the days of presenters like Pat Kane, Radio Scotland was a credible, at times excellent station, but now it is little more than a useful source of travel news. The reality of that intellect-suppressing agenda was neatly demonstrated by the recent attempt to intimidate Dr John Robertson of the University of the West of Scotland. By attacking him instead of debating his findings of bias, the BBC revealed its intellectual inadequacy.

It is such ignorance-driven agendas that Scotland must move away from. The source is not, of course, England, but Westminster. One of the great spin-offs of the Scottish debate has been that so many people in England, not least in the West Country and the North (and, indeed, ordinary Londoners), are now recognising that it is time to move on from the creaky old levers of Westminster’s imperial delusion. What was important about Cameron’s love bomb from the Olympic Stadium was the immediate response to it not just from Scotland but from England, for in both quarters it was recognised as completely banal. The subsequent hate bomb from Tory grandee Osborn and his Lib-Lab assistants was an intriguing and surreal sequel.

So, time to move on.

Anonymous said...

"the long-standing Scottish UK/Nat percentage split of 60-40"

That's very interesting. The split has always been 1/3rds to 2/3rds. So you are conceding that Yes is gaining ground.

And win or lose, no we won't be stopping after 18th September. Sorry.

Anonymous said...

Can't believe this vile abuse of fellow Scots by Tom Morton is permitted in ANY newspaper.I have never witnessed any on the 'Yes' side descend to this level. Shame on you Mr Morton.

Anonymous said...

Can't believe this vile abuse of fellow Scots by Tom Morton is permitted in ANY newspaper.I have never witnessed any on the 'Yes' side descend to this level. Shame on you Mr Morton.

Anonymous said...

I cannot see anything in this article that is offensive, true maybe, but not offensive. Well done Tom.

Donnie said...

Am voting Yes - and the key point is this: lots of us who will be voting Yes are doing so for democracy. Proper democracy. We are not 'nationalists'. I want nothing to do with 'nationalists' but I am voting Yes.

Those who vote NO are British Nationalists. All you NO voters forget that. We want nothing to do with Nationalism, British or otherwise.

Stewarty said...

An absolutely disgraceful blog, You have no idea whatsoever what happening in Scotland today. I'm going to vote Yes because I care for my fellow citizens living and working here in Scotland, And your description and use of terms like "Evenagelical Nationalism" is insulting to myself and all who are going to vote Yes,

Stewarty said...

Yes you are perfectly entitled to your opinion Mr Morton but the language you use is disgraceful ! Its bitter hateful and quite frankly bang out of order, Were you on the whisky when you wrote it ?

Anonymous said...

I feel it is clear from the debate that most real internationalists will vote yes for Scotland to become an equal, progressive member of the global community. Most campaigners for and believers in social justice will vote yes to defeat a moribund British political establismnet which has demonstrably failed to combat inequality. Most believers in reform will vote yes to secure a modern democracy rather than settle for the elitist, archaic and unrepresentative nature of the Westminster one we experience today.

Your piece offers no reasoned or respectful argument for your position, only personal attack, ridicule and demonisation of yes voters. Ironically, such behaviour is the true hallmark of intollerant nationalism (in your case nationalism of a British flavour).

We are all entitiled to our views but, please, lets have respect for one another. This article is anything but respectful.

Anonymous said...

I see, as usual, such unionist phrases repeated over and over until they believe what is written themselves. The labelling of one side of a debate as SNP, Yessers, seperatists, even Nazis.

The reality is that there is one side of the debate has a different perspective to the other. Better together seem to be in it for what they can get. The yes side want the common good. They want poverty stopped, they want the poorer to be better off. The sick and disabled to have a decent way to live. Any other way is not better together.

The typical rant from a unionist includes the damage they perceive to come from wanting to govern ourselves. Actually the damage comes from not governing ourselves. Our resources are squandered in order to play big brother to the world when we have our own third world issues that are not being addressed. One side of the debate wants everything to stay as they are and the other side want better than that. They want the normal thing. That is to be like almost every other country in the world-independent. To make our own choices for our own people with our own resources. We want to stand alongside other nations with our own flag held high and be respected as a country should.

The status quo cannot remain. Even in England, they seek self rule and there is a movement towards more local autonomy away from Westminster. We are not alone in thinking that that is so easily possible.

dave m said...

Shame on you Morton. You have, with contempt, dismissed half of Scotland as idiotic. You should switch off as no-one is listening & tune in to some scratchy short-wave station where they broadcast Rory Gallagher in eastern Europe.

Elgoldave said...

I thought BBC employees were meant to be impartial! I strongly object to the language and assertions made and do not recognise much of what is said. Those YES inclined are many more than "SNP" or FM Salmond followers and I suspect Tom knows this!

rogerlwhite said...

Oh dear. Another example (some of the comments) which exemplify precisely why many of the No majority are relatively silent. As always, I’m particularly unimpressed by the abusers who choose to remain anonymous. The people who are inspired by the ferment of debate are all those who want … well, it’s obvious isn’t it? I’m not inspired by something I never wanted and after two (?) years of hearing the argument for, remain unconvinced of. As for the sheltered souls who don’t recognise the acid tone of many Yes supporters, let them dip into Twitter any evening. You mention someone whose blog I have enjoyed. When I ventured to say as much myself an overnight hail of response included the words (excuse me) arsehole, cretin, closet racist, and ignorant dolt. Not happy times although as you have done before you articulate many of the thoughts in my mind. Thanks.