Monday, February 16, 2015

The Lib Dems' fondness for nuclear weapons makes them either stupid or illiberal

Courtesy of the BBC iplayer, I've finally caught up with Alex Salmond's appearance on Any Questions (appearance is obviously the wrong word for a radio show but I can never think of an appropriate equivalent).  There were quite a few fascinating moments - and one downright chilling moment, when Menzies Campbell explained that he has no philosophical stance at all on Britain's nuclear weapons, and that it's all about "utility" for him.  You'd think he was talking about a screwdriver or a pair of spectacles, but of course the sole function of nuclear weapons is to mass-slaughter millions of civilians - men, women and children without discrimination.  (The American bombing of Hiroshima, using a weapon of trivial destructive power compared to modern Trident warheads, burned countless children to death as they sat at school.)  Campbell sounded utterly furious when Salmond called him out on the grotesqueness of using the word "utility", but I suspect he was protesting too much - perhaps somewhere, deep down, he felt a twinge of shame at such a clear-sighted recognition of the Liberal Democrats' retreat into a moral vacuum.

Shortly afterwards, there was one of those broken record moments when the pro-WMD members of the panel kept pressing Salmond to say whether or not an independent Scotland would be able to sign the agreement stating that NATO is a nuclear weapons alliance, and Salmond kept responding with the SNP's careful formulation of words about how Scotland would simply be joining 25 of the 28 current NATO members in not possessing nuclear weapons.  Anna Soubry in particular seemed beside herself with excitement when she was able to point out that Salmond hadn't technically answered the question, which is true, but that's such a fatuous little triumph.  It shows just how warped the preoccupations of the London media have become that Jonathan Dimbleby allowed the panellists so much time to catch Salmond out on a point of pedantry, while giving a completely free pass to the gargantuan holes of logic in Campbell's own argument.  Apparently, without the ability to annihilate cities at the push of a button, the United Kingdom would be susceptible to nuclear blackmail, and that would be unacceptable.  Er, Ming, isn't that an argument for Finland to have nuclear weapons?  And Mexico?   And Ghana?   Not to mention Iran and North Korea?  What makes the UK so special that it's one of only five countries in the world permitted by international law to use the kind of "protection" that the Lib Dems regard as so utterly indispensable?  There are only really two options here - either nuclear deterrence doesn't work at all, or it only works on the basis of imperial domination of the world by a handful of 'superior' countries.  And by virtue of their dogmatic belief in nuclear deterrence, the Liberal Democrats are therefore either stupid or illiberal.

That said, it would have been easy enough for Salmond to get off his own hook.  For the life of me, I don't understand why the SNP have watered down the emphasis on conditionality that they adopted in the early days after the party's stance on NATO membership was reversed.  We were assured back then that, although an independent Scotland would be seeking to retain NATO membership, that wouldn't happen at any price.  The non-nuclear policy still had absolute primacy.  So why couldn't Salmond simply have answered the question by saying : "We would prefer to stay in NATO, but NATO must change.  NATO has adapted to the conditions of the 21st Century, but not quickly enough.  We want to work from within to make NATO fit for purpose in a post-nuclear era."

Lastly, it was interesting to hear the English audience laugh along with Salmond when he pointed out that it didn't really make sense for the Tories to paint a potential Miliband-Salmond alliance as Middle England's "worst nightmare" only months after begging, bribing and bullying Scotland to remain part of the UK.  Perhaps the audience were recognising a touch of cognitive dissonance within themselves - after all, we have opinion poll evidence suggesting that most people in England didn't want Scotland to become independent, and yet loathe the idea of the SNP holding a share of power at Westminster.  Somewhere along the line that just doesn't add up - if you want Scotland to "stay", you have to take the place as it actually is, and not as the clone of Buckinghamshire that you might prefer it to be.  Scotland votes SNP, not Tory.

*  *  *

I'm very disappointed to hear that the Scottish Government won't be supporting the designation of Flower of Scotland as the country's official national anthem.  The rationale seems to be that the song isn't everyone's cup of tea, but that misses the whole point.  The question should be whether you think Scotland needs an official anthem or not - and if you think that Scotland is a country, surely the answer can only be 'yes'.  For better or worse, Flower of Scotland is the only possible choice for that anthem because it's the only one that commands broad enough support.  The calls for Caledonia or 500 Miles to be chosen can't be taken seriously because no country in the world has an anthem of that sort.  (Although I was a great fan of the petition to replace God Save the Queen with Gold by Spandau Ballet.)

A more serious alternative might be Both Sides The Tweed, which although a nationalist song is kind of the antithesis of Flower of Scotland.  Mind you, it's one of those songs that have to be explained to people, because superficially the lyrics of the chorus make it sound like a happy-clappy Better Together anthem that Dan Snow and Ross Kemp would thoroughly approve of!

44 comments:

  1. Good, about not supporting that ghastly dirge as our national anthem. When did Scots Wha Hae stop being the national anthem anyway, and more to the point, why?

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    1. According to Wikipedia, Scots Wha Hae never had any official status, and instead held a similar unofficial status to the one Flower of Scotland has now. Surely we need some kind of official anthem, even if some people are bound to be disappointed by the choice?

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    2. I'm not a fan of having songs about medieval battles as an anthem (though if you must, at least Scots Wha Hae has a tune). It's also a bit embarrassing to have a song about fighting for independence representing a country which has just voted against it.

      I've always said it should be A Man's a Man - a good tune, it's by the acknowledged bard, and it's got a meaning beyond "we're great and everyone else is shit". Though maybe that's the point of national anthems.

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  2. ICM sub-sample: SNP 58, Lab 21.

    http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2015/feb/16/what-icm-poll-means-for-uk-parties-election-campaign

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  3. Come the hour - cometh the anthem. It will be whatever it rises to be when we get that YES vote next time. I suspect it's not yet been written or, if it has, it's yet to dawn on us why 'it' is the one!

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    1. I think the notion that there's any mystery over what the anthem of an independent Scotland would be is one that is mainly clung to by a political and cultural elite, including people at the top of the SNP. Rightly or wrongly, the people have already chosen Flower of Scotland.

      A comparison is sometimes made with the specially-written Advance Australia Fair winning out over the unofficial anthem Waltzing Matilda, but that only happened after a referendum. I cannot imagine Flower of Scotland losing a similar public vote.

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  4. How can No voters sing Flower of Scotland? It galls me to hear football crowds sing it knowing than 55% voted No. Hypocrites.

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    1. I think we can safely assume that the majority of most football crowds voted Yes. Rugby crowds are obviously a different matter.

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  5. I like Flower of Scotland but I personally don't like it as a national anthem. I know no other song would have broad enough support though, at least for now.

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  6. "Auld Lang Syne" should be considered. It's already well known throughout the world and would put a friendly smile on faces - Scot and non-Scot alike.

    DDH

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  7. Most of the people who hate FofS are unionist bigots. The rest are just bigots.

    If it was our official National Anthem then there would be ONE accepted version. Other countries couldn't take the piss with oompah bands or playing it at half speed.

    And how is a song that states " those days have passed and in the past they MUST remain" Backward looking?

    It also helpfully refers to the PEOPLE of Scotland. When will we see those people, when will we be those people again?

    Scots Wha Hae is an excellent anthem. But is explicitly about Bannockburn, killing english scum and the quisling unionists who fought on their side.

    That only works if you are not singing in english otherwise the proudScotbutbtitnats might think we were threatening them.

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  8. Sorry to be picky James, but 'Advance Australia Fair' wasn't specially written. It is an old song which was composed way back in 1878 - by a Scotsman. When I lived in Scotland back in the 80s I can remember the Glasgow Herald running a competition to select a new anthem. The winning entry was the excellent 'Land of Light' by William Jackson. It was even released as a CD but it never really caught on and sank without trace. Shame, as I rather liked it. So, 'Flower of Scotland' it is then. And, despite the disappointment of September, 2014, we still can be a nation again.

    Kind regards from an ex-pat in Sydney, Australia.

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    1. Ah OK, fair enough. I probably just assumed Advance Australia Fair was specially written, because it's a bit soulless and clunky compared to Waltzing Matilda (in my opinion).

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    2. No worries, James. Back in 2011, there was a move by a former Premier of Victoria to replace AAF with 'I Am Australian', penned by Bruce Woodley of The Seekers. It failed to attract much support and died a death. I'm no great lover of AAF either, by the way. Even if it is written by a Scotsman.
      See you at Eurovision !

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  9. Flower of Scotland is a great anthem, but, I'm not too fussed about this, as it IS our national anthem, and has seeped into Scottish life not through some daft ballot, but by the people of Scotland singing it over time, with gusto.

    Other choices though are just plain daft.
    Caledonia, is a low key song, which is just not an anthem. I love it principally because I have spent much of my life away from Scotland, so it has an affinity, but that doesn't exist for most.
    Scots Wha Hae would be the quietest anthem in the world- hardly going to rouse up the crowd at Hampden or Murrayfield.

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    1. In fact it astounds me that anyone could think any other 'song' we have could replace it...

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ds-7bjGENho

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  10. Personally my first choice would be Caledonia, but I'd be quite happy with Flower of Scotland. To be honest we've got a fair number of pretty good tunes so I'd rather concentrate on winning independence first and having the song look after itself.

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  11. Much as I love Flower of Scotland, I don't think it will do after independence, because of its aspirational lines to rise and be a nation again.

    In 1983 there was a discussion in the Scotsman regarding a Scottish anthem and David Angus suggested that two verses from Alexander Gray's poem Scotland would fit the bill and someone else suggested the 16th century fiddle tune Bunessan (Child in a Manger). I think it is the best suggestion ever!

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  12. Much as I love Flower of Scotland, I don't think it will do after independence, because of its aspirational lines to rise and be a nation again.

    In 1983 there was a discussion in the Scotsman regarding a Scottish anthem and David Angus suggested that two verses from Alexander Gray's poem Scotland would fit the bill and someone else suggested the 16th century fiddle tune Bunessan (Child in a Manger). I think it is the best suggestion ever!

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  13. Much as I love Flower of Scotland it has a number of problems. It is, first and foremost, a woeful dirge, which I always find a terrible choice for anthems, undermining moments of triumph and atmospherically poor for any occasion. It's lyrics are both narrow, insular and backward looking, none of which would be appropriate for an Independent country.

    Caledonia really is a perfect anthem, It expresses, beautifully, the theme of love for Scotland and a love which endures change, absolutely appropriate for a modern, forward looking country. I don't consider it particularly out of place as anthem and linking it so closely with I Wanna Be does seem to be trying to have it dismissed by association rather than on it's own merits.

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    1. Not at all - I like both Caledonia and 500 Miles, but either one would be a very radical departure as a national anthem.

      By the way, why do you love Flower of Scotland if you think it's a woeful dirge?

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    2. The beginning sounds as if you're starting to sing "Va pensiero". The lament of the Hebrew slaves exiled from Israel. Gimme a break.

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    3. Flower is emotionally stirring and while waiting for Independence it is very appropriate, hence why I like it so much. But it is an insurgent song, it's not a song for a modern Independent nation.

      A 21st century anthem should express a positive theme of national conscience. Singing about a battle against a particular "enemy" does not seem either appropriate, welcome or progressive.

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  14. "The Lib Dems' fondness for nuclear weapons makes them either stupid or illiberal"

    This is a gross error of judgement of the lib dems which stems from the repeated underestimating of Clegg by almost everyone in the political sphere.

    Be in no doubt, no matter how badly you think Clegg is doing right now he can and most likely will get even worse.

    Most people thought flatlining the lib dems at 10% for years was about as bad as calamity Clegg would get. How wrong they were! Not only did he then drive the lib dems well below that but for an encore Clegg made certain his ostrich faction were so indistinguishable from the tory nasty party that the green party was almost gifted it's current rise in the UK polling thanks to him.

    The lesson is obvious. Never underestimate just how unpopular and unelectable calamity Clegg and his supporters can make the lib dems.

    So it is an error to say the yellow tories are either stupid or illiberal when it is abundantly clear that Clegg's ostrich faction are both stupid AND illiberal.

    Unprincipled liars also covers it. :-D

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  15. I see Kellner's projecting a SLAB haul of 24 seats based on a 6-8% SNP lead, but it's not clear where he's getting that figure from. It kind of looks like he came up with it out of thin air. Most odd.

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    1. "It kind of looks like he came up with it out of thin air. Most odd."

      Par for the course for Kellner surely?

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  16. When it comes to choosing an official national anthem, I hope that it will be voted on by the people of Scotland as a whole, and not just by the minority who attend certain sporting events. I liked Flower of Scotland very much when it was still new, and I still like it, but there are slightly awkward bits in both the tune and lyrics. I believe that Roy Williamson wrote it quickly, and was somewhat disconcerted by its popularity. I would vote for Scots Wha' Hae - a probably ancient tune and words by Robert Burns.

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  17. "Not at all - I like both Caledonia and 500 Miles, but either one would be a very radical departure as a national anthem."

    But why can't we be radical? Isn't that what Scotland is all about?
    Personally I would like A Man's A Man, but I realise the "man" bit would be open to accusations of sexism.

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  18. "Somewhere along the line that just doesn't add up - if you want Scotland to "stay", you have to take the place as it actually is, and not as the clone of Buckinghamshire that you might prefer it to be."

    Not necessarily. You don't necessarily have to like Scotland to want it to stay in the UK. I dare say you could utterly despise each and every one of us while still wanting us to remain in the UK. Constitutional issues are an entirely separate matter to personal feelings.

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    1. In which case the objective would be what - to exploit our natural resources?

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    2. Or maybe they don't have any particular objective, just fear of change. People have all sorts of different feelings and motivations. They don't necessarily need to make sense.

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    3. I bow to your inside knowledge of the Better Together campaign.

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    4. I don't think it needs any special inside knowledge to conclude that human beings are anything but rational actors.

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    5. I dare say you could utterly despise each and every one of us while still wanting us to remain in the UK.

      In fact, I think that's the official UKIP position.

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    6. "I don't think it needs any special inside knowledge to conclude that human beings are anything but rational actors."

      But they can be made to confront their irrationality, which takes me back to my original point.

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  19. I was perfectly happy for F Of S to be the Anthem, by acclaim. However I will never sing it until we are a free and independent nation again. Any hypocrite who utters it when they voted No is a shameful creature, and anyone who sings it after voting Yes knows that their fellow citizens cannot be that nation again.

    So can I propose for the other 55, The Chicken Song.

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  20. On 19th September I thought that singing Flower of Scotland at sporting events would make us a laughing stock, but I was at Murrayfield yesterday and it didn't feel too different. I don't know what all the tweedy nobs in their red trousers thought when they sang 'we can still rise now and be a nation again' but it still meant something to me.

    I've noticed disparaging comments on wings and elsewhere about Scottish Rugby based on the small number of former players who came out for no in September, but I think that is misplaced. Certainly there is a higher proportion of public school tory types supporting and playing rugby than in the real world, but the majority of supporters at Murrayfield seem normal people and must include a good proportion of Yes voters. Also, I am not aware of any current players expressing an opinion on the referendum, so what's the problem? I thought Andy Nicol was an arse long before the referendum and his idiotic comment about the Lions being the epitome of Better Together (err... Brian O'Driscoll, Paul O'Connell, Keith Wood....).

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  21. FoS, though a bit of a dirge, is stirring and fine as an aspirational anthem while Scotland remains part of the UK. But its last ever official outing should be at the start of the formal ceremony on Independence Day*, at the close of which something more upbeat should be formally adopted - personally I'd go for Scotland the Brave, which unlike most other contenders has the advantage of not being either woefully obscure or a kailyard hymn to "honest poverty".

    *whenever that may be

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  23. I like F.O.S. I prefer the Corries' folk version than the piped version often heard at football and rugby matches.

    I haven't sung it since pre-September. I even hung my head down like a lot of Northern Irish catholic footballers do over GSTQ. The other times I've caught it through football, Poland (away) watched on the tele and muted it, and the England friendly I missed the first 10 mins so didn't catch any of it.

    No idea what I'll do in the future and see where the wind takes me. Maybe a few bevies and I'll belt it out with gusto, but I don't think so. I should be signing it - since I did vote yes, I think and this may sound a tad OTT and certainly toeing any party line that No voters should not sing it.

    I also back the abolish of the Scottish football team. We rejected independence. We should not be playing football when the likes of Greenland are not allowed into UEFA. Albeit there's seems to be down to their facilities rather than political pointscoring.

    As for the Rugby, I don't watch that guff. What fun is it watching Scotland get either horsered, or the ever so f├║kking typical story of 'so close, yet so far'. Although since the ref, I've quite enjoyed seeing the No Rugby types lose to France and Wales.

    Terrible, yes it is, and served with a lot of bitterness, but maybe one day I'll be fine.

    I do support the fitba team tho ;)

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  24. What is wrong with you guys? Caledonia or 500 miles for a National Anthem - are you nuts?

    Here is my highlight of 2014 - a real anthem for our country...

    Pumeza Matshikiza sings Freedom come all Ye.

    http://youtu.be/_1btp49Cwr8

    Eerr - is that the right youtube link method?! - if so enjoy...

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  25. Songs and who should sing them. Who cares? Not me.

    'The Soldier's Song' seems to share all the faults that many of you attribute to Flower of Scotland, above, by the way.

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  26. Flower of Scotland lyrics are more inspirational than Scots Wha Hae.

    It's not just an account of a battle.
    It's about re-summoning up the same spirit that won the battle against overwhelming odds.

    It's not perfect and can be played too slowly. But it is the public choice.

    The claim that there is not enough support makes no sense.
    It always tops the polls compared to the alternatives.

    If another song becomes more popular, than it can always be changed.

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  27. A lot of comments about anthems in a thread post about nuclear weapons? Did something glitch James?

    Anyways to talk about the nato thing = the first thing to do is put to bed this notion that nato is a "nuclear" alliance. It isn't, not even by a longshot. Only a handful of the countries in the alliance have nukes, the majority don't. Norway, a founding member of nato has no nukes and never did. Denmark unilaterally disarmed back in the early 90s I believe? I don't recall anyone calling for Denmark to get kicked out. There is of course, within the alliance a treaty that calls on member states to allow nuclear armed vessels from other member states, safe harbour in their military ports. The exact number of states that signed up to this, is pretty much the same as those who are nuclear armed, bar one. The nation that chose to go with majority and not sign up to that pact is the USA. I don't see anyone calling for the USA to be kicked out of nato anytime soon.

    As for Scotland being too small to join - Nato has been chasing Finland to join. Finland, who buys the bulk of its hardware from the states, but allows no foreign bases on its soil, would only agree to a strategic partnership with Nato. And yes you guessed it, it too does not have nukes.

    As for the UK deterrent. It does not belong to the UK. They are leased from the US. The reason for the deterrent is not to deter but to allow the UK a seat at the security council. So It's not utility but prestige that's at stake here. The US increasingly does not think its worth it for the UK to continue with the agreement, and if anyone is paying attention, they don't actually see the UK as a credible partner in future military engagements. This prompted Cameron to order around 650 APCs from the states. This order will cost as much as one of the aircraft carriers we are having built. You remember the aircraft carriers. The ones the UK could not afford to have built, but built them anyway because it would be too expensive to cancel them. They are also the aircraft carriers that don't have any planes to go on them.

    We are increasingly not a credible military power. This may hurt peoples pride, but frankly it needs saying and often imho. The appearance of that Russian battle group off the Scottish coast which caught the UK with its trousers around its ankles, exposed how weak we actually are. We had and still have no maritime patrols or AWACs in place. It is so bad we recently asked to lease 4 US aircraft to fly AWACS patrols. While the carriers were being built, the UK gov asked the French to lease one of the carriers from the UK. We are barely able to pay our dues for nato, in fact the last time we took part in a nato naval exercise was 2009, and we only sent a single minesweeper.

    Its time the UK started acting its age and dress appropriately. Old mutton trying to pass itself off as spring lamb is not a pretty sight.

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