Scotland, eh? The SNP. Nicola Sturgeon. Cybernats. Jock-speak. Streuth. I mean...crikey. Now, don't get me wrong, it's totally normal that all of these things exist. Understandable. Utterly reasonable. Natural, even. But all the same. The Nats. Salmond. Mhairi Black's accent. Jesus. No wait, don't misunderstand me here. We've got no right to complain about any of these things, which are all exactly as you'd expect them to be. They're appropriate. Fitting. Apt. But still. Ian Hudghton. Chris Law and that fire truck. Flippin' heck.
Yes, I'd say that pretty much sums up every Alex Massie blogpost about Scotland for the last three years, and the latest one is no exception. The only difference this time is that the "but all the same" interludes take us even deeper into the realms of the fantastical than usual. First of all, Massie makes a truly mind-boggling implication about the short Jackie Kay poem that is included in each of the new baby boxes...
"I ask you to consider the reaction if the poet laureate agreed to write a poem celebrating – and therefore supporting – a new government policy (‘Ode to the Bedroom Tax‘ perhaps?)."
It's at moments like this you find yourself questioning your own sanity, but I have to report that having re-read the poem several times, I've completely failed to detect even the slightest hint that it 'celebrates' or 'supports' any government policy whatsoever. To my eyes, which admittedly are considerably less tutored than Mr Massie's eyes, every single line of the poem seems to be going on and on and on about how absolutely bloody marvellous some unspecified newborn baby is. He/she is extremely wise (seems improbable at that age, but who knows), has really bright eyes, a trustworthy hand, and a circular head (impressive). At no point are we invited to forget about babies, kneel in homage to the Dear Leader and chant "Material Change In Circumstances" forty-three times. Oh, and the poem is called Welcome Wee One, not The Box of Delights.
For his next trick, Massie attempts to brand Scotland a one-party state while gloating about the SNP only being a minority government, all in the space of one sentence. Unsurprisingly, he doesn't really pull it off, but you've got to admire his ambition.
"It is a reminder, if any were needed, that while talk of Scotland as a one-party state is overblown – the SNP is after all a minority government – Scotland is a country dominated by just one party. That has consequences, not the least of which is a realisation – commercial as well as political – that crossing the SNP may be unwise."
In other words Scotland isn't a one-party state but it really really is.
"a reminder that while much of the alt-Nat community thinks the mainstream press an irrelevance, sensible people know a little better"
Translation of 'alt-Nat' : exclusion from the mainstream media somehow makes left-wing Scottish civic nationalism a bit like the far-right groups that helped Trump into power. This makes perfect sense in spite of the fact that Massie himself is ideologically slightly closer to Trump than SNP supporters are.
"So just as there are idiots who think the BBC weather map a conspiracy to make Scotland seem awful small..."
Conspiracy or not, the undeniable point is that the BBC weather map does make Scotland look considerably smaller in relation to the rest of the UK than it actually is, and it's very hard to understand why right-wing Scots like Massie seem to glory in that fact. They could reasonably call it trivial, but why do they seem to think it's actually desirable? My own guess is that the map came about as the result of an unconscious bias - after all, if you were looking at the UK as if from space, it would be perfectly possible to centre the gaze on the heart of the country, with both the northern and southern extremes looking smaller than the area around Manchester. But no, it clearly just 'felt' more natural to centre the gaze on the far south, and to make Scotland look distant and tiny. That it might not have been a deliberate slight doesn't mean that it isn't extremely revealing.
"...so there are Unionists who think the use of the Scots vernacular – and the pretence the phonetic rendition of a Scots accent makes a language – the thin edge of the nationalist wedge"
For the love of God, someone buy the man a book. There may still be a lively debate over whether Scots is a dialect of English or a fully-fledged language in its own right, but the idea that it's no more than the phonetic rendering of an "accent" is such a preposterous post-truth claim that it might make even Trump himself blush.
Mind you, perhaps we've just solved the mystery of what government "policy" Massie thinks Jackie Kay's poem - written in Scots - was "celebrating".