Wednesday, July 10, 2013

UK government proposes military occupation of an independent Scotland. Will anti-nuclear No campaigners speak out against this?

One of the best teachers I ever had was a history teacher at Anniesland College. When he was explaining for us the significance of the West Lothian by-election in 1962 to the fortunes of the SNP, he mentioned that he had been a canvasser in that contest, but had only realised many decades later that he'd been a participant in something of a landmark election. He refused to tell us which party he'd campaigned for, from which I guessed that it probably wasn't the Nationalists. But he did add, when we were discussing what I presumed to be highly implausible 'what if?' scenarios, that he would be prepared to take up arms to defend Scottish independence if necessary, regardless of whether he had voted for it himself.

I hope nobody is thinking of taking up arms tonight, but I suspect there will be a great many potential No voters looking at the front cover of The Guardian, and thinking to themselves "I might be against independence in principle, but up with this I will not put". If you haven't seen the story, it's a suggestion from MoD sources that if Scotland votes for independence (which among other things will be a vote for the removal of nuclear weapons from our shores), the UK government will simply confiscate the part of Scotland which currently hosts nuclear weapons and declare it UK sovereign territory - in precisely the same way that 3% of Cypriot territory was stolen upon independence in 1960 for military convenience, and indefensibly remains under British sovereign control to this very day. Does the word 'arrogance' cover that type of mindset? Does 'cynical' cover it? If all else fails, 'imperial' and 'colonial' will certainly fit the bill, so unless this threat is explicitly withdrawn, let's never again see any smirking when the suggestion is made that London governance over Scotland is quasi-colonial in nature.

I'm sorry, but I'm not campaigning for independence for a country called 'Scotland minus Faslane'. I will not be sanguine about a foreign government occupying a part of our territory, just so that it can retain the ability to inflict a holocaust on foreign peoples that would make what Hitler did to the Jews look like a tea party. Are these really the values of our opponents? That the ability to mass murder hundreds of millions of civilians at the press of a button is so important as a national status symbol that even democracy must be subverted to that end? Can the likes of Kezia Dugdale and Duncan Hothersall look at themselves in the mirror and still support the No campaign when this is what it stands for?

Some of you will have seen the nine 'Think Independence' posters that I put together, and that Tris very kindly posted on Munguin's Republic the other day. What you don't know is that there was a tenth that Tris decided not to use. It showed a real image from the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, with a human body lying in the rubble, burned beyond all possible recognition and with limbs missing. The text read "NUCLEAR WEAPONS : COMPULSORY IN SCOTLAND AS PART OF THE UK. THINK INDEPENDENCE". I deliberately set out to shock, because I felt that when people euphemistically use terms like 'minimum nuclear deterrent', they lose sight of the indescribable evil that they're actually talking about. However, Tris felt that there was a danger of it backfiring because of the graphic nature of the image, and on reflection I was inclined to agree with him. But I'm so outraged at what I've just read that I'm severely tempted to go ahead and post it right here and now - and without shame or apology.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

A plea to Yahoo "UK" : would it be possible for me to check my emails without having to wade through Nat-bashing drivel from London-centric "commentators"?

As you can see from the top of the sidebar, I now mainly use a Gmail account, but I still have a Yahoo email account from years ago that I need to check fairly regularly. I'd really like to be able to do that without being forced to pass a link to a "news story" describing Alex Salmond's flag "stunt" (ie. waving the Scottish flag in celebration of the all-time greatest Scottish sporting triumph) as "childish". Or at a pinch, I'd even settle for not having to then find out that the "childish" jibe was solely based on the opinion of a single southern commentator - Ian Dunt - who knows nothing about Scotland and understands even less. Hint : the indulgence of one random man's opinion ain't "news", guys, anymore than the last piece of Scottish political "analysis" that you linked to on the Yahoo UK homepage was news.

In any case, can Dunt convincingly justify his claim that Salmond waving his country's flag was a "stunt" and "childish", when presumably Cameron's repeated breathless attempts to exploit Murray's triumph in the sacred name of Britishness were all perfectly "mature"? You won't be surprised to hear that the answer is a resounding no.

"Not so long ago Alex Salmond was considered a political genius. He outmanoeuvred his Westminster opponents at every turn, ran rings around the vestiges of talent in Hollyrood and struck the right balance of cheery bonhomie and statesmanlike vision in his TV appearances...

But yesterday's clumsy attempt to politicise Andy Murray's Wimbledon win showed the wheels coming off the Salmond bandwagon."

First of all, mate, I hope it's not too cruel of me to point out that most people who know the first thing about Scottish politics are generally aware that there's only one 'l' in the word 'Holyrood'. Secondly, are you seriously telling us that Salmond was a genius - but then he waved a flag and suddenly wasn't anymore? Do you have the faintest idea just how daft that sounds?

Oh, and by the way, if Salmond was indeed considered a genius by Mr Dunt until "not so long ago" (presumably in the halcyon pre-flag days), why did we mysteriously never see any articles on the Yahoo UK homepage telling us about that? Why were we treated to the "insight" of Mr Jeremy Warner instead?

"BBC cameras cut away just as he and his wife were unfurling a large Saltire behind David Cameron's head, amid crowds cheering the historic victory. It would have looked bad if the cameras caught him waving it, but by showing just his frantic efforts to get the flag out, it came across as particularly amateurish."

So let me get this straight - his main shortcoming was failing to hypnotise a television director? Is that what the "pros" do, Ian?

And justify the word "frantic", please. That kind of bluff to support your preferred narrative would work a hell of a lot better if we hadn't all seen the footage for ourselves.

"As Salmond insisted today, he had no control over the seating arrangements, so it wasn't a purposeful effort to photobomb the prime minister. Nevertheless, the short clip made Salmond look cheap, childish and, as Labour MP Tom Harris put it, 'naff'."

Wow. So you've found one Scot to agree with you, Ian - and he just happens to be the right-wing, constitutional reform hating, David Cameron installing, supremely ironic Downfall spoofing, teenage mother bashing, "Admin" of the Labour Hame website. Why not chuck in Duncan Hothersall and make us even more impressed?

"The Murray victory should, if anything, be a boost to the Scottish first minister. While most of the talk – including that from Murray himself – has been of the importance of a British winner in a British sporting event, it cements the impression of Scotland being a country of weight..."

Most of the talk? Would that be most of the talk from people like these who painted the streets of Dunblane in the blue and white of the saltire last September to salute Murray's US Open win? Or are you merely referring to the talk you hear from people very much like yourself, Ian, who live in exactly the same place that you do, ie. London? Or the talk from commentators in the same provincially-minded London media that you yourself are part of? If so, you've unwittingly put your finger right on the nub of this matter - a distorted and unbalanced London-centric perception was precisely the problem to which a well-placed saltire was the solution.

The acres of drivel written about Alex Salmond over the last couple of days - simply for capturing the mood of the nation by doing the most natural thing in the world - leaves only one possible conclusion to be drawn. If opponents of independence in the south of England are that desperate to find the tiniest excuse to smear the leader of the pro-independence movement, they must be profoundly scared of him.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Underground, overground, Scowimbling free, the Scowimblian of Scowimbledon Centre Court is he

When Andy Murray defeated Roger Federer in a best-of-five-set match on Wimbledon Centre Court to win Olympic gold last year, I suggested that although it might be drowned out by events elsewhere in London, in terms of pure achievement it was right up there with the greatest ever Scottish sporting moments. It was certainly one of the finest ever Scolympic accomplishments. But what we have just witnessed not only surpasses that, it might just go down as the greatest ever day in Scottish sport. It's hard to think of much else that matches it - possibly Celtic winning the European Cup with an all-Scottish team in 1967, or Allan Wells winning the blue riband athletics event at the 1980 Olympics. At the very least, though, a Scot winning the men's singles title at Wimbledon is on a par with those. And even as a curling fan, I'd probably have to concede that this is a slightly bigger deal than Eve Muirhead and co winning Scotland's second women's world championship a few months ago, although the two events in combination means we can certainly say this has already been a truly vintage year for Scottish sport!

* * *

Here's an intriguing thought - if Scotland votes for independence next year, and Murray becomes a Scottish-registered player from 2016 onwards (he would still only be 28 or 29), how would the London media rationalise in retrospect all the stuff we've heard today about him being the first player from 'the country' to win Wimbledon in 77 years? Would they deem the rump UK to be right back to square one, with the legendary "drought" further extended? I don't ask that question in a gloating way, or even necessarily in the expectation that it will happen (there are various permutations), but there's no obvious answer. It would certainly be psychologically very difficult for them to backtrack after all this hoo-ha.

* * *

Alas, Scottish sporting prowess has a habit of bringing out the worst in Britain's leading cat forum, as we discovered when Murray won gold last year. For obvious reasons I'm no longer your man on the spot, but you can read Mick Pork's account of what happened this time round (including his own 88th unexplained banning from the site) by clicking HERE.

* * *

I'm not going to ruin a very special day by actually reading a blogpost with the cretinous title 'Andy Murray wins Wimbledon. This is a great day for Cameron, and the Union', but a small friendly hint for Toby Young - it can't be both of those things. It really can't. I suppose it's conceivable that it might be one or the other (although I'm struggling to see how or why), but anything that is good for Cameron must by definition be bad for 'the Union' (sniff). There is abundant evidence that support for Westminster rule in Scotland is in inverse proportion to support for the Tories in Middle England.

* * *

You have to hand it to Alex Salmond - no-one has a greater talent for deftly capturing the mood of the nation, as he demonstrated once again by entering into the carnival atmosphere after Murray's triumph and unfurling a saltire in the Royal Box. Unsurprisingly, a few of the usual suspects weren't entirely happy about that. Prize for the most ill-judged tweet of the day goes to a chap who reckoned that what Salmond did was a bit like Nick Clegg waving a 'Yes2AV' banner at a sporting event. Yes, folks, you read that right - the Scottish national flag being waved by the political leader of Scotland in celebration of a Scottish sporting triumph is the equivalent of a referendum campaign banner. It's hard to know whether to laugh or cry. Perhaps there are some pills available that would help these people to finally "get it"? If not, they'll have to make do with explaining away why so many identical 'referendum campaign banners' were being waved enthusiastically by ordinary members of the crowd in Centre Court, not to mention on Henman Hill. Were all those people demonstrating their support for independence, rather than cheering on Murray? If so, we must be winning handily...

Of course, Salmond probably was making a point, albeit a more subtle one than the paranoid Brit Nats want to believe. If the media refuse to do their job by properly representing one of Murray's declared national identities, then the First Minister of Scotland might as well do that job for them, and he did it very effectively. I don't think any of us would begrudge English or Welsh fans for feeling that they have a stake in a triumph by a player from a fellow British nation, any more than Spaniards begrudged us for cheering on a golfer from a fellow European nation when Seve Ballesteros won his majors. But Salmond's gesture was a timely reminder to the world that Murray is, when all is said and done, a Scowimblian.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Want to know how to help the world take a small step towards averting nuclear apocalypse?

If so, click HERE to read my 1000-word potted guide over at the International Business Times. If you're in a rush, the even shorter version is 'Vote Yes in September 2014'.

Is the painful 117-year Scowimblian drought about to end?

This is from Ethan Grant at the Bleacher Report -

"When it comes to Sunday's matchup, Djokovic and Murray are no strangers to staring each other down on opposite sides of the court. As noted by Live Tennis on Twitter, some of their matches have been legendary...

The duo last squared off at the Australian Open final, where Djokovic bested the Brit in four sets to win the first Grand Slam of the 2013 season. In doing so, Djokovic ran his head-to-head record against Murray to 11-7.

The lone meeting on grass, though, did go in Murray's favor.

The pair met in the semifinals at the Olympics, and Murray won in electrifying 7-5, 7-5 fashion. He also beat Djokovic in the 2012 U.S. Open final, but Djokovic has won the last three matches since.

Like the 77-year English drought at Wimbledon, expect that streak to end on Sunday."

Hmmm. Now I must admit that I haven't been closely following the girls' doubles, or the boys' singles, or the over-45s' invitational doubles, so I suppose it is just conceivable that some kind of 77-year "English drought" at Wimbledon will be ending today. But that sure as hell won't be happening in the men's singles final, which is being contested by a Serbian and a Scot. On the plus side, though, Andy Murray does have the chance to end an even longer drought than the presumably imaginary one suggested by Grant - he stands on the brink of becoming the first Scowimblian singles champion since Harold Mahony in 1896. Indeed, Ireland arguably have a stronger claim to Mahony (although he was born in Edinburgh), in which case Murray could be the first authentic Scowimblian singles champion ever. So quite a moment.

* * *

I have the same thought almost every year - why is the women's singles final not played over the best of five sets, rather than three? It's such a big setpiece occasion, and yet more often than not it's over before it's even started. Even an attack of nerves as dreadful as Sabine Lisicki's would probably have eased by a third set, and we'd have had a chance to see what she was really capable of.

It's become taboo to say anything at all in defence of the very small differential in prize money that existed between men and women at Wimbledon until a few years ago, but arguably that was a perfectly rational way of reflecting the fact that the men's champion plays far more sets of tennis en route to the title. I don't really understand why the push for equality focused solely on prize money and not on the number of sets that women play, because the latter point is surely far more important in shaping public perceptions of the women's game.

I suspect the objection would be that five-set women's matches would wreak havoc with the tournament schedules, which may be a fair point - but it still isn't an excuse for leaving the final as a three-setter.

* * *

It was refreshing that it was Garry Richardson rather than Scowimblian superstar Andy Murray that took most of the brickbats for that excruciating interview on Wednesday, although it baffles me that Richardson is still in his role of post-match interrogator after years on end of treating us to his Partridge-esque repertoire. It's also surprising that nobody (as far as I've seen) has referred in recent days to his encounter a few years back with Anna Kournikova, which was probably even worse and earned an on-air rebuke from John McEnroe. The fact that Richardson's fellow interviewer Phil Jones is such a consummate professional just brings his own shortcomings into even sharper relief.

* * *

Were the TV commentators just being diplomatic, or did they really not notice that the engraver had made a monumental blunder by failing to leave a space between 'M.' and 'Bartoli'?