Thursday, May 8, 2014

From Holland, with love

Not, as you might think, a reference to the seemingly increasing chance that the Netherlands are about to claim their first Eurovision title since 1975, but rather to the lip-wobbling musings of English historian Tom Holland. Avid fans of Newsnight Scotland (if they exist) will recall that Holland appeared on the show with Tariq Ali, and made the extraordinary admission that he has "never been so upset about anything" as he is about the prospect of Scotland choosing its own governments, partly due to the fact that independence would ruin his cherished childhood memory of a British-themed jigsaw puzzle with pictures of Scotland on it. This led to the following little Twitter exchange a few hours ago -

Tom Holland : "Our country is fine the way it is and we don't need such dramatic change" - Hannah Campbell (16)

Me : But she didn't mention the all-important jigsaws, Tom. You must be appalled.

Tom Holland : I am sure that her enthusiasm for the UK is woven out of childhood memories & impressions, just as mine is.

Me : Tom, I respect her view, but as for your own interview, all I could think was "True Love Isn't Possessive".

Tom Holland : Your own nationalism is all head, is it, nothing to do with the heart?

Me : It's nothing to do with jigsaws, I can assure you of that. Why do you need to keep us hostage to maintain your identity?

Tom Holland : Love means telling someone who's contemplating leaving you that you'd rather s/he didn't. But the choice, of course, is yours.

Me : But we're not "leaving". I become ever more exasperated by that word. We'll be retaining our current geographical position.

Tom Holland : How am I keeping you hostage? I'm just letting you know that I'd be very sorry to see you go!

Me : That Newsnight interview suggested that your personal identity would be affected by another country's independence. Why?

Tom Holland : Because the country I currently inhabit will be radically altered, IMO for the worse. I like having the Scots as fellow citizens.

Me : Exactly. So us choosing our own government somehow diminishes your identity. That's an extraordinary proposition.

Tom Holland : You already choose your own government. But yes, of course we will be the poorer for losing the Scots as our fellow citizens.

Me : Your identity demands that we have far less say on how we are governed than we would under indy. That's correct, isn't it?

Tom Holland : It would only seem correct were you absolutely determined to attribute base motives to those who disagree with you.

Me : Your original motive isn't the point. I've now pointed out the reality of what you're asking of us - has it changed your mind?

Tom Holland : Not the reality - your spin on the reality (& yes, the same is true of my take)

Me : Inhuman weapons within 30 miles of where I live are not "spin" - they're all too real. Who put them there, and why?

Tom Holland : (no response)

I was sorry that Tom ended the exchange when he did, because I would have liked to press him just a little further on precisely how, if as he claims "you already choose your own government", we can currently go about vetoing the presence of Trident on the Clyde, and indeed our participation in illegal wars.

I must say that in my view, a national identity that is so fragile that it depends on 'keeping hold' of others is a frighteningly immature identity, and one that for the sake of its own adherents needs to evolve as a matter of some urgency. Look at it this way - in the unlikely event that the ultimate 'unionist' fantasy ever came true and Shetland decided to become independent, how many of us would feel that our Scottish identity had been diminished as a result? Very few, I would guess, because Scottish identity is not rooted in the possessive mindset of imperialism. And how many of us would feel that Shetland was even one iota more 'foreign' when we visited? Almost none.

Final thought : It's very telling that Holland just automatically assumes that Hannah Campbell is referring to the UK when she talks about "our country".  The balance of probability is that she is actually talking about Scotland.  That illustrates how there's a gulf of understanding, even between the unionist London commentariat and their natural allies in Scotland.

*  *  *  *  *

I got eight out of ten qualifiers correct in my prediction for the second Eurovision semi-final, but I really should have known better than to put Israel in the 'near certainties' category.  It's not that there's no such thing as a near certainty in Eurovision, but the tag can probably only apply to countries that tend to qualify even when they have a weak song (such as Russia).  Even so, I'm slightly baffled as to what went wrong for Israel, because the live performance seemed absolutely fine to me, and the staging was dynamic.  The only thing I can think of is that the Slovenian entry was fairly similar, so maybe that led to a split vote.

Talking of Slovenia, although I explained my very convoluted rationale for voting for them, oddly enough I think I would have made the same choice even if I had been voting 'honestly'.  The song has really grown on me the more I listen to it, although due to my long-standing language rule I'll probably switch my vote to Montenegro in the final.

Passionate supporters of the UK at Eurovision (as I was myself until only two or three years ago) will be beside themselves with excitement to learn that the Danish producers have awarded Molly Smitten-Downes the prized final slot in the running order for Saturday night.  It's certainly a huge advantage to sing towards the end, although I'm not sure there's any evidence that the very last slot confers any extra-special bonus.  The Netherlands are only two positions further back, so the threat from that quarter hasn't receded.  But with excellent reports from Molly's rehearsals, this does now look like the UK's best chance of victory since Imaani finished a very close second in Birmingham way back in 1998.  I'd still slightly favour Sweden, though - they've been given a middling position.  The big losers are Ukraine, who have been placed right at the start - until that happened I fancied them to finish no worse than second, and certainly to beat the UK and the Netherlands.


  1. This is not the first time I've seen opposition to Scottish independence based on a loss of British identity in England.

    As you say it's a difference in viewpoint between Scotland and England.

    It's a broad generalisation, but the Scottish viewpoint is that the UK is a union state made up of four parts, three nations and a province. A view held even among many unionists.

    The viewpoint from many in England is that Britain is a single nation with a single identity.

    For them Scotland leaving isn't the break-up of a union, it's the dismemberment of a single nation and a single country, their country.

    It's very much about identity. I'm Scottish now and the result of the referendum won't change that. For those like Tom Holland they will have to reassess their identity after a Yes vote and they don't want that.

  2. You wrote "keeping hold" of others is a frighteningly immature identity. - Totally agree James and an awful lot of the opposition to Scottish Independence stems from their insecurity at not being a "big" country any more. Another pointer is their total lack of the ability to look at themselves and understand why they are not as well loved as they feel they should be - I except the ordinary English folk from this of course!