A horror of democracy

dimblebySometimes it’s worth listening to British political commentators, not because they have anything insightful or informative or even interesting to say about Scottish politics, but because of what their comments reveal about British attitudes. We are surely entitled to regard a veteran BBC presenter such as David Dimbleby as some kind of barometer of those attitudes since this is a large part of what justifies the ‘expert’ status afforded him by the BBC. Dimbleby is an ‘insider’. He has ‘contacts’. He is knowledgeable. He is trustworthy.

David Dimbleby is very much the voice of the British establishment. So, when he says that Scotland’s 2014 independence referendum “brutalised politics”, we have to assume that this is how it is perceived by the British establishment. When he says that people were “frightened” during the referendum campaign, we must suppose that this is what is believed to be the case by a significant part of the UK population. When he says that it was “terrible”, we are obliged to consider this to be, at the very least, a widely held opinion.

One thing we know for certain is that David Dimbleby’s portrayal of the referendum campaign as brutal, frightening and terrible is completely false. Those of us who were actually there know it to be false. Anybody who had any involvement or contact with the Yes movement knows it to have been a positive and even a joyful thing.

There was brutality! The intimidation of pensioners by British Labour activists bussed in from England could readily be described as brutal. People were frightened! The anti-independence campaign was not referred to as Project Fear for no reason. There were terrible incidents! An elderly man attacked in the street by some crazed Unionist woman and revolting scenes of Union Jack-wrapped British Nationalist thugs in George Square spitting hate and giving Nazi salutes.

Had the Yes movement responded in kind, then Scotland’s politics truly would have been “brutalised”. Had independence supporters been prepared to engage in the kind of deplorable tactics employed by Better Together, then the referendum campaign would surely have descended into generalised ugliness. But it simply didn’t happen. Much as some in the No campaign tried to incite violence on the street of Scotland’s towns and cities, the worst that happened was that one of them was hit by an egg – injuring only what pitiful remnant of dignity they clung to.

We could debate at length whether Dimbleby’s remarks are purposefully dishonest; a casually uttered calumny on the 2014 referendum campaign intended to serve the British state’s effort to deny Scotland’s right of self-determination. We might speculate that his warped view is no more than a grotesque personal fantasy. We can wonder how common this perspective is among those who rely entirely on the British media for information, or if it is merely a cosy consensus generated among British journalists wedded to a London-centric perspective and perpetuated because nobody in their little clique has the professional rigour or intellectual integrity to challenge it.

Regardless of any of that, Dimbleby’s words tell us something very disturbing about the British establishment’s attitude to democracy. A referendum is part of the democratic process. The 2014 independence referendum was widely acknowledged to represent the ‘gold standard’. It was democracy in action. Popular, participatory democracy. The entire process was conducted according to rules imposed or accepted by the British government. The cream of the British political elite became involved. An unprecedented percentage of Scotland’s people were engaged.

The 2014 referendum transformed Scottish politics. It gave birth to the remarkable phenomenon that is the Yes movement. It energised our democracy. It generated a wave of activism which has enlivened Scotland.

And, if Dimbleby is to be believed, the British establishment found this great exercise in democracy utterly horrific. That can’t be healthy.


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11 thoughts on “A horror of democracy

  1. As someone who was out campaigning during the Scottish Independence Referendum, I can only comment on my own personal experiences.
    Being an S.N.P member, over the years I have invariably delivered leaflets on my own and never encountered any hostility, but that all changed during the last referendum. While I was never physically assaulted, the verbal abuse I encountered when some people discovered I was delivering Yes material was something I had never previously encountered.
    This is why I have always insisted that come the next independence referendum, the opprobrium that will be thrown at independence campaigners will be far in excess of anything seen previously. You only have to look at the headlines in the M.S.M regarding Brexit that blame all the present Westminster Government’s travails on these nasty foreigners to realise what will come our way when we announce the date of the next Scottish independence referendum.
    Dimbleby’s comments are merely one example of what will become a hate fest promoted by an British establishment controlled media determined to deny us our right to become an independent nation once again. The vitriol thrown at us will reach a crescendo never seen before in these islands, and we better be prepared for what will become an increasingly bitter campaign, from the unionist camp, in a contest we simply have to win, or kiss goodbye to an independent Scotland for many years to come.

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  2. If 2014 was a gold standard in referendums, I’d hate to see what a bronze one would look like. The interference of the British establishment and its lickspittles, combined with a colonialist/imperialist attitude on the part of many of those of the NO persuasion, made it one helluva tarnished metal. Still, they didn’t beat us senseless or imprison our leaders, so that was a bonus. Next time, if there ever is a next time, I think we can rely on its being very much worse for us.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree. We cannot win by playing by their rules. We are completely outgunned by and within the Westminster/media system.

      So, let’s take a little time to think out an unbeatable asymmetric response which could not be swept aside, or at worst would produce for them a Pyrrhic victory. An amorphous ‘yes’ support structure whose leadership is difficult to identify would be a start.
      .

      Liked by 1 person

  3. We must stop the Scots from doing things, they know not what they do, is the benevolent and caring attitude from our neighbours,because they do care about our country of Scotland, not us the people you understand, just the country and what’s in it and around it

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  4. As someone English and an intending No voter in early summer 2014 (with a Scots Yes wife) I did not recieve any nastiness from Yes folk I met and talked to. By Sept I had moved through unsure to Yes, in large part by reading the No literature and also hearing several non-SNP Yes speakers at local meetings.
    I did however know No supporters who would not put No posters in their house or car window because they feared they would have stones thrown through them. I heard of no such incident happening, but some No voters genuinely thought it was likely, so the last part of Dimbleby’s comment is true. Who spread that idea I can only conjecture.

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  5. Hardly surprising then that the number of SNP representatives on Question Time have been slashed wildly disproportionately to the fall in SNP MPs from 56 to 35.

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  6. Peter – but a brutalisation is exactly what happened.

    ‘Banal unionists’ (from Colin Kidd) woke up to the uncomfortable realisation that their very identity was being challenged. The referendum forced them to choose what was more important to them – Scottishness or Britishness – and they chose the path of British nationalism.

    That would brutalise anyone!

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