Lies and liars of every sort

David Mundell

There are many different types of lie. Human beings don’t want for ways of being dishonest. Lies can, for example, be artful or clumsy, They may be cleverly contrived and fully detailed accounts lacking only the element of veracity. Or they may be obvious untruths lacking all credibility.

As well as being differentiated by the skill of the person telling them, lies are often assessed on the degree of harm caused or intended. White lies are supposed to be at least relatively harmless. These are lies purportedly told to avoid giving offence or causing hurt. The repulsive Christmas gift is received with effusive, but entirely false, gratitude. The prior engagement excuse for non-attendance is deployed in preference to the more honest, but rather hurtful, explanation that the individual concerned is a crashing bore whose company you would avoid even at risk of serious injury or death.

White lies are lies that we forgive ourselves for. The term is a euphemism for what, were we more honest, we would call insincerity. A character flaw we tend to deplore in others and are reluctant to admit to.

Exaggeration is another form of dishonesty which, depending on context, can be considered quite forgivable. Who doesn’t embellish a story that would otherwise be too mundane to be worth retelling? Who doesn’t put a light coat of varnish on their CV? Who among us doesn’t take a futile stab at trying to convince the doctor that we’re more abstemious than is actually the case?

Of course, there is a line to be crossed. The line between deducting a few pints from your weekly alcohol consumption in the forlorn hope of impressing a doctor who has heard it all before and adding a few zeros to your annual income in an attempt to secure a loan. Or between polishing an otherwise factual anecdote to make it funnier and trying to pass off a total fiction as an honest account.

Broken promises are rarely, if ever forgivable. Perhaps, if there is good reason to believe the commitment was made in good faith and/or there is a genuine excuse for failure to deliver, the culpability may be lessened. But this very seldom applies in the case of political promises. Few politicians are felt to have earned a presumption of good faith. And the authenticity of a political excuse is, for good reason, deeply suspect.

Fabrication and deception are forms of lying which commonly accompany one another. Fabrication involves imparting information which is known to be false. Or, at the very least, information which is unverified. This becomes deception when the purpose is to cause others to believe something which is untrue. Invariably, with malign intent.

The political smear story is an example of a lie which usually adds distortion to exaggeration, fabrication and deception in order to mislead the public about the conduct and character of a particular individual. By the manner in which they are presented, details which are, in themselves, entirely true can be made to serve a narrative which is totally dishonest.

There are exceptions – which we shall come to in a moment – but, generally speaking, senior politicians prefer not to lie. Direct lies can be difficult to sustain when one is constantly in the public eye. It’s all too easy for an inept prevaricator to become the fly in the tangled web they weave when first they practise to deceive. Politicians would much rather that others lie on their behalf. Which is where the media come in.

The skilled political actor will keep themselves at one remove from the smear. Character assassination is best left to the professionals. The politician merely provides the ammunition. They studiously avoid making allegations. But will happily comment in such a way as to lend currency to innuendo and insinuation. Masters of the art of the smear can seem to be defending the target while actually directing the dagger and giving it an extra thrust. The best liars lie with complete conviction and casual ease.

And so to the penultimate type of lie in a catalogue which may not be comprehensive. The audacious lie. Otherwise known as bare-faced, bold-faced, bald-faced or brazen.

Instances of such insolent dishonesty are not difficult to find. One need only listen to pretty much any British politician. David Mundell, for example, is a man known for little else besides his capacity for treating truth as an inessential adornment to his increasingly bilious British Nationalist rhetoric. Absolutely nobody, I hazard, would have been genuinely shocked to see a Wings Over Scotland headline declaring, ‘David Mundell is a liar‘. Evidently, Stu Campbell considered this too much of a commonplace to warrant an exclamation mark.

The article beneath the headline is a characteristically forensic excoriation of a particular instance of Mundell’s mendacity. Namely, his audacious assertion, in an interview with the BBC’s Brian Taylor, that the people of Scotland voted in the 2014 independence referendum knowing that there was to be a referendum on the UK’s EU membership. To put it another way. Mundell flatly denied that, throughout the 2014 referendum campaign, the British propaganda machine repeatedly and explicitly claimed that a No vote was necessary to ensure continued EU membership. He did so knowing this to be completely untrue. It was a lie as brazen as it might be without actually being cast in brass.

I have nothing to add to Stu Campbell’s scathing condemnation of Mundell’s shameless dishonesty. But, out of curiosity, I decided to find out what the BBC’s North British political editor had to say about the episode. Holding my nose against the stench, I ventured into the mire of prejudice and partiality that is the BBC Scotland website and read Brian Taylor’s column for the relevant date. Despite – or maybe because of – the magnitude of David Mundell’s lie, it wasn’t considered deserving of so much as a passing mention.

Which neatly brings us to the last in our list of different types of lie. Lies of omission.


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Good Tory! Bad Tory!

David Mundell

The notion of David Mundell being concerned about treating the people of Scotland with fairness is, of course, risible. While he can hardly be held personally responsible for the preceding three centuries, there can be be no bout that Mundell has played a key role in the British Nationalist ‘One Nation’ project in recent years.

Maybe he had no part in actually creating the Union which ensures that the people of Scotland are denied, in perpetuity, full and effective exercise of their sovereignty, but he has certainly taken full advantage of the fact that the Union enshrines democratic injustice in what passes for constitutional law in the British state.

The perverse logic of the British Nationalist fanatic never loses its power to stun. According to Mundell, it would be “unfair” to the people of Scotland if anything should be allowed to interfere with them getting something they voted decisively against. Mundell actually believes we should be grateful to beneficent Britannia for relieving us of the onerous task of making crucial decisions about our future. To Mundell, it is an obvious and unchallengeable fact that such decisions are better made by the British political elite, of which he likes to consider himself part.

Mundell is tasked by his masters in London with overseeing the subversion of Scotland’s democratic institutions, the eradication of Scotland’s distinctive political culture and the obliteration of Scotland’s identity as a nation. A task to which he seems unshakably committed. Let none doubt this man’s utter conviction that, if Scotland wasn’t entirely ‘extinguished’ by the Union, then it damned well should have been. Mundell seeks his place in history as the man who finally completed the ‘Greater England’ project.

When I was a boy, around sixty years ago, it was considered fairly normal for working class people in Scotland to vote for the Scottish Conservative & Unionist Party, which was then a quite distinct party. It was acceptable to vote for what I now call ‘traditional’ Scottish Tories because, for all that they were Unionists, they were also perceived as trusted custodians of ‘Scottishness’. They were content that Scotland should be part of the UK, but sought to further Scotland’s particular interests – as they saw them – within the Union.

Traditional Scottish Tories of that period would be appalled and disgusted by what David Mundell and his cronies are doing. They would despise his ‘One Nation’ British Nationalism. They would be outraged that, while bearing the once honourable title of Secretary of State for Scotland, he was a leading player in an ideologically-driven effort to destroy the very things that they were dedicated to preserving.

My suspicion is that tradition Scottish Toryism still survives. I reckon many present-day Scottish Tories are distinctly uncomfortable – at the very least – with what is being done in their name. All that prevents them revolting against the odious ideologues who have taken over is residual partisan loyalty and a vague hope that the values which once made their party respectable and respected in Scotland might somehow be restored.

The great irony, of course, is that the only way this can happen is if Scotland’s independence is restored. Traditional Scottish Tories face a stark choice between the values they espouse and the Union which denies their right to have those values inform public policy.


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To be a Unionist

David Mundell

To be a Unionist in Scotland, one must be prepared to accept humiliation, not as an insult to be stoically borne or desperately rationalised, but as a natural part of ones condition as a subject of the British state.

To be a Unionist in Scotland, one must be so persuaded of the superiority of the British ruling elite that ones own inferiority is worn with the same ease as ones own skin.

To be a Unionist in Scotland, one must consent to the denial by the British state of democratic rights which in all other circumstances would be considered inalienable.

To be a Unionist in Scotland, one must stand ready to sacrifice the needs, priorities and aspirations of ones country to the imperative of preserving the structures of power, privilege and patronage which define the British state.

To be a Nationalist in Scotland, you need only maintain that Scotland, its people, its land, its culture and its democratic institutions are worthy of being treated with the respect generally regarded as the due of any nation.

To be a Nationalist in Scotland, you need only believe that good government is never further removed from the governed than is consistent with its function. And that decisions about Scotland’s future must be made by the people of Scotland.

To be a Nationalist in Scotland, you need only insist that the people of Scotland are sovereign. And that they must never be denied the full and effective exercise of their sovereignty.


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Something fishy

iscot_promoBritish Nationalists make a big fuss about getting out of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). What we don’t hear from the likes of David Mundell is any detail on what is to replace the EU quota system. We know that there will have to be a quota system. We know that this new quota system will continue to involve negotiation with the EU. The UN Convention on the Law of the Sea requires countries sharing maritime borders to jointly manage shared fish stocks. The EU and the UK share more than 100 fish stocks.

We know that existing independent coastal states such as Greenland and Norway continue to be effectively bound by the CFP. The latter negotiates annually a quota swap just as EU member states do under the CFP. The former institutionalises the CFP quota system in exchange for various concessions.

All the evidence, then, suggests that the new UK quota system is unlikely to represent a dramatic departure from the CFP. Which leads one to wonder why Mundell and other British Nationalists attach so much importance to getting out of the CFP. They certainly aren’t explaining their reasoning. We can be certain that it has nothing to do with what might best serve Scotland’s economic interests. Mundell has made it abundantly clear that his overriding priority is the preservation of the Union at whatever cost to Scotland and its people.

This being the British state, and Mundell being a Tory, might we find a clue to their motives in a recent Greenpeace investigation which found, among other things, that –

Five families on the Sunday Times Rich List own or control a third (33%) of all Scottish quota. When taking into account minority stakes, companies wholly or partly owned by these families hold close to half (45%) of all Scottish quota.

Not for the first time, we find something very fishy about Mundell’s attitude. Ask yourself, how easy is it to believe that this man and the regime he represents are looking after Scotland’s interests? Or that they are concerned with the welfare of ‘fishing communities’? How much easier is it to believe that their sole concern is to preserve the structures of power, privilege and patronage which define the British state. How easy is it to believe that, whatever replaces the CFP afer Brexit, it will be part of the corrupt British political and economic system which serves the few at untold cost to the many?


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By their own words shall ye know them!

back_in_boxWe really should encourage David Mundell to speak more. It seems that every time he opens his mouth he unwittingly allows us another telling insight into his repulsive British Nationalist ideology.

As we are all surely aware by now, British Nationalists have an attitude to democracy which we might describe as ‘quaint’, were it not for the fact that this term does not adequately convey just how dangerous that attitude is when combined with real political power. Look at how Mundell responds when Mhairi Black points out that, “Sixty-four per cent of Scottish voters now want to see immigration policy devolved to the Scottish Parliament.” It is clear that he genuinely supposes a massive majority of the the Scottish people can be outweighed by an organisation representing a few businesses operating in Scotland. What nearly two-thirds of Scotland’s voters want is of absolutely no consequence. The demands of big business must always take precedence.

This is British democracy. Or should we better call it ‘demockracy’? Because it bears no resemblance whatever to what I’m sure most of us would think of as true democracy. It is this ‘demockracy’ that the British political elite intends to impose on Scotland as they sweep away the distinctive, progressive political culture which we have begun to develop since the Scottish Parliament was reconvened.

But it is in those rare moments of honesty that British Nationalists inadvertently give away most about the true nature of their ‘One Nation’ project. David Mundell really means it when he says that he wants to protect Scotland’s place in UK. He really does want to preserve Scotland’s subordinate status within an archaic, dysfunctional, anti-democratic political union. He is being perfectly sincere when he states his desire and ambition to lock Scotland into a Union which is, in essence, no more than a constitutional device by which the people of Scotland are denied the full and proper exercise of their sovereignty.

Does Mundell declare a commitment to Scotland? No! Does he promise to serve Scotland’s interests? No! Does he undertake to honour the democratic wishes of Scotland’s people? No! Does he state that he will respect the authority of the Scottish Parliament – the only Parliament with democratic legitimacy in Scotland? No!

His oath is only this, “I will defend our United Kingdom until my last breath.”

Perhaps the most honest thing that David Mundell has ever said is a declaration of his undying devotion to the British state and his contempt for the needs, priorities and aspirations of Scotland’s people. Rarely do we hear so explicitly expressed the mindless British Nationalist dogma of ‘The Union At Any Cost!’.


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The most dangerous man in Scotland

mundell-bulldogIs David Mundell the most dangerous man in Scotland? You may be accustomed to thinking of him as the comically disgusting character, Baron Snackbeard, absently nibbling chunks picked out of his whiskers as he lounges on the lush green leather benches of his Westminster club. Or perhaps you’re more inclined to see him simply as Theresa May’s yapping wee lapdog. Or maybe as Ruth Davidson’s sidekick – the bumbling Laurel to her bumptious Hardy. But it might be wiser to regard Mundell as the British establishment’s obedient bulldog set on Scotland to seize it and hold it and shake it into submission.

I have written previously about how we should attend well to the words spoken by politicians. How we should be wary of too readily accepting their utterances at face value. How we must “be mindful of the wider political context as well as being attentive to the precise form of words used”. What, then, should we make of the following comment from David Mundell.

So I want to use this opportunity to say to Sturgeon, it is time to end the constitutional uncertainty that we have lived with for the past four years.

It is time for Scotland’s two governments to work together in the best interests of the Scottish people. It is time to move on.

Let’s gloss over the discourteous manner in which Mundell refers to Scotland’s First Minister. Although we should recognise, in passing, that this disrespect is purposeful and part of the ongoing effort to diminish and delegitimise Scotland’s democratic institutions, we can hardly dwell on every such instance. The next phrase, however, warrants closer attention. It is an illustrative example of a remark which may seem totally innocuous or even quite sensible, but which may take on a darker meaning when viewed in the light of current political reality. Surely ‘uncertainty’ is a ‘bad thing’. Surely ending uncertainty is a ‘good thing’. Surely it is perfectly reasonable to state that “it is time to end the constitutional uncertainty that we have lived with for the past four years”. But, as always, the key to rewarding analysis is to ask the right questions.

Is constitutional uncertainty necessarily a bad thing? Given that it is fundamental to our democracy, shouldn’t the constitutional settlement always be subject to scrutiny? Given that the constitution is about political power and where it lies, shouldn’t we heed Tony Benn’s urging and constantly interrogate the powerful demanding to know what power they have; how they obtained that power; in whose interests they use that power; to whom are they accountable for the the exercise of that power; and how they can be deprived of that power?

What constitutional uncertainty is Mundell referring to? Whose uncertainty is he talking about? Is he referring to the precariousness of the British state? Is he talking about the unease felt by by those whose purpose is to lock Scotland into a ‘One Nation’ British state? Does his remark reflect only the fears of a British Nationalist ideologue?

We can, I think, safely assume that Mundell is not referring to the constitutional uncertainty occasioned by Scotland being dragged out of the EU against the democratically expressed wishes of the people. He’s not talking about the distress caused to EU nationals living in Scotland. He’s not talking about the concerns of those who are being forcibly stripped of their EU citizenship with no satisfactory explanation as to what status is to be imposed in its stead.

It is not Mundell’s intention to draw attention to the uncertainty caused by Brexit. When he refers to constitutional uncertainty he is talking only about the fact that, while the 2014 independence referendum provided an indisputable result, it did not produce a decision. It did not resolve the constitutional issue. And the blame for that rests, once again, with the British political elite.

While it was perfectly clear that a Yes vote meant independence by way of a reasonably well described process, there was no indication whatever of what a No vote meant. Initially, it was said to be a vote for the status quo. As the referendum campaign progressed, however, all manner of stuff was hooked onto the No vote – up to and including ‘The Vow’.

In practice, a No vote meant whatever the British establishment wanted it to mean. This turned out to be pretty much the opposite of everything that had been promised. And something very, very far from the status quo that was originally offered. Thus, the referendum produced an indisputable result, but no decision. Because the No option was effectively undefined, a No vote in the referendum could not settle the issue. There was nothing to settle on.

How does Mundell propose to end the constitutional uncertainty which does trouble him? How does he intend to prevent us asking those five questions? How does he plan on fixing Scotland’s constitutional settlement so that he and his fellow British Nationalists can feel secure in their status and power?

We know the answer to this. We know, because the likes of Mundell and Davidson have been unabashedly explicit about their anti-democratic intentions. We know that their malign ambition is to deny Scotland’s right of self-determination. We know, because they’ve come right out and told us, that they mean to deprive the people of Scotland of the right to choose the form of government best suits our needs.

When David Mundell speaks of ending constitutional uncertainty he is talking about nothing less than stilling the beating heart of Scotland’s democracy.

Mundell also says he wants “Scotland’s two governments to work together”. Fine words! Until we juxtapose the expressed sentiment with the actual behaviour of the British state towards the Scottish Government and the Scottish Parliament. But first let’s ask some more questions.

Does Scotland actually have two governments? That rather depends on how one defines the term ‘government’. If democratic legitimacy is a criterion, then we have only one government. The term ‘government’ is generally understood to mean the group of people with the authority to govern a country. But if we stipulate rightful authority, then that must rule out people who obtained power against the wishes of Scotland’s voters;  who use that power against the interests of Scotland’s people; who are not answerable to Scotland’s electorate; and who cannot be removed from power by Scotland’s democratic processes.

Democratic legitimacy derives solely and exclusively from the consent of the people. Only the Scottish Government enjoys the consent of Scotland’s people. That consent has been consistently and decisively denied to the people David Mundell represents. Those people cannot claim rightful authority. In terms of our definition, therefore, they cannot be regarded as a government. For want of a better term, we might justifiably call them a ‘regime’.

What does Mundell mean when he says “work together”? What does recent history tell us of cooperation between the Scottish Government and the British regime? Is such cooperation likely, or even possible?

When answering these questions people will probably tend to reflect on the way in which the Scottish Government has been excluded from the Brexit negotiations. But we see the British regime’s contempt for Scotland’s elected representatives very plainly in EVEL. And in their insistence that there is ‘no demand’ for a new independence referendum despite electoral and parliamentary mandates. And in the Brexit power-grab. And in the UK Supreme Court action against the Continuity Bill. And in David Mundell referring to our First Minister as ‘Sturgeon’.

In fact, we see in pretty much every aspect of the Scottish Government’s dealings with the British regime a lack of respect which ranges from the thoughtlessly casual to the mindlessly hateful. There is no basis on which to “work together”. The British regime will not allow it.

Mundell isn’t asking for cooperation, he’s demanding compliance. As a British Nationalist, he is absolutely committed to concept of parliamentary sovereignty. He is intellectually incapable of doubting the supremacy of Westminster. He cannot question the British ‘right to rule’. He is the loyal servant of established power.

When Mundell talks of “the best interests of the Scottish people” we have to ask what definition of those interests he has in mind. Who decides what Scotland’s best interests are? Who is entitled to decide? Who speaks for Scotland? Is it the Scottish Parliament, with its democratic legitimacy? Is it the Scottish Government, with its rightful authority? Is it the First Minister, with her mandate to speak and act for the people of Scotland?

Or is it the corrupt and incompetent British political elite at Westminster? Is it the chaotic cliques and fractious factions and puffed-up personalities of the British regime? Is it the likes of David Mundell, who presumes to govern without consent?

Mundell has no doubt. He is unshakably persuaded of the righteousness of his ‘mission’. He is implacably opposed to anything which threatens the established order. And that is what makes him so dangerous. Mundell represents authority without consent. He represents power without accountability. He represents a British regime which is resolutely determined to destroy Scotland’s democracy and install a shadow administration that is neither elected by nor answerable to Scotland’s people.

Davidson is a distraction. She is the British media’s poodle. Mundell is the one to watch. He is the British state’s bulldog.


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Just another Jock

mundellOf course Mundell would prefer a ‘no deal’ Brexit to independence. Even the best Brexit imaginable would be a national disaster for Scotland. Independence would be a personal disaster for Mundell and his ilk.

Just think what the dissolution of the Union will cost the likes of Mundell. The British state would be broken. The system of patronage which allows easy access to status and power for a privileged few would be massively compromised. The good days would be over. Especially for British Nationalists in Scotland. The trough would be very much smaller. Scottish Unionists like Mundell wouldn’t even be allowed in the queue.

Perhaps a select few might be found sinecures in the rump UK. But they would never be permitted anywhere near real power. The positions they enjoy at present depend entirely on their performance as faithful servants of the British state. They will take the blame for the failure of the British Nationalist ‘One Nation’ project.

Independence would mean the end of Mundell’s political career. He would find himself rejected by the people of Scotland even as he was snubbed by his former masters in the remnants of the British state. British Nationalists will be as unelectable in Scotland as Scottish citizens will be in England. Even with genuine reconciliation, it is unlikely that Scottish voters could ever bring themselves to trust those who have shown themselves so willing to sacrifice Scotland on the altar of British imperialist pretension.

Doubtless there will be a few theatrical conversions to Scotland’s cause among Unionists desperate to salvage something from the ruins of their political careers. But why would the people of Scotland give a democratic mandate to those who have treated them with utter contempt and exhibited such total disdain for democracy? How could we trust people who, having proclaimed the inevitability of Scotland failing as a normal country, would have a vested interest in working to ensure they were proved to have been correct?

I suspect, however, that being spurned by Scotland is something that Mundell would consider a trivial matter. Being scorned by the British state is what will really hurt. Independence will be a personal catastrophe for Mundell because, to the ruling elites of the British state, he will become just another Jock.


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