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All the Comings and Goings

Silence can sometimes have more of an impact than the loudest protests.

Sunday, October 8, 2023
13 mins

It’s probably safe to say that King Charles won’t be doing any more major gigs in Scotland anytime soon.

It doesn’t matter if the anti-monarchy group ‘Republic’ bussed in people to wave flags and shout. They’re entitled to travel the length of the country if they wish, given that the whole of the UK is ‘The Realm’. There appeared to be no groundswell of support for Charles and his Queen anyway - a hooded pro-union thug slapped a female protester (allegedly) and is now the subject of an online manhunt. Some brave souls (an indeterminate number of whom were tourists who believed they were in England) dared waggle small plastic Union Jacks, some of which were handed out by ‘Manky Jaikit’ aka Alistair McConnachie, a fanatical unionist who has attended more independence rallies than most nationalists or republicans.

All the months of preparation, the commissioning of original music, art and ceremonial weapons, the pageantry, the diplomatic tip-toeing around constitutional detail, the hours spent on considering the PR value, the optics of the whole thing - all culminating in the sight of a stony-faced velvet-clad old man unable to face his ‘subjects’ (or even give them a wee wave) while the ‘Not My King’ mantra echoed around the Royal Mile.

The overriding emotion was neither patriotism nor anger. It was indifference. People just don’t care any more. There will be polls aplenty to explain why the popularity of the monarchy is in decline, and there will be staunch defence of Charles from those who believe that his mother should have vacated the position many years ago. But most people won’t pay any more attention to those polls than they did to the ‘historic’ event in Edinburgh. 

(281) ROYAL: Funeral procession of King George VI (1952) - YouTube

If we consider the scale, the language, the deference on show just 70 years ago, it’s pretty obvious which way things are going. The extent to which Charles must shoulder personal blame may be addressed in Season 15 of The Crown but we’ll just have to wait and see.

In the meantime, ordinary Scots have plenty of other stuff to be indifferent about. The news that Westminster MSPs’ deputy leader Mhairi Black will not be contesting her seat at the next general election was greeted with the same level of interest raised by a similar announcement from Stewart Hosie, and another previous to that, from Ian Blackford. They all issued statements explaining their decision to stand down, as have Westminster colleagues Peter Grant, Angela Crawley and Douglas Chapman. Only Angela Crawley deployed the traditional reason i.e. that she wants to spend more time with her family. Grant has cried ‘enough!’ citing mental and physical exhaustion. Chapman’s declaration was perhaps less surprising than others given that, while party’s national treasurer, he had openly expressed frustration at being unable to complete his ‘fiduciary duties’ due to a lack of cooperation from persons unnamed. Blackford claimed to have thought long and hard about how he could still contribute to the ongoing fight before concluding that only his departure would suffice.

None of the reasons offered (whether genuine or not) allude to the fact that all signs point to the SNP taking a hammering at upcoming elections for the Scottish and Westminster parliaments. 

The SNP presence in London has become as embarrassing as the King’s presence in Edinburgh. Supporters of Scottish MPs can’t even claim that they are ‘good for tourism’ - Skye has around 700,000 tourists every year and it seems unlikely that many of them go there hoping to glimpse Ian Blackford. Most Scots cannot even name their MP and MSP, in common with their peers in the rest of the UK - we have seen a figure of 22% for people who can ‘name’ their MP but have been unable to source confirmation. (Of the 44 SNP MPs currently in position, this writer struggled to name a dozen.) However, voters’ attitudes to UK politics in general are far from positive, as can be seen in this comprehensive report:

Audit of Political Engagement 16 – The 2019 Report - John Smith Centre

No-one would expect reputable pollsters or political research/education societies such as ‘Hansard’ to frame questions in such a way as to capture the brutal reality of mass attitudes to politicians, lobbyists, PR experts and the various institutions/organs of state they represent, but one requires little psephological expertise to determine that ‘I really don’t care’, ‘fuck them all and fuck you’ and ‘don’t call me again’ are not uncommon. 

Charles received an audible message outside St. Giles, loud and clear. A more significant message came from the empty spaces behind what appeared to be several hundred yards of crowd-control barriers. Unfortunately, politicians are rarely if ever subjected to such direct, visible criticism. Right now, as the SNP prepares itself for defeat at upcoming elections (and no-one doubts that Labour will be the main beneficiary), Scottish voters are now facing the same situation as 2015 but in reverse. Ian ‘I’m So Lonely’ Murray will be looking forward to having some like-minded company 18 months hence - in the meantime, his new colleagues are having their seats kept warm by SNP MSPs, up to half of whom may be looking for new employment.

(281) Pete Wishart MP - Privileges Committee Report Debate - 19.06.23 - YouTube

‘There’s something profoundly shocking about saying this in this hallowed setting of (a) House of Commons, this institution that we revere so much…’

As this is being written, Mary Scanlon (Conservative ex-MSP) is on Radio Scotland contributing to a discussion with Brian Taylor about the current state of political discourse. Her complaint, that people are sick of ‘hate-filled rhetoric’, loses impact when she blames the SNP for it all. Her call for a return to ‘old-fashioned politics’ may be intended as a ‘Back to Basics’ appeal but is not convincing to anyone capable of recalling typical political discourse from pretty-much any specific point in the past forty years.

Scanlon and Wishart, representing parties which oppose one another in two parliaments some 500 miles apart, seem unwilling or unable to address the current reality. We leave it to readers to comment on Wishart’s ‘reverence’ for Westminster but we suspect it is not widely shared amongst ordinary Scots. Likewise, Scanlon’s lazy characterisation of political discourse as hopelessly ‘hate-filled’ misses the point while managing to offend activists on all sides.

The suggestion that ‘voter apathy’ is a problem which politicians are duty-bound to address does not and cannot take account of how sickened voters are with the choices offered to them. And even worthy efforts at soul-searching by media presenters, pundits and the like seem incapable of addressing the inconvenient fact that the systems in place are just not good enough. They may be ‘representative’ democratic systems in theory but that does not mean they are democratic in practice. When citizens make their displeasure plain by rejecting the systems available to them this should not be spun as some deficiency on their part, an inevitable passivity borne of general ‘dumbing-down’. Rather, current attitudes, as painstakingly established via constant polls and in-depth surveys, can be read as a conscious, constant, and accurate indicator of disappointment and ever-plummeting expectations.

Major institutions have spent years assuring anyone who would listen that they will change, they can be better, they're 'listening'. It feels fair to say that many of them have failed. But now it seems that change will be forced upon them.

No-one is sure precisely how AI is going to affect our lives but it is generally agreed that it will change everything. If citizens are already more confident asking AI about their health problems than their own GPs then it seems fair to assume that they will happily delegate political decision-making. This would surely be fraught with unknown perils for the practise of sound democracy but would, at least, remove the necessity for voters to endure the periodic attentions of people they have little or no respect for.

Some in the independence movement voice concern that the functioning of Scottish society is so damaged by a near-decade of ineptitude that self-government, right now, is not possible, that the checks and balances required for reasonably efficient administration have been eroded beyond short-term repair. In the current climate, with SNP’s Westminster project now floundering, a Holyrood contingent creaking under the hapless management of Sturgeonite Humza Yousaf and yet more scandals coming over the hill, we have to, reluctantly, state the case on behalf of those who, even if they can summon the strength to find language for their disgust and weariness, know that their words will never reach Hansard:

‘I don’t believe anything you say any more. You don’t represent me, my family, my neighbours, my community. You make promises knowing full well you can’t and won’t keep them. Your loyalty lies with a political party machinery that is nothing but a microcosm of the established system dedicated to the preservation of privilege. You say precisely as much as needed to ensure your immediate short-term employment. You waste colossal sums of our cash on virtue-signalling vanity projects which have a detrimental effect on our everyday lives, be that the simplest of transport systems, introducing sinister ideological beliefs to the education system, denying us the truthful information we need to make responsible decisions about our health, imposing vast social engineering projects imported with no democratic consultation, or pledging our children to fight in Washington’s wars. If our communities can be better served by AI then so be it, all we require is a say in the design of the algorithms. Otherwise, you have no function save as, perhaps, silent monitors. Your posturing as quasi-celebrities on a mediaeval stage makes us sick, not to mention the nepotism, the cronyism, the boundless greed, degenerate behaviour and irremovable corruption. The contempt we have for you is well-earned and we owe you nothing. You bleat platitudes about ‘democracy’, telling us what you think we would like to hear, oblivious to the fact that what many of us want to hear from you is nothing. We want you to shut up and fuck off. Just leave us alone.’

For most, the closest they will ever get to making such a ‘statement’ is turning their backs on a visiting monarch, spoiling their ballot, or stubbornly ticking ‘don’t know’ in every single opinion-survey box. And that’s why it will all just grind on, business as usual, for the foreseeable future, whether we somehow secure independence or not.

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