I see pro-independence1 rhetoric all the time at the moment in social media posts, which refers to “Westminster” as if it’s some sort of sinister cabal. Usually implied, if not explicit, is that Westminster is populated by “the English”, who are an army of clones that speak with one voice.

These posts often carry a good underlying message - that you should question the motives that lie behind what you read and view, and that there is ignorance and bias at work, even that there is a small elite who do not have the interests of the majority at heart - which is why good people tend to repost them.

However, I worry deeply about this sort of simplification.

It’s very much the m.o. of the Trump/Farage brigade to take a complex situation, or a disparate group of people, and turn them into cartoon plots and villains.

To take inconveniently detailed facts and distill them into a single “truth”.

Then these cartoon messages set up the simplistic notion that somehow “they” are bad, but “we” are good. “They” are all flawed and corrupt and out for their own self-gratification. “We” are competent and pure and have everyone’s best interests at heard.


If you want to understand how things work, and how they can be changed for the better, you have to reject the tabloid bullshit and dig deeper.

Westminster is not all Tories, and not all Unionists. Nor is it all corrupt. Holyrood, by the way, is not composed entirely of saintly people who believe in independence because they have your best interests at heart.

There are undoubtedly sinister forces at work in the world, but they’re a complicated tangle of power and business and money and historical privilege and (dare I say it) religious ideology and all sorts of obvious yet subtle stuff. They don’t live in one place. In fact, the very worst of them are supranational, which in the absence of a world government able to tax them and call them to account is a part of the whole damn problem.

The machinery of government of the U.K - which isn’t in “Westminster” anyway - is not all of one view. Simple maths says that most of the people who work in it must be from normal backgrounds, as there just aren’t enough privileged toffs and super-rich elite to go around. The press (and even the BBC), does not speak with one voice. There are very questionable owners and dubious governance and suspect lobbying and corrupting influences everywhere, but dissent and free thought and a range of political views are hanging on too.

Scratch the surface of the “English” (and btw Welsh and N. Irish) people and you’ll find a ton of different views, most of them pretty similar to the majority of Scots. Where they differ it’ll mostly be about perspective and life experience, rather than substance. Most people everwhere are struggling to get by, fed up with their shitty jobs, worried about the state of the world (or hedonistically ignoring the state of the world).

If you look for poverty and lack of privilege, both urban and rural, you’ll find it in abundance, north and south of the border. If you look for privilege, you’ll find it in abundance in Glasgow and Edinburgh as well as London and Manchester.

Unthinking tribalism is a massive problem at the moment, in our nation(s), and in the world. So is an anti-intellectual tendency to wave hands and ignore complicated facts when they get in the way of a good slogan.

I really wish that those of us in favour of Scottish independence (and yes, I am one), could raise the level of the debate. For me, the chance to make a country where that sort of nonsense does not rule is the whole damn point.

  1. That’s Scottish independence, for my non-Scottish friends :)