Tag Archives: devo max

Scotland being ‘insignificant’ may make it independent (that and weather maps)

Today’s edition of The Sunday Times

Today’s edition of The Sunday Times

I was going to blog about something else today but the TV News has been leading with the Sunday Times poll which says the Scottish YES vote for independence is ahead of the NO vote for the first time – with only 11 days to go to the poll.

I have always thought Devo Max was a better solution than independence – more powers without opening the Pandora’s Box of complications and unknowns that independence would cause. But Devo Max has never seemed to be mentioned as being on the table and it was not put on the ballot paper.

Apparently it now is.

A rather late-in-the-day offer

A late-in-the-day Westminster offer

Presumably this will be seen by the Westminster government as a magnanimous gesture. In fact, the offer may well be another nail in the coffin of the UK because – coming so obviously immediately after the Sunday Times poll – it looks like an insincere move of desperation.

Not helped by the fact that nothing specific was actually offered today. The government seemed to be saying: “We will give you some Devo Max. But we will tell you the details – well, maybe some of the details – tomorrow. Err… when we have thought what they might be… Which we have not bothered to think about until now.”

The American comic Lewis Schaffer has a joke about why Americans do not know much about Britain… “Because you’re insignificant!” he says.

To many Scots, I think, this looks like the English attitude to Scotland.

I worked on a nationally-networked TV show in London years ago where the very liberal, open-minded, sophisticated producer wrote a script which referred to England.

“You mean Britain not England,” I told him. “If you say England, it will antagonise viewers in Scotland and Wales and maybe even Northern Ireland.”

“It doesn’t matter.” he told me.

It may seem minor to someone born in England, but there has been a widespread and oft-repeated gripe by Scots throughout my lifetime that, when a Scots sportsperson wins, it is a win for Britain; when an English sportsperson wins, it is a win for England; when a Scots sportsperson loses, it is a loss for a Scots sportsperson.

Over years, small bitternesses become ingrained bitterness.

Why does the UK exist?

James VI of Scotland and James I of England

James VI of Scotland and I of England

Because Scottish King James VI inherited the English throne in 1603 and the two kingdoms were united through him. (Alright, the Acts of Union were 1706/1707.)

As for me, I have been pissed-off for years with the weather maps on BBC TV and elsewhere.

In some artistic ambition to show the curve of the earth, the viewpoint of the British Isles is taken from a position which appears to be over Central France. Why on earth is the viewpoint from outside the country?

The result is that the islands are distorted with a giant southern half of England and increasingly diminishing northern parts, so Scotland is distorted into less visual significance compared to England. Why? Why is the viewpoint not over the UK looking directly down?

A ridiculously minor gripe. perhaps. But something other people have mentioned to me.

Minor gripes combine to grow into major bitternesses.

It is that Lewis Schaffer (semi-)joking observation again that, to Americans, the UK is insignificant in comparison to the US.

To many Scots, it seems Scotland is insignificant to England.

After the recent Edinburgh Fringe, I stayed on for a week, going up to Perth and Inverness.

When I was in both Perth and Inverness, I was asked what the English in London thought about the looming independence vote.

“They don’t think about it,” I said. “No-one talks about it or thinks about it – no ordinary person. It is in people’s minds less than what’s happening on Celebrity Big Brother and no-one talks about that.”

The YES campaign is not winning the argument because no-one has any idea what would happen after independence.

The NO campaign has been losing the campaign by (arguably) not treating the possibility of independence seriously. Until today.

Just by agreeing to a ballot paper which has a psychologically positive YES for independence and a negative NO for the status quo is a benefit for those pushing independence.

As always, young David messes things up

Ed idiocy in today’s Mail On Sunday

A load of bullshit has been spouted about the pound sterling. But, before it joined the Euro, The Republic of Ireland got along happily by having their Punt float with the UK Pound. They appeared to have no problems with that.

And a load of bullshit has been spouted about Europe. But I cannot see Scotland splintering off from the UK and being accepted into Europe. The Spanish would surely veto it because of their problems with the Basques and the Catalans.

Personally, I think there is a risk that an independent Scotland (with only 5.3 million people – the UK has 64 million) would go the way Ireland has – widespread engrained corruption. I can see Scotland becoming like some Balkan state with fiefdoms.

After all, as Bonnie Prince Charlie found out to his cost, Scotland was never really a single country. There was the Highland/Lowland (or, at times, Catholic/Protestant) divide. But, beyond that, were a whole collection of regional and clan (read gang) loyalties.

I still think Devo Max is the best solution.

But it may be too late for that.

Who knows?

I got a message from a Scot who lives in Scotland this morning:

“It feels like we are on the edge of revolution. I’ve noticed a change today though… The move to Yes has stirred-up some of the more negative elements of the Yes campaign… But there are still seven per cent undecided.”

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Scots comedian Del Strain talks about treason and independence for Scotland

(This was also published on the Indian news site WSN)

Del Strain not mincing his words in London last week

Comic Del Strain sits on a pile of newspapers

With less than a year to go before the referendum on Scottish independence and with support in Scotland running at a reported 25%, I though it would be interesting to ask London-based Scots stand-up comedian Del Strain for his opinion.

“We all need to decide,” Del told me, “and the Prime Minister Mr Cameron is making it so easy for the Scottish people to decide where they wanna go. “

“I think they’ll vote No,” I said. “Devo Max sounds a good alternative.”

“That’s not how Scotland works,” Del told me. “You’ve got 40% of people who love Ireland. You’ve got 40% who love England. And then you’ve got the 20% like me who despise both sides and think it’s everything that’s held us back a thousand years. That’s the way it is.

“It has been said on the grapevine that a lot of the southern (English) comedy acts have been finding it hard when they’ve gone up to play in Scotland this last two years because of this (British) government and the way it affects society in general. People have not taken to southerners.”

“But that’s ever since Braveheart,” I suggested. “I think the combination of Margaret Thatcher being Prime Minister until 1990 and then the release of Braveheart in 1995 followed oddly by the return of the Stone of Scone to Scotland in 1996… That all stoked Scottish nationalism and anti-English sentiment.”

“It’s not necessarily anti-English,” argued Del. “I saw a thing a couple of months ago which said the Geordies and people in Northumberland and even North Yorkshire said: If Scotland gets independence, can you draw the border with England further down, please?

“It’s that southern English guy in a Hugo Boss suit telling people it’s not a something-for-nothing society, even though the only time that southern man’s ever broke sweat in his life wasn’t with a shovel: it was wearing a gimp mask.”

“Who’s that?” I asked.

“Coke-snorting, hooker-shagging (NAME OF A POLITICIAN CENSORED IN CASE I GET SUED),” said Del.

“I remember,” I said, “that, in 2008, ITV did an opinion poll in Berwick-upon-Tweed in England and a clear majority of people said they wanted to be in Scotland. And my Indian-born optician from Carlisle told me people in Carlisle want to be in Scotland.”

“Well,” said Del, “a Geordie is more like a Scotsman than someone from Surrey. Even people from Yorkshire or Liverpool don’t class themselves as being English. If you’re from Liverpool, you class yourself as being Scouse.”

“There’s a historical thing about the North being Danish, isn’t there?” I agreed. “The Anglo Saxons were only in the southern part of what is now England.”

“Celts and Picts are what Scotsmen came from,” said Del, “and then a wee mix of Scandinavian later on.”

“So, you reckon Scotland is going to vote for independence?” I asked.

“Through the looking glass,” said Del, “the sums don’t add up. All the problems we’ve got: dependencies and alcoholism, the ageing population of the baby boomers… I don’t see where the money is there to do it and fly solo. If it was 30 years ago, Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. But to hand us over to the European Union now and become what Ireland was? Another puppet? That’s treason in my book. To do that just to get a ‘Scottish’ thing in the front of a passport is treason.

“But I hear that possibly there’s more oil that we haven’t declared to the English state and that’s why we’re doing it. So, if that did happen, maybe England and Scotland would even to go to war again. Who knows what could happen? Who knows?”

“You’re saying that with some excitement,” I said.

“I would get evicted, I suppose,” laughed Del. “I’d have to move back over the border!”

“But,” I said, “if Scotland got independence, England would never, ever have a Labour government – because of the voting patterns.”

“But I think the three party system’s dead,” said Del. “I think what people should do is… The Solidarność movement brought Communism down in Poland.”

“You’re not mellowing with age,” I suggested.

“Not really,” said Del. “The way it’s unravelling is phenomenal.”

“What’s unravelling?”

“The whole world. Comedy. Life. The way it is in America. The currencies.”

“How’s comedy unravelling?”

“That little revival we were hoping we would get because, during the last Conservative government, comedy went mental with alternative comedy and it was actually good for it because people need a laugh… It hasn’t worked like that this time. The economics, the way I see it, is that people are going out and spending pounds on comedians in big theatres as opposed to going out to clubs… Clubs are closing all round the country and the trend is slightly worrying. You don’t need a degree from the London School of Economics to work out that, if there are less gigs and more comedians, something;s got to give. It’s not even new acts. Twenty years veterans are worried.”

“So what’s your future in comedy?” I asked.

“I don’t know. For me it was part I get a buzz off doing it, part I didn’t want to break the law any more, part positive affirmation of my son who’s just about to be 16. It was all a package of everything. I don’t know what the next five or ten years hold. I could end up living in the mountains in Ibiza in that beautiful little village they’ve got where they grow their own pot and grow their own food. I could end up driving around all over the country in a Winnebago. Or a could grow a Mohican. I really do not know.”

“In the meantime, you’re doing a mini-tour of Scotland in November,” I prompted.

“Yeah,” said Del. “Shotts, Dundee, Aberdeen twice, Liverpool.”

“Alright,” I corrected myself. “A mini-tour of Scotland and part of Ireland.”


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