I tried….

I know I said my last blog would be my last; but I lied. I tried, but a mouth with as many words in it as mine is a hard thing to keep shut. And anyway, there’s still a whole day to go before the Referendum so I’m quite sure if I babble while everyone else is babbling no-one’ll mind too much.

So what I wanted to say is this: I don’t believe in oil revenue, and I never did, certainly not back in the seventies when everyone was getting to excited about the prospect of high-octane American-style wealth. I thought the stuff should have been left under the sea from the outset, and used only very sparingly and guardedly, as befits any finite resource. But of course humans have a great capacity for shitting in their own beds, so I suppose I shouldn’t get too utopian. If it was going to be used profligately, then wise profligacy would have been advisable to greedy profligacy. I never believed, either, in oil as a lever to get the Scottish people to stand on their own feet again, but, once again, I suppose one has to be realistic. Promising your people that they’ll be able to live in “honest poverty” isn’t likely to cut much ice in the age of rampant consumerism. It looks as though there are still vast swathes of people in England who view Margaret Thatcher as some sort of Great Leader who “turned Britain around” and prepared us for the twenty-first century. In fact her Tory government and what it achieved merely capitalised on the early plundering of those abundant-seeming undersea resources. Out of it emerged the monster that we know as present-day London, which is likely to go on capsizing the economy of Britain if things are allowed to go on at the present rate.

Are there any oil reserves left? Well, I don’t want to question the expertise of those good geo-physicists who are doubtless appraised of all the facts. Frankly, I don’t care how much of the stuff is still there, but I suppose we could carry on shouting about the issue for a bit longer while we sort out who’s going to grab the last dregs. And presumably the latest spate of investment in exploration gear (40 billion quid, did someone say) is chickenfeed in comparison to what they’re used to spending, and losing. But whatever the truth is (buried deeper than any oil, I should imagine), the recent statements of the oil “giants” about the inadvisability of Scotland going independent, which happened to coincide with the last northern visit of the Westminster Big Guns, seem like an extraordinary bare-faced attempt to ensure that whatever revenues can still be gleaned will go to the “right” people. And how right they were in their timing, if the polls are to be believed! The little Scottish poodle clearly needed to be called to heel.

I suppose you can’t really blame people who are feeling scared. You have good old John Major saying Britain would lose its place on the Security Council, and someone else saying that Scotland will be much more open to terrorism if it doesn’t have the protection of the Intelligence services (er, isn’t it the fact that we have such a high foreign profile that makes us so susceptible to terrorism?) Then there’s the childish prattle about the horror of having border guards between England and Scotland. I know the level of collective intelligence sinks the greater the number of people involved, so presumably a nation must be among the least intelligent human entities that exist. But it is still possible to hang onto the idea that we can better control our destiny, for the good of all, if we don’t panic. Change is scary only until it happens: then we can get on with sorting things out. I love the story (it may be apocryphal) about the companies that are already being set up to facilitate the removal of Aberdeen-based businesses to the south should there be a Yes vote. With a bit of good promotion they should make a killing! And then in a couple of years when their income starts to decline they can diversify into facilitating the bringing-back of southern businesses to Aberdeen! Now there’s people who don’t panic at the idea of change!

In all the years I’ve lived in Scotland (fifty-six, to be exact, as I’ve had a few years away) I have never had a sense of hope like I see just now. Hope for what, you idiots? I don’t know the answer to that, and I doubt if they’ll get what they hope for: few of us do. But it’s as if everyone’s been going around with their heads down mumbling in the good old Scots way, “well, better just get on wi’t” – and then one day stopped and looked up and thought, hey, maybe we could actually use our talents, here at home – that’d be a thing.

Ah now, but here come the good old Scottish attitudes to our aid: na, it’ll nivver work, it’ll nivver work. And then, when it comes to it, a tentative: aye, well, maybe, just maybe… and then – ach no, look at that, no, I told you so…. And then the grandaddy of them is hauled out:
     Now all is done that men can do   
     and all is done in vain,
and we can strike a good old tragic-heroic Scotch pose as we weep into our whiskies.

If, as I suppose seems likely, there is a No vote, the Yes-ers should actually get straight on with organising the next campaign, and keep up the pressure while it’s still there. But a Yes vote would be better – cleaner, better-tempered, without squandering the wave of positive energy: next time round it will be more of a bitter struggle, the at present mendacious claims about the value of oil revenue will have been made to come true, the oil reserves will have been getting bled dry at a great rate, and disappointment could start to erupt into violence and racist attitudes. None of this is necessary. We could catch the head of steam, the energy, the desire for freedom and self-determination that exists in all peoples, and frankly I think a Yes result will have started to infect England too by the time we in Scotland are pausing to look around and wonder what the hell we’ve let ourselves in for. We shouldn’t forget that, away from its self-glorification in the history books, the wealth of England was built on oppression, slavery and fear, even as was Scotland’s. But we can make a start to changing that.

That’s the public rant bit over, so this next bit is a bit more personal but I don’t know how to share just sections of the blog on Facebook. Having been involved a little with campaigners in the last few weeks makes me especially interested in campaigners reports. “No” campaigners always seem a little offended at how “vicious” the Yes campaign’s been, presumably compared with their own gentlemanly tactics. I suppose “Yes” campaigners being pelted with eggs counts as light violence, whereas “No” campaigners being sprayed with lemonade counts as heavy violence; or a car window being smashed in because of its No sticker is more expensive to repair than one that gets smashed because of its Yes sticker (actually… – na, never mind). It seems to be mainly No campaigners who express how “delighted” they are that everyone’s become so “politically engaged”; presumably they’ll be equally delighted when there’s a No vote and we can go back to the good old ways of 30% poll turn-outs. (The BBC says the campaign will change the political face of things “forever”, whichever way the vote goes. To which I say, Yeah, right. Ah, good old Forever, you could make a song of it at least the equal of Auld Lang Syne.)

So maybe they’ll make a campaigner of me yet. They’ve even got me wearing Stickers, which Maddy conscientiously pulls off every time she sees them, for the good of my Soul. Annie’s got really fired up, I’m getting a bit scared. I thought Catriona was getting set to be the First Minister of Scotland some day, but maybe Annie’ll beat her to it, and then I really will have to start polishing my boots (she’s taken to strutting about in high heels, I don’t want to even think what that’s about). I thought we could go to the Huntly Folk Club on Wednesday night but apparently I’m to be dragged out for some last-minute strong-arm tactics on the streets of some unsuspecting local town. Maybe we’ll be able to go to the folk club on the way home, as we don’t generally like intimidating people in the dark (we’ve no way of recognising each other with our balaclavas on, and we just frighten ourselves); if we do I’m going to sing the following ditty (see, I promised to do a poem instead of a blog, so I’m trying to keep my promise a little bit) There probably is some way of doing it to the music, but I don’t know how at the moment. It’s not about the Independence issue really, though come to think of it it may be a bit:

Through the Sights of a Tank

It’s got eyes of glass, it’s got skin of steel
it comes grinding up the hill and all the people kneel
and its shout re-echoes in the mountains round
and the deep foundations tremble and the walls fall down
And I’m standing at the edge in the pouring rain
with nothing between me and the sky again
like the sheep on the hill, like the cattle at the cull
there is nothing between me and the hollow men

So cheer up my boys, and knock that whisky down
for we’ll all be feeling better when the prison-walls close round
for it’s cruel through the snow and the cold sodden ground
and defenceless where the open winds of freedom blow

Will you tell me my brother, why is the sky so red?
Is it evening or morning that’s overhead?
have you spent all that money, will you save it up for years
to bolster your confidence, and calm your fears?
And I’m standing here, holding out my hand
but take it or leave it, you’re the hollow man
with your wall full of charts and your mouth full of dirt
as you head out for exactly where you first began

But cheer up my boys, and knock that whisky down
for we’ll all be feeling better when the prison-walls close round
for it’s cruel through the snow and the cold sodden ground
and defenceless where the open winds of freedom blow

My brother had a vision as he slowly sank
he saw sunlight on blue water through the sights of a tank
there was nobody near, no target in view
and the icy hand of fear clawed his heart in two
When they told his little daughter, daddy’s never coming home
the silly thing sat in her treetop all alone
and with never a tear said I’m waiting here
till he’s everything he promised he’d be when a man

But cheer up my boys, and knock that whisky down
for we’ll soon be feeling better when the prison-walls close round
for it’s cruel through the snow and the cold sodden ground
and defenceless where the open winds of freedom blow

The prophet Elijah came and warned us for our good
of the coming tides of darkness and the rivers of blood
and the bankers, and their accusers, and the jailers, and the just
all join into the chorus, let it not be us!
But I hope when the time comes, that the last thing I’ll see
will be my brother’s daughter at her wishing-tree
with a hollow tambourine that she batters with her hand
and I hope she’ll do the latest crazy dance for me

So cheer up my boys, and knock that whisky down
for we’ll soon be feeling better when the prison-walls close round
for it’s cruel through the snow and the cold sodden ground
and defenceless where the open winds of freedom blow


Filed under Writing

2 responses to “I tried….

  1. Annie Ashton

    I have not taken to strutting about in high heels – I deny it all. But generally agree with all your other points, of course 😊.

  2. Its a shame about the vandalism on either side. But it could be worse. In the US there are tanks on the streets over protests at police murdering innocents. Peoples’ feelings are bound to run high. Its a historic occasion. I am reminded of this statement by Craig Murray, the former UK Ambassador, and now human rights campaigner.

    “I do not hold at all with this idea that we should be having a quiet, ‘civilised’ debate. As if whether you want your country to be independent or not is purely a lifestyle choice. Like whether you have milk in your coffee. And when its all over we all have to be ‘nice’ to each other. And be terribly pleasant to the traitors in our midst. I think it is impossible to be proud of being part of the United Kingdom. The British government is deeply, deeply immoral. Anybody who votes no is voting to support a pathological state which is a danger in the world. A rogue state. A state prepared to go to war to make a few people wealthy. That’s why I say its not possible to be a decent person and vote no. And we shouldn’t be ashamed to say that.”
    Craig Murray – Former UK Ambassador to Uzbekistan.


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