Arrivals and departures

August 22, 2008

It seems Jack McConnell, the ex-First Minister of Scotland, has demanded that the Homecoming event planned for next year becomes even more internationalist than it is currently.


McConnell began the Homecoming event and it was taken on by the SNP. It is planned to celebrate the 250th year since Robert Burns birth. (I guess Jeremy Paxman won’t attend!)

Its yet another example of the previous administration breaking the terms of the Scotland Act without sanction – but when the SNP want to talk to Norway about a sub sea cable, in that case Westminster wants to put its oar in.

As I’ve previously stated this hypocrisy only leads to the conclusion that the Scotland Act is not worth the paper its written on.

Jack McConnell has been relatively silent of late. He is due to take over as the British High Commisioner in Malawi when Richard Wildash quits his post in January 2009.

Could this be the start of a few parting shots before he goes?

In which case has he been informed of a potential date for his Motherwell and Wishaw seat’s by-election?

And could Labour be possibly lining up the Glenrothes by-election on the same day, to try and split the SNP’s weight of numbers on the ground?

I think we should be told.

Is Jeremy Paxman a closet Scots Nationalist?

August 16, 2008

Jeremy Paxman obviously isn’t a fan of Robert Burns.

His recent remarks saying Burns was a “king of sentimental doggerel” have sent some Scots feverishly scribbling complaints to Newsnight, the BBC and anyone else who they can think of.

Its coincidental, as I have just been reading Neil Davidson’s The Origin of Scottish Nationhood. Its a bit of a crazy book as Davidson thinks that Scotland wasn’t a real nation before the Treaty of the Union; something that beggars belief. (But he thinks it is now.)

Anyway in Chapter 9, he tries to rationalise Robert Burns and Sir Walter Scott’s contribution to our national identity as Scots.

And his work on Robert Burns struck a chord with Paxman’s doggerel jibe.

Burns is usually quoted as a Scottish nationalist but there is one poem, written when Robert Burns joined the Dumfries Volunteers, that mentions being British; and this is the one most quoted by Unionists attempting to say Burns was a Unionist.

Let’s compare some of Burns nationalist poetry with ‘The Dumfries Volunteers’:-

The poems such as ‘Parcel of rogues in a nation’ with its ending:

But pith and power, till my last hour
I’ll mak this declaration
We’re bought and sold for English gold –
Such a parcel of rogues in a nation!

No-one reading that could ever conclude that Burns was happy at the way the Scottish Parliamentarians were bribed, cajoled and bought to vote for the Treaty of the Union. The fact that he would assert it till his death gives vibrancy to the poem.

Davidson also quotes Scots Wha Ha’e as another forceful nationalist tour de force by Robert Burns.

To those epics he then compares the poem ‘The Dumfries Volunteers’, sometimes known by its first line: Does Haughty Gaul Invasion Threat? As everyone may not know it, by comparison to ‘Parcel of rogues in a nation’ or ‘Scots Wha Hae’ or other Scottish nationalistic poems by Burns, I’ll quote it in full:

Does haughty Gaul invasion threat?
Then let the louns beware, Sir;
There’s wooden walls upon our seas,
And volunteers on shore, Sir:
The Nith shall run to Corsincon,
And Criffel sink in Solway,
Ere we permit a Foreign Foe
On British ground to rally!
We’ll ne’er permit a Foreign Foe
On British ground to rally!

O let us not, like snarling curs,
In wrangling be divided,
Till, slap! come in an unco loun,
And wi’ a rung decide it!
Be Britain still to Britain true,
Amang ourselves united;
For never but by British hands
Maun British wrangs be righted!
No! never but by British hands
Shall British wrangs be righted!

The Kettle o’ the Kirk and State,
Perhaps a clout may fail in’t;
But deil a foreign tinkler loun
Shall ever ca’a nail in’t.
Our father’s blude the Kettle bought,
And wha wad dare to spoil it;
By Heav’ns! the sacrilegious dog
Shall fuel be to boil it!
By Heav’ns! the sacrilegious dog
Shall fuel be to boil it!

The wretch that would a tyrant own,
And the wretch, his true-born brother,
Who would set the Mob aboon the Throne,
May they be damn’d together!
Who will not sing “God save the King,”
Shall hang as high’s the steeple;
But while we sing “God save the King,”
We’ll ne’er forget The People!
But while we sing “God save the King,”
We’ll ne’er forget The People!

It lacks the force and vibrancy of ‘Scots Wha Hae’ or ‘Parcel of rogues in a nation’ doesn’t it?

Davidson seems unclear on Burns. He quotes both Jock Morris: ‘He had a mixed contradictory consciousness’ and then finally roughly sides with William Ferguson: ‘His national consciousness, however, was combinatory of both Scottish and British identities, and it is this, as Ferguson suggests, which he shares with Walter Scott, albeit form the other side of the political divide.’

So if Burns was pretty much a Scottish nationalist with a wee bit of British nationalist thrown in, where did the British nationalist fragment come from?

Of this Davidson is more clear; from Burns joining the Dumfries Volunteers.

Why did he join the group?

Davidson broadly goes along with the theory that Burns was just being expedient in his membership, citing the level of (Scottish nationalist) repression in Scotland at the time.

He also quotes the poem ‘The Tree of Liberty’ as Burns arguing that England needs such a tree planted as it can’t be found from London to the Tweed, pointedly implying that Scotland already has such liberty. Hardly a British nationalist position.

It was the following William Ferguson quote, supplied – and agreed – by Davidson, that made me think of Paxman’s doggerel jibe:

“Both authors [Burns and Scott] had their North British moods but in Burns they did not strike deep. When in the North British or Augustan mood Burns poetry was at its weakest. ‘Doth Haughty Gaul Invasion Threat’ is passionless fustian compared to ‘Scots Wha Hae’, Scotland’s true national anthem.”

Burns ‘British’ writing is thus described as ‘passionless fustian’.

In other words, Paxman’s doggerel.

Robert Burns wrote it, but his heart wasn’t in it. It smacks of an artist just doing something for the money or exposure, a bit like the Pepsi ad campaigns with Britney and Madonna.

I guess Jeremy Paxman with his passion for England probably read ‘The Dumfries Volunteers’ and concluded the same thing.

If he read ‘Scots Wha Hae’ or ‘Parcel of rogues in a nation’ it may have gave him more understanding of the history of Scottish nationalism.

Who knows he could already be a Scots nationalist simply describing ‘The Dumfries Volunteers’ as doggerel!

Is he just another fifth columnist for the SNP?