Ed Milliband finally gets the point…

…sort of though to give him his due, he is trying.  Very trying.

In a speech was in the words of Juliette Jowit of The Guardian supposed to “chime with a summer of celebrations in which people around the UK are celebrating under different national flags: the union flag for the jubilee, the Olympics and the Paralympics, and the cross of Saint George for Euro 2012”, Ed Milliband gave a keynote speech in which he said that if Scots vote for independence, they will not be British.  Aw, bless.

I really wish that Ed – and indeed the editors of The Guardian – would read the comments that follow the article.  English people are remarkably relaxed about the break-up of the political union of the UK.  This shouldn’t surprise them because in a previous article published by The Guardian surveying people’s attitudes to Britain not only do a mere 19% of Scots define themselves as British but far fewer English people than I expected, in fact, just 52%.

Ed – to repeat – this is about the break-up of the political union of the UK.  After Scottish independence, Scotland and England will still share a monarch and Scotland will still therefore be part of the UK.  It’s United Kingdom, Ed not ‘United Parliaments’ which is why, following assurances from the SNP, HRH is remarkably relaxed about the whole referendum.  You don’t need to be a politician to understand this.

On the issue of the political break-up, I would like to say that Alan Cumming (@Alancumming) performed a blinder on Question Time last night.  With the BBC’s habit of planting unionist stooges in the audience, it’s rare to finish watching this program feeling that what should have been said has been said and Alan’s timing was immaculate.  Right as the live program was drawing to a close, Alan not only landed a good ‘un on that numptie Melanie Phillips but then turned and asked Johann Lamont why with her social democratic beliefs was she siding with the Tories?  Brilliant.  See it again here: Question Time, 7th June 2012 at Inverness on iPlayer.

The oldest national flag in the world

Now, I didn’t know this but it turns out that the flag of St. Andrew, also known as Bratach nàiseanta na h-Alba or more simply The Saltire, is ‘the oldest flag in the world…’

Now, I didn’t believe the person who told me but they refined their remark to mean that Scotland’s flag has been in continuous use for the longest period of any flag in the world.  How did this conversation come about?  Well now…

Unionists are using the Diamond Jubilee as an excuse to wave their rag in our faces and given the wall-to-wall coverage by those who’ve taken to calling what was previously known as a ‘meritocratic democracy‘, a ‘constitutional monarchy‘, I’ve been wondering when my fellow Scots (and English Republicans) are going to get around to having their own little tea party.  It was rather cheering then to note that the bunting in Kinghorn is not coloured by the unionist rag but is formed of The Saltire.  I was talking about this phenomenon with a work colleague who argued that the bunting should be made from the flag of Union.

My argument was this: the royal family in England have their own flag, the Royal Standard (for which the Queen uses a slightly different version here than is seen in England, Wales and Northern Ireland).  The Union flag was devised to celebrate political union (the Act of Settlement in which Scottish and ‘English’ being earlier), surely to show loyalty to what many in Scotland consider a foreign monarch, Unionist Scots should be offering their own national flag in support if they’re not going to wave the royal standard?  My colleague (correctly) pointed out that the Royal Standard is used to denote the Queen being in residence and I agreed: what better way to indicate her rule in all the parts of her kingdoms than to exceptionally have the Royal Standard flown across the territories?

We were both corrected by someone who had overheard us and who had some expertise in heraldry: the correct flag to be flown during jubilee celebrations was the respective national flag of each of the kingdoms .ie. flag of St. Andrew in Scotland, flag of St. Patrick in Northern Ireland, flag of England and the flag of Wales.  The wee village of Kinghorn had therefore got it correct*.

The current design of the Union rag dates from 1801 and is therefore not even as old as the Act of Union.  Perhaps the use of The Rag has become common only for propaganda/ TV purposes.  Just think of how those long view, pan-and-scan shots would look to the world’s media if they showed four different flags across the British Isles…. folks might even be given the idea that there were four countries taking part in the Jubilee.  While I could be asking how the UK got its name, I prefer to play the game of spotting which businesses here in Scotland are flying The Saltire and the Lion of Rampant of Scotland.

* When I thought about the conversation later, I realised that I’m actually glad that so many people got it wrong.  First, The Saltire remains something we can use post-independence without having to think about the last time it was waved enthusiastically.  Second, as supporters of independence, we get to see which businesses are no longer going to receive our custom.  Third, like the wearing of certain football colours, it makes it really easy to spot the numpties

The scores are in…

…and when I asked Rose to guess how many independently-organised Jubilee street parties were held in Scotland, she guessed to within 2*.

In England and Wales, there were 9,500 street parties.  In Scotland, there were just 40 not including the 20 organised by the Orange Order and funded by the Labour Party-controlled Glasgow City Council (which will come as a big surprise to traditionally the biggest block of Labour supporters, Glasgow’s Catholics).  Let me put some real number context in there for you…

For every street party in England, there was 0.004 street parties in Scotland or, one crisp at the bottom of the packet in Scotland left to go soggy in the gutter – OK, none because really, no matter how hard you try, you simply can’t round up a figure like that to anything approaching parity.  How about we try something else?  There was one street party in England and Wales for every 6,000 people living there but in Scotland, there was one street party for every 125,000 people living here… Now, I’m not saying that we’re tight or anything but can you imagine the look on the face of the poor sod asked to make sandwiches?

In other news, the British Nationalists led by Alistair Darling (remember him?) are looking for money to finance the ‘let’s keep having the Tory-LibDem government in Westminster tell us what to’ campaign.  They’ve promised to never use the word ‘no’ in their campaign and they won’t call themselves ‘unionists’ but given that the UKIP, English Defence League and BNP are all against Scottish independence, it seems that the former Labour Party chancellor has been wearing some stonking beer goggles.  How else to explain getting into bed with those nutters?

(*  Rose guessed 42 and laughed.  She was trying to be funny.)

The Great Divide

Nothing highlights just how out-of-touch are those that claim to rule over us than this news article in today’s Guardian.  I’ve been unemployed and am fully aware that if searching for a job is itself a full-time occupation, I can’t imagine how difficult searching for work must be in the current economic climate.  But this?  It is no exagerration to say that the conditions these folk were made to endure so that some parasite could have a little boat ride down a river, put the modern British state into the same slave-market economy as Rome two thousand years ago.  No-one made these folk work at the point of a sword (or to really challenge assumptions, the barrel of a Nazi German rifle) but how are employment prospects served by making people work a fifteen -hour shift, unpaid, without access to proper sanitation for 24 hours on threat of losing the benefits they receive?

An independent constitution

One peculiar memory I have from childhood is being taken to watch the Queen open the new Thornton’s factory in Somercotes, Derbyshire.  I say ‘watching the Queen’ but the process involved merely watching a cavalcade of black limos hurtling past while the assembled schoolchildren waved Union flags.  I refused to hold a flag.  As someone who was known to enjoy country pursuits I was surprised that the Queen would attend the opening of a factory on the site of a bittern nest.  Yes, I must confess that I was a ‘twitcher’.  My dad did his best to confront the developers about this (but hey-ho, whisper it, Labour council *cough*.  Whispers again: you put the money in the grasping fingers).

Bitterns, it seems, are to remain as rare as dissenting voices in the Jubilee year, even in Scotland.  A curious thing last week.  A leaflet was dropped through the door listing a program of events for the Children’s Gala in June here in Kinghorn, only it wasn’t a celebration of summer or any of that.  No, bedecked in Union flags, the leaflet proclaimed a gala week celebrating the jubilee.  Wonderful.  Brainwash them while they’re young, they’ll vote unionist for life like their gormless, drooling parents.

Now me, I might have been born working class but I’m not servile.  The leaflet was ripped up put in the recycling bin.  The next morning, I found another item in the letterbox… a brown envelope.  This is for cash donations to the children’s gala and the best bit?  The envelope is numbered.  That’s right.  I’ve got envelope ’51 (spare)’.  Either the folks giving out/ collecting the envelopes aren’t trusted or the organisers are keeping dibs on who is giving what.

I love Kinghorn and it would be fair to say that my wife and I fell in love with the place almost as soon as we were off the train, never mind on first seeing the house where we now live.  We might have lived here for little over a year but we feel at home and so have tried to live here with a view to taking part.  However, though I contributed a donation last year, I will not be giving one this year.  A children’s gala should be just that: a street party for kids, by kids, about kids.

Here’s the point though: whenever I question the so-called divine right of kings or whether it is right that an unelected group should be pulling the world’s economies to the precipice using an equally unreformed parliament, I am invariably accused of being an SNP member.  There are some insults you can throw at me but that one is simply untrue.

I am not an SNP member primarily because as James writes on the Better Nation blog, ‘Why is Scotland’s constitution off the agenda?‘, the SNP has not only devised a draft constitution but has written the monarchy into it.  Excuse me but I beg to f*ckin’ differ and would, given the opportunity, exercise my right to not go down on bended knee to someone whose position in life was secured by the opportunity of birth and not by the exercise of any real, quantifiable talent.

Any discussion of a nation’s future has to be framed around open-ended discussions about what people want because sometimes, you know, ordinary punters get it right.  Cameron’s Tories couldn’t even frame a coherent, competent vision for England – let alone Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland – so he didn’t get a majority in a system designed to deliver just such a verdict but instead a coalition.  It’s because voters were not persuaded.

The most common objection to scrapping monarchy is the question: ‘You’d want a president?  Like Sarkozy?’  No.  I don’t.

Being chosen to be Head of State for however short a term (and it should be a short term, no-one should be allowed to get comfortable) should be regarded as a fine honour.  Why not then try something new and truly different?

We already seem comfortable with the use of an official office called ‘Makar‘, a poet chosen to create verse for occasions of state.  The word ‘makar’ means both maker and poet.  In a modern society such as Scotland’s, we also owe a debt to engineers, scientists, teachers and many, many others.  As we already have the party started, why not inaugurate the next year’s Makar on Hogmanay?  For one year, the chosen Makar will greet foreign VIPs off planes, will open parliamentary sessions and attend all the formal functions at which a monarch or president would normally be the guest?  Taxpayers foot the bill for travel expenses and so on but importantly, nothing else.  It is absolutely of critical importance that the role of Head of State is seen as one of honour and an experience which, though exhausting, would be cherished.  If nothing else, it would reflect our sense of humour and what a change for someone like Barack Obama to be greeted off the plane by someone like actress/ comedienne/ constitutional lobbyist Elaine C. Smith or novelist Alan Bissett (who’d be my choice for the first Makar of Scotland for this alone).