There is a place near the River Kelvin in Glasgow where I like to do walking meditation in the morning. Yesterday, I saw this scarf, neatly tied, hanging from a railing there. At first I thought it might be yet another memorial, but there was only the scarf. I had heard about people leaving scarves and other clothing in public places for whoever needs them, but this was the first I had seen. Before walking on, I bowed to the scarf and to the unknown (to me) person who left it there.
I am addressing this letter to you because I live in Maryhill, Glasgow, so you are my MP, my MSP and my councillor respectively. Like you, I am also a member of the SNP, and so I was disturbed by an email I received today from Andrew Baddon, election agent for Mr Doris, part of which said:
Prince Philip has died. The only remarkable thing about him is that he lived to the age of 99, which is less remarkable when his pampered lifestyle is considered. An unremarkable racist born into the Greek royal family, we have only heard of him because of whom he married, an equally unremarkable person born into another family institution that should have been abolished long ago.
As he never did anything anyone would have noticed had it not been for his title, it seems odd that Scotland’s political parties have taken a break from election campaigning because of his death — and bizarre that the SNP is making such a gesture for a prince of a nation it intends to leave.
I live near a bar that is a notorious stab inn. A few years ago, there was talk that it might close, and I overheard someone walking by it say, “If they close it, where are the nutters supposed to go?”
This can be taken two ways. One is a typical Glaswegian compassion for “the nutters,” an understanding that even the most antisocial and violent people need community. The other, more practical, point is that if their hangout closes, they will migrate to other bars and make them less pleasant, safe and sane.
In the politics of Scottish independence, Alex Salmond’s new Alba party might serve the same function as the bar I shall not name. The worst bigots and other reactionaries — “the nutters” — now have a party to join, a community of their own, leaving the SNP a more pleasant, safe and sane place. The worst of the worst will join Alba, while the good and the merely bad will stay with the SNP.
“Ye Jacobites by name,
Your fautes I will proclaim,
Your doctrines I maun blame, you shall hear, you shall hear”—Burns
It is fitting that the online launch of the Alba party (the name of which its leader, Alex Salmond, does not know how to pronounce) was disrupted by technical issues, and then had its membership list leaked, because the party represents a time before such technology existed.
I have a dear friend who, like me, is in his mid-50s. We met in the 1980s, and my friend is still in that era. He is a walking time capsule who still speaks the vernacular of 35 years ago — people who would now be called “woke” are “right on,” or they are “trendy lefties.” He is disturbed by the acceptance of transgender people, and declares that there were only two genders until recently, and he does not see why it should change. (I am not making this up.) He also believes passionately in various conspiracy theories, including that the 9-11 attacks were committed by the US government…
But we are going fast, heading towards a further lifting of restrictions on April 5, and bars and restaurants starting a phased reopening on April 26.
Yesterday and today, the weather has been sunny and warm in Glasgow, so parks have been crowded, with few people wearing masks.
I had my first dose of the AstraZenica vaccine on February 21, but my behaviour will not be changing with the rules. I will continue to go outside as seldom as possible, always masked. If the ending of lockdown is not cancelled, it means Scotland is in life-threatening denial. There is what we want, and there is how it is, and how it is always wins.
“Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away.”—Philip K. Dick
I remember my naive bemusement back in 1992, when, with a general election impending, Alasdair Gray published his book Why Scots Should Rule Scotland. I wrote a review of the book in which I said that even though it presented a succinct cultural history of Scotland, it never even mentioned, let alone answered, the question in its title. It took a shamefully long time for me to realise that his vivid description of Scotland was all the answer to the question that was needed.
In the Holyrood inquiry as to whether Nicola Sturgeon misled parliament, the vote was along party lines, with four SNP members finding that she did not, and the other five — two Tories, one Labour, one Lib Dem and one independent — finding that she did.
Now an independent report by James Hamilton, former director of public prosecutions in the Republic of Ireland, has found that she is not in breach of the ministerial code. This will disappoint her opponents, who have been excitedly demanding that she resign if Mr Hamilton’s report had found against her.