We have two subscriptions to the Guardian in my house because we like to think it aligns with our world view – in broad terms – and since we have ipads, it is logical to endow them with double their entitlement in order to carry it with us. To be frank I don’t find much of Scottish interest in the paper. It has everything else I like and some great writers but I pretty much know if I want to discover something about my country I can skip it. That was ever the case. I remember their Scotland correspondent in the eighties and nineties wrote maybe one or two pieces a week and they were happy to print a retrospective item catching up with something that had been published everywhere else 24 hours previously.
He was a grand man to represent you in the Scottish capital – a little like Alex Douglas-Home to look at, always in a Harris Tweed sports jacket, drove a Racing Green open top two-seater Morgan – big house in Midlothian, place in Grantown-on-Spey – and in the Jinglin’ Geordie in Fleshmarket Close at lunchtime would order a dram of Te Bheag which he pronounced Tea Bag, only with a Morningside inflection on “bag” turning the vowel sound into “eh”. As a young reporter in a hurry I loved his insouciance. If I asked: “What are you doing on the hydro electric story, John?” He would say: “I’ll give it to them tomorrow. There’s too much other news today.”
It is one explanation why I have an affection for the Guardian all these years later but the real one is that it is the only daily newspaper published which has a social conscience and often wears its heart on its sleeve. In a sea of neo-liberal, establishment toe-kissers, it is a media oasis of alternative thinking and challenging views. It is Channel 4 News to the BBC News at Ten. it has printed writers with no connection with Scotland finding common cause with Scottish democrats protesting against the British status quo, some of whom indicate they would vote Yes, given the chance. They have seen the potential for ending the stasis that blocks progress in the UK, in voting systems, accountability, equality, social mobility and patronage that shines through the Yes agenda and they have imagined how it could be a beacon for change across the country.
They don’t do much on Scotland but what they have done has been inspiring and validating. Until today. In Saturday’s edition of the Guardian they produced a leader column that could have appeared in the Telegraph such was its casual glee at what it translates as Yes getting its comeuppance. http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/feb/14/scottish-referendum-politics-business-end Its entire tone could hardly contain its grim satisfaction.
It was dismaying to find a UKIP-inspired Little Englander editorial which couldn’t disguise its Unionist frisson that the “panglossian’ Salmond was finding his “smiley” version of independence challenged because, according to the author, it had gone “unchallenged” . Perhaps the Guardian has missed the 20-odd British government reports or the entire Better Together campaign or its multi-million funding base or interventions by the European Commission and the Council and the Prime Minister of Spain, the three-year histrionics at Holyrood, reports by every committee in both Houses of Parliament, CBI objections, talks at NATO and visits by half the British Cabinet. If so, did they ever replace my drinking chum with the drop-head Morgan and are utterly uneducated about events in the far north?
Salmond’s plan, backed by 670 pages of background and Q and A – many times more than any UK Government or party ever attempts – is dismissed by the Guardian as a “pretend version”, neatly omitting the fact that Salmond’s desire for independence was in his manifesto when he won a majority of seats at Holyrood, therefore it is endorsed by the people of Scotland – still inhabitants of the United Kingdom as far as I can see. Salmond’s view cannot be maintained any longer it seems as the UK gets tough. How the British and their London media luvvies revel in the idea that they have the upper hand. It sounds like they are fighting Jerry all over again,this time in the pages of the Guardian. There is no questioning of the approach or motivation of the three Unionist parties, just delight that they have changed the debate and in essence struck back, suggesting the Little Englanders at the Guardian have been quietly resenting the success of a democratic movement which they have no chance of emulating since all their eggs are in a comatose Labour basket. No, “this new toughness must be applauded”, trumpets David Cameron’s new recruits. Get tough with the dissidents, it means. Slap them down. Show em who’s boss. We’re fed up pretending to be on side for this. The truth is we’re as backward and self-centred as any Tory – just like Labour – and we don’t really want change. It’s much too comfortable down here.
It even goes for the Daily Mail unsubstantiated personal slight. Salmond always plays the man, we’re told. Do they mean the man who was subject to calculated character assassination at Holyrood, who was likened to his face to Robert Mugabe on Newsnight, who as we have seen in recent days, has been treated like a a petty criminal by BBC interviewers? When did Salmond go for the man without the politics? This is prejudice, the seeping loathing drip-fed by the Salmond-hating tabloids, is swallowed by the Guardian and reprinted without reference or justification.
But the most telling part of this revisionist rant is this section:
Mr Osborne’s case was made politically stronger by the fact it was tightly co-ordinated with Labour and the Liberal Democrats. It remains to be seen how the one in three Scots who say their minds are not yet made up will respond. The likelihood in the long term is probably that the undecideds will divide much as the decideds have done. Taken together with Mr Cameron’s speech last week, Mr Osborne’s helps give the pro-union parties more standing to make a reasoned case in the face of the SNP’s predictable sneering and occasional evasions.
To any Scot who has followed this from the beginning, the idea that it is the Yes side that sneered or evaded will be richly humorous. No sensate human let alone a thinking journalist with an iota of knowledge could write that and mean it. It defies the facts in which Scots have been told – by their own UK government – that they can’t survive without subsidy, they can’t defend their own country,they are so useless neither the EU nor NATO will want them, they have made no contribution to their own currency and if the don’t settle the deal on time the result of their legal referendum will be ignored. Who’s sneering?
And is the Guardian really saying that the UK’s balance of trade doubling is fine? That the increased borrowing costs of this will be worth paying? That placing a frontier when none is necessary is justified? Or that business should be penalised? It would have been more courageous if the article had said this was the right economic decision and was, in the paper’s view, not just part of a political campaign and therefore ultimately, meaningless.
But the real gaffe in this student thesis is to think that bringing together the main parties as one is a masterstroke. The tight co-ordination is the death-knell of liberal politics in Britain. It says that a united campaign to resist democracy in Scotland overrides every other issue where these parties disagree. More important than welfare cuts, more important than youth unemployment, bankers bonuses, London feather-bedding and Trident replacement. On this, they stand united. On all else they disagree. And the Guardian thinks this is good news for Labour? Aligning with the Tories on behalf of the British state Guardian readers want to reform is an historic miscalculation by lightweights blinded by hatred of nationalism and not grasping its significance. It is betrayal of the roots and principles of Labour, such as they are. Now the Guardian is on side with them and with Cameron’s centralising, faux-imperial, anti-self determination zealots. Somebody, somewhere made a mistake and let out of the bag what many of us suspect that even in the metropolitan, liberal-badged London media salon, a robust anti-Scottish prejudice lurks just beneath the surface.
For the Guardian, read Telegraph…read Times… read Mail. The London media, another reason to vote Yes.