2007 - 2021

Everything’s Falling Apart

scotlands-rorschachThere are moments in history, two now, in my lifetime when everything falls apart and, conversely, everything seems to fall into place.

100 years ago this, at the battle of the Somme, the international system that had lasted since Waterloo, more or less, came to symbolic and actual bloody and catastrophic grief. Those years of war, at which, for the British, the Somme sits as a particular trauma of local remembrance as well as global import, remade the world…initiated what Eric Hobsbawm called the “short Twentieth Century” – years of crisis and conflict that ended, he felt…and we all felt, I think, came to an end when the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, and European Communism, which had seemed like a permanent factor in our lives while I was growing up, collapsed like a house made of dried cowpats in less than two years thereafter.

Thus was born the global world. It was the End of History. The rule of the universal market, with universal democracy, withy enshrined universal equality, policed by the forces that no longer needed to hold the red beast at bay, would settle upon us like a blanket of security and conspicuous consumption. Why, we might even be able to address climate change…

So here we are now in our own wee corner of Globalization and its Discontents. And if Boris Johnson (now exited stage left, pursued by a Gove) was the flag waving buffoon at the centre of the UK comedy Stage of the last few months, Gordon Brown has been the hero of his own tragedy on another part of the stage. He wrote last week in the Guardian, trying to put all this chaos in the context of the New Global Order…and suddenly, all that seems like so very long ago

Brown it was, along with Tony Blair, who in 1994 became the Globalisation Project leaders of the UK Labour Party, who would steer us into the brave new world where there were no countries any more – just a single market inhabited by identical consuming ants whose only collective identity was as individual players in the global game of buying and selling whatever we could lay our hands on, our industry, our labour, each other, our kidneys, our blood. Owing no loyalty except to themselves…oh, and the maintenance of the necessary “stability” of course, a stability that, it soon became apparent, could tolerate no other self-identification that its functional insects might be tempted to come up with or cling to.

Globalisation had its good points, don’t get me wrong. It was predicated on human equality, universal assumptions about legality, property…oh yes, and “freedom of worship” if you were still interested in that kind of thing. Now that the communists (at least the Russian ones) were out of the way of a universal ideology of the individual and the global market, in the early 1990s, we were setting sail into a peaceful, uniform sea where there would be no more storms, where calm…or “stability” as the “markets” like to call it…was hard wired into the ocean.

Of course, it was never quite like that. For one thing, the economic and manufacturing dynamo of the whole system was Communist China. But back then, John Major’s Euro-hating “Bastards” were a Thatcherite nostalgia cult at the edge of the Tory party, as apparently marginal to the future as the UKIP nutters who got themselves going back then, or indeed the SNP -irrelevant throwbacks to old political conflicts from the seventies, and even more buried tribalisms – no more to be considered as players in the new world than…say…Islamic fundamentalists.

Look where we are now.

Well, what do we know, what remains to be found out? Let`s start in the middle of the scale and work our way up and down.

Theresa May, who kept herself wisely off the radar and off the telly during the referendum campaign, is going to be the leader of the Tory Party who, quite happily I expect, but with a concerned looking face on, will steer the UK into mid-Atlantic where it will presumably be sunk with a flag on top as a warning to shipping. Barring of course, some unforeseen series of accidents which will land us all in the shaking hands of Dr Liam Fox.

The Labour party, whose devotion to the values of fellowship and solidarity have been on such prominent display in the last week, will run the leadership contest they have been so desperately trying to avoid. If Corbyn wins, the Labour party will plit in two…leaving 30 odd socialist saints on the one side, and The Gang of Two Hundred zombie SDP on the other.

What both of these leviathans of the world`s leading democracy will try to avoid like the plague, of course, is the people…who have just proved they cannot be trusted. There will be no snap election if anyone can help it. Though it will be tempting for the Tories to grind their heels into the faces of the Labour party or what remains of it, wiser heads know that an election right now, with UKIP hoovering up votes from Labour like demented hausfraus, isn`t worth the risk. After all, getting rid of UKIP wqas the whole point wasn`t it?

Last week seems long ago and far away.

As for the wider context of Europe, the threat to the EU is on the one hand, existential, but on the other hand, hard to measure. After all, without the Brits there to be annoying and tell everybody else in Europe what they`re doing wrong all the time, the prospects for a revived and redesigned EU are possibly brighter than they were last week in the lost epoch of one rule to rule them all. It may well be that a multi-tiered Europe emerges from all this. Or the whole thing will fall apart and France and Germany and the Benelux countries will start again from scratch.

Crystal ball gazing has never been such a murky activity as it is now.

I think it is safe to say, however, that if the twentieth century of hot and cold war was short, the twenty-first, that of Globalisation and the Series Box Set, is already definitely at the end of season one even if it hasn`t quite been cancelled yet. Can we be saved in any form of civilisation before the climate gets us? Ask the Chinese…I`ve got no idea. This is the century of newly invented nationalisms…and as we know, and as the UK establishment has just found out, nationalisms come in many guises. And English nationalism has just declared its independence day as June 23rd 2016. Who knew it was that easy?

One thing I do know, though. That amid this chaos, Scotland needs its own voice, its own place, its own presence. We need to be a distinct, visible factor in whatever comes next.

One thing I do know, though. That amid this chaos, Scotland needs its own voice, its own place, its own presence. We need to be a distinct, visible factor in whatever comes next.

And that we are, that Nicola Sturgeon is now getting profiles written in newspapers all over the world, just like she did in the UK press last year is yes, a tribute to her.

But it is mainly a tribute to “yes”, to the campaign of 2014, without which nothing, and of which this presence in the world`s consciousness , is a tangible result.

Comments (31)

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  1. Dougie Blackwood says:

    With many other, I was a part of to 2013/14 Yes Campaign. Many were SNP members, many were not. The most active were the RIC who , single handedly, galvanised the campaign. If we are to run a successful campaign next time we must again involve everyone on our side regardless of past votes or party allegiance.

    The mass canvassing in the forgotten estates of Easterhouse and Castlemilk became the front line where the disenfranchised were persuaded to register to vote for Independence. Glasgow voted Yes but the rural areas did not. Those areas were where the activism of Mass Canvass did not reach.

    Next time we must make the effort to get activists into every village and hamlet, up every country track and to every door. Yes the big numbers are in the cities but the sticky bits are where people have no internet and read the Daily Mail, The Express , The Sun and The Daily Record. Those must be our target; not by hectoring and abusing but by explaining and persuading..

    1. Muscleguy says:

      As a RIC ‘member’ here in Dundee I concur. I lost track of the number of people I induced to register to vote. Doing so tickled a civics bone I never knew I really had. I remember one woman in a Dundee estate telling us our conversation was the first time anyone had ever taken her opinion seriously. Which is sad. We did not chap doors and lurch into speeches. It was more ‘hello, we/I are from the Yes campaign* and we were wondering what your thoughts on independence/this campaign are?’. An invitation for them to initiate things, and it worked.

      *True, we never said we were from Yes Scotland, the formal grouping which we weren’t. Though we did operate in some co-ordination with them. We all wore copious RIC buttons to make it plain who we were.

      My personal grief is that AFAIK there was no get out the vote operation in the schemes. In the morning when access door service buttons worked a carload of 5 of us were sent to trudge down gravel drives to large detached residences with 3 cars in the drive.

      We must do better next time. The middle classes can get themselves to the polls. Others with less ordered lives and more worries may need more reminding and encouragement to vote. What is the point of encouraging such folk only to leave them to their own devices on polling day?

      1. Muscleguy says:

        I should note that the get out the vote campaign was run by Yes Scotland, iow the SNP who back then drew most of their support from the more middle classes. If they didn’t know where our voters were in the schemes, they only had to ask RIC.

  2. bringiton says:

    The next referendum will be a completely different ball game as most of the arguments the No campaign brought to bear last time will no longer apply due to Brexit.
    All HM government and it’s press pack can do is to try and convince Scots that the EU isn’t for us and that we will be Better Together with Little England than with a bunch of foreigners.
    I can see many Daily Mail readers falling for that line and we will find out what really drove the No vote last time rather than the false arguments people used to justify their position.
    However,we will definitely need a Plan B on currency that is credible,if for no other reason than removing another unionist propaganda prop.
    Perhaps by then the pound may have tanked and any alternative might seem an attractive option.

    1. Steve Bowers says:

      Just a wee thought as to currency, can we not move the Scottish assets from the bank of England to the European Central Bank and run with a Scottish pound backed by ECB as lender of last resort. “we’d like to stabilise a Scottish currency and economy to make us a viable part of the EU, since we’re not allowed to use the Euro yet, how bout it ECB ?”
      They have the assets from us to back up our “new” pound.

      1. Muscleguy says:

        Better to create a Scottish Reserve bank and capitalise with those BoE deposits. It can be further capitalised as we go. Works either with Sterlingisation or a Scotpound.

  3. tartanfever says:

    It’s not about the next time, it’s about now.

    Everyone can see that Project Fear has restarted, the threats to an Independent Scotland are once again being drafted out – oil, deficit, currency, no central bank etc.

    We need articles now in our press about the economic threat with leaving the EU – city/banking collapse and moving to mainland Europe – useless Tory govt still in denial that they can be members of the single market and have complete control over immigration – the lack of planning from govt.- the threat of a hostile response from Leave/UKIP when a compromise does have to be sought over immigration and the threat of UKIP/Farage holding power over a Westminster government. The trade agreements about to be ripped up – the collapse of the pound – the collapse of Bank shares – a decreasing economy and a bigger debt ratio setting of a serious economic crash – the threat to protected Scottish product status granted by the EU (whisky, Harris tweed etc) – the threat to the UK being able to feed itself (most of our fresh food comes from the EU) – mobile phone roaming charges going back through the roof (yes really, one of the biggest gainers in the stock market recovery this week has been in some telecom companies precisely because of this).

    We need these articles now, because if the polls start showing a decrease in popularity for a 2nd referendum, then it’s over.

    It’s not up to N Sturgeon, it’s up to us.

  4. Drew sword says:

    Thank you Peter. Well written.
    An old man in my dying days i,m trying to hang on so that i can get a passport from one of the last free sensible nations on earth.
    The other two being New zealand and Australia

  5. Alf Baird says:

    How times change. Had Scotland elected 56 SNP MPs twenty years ago, the game would already be over. We’ve become awfully democratic these last twenty years.

    1. Crubag says:

      I was around for that approach.

      But the SNP has seen success by making clear that a vote for the SNP is not a vote for independence.

      The referendum mechanism allows for UK unionists to safely vote SNP. Like in Perthshire.

      1. Alf Baird says:

        “But the SNP has seen success by making clear that a vote for the SNP is not a vote for independence.”

        Your statement rather suggests that our current crop of political career friends in the SNP are really not that bothered about independence?

        The SNP as a political/business entity might have “seen success” but that is not the same thing as achieving independence and nationhood for our people, which should be our benchmark. I’m not sure of any real advantages accruing from “UK unionists to safely vote SNP”; to those wanting independence it matters little who ‘manages’ the devolved administration on behalf of Westminister, Holyrood remains a devolved setup ultimately controlled by the UK Government and Westminister and day-to-day by the UK ‘Home’ civil service.

  6. Juteman says:

    The enemy of Scottish independence has always been the grasping, greedy hand of English colonialism. What is yours must be shared, and what is ours must be shared. Amongst us. The first referendum had Labour playing the glove puppet, to disguise the true hidden hand in the shadows of who ‘us’ really was.
    This time, even Labour supporters can see who ‘us’ really is.

  7. Crubag says:

    The EU is changing as we write. The Germans are marching against the European Commission for wanting to agree the trade deal with Canada without involving the national parliaments – an irrelevance for the Commission. If even Germans have lost their role…

    Hungary is holding a referendum on whether to accept the compulsory settlement of migrants. A No could see the Visegard countries follow suit and Schengen formally collapse.

    The SNP plan is to wait and see. I’d say that was sensible. Even with the EU debate played as an internal Tory drama, a third of SNP voters voted Leave.

    In a couple of years, when the sky hasn’t fallen on our heads, I doubt we would want to vote for rule by the Commission.

  8. w.b.robertson says:

    as I have predicted before, by the time Nicola ever negotiates a deal for Scotland to “remain”, there will be no EU to join…at least not in its present form.

  9. Fedupwithflagwavers. says:

    ‘One thing I do know, though. That amid this chaos, Scotland needs its own voice, its own place, its own presence. We need to be a distinct, visible factor in whatever comes next.’

    Yeah, cos meeting nationalism with more nationalism has been so hugely successful in the past. How do you think my great grandfather ended up getting blown to pieces at the Somme (actually it was Ypres but same thing)? It wasn’t globalisation but the opposite, NATIONALISM. Him and his mates ended up on a wall in Tynecot cemetary. When are Scot nats going to grow up and take responsibility for their part in what has started? Yes, both English and Scot nationalism was a reaction against globalisation, but one group of mindless flag wavers simply eggs on the other, one causing resentment of the other etc etc in a tedious spiral of decline. Brown and many others of decent and frankly superior intellect, are correct when they say that it isn’t globalisation that is necessarily the problem but the inequality and alienation that is a side effect of globalisation. But this can be solved with the right political will and helping each other. This is why many objected to Scottish Nationalism ON PRINCIPLE of being opposed to ANY nationalism.

    Such arrogance and conceit. My nationalism is better than your nationalism.

    And sorry Mr Arnott, but this analysis is 6th form stuff. Not to defend Fukayama particularly but what’s the old joke among political economists/ academics? ‘The End of History is the worst essay on political economy that no one has actually read.’ boom boom… I’m hazarding that includes you? Apologies if not so.

    1) In the original essay published in Foreign Policy a question mark followed the title making it, not a Neo Con assertion but a question. Context is everything.

    2)And the exact same criticism of ‘The End of History’ can be levelled at both Marxism and NATIONALISM (including the wee Scotty kind) so you’re completely contradicting yourself; that it is totally unempirical cannot be falsified and is based on bullshit Hegelian dialectics, grand bollocky narratives in which any old primordial crap can be inserted. Simple answers for simple minds. Oh look the bright Utopian uplands of the future. How do I know, because of history blah blah blah…see Popper and The Poverty of Historicism.

    And Globalisation didn’t just begin at the end of the cold war, it is a process, led mostly by the inescapable nature of technological advance, that started with Magellan, Marco Polo and Vasco Da Gama sailing around the Cape of Good Hope. It started with the Han dynasty wondering along the Silk Road to trade silk, culture and ideas with us barbarian Westerners, the Persians and Arabs. Wonder what these ancient internationalists would have made of your petty ‘civic’ flag waving?

    And you are correct it isn’t all milk and honey, has involved genocide, war, and imperialism that we Scots know about all too well.

    And you missed out a few parts to globalisation and Liberal economics.

    What about the hopeful aspects?

    What about the fact that in the last half century Billions have been lifted out of absolute poverty? What about the fact that due to the spread of ideas and technology child mortality has all but been irradicated in most parts of the world, that natural famines no longer occur (many caused by fuckwit humans though) and the worst diseases or child mortality? What about the fact that absolute poverty is falling and at the current rate won’t exist in 50 years time. What about the fact that we have the best quality of life ever, what about the empirical data that shows that greater interconnection has decreased inter ethnic violence yet technology and 24 hour news makes it seem as though the world is going to shit when it isn’t.

    What about the fact that no 2 liberal democracies in a liberal trading system with overlapping interests and sovereignty have ever gone to war against each other.

    And besides what’s the alternative? Mercantilism and perpetual trade war, Isolationism?

    And what about the fact that even if fuckwits are going to be running the UK and USA, Scotland having it’s own voice will not make the slightest difference? What about the fact that we are inextricably bound up with both? And what about nationalism on the continent, the really nasty European kind raising it’s ugly head in Turkey and Denmark and Sweden and Russia and France and Austria? Should we add to it or grow the fuck up and put our flags away as an example? Or shall we keep on marching around screaming stupid vacuous slogans and waving flags in people’s faces, and criticising them, and being only oppositional and never trying to find collective solutions. Anyone can be oppositional, it’s a piece of piss. And when they start waving flags back in ours claim it’s all their fault?

    And if you hadn’t noticed the French, Germans and Spanish are not overly happy with Scotty flag waving nationalist either. Hence the reason they won’t let us in the EU.

    ‘…But it is mainly a tribute to “yes”, to the campaign of 2014, without which nothing, and of which this presence in the world`s consciousness , is a tangible result.’

    Dream on pal, no one outside of Byres Road gives shit about Scotland or the ‘Yes’ campaign and the world’s consciousness is pretty much occupied with bigger and more important things that petty whinging Scot nationalism.

    I was watching Wales play football in the pub last night with friends from England, Ireland and Germany and me a Scot…we were all unified in our support for Bale and his men (no offense to the Belgians)…was a nice feeling. You should try it some time.

  10. Fedupwithflagwavers. says:

    Oh, and other positive things. In Edinburgh the week past at the conference centre there was an international conference, with reps from NASA and EUSA with seriously clever people talking about things like how to create a non national world agency, how to cooperate and bring down borders in space tech, so we can build things like the massive telescope that can look back in time to the moment just before the big bang.

    Mind blowing and very hopeful.

    Go back to your parochial little corner of Glasgow.

  11. Fedupwithflagwavers. says:

    And take your pompous ‘civic’ nationalism with you.

    1. peterarnott says:

      Have we met?

      1. I Clark says:

        Had you met this pseudonymous poster, you would remember wiping the flecks of spittle from your jacket while you waited for your eardrums to recover from his cringing “I’m an internationalist” Britnat tirade.

  12. Graeme McCormick says:


    The EU debate may change the dynamic but the economic arguments used by the Unionists will still be the same: volatility of energy and other markets, increased taxation, reduced public services, etc.

    The SNP needs a system of public revenue which is not dependent on volatility but certainty. Annual Ground Rent levied per square meter of land and floor space occupied provides that certainty and leads to the democratisation of land as well.

    AGR could be introduced under Devolution now and destroy the Unionist economic argument before it starts its gains ground.

    It will also reduce most folks and companies tax bills substantially.

    1. John Page says:

      I am totally convinced of the case for a LVT or AGR. My only question is whether it advocates also see the case for a corporation tax especially on multinations?

      1. Broadbield says:

        We certainly need an economic (and social) blueprint for an independent Scotland, but how much detail is wise? Too much will overwhelm and provide ample ammunition for the nit-pickers, too little will attract criticism for vagueness and confusion.

    2. Gralloched says:

      But that’s the sensible thing to do.
      You’re never going to see that !

    3. c rober says:

      AGR , the creation of SNSandI , coop banks inside Local Authorities as housing lenders – thus creating a State central bank. Done deal.

      Plus we have to get the word out about the 30 year super shart on the horizon , low birth rates , and a population around then in the majority over 65 , meaning a retirement well in advance of your typical working class scots male life expectancy. Without immigration there simply will not be enough people in Scotland to sustain Pensions and Healthcare – without planning beyond an political term timeframe.

  13. Mike Fenwick says:

    I wonder if I was alone when in voting “Remain”, it was in many ways with a definite reluctance?

    In part that relauctance was because of the austerity inflicted on Greece in order to bail out not Greece but the banks, because of the high levels of unemployment in many of the EU countries particularly youth unemployment, because of a top down undemocratic EU commission, because of CETA and TTIP, why on earth was I voting Remain – but I did.

    One of my reasons comes from our very own Scottish history – the Enlightenment, a time when much of Europe looked to Scotland, this small country of ours, and its ability to take on human problems and find human solutions.

    Is it possible we may be about to play our part again, in taking on such problems and finding solutions, not just for ourselves but for others? Don’t tell me we can’t, because I think we have that opportunity.

    Many of those who advocated “Remain”, did so with the caveat, that it was to Remain – BUT – in a reformed Europe, that the European Union was not perfect, and indeed it is not. Brexit has I think brought a recognition of that reality centre stage in the EU itself.

    I have in front of me my passport – the very first words it bears, show that I am a citizen of the European Union. If in a second IndyRef, Scotland gains its freedom and exits the UK, am I suddenly no longer an EU citizen, am I to be stripped of that status, having just voted to “Remain”?

    When, as currently, you hear that it is “States” that are the fulcrum upon which EU membership is based, does that mean that its citizens are redundant, that they can be ignored, that democracy is dead, your vote no longer counts, as was demonstrated to the Greeks? They were told we are going to bail out the banks, no matter how you Greeks vote, but you as citizens can pay through the austerity measures that will be imposed.

    In Scotland there is already so much to discuss and debate, and so much to do and organise, but as we in Scotland have our discussions and debates, as we prepare for our country’s future, should we also have wider objectives, beyond just our Scottish boundaries.

    Can we see the problems in the EU? They are far from invisible.

    More importantly can we also suggest solutions – not we alone as 5 million – but in concert with our fellow EU citizens, numbering some 500 million?

    Or are we to “remain” dependent and subservient to the President of the EU commission?

    Peter Arnott states “There are moments in history, when everything falls apart and, conversely, everything seems to fall into place.”

    Are we in Scotland at just such a moment?

    Peter also says, “One thing I do know, though. That amid this chaos, Scotland needs its own voice, its own place, its own presence. We need to be a distinct, visible factor in whatever comes next.”

    I could not agree more – and Scotland’s voice should echo across Europe! We, in Scotland, have the opportunity to determine what comes next, and not just for ourselves.

  14. Whatamess says:

    Wow… how scary is it that almost multiple posts from different people including non british academics have been censored by this site…chilling.

    1. Neil Anderson says:

      “..almost multiple posts..” How many is that then?

  15. Whatamess says:

    Mike Small has censored at least 9 different academics. See how long this criticism stays up. Terrifying.

    1. John Page says:

      Are you still planning to vote Yes?

  16. JohnEdgar says:

    Why simply focus on the Somme in 1916. There was another event on Britain – the Easter Rising in Dublin, when the UK started the process of dissolving into its constituent nations and the Empire began to disintegrate.
    Now Scotland and England-Wales are diverging and going separate ways. 100 hundred years on.

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