2007 - 2021

Three Long Years

“Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?” – John Lydon 1978

Three years after the biggest exercise in mass political education met a professional propaganda campaign backed by the British State to protect its own power, its own economic interests and its own political class, the lies are being exposed day in day out, but it’s a crowded field.

The Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson is facing a torrent of condemnation for wheeling out (again) his discredited line about £350 million for the NHS that he used to twist the Brexit vote. Sir David Norgrove of the UK Statistics Authority took the step to write personally to the Foreign Secretary condemning his actions:



He’s not alone though. It’s not about Boris. He is the seventh Conservative cabinet minister to be rebuked by the UK Statistics Authority since 2010. All the efforts to personalise this into the issue of Boris is a sideshow. It’s aim (whether conscious or not) is to deflect attention from the legal coup that’s going on at Westminster and the cataclysmic impact of the outbreak of English Nationalism that’s leading Britain off the cliff through Brexit.

In a previous era the confirmation about Boris Johnson’s lying would have been a sackable offence, now it’s just part of the normal practice of politics.

Iain Martin tries in vain here to make it all look like a bit of cock-up, just a bit of bad-timing and all that (“This looks like a bit of a shambles. It is, after all, Boris”). But if BoJo is caught looking like he has all the morals of a snakeoil-salesman (not exactly a newsflash to anyone), his party is riddled with politicians who are “economical with the truth”. In a move that won’t come as a surprise to anyone at all, the Scottish Secretary is competing valiantly with the Foreign Secretary at efforts in public deception.

In July 2017: David Mundell stated  means a “power bonanza” for the Scottish Parliament. Two months later, not so much.

Michael Settle reports in the Herald that “David Mundell today clearly signals that while some extra powers will be devolved to Holyrood post Brexit, others will be reserved to Westminster to help maintain the integrity of the UK’s internal market. The Scottish Secretary, in a keynote speech during a trade mission to Paraguay, will also call on Nicola Sturgeon, the First Minister, to “decouple” for good Brexit from her campaign for Scottish independence.”

I’m not sure what the significance of Paraguay is, but Mundell’s efforts to exert pressure on the Scottish Government will surely fail, and the invention of the “UK internal market” as a thing evokes the same “family of nations” narrative that has been exposed as just more duplicity and nonsense. It’s simply not credible to simultaneously ignore, sideline and abuse a ‘parter’ whilst also talking of great common interests and collective unity. It doesn’t make any sense.


But what is the effect of serial lying? Are the Conservatives resurgent – north and south of the border – as commentators have been hailing for months?

In fact two polls over the weekend report a surge in support for independence three years on and after a summer of being told that the idea is dead in the water.

The Survation poll for the Daily Mail shows 55% in favour of a second referendum.

The Survation poll asked “Should Scotland be an independent country?” and revealed, or confirmed a generational gulf:

“Should Scotland be an independent country? (under 34s/over 55s): Yes: 66/33% No: 34/67%
(Survation, 14/9/17, p13)

Meanwhile a Panelbase poll for the Sunday Times Scotland revealed that 65% of Scots want to remain in the EU, up from 61% in January and 50% believe Brexit will damage the Scottish economy.

You might ask yourself, given the debacle that’s unfolding why these figures aren’t higher. Why aren’t we seeing 75% in favour of indyref2? Why do only 50% think Brexit will damage the Scottish economy?

On the generational gulf, the SNP’s Ross Colquhoun asks:

“Question: What separates these two demographics? Answer: How they access political news and the sources they trust.”

Which is true only in part.

Three years ago, by their own proud admission Better Together ran a campaign of fear.

UK:OK translated as “everything’s fine”.  It aimed to, and succeeded in appealing to those for whom this was true, and for those with such a low sense of aspiration that “everything’s fine” was true even if they lived in poverty, poor housing, or low pay.  Being British and poor was enough. We were after all, a “family of nations” and Britain represented a place of stability. The idea of ‘Scotland’ was given as being a state of parochialism, nationalism, separation. We would be ‘separate’. Britain was inclusive, all-embracing, multi-cultural, outward looking.

Such a representation today is not possible. Not even the combined efforts of the army of celebrities wheels out to dazzle us could portray Brexit Britain in this light.

As Henry Porter writes, ‘A cabal of right-wing Conservatives are attempting to seize power in the name of the people—a maneuver with a chilling historical echo’:

“The derangement of Theresa May’s minority government in the United Kingdom is something to behold, and it is also more than a little frightening. Even in the America of Donald Trump, there has not yet been any real attempt, save a few controversial executive orders, to strip Congress of its powers. But in Britain—the Mother of Parliaments, according to the Victorian reformer John Bright—we stand idly by as May attempts to neutralize our elected representatives. It seems incredible to me that I am reporting on this, but even more alarming is that there is so little concern expressed by the majority of the press and the generally acquiescent BBC. The point is that after the referendum last year, and despite the poor result in the General Election, the right-wing of the Conservative Party has continued traveling in an increasingly undemocratic direction and has, so far, swept all before it. The normally rather sober Hansard Society, an organization dedicated to promoting and strengthening democracy, has called the “broad scope of the powers in the Bill, the inadequate constraints placed on them, and the shortcoming in the proposed parliamentary control of them” a “toxic mix” that will undermine Parliament’s ability to hold May to account or to meliorate the most damaging policies arising from Brexit.”

As well as the surge in support for independence amongst younger people, this week threw up some other salient facts.  Roy Greenslade of the Guardian reported:
“Tabloid print sales cliff fall, August 2017 compared to August 2016 (ABC figs): Mirror -19%, Star -14%, Sun -9%, Express -8%, Mail -7%”.

Hope springs eternal.

Three years on Britain is a harsher place led by a small elite of ideologues who seem incapable at a very simple level of operating their own trade of politics. They seem both inept and corrupt in equal measure in ways that seem new and even darker than their inglorious predecessors. But there is hope in that this just seems abundantly clear to everyone. Characters like Boris Johnson may come from such obscene privilege that they are impervious to exposure, but that doesn’t mean that exposure isn’t being seen and understood.

Three years ago one of the most inspiring aspects of the referendum was young people imagining the future against a backdrop of cynical propaganda. Today that remains exactly the same. The future hasn’t been defeated by lies. Another Scotland is still possible.


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Comments (15)

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  1. Bugger (le Panda) says:

    It is called Stategical Transitory Professional Lying (made that up)

    Basically lying as they transit through our political landscape, so the problem goes away for a few years and everybody has forgotten about it. They have always done it.

    Now we have the Web and social media, they have isolated the web-uninitiated to be controlled by the State Broadcasting Corporation and bought Press Hoors

  2. Jeff says:

    Meanwhile two of the top pro-independence bloggers are either being hauled into court and threatened with bankruptcy or arrested amidst vague charges related to social media. Surely not to stifle their output? A coincidence surely?

  3. Ian says:

    European essayist George Santayana famously wrote, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

    So how does the UK compare with our European neighbours in terms of median wealth per person, productive capital investment, R&D, health spending, debt (public and private). Badly and not not just as a snapshot but for decades. Fact.


    The reality of the relentless failure of the UK economically compared with similar European countries needs to made common knowledge so that when the latest UK talking head is blowing yet more hot air, it’s viewed with the context of simply being part of a long track record of failure and is merely yet more bluff. Time to get the UK’s economic history of decline out of history and into current discussions.

    As for the UK’s economy and the productive use of resources –

    1. North sea oil – squandered
    2. Privatisation revenues – likewise
    3. Financial speculation and debt – short lived boom (for a few) and a long lived bust (austerity) for most people
    4. Sell more weapons – the latest brainwave. Anyone think this is a good idea?

    This highlights two facts – Even when given large one-off windfalls the UK still manages to waste them, and that the UK does not have a balanced or sustainable economy, as brexit is beginning to highlight. Just look at the UK’s current account since the 80’s.

    Who in their right mind would want that history to keep repeating itself in a Scotland that remains part of the UK?

  4. John McGroran says:

    “the lies are being exposed day in day out, but it’s a crowded field.”


    No introspection at all about how the lies and exaggerations of Salmond and the yes campaign have been shown up over the last three years?

    Why are you so resistant to the idea that Scottish nationalism and Brexitism, far from being opposites, are on the same continuum? Where did Boris get the idea of rubbishing expert opinions with the catch all term of “Project Fear”, I wonder…

    1. Hi John. Project Fear was the name given to themselves by the Better Together campaign.

      Feel free to list the lies of the Yes campaign.

      Clearly the main one we’re dealing with today is the one that told us “What is the process for removing your EU citizenship? Voting Yes”.

      I’m happy to debate many lies you think have been put forward by the Yes side, but I’d really like to hear how your reflect on that tweet / message as a No voter?

      1. e.j. churchill says:

        ‘Project Fear’ was the creation of Gordon Brown and Damien McBride in 1997. The name may have travelled well and turns coat at will, too, also y tambien.

        White paper?

    2. Michelle Shortt says:

      Can you list what those lies were from the Yes camp?

      1. e.j. churchill says:

        the ‘white paper.’

      2. e.j. churchill says:

        the ‘white paper.’ but both sides used the weapons at hand; politics ain’t beanbag.

        The SNP, besides being terribly short on voters, also got steamrollered in stratergy and tactical politics, too. 10points is an old-fashioned, country-style whipping.

    3. Alf Baird says:

      “Scottish nationalism and Brexitism, far from being opposites, are on the same continuum”

      Hardly. Scotland’s independence is not “nationalism”; Scottish independence is about self determination of a people, also liberation and freedom from an oppressor state and its alien culture (e.g. the Tory ‘way’ of doing things). Independence is closely associated with decolonisation. Nationalism, on the other hand, is often about the exploitation and oppression of territories and can be an extreme form of patriotism marked by a feeling of superiority over other countries, e.g. British nationalism exhibits such traits. Moreover, Scottish independence is largely pro-European; British nationalism is arguably anti-European, anti-Scottish, and possibly anti-anything not British/English.

  5. bringiton says:

    People in England are just beginning to realise that their parliament may not be operating to the highest democratic standards.
    Water off a duck’s back to us Scots who are used to not having a democratically elected parliament making decisions,in many cases,specifically against our expressed wishes.
    Westminster may be many things but democratic it ain’t.

  6. Kenny Smith says:

    Brilliant piece Mike. Still no yes lies listed I see!!

    1. Thanks Kenny. Genuinely open to responding to whatever ‘lies’ are brought up. I’m guessing he’s talking about mistaken oil price predictions?

  7. MBC says:

    I’d like to know what exactly the weasel phrase, ‘maintain the integrity of the UK’s internal market’ means.

    I didn’t see much integrity in maintaining the UK internal market when Longannet was forced to close because connection charges to the grid imposed by the UK government were made higher because being in Scotland the power generation plant was further away from the larger centres of population in England that might use its energy.

  8. Alf Baird says:

    “I’m not sure what the significance of Paraguay is”

    Paraguay is a major whisky etc. smuggling centre for Latin America, apparently. As a former shipping clerk, I used to watch rather large vessels sail from Leith full of whisky and heading directly for Asunción, and I did wonder what such a relatively small and poor population in Paraguay did with such high volumes of whisky. Mr. Mundell evidently keeps some interesting company. Perhaps not coincidental that UK FCO officials appear to run the Scotch Whisky Association. Another Tory interception of Scotland’s many economic rents?

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