In his paean of praise for the hard-headed common sense (in Catalan the word they use is seny
) displayed by the British government in its handling of the Scottish referendum, Gerry Hassan
(4 October) perpetuates the analogy Scotland and UK = Catalonia and Spain.
Were he however to make the far more rational analysis of Catalonia and Spain = Ireland and UK, then perhaps the enconium would be a shade less fulsome.
From the First Home Rule Bill of 1886 to the Good Friday Agreement of 1998, the UK government showed few of the virtues so lavishly praised by Gerry Hassan but rather manifested all of the vices currently on view in Madrid. And quite a few more to boot. Vile as was the Spanish reaction to the snoot cocking of the Catalan populace to its laws and court decrees, with the policía nacional and the guardia civil blindly 'following superior orders' to baton charge, to gas and to fire rubber bullets (baton rounds, I seem to remember we should call them) full in the face of peaceful citizens, it was nothing more than a repeat of actions which relevant British authorities had undertaken with equally peaceful civil rights marchers at Burntollet Bridge in 1969.
And to date, the use of live ammunition (bullets, I seem to remember we should call them) by the parachute regiment not on terrorists but rather on a different group of civil rights demonstrators in Derry exactly three years later, has no Spanish equivalent. Nor the independent judicial review into these latter events (whitewash, I seem to remember we should call it) by the lord chief justice of England, Lord Widgery.
I accept that Gerry Hassan has the good fortune not to be my age, but surely he has a smartphone with access to Wiki available to him.
Re Andrew Hook's
review of 'Tea and Empire, James Taylor in Victorian Ceylon': I enjoy a cup of Ceylon tea, its delicate flavour refreshes the palate, but I'm afraid that Professor Devine's stewed brew-up of history, his continued boiling up of the same method, his approach to blending all history to his viewpoint, has lost its flavour. It has jaded my palate. It has lost its strength.
The stale taste of doubt was confirmed because of his decision to try and use his position to influence one side of the vote in the Scottish independence referendum. That the public did not imbibe his opinion as supreme authority top dog historian in Scotland must have left a sour taste, but should be a lesson in flavour. To follow the chance tea metaphor: time for a fresh brew.
What a deeply unpleasant and vindictive piece of invective you published by Reiner Luyken
(26 September). It was utterly devoid of charm, humour or irony. Quotes from Stephen Daisley were entirely fitting in a cheap piece like this. There are many articles in the SR with which I disagree but at least they tend to be eloquent and well-written; this was no better than the output of a Twitter or Facebook troll.
I very much enjoyed reading Reiner Luyken's article on Fiona Hyslop's similarities to Kaiser Wilhelm II in conjunction with Walter Humes's account of his disabled toilet troubles on the train. Rail is certainly the best way to travel, just as Scotland is one of the best places to live. But there's always someone who spoils things.
Anyone who has travelled on a Virgin Pendolino train will have experienced the horrors of gigantic malfunctioning toilets with complex controls. Electronically locking and unlocking the doors and trying to make them open and close at the right times is the most difficult thing to get right. This can make train travel miserable. Similarly, Scotland's body politic is dominated by a party that is always trying to make Scottish residents think that they are in some sense getting second-best and being looked down upon by their English neighbours. This can make living in Scotland miserable.
Virgin have tried a lot of different things, including an unexpected female voice that says 'The door is now locked.' And the Scottish Nationalists have a voice recently heard to say that she wishes that the party didn't have the word 'nationalist' in its title. I wish it didn't too, but that's because I don't like nationalist sentiments, actions, or thinking. Nicola Sturgeon wants to be able to pretend she's not nationalist because she thinks it would make her pursuit of a nationalist agenda easier as it might be less obvious what the bottom line is.
At the moment the Scottish nationalists are the cuckoo in the nest, gobbling up all that's good about Scotland. This makes the rest of us (who are trying to get through life in the ways described so aptly by Reiner Luyken) uncomfortable for reasons that we're not quite sure about. Rather like the passengers in Virgin's standard class seats who get uncomfortable after an hour or two of travel. They don't realise it's because the seats have all been pushed a little closer together and made more upright to make room for the gigantic malfunctioning toilets.
I look forward to a post-nationalist Scotland where the government gets on with governing rather than blaming everyone else and pretending that things would be better if the country was independent. The railways I'm not so sure about. Would renationalised railways have toilet doors with visible latches that could be seen to be locked or unlocked? That might be even trickier to achieve.
SR welcomes short pieces in response to SR articles or to current events in general. Send to: Islay@scottishreview.net