Kick Up the Tabloids


So cabinets are re-shuffled on both sides of the border and the Scottish Government announces it is to proceed with the legislation for the Referendum.  Is the phoney war finally over ?

The “Yes” campaign, of course, launched earlier this year, with movie star supporters and showbiz razzamatazz.  Proud Scottish A-listers lending their support for independence included Brian Cox (a Scottish actor living in Los Angeles), Alan Cumming (a Scottish actor living in New York) and Midge Ure (a Scottish musician living in the 1980s).

The launch of the “No” campaign did not manage to attract any celebrities.  Indeed, they could not even manage to organise an endorsement from John Leslie. However, this could be due to the fact that he did not understand the meaning of the word “No”.

But, without doubt, what has most captured the imagination of the Scottish people has been the “Don’t Know” campaign, slightly edging the “Don’t Really Care” movement into second place in the approval ratings. The level of apathy on the subject of the referendum really does dismay and surprise me.  This is the most important question we will have been asked in three-hundred years and some people aren’t that bothered.

In other countries people have gone to extreme lengths to try to gain freedom.  Only a few months back, two people in Tibet set fire to themselves as a protest against Chinese occupation of their country.  Fair enough, plenty of people in Scotland set fire to themselves every year.  However, it’s not normally done to make a political statement, it’s normally some poor guy trying to make chips after he’s got home from a night in the pub.  Furthermore, the last guy in Scotland who did try to make a political point by setting fire to himself got a severe kicking from a baggage handler at Glasgow Airport.

Perhaps it has always been this way, perhaps people have always been apathetic throughout Scottish history.  Who knows how many people sat on the fence at Bannockburn?  Possibly some people havered on about health and safety before deciding not to lend Flora McDonald their rowing boat.  Who knows?  Perhaps some people even changed channels half way through Archie Gemmill’s goal at the 1978 World Cup in Argentina.

I think the current mood of disinterest can be partly attributed to the fact that most people are still a bit unclear about the pros and cons of Independence.  On the upside, under independence, we will have politicians who are directly answerable to the people of Scotland.  On the downside, nobody knows who any of these people are.  The public recognition ratings of most Scottish politicians are very low.  If you ask the average person in the street “Who’s Johann Lamont ?”  they’re likely to say they think it’s one of those two brothers who play rugby for Scotland.  This despite the fact that Johann Lamont has had several high-profile jobs outside politics, having been a professional cage-fighter, Chancellor of Germany, a Susan Boyle tribute act and Rab C. Nesbitt’s wife.  Ask what the name Willie Rennie conjures up, a large amount of people are likely to answer “Willie Rennie?  Is that not a pill for penis indigestion?”

The public do respond to recognisable personalities in politics.  Say what you like about Saddam Hussain, there were very few people in Irag who did not know who the guy was, partly due to the fact that it was impossible to walk more than ten yards down the road without seeing a massive fifty-foot statue of the guy.

The charge is possibly true that current Scottish politics is a bit of a one-man band.  In fact, the question is often asked: “What would happen if Alex Salmond fell under a bus tomorrow ?”   So, I contacted Lothian Buses, who issued the following statement: “We simply do not have any vehicles in our current fleet which could withstand that kind of impact”.   Perhaps more pertinently, one should ask “What would happen if Alex Salmond fell under a tram tomorrow ?”   Make up your own punchlines to that one.

Anyway, expect to see more celebrities coming out on both sides of the debate the nearer the referendum looms.  Indeed, Alex Salmond has already been out to Hollywood to try to get support.  He was on the red carpet for the premier of the Pixar movie “Brave”, trying to sell Scotland to the World.  He did seem genuinely surprised at how many Americans recognised him and wanted to shake him by the hand.  What he didn’t realise is that they thought they were meeting Shrek.

Salmond wants to use “Brave” as a tool to attract investment into Scotland, and also to encourage Americans to visit the country and for ex-pats to return home.  It’s a cartoon!  How many people ever joined the Navy because they’d watched a couple of episodes of Popeye?

More ridiculous than that, however, was the claim made by a Tory MP that watching the Olympic opening ceremony on TV is likely to persuade Scots to vote “No” in the Referendum.  Just how shallow does he think we are.  Does he seriously think we’ll be thinking: “You know what, I was right in favour of Scottish independence, then I changed my mind.  Want to know why ?  I saw Mr Bean falling asleep at the piano, that fucking clinched it for me!”