Brian Monteith: Nasty and dirty war awaits us in indyref

Finally, as if so many of us are not sick of it already, the worst kept secret of this millennium has been revealed. Nicola Sturgeon wants us to have another independence referendum.

Friday, 17th March 2017, 9:00 am
Updated Friday, 24th March 2017, 9:35 am
Jim Murphy addresses crowds on the High Streed during the last referendum campaign. Picture: Ian Rutherford
Jim Murphy addresses crowds on the High Streed during the last referendum campaign. Picture: Ian Rutherford

Fortunately, it is not for the First Minister alone to determine if it ­happens or not. It may or may not happen (no pun intended), but one thing is certain, if it goes ahead it will be a very nasty affair. Nastier than the last time.

There are still some people, and they all appear to be those that voted Yes last time round, who think the 2014 referendum was a relatively jolly affair. That it elevated public ­discourse to the levels of Socrates or Cicero and it was an example of how civic nationalism is no threat to the harmony we all wish for in society when confronted with a stark and polarising choice.

Well, that was not my experience, and I know many people, mostly those who wanted to remain British, who feel the same way as me.

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Inflatable animal parts - in the shape of the Udderbelly venue - in George Square. Picture: Ian Georgeson

Firstly, as I have written before, there is nothing particularly civic about nationalism. Anything that looks to separate us by race, religion, gender, sexuality and other defining attributes such as a preference for the geographical location of our parliament and other institutions is, well, hardly civic.

A discourse that leaves us divided and unable to accept a democratic outcome – rather than unites us to move on in solidarity by making a decision work – cannot be construed as anything close to civic.

If an ‘indyref’ comes to pass in the next few years it will again divide families (my own included), see long-standing friendships ended (sad and unnecessary, but true) and mark out supporters of either side to be ­pilloried and abused by each other. I have seen it, I have felt it, and that is just by reading social media ­comments. Others have experienced the physical intimidation, the spitting, shoving and shouted threats. Just ask Jim Murphy about his tour with the Irn-Bru crate.

But why should another indyref be a nasty, dirty war? That’s simple. For a start it is not like a general ­election where there is a kaleidoscope of ­candidates offering a myriad of views. There is a stark binary question, Yes or No, Leave or Remain – you are forced to be in one camp or another. Not voting is no longer a protest, a plague on everyone’s houses, it is ­simply denying yourself a say in your own future. Having become polarised some people lose self-control and self-discipline. It’s not pretty and it’s not pleasant.

Inflatable animal parts - in the shape of the Udderbelly venue - in George Square. Picture: Ian Georgeson

With the economic argument for independence in ruins it means that the core of the SNP campaign will be more emotional than the last time. It will be founded on appeals to your heart rather than your head. It must by definition be less rational, even irrational, and must raise temperatures rather than encourage rational, reasoned thought.

What this means is that people such as myself, and others like me who believe we can be Scottish and British, that we should share our decision-making, and can see the positives in what we have achieved together over more than 300 years, will be portrayed as anti-Scottish and against Scotland. We shall be accused of being quislings, comparing us to the Norwegian Nazi collaborator Vidkun Quisling, as if we are traitors doing the bidding of a heinous militarised foreign invader.

Even now SNP politicians cast such aspersions publicly and are not even reprimanded or disciplined. Just wait until an indyref really gets going. I do not condone any such behaviour from either camp and expect to see reprisals from either side in response to provocations from either side.

Nicola Sturgeon told us the last referendum was a “once in a lifetime opportunity”. We can still watch the tapes and hear her words. Some of us believed her.

We need an oasis of Festival calm

The Fringe was born as an alternative source of artistic opinion and entertainment. It was meant to be different and challenging from the official mainstream and provide opportunities for new performers with new interpretations, be it old or new works.

Much of what appears in August holds to that ideal – but 70 years on, much of it is now mainstream popular culture you can find on your smartphone. What about this for an alternative drama during August? St Andrew’s Square could be renamed Tranquility Square for the duration. It could be an oasis of green grass where worn out audiences and ordinary Edinburghers could relax without being leafleted, hectored and harassed.

Having been reclaimed for people rather than promoters, we could lie down and look at the sky. There could be the quiet chatter of conversations and natural laughter – without public address systems, staging and inflatable animal parts, above.

Let other parts of Edinburgh be lively, open all hours and challenging – but can we keep one part of the city an alternative source of peace and serenity?

Jason’s a handy player for Hibs

I’ve just saved two videos of Hibs star striker Jason Cummings to my iPhone to bring a smile to my face when I’m waiting on the No 45.

The first is his beautiful opening goal against Dundee United last Friday. The second is his hilarious ‘Hand of God’ impersonation where his swan-like dive and outreached fingers put the ball in the back of the net. Perhaps, after equalling Joe Baker’s record of scoring 20-plus goals a season for three seasons in a row, he decided to pay tribute to the Hibee legend – who famously had a handball goal disallowed in the 1958 Scottish Cup final.

Anyway, I know it was unprofessional, and the referee had no alternative but to give him a red card, but it was as funny as anything you will see on the Fringe this year and is surely worthy of a comedy award. Not so much Hands Off Hibs as Hand Of Hibs.