Gammon is Great

Two pigs in yellow vests beating up a black sheep which a grinning skeleton in a top hat looks on. Gammon is Great.
Pineapple Gammons in the Banana Kakistocracy. Gouache and black ink, 2019.

Pineapple Gammons in the Banana Kakistocracy

Gammon is Great! Pineapple Gammons in yellow vests take back control of the Great Banana United Kakistocracy, under the approving gaze of a Skeleton Lord.

Kakistocracy is defined as government by the worst people.

The Banana Kakistocracy is an undemocratic totalitarian state run by incompetent psychopaths with delusional levels of self-confidence. It is a low wage, low productivity economy which has dismantled its social security system and manufacturing base, and sold off publicly owned assets. Prime industries are now tax evasion, weapons dealing, and financial crime.

Four legs good, two legs better.

George Orwell, Animal Farm
Photography featured image header

Pilgrimage to Egilsay

Pilgrimage to Egilsay

Egilsay is a small, sparsely populated island in Orkney, where the people seem to be heavily outnumbered by the horse-flies. There are a few small farms which face an uncertain future as Brexit threatens the EU farming subsidies they depend on for survival. Part of Egilsay is a protected habitat for the Corncrake, and this has also received EU funding.

It was on Egilsay that the peaceful, kind Magnus Erlendsson was murdered by his violent cousin Haakon Paulsson in a power struggle over the Earldom of Orkney. Magnus was killed around 1116AD, and canonised in 1136AD – a short turnaround for sainthood. St Magnus Church was built in his honour sometime in the 12th Century, possibly on the site of an older church. With a distinctive round tower, it is the dominant landmark on Egilsay.

An obelisk marks the site of Magnus’ execution, on a grassy sward not far from the church which was supposedly a barren landscape before his death. It is surrounded by fields of nesting birds. Signposts bearing the symbol of the St. Magnus Way mark access. The majority of pilgrims have four legs.

Further reading:

Threat to Scottish Farming as the UK Government is Set to Take Back Control, via the Orkney News

The St. Magnus way website


Selected photo prints are for sale. Visit the online store here: https://martinlaird.scot/store/.

Orkney Library receives a surprise visit

Pen and ink cartoon of JK Rowling riding a broomstick above the Orkney Library. She says she has rowled in to see if Orkney Library was a victim of Tory austerity, and references her statement against Scottish independence. An orangutan librarian shakes his fist at her.
Cartoon for The Orkney News column in the March 2018 edition of iScot magazine. Pen & ink, 2018.

 

Since 2012, as a result of the ideological austerity programme being pursued by the Conservative Government at Westminster, at least 449 public libraries have closed across the UK. Scotland did not vote for this. The Scottish Government has to spend valuable time and resources trying to mitigate Tory cuts within the limits of a budget set by Westminster.

105 libraries closed in the year following Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling’s much-publicised surprise visit to the Orkney Library in March 2016.

In her public statement on the Scottish independence referendum of 2014, published in the Telegraph, Rowling said

“I came to the question of independence with an open mind.”

 

However, according to the Guardian she had made clear to the BBC that she opposed independence in 2012.

Rowling’s statement is full of mischaracterisations, Better Together talking points, and dubious assertions.

She sets up a straw-man target in the fringe nationalist who judges her “insufficiently Scottish”. The pro-independence Yes campaign embraced anyone who was “Scots by choice”, regardless of where they were born. Everyone living in Scotland was permitted and encouraged to vote in the first indyref (in marked contrast to the Brexit referendum, from which EU nationals living in the UK, as well as 16-17 year olds, were excluded).

Another common fallacy, which Rowling repeats, is the conflation of Scottish independence with “Alex Salmond’s ambition.” A Yes vote would not have installed Salmond as dictator in perpetuity, but restored the sovereignty of a nation and its people. This transcends individual careers and party politics. Dislike of Alex Salmond, Nicola Sturgeon, or anyone else, is not a valid reason to consign a country to the dustbin.

Rowling went on

“I’ve heard it said that ‘we’ve got to leave, because they’ll punish us if we don’t’, but my guess is that if we vote to stay, we will be in the heady position of the spouse who looked like walking out, but decided to give things one last go. All the major political parties are currently wooing us with offers of extra powers, keen to keep Scotland happy so that it does not hold an independence referendum every ten years and cause uncertainty and turmoil all over again. I doubt whether we will ever have been more popular, or in a better position to dictate terms, than if we vote to stay.”

 

Since the No vote the following things have happened:

  • The infamous “Vow” was broken on the first day.
  • The British Government enacted English Votes for English Laws (EVEL) legislation in the British Parliament. MPs from Scotland were already out-numbered and out-voted 10 to 1 – now they have fewer voting rights as well (as do the Welsh). Everything the British Parliament does has ramifications for Scotland.
  • The Scotland Bill denied numerous new powers to the Scottish Government, falling far short of the promised “extensive new powers.”
  • The Brexit vote threatens to drag Scotland out of the EU despite every single part of the country voting against it. According to Better Together, voting No was the only way to guarantee Scotland’s place in Europe.
  • Scottish brand identity is under attack, as “One Nation” British nationalism leads to Scottish produce being rebranded, thereby losing its unique signifier of quality. #keepscotlandthebrand
  • With the Continuity Bill, the governments of Wales and Scotland are now fighting to prevent a power grab by Westminster upon exit from the EU. The existence of the Scottish Parliament itself looks increasingly under threat, as Unionist MSPs actively work to undermine it.

If Scotland were a spouse who decided to give things one last go, it has been betrayed, humiliated, and ignored. All promises made by the supposedly equal partner have been broken. An open mind might question whether or not staying in this relationship was the right decision.

A lurid screen print of Scottish literary figure James Boswell. Bright yellow, red, pink and green. Behind him is an African woman with dark bars infront of her. Text says "I do indeed come from Scotland, but I cannot help it", with the words "Proud Scot" at the bottom.

Proud Scot James Boswell

A lurid screen print of Scottish literary figure James Boswell. Bright yellow, red, pink and green. Behind him is an African woman with dark bars infront of her. Text says "I do indeed come from Scotland, but I cannot help it", with the words "Proud Scot" at the bottom.
Scottish Cringe: James Boswell. Screen print, 30x42cm, 2017.

Proud Scot James Boswell is a historical figure who apparently suffered from a little Scottish cultural cringe himself, and who evokes a cringe of a different kind today.

Bowsell was a writer, best known for his biography “Life of Samuel Johnson,” published in 1791. Johnson hated the Scots. Amongst other things he is reputed to have said

‘The impudence of an Irishman is the impudence of a fly, that buzzes about you, and you put it away, but it returns again, and flutters and teazes you. The impudence of a Scotsman is the impudence of a leech, that fixes and sucks your blood.”

and

“The noblest prospect which a Scotchman ever sees, is the high road that leads him to England!”

Despite this, Boswell was a fan of Johnson’s work, and very keen to meet him. He recounted their eventual meeting as follows

Mr. Davies mentioned my name, and respectfully introduced me to him. I was much agitated; and recollecting his prejudice against the Scotch, of which I had heard much, I said to Davies, ‘Don’t tell him where I come from.’

‘From Scotland,’ cried Davies, roguishly. `

Mr. Johnson,’ said I, `I do indeed come from Scotland, but I cannot help it.”

He then goes on to “flatter himself” that this was not “an humiliating abasement at the expense of my country.”

Boswell was born in 1740, 33 years after the Act of Union of 1707. Scotland’s own colonial ambitions had been halted by the failed Darien Scheme at the turn of the century – a trade war which England and the East India Company had won. As a result of bribes paid to Scottish nobles, the country was in debt to England. The Act of Union was hugely unpopular in Scotland, but most of those responsible for negotiating it had a financial stake in it. Even Sir John Clerk, a pro-Union negotiator, said that the treaty was “contrary to the inclinations of at least three-fourths of the Kingdom”.

In Boswell’s time, Scotland was coming to terms with the consequences of failure and betrayal at a National level, and was reliant on its neighbour for access to trade routes. Little wonder a cultural cringe might manifest itself. Boswell was born into the Union, and embraced British colonialism even to the point of endorsing slavery (which Johnson opposed).

As part of the British Empire, Scots have much to be ashamed of. Perhaps the same would be true if Scotland had remained an independent country and succeeded in its own colonial ambitions. Perhaps instead of a cultural inferiority complex it would have developed a superiority complex. But as the United Kingdom slides into post-colonial xenophobia following a Brexit campaign which demonised immigrants, it is time for Scotland to chart its own course.