Rab C Nesbitt: The Govan philosopher on the 2014 Scottish referendum debate
"This referendum will be asking me who I’d prefer to be marginalised by: Holyrood or Westminster?"
If you want to cut through the confusion and contradictions within the referendum debate, the go-to guy has to be everyone’s favourite Govan philosopher, Rab C Nesbitt. Here, he wonders what scum like him will do come independence day
The great philosopher John McVicar was jailed for his beliefs. Since his main belief was armed robbery that was hardly surprising. From Durham jail he opined that the Scots were the best footballers in the prison yard but usually lost because they would end up fighting amongst themselves. The independence referendum voting paper has been drafted with that characteristic in mind.
We’ve been offered a false polarity that forces us to argue that our preferred option on the ballot paper is all good and the one we reject all bad. David Cameron has imposed this stark choice on us because he thinks we lack the courage to take the outright leap to independence. He’s wrong. Independence will come, if not with this referendum then with the next. Why? Because for the first time in a generation, Scots (scum like me included) are engaging in a national political dialogue.
If, as is predicted, we vote to remain within the union, the political head of steam so far engendered won’t fade and die but will look toward a positive expression through a push for devolution max. The hardline nationalists will rally behind a push for all-out devolution. Many other voters, who would have opted for devolution max, will join them.
As a result, the hardcore of no voters who at present doubt the wisdom of Scotland going it alone will find, within a few years, whether those doubts have been justified or not. Should those reservations be dispelled under devolution max, then the present leap to full independence will become next time but a short step, easily taken.
‘Yes, Rab’, I hear you say, ‘so you’re telling us independence is a cultural inevitability, that it will come, if not this time then next. But where does that leave you? Which side are you on?’
I’m coming to that.
As we keep cosily reminding ourselves, Scotland is at heart a centre-left voting country. But while we’re lying in our warm beds congratulating ourselves on being nice pink lefties, cold-eyed global capitalism is running the world. We’ll vote soon on our new Scotland. At the moment it’s nothing but a blank screen onto which our collective dreams are being projected. But those dreams need to harden into a vision which begs the question: whose vision and whose Scotland? Mine, yours, or the saw-toothed sons and daughters of the asset strippers and bankers?
The social divisions in Scotland are as pronounced as they are in England. I could live three lifetimes here and never encounter certain types of Scots socially. That’s if you discount the ones sitting on the bench at the sheriff court. I have more in common with an illegal immigrant washing pub steps on the fly in Govan than I do with the Finlays and Crawfords cutting their sweetheart business deals up the Lodge or the Brendans and Michaels having their cosy chats about council grants and arms-length companies up the Brother Walfrid suite. In fact, I’d be in favour of a new event for the Commonwealth Games: the councillors relay where, instead of a baton, they’d use a brown envelope.
If I’m being asked to sell-out my cherished, hard-won cynicism, I want to do more than just swap a Union Jack for a Saltire. Scum cannae eat flags. To my eyes, and to those of thousands like me, the coming referendum will be asking me who I’d prefer to be marginalised by: Holyrood or Westminster?
We all know the Christmas cracker maxim that says the measure of a civilisation is how well it looks after its poorest citizen. Well, bud, I am that soldier. I am scum. I stand naked before you, a hideous example of the will to live. At my back is a shivering queue with begging bowls and unpaid gas bills that could stretch a thousand times round that pointless Chris Hoy fucking Velodrome. I know what I’d do, given half a chance, to some of the bastards I’ve come across recently up the Assessment Centre. But what will you people do about me? If you don’t have an answer to that question you’d better think of one. When we become independent, as we definitely will, you’re going to need it.
Now beat it.