Albain (Scotland)

The Forge In The Forest, Ian Miller

Wraparound cover illustration for Michael Scott Rohan’s Ice Age-set Fantasy novel “The Forge in the Forest””, drawn by Ian Miller

Wraparound cover illustration for Michael Scott Rohan’s Ice Age-set Fantasy novel “The Forge in the Forest””, drawn by Ian Miller (Íomhá: © 1987 Ian Miller)

Ian Miller is a British artist whose distinctive, sometimes surreal style will be familiar to many readers of Fantasy and fantasy-tinged Science-fiction even if his name is not so much. Since the late 1970s his exquisite illustrations, executed most frequently in pen and ink, have graced the covers of countless publications, notably the Fighting Fantasy and Warhammer range of books and magazines from the Games Workshop. Perhaps my favourite examples of his work come from “The Winter of the World”, a trilogy of quasi-historical Fantasy books by the Scottish author Michael Scott Rohan set – unexpectedly - on the North American continent during the last Ice Age. In general I disdain the endless catalogue of High Fantasy tales published over the last four decades, a conveyor belt of faux Mediaevalism inspired by the commercial successes of the “Hobbit” and the “Lord of the Rings” in the United States. Most are pale imitations of J.R.R. Tolkien or outright rip-offs (did anyone mention the “Sword of Shannara”?). All those Eddings and Jordans are as near to literary dross as it is possible to imagine, though thankfully there has been some light at the end of the tunnel in recent years with the emergence of writers like China Miéville and the popularity of urban-tinged fantasies (I haven’t read George R.R. Martin so I’ll reserve my judgement on his works. I will venture to say that they sound – the much heralded sex and gore to one side - distinctly traditional in both tone and setting).

However I was always impressed by Scott Rohan’s little series, despite its limitations and adherence to overly familiar formulae (the young hero unknowingly destined to greatness). Somehow his deft writing and commitment to an appealingly innovative pseudo-historic setting gave his publications a power that many other would-be fantasists would do well to take note of. I still have the books I first purchased in the late 1980s and In terms of literary merit I would place them well above many of their contemporaries, even those now regarded as “classics” of the genre. Unfortunately Michael Scott Rohan seems to have abandoned writing which is a great shame. By all accounts he was growing as a writer and one of his last works, the personally meaningful “Lord of Middle Air”, is particularly well-regarded.

However to return to Ian Miller, featured above is his 1987 cover for Scott Rohan’s “The Forge in the Forest”. It is perhaps not the best of his creative output but it is certainly one of my personal favourites. Appropriately a new collection of his artworks is now available, The Art of Ian Miller, and there is a glowing review by the Verge, as well as a typically idiotic LOL-speak overview from io9 (look at us! We’re cool! Really! Honestly we are! We’re happening! We’z bitchin’. We have lots of click-bait photos so please, please don’t stop visiting our website… Please…). Enjoy.

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Europe’s Democratic Tide

Quick post to highlight a couple of interesting articles touching upon Scotland’s independence campaign, the first from Conn Hallinan at Foreign Policy In Focus examining the rise of national self-determination across Europe, while Paul J. Carnegie looks specifically at the Scottish case for CounterPunch. Both are well worth reading.

The Forces Of Darkness Gather

George, sorry, Lord Robertson

George Islay MacNeill Robertson, Baron Robertson of Port Ellen, KT, GCMG, FRSA, FRSE, PC, voices his, eh, unbiased opinions on his home nation

There is truly nothing more astonishing in this world than a British nationalist politician who is completely oblivious of his own nation’s history of imperial misdeeds and crimes around the globe. Or worse, actually believes that such things are worthy of veneration because they were committed by the nation of Britain and are therefore above approach (oh lucky slaves and occupied peoples who in lived in that part of the atlas coloured pink!). It’s like waking up in some bizarre parallel universe where the Third Reich won WWII and sixty years later its leaders look back with pride on those halcyon days or where Joseph Stalin had gone on to win the Nobel Prize for Peace (a not entirely inconceivable idea, admittedly, given the list of those who actually did win the honour). So we have the less than edifying spectacle of a former, nominally left-wing British government minister and NATO make-an’-shaker, nouveau aristo George Robertson, beating the war drums like a thing possessed in relation to Scotland’s upcoming referendum on independence. From the Guardian newspaper:

“Lord Robertson, the former defence secretary and Nato chief, has claimed that Scottish independence would have a “cataclysmic” effect on European and global stability by undermining the UK on the world stage.

A former secretary general of Nato, Robertson said the “loudest cheers” after a yes vote would come from the west’s enemies and other “forces of darkness”.

“What could possibly justify giving the dictators, the persecutors, the oppressors, the annexers, the aggressors and the adventurers across the planet the biggest pre-Christmas present of their lives by tearing the United Kingdom apart?” Robertson told the Brookings Institute on onday.”

The forces of darkness?! This is politics and democracy reduced to the level of Star Wars. British Unionism as an ideology has finally sunk to the level of  Tea Party-style insanity. And it’s showing.

Gaelic, The Pluralist Language

The Celtic Nations

The Celtic Nations

The people of Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man are united by one thing above all others: the indigenous languages they share in common. The Gaelic tongues, Irish, Scottish and Manx, are not just national, they are international. And so is the world-view of those who speak or support them. From the Irish Times the words of the new Language Commissioner, Rónán Ó Domhnaill:

“The thousands of Irish speakers who marched in Dublin last month for their rights weren’t looking for any special treatment.

The rights of Irish speakers are recognised in article eight of the Constitution and in the Official Languages Act 2003, while the rights of linguistic minorities are provided for in a number of important international documents including the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Unesco’s Universal Declaration of Linguistic Rights.

Increasingly, it is accepted that the rights of linguistic minorities are basic human rights.

The provision of language rights helps make the fight for the survival of a vulnerable or endangered language that little bit fairer, as languages often live or die depending on their perceived status and the level of prestige they are accorded.

These demands are being made by parents struggling against the odds to pass a 2,000-year-old language onto their children in order to preserve what is an important part of both our cultural identity and global linguistic diversity.

Is it too much to ask that children in the Gaeltacht should enjoy the right to basic services, such as healthcare, in their first language, which also happens to be the first official language of the State, according to the Constitution?

By indulging in empty rhetoric about the importance of Irish, while failing to grant it anything like the status promised by all the lip service, the Irish State, since its foundation, has sent out mixed messages about the value of the language.

In a review of Nicholas Ostler’s Empires of the Word: A Language History of the World a number of years ago, the author Jane Stevenson suggested it might be time to adapt the old joke that a language is a dialect with an army, when “the real key to survival is for a language to be a dialect with a civil service”.

Stevenson wrote: “A class of bureaucrats with the power to defend its monopoly can keep a language going for centuries, as can a set of scriptures, while conquerors come and go.”

Irish speakers are asking for the right to conduct their business with the State in Irish because the provision of such services is key to the survival of the language…”

And in the same newspaper, veteran journalist Pól Ó Muirí:

“Many Irish speakers, sooner or later, find themselves heading to Scotland’s Gaeltacht to find out more about their sister language. It is one of the ironies of the language debate that those ignorant of Irish seem to believe that Irish speakers are insular and anti-British. Far from it. The pull of language brings many to the Highlands and Islands and to Wales. (Go to Wales and marvel at the bilingual signage. You will be amazed and a little ashamed.)

Many Irish speakers know more about British culture than their monolingual English compatriots do. However, it is not the Britain of the Home Counties but another Britain, a Britain with voices that predate the political state and speak of an older Europe.

That language arc, fractured but just about functioning, that stretches from Munster to Connacht to Ulster to Scotland and down into Wales…”

From Canada’s east coast Chronicle Herald:

“I’m sure it’s easy to dismiss the current argument about adding “Royal” or “Rioghal” to the name of St. Anns’ Colaisde na Gàidhlig, also known as the Gaelic College.

The problem with this, though, it that it dismisses the very real and ultimately quite reasonable aspirations of a community of people important to Nova Scotia’s distinctiveness.

Gaelic was spoken here for centuries. Until the 1930s, it was in decent shape; not great shape like French in Quebec City, but decent shape like Cree in northern Quebec. The decline has been sharp, but as in Scotland, it’s not yet a done deal.

And as in Scotland, that decline has long been led by the tendency of central governments to try to get people to behave in ways that make them easier to manage.

Language has always been a big part of that; it’s easier for governments, easier for business people, easier for state-run education services, if an entire state speaks one, or at the outside, two languages.

Governments generally have to be dragged toward multilingualism; they don’t just accept it because it’s the easiest thing to do. It’s basically never the easiest thing to do.

There is a group of Nova Scotians who have been working for a long time to maintain one of the province’s smaller languages, and trying to get the Canadian state to recognize their right to live some part of their lives through that language.

The activists, educators and civil servants who have devoted themselves to Nova Scotia Gaelic see themselves, quite reasonably, as part of the rich mosaic of this province’s smaller cultures.

Like the African-Nova Scotians, the Acadians, and the Mi’kmaq, Nova Scotia Gaelic speakers and their descendants form a culture that exists nowhere outside of Atlantic Canada. And like all of those groups, they have a complicated and sometimes (not always, but sometimes) painful relationship with the central government.

There’s a long history, here as in Scotland, of Gaelic being informally or not-so-informally suppressed because monolingualism made things easier for that central government.

Nobody, then, should be at all surprised that words like “Rioghal” or “Royal” make many Nova Scotia Gaelic speakers and their descendants uneasy. Nobody is surprised to hear that words like “Royal” tend to make Acadians uneasy.

It doesn’t mean that either group is stuck in the 18th century. It means that like African-Nova Scotians or the Mi’kmaq (for whom these words mean something different again), Nova Scotia Gaelic speakers and their descendants want badly to move forward, and to forge a more current, more complicated and ultimately less dependent relationship with the state.

And that is something we should all take more seriously.”

However those who wish to supplant the indigenous languages of north-western Europe with their own take with far more seriousness that determination to subjugate and ultimately destroy. From the Belfast Telegraph, a tale of gerrymandered democracy – because in the anachronism that is the last stockade of the British colony in Ireland that is how they do things:

“Belfast City Council is facing a High Court challenge over its policy on Irish language street signs, it emerged today.

A resident in the west of the city has been granted leave to seek a judicial review over being denied dual-language name plates on her road.

Lawyers for Eileen Reid claim a method of surveying householders is irrational and unlawful.

Ms Reid was one of those canvassed about having supplementary Irish street signs erected on Ballymurphy Drive.

Under council criteria two-thirds of those questioned need to declare themselves in favour before the new plates can go up.

It is understood that out of 92 eligible residents 52 confirmed they wanted Irish signs, with only one opposed.

However, the remaining 39 did not respond to the survey.

According to Ms Reid’s legal team these non-returned votes were wrongly counted as being opposed to dual signage.

They contend that the two-thirds policy does not comply with a requirement in local government legislation for the views of residents to be taken into consideration.

Belfast City Council is also in breach of its obligation to promote Irish under the European Charter for Regional and Minority Languages, it is claimed.”

So who are the true multiculturalists in western Europe, and beyond?

Rising Poll Numbers For Yes Vote In Scotland

Alba Gu Brath - Scotland Forever. Thousands attend Scottish independence rally, Edinburgh, Scotland, 2012

Alba Gu Brath – Scotland Forever. Thousands attend Scottish independence rally, Edinburgh, Scotland, 2012 (Photo: Wings Over Scotland)

Another poll, another rise in support for Scottish independence (and the SNP) with this year’s momentous referendum half-a-year away. From the Scotsman newspaper:

“SUPPORT for Scottish independence has reached its highest level for more than six months, according to a new opinion poll.

When asked how they would vote if the referendum was held today, 39.3 per cent of those surveyed said Yes, compared to 47.6 per cent who said No.

The remaining 13.1 per cent of those who were questioned were undecided according to the poll, by Survation for The Daily Record and Dundee University [ASF: here].

It is the highest support for independence since August last year, when a poll by Panelbase found 44 per cent of people backed Scotland leaving the UK.

Survation questioned 1,002 people aged 16 and over between March 6 and March 7, and also looked at how Scots could vote in the next Holyrood election.

That put the SNP ahead of Labour, with 44.6 per cent of people saying they would vote for Alex Salmond’s party in the constituency section of the ballot and 34 per cent planning on supporting Johann Lamont’s party.

Meanwhile the Tories had the backing of 13 per cent of those questioned, with 5 per cent saying they would be voting for the Liberal Democrats and 3.3 per cent planning on voting for other parties.”

Unsurprisingly most of the national (and nationalist) media in Britain are ignoring this poll. Just as they have ignored previous surveys where the official narrative promulgated by the London establishment has run up against the very different narrative in Scotland itself. With even less surprise I note the “rounding down” and “rounding up” of the percentages by those news outlets which have deigned to take note. The 39.3% Yes becomes “39%” and the 47.6% No becomes “48%”. It’s all about the optics you know.

The Partition Of Québec

A partitioned Québec. The "British solution" to a Québec vote for independence

A partitioned Québec. The “British solution” to a Québec vote for independence

The one thing that stands out when you examine the ideological underpinnings of British nationalism (or Unionism) and Canadian nationalism (or Federalism) is the commonalities they share when it comes to dealing with those territories Britain and Canada “acquired” in times past. For the British (or rather the English) the island nation of Ireland – Free and Occupied – continues to provide no end of existential angst. Britain’s first and last colony is so tied up with Anglo-British notions of racial, linguistic and cultural superiority that one wonders what on earth they will do when the tattered remnant of that last colony soon disappears into the pages of history. A Scotland free of London rule provides a similar challenge to the mental hegemony of Greater England, albeit to a less bellicose degree. On the North American continent it is Québec’s tortured relationship with Canada that provides some seriously dysfunctional – and militant – thinking in what we would call “Unionist” circles.

So, given that Britain’s answer to the pro-independence votes by the people of the island of Ireland was the deliberate crippling and impoverishment of their nation through the imposition of “partition”, it is hardly surprising that this “solution” is being suggested for Scotland as well. What is more surprising is that some sabre-rattling Canadian Federalists favour this idea too. Though in this case their target is of course Québec. From the National Post newspaper:

“So how should our federal government respond if a referendum is called by a re-elected Parti Québécois?

Have the courage to tell Quebec, flat out, that if Canada is divisible, so is Quebec. And whatever clear voting standard is used to adjudicate the overall result of the province’s referendum will be the same result used to adjudicate the status of the province’s northern Cree regions, the Eastern Townships, and, most importantly, Montreal.

Which is to say: If 60% of Quebcers somehow can be convinced to vote for separation, while 60% of Montrealers vote to retain the status quo, then Ottawa should partition Montreal as part of sovereign Canada, free of Quebec’s parochial language laws, ethnic demagoguery and dead-end economic policies.

Partition wouldn’t be about Canada making any sort of land grab, even if that is how separatists would describe it. Partition would be about fulfilling our historical and constitutional obligations to Canadians — especially Anglophones and immigrants — who have grown up in this country expecting their government to respect basic rights (especially those pertaining to language and religion). Since Quebec’s separatists have shown that they have no intention of respecting these rights — indeed, that are willing to ostentatiously flout these rights as a means to appeal to the worst instincts of Québécois voters — the federal government must signal that it will act decisively when the votes are counted.

It is fine for jaded Canadians in Toronto and Calgary to say they’re tired of Quebec’s complaints, and that the province can just “go its own way” if it likes. But there are several million people living in Quebec who oppose their provincial government’s separatist agenda, and they may soon be looking to Ottawa for vindication of their rights. In the unlikely event that the separatists win a referendum, the voices of these Canadians must not be ignored.”

Yes, because the imposition of a “border” cutting off parts of southern and eastern Québec from the rest of the Francophone nation will certainly go well. Crimea with a Canadian accent.

Like I said, seriously dysfunctional thinking.

Congratulations To Wings Over Scotland

Wings Over Scotland busts the crowd-sourcing bank

Wings Over Scotland busts the crowd-sourcing bank

Wings Over Scotland, the influential news and current affairs website, launched an appeal early this morning for funding to keep it going in the lead-up to the referendum on Scottish independence. The Reverend Stu, editor-writer of WoS, asked his readers to pledge £53,000 (€64,000 or $88,000). By this evening, just eight hours later, that goal had been achieved. Whatever happens in September of this year the Scotland of old is dead and buried. A new nation and a new consciousness has arisen.

The Scots, Second-Class Europeans?

José Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission and Eurocrat fumble-mouth in chief

José Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission and Eurocrat fumble-mouth in chief

The Scottish blogger Wee Ginger Dug has done some fantastic journalistic work recently analysing and translating political and media commentary from the Iberian peninsula in relation to Scotland’s upcoming independence referendum. He has pretty much demolished all of the second-hand claims coming from British nationalist sources insisting that Spain would block the Scots’ path to continued membership of the European Union, albeit as a sovereign nation-state. In fact, as he points out, the Spanish authorities are very carefully saying no such thing clearly regarding the constitutional position of Scotland within the UK as quite different from that of their own “regions”, such as Catalonia and the Basque Country. In large part their position is derived from the actions of the British government which has acquiesced to the Scots’ right to national self-determination via a locally-held plebiscite, something the Spanish regard as unconstitutional in their own particular case.

Wee Ginger Dug has also pointed out the wide-spread (and wilful) ignorance of European Union law and institutions to be found in British Unionist circles. As things currently stand the people of Scotland are citizens of the EU and their nation is a defined region of that organisation with democratically elected representatives in the European Parliament. While the Scots are perfectly entitled to withdraw from the European Union if they so wish neither Brussels nor the national governments of the EU can arbitrarily remove their European membership, citizenship or parliamentary representation, even in the event of a pro-independence vote. To do so with be a gross violation of the principles and laws underlying the EU and would be institutionally injurious to the organisation itself. The Scots are voting for independence from the so-called United Kingdom of Great Britain, not from the European Union, a right seceded by the UK authorities.

For more on this, and the real view from Spain and the historic nations of Iberia, please read this post here on the latest comments from José Manuel Barroso, the current President of the European Commission. Comments which are already stirring dissent within the corridors of Brussels.

Update: The latest polling from Scotland shows a big jump in support for the pro-independence Yes campaign. Even allowing for changed methodologies the survey puts the Yes vote at 38%, the No vote at 47%. This confirms recent polling that has seen the gap between the two sides narrow and can no longer be dismissed by British nationalists as “rogue polls” or results still inside the margin of error.

The Self-Determination Spring



Despite (or perhaps because of) all the controversy surrounding the proposals by the Parti Québécois to restrict the display of overtly religious symbols in public workplaces the formerly lacklustre PQ government in Québec is now riding high in the polls. Unsurprisingly rumours of a snap election are circulating in both the Francophone and Anglophone media, albeit much to the alarm of the latter. From the Globe and Mail, a Canadian “Unionist” newspaper:

“It is as sure as anything can be in politics: Quebec Premier Pauline Marois will call an election on March 11 for a vote on April 14. And why wouldn’t she? According to the latest CROP poll published Tuesday in La Presse, the Parti Québécois is virtually assured of winning a majority.

This poll confirms the tendency shown by previous polls conducted by different firms over the past few months: the gradual rise of the PQ government’s popularity and the corresponding downfall of the Opposition Liberals, who are losing ground under the ineffective leadership of Philippe Couillard.

This turn of events is surprising for those who remember how demoralized the PQ government was a year ago, but there are explanations: The Charter on secularism boosted the PQ among francophones, especially older ones and those living outside Montreal, who resent the visible presence of Muslim immigrants [ASF: a dubious explanation to say the least. Though initially unpopular the suggested legislation has also found some support amongst young urban voters who don’t see it as an anti-Moslem policy but a pro-secular one]; while catering to the conservative nationalist voters with its identity politics, the government has acquired some credibility on the economic front by silencing its radical environmentalist wing and making peace with the mining companies. Ms. Marois now appears to be an enthusiastic promoter of foreign investment and development, including the exploration of oil fields that might exist in the province, and the pipeline project to bring tar-sands oil to the east.

If the PQ wins a majority of seats, it will be free to pass the two controversial bills that were blocked by the opposition: the charter bill that restricts the rights of religious minorities, and the language bill that will force the “francization” of small enterprises. Will it push for sovereignty? It will certainly try to, but on this issue, everything will depend on the polls. The PQ will never again call for a referendum it isn’t sure of winning handsomely.”

While some Canadian nationalists/federalists still cling to the hope that another referendum campaign is untenable given the current economic climate others are facing up to a much more likely reality – given the “Self-Determination Spring” sweeping Europe, from Scotland to Catalonia, it is highly improbable that Québec will be far behind those other would-be nation-states.

Meanwhile in Ireland, when is a British Unionist (and separatist) politician not a British Unionist (and separatist) politician? The seemingly logical, if actually fallacious, argument about nationality versus socio-economic self-preservation is one many Québécois will find wearily familiar.

Germany’s Ultra Left – Getting It Wrong Again

During a Far Right gathering British and German Neo-Nazis show their support for the UDA-UFF, the largest British state-sponsored terrorist group in Ireland, 2009

During a Far Right gathering British and German Neo-Nazis show their support for the UDA-UFF, the largest British state-sponsored terrorist group in Ireland, 2009

An update for you on the controversy surrounding the banning of the bilingual Scottish punk band Oi Polloi from a music festival in eastern Germany organised by a Left-Wing socio-cultural collective. The reason for the ban? Because Oi Polloi performs songs with lyrics in Scottish Gaelic as well as English and for some on the Ultra Left of European politics minority languages and cultures impede the development of a borderless, homogenised Europe (which is at least consistent with modern German history). A report from Britain’s Left-leaning Morning Star newspaper:

“A German social centre has come under a barrage of criticism for barring a band from playing because of its advocacy of oppressed languages.

Edinburgh-based punk band Oi Polloi had been due to play at the Strausberg Horte in eastern Germany on March 1 but were told last week that their gig was cancelled because some of their songs are in Gaelic.

The self-organising social centre’s “ruling gathering” finally responded on Tuesday accusing the band of “backward” political demands that meant they shouldn’t be allowed on stage.

And the Horte’s “clarification” caused a further storm, saying that the only people who support indigenous language rights in Germany were “the guys and gals of the NPD” – a neonazi party linked with violent racist attacks.”

The full statement from the supposedly anti-fascist youth centre in Strausberg plumbs the depths of ideological myopia, expressing the sort of intolerance for diversity and pluralism that one would normally associate with the Far Right:

“In einer einstündigen Debatte haben die etwa 20 Anwesenden festgestellt, das ein Teil der Mitglieder die kulturpolitischen Forderungen von “Oi Polloi” für rückschrittlich hält und ein Auftritt in unserem Haus nicht gewünscht ist.

Warum rückschrittlich?

Oi Polloi” fordert die “unterdrückten Völker”oder “indigene Gemeinschaften” auf, sich gemeinsam gegen den Kulturimperialismus zu erheben. So soll “Unterschiedlichkeit” verteidigt werden, um in Gemeinschaft und Volk einer besseren Welt entgegen zu sehen. Das “Ursprüngliche” soll gerettet, die indigene Sprache geschützt werden. So positiv auf Volk und Gemeinschaft beziehen sich bei uns eher die Jungs und Mädchens der NPD. An dem “Europa der Vaterländer” wollten wir eigentlich nicht mitmachen. Genauso wenig wie an einem “Europa des Kapitals” (Anmerkung für die Schwarz-Weiß-Fraktion).

[Translation from Sozialen Zentrum - Horte]

About 20 attendees debated for about an hour. In that process we realized that a part of us consider some of Oi Polloi’s cultural [and] political demands as backward. And therefore do not wish an appearance of the band on our stage.

Why backward?

Oi Polloi demands that oppressed nations or indigenous collectives arise together against cultural imperialism. This way they want to defend diversity in order to look collectively and folkish towards a better world. The primordial/original should be rescued, the indigenous languages saved. In our world only the guys and gals of the [Neo-Nazi] NPD refer positively like this to folk and collectives. We don´t want to participate in a “Europe of the Fatherlands” and in a “Europe of Capitals” neither (as a note for the Black-White-Fraction).”

Meanwhile another community group, this time in Ireland, finds itself under threat from right-wing British terrorists as the Skainos Centre in Belfast is subject to a campaign of intimidation from known associates of the extremist UVF. The centre is of course the home to a highly successful Irish language education project which has emerged from within the Protestant and Unionist community. One wonder what the activists at the Horte would make of finding common cause with terror factions on the western edge of Europe, factions who embody the sectarian and racist values of colonial-era Europe?

German Music Festival Bans Gaelic-Punk Group?

Some surprising news from Scotland’s well-known anarcho-punk band Oi Polloi, a bilingual group who produce songs with both English and Scottish Gaelic lyrics. They have issued a statement on their Facebook Page claiming that the organisers of a music festival in Germany have objected to the band playing Scottish language songs and cancelled their planned gig.

“We’re very sorry to announce that our March 1st gig at the Horte social centre in Strausberg in eastern Germany is now cancelled after we were “banned” when organisers realised that – shock horror – we sometimes sing in Gaelic, one of the UK’s minority Celtic languages. Like many other minority language speakers we’re used to abuse from “Speak English or Die” British Nationalist types at home but it’s especially depressing to come across an attitude of such hostility to multiculturalism and diversity in what we thought would be a progressive social centre. We know that speakers of Sorbisch, the Slavic minority language in parts of eastern Germany, also suffer the same kind of ignorance and hostility from those who want them to all speak Hochdeutsch instead but we had hoped that a place like the Horte centre would be different. Needless to say this will only spur us on to continue to campaign for respect for minority cultures, diversity and linguistic human rights. We’d also call on all politically-aware touring bands to boycott the so-called “Kulturzentrum” Horte – there can be no place for racism or discrimination against minorities in our scene. For diversity, multiculturalism, respect for minorities and a punk scene free of discrimination!”

All very strange and uncharacteristic of most European music festivals I have heard of. I will update when I hear more.

03.02.2014 Updated news here.

[Thanks to Daithí Mac Lochlainn for the links]

The Hollow Pax Anglia

The Pax Anglia?

The Pax Anglia?

In the ongoing war for hearts and minds in Scotland over the question of independence it seems that the British nationalists, the so-called Unionists, are not just losing the struggle but are losing the plot too. We recently had the first truly significant rise in polling numbers from those favouring Scottish sovereignty over continued union with England, still a minority but a significant one. The panicky reaction since then from the more committed members of the Pax Britannia (or more accurately, Anglia) has been more than a little bit excessive. From the Scottish Herald:

“Scots who stay in the UK Armed Forces following independence would be “mercenaries in a foreign country”, a former Conservative Scottish Secretary has suggested.

The only other choice would be to leave and join Alex Salmond’s “Dad’s Army”, Lord Forsyth warned.

His comments prompted a furious response from the SNP who said that the Conservative Party had insulted past and present servicemen and women.

The row follows that over a fellow Tory peer who suggested that independence would “dishonour” the UK’s war dead.

Lord Lang made the remark as he opened a Lords debate on Scottish independence yesterday.

He refused to bow to SNP demands to withdraw controversial parts of his speech, after his words were briefed overnight.”

Am I the only one perplexed by the constant references made in the Unionist campaign to Britain’s military history and the claims that soldiers in a Scottish Defence Force would not have the same opportunities to “serve overseas” as those in the British Armed Forces? Since the end of WWII “serving overseas” in the British military has meant fighting, killing and dying in wars ranging from Ireland to Afghanistan. Is that something to be regarded as virtuous? Young men (and now women) being sent off in dubious causes to kill or be killed, to maim or be maimed? Is that what Britain still stands for in the 21st century, the best that the supporters of the “Union” can come up with? An appeal to quasi-imperialist militarism and the fading glories of times past?

The Economist magazine has been traditionally hostile to the idea of Scottish independence yet even it with its London-centric sympathies can see that the No campaign is faltering:

“On September 18th all Scots over the age of 15 will be offered that choice in a referendum. The pro-union Better Together campaign is reliably ahead in the opinion polls. With a strong hand in any secession negotiations, the unionists have foxed the pro-independence Yes Scotland camp with erudite questions about tricky details.

Yet Scotland’s constitutional future will be decided far from smart conference rooms, in the sort of hard-up neighbourhoods that rarely get much attention from politicians. Working-class Scots are more drawn to independence than are others. And quite a few of them are still to play for.

In most referendums, undecided voters drift into the conservative camp towards the end of the campaign. Scotland’s independence vote may turn out to be an exception. Undecided voters are more left-wing than the average Scot, more hostile to the Conservative-led government in London and more inclined to think that Scotland would succeed alone; in short, they are “almost undoubtedly more favourable to independence,” says John Curtice, a psephologist. They worry unionists keen for a decisive win, and excite nationalists longing for an earthquake.

Standing out from the crowd of sky-blue Better Together jackets (each bearing the slogan “UK OK”) is a dash of red. It belongs to Johann Lamont, the leader of Scottish Labour, which dominates the pro-union campaign. In areas like this people either vote for her party or do not vote at all. So she ought to get a sympathetic hearing. But responses are mixed. One woman with a foam of toothpaste around her mouth admits that, though a Labour voter, she has not decided how to vote in the referendum. She is not alone: according to the large Scottish Social Attitudes survey, 36% of people who identify with Labour are yet to make up their minds.

In the battle for undecided voters, nationalists will try to drag the debate onto the free-market evils of the London government. The Tories, Yes Scotland has concluded, are the best recruiting agent for the pro-independence cause. His eye on undecided voters like Cathy and Thomas, Mr Salmond has repeatedly demanded a televised debate with David Cameron, Britain’s patrician prime minister. For the sake of the union, Mr Cameron should keep declining the invitation.”

Galloway To The Gaels – You Are A Nonpeople

George Galloway dismisses the rights of Gaelic-speaking citizens of Scotland

George Galloway dismisses the rights of Gaelic-speaking citizens of Scotland

George Galloway, the politically promiscuous left-wing face of British nationalism in Scotland, on the identity of those men, women and children in our north-eastern neighbour who speak the Scottish or Scottish Gaelic language. Yet another reason for anyone with a modicum of self-respect to vote for independence in that Gaelic nation: to escape the influence of petty demagogues who mask their narcissism behind verbose claims of liberalism.

George Galloway, a clockwork politician

George Galloway, a clockwork politician

England, Wales And Southern Scotland

The partition of Scotland the new Greater England

The partition of Scotland – and the new Greater England

Not so long ago I set a rather large cat loose amongst some red, white and blue pigeons when I drew attention to the whispering campaign being engaged in by some Unionist politicos favouring a “partition of Scotland” should this year’s referendum on Scottish independence go against the authorities in Britain. So far a number of former Tory grandees and political leaders from the British Unionist minority in the north-east of Ireland have served as stalking horses for the suggestion that much of the Borders and Lowlands region of Scotland should be retained under London rule, up to and including parts of the city of Glasgow. Admittedly the idea is somewhat insane – but then the partition of the island nation of Ireland was equally insane yet Unionist leaders and their British allies went ahead with that (and we all know how well that worked out…).

So, given all the kerfuffle, it is somewhat strange to see Gordon Aikman, the Director of Research for the British Unionist “Better Together” grouping, heavily promoting a poll claiming that a majority of people in the “South of Scotland” (the Borders region) are opposed to Scottish independence. The very zone some British nationalists believe should be separated from an independent Scotland.


Glasgow’s English Problem

We'll have none of that Irish shite here! You're Irish! So speak English! (Íomha: An Timire)

We’ll have none of that Irish shite here! You’re Irish! So speak English! (Íomha: An Timire)

Around eight or nine years ago a friend of mine was travelling in a taxi in Dublin on her way home from work when her father phoned her. She was talking with him for a few minutes when she was interrupted by the actions of the taxi driver who turned up the volume on the radio from a barely discernible hum to an eardrum-rattling beat that made phone conversation impossible. When she asked him to turn it off for a moment he replied that he would do so when he didn’t have to hear the “noise” she was making. She thought he meant she was being too loud and unthinkingly apologised for being so. He replied that it wasn’t her loudness it was the “bloody language” she was speaking. Which of course was Irish. My friend got off her mobile phone and huddled back into the taxi seat, both intimidated and humiliated. To this day she is still angry at herself for her perceived lack of courage in not answering back or taking the matter further.

So if that could occur in Ireland’s national capital it is hardly any surprise that it could also happen in Scotland, and particularly in a city like Glasgow where anti-Irish and anti-Gaelic sentiment is still a strong social and political factor. From the Evening Times:

“A Glasgow private hire driver is under investigation for allegedly refusing to allow Irish visitors to speak their language in his car.

Kathleen McAleer, 21, a mental health nurse, was one of four passengers in the car in the early hours of Monday, December 16. She was travelling with a friend and two first cousins from County Donegal from one house on the South Side to another.

Ms McAleer said: “My cousins were just talking to each other in Irish, which is their first language.

“The taxi driver turned around and said to them ‘Stop speaking in that language’.

“We didn’t really know how to take it. He said: ‘When you are in Britain, it is English you speak.’

“He then said: ‘If they want to speak in that language they can get out of my taxi.’

So we got out and said we wouldn’t pay.”

Ms McAleer reported the matter to both Hampden Cabs and the city council.

Initially the company’s Paul Muir insisted the incident related to what he called drunken passengers who had been at a city concert the previous day who had allegedly intimidated an elderly driver and been asked to leave the car.

However, after being told Ms McAleer was reporting an incident a day before the concert, he said he would not comment.

But before doing so he said: “I couldn’t imagine four people coming over from Donegal and going to a party in Britain and not being drunk”.”

He then laughed.”

Well I suppose it could have been worse. They could have been arrested for speaking in Irish