Friday, 21 March 2014

Unionists' new plant

We’ve become used to the stupid and ridiculous stories put out by the pro-British Union campaign ‘Better Together’ but, still six-months from the Independence Referendum, they are now really scraping the bottom of the barrel.

On a Sunday I buy the Sunday Herald, which is the only title prepared to give independence a fair hearing, but I scan the front-page headlines of the unionist papers while I’m in the local newsagents, just to see what scare-story they’ve trotted out this time.  Last week, even a hard-bitten old politician like me was taken aback and had to re-read the front-page headline in the Sunday Post.  Apparently, Scots should reject taking control of our own country and building a better, fairer nation for all of our citizens...because someone called Alan Titchmarsh says so.

Clearly, Mr Titchmarsh has hidden qualities.  Until now I had only heard of him as a presenter of television gardening programmes.  Now, though, he was apparently revealing a detailed knowledge of Scotland, Scottish politics and the social and economic conditions prevailing in towns and cities across the country.

Actually, no, he wasn’t.  The front-page story in the Sunday Post (I read it in the newsagents) had Alan Titchmarsh saying it would be “a mistake” for Scots to re-take our political independence, and the TV gardener based his opinion on two main things: firstly, he is “a proud Yorkshireman”; secondly, he has enjoyed holidays in Scotland.

It’s difficult to know where to begin when confronted with such ‘logic’. 

Actually, let’s cut Alan Titchmarsh some slack.  He was promoting his new book, a novel set partly in Scotland, so there was a loose Scottish connection to why he was speaking with a reporter from the Sunday Post.  Incidentally, it’s worth mentioning before we go on that the Sunday Post is one of the most pro-British Union and Royal family newspapers - it always has been – and its publishers, DC Thomson, don’t much like dodgy ideas like trade union representation and workers rights.

So, Alan Titchmarsh was plugging a book with a loose Scottish connection and a reporter saw an opportunity to ask the independence question, almost certainly in the full knowledge that the TV gardener would not have a clue about the issues involved.  Titchmarsh should have declined to get involved in the matter, based on his lack of insight in relation to Scottish social and political matters, and the fact he is an Englishman living in England, and so won’t actually be involved in the referendum vote.  He didn’t.  He offered the reporter an answer based on his assumption that pride in coming from a particular English county in some way had an equivalence with Scots seeking self-determination for their country, and the fact that he liked to visit Scotland.

The reporter, of course, then had an anti-independence story for his newspaper.

I have no idea why Scots should be at all interested in the opinion on independence voiced by an English television gardener.  Perhaps it’s the world of celebrity I keep hearing about...but a gardener?  Really?

As for the reasons cited by Alan Titchmarsh for his anti-independence opinion, someone should point out to him that once Scotland has re-taken its independence, he will still be very welcome to visit and holiday here.  Contrary to another British Unionist scare-story, he won’t need a passport and won’t need to go through border posts manned by gun-totting guards.  The Republic of Ireland is an entirely independent country and has no passport control or guards at its border with the United Kingdom (Northern Ireland), nor does the UK.  In fact – unless the Tories and UKIP take (the rest of the) UK out of the European Union – Alan Titchmarsh, as a citizen of the EU, would be entitled to come and live in an independent Scotland, if he really loves us and would miss us so much.

It is another of the British Unionist scare-stories to suggest an independent Scotland would not be allowed membership of the European Union.  In reality, there is no mechanism within the treaties of the European Union to expel a member state (or part of a member state).  There is no mechanism within EU treaties to expel existing citizens of the European Union, and Scots have held that position for 40 years.  There is also the small matter of Scotland being the European Union’s largest producer of oil – and let’s not forget Scottish fishing areas, to which Spanish boats would no longer have access if Scotland was turfed-out of the EU.

Alan Titchmarsh was set-up, and he plunged into the Scottish independence debate with both feet.  That the pro-British Union campaign is reduced to trotting-out television gardeners in (apparent) support for their cause, speaks volumes about the lack of any actual positive case for Scotland remaining governed by Tories in London. 

I don’t comment on gardening for a very good reason – I don’t know anything about it.  Having said that, I have visited gardens in the past and I am a proud Ayrshireman.  Apparently, therefore, I can expect the Sunday Post to be contacting me any day now to seek my views on what is the best time to plant begonias.

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