On a bad day, in the last few weeks before the September referendum, many people living in Scotland complained of a feeling of helplessness and fear, engendered by the vitriolic hubris of Alex Salmond and his smallish group of prominent Nat toadies, issuing threats and warnings like confetti. The misleading polls didn’t help things. The majority of the losing ‘Yes’ voters, it seems to me, are now not too bothered by the result. Life goes on. However, the atmosphere was at times poisonous and intimidating, no doubt about it. These two pieces by the excellent Chris Deerin sum it up nicely (1,2).
The post-referendum conspiracy theories that have proliferated amongst the Nationalist rump (the laughably named ’45’), confirm a mindset that veers from triumphant anticipatory gloating to abject paranoia. All this came from the top in the form of Alex ‘hold their feet to the fire‘ Salmond. Which made me sit up when looking at an old copy of Standpoint, in a fine article by Jeremy Jennings on the Church/State relationship before, after and during the French Revolution:
What Robespierre now envisaged was the complete regeneration of the people through an educational programme involving the compulsory removal of children from their parents. The Cult of a beneficent Supreme Being would replace the cruel God of the Catholic Church.
Yet, as McPhee vividly recounts, Robespierre’s mental universe was one of unrelenting and imaginary conspiracies. The Revolution was to be a war to the death and the enemies of the people were to be exterminated. Political morality was reduced to terror as “prompt, severe, inflexible justice”, with terror cast as virtue’s necessary companion. In the end Robespierre could not distinguish dissent from treason. No one was safe.
A few phrases stand out. “an educational programme involving the compulsory removal of children from their parents” – when the state thinks it has equal or greater rights to influence your children, not trusting parents, then you have a problem. In fact, it sounds remarkably like a plan that’s in the news: the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act, which assigns a “named” person such as a teacher or health visitor to anyone aged under 18. Not identical, even Eck wouldn’t impose compulsory removal, but the theme is not dissimilar . Try this:
The campaign warned last night that the standard of proof for intervention had been reduced to the extent that the state could gain “unbridled access to every living room in the land” and warned parents’ role could be reduced to that of “assistant” to the state….
Under the Act, which was passed by MSPs in February and is due to come into force in 2016, the NHS will appoint a health worker to act as a “named person” for every child until the age of five.
The responsibility will then pass to councils until the child reaches 18, with teachers expected to be asked to take on the role. The measure is designed to ensure any potential cases of abuse or developmental difficulties are spotted and acted upon at an early stage.
But Mr O’Neill, who was recently involved in a high-profile case blocking the Scottish Government’s plans for alcohol minimum pricing, has issued a written legal opinion arguing that the state guardian plans are unlawful.
He said it was “startling” that the legislation was “predicated on the idea that the proper primary relationship that children will have for their well-being and development, nurturing and education is with the State rather than within their families and with their parents.”
The scheme fails to provide proper protections against “arbitrary and oppressive” powers which the Scottish Government may use, he argued.
Another “remarkable aspect” the QC highlighted was that it applied to every child regardless of whether they have problems or are “on the radar” of the authorities.
Among the scenarios it said could arise would be the named person giving a 13-year-old girl sex education materials that her parents have withheld on the grounds they think them unsuitable.
Although the scheme is not supposed to have officially come into force yet, it said James and Rhianwen McIntosh, of Bonnybridge, near Falkirk, were informed in April this year that their four children had been assigned named persons.
The campaign said they were told the NHS wrote to them saying their children’s medical records would be passed to the named persons, who would also be informed if an appointment was missed.
I mean, that’s not a similar tone of government, it’s a specific policy. The next phrase, a “mental universe…of unrelenting and imaginary conspiracies” which sounds rather like Eck’s absurd accusations of BBC bias, followed by the post-referendum ‘bad losers’ performance making laughable allegations of ballot rigging, calling for the usual ‘judicial review‘ etc. In fact, it’s still going on to an extent, though there are very few Yes stickers in the windows these days.
Finally, “In the end Robespierre could not distinguish dissent from treason. No one was safe.” Sounds familiar? Well there was the SNP intimidation of dissenting business leaders, the public abuse and threats in the streets, the partisan abuse of the levers of power creating a terrified and frozen civil service.
Having recently noted the similarities between Eck’s dream and wartime SS planning for a Germany-dominated postwar Europe, I should state that I’m not saying Salmond is the new Hitler or Robespierre. What is obvious to me though, is that demagogic authoritarian political figures become intoxicated by their own brilliance very quickly, and begin to lose the plot. Scotland is simply demonstrating faint echoes of a terrible European past. The Terror was aptly named then. The unique – in my experience – atmosphere in the pre-referendum Scotland deserves its own epithet along the same lines, the Great Trepidation perhaps.
Of course Robespierre was eventually beheaded himself, which I suppose Sturgeon has already done to Eck. Nobody loves a loser.