It is highly probable that soon Scotland will be an independent nation state. This new state will require leadership and direction, but it would be naïve of us to think London has no interest in the shape that new power will take.
It is no longer likely the United Kingdom will survive as a state in its present configuration for the next decade. Supporters of independence and unionists alike are acutely aware that another referendum will likely result in Scotland deciding to leave the union, and, as the only cohort of the Scottish electorate to vote against self-determination in 2014 was the over 65s, unionism in Scotland – and not to put too fine a point on it – is quite literally dying. Even the bookmakers have changed their tune. The best odds we can get on a bet for a Yes vote in the next referendum are “even.”
Britain is, like all other states, a bureaucratic state. It is a state administration run almost entirely by bureaucrats, administrators, actuaries, and planners of every conceivable hue. Bureaucracies do not simply ride the waves of the tides of historical change, they actively strategise for the future; making their own realities or the next best thing to their own ideal realities as they go. Years, sometime decades, in advance of potential sea changes to the political landscape they have civil servants working on solutions to hypothetical problems, and alternatives, and alternatives to the alternatives to these possible future eventualities. Governments do not like surprises.
Peter A Bell @BerthanPete
It is no conspiracy theory then to say that right now in London there are experienced and educated people working on McCrone-like reports addressing a number of issues arising for the British state from the question of Scottish independence. Such hypotheticals will deal with such matters as how Britain will cope in the event of Scotland’s departure and how the British state can best subvert the Scottish National Party and the independence movement in the hope of delaying their objective or stopping it altogether. Scotland – the only producer of oil in the UK – is a crucial strategic asset of the London government’s geopolitical ambitions. Scotland is a paramount state interest of the UK.
How then might these characters in Whitehall be planning to manage the problem of Scotland? Firstly, it will do as it has done in other contexts. It will infiltrate every level of leadership of the SNP and the independence movement. Knowledge is everything, and the British government will want and need to know everything that is going on behind closed doors in Edinburgh and Glasgow. Just as the offices of Sinn Féin were bugged by the British secret intelligence services, so too will the offices and phone lines of Scotland’s pro-independence politicians be scrupulously surveilled. Everything will be tapped; their email accounts, social media, the works. But such surveillance, comprehensive as it is, is only at best reactive. What the watchers desire most is a tool that will give them the initiative, helping them to nudge Scotland in the direction it wants.
The obvious instrument for this type of intervention is the press. More especially in a small democratic nation the media is the central processing centre of the national consciousness. Noam Chomsky has spelt out how exactly the media is where public consent and opinion can be “manufactured” by those who have leverage over what it produces. It’s a tautological given that the unionist press will support the union, but in the post-IndyRef context of Scotland the likes of the BBC, Sky News, the Scotsman, the Herald, and the Daily Record have reached the zenith of their ideological usefulness to the requirements of the British state.
Too many high-profile Yessers believe indy is helped by trying to placate the media, when in fact it’s helped by exposing the media.
What are of infinitely more value to the state are agents of influence inside that media popularly accepted to be neutral or pro-independence. Better still would be an entire Trojan horse; a media outlet funded entirely through obfuscated British state shells and which’s editorial management is therefore directed by the feeding hand. Such agents of influence may or may not be aware of their useful idiot status. Some may have been paid, others otherwise compromised and blackmailed, and others still content to follow orders. Money is never neutral.
It makes perfect sense that the flow of money – especially dark money – into “pro-independence” projects would facilitate also the flow of hidden influence. It is therefore not unreasonable for people working for the independence of Scotland to be interested in where their media outlets get their funding. We have a responsibility as a movement to scrutinise every aspect of the media that is both forming and informing the shape of the movement and the direction it is taking.
When we see, for example, pro-independence writers and journalists given ease of access to the pages of the Daily Record, the Herald, and airtime on BBC television and radio news programmes we must exercise a healthy hermeneutic of suspicion. Why is it only a certain few receive this honour when people like Paul Kavanagh and Stuart Campbell are completely ostracised? This chosen few appear to come from trustworthy and safe regions of the Scottish pro-independence media, and they are elevated by the unionist press to the station of spokespersons for the independence movement. Yet they are from the same outlets that make a habit of chiming with the unionist press’ criticism of the SNP, and from the same cliques from which support for unionist Labour is most often heard.
Britain’s game plan is to control, as best it can, events as they unfold in our country. The next referendum will see the independence campaign begin already over the fifty percent mark, and the Westminster government is hedging its bets. It is – or, from its point of view, it should be – influencing our media; both the unionist and the nationalist press, so as to – on the one hand – destabilise our campaign, and – on the other hand – influence the power structure in Scotland post-independence. In the event that we secure independence Scotland will be a new state and the race to the reins of power has already begun. London does not want to be out of the loop in shaping a newly independent Scotland, and so it is perfectly rational to imagine a pre-emptive coup d’état is already in the making.
Media Institution: Crash Course Government and Politics #44
You can follow Jason Michael at his twitter page @Jeggit or at his webpage The Random Public Journal
Jason Michael is a Scottish journalist and blogger based in Dublin. Writing on politics and society. Columnist for iScot Magazine and author of the Random Public Journal.