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Showing posts with label Wales. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Wales. Show all posts

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Language and nationalism - Expolangues 2012

A vital element in the nationalist’s awareness and in the movement for independence is language – languages in the case of Scotland. Siôn Rees Williams is a Welsh patriot, academic and teacher, and has maintained a keen interest in Scottish nationalism and Scottish affairs. He has something important to say about Expolangues, and I am delighted to reproduce his comments in full below -

From Siôn Rees Williams -

Expolangues 2012

A call to patriots everywhere -

Some of you may remember my previous articles after my visit to the international language fair, Expolangues, which has been held yearly in Paris, France since 1982. My activities there and the role I have played as an unofficial ambassador for Wales since 1998 can be found at -

 http://newsnetscotland.com/index.php/scottish-opinion/1836-expolangues-a-special-report-by-the-welsh-cultural-ambassador-and-exhibitor.html.

This year sees Expolangues celebrating its thirtieth birthday, and coincidentally, my tenth year as my country’s sole exhibitor and representative. The homepage for the Expo is www.expolangues.fr. The event will be held from 1 – 4 February 2012 in its usual home of Porte de Versailles, in the heart of the French capital.

The first day is traditionally for professionals only, but the subsequent days are open to the language interested public, who may want to understand the latest developments in language studies, book a foreign holiday with a family element attached, peruse the latest software, textbooks and audio-visual material for language learning, or just spend one hour getting to grips with the basics of a new language.

This latter activity involves professionally qualified teachers delivering lessons in the Classroom or Language Kiosk without charge. Pens and paper are supplied and students enabled to speak basic Japanese, Tibetan, Catalan, Arabic or Welsh. (Or for the serious student – all the above!)

You will see therefore where I fit in. Not only do I ‘walk the talk’ as the Expo’s sole roving exhibitor, I also give a language lesson in my mother tongue through the medium of French. This year, I am due to present and involve students from 12.00pm to 1.00pm on Friday 3rd February.

For further details, see http://www.expolangues.fr/animationsELgb/theclassroom.html

I would therefore be very grateful for any show of support from kindred spirits who read this, be they from Scotland or elsewhere and who would like to share with me the experience of promoting their homeland and its culture to a wider, more appreciative, international audience.

If you require any further information  you may contact me.

Come one, come all and reaffirm your auld alliance!

Thank you in advance.

My email is  sionees1@yahoo.co.uk

Siôn Rees Williams (Welsh Sion)

Monday, 19 December 2011

Who are You?–Who?Who? Who,who?

It’s not often I’ll quote a lyric from song from what I think of as the modern songbook, which I define as from about 1955 onwards. I know that covers almost 60 years, but we’re talking history here, the perspective of over a century of popular song. From about 1890-1955 can reasonably be seen as the classic period at least of Western popular song, and in that period, that meant mainly American popular song.

This was the time when the songwriter - the melody man (it usually was a man, with apologies to the great Dorothy Fields) and the lyricist – the wordsmith – were usually different people, with formidable exceptions like Cole Porter.

Anything Goes - Cole Porter

The singer/songwriter was a comparatively rare bird back then, and I have to say I would have been a happier man for the last fifty years or so had it remained a rare species. There was a kind of brief renaissance of quality popular song in the mid-sixties to the seventies, and since then the great musical desert, with the odd oasis and many mirages.

So unashamedly, my tastes lie with BCCA music (Before the Crap Came Along) and with melodies that span more than half a diatonic octave, with harmonies a little more ambitious than four simple chords.

Take time out now to dismiss me as an old man out of synch with popular culture, then we can move on. Get to the point, for ****’s, Peter! I hear you –I hear you …

The Who’s little anthem embedded itself in my mind with the CSI series, and despite my earlier rant, I admire the Who for their longevity and formidable achievements in modern popular music, and there can be no doubt that their music and lyrics, for many, reflect the culture and the times of the last half century.

Their question – Who are you – Who? Who? Who, who? – resonates in Britain and in Scotland at the moment over national identity, and polls on perceptions of that identity, or multiple identities, pop up all over the pace, prompted by the resurgence of Scottish national identity and its questioning of Britishness, a cobbled-together identity designed to support an uneasy union of vigorous and distinctive national identities subsumed within an Empire, one now in terminal decline.

The Guardian has an interesting piece today by David Marquand, principal of Mansfield College, Oxford, author of The End of the West, which is not about the last days of Wyatt Earp, but a a rather bigger topic. Entitled England’s identity crisis - England's visceral Europhobia may break up the UK – it is a short, but important piece, and it has two paragraphs that contain fundamental insights and truth that are rare from south of the border -

“… The Scots and Welsh know who they are. For centuries, they have had two identities – their own, and a wider British one. They are unfazed by the discovery of a third European identity as well. They are at home in Europe, where multiple identities are becoming the norm. To them, it seems only right that Europe's once monolithic sovereign states now have to share power, both with a supranational union and with rediscovered nations, principalities and provinces within their borders. Along with Catalans, Basques, Flemings, Walloons, Corsicans, Sardinians and even Bretons, the Scots and Welsh are emerging from a homogenising central state of the recent past.”

“… Above all, the English of the 21st century no longer know who they are. They used to think that "English" and "British" were synonymous. Now they know that they are not. But they don't know how Englishness and Britishness relate to each other, and they can't get used to the notion of multiple identities. Until they do, I don't see how the crisis in Britain's relationship with continental Europe can be resolved. If it isn't, the most likely prospect is of further European political union and the break-up of the UK, with England staying out and Scotland and Wales going in.”

Any Scot who still thinks that Scotland is not now set upon an inevitable path towards independencenot separation - in a new, interdependent relationship with its European – and Scandinavian - neighbours is engaged in nostalgic self-delusion, and is on the wrong side of of an inevitable historical process.

Who are we? Who? Who? Who, who? We are the sovereign Scottish people, ancient and proud Europeans and good neighbours. And that includes our English neighbours, slightly confused about who they are at the moment …


Saturday, 10 September 2011

Silencio

I have nothing useful to say this morning. Unless some news item galvanises me later, I will have nothing to say this afternoon or tonight.



But Ieuan Wyn Jones has something very important to say ...

Sunday, 14 August 2011

The riots in some English cities

The title of this blog represents the only accurate locational description of what happened over the last week. If you don’t accept this, consider the alternatives in ascending order of inaccuracy -

The English riots: The British riots: The UK riots: The Western European riots: The European riots.

When the French people riot - as they have done many times, e.g. 1968, 1995, 2005, 2011 - they are described by the international press as either The French riots, if widespread, or if confined to one city,  The Paris riots.

Riots in America are described by the city, e.g. The Newark riots, The Chicago riots, The Seattle riots - or by subject, e.g. the draft riots, the Seattle prison riot, or by the trigger, e.g. the Rodney King riots.

The BBC started its coverage of the riots accurately with The Tottenham Riots, which rapidly became The London Riots. Once other English cities became involved, they became either the UK riots or the riots in Britain. This was picked up by some foreign media outlets, and was paralleled in the UK press.

Scotland, in the middle of an economic recession created by Westminster and global factors, a country to which tourism is a vital component of its economy, was also in the middle of its tourist season and its International Festival,  with tourists thronging the capital, and more on the way. The scenes of flaming buildings, police in full riot gear appeared across the world’s media, causing understandable apprehension among those contemplating a visit or already booked for Scotland.

The First Minister made a low key comment on radio about this, and in brief TV news clips. (The  news clips reporting this also confirmed that Scotland was sending 300 police officers to assist the Metropolitan Police.)



Alex Salmond would have been in dereliction of his duty as First Minister if he had not done so. Within 24 hours, the riots were being accurately described in all BBC news bulletins and straplines as The English Riots.

A Scottish Government committee had already met at this point to consider possible responses should the riots spread north of the border. There was no complacency, simply a desire to offer practical help to our southern neighbours and friends, allied to the recognition that this was a sickness that could spread. Asked to speculate on the causes of the riots, and the possible reasons why they had not so far occurred in Scotland, the First Minister replied that we were “a different society”.

This entirely accurate observation was enough to induce hysteria among unionist politicians in Scotland, and their mouthpieces in the Scottish Press. As I observed in recent blogs, the debate then split along what I called The San Andreas Fault of Scotland - the question of the Union and of course the referendum. Every word uttered by unionist commentators since then has focused on that aspect, rather than concern for the people of England sorely afflicted by these appalling incidents of civil disorder.

From the autumn of last years onwards, when the polls punctured the complacent assumption that Labour was going to win the 2011 Holyrood election in  a walk, unionist panic grew, as they faced the real possibility that the Scottish National Party might actually be going to achieve the unthinkable - a second term, this time of five years, with its inevitable consequence - a referendum on independence. Scottish Tories, LibDems and Labour then ran about in all directions like headless chickens, vomiting out dire predictions of doom and disaster, performing incredible somersaults of policy, and totally failing to understand the mood of the electorate or the real issues involved.

When the horrifying scale of their defeat became evident, there was a brief period of stunned disbelief, followed by  a change of tack, now desperate to have the referendum immediately, in the hope that the opinion polls on support for independence were accurate. As so it has gone since May 6th, with the UK media realising that Scotland did exist, posed a threat to the very existence of the UK and its pretensions as a global power. And this was accompanied by the recognition that Scotland was different, in deep and fundamental ways, from the rest of the United Kingdom, a recognition that had briefly flickered into life after the results of the 2010 General election, when the fact that there were two nations not one became starkly evident from the voting pattern.

Since then, the strategy of the unionists, to the degree that their deeply divided ragbag of ploys constitutes a strategy or even a viewpoint, has been to emphasise the one nation concept, stronger-together-than-apart, and ‘Britishness’, a nebulous, nostalgic, imperial idea that some national character held the rickety and failing political hybrid called the UK together. A Newsnight Special even had a debate on this, with Rory Stewart MP fighting back a tear for the Britishness about to be lost if Scotland became independent  typifying the gross sentimentality and poverty of thought and political grasp in the unionist approach.

TODAY’S PRESS

Since the Scottish press is well on its way to terminal decline and irrelevance, I probably shouldn’t waste too much time on them. But as an old print junky, and being as unrealistically nostalgic for the great days of print journalism in Scotland as Rory Stewart is for the misty imperial past, I’ll give them some attention …

Scotland on Sunday has Kenny Farquarson saying that We must be part of the great debate. The great debate he refers to is the English Riots and the questions raised, and he refers to the ‘national debate’. He raises the central questions - who are ‘we’ and what is ‘the nation’. Kenny clearly want the nation to be the UK, not Scotland, but the ‘we’ that he wants to be part of the great debate in his headline seems to be Scotland, so he seems to be in some confusion there.

He accurately identifies the real questions raised by the English riots and the frightening experience of our English neighbours - and of course of the many Scots living in the affected areas, including friends and close relatives of mine - and he place at the centre, the question “A national debate, then. But for which nation?”

He quotes David Cameron’s comments on “the rip in English society”, but then goes on to say

But as far as Alex Salmond is concerned, this has no relevance for us north of the Border.”

He then follows this with

“Scotland, says the First Minister, is a ‘different society’, by which he plainly means “a better society’.

Both of the statements above by Kenny Farquarson are misrepresentations and distortions of what Alex Salmond said, and he has not a shred of evidence for either one of them. (If he has, he should bring it forward at once.)

(His use of quotation marks for “a better society” creates the implication that Alex Salmond actually said this, when he neither said it nor meant it. This is, at best, poor punctuation from Kenny Farquarson and he should be ashamed of himself, whatever the explanation.)

The rest of the article could be taken apart paragraph by paragraph in its attempt to project a set of values and assumptions on The First Minister and by extension the Scottish Government, the Scottish National Party and those who voted for them so decisively last May, that are just not representative of the facts.

It is a grubby attempt, but since it will influence very few voters when the referendum comes, because they simply won’t have read it, given the Scotsman’s circulation decline, and because many of those who have read it, like me, will dismiss it entirely, why should I devote more time to it?

Kenny Farquarson recognises that Scotland is different from England in many respects - he just doesn’t recognise the areas that are the important differences. That’s why the unionists lost the May election, and it is why they will lose the referendum argument.

Scotland is better than England in some respect, and it is manifestly worse in others. The Scottish Government doesn’t flaunt the superiority in some areas nor does it conceal the deficiencies in others - it offers its better qualities as an example, and is dealing, and dealing successfully with its difficult areas, in spite of the fact that throughout the last Parliament it was impeded in crucial areas by a united unionist opposition, e.g. minimum pricing for alcohol.

The Scottish people are not better or worse than the English people or the Welsh or the Northern Irish, but they are different: they rejoice in their positive difference and tackle their negative differences. But the Scottish Government is different and better than the last UK Westminster Government and the present woefully inadequate Coalition, in their commitment to social justice and the poor, the vulnerable, the old, the sick and the underprivileged.

And that is our message to the people of England and Wales - stand as a nation once again, as Scotland does - rejoice in your English and Welsh identities and cultures, as Scotland rejoices in its Scottish identity and culture, and throw off the dead hand of the Disunited Kingdom - a Britain that no longer exists  - a conspiracy of the rich, the unelected, the wealthy and the privileged against the people of these islands.

Scotland will stand beside you as your friends and neighbours in this great constitutional change, and looks forward to a new era of cooperation, culturally, economically and in the defence of our islands.

Tuesday, 31 May 2011

The UK Establishment - why they don’t want Scotland to leave the Union

In their more macho moments before the watershed Scottish National Party victory on May 5th 2011, prominent members of the British Establishment, who appear in many guises -  political, academic, military, media pundits, celebrities, etc. - said they would be happy if Scotland decided to leave the Union. This took many forms, from “It’s your decision - we won’t stand in your way …” to “We’ll be glad when you go - drain on our resources, subsidised ..” etc.

But as the polls began to move decisively in favour of the SNP during the campaign, the tone began to shift, and a note of panic increasingly began to sound. Dire warnings to the Scottish electorate were delivered of the horrors that awaited them if Alex Salmond got an overall majority and consequentially the ability to pass a referendum bill.

The prospects of Independence and Separation were rattled in the voters’ faces, like bogeymen on a stick, but instead of provoking terror, this resulted in a collective yawn, then a derisive laugh from the sophisticated Scottish electorate, followed by a swift two fingers as they entered the polling booth.

The election result threw the Establishment into a blue funk. Having thrown their heavyweight champions, political and media, into the arena in Scotland during the campaign, they had the humiliating experience of seeing them thrown back contemptuously through the ropes on to their arses at the ringside.

The note changed rapidly yet again, this time to demands for an instant referendum, followed by a second referendum on the negotiated terms, just in case the first one didn’t deliver the expected rejection, and some even suggested a referendum of the entire UK electorate.

Of course, this farrago of nonsenses didn’t emanate from the English people, who showed a disturbing tendency to either express admiration for the Scots and their concern for their people, or to say bluntly “If you’re going, get on with it. F*** off and good riddance - get off our backs so we can get our own independence for the nation of England, the sooner the better!”, sentiments that most Scots could understand and even applaud as being at least honest and direct.

And the English people were beginning to take a long, hard look at what the corrupted politics of Westminster, the insatiable greed of the financial establishment, the global posturing in foreign wars and the benighted Coalition government were actually doing for them. Ominous noise were being made by the trades unions …

That most contemptible of groups, the Scottish Unionist Establishment - a client group wholly dependent on the UK for their status, the descendants, literally or figuratively of those powerful chiefs and landowners who had betrayed their own people in 1707 and thereafter in their greed for English gold - were running round in circles, as the implications of their long, expedient, quisling subservience became increasingly evident. Their very identity was threatened by Scotland’s independence.

So the real question that must be addressed is - 

Why don’t the English Establishment (and their client Scottish counterparts) want Scotland to leave the Union?

Yesterday’s Telegraph (the Union and the Establishment in print) epitomised both the fear and the insidious nature of the remedies that might be sought against that fear. Vernon Bogdanor - The Telegraph

Salmond ‘could split the UK against the wishes of majority’

Who is being quoted in this scare story? “One of the world’s most respected constitutional experts” according to Simon Johnson, Scottish political editor of the Telegraph - one Vernon Bogdanor, emeritus professor of politics and government at Oxford University, the beating heart - together with Eton College - of the British Establishment and its grip on power delivered through birth, money and privilege.

Vernon Bogdanor? The name - and the sentiments - rang a bell with me. April 2010 and Dinner with Portillo, a programme on the subject of Scottish independence. I dug it out, and I’ve done an edit (edits signalled by fades)on the half hour programme, partly to get it to fit into the YouTube 15 minute slot, and partly to cut out a lot of the drivel emanating from Ron Liddle and Hardeep Singh, two of the dinner guests.

And although it’s over a year old, and preceded the May 2010 general election, and the May 2011 Scottish election, it’s still relevant, and the answers are all there …



What becomes progressively evident from this discussion is that the fear in the minds of the English Establishment that the UK will not exist in any meaningful sense after Scotland leaves. UK Minus - a union of England, Wales and Northern Ireland will have no relevance, no point, and will rapidly break up. This can either be viewed as realpolitik, or as contempt for the two nations of Wales and Northern Ireland, seen post-Scottish independence as two vestigial appendages of England - relics perceived as about as relevant as earlobes or the veriform appendix.

This view is now echoed daily in the media, who talk of the break-up of the UK, or the end of the UK when Scotland goes, with a pointed disregard for the ancient and proud nation of Wales, and the more recent, but equally proud nation of Northern Ireland, a nation that has transformed itself in very recent times as it emerges from a long, dark night of violence and internal strife.

This is emphatically not how Scotland sees Wales and Northern Ireland, as the meeting of the First Ministers of the devolved nations meeting this very day in Bute House, Edinburgh clearly demonstrates.

The answer to the question of why the UK doesn’t want to lose Scotland - in spite of  UK Establishment claims that Scotland could not survive outside of the UK, that Scotland is a dependent subsidy junkie, that it is a burden to England and so forth, or its pious nonsense about fracturing ancient ties of blood and and tradition  - is fourfold.

The first reason is that Scotland autonomy in foreign policy and defence would threaten UK defence policy, and crucially its nuclear deterrence policy, and therefore it pretensions to be a world power, albeit one totally subservient to American foreign policy. A closely linked sub-agenda is the private profit to be reaped from war and defence expenditure as the operating principle of the UK State.

The second reason is the awful prospect that Scotland would be economically successful, demonstrating that a state can serve all of its people, especially the the most vulnerable, while being economically viable, becoming, in the words of a great English poet “the cynosure of neighbouring eyes”.

The third reason is that Scotland, far from being a drain on UK resources, is in fact a net contributor to them, and subsidises the UK.

And the last, and perhaps  most poignant reason is that somehow England would lose its soul as Scotland regained its own identity, something elegantly expressed by one of Portillo’s dinner guests.

It’s not true of course - the British Establishment would lose its tarnished soul, but the people of England would regain their soul, and their pride as a nation again - a nation unafraid to speak its name.

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Paxman gets a Welsh spear right up him – and he doesn’t like it …

Jeremy Paxman's hostility to all things Celtic, Scottish and Welsh is notorious, but he met his match in a formidable Welshman, Dr. Eurfyl ap Gwilym, Welsh Plaid Cymru politician, and Deputy Chairman of the Principality Building Society.

Paxman had his usual simple and deeply superficial agenda when dealing with Welsh or Scottish nationalists - portray them as mendicants, dependent on British handouts, happy to take the English shilling while aspiring to romantic and unrealistic dreams of independence.

Paxman's repertoire includes repetition of his core questions, usually yes/no-type questions, a patronising manner that rapidly descends into bullying if he meets any resistance, and rapid, brutal agenda shifts if he encounters real arguments he can't handle.

Unfortunately for him, none of these worked with the well-informed, dignified and calmly assertive Eurfyl, who was not going to be intimidated by an English media creature who manifestly had not done his homework. In spite of the fact that Paxman had the Treasury report that he had misunderstood and was misquoting from in front of him and Dr. Eurfyl didn't, he was reduced to muttering incoherence, shuffling his papers with increasing agitation as the magisterial Welshman repeatedly put him on the back foot with a series of killer-diller ripostes.

The received wisdom for many years has been that politicians facing the Paxman's of this world  should be polite to the point of obsequiousness, allowing the interruptions, and giving way to the bullying. This is inculcated in politicians by their spin doctors - don't alienate the media man, we need his goodwill. It is a craven posture, one that has devalued political debate, turning into a kind of Ladybird Book of Politics, with simplistic soundbites and superfical policy statements.

Dr. Eurfyl ap Gwilym would have none of it. He maintained his calm, unruffled dignity, rooted in his being a successful businessman, in command of his facts, and a pragmatic realists, albeit one with a dream of Welsh independence. He disposed of the dragon Paxman without breaking intellectual sweat, and without losing his impeccable Welsh dignity and courtesy for a second. Paxman's behavioural body gloss flaked off, and the curtain was whipped away from the Wizard of Newsnight, revealing an ill-prepared and ultimately deeply ill-at-ease little man behind the bluster and the bravado.

He got a Welsh sword right up his ****, and in the words of Corporal Jones, he didn’t like it up ‘im …