There’s no room in Scottish politics for inappropriate and offensive metaphors, writes IAN SMART

I love my work but it can be distressing.

Few arrive at my professional door without some assumed guilt as to their own self-perceived previous fault.  Becoming engaged in a business venture with someone about whom they always had reservations; keeping the wrong company; drinking too much; not looking out for their own safety.

Part of my job is to assure them that does not (necessarily) make them responsible for their misfortune. Indeed. personally, it often reflects to their own favour, as one-time optimists at least. But no group is worse in this, self-blaming, regard than the victims of domestic violence.

There is probably no worse stereotype than the “stereotypical” victim of domestic violence. Working (or at least potentially working) class; female; given to a drink themself and potentially as likely a perpetrator as a victim, if only physical strength allowed.

All wrong.

There is no stereotype. At a first divorce interview it is always a legitimate question as to whether there was ever in the violence in the relationship. And often you are strangely reassured as to human behaviour. The husband who never came straight home from his work, spending the evening in the pub with his mates, and otherwise dismissed as a worthless breadwinner, is nonetheless quizzically excused of any such accusation.

But, regrettably, on other occasion having been assured initially that all that has happened is that  “we have drifted apart” in the most apparently otherwise externally perfect of relationships, you hear accounts of the police being called but no charges preferred; visits to Accident and Emergency departments innocently explained at the time; even at the meeting with the lawyer after it is all over, suggestions that this is not really why the relationship has ended or excuses offered or equal blame, quite wrongly, accepted.

Domestic violence  is not, ever, the fault of the victim. If it involves fault at all, on the part of anyone other than the perpetrator then it is with a society which refuses to accept that all victims are, genuinely, innocent in a way which prevents these victims from asserting that confidently themselves. A society which appears to suggest that having made your bed you should not be entitled to complain about having to lie in it.

This is a wholly inexcusable view of the world.

Domestic violence is a terrible thing, It scars the lives of the victims and it colours, for ever, the lives of the children caught up by it. It is always, unconditionally, unforgiveable.  It is most certainly not the stuff from which cheap political analogies should be drawn.

Now, I don’t like Alex Salmond. He is a charlatan; an opportunist; a right-wing wolf in centre left clothing.

But, in the midst of his seductive appeal to the less informed among our citizenry I would never, ever, accuse him and his closest associates of being similar to a predatory paedophile ring offering sweets to a simple minded child in the hope of later taking sexual advantage of them. Why not? Because it would be a wholly inappropriate metaphor. Like comparing the Highland Clearances to the Holocaust or, dare  I say it, Alex Salmond himself to Robert Mugabe.

So, equally, do I feel about yesterday’s excrescence by Salmond’s female mini-me. Domestic violence is not the stuff to be given up to commonplace political discourse. Full stop and without qualification. If action is not taken against the commentator who apparently thinks this not to be the case then while that will say little about Joan McAlpine, it will certainly say an awful lot about the SNP.

They have 69 seats in a 129 seat Parliament. They don’t need Joan McAlpine; her vote or her opinion. Unless of course she actually speaks for what they truly believe.

Ian Smart is a lawyer and founder member of Scottish Labour Action. He is also a Past President of the Law Society of  Scotland. Follow Ian on Twitter at @IanSSmart. This post was originally published on Ian’s blog

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38 thoughts on “Nationalists

  1. I did not like Joan’s article much but your comment is preposterously over the top.

    Your party has called for the resignation of Joyce and you now call for the resignation of MacAlpine-do you really think these issues are remotely equivalent?

    Where is there an article on Labour Hame about Joyce?

    I think I will put yout OTT article down to fury at Joan MacAlpine being given a column at the Daily Record, until now a visceral anti-SNP tabloid who would have been attacking MacAlpine for her article rather than publishing it.

    I recommend the elimination of all comparisons to marriage re independence-starting with the Labour favourite “Divorce is an expensive business”

  2. YOu don’t like name calling but it doesn’t stop you calling the First Minister “a charlatan; an opportunist and a right wing wolf in centre-left clothing”. Reminds me very much of the Labour front bench at Westminster and of course the war-monger Blair. “opportunist” how would you describe the lies from Baillie and Lamon? Since your are a lawyer is it ok for me to call you and unfortunately the party I used to love “hypocrites”?

  3. ian

    is it still ok for the unionist parties to use the metaphor of divorce when describing independence ?

    or is it a case of two wrongs dont make a right?

    when i read this post the word hypocrisy came to mind but maybe i am just one of the ” less informed among our citizenry “

  4. ‘Now, I don’t like Alex Salmond. He is a charlatan; an opportunist; a right-wing wolf in centre left clothing.’

    Salmond a Blairite? Now that is offensive.

  5. “Concocted nonsense” indeed – and from somebody whose judgement I used to appreciate.

    Is this the best Labour can do? Volumes of total inconsequence as the world goes to hell in a handcart

  6. The analogy of ‘a marriage’ to describe the union of Scotland and England has been commonly used by both nationalist and unionists for a long time. It is not unexpected therefore to find nationalist supporters using the squalid details that are symptomatic of some marriage breakdowns to state their case for the ‘separation’.
    Whether it is ill judged, I am not persuaded. Will the Joan McAlpine’s comparison help explain the constitutional arrangements as she sees them to undecided voters and as a consequence win support for her argument? or turn those voters away from the nationalist argument because the language is seen as offensive?. I don’t know. I can see why it causes offence and for that reason the extended use of the analogy should maybe be reconsidered by Joan McAlpine.
    But I think two points need to be made, first, Joan McAlpine is not attacking any individual, nor is she citing an example of a particular marriage, she is not being subjective, she is comparing an abusive relationship to the union, because she believes the union has been grossly unfair to Scotland.
    Secondly, the analogy is not going to go away. And to criticise her so forcefully and from all sides of the unionist camp may be counter productive. Too strident condemnation may soon be associated with the language of a desperate ‘domineering partner’.

  7. I can understand your indignation, Ian. Joan McAlpine’s choice of analogy was clearly a Nationalist one. She painted the picture of a highly capable women (Scotland) tied to an incapable and overbearing husband (England), who is constantly bossing her about and always taking the wrong decisions affecting her life. Our Unionist (and correct) view is that of a very poor and helpless woman (Scotland) who had a very difficult childhood and who is struggling to get through each and every day, when she meets her handsome and kind knight in shining armour (England). He takes care of her, protects her and takes decisions which contribute positively to her well being. She is so happy, she swears never to leave him. And why should she?

    1. Good point. The demise of the Union would mean no more jousting tournaments, which I would very much regret.

      Keep up the good work ;o)

    2. I’m reminded by this post of the advice first printed in 1883 on ‘Wifely Duties’.

      Make your personal appearance as beautiful as possible for your husband. Your dress may be calico, but it should be neat. While hair dye is not advisable, the eyebrows may be improved by a slight application.

      Make every attempt to spend wisely the dole your husband offers for household expenses. Purchase with care.

      Whatever the day’s circumstances, greet your husband with a smile.

      Do not estimate your husband by his ability to make display. His employment may not be favorable for fine show, but his superior qualities of mind and heart are all that matter.

      In your husband’s dealing with his employees he is in the habit of giving commands and being obeyed. In his absentmindedness the same dictatorial spirit may possess him at home, so avoid all disputes until he gains his senses.

      Maintain dignity in public with your husband. Loud talk or laughter, pointing, running, allowing your skirt to drag or sucking on your parasol handle all show bad manners.

  8. But Ian, they DO beleive it! The SNP spokesman’s response was “The truth hurts”.

    Its one rule for them, another rule for the rest of us.

  9. Dear Ian,

    How about an article discussing Ian Davidson branding the SNP “neo-fascists”? No? Thought not.

  10. Havent I heard jokey asides from Labour about the LibDems being in an “abusive relationship” with the Tory party in the coalition.? Does the Unionists persistent jibe about ” divorce” between Scotland and England not trivialise a most painful and traumatic episode in peoples lives,adults and more importantly, children. All for a cheap headline.

  11. Are Scots a ‘less informed citizenry’ as Ian Smart implies?

    Ian Smart must recognise that continued verbal abuse becomes a control within troubled families, and that such abuse lead to violence against family members.

    As Scots know only too well the main source of anti-Scottish invective comes from within Scotland itself. We are being continually being told that we are “too wee, too poor and too stupid”.

    Combine that with Labour’s viceral hatred of Alex Salmond, the SNP and the nationalist movement, plus that Labour are out of power and you end up with both Scotland’s First Minister and Scots being abused at length by Labour politicians and members.

  12. Ian,

    People can identify with the analogy. It in itself was not OTT, but the style of writing was a bit lethargic for my liking.
    Your bluster about the chosen vehicle is a bit perplexing, you seem to be saying domestic violence/abuse is unacceptable (I agree) but to use the analogy to describe how the Union is perceived is wrong?

    I am sorry Ian, but for me the analogy stands. And dare I say it, the readers of the Record have been given something new to think about. Not before time too!

    1. Here is another from a article by Paul Kavanagh.

      I bumped into Norway the other day, she’s looking good and doing so well for herself. I remember her when she worked in the fish factory and didn’t have two kroner to rub together, then she divorced Denmark and rushed into that rebound affair with Sweden which ended in tears. Well that’s all changed. She was just popping off to some important do at the UN and was looking very stylish. And there was me in an auld coat and head-scarf like the depressive suicide risk in an Ingmar Bergman movie because you say I can’t afford nice things

  13. Would you accept that the word ‘separation’ has more to do with the divorce courts than ‘independence’ does Ian? Strangely, that very word has become used to describe the split – eh, there you go – proposed between Scotland and England. And, anyway, the domestic violence is a meme that the Labour Party are spreading. Whatever else it said, Joan McAlpines article did not mention domestic violence. You know that, I know that, why are you saying it?

  14. This article seeths with hatred.

    It is little wonder that Labour is in such a mess with people like this representing the party’
    You simply cannot make a good political argument that will appeal to the voters when you are driven by this level of loathing. It oozes out of every sentence and you will notice that he has begun to blame the voter for labours disastrous polling position when he states that Alex Salmond has ‘a seductive appeal among ‘THE LESS INFORMED AMONG OUR CITIZENRY’ !!!

    So we are all too stupid to see how labour would be so much better at governing Scotland, eh ?

  15. It’s crass. It’s Joan McAlpine. Not a lot more to be said.

  16. Labour can’t have it both ways – they go on about how independence would be Scotland divorcing from the rest of the UK, but then complain when that metaphor is developed further.

  17. The article makes no mention of domestic violence.
    ‘Decisions made by a Westminster Government that Scotland did not vote for have hit them hard.’ is the only mention of people getting hit.
    I think this ‘reply’ mischaracterises the tone of Macalpines article.

  18. “Labourhame: where Scottish Labour can rant incessantly about the SNP without putting forward any coherent, attractive policy of their own. Mostly.”

    Nice we personal one on the FM there:

    “He is a charlatan; an opportunist; a right-wing wolf in centre left clothing.”

    That reminds me, how much is Tony worth these days? I heard he’d raked in over 12 million since standing down. Nice work if you can get it.

  19. I am sick and tired of ‘awaiting moderation’. Either you publish what I have to say or you just bin it. It would be to the point if you just were honest enough to admit that you don’t like what I have to say.

    “Awaiting moderation” is offensive to free speech and most of you know that.

    Either argue what I have to say or lie to your public,

    “Your comment is awaiting moderation.”

    “Your comment is awaiting moderation.”

    etc, etc.

    1. Calm down Douglas. If some could control themselves then moderation wouldn’t be necessary. Until that day, you have to wait like everyone else or take you debate elsewhere.

      1. Not so true Pete!
        As one who is regulalry in ‘awaiting moderation’ limbo, i can only see that the site moderators do not like the comments i have submitted. Are por-new labour? No they are not, however they do not resort to the pathetic name calling that mr smart appears to be at ease with!

      2. By “control themselves” do you mean “ask perfectly polite but awkward questions Labour don’t want to face up to”? Because that’s what most deleted comments actually contain in my experience.

  20. Actually Ian did not call for Joan to resign. His exact words were that she should be “forced to apologise or expelled”. Interesting choice of words that. How do you force someone to apologise if they don’t believe they have done anything wrong I wonder, and why is it acceptable to force someone to do something they don’t want to do in the first place?

    Also interesting the number of commentators saying things like Alex Salmond should reign her in or sack her – or in some other way control her behaviour because, it is argued, she is an embarrassment to him.

    All quite ironic I think, given the subject matter!

  21. Peter,

    Does everyone ‘await moderation’?

    If so, I apologise.

    1. Everyone has to wait for their comments to be approved. Not just for moderating ‘offensive’ comments, but also because there are quite a lot of attempts at posting spam. Sometimes it does take a while for someone to get round to looking at the comments in the pipeline though.

  22. It’s quite funny to see Ian Smart calling Record readers “the less informed among our citizenry” given that it is a blindly Labour-supporting paper… or was until recently.

  23. There is too much petty censorship by the moderator(s) at LabourHame to make any attempt at dialogue and debate worthwhile. Honestly guys you are creating a problem for yourselves.

  24. As per Indy’s comment. There is a somewhat delicious irony in a unionist political supporter calling for a woman to be, what was it again:

    …If action is not taken against the commentator who apparently thinks this not to be the case then while that will say little about Joan McAlpine, it will certainly say an awful lot about the SNP.

    They have 69 seats in a 129 seat Parliament. They don’t need Joan McAlpine; her vote or her opinion. Unless of course she actually speaks for what they truly believe.

    having decieved himself about the subject matter, Ian then calls for a womans resignation.

    Perhaps it was a better article than I gave it credit for.

  25. Having read Ian’s piece – and they are often worth reading – I thought I must have missed something in Joan’s Record début. Some coded approbation of marital abuse perhaps?
    But no, despite personal embarrassment at having to read a Record twice in search of subtlety, all I found was a perfectly reasonable extension of the divorce analogy much loved by unionists.

    She does seem to have touched a raw nerve though.

  26. Just such a shame to see Joan McAlpine being so negative about this debate.

    Interesting that she so fundamentally disagrees with her leader, Mr Salmond who correctly said “Scotland is not oppressed and we have no need to be liberated”

    What a disapointment that Joan MaAlpine cant find anything positive to say about the benefits of separation and has to resort to such negative attacks.

    If this is the quality of debate in the SNP then they really are in a sorry state.

  27. I note that Ian Smart does not respond to comment, neither here nor on his own web site. It is as if he were a spendid person who talks down to us mere mortals. Frankly, I think he has gone a tad over the score here, what with this nonsense:

    But, in the midst of his seductive appeal to the less informed among our citizenry I would never, ever, accuse him and his closest associates of being similar to a predatory paedophile ring offering sweets to a simple minded child in the hope of later taking sexual advantage of them. Why not? Because it would be a wholly inappropriate metaphor. Like comparing the Highland Clearances to the Holocaust or, dare I say it, Alex Salmond himself to Robert Mugabe.

    Your mileage may vary, but I think that is just cheap.

    But this is Labour Hame and you cannot see how far away from reality your Mr Ian Smart has got. Shame on you! And him.

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