By Sasha Uzunov
Damn you Mel Gibson and your Braveheart film ! You make Scottish independence so romantic and attractive and in this climate of European Union economic meltdown, feasible. The status of Scotland reverberates here in Australia, and especially how it unites two political opponents—locked in mortal battle at this year’s federal election.
As a non-Scot I get the sudden urge to scream in mock Scottish accent “Freedom for Scotland” – all because of Gibson’s stirring Hollywood version of history. As a former Australian soldier who marches on Anzac Day every year, listening to military bagpipers piping “Scotland the Brave” sends patriotic chills up and down my spine.
The Scots will hold an independence referendum in 18 September 2014. The status of the United Kingdom unites two political opponents—locked in mortal battle at this year’s federal election.
Some conservative pundits have talked up the behind the scenes strategic significance of John McTernan, Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard's Scottish Svengali like spinner. But McTernan and his quarry, Federal Opposition Leader Tony Abbott of the Liberal Party, have more things in common politically than meets the eye. And a question missed by our media is shouldn't McTernan be actually spinning for Abbott and not for Gillard?
John McTernan. Photo credit: 2GB Radio - Ben Fordham show
Influential Australian conservative columnist Andrew Bolt has alleged in his influential blog that McTernan's master plan is for Labor PM Gillard to smear Abbott with claims of misogyny in order to beat him in the next federal election due on 14 September 2013 because Labor is so on the noise with voters on many issues such as the economy, carbon tax, refugees and so on.
The irony is both McTernan and Abbott are staunch Unionists, that is supporters of the existence of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland or UK for short. The UK consists of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Southern Ireland broke away in the 1920s after a war of independence and in 1949 became The Republic of Ireland (Eire). Northern Ireland, sometimes referred to loosely as Ulster remained with the UK and has a large Protestant pro-Unionist population, who are descents of English and Anglicized Scottish settlers in the 17th century.
Scotland, known as Alba in Scottish Gaelic, was granted its own parliament recently, but has not been an independent nation-state in 300 years.
Abbott, born in London to Australian parents, is a dedicated monarchist, who supports Australia's status as a Constitutional Monarchy with Queen Elizabeth II, also Queen of the UK, and her successors as Head of State of Australia.
The Australian Labor Party (ALP) has a strong current of Republicanism within it, and a substantial faction, Irish Catholic, historically supported Irish independence. Prime Minister Gillard, born in Wales, has gone on the record that once Queen Elizabeth passes away, Australia should become a republic. Wouldn't this be in contradiction to McTernan's pro-Unionist stance? Wouldn't McTernan's Unionism offend PM Gillard's Australianess and Welshness?
London-born McTiernan is seen by some as a fanatical Unionist who in 2007 denounced his own nation Scotland as "narrow, Presbyterian and racist," and whose comments were regarded as offensive. If Abbott is an alleged misogynist, does that make McTernan a misoscoti/misoalbin, a hater of all things Scottish? I am laughing my head off at that last comment. I don't know if I have just coined a new phrase: misoscoti or misoalbin?
McTernan's recent history indicates a discomfort, to put it middy, of the very notion of an independent Scotland breaking away from the Union. Perhaps as an Australian of non-English speaking background, the son of Macedonian migrants, I am viewing McTernan through Balkan eyes or the prism of the collapse of multi-ethnic Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union in 1991 and being grossly unfair to him?
Okay, before we go any further I have to declare my interest. I support Celtic over the pro-Unionist team Glasgow Rangers in the Scottish Premier League Soccer competition. In 1977 my father and I squeezed into Melbourne’s Olympic Park stadium to watch Celtic beat Red Star Belgrade of the now defunct Yugoslavia 2-0 in exhibition match.
Glad that is now out of the way and back to the political analysis.
But why would any Scotsman or woman oppose in principle Scottish independence, if it can be achieved peacefully? Some might say an independent Scotland is not viable. But with EU members Greece and Spain bankrupt, perhaps Scotland going it alone may not be so scary. But it remains to be seen if an independent Scotland, should the referendum be won, would enter the EU.
McTernan has built an aura or shtick or routine as the quintessential or clichéd foul-mouthed Scottish spinner who ironically dislikes being Scottish. It is an unintentionally hilarious routine. But foul-mouthed media spinners who try to intimidate journalists are nothing new.
In 2007 McTernan, as a trouble shooter, was sent by then British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who acting more like Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic trying to hold Yugoslavia together, pardon my Balkan goggles once again, to save the naughty Scots from themselves and stop an independence referendum from taking place. In 1999 Blair was, paradoxically, a supporter of Kosovo's Albanians fighting for their independence from Serbia. Perhaps the Albanians don't wear kilts. That could be the reason!
A Daily Mail newspaper (UK) story at the time reported: "A "panicked" Tony Blair warned the Scots they would be "crazy" to quit the UK as he prepared to launch a last-minute campaign blitz to save the Union."
McTernan's brief was to discredit the Scottish National Party (SNP) led by Alex Salmond in the 2007 Scottish elections but the campaign failed. Salmond became Scotland's First Minister, the equivalent of Prime Minister. A referendum on Scottish independence is scheduled for 2014. A prominent supporter includes famous actor Sean Connery whilst comedian Billy Connolly opposes it.
European-based Australian journalist Paola Totaro revealed McTernan's messianic task in stopping his nation Scotland from gaining its independence but first he had some more mundane, earthly work for republican-minded Prime Minister Julia Gillard to complete: ''After the ALP gets re-elected, the next step is to save the United Kingdom and defeat Alex Salmond in the general referendum.''
Perhaps actor/director Mel Gibson will make a sequel to his 13th century Scottish nationalist themed Braveheart film with a contemporary setting: McTernan as the liege or vassal sent to do the English's (Sassenachs) work in subduing the wild Scots. Perhaps Salmond can play the combined hero role of Sir William Wallace / Robert the Bruce who delivers an independent Scotland for the first time in three centuries. It will be either "FREEDOM FOR SCOTLAND" or "STAY INTACT UK."
I just can't imagine Mel being big on someone yelling "STAY INTACT UK" with a fiery Scottish accent; it just doesn't have the same romantic and mythical sound as "FREEDOM FOR SCOTLAND."