Letters for June

Self-defeating Unionists, abused animals, suffering centrists and overlooked antipodeans


This article is taken from the June 2023 issue of The Critic. To get the full magazine why not subscribe? Right now we’re offering five issues for just £10

Red, white — and blue

Stephen Daisley (PART OF THE UNION? MAY) hits the bullseye when he notes that the SNP’s current problems are entirely self-inflicted rather than the work of their visionless political opponents.

If readers want an insight into the complete absence of an alternative narrative offered by Scotland’s Unionist parties then they could begin with Lord McInnes of Kilwinning, for 18 years a Scottish Conservative Party director, strategist to Ruth Davidson, and constitutional issues special adviser to Boris Johnson.

In April, McInnes told Fortnight magazine that whilst unionists “must be able” to express “their sense of Britishness”, the government trying “to enforce a false Britishness on people … would be counterproductivity at its best. The Union, he suggested “is not to be saved by even more red, white and blue”, which would “alienate from the Union the broadly younger and internationalist voter”.

One of the many changes those of us who live in Scotland have noticed over the last twenty years is the extent to which almost all symbols of Britishness have been removed from the public sphere. In their place, the Scottish Saltire flutters wherever it can find a flagpole and Scottish branding is everywhere in the public and private sector alike.

Good God, even pigs in blankets are now referred to as “kilties” — which they never were when I was a bairn. If Lord McInnes thinks that Scotland risks being inflicted with “even more red, white and blue” then I’d be keen to learn with which part of Scotland he is still acquainted. I’ll visit and take a photo.

The SNP has been masterful in aligning the positive vibes of Scottish pride and identity with its own separatist agenda. No pro-UK Scot that I know imagines this can be out-smarted by Unionists prancing down Sauchiehall Street as if they’re at the Last Night of the Proms. Likewise, McInnes’s fear that anyone is fixated upon “forcing” Union Jacks into the hands of young Scots is a straw man argument.

Does he and defeatists in Unionist politics like him believe four out of five young Scots who in polling say they favour independence do so because the economic argument for separatism is so amazingly strong, or because they’ve been fed a powerful sense of identity by Scottish nationalists?

We can debate what a British narrative involves, but a start would be to have one. I’m not optimistic when a leading Scottish Tory strategist describes a public display of Britishness as “false”. It is no more false than tartan.

Catherine Lindsay

Squeezed centre

Sebastian Milbank (THE KIDS ARE ALT-RIGHT, MAY) argues that nationalist movements in Europe, unlike in Britain, often appeal to the young more than the old. This is true but the same is also true of the Left. In Poland, for example, which he references, young people who identify with the political Left went from 10 per cent in 2015 to 30 per cent in 2020. It’s the centrists who really suffer.

Gregory Ball

Meat in the middle

“Why should someone who wants a vegetable wish to disguise it as flesh?” asks Felipe Fernández-Armesto (EATING IN, MAY) as he sneers at the concept of “vegan bacon”. He may be surprised to learn that vegans and vegetarians have no dispute with the taste and texture of meat.

Our problem is with the suffering and death of animals. If people can have the taste and texture without the suffering and death, everybody wins. Granted, there are concerns about the health benefits of vegan meats, as with other forms of processed food. I’d prefer a lentil burger to a block of soy protein concentrate.

But the sadder, and more grotesque, distortion of “a once-civilised culinary tradition” is factory farming, with all of the pain and privation that it entails. Mr Fernández-Armesto might think vegans are enduring their own form of pain and privation — but at least theirs is self-inflicted.

Robert Smith

Divas down under

Robert Thicknesse (OPERA, MAY) is surprised to learn that opera exists in New Zealand. Wikipedia gives the establishment of NZ Opera as being in the year 2000, but the country was producing opera and singers long before that.

In 1964 New Zealand exported to Australia a national tour of the only production of Porgy and Bess ever with a non-black cast: it starred Inia Te Wiata, an opera singer with an established career at Covent Garden and London’s West End, but even a quick Wiki search would spot that New Zealand produced opera international divas such as Dame Kiri Te Kanawa and Dame Malvina Major long before that.

Dame Joan Hammond, usually credited as Australian, was born in Christchurch, New Zealand, and was probably the first soprano to sell a million copies of an aria, “Oh My Beloved Daddy”, by Puccini.

I always think that if you want to malign a nation, it is handy to do a bit of research first.

Michael Rolfe
Hunters Hill, NSW, Australia

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