After holding an election and a spirited campaign,
Scotland, they decided, in the UK will remain.
But how much independence are they likely to have found
When they said they’d keep the Queen and they’d retain the British pound?


            On September 18, 2014, Scotland held an election to determine whether it would revoke its 300-year union with England. With their own Parliament the Scots already had a considerable degree of control over their affairs. But this gave their political leaders the hunger for more. At first the pre-election polls indicated a 20-point rejection of independence; but the gap narrowed until it was, allegedly, too close to call. It wasn’t. The proposal lost by over ten points.

            There was a time when a conflict so fraught with political, economic and cultural tensions would have generated an avalanche of satire. What could be more vulnerable to ridicule than the efforts of  Scottish National Party leader, Alex Salmond, to reassure the Scots that they would be getting rid of whatever they didn’t like: the Conservative government and the nuclear subs, yet  keep all the good things: the Queen, the BBC, the pound and the North Sea oil. On the other hand there was the panic of the British party leaders, rushing up to Scotland as the poll seem to be narrowing, making fulsome promises that if only the Scots would vote no, they be given still more autonomy – promises on which they now have to deliver.      

            Unfortunately, this is not a golden age of British political satire. No longer can television audiences, north and south of the border, turn to That Was the Week That Was, Yes, Minister, or Spitting Image for disrespectful assessments of politicians and royals. Nor is there a Tony Blair to provide fodder for Armando Iannucci’s savage The Thick of It and for Rory Bremner’s uncanny impersonations. Consequently, says Bremner, “Almost uniquely in my lifetime we’ve just gone though a government where there hasn’t been a sort of comic representation of the political leaders at all.”

            Bremner, though no longer with his own TV show, did have some things to say about the Scottish referendum. He is an expatriate Scot (“Being a great believer in the Scottish tradition, I followed the example of my fellow countrymen and moved to England”), and he produced a BBC satirical documentary during the run-up to the vote in which he was very impressed by the Scottish Parliament which he said, “feels very European. By which I mean it is modern, different, exciting and massively over budget.” Unfortunately, said Bremner, many Scots seem to believe that Alex Salmond, who has a good sense of humor, should be off-limits to satirists.

            But if television did not play the central satirical role common to earlier British politics, the Scottish referendum did not go entirely unsatirized. The Internet  moved into the gap.

             The Spoof has played an Onion-like role:

·       “The British government has begun drawing up secret plans to rebuild Hadrian’s wall – the wall built by Romans to prevent starving undocumented Scottish people from entering England,”

·       The Scottish nationalists rejected a bid of 49 billion dollars “to turn Scotland into a MacDisney Theme Park with Queen Elizaabeth and Prince Philip as  a ‘fairy tale’ King and Queen.”

·       Prince Charles, tired of waiting, has sent his Linkedin C.V. to Salmon “ who Charles thinks may soon be looking for a King if Scotland becomes free.”

·       “Russians Plan Invasion of Britain if They Secede…We can pull a Crimea on them and they won’t know what hit them!.”

            The Daily Mash had Alex Salmond voting NO: “The idea if independence is quite exciting, but at some point over the last couple of days I just thought, ‘It seems like a ,lot of bother.’ He added: I’m also a wee bit worried about my pension.”

             Then, of course, there were newspaper cartoons. In the Independent Shrank had Prime Minister David Cameron and Labour leader  Ed Miliband in a small rowboat cowering as a huge Alex Salmond monster rears up from the Lake. Ian Green in the Scotsman showed a disappointed Salmond sitting on a throne and complaining” What happened to my vision of Poundland?” Other cartoons warned of impassable customs barriers and the rebuilding of Hadrian’s wall.

            Though all of these dire forecasts no longer threaten, the fight for Scottish independence has, ironically, given new energy to a long-submerged sentiment: Englishness, a special form of British patriotism:  It has found political expression in the “West Lothian question”, named after a Scottish district whos representative asked whether, once Scots had their own Parliament, they should be able to vote on matters concerning only England in the House of Commons.         

            This is will generate a new round of geographic controversies in Britain, and, we would hope, a source of lively inspiration for Britain’s depleted stock of political satirists,




Posted on Friday, September 26, 2014 (Archive on Thursday, June 22, 2017)



Current Rating: