The Glasgow Review Issue 3
History's Mandate: Alasdair Gray and the Art of Independence
In the wake of the General Election of 1992 James Kelman wrote a biting satire on the demand for Scottish constitutional change by parliamentary means. Entitled 'Let The Wind Blow High, Let The Wind Blow Low'. It was published as the endpiece to his collection of essays, Some Recent Attacks Kelman begins by pointing out that 75% of voters 'rejected the Tory national government' (p. 86). He goes on to remind us that 'both in Scotland and throughout the UK as a whole there are many thousands of people who have done their best to reject it for a long number of years. Some have voted and some haven't':
State propaganda insists that the reason why at least 40 percent of the voting public don't vote at all is because no feelings one way or the other. They say the same thing in the U.S.A. where some 85 percent of the population are apparently 'apolitical' since they don't bother registering a vote. Rejection of the political system is inadmissible as far as the state is concerned. If you don't vote you're 'neutral', i.e. you don't 'have any politics' (p. 87).
According to Kelman: 'A vote for any party or individual is always a vote for the political system ... If there was any possibility that the apparatus could effect a change in the system then they would dismantle it immediately'. (p. 87). In other words, don't vote, you'll only encourage them. If elections promised change they'd be abolished. Familiar stuff. But Kelman extends the argument:
Seventy five percent of those who voted at the General Election rejected Tory rule. What would have happened if they hadn't voted at all? How would ruling authority have interpreted the result? Probably as a landslide unionist victory. That 25 percent would have been transformed into a 100 percent no to self determination (p. 87).
Kelman's muse continues. The 1992 Election had 'an Exceptionally High Turn-out' of 64 per cent:
This would mean that even those who didn't vote amounts to a far larger percentage than the unionist minority whose '25 percent' now rules the roost. Whereas the citizens who rejected the vote amount to more than a third of the entire voting population these roost-rulers are less than a sixth. And if you add the famous '75 percent' to the dissident '36 percent' you wind up with a mammoth 84 percent rejecting the UK political system and a paltry 16 percent giving it their endorsement. So there you are (p. 88-9).
Yes, there we are. Well, almost. We still have a few turns to take. Kelman's dream of electoral change has not ended:
What if the Exceptionally High Turn-out had been 100 percent of the entire voting public and every last one of them had voted against the Unionist Tories? A real Doomsday Scenario where because of the rest of the U.K. voting returns the Tories had still managed to hold an overall Whitehall majority! In fact what if ... (p. 89).
The narrative is interrupted in order for the author to entertain an objection:
Would we be allowed to count this 100 percent as a 100 percent? Maybe we would have to take into consideration that the entire voting population of Scotland is not the same thing as the entire population of Scotland (p. 89).
This is clearly a consideration that would derail the current train of thought, so 'for talking's sake let's assume Whitehall allowed us to regard this 100 percent of the voting population as a Voice That Speaks For All Scotland. What then? What then? Would we have been allowed to interpret this as a mandate by U.K. ruling authority?' This calls forth a dictionary definition of 'mandate':
A dictionary at random states: 'A command, order, injunction ... The instruction as to policy supposed to be given by the electors to a parliament or a member of Parliament'. And under Scots Law: 'A contract by which one person employs another to act for him in his affairs (p. 89).
Kelman returns to his hypothesis of a 100% electoral mandate and asks 'in what sense would that situation have differed from the present situation? Answers to the Letters' Column of the Scottish qualities'. Kelman conjures up the hilarious spectacle of 'the entire voting population of Scotland' advancing on Westminster, 'all striding arm-in-arm with bright-new-dawns glistening on our rubicund faces'. The delegation 'will accept an invitation to enter a smallish chamber inside the halls of Westminster ... extended by an assistant to an Under-Secretary of the Home Office Junior Minister-Without-Portfolio. But negotiation must begin from somewhere'. The delegation will:
remind Her Majesty's Government that the entire voting population of Scotland does indeed speak for the entire voting population of Scotland which power is invested in themselves our representatives and that outside on the pavement, outside on the very pavement, beyond the iron gates of Westminster, at this moment in time, the entire voting population of Scotland is waiting, conducting themselves in a civilly obedient and orderly fashion. Our all Scotland representation shall remind Her Majesty's Government of the meaning of the term 'mandate' as entered even in their own Shorter Oxford English Dictionary ... And by the Gude Lord Jasus the entire voting population would just damn well carry on waiting right there on this pavement and see what her Majesty's Government was going to do about that! And so what if it's a Friday afternoon and Her Majesty's Government has already fuckt off for a weekend in the country, we'll just damn well wait till Monday or Tuesday morning, even the following Monday morning, or the bloody Tuesday morning, we'll carry on waiting until they give is an answer, that'll show them the measure of our resolve (p. 91).
And so it ends, Kelman's vision of Scotland's claim of right by electoral mandate, with its impotent appeal to Westminster.
Now, recent events in Ireland have upheld Kelman's view that the electoral system and its 'jerrymandates' are not the great motors of change some people think they are. History and politics do not proceed solely by parliamentary edict. The road to independence is paved with good inventions. Which brings me, by a circumlocuitous route, to the discourse of another contemporary Scottish writer.
If Kelman's prose non-fiction is laced with the same existential anger and irony as his fiction, then Alasdair Gray's intervention into the debate on Scotland's future displays a similar stylistic cross-over and inheritance from the novels and short stories. Both writers play with and parody the genres of historiography and political theory, making engagement with their arguments a matter of shifting back and forth incessantly between literary criticism and politico-historical analysis. Indeed, Gray's text is a deceptively slim volume, given its historical sweep. It can be placed side by side with other works in his corpus that offer a mythopoetics of history. We could read it alongside Lanark and The History Maker. Gray's argument in favour of Scottish independence was completed on the eve of the 1992 Election. It places much more faith in the electoral process than Kelman could countenance.
Right from its title this is a hard text to pin down. The spine and back page have Why Scots Should Rule Scotland. The front page and inside title page have Independence. Why Scots Should Rule Scotland, and that is how the book is catalogued. This is not a call for devolution but for separatism. The text is divided into ten chapters, 25,000 words in total. There are no references, bibliography, or index in Gray's book, just as there were none in Kelman's. Both authors have shorn their work of the trappings of scholarship. In Gray's case, this represents a curious reversal. He annotates his novels but leaves his prose non-fiction bereft of any textual apparatus. The fiction gets footnoted, but the history does not.
Gray is aware that nationalism and national identity are thorny issues, and he grasps the nettle at the opening of Chapter 1: The Scots and Where They Came From. There is a strange defensiveness and a rhetoric of apologia in many recent discussions of Scottish national identity. Gray's enigmatic little book opens with an example of this prevarication, his own peculiar definition of 'Scots':
The title of this book may sound threatening to those who live in Scotland but were born and educated elsewhere, so I had better explain that by Scots I mean everyone in Scotland who is able to vote. Many folk who feel thoroughly Scottish live and vote in England, America or Hong Kong: but this book is about Scottish government so lumps them with Scots below the age of eighteen. Their lives and opinions are important, but outside the argument. My definition cheerfully includes many who think themselves English but work here as hoteliers, farmers, administrators and directors of Scottish institutions: also those who live in Scotland because they could buy a pleasant house more cheaply here than in the south. My definition also includes a small but important group of Scots who mainly live or work elsewhere: great landowners like the Duke of ***** and Lady ***** of ***** who have homes and property in several nations but return to their ancestral home to shoot, hold family parties and vote; also the seventy-one [sic] Scottish members of parliament whose working days are almost wholly spent in London so have to live there too (p. 5; my emphasis).
This is a remarkable definition both in terms of what it includes and excludes. It includes 'the entire voting population of Scotland'. It excludes all those who cannot, do not, or will not vote. So absentee landlords who register their votes by proxy qualify but not the young homeless encamped beneath Waterloo Bridge. Their lives and opinions are important, but outside the argument. This gives a whole new meaning to the 'elect nation'. Gray anticipates objections to his working definition of Scots:
Some may think this definition of a Scot both too liberal and too narrow, but I believe every adult in a land should have equal say in how it is ruled so therefore belongs to it, however recently she or he arrived. The first people who called themselves Scots were immigrants (p. 5; my emphasis).
One only belongs, one only has an equal say, if one is an adult. But when does one become an adult? Young people can go to jail or be married before they can vote. Disenfranchised youth protesting against the M77, the Poll Tax, and the Criminal Justice Bill do not belong. Poor things! Departures are as important as arrivals. A nation is judged by its attitude to its emigrants as well as its immigrants. One has to be open to the other in every way.
Gray's history begins with the paradox that the 'first Scots were a set of Irish invaders' (p. 5). There follows a history of immigration down to the present day:
Lastly came the English, drawn north by the greater spending power of their money here, or by lack of opportunities at home, or by marriage. It is not easy to discover figures for them but I think it safe to say that they outnumber all former immigrant waves, except the Irish. They are a completely different breed from the wealthy manufacturers who bought up Highland estates in the Victorian age. I mentioned them in my first paragraph: hoteliers, farmers, administrators and directors of our national institutions, and my friend Stephanie Wolfe Murray, director of Canongate Press, publishers of this book. It is meant for all who live and vote in Scotland, people I therefore regard as fellow Scots. (p. 8, my emphasis).
There is of course nothing wrong with being loyal to one's publisher. Gray is clearly unsympathetic to an organisation like Settler Watch, and constantly alert to the risk of anglophobia that can creep into Scottish nationalist discourse, or the xenophobia that comes with the territory. Gray is more than alert, in fact, he is apologetic, defensive, and paranoid, like most proponents of independence who live and work in an anglocentric culture. His next definition is not his own, but is drawn from the dictionary:
According to Chambers Twentieth Century Dictionary racism is 'race hatred, rivalry or feeling: belief in inherent superiority of some races over others, usually with implication of a right to rule'. Since nobody will read a writer who seems superior to them or tries to boss them I am terrified of being thought a racist, and hope I have cleared myself of that suspicion by demonstrating that the Scots are composed of many races, not one. Moreover, this pamphlet also deals at points with the English, French, Irish and Welsh, and I think does so without prejudice (p. 8, my emphasis).
Gray balances immigration with emigration, stating that 'a picture of Scotland as a pool filled by waves of incomers is false if it omits how Scots continually splashed into other countries' (p. 8). No distinction is drawn between reasons for immigration or emigration, the push and pull factors that make it hard to swallow the analogy between English directors of Scottish institutions and Jewish refugees from pogroms.
Gray clearly adheres to the idea of 'Scottish-by-formation', as outlined in the national broadsheet Scotland on Sunday, except that he narrows it down by excluding expatriates and non- voters. Ironically, despite its opening statement on Scots as those living and voting in Scotland, Gray's little pamphlet history is full of people who are dead and never voted. Indeed, it harks back to an ancient independence enjoyed before the country knew universal suffrage. The generous time scale of Gray's historical frame reveals the limitations of his attachment to the electoral system. There's nothing like learning from the past. In a curious reversal of the West Lothian Question, Gray refuses to countenance Scots in England or elsewhere determining the future of Scotland. The Scottish diaspora of the bygone days get good coverage, but that of the present is ruled out.
Independence is arguably a demand for the Scots who don't vote, or who vote with their feet, for the prisoners (Scotland has more young people in prison than any other country in Western Europe), for those begging on the streets of London, and for those who have found success beyond these shores. At a time when the Labour Party has opened a branch in Hollywood it seems strange to be ruling out in advance the influence of Scots abroad. Are only those who are resident to be considered representative, or worthy of representation? Why should the English in Scotland have more say in Scotland's future than Scots dwelling south of the border? The exclusion of expatriates in Gray's definition of Scots does not quite square with his devotion of two chapters - 5 and 6 - to 'Scottish émigrés from the first Crusade through the first King of All Britain to the inventor of the Bank of England', and 'from the Darien settlers to the first North British MPs'. (9)
Given its length, Gray's remarkable pamphlet history is a breathtaking work of contraction, telescoping a thousand years in sixty pages of text, and offering a compelling epic narrative in a series of aphoristic essays. The prefatory 'Author's Note' runs: 'This pamphlet omits many important things: an independent Scottish education now almost destroyed by British government action; Scotland's usefulness as a separate testing ground for laws later enforced in England (extra police powers, the poll tax) and much else. This cannot be helped in a short pamphlet which I think of as a sketch for a bigger picture to be completed before 2000 AD - if I am spared.' (p.4). Gray has performed an astonishing piece of historiographical shorthand, but that bigger picture should incorporate a bigger definition of Scots.
The back-page blurb announces that Gray 'belongs to no political party but wants Scottish self- government.' The Author's answer to the Publisher's question of who he will vote for in the next election (May 1992) is evasive. There is, though, a rejection of Labour and the Union. Earlier, Gray had written:
Since I argue that Scotland should have a strong government elected by its people this pamphlet is propaganda for the Scottish National Party, or for candidates of other parties who have declared for such a government without swithering from side to side on the matter (p. 9).
Gray goes on to define 'propaganda':
Chambers Twentieth Century Dictionary says propaganda is 'any activity for the spread of opinions and principles, especially to effect change or reform'; so all political systems use propaganda and democracy depends on it. Yet even honest propaganda of the non-Goebbels sort tends to use clichés and rhetorical exaggerations. These can simplify an argument and make it more exciting for a while, but in the long run I agree with what Talleyrand said - anything exaggerated is irrelevant. In my effort to avoid rhetoric and give a broad-minded instead of a single-minded argument I may sometimes sound too dry and factual. However, my publisher has promised to look over my shoulder and make suggestions if she thinks I am in danger of losing your interest (pp. 9-10).
A series of author-publisher dialogues puncture the narrative. It is interesting to look at these exchanges. The publisher is both a rhetorical device used by Gray, and an individual identified as 'Stephanie Wolfe Murray'. She puts up a guard-rail against the risks of excess and irrelevance that Gray runs in his wide-ranging approach. Like Flann O'Brien's 'Plain People of Ireland', she speaks for common sense and logic, for the plain people of Scotland, or at least for Scots as defined by Gray. The problem with the democratic intellect is that it can manifest itself as a resistance to theory.
Five pages into the second chapter, 'The Scottish Difference: A Dry Approach', and in the midst of a lengthy disquisition on events leading up to and following the triumph of Robert the Bruce at Bannockburn, the narrative is interrupted:
Publisher: (looking over author's shoulder) Are you not being too historical? Why should modern Scots think their mediaeval victory matters today?
Author: Because our Scottish MPs are in the same state as the Scottish barons when they had sworn allegiance to the English king (p. 15).
The author convinces the publisher, temporarily, that this historical disquisition is not a digression. She, of course, is a modern Scot, looking out for other modern Scots. Gray goes on to elaborate the analogy between the medieval Scottish Lords and modern Labour MPs, until the publisher again intervenes:
Publisher: But Scottish MPs like Donald Dewar and Tam Dalyell are nothing like Bruce and Douglas and the Scottish feudal overlords.
Author: (growing excited) Thank goodness! Modern fighters for independence use votes, not swords, and if Britain is a democracy the Scots will get independence through the ballot box ...
Publisher: Please stop bellowing, you are resorting to rhetoric.
Author: Then let me develop the argument in the dry, historical way I had planned (pp. 15-16).
So there we have it. History is dry, medieval history is irrelevant, and any form of direct engagement is 'bellowing' and 'resorting to rhetoric'. Needless to say, 'rhetoric' is not being used in any historical or theoretical way here. So much for the politics of the 'publisher'. The author goes on to undermine his own proposition that 'if Britain is a democracy the Scots will get independence through the ballot box'. On the eve of parliamentary union, Gray argues that the majority of Scots and English favoured Scottish independence: 'But democracy was centuries away ... Are you listening to me, Stephanie?':
Publisher: Yes. Why do you ask?
Author: Because I repeat, with emphasis, that the Scottish people did not get the independence they wanted because democracy was centuries away. It was the nobility who managed the two parliaments who dreaded the idea (p. 35).
If democracy was centuries away at the time of parliamentary union, where is the connection between parliament and democracy?
Chapter 8, Democracy, offers a sidelight on Gray's faith in the electoral system. Britain
has never had a written constitution because the rulers of the country know they could never agree to one, because they would find it too inhibiting. There is a general agreement that the freedom of the British people is guaranteed by our elected parliament' (p. 45).
Gray cites Carlyle to the effect that
democracy must struggle through many sham forms of itself before triumphing around 2035 AD. I hope he is right. It means I will see it if I live to be a hundred (p. 48).
Perhaps those who cannot vote for it now - because they are juvenile or jailed - will be able to vote for independence when democracy arrives.
Gray asks whether, when Scotland was independent in the past, the Scots 'were better off for being ruled by their own bosses rather than foreign ones? Happiness and freedom cannot be measured scientifically so we must hunt for clues in chronicles and poems' (p. 17). Gray, citing the case of a French visitor who found the Scots rude, says of the peasants before the Union:
They might not live freely, but they could speak freely, unlike the peasants of England and France whose lords had every right, in custom and law, to ride rough-shod and hawk and hunt over peasants' land without let or hindrance ... This persuades me that the common people enjoyed some of the freedom mentioned in the Declaration of Arbroath ... Free speech ... is essential to great literature, which withers if confined to a single class of society. Since English literature clearly shows this I will give a quick sketch-map of it for comparison with the Scottish achievement (p. 18).
Gray then proceeds to map out the history of English literature, claiming that 'Great writing there stopped when free speech stopped', in contrast with Scotland, where 'Sir David Lindsay's Ane Pleasant Satyre of the Thrie Estatis was publicly performed before the Scottish king, lords and commons'. This provokes a further interruption:
Publisher: Listen, this is all very interesting, but is it telling the readers why the Scots should rule Scotland?
Author: Yes! It shows that a poor government need not stop a small independent country having a rich culture, and that a wealthy government does not always help the culture of a large one (pp. 18-20).
Gray's concentrated style allows him to allude parenthetically to Elizabeth Windsor as 'Elizabeth I of Britain', in what is both an incredible piece of historical condensation and a brilliant piece of polemic. Less impressive is this remark on her namesake:
For forty-five years Queen Elizabeth had reigned in England and kept herself and her country free of political entanglements by not marrying - she enjoyed flirtation but was a resolute virgin (p. 29; my emphasis).
Gray reminds us that John Knox, Scotland's most notable Protestant reformer, was a 'former priest', and describes him as 'a great public speaker of the Hitler sort':
Queen Elizabeth of England disliked John Knox because he declared that female government was an abomination stinking in the nostrils of God. She financed and supported him in Scotland because he would destroy its links with France by destroying the Catholic Church there (p. 25).
Recognition of the role of 'international politics' in the Scottish Reformation led Knox's opponents at home to declare that 'he was no true Scotsman and even wrote in a language like his English masters' (p. 25). Of course, a different kind of international politics, another internationalism, would have taken issue with Gray's initial exclusion of Scots living and not voting outside Scotland.
Gray does not allow his compressed style to permit characterisation to become caricature. Historical figures are portrayed as ambiguous and contradictory, caught between principle and policy. Knox was both a burner of books and advocate of education, a popular pedagogue and a merciless dogmatist:
Knox was not opposed to education; he wanted everyone in Scotland to be taught reading by his Calvinist priesthood, but the one book he wanted them all to read was the Geneva Bible which was mainly the work of English translators and immensely popular in England (p. 25).
Too often Gray's text has an 'on the one hand, and on the other' feel to it that the reader is seduced by, so that I find myself, for example, entering into the web of condemning and condoning at a single stroke, saying of Gray, on the one hand, this is a wonderful truncation of Scottish history, and on the other, I wish that English publisher would get off his back, and he wouldn't stop referring to rhetoric as though there was something outside of it. This even-handed approach is a mixture of complicity and absolution, rubbing one's hands in eager anticipation of some reward, or washing them of responsibility.
Gray concludes that 'The Protestant Scottish Conscience (or Soul)' was forged in this period:
It is as if we had a small god in our brain who may sometimes sound like John Knox or a local schoolteacher but has nothing much to do with landlords, kings and gentry. The demands of this little god are sometimes so severe that whenever he has been supported by clergymen of his own kind he has destroyed the happiness of whole communities, delighted in smashing church organs and sculptures, and revelled in the burning of poor old women (p. 26).
Lest we think that Scottish Protestantism is unremittingly a 'bleaker, less social thing' than other manifestations of reformed religion, Gray gives us a glimpse of the way in which this godhead can do good as well as ill, referring to David Livingstone and John MacLean. At this point the publisher intervenes once more:
Publisher: This is starting to sound like a flight of rhetorical fancy. Have a cup of tea and cool down.
Author: Certainly. Certainly (p. 27).
The reader is tempted to draw an analogy between the author and publisher, and Elizabeth I (of England, of course) and John Knox, as well as between the self-righteous and censorious god and the one open to radical new ideas.
One of the most incisive passages in Gray's text occurs when he tackles the Anglo-Scottish Union of 1603. He points up the way in which this alliance, a dynastic accident, offered a unique opportunity to quell Ireland: 'Jamie arrived at a tactic which could only be deployed by a Scottish king ruling Ireland with an English army: the colonization of Ulster' (p. 30). He 'did not think he was splitting four nations into five, but joining them into one' (p. 31). Incidentally, the back cover makes mention of 'the four countries of Great Britain'. There are of course only three countries in Great Britain. The Act of Union of 1800 refers to 'Great Britain and Ireland'. Northern Ireland is part of the British state at present, and of the United Kingdom, but not Great Britain. Moreover, Scotland is described on the back cover as 'the ailing province of the North'. Whose language is this? The author's or the publisher's?
In Chapter 9, The Scottish Archipelago - Some Light Relief, Gray quotes Clemenceau, who asked who knew more about Lake Geneva: 'I who have walked round the shore, or the fish who swim in it?' (p. 52) Gray's answer is the fish, but he concedes that an outsider might see things that insiders overlook, such as 'a rare fish ignored by the shoals'. What about the fish that never swim? (This might have been an argument in favour of not excluding expatriates). Gray goes on to cite Patrick Geddes as an example of a big fish spotted by outsiders, one whom Gray had not known of. Geddes was a Professor of Botany at Dundee who became Professor of Civic Studies in Bombay. He co-authored The Evolution of Sex (1890), designed Tel Aviv, and coined 'conurbation'. But did he vote? Was he really a Scot?
The final chapter proceeds to sketch out the events this century that led to the present impasse. The author is again restrained:
Publisher: (frantically) Do you realize it is 7.45 am on Monday 16th March? Do you realize the text of this book must be given to the printers before 12 noon in Edinburgh? And are you still in Glasgow? You've got to wrap it up fast. Say quickly why Scotland is in such a bad way nowadays. Why do you think life in Scotland is getting worse for most people?
Author: Because life for people in Britain is getting worse, except for those where capital is working - in the City of London, and the pieces of Britain its bankers and brokers want to invest in (p. 62).
Asked by his publisher whether a separate Scottish parliament will improve things, Gray replies:
I think ... a new Scottish parliament will be squabblesome and disunited and full of people justifying themselves by denouncing others - the London parliament on a tiny scale. But it will offer hope for the future. The London parliament has stopped even pretending to do that. I believe an independent country run by a government not much richer than the People has more hope than one governed by a big rich neighbour (p. 63).
The publisher's last question is 'what kind of Scotland would you like to see happening?':
Author: One where Scots mainly live by making and growing and doing things for each other. It should be possible. We have the room to do it (p. 64).
With Canongate in new hands, a question mark inevitably hangs over its commitment to issues of Scottish identity.
Gray is a writer making history. His perspective is 'that of a worker in one of the few Scottish trades in a healthier state than at the start of this century: the imaginative writing division of the luxury trade, in which Gael and Sassenach are not divided, yet from which Scotland seems a heap of disconnected parts in a steadily worsening state' (p. 60). What of the independence of art? London exerts as much pressure on Scottish artists as it does on Scottish MPs. We have to consider the restrictions placed on an author by a publisher. In an independent Scotland our parliamentary representatives would be in Edinburgh, but would our other national institutions be in Scottish hands?
Gray's intervention into the debate on Scotland's future is in keeping with a recent tradition of Scottish writing on the national question by authors who are chiefly male. The ruling discourse, the one that defines the territory, is 'his story' rather than 'herstory'. We can come back to that word 'mandate'. Given the fashion for an uncritical use of dictionaries, perhaps it is time to reach for a dictionary of our own, in this case the Concise Oxford Dictionary, or 'cod', as I prefer to call it. The entry for 'mandate' derives it from the Latin mandatum, the neuter past participle of mandare, command, from manus, hand, and dare, give. Despite its neuter root, this 'mandate', like this history, is arguably masculine, depending as it does upon forms of action that privilege men as agents of change. Parliament and pavement are spaces that lend themselves to the exercise of male power.
Independence and representation are terms that have to be unpacked as much as 'race' or 'propaganda' or 'mandate'. There is the matter of independence of author from editor and publisher, and, beyond that, there is the wider question of representation. 'Who are the Scots?' is a question that has to be supplemented by others: 'Who represents the Scots? How are they to be represented? Who speaks for Scotland?' Between Kelman's pessimistic handling of the future, rooted in the contemporary, and Gray's optimistic demand for independence, planted firmly in the past, there is a world of difference and debate, but there is also a profound complicity. Heroic and anti-heroic views of history can be reconciled. Overlapping and cross-checking, these positions mandate one another. They give each other a hand. The sharp sting of satire and the broad brushstrokes of the big picture can be drawn with equal ease. Anarchism and constitutionalism are two sides of the same coin. Both belong to the same genre - mock epic. To focus on these ways of seeing, in order to negotiate and traverse them, is to begin to respond to history's mandate.
We need to write the nation otherwise than through a sly wink or a sweep with a wide-angle lens. Cyclops and Panopticon are the two faces of Janus. No faith in parliament or blind faith in parliament, both faiths founded on the same perception. It would be naive to oppose or juxtapose the parliamentary road with 'extra-parliamentary' action. To paraphrase Derrida, there is nothing outside of parliament. There is no extra-parliament. Parliament is a pervasive system of representation, not a building that one stands before. There is, of course, a parliament greater than Westminster, one which is 'squabblesome and disunited and full of people justifying themselves by denouncing others', and it is within this larger forum that Scotland's future will be decided. In deconstructive parlance, there is no-one 'outside the argument'.