by Tara Fitzpatrick
There is a shed currently standing at venue 212 of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival which invites guests to enter, four at a time, for an hour long read through of The Chilcot Enquiry. ‘Iraq Out Loud’ is a ticketed performance art piece which intends to, as stated in the programme, ‘stage a reading of the Chilcot report. Respectfully, humbly and relentlessly…’ The aim is to have had the entire report read in full, by the public, by the time the festival draws to a close in order to keep Chilcot within the consciousness of the public and ensure people have a chance to access it.
‘The Chilcot Report, people have moved on since then when actually we shouldn’t be doing that’ said comedian Mark Thomas about the reading event.
Yet, moving on is something we’ve become good at as a nation. It is less than two months since Britain voted to leave the European Union. In the aftermath of the vote on June 23rd, events altered so often that 24 hour news channels failed to effectively contain every story. It is said that a week is a long time in politics but, when the Prime Minister’s resignation only makes it to third place in the headlines, it is clear we live in unprecedented times. Yet, already the situation has been generalised in ways unbefitting to the complexity of the reality.
Scotland’s vote to remain a member of the EU is being forgotten. There are those who, soon after the shock of June 23rd sank in, were quick to deny any sense of Scottish exceptionalism however, regardless of where one might stand on the constitutional question, the distinctively geographical differences across the UK were laid bare.
Every constituency in Scotland voted to remain a member of the European Union, statement from Nicola Sturgeon on 24th June was anticipated globally perhaps only second to that of David Cameron and while the First Minister entered talks with leaders in Brussels, the independence question was put firmly back on the table. This destabilises any assumption that the UK is divided between North and South as Scotland voted in line with those in London as well as Northern English cities. This also renders claims of Brexit as a working class fight against the establishment redundant as, where UKIP may have seduced the less well off in England and parts of Wales, Scotland has categorically rejected the sentiments of Nigel Farage and his party in favour of more specific constitutional and progressive political dialogue.
Where the EU referendum was penned as a chance for the working class to finally have their say, it was forgotten that Scotland had already invigorated the previously disengaged during the independence referendum in 2014. Scottish voters on all sides of the independence question had already shocked the system by sending 55 SNP MPs to Westminster in 2015 and brutally punishing the Labour party for their complacency. This situation in Scotland was always going to be different to that across other parts of the UK because voters North of the border would not warm to the narrow patriotism of Farage and Boris Johnson when they had already formed a political identity of their own.
Yet national media is failing to acknowledge this. ‘Brexit: Battle for Britain’ was aired on BBC One last week led by reporter Laura Kuenssberg looking at the significance of the EU vote and what it meant about British politics, society and class divisions. The programme aimed to assess the nation-wide effects of the vote and the diversity of opinion which ranged across the country. Backed by ominous music and dramatic panoramic shots of Westminster, the programme made the cataclysmic effects of Brexit seem evident from the beginning. The problem with the documentary was that it failed to mention the situation in Scotland at all throughout the hour-long broadcast.
Aside from the lack of interest this demonstrates towards voters in Scotland, the trouble with Kuenssberg’s programe lies in the complacency which it signals from the BBC and, perhaps by extension, the national media as a whole about where Scotland stands. With every failure to include, understand or show consideration for Scotland within political discourse, the value of its place within the union is undermined. This will not aid those who argue that the UK remains Scotland’s best option.
Scotland’s place in the Brexit narrative cannot be allowed to dwindle. As triumphant, patriotic tales of Olympic Gold success for Britain take over the headlines, the Brexit story is being reduced, as evident from Kuenssberg’s programme, to one of English internal turmoil. Scotland’s position eradicates the simplicity of this characterisation but, as the space for nuanced, detailed debate continues to fade, so too does the opportunity to represent the Brexit narrative in full.
We are good at moving on and perhaps it is because, in the face of continuous political shock, we feel we have to. However, as people line up outside a shed in Edinburgh to read the details of the Iraq enquiry, we must ensure that some events do not get hidden beneath the woodwork.