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19th September, 2014 – The day my country died.

19 Sep

Yesterday, my country committed the equivalent of suicide.

Scotland had a clear choice: be an outward-looking nation with a distinctive voice in the world and assume the responsibilities concomitant with that status; or be an unimportant province of a nation state that has an insular, post-imperial, small island mentality – a dwarf in a deceased giants’ shoes.

The people who voted for the latter, whether they realise it or not, voted for privilege over social justice, corruption over accountability, sentimentality over pragmatism and fear over hope. To me it is utterly incredible that 55% of my people could have fallen for such duplicity. Yet it appears they strained at every YES gnat while swallowing the whole NO camel of bald-faced lies, sly misrepresentations, empty promises, flagrant fakery and fear-mongering, which they were fed by a self-serving, political elite bolstered by a docile and biased press. I have no doubt that in 2015 we will see a veritable gala of gongs for the victorious malefactors from their grateful Westminster puppet-masters. It makes me thank God that I don’t have to live there and immensely sorry for the 45%, who voted for change, who do.

If the 55% think they have voted for the status quo, more fool them. What they perceived the status quo to be when they voted will change faster than they could ever have imagined; and not for the better. If they voted for the empty promise of further devolved powers, they were simply stupid; doubly so given the same empty promise was made in 1979. Perhaps they chose certainty over risk without understanding the risks to health, education, poverty and exclusion inherent in that certainty and must now “accept such a parody of a nation’s life as is offered”[1] by their beloved Union. Yet, doubtless, when things instead of remaining the same go from bad to worse, they will bleat like frightened sheep about how they were duped. However, I for one will not accept any complaint from that quarter. They only got what they voted for – inflicting it on the rest – and only have themselves to blame. Their right to complain is forfeit.

While I have never been a “Proud Scot”™, I was yesterday made to feel ashamed of being Scottish; to be a citizen of a country that while singing of brave deeds is too lily-livered to join the nations of the world as a mature state. Scotland became a laughingstock to the rest of the world, both to those who had seen us as heroes in a struggle for democratic change and to those who heaved a sigh of relief that their cosy elites could continue untrammelled. Where we wanted to unchain the unicorn, they have replaced it with a battery hen, and the thistle with a pansy.

My flag – the beautiful Scottish Saltire – has been reduced to a provincial flag akin to that of Castile & Leon (flown civically but not personally). Edinburgh our national capital, reduced to a provincial capital like Valladolid – a former Royal seat and National Capital, but now just the centre of a semi-autonomous province within a larger nation. The difference, of course, is that Castile & Leon has more autonomy than Scotland.

In place of the simple and beautiful, ancient Scottish flag we are supposed to embrace that dog’s dinner, that butchers’ apron, the Union Jack (which, even in the UK, is as often upside down as right way up), as a symbol of our unity (just as Catalans are supposed to with the Spanish flag). The difference, of course, is that Catalonia, unlike the Kingdom of Scotland, has never been a fully independent country.

Whereas the Saltire is (and always has been) a symbol of freedom and (during this campaign) an inclusive and all-embracing civic nationalism, the Union Jack is not – as is claimed by the BritNats – a symbol of our unity but a symbol of   the division, domination and oppression of Empire, which has its roots in an exclusive, ethnic racism, which like the nationalism that drives it, is both unrecognised and not admitted.  The whole appeal to historical sentimentality for the glory days of the two world wars, while appealing to the over 65s, who overwhelmingly voted NO for a nostalgic Britain that no longer exists, has little if any resonance with the younger generation.

The Union Jack, often crudely drawn, which is plastered across every cheap, sweat-shopped bit of tawdry tat (the equal of any tartanry), has no more (and no less) meaning to me than the EU flag, which also tries to portray unity, where more often than not there is division.

So was it all in vain? Was it all one great big waste of time, energy and money?  Of course not.  There were huge achievements from the YES side.

• They kept their integrity and did not descend to the level of the NO campaign whose slurs and smears and innuendoes served them so well.

• Political parties as diverse as the SNP, Scottish Greens, Scottish Socialists and Labour Voters for Independence were able to present a united front while the Unionist parties bickered among themselves and ignored their grass-roots.

• They were able to inspire a massive grass-roots campaign – the highest level of political engagement in living memory and beyond – which took the debate robustly and (apart from a few hotheads on both sides) good-naturedly on to the streets and into every part of daily life with a wealth of creativity, humour and enjoyment (just contrast the smiling, dancing and singing YES groups with the dour, unsmiling and reticent NO groups, some of which had to be bussed in from other parts of the UK).

• They held open meetings, where questions were encouraged and genuinely answered (no matter how daft), which were packed out; the polar opposite of NO’s closed meetings in secret locations with carefully vetted questions.

• Without groups like Radical Independence and the lead political parties encouraging participation it is doubtful whether the exceedingly high voter registration (97%), would have been achieved, which in turn led to a turnout higher than seen in over a generation.

So why does it feel like the aftermath of the election of George W. Bush in 2000?

Like in that election, canvassing suggested that Al Gore was going to win as did the exit polls, though opinion polls put the race too close to call. On Thursday, the polls put the referendum too close to call, the canvassing by YES (with precise figures) suggested a far higher YES vote than transpired as did the exit polls by YES. Little wonder then that some YES supporters believe that the results had been rigged.

Despite there being a time to weep and to mourn (and it is only right that both sides recognise the necessity of that) there is in the future, unless we wish to emulate Queen Victoria, going to again be a time to laugh and dance (Ecclesiastes 3:4).  As Martin Luther King Jr so famously said, “Let us not wallow in the Valley of Despair….even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream.” and as Professor Walter Moberly of Durham University has suggested,”...it can be salutary to remember that the reality of hope in this life may sometimes take the form of continuing just to keep putting one foot in front of the other, and not giving up.”

As so often is the case in Scottish history, we epically lost a battle, but like the Bruce or the Great Montrose, despite a sense of despondency which threatens to overwhelm us, we have not given up.  We will rise up again to fight on.

Yesterday, hope was extinguished but the dream lives on and that can, and will, reignite hope. Saor Alba!

[1] R B (Don Roberto) Cunninghame Graham (who was 1st President and co-founder of both the Scottish Labour Party (1888) and the SNP (1934)) writing in The Scots Independent (1928).

Why, YES!

2 Aug

As an emigrant I have no vote – and I think that is correct, as I no longer live in Scotland and this must be decided by those who do live and work there – but I do have a voice.  If I could have, I would have returned to Scotland this year to play whatever part I could in the campaign and to cast my vote in September.  These are my reflections as I have followed the campaigns, the news, the blogs, social media and conversations with friends.

I know that some people think that I am in the wrong camp. My demographics – middle-aged, risk-averse, white male, professional, who was privately educated (for the most part) and has completed post-graduate studies – fit perfectly the profile of a NO supporter. How could I possibly be YES?  How could I betray my very British establishment grandfather, who I adored?

All the NO voters I know personally fit the profile as they come from the same privately educated, white, well-to-do background as I did. Such education in Scotland, in my day, had a very Anglo-centric focus with our being taught English history (not Scottish), English news and opinion, English politics, and geography with maps on which large parts of the globe were still marked in pink. This was an education that still sought to inspire a sense of pride in being British and turn out good servants for God, Queen and Empire (just as they did in my grandfather’s school days), despite that Empire patently being in its death throes. It was already an anachronism.

The Scots Leid was disparaged as just a vulgar dialect of the much superior English, less worthy even than Geordie, Scouse or Brummie (which were bad enough examples of how the lower classes communicated); Gaelic was dismissed as a dying language from a less civilised age whose adherents were just a few old folk in the remotest areas. We were taught the Queen’s English replete with the requisite RP accent. We were implicitly taught that this is the way things were and always would be.

But it was, in part, this very education which led me to YES. Between the ages of 6 and 12, I was fortunate to be educated for education’s sake rather than the current trend to educate for exams. This developed in us an intellectual curiosity, which was openly fostered, and the ability to garner facts to generate a breadth of general knowledge.

This early training meant that the unexamined emotional response, which I encounter in my NO supporting acquaintances, was not enough for me. Scotland’s future is far too important to be left to some vague sentiment instilled in childhood.  But what did it mean to me to be Scottish and /or British? Given that one cannot serve two masters, which was more important to my self-identity?

Having lived most of my life outside Scotland (the land of my birth and the most formative years of my young life), along with the effects of having an American mother, I had to find my identity, be it Scottish, British, Scottish American or European, in the world early on.

When I was uprooted from my homeland, I experienced a casual English arrogance that showed itself in unwitting prejudice. The first example of this was my being put back a year in school for no other reason than I had come from Scotland; then, at the end of the year I was awarded the “Progress prize” for work I had covered 2 years earlier in Scotland.

I very soon discovered that people around me were confused (and sometimes irritated) when my world-view differed from theirs, as not having any accent, they assumed I must be English and so must espouse the same values as them. When I did try to claim my Scots heritage, I had an ever-growing sense that I was somehow being difficult and letting the side down. This feeling was reinforced by patronising or jokey comments that usually had a barb in the tail.

Through this I came to see that, for many (if not most) of the people I lived, studied and worked alongside – without malice or thought – British was merely English writ large, and folk like me were perceived to be no different from them, so we should just stop pretending otherwise and shut up about it (an attitude I see reflected in some of the comments of the “Proud Scots” in the NO camp); and that is what I tried to do.  Yet, instead of making me “British” it slowly reinforced my identity as Scottish.  I was always excited and relieved to cross the border into Scotland, feeling I had come back home (which is still the case whenever I return), and sad in equal measure when returning to England where I lived.  So imagine my ire when the claim was made that my country had been extinguished in 1707 while England had somehow continued.

The whole Unionist case struck me as backward looking, appealing to a sentiment I do not feel, and without hope of change. It claims a certainty for the future – the status quo, which it proclaims acceptable through the adoption of the slogan “UK OK” (with its dual implications that the current situation is acceptable and as good as it is going to get) – while claiming unnecessary risk for the other side, even though it is clear that following a NO vote things will get worse before they ever get better as the bulk of austerity cuts come into force, increased privatisation and Westminster’s lurch ever more to the political right.  “Better Together” for whom? Certainly not the majority of Scots!

At University, I was fortunate enough to have lecturers who encouraged us to think for ourselves and question everything, including them.  This meant that I questioned both sides of the debate, analysed what I was being presented and tried to go back to original sources (much harder to do with NO than YES).  I found that what NO were claiming to be facts were often either spin, misrepresentations or outright lies – from the hypocrisy of a Government who could settle the EU question by simply asking the EU for a ruling all the while accusing the Scottish Government of not giving an answer, to the blatant lies of Vote No Borders and Gordon Brown over the NHS (the former over specialist hospital treatment – countered by Great Ormond Street; the latter over organ donations – dispelled by a letter to an MSP from the NHSBT) – which could only make an already discontented electorate more disaffected. To add insult to injury, the blatant threat of denying an independent Scotland a share of assets (like the pound), which are supposedly held in common by this so-called “family of nations”, along with dire warnings of what would happen were the Scots to vote YES were wielded with all the intimidation of a public school headmaster’s cane.

Surely if the Union – that political union which, like a shot-gun wedding, was forced upon Scotland in 1707 as a short-term solution but which has outlived any purpose and effectiveness it once might have had – if that Union of Parliaments and countries as co-equal partners were worth saving, there would be a positive case to be made for its continuance that the NO camp would want to present in debate, without resorting to false information, which would far outweigh any possible benefit to be gained from “Project Fear”.

Yet, Better Together and the political parties in Westminster (with their Scottish branches) have, aided and abetted by a docile pro-Union press, bombarded the people of Scotland with a relentless stream of negativity and fear-mongering. Even on those occasions when something positive appears to be claimed (eg saving the NHS or pensions being safer), it is loaded to suggest that in an independent Scotland there would be a greater risk, even though, with minimal investigation, such claims can be shown to be demonstrably false (if only one can be bothered to check further than the mainstream media). The message of the NO camp, who harp back to two world wars, is at its best sentimentally backward looking and doom laden at its worst.  And then to crown it all, not content to evade debate (secret venues and vetted guest lists), they try to stifle it (trying to have YES events shut down if there is no corresponding NO event or by withdrawing speakers at the last moment).

Contrast that with enthusiastic positive message of hope emanating from the YES campaign. It is a future focused message filled with possibilities for things to be different. And while that is no guarantee that they will be, it is as welcome, in these dark days of austerity and political corruption, as a sunny day in the middle of a Scottish winter. And the Scottish people, who are hungry for information and are engaging with the debate in a way they have not engaged with politics before, are cramming the halls of the open meetings run by YES to have their questions answered.

When it comes to published information again the contrast is striking. The Scottish Government published (before the Electoral Commission deadline of 30 Nov 2013) a detailed 670 page book “Scotland’s Future“, in which it sets out what an Independent Scotland could look like, how it could prosper and how it could be more egalitarian, on the basis of known facts. The information is presented with references to a variety of sources, some governmental (generally statistics which the Scottish Government is mandated to produce) but the majority to independent (and frequently internationally respected) sources.

Set that against the UK government, which only published a 19 page analysis paper in April (some 5 months after the Electoral Commission deadline), in which there are no references for the information presented. The analysis is based on a key undeclared assumption that the neo-liberal policies of the current government are the only ones possible. This blind belief in official policy is crowned by dubious claims, presented as facts, which are misleading and even contradictory (eg Scotland would have to adopt the Euro but won’t be allowed to join the EU).  A simplified 9 page version (in which the only sources referenced are the OBR, whose track record on prediction is frankly embarrassing, and papers generated solely for the purpose of the referendum by the UK government) was published in June 2014 and distributed to every household in Scotland by Better Together.  Its misrepresentations were taken apart amusingly in a tirade by an Englishman called Bill on YouTube and more calmly and surgically by James Maxwell in the New Statesman.

The composition of the two campaigns, despite both being multi-party and claiming to be grass-roots, is strikingly different as well.

YES clearly is grass-roots. There are groups springing up all over Scotland with a wider appeal than just political affiliation to the pro-Independence parties (SNP, Scottish Greens and Scottish Socialists). The multiplicity includes: Families for Scottish Independence, Scottish Pensioners for Independence, Generation YES, Women for Scottish Independence, First Time Voters for Independence, Academics for YES, Business for Scotland; Farming for YES, Firefighters for Indendence, Lawyers for YES, Oil Workers for Scottish Independence, Yes – NHS in Scotland, Teachers for Independence, Veterans for an Independent Scotland, Christians for Independence, Scots Asians for Independence, English Scots for Independence, Poles for an Independent Scotland, EU Citizens for an Independent Scotland, Labour Voters for Independence (disowned by the Scottish (sic) Labour Party as a minority fringe group) and Liberal Democrat Voters for Independence (ignored by their party).  None  of these groups is run by YES Scotland.   Many places in Scotland have set up their own YES group and YES events. They have numerous volunteers to canvass, man shops and street stalls, as well as just gossip the message to friends, neighbours and colleagues. More and more people are wearing YES badges or putting YES posters in their windows as they get the alternative view to that peddled by NO and the mainstream media from a range of pro-independence blogs and social media.

NO’s grass-roots have been derided as “Astroturf”. Canvassing is principally carried out by politicians and political activists, with the same small groups reappearing over and over again.  Additionally, there was the embarrassment of the denouement of the supposedly Scottish grass-roots campaign Vote NO Borders, which turned out to be funded by wealthy a couple of Tory millionaires and run from London.  Further embarrassment ensued when it was demonstrated that they were using stock pictures from a Cambridge photo library in their adverts of “ordinary Scots”.  More recently, Labour has been trying to recruit activists from other parts of the UK to come up to Scotland to help with canvassing. This is much needed as there are far fewer NO groups than YES. I’m told that there are a dearth of NAW posters in window and badges in the street (but that could just be that NO voters have been terrified into hiding their voting intentions by tales of “vicious cybernats” or that they are – as one of my NO voting acquaintances openly admits he is – just embarrassed by the whole NO campaign).  Part of that embarrassment arises from the NO camp’s insistence on trying to make the referendum about Alex Salmond and the SNP rather than the issues of democracy, autonomy and social justice that Independence could offer.

Scotland has an epic choice this September between the Empire Model of the NO campaign or the Earth Community model offered by YES. Both have predictable outcomes.

Vote NO and consign Scotland to the status of a mere region of England, whose distinctive voice is disregarded and drowned out by the bellow of the rest of the UK family of nations; accept whatever government England votes for; risk being dragged out of the EU; send vast sums to London to prop up the City and English capital projects that have no benefit to Scotland while seeing the Barnett Formula slashed or abolished; renew the nuclear deterrent; permit the creeping privatisation of the NHS; acquiesce to the continued criminalisation of the poor and vulnerable and ever widening social inequality; leave ourselves unable to blame Westminster as we will have implicitly chosen their agenda as our own.

Vote YES and Scotland resumes full nationhood once more; can make her distinctive voice heard on the World stage through the UN and doubled representation in the EU; have a government that the majority of her people elected; free herself of nuclear weapons and nuclear energy; decide how best to spend her taxes and revenues for the benefit of her citizens; protect the NHS and free healthcare; and try to tackle the issues of social inequality that are crushing so many Scots. We might not be successful, but if we are not, we’ll only have ourselves to blame.

No one knows what the future holds, but we do know that it is never static and so the status quo is not on the cards (even were it morally acceptable) no matter how much the NO side promote it. The inconvenient truth for both sides is whichever way one votes there are risks – to pretend otherwise is mere hubris.

Bannockburn 700 Commemoration

24 Jun

No doubt much will be made of the 700th Anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn as ‘anti-English’. However, to do so would be, as did Ian Davidson MP in the House, to show a startling ignorance of Scottish and, therefore, British history.

First of all, Bannockburn was not so much a Battle between the Scots and the English as a power struggle between Anglo-Normans and Scotto-Normans. Combatants, on both sides, held (or had held) lands in both Scotland and England, including both the Bruce and Balliol. There were “Scots”, who were supporters of Balliol, enemies of Bruce, or who simply feared the loss of their more profitable English lands, in Edward II’s army.

Second, the Battle is not being “celebrated” as Ian Davidson put it, “mainly because Scots slew large numbers of English people”, but being commemorated because it is a date which is as key in Scottish history as 1603. Bannockburn was the start of a 14 year road to the full restoration of Scottish independence, just as 1603 was the 104 year road to its loss. Furthermore, there have been commemorations (though, admittedly, on a smaller scale) of other important battles which the Scots lost (eg Flodden 500 last year).

Third, some will cite Scotland’s unofficial National Anthem, “Flower of Scotland”, as being an anti-English song celebrating the battle. However, to do so would indicate a lack of knowledge of the lyrics. Nowhere does the song mention the English; not once. The first stanza celebrates the winning of independence; the second mourns its loss; and the third expresses hope of its restoration. It is not about the English but about Scotland, past, present and future.

Fourth, people like Davidson, so ignorant of their own nation’s history, seem to imagine that the commemoration of Bannockburn is something new, which was only dreamt up by Alex Salmond to bolster the Independence referendum. The reality is that there were Bannockburn rallies in the 1930s (and even earlier commemorations by advocates of Home Rule). These rallies with their accompanying picnic, which were always well attended, were a highlight in the nationalist calendar with orators such as Don Roberto giving fiery speeches before distinguished guests such as the Duke of Montrose.

On the other hand, the cynical celebration of the start of the Great War (or WWI as it later became more commonly known) is an entirely new phenomenon dreamt up by the ConDem coalition to counter any supposed benefit the YES campaign might gain from Bannockburn. Had Davidson been correct in his assertion, one would naturally surmise that the “celebration” (Prime Minister David Cameron’s word) of the start of WWI (costing some £50m in a time when the government claims it cannot afford basic welfare) must be to celebrate the Allied Forces killing 4 million people from the Central Powers.  Furthermore, whereas Bannockburn broke the dominance of the English monarchy in the affairs of Scotland and led to the Declaration of Arbroath and the 1328 Treaty of Edinburgh-Northampton, the Great War achieved little except for the fall of a few Crowns and, far from being “The War to End All Wars” was only resolved by a second World War that affected almost 4 times as many countries worldwide.  Truly, something to celebrate!

The organisers of the event at Bannockburn this weekend have done their best to make the event a-political. This is sensible as, being a central part of a Year of Homecoming, it is directed as much (if not more so) at the Scots Diaspora as folk in Scotland.  Politicisation has come, however, not from the Nationalists or Yes campaign but from the Labour-Tory alliance on Stirling Council, who tried to organise a competing 3 day event, which they hadn’t the resources to run properly. How Stirling’s Armed Forces Day will play out is moot but the Bannockburn 700 event promises to be spectacular and fun (and I’m absolutely gutted that I can’t now be there!).

So, on this 700th anniversary, let’s lay politics aside and proudly commemorate Bannockburn for its historical importance to the people of Scotland (and to those of the Diaspora), whether YES, NO or DON’T KNOW.

Challengers View – Reflections on the Lyon’s Decision

18 Apr

Now that the dust has settled a bit and I have had time to reflect on the decision, I’m putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) to give my perspective on the particulars of the case.  But first there are a number of people I need to thank.

First, thanks to Leslie Kenyon for all her research and hard work in trying to find a chief and her support and loyalty to me; second, to Mark Dennis for his making the process intelligible and putting forward a credible argument; third, thanks to Dave Pickens for putting me in touch with Romilly Squire and for his courteous and friendly neutrality; to Romilly Squire for encouraging me to transcribe the entail, giving me his opinion and liaising with Sir George Way of Plean; to Sir George for setting it up for me to engage the Ormond Pursuivant;  to C Stevens Cunningham for his chairing the Skype discussion between Sir John and me, during which, on reflection,  the battle lines were probably drawn; to Pat, Sheréll, Phil and Alex (the last who also deputised for me on the Council of Scottish Armigerous Clans & Families), to Blaine Berkowitz, Sketraw, Christopher Robert Bruce, Rodger Moffet and Malcolm Buchanan, who were always there for me when I needed support with kindness and words of encouragement.

Looking back to when I was first approached in 2009 – a time during which I was still settling into Spain – I was surprised that there were no better candidates than me for chief as my family had never been approached before.  I was told by a number of separate sources that the most obvious candidate for chief, Sir John Montgomery Cuninghame, Baronet of Corsehill, had declined to be so recognised when approached by David Pickens.  It was for this reason that Leslie Kenyon (who at that time bridged the two American Clan Societies) started to research other lines that might be eligible.

Leslie’s research revealed that my line was not only the closest to the last chief, John 15th Earl of Glencairn, but it appeared that from the terms of an entail of 1709, that William, 12th Earl, had intended his arms and dignities to pass along with the Finlaystone Estates to my ancestors.  I had been unaware of the exact terms of this entail, though it was the basis under which we had adopted the Cunninghame surname in addition to that of Graham in 1796, and by which my grandfather was able to place the Cunninghame Shakefork in the third quarter of his arms.  Though the task of transcribing it was arduous, it was also enlightening.  One of those enlightening aspects was the conspicuous absence of the Corsehill line from the entail.

By the Autumn of 2009, I had the backing of Clan Cunningham International and Leslie was in discussions with the Lord Lyon  and Sir Crispin Agnew of Lochnaw Bt QC, the Rothesay Herald, as to whether I had a plausible case and how I should proceed.  One of the requirements was to write to all other possible candidates for chief.  All but one wrote back to Leslie giving their blessing; the one objector was Sir John Montgomery Cuninghame of Corsehill, who was to later write to her, “You set out to find the true heir and although things will turn out rather differently from what you anticipated you should not be upset, because without your work and persistence nothing would have happened.” (e-mail 5th October, 2009, emphasis mine). Thus, despite his claim to be the de facto Head of the House of Cunningham on the grounds of being the “senior baron”, he admits that without my candidacy he would have done nothing to remove the clan from its armigerous status.

It should be noted that at no time did anyone (including Sir John himself) make any mention of his promise to formalise his “position as Head of the Family” if the Clan so wished, as stated in his Message to The Officers of Clan Cunningham International (which appeared on the website in January 2014 and also in the Unicorn and on the Facebook page). Even more astonishingly, further on in the same message he makes the astounding claim that:

“After a few months of preparation I was confident that the matter would be settled in a further two or three months. However a Respondent appeared and both my lawyers and the Lyon’s office had to consider the matter much more rigorously.”

As is apparent from his e-mail to Leslie (in which he also refer’s to “Robin’s candidacy” and putting “the RCG issue to bed“), he was well aware of my being on the scene before he ever lodged his petition [1].  Furthermore, in November, 2009, (following his having met with Lyon Sellars) we had a four way SKYPE meeting between Sir John and me (chaired by C Stevens Cunningham with Alex Cunningham as observer) in which it was agreed that we would both petition (the  Lyon Clerk later advised me that this was not the correct procedure and I should wait for Sir John to petition, as he had already started, and then lodge an objection).

Following the SKYPE meeting, Sir John moved quickly to a) engage Sir Crispin; b) lodge a rushed (and in my opinion very sloppy) petition to the Lyon Court in March 2010: and c) let it be known that he would win because he would outspend me (though he made absolutely no mention at any time of his intention to claim costs were he to win).  This left me the less envious role of challenger and without benefit of counsel.

It is not the easiest task to find a herald if one is unfamiliar with the Lyon Court and it took me the best part of a year, which delayed my lodging my challenge.  However, as the  Lyon’s Interlocutor, to which I responded by lodging my objections as I was enjoined, was not issued until February 2011, the delay was by the by.

Being obliged to take the role of challenger also meant that, despite there being some serious concerns about Sir John’s motives and his not having an obvious heir, I was deemed to be in the wrong for testing my right to arms that I understood (erroneously, in the judgement of Lyon Sellars,  it turns out) had been passed to my family by Earl William’s entail.  Thus, some people, who had welcomed my appearance as a candidate in 2009, now became quite upset.  They now viewed me as an interloper who, rather than working for the good of the clan, was at best delaying proceedings or at worst trying to split it (echoing Sir John’s view in his message to the Officers of CCI quoted above).

However, there were at least as many who continued to support me, and as time passed, more and more gave me their tacit approval.  I tried always to be a gentleman, give credit where due, be cooperative, and to act in a chiefly way rather than just wait passively.  For me it was all about duty and service to the House of Cunningham, irrespective of personal cost; for Sir John, so it seems to me, my claim was an invidious challenge to his “birthright” and an unwanted pressure to take action.

The long process was lengthened by Sir John’s highly unusual and unnecessary (as it added nothing new) demand for a third set of answers and responses (without which things could have been settled a year earlier!), to which I agreed as a matter of courtesy (just as I had, out of courtesy) made my transcription of the entail – worth over £500 – available to his legal team without cost).  This unnecessary extension was further complicated by a 6 month delay between the request by Sir John and the receipt of his answers, followed by a similar delay on my side (in Ormond’s defence, he is a full time Tribunal Judge and only a part time herald who, unlike Sir Crispin, had no solicitors to support him).  As a gesture of goodwill, I offered Sir John a compromise: I recognise him as Chief and he recognise me as his heir for Head of Family.  This would have curtailed costs, sped up the decision and ensured a successor.  Sir John rejected it out of hand.

Finally, in 2013 (some 4 years after I was first approached and had talked to Sir John), dates were set for a meeting between the two parties, for the submission of arguments and the presentation of cases before Lyon, who had promised to give his decision before his retirement.  This he did on 18th December, 2013.

Where some had been upset that I challenged Sir John, others were equally upset that I kept my promise not to contest the decision when it went against me.  This promise was based on two practical premises:  1) it would unnecessarily further delay the process of appointing a chief and, thus, leave the clan in its armigerous state indefinitely; and 2) it was highly unlikely that there would be any grounds that stood a chance of winning a judicial review in the Court of Session (for which I would have had to pay both my costs and those of the Lyon, thus throwing bad money – which I don’t have anyhow – after good), which, indeed, on reading the judgement proved to be the case.  It had already cost me dear both in time and money and, now, may well cost yet more as Sir John has lodged a motion (to be heard in the Lyon Court) to recover costs arising from my challenge to his petition from me (knowing full well I haven’t the money).  I have it on  good authority that, while this is his right as victor, it his is highly unusual in cases such as this in the Lyon Court, where it is normally only used when there has been an abuse of the system.

So, most importantly, what does the Lyon decision actually mean for the House of Cunningham, apart from the obvious that it recognises Sir John as Chief of the Arms and Name of Cunninghame and removes it from being armigerous?

First, it means that Sir John, once he has been granted the arms can pursue his claim for the dormant Earldom of Glencairn (providing he can objectively prove his genealogy, something that he has thus far singularly failed to do), which is, in my opinion (based on our one and only conversation), his true motive for wanting to become chief – I unreservedly apologise to him if I have misjudged him, but my view was independently corroborated by one of his  clansmen who informed me that Sir John “valued the Earldom far more than the Chieftaincy“.  (I suspect the reason Sir John did not petition the Lyon for the dormant Earldom is that the Rothesay Herald advised him that his case might well not pass the stricter genealogical requirements; and, indeed, as the Lyon notes in his judgement, “I should emphasise, however, that no proofs were laid before this Court regarding the right of succession to the Earldom of Glencairn.”)

The worry that the House of Cunningham might gain an indifferent chief was also voiced by C. Stevens Cunningham (who, at that time, was Vice President of CCI) in an e-mail to Sir John and me ( 23 October, 2009) in which he wrote, “I hope that you, Robin and Sir John have given some thought about you role within the clan beyond the mere title of Chief of Clan Cunningham.  We do not seek an individual to be a Clan Chief in name only.“.  It is my hope that Sir John will have taken this message to heart and will prove to be more than just a remote figurehead.

Second, the ruling is very clear that based on Lyon’s interpretation of the entail, our failure to matriculate the arms within a reasonable time (despite it being within the Kintoul Captivity), in the eyes of the Lyon Court,  I am a Graham and not a Cunningham and thus have no claim to any role within the House of Cunningham.  Lyon Sellars decision effectively rules that my line is permanently excluded from ever becoming chief.  Given this fact, Sir John’s age, and his removal of my line from the succession, I think it is incumbent on him to now announce a successor so as to dispel the fear that the House of Cunningham will revert to its armigerous state on his death, thus, forcing the clan to start its search from scratch for a different chiefly line.

Third, I cannot take any leadership or active role within the House of  Cunningham (even were Sir John to permit it, which I sincerely doubt) as it would now be inappropriate.  While Clan Cunningham was armigerous, I did not have to choose between clans (one can only belong to one as it is as much about allegiance to the chief as it is blood); but now Lyon has made it clear that by both blood and arms he considers me to be a Graham and not a Cunningham and so my allegiance must be to Montrose (there not being any Mentieth chief).  So, I must step back and let the new chief take on his duty untrammelled by a failed pretender.  I will, though, continue to take a keen interest in both Clan Cunningham International and the House of Cunningham and hope one day to be able to meet up with folk at one of the clan tents.

Lastly, I am glad that I had the opporunity to meet so many wonderful Cunninghams, some of whom have remained good friends, on my way through this costly and arduous process; and to the new chief and all Cunninghams everywhere, I wish you well for the future.

[1] I had written him an introductory e-mail on the 16th September, 2009, in response to his having objected.  The e-mail is reproduced here:

W R B Cunninghame Graham

Sir John Montgomery-Cuninghame, CC: David Pickens

16/09/2009

Dear Sir John

I thought I ought to make contact and introduce myself as we are, apparently rivals (I hope amicable) for the chiefship of the Cunningham family.  This was not something I sought, but was willing to take on if that were my duty.

It came as a complete surprise to me when I was contacted by a member of the two Clan Societies in the USA and given information about the 12th Earl’s entail and it’s implications with regard to the clan gaining its first officially recognised chief since the death of John, 15th Earl.  Until that time, I was unaware of the contents of the entail, though I imagined there must have been one for the Finlaystone Estate to have passed to my family. 

At that stage, I did enquire as to whether there wasn’t a nearer heir, but was told that I had the best claim, a point which I understand is now being investigated by Sir Crispin Agnew on behalf of Clan Cunningham International.  I’m sorry if this has disconcerted you – if it has, I would find that entirely understandable – but would like to assure that it was not by any malice on my part towards you or your honourable family.

I have had several conversations with David Pickens (a delightful Southern gentleman) and exchanged e-mails with C Stevens Cunningham and Leslie Kenyon (also with Jack Cunningham, who until recently was an officer in Clan Cunningham of America and Keith Cunningham Grahame – no relation –  in Ireland).  Like you, I have been asked to be part of the advisory council to CCI and have accepted that role.

I have not yet approached Larry Augsbury for reasons that I think are obvious to both of us.  It appears to me that he is oblivious to the fact that his actions are damaging to the good name of Cunningham, which he claims so vigorously to defend, and that he is out of touch with his membership, who wish to see a chief in place.  Personally, I think it is very sad that someone who has given so much to the family has so lost his way.

Anyway, this e-mail is longer than I intended.  I look forward to working with you on the advisory group and in the best interests of Clan Cunningham worldwide. 

Yours respectfully

Robin

Out of Touch Cameron Begs rUK to Lovebomb Scotland

8 Feb

Having had time to think through the “wee feartie’s” speech, delivered from the safety of London, here are my thoughts:

This Government has set out a long-term economic plan for Britain, getting behind enterprise, dealing with our debts, a plan to give the people of this country peace of mind and security for the future.

I’m sure that for his pals from Eton and the Bullington Club, there is peace of mind and security for the future, but for too many there is no peace of mind or security for the future as they face unemployment, foodbanks, bedroom tax and the hounding of the weakest and most vulnerable in society.  While that may be acceptable to Tories – there are more Pandas in Scotland than Tory MPs – it is not acceptable to the majority of Scots who have rejected the Tories in both Westminster and Holyrood.

He also ignored the fact that the economic benefits of independence have been repeatedly shown to be greater than those of remaining in the UK (eg see the FT article, OECD Factbook), especially given that the Westminster parties have said that they will scrap the Barnett Formula in the event of a NO vote and the promise of further £25bn of austerity cuts.  Missing was any mention of oil, which if the Barnett Formula is scrapped (as Westminster have stated is their wish), will add greatly to UK finances as little will get back to Scotland.

While Britain may have greater clout in the world, it doesn’t extend to Scotland as the democratic will of the Scottish people is negated by the in-built majority and centrality of the interests of the city-state of London.   As DEVO Max was removed by Cameron from the options, the only way for Scotland to get more powers is to vote YES in September.  Furthermore, an independent Scotland would have twice as many MEPs as it currently has, thus, in Europe our clout is actually reduced by membership of the UK.  Either way, there is a hypocrisy in the attitude of Cameron regarding his desire to keep Scotland in the UK with no renegotiation, but his willingness to take the UK out of the EU if he does not get the renegotiations he wants from the other 28 member states.

The only threat to “connections between people”, connexions which existed long before the Acts of Union in 1707, comes from the Unionist side who claim that we will be expelled from the EU, NATO, etc, that they want to erect border posts and treat Scots  as “foreigners” if they dare to vote for the right to run their own affairs .  Despite Portugal winning her independence from Spain, Norway breaking free from Denmark, Belgium rejecting Dutch rule, or even British-American relations, there are still marriages, families in the other country, trade and joint defence between  each of these nations.  It should also be remembered that Scotland and England’s separate history is as long as their joint history.

As for the impact of UK culture, in my experience (especially from abroad), it is that so called “British” culture  is principally “English culture” to which the rest of the home nations are meekly expected to conform.  This view is borne out by the Prime Minister’s claim that his favourite childhood book, which he is so desperate to pass on his 3 children, was “Our Island Story”, which is in fact subtitled  “A History of England for Boys and Girls“.   This glaring Freudian slip reveals how Cameron really views Scotland – as a part of  England; and Britain as merely England writ large.  This view is not something that is likely to make Scots wish to remain in the UK!

Cameron’s listing of UK-wide institutions and icons is equally suspect.

The  BBC, which  has shown    itself to be a  tool of the  Westminster  government  through its  biased reporting  of the  independence debate thus far, as has now been demonstrated by the independent research carried out by the University of the West of Scotland, is losing the respect of the Scottish people along with the English owned “National” press.

The NHS is not UK-wide and never has been.  Scotland has (and always has had) a completely separate NHS from England & Wales – the only way that the Scottish NHS can be protected is through voting YES; and the armed forces have, in Scotland, been disproportionately cut in relation to other parts of the UK under Cameron’s government.  In fact, it has recently been revealed that the MoD is reduced to using Twitter to obtain information about Scottish coastal waters.   Let us not forget that, during the time of his mentor, Thatcher, the only successful British Steel plant, Ravenscraig, was closed to try and save English Tory votes.

And just since when has Scotch Whisky been a British cultural icon?  The name Scotch makes it clear that it is a Scottish icon (like the kilt and the bagpipes!).  While we are on the subject of whisky, there was more nonsense about British Embassies promoting it (they did nothing for St Andrew’s Day last year and charge for promotion days!);  it is clear that Cameron’s real interest is the £135/sec that Scotch Whisky brings to the UK Balance of Trade, which EWNI will lose if Scotland becomes independent.

Hypocritically, Call me Dave has the audacity to quote Mandela, a man his party wanted hanged as a terrorist, who said,  “I have great respect for British political institutions, and for the country’s system of justice. I regard the British Parliament as the most democratic institution in the world…”.  Mandela made that comment in 1964, long before the merging of policy which made the Conservative and Labour parties almost indistinguishable; before the exceptionally punitive sentencing of English rioters in 2011; and he never had to live in Scotland under that “most democratic institution” where the electoral will of the people is ignored in favour of English voters.  Of course, in comparison to the South African institutions and systems that imprisoned Mandela, his comments are understandable. Cameron’s speech makes me think that an alternative view, from a 19th century member of the House of Commons, is more apposite: “…that smuggest and most Philistine of legislative assemblies – the British House of Commons.” [1]

Yet again Cameron trotted out the spurious, negatively emotive “separation” in an attempt to imply that the aim of independence is alienation rather than the very normal desire for “self-determination” which is what independence is actually about.   As a great man once said: “Every nation since the beginning of the world, has preferred, and rightly, indifferent government by one of its own citizens, to any rule, however beneficial, imposed from the outside.” [2]   How much more preferable when the Scottish government is so much better than the far from beneficial one imposed by Westminster?  Dave’s reiterating his plaintive dirge that the decision would “be forever” is meaningless as I cannot find any country in the world, which once having gained independence, has begged to return to their previous vassal state.

As for his phone a friend plea: he couldn’t sound more desperate and more out of touch if he tried (notice that the first question was about the flooding in Somerset, showing how little independence matters to the average non-Scot).  Little wonder the Better Together campaign cringe whenever Cameron opens his mouth on the topic of Scottish Independence and are so supportive of his refusal to debate with Salmond, who, after all, doesn’t have to quote Mandela or embarrassingly mimic Martin Luther King, to get his message across.

To reduce a country as ancient and proud as Scotland to a mere brand, even the suppposedly “powerful brand” UK, is to add insult to injury! Currently, Scotland is so submerged in the  GB that it is almost as invisible to the rest of the world as the waters of the River Tweed are to a casual observer 5 miles out into the North Sea! and that will always be the case when the smug, self-satisfied, Westminster elite confound Britain with England as Cameron does.

The plain fact is that, without Scotland, EWNI’s place in the world would be diminished, but Scotland’s would be enhanced.  Cameron knows this and it gives him the collywobbles.

[1]  R B Cunninghame Graham, “A Plea” in The Nail and Chainmakers, Labour Platform Series (1888)

[2]   R B Cunninghame Graham, “José Antonio Páez“, London: William Heinemann (1929), p 217

The ‘kama’ of hate is a double-edged weapon

23 May

As fast as the insulting sites are taken down, they are replaced and new, even more insulting ones created.  This suggests that the person responsible is either unemployed or has had his/her business so damaged that they have endless time to make up their lies and litter the net with them.

The aim of the attack – which from its nature  (ie trying to make me out to be a Spanish fake laird/clan chief) would clearly seem to indicate that the perpetrator is involved in the sale of souvenir plots with the hook of a fake title – is to discredit me through being a fake, a hypocrite or just an idiot.   However, as there is no credible evidence on which to base either charge, my stalker has had to create completely fictitious, ridiculous claims that even a tabloid journalist would shun.

Finding that his/her attacks on me have not had the desired effect s/he had hoped for, s/he has turned to attacking other members of my family, including minors and ancestors.  This shows just how low this inadequate individual will stoop to protect his/her dodgy business interests.  This accords with the complete lack of scruples witnessed in the business practices of  Highland Titles (see Highland Titles Scam, Lochaber Highland Estate Blog, Scots-Titles) which are increasingly being hauled up short by the advertising authorities (4 times since Sept 2012 ).

In the most recent attack, the person responsible has taunted me as if it is some kind of a game that I should be enjoying.   What I am enjoying is the knowledge that my campaign against these scammers is far more effective than they will ever admit.

Whoever is attacking me thinks a lot of themselves: they obviously seem to think that they are some kind of superior being.  Sadly, they are not.  They are just small-minded, immature, amoral, spiteful  people whose attacks say far more about them that they ever do about me.

It has been said that when your opponent’s case is in tatters they move from debate to ridicule and then to smears as they have nothing left in their armoury except vain attempts to discredit.

Do I hate them?  No doubt, they hope I do; but I don’t.  I feel sorry for them.

Aside

Still the attacks go on – I’ve had

3 May

Still the attacks go on – I’ve had to get a Google+ account, despite not wanting one, to lodge a complaint against the person who has tried to steal my identity.  The supposed poetry blog is clearly the work of an immature obsessive who still doesn’t get the message: “Bullying doesn’t work with me”.  On the contrary it just makes me all the more determined.  The latest one has a forged newspaper article (a trick for which Highland Titles are famous and which was mentioned in an article in Private Eye – issue 1339  -“The ASA gives a limp-wristed slap to a firm selling fake lairdships” ) and which as that article suggests formed a complaint to the ASA which was informally resolved when Highland Titles agreed to remove all newsfeed.ws cloned and doctored articles from their website.  The fake article attacking me has been sent to the newspaper whose page had been doctored.