Pearl of Tyburn: Coming to us from Glasgow, Scotland, we have Mr. Alistair McConnachie, founder of the pro-UK project "A Force for Good", involving a Unionist website that publishes regular articles and speeches, an online store, video outreach work, pro-UK graphic creation, and street activism. Hello, Mr. McConnachie.
Alistair McConnachie: Hello. Thanks for the interview.
P.T.: You're most welcome. Could you please tell me a little something about your background and outline what national/cultural/religious identities you may have?
A.M.: I'm British. Family background is Church of Scotland. I love the United Kingdom, and have loved it since my childhood. I'm upset at the extent to which separatism has caught on in Scotland, and I'm doing what I can to keep Britain united for the good of all.
P.T.: When did you start taking an active role in Unionism, and what was the inspiration behind it? Also, have you had any other involvement in politics?
A.M.: I began taking an active role in the No to Separation campaign when I launched the website, “A Force for Good”, on 21 March, 2012. I was inspired to do something because the No campaign up to that point did not appear to be happening!
I've been involved in UK politics actively since the General Election in 1997. I've stood for election at European, British, Scottish and Council levels. I also published the only monthly, non-party anti-EU newsletter in the UK - and the only one in Scotland of any kind - for 10 years, 120 consecutive monthly issues. It was called "Sovereignty".
P.T.: What do you think of the comparison between the Yes and No campaigns? What's your opinion on the way things are progressing in both camps thus far?
A.M.: The official No Campaign, “Better Together”, does a decent job of getting people onto the street to do stalls, leafleting and canvassing. But I am very concerned at the moment that BT and the Labour and Liberal Democrat politicians associated with it are in danger of winning the short-term battle for a No vote on 18 September, but are likely to provide the means for the separatists to bounce back the very next day. This is because Labour, Lib Dems, and their colleagues in the official BT campaign are obsessing far too much with delivering "more powers" for the Scottish Parliament.
That is exactly what the separatists want. So even if they are defeated, the long term path will have been paved for them by the Labour and Lib Dem parties. This would be catastrophic and will almost certainly see the separatists back for another referendum the very next time they win governing control of the Parliament, which could be in 2016. I wrote about this extensively here: http://www.aforceforgood.org.uk/devo/dm5
P.T.: Don't you think the Scottish people as a whole will be pretty sick of "neverendums" by 2016 and not eager to start the process again?
A.M.: That’s not how it works. Politicians in power do what they want, whether the public wants it or not. The nationalists will not sit about "for a generation". They will always grasp any opportunity, without regard for the public's concerns.
P.T.: What would be your suggestion as a way to prevent this resurgence of separatism and keep nationalist politicians from trying to launch another referendum?
A.M.: We must concentrate on winning overwhelming. 70-30 at the bare minimum. However, it could be a lot higher than this. The UK is a wonderful product. There is a hard core of separatists, possibly 1 in 5. Their vote should be driven right down to that level. That can be done easily by concentrating on the greatness of Britain and Britishness and by capturing the public's imagination with great policies for the UK.
However, muddling the debate with more constitutional changes will only confuse the public and lose us votes. So the first thing is to win overwhelmingly and we will not be able to do that if we are confusing the debate with "more powers". Once we have won, we want to have created the circumstances where the nationalists should split, fall out, and consume themselves, politically speaking. However, if we offer them more powers, they will regenerate themselves very quickly.
P.T.: What's your opinion of Alex Salmond and his campaign?
A.M.: My own feeling is that Salmond never really expected to be in the position he finds himself in now. He runs a very tight ship. All the SNP MSPs obey him. His followers are almost cult-like in adoration. If they lose in September, they could implode badly, which is what we want to see - although as I say, many in the Labour and Lib Dem parties are doing their best to lay out a nice bouncy bed for the SNP to fall onto.
P.T.: What do you think SNP politicians stand to gain from all this should they win? And what do you think of the Scottish Parliament in general?
A.M.: Good questions. Nobody will benefit if Scotland breaks away from the rest of the UK. A lot of the people who vote SNP do not really understand the consequences of so doing. They don't understand that a vote for the SNP is not just a vote to try to make the buses run on time, but it is a vote for a party which has a hard core of strongly anti-British people who make the policies and set the social and cultural agenda. They don't have any points which cannot be addressed by good government at a UK level.
Remember, prior to 1999 we did not have a Parliament in Edinburgh. Somehow everybody managed to get on just fine. Houses and new towns were built, trains ran, hospitals worked and education was very good. The whole idea that we even needed "devolution" was actually nonsense - a Labour Party ploy to try to counteract the SNP - yeah, that worked out!
P.T.: How do you think so many people became so "anti-British"? A lot of them claim it's somehow historically based, but Scottish involvement in British history puts paid to that theory. What do you think is the genesis of some of these vitriolic emotions?
A.M.: I wouldn't say "so many" in the UK are anti-British (can't speak for the USA). Certainly there are quite a few in the SNP who fit that description, though. Historical hang-ups seem to factor heavily if examples on social media are anything to go by. Some of these Scots have also got slightly weird hang-ups about the English too - tied into historical grievance, and classist prejudice.
Some of them cannot make the distinction between "Britain" and "England" either, and they mistakenly conflate England with Britain. I'm on a mission to encourage us all to understand and appreciate our shared British identity - which is a Great identity. I gave a speech about it recently and it already has 1,300 Facebook Likes, which is not insubstantial http://www.aforceforgood.org.uk/shared/british1
P.T.: That's great, congratulations on your work and the response.
P.T.: What do you think about this referendum trying to connect with the 700th anniversary of Bannockburn, and how would you answer the charge of “corruption” regarding the Act of Union in 1707?
A.M.: Separatists are more prone, than people like me, to get excited about a war 700 years ago. Hopefully, though, very few people will base their decision on the rights and wrongs of that period. Similarly, the Act of Union in 1707. The charge of "selling out" has been overplayed.
However, even if the political behaviour of some of the people involved included elements of self-interest, then I can certainly overlook that because it set in motion a train of events which would lead to the creation of the wonderful United Kingdom! Separatists have a tendency to live in the past. They get upset at what happened in 1707 without thinking about the 307 years since then. It is as if those 307 years never happened.
P.T.: So what would your comments be on the Act of Union in general? Also, in brief, what is your reaction to the claim that the current Scottish monarchy is “illegitimate” because of the Jacobite Rebellions? I’m thinking of Hazel Whyte, folk-singer, in particular!
A.M.: My comments in general on the Act of Union? As the kids would say, "It was the Shiznit". My reaction to the claim of "illegitimacy" would be, *Rolls Eyes*. Hazel Whyte, never heard of her and by the sound of it I don't want to.
P.T.: What is "Shiznit"?
A.M.: You're an American. You've never heard of the expression. I don't think it is anything except a funny phrase.
P.T.: So.....it was funny?
A.M.: No, it was Most Excellent, Dude!
P.T.: Okay, like, supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!
A.M.: Fandabidozi. By Jove, I think she's got it!
P.T.: Who do you think are a few important historical characters for Unionists to remember and bring up when the Nationalists claim "Scottishness" and "Britishness" are somehow opposed and always have been?
A.M.: Admiral Duncan, Nelson's mentor. David Livingstone and Mary Slessor, whose morality found an outlet through the British Empire. David Stirling, the Founder of the SAS. That's four who occur off the top of my head.
P.T.: With your well-rounded knowledge of British history, do you feel that some motions pictures (such as Braveheart, The Patriot, Rob Roy, The Last of the Mohicans, etc.) have helped bolster the nationalist agenda by vilifying Britain as a whole and creating a false sense of historical identity that some people like to associate themselves with?
A.M.: I haven't seen any of the films you mention, although I have Braveheart and Rob Roy in my DVD collection and must watch them one day. My impression is that Braveheart has been influential. Certainly, generally speaking, all films are culturally and socially influential in society, and often not in a good way. I am a keen student of film for those reasons. Also, a lot of films are "good" technically but "bad" morally. I'd like to write a lot more on this one day.
P.T.: I completely agree with you about the "good" tech/ "bad" moral elements in films. I would always rather watch a laid-back, heart-felt, middle-to-low budget movie with an excellent plot and full-bodied characters than a glitz-and-glitter epic with cheap stories and characters.
Speaking of films, I've watched quite a few of your own YouTube videos and enjoyed them very much, especially the one about William Wallace and another about the Glasgow RAF pilots.
A.M.: Thanks, the one on William Wallace has close to 1,400 views now. We wanted to do many more this year, but have not been able to raise the funding so far. Anyone who wants to watch them can go to YouTube/UKaForceForGood.
P.T.: What inspired you to take up the camcorder and hit the streets? And who do you have helping you with production and filming?
A.M.: It was a friend of mine who suggested it. I'm very glad he did because it is a great medium. Once I decided to do it, though, it was a big commitment. It required considerable expense to get the (near to) top of the range equipment, as well as to dedicate time to learning the skill, which includes editing the film. The next video is going to be me doing a straight to camera piece. We've acquired the indoor lights and reflectors and are ready to go. I've got so many ideas for short films, I'm glad to say. I won't run out of inspiration.
P.T.: You mentioned to me previously that you actually shot a film today. What was it about?
A.M.: A colleague and I took a fabulous Union Jack up a hill outside Glasgow which overlooks Loch Lomond and Ben Lomond. We have made a stand which we peg into the ground. I filmed it - I have a very good prosumer camera - fluttering in the breeze with such beautiful scenery behind it. It looked awesome. Look out for various cuts of the film making an appearance in my YouTube videos. Video work is something I want to get into a lot more, but have been limited to date through lack of funds.
P.T.: Switching topic, what do you think about security and the armed forces, and the future of Scotland without the British army?
A.M.: The British Armed Forces are one of the ways in which a sense of Britishness is transmitted throughout the United Kingdom. This was especially the case about 35 years ago when there were still many local regiments throughout the United Kingdom, recruited locally. Unfortunately, both Conservative and Labour parties have run down the Armed Forces and much of the local regimental structure has been destroyed. All this has a negative impact upon Britishness.
I believe in spending more on the Armed Forces. I'm especially pleased to see the building of two new aircraft carriers - both of which are being built in Scotland. We need more of this if the UK is to continue to be militarily strong. Relatively speaking, the British Armed Forces, depleted though they are, are still among the world's finest and have the furthest "reach" of any military forces in the world, with the exception of the USA. We have very far-reaching diplomatic links, and bases throughout the world as a consequence of our former Empire. All the remaining "British Overseas Territories" are all very strategically located. A separated Scotland would lose all of this, and for no gain.
P.T.: Do you have any personal or family connections to the military yourself? My grandfather was an army man, American of course!
A.M.: I was born to an Army family in Hong Kong, and my father remained in the Army for the first 5 or so years of my life. My grandfather on my father's side was a Captain in the Royal Marines during WW2.
P.T.: What's your opinion on the monarchy and its relationship with the union? Also, I watched a speech from her Silver Jubilee in which she spoke out in favor of preserving the union. Even though she is officially "apolitical", do you think she might speak out again leading up to September?
A.M.: I'm a supporter of the British Monarchy. The speech at the Silver Jubilee was only a very subtle mention, and it is arguable if it was deliberate. No, I don't think she will speak out prior to September. I would like to see the next Royal Baby, God Willing, born in Scotland. That would be a wonderful apolitical statement for the United Kingdom. The last Royal to be born in Scotland was Princess Margaret. I have always advocated that Royal Babies should be born in a rota fashion in England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Wales.
P.T.: What’s your opinion on David Cameron and his encouraging English people to call their Scottish friends and relatives to urge them to stay in the Union?
A.M.: I'm all for that. Anyone who is British has a stake in this and their voices should and need to be heard, although only people resident and registered to vote in Scotland will be able to vote on the day.
P.T.: But do you think it might look a bit "forced" or have an opposite effect on people north of the border?
A.M.: No, not if it is done as just part of their normal activity, whether on Facebook, or friends at work, or speaking to the family on the telephone and so on. What he is saying really, is "This is important. It affects us all. Make sure you get involved." People in the rest of the UK who want to help can also donate money. I would urge them to help my efforts at aForceForGood.org.uk (details on the site).
P.T.: I think Cameron was also taking the example of Canadians in the last Quebec independence referendum, and their basic “plea” that Quebec would stick it out and stay in the country. What do you think about the continuing strain in Quebec over separation, and what parallels can be drawn with Scotland?
A.M.: The parallel is not particularly close since British Canada is culturally (and ethnically) distinct from French Canada in a way that Scotland and England is not. I do note, though, that British Canada has not benefited in any way by appeasing them and their language laws. That is a lesson when dealing with these people in Scotland. For separatists "too much is never enough", and is always "too little too late".
P.T.: What’s your opinion on “Scotland’s Oil”, as well as the Nationalist complaints about the “rape” of Scottish land?
A.M.: The people who are "raping" Scottish land right now are the so-called SNP government, its supporters, and the people who voted for it, who promote and who have facilitated the mass desecration of the Scottish landscape with wind turbines. That is truly a crime against the environment. As for “Scotland’s Oil”, well, it is Britain's Oil. The idea of hoarding it for "Scotland" is ridiculous and selfish.
P.T.: How do you think a “Yes” vote might be emotionally affecting for the Scottish people, especially those with familial and business ties that transcend the border? (Sounds a little bit like the plot of Passport to Pimlico!)
A.M.: Emotionally, separation would be very upsetting for all the people in Scotland who have a British identity, and catastrophic for a few. Here is the thing. Right now, everyone who wants to be as "Scottish" as they want, can be as "Scottish" as they want within the Union. But will those of us who are British be able to be British outside of the Union. In time it would become very hard and eventually almost impossible. We have an historical precedent. It is virtually impossible to express a British identity in the Republic of Ireland today.
Transcending the border is a good point, but mentally and spiritually - not just physically - all British people "transcend the border". Indeed, why is there even a "border" separating Scotland from England? It all goes back to the Romans dividing the country in two with Hadrian's Wall. Without that, we might have been spared this "Scotland" v "England" carry on. There is a good programme on BBC about this right now, with Rory Stewart MP pointing out some of this.
P.T.: Although it must be very hard to make a prediction at this point, which side do you think is likely to win come September? Should the “No” campaign win, do you think more people might come to see themselves as having dual identities? And what do you think will happen to the SNP?
A.M.: The No side must win, or Scotland will regress. Scotland's destiny is to be part of Britain. Yes, more people will eventually come to see themselves as British. It is inevitable. That is one good thing which is coming out of this campaign. The Britishness of Scots is getting a much-needed airing. The work that I am doing is contributing to that too.
As for the SNP - it depends the extent to which the other Unionist parties attempt to appease them. Appeasement will only make the SNP stronger. Unionist parties should strategise to marginalise the SNP. I've written about that here http://www.aforceforgood.org.uk/devo/dm5
P.T.: To wrap things up, could you tell us what you plan for your future, personally and politically, especially as the referendum heats up? Also, could you tell us a little about your personal interests, hobbies, and goals in life?
A.M.: Right now it is all about the Referendum. Politics is what I do, full time. At the same time, I want to develop my efforts at pro-UK film-making. I really enjoy that, I'm good at it, and I want people to come forward and join me in that effort. My contact details are on my website. I need people who will help fund the operation too. Right now, those are the things I'm concentrating upon. Pearl, it has been a pleasure and I've really enjoyed this interview. Thank you.
P.T.: And thank you for taking out the time to do this. Your country should be proud of you for your efforts.
A.M.: Thank you, Pearl. Good night and God Bless.