Letter from Denmark: The Dinner Party

The conversation turned to politics, as it does among dinner party guests following an election. The consensus among our Danish guests was that PM Mette Frederiksen’s deleted emails and poor memory had affected results in the council and regional vote. Cover up and omission are not a good look, and the fiercely independent Danish media focused on this extensively.

‘And what about Scotland?’ they asked. I was too embarrassed to mention in any great detail the farce of the Holyrood investigation into the Salmond affair: the FM’s 50 memory lapses, the lying witnesses including the FM’s own husband and partner in nepotism; the obfuscating civil servants, censored documents, the withheld evidence of conspiracy. And not least, the resulting political show trials and COPFS persecution of the party leadership’s ‘enemies’.

I answered more generally, and addressed the political climate. In passing I said that, unlike the case of Denmark’s Social Democrats, lots of evidence of a conspiracy to frame Alex Salmond, from within the SNP,  had been hidden from public view. I described the lack of media scrutiny, and how a number of those implicated were rewarded with promotions or contract extensions. In other words, the stuff of a national crisis on this side of the North Sea. A crisis, and a list of misdemeanours, that would bring down any Nordic government. Alas, not the ruling regime in Scotland. 

However, I told them straight out that the ‘trans’ issue dominated the ruling party’s politics. At that point there was puzzlement. “What’s that?” one asked. Not one of them had heard about it. “Oh, you mean transvestites?”

Well, sort of.

In the recent national and local elections the issue of trans rights did not feature. Basically, it doesn’t appear as a subject in the political debate. There is a 2% threshold for parties to achieve a mandate in Denmark. Yes, two percent. Quite a low bar. The result is broad representation and an electorate that knows how each individual vote can have influence at all levels. And yet, among the 29 parties standing in the recent local and regional elections, not one was a ‘trans party’. ‘Trans rights’ is simply a non-issue.

So we have to ask why Scotland’s ruling party is now swamped with teen TRA activists, many of whom are not ’trans’, and why the First Minister herself appears to believe they are the single-most discriminated-against group in society?

The party, that just 7 years ago was a threat to the British state, is now focused on a fringe issue that hardly registers in a sister nation just across the North Sea. Moreover, the party is no longer a threat to the British establishment – but it is now most certainly a threat to women and girls.

Looking at the disruption this group has caused within the SNP there is the sense that a certain amount of manipulation is going on. Picking fights with other party members, alienating women, and gerrymandering prominent trans activists into leading positions has a whiff of British state skulduggery about it. Scotland is being targeted at its most vulnerable point – its inclusiveness.

Back at the dinner table, the jury is out on whether or not PM Frederiksen will survive the deleted emails crisis. It’s certainly dented her reputation. Danes are broad-minded and liberal but they like their politicians to be straight with them. They also don’t like people getting ideas ‘above their station’. Presidential-ism is shunned. That’s probably why Covid briefings are conducted by the minister in charge, and the relevant experts. In fact, it would take a naive or excessively vain Danish politician to suggest that an election victory was secured because the public voted for them, personally.

On this last point, Scotland once again diverges from Denmark. In a recent interview with Laura Kuenssberg the First Minister suggested that May’s Holyrood election victory was about her, she herself, personally. “They re-elected me,” she said. Actually, they re-elected the SNP as the vehicle to independence, and the much maligned Alba Party promoted a vote for the SNP in the constituency, on that basis. 

Pressed on indyref2, we once again got the promises to begin preparations to begin preparations for a new vote. Sadly, this was more smoke and mirrors. The commitment to begin preparations has been ongoing since 2016. It sounds good in theory, but all we have after six mandates is a horse box in a field and an FM who is showing increasing signs of egomania. And people still wonder why a slew of new independence parties has emerged?

Spin doctors agogo, and centralised power are the main achievements of Nicola Sturgeon’s tenure, so far. With The National having morphed into a party fanzine the FM may think she’s secure. But things have a strange way of unravelling.

Campbell Martin recently recounted in an interview with #TweetStreetOcc how, at the very beginnings of the restored parliament, he was in discussion with other SNP MSPs. The topic of MI5 and Special Branch infiltration came up. The view back then was not so much a question of ‘if’ but of ‘how many’. He went on to say that a number of those in the party at the time now hold senior positions in the SNP. Make of that what you will. 

Away from Machiavellian politics, language and culture have been the focus of a number of interviews given by Professor Alf Baird. He emphasizes how language and culture are essential to our national identity. And as far as Scotland is concerned, he points out that both Gaelic and the native Scots language have been the targets of cultural and lilnguistic imperialism. So the audio version of Billy Kay’s ‘The Mother Tongue’, with Billy’s wonderful narration, is a welcome development. It’s one thing reading Scots but hearing it spoken is whit its a’ aboot.

On the subject of language, I was speaking on the phone to a customer in Sweden the other day. I spoke in Danish, as you do. We used some similar words, though many were different, but we understood each other perfectly. When we were done she said how lovely it was to hear Danish. 

It was a comment that underscored the fact that among the Scandinavian nations and even in the Swedish-speaking part of Finland it is possible to get by with one of the Scandinavian languages. Now here’s a thing: all of these languages have certain shared words and phrases, but no one in Sweden, Norway or Denmark would ever suggest that their language was inferior to the other, or that their language was somehow invalid or not ‘posh’ enough. How sad that our Scots tongue has been diminished by the centuries of linguistic imperialism.

Finally, on the cultural side, one of this year’s Christmas presents in Denmark is a subscription to ‘Dansk Filmskat’ – an online streaming service that gives you access to Danish films all the way back to the 1930s. In common with the other Nordic nations, Denmark had, and has still, a thriving film industry. The fact that they are produced in a minority language is not a problem. The market is there, as is the financial support. 

Imagine an online streaming service with hundreds of Scottish feature films dating back to the 1930s. We could hear oor ain mither tongue as it was spoken almost 100 years ago, and view the cultural changes in society over the decades. No wonder Danes call it ‘Danish Film Treasure’. Which begs the question, where is our national ‘Skotsk Filmskat’? It hardly exists.

Our culture has been suppressed and all but eradicated to the point where many think of it as inferior to that of our domineering and aggressive neighbour. Too many Scots can only see the themselves through the British prism supplied by London.