“Someone lays flowers there every year,” my friend John said. “It’s just around the corner from where we live.”
He was talking about the William Wallace Memorial at West Smithfield in central London. Isn’t it remarkable that the mention of the name ‘William Wallace’ still evokes a response among our southern neighbours?
A similar floral tribute appears in Soeholm, which lies half way from here on the cycle path to the coastal town of Humlebaek. Each year, on the 23rd of April, a small bouquet of flowers appears next to a granite memorial stone. The stone lies discreetly by the roadside in the village, and is easily overlooked. Several years ago curiosity got the better of me. So I parked my bike and took a closer look. Checking the stone, it revealed an inscription about a 20-year-old man. It read:
‘Here fell Gerhard Johansen, 23 April 1945. In the fight for Denmark’s freedom, a German bullet ended his life.’
Denmark was invaded and occupied by its larger southern neighbour in April 1940. The nation’s resources, infrastructure, and media, came under the control of the occupying power. Not long after, Gerhard became involved with the Danish resistance movement.
It was dangerous work for a 16-year-old. Initially, he took part in the distribution of underground pamphlets. Later on, he joined armed resistance groups helping with weapon transports for his local area here in North Sjaelland.
In early 1945, the Gestapo became aware of Gerhard’s activities and he was forced to give up his studies at technical college and go to ground.
On that fateful April day, he had agreed to meet with a policeman, who was also in hiding. The two met clandestinely at the local co-operative dairy (‘Soeholm Mejeri’), to exchange some ‘illegal’ papers. A German patrol in the area noticed them. Johansen attempted to escape on foot, but he was cut down by machine gun fire as he fled. The stone in Soeholm marks the spot where he fell.
Gerhard’s body was buried in an anonymous grave at the local church in Fredensborg, just a few kilometres away. One month later, Denmark was liberated. With the occupation at an end, he received a proper burial in Humlebaek cemetery.
Today, a large memorial stone marks his grave. On it there’s a sculpted likeness of the face of the young man. The gravestone bears the inscription: ‘If a people will live, some must die’.
A true patriot is never forgotten, especially one who dies in the cause of his nation’s freedom. Gerhard and Wallace have more in common than a yearly floral tribute, though. Each refused to accept the authority of an occupying power. It was Wallace who is reported to have said, “To Edward, I cannot be a traitor, for I owe him no allegiance; he is not my sovereign; he never received my homage; and whilst life is in this persecuted body, he shall never receive it.”
These days the word ‘traitor’ upsets people. In fact, the use of the word offends almost more than the act of treason itself. But if you look up the definition, it simply reads: “One who betrays another’s trust or is false to an obligation or duty.”
The period immediately after liberation in 1945 was a joyous time for the Danes. This was conveyed to me by an eyewitness, Aase, who was my children’s great aunt. We were always invited to her birthday, which happened to be on liberation day. She was in her early teens back in May 1945. But she remembered vividly the sheer relief and happiness, obviously made extra special because it was her first post-occupation birthday. However, there was a darker side to the celebrations. Danes were extremely angry with those who had sided with the occupiers and who had aided the enemy oppression.
Traitors were arrested. There were also summary liquidations of known collaborators, and harsh prison sentences were dished out to those who had profited from the occupation. But most notably, the death sentence was re-introduced – 15 years after it had been abolished. Any one visiting Denmark today will notice that Danes are an incredibly easy-going and mild-mannered fowk. But underneath there lies a deep sense of patriotism that, once ignited, brings out the Viking gene.
In modern politics, ‘betrayal of trust’ is par for the course. It is more or less accepted as standard practice in some political circles. The Tories are masters of this particular deceit, whether it’s 40 new hospitals, ‘levelling up’ in the north of England, or promising ‘vast new powers’ and the ‘best of both worlds’ to Scots if we chose to remain bound by the Treaty of Union. Scottish voters were keenly aware of that particular betrayal. The election of the 56 in 2015 was a clear message to London-based Unionist parties, that they had deceived voters and that their deception would not be forgiven. Consequently, a great deal was expected of ‘The 56’.
Anyway, back to the word ‘traitor’. Its use has not always been frowned upon. There was never any issue with calling William Joyce, Burgess and Maclean, Kim Philby, George Blake, and many others, ‘traitors’. They had either betrayed secrets to a foreign power or used their position of trust to undermine the state. In Joyce’s case, he was hanged for treason.
Long-term Soviet spy Philby, who is widely believed to have been allowed to get away, did make a rather interesting observation, though, “To betray, you must first belong. I never belonged.” Even Tory heroine, Margaret Thatcher, had no qualms about describing the cabinet rebellion, that helped to destroy her leadership, as “treachery”.
To a foreign observer of Scottish politics like myself, the word ‘traitor’ seems to be used more frequently than the word ‘patriot’. And whether we care to admit it or not, the fact is, our political class has failed us. The ruling party in Scotland has betrayed the people’s trust. The latest manifestation of this was the FM’s indyref announcement. First of all, it was two and a half years late. It was the kind of announcement that was expected on 31 January 2020. But what was dismissed as a ‘clever wheeze’ on that day, is now presented as Nicola’s stroke of genius, 30 months later. Unfortunately, for Ms Sturgeon, most of us do not suffer from amnesia.
Secondly, the First Minister has chosen two routes almost guaranteed to fail. Handing the indyref question to a recent post-Treaty-of-Union invention, the Supreme Court, looks like deliberate stalling with only one outcome. Then there’s the plebiscite election idea. She now accepts this as a legitimate route to independence, despite having had her NuSNP juvenile zealots boo and shout down the entire concept at conference just a few years ago.
Not content with appropriating every SNP achievement under Alex Salmond as her own, and wiped his history from the SNP website, Stalinist-style, she’s now presenting a plebiscite election as our emergency exit. Problem is, she has sabotaged our escape route. By Bute House presidential decree that even the deputy FM wasn’t aware of, Ms Sturgeon has by her own diktat ruled that a majority of seats is no longer good enough. She has arbitrarily decided we need the near-impossible-to-achieve majority of electoral votes. Who gave her that right? Where in the SNP manifesto did it state that we were electing an autocrat? What happened to cabinet government, never mind party democracy?
Reality, however, is beginning to dawn on those commentators, crowd-funded bloggers, and personality cult followers, for whom belief in the infallibility of Nicola Sturgeon is as a tenent of religious faith.
To accept that Nicola Sturgeon is a unifying indy leader, focused on getting us out of the Union, is to disbelieve the evidence of our own eyes and ears. We all saw the shifty looks and clear discomfort at being asked by Kirsty Wark about her reaction to the Salmond verdict.
Her embarrassment was also clear to see when being questioned on Sunday Politics about her false indyref promises between 2017 and 2022. Her panic-stricken ‘broom cupboard’ video to the gender-crank wing of the party is still a puzzle, especially from a woman who has far bigger social issues to deal with. And who can forget the constant post-trial references to Alex Salmond, each one designed to cast doubt on the jury verdict.
An energised, non-party Yes movement of our sovereign people is our only hope. We should be looking to the Scottish Sovereignty Research Group (upcoming conference at Carnegie Conference Centre in Dunfermline from 29-31 July), Salvo, All Under One Banner, and NowScotlandNow, among others. These organisations are ahead of the politicians on the constitutional question.
It’s no surprise that someone like Pete Wishart doesn’t like the word traitor. He cries ‘abuse and hate’, if his indy indolence is challenged. If anyone has betrayed the trust of voters, it’s the Perth prima donna. Then there’s the egregious John Nicolson, the carpetbagger’s carpetbagger. The former BBC luvvie is an aberration even among the already tepid collection of money-grabbing careerists. That humble crofter, Ian Blackford, has not resigned on the back of the Grady affair is unforgivable. Quite incredible insensitivity, considering his outrageous betrayal of Joanna Cherry on the orders of Bute House. That same Bute House that is rumoured to have hatched a devious plot worthy of Shakespeare with added Machiavelli.
And you could use John Lydon’s refrain ‘No future, no future for you’ as background music for the next wave of junior NuSNP careerists, all busy on social media defaming 2014 stalwarts. Preaching the gospel of unity, these entryists are busy calling dedicated long-term activists ‘scum’ and ‘toxic bigots’.
Their axis of intolerance seems centred on the self-styled Aberdeen Independence Movement, which is eagerly promoted by the neocon wing of the SNP, fronted by Alyn ‘more sinned against, than sinning’ Smith. Yes activists are urged to sign a jabberwocky pledge by the juvenile Aberdeen clique, and if we don’t, they’ve deemed, quite arbitrarily, we can’t be part of the campaign. Have you ever heard the like?
Not long after the election of the 56, I was contacted by a 2014 activist who had been smeared in a Unionist press hit-piece.He was visiting Copenhagen and he asked to meet up. He told me that in his day job he worked for the UN, often abroad. As we sat in a rainy Tivoli Gardens, enjoying Danish ‘kaffe og kage’ hygge, we discussed the state of play after the 2015 triumph. We agreed that it was a virtual mandate to end the Union, not least because of the betrayal of nearly every promise and pledge the No side had guaranteed if we rejected full independence.
GE2015 should have been the beginning of the end for the UK, but nothing happened. Later a video emerged of Tommy Sheppard’s opening speech in the chamber. It is utterly incredulous viewing. The ‘former’ Labour man insisted that the SNP’s 56 of 59 MPs was not a mandate for independence. He promised, on the party’s behalf, that they would be good parliamentarians, that his fellow MPs would learn Westminster’s ways, and get their feet under the table.
It was a monumental betrayal, but no more and no less than that of those other MPs who sat through humiliation after humiliation – happy to settle down, rather than settle up. Instead of accepting the colonial declarations of the Smith Commission, why on earth did the 56 not pack up and return to Scotland, at least until all #BetterTogether promises had been fulfilled – including ‘home rule near to federalism’.
Think of the international riddy oor representatives could have inflicted on the entirely anti-democratic, Vow-reneging Unionists at Westminster. A walk-out en masse would have focused the world’s attention on our democratic deficit. A huge missed opportunity, which was to be the first of many. But perhaps Nicola, even back then, thought that standing up for Scotland at Westminster, is merely ‘gesture politics’?
Years from now, a release of government papers may reveal the extent of British state infiltration of the SNP. Of course, before that, a hacker or whistleblower may preempt them. The recent revelations by Kit Klarenberg surrounding erstwhile left-wing journo Paul Mason have been astounding. Mason faked it as a man of the left, but has been outed as a deep state puppet who has betrayed everyone who believed in him. He is a traitor to the cause he outwardly promoted, and he is, presumably, only the tip of the iceberg.
The character assassinations of both Alex Salmond and Jeremy Corbyn were not accidental, either. They were facilitated by betrayals, often personal betrayals. Both were perceived as threats to the British state. Those behind the Corbyn smears are well-known as are their connections.
The Salmond plot is still shrouded in a cloak of secrecy, thanks to the anonymity that protects discredited accusers who manufactured and embellished stories with the sole purpose of destroying a champion of Scotland’s cause. Remarkably, one of the accusers, who is alleged to have committed perjury during the trial, has been busy abusing her anonymity to bring frivolous charges against indy activists. This accuser is well known to the First Minister as is her husband.
Ironically, her identity may become public knowledge as a result of the vendetta she is pursuing. When her name is made public, and the extent of the deceit that has been described to me, becomes known, the entire house of cards may collapse.
I often glance at Gerhard Johansen’s rural memorial as I cycle past. The flowers remain there, throughout the summer, quietly fading. But his memory lives on, and is honoured. There will no doubt be flowers, too, and perhaps a bit of Burns, in London’s West Smithfield on 23 of August, the anniversary of the execution of our great Scottish patriot, William Wallace.
“A coward dies a thousand times before his death, but the valiant taste of death but once.”
These words by the author of the Scottish play are perhaps an apt description of the fate of patriots and traitors.
Deceitful betrayers are forever looking over their shoulder, living in fear that their duplicity will be revealed. In order to survive, they must invent more and more outlandish lies, grab more power, and create more distractions, just to stay in control. In fact, it might be necessary to appoint an army of highly-paid spin doctors to keep track of the lies and maintain plausible deniability. And if sorely pressed, an interdict or two, may also be needed in order to keep a lid on other highly embarrassing events. At some point though, the paranoia of a traitor becomes obvious to all.
As the saying goes, it takes more effort to lie than it does to tell the truth.
“Wha will be a traitor knave?
Wha will fill a coward’s grave,
Wha sae base as be a slave?
Let him turn an flee.”