Closing Down the Airwaves for a Fomenting Fish?: Music from the Revolution will not be Broadcast, Either…

So there is a rumour doing the rounds on social media…well, when is there not?…about pro-independence songs being banned in the two weeks up to the Referendum date. Really? I mean, is that likely?

Maybe it is. The last few days has seen some frantic thrashing around by the Union campaign, with a saltire comedically refusing to be hoisted above 10 Downing Street (the live Sky anchorwoman declaring through her laughs ‘well that tells you all you really need to know’ as it fell down), and 100 Labour MPs having a daytrip across the border to Glasgow to chant ‘Scotland Says No’ in a chilling throwback to the 1980s ‘Ulster Says No’ campaign behind Ed Miliband in Buchanan Street (yet also comedically pursued by one man playing the Imperial March from Star Wars, shouting ‘your Imperial Masters are here!!’). So…perhaps such a clumsy approach would be entirely in keeping with this last minute uncoordinated lashing out (I’d love to say death throes – but cannot be that confident…yet).

BTW, this is not related to the BobFM witch radio story, where a DJ decided to play nada from Scottish artists up to the Referendum. This rumour comes from one of the ‘get XXX song to Number one in Referendum week’ FaceBook pages. After sales saw it shooting up the charts, the organizer of the campaign started phoning around radio stations to ask why The Proclaimers’ ‘Cap in Hand’ was not being played. The only enlightening answer that he received was apparently from Two Lochs Radio. Here is the text of his post: “So the plot thickens. I contacted just about every radio station in Scotland asking them to play Cap in Hand, until I spoke to a very pleasant guy from Two Lochs Radio, who told me the song is at the top of a banned list, a list of songs the government have made it illegal for every radio station in the UK to play in the two weeks running up to the referendum.”

There have been contradictory statements about this subsequently…maybe it is cultural selection that despite sales it is simply ‘not making it on to people’s playlists’ – which might be understandable, particularly with some of the more conservative ‘yoof’ orientated radio stations, why would they play such old records? And yet…

I’ve come across something similar before. The artist Fish – a longstanding advocate for an independent Scotland – ran into problems with the release of his single ‘Something in the Air’ (a cover of Thunderclap Newman’s hit) in the run-up to the 1992 general election. But then, the problem came not from the government, but his then record company, EMI, who told him that it was ‘too political’. If you listen to the ditty, you might find that hard to reconcile – Fish was out of Marillion for four years by then, so hardly still a major hitmaker to fear as a rabble-rousing focus, and the song is generically rather than overtly political. And yet he was blocked from releasing it until the following year, apparently out of fear that he might ‘foment’ unrest and stimulate support for the SNP.

And a fomenting Fish can perhaps be a terrifying prospect to wealthy record company executives, if not governments.

So maybe – tinfoil hat permitting – this banning list is a real ‘thing’. I cannot help feel though that even if it is, it is so badly misjudged – and likely to cause a backlash – that it is ill thought through. Although perhaps that reflects on Westminster’s management of the ‘No’ campaign as a whole, from the failure to put up a flag properly, all the way down. From start to finish, ‘No’ have lost their poll lead – if not the campaign – through their misperception of the Scots. Where does this come from – the traditional Labour in Scotland arrogance, taking the population for granted, as peasants in their fiefdom, or a Westminster attitude of patronizing sufferance? I did once study African History at university, and it does remind me so much of that tone of speaking down to the ‘child race’ – the ‘Westminster MP’s burden’, perhaps. Its at times like that, that I remember Stephen Noon’s comment that sometimes the language is so very much from a colonial mindset, and miles away from the ‘partnership’ attitude towards the UK that so many of us grew up believing in. Coupled with the bizarre responses of statements of undying love…which seems a really strange strategy to anyone involved in the campaign (really – that is not our problem, guys). But I can’t help wondering if it subconsciously illustrates what they think they have been doing wrong – and that perhaps they have some deep-rooted animosity issues that they are projecting? Kind of like ‘well, I guess I haven’t thought nice things about them – so I’ll apologise by telling them that I like them anyway.’ Yet, at the same time, that vindictive mindset of threats comes out in parallel. Again – maybe that tells us something about their real perceptions and understanding of who we are and our relationship to them.

Whatever. Either way – and for either result – I think it is probably too late by now, for such a (real or imagined) move to make a difference.


“The very core of the fear in ‘Project Fear’ is fear of English vengeance. All the stuff about trade barriers and borders and passports and no one ever buying whisky again are predicated on the same thing: on the apparently inevitable consequence that they will hurt us if we dare.This expectation which informs all the dire prognostications of economic boycotts and general administrative bloody mindedness, even of proper fisticuffs over the assets – is based on an image of the English as petty, spiteful, nasty and vengeful.The No campaign seem certain that the majority stakeholders in the ‘greatest multinational family’ in history will react like vindictive children.” (Peter Arnott, Playwright)

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