Are Scotland's politicians like pandas that can't mate?

Maybe the real fascination of the media with mating pandas in Scotland is that our politicians can't seem to fall in love either.

Tristan Stewart-Robertson April 08, 2012 10:52:25 IST
Are Scotland's politicians like pandas that can't mate?

Scottish news gets weird fetishes sometimes, like this past week, waiting for two pandas to have sex.

The animals, at Edinburgh Zoo, have had celebrity status since the marathon TV coverage of their arrival at the city's airport from China last year. Since then, all talk has been about when Sweetie and Sunshine might produce cubs during the narrow window when the female is "receptive".

Last week, they didn't do the business. They were friendly, but went back to their own enclosures. People were gutted. And the Taiwan news animation studio offered this priceless summary.

Are Scotlands politicians like pandas that cant mate

Scotland's First Minister and Scottish National Party (SNP) leader Alex Salmond (R) and his Deputy Leader, Nicola Sturgeon, pose for a photograph. Reuters

Maybe the real fascination with mating pandas in Scotland is that our politicians can't seem to fall in love either. Not even for 36 hours a year.
There have been some absurd analogies of Scotland's relationship with England as the country crawls drunkenly through the next two years of what Quebec used to call the "neverendum" - i.e. an inability to collectively agree on what to do with the future of a nation; so, a constant threat of a referendum on independence/secession.

This is a fight between the Scottish National Party (SNP), who run the Scottish Government, and the "unionist" parties - Labour, Liberal Democrat and Conservative.

Unionists, as they've traditionally been called, are probably largely federalists in the North American sense of the word. And maybe if someone had any forethought, they'd make the United Kingdom more like Canada or the US, with states and provinces with considerable independence, but still within a national framework.

But that wouldn't be acceptable to people on either side. And there would never be a negotiation. Scots don't negotiate (well, they do, in everything except the issue of independence/secession, and are actually leading the way on public and private mediation services).

There's no agreement on language, or logic, in this fight. If you question the claims of those favouring independence/secession, you're "talking down Scotland". If you use the word succession, you're against independence and those favouring independence insist on calling their enemies "anti-independence" to make them look negative. There's no hope that the unionists can come up with a language for the "no" side that isn't inherently negative, so this is a losing battle.

The bigger problem will be that fights for independence and/or secession are naturally divisive. With a yes/no question, there is no room for compromise. And even if 80 percent voted (well beyond the turnout for the last Scottish Parliament elections of 50 percent), and even if 60 percent voted yes or no, you still wouldn't have a majority either way that voted for something. A minority would decide the future.

Media organisations and politicians love to call their consultations "national conversations", frequently putting argumentative figureheads on stage in front of audiences to insult each other and drag up historical events dating back 700 years. That's the traditional role of the media — to provoke fights. And the issue of Scotland's political future is a prime feeding ground for mass media, social media, political junkies and politicians themselves.

Scotland is now like an enclosure of two pandas. The remaining public, beyond these groups obsessed with conflict, hope the two sides will mate.

For about 36 hours once a year — such as during a royal wedding or after a horrific crime — everyone gets along and there's a vague possibility that two sides hell bent on the other's destruction might mate and give birth to a successful and productive future Scotland Junior.

But it never happens, and they go back to their respective enclosures to feed endlessly on their own egos and be watched from the outside by the sensible Scots who are busy making an actual living, rather than blogging anonymously or insulting each other.

Much like a watched kettle that never boils, there seems slim prospect for Sunshine and Sweetie to mate with everyone watching them. And yet, that's still more likely than a mediated path for Scotland's political future.

Again, NMA sums it up well.

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