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The Dumbing Down of Scottish Intellectualism

We sometimes lament the ‘dumbing down’ of modern UK and Scottish society.    This is widely perceived as a critique of those who think EastEnders is high culture, McDonald’s cordon bleu cookery, and that The Daily Star is a newspaper. In other words it’s a form of intellectual snobbery.    I think our society is dumbing down in many ways, but something happened this week that brought me to the shocking realisation that in Scotland, what we are faced with is not primarily the dumbing down of ordinary people, but the dumbing down of Scottish intellectualism.

Patronising the Poor

Of course the upper echelons of the Middle Class don’t see themselves like this.  They are too busy lamenting the stupidity of the poor and passing laws to protect the poor from themselves.  Apparently lots of poor people don’t really know how to feed or bring up their children, until they are ‘educated’ by their superiors.  Indicative of this is the SNP’s ‘radical reboot’ which includes the great idea to ban smoking in prisons! The real issue in prisons is drugs not cigs.  And perhaps most importantly of all there is a general understanding that the plebes were too dumb to understand what was going on in the Brexit vote and really should never have been given the vote. When Richard Dawkins complained that the EU issue was too complex for people like him and should have been left to the experts – that is of course not what he meant.  He thought that he was quite capable of understanding the issues – it’s just the proles who are too thick to work out what is true and not and who are apparently entirely reliant on The Daily Mail and The Sun to instruct them how to vote.

Brexit Determines Your Intelligence

They are not usually as explicit as this but the attitude is clearly there.  In the leafy suburbs of Kensington, Oxford, Edinburgh, Cambridge and St Andrews where everyone is ‘educated’ they just know that anyone with any integrity and intelligence is going to be pro-EU.  If you want to create shock at a suburban dinner party don’t come out as gay, come out as pro-Brexit!  Try being a pro-Brexit comedian on the Edinburgh fringe and see what happens to you!  The trouble is that this is a genuinely ‘Emperor’s New Clothes’ moment in our culture.  The educated (people who read Prospect, the Economist and the Guardian) are those who support the EU…therefore if you don’t support the EU you are not educated. You have either become one of the great unwashed, or you are a complete hypocrite and/or some weird kind of UKIP nationalist.  It reminds me so much of the occasional person I meet who can hardly string two words together, proudly proclaiming themselves to be atheists just because they think it is intelligent.

The Enlightened Scots?

Which brings me on to the state of the Scottish intelligentsia.  This is the land of David Hume and the Scottish Enlightenment.   The land which produced missionaries like David Livingstone, politicians of the calibre of John Smith and medical innovators like Sir James Young Simpson. We are the land which createed writers like Burns,  Stevenson, Scott, Conon-Doyle and George MacDonald.  We are the land of the radical Christianity of Knox, Chalmers and Mary Slessor.   This is the land where a railway workers son like James Mackay can rise to become the highest legal official in the land.   This is a land that even today produces composers like James MacMillan.    Scotland has thrived because of  its intellectuals.  So how have we descended to the state where several of our leading intellectuals manage to produce a letter of such vacuity and banality, that if a student in college had produced it, they should have been failed?!

Thick as Mince

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Two days ago the Herald published as its front page article a report on a letter within from ’60 leading intellectuals’. This was apparently big news.  Game changing news. Earth shattering news.  As the Herald itself put it “Senior figures from the worlds of politics, business, academia and the arts have signed a landmark letter to The Herald breaking a fragile consensus accepting the referendum”.  (incidentally the Herald does the middle class type of fake news quite well – ‘the fragile consensus accepting the referendum’ was not broken.  It never existed).   They were apparently a ” Who’s Who of Scotland’s intellectual elite”.  In case you didn’t get the message the same story carried an item about David Davies being called ““thick as mince, lazy as a toad and vain as Narcissus”.  So on the one hand we have the intelligent wise, all-seeing, all-knowing Scottish intellectuals,  on the other we have the ‘thick as mince’ UK Brexit minister.  You have to admire the chutzpah if not the subtlety of it.   I mean whose side would you want to be on- the leading intellectuals or the ‘thick as mince’ brigade?  There’s nothing like objective reporting – and this was nothing like objective reporting.

World War 3 is Coming!

And just in case you missed the point there was an opinion piece published that same day (does the Herald now make any distinction between opinion and factual news?) by Kenny Macaskill suggesting that the triggering of Article 50 could be compared with the shooting of Archduke Ferdinand – an event which started the First World War and left tens of millions dead!  I did a double take on that one, thinking it must be satire…but no, he even went on to call for a Saviour to save us from ourselves.  Our intellectuals really believe that the sky is falling and war is not far away.  If at least if not war, famine (as  we had been warned about in an earlier report on food security).  Within a couple of months I expect to hear of a plague of locusts or at least midges about to descend on Scotland thanks to Brexit.

The Herald went on to say  “The letter represents a significant challenge to both Labour and the Conservatives at Westminster.”  It doesn’t.  But that’s not the point.  The people who wrote it and the Herald believe it does and therefore it must. This is what Scotlands metro-elites regard as intelligent debate nowadays – they talk to each other, tell themselves how important their conversation must be and so they continue in their wee circular world.   There was no analysis of the letter but let us  have a look at what the best of Scotland’s intelligentsia can give to us.

Here is a key part of this letter –

“We see our society, economy and politics becoming ever more undermined due to the impact of Brexit. We recognise a narrow majority voted to leave the European Union, but the disastrous consequences are now becoming ever clearer – every day.

“Even before the UK has left the EU, we face falling living standards, rising inflation, slowing growth and lower productivity. In a democracy, it is always possible to think again and choose a different direction.

“We need to think again about Brexit, to have a UK-wide debate about calling a halt to the process and changing our minds.”

There is a basic problem with this letter, which, if the Herald actually believed in serious journalism and wasn’t committed to the Pravda concept of truth, they would have pointed out.  All of the signatories in this letter have been fanatically pro-EU before, during and after the referendum.  They have never accepted the result of it.  Indeed they are furious because even in Scotland where all of ‘Civic Scotland’ urged everyone to vote to remain in – only 1.6 million out of an electorate of 4 million bothered to vote yes (1 million no).    Several of the signatories (if not the vast majority of them) owe their wealth and income directly or indirectly to the EU.  The idea that ‘MEP supports EU’ is news, makes as much sense as  “Ivanka Trump says that Trump towers is a great business”!

Listen to the Experts

What was the reason in stressing the ‘intellectual’ qualifications of the signatories?  They are the experts.  They must know what they are talking about.  Thats what enables them and the Herald to talk down to others and dismiss out of hand anyone who does not share their expertise.  Unfortunately for them they day they published their letter warning about a tanking UK economy and rampant inflation, figures came out showing inflation was falling and employment was doing very well – neither normally regarded as signs of a failing economy.   Undetered by anything so inconvenient as facts they assure us “don’t worry  the sky may not be falling just now, and there wasn’t an immediate crash and emergency budget after the vote…..but it will one day!”  These people are the worst kind of cultural Calvinists – they don’t believe in God or redemption, but they sure can dish out the prophets of doom stuff. We are all predestined to crash. Believe me Calvinism without Christ ain’t much fun!

We’re All Doomed!

Of course what they are seeking to do is engender the panic which would cause people to turn against Brexit and change their minds.  It’s a tactic that might work but it’s hardly an intellectual argument. And its hardly one that helps the country.  Why don’t they forget their own petty self- interests (however grandiously they dress them up), accept the result of a democratic referendum (can you imagine the fuss these very same intellectuals would be making if after the Scottish Referendum was won by the Yes side, there was a demand for a re-run because the people were too stupid to know what they are were doing, they had been lied too and now we ‘know’ the economic consequences will be disastrous?!).

And they lie.  They don’t want a UK wide debate. For them there is nothing to debate.  EU=good.  Brexit = bad. End of.  They just simply want Brexit to be stopped.  In true EU Commission style they want us to keep voting until we get the ‘right’ result and then they will make sure we never get the chance to vote again.

Follow the Money!

Ah – but the universities are overwhelmingly pro-EU and they are the intelligent ones. Really?  Might there not be another motive?  The EU is very good at providing largesse to UK universities providing those Universities know where there bread is buttered.  Why do you think Edinburgh University for example spoke out against Brexit, even telling students how to vote, but remained ‘neutral’ on the Scottish Independence Referendum?  Money in both cases.  Now in one sense I have no problem with that motivation – but I do have a major problem with them pretending that it is all about knowledge, ideology and intellect.  Commercialism and self-interest is a far bigger aspect in todays Uni market.

I don’t doubt that there are honest academics who think that leaving the EU is a bad idea for other than financial reasons.  I don’t doubt that there is a debate to be had and that my opinions on this could be entirely wrong.   But if this letter and the accompanying propaganda in The Herald is the best that Scottish intellectuals can produce, then there is no hope of any kind of intelligent debate taking place.

The Closed Bubble of Civic Scotland

There is a small largely closed bubble which forms civic Scotland – it’s not much more than a few thousand people.  They are not a secret society and they don’t conspire together.  But they just all know each other, went to the same Unis, belong on the same quangos, meet in the same studios.  They don’t allow debate they can’t control.  They don’t really like votes, preferring ‘consultations’.  And they have no concept of real plurality or any desire to allow differences of views.  We may not live in a one party state – but if you have a one philosophy Establishment the only difference is one of degree. ‘

Despair and Hope

Scotland’s intellectuals may be dumbing down, but the rest of us can rise up!

I despair for my country if this is the state of our intellectuals;  I despair if this is the state of our journalism (the BBC that same day carried this as a lead item and like the Herald carried it as news without any critical analysis);  I despair for the state of the Church and I despair for the state of our politics.  And yet I don’t despair totally.  Why? Because there are many intellectuals and leading figures who do take a more nuanced, balanced and serious view of life (and I don’t mean by that that they are pro-Brexit – I just want people to think for themselves and not go along with the group-think).  Because the future of Scotland does not depend on its intellectuals but all its people. Scotland’s intellectuals may be dumbing down, but the rest of us can rise up!    As a farmworkers son who was able to go to University because of the Knoxian vision of education, I think that we can still have many ‘lads (and lasses) o’parts’.  Please stop the social engineering and let people flourish in their own space.  And of course ultimately I believe that God is not finished with us yet as a nation.

 Here is my letter to the Herald which as yet has not been published.

Dear Editor,

The sky must be falling! After all 60 independent experts, Scottish academics and politicians no less, have told us so. In a letter to The Herald (18th July) they tell us “even before the UK has left the EU, we face falling living standards, rising inflation, slowing growth and lower productivity.” This is apparently so important that it deserved to the main page. But when you look at the list of signatories, MEPS, pro-EU politicians, senior academic administrators, journalists, who all campaigned for Remain; it is as newsworthy as headlines blaring “Unionist think tank warns government about costs of Scottish Independence”!

The idea that this puts ‘pressure on the government’ is fanciful – what might put pressure is if anyone actually believed the headline – but in an era of fake news and staged propaganda headlines to on-side newspapers it is doubtful it will make any difference. Ironic that on the day these experts write warning us about an economy that is already tanking with inflation rising – the UK inflation figures came out showing a significant fall as with the employment figures.

One wonders what people will listen – the political opinions of the ‘experts’, or the facts? But this has never been about facts. It is about political ideologies and the replacement of religion with the worship of the EU. How else can one explain the hyperbole in today’s paper of Kenny Macaskill comparing triggering Article 50 to starting World War One? Or previous warnings of ‘reports’ of food shortage? Famine? What next? Brexit causing a plague of locusts?! The letter calls for a mature debate. If this is what they mean then we are all in trouble.

But of course they don’t want a debate. They just want to stop Brexit. Why? It may be that they are just good citizens who help to help the poor and their societies? Or it may be because almost all of them or the organisations they represent, are directly or indirectly funded from the EU? Could we please have a mature and honest debate that doesn’t treat the rest of us ordinary voters like idiots,

David Robertson






  1. The EU, is the opiate of the “intellectual” to perpetuate a self absorbed stupor, and repetitive rocking mantra.
    I’m pleased to say, at Keswick I’ve missed all the kerfuffle.
    All the intellectuals will next be signatories to a letter seeking legalisation of cannabis. But hasn’t that already been done years ago? On the wrong side of history perhaps.
    By the way, are they all SNP supporters?

  2. Superb!!

    Of course, these “experts” would see themselves among those about to whom the renowned Scottish philosopher, writer, and historian Thomas Carlyle once alluded, “The History of the World [is] the Biography of Great Men.”

    If only these great ones who sign such letters could realize that there are no great men only great sinners, and an even greater God who, from time to time, seeks out, saves and uses them.

  3. ahhh David—same song, different country.
    I know you won’t ever see my comment here as all my comments fall into your awaiting moderation spam bucket—but I still find myself having to shout AMEN from across the pond.

    Those of us who may have voted for and or are now trying to support this president of ours have all been deemed morally and ethically unworthy to be allowed to remain among the living.
    The “intelligentsia” among us have decided that obviously anyone having voted for and or now supporting President Trump are clearly born without brains.
    That the medulla oblongata is all there is and since no further development obviously took place, shoot every last one and be done with the madness….or so our more progressive liberal elites have imagined.

    It is a sad testament of our times—that perhaps everyone is actually devolving—wonder what Mr Dawkins would have to say about running backwards?!

    Continued prayers for good healing David—

  4. You are, in many ways, correct. There is a dumbing down of thinking, intellectualism, education and how we communicate. Its how a lot of politics is done these days.

    You say follow the money. This is true. Despite your valiant, if somewhat misplaced, protestations many people did believe in the £350m a week for the NHS. The man behind that campaign has been quite open that it was playing well so they kept running with it. Despite it being a lie. But voters are well known to accept mistruths about money (look at Corbyn, Labour and tuition fee debt). Find out who is following the money and you find a good set of gullible voters to lie to.

    You talk of despair and hope and that “but the rest of us can rise up!”. But based on what. The rise up against immigration (another factor noted by the leave campaign behind their victory) means I now live in Dublin. You have had to say good bye to members of your church. People are rising up against immigration and Brexit will not fix it for other people around the world to come in to the UK when the problem is that people are against immigrants full stop. Rising up, based on lies and hate, is not something to hope for and indeed is something to despair.

    1. And yet again Douglas persists in the ‘people who voted for Brexit are dumb peasants who believed in a lie on a back of a bus’ narrative. You just can’t accept that people actually thought about this. I havn’t met a single person yet who voted for Brexit on that basis – most of us worked out that the figure was nearer £200 million (still a lot of money!). You also completely ignore the lies put out by your side – actually thats not true you have, and continue to retweet them. The emergency budget the day after we voted, the £4600 cost to every family…the collapse of the environment, WW3, famine, a plague of locusts..etc.

      I actually havn’t had to say goodbye to members of my church because of Brexit – in fact precisely the opposite. Last week we welcomed a man who had moved to the country precisely because of Brexit! However if Brexit did not happen and we did not get control of our our borders then there are people we would have to say goodbye to – because the UK government and its insane immigration policy would continue.

      I agree that rising up based on lies and hate would be wrong. But what is worse is accusing those who disagree with you, of doing so only because of lies and hate. Its a cheap, shallow and ignorant argument. You can do better.

      1. And yet again David persists in twisting my words to try and score a point.

        What I said:

        “You have had to say good bye to members of your church. People are rising up against immigration and Brexit will not fix it for other people around the world to come in to the UK when the problem is that people are against immigrants full stop.”

        What David says I said:

        “I actually havn’t had to say goodbye to members of my church because of Brexit”

        David has written about people having to leave his area due to immigration rules affecting their right to stay there. He has even written letters of support (A Brazilian I think though could be wrong). Which is exactly what I said.

        Its disappointing when a churchman descends to this level.

      2. Twisting words – This is what you said ““You have had to say good bye to members of your church”

        My response: ““I actually havn’t had to say goodbye to members of my church because of Brexit”

        And you think this is twisting words?! Not much I can do with such illogicality. You were talking about Brexit – and, as yet, we have not had to say goodbye to anyone because of Brexit. Of course I have to say goodbye to people – we do that every year. But not because of Brexit which was the point you were trying to make. As regards the Brazilian that was of course nothing to do directly with Brexit because Brazil is not part of the EU. Indirectly I think it does have something to do with it – not being in control of our own borders re the EU and being under enormous pressure to reduce an evercreasing population the government takes a blunt hammer to everyone else.

      3. Ok. If you are truthfully telling me you haven’t written letters of support for members of your church when they were in dispute with the Home Office regarding their immigration status then I apologise.

        I thought we were talking about people rising up. I thought you were saying that this was a good thing. I was pointing out that in terms of immigration, this is not a good thing. I was pointing out that part of Brexit was an issue to do with immigration. I did not link Brexit with your church members. I linked Brexit with people rising up. I did link immigration (which the people rising up think is a bad thing) to your church members. You are the one linking Brexit with your church members.

        But if you havent had people leave then its clear that I am wrong.

        However, if you have had people leave and you think the current rise against immigration will dissipate and you wont have to write those letters after Brexit then I think you are naive about the intent of the people currently rising up.

      4. No, what I’m telling you is that any such correspondence I’ve had has had nothing to do with Brexit. one of the reasons that it is so difficult for people to stay in this country is because of the freedom of movement for EU citizens only – which has resulted in a clampdown on virtually everybody else. as I don’t expect Brexit to happen in any meaningful sense I expect that this situation will only get worse.

  5. ” In true EU Commission style they want us to keep voting until we get the ‘right’ result and then they will make sure we never get the chance to vote again ,” or we shall only be permitted to vote for pro “democratic” Eu parties .

    This took me a little while to digest ( I admittedly am not a considered intellectual ) yet even I have been aware of the anti Brexit lobby, who are becoming more rabid by the day as the government attempts to secure agreement. As an unwashed , I have to still question whether my democratic right to vote Yes to Brexit will truly be carried out .

    As things stand those representing the Eu will never agree to any member state leaving , and will do everything in their power to retain the UK within its control. Such is the recognised duty of those sitting opposite our government representatives in Brussels. While they posture and stall on what we owe and how they disagree with our proposed treatment of those Eu citizens within our borders , they are determined that such impudence should never arise again. , Europe has already made plans to “suck us back in” should their present efforts fail . How sad that those who ares recognised as our intelligentsia are prepared to sacrifice democracy for a bowl of pottage. .

  6. The Herald was making political points, using a mixture of opinions and facts, while trying to pass off the opinions as facts, exactly as you do in your
    various SNP and EU bashing pieces for (e.g) the Daily Mail. Of course it tries to present its political views as objective, just as you do; fair enough – it’s called politics. Clearly this Remoaner v Brexmaniac sniping is going to run for years, it never stopped after the first referendum after all. But does it really have to run more or less permanently in this Blog?

    1. No – the Herald was not doing that. It was reporting as a news story and only presented one side – with no questions or analysis. It was not an opinion piece. I don’t write for the Daily Mail. I am not a journalist. I write opinion columns when asked to – which have been published in the Scotsman, the Mail, the Herald, the Sunday Herald, The Courier, the Record and others. Futhermore I don’t try to pass off my opinion pieces as news reports. I would appreciate if you are going to comment that you get your facts right – because it is tiresome having to continually correct this kind of nonsense. And I don’t accept that I engage in Remoaner v. Brexmaniac sniping (the need to use cheap derogatory terms in an attempt to sound smart just doesn’t work). I try to provide an analysis and perspective on various issues. Brexit being just one of many. I will write whatever I want in my own blog – and I don’t feel the need to take the advice of someone who can’t even get the basic facts right. Next time, if you want your comments to be posted, please at least make them accurate.

  7. Clearly dunder-heads like me couldn’t see through the statistical lies to the point being made : we can choose through a parliamentary democracy how to raise and spend taxes, how and on what to legislate have our own judicial system that has developed over centuries.
    Clearly, poorly educated means stupid. I see and hear much common sense wisdom from on buses, in cafes, that surpasses professorial punditry that frequently is little more than statements of the obvious and speculation imbued with authoritative status that withers with the passage of time.
    Common humanity can see through people as much as, or more so than, the great and the good. Lack of integrity, failing to keep your word, lack of trust, making cheap knowingly unfulfillable promises are all factors that are weighed in the balance and found wanting by everyone. Trust is evidence based, based on evidence.
    I don’t trust democracy in the EU. If it exists at all, it is unlike any democracy exercised in any of its Nation States .

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