It’s hard to explain exactly how I feel about Brian Souter. I suspect actually writing about it, in the kind of detail it exists in my mind, could lead to me spending a substantial period of time at Her Majesty’s pleasure.
Maybe this is all just the petty vendetta of a 14 year old boy, who’ll never forget how he felt that night coming home from the swimming. It was freezing, there was a massive bruise on my leg. I’d spent my bus fare on fags, so I had to walk home in the rain really fast so my maw wouldn‘t find out.
Then I saw the billboard.
I couldn’t even see what it said but I instantly knew that it was one of those ones, the ones all round the town telling everyone what a terrible person I was. All I can see, as my vision blurred and my heart began racing, were the words “DON’T BOW DOWN TO POOFS” scrawled in red spray paint underneath. I touched the bruise of my leg and knew exactly why it was there. That shaking, greeting wean promised himself he’d find the man who was doing this in his town, because some election was on, and some day, he’d get his revenge.
Thus far, the man who financed this homophobic hate campaign has thankfully kept himself out of the debate on Scotland’s future, save his embarassing appearance on Question Time last year. This weekend, we learned that Souter has donated £100,000 to a group campaigning for independence.
This is not at all surprising, Souter has donated vast sums to the SNP over the years, who have in turn donated to the Yes campaign, so the association was basically there to be made. Souter’s been that blemish on the independence movement’s conscience since day dot and we‘ve never ignored that. We were so prepared for this day, we wrote a blog post about it, over a year ago.
It goes without saying that the independence movement should not be associated with Souter’s bigoted dosh which he gained by profiteering from our public services. The homophobigarch’s empire doesn’t belong in the Scotland we’re fighting for and we should be proud to shout that, as loudly as we like. Support for independence is based on the notion that decisions are best made by those affected, not dictated by someone else; that means Westminster can’t impose a government on Scotland we never voted for and Brian Souter can’t regulate the precise nature of our romantic and sexual interactions.
Those of us who’ve been resisting Souter’s influence in Scottish politics all our days aren’t really in the mood to endure Better Together’s pinkwashing on LGBTQ issues at this precise moment. The top-down, Tory funded campaign to save the union is in dire straits, up against a grassroots campaign for a Yes vote. Step forward, Frank Roy MP, the new “grassroots co-ordinator” for Project Fear. His own history of support for queer folks is rather patchy, having voted against Equal Marriage during its second reading in the House of Commons. Nonetheless, an astroturfy protest was called outside Yes Scotland for yesterday, organised by exactly the same people who attempted to silence criticism of the £500k donation made to their own campaign by Ian Taylor, an oil baron/dictator lover and all round top chap, whose dirty cash hit the headlines last year. As the usual Better Together/Labour hacks clambered to strap on their proverbial pink wings, like gay-for-the-day flies round the busman’s jobby, even some of their own number denounced the whole debacle as a blatant attempt to incite fear of future fantastical homophobia for their own ends.
If the principle at stake is that we should never accept money or campaign alongside homophobes, that‘s fine with us, it‘s what we‘ve been saying for years. Any movement which is inclusive of homophobia excludes queer people by default. Unionist campaigners known their cause is funded almost entirely by a party whose MPs and MSPs vote overwhelming in favour of continued homophobic discrimination in the Parliaments of both Holyrood and Westminster.
If it’s just about the behaviour of those on “our side”, one thing stands out…and his name is Brian Souter; he’s like the exception that proves the rule. OK, so not every single person who supports a Yes vote is a militant homosupremacist communist but if you consider that there is the potential for a massive transfer of political power to occur, it’s remarkable how few of the “forces of darkness” are associated with the Yes campaign (perhaps the CBI will hop on board, since they made such an arse of supporting Better Together). At the moment, it’s pretty much just Brian riding his sinking bus through a sea of greens, hipsters, commies, social democrats and quite unexpectedly, a growing number of actual human beings. A stark contrast with the No side which includes Tories, UKIP, the Lodge, the BNP and a variety of other assorted horrors, precious few of whom are known to be friends of Dorothy.
If we analyse the balance of forces or indeed finances behind each campaign, rather than pointing at that one bogeyman, there is little doubt who stands on the side of the weak against the strong. Despite what Blair McDougall might say, it’s clear who the real underdogs are. The rich are voting No for a reason.
Criticisms of Ian Taylor’s donation were met with censorship, legal threats and attempts to pinkwash and silence by so called “radicals” within Better Together. Criticism of Souter’s donation must be met by everyone who believes in a better Scotland saying explicitly what we mean by that – and why Brian Souter isn’t going to like it.
The creation of a new state in Scotland gives us the opportunity to break from the Thatcherite economic policies which allowed Souter to make so much money, policies imposed on Scotland by a Westminster government with no mandate. It’s a chance to take back control over our economy – starting with the public services stolen from us through privatisation, like transport. It’s a chance to bring to an end the failing empire which has enforced its “morality” on the world for too long, from the colonist legacy which remains bloodstained in the anti-gay laws of the states we used to govern through to the Labour politicians who dragged young men and women from our communities to fight other people’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Independence is a chance not just to assert that we can govern ourselves but to make clear that this is where our ambitions begin and end – we have no desire to go stomping around the world (or the bedroom) telling everyone else what to do anymore.
Building this Scotland neither starts nor finishes by putting a cross in a box in September and the battle for the heart and soul of our new state won’t be won without a fight. For that fight, we’ll need all the help we can muster, even from those who voted no. If your sole interest is winning a vote or scoring a political point, then you’ll probably be prepared to say or do pretty much anything to get there, including wheeling LGBTQ people out/throwing them back under a bigoted bus as the need dictates. The cynical Better Together bleating is just another attempt to use fear of the future to keep Scots (in this case non-straight Scots) in line. The problem, as ever, is that we just aren’t scared. We’ve beat Brian Souter before and we’ll beat him again. Despite another 14 years (and then some) having past for that greeting wee boy, he remains stubbornly intent on revenge.
That revenge will be creating a society that’s run for all of us, not just for the swing voters in the South or just for the boys who kiss the girls. If you think we’re going to let some rich, roaster homophobe take that chance away from us, you’re going to be more disappointed than Brian Souter, when our human rights are enshrined in the constitution of our new nation, with or without his dirty fucking money.