Toby Neal's handy translation to all that Scotch broth

There have been many people south of the border who have been struggling to understand Nicola Sturgeon, the leader of the Scottish National Party, when she speaks.

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon

This deficit in understanding is understandable, and is nothing to do with her having, rather naturally, a Scottish accent. It is instead to do with her use of language, and a way with words which is rich in nuance and complexity, informed by her nationalist roots.

In co-operation with the Lower Gornal Centre for Scottish Studies, I have consulted linguistic experts to examine the meaning and etymology of some of her words and phrases. They listened to hours of tapes to reach their conclusions. Or rather, some of them listened to hours of Nicola Sturgeon tapes. Most of them fell asleep after a few minutes.

The coronavirus crisis has brought the prospect of Scottish independence even closer so, in the interests of future understanding of Nic-speak, here are some translations of that particular form of language used by the Scottish National Party, and an insight into how it has developed.

WE WILL LET YOU KNOW (PART ONE):

This is to do with the currency that an independent Scotland would use. There are three choices being considered: 1 The euro, 2 The (Scottish) pound, 3 Other. Nicola will let you know.

Please be assured that whatever is chosen, it will be just as welcome at English corner shops as when you present a Scottish £20 note there today. And whatever you do, do not make facetious jokes about them choosing the groat or whatever. That would, as the SNP will chide you, be a patronising insult to Scottish people. (So we can take it as read that they've ruled out the groat, then).

WE WILL LET YOU KNOW (PART TWO):

Then there's the status of the border. If the SNP achieves its big dream of independence, will there have to be customs posts at Berwick-on-Tweed? Will English people be able to travel without passports to Scotland, and Scottish people travel to England without restriction?

REFERENDA/REFERENDUMS:

In SNP dialect, there is no singular form at present of this word. So to refer to "a referendum" is a common mistake north of the border. There are always more than one unless and until Scotland becomes an independent nation. The definition of referendums is that they are popular votes in which ordinary people are given a chance to express their views as many times as is necessary to achieve the result the SNP is looking for.

SCOTLAND VOTED TO REMAIN IN THE EU:

The SNP's interpretation of the 2016 referendum in which Scotland voted for the UK (not an independent Scotland) to remain in the EU.

MATERIAL CHANGE IN CIRCUMSTANCES:

And here we see the true brilliance of Nic-speak, as this can mean whatever Nicola or the Scottish National Party want it to mean.

PLUNGING OFF A CLIFF:

The United Kingdom leaving the EU after 47 years.

HAVING THE RIGHT TO CHOOSE OUR OWN FUTURE:

Scotland leaving the United Kingdom after over 300 years.

WE AGREE THAT NOW IS NOT THE RIGHT TIME:

This can be translated as: "We're not completely sure we'd win a vote on Scottish independence yet. Not long now though."

ONCE IN A GENERATION:

Meaning one: Six years or so. Meaning two: Never, ever again. (Meaning two will apply if Scotland voted for independence – the SNP would never, ever, rerun an independence poll it had won even if Scots had second thoughts).

THE CHOICE MUST BE AN INFORMED ONE:

When Scottish people need to be told what to think, we will tell them.

SCEXIT:

Doesn't really work, does it? So far nobody has come up with a catchy title to match Brexit to describe Scotland leaving the United Kingdom. How about OffScot?

ICELAND:

A nation which Alex Salmond (remember him?) thought Scotland could do well to copy. Apparently this is not because it is frozen and barren, but because it is an independent nation.

KILT:

If, during a heated debate, a member of the SNP describes you thus, you've misheard them.

Close-run election is a warning shot of democratic disconnect

Wrong again.

For years they had been telling us that Trump was an unpleasant smell which would one day go away, his election an aberration which would be corrected once American voters realised how awful he really was.

And look what's happened. Four controversial and divisive years of Trump, over 200,000 Covid deaths in America, and yet ordinary Americans voted for him in sufficient numbers to take things down to the wire.

In the messy aftermath, a raging Trump is trampling all over the democratic process as the circus continues. That will all play itself out one way or the other before an appalled world.

But the longer term worry is the emergence both here and in America of a democratic disconnect. Trump's original election, the unexpected closeness of the 2020 US presidential election, and indeed the Brexit referendum result, all came as shocks to people in positions of power and influence who, if they were sufficiently in touch with what was going on at ground level, should not have been shocked.

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