Does Scotland do Political Correctness?

A while back I got into a bit of trouble for suggesting that anti-English racism was alive and well in Scotland. I don't intend to re-visit that. This time, I really am intrigued though...

The kind of PC I am particularly interested in is the public sector sort; schools, hospitals, councils, etc. Let me make it clear, my feeling is that it is far less an issue up here than it is down South. I was particularly alarmed by this story from Sussex, about a man who was arrested and left in a cell for four hours after being wrongly accused of doing something vaguely un-PC.

According to the Mail the big issue was:

The email, concerning a planning appeal by a gipsy, included the phrase: ‘It’s the 'do as you likey' attitude that I am against.’
Council staff believed the email was offensive because ‘likey’ rhymes with the derogatory term ‘pikey’.

Chief Inspector Heather Keating said: ‘Sussex Police have a legal duty to promote community cohesion and tackle unlawful discrimination.

Now I am all for using imagination when it comes to semantic interpretation, but I would have thought that it was above the pay grade of most council staff. And since when did the police have a "legal duty to promote community cohesion" and how does this equate with arresting people for making complaints to the planning department?

Never mind, this was in Sussex. What I want to know is, are councils in Scotland so petty and hysterical? Are the police so obsessed with being nice to minorities at the expense of the majority? I would really like to know.

Here is what I think:

The Scots are in my experience polite and considerate. It would seem to me that old fashioned courtesy exists and accordingly there is not a need to enshrine this in law or to enforce it with the blunt instrument of law. After all, this is the country where you can be arrested for breach of the peace, merely for swearing at someone - this is not political correctness, but a recognition of common decorum. Surely the sort of behaviour we get in Sussex is born out of hysteria, itself born out of fear, born out of ignorance and mistrust. If minorities trust in society to protect them, the need for heavy handedness occurs less. So to answer my own question, I think that here, courtesy and respect for others renders the crass cudgel of PC irrelevant.


Anonymous said...

I personally have found that in everyday interactions the Scottish people are wholly pleasant - the local pub owner even said give some consideration to my request of putting a St. George's flag up behind the bar during the World Cup! I suspect he was humouring me, of course - though I do think there is a flourishing jingoism, especially amongst the media and arts types.

Not wholly related, in fact probably not related at all, except perhaps as an example of wholly disproportionate responses of officialdom against pretty much innocent individuals, I wonder if you ever saw this;

Made me chuckle when I first read it.

Jim Baxter said...

Let's look at this without listening to what our guts tell us.

Supposing, unlike what heppened here, the word used had been unequivocally offensive. Supposing the officials receiving it had acted on its main message and ignored the way it was put. Supposing the matter went on to become public. The council might then appear to have condoned the insult, to be complicit in the derogation, to have abandoned their duty to impartiality. For that they can be taken to court.

OK, but this wasn't unequivocally offensive. The offence, if it is there at all, depends on interpretaion. That's really why it looks crazy. Fair enough. But it's best to be formal and unquivocal in everything that you communicate to and in the presence of officials. They are not 'like you' or 'us', - they are not allowed to be when they are doing there jobs and it's most unwise to assume that they are and try to be matey or colloquial. Another victim of an official interpretion of an equivocal statement, Derek Bentley, might have been able to confirm that.

Wrinkled Weasel said...

Thank you for the link, Michael, and welcome to the blog. I read the piece about Buckie FC with interest, though as you suggest, this has more to do I think, with petty officiousness than PC. Clearly, only the Secretary of the Club thinks any wrong was done - the President, the fans and the legal eagle all believe it was stupid to fine a boy for filming the matches.

Wrinkled Weasel said...


"The offence, if it is there at all, depends on interpretaion. That's really why it looks crazy."

Exactly. You have pinpointed the totally arbitrary nature of PC.

"it's best to be formal and unquivocal in everything that you communicate to and in the presence of officials"

Whereas I agree with you on that, it does rather give tacit consent to the preposterous conceit that they are in some way above normal human relations. That has connotations.

However, I shall let you have it.

Jim Baxter said...

'However, I shall let you have it.'

Done for again. I see. Well, don't expect Mr Brooke to save you, that's all I can say.

'it does rather give tacit consent to the preposterous conceit that they are in some way above normal human relations.'

'Above normal relations' is a tad tendentious. OK, you get the self-important in any line of work but it's not always self-importance which is behind this kind of thing. 'Apart' might be better: they are walking on even thinner eggshells than the rest of us. Keeping our communications with them formal is courteous, as well as prudent.

That doesn't apply to elected officials, of course. Verbally abusing them is a civic duty.

Dave said...

The closer to Westminster, the worse they get?

Or maybe they don't get the Grauniad in Scotland?

Wrinkled Weasel said...

The papers in Scotland seem to be Labour dominated and for the most part very anti SNP.

PC seems to be geographically linked to the same areas that are big on witchcraft, animal rights and all the other loonies. Bristol springs to mind, a PC hotspot.

Jim Baxter said...

Still on this subject, am I the only one who has noticed that the Star Trek (TOS - there is no other) opening fanfare is nicked from Mahler Symphony No. 7, 1st movement? Or does everybody know that and it's just me, the eejit, noticing now, 40 odd years too late?

Yes, I know, second movement is the Castrol GTX theme. Damned adverts. Liquid engineering my curry-cursed arse.

Jim Baxter said...


Everybody else has noticed.
Apologies, all right, that good enough for you?

One of these days I'll notice something that nobody else has noticed.

Sigh. Mutters: I'm going to have to f****** live forever...

Wrinkled Weasel said...

Only for you, Jim: The melody of the song "A groovy kind of love" is lifted whole from a Sonatina by Clementi.

banned said...

Seems the chap was released only because the Police decided that he was not actually the author of the supposedly 'offensive' e-mail in the first place. They still kept his DNA though.

Should I ever find myself in a similar position I will most certainly take Nightjacks advice never to say anything to the Police, but then I don't have a wife or children worrying about when I might get home.