Johann Lamont – a Gael in charge…

The new  (first) leader of the Scottish Labour Party has the noble distinction of being the first MSP to contribute to a debate in the Scottish Parliament in Gaelic.

Here’s her blog post. And here’s herstory.

 Johann has lived all her life in Glasgow, yet both of her parents are Gaels from the Hebridean island of Tiree. In common with many other Glaswegians from such incoming communities, Johann feels her identity to be double-stranded, in which her love of the city is intermingled with the experience and ‘story-memory’ of island life and culture. Although as she explains, her Gaelic is now ‘faltering’, nevertheless this was the language that Johann chose to voice her first public statements at opening of the Scottish Parliament in 1999.

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  • HeinzGuderian

    Truly fascinating stuff.

  • Munsterview

    Johanna is a fine impressive speaker, I had the pleasure of hearing and seeing her in action, in the Scottish Parliament a few days ago. A good result for Labor but not for the opposition.

    This lassie understands the Islands and Highlands ethos and her urban Labor credentials and roots are also impeccable. Under her leadership Scottish Labor could start ‘thinking local and acting global’ rather than attempting to implement London’s diktats. Could be interesting times ahead.

  • Dewi

    Heinz – try and blasted engage will you.

  • Drumlins Rock

    Along side the new Tory leader there is maybe the dawning of a bit of a challenge to Salmond, Ruth Davidson states –

    “Congratulations to Johann Lamont on becoming the first leader of the entire Scottish Labour Party. I know that she will bring her inestimable qualities of decency and endeavor to the role.

    “I look forward to tackling her on the many domestic policy issues on which we will inevitably disagree, but there is one vital issue on which I hope we can work together – reaffirming that Scotland is better off in Britain.”

    I sence from that statement they could very well work together and start to make Alex a run for his money!

  • Munsterview

    Dewi….. he did and got just the kind of reaction he wanted!

    I met a few interesting people with more than a few interesting ideas as to where the politics and the future of these Islands are going. It will take more than a crack panzer division, ( be it real or imagined ) to stop that momentum.

    I think that he may have just about awareness to realize that, try pity instead of exasperation, our politics have a future, his have only a past.

  • Munsterview

    Drumlins : it would seem that this approach has already started and it may embrace a wider cross section than just the Tories. In the debate concerning the Scottish Football Anti-Sectarian chants etc. there appeared to be some sort of opposition co-operation dynamic working where collective opposition to the SNP was apparently more important than the bill issues per se.

  • tomthumbuk

    Maybe she will advance the Gaelic language by having all the official documents translated from English into Gaelic.

  • antoinmaccomhain

    ‘S Rioghal Mo Dhream-Royal Is My Race.

    Who are the Gael?The evidence seems to suggest,in both Scotland and Ireland that the real Gaelic people,or a very large proportion of them,are in fact the members of the Travelling Community.Well at least according to people like Nollaig Ó Muraíle(University Lecturer),Timothy Neat(Writer) and Peggy Seger(Traveller)-

    Nollaig Ó Muraíle(Senior Lecturer,NUI Galway.Spent 40 years translating the book of Irish geneaology)- Collins,Corcoran,Fury,Gavin,Quinn,Sweeney,Ward,McDonagh-They’re not only Gaelic,but ‘aristocratic’,even ‘royal’ surnames.Some people make the suggestion that the fact that the travellers have these ‘aristocratic’ Gaelic names that it’s simply rather like the Black Slaves in the states,that they took the names of their owners.This suggestion has never been taken very seriously,there’s no evidence for that kind of thing happening in Ireland.Sometimes i get the feeling that there’s an attempt made to show that the Travellers aren’t Irish,that they’re different from the Irish.What i believe is that they’re far more ‘genuinely’ Irish than the settled population,that they’re the genuine ‘Irish’,or,the real ‘Gaelic’ people.

    Timothy Neat-The Summer Walkers is the poetical name that the crofters of the North West Highlands give to the Travelling people-The Tinkers,hawkers,and horse-dealers who,for centuries,have passed through their villages buying,selling and entertaining.These Scottish nomads are not Gypsies.They are indigenous,Gaelic-speaking Scots who,to this day,remain heirs of a vital and ancient culture of great historical and artistic importance to Scotland and the world beyond.–The Summer Walkers.

    Peggy Seger(Traveller)-‘The real ‘Tinkers’ far back ye know,that after the Battle of Culloden and after Glencoe,so many of them being murdered in their houses by the English,hundreds and hundreds of them fled to the lowlands of Scotland where they had no homes,and they started to live in dug-outs,or into caves,and became nomads of the road, McPhee, Stuart, McKenzies, every name you can get,the remnants of the clans.’

    Mort Ghlinne Comhann-The Massacre at the Glen of the Smiths.
    Glencoe,in the Highlands of Scotland,when translated from the Gaelic,’Gleann Comhan’.actually means The Glen of the ‘Smiths’,as in ‘horsesmith’,and not simply Glencoe.Mort Ghlinne Comhann-The Massacre at Glencoe,took place there on February 13 1692,all because the Clan MacDonald weren’t quick enough to pledge their allegience to the Monarchy.Mort Ghlinne Comhann,word for word translates as Massacre Glen Cowen,but it’s actual meaning is lost in translation.It should translate as The Massacre at the Glen of the Smiths.

  • Master McGrath

    Let’s not get too dewie-eyed and nostalgic about this development just yet.
    Labour in Scotland is still fractured and the response of Ken Macintosh in welcoming the result (he lost) but also his demand that the whole method of election now be reviewed shows some of the problem .
    She failed to secure a majority of ‘grassroots’ membership but secured the trade union college vote to win.
    Labour presenting itself as a reforming and agitating for change party cannot escape the fact that it has been for most of the 20th Century the establishment party in Scottish parliamentary (Westminister) terms and most certainly the dead hand of dominance in the industrial conurbations in Local Authorities.
    For years they dominated politics at every level and now they certainly no longer do so.
    A look at the the before and after map as Red turned to Yellow as the results of the last Parliamentary elections came in shows this clearly and the future for the Red Local Authority map will soon be changed dramatically after the elections in May.
    This is the most likely fate of the Party Johann will take into the election in May – she will watch as Salmond increases his partys dominance over the political landscape.
    Labour looks old and tired and tied to structures of the past, like its now un-understandable method of electing a Leader, and owning no part of the political zeitgeist of the present.
    Johann is saying some of the right things about reconnecting with people but everyone from whatever party says that now at every opportunity when not sure of what to say.
    She wants to make a reinvigorated Labour Party “Scotland’s party once again,” with changes to the Labour Party in Scotland as one of the ways of doing so.
    There is just one small cloud the size of a man’s fist in this political sky, she has no ownership on the Labour Party in any sense at all.
    The Labour Party is really owned by no-one or group or interest or anything that could make the changes necessary to make Labour electable in the long term.
    Membership is in tail spin and those who are still involved are in the majority in the 55+ age group and more and more semi-detached or totally disinterested in ‘doing’ anything political.
    The same old same old are still going to be smiling out at the electorate and no matter the cry that Johann and Annas Sarwar MP, (her Deputy was undoubtedly the best choice from the Central belt and curiously is the son of a previous MP also called Sarwar from the Blair era) will make all things anew the fact is Salmond just sits and waits and knows he has years to do before his party is rejected as an establishment party in the way Labour is being now.
    Despite all her history and interest in Gaelic traditions in Scotland you will wait a long time before looking at documents being simultaneously printed in Gaelic and English in Scotland or for to be asking to have scarce money spent in such an extravagant way!

  • JPJ2

    An act of madness by the “Scottish” Labour Party-though one has to absolve the membership from blame as those who voted of the 13,000 or so card carrying members had the wit to vote for the least worst candidate.

    There is a reason why Lamont was only Iain Gray’s deputy, and it isn’t a good one.

    I will try and do the right thing and congratulate Lamont on her election but I will not be the only one (many of them Labour voters) who will feel that Lamont is Gray without the charisma.

  • Cynic2

    Isnt it sad that this post defines and welcomes her solely by her racial origin.

    She speaks Gaelic? So what.

  • Dewi

    Defined and welcomed? Just observed to be honest.

  • Munsterview

    A masterly overview of the Labor situation in Scotland from Master McG!

    I also agree that Johann Lamont was the best of a poor choice for Labor and that she represents a certain sectional interest inside the Labor Party, albeit be it a significant one. However the points that MmcG makes are valid, in-relation to Scottish Labor, Ms Lamont is facing a ‘Micheal Martin problem’ new faces fronting and perhaps a bit more vigor in opposition, but all know the pedigree of Scottish Labor, like King James the long centuries before, the leaders did the local governance business, but London was always the prize.

    John Smith, Tony Blair, Gordon Brown…. there is a long litany of Scottish Labor names and leaders who became enculturalised in the ‘National’ i.e. London and Westminster scene with the minimum representation of their local seats. People are not fools, they remember these things and Labor are now and will continue to play the price.

    Listening to Johann and the other Labor contributions, they did seem to have a better appreciation of the sectarianism ingrained in Scottish Society. I know someone, a Catholic from a good area in Glasgow where there are a plethora of churches in their childhood neighborhood, yet, although now in middle age, they have never been in most of the Protestant churches despite the considerable cultural and other merit of some, because of the local divided ethos.

    The SNP approach seem to be, ‘We have a Problem here, we will make it very costly in terms of personal liberty and finance for anyone manifesting this problem in public and shaming Scotland’ while the Labour approach seem, while also recognizing this problem, want to deal with the cause rather than the effect. Labour contributions in the debate did seem to have a greater appreciation of the reality on the ground regarding sectarianism and it’s many manifestations in the public arena.

    There are a lot of factors still to play out in Scottish Politics but it would seem that while Ms Lamont’s leadership will make things more difficult for the Scottish Nationalists in the short term, she can at best, based on Scottish Labor performance to date, only slow down ( even if that) the Independence bandwagon.

    Incidently given the relevance of this Scottish Parlament Bill on sectarianism to The Six Counties, I am rather surprised that it did not get more attention on Slugger.

  • JPJ2

    “The SNP approach seem to be, ‘We have a Problem here, we will make it very costly in terms of personal liberty and finance for anyone manifesting this problem in public and shaming Scotland’ while the Labour approach seem, while also recognizing this problem, want to deal with the cause rather than the effect. Labour contributions in the debate did seem to have a greater appreciation of the reality on the ground regarding sectarianism and it’s many manifestations in the public arena”

    As a proud Glaswegian, nominally Catholic though rationally agnostic, the son of an Irish Catholic mother and a Scottish Protestant father, I wholly reject your analysis

    No party in Scotland, until the recent dominance of the SNP, had come close to achieving what the SNP have achieved which is an almost identical percentage voting support from Protestants and Catholics.

    The “Scottish” Labour Party and the “Scottish” Tories were happy with the historical tribal support of Catholics for Labour and Protestants for the Tories so I will accept no nonsense on that front from unionists, Tory or Labour-they were the ones who swept sectarianism under the carpet!

  • Munsterview

    JP : ‘…No party in Scotland, until the recent dominance of the SNP, had come close to achieving what the SNP have achieved which is an almost identical percentage voting support from Protestants and Catholics…..’

    I agree with you regarding the support base of the SNP and it’s ability to gather votes equally across the divide. However that do not in any way invalidate my observations. This Bill regarding sectarianism is a ‘top down’ approach and without referring to my notes, my observation is more or less what one of the SNP parliamentarians said in the final contributions to the debate.

    I also agree that under the old Labor/Tory divide, both parties de facto by in large worked inside the respective sectarian divide for political advantage without regard to the wider consequences of their actions for the continuing and indeed instutionalising of sectarianism in wider society.

    I am not absolving or forgetting Labor’s past sins in this area, I merely commented on the approach of the two main parties, Labor and Scottish Nationalist’s to this debate without really analyzing or passing judgement on it and, specifically to what seemed to be Scottish Labors current, rather than historical approach.

  • HeinzGuderian

    You don’t post anything to engage about Dewi.
    Cynic summed it up nicely,after I had initially ‘engaged’.

    The SNP has as much chance of winning an Independant Scotland vote as Mikck has of
    handing me cards.

    Much ado about nothing dear.

  • Munsterview

    Dewi : when people do not realize the changes that there have been outside their own front door, they are likely to appreciate the sea change there have been in Alba or elsewhere.

    The view from inside a tank is pretty constricted at the best of times, however at this time of year with all the frost, fog and short daylight hours, it is even more blinkered than usual. Also try to bear in mind that the word from Berlin is always ” Victory, you are winning” even when in full retreat Try a bit of patience, understanding and tolerance, after all the Christmas season is almost upon us!