Angus MacNeil MP and the union flag


In an uncharacteristic, and so far unique, gesture I have Angus MacNeil SNP MP to thank for the proud appearance of the union flag above today’s blog post.

If you follow No Thanks! you’ll realise I’m not a great fan of flags, of any variety (search ‘flags’ for proof of my claim). There are few photos here of flags of any sort, neither saltire-waving crowds of faux kilted highlanders in George Square rooting for ‘indy’ nor serried ranks of rosy-cheeked schoolchildren waving their wee union flags to greet HM the Queen on some civic visit.

Which made Angus’ prominent use of the union flag all the more surprising. The poor soul probably didn’t realise it’d pop up when he linked his tweet to an article by Thomas Taylor Edgar, The real reason we speak English around the globe.

You’ll see MacNeil’s real interest is in a quote from that article:

It is estimated that the British Empire killed over 100 million people in its lust for resources, power and influence.

Edgar perhaps reveals his hand when he continues:

Not for no reason (sic) is the Union Jack known as the ‘Butcher’s Apron’.

Contrary to the conceit of some, that pejorative name for our national flag is not forever on the lips of formerly oppressed people world-wide who were under British rule at one time or another. It’s a label originating, as I understand it, in Ireland and taken up by some Scottish nationalists in relation to the shared history of England and Scotland. You might also wish to note that Mr Edgar, although currently resident in Vietnam, is Scottish and worked for many years on the Stornoway Gazette where he may have had the good fortune to come across the man who would be the Western Isles’ MP.

It’s not my purpose to criticise Edgar’s article, in which there is undoubtedly some considerable truth – English is spoken so widely because Britain colonised much of the world. But most European states were busy at the same game for centuries. It’s why Portuguese is spoken in Mozambique, Angola and Brazil, French in much of Africa, Spanish throughout most of Latin America, and so on and so on. The process of being conquered and colonised is also why Spanish has many words and names of Arabic origin. And it’s why nearly every language in Europe has a basis in the Latin of ancient Rome.

None of these nations or peoples came in a benign spirit, clutching recipes for their respective cuisines or volumes of love poetry to share. Their motivations varied but all were more base than the pursuit of multi-culturalism: they were religious, ethnic, or commercial in one guise or another, not far in fact from the ‘resources, power and influence’ of the single sentence quoted by MacNeil. It’s just that, in the modern era, the British empire was significantly more successful than some of the others and, contentious as it might be for some readers, at its end more benign. If you don’t believe that, swat up on the history of the Belgian Congo or Portuguese Africa and the condition Belgium and Portugal left their ex-colonies in.

As to the claim that 100 million were ‘killed,’ I have as much direct evidence as Angus MacNeil i.e. not a lot. It’s an easily remembered round number, and sufficiently large to shock at first sight. But even if true, I might contrast it with the 13 million said to be killed by the Romans in a much smaller part of the world with a much smaller population, the hundreds of millions likely to have been killed by supposedly benign communist regimes, and so on. None of those numbers alone is helpful in understanding what happened and why.

The pernicious thing, of course, is that some will remember the round number and never question its accuracy or its context. I’m sure Angus MacNeil didn’t think about it, beyond cutting and pasting it from Thomas Edgar’s blog. If you check that, you’ll see that Edgar seems to take the number from a book entitled All the Countries We’ve Ever Invaded: And the Few We Never Got Round To by historian Stuart Laycock. Laycock himself says his ‘little book’ is

a modest attempt to tackle what is an absolutely enormous and enormously complex subject.

Indeed. Enormous and enormously complex.

But the truth is, Angus MacNeil doesn’t care. Just as he doesn’t care what the many other empires throughout history have done. Enormous subjects and enormous complexity are not his thing. It’s just another excuse to bash Britain and the majority of his compatriots who are content to be British as well as Scottish.

Still, he gave me an excuse to use the union flag for probably the first time on this blog. Thanks Angus.


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8 Responses to Angus MacNeil MP and the union flag

  1. John B says:

    It is a simple exercise for someone to pick and choose which parts of history they want to use in their continual grievance campaign.
    One notes he makes no mention of Scotland’s attempt to colonise abroad (which failed)!
    Nor does he mention the Scottish history with regard to the sugar/tobacco & slave trades.

    A hypocrite who lives in a glass house me thinks.

    More so as he is happy to accept the “English” pound from Westminster as part of his income.
    (The other parts including rent from 3 different properties (TheyWorkForYou.Com)).

    Liked by 4 people

  2. Island Girl says:

    The SNP and their muppets (elected or otherwise) are the party that just keep on giving us the gift of such light and hilarious relief in their efforts to divert and deflect the grim reading and statistical evidence we are offered on a daily basis of their own shambolic attempts to govern from Holyrood! It’s a toss up between a chimps tea party and more Pandas in Scotland than competent SNP politicians! 🐼🐵

    Liked by 2 people

  3. wujeanty says:

    When I hear people bleating about how evil the British Empire was, I’m reminded of a bit in Buffy the Vampire Slayer in which the fascistic Spike says of Buffy’s guilt about what was done to Native Americans: ‘I just can’t take all this mamby-pamby, boo-hooing….You won, alright!’ Here it is:

    Regardless of how many we did or did not intentionally kill (the key word is ‘intentionally’ – the famines in India, for example, which I daresay account for most of MacNeil’s 100m, were acts of God, and the British Empire – which was primarily a trading bloc run mostly by private enterprise – was simply not equipped to provide the type of disaster relief we would expect to see today), I am thoroughly of the belief that the British Empire was the best thing to ever happen to the world – it was responsible for spreading science, technology, medicine, democracy, commerce, education and English Common Law across the globe, to the immense benefit of those on the receiving end. Moreover, Britain – at huge expense and sacrifice – single-handedly smashed the slave trade. There is this marvelous video on it here, entitled ‘The British Crusade Against Slavery’, which ends with this cracking line: ‘Britain’s involvement in the slave trade is one of the most proud moments any nation could have had in their history…[We] live in a world without slavery because of Britain’.

    If MacNeil wants to see what an evil empire really looks like, he should maybe start with the Spanish one in Central and South America – they weren’t called the conquistadors for nothing!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. As well as the slave trade mentioned by John above, Scots were heavily involved most aspects of the Empire, including the Opium Wars and the suppression of the Indian Mutiny, also known as the Sepoy Rebellion, the Indian Rebellion and India’s First War of Independence.

    Lord Dalhousie (born Dalhousie Castle, Midlothian) was Governor-General of India until a year before the Indian Mutiny. He was responsible for many of the measures that provoked the rebellion.

    Field Marshal Sir Patrick Grant (born Auchterblair, Invernesshire) acted as Commander-in-Chief India from the death of the English General George Anson of cholera early in the rebellion to the arrival in India of Field Marshal Sir Colin Campbell, later Lord Clyde (born Glasgow). Many atrocities were committed by both sides during the conflict, notably by troops under the command of General James Neill (born Swindridgemuir, Ayrshire).

    Jardine Matheson, founded by William Jardine (born on a farm near Lochmaben, Dumfriesshire) and James Matheson (born Shiness, Lairg, Sutherland), was a major beneficiary of the Opium Wars. The Anglo-French force that advanced to Beijing in the 2nd Opium War and destroyed the Summer Palaces was led by the 8th Earl of Elgin (born London but so are some SNP politicians), son of the 7th Earl who acquired the Elgin Marbles. The British Army contingent of the expedition was commanded by General Sir James Hope Grant (Wiki does not give his place of birth but his family was from Kilgraston, Perthshire).

    I do not know the source of the claim that the British Empire killed 100m people. It is not Stuart Laycock’s ‘All the Countries We’ve Ever Invaded.’ I have seen a claim online that 29m Indians died in famines during British rule. As Indians were the majority of the subjects of the British Empire one would expect them to be the majority of its victims. Even this figure was not substantiated by those making the claim.

    The 171 countries listed in Laycock’s book as having been invaded by Britain include, as he makes clear in his introduction, countries where British troops were fighting with the locals.


  5. And Scotland was very much part of the “British Empire” but Angus McNeil does not want to accept our part in it or the Darrien project in which we failed miserably, like most SNPs he continues to live in denial in his sanctimonious ivory tower.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Eric Sinclair says:

    I agree with much in the comments below. A well researched and improving read for Angus would be “Empire” by Niall Ferguson (Scottish historian).

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Eric Sinclair says:

    sorry should have said “above” not “below”


  8. Lulu says:

    For once, I disagree with you Roger. The Lothario of the Western Isles is very happy to pair the union flag with the 100 million claim. In trying to separate Scotland from the British Empire (Martin Gibson’s comment has listed a miniscule proportion of Scots involved) he hopes to attract new citizens to the separatist cause. It fits in with the #wearescotland the SNP is currently paying to promote on twitter that Scotland (ie SNP) is a racism-free country (party).

    Liked by 1 person

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