Heated debate, inspirational ideas, and impassioned pleas to stay: the Scottish independence referendum has nearly everything – everything but a sense of humor.
When comedian Susan Calman poked fun at the referendum debate on BBC Radio 4’s News Quiz in May 2013 she received a torrent of abuse. Writing on her blog she wrote: ‘After the show was broadcast I was accused of betraying my country, of being racist towards my own people and of being a [c-word].’
To date, only one TV programme has attempted to take a funny look at Scottish independence: Rory Bremner’s Rory Goes To Holyrood – which tried to find out whether it was possible to write a show about Scottish politics.
But, in the UK national mainstream, where are the jokes about independence on Have I Got News For You or Mock The Week? Will it get a five minute segment on Stand Up For The Week?
Last week the first book to satirize the independence debate was published. ‘The Fat Minister’s Question Time’ is a satrical version of the white paper “Scotland’s Future: Your Guide To An Independent Scotland.” The white paper attempted to answer all the important questions. Will Scotland keep the pound? Will Scotland join the Eurozone? And, most important of all – will an independent Scotland be able to watch Doctor Who on the BBC? A question which wouldn’t be out of place in any satirical book.
Since publication, the book has received some nice comments but also abusive ones. The Twitter trolls have been out in force. One person even wrote a reply explaining why one of the punch lines was factually incorrect. That misses the point of a joke. Its supposed to be funny, not factual. You don’t complain about a ‘knock knock’ joke just because you have a door bell.
There is no correct answer to the question “Should Scotland be an independent country?” There are only opinions and both sides of the debate should respect that a person’s opinion is just that – an opinion not a fact, and they have the right to hold that whether you believe them to be right or wrong.
So, Scotland should be encouraged to laugh at and with the independence debate because humour reaches an audience that the dry uttering’s of politicians can not. The comedian Russell Brand, whether you agree or disagree with his anti-politics stance, has shown how using humour he can reach and discuss issues with an audience who would normally not be interested in politics.
In Glasgow and Dundee the comedy academic group, Bright Club, has held nights where academics from the local universities discussed using jokes about how their line of study related to independence. 200 people who would never normally attend a political event where engaged in discussion/debate whilst being entertained. At the end of each night most people who were asked said they were now more interested in the independence debate than before they attended.
Scottish independence is the breakup of the United Kingdom as we know it. It is the biggest political story of 2014 and as debate intensifies, as the rhetoric, promises, scaremongering and rumours increase we need people who can surprise us, who can take a serious issue and reduce it to jokes that will make us laugh and perhaps, make us, think. As Rory Bremner said while promoting Rory Goes To Holyrood, Scottish independence is far too important to be left to politicians.