The Cesspit And The Sweetie Shop

Tom Leonard. Picture: Allan Milligan
Tom Leonard. Picture: Allan Milligan
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Welcome to the latest of The Scotsman’s new regular feature showcasing the talents of Scotland’s best writers. Today, we have two poems by Tom Leonard.


The government was run

by one who had made his

career in Public Relations,

and Public Relations was the

ever-there, the oil and glue

of what had been, and

Public Relations maintained

was still, representative

parliamentary democracy.

But representative of what,

and whom, and which?

Of Public Relations itself

it seemed, a not-quite empty

set of had-to-be recorded

signs and actions, running

parallel but contrary to what

people knew and experienced.

A ritual: the acquired signs

of meaning and personal

sincerity outwardly shown

by rote: a ritualisation of the

concept of democracy and

dialogue, masquerading as

dialogue and democracy itself.

People outside the lateral

inter-relationship of Press

and politics felt somehow

the world they knew had

nothing to do with the world

they saw and heard reported.

Endless the flip-chart mentality

about nought point five or was it

eight of “growth”; “experts”

from thinktanks were the norm,

never the ordinary daily rising

cost of food seen in the shops,

the gas, the electric bills long

since gone crazily upward.

Historic societal conflict

was redefined, no longer

rich versus poor, worker

against employer, capital

versus labour. The culture

and its language had been

systematically changed.

Granted, historic injustices

of men over women, white

over black, straight over

gay were taken up and

countermanded in part

by law; but never in such

a way as to question the

new ubiquitious orthodoxy,

the daily myth proposed

of central societal struggle:

“the taxpayer” versus the

drain on the taxpayer’s tax.


A clear majority won

its first re-branding was

the name “government”

itself; decreed and taken up

forthwith by public media

as if the undisputed

and indisputably apposite

title for what had been

till then not government

at all but simply “executive”

with ten percent of power.

For selfstyled government,

the question now

became, as time went by

—How come our government

has only ten percent?

Not nationalisation was

the answer, but a corporate

nationalism, whose logos

over an upbeat language

of business-diploma jargon

sprinkled with mission-statement

bullet-points, pervaded the

public bumf and websites

of this now-government’s

areas of funded operation.

A sleekit mantra of jaunty

national pride became

de trop in public titles,

unnoticed largely, and

uncommented on, by

those who spread the word.

The word was “Scotland”.

Titles across the range

of public life were binned

in root-and-branch reshaping

to present a consciousness

of stand-alone nationhood,

the nation’s name declared

over and again in endstop

affirmation: Sport Scotland,

Education Scotland; while

“Strathclyde Police” like other

regional departments, its

headed paper, its public signs,

all that which gave it separate

identity, now was removed,

subsumed under the one

Police Scotland – albeit, creepily,

“police” be a transitive verb. What

do you do for a living, Sir Constable?

“I police Scotland,” he said.

Artists became “creatives”,

a bright and cheery term,

Creative Scotland sounded

nothing of grump or ivory tower;

amang its website bullet-points

and paths to artistic outcomes,

came news that one in four awards

would now be for work in Scots:

in case some glaikit southron chiel

had nay notion, links in English

were given to sites explaining

this “national language” that

folk were supposed to scrieve in.

Across the travelling country

carriages brandished the

upbeat logo “Scotland’s Railways”;

even Jock Tamson’s abused

had public institutional help renamed

Survivor Scotland. The pensioner’s

bus pass no longer named a region

but bore One Scotland over

the national flag. Each time the pass

was daily used, the message, time

and again and again: One Scotland,

over the national flag.