Stewart McDonald's Vigil

Under Nicola Sturgeon, the SNP has shifted from pragmatic embrace of NATO to full-blown, uncritical Atlanticism...

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With a celebrity cast, big budget and doomy soundtrack, the BBC was pitching submarine drama Vigil as this year’s Line of Duty. But after a promising start, the show descended – forgive the pun – into the depths of neo-imperial kitsch, and Vigil’s conclusion was both preachy and empty of subversive potential: inordinately empty, even by BBC standards.

Naturally, this being 2021, the show’s Anglo-American police, security agents and naval officers had to be achingly intersectional. But this only added to the air of aesthetic and political conformity. There is nothing new about cops and spooks, the repressive state apparatus, standing in for “justice”, but the peculiarity of contemporary ideology is that we are spoon-fed “social justice” morality with our helping of “realist” imperial bromides.

It goes without saying that the Russian agent was a grubby bully straight out of central casting. More galling was the SNP politician. Presented as an ambitious darling of the party faithful, his role in this drama was as a staggeringly useless useful idiot, risking his career to make deals with nefarious Russian officers. Eventually (forgive the spoiler), he sees the error of his ways and makes uneasy peace with Britain’s naval high command. But, the show seems to ask, has this meddler truly changed? Or will buffoonish pacifism get the better of him again?

Poetic license is one thing. But unless there is a minimum reality effect, drama quickly turns to comedy. And anyone with the mildest acquaintance with Scottish politics can spot the anachronism here. This useful idiot is a world away from actually existing Scottish nationalism. Far from striking deals with Russia, the SNP’s Young Turks are, if anything, over-eager Russophobes, studious adherents to North Atlantic orthodoxy and all its platitudes.

Thus Stewart McDonald MP, the party’s defence spokesperson, has tweeted of “the growing aggression and challenge to open societies presented by authoritarian states such as China and Russia”….

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