Letter to The National, 28/12/15
In response to Russ McLean, who calls for a suspension of the imperial honours system and the adoption of a Scottish one, it really doesn’t matter who is in charge of an honours system, or who dishes the honours out; these systems will always be a form of acknowledgement and reward for services rendered. The sprinkling of low level awards to lollipop ladies and the like are there to keep the masses happy, the pretence that these awards are in some way meaningful. Don’t get me wrong, for those people they are a token of respect from their communities, but the higher up the list you go, the less likely that is. I was surprised to find that there is even a company called Awards Intelligence who advise people on the best way to gain awards and will help you every step of the way. From reading the testimonials on their website it would appear that happy clients see an honour or official reward as a good way of growing their business and increasing their worth. One person, the daughter of an MBE recipient stated that it was the “best birthday present I could have arranged for my father”. Another satisfied customer, an OBE recipient was nominated by his wife! That sums it up for me: an elitist gift service where one selects the badge of honour they wish to buy and pays handsomely for it.
Even if Scotland should refrain from having an official honours system, there’s always the unofficial one. The naming of streets and public buildings is one way of honouring a local worthy. Here in Airdrie the Labour run local authority renamed the public swimming baths as “The John Smith Pool” to honour the former MP and Labour Party leader. Mr Smith was Labour leader during the notorious “Monklands Mafia” era, yet was strangely silent on the whole affair, no doubt for fear it would affect his chances of becoming prime minister. The renaming of the pool was not in response to a clamour from the local people, who for his actions in ignoring the local corruption would probably not have donated enough for John Smiths admission to the pool, never mind it’s renaming. This was the party honouring one of its own, nothing less.
I say scrap the honours system, and if a community wishes to honour someone in the good old fashioned way by erecting a statue then let it be done by voluntary public subscription, not by politicians raiding the public purse. Were that the case, the perches for pigeons would be few and far between.