Scottish artists react to David Bowie's "stay with us" message at BRIT Awards

Scottish artists and entertainers react to David Bowie's anti-independence remarks from last night's BRIT Awards – we get some exclusive commentary from playwright and novelist Alan Bissett

Article by News Team | 20 Feb 2014
  • David Bowie

Post-event analysis of last night's BRIT Awards was dominated, in Scotland at least, by a wave of reactions to David Bowie's controversial speech, delivered by proxy via Kate Moss, in which he seemed to advocate his support of the No campaign in the debate over Scottish independence. 

Reading from a prepared statement written by Bowie, Moss accepted the award for Best Male on Bowie's behalf. Bowie's speech finished with the exhortation: "Thank you very, very much and Scotland – stay with us." Although Bowie's comments were brief, they undoubtedly represented a fairly definitive statement from the rock and pop legend, offering his personal opinion on the referendum debate. The Better Together campaign, headed up by Labour's Alistair Darling, were quick to align themselves with Bowie, posting a link to their site on Twitter, and the statement: "If you agree with music legend David Bowie [and] want Scotland and the UK to stay together, join us."

In response, a wave of Yes voters have since reacted to Bowie's comments online, leading to the Telegraph accusing the so-called 'CyberNats' of abusive behaviour on both Twitter and Facebook, describing their posts as a "torrent of vitriol," and quoting extensively, including one comment in particular, which suggest Bowie should "fuck off back to Mars." In the hours that followed, a number of Scottish artists, most notably comedians and writers, also weighed in on the Bowie issue. 

Comedian Limmy tweeted: "I don't understand why David Bowie wants Scotland to stay under the control of a Tory government it didnae vote for, I just don't get it," later adding: "Scotland's interests are best served by the people who live here, like any nation. It's obvious, it's straightforward, it's sensible." His fellow comedian Frankie Boyle took a more satirical approach, tweeting: "I completely respect Bowie's right to express views on Independence, just as I'd respect Iggy Pop's opinions on the CERN particle accelerator."

Two giants of Scottish theatre writing also weighed in, with noted pro-independence writer Alan Bissett, author of stage plays such asThe Moira Monologues and novels including Pack Men, tweeting: "'Nats don't like Bowie expressing an opinion!' But 'Scotland, stay with us' isn't an opinion it's an instruction. We've had enough of those." 

Speaking exclusively to The Skinny today, Bissett adds: "I love Bowie as much as the next person, but what he knows about Scottish politics could probably fill the Laughing Gnome's thimble. Bowie has described himself as 'apolitical,' and has never been known to express opinion on any of the horrendously right-wing governments the UK has had since 1979 (we'll leave aside his 1977 rhapsodying about fascism, since he was off his face at the time), but the threat of Scots wanting to make our own decisions suddenly rouses him into action! He didn't even express an opinion, he gave an instruction: 'Scotland, stay with us.' No reasons, no analysis of the horrible state of a UK politic swinging ever-further to the right – not even a 'please'!"

He continues: "Are we supposed to be delighted that a billionaire Londoner, living in tax exile in New York, has given a second-hand command to Scots via a supermodel at a glitzy, back-slapping bash in England for millionaires? Bowie may have meant it as a sweet gesture of togetherness, but it came off as aloof, distant, imperialist and arrogant.  And Scotland's had enough of that from on high, thank you very much. Unless we can expect to see Mr Bowie at anti-Bedroom Tax demonstrations or helping out in the food banks in Glasgow?"

Bissett's fellow playwright David Greig also shared his distaste for Bowie's sentiment, tweeting with a large dollop of sarcasm: "The weird thing is, I'm feeling giddy that HE NOTICED US! David Bowie mentioned Scotland! We exist! We're real! HE LOVES US! [And] we love him." Other Scottish creative professionals weighed in, including comedian Janey Godley, who tweeted: "David Bowie [and] Kate Moss, if I want an ex-drug addict with an eating disorder to make a political speech about my country I will let you know."

Godley's fellow comedian Mary Bourke commented: "Dear David Bowie, if you're such a fan of The UK how come you have a green card and live in New York ? Yours Scotland." Janice Forsyth, host of BBC Radio Scotand's The Culture Studio, seemed amused by Bowie's use of Moss as his spokesperson – she tweeted: "Haha! David Bowie wants Scots to vote No, but can't be bothered to turn up to tell us in person," adding: "Hahahaha." Glaswegian sci-fi punk band We Are The Physics also offered their opinion, tweeting: "David Bowie wants Scotland to stay in the union because he's never tried to spend a Scottish tenner in a London chip shop. Vote Yes."

Novelist Tony Parsons tweeted: "Love David Bowie until the day I die but I can't help feeling that Alex Salmond would not make his case via Kate Moss dressed in a Babygro." Pro-independence artists' organisation National Collective posted a pun-filled response to Bowie, tweeting: "We'd love Bowie to fly over from NYC to chat to us about IndyRef, but as that's as likely as finding life on Mars."

Meanwhile, the only support for Bowie's remarks from artistic types seemed to come from south of the border, with the NME quoting discussion of the speech by Arctic Monkeys frontman Alex Turner and One Direction's Harry Styles. Turner seemed to suggest that if an artist "feels strongly" about a political issue, they should be allowed to comment on it, but refused to be drawn on his own stance. Styles, meanwhile, defended the ageing star, saying: "David Bowie can do no wrong." Despite a thorough search of Twitter and Facebook posts, The Skinny failed to find anyone else from the worlds of theatre, publishing or music publicly declaring their support for Bowie's remarks.

What do you think? Was Bowie right to weigh in on a political issue? Does the fact he is an Englishman who does not even live in the UK mean he has no right to an opinion? Have the so-called CyberNats gone too far by attacking him online? We want to hear from you – get stuck in on the comments below.