2007 - 2021

A Scottish Spring

It has been a very Scottish revolution. Peaceful, considered, calm, the mood almost indiscernible. And yet something profound and long lasting has changed.

To the sages and cynics who said this was a ‘boring’ or ‘dire’ election, Scotland has spoken. This is a dramatic shift, a watershed and re-aligning election, and one which is the product of immediate and long-term factors.

We have witnessed our ‘Were you up for Portillo?’ moments, although Andy Kerr and Des McNulty hardly cut it in class or importance. We have seen the West of Scotland Labour heartlands where the SNP for years could never win, except in the odd historic by-election, utterly changed possibly for good.

This is about more than one election result. This is about a deep, long-term transformation of Scotland which has been occurring for decades. From the age of Labour identification, and seeing the world in terms of workplace politics and class. Away from the visceral anti-Nationalist politics which shaped so much of urban Scotland for so long. And towards a new era of SNP support, identity politics and sense of national purpose.

The SNP’s political nous and strategy has been proven. The long haul safety first approach of Alex Salmond and his mixture of populism, opportunism and gradualism vindicated. This morning the entire Nationalist camp are Salmond revisionists; fundamentalism carries no traction anymore.

This is the greatest moment in the party’s history, one which tops everything else which has come before it: Motherwell, Hamilton, Govan 73 and 88, and 2007. And vindicated that long journey.

Paradoxically, Scottish Labour, the party of home rule and the one which delivered devolution has never worked out what is the point and purpose of all this constitutional change. Instead, it has focussed on making devolution seem to be about as little change and imagination as possible.

The SNP on the other hand have found a convincing account of what devolution and the Scottish Parliament is about, its purpose and story beyond electing another layer of politicians. That is about the expression of confidence, belief in ourselves and a sense of our collective purpose and potential as a nation.

This change became explicit when Alex Salmond came back as leader the second time around in 2004, and changed his own and the SNP’s mindset in the run into the 2007 elections. The new, positive, upbeat SNP in the last contest changed everything, and in so doing completely flummoxed and confused Labour, used as they were to their nasty, chippy ‘Nats’.

It has all happened again. At first the SNP lost their new found raison d’etre at the time of the global crash, only to refind it earlier this year as the polls closed and they realised the election was open. Rather bizarrely, second time around Labour were equally caught off guard by the new found spirit and sense of hope in the SNP campaign, which tells us a lot about Labour prejudice, bunkerdom and their detestation of Scottish Nationalism.

This is, if I can use the analogy, the modern SNP’s 1997 ‘New Labour’ moment, the point where Alex Salmond and his colleagues capture and redefine the national mood. And from this moment onwards things will begin to get a little bit harder and more difficult.

Politics cannot be about catch-all parties forever. Politics is fundamentally about making hard choices, about saying ‘yes’ and ‘no’, and defining yourself by who you choose your allies and enemies to be.

The nature of the public spending constraints will put pressure on this huge nationwide Nationalist coalition of hope. This will challenge the expectations and tensions among different groups of voters who have hardly been educated by any of the parties of the winter of cuts heading our way.

There is, though with Alex Salmond’s leadership and the statecraft and elan of the SNP Government and election campaign, a real opportunity even in stormy waters. That is to lead, invoke and involve the genuine, real hunger out there in Scotland for change, leadership and a different Scotland.

This will require adeptness, fleet of foot and navigating the power brokers of institutional vested interest Scotland, holed up across large swathes of our public services, quangos and local government. Lets call time on the Labour entitlement culture once and for all.

Then there is the SNP’s ultimate mission, its purpose in life and vision for Scotland. This is sometimes inaccurately described as ‘independence’, but it is something more real and far-reaching than that. The SNP’s soul, its sense of utopia, is the idea of Scottish statehood, the reaffirmation of a Scottish sense of the public realm, space, institutions and nationhood.

That notion of statehood is a much more radical, far-reaching and dynamic concept than just talking about when the date of the independence referendum is; it does not preclude eventual independence, but shows that the SNP in its membership and heart is relaxed about the length of the journey.

This requires that we as a nation imagine and create an independence of mind and action that rises to the historic occasion before us. Which puts away our partisanship and which tribe we are from, and says that what unites and holds us together as Scots is more important as citizens and human beings than what divides us.

This entails finally junking the grievance, cynicism ‘chip on the shoulder’ culture which has harmed and disfigured so much of Scotland, and which Scottish Labour has become a leading embodiment of, and the Nationalists before them.

All of this involves opening a new chapter in the history of Scotland and closing an old one. Goodbye to Labour authoritarianism, telling us what we cannae dae, and acting like a mean minded parkie out of a DC Thompson comic. Farewell to the turf war kings and queens who think they have the right to be self-appointed gatekeepers and guardians of how they interpret the public life of Scotland. Good riddance to caution, conservatism and time-serving do nothing ways; and bon voyage to the jargon invested, official claptrap of so much of public Scotland.

We have a once in a lifetime story to create the Scotland we know we are capable of. To reconnect the dangerous degree of disengagement which sees Glasgow turnouts of one-third of voters, and which champions the voices and interests of forgotten Scotland, the people who have not counted for decades in our political and economic system.

This is the time for a national movement for change led by Alex Salmond’s Nationalists, but including radical, genuine people in Scottish Labour, Tories, Lib Dems, Greens and of no party. Our small, beautiful country has given so much to the world, told so many wonderful and captivating stories, and created many imaginative ideas and inventions; but maybe, just maybe, the next chapter in our nation’s rich history will be our most exciting! Maybe Scotland can truly create its own future!

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  1. James Hunter says:

    This could be the first time since Kenneth Macalpine that Scotland may actually be able to call itself a nation.

    There has always seemed to me something that ultimately divided us that gave me pause to believe Scotland was a Myth. A fabled land of legend that we all knew of but couldn’t seem to agree on it’s geography or history.

    Highlanders, Lowlanders, Crofters, Lairds, Jacobites, Covenanters, Parliamentarians,Gaelic, Norse, Doric, Scots, Lallans, Gentrified, Industrialised, Presbyterian,Catholic, East Coast, West Coast the divisions seemed unending.

    But now it seems, to me, as a man of mainly Hebridean and Shetlandic heritage (Teuchters to some) born and raised in the Central belt I feel the old divisions melting away at least for a moment.

    Maybe I’m talking pish as usual but I’m going to savour this moment and pray it lasts.

  2. Scottish republic says:

    Good article.

    Nice analysis.

    I read an article by Jim Sillars and wish he’d come in from out of the cold especially to motivate those Glaswegians you talk about. Hope he does. The SNP is big enough for both now. Margo should too for those Edinburgh young people that are the equivalent to Glasgow’s.

    I’d like to see the referendum on the longest day in 2014, exactly 700 years to the day that Scotland won her freedom with Bruce.

  3. Luke Devlin says:

    I was moved and touched by this Gerry.

    But but but… this euphoria all has shades of Obama ’08 to me… and look how that glad confident morning turned out. Once the cuts really start to bite and the piggy bank is empty, that’s when it’s over to the people to push things forward and demand that promises are kept.

  4. Steven H says:

    I congratulate you nationalists on your emphatic, historic victory. Labour are a pathetically poor lot and deserved to lose. And Salmond is the only truly gifted politician in Scotland at the moment (even if I have a great antipathy towards the man).

    I suggest, however, that you try and resist hubris, if you can. You’ve made a number of expensive manifesto committments – and the grant from London is decreasing. Now you can’t blame the unionist parties when you abrogate manifesto committments.

    I also find Gerry’s call for an end to the Scottish dependency culture admirable, if beautifully ironic, given that Salmond/Swinney have made a career of whining about the inequity of the grant for decades.

    Salmond’s bluff must be called. Do not underestimate unionism, and unionists, like me.

    And before you start – I’m a Scot who lives in London.


    1. Scottish republic says:

      Steven, you’re a Brit nat.

      This nonsense of I’m a unionist because I support the status quo is just being fudgey.

      You believe in the British national state as your choice of country.

      You choose the British national governmant as your policy decider.

      You choose the protection of the British state as is rather than its separation.

      You are thus a British nationalist. A Brit nat.

      This Brit nat empire dreaming is fantasy. It’s a tiny wee island , with a tiny wee population that would be a couple or three cities in China. The government itself aims to the middle class in East/South England and is thus not even British but rather English.

      Eric Pickles (English Tory cabinet minister) was asked while watching Scotland’s voting, ‘Would the English want a parliament?’, his answer, ‘Why would they, they already got an English parliament in Westminster.’

      Your loyalties are not even British in the final analysis, they are in fact English.

      Examples of England taking back powers from Holyrood to Westminster so that they can force nuclear power stations on Scotland (we don’t want or need them) to pump electricity to England. Also, the parking of more used nuclear subs in Rosyth against our wishes. Examples of the contempt of Cameron for Scotland, to whom I have a great deal of antipathy towards.

      1. Steven H says:

        Actually I disdain nationalism because it divides and separates people who are have no earthly reason to be so divided. I’m a British patriot. John Lukacs writes that nationalism is patriotism plus an inferiority complex. We might adapt this to the SNP and describe Scottish nationalism as patriotism plus a superiority complex.

        Why? Because if you believe Salmond, an independent Scotland would be an earthly paradise in which wolves will lay with lambs, whose roads will be paved with euros (I presume – or groats?) and whose poor, benighted inhabitants (SNP voters all, naturally) are finally free from the vicious oppression of the despised English.

        Fantasies. Comforting fantasies, to be sure. But still fantasies.

        The blunt fact of the matter is that Scotland is rarely thought about here in London at all. Nationalists like to think that injustice is being done to them because that’s better than the alternative – which is to be forgotten entirely.

        The anglophobic attitudes that are hiding just underneath the surface of most SNP diehards are one of the main reasons I would never vote for the party. An independent Scotland ruled by the SNP will be a country in which everything that goes right will be down to Salmond and everything – everything – that goes wrong will be the fault of the English. It’s a pathetically small-minded way of governing a country.

        I understand why you feel the way you do. But three independent Scotland, England and Wales would be small countries in every single sense of the word.


    2. James Hunter says:


      1. Steven H says:

        A compelling response. You’re not saying anything to win me over, you know.

      2. James Hunter says:

        Ha ha yes.. a case of internet tourettes. If i thought I could win you over I would certainly give it a try.

        I’m just tired of this anti-english thing, as if that’s the only thing that can define us. We existed before England.

        in my head it all just ends up sounding like this guy


      3. Steven H says:

        I hardly think that one moron is representative of England as a whole.

        Incidentally, I may be in favour of independence if I thought that it meant that the country had a chance for a genuinely new start, and it promised an end to anti-English whining.

        But I look at the snp front bench and I see no evidence of either of those things. George Washington Salmond ain’t.

        Unlike some other unionists I have no doubt that Scotland could “make it” on it’s own. I just question why, and to what end.


  5. 2mac says:

    Fantastic article. I can feel true real hope in my heart right now. I am still in shock. I hoped to be here in 10 years. Glasgow has shocked me! If 4 years of SNP Minority government can abolish the Glasgow Labour Mafia. What can a majority SNP achieve?

    Politics is the warfare of democratic movements and we have a once in a generation leader in Alex Salmond and a team brimming with talent, passion and intelligence.

    Our people are not opportunist political do nothings, done nothings and plan nothings. They are proud, bold and canny Scots.

    The unionists have already started attacking through their traditional media outlets. We are not even on that battlefield.

    BBC has a few minutes of your day, Facebook is constant, Twitter is constant and Blogs are permanent.

    They used to laugh at us cybernats, they disregarded our numbers but now they know. We are really ordinary Scots, lots of us willing to commit time for our belief in Scotland.

    The internet is not a level playing field. A message can be made via humour, sarcasm, Facebook, YouTube, comments pages and Twitter.

    It will not be a clean fight.

  6. Jacqui says:

    A lovely and sensible piece. Hopefully the lessons from 1997 will also be in the minds of the 69 as they met so joyously today. I want to thank you for all your informative and insightful tweets over the last few weeks. They were my main source of election news.
    All the best.

    1. bellacaledonia says:

      Thanks Jacqui, we’ve added your lovely beautiful Barefoot Crofter blog to our list too.

      1. Jacqui says:

        Thank you – that is very kind. It is an honour to be part of this diverse community.

  7. lenathehyena says:

    The gradual realisation in the early hours of the 6th May that something remarkable was happening at each announcement of another SNP victory -beyond the obvious schadenfreude at the demise of Kerr, McAveety and co. – ensured I hardly slept that night.

    What I will find more amazing is any fundamental change in the mindset of Scottish Labour. Clearly struggling to come to terms with its rejection by Scotland’s population, Labour’s Deputy Leader in the Parliament, Johann Lamont, was still telling us that Labour’s supporters will return in the next General Election – that they will always support her Party in General Elections. This is why voters rejected Labour in their droves – Labour does not get the Scottish Parliament. It only thinks in terms of Westminster – hence the reference to the ‘real’ election when its support will sleepwalk back to the polling stations. Ms Lamont demonstrates her Party’s denigration of Holyrood through her crass and idiotic statements. Labour does not support Scottish autonomy. Labour does not understand devolution despite having set it up. The expectation has always been for Labour that devolution would kill off any desire for independence and it used the Parliament to limit and confine Scottish ambition and achievement.

    Johann Lamont’s words testify that despite the people having rejected her Party for being a branch of the London-based Party indifferent to the needs of this country, she and it are as firmly tied to London today as they were on polling day. Likewise, Jackie Baillie on Radio Scotland sounded like a stuck record with no sense of understanding of what has emerged over the last couple of days.

    For us in the northeast, Scottish Labour has long been an irrelevance. Despite the huge economic importance of this area it always has been marginalised by Labour in Central Scotland steeped as it is in the halcyon days of the old heavy industries around the Clyde. I doubt many Labourites from the last Parliament would have any conception of life beyond the M8 and arrogantly expected we in the northeast, the north, northwest, south, southeast and southwest would happily dance to Glasgow’s tune. Well now even Glasgow’s not happy to dance to the old Glasgow’s tune and well done them.

    I don’t believe we are really one people Scotland in a romantic kind of way. The differences between rural and urban communities and geographical differences are so great and traditions so deep that we have varying expectations and responses to events. But the huge growth in support for the SNP on the 5th is interesting for it shows how broad the shoulders of the Party are in being able to unite our disparate population in ways the other Parties are incapable of doing.

    Undoubtedly this Parliament will be a very difficult one with the severity of the cuts working there way through and it will be interesting to see how the government handle this. Time will tell.

    1. James Hunter says:

      That’s what I meant to say. 🙂

      I was born in Stirling surrounded by stories of Battles and Blod and intrigue.
      As a boy I holidayed in North Uist and Skye home of my Grandparents
      I left School and studied at Aberdeen University – Witnessed Piper Alpha while the casuals ruled the night.
      I worked for The Assessor back home for the Regional Council at the time of the introduction of Council Tax
      I went back to Uni in Edinburgh – John Smith’s Death and Trainspotting hitting the shelves.
      I worked all over Scotland for the Wildlife Trust conserving woodlands and then later as a landscape gardener in Dundee, Arbroath, Montrose, Brechin.
      I’ve socialised, fallen down, laughed and performed music in Glasgow’s many haunts.

      So many flavours so many attitudes so many identities yet Scotland seemed elusive only to briefly appear fleeetingly during a sporting event or television show.

      But on Thursday it seemed to come to the surface like Moby Dick. Ancient and scarred but splendid.

      Maybe Alex is our Ahab and you can call us all Ishmael.

      1. Scottish republic says:

        Great post.

        Call me Ishmael.

    2. bellacaledonia says:

      Thanks Lena

  8. hector says:

    good article. i see the ‘a but’ brigade are up and running already.on the media and certain blogs. i think though the genie is well and truly out the bottle.the myth that scotland needs a ‘superior’ power to guide them is just that.ireland and iceland are often quoted as small countries not doing to well at present.i am sure they will come good again and anyway the u.k. is not exactly flourishing at the moment.the doubters do not often quote for example norway, denmark or swenden when looking at how small countries are coping at the moment.scotland is growing in confidence and articles like this are catalysts in the this.

  9. bellacaledonia says:

    A great piece Gerry, full of hope and vision as best reflects the moment.

    The only point I’d call you on is the idea that ‘fundamentalism carries no traction anymore’. In fact defining how and WHY we need independence now is the crucial political task of the next decade. It’s something that the young dynamic and professional campaigners might not have even considered, their main aim being (quite rightly) an election campaign for Holyrood, a quite different task to winning massive permament constitutional change.

    On (Saturday) Newsnight you mentioned this idea that we might have some shared institutions with some reformed British State, like defence.

    Seems to me that defence is one of the key areas that have driven the independence movement and that Blair’s Wars may be seen as THE significant thing that broke the Labour Party.

    With Osama dead I see no reason for young Scottish men to be dying in Afghanistan – and I see no reason for us to be attached to the British military mentality.

    Trident is a meaningless, strategicaly useless and unwanted extravagance in an age of austerity. How can we be tied to this?

    In this sense, while there’s no doubt room for exploring innovation as we build new political forms, defence is still a defining concept in national sovereignty. If there was one area where we need to reconceive Scotland it is in its international and military structures. There is no place for Angus Robertson’s defence of the military state and every argument for a peace dividend.

  10. Far from being dead, SNP fundamentalism may prove to be one of the most relevant ideas of the next Parliamentary term. Salmond would commit electoral suicide if he waited until the second half of the Parliamentary term. Governments are always less popular in the latter half of a term, especially ones that are forced into huge cuts.

    The 2014 date that has been suggested would be ideal. The Commonwealth games and Bannockburn anniversary will produce the necessary national sentiment to win over the doubters.

  11. Tom Hogg says:

    I must admit to a huge amount of confusion in my mind about what motivates the unionist rank and file. Whilst I don’t wear my politics on my sleeve in business life, one of my associates raised the election with me on Friday and proceeded to tell me, unprompted, that whilst he thought it was great that we had a Scottish football team, that we had our own flag and our own history, that we had our own legal system and even our own parliament, he still thought we “couldn’t make it on our own”.

    Well what exactly is that supposed to mean? It’s a mindset that has pervaded and stunted Scottish society for the whole of my adult life, but it’s a ridiculous and utterly meaningless statement, as I tried (tactfully) to suggest to him. I just don’t “get” the idea that someone can be Scottish, fiercely, proudly Scottish but hamper their own vision of that Scottishness by being so small minded in one key facet. It’s like doing all the studying and not sitting the exam, or working on your swing but not entering the medal, or learning to swim but sitting on the lounger.

    That one simple theory of “not making it” is the myth that has to be debunked if the Scottish people are to be persuaded to take back their nationhood and we, the people, need to play our part, by reinforcing the positive message, by showing humility and by challenging the institutional status quo wherever we find it.

  12. Alex Buchan says:

    I wish I could find a link so that I could get the exact wording of Alex Salmond’s comments since the election where he said the the destination is fixed but the time it takes to achieve that destination is entirely in the hand’s of the Scottish people. I feel this is the most profound thing that he has said since the SNP landslide and is why I feel that your reference, Gerry, to the “Scottish Spring” is not over the top, as Gordon Brewer seemed to imply in his opening comment to you on Saturday.

    The most important point about this election was that the Scottish people have discovered their power to break out of the limitations imposed on them by the ideology of unionism in all its guises and to move forward, precisely because of the SNP’s commitment to working on the basis of having to gain popular consent through a referendum. I would argue that it is this empowerment of the Scottish people that has neutralised unionists attempts to manipulate public opinion through fear.

    This has hugh implications, however, for how we do politics and on how we discourse on independence. I believe that whether independence is achieved or not will depend, not just on circumstances, but also, more importantly, on the extent to which the nationalist movement as a whole demonstates that it has fully understood this principle of trusting the people, fully respecting where they are at any given point. This is crucial. It is this that transforms the independence referendum from being a test of strength between unionism and nationalism, with all the potential to derail the nationalist movement for a generation into, instead, another victory in pushing the envelope of enpowering the Scottish people to face down the centuries old ideology of the union state, by requiring that state to exist only in so far as it has the consent of the Scottish people.

    Such an overbridging attitude is the antidote to getting caught in highs and lows . This is why I would go further than you and say that the distinctions between fundamentalist and gradualist are, not only redundant, but are part of the problem, and kind of discourse we need to move away from.

    However, this does not mean accepting your point about shared istitutions, as Bella seems to think. In his comment Alex Salmond said the destination is fixed, which may seem to be a cotradiction to the principle to trusting the people to decide. But for me this is being honest. Ideas like shared institutions are pipe dreams and I think the Scottish people would realise this. There is no reason to believe the peoples of the rest of the United Kingdom would want such a fudge either.

  13. Vronsky says:

    I’ve never understood the ‘fundamentalist’ thing – what is it? It seems to rest on the idea that there is a quick way and a slow way to independence, and fundamentalists want the quick one. In reality there is no such choice. There may be varied routes to independence but ‘quick’ isn’t one of them, or we’d be unanimously behind it. I’ve always thought of this gradualist/fundamentalist fantasy as created by the media in order to suggest divisions within the SNP.

    The right time for a referendum is when there is every good hope that it will be won. If such a moment appears soon, wonderful. If it doesn’t that’s a pity, but I’d rather wait and win than rush and lose.

  14. Neil McNab says:

    Let’s just remember a few key facts:
    * Most Scots still didn’t vote SNP
    * The great majority – around 70% – do not want independence
    * Even if an independence referendum was won, how will you bring all the rest of the population who didn’t vote for it and who feel betrayed and stateless?

    1. Doug Daniel says:

      Ah yes, that old story about a majority of people not supporting independence. We could just as easily say “only a minority want to keep the union”, as these polls always show a pretty even split between for and against, with a healthy percentage of undecideds in the middle. Neither side ever wins over 50%, even with heavily-loaded questions.

      The “betrayed and stateless” will, I’m afraid, just have to find a way to live with it – much like nationalists have had to learn to live with the union all their lives. I have a funny feeling they’ll get used to it surprisingly quickly.

      Isn’t it strange though – Scotland apparently has NO appetite for independence… and yet, the internet is awash with unionists trying to remind us about this fact, or telling us that the SNP will never hold their referendum, or even that it is not legal to do so. I can’t help feeling that if Scotland truly had no appetite for independence, people like yourself would have no need to come and tell us about it.

      If independence is such an inherently bad idea that Scotland would never vote for, why are unionists so eager for the SNP to rush their referendum? Claims that the SNP are just going to hold it when they think they can win it depend on one fact: that it will indeed be winnable. How could it be though, if Scotland has no appetite for independence?

      Hypocrisy. Doublethink. The unionist positions are more complicated to understand than quantum physics. Even Erwin Schrödinger would struggle to explain them.

  15. Donald Adamson says:


    I agree but first let’s commend Gerry Hassan for writing a piece that captures the mood in Scotland and provides a number of insights that we would all do well to reflect upon. This is indeed the SNPs “New Labour moment” in the sense that it’s a game-changer, nothing will ever be the same again, at least in electoral politics, after this result. One of the main differences of course is that, whereas New Labour was a shoo-in in the British general election in 1997 – the objective in all the mainland nations of the UK was just to get the Tories out – in this election, even the SNP is shocked by the scale of its victory, particularly in the central belt.

    One of Salmond’s most impressive post-election statements was when he said yesterday that although the SNP has a majority of seats it does not have a “monopoly of wisdom”. I can only imagine what he was feeling inside but to be so magnanimous in the euphoria of the most important election result in Scotland’s history suggests that the SNP has learned a great deal from its experience as a minority government in the last four years. Ironically, that experience could be a source of much of the SNPs strength in the run-up to the referendum.

    Scottish Labour is now in an invidious position. Where does it go from here? It would be an over-statement to say that there is now no ideological space for Scottish Labour in Scottish politics but it has little room for manoeuvre. Its 37 MSPs are going to be a demoralised and disaffected rump in the Scottish Parliament and Scottish Labour is going to have to be very careful what it does over the next two or three years, the last thing it can afford is any high-profile defections to the SNP, the SNP will, of course, be working frantically to secure just that.

    If I was in Scottish Labour and I wanted to secure Scotland’s future in the union I would be urging Ed Miliband to lend his wholehearted support to a fully-fledged federal Britain, no fudges, no ifs, no buts. This looks to be the last remaining credible alternative to Scottish independence. Meanwhile, the rest of us should get to work on Scottish Labour’s voters. The die-hards will never shift of course but we don’t need the support of the die-hards to win the referendum. But even for the die-hards, the appeal of a genuinely independent Scottish Labour Party in an independent Scotland (with the necessary changes) will be a much more attractive proposition than anything that Scottish Labour will be able to offer voters in the union, short of federalism.

    Let’s not also forget the council results in England. Labour made some good gains in the north of England but they flat-lined where it counts, in the southern half of England. Remarkably, the Tories actually made some gains in this part of England! What these council results, as well as opinion polls show, is that Lib Dem voters in England have lent their support to Labour. But if the Lib Dems in England manage to reclaim much of that support before the next British general election in 2015, that would comfortably leave the Tories as the largest party in England in which case, they’d look a good bet for winning the 2015 British general election and then, even federalism won’t be able to save the union. The constitutional timetable is on the side of the SNP. Why rush in to a referendum when precious time can be spent mobilising all available resources to secure a yes vote?

  16. Those of us who support recognition and self-determination for Cornwall can only look on with envy. Well done SNP. Now, not only are you leading Scotland to a brighter future but also the UK to any chance of radical reform.

    Smash open the Westminster nut and then perhaps the Cornish can benefit.

  17. Alex Buchan says:

    I notice that there is a lot being commented on on-line on Alex Salmond’s statement that he will consider including in the referendum a third option on fiscal autonomy. I was struck by the strength of David Herdson’s point on Political Betting that if the SNP are going to hold a referedum they should do so while they still have momentum, as he says “Who knows how the SNP administration will be viewed four years hence, after nearly a decade in office”. Reading this my own feeling is that if the SNP are going to have a multi-option referendum then the greatest likelihood is that fiscal autonomy will be the most preferred option. If this is their calculation, I think Herdson’s point becomes even more valid. If we are going to get full fiscal autonomy on the back of a referendum it is better we got it sooner rather than later and have the rest of this Parliament to carry out the transfer of those powers and start to use them to effect.

    This would also have a knock on effect in the rest of the UK with the possibility that Northern Ireland could follow on and perhaps even greater calls for an English Parliament, perhaps even by mainstream UK politicians. Such a general upheaval in the UK body politic would mean that, far from the constitutional issue settling down after Scotland’s aquisition of fiscal autonomy, the nature of the UK would continue to be an ongoing issue, providing a context for Scotland to keep open the issue of its own relationship to the UK, perhaps leading to a second referendum sometime in the following parliament.

    Even if the granting of full fiscal autonomy didn’t have the knock on effects elsewhwere, which seems unlikely, if there is an acknowledgment that the efect of the collapse of the Irish and Iceland economies and the fall of RBS and HBOS has made a yes vote in an independence referendum less likely then it still seems sensible to get a mandate for fiscal autonomy as soon as possible to move things on with the possibility of a further vote on indepenence further down the line.

    1. Steven H says:

      Ah, but what about the ulterior motive for proposing such a third option? Namely, to split the unionist vote.

      I can well imagine a result along the lines of –

      Independence – 35%
      Devo-max – 32.5%
      Status quo – 32.5%

      …on a 40-50% turnout – I’m sure Salmond would immediately claim a great victory. Hardly a legitimate result.


      1. Alex Buchan says:

        Cant see ‘status quo’ getting anywhere near that figure.

      2. James Hunter says:

        unless it was done on an AV type arrangement then choice 2 could be the winner.

        I’ve a sneaking suspicion that Salmond may secretly be happy with more devolved powers perhaps some kind of federalisation of the UK. Now obviously he’s never going to admit it.

        There’s little hints in his speeches that even a re-branding may be on the cards.

        The “National party of Scotland ” has featured in his speeches
        more than once.

        It has also been pointed out to me from someone in Brussels that Scotland may have to apply for membership of the EU and we may not qualify. Countries have to fulfill certain criteria first. That puts us behind the queue with countries like Turkey and Georgia etc.

        There’s lots more to be navigated.

      3. Steven H says:

        There is indeed a great deal to be navigated, assuming that an independence vote is won (I’m a unionist, by the way). Incidentally I think the SNP will continue to ask the independence question until they get the answer they want (a la Ireland and the Lisbon treaty).

        Applying for EU membership takes as much as a decade. In addition, the process of seperation from the rest of the UK will take ages to negotiate – how will the debt be divided? How will border controls work? This is not a unionist scare tactic – the UK is not part of the Schengen agreement, so there would have to be a bilateral treaty between the rump UK and Scotland, at the very least. How will oil revenues be divided? And so on ad infinitum. All of these things take time – many years – to negotiate.

        I also think you’re right that Salmond – or at least some senior SNP figures – would prefer a “Basque” solution. It’s why I think that Salmond will try for a multi-option referendum, because if the SNP loses a straight-up, straight-down question on independence, existential questions will be asked of the party.

        Interesting times we live in.

  18. Tocasaid says:

    Good article. To the patriotic Brit above… the Union that you love hasn’t delivered us milk and honey yet. Just clearances, dole, the chance to be cannon fodder and damp cooncil hooses. We’d be stupid not to go for independence.


    1. Steven H says:

      Really – still dwelling on the clearances? How about Glencoe, maybe? Or Mons Graupius? I’m sure there were malicious southerners in the Roman ranks, somewhere…

      But seriously, if you search the past looking only for grievances, you’ll find them. History is more complex and rich than the bleak SNP narrative. The union – like every other political arrangement ever devised – is imperfect. But it functions, and there’s no overriding reason as to why it should be severed.

      Explain to me how – for example -the social problems of drug addiction will be lessened in an independent Scotland. The devolution settlement is actually quite comprehensive in regard to social policy. What will the Scottish government do then that it cannot do now; what exactly is it prevented from doing now by evil Londoners?


  19. Alex Buchan says:

    I think the issue of the EU is essentially a political one. There will be pressure from Spain, especially, for the EU to obstruct, but the commission will be loath to see any territory seceding and will want to expedite things quickly. There are also the legal issues as the UK styles itself as a union and Scotland’s departure could therefore be seen as a breaking of a union rather than merely a territory splitting off. There could therefore be a case that both remaining entities are new and both stand in the same relation to the EU i.e. that what remains is not the political entity that joined the EU. This may seem outlandish but I suspect it could easily be used by the commission as leverage to get Scotland in as quickly as possible. Scotland has oil and fishing reserves and renewables and it is not in the EU’s interests to make it difficult for Scotland.
    On the idea that Salmond no longer aims for independence, I see no sign of this. All his statements are about achieving independence. Even today he was speaking of the destination being inevitable; this is not the kind of language you use when referring to devolution, even devolution max. However, his reference to the pace being down to the will of the people is consonant with a gradualist approach via two referendums; the first to secure fiscal autonomy and the second independence, which, if this were the case, is why I would rather the referendum were held soon.

    1. Steven H says:

      In legal terms, clearly the rump UK would be the successor state to the old UK – it would keep the EU membership, the UN seat, UK embassy buildings, etc. Besides, forcing an English re-negatiation would cause havoc politically, and would be something any rump UK government would want to avoid at all costs.

      I do have a problem with Salmond saying the destination – independence – is set in one breath, and then saying he will respect the will of the people on the other. What the hell kind of illogical doublethink is that? And if the people happen to disagree with their government – what then?

      1. Alex Buchan says:

        He makes it clear that it is his opinion that the destination is clear, many others agree, including some unionists, most notably John Major during the 1992 election and Tam Dalyell who described devolution as a motorway to independence without any exits.

        The important point about the EU is that the commission would want to keep Scotland in at all costs. Certain member states, although wanting the same thing for the same reasons, may, nevertheless, want some hassel introduced into the process to deter other stateless nations within their own borders.

  20. Mike says:

    Although I hope we as an electorate choose full independence when the referendum comes around, I’m personally more than happy if more powers was the outcome. Anything which takes this country away from the cesspit that is Westminster ( not English but British ) control. It really feels as if we’re living through the demise of the British state as we know it, good riddance! I say this not only after this election but having talked to many English friends and work colleagues who feel as if none of the main British parties speak for them. Some of the unionist hyperbole has been ludicrous and does the debate no favours however it is a debate we MUST have for the good of all our nations in this union. Roll on a progressive 5 years!

  21. Vronsky says:

    Salmond wants independence and even if he didn’t he’d be a fool to say so. We are about to see some re-negotiation of the Scotland Act currently passing through Westminster and the circumstances now are very different from those at its inception. A credible threat of independence is a powerful bargaining tool. On Cameron’s side, Salmond will be aware that it ain’t so easy to tell a power ten times larger than yourself to get its nuclear arsenal the hell out of your lochs. What to concede in exchange for what will be an interesting game over the next months and years.

    Interesting comments from Alex Buchan on best timing if a multi-option referendum is proposed. If so, surely it would have to be AV, to avoid the fairly meaningless three-way tie that Steven mentions? Two-round run-off is a fuss, but the status quo would go in round one, leaving a choice between independence or fiscal autonomy, with a reasonable mandate for the winner.

  22. James Hunter says:

    I wonder what “dark forces” will come to bear on this process. Surely Lizzie won’t be too enamored with the prospects of her Sceptred Isle being broken up.

  23. Donald Adamson says:

    Alex Buchan,

    Interesting thoughts. I suspect that this is a debate that is going to run and run. You might be right although I don’t think an early referendum (by early, I assume you mean within the next two years) will happen unless relations between Holyrood and Westminster significantly deteriorate. But the pretext for your support of Herdson’s argument needs to be qualified by a number of practical and conjectural points.

    It’s true that much could happen in the next three or four years to take the wind out of the SNPs sails. But that cuts both ways and that was one of the points of my last post. That is, Scottish Labour’s own prospects (at least as it is presently constituted) rest on the belief that Labour will be a credible alternative government to the Tories at Westminster in three or four years. What if that isn’t the case? Where would that leave Scottish Labour and what options would that leave its core vote, faced as it would be with the prospect of a British Tory government until at least 2020? At the very least this could create within the ranks of Scottish Labour voters a pool of at least some (perhaps a significant minority) who would look more favourably on independence. Further, as I indicated earlier, it’s not inconceivable that we could see some high-profile defections from Scottish Labour to the SNP, particularly if the Tories look as if they could win the 2015 British general election and this, perhaps as much as anything else, could seal the deal on a yes vote.

    I suspect that one of the reasons for the intensification of Ed Miliband’s overtures to the Lib Dems isn’t only to increase the discomfort of the latter in the coalition, but is a recognition, after the disappointment of the council elections in the south of England, that Labour’s only hope of winning even a share of power after the 2015 British general election is to break the coalition as soon as possible. The problem is, if the Lib Dems were to form a pact with Labour, where would that then leave the Lib Dems? No sooner would they have recovered from being the playthings of the Tories than they would find themselves working for a new pimp and become the playthings of Labour. How would this go down with Lib Dem voters even if they did succeed in winning more concessions from Labour? This is why I would argue that the Lib Dems will break from the coalition before 2015, not to form a pact with Labour but to re-assert their own identity as the only means available to them now to salvage their vote in 2015, with damaging effects on Labour’s current projected share of the vote.

    Less conjecturally, surely the main task of the SNP in the next twelve to twenty-four months should be twofold. First, to consolidate its position in government as Scotland’s ‘national party’. And second, once the celebrations of this election victory are over and everyone’s had a chance to have a good rest, to begin the campaign for next year’s local elections in earnest. These elections now have an added significance and, while I wouldn’t suggest that they might serve as an early proxy for a yes vote in an independence referendum, they will tell us a great deal about the SNPs momentum and voters’ perceptions of its performance at the national level.

    Why not wait for that verdict, it’s only twelve months after all, where the cost of a disappointing performance (unlikely) would be significantly less than the cost of a no vote in an early referendum? The latter would be guaranteed to take the wind out of the SNPs sails. I would argue that it’s better for the SNP to dedicate its resources to that local campaign and consolidate its position in government rather than risk the distraction of planning an early referendum campaign which could back-fire not only in terms of the result but in providing an open-goal to its opponents, where any piece of bad news, any target that was even marginally undershot would be seized on by the opposition and attributed to the SNPs ‘obsession’ with a referendum. If the SNP performs well in those local elections, however, it would then be in an even stronger position politically to plan the referendum campaign. But this will take time and it is right that it should, at least if we want a yes vote.

    I’m not sure about the multi-option referendum and even less sure about that being a stepping-stone to independence if independence was rejected in a first referendum. Apart from anything else, there’s a danger here of referendum/constitutional fatigue – we’ve had four referenda over the last thirty-six years and by 2015 it will be five. I’m not sure how strong the appetite of the Scottish electorate would be for a sixth referendum and certainly not this side of 2020, and this against the background of more Scottish national and local elections, British general elections and European elections!

    But, on this reasoning, the earliest Scotland could be independent would be 2020 or, more likely 2025 or later. I’d rather that the SNP stuck with plan A. Try to win more concessions from Westminster on the Scotland Bill, consolidate its position in government, campaign all-out for a good result in next year’s local elections and then, in the second half of 2012, start the lengthy process of planning the campaign for the referendum. Whether that’s a multi-option referendum or not the prospects of a yes (for independence) vote would be better, in my opinion, in these circumstances than they would be in an early referendum. Finally, at present, it looks as if preferences in a multi-option referendum would be for fiscal autonomy but then, it’s only two months ago that Scottish Labour was 1/10 with the bookies to win last Thursday!

    1. Alex Buchan says:

      I want to come back later to what I now regard as the main danger of delaying the referendum but I want to respond to a couple of points. You refer to the consequences for the SNP of losing the referendum. There are two things I would say in regard to that, the first is that in the multi-option referendum, that Salmond referred to yesterday, the SNP would seem to have little to lose. The question would be phrased in terms of support for the Scottish government to enter into negotiations, both votes, whether for independence, or fiscal autonomy would therefore lead to a positive outcome of negotiations leading to greater autonomy. Secondly, even if there was a defeat, it would be better during the first half of the parliament because the SNP would still have at least two years to work on impressing voters by competently running the government. A defeat close to the 2016 election, on the other hand, would seriously jeopardise the outcome of that election as the referendum and the SNPs defeat would be fresh in the voters’ minds. Lastly, on the idea that the voters could be tired of referendums I would be interested to know if there is any opinion poll evidence of voter’s attitudes regarding this, bearing in mind that referendums are much more frequent in certain other countries. The idea that voters don’t like being engaged in referendums sounds more like a view perpetuated by Westminster and commentators tutored in Westminster’s worldview.

      1. Donald Adamson says:

        Your point that, “Secondly, even if there was a defeat, it would be better during the first half of the parliament because the SNP would still have at least two years to work on impressing voters by competently running the government” doesn’t square with what you said earlier. That is, one of the pretexts for your support for David Herdson’s argument for an early referendum was that, “…if the SNP are going to hold a referendum they should do so while they still have momentum, as he [Herdson] says ‘Who knows how the SNP administration will be viewed four years hence, after nearly a decade in office’”.

        I disagree with Hersdon on this but I thought that you didn’t, it now seems that you do!

        Other countries do use referendums but then, they’re used to them, Switzerland is an obvious example. You don’t need an opinion poll to tell you that, as part of the UK, Scots have participated in four referendums in the last thirty-six years. The point I was making was that to go from this situation, to holding several referendums in the space of a few years, the SNP might be pushing its luck. Incidentally, I’m all for referendums after independence, including a much-needed referendum on Scotland’s membership of the EU. But as part of the UK, I think that there are too many distortions that could be introduced by the British government, media etc to exert undue influence on Scottish opinion. That’s another reason why it’s better to limit the referendum to one.

      2. Donald Adamson says:

        In my last reference to the “British government” I meant to say the British state.

        Isn’t this discussion academic anyway as Salmond has already made it clear that the referendum would be held in the second half of this parliament?

  24. Steven H says:


    The only rock-solid observation that can be made about an independence referendum, no matter how phrased or when it is held, is that the result is unpredictable. An instinct for self-preservation is common to all parties, no matter how marginal – Labour may recover more quickly than is thought. And don’t underestimate the prevalence of conservatism when it comes to making a fundamental constitutional change. I think the most likely result is SNP overconfidence, particularly if local election results next year are anything like last weeks – admittedly though, as a unionist, I am hoping for this! Ramming a legislative program through parliament may satisfy SNP purists, but is this how most Scots like to see their government run? Was not the parliament set up with the hope that the impossibility of an overall majority would force a degree of consensus and compromise between parties? Salmond is very canny – “devious, in the best sense of those words” as Nixon once said of Eisenhower – but he is not infallible, and managing a rampant, triumphant parliamentary party is an order of magnitude different from managing one that just squeeked in.

    Also, the best-laid schemes o mice and men gang aft agley. Who would have guessed, five years ago, that the SNP would have an overall majority in 2011, or that a coalition government would reign in Westminster, and that the fortunes of the Lib Dems would plummet? I certainly wouldn’t. Events have moved in your favour these past five years – but that doesn’t mean they cannot move against you in the next five. Still, it must be an exciting time to be a Nat. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t slightly envious!


  25. James Hunter says:

    We have to get out of the union. It’s as simple as that.

  26. Donald Adamson says:


    I wasn’t making a prediction about a referendum result, which is why I prefaced my reply to Alex Buchan by a reference to “conjectural” as well as “practical” points, just giving my opinions based on my own reading of the likely developments in Scottish and British politics. We’re all subject to the laws of unintended consequences and historical contingency.

    Can’t argue with you about self-preservation but I would take issue with a number of the other points that you make. I’m not convinced that Scottish Labour will recover quickly from this defeat, although if I was in your position I would probably say the same. The reasons for this defeat are complex and they’ll take some working out. That’s one thing. Much more importantly, though, is how Scottish Labour responds to it. As I suggested previously, it has little room for manoeuvre. Or put it another way, it took Old Labour seven years from the inception of the Policy Review in 1987 to transform itself into New Labour. I don’t think that it will take Scottish Labour that long to come up with a strategy to recover from this defeat but there’s the rub, there is no ‘New Labour moment’ on the horizon for Scottish Labour, you can’t step in the same river twice and all that.

    The last thing that anyone who supports Scottish independence will do, certainly on the left, is underestimate the forces of conservatism in Scotland, and not only on constitutional change! The SNP is itself a pretty conservative party although I hope that this may change over the next five years, we’ll see.

    I don’t think that your “over-confidence” charge will hold once the referendum campaign gets under way. But if you’re hoping that the SNP will be over-confident and if you base that hope on the SNP repeating its success of last week in next year’s local elections, then all I can say is that I hope that you hold a senior position in the Scottish Labour Party, for I can’t think of a more disastrous outcome for Scottish Labour than to suffer a second major defeat next year.

    Is it really appropriate to refer to a party with an overall majority of nine in the Scottish Parliament as “Ramming” its legislative programme through parliament, particularly when that (referendum commitment) was one of its flagship manifesto commitments for which they received a resounding mandate?

    As for your question, “Was not the Scottish parliament set up with the hope that the impossibility of an overall majority would force a degree of consensus and compromise between parties?”, well no, it wasn’t. The Scottish parliament was set up to buttress the hegemony of Scottish Labour and to quell the rise of nationalism. Need I remind you of the (in)famous words of Scottish Labour’s Lord George Robertson, “Devolution will kill nationalism stone dead”. Robertson was only saying what many in Scottish Labour were thinking and hoping for devolution.

    I don’t think it’s helpful to depict Salmond as some kind of pantomime villain. In fact, I’d go further, I think this is part of Scottish Labour’s problem, particularly the Westminster group, that is, this feeds in to its trivialisation of Scottish politics. Why not just accept that Salmond is a good politician, not a consummate politician, but a good politician and just leave it at that?

    As for your point that, “Events have moved in your favour these past five years – but that doesn’t mean they cannot move against you in the next five”, point taken although do remember that events have been moving against us for the best part of 300 years. It’s our turn now and if our turn also lasts 300 years we’ll be even!

  27. Steven H says:


    A thought-provoking reply. Just to emphasize – I am not a member of the Labour party, I haven’t voted for Labour in years (though I do quite like my parents’ local MSP, Elaine Murray), and I think very little indeed of the Scottish Labour leadership. There was an interview with a Labour party type (John McTernan?) on Scottish newsnight on Friday, and he drove me wild with his lazy complacency and tin ear for the new political circumstances. If I could vote in Scotland (I live in London), I’d have to vote Labour because they’re the only party with an outside chance of removing you from government – that’s the only reason I’d vote for them. Regarding the local elections next year, I think Labour is in for a thumping (though the improbable cannot be ruled out, of course), but if the SNP think this will be a mandate for independence (or, indeed, anything else) you’re deluded. But that’s how I think an SNP victory will be interpreted by some of the “fundis” (though not all).

    If a party with an overall majority passes legislation that other parties have a major problem with then, yes, that is what I would call “ramming”. I don’t refer specifically to a referendum bill, by the way. In general, I think that a government that is elected on a plurality of the vote (i.e. Labour in 2005) should not be able to do whatever it pleases for the duration of the parliamentary term. This sort of thing leads to the poll tax, and Iraq. I believe in compromise and dialogue, and an opposition that has a role greater than merely “heckling the steamroller”. Again, I suppose I would say this. A quick historical note. MMP may have been used as a means to prevent an SNP majority, but it – and a host of other features of the parliament, like the role that committees play, petitioning, even the physical design of the chamber (a hemicycle), and so on – was also introduced as a means to move away from the Westminster, majoritarian, adversarial style of politics. The practice may have been different (c.f. FMQ’s – a weekly example of idiotic grandstanding by all sides), but that was the theory, at least.

    I have a seething dislike of Salmond (it’s the smirk) but in general I have tried to refrain from ad hominem attacks. He is undeniably talented, though.


  28. James Hunter says:

    So far apart from not liking a man’s face you have provided no argument for why Scotland should remain in the union.

    1. Steven H says:

      How about – it’s a single market that has worked well, for the most part, since it was created? How about – because the peoples of the United Kingdom have so much more that unites them than divides them? How about – because petty, inward looking, navel-gazing nationalism is a relic of the last century?

      The onus is on you to justify a wrenching social, economic and cultural seperation.

      1. Ray Bell says:

        “How about – because the peoples of the United Kingdom have so much more that unites them than divides them”

        Well, that would be partly because the Scots, Welsh and Irish are so thoroughly anglicised now. That’s thanks to an education system which would beat languages and accents out of them, and media which is so monocular, it barely acknowledges what happens beyond Watford Gap.

        I love it when I hear someone say how similar we are. We’ve been remade in someone else’s image.

        “petty, inward looking, navel-gazing nationalism is a relic of the last century?”

        It’s funny, but it’s the unionists in Scotland who are often the most anti-English. And the British press is incredibly inward looking. It thinks all foreigners are funny/evil, and that Muslims are terrorists and must be fought at all costs.

  29. James Hunter says:

    Those are merely assertions and fail to constitute an argument.

  30. Justin Kenrick says:

    Mike disagrees with Gerry over one small point (above at: bellacaledonia: May 8, 2011 at 9:19 am) – and that for me cuts to the core of all this: Defence, or rather – to call it by its true names – War, Imperialism, Aggression . . .

    Steven H is asking a good questions when he asks: what will an independent Scotland give us that the British State hasn’t? And we’d do well to think this through not by comparing like for like: State for State, but by thinking about all of this as historical unfolding process, a process we are a part of making and shaping right now.

    To think back to the Enclosures in England, the Clearances in Scotland, and the enrolment of the dispossessed in the factories and in the military of expanding Empire is not to refer back to grievances of one nation against another, nor is it to refer back to something from the past . . . it’s to point to a process that has led to the destruction of communities and ecologies across the world. I’m just back from communities in Africa where these enclosures and clearances are still happening, this history is still in process, and is dispossessing still . . .

    A Scottish State or a British State? That puts the question as if we were standing outside history weighing up two products.

    We are not, we are history in the making (and we always were, but the powerful would rather we didn’t think and act like that), and we can either continue supporting the processes that dispossess or we can be part of the Global movement that resists dispossession by the powerful, resists the idea that we are powerless, and reasserts democracy. The most potent being the hardly commented on re-taking of South America from US hegemony over the last decade, the most recent being the re-taking of the Arab world by its youth.

    To leave Defence at a UK State level with all the ludicrous, tragic, unbelievable waste of lives and resources that these imperial wars cost all of ‘us’ (‘us’ including Iraqi children) would be crazy. It is justified as enabling ‘us’ to “punch above our weight”, when we could put our resources and lives and energy not into punching but into military-like peaceful involvement in supporting communities (the real ‘us’) across the world.

    But it would be just as crazy to move the military to a Scottish State level and leave it’s role unchanged. It would be crazy if independence simply made Scotland an equal partner in the imperial wars on ‘others’, an imperialism that devours resources that are desperately needed to make the transition from destructive ‘consume and waste’ ‘boom and bust’ economies to creative sustainable ones.

    Scotland has been a partner in the imperial wars and in the colonisation of First Peoples territories from Canada to Australia. We can reverse that process, we can say no to ongoing colonialism abroad, we can start by saying no to ongoing colonialism within this state.

    That can begin with the dislocating of the British State. This does not mean dislocating people from each other: the English, Scottish, Welsh, all people are so much more wonderfully intertwined than is ever evident on the surface of accent or location. But it means freeing ourselves from the ‘British State’ of mind that has had us ALL in thrall to its imperious certainty that ‘those who rule know best’. They never did know what was best for ‘us’, only for their immediate self-interest, and even that is put in complete jeopardy by the ecological and social destruction it wrecks (however hidden from view much of that is in the corridors of ‘power’).

    Nothing has happened yet, there is everything to play for.

    But there is much play, much humour, much hope, and there is plenty of room for sober reflection as well as drunken delight!

  31. Alex Buchan says:

    I am now even more convinced that a multi-option referendum should be held earlier rather than later. In an article by David Maddox in the Scotsman today evidence is starting to emerge of the possibility of Westminster spoiling tactics. This centres around the changing position of David Mundell.

    The official position of the Coalition is identical to the position that Cameron has taken all along [and this may be why this is the public stance of the coalition]. This is that, although they will not try to block it, the Prime Minister is not proposing to do anything about the referendum because he “does not support it and does not think it is necessary”. This line was repeated by Michael Moore and had been, until today, the line taken by David Mundell, when he appeared on newsnight on Saturday.

    However, in the Scotsman article, Maddox says that Mundell has told the Scotsman that the UK government retains the right to bring its own referendum forward if Alex Salmond delays his. This, of course, closely matches what Annabelle Goldie and Michael Forsyth have being saying. Now, there is reason to believe that Michael Forsyth will get an amendment to the Scotland Bill to include a referendum on independence. Why? Because, according to an article in the Scotsman in October by Michael Kelly, Labour peers are brisling for a major fight over the Scotland Bill, so much so that eyebrows have been raised in the Lords. These Labour peers will work with anyone to derail the Scotland Bill and derail the independence referendum.

    One could see a situation where such an amendment to include a referendum could be ratified in the commons by a coalition of labour MPs and right wing Tories. Cameron would protest that it was not what he had intended but was, nevertheless, the will of parliament. However, if the SNP had already brought a multi-option referendum bill before the Scottish Parliament then the argument in the Lords would fall flat and no Westminster referendum would proceed.

    I think Alex Salmond should pre-empt any Westminster spoiling tactic by using the momentum that presently exists in Scotland to start the debate immediately and have a multi-option referendum as soon as possible against the backdrop of the treasury’s refusal to consider transferring corporation tax or the Crown Estates.

    In the above scenario can be seen a repeat of the insertion of the 40% rule in the 1979 referendum, again through an amendment to government legislation. We were impotent then to do anything about it, we would be impotent now. I can think of no worse outcome that a defeat of an independence referendum accompanied by the feeling that we had been out foxed by Westminster.

    1. Donald Adamson says:

      What you are depicting here is a constitutional and political dog’s dinner (on the part of the unionists) or what I earlier referred to as a significant deterioration in relations between Holyrood and Westminster. If there is any substance to these claims then, of course, an early referendum would be the only course of action. If there isn’t I’d hold to my original position and I’d hope that the SNP would hold to its original position too.

      1. Alex Buchan says:

        It may be a constitutional and political dog’s diner, as you put it, but officially Cameron could still claim to be following his respect agenda towards Scotland. This is what makes a backbench amendment to government legislation so useful, because the government can achieve its objective while claiming to be following a different course altogether.

        As in 1979, I can’t see the London press being too interested in digging into things, as, being an essentially Scottish story, it is tangential to the main news agenda. It would probably, anyway, be applauded in London editorial rooms as a very clever defeat of Salmond.

        It will therefore be an unofficial war against the SNP government and for that reason easy to dismiss [as Alex Salmond has dismissed Forsythe today] until it is too late and the amendment is carried.

    2. James Hunter says:

      The Scottish people have already made their opinions known regarding a referendum on Scottish independence. We voted the SNP in last thursday.

      SNP policy was unequivocal about the fact that there would be a referendum late in the next term. Therefore this has already been approved and given sanction by the people of Scotland. Any further discussion by parties outside the Scottish parliament could only be seen as obstructive and undemocratic.

      We’ll have our say when we’re good and ready and any attempt to try and obstruct or control this process will mitigate and reinforce the argument for withdrawal from the union.

  32. Alex Buchan says:

    I would like to add that if anyone with journalistic abilities would care to investigate this further and in doing so disseminate this to a wider audience I would be more than grateful.

  33. lenathehyena says:

    You said
    ‘Also, the best-laid schemes o mice and men gang aft agley. Who would have guessed, five years ago, that the SNP would have an overall majority in 2011, or that a coalition government would reign in Westminster, and that the fortunes of the Lib Dems would plummet? I certainly wouldn’t. Events have moved in your favour these past five years – but that doesn’t mean they cannot move against you in the next five. Still, it must be an exciting time to be a Nat. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t slightly envious!’

    So, Steven, it’s not unknown for you to misread the political situation. Read, listen and learn.

    The Union has always been disadvantageous to Scotland yet the argument from people like you is that Scotland should be grateful because the alternative could be even worse. Well there are growing numbers of us who are willing to take that path having realised at last that we can and that’s a great feeling.

    Scots and Scotland have been undermined and diminished since the Union through the political system, education, conventions, language, employment, literature, art, media – you name it we have been relegated as inferiors. It’s about time we shrugged off the sovietisation of us by the British state – something you probably welcomed when it came to the breakdown of the real Soviet empire but which sticks in your craw when it comes to Britain.

    Scotland scarcely exists in the Anglo-centred political world we live in and it’s time we asserted ourselves and stopped allowing the British state to conceal our past achievements and stifle our future.

    1. Steven H says:


      “So, Steven, it’s not unknown for you to misread the political situation. Read, listen and learn. ” – so you do not misread the political situation, ever? Because I admit error, my entire argument is mistaken? I am absolutely certain of few things, except gravity and taxes – it’s the implied claim by nationalists to absolute knowledge that disturbs me.

      Anyway – let’s be very careful of the words we choose here. The union has “always been disadvantageous”? Always? The Scots who enthusiastically built and manned the British empire might disagree with you (and proportionally, there were many of them). And the growth of Scottish industry in the 19th century – possible without surging British demand? Without a single market in the British Isles? The union is imperfect. I am not claiming otherwise. But an independent Scotland would be just as imperfect. Or do the laws of political physics not apply to Scotland?

      And, “sovietisation”? Really? You’d compare the British state to a totalitarian system responsible for the death of millions? The destruction of entire peoples? The brutal suppression, exile, murder of dissidents? How many Scottish nationalists has the British state had murdered or sent to a mental institution in the past century? Can you name even one? When you write so carelessly you cheapen the experiences of those who actually suffered under Soviet rule.

      Please, no more such breathless hyperbole. It just damages your cause. Trust me on this.


      1. James Hunter says:

        You’re losing it mate

  34. lenathehyena says:

    Oh dear Steven breathless hyperbole – it takes one to know one – do you read over what you write?

    Sure I wouldn’t argue about the contribution made by Scots to the British Empire – it was practically set up and run by Scots, uhm, which might indicate an ability to govern ourselves in the future. It has been said “the British Empire was won by the Irish, administered by the Scots and Welsh and the profits went to the English”.

    I’m sticking with my assertion that Scotland has not benefited from the Union. Contributing to the wider UK economy has not resulted in prosperity pouring into Scotland quite the reverse. What prosperity we have in her – and we have- is not dependent on the UK but on our natural resources and our human resources – including our highly successful system of education (although there is no room for complacency over this at the present time).

    Scotland’s contribution to the industrial revolution has been impressive but again the vast wealth accruing from that has been chanelled south of the border. One of the motivating factors for the Union from England’s perspective was to suppress Scotland’s own trade which it regarded as too close a competitor and one which could be snuffed out. Yes, there was an explosion in British consumption during the 19thC but the export market was the one which made the revolution as successful as it was. Are you suggesting that Scotland, had it been a separate country, would not have had access to English markets?

    Strange idea of perfection. Which state in the world is perfect? The Union was foisted on the people of Scotland by a very few greedy and disreputable individuals for money. What a basis for a Union! It wasn’t wanted then and it isn’t wanted now. Scotland has the economic and intellectual nous to govern itself and it is insulting or stupid to argue otherwise – or perhaps the truth about our contributions to the UK economy will become apparent and not hidden as they are at present. Isn’t it England that is afraid of a future without Scotland? Isn’t England that will find it difficult to go alone?

    Sovietisation – here I am alluding to the suppression of minorities – their culture, language, distortion of their histories, diminishing their achievements to enhance the imperial power of the dominant state. Yes, the accusation stands.

    During the 19thC the UK was mainly defended by Scottish regiments, outnumbering English despite England’s vastly larger population. It is well-known that Scottish regiments were used as vanguard troops during WWI and WWII. Military historians have argued that the Scots have been ‘sacrificed as pawns in the face of tactical and political manoeuvring. Whether in the trenches of the Western Front, at Flushing and Dunkirk or in Iraq’.

    Scotland has served the ruthless British state long enough, taken its crumbs and kept its peace. There comes a time when servility has to end.

    1. James Hunter says:

      Plus there were soviets before the revolution. It merely means ‘council’.

    2. Ray Bell says:

      Lena, I agree with your comments about the M8 further up this page. Like many Scots, my ties are not solely with the Central Belt. There are people on BC who come from various parts of northern Scotland, and we’re still almost completely ignored.

      I don’t want the Central Belt to become the new home counties. The media in Scotland is mostly interested in two minor football teams, and that’s it. That sums up their attitude to sport, to politics, to music, to Gaidhlig and Doric etc etc.

  35. James Hunter says:

    I remember, even though I was only a boy, that the spirit of nationalism was very high and it seemed to be spurred on by the relative success and competence of Scotland’s national football team ( which, unfortunately and seemingly typical, was fatally punctured following the capitulation of Alistairs army in 1978) .

    It will be interesting to see if our current political position can conversely impart winning ways upon Levein’s cohorts.

  36. lenathehyena says:

    Thanks for the point James.

    Good to have your support Ray. I sometimes feel guilty about banging on about Central Belt bias but it is extremely alienating to those of us outside of it north and south. Given the great stride forward the country has taken on 5th May it would be a pity to fracture the groundswell of goodwill and anticipated hope for the future of Scotland through resentment over the introspection of the M8 corridor. We should all be equal in this conversation but some of us know from our own experiences that the reality is different.

  37. Steven H says:


    To end on a note of agreement, as someone from Dumfries and Galloway, I totally concur with your point regarding central belt bias. I have friends who work in the Scottish parliament and I hear Glasgow and Edinburgh discussed a great deal – Dumfries and Aberdeen (for example), not so much. One reason why unionism is somewhat stronger in the south, I think.


  38. lenathehyena says:


    There had to be some area of agreement between us – well done!

    Interesting that those of us outside CB are happy to discuss this but Ray aside there’s a deafening silence from native CBers on this. Perhaps they don’t recognise the problem or are simply not interested. As I said earlier, disappointing. Still it’s a discussion for another day – one not so gloriously sunny and warm.


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