Irvine Welsh on ‘Scottish Independence and British Unity’

70s kids in EnglandWriting exclusively for Bella Caledonia author Irvine Welsh reflects on childhood days spent in London and his hopes for Scottish Independence and the stronger cultural bonds that could result:


Most people from Scotland, to varying degrees, tend to identify themselves as Scottish and/or British. For personal reasons, (and we’re all products of our past, as well as, hopefully, visionaries of our futures) I’ve always felt a strong emotional connection to both. This might be expected to place me in the ‘better together’ unionist camp, alongside the three major parties of the thirty-five year British neoliberal economic consensus; Conservative, Liberal Democrats and Labour. However, this was never a tenable position for me. To explain why I’m going to crave the reader’s indulgence and ask you to stick with me on a long digression to Southall, Middlesex, through the 1970’s.

As a teenager I spent a lot of time down in this west London suburb with my Aunt Jessie. She was my Uncle Alec’s wife; they met at a dancehall when he was working on London’s railways and she was a Nurse at St Thomas’s Hospital. It was an instant stellar love affair, and one that evaporated the substantial differences between them. Jessie’s folks were both domestic servants in a large Kensington home, and she had inherited their ‘Upstairs Downstairs’ view of the world, whereby ruling elites were both duty-bound and well-trained in the effective running of the nation, and would largely discharge this thankless activity in everyone’s best interests. Alec, by contrast, was a union man, a railway worker who came from a family of dockers, and steeped in industrial socialism. He liked a drink, and had a strong sense of joie de vivre. I think they complemented each other; he brought out her fun side, while she grounded and centred him. They started married life in Fulham (when it was a working-class district) where they had a daughter, Elizabeth, and a son, Alec Junior, known as ‘Young Alec’ in my family. As neither Alec nor Jessie came from well-to-do circumstances, they understandably wanted to give their kids some of the opportunities they’d never enjoyed. They were delighted to have saved up enough cash to move to the northern part of Southall, Middlesex, which was then a leafy, desirable suburb.

London double decker Tooting Broadway 70sThe family lived happily at Somerset Road and Uncle Alec obtained a better-paid job within British Rail, as Jessie quit work to look after the kids. Their life, when I was conscious of coming into it as a small child in 60’s, seemed to be a very good one. Alec had been a committed Hearts supporter and he’d adopted Chelsea as his London club, due to the Stamford Bridge ground’s proximity to their old Fulham home. Alec junior thus grew up a Chelsea fan, so on family visits south I was regularly taken to the Shed. It was an almost identikit, smaller version of the old Copland Road End at Ibrox. If you went there in the 70’s, you could see why so many Rangers supporters working in London made Chelsea their team; it would have felt a home from home for them. Those long 207 bus treks along the Uxbridge Road, then the tube ride from Ealing Broadway to Fulham Broadway became etched into my DNA. There were afternoons in the beer garden of the Lady Margaret pub, and most impressive of all for me, being from a council flat, there was the house, with its small wooden conservatory attached, leading to a beautiful garden containing a shed and greenhouse.

Every family has its tensions and struggles. While I was oblivious to any at Somerset Road, I’m aware that, through my child’s eyes, I’m making this life seem more idyllic than it probably was. What is beyond question is that it was shattered by my Uncle Alec’s untimely death at work, through a sudden heart attack. The post-mortem revealed a congenital issue, which had gone undetected. This was devastating for the family. For reasons I’ve never quite understood, Aunt Jessie became estranged from Elizabeth, who had married and moved to Surrey and would soon have children of her own. However, my uncle’s extended family back in Leith was very supportive of Jessie, and they became even closer following the tragedy of Uncle Alec’s death. We all kept up our regular London visits, and Jessie and Alec junior particularly, were frequently in Edinburgh for extended spells.

I’m not inclined by nature to look back, and I’m not big on dates, nor do I tend to keep, or gaze at, loads of old photographs. It’s therefore difficult to be exact about how many visits/extended stays I had to that house at Somerset Road through the 70’s. But it’s impossible to over-emphasize just how much those excursions helped to form my outlook on life. As we know, kids perceive time differently, so the summer of 75 and 76 seemed to me like two lifetime’s worth of experience, and even a weekend jaunt to a gig, a sporting occasion or a wedding, gave the sense of cramming in more adventures than a month’s travelling does now.

I idolized Alec Junior, who was ten years older than me. He was a handsome guy who looked very like the young David Hemmings. Alec inherited his dad’s dapper bearing and swagger and dressed very well, an archetypal London wide boy and determined ladies man. Every time he’d bring a girl home, Aunt Jessie would be on the phone, saying hopefully to my mum and aunties, “I really think this is the one for Alec…” but she’d invariably be replaced by another mini-skirted doll, many of whom I had the torturous privilege of observing at close quarters on my Southall visits. At thirteen, covered in spots, hormones raging, I’d brood with twisted envy at how lucky the effortlessly cool Alec was, with his seemingly endless procession of London lovelies. But sadly that was to be far from the case; Alec was still in his twenties when he was killed in a hit and run incident on Lady Margaret Road, after leaving the Lady Margaret pub, the local watering hole. The driver was never apprehended.

Soul singer in record shopMy Aunt Jessie was thus cruelly prematurely bereaved for a second time, losing the son she truly adored. And she was terribly isolated, as the community she’d known was rapidly changing, due to a massive influx of Asian immigrants. People, mainly from Bangladesh and Bengal, started to arrive in Southall, first in the poorer section of the area, around the railway station, south of the Uxbridge Road. “They’ve even got their own banks!” my Aunt Jessie would exclaim in outrage. The incomers (any discussion of class, race and nationality in Britain’s toxic social waters always makes the most innocuous word sound so pejorative and loaded) then started to jointly purchase the smarter houses on her side of the district. Those single-family homes thus became multiple occupancy dwellings, as different music and new cooking aromas started to fill the air.

It was my first awareness, coming from a council house in Scotland, of just how much the economic and social life of the South East was driven by the property market. Whites panicked and sold up, most moving even further along the M4 corridor. To make matters worse for Aunt Jessie, Fulham, where she, Uncle Alec and their children had moved from, had gentrified and become a sought-after, solidly bourgeois neighbourhood. She watched her old terrace house there exponentially gain in value, while property prices on her Southall home stagnated.

It was around this time my visits to her became more frequent, first with other family members, then on my own. I loved Jessie’s white painted house, and that amazing garden. Coming from a grey scheme of systems-built rabbit hutches, the invigorating effect was similar to the one I currently experience when I leave the bleak Chicago winter and head south to sun-kissed Miami Beach for an extended stay. One of my best memories of my dad is of us working together to repair Jessie’s shed, greenhouse and conservatory, which had predictably suffered from neglect since both Alec’s had departed.

Whereas Aunt Jessie understandably saw only threat in Southall’s changing demographics, the whole place was just mystical to me: suggesting enough of Bombay or Calcutta to make me want to go there. The two Asian girls next door were beyond gorgeous and as soon as they appeared in their adjoining garden, I’d be right outside, pretending to do stuff. Sadly my attempted seductions got no further than some exchanged flirty grins and urgent whispers through the hedge. I recall being the only white in a Bollywood film screening at a makeshift cinema on the Uxbridge Road. The other movie attendees looked at me as if I was mental, and I probably was, but I had a marvelous time, though I kept this experience from Jessie.

West Ham fans 1975 Cup FinalThe local white kids adopted me readily. Their shrinking, beleaguered tribe could always use another face, albeit a temporary one. Because of my Scottish accent they thought I was ‘hard’, and while I wasn’t, I knew enough real radges back home to be able to front it with aplomb. Every time I returned to Southall they were a little older, and we graduated from playing football to drinking and attending Chelsea and QPR games (although West Ham were my favourite London club) and rock n roll gigs. The writer, Tim Lott, comes from the area, and although we don’t recall each other from this time, we would later become friends, and Tim’s observations of Southall chime with a lot of my own memories. Social networks have recently reunited me with one of that crowd, Trevor Bryden, who now lives in Melbourne.

But my best friend in Southall was my Auntie Jessie. She read the Daily Mail and quoted from it like a bible. Her politics were always Conservative-inclined, but had drifted further to the right in the absence of the counterbalancing forces of her husband and son. The only time I ever heard any malevolence from this kindliest of souls was on the issue of immigration. Now I realise that she was displacing her anger; grieving for the two Alec’s and her lost life, and today I would just let her vent. At the time though, I had a scanter sensitivity to these issues and I would argue and debate with her all day, and sometimes all night. I would bring home the Socialist Worker and quote from it in the same way as she did with the Mail. Aunt Jessie loathed Tony Benn, who was my political hero, but who, as an aristocrat, had done the unforgivable in her eyes by not patronizing working people, but instead encouraging them to stand up for their rights. But Benn was positively angelic compared to the detested local Labour MP Sidney Bidwell, a Tribune group member who was an ex NUR colleague of my Uncle Alec’s. “I know all abaht ‘im!” Jessie would smugly intone.

This ought to have led to discord, but Aunt Jessie loved our playful political jousting as much as I did. Now I can see that it was almost certainly something she had engaged in regularly with the two Alec’s. So despite the fact that we were such an unlikely pairing, we never, ever fell out. Outside of my immediate family household, I had never felt so loved by another person, and she made Somerset Road seem like a second home to me. For my part, I worshipped this hurt and lost but absolutely wonderful, big-hearted and generously spirited woman with all my heart. She would say to me, obviously mindful of the terrible experience of her son, “I don’t care what you do, you can come home as drunk as a lord if you wish, but you never, ever stay out after 1.00 am. That means you have to leave the West End before midnight to get back here. If you don’t return by then, I’ll be forced to phone your mother and tell her that you’ve gone missing.”

I would later appreciate how the terrible tragedy of Alec Junior weighed heavily on her, but also that Aunt Jessie was giving me, a teenager alone in London, tremendous license, which I didn’t have back in Edinburgh. At the time though, I quietly resented the imposition of this curfew. I was conscious of being a Cinderella figure; at a club or pub I would vanish before midnight, with all the resultant social and sexual heartbreak, in order to catch the tube and bus back to Southall. It would almost be worth it however, when I came in and saw a plate bearing two rolls on the kitchen table, one with ham, the other with cheese, with always the same accompanying note: “IRVINE, SSHHH! XXX” The rolls had very chewy light-brown crusts, and I’d never, ever tasted anything like them. I used to argue that the well-fired rolls from the bakers in Muirhouse were better, but I think Jessie saw, via the number I got through, that I was a committed fan.

Alba d'oroJessie and I had, what to me, was a crucial bond between us. At sixteen I had been on a drunken night on the town in Edinburgh, with three pals, Raymond, Paul and John. We were at the Office Bar in Tolcross, an Italian ran establishment, and a well-known underage drinker’s joint. We were heading back to the scheme through town, and stopped off at the Alba D’Oro chip shop. There was, as always, a huge closing time queue at this popular spot. John and myself opted to wait, but Raymie and Paul lost patience and left. A few minutes later, they were driving past in a white van they had broken into, tooting the horn and waving at us. The blurred view through those big, plate-glass windows of that New Town chippy was the last time we saw them alive. Both were killed in a head-on collision with a lorry on the Forth Road Bridge.

Going into my work as an apprentice that following Monday, this old cunt (I can only describe him as such) had a made a comment in relation to the story of the fatal crash about ‘car thieves getting what they deserve’. I first blew up then ran to the toilets, choking in a silent rage until I managed to compose myself.  Still very much boys, John and I felt that everybody would judge us as low-life car thieves, (we obviously would have been in that van, as we had others before, but for the salvation of our greed) so we kept our mouths shut about our presence on that night, to every one other than our friends at school and Raymond and Paul’s families. Apart from Raymond’s mum, the only adult I was able to talk about this incident to was my Aunt Jessie, in that other world that was Southall. I told her how much the loss of those two great friends affected me, and shared my undoubted relief but strange guilt that I wasn’t in that van with them. At the time I didn’t realise that Jessie must have considered that my pal’s actions might perhaps have been mirrored in Southall, but by youths who went on to destroy Alec Junior, rather than themselves. But she didn’t judge, she just listened and let me talk. I begged her not to disclose this confidence to my parents. Jessie promised she wouldn’t, but told me that I should. (I eventually did, at her urgings, and they were great about it.)

The frequency and length of my London visits increased with my growing independence, to the extent it became clear to me, and to my mum, that I was ramping myself up for a permanent move south. I moved down Somerset Road for a spell, then into a squat (though I never at the time told either Jessie or my mum it was that) at Shepherd’s Bush. Then I met a girl from Ilford. When I decided (wrongly) that I needed a formal education, to be close to her I attended Essex University at Colchester, which was actually much further from Ilford (and Southall) than I thought. Even though I spent a lot of my early time at university alternately trying to extract myself from, then rekindle, this turbulent but oddly compulsive relationship, I would traverse across London to visit Jessie. I still salivate at the thought of those restorative roast beef and roast lamb Sunday dinners. I also kept in touch with Tony, Jack and Trevor from the local crowd; I was at the Hamborough Tavern on the Uxbridge Road the weekend before an infamous race riot erupted there, following the performance of a right-wing white supremacist band.

Aunt Jessie and I started to move –literally- in separate directions. As I completed my course and settled into London, she gave up on her beautiful little house and its bittersweet memories, selling to an Asian couple and heading north to Leith, the home of her beloved late husband’s family. She was the very last white resident in Somerset Road to move out. Later, whenever I spoke to her about Southall, she readily admitted that her perspective was clouded by her terrible losses. Otherwise, she would have accepted that her part of the London Borough of Ealing had transitioned into an area of young Asian families, and that as an older, single white woman, it was an inappropriate location for her in terms of lifestyle and culture, and simply moved away. However, she had a tremendous emotional attachment to the house where she and Uncle Alec had raised their children.

Fortunately, my Aunt’s story has a happier ending. Jessie loved Edinburgh, and it loved her back. She was an integral part of my family and made a strong network of friends, keeping busy and getting involved in local activities. Hearteningly, she and her daughter Elizabeth put whatever was keeping them apart behind them, and she enjoyed bonding with her grandchildren, visiting them regularly in the South East.  She remained very much one of us until she passed away, leaving us all with heavy hearts, but beautiful memories.

As a rule I dislike talking about my family or my close friends. They are precious and special to me, and often the thought of using them as part of my tale seems inherently shabby and cheapening – especially as their stories are invariably far more interesting than my own. Why then, this long, self-disclosing preamble? Well now comes the crux of those reminiscences; as much as I loved London, I was also learning that the widely assumed political and cultural homogeneity of the UK, even in the seventies, was exaggerated and breaking down. Communities like Southall were emerging all over England, but NOT Scotland. These differences, due to black and Asian immigration, and obviously related to imperialism and the emergence of a relatively prosperous and different type of economy in the South East, would only exacerbate.

Chaz and DiI discovered that London and the South East was massively subsidized by the rest of the UK, by the very structure of unitary government. There is no divine reason for the United Kingdom to exist as a centralised state, any more, say, than there is for the German Republic to operate as a federal one. This is simply based on precedent, the one for Britain being that it is a class-divided, hierarchical society, with a hereditary head of state, large aristocracy and unelected second chamber. Of course, Germany’s differing status means that the civic wealth is shared across the nation, not concentrated into one region.

With the parliament, civil service and media all stuffed into one city, the private investment soon follows, as does more public money on infrastructure and sporting and cultural arenas, in order to show to the world that ‘we’ are indeed the best. I learned, and it has to be said to my personal gain, that the main premium of this concentration of the ‘unitary state subsidy’ lies in the local property prices. Thus any other regional ‘subsidies’ were simply a paltry redistribution of this bigger, on-going subsidy.

But the property obsession gripped me. I knew that I would one day buy and sell houses to make money, and as a teenager had conceived a not so unlikely plan of being able to retire by thirty. This notion enthralled me: you can make money without working. You didn’t need to do anything. You simply studied the movement of property prices across those tightly packed London postcodes and bought and sold accordingly. Of course, I needed the sort of start-up capital few ‘schemies’ could accrue, but theoretically at least, it could be done, and to an extent, it was.

I also learned that this concentration of wealth might, in the short-term, have operated to the relative benefit of London’s poor (in relation to the other urban poor in Britain), but was invariably to their overall detriment. London (much more so than Berlin) is now a very hard city to live in without a great deal of money. It owes its much-vaunted social mix solely to Hitler’s bombers. If so much council housing hadn’t have been built on those gap sites to cater for the post-war boom, thirty years of neo-liberalism would have driven all the working classes and the poor from the inner city, and thus spared much of the ‘multiculturalist’ bourgeois angst about the schools their offspring should attend.

Like many Scots, I grew up saturated in something I assumed to be ‘Britishness’, and I loved it. Steptoe and Son, The Likely Lads, Play For Today, they were my cultural staples, and I was personally liberated by the welfare state, specifically the Butler Education Act. This meant that my college fees would be paid in full by the state, and I would also receive a full grant, which amounted to 2/3rds of my dad’s wages. Now all that has gone, and I personally would never enter the prison of debt, in order to go to University for a degree that has been rendered pretty meaningless. I would choose to invest any resources I had in other directions; like many bright, eager young kids from poorer backgrounds now do, I’d probably buy a rock of cocaine, cut it and sell it. And repeat. It simply makes more economic sense.

But as post (military) imperial, welfare state Britain declined, what I’ve also learned, and, like many Scots, am constantly having reinforced, is that a lot of what I believed to be ‘Britishness’ was really just another term for ‘Englishness’. I watched a Jamie Oliver special just before Christmas, when the Chef was having a desert cook-off with the Italian masters. The terms ‘English’ and ‘British’ were repeatedly used interchangeably on relatively politically correct ‘regions and nations’ conscious Channel Four. Of course, it’s hardly the fault of Oliver or his buddies that asserting their Englishness puts them in a defacto position of marginalizing and oppressing Scots or Welsh or Northern Irish people. Nor is it Scottish people’s culpability for being cast in a recalcitrant and belligerent role if they dare to bring up those continued slights. After all, sticky toffee pudding is an English dish, not a British one, so why not call it so? The accountability for this does not even principally lie with the shifting reality of ‘Britishness’; it can be placed squarely on the shoulders of the UK imperialist state.

This English appropriation of Britishness, what Stuart Hall calls ‘an assumed Englishness, which always negotiates against difference’, is now a powerful hegemonic force, which serves this state. In the past, when that ‘Britishness’ was formed by imperial and industrial expansion, and the esprit de corps engendered by WW1 and WW2 and the creation of a welfare state, it was largely an inclusive concept. Then, this ‘assumed Englishness’ was only a minor irritant to Scots. In the context of these islands now being a ‘sales territory’ in a globalized, monolithic, neo-liberal economic order, it becomes a far more sinister, inherently marginalizing force.

So my main contention; the problem for both Scotland and England is not so much an inherent cultural assumption of the movable feast that is ‘Britishness’, but this within the context of the UK as a political state, formed on imperialist, hegemonic structures. This state has stopped England from pursuing its main mission, namely to build a inclusive, post-imperial, multi-racial society, by forcing it to engage with the totally irrelevant (from an English perspective) distractions of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. From the viewpoint of the Scots, it has foisted thirty-five years of a destructive neo-liberalism upon us, and prevented us from becoming the European social democracy we are politically inclined to be.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATherefore I’m advancing another proposition: political separation could promote the cultural unity that the UK state, in its current form, with its notions of ‘assumed Englishness’ is constantly undermining. Despite the shallow flag-waving social engineers in Government and sections of the media, who tried to turn it into a bread and circuses propaganda event, the Olympics were the best expression of inclusive Britishness we’ve had for decades. (The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations, despite massive media hype and the pathetic efforts of a few unionist Labour councils, still amounted to an inconsequential joke in Scotland.) Danny Boyle, in a couple of hours, did more to assert democratic socialist values over neo-liberalism than the UK Labour Party has managed to do in almost forty years. But it was also nostalgic; it mirrored not just what many of us still aspire to, it showed us what we have to accept we’ve irredeemably lost. But I cheered just as ecstatically when Brad Wiggins crossed the line as when Chris Hoy did, and plenty other Scots I know did too. So post UK, why not, for example, just keep the British Olympic team?

If we rid ourselves of the political imperialist baggage of the UK state, new possibilities emerge. For example, it would become feasible for Ireland, as an established sovereign nation, to see itself as part of a shared geographical and cultural entity. This, in turn, brings potential opportunities for the continued development of the peace process in Northern Ireland. The idea of the political independence of England and Scotland leading to conflict, hatred and distrust is the mindset of opportunistic status-quo fearmongers and gloomy nationalist fantasists stuck in a Bannockburn-Culloden timewarp, and deeply insulting to the people of both countries. Swedes, Norwegians and Danes remain on amicable terms; they trade, co-operate and visit each other socially any time they like. They don’t need a pompous, blustering state called Scandinavia, informing them from Stockholm how wonderful they all are, but (kind of) only really meaning Sweden.

Poisonous resentments may surface most readily in the embittered personality, but it’s more fruitful to look at perceived injustices rather than individual pathology, in order to find their roots. Most Scots who go to England, and most English people who come to Scotland, stay because they like it. They contribute to each country. Yes, some Scots might get wound up by arrogant and pompous types who’ve made a killing on the housing market and revel in playing the big white chiefs in their new surroundings, just as many English folks might get tired of the aggressive, scrounging jakey’s, and the carpet-bagging politicians drip-fed by our sludgy Labour Party bureaucracy into the Westminster system. But only a bigoted arsehole, or someone with a self-serving agenda, would seek to infer that either Scottish and English people are inherently more racist than either each other, or the rest of the world, by seizing on isolated incidents. It would be good, though I’m being very optimistic, to hope that we could dispense with all this shite in the run-up to the 2014 referendum, and consider the real issues.

As an imperialist, class-based state, the UK is poorly equipped to meet the divergent needs of its constituent nations in this rapidly transmuting world. Scotland and England both deserve better, as do Wales and Northern Ireland. Whether the change to facilitate this comes from the 2014 Scottish referendum or not might be important to Scots, but is almost irrelevant in the grand scheme of things. The point is that it will happen. The Union Jack is the increasingly shrinking fig leaf that strives to cover the growth of an English nationalism and consciousness, which is visible in almost every aspect of life in these islands over the last thirty years. And that, in a post-imperial world, is how it should be, and probably how it has to be. The problem that the Scots, Welsh and Northern Irish have to face, is that they have no place at this party, and neither should they: it just isn’t a great deal to do with them.

Bullingdon BoyosWhen the Labour Party stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the Conservative dominated coalition to contend that we’re ‘better together’, what exactly are they arguing to preserve? The more reasoned, calculating Conservatives know that the UK state isn’t, nor will ever become, some kind of Socialist/Social Democratic republic, that some members of the Labour left still seem to fantasise it as being. Far from it: in our ‘home nations’ over the last thirty years we’ve all been absolutely taken for a ride. If you doubt the veracity of this statement, just look at where the distribution of wealth has gone. It’s hasn’t been to a beaten underclass, a working-class on paltry pay and suffering worsening conditions, nor has it found its way into the pockets of a debt-ridden, fearful middle-class. Notice who is doing better than okay? The UK state can be said to have served somebody well over the last thirty years; it just hasn’t been the vast majority of its own citizens.

Getting rid of it won’t instantly redress the massive inequities that have shamefully been allowed to heap up since I spent time in Southall in the 70’s, but it will allow the constituent countries the opportunities to put their divergent houses in order.  And I believe it will permit an inclusive, respectful sense of true British identity to emerge, based on shared cultural values, rather than disparate political ideals flimsily held together around the shabby worship of an exploitative hierarchy. Better together? Yes, certainly, but better independent and free together.

(c) IRVINE WELSH, 2013


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Comments (169)

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  1. lauraannham says:

    A well made argument. However, I think that whenever Scotland and England do separate – whether in 2014, or later, the backlash will be so vicious – like a painful divorce – that it could have repercussions for years.

    1. steven luby says:

      By ‘backlash’ do you mean the section of society that have………what exactly? Where would and why would there be a ‘backlash’?
      In the event of/if Scotland steps onto the independence road,the people of Scotland/England will wake after all the long months of negotiations and step out the door to work.What will change that a backlash will have been created?

      1. lauraannham says:

        I think a lot of people in England and Scotland are conflicted about a separation. There is a lot of resentment and obviously that would affect things after a split.

        1. steven luby says:

          I’m not sure I follow on the point of resentment.If people percieve themselves within Scotland as not being a part of the British Isles assuming independence,if this is touching on your point,they will wake to little change.On the other hand,if living in England,a large portion of over all earnings will have been lost to it’s treasury.
          I think if Scotland votes in the way of independence then resentment will be short lived until such times as how things were truly percieved from Westminster are revealed,if ever. If however people resent living in Scotland after it becomes independent then their choice of abode is an easy one,if their resentment is that strong.
          I still don’t see where this backlash will come from,giving that worse has been done to Scotland for decades, than gaining it’s independence.All that has happened has been a few marches with lots of words being thrown and lost into the ether.

          1. lauraannham says:

            First of all, your command of the English language confuses me.

            Secondly, there is already a lot of resentment between Scotland/England. And becoming politically independent will only add to that. Will it last? Hopefully not, but it might be tricky to navigate for a while.

            And all I wanted to say is that we should be aware of that!

          2. steven luby says:

            Ah,a little childish are we? Ok,perhaps a little bitter that Scotland may dare to break up a union that has died in usefulness!! Never mind,you and a few others will one day recognise that 2014 will be the only democratic event that will have taken place for people within Scotland.General Elections for Westminster do not represent democracy for the people of Scotland,hence the 2014 referendum.

          3. lauraannham says:

            ….you keep missing my point and bringing up irrelevant information.

            And you have no idea what my political inclinations are, as I’ve not stated them, but considering I said that Scotland will gain independence eventually in 2014 or not, you could probably infer I’m not against it.

            Sigh. This is what I worry about re Scottish Independence.

        2. Dave McEwan Hill says:

          Don’t get this comment. Any poll has found that the vast majority of English people are quite happy for Scotland to go independent (some for the wrong reason that tthey believe England is subsidising Scotland) but their political leaders don’t want Scotland to go as they know that without Scotland’s revenues the rUK is in deep trouble economically.
          Interesting, Laura, that you use the word “separate”. This is the pejorative way the unionists decribe the independence process in
          their continuing attempt to frighten weak willed Scots.
          The Scots that are frightened of independence mainly are those who have swallowed the same guff as the English who actually want Scotland to be independent – they believe England gives us handouts. So the lie is having totally different opposite effects in England and in Scotland.

          1. lauraannham says:

            I don’t understand how you don’t get my comment if you then go on to agree with it. Some Scots want independence, some don’t. Ditto with English. Personally no idea what the Welsh and N.Irish think.

            “Any poll” you say. I’m not so sure about that. But honestly, don’t get your knickers in a twist! After every big political change in any country around the world, there is a period of adjustment. And all I wanted to say was…we should think about it. Because it might be bad. It might be good. But we should keep it in mind.

        3. bellacaledonia says:

          Sometimes the language of marriage and ‘separation’ don’t help. The word ‘separation’ is itself fostered deliberately by the NO campaign to enhance a feeling of isolation and loss. This is countered by pro-independence voices who question this. Is Denmark ‘separated’ from Sweden? Is France ‘separate’ from Italy?

          1. lauraannham says:

            Hmmm yeah you’re right, but I was really thinking about it on an emotional level – like a break-up and if you’re talking about the personal affects than marriage is one you’d go for. If I were talking about more technically political aspects I’d use different semantics.

            Denmark and Sweden are separate countries, yes. I don’t think the way I used it had particularly negative connotations. Just cos the NO campaign use it, doesn’t mean I can’t.

          2. bellacaledonia says:

            True you can use whatever language you want.

            Okay, let’s assume it is a relationship. If one partner wants out then the relationship has to end, no?

          3. lauraannham says:

            Er…I’m not a member of the opposition! You’ve totally mistaken me. I just think there will be a backlash. I’m not saying we shouldn’t vote for independence because there will be a backlash, just saying, hey, let’s be aware of a backlash!

            I think Scotland should be independent, but I’m not sure how many other Scots think that too. It’s a collective choice. But either in 2014, or later, I think it’s going to happen.

            Honestly, we’re arguing over nothing.

    2. Tris says:

      I fear that the biggest backlash may be if the Scots are lied to yet again, the English-based parties of Labour and the Tories continue to use the black arts, and the press and , in particular, the BBC play the dear old union card for all they are worth… and that as a result of all that the people vote to be safe in the arms of mother England, this time there will be REAL anger.

      I can imagine some discomfort whichever way it goes. I think that’s fair. Some people feel incredibly strongly and emotionally, about this, but I think it will be worse if the lies from the No campaign win the day.

      Just because I’m on the YES side doesn’t mean that I immediately assume that everything Darling and his team say is a lie, but they have been caught out on so many occasions lying over the Bank of England, Europe, Faslane and the 22,000 jobs that are going to go….

      This could be dangerous.

    3. pmcrek says:


      In my opinion we have been doing Democracy so long that we always accept the winner of an election . It is essentially institutionalised in Scotland, England and Wales, this places the results beyond reproach, not out of any flimsy idealistic notion, but rather by the fact that it is so ingrained culturally that people accept the results of elections in the same way taxi drivers drive their cab, i.e. as a muscle memory.

      While I can certainly see a very small minority acting out. I wouldnt think there would be any attempt to challenge the result other than via the ballot box.

    4. Dmyers says:

      Hi Laura

      I’m just curious by what exactly you actually mean by ‘backlash’. You say you think there will be one, but, while you may be right in saying so, don’t say what form this is likely to take or, indeed, which direction it will come from, and it might help Steven to understand your point if you had been more explicit.

      It is possible that there has already been five years of a backlash in the form of the rather bizarre behaviour of the Labour party in Scotland, and that what you propose will merely be more of the same from that particular quarter, or it may be something else, perhaps resentment on the part of the ‘No’ side in general. This resentment would surely be forced to subside, however, as we will have to start pulling in the same direction very quickly in order to take the country forward.

    5. Irvine, Irvine, Irvine, much as we love you I think that letting you undertake that MBA in Edinburgh was a mistake, especially if it has led to the revisionist twaddle you have spouted above. Surely England needs the direct influence of Scotland to balance the capitalist culture of London. Separation will lead to less influence and even more extreme Government in Westminster, not an enticing prospect for anyone apart from Rupert Murdoch and he lives in America.

      1. gurrier says:

        It is no responsibility of the Scots to inflict a government or values on England that England doesn’t vote for.The English have to sort out their future.
        At the moment a substantial majority in England, nominally Tory and Labour, now subscribe to a future Scotland doesn’t recognise.
        I think most Scots wouldn’t be hugely agitated if parts of the North on England wanted to come with us

      2. bellacaledonia says:

        Scotland isn’t responsible for English political values and choices, England is.

    6. Greg says:

      As an Englishman, I believe that separation is better done sooner than later. A `no` vote this year will solve nothing, Scots nats will not go away, the UK Government will grant further autonomy to Holyrood whilst doing nothing to address the democratic anomalies of the status quo regarding the government of England. The simmering resentment which is increasingly felt as much in England as in Scotland, will be allowed to fester. Time to call it a day, let Scots deal with their issues, Wales too while we`re on the subject., the English will cease being the bit of Britain which is not Scotland or Wales and will similarly decide their own future unimpeded by others.

      1. Big T Bone says:

        The thing is Greg, and this is something that not a lot of people outside of the politeratti in Scotland really appreciate, is that independence isn’t just for nationalists. In fact, I would say that MOST Yes Scotland supporters that I have met are left wing yes, but nationalist is not how they would describe themselves.

    7. Dave999 says:

      The concepts of cultural identity, the home nations versus the overweening sense of Anglo-Brittishness are a central point to what a modern British state should involve.
      The UK as a concept is not in fact an early imperial plan of domineering 18th century English nationalists but was the product of the realisation that being part of a larger, and at the time more aggressive, trading state bettered being a series of smaller nations. British Imperialism was largely built on the back of Scottish and Irish (both catholic and Protestant before we go down that road) mercantile adventurers, many of whom came from deeply humble backgrounds and were brought up firstly through access to education and then opportunity in the wider world, were for point of fact their backgrounds were less important than at home.
      Subsequently after the horrors of the world wars the spread of the welfare state brought for a time a concept of broader national unity in that the mothering UK state would look after all and sundry in their education and retirement.
      This worked wonderfully when a far smaller proportion of people attended university and when the life expectancy and proportion of retired pensioners was far less than it is now. However, the shape of our demographics has changed, we are older and live longer and more of us go to Uni. The consequent student loans that young people accrue and the fact that they cannot then get a suitably high earning job is the wider economy telling us that non-specialised degrees for large numbers of people are worth less than smaller numbers of specialised degrees were in the past. The suggestion that it makes more sense to deal drugs is merely an indication that entering into a low skilled trading job (by for a quid sell for two) is a more sensible allocation of someone’s time. If they had a slightly better eduction such entrepreneurial spirit might be harnessed in a licit and more profitable activity. Read freakonomics for the poor salaries of drug dealers.
      To roll back a few decades to the last referendum in the 70’s if Scotland had achieved independence and accrued half the oil wealth of the UK (for sake of argument) I am still slightly doubting that we would now live in some Scandinavian utopia. The west coast heavy industries would still have faced potentially debilitating competition from cheaper far eastern countries where the relative cheaper unit labour costs would still have undercut the main ship yards and steel mills. Similarly the Scottish coal fields would have still most likely shut for the same reasons. Even if a massive retooling of the Clyde factories were bought with petro dollars can we be sure that heavy government intervention and cash injections would have brought about a ship building renaissance?
      Similarly if Donald Dewar had gone for complete independence in 1998/9 how would Scotland have then bounced back on the the submergence of RBS and HBOS? We can blame Brown or thatcher or Fred Goodwin but suggesting this would have been an ‘English problem’ appears somewhat foolish.
      So my point would round to that despite some identity based contradictions in the wider understanding of Britishness the end point of breaking the union would appear to break the one system that the UK has actually most successfully exported. A unitary state model based on common laws (Scottish legal precedence accepted but my reference is for business practise) that allows for tarrif and barrier free transfer of capital and individuals. Will creating a whole new government to salve our poor definition of Britishness assist in this goal?

      1. bellacaledonia says:

        Thanks for the comment

    8. madjock2020 says:

      i agree it will be a messy divorce and im a sweaty sock….im already resentful that kids still going through puberty are going to be the deciding factor in our future….my mortgage hangs in the balance cos of some spotty schemie buying his first packet of mac3….being brainwashed by a saltire waving socialist promising him more benefits….such a monumental decision and they lower the age you can vote….id say backlash was an understatment….civil war more like….the silent majority of adults dont want it…kids/students and schemies do theyve got feck all to lose….the working class(i.e the ones that really work)will create a backlash against those that voted yes….as will the elitist tories….they will drive buisness down south once we separate…shipyard workers,m.o.d workers and the like best be fearful….we are keepin the pound but the bank of england will set the interest rate?are they serious thats some independence!are we in nato??who knows…are we in the eu???minimum pricing oan the swally!!am votin no!!letting convicted terrorists out on compassion ground after blowing up an airline??not proven verdicts?the scottish way…….fairness my hairy kilted erse….

  2. orpheuslyre says:

    Alas Laura, that was not a well made argument. Could you perhaps substantiate it, perhaps with some reasoned description of the very-likely form this viciousness is bound to take?

    1. lauraannham says:

      I wasn’t making an argument….I was making a comment. And I think considering how people are reacting to a comment about Scottish Independence that I made – when they don’t know if I’m attacking Independence or not – that the viciousness is self-evident. This is very personal for a lot of people.

      1. orpheuslyre says:

        That’s fair enough Laura. You were making a comment, not an argument. But did you mean your comment to be true?

        That aside, I do agree that it is extraordinarily easy for people ot misinterpret one another in short posts written speedily on internet forums but I don’t really see that the exchanges above are in any way comparable to the viciousness that you seemed to indicate in your first comment.

        Having lived abroad a lot, and also spent a lot of time in london, I’ve found that no-one actually thinks about Scotland at all. Many people I’ve spoken to didn’t think it was a real place at all.

        If there is conflict it will be within Scotland itself. We are seeing that already in the YES/NO campaigns, which, although furious in their way, are self-evidently not pernicious.

      2. JnrTick says:

        Laura, you did say earlier ” we are arguing over nothing”, yet, you know claim “I wasn’t making an argument….I was making a comment?. OK, is it an argument, a comment or a discussion maybe? You accuse another poster of having a poor grasp of the English language yet appear to lack the ability to make your point clear and concise. You still have not clarified what ‘backlash’ will involve?

  3. Fascinating personal stuff Irvine. As a fellow anglophile I can empathise with much of this. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Laura. Why should it be vicious? Not all divorces are.

    1. lauraannham says:

      Didn’t say “should”. But yeah, I think it probably will be for a while. Not all divorces are but some are incredibly so! Independence is a personal and tricky subject.

  5. Dave mcEwan Hill says:

    We come to independence and national self respect from many different ways.
    The problem we have to face is the lies amd the scarmongering of the Better Together campign which is likely to turn what should be a rational and respectful debate into something that can have really nasty repercussions regardless of the result in 2014 ,

  6. Doug Daniel says:

    That was an excellent read, with a lot of truths that people who blithely state we need to remain in the UK would do well to listen to. However, I think I know which part the Scotland on Sunday will pick out.

    “Yes Campaign in disarray as leading Scottish author declares ‘Better together? Yes, certainly’.”

  7. Angus McPhee says:

    Repercussions forever I would hope, mostly positive ones, otherwise there’s no point. Should one stay in an unhappy Marriage simply because there may be a period of difficulty when leaving it?

  8. Hugh Kerr says:

    a very thoughtful article which resonates with me,I moved to England when I was 16 and lived there until I was 55 when I returned to Scotland to live full time.Even though I visited friends and relatives regularly and spent every August at the Edinburgh Festival it took coming back full time to make me realise how different the countries were.Of course there are shared heritages and as Irvine mentioned Danny Boyle’s opening ceremony encapsulated them but it was a nostalgic look back.For example the NHS is being privatised and destroyed in England whereas in Scotland so far we are protecting it and in the abolition of student fees and prescription charges Scotland exemplifies the Olympic opening ceremony more than England
    Yet like Irvine I have many friends and family in England indeed my son who was born in England is marrying an English woman this year.I visit London regularly as vice chair of the NUJ in Scotland on union business and to attend the opera and other cultural delights in London.I intend to go on doing both after independence and my many friends in London joke that they will come and live in a social democratic Scotland to escape the English neo-liberal governments of both Tory and Labour. I hope that after independence Scotland and England in the words of Alec Salmond can become ” best friends” as has happened to the Czech and Slovak nations after separation.More importantly we must attempt to rebuild relationships in Scotland between people who largely agree on most things only the national question separates us.As Irvine says better together after independence!

    1. laura..i for one see the backlash against the celts that will still inhabit positions in the newly independent england..they’ll have to will all scottish unemployed,scottish criminals,all scottish service personell would have to relocate and be paid by the scottish taxpayer(any scot in an english regiment would have to join a scottish regiment),i would also assume england would cease to have anymore joint projects with the scots,and if they did the work would be shared on a how much you payed towards the said project.the english building sector could be helped by the increasing the size of the english shipyards,so as in future england would build its own ships.ID cards and visa’s would keep out the work tourists.the more i think of scottish independence…the more i like it…out of the EU,out of the from the celtic fringes,and their loopy anti english socialist projects…that would have only impacted on england…open door immigration,human rights act,illegal wars…all thanks to the SCOTS led LABOUR party..proper borders,no special rights,england run for the benefit of the english,by the english….and that means CAMERON added to the list of anti english scots politicians……let it begin.

  9. Dave mcEwan Hill says:

    I like that theme

    “We will be better together after independence”

  10. Mhairi Hunter says:

    Just like to say how much I enjoyed this piece. As someone from a Scottish family who grew up in London in the 1970s the story of Aunt Jessie really resonates with me. I think Irvine is bang on with his analysis and I hope this article is widely read. Thanks for sharing it.

  11. Steve says:

    Interesting article – thanks!
    As you say the vast majority of Scots (and English) have only kind feelings for one another and have no problem moving for love or work to live in any part of the British Isles. As a Scot now living in Sweden I would go as far as to say the same applies at a European and even global level. The independence referendum is a purely political issue – a tool to enable Scots to develop a different relationship between one another and their government. And this is one of the reasons why, during a recent holiday to Edinburgh to see family & friends, I was dismayed at how they are reacting to the current debate. Nobody I met, in my extended family or group of friends, had a positive attitude toward the ‘debate’. They are turned off from discussing independence on any level due to the biased, over simplified way that issues are presented in the media. As an expat I get news from the internet and have found countless blogs that provide the balance that is tragically missing in the MSM or BBC – no one I asked read any blog or pro-independence news source. Due to a lack of freely available trustworthy information many simply resent all politicians and the media. Indeed some even became angry and defensive when it became clear they did not have even a basic grasp of important issues and to avoid upsetting them the conversation had to change to another subject. It appears there is a massive opportunity being lost for Scots to deepen their political understanding and therefore gain greater control of their lives and communities. Whilst your piece is thought provoking I worry that, like most articles promoting a positive vision, it will be inaccessible to many both in terms of being read or being understood. More accessible, well balanced, positive information free from political bias must be made available and a well moderated national forum for accumulating knowledge and concrete ideas created. I think that humour could be one way to begin to attract people – The Daily Show (Jon Stewart) in the US defuses partisan attitudes and manages to both entertain and make serious points without patronising viewers or demanding an in depth knowledge of the subject being discussed.

  12. Stevie Mach says:

    Excellent piece from Irvine, many of the ‘better together’ advocates would do well to read this, it may change a few perspectives.

  13. Mhairi Hunter says:

    Incidentally I think independence would actually resolve rather than exacerbate any ill will between Scots and English people – which I think is very much confined to a minority of folk anyway who are, as Irvine said, embittered personalities primarily.

    Whichever way you look at it the Union, as a political construct, does not work. If it did, we would not be having a referendum on independence.

    It’s completely out of date, an 18th century arrangement which makes no sense now. What independence would give us is the opportunity to create a new political relationship which does work for the times we live in. And we’d never have to hear any of these dreary sterile arguments about who subsidies who ever again. If that is not a reason to vote Yes, I don’t know what is!

  14. Cath says:

    Thank you for this. A very thoughtful peace. It took me a long time to “come out” as an independence supporter and I still feel slightly uneasy as one, because so many of my closest friends (and indeed family) are English, and I also love British culture. I think it was this, more than any rational reason, that made me always stop short of independence and argue instead for devo-max or full fiscal autonomy – the kind of words you’re English mates will roll their eyes at and say “shut up about Scottish politics” rather than “aaaaargh, you want to break Britain you’re a separatist” etc, etc generated by independence. I suspect Salmond was very devious in getting rid of that by somehow making his opponents think they wanted it.

    I also think England and Scotland can be far better neighbours as independent nations, co-operating. It may not be an instant love-in – I suspect the years of negotiations following a Yes may be a bit painful. But ultimately no one has any interest in that becoming nasty.

    I did come out last year though, and am now trying to reconcile the two

    1. John Gamble says:

      The main reason scots want to be self governing is because they are tired of the lies and distortions coming from Westminster and feel we are better able to protect our own. Simple really.too many inequalities equals discontent.

  15. John says:

    How does this affect Chicago?

  16. Doug Daniel says:

    Laura’s correct that there is resentment (on both sides of the border), but I’m not quite sure of the logic that leads to the conclusion that this will mean years of repercussions after we become independent.

    That resentment is a result of the union we’re currently in. People in England are annoyed at the way their government is acting, so they look outwards to Scotland and take their annoyance out on us – calling us subsidy junkies because they’re jealous of our free education and abolition of prescription charges etc. Likewise, for years Scots have had a bad deal because of the Westminster government, and as a result there is perhaps a tendency to blame England for all things.

    Independence will force people to reassess their views. Scots who blame the English for everything will be forced to recognise that some of our problems are self-inflicted, and English folk who complain about getting a raw deal compared to Scotland will see us continuing to fund public services properly, and begin to realise that it wasn’t subsidies that allowed us to follow that course – it was political will.

    In this sense, it’s perhaps right to use the old divorce analogy – unable to blame their ex-spouse for all their troubles in life, the two former lovers are forced to look inwardly and identify themselves as the source of their own problems, giving them the insight to finally solve these issues. They then find they are able to have a better relationship as friends, while recognising that marriage just wasn’t for them.

    (Unless you’re Richard Burton and Liz Taylor, of course…)

    There may be disagreements between the two governments in the negotiation process, but they’ll be fairly swiftly resolved as both nations will want to get on with co-operating as good neighbours. But in terms of the public as a whole, I can’t see any problems that should arise from the chips being lifted off our collective shoulders.

    1. lauraannham says:

      I don’t think we can conclude logically about the future – it can only be guesses, so really it’s my opinion. But I agree with you up to a point – EVENTUALLY, everything will work itself out and we’ll stop blaming each other. But immediately after, who knows? But my gut tells me – considering the bad economy – the blame game will continue for a while.

      And, as bad as it is, people like the chips on their shoulders. They like having someone to blame. I don’t want to be defeatist or negative, I just think we should not just be “Ah, once we split, everything will be great!”

      1. bellacaledonia says:

        I don’t see independence as a panacea, not at all. I’m sure it IS easier to have someone else to blame, that’s the point.

        This is about accepting responsibility and taking control of yourself.

      2. muttley79 says:

        We keep getting almost the most right-wing Conservative governments imaginable, despite not voting for them! They have 1 MP in Scotland and they are the driving force behind the Coalition Government. New Labour were unfortunately very similar to the Tories. The chip on the shoulder syndrome just gets ridiculous after a while. If we do not vote Yes then we will lose a lot of legitimacy in criticising Conservative rule over Scotland. We need to start taking responsibility for ourselves, and electing our own governments. Then it would be their responsibility to make sure we are governed in a progressive way.

      3. Doug Daniel says:

        I reckon if we head into it worrying about what bad things will happen, it’ll be a self-fulfilling prophecy. There’s certainly nothing wrong with sounding a note of caution, but I think there’s too much of a tendency amongst a large section of the Scottish public to expect doom and gloom – which is pretty much precisely why there’s even a debate that a country so rich in natural resources could become independent, never mind should!

        There’ll be some sort of teething problems no doubt, but overall, the future is ours to make what we want of it. And just remember that much of the ill-feeling about the economy is fostered by the neo-liberal forces at Westminster, who have a vested interest in convincing us all that times are terrible and their savage cuts are necessary. I think people are going to be pleasantly surprised by the way Scotland goes, and a large proportion of those who weren’t won over during the referendum campaign will suddenly be glad they were outnumbered in the vote.

  17. I’m English and would just be happy with any amicable outcome.

    My concern is that following separation there *will* be economic impact on England (loss of AAA mortgages up etc) and the right wing press will blame this and every future economic woe on Scotland.

    Currently most English people don’t even know there is an independence vote planned – really. They will when their mortages go up and the Daily Mail will tell them who to blame.

    I am not optimistic this will end “as friends” at all.

    Again – no position on Independence apart from peace and love.

    Great article by the way.

    1. Doug Daniel says:

      The UK will soon lose it’s AAA credit rating anyway, in fact it’ll probably happen before the referendum.

      And the right-wing press already blames Scotland for economic woes – we’re subsidy junkies, apparently!

      1. True enough about AAA but my comment was general.

        The “English folk who complain about getting a raw deal” are really a tiny tiny minority – at the moment.

        I don’t share your optimism that is all. The mail/telegraph haven’t even started yet.

  18. Tor Ince says:

    Absolutely perfect.

  19. Gwych / Excellent insightful, thoughtful and balanced.

  20. Anthony Kerr says:

    An excellent piece that I came to via my following Irvine Welsh on Twitter. First of all let me declare that, despite my vaguely celtic name I am indeed English but with a background of working in various parts of Scotland over the years. I am quite interested about how we might deal with the fiscal realities of (and here I think the language has begun to change) the end of the UK. Would we need double-taxation agreements for Scottish individuals working in England and vice versa? At this level alone its easy to foresee a significant increase in the civil service infrastrusture and a certain amount of duplication of effort currently carried out by single agencies. I suppose there are many examples of people living near the arbritary borders of mainland Europe who can attest to the practicalities of these matters. However, these are side issues not touched upon by Mr Welsh’s excellent essay and would not and do not dissuade me from hoping that there is a Yes vote to independence. If only so that smug self righteous arse Salmond isn’t quite so prominant on English TV. And for you guys, you can say the same thing about Cameron et al.

  21. simontglaser says:

    Blimey Irvine I don’t know what to say. The piece of writing was really well composed and I liked the set up and the pictures. It was really cool. It’s content offers a really interesting direction. You forgot about the Russian sailors though. Who would cater for them. I imagine little communities are shooting up all over the gaff.

  22. John Lamont says:

    Take away the political friction generated on both sides (e.g unelected English Westminster politicians running Scotland, Scottish Labour ‘Raj’ running England) and you remove the main, possibly only, source of animosity between the two countries.

    A good example is the Republic of Ireland. Relations between the Irish people and the English people are now arguably better than they’ve ever been. Once the meddling stopped, so did most of the resentment and bitterness. Take away the politics, and the social and cultural links are galvanized and strengthened. Contrast this with Northern Ireland where British influence is still prevalent.

    1. Nation Libre says:

      An excellent point JL. Worth repeating. You could add almost every other country that has become independent from the UK. When you overstay your welcome, that’s when the problems begin

  23. Doug Miller says:

    I used to read a comic in the mid 50s ( I was 9 or 10 years old) that had wonderful adventure stories – some loosely based on history. I cannot remember the name of the comic but one of the stories was about a knight called Strongbow who lived in the 14th century and led his followers into many battles. I loved reading about Strongbow bravely battling with rascally foreigners until I suffered a great shock when Strongbow took part in the battle of Bannockburn but on the side of the English invaders and tried to rally them to fight the Scottish rebels instead of running defeated from the battlefield. This was my first realisation of the difference between the Scottish and English perspectives and interests. My doubts intensified thereafter when the British government did nothing to protect the Scottish fishing grounds by doing nothing while the trawler fleet from Hull and Grimsby dragged the seabeds off Scotland and decimated the fish stocks and spawning grounds. Only when they later attempted the same tactics off Iceland were they stopped in the “cod wars” by independent Iceland.

  24. thebunnyman says:

    i passionately believe in Scotland being an Independent State. when it happens, i will do as i do today; visit my good friends in England and N. Ireland, which, they will no doubt, reciprocate.

    excellent article.

    1. some how i dont think you’ll be welcome….

  25. I like the idea of independence, but I can’t bring myself round to voting for SNP, or Salmon for that matter. And I can’t see the political groups changing drastically enough, post independence, for it to make the difference that is required. Still entirely unsure about ‘the vote’; not convinced either way to be honest.

    1. bellacaledonia says:

      You won’t be voting for the SNP. This isn’t about parties. You’ll be voting about the principle of who’s better to run your country, people who live and work here or another country?

      1. JnrTick says:

        I find it just unbelieveable that people still cannot differentiate between voting for the SNP party and voting for an independent Scotland in 2014, staggering.
        Do they believe voting Yes in the referendum is a Scotland governed by the SNP for ever?

  26. Nice one Irvine. Many of us Scots have moved south and worked in London, so this is full of gems.

    1. well after independence we english will sending you HAME….

  27. Dan says:

    Is it okay to not want Scotland to leave the Union because you’ve brought so much to it, from engineers, to poets and writers, and humour, and, well a lot more?

    If Scotland achieves independence, then I wish you nothing but the best, but I’ll be sad to see you go. I know you aren’t going to disappear, but a very important part of us will now be separate.

    1. orpheuslyre says:

      Not really sure that poets and writers can be made honorary Unionists, Dan. There is a Scottish Literary tradition, and an English Literary tradition but not a British one, per se. That aside, I’m not sure why an alteration of a political mechanism at Westminster should make anyone ‘sad’.

      1. Dan says:

        After having thought about it a bit more, I realise that I’m falling for the media view of Scotland being ripped out of Great Britain like some martial arts film where the bad guy reaches into someone’s chest and rips out their still beating heart.

        Not having to be ruled from Westminster is probably a good thing!

        However, looking at the map and realising that the boundaries will no longer include Scotland will make me feel a little sad, though I can’t really explain why. It’s not like you are going anywhere!

        Perhaps one day I’ll get to come back and visit again and marvel how much better things are there compared to the mess south of the border 😀

    2. pmcrek says:

      Yeah you need to be wary of the media buddy, they’ll tell you British identity is predicated soley on British political rule yet the following week they’ll tell you how its fine to consider yourself Scottish outwith Scottish political rule.

    3. highlandtoffee says:

      Dan, I was just about to answer your post when you made my point for me in your reply. Great Britain is a geographical land mass of which Scotland, England and Wales will always be British as Norwegians and Swedes are Scandinavian. You could possibly liken the sadness you feel to a child growing up a leaving home to stand on their own two feet. They’ll still phone and visit!

      1. we dont want surly neighbours coming around to stay with the midges…….

  28. Barontorc says:

    Yes, we will almost certainly be better together, apart and if it puts an end to the smug little englanders and pitiful fawning unionists continuously putting down Scotland then its high bloody time. Good old Auntie BBC being the main culprit, lest we forget.

    Gird yer loins for the fire-storm that’s about to be heading our way. It certainly won’t be cricket!

  29. Chris says:

    A really interesting read and brilliantly written (would we expect anything else?), though I don’t agree with all the arguments made. I find there is a tendency in the ‘yes’ arguments to see the problems within British society (class, inequality, post-imperial angst, Westminster intransigence…) and believe independence can solve them because these are all essentially English faults. This is not true. Class discord and inequality are as rife in Scotland as in England. Post-imperial angst is often perceived as an English phenomenon, but you only have to look at the chest-thumping nationalism displayed at Ibrox on a Saturday afternoon to realise that’s not entirely accurate (and I don’t really mean to pick on Rangers supporters).

    As for Westminster, its faults damage the entire UK. What does the average inhabitant of Gretna Green endure that his neighbour in Carlisle does not? The Midlands and North of England, and Wales, (and indeed NI, but the question of sovereignty and Westminster rule is a completely different ballgame over there) have been hit as hard by the recession as anywhere in Scotland. The SNP and the rest of the independence movement suggest that a ‘free’ Scotland would be rid of the kind of politics that makes the working class and the lower-to-middle classes struggle. This may be true, but it carries a slightly sinister implication that if we sort out Scotland, who cares about the continued suffering of the lower-classes in England? Ultimately, by definition, the ‘yes’ movement don’t give a damn if people in England suffer the same inequality as always (indeed, probably even worse, if Labour is robbed of the support of the Scottish left). This is the same nefarious shadow which stands behind all forms of nationalism, and is hardly a socialist or democratic principle.

    PS As a side note, complaints over the ‘no’ campaign referring to independence as a ‘separation’ are inappropriate, as the exact same may be said of the use of the word ‘independence’ in the first place. It implies overcoming a foreign ruler, and tries to portray Scotland in the same light as a downtrodden colony throwing off British (English?) shackles. It’s exactly the kind of muddying of the waters that Irvine fears may ruin the debate in the run up to the referendum. The Czechoslovakia comparison is again useful – you would never refer to the Czechs gaining ‘independence’ from Slovakia or vice-versa. It was a separation in much the same way this would be. That said, ‘independence’ has become the accepted terminology and to try and pretend it hasn’t now is somewhat petty! As a final point, it is so so refreshing to see an open and honest debate on the independence question here, with a thought-provoking and genuine article to kick-start it. This seems to be getting rarer and rare…

    1. ecossesse oblige says:

      maybe the midlands, the north, and wales can take responsibility for their own politics instead of having scotland bail them out, just a thought

      1. Anthony Kerr says:

        “Scotland bail them out”?
        I’m from NW England and to see attitudes like this from up North leaves me bemused and a little vexed. Makes it clear exactly how much wein the regions are being caught between smug arrogance from Scotland and from Westiminster.

  30. thom Cross says:

    Reading it twice I found layers of subtle yet powerful themes full of refreshing candor free from the language of politricks. The UK (1707) was an imperialist creation: post-imperial UK needs to find a new set of relationships through separate sovereignties. Scotland and England can benefit from independent internal sovereignty and with Tory policy disintegrating on Europe allow us all to develop our own external
    sovereignty and build healthier relationships with our neighbours: ‘better together after independence’ very good thinking IW.
    Thank you and Bella

  31. Macart says:

    A fascinating read and well done to Bella for providing it. I fully agree with the thrust of this piece, I do believe that in independence for Scotland lies the chance of a better unity, or more accurately a better relationship for the nations within these islands.

  32. jw hardin says:

    Perceptive piece. Thanks.
    As Democracy comes under attack in Belfast, how would an Independent Scotland cope with the influx of thousands of angry Loyalist Orangemen?

    1. pmcrek says:

      Northern Ireland currently has a culture of resorting to violence to further political goals, we dont have such in Scotland. If we did the provocation that was the 1980’s would have turned out very differently.

      Any such influx would simply be arrested if they broke the law and their actions condemed by every political and media outlet of note and by a broad cross-section of society.

  33. Andy says:

    Great piece Irvine. Im from northern england and cant help feeling a pang of jealousy that you scots have the opportunity to break from the London/south east stronghold that is held over the rest of our lives. Here in the north east we suffer considerably from the economic focus on the south east. While the local press have already started considering how we will be negatively affected by scottish independence, i think we really need to look at where the real responsiblity lies, which is not our friends over the border.

    1. Alan Bothwell says:

      Andy – just read your entry, and I hope a great many northerners share your thoughts. I have been interested in recent speculation that the north-east of England could somehow find itself drawn into an ‘economic area’ with a revitalised central belt economy, counteracting the neglect from a Westminster government in terms of regional development.

      I hope so, and that, rather than an independent Scotland adversely affecting you, it stimulates economic growth.

      1. pmcrek says:

        Andy, if its any consolation when we do get out, I’ll be the first on the train South with a crate of whisky to celebrate you guys achieving the same. I only hope we can be decent enough example.

    2. Let me add another Northern English voice to yours, mine from Leeds.

    3. Keef says:

      Andy if there was any mechanism to allow Scotland to take the Geordies with them I’d gladly jump at the chance. I’m sure anyone else who has experienced the Geordie hospitality will be of the same mind. Failing that, you know you’d be more than welcome to move to Scotland as I’m sure quite a few from the N.E. will indeed take up that option.

      1. well newcastle play a scottish standard of football and would not be missed…like the lazy good for nothing likely lads they are…

    4. Macart says:

      Well said Andy. 🙂

  34. Alan Bothwell says:

    Having a Scottish father and an English mother, growing up in England, but spending most of my adult life in Scotland, there is a lot in that article that I can relate to. I realised at a very young age that the nations that gave me my dual identity were quite different, and that view has strengthened over the years.

    ‘Britishness’, certainly as presented by ‘shallow flag-waving social engineers in Government and sections of the media’ doesn’t account for those differences, and as a nationality feels forced and imposed. That is my experience as a Scot; as someone who is also English, although Britishness is largely influenced by the English cultural experience, it think it prevents England from facing up to the people they really are and the society they want to be.

    The current British state is wrong for Scotland, but it is also wrong for England. It is an imperial state, with government structures designed for controlling vast numbers of people from different societies, cultures and nations. It did this over the years by denying these peoples the opportunity to develop their own identities, and it continues to do so greatly diminished scale. I remember the singer and musician, Dick Gaughan, in the sleeve notes about a song on one of his albums, writing that England was the first colony of the British Empire; I think it will be its last.

    The Scots and the English (and the Irish and Welsh) do have much in common, culturally, socially, linguistically, familial – and those commonalities will continue following Scottish independence (as they did following the establishment of an independent state in Ireland). The continuing existence of an over-centralised British, with all major decisions taken in London, has little bearing on that.

  35. Keef says:

    Thanks Mr Welsh and thanks Bella for a very insightful piece. Already it has been critiqued in the Guardian bringing lots more people to the site. I’d say Bella is well on the way to increasing its readership and
    coverage from this one article alone.

    Maybe Bella could entice Alasdair Gray to do a piece now?

  36. c heale says:

    As a English person (with some Celtic roots), I agree very much with the sentiments of this piece. The current UK political system is completely rotten and needs to change. I have always felt completely divorced from the London centric definition of Englishness and Britishness and its associated events (royal weddings, sports events etc.), and having lived abroad for many years, become increasingly aware of the underlying prejudice, bias, intolerance and racism (if that’s not too strong) in the London centric media, announcements by politicians etc. What is really great about this piece of writing is that it is obvious that Mr Welsh is enchanted by London and is not writing from hatred towards the English and England, but from love.

    1. mr welsh knows where his money comes from…like many a scot on the make does….

  37. David Moynagh says:

    You don’t dance the highland fling properly if you have to wear a Morris dancer’s outfit. You dont go to the trouble of having a Scottish parliament only to have a westminster government rule upon important matters in Scotland. You dont prop up a rich city you have no connection to when your own city is crumbling. You dont feed a cabal of rich self serving pigs when your own children could do with a rasher of bacon.

  38. MCK says:

    EXCELLENT to see, hear, feel, and know that world famous creative luminaries as yersel are fully backing a vote for MORE FREEDOM. Scotland is a wonderful place with many many ingenious, honest, far-sighted, GOOD folk. You make balanced, sensible claims driven by passion and sensitivity. I just want to reiterate for all would-be voters: this moment in history has nothing to do with the propaganda of whatever latest political party is vying for the limelight or your insecurities about playing monopoly on the fluctuating estate market in the next few decades. This is about a landmark occasion in the middle of centuries where we have a momentous opportunity to reclaim our history, celebrate our culture, fully step into our open-hearts and spirit, and cast a vote to bring that spirit closer together. With this commitment we become stronger together and will magnetise towards us everything we need to flourish as a whole, as one family of free-thinkers; not the current ”british nation” which is nothing but an island-sized detention centre for a disjointed, disgruntled collection of largely subjugated and oppressive elements competing and colluding together to maintain a despicable imbalance in the distribution of wealth and opportunity. We don’t need war and we don’t need the greedy, deceitful machinations of the dirty city and the landed gentry. We need freedom and we can have it. It’s in our reach. Let’s grab it while we still can. COME ON SCOTLAND.

    1. and who got us into the illegal wars….the scots led labour party..thats who…who allowed open door immigration..the scots led labour party..thats who…..

  39. jimhutchy says:

    i dont understand what is meant by backlash , can we expect an invasion of berwick from the bnp, can we expect scots to be ridiculed and stereotyped ? as if that has never happened before, will we still get match of the day ! i hope so ! will sportscene look less embarrsing ,will we get subtitles for eastenders , will we be free of margaret currans hectoring ? the proles very own version of maggie thatcher, seriously it might be scary being a scot living in england for a while ,but that can happen at any time ditto english people living in scotland , moronic violence sometimes known as bigotry and prejudice can happen anywhere anytime ,but backlash ! perhaps we should be discussing the old yugoslavia if we are talking backlash

  40. wanvote says:

    Interesting story from IW. Interesting (over) reaction
    to lauraannham’s mild and polite suggestion of a backlash. Well, as the author observed, we are all products of our past!

  41. kenny says:

    The word ‘imperialism’ is over rated. It rankles of ideology. It’s naive to understand history only in this way as it disregards power and it’s necessary condition in all histories. I don’t think Scotland and England is really the debate either, nor imperialism- but, it is a growing sense of being slow cooked over a fire and wanting it to stop. A lively, powerful democratic state in Scotland would be a wake up call for everyone in England, Europe, indeed the world, that you can get of the spit and go about business another way. This is a good essay by Irvine. He has the power to be an important voice in the independence debate and broadens his audience with stuff like this. I think he just invited himself into me grannies house for a cup of tea and a jammy dodger with it.

  42. Alasdair MacDonald says:

    And without that past there can be no future. When you talk of imperialism did our National Bard not remind us of Wallace or the sourge that was the House of Hanover and London rule. Was it not Karl Marx who soaked himself in the doings of the Sutherlands whose statue graces Ben Bhraggie. We are certainly all products of our past no matter whether you only go back to your own youth or your ancestors youth.

    1. Chris says:

      Did the National Bard not also remind us “Be Britain still to Britain true, Amang ourselves united”?

  43. ich bin ein burdiehouser says:

    Cheers Irvine , first Scotland- then Leith !

  44. EphemeralDeception says:

    Where I think their will be resentment is against our current BritScot hegemony who have been following their own personal interests and using sophistry for decades, not resentment against the English.

    Scotland is rediscovering itself. Currently we are on a journey and want /need more control to shape our future. Currently Scotland is kind of hitched onto the uk bus. Only together because we are hitched together, but no ability to take control of the wheel or change the direction of travel of the uk in our own interest.

    There are not huge differences but Scotland has been going its own way within the powers that it currently has. Lets say the UK is going True North, Scotland does not want to go completely in the opposite direction but more magnetic North. Over time we are and will move further appart in the way of doing things and the society we want to have. Indep is like RedBull – ut gives us wings 🙂 This is not blocking for good cross border relations, it should help them.

    Is there a loser if Scotland says yes? In the medium term I think the north of England will be slightly disenfranchised. The remaining UK will continue to support the London centric hegemony with very little influence to change things in North England while seeing Scotland implement policies that they (NE) identify strongly with.

  45. Harald Tobermann says:

    Irvine Welsh’s very personal account of his journey is a welcome contrast to the negative and bitter register chosen by Alasdair Gray in his “Settlers and Colonists” essay. Welsh introduces us to the genii loci in London and Leith (alas, not to the one in Chicago, home of neo-liberalism), who don’t ask “is he one of us”, but “what does he add”. In this spirit, even his off-the-wall concept of a flock of island nations – including Ireland – sound attractive (and totally idealistic).

  46. Fantastic essay. Gets to the crux of what Gerry Hassan keeps going on what we need – narrative, story – and done by a story teller. (With bite, and proper analysis.)

    Who next?

  47. Martin says:

    Scotland will be technically British in a geographical sense but given the share of population it will be regarded as British in much the same way as Canadians, who have equal rights to the term “American” as their larger southern neighbour, are regarded as being American. As in not much.

    Further the differing demographic priorities of the UK and Scotland will mean border control because there will be a much more liberal immigration regime in Scotland and pressure in London to put up border checks of some form – the idea that the Common Travel Area, an informal arrangement that can (and has been in the past – indeed you can, despite common misconception, be asked for your pasport upon disembarking from a UK to ROI flight ) abrogated at any time is nonsense. So there there will be more legal separation, less Britishness, more inconvenience for those who in these islands.

    Doubtless that might be an acceptable price to pay for independence for the reasons eloquently expressed on this board and elsewhere but there is no eat your cake and have it solution. Those who feel “British” in Scotland will undoubtedlly feel foreign after – whatever a map says.

    1. Dave McEwan Hill says:

      What utter nonsense, based almost entirely on assumptions of possible but highly unlikely future political decisions.
      And why should “foreign” be assumed to be a pejorative term except in the miind of a xenophobe

      1. are scots different from the english…are the scots different from the chinese….yes in both cases and foreign to each other..lets start building the border and designing a ID card…so we can track and if we so wish deport foreigners…

    2. Keef says:

      Hi Martin,

      I find it strange indeed that you are able to speak for the majority of people on how they will feel. Perhaps you have ran your own Brit-wide poll and have decided to keep that information to yourself. Perhaps you might care to re-think how silly your post might sound to others. Perhaps you are seeking to detract from what – so far – had been a sensible debate.
      Perhaps you are just talking nonesense for the sake of it.
      Whatever the reasons you are sounding just a tad silly.

  48. Anglostoneman says:

    In economic terms Scottish independence is at best pointless, at worst destructive.

    No matter if enough people want it. However Scotland does not have the same degree of social cohesion or the same level of work ethic as the Scandinavian countries which many quote as examples for a future state. An Aberdonian has less in common with a Weegie than he has with a Dutchman; a Shetland crofter has more in common with a Cornish fisherman than an Edinburgh banker. Home Rule for Pictland, give the Orkneys and Shetlands back to Norway (its Shetlands Oil!), leave the Borders to England and let the Central Belt subsidise itself!

    By the way my 7th great grandfather was (probably) pushed off his croft in the Sutherland clearances (which, incidentally, cost the (English) Duke a great deal of money and made a lot of profit for (Scottish) Patrick Sellar and his Aberdeenshire farming cronies). Thank god, he was or I might still be living in a black house, scratching midgie bites by a peat fire and chasing black cattle over the bogs for a living.

    The Scots invented Sociology (Ferguson), Common Sense (Thomas Reid), Scepticism (Hume), Free Market Capitalism (Adam Smith) and the steam engine (Watt) – doubt any of them would have voted for Alec Salmond.

    1. steven luby says:

      Really, I for one would find it a very odd thing for the Scottish Gov to converse with Northern Ireland before the Scottish people have given their opinion but,perhaps thats just me.
      What might be a point to remeber is this,the present Scottish Gov did not seek it’s position with reference to the E.U until the Edinburgh Agreement had come to it’s conclusion. Point being,why confuse a referendum with issues that may not come to light?

    2. Dave McEwan Hill says:

      The infantile attack on the hugely succesful and effective Alex Salmond immediately invalidates any comment you think you are making.
      I am very happy to point out that I can remember not one example of Alex Salmond indulging in personalised attack on anybody and certainly not at this school girl level

    3. Alan Gerrish says:

      Oh dear! Seems to me you just don’t know what you don’t know, Anglostoneman, and you should learn that coming up with grandiose statements eg “In economic terms Scottish independence is at best pointless, at worst destructive.” without arguing them in a reasoned way suggests we’re not going to get much past the “yah, boo!”stage.
      Also you state that “However Scotland does not have the same degree of social cohesion or the same level of work ethic as the Scandinavian countries which many quote as examples for a future state” Well, Doh! – there is a reason for this and it ain’t rocket science: Scandinavian countries have decent wages, good social welfare high living standards and most of all the population feel they have a stake in “their” country – it belongs to everyone and not to a few who have all the privileges: MOTIVATION follows!

      1. Harald Tobermann says:

        Sweden and Denmark have no legal minimum wage.

  49. Irvine Welsh teases that “the UK state can be said to have served someone well over the last 35 years : it just hasn’t been the majority of it’s own citizens”. 

    First off I’d say he is correct. But not for the last 35 years – multiply that by 10.

    By way of explanation, the first Colony of the British Empire was England (not Scotland) and England will be the last to gain its independence – and therefore find and reclaim its national identity. An unfortunate and insidious fact unknown to the vast majority of people in the UK is that the City of Westminster’s creation of a British Empire started with the colonisation of England. This was ultimately followed by the eradication of England’s identity and the transposition and promotion of “Britishness”. Britishness “the great illusion” created by a Westminster ruling elite and Treasury for the benefit of that elite.

    In England the Magna Carta was primarily founded to curtail the monarchs’ powers in favour of the baron’s and was an attempt by the baron’s to protect and enshrine their property rights against seizure by the crown.  To the feudal baron in England at least, people – the peasantry – were also property. 

    England’s’ law is therefore fundamentally property based.  England’s people historically ‘subjects’ and property. The “City of Westminster” became the central institution of control and administration of a ruling elite.

    So, if colonisation is a process whereby sovereignty over a territory is claimed by a parasitic colonist authority and the social structure, government, and economics of the colony are then changed (by the colonist authority) to appropriate and exploit any resources of the acquired territory for the benefit of the parasitic authority, then, as Irvine Welsh teases, the UK state has served someone well – not the English  – but the City of Westminster and its monolithic Burlington elite.

  50. shawn says:

    As an outsider (Canadian) this was a very interesting read. I certainly hope that Scotland obtains its independence. The BNA Act and then the Constitution Act have worked out quite well for Canada.

    Post WWII Canadians have felt a need to claim a stronger independent cultural identity and policies. Since 1982 we haven’t really looked back, and don’t really have any true legislative ties to the British Commonwealth. Canada is much better for it.

    That being said, we obviously have our own regional cultural issues regarding aboriginal rights, the province of Quebec, and even Newfoundland.

  51. Binko says:

    A wonderful, thought provoking article. I agree, Scotland’s independence allows us to finally break the Imperial curse history has handed us. But this depends on the UK being disolved and Ireland being united. Scotland and England partioned Ireland and created the “province” of Northern Ireland. Scotland is as much responsible for that tragic act of colonialism as is England. If Scotland walks away from Northern Ireland and leaves it to the English there will be chaos. How can England pursue “its main mission, namely to build a inclusive, post-imperial, multi-racial society” by leaving it with the “distraction” of Northern Ireland? And will the English agree to this post Scottish independence? In my view we have to focus on Ireland in the run up to 2014. If we don’t the danger is the cost of Scottish independence will be more violence, pain and bitterness in Ireland.

  52. MacNaughton says:

    Irvine Welsh,

    I don’t see how you can pick and choose. If Scotland is independent, it should have its own Olympic team. That doesn’t mean you can’t cheer on English athletes if you want to, naturally – that barely needs stating.

    I lived in Spain for many years and I will always cheer on Spain in sporting tournaments, to the point of conflicting loyalties, but I wouldn’t advocate Scottish athletes running under a Spanish flag.

    1. but scottish athletes and cyclists,swimmers etc can not use english facilities…now can they…

  53. ich bin ein burdiehouser says:

    The Aunties the old tories, the uncles old labour, the sons new labour, the van boys are the ssp and i hereby claim ma signed copy of the idiot complete with nice price sticker, cheers.

  54. Starrystarrynight says:


    Very moving, Irvine. And very muscular. For me, Scotland’s best friend will always be England, and England’s will always be Scotland.

    But we need to take an axe to the current political system – and a yes vote will certainly do that.

  55. syzygy says:

    Hmm! Nostalgic “Britishness”, the soft underbelly of the Yes campaign. Better for Scots, Welsh, Irish and English for this synthetic construct to be ditched. Then we can get on with living in the exciting realities of the 21st century not the miasmic shadow world of post imperialism. We do need to grow up as a people and quick.

    1. Alan Gerrish says:

      Couldn’t agree more syzygy. This is nothing better than fiddling while the YES vote stalls. Seems to me that the most important thing which is totally absent is a positive vision for the future, one which the Scots find attractive, can easily identify with, and one which allows us to set the agenda on our own terms. Yes, it’s all right agreeing amongst ourselves that the “No” arguments are rubbish and right-minded people won’t be taken in by them; the reality is that people in general are rather lazy, don’t seek corroborating evidence and , are more comfortable going with the Morningside accent which they have accepted for years as authoritative and not to be questioned (I’m talking here of the people we need to convert, not those who already see the wisdom of a Yes vote).
      So what’s my vision thing? First of all, whilst agreeing for the need to have a social union within the British Isles post independence, I am not enthused by any reference to British political structures. For me I want to refer to the Scandinavians with whom we share so many values and who could teach us so much about alternative models to the British way. I bear no animosity to anyone in these islands outwith Scotland, but I really want a bright new country without any UK political, political or social baggage. Risky? I don’t know, but what I mean is that we don’t for the next two years continually argue the toss with the No camp on their terms. Let’s have a look at the factual reality of how the Scandinavians perform on a whole range of fronts, and these facts cannot be destroyed by the Nae-sayers. I’m not seeking a utopian vision for the future but almost anything from Scandinavia is demonstrably better than similar from the UK .- social equality, social provision, ways of dealing with the unions, pensions,foreign policy, environment etc etc. “Ah but they have terribly high taxes” some will claim but the point about this is that with low unemployment banks under control,reasonable growth (even Iceland is streets ahead of the UK on this score) and a high minimum wage without the grotesque difference between high and low wage earners you find here, people can afford to pay their taxes and when they see what they get from the state in return don’t mind (so much!”) paying them . Lesley Riddoch has already done sterling work in her research in Norway and Iceland and marks herself out as a “missionary” for the Yes vote ; I hope Blair Jenkins will woo her with immediate effect!

      1. syzygy says:

        For me independence is a new beginning, A renewal of the Scottish “thing”. An opportunity to redefine ourselves socially, culturally and politically, however traumatic that might be for
        some, on our own terms. The old order, the one born out of a long dead worldview, has no place in our future. The king is dead! long live the republic. May be too revolutionary for weak Yeses, but by hell its more exciting. A kick in the arse for that dull, cautious, maudlin, sentimental Scotland that sheds crocodile tears while whoring her citizens.

  56. Dave McEwan Hill says:

    Excellent comment Alan and Lesley Riddoch is becoming a star. What is interesting is that Lesley Riddoch is fairly recently come to the cause and represents a continuous movement of the well informed and the socially committed persons into the YES position. These are the important ones because the opinion formers in any society are the final determinators on any political or constitutional issue
    The SNP determination to remain entirely positive and entirely constructive and to refuse to indulge in any personal attacks affords it dignity and credibility with our thinking electors which is excatly as it should be.
    We will prevail on this eventually. The media and the journalists who have demeaned themselves with a year of infantile personal vilification of Alex Salmond not only destroy their own credibility in so doing but are also damaging the organs they are using to peddle the rubbish.
    Unionist propaganda increasingly is aimed at the lowest common denominator and those who aren’t able or can’t be bothered to unerstand political issues. I suspect the only membership,they have left falls generally into one of those categories.

  57. craig miller says:

    born in slough , Dundee was my hometown , lived all over Scotland England …parts of Europe , Historically literate ….proud not to be a Blood and Soil nationalist …..proud to be a Scottish Nationalist ….dont hate anybody just for being anything …

    1. More power to ye mister.

    2. please tell me you’re not living in england…..

  58. Jim mc Donald says:

    Well there is going to be a winner and a loser.Myself, im! pro independence, does that mean a better deal for the worker and the unemployed, that will be up to the Government of the day.One thing is for certain those of the haves will still have their have and capitol will always invest where their is profit.

  59. BritishEnglishScottish says:

    I enjoyed this article immensely, in spite of the fact that I disagree with your viewpoint. Great to see some real debate on the indy debate.

    My position: I have a Scottish dad and an English mum.. I was raised in England but have visited Scotland most years of my life.

    Why do I not want Scotland to be independent? Not because of the supposed ‘lies’ of the Better Together campaign, or for economic reasons, or because I love the institutions of the UK..

    I think many people in both the yes and no camps somehow view anyone with a different view to them as blinkered or blinded, stupid, fooled, etc.. What about the idea that the other side genuinely care and are genuinely passionate for their viewpoint..

    So again, why do I want the UK to stay together?
    Because like millions of people living in these islands, my nationality truly is British. I love my English home, I love my Scottish roots.. I feel a huge sense of warmth when I have been away and see the ‘welcome to Lancashire’ sign as I get back to the Red Rose County, but equally – and I mean completely equally, when I cross the border into Scotland I feel that same sense of ‘home’.. Millions of people in the UK are not English Scottish Welsh or Irish, we have a mixed background and yet we get to claim one nationality.. And love to do so! So I accept many are not like me, many are English or Scottish etc etc.. But many of us are not..

    I get offended by the idea that because I love Britain and Britishness that I am assumed to have been sold some lie.. I haven’t, I just am British.. And I hope that the people of Scotland do not choose to break away..

    I do think things need to change, I think the Scots should be able to have their social-democratic government if they so wish, and I think the English should be allowed to have sole say over things that only effect England.. But I desperately hope to keep my British nationality, my British identity and many others like me feel the same.. For exactly the same reason.

    1. Deneo says:

      I am very much in the same boat as you here. I have an English mother, a Scottish dad and was born and raised in Scotland. I too dislike that people do not take me seriously for calling myself British. I am a proud Scot and a proud Brit and I don’t see what’s wrong with that. Show me a country that doesn’t have regional identities as well as its national one (look at America). I certainly do not want my British nationality torn from me without my say-so.

      However, I did enjoy this article and, in a perfect world, this would be the best possible outcome of independence. Whilst I don’t think our fair isle will fall into complete disarray, I think decades of uncertainty, inaction and indecisiveness will be the result. Northern Ireland would be the most contentious issue. The Republic can’t afford to take it, and doesn’t even really want it. Someone mentioned earlier that Scotland is as much responsible for NI as England and I have to agree. Scotland was never conquered. It formed a union with England. So, how can it possibly just say “Cheerio” and leave the the remaining political mess behind it. What would even remain? The Kingdom of England, the Principality of Wales and the Province of Northern Ireland? Bit of a mouthful. So of Scotland and England are the divorcing parents, Wales and NI look a lot like the disgruntled kids.

      Wales, for example, is definitely is a conquered nation and, sadly, has not retained the same level of cultural autonomy as Scotland. However, being part of ‘the Union’ makes it seem more equal. With Scotland gone, how will Wales and NI continue to assert their regional identity. Even areas of Northern England (Liverpool, Newcastle, Manchester) are much closer, culturally, to Scotland than the South. There is already growing resentment across the North about benefits enjoyed in nearby Scotland. If Scotland is seem to be doing a better job of it than London-land, whose to say England won’t suffer its own identity crisis. Are we just getting ourselves into an even bigger mess than we all ready are in?

      The global political climate is extremely uneasy at the moment and a lot of questions are being left unanswered, particularly regarding eligibility for the EU, currency, border controls and nationality. Together or apart, Scotland needs a stable England. Like it or not it will remain the key regional player in these parts. But, shouldn’t we consider the consequences of independence of the rest of isles before we bow out?

      1. i think you’ll find we bought you….and have the receipt to prove it….

  60. Greg says:

    As a Scot, Irvine is perhaps better qualified to say what is best for Scotland rather than England. His conclusion that it is England`s destiny to be a `multi -racial state` whilst Scotland is not perhaps goes to the heart of English frustrations. The sense of Scots assuming a finger wagging moral superiority which frankly, is not deserved. Let`s face it,, the votes of Scottish MPs foisted right wing policies on England (foundation hospitals and tuition fees)which did not effect their own constituencies. It is this rank hypocrisy which sticks in the gullet most, not the possibility of Scottish independence. Indeed some opinion polls suggest that support for separation is greater south of the Border.

  61. Greg says:

    Since when has it been England’s mission to create an ‘inclusive multicultural state’? Who asked Ulf English if that is what we want? Presumably the same people who asked whether we wanted Ulf same constitutional treetodmt and recognition as the rest of the ‘UK’ . As things are large areas of London and other English cities have in effect been culturally and ethnically cleansed by the same left wing policies the author supports. The English working class have been let down in a way which has never happened in Scotland. Your Aunt Jesse was right!

  62. Hi,

    I like your article¡¡

    I would like reblog your article in my blog:
    with one link to your web.

    Do you care?

    1. Greg says:

      Feel free

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  64. Magnus the Swede says:

    “… state called Scandinavia” What? Scandinavia is a part of Europe, it has never been a country, does not share a language or anything other than some similarities in culture and society. Much like Germany and Holland.

    What a stupid allegory to use as an argument for the dissolution of a state that has existed for hundreds of years.

    Its interesting that the futher away from the center of power people live in any county the more convinced they become of their own uniqueness, the evilness of the capital and how they are only giving and not receiving anything back. Same old story everywhere, so very boring.

  65. Dave says:

    Not steve dougal..?

  66. Dave999 says:

    The concepts of cultural identity, the home nations versus the overweening sense of Anglo-Brittishness are a central point to what a modern British state should involve.
    The UK as a concept is not in fact an early imperial plan of domineering 18th century English nationalists but was the product of the realisation that being part of a larger, and at the time more aggressive, trading state bettered being a series of smaller nations. British Imperialism was largely built on the back of Scottish and Irish (both catholic and Protestant before we go down that road) mercantile adventurers, many of whom came from deeply humble backgrounds and were brought up firstly through access to education and then opportunity in the wider world, were for point of fact their backgrounds were less important than at home.
    Subsequently after the horrors of the world wars the spread of the welfare state brought for a time a concept of broader national unity in that the mothering UK state would look after all and sundry in their education and retirement.
    This worked wonderfully when a far smaller proportion of people attended university and when the life expectancy and proportion of retired pensioners was far less than it is now. However, the shape of our demographics has changed, we are older and live longer and more of us go to Uni. The consequent student loans that young people accrue and the fact that they cannot then get a suitably high earning job is the wider economy telling us that non-specialised degrees for large numbers of people are worth less than smaller numbers of specialised degrees were in the past. The suggestion that it makes more sense to deal drugs is merely an indication that entering into a low skilled trading job (by for a quid sell for two) is a more sensible allocation of someone’s time. If they had a slightly better eduction such entrepreneurial spirit might be harnessed in a licit and more profitable activity. Read freakonomics for the poor salaries of drug dealers.
    To roll back a few decades to the last referendum in the 70’s if Scotland had achieved independence and accrued half the oil wealth of the UK (for sake of argument) I am still slightly doubting that we would now live in some Scandinavian utopia. The west coast heavy industries would still have faced potentially debilitating competition from cheaper far eastern countries where the relative cheaper unit labour costs would still have undercut the main ship yards and steel mills. Similarly the Scottish coal fields would have still most likely shut for the same reasons. Even if a massive retooling of the Clyde factories were bought with petro dollars can we be sure that heavy government intervention and cash injections would have brought about a ship building renaissance?
    Similarly if Donald Dewar had gone for complete independence in 1998/9 how would Scotland have then bounced back on the the submergence of RBS and HBOS? We can blame Brown or thatcher or Fred Goodwin but suggesting this would have been an ‘English problem’ appears somewhat foolish.
    So my point would round to that despite some identity based contradictions in the wider understanding of Britishness the end point of breaking the union would appear to break the one system that the UK has actually most successfully exported. A unitary state model based on common laws (Scottish legal precedence accepted but my reference is for business practise) that allows for tarrif and barrier free transfer of capital and individuals. Will creating a whole new government to salve our poor definition of Britishness assist in this goal?

    1. Will Mcewan says:

      Why would Scoland have got “half” the oil?
      Did Norway get half of its oil or all of it?

      Why would Scotland have bailed out banks when the protocol is, as is now well understood by informed people, bank bailouts are dealt with in the geographic area of their default (which in the case of Halifax – a fine Scottish name – and RBS the default was only around 5% of it in Scotland)?

      Who mentioned a Scandanavian Utopia?

      Why was the work and the plant of the Scottish steel works, which were operating at higher production levels than those on Teeside and South Wales, transferred to Teeside and South Wales.
      When Ravenscraigwas taken down it had the highest production levels in Europe. Perhaps that is why Tommy Brennan OBE, shop steward convener at Ravenscraig is now prominent in the YES campaign. Gartcosh was cosed with a full order book for two years ahead and a waiting list for what was the motor industry’s preferrred steel . I was at the gates of Gartcosh as the plant (which they had persuaded many people and the tits in the Scottish press was clapped out) was put on lorries and taken down for immediate installation in Alpha Steel in South Wales.
      Scottish Steel was killed because BSC generally was loss making and had surplus capacity and it was politically more acceptable for Thatcher’s government to kill Scots jobs and transfer production into the industrial triangle they had come up with as a policy from Teeside across to South Wales and down to the Channel tunnel.
      Don’t get me started with any more of your nonsense.

  67. Yes! Finally someone writes about driving lessons in london bridge.

  68. jude says:

    united we stand, divided we fall,lets work together, c,mon c,mon lets work together…… Every boy, girl, woman, and man…

  69. It’s genuinely very difficult in this active life to listen news on TV, therefore I
    just use world wide web for that purpose, and get the hottest information.

  70. Greg says:

    Hi T bone, thanks for your reply. I`m not quite sure what the point is you are making though, as implied by my original statement, I have no issues with Scots nationalists, left or right, though some of the anglophobic rhetoric does grate. Like most people, I`m leftish on some issues, right on others. Sadly in England the Left is ambivalent about England, for all sorts of ignorant and childish reasons. The result is that supporters of an English constitutional settlement tend to come from the Right. In my book however, a nationalist is just someone who wants self rule for their country.

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