2007 - 2021

The UK is not Britain; the EU is not Europe

BnCwRGWIEAAXGp-Andrew Skea’s thoughtful responses to Jamie Maxwell’s ‘Eurovision’ article made two key points about nationalism. I’d like to juxtapose these with my experience.

These key assumptions about nationalism were:

(1) That the SNP and UKIP are similarly blaming their neighbours for everything, and

(2) That nationalism is a dangerous thing. Andrew writes that:

“Nationalism appears not to tolerate other people’s beliefs / identity”, and adds that in fact “we are actually more similar than different, we have more in common than in conflict, we maybe want to devolve certain aspects of government, and we maybe want to share certain aspects of government, but we don’t want to build arbitrary borders, and we definitely don’t want to define people without their permission”.

I have lived in Scotland most of my life, I also experience myself as English because London was where I grew up (well mostly, I also grew up on Iona). Though many people may be secure in a singular national identity, I feel increasingly at home in a mixed identity: an American mother, a father from Liverpool who became a Church of Scotland Minister, a mostly English upbringing, Scottish kids and Scottish in life. I always have been and always will be British in terms of belonging to this shared island with all its diversity, but no longer in any sense British politically, now its brief triumph of social democratic values has been so harshly trampled underfoot by the elite.

I don’t experience the SNP as nationalist in the intolerant way Andrew and many other commentators describe, nor as blaming their neighbours, but just as wanting us here in Scotland to take responsibility (which is surely what anyone would want their neighbour to do?).

And nationalism in Scotland is not the preserve of the SNP; it is powerfully present in all political parties here. Some are more British nationalist (think of the UK Labour conferences’ ‘One Nation’ slogan with Milliband standing in front of it railing against nationalism, and incidentally trying to steal more Tory clothes in the process) and some are more Scottish nationalist (from the Tory party to LibDems to Labour).

Nationalism is not the preserve of those wanting independence. And likewise those wanting independence for Scotland includes far more people than the SNP, and includes far more people than those identifying as nationalists.

In fact the way the debate is playing out (not the No side of the debate where I rarely experience a debate happening at all, except for the odd thoughtful Tory or LibDem and rarely Labour, but the debate on the Yes side) . . . the way the debate is playing out makes people like me challenge the notion that I don’t belong to the same degree as those born and raised here.

My children have grown up and are growing up here, and my active care and concern for this place is the ground of my belonging.

Paradoxically, the independence debate is not building an arbitrary border; it is drawing me in to feeling a real sense of being welcome here. If the independence side in this debate is best described as ‘nationalist’ then I experience it as extraordinarily tolerant of all who come here.

I am not talking about the odd person responding to a blog, or the friendly guy in the Vodafone shop insulting England the way some people in any country can foolishly do. I am talking about the independence movement as a whole which is nationalist in the way that liberation struggles for self-determination across the world are nationalist. But that word – with all the potential negative connotations of exclusion and superiority – could never capture what those movements were really about: equality not superiority.

The only thing the independence movement seems to be intolerant of is intolerance.

And, as many have pointed out, one of the expressions of that intolerance is a kind of British nationalism that doesn’t even realise it is a nationalism; that thinks that there is no border between Scotland and England. If there was no border, no distinct identity north of that border, then Scotland is subsumed within the ten times larger England. It’s like saying it doesn’t matter if we just say ‘he’ for people in general because everyone knows it includes women. It doesn’t, it perpetuates their invisibility.

As quoted at the start of this piece, Andrew echoes many in the ‘Devo-Max leaning towards No’ camp, when he writes that “we maybe want to devolve certain aspects of government, and we maybe want to share certain aspects of government”, and that is really nice in Liberal federalist theory. Except that – as we saw with the referendum for fair votes – we are not going to be granted that from above, we can only claim it from below, and Scotland becoming independent in this minimalist way (no trade or travel borders, etc.) can kick that rethinking off across these islands.

The EU is not Europe. The UK is not Britain.

You can leave the EU but you can’t leave Europe (except physically as an individual). You can leave the political arrangement that is the extraordinarily non-democratic UK (the Edinburgh agreement and the formal referendum process are perhaps one exception) but you can’t leave Britain. ‘Great’ Britain can look benign from a distance, but look closer and you see how it proclaims its Greatness the way Kabila’s Democratic Republic of Congo today (or East Germany’s DDR yesterday) proclaim a defunct democracy: the assertion trying to make up for the inadequacy. ‘Great’ Britain is not a place, it is a lingering ‘empire nationalism’ in denial; in contrast Britain is an island where we all live whatever the political arrangement.

After independence this will be the same place with the same neighbours, but now with their citizens able to take responsibility for their own states. English Labour not relying on Scottish MPs, and Scotland not blaming Westminster Governments.

And the other problem with Devo-Max is that it doesn’t reclaim the two key decision making areas that destroyed UK Labour’s credibility: foreign policy (a Yes vote is a vote against illegal foreign wars) and defence (a Yes vote is a vote for the inevitable next round of savage cuts to be Trident not healthcare).

Of course we are similar, we have so much in common – I say that as an English British Scot with American and many others in my ancestry, and as someone who works in Africa and lives in Portobello. But this is not about creating false divisions; it is a political movement for self-determination.

If, against the odds, we succeed, we can recover those values underlying Englishness and Scottishness [note: spellcheck accepts Englishness but not Scottishness], human values that exist everywhere, and that are being crushed by the elite who have captured not just the British state but almost all states.

And will Scotland be any different to that after independence?

Nothing is certain, and certainly the SNP is just asking that we be another normal borderless state within the EU, albeit one where wealth is shared more fairly, where Government is close enough to us that we can hold it accountable, and where we are no longer supporting the waste of resources on weapons of mass destruction but can instead play a positive role in Europe and internationally.

Whether we try for something far more imaginative and generous and inspiring is not up to any party; it’s up to us.

But if we manage to achieve a Yes against the huge odds piled up by a mainstream media that is determined to twist and turn the facts to generate fear and apathy, an apathy beloved of the political and financial elites. If we manage to achieve a Yes despite a No campaign based on repeating big lies, based on creating uncertainty and demanding certainty except from itself, and based on avoiding all debate from the top down. If we manage to achieve a Yes then it will be because we have enabled a movement that can open a doorway to much greater self-determination.

Can that self-determination be one that recognises that we are utterly dependent on an environment that we are smashing to bits, one that recognises that change only ever comes from the margins and from real leadership, and one that recognises that the problem is not the poor or the environment, the problem is the wealthy and the economy? For the only reason we are addicted to an economic growth machine that is smashing the ecology, is because we think that without it there is not enough to go round.

But there is only not enough to go round because the elite are taking the vast amount of what we produce.

The UK’s 5 richest families own more wealth than the poorest 20%. The 85 richest people in the world own more wealth than HALF the world’s population – and even that is not enough for them. Their portion is growing larger all the time. Benefit errors and fraud costs the UK £1 million a day; tax avoidance and evasion costs £260 million a day.

With the social and political will we could create a society where none are poor, and where we take on the urgency of climate change and adopt a wartime footing to transform the economy into a zero-carbon high-quality one that demonstrates how sustainability is done in ways that increase equality and quality of life. If we left most of the oil in the ground – as we must if we are to avoid catastrophic climate change – we can be far more wealthy and healthy as we roll out wave, tidal and offshore wind, as we reduce our carbon footprint on the back of increasing equality, health, and freeing up education from being a debt-laden commodity to becoming an inspiring and innovative contribution.

The status quo is not an option.

Voting No means that systematic elitism is not under threat. It means that we accept being dociled by their bland vicious weapon of ‘There Is No Alternative’. Specifically for Scotland it means continuing to waste our resources, such as on Trident. It means that the savage cuts coming will hit the poor and society as a whole not hit the elite’s system that redistributes our wealth upwards into their benefits while blaming the poor. Elites whose schooling teaches them to reproduce a pathetic bullying system, forever trying to punch above its weight, leaving us as unloved as any bully’s sidekick in the playground, while the media try to persuade us this is normal, and get excited about UKIP blaming our misery on anyone but ourselves.

There seem to be three striking things happening right now in this debate:

(1)  The No side wants to avoid debate – from town hall to TV – because to do so simply exposes their lies, and one of their biggest lies is that somehow by being in the UK we are ‘Greater’ than Ireland or Iceland (whose GDPs are higher than the UKs) when what we urgently need is to be a society that is at home with being equals, rather than being forever foreign to ourselves and others by trying to seem superior to our neighbours;

(2)  Kenyon Wright (the architect of devolution far more than any politician) has not moved – as some claim – to the Yes side, but has remained where he was, a democrat wanting to ensure that sovereignty rests with the people not the elite, and has watched 1997 become 2014 without any democratisation of the UK’s second chamber or voting system, and concludes that Yes is the democratic choice. For him as for so many who wanted Devo-Max within a democratic UK, Yes means democracy; and

(3)  The extraordinary calls by the incoming Moderator of the Church of Scotland and Douglas Alexander that we prepare for some formal meeting after the vote in which politicians commit to reconciliation, without recognising, as Lesley Riddoch points out, that the best way to ensure a healthy open democracy that does not have bitter resentment is for the No side to be willing to enter rather than avoid, democratic debate now. Ponsonby makes a parallel point on Newsnet, that the Church would do better demanding fair media coverage of the issues and debate now, so that there is no case for embittered resentment if the Yes side loses.

To the extent that we can have real debate now, both though envisaging and enabling a real future, and through confronting what for so many is a terrible present (see this extraordinary video of Denis Curran giving evidence on food banks at Holyrood: “People are getting penalised for being poor”) we are asserting and reclaiming democracy now, whatever the outcome.

If we can make this real in the voting booth, then the door can be opened to much bigger changes. The first vote is the European elections on May 22nd. If a pro-independence Green rather than an anti-independence UKIP takes the 6th seat, then that sends a strong message that the movement for independence is far more than the SNP, and it tells the UK establishment that we reject their pretend anti-establishment UKIP bigotry, that we insist on being inclusive.

In terms of voting, the European elections set the stage for the voting booths of September 18th. As many have pointed out, Scotland becoming independent would not only mean democracy triumphing here, it would also mean freeing others elsewhere on these islands to realise that another future is possible.

Neighbours taking responsibility makes for a far better neighbourhood; better together after independence, as self-determination continues to roll.





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  1. JimnArlene says:

    Great read, thoughtful and well written.

  2. Dr Ew says:

    Thoroughly enjoyed reading this thoughtful, almost moving piece. Asking the churches to call for fairer coverage of the debate really cut to the heart of the matter – that place they tell us they like to be while they spend most of their time wringing their hands on the sidelines.

    Alasdair Gray graphic is quite beautiful too. Well done. Seriously, well done.

  3. YESGUY says:

    Yes well done . We all need to get the message out the Union is a busted flush. Democracy and fairness is a great starting point and I believe the YES vote will revitalize the whole country . Waking up to a new Scotland and a clean slate to start from isn’t pie in the sky anymore its reality .
    Thank you Justin .

  4. Hugh Wallace says:

    Lovely article, thank you.

  5. dkcm99 says:

    Again, well said. Should be sent around to anyone you know who has a vote in the indyref.

  6. Andrew Skea says:

    I think you are blind to much of the Nationalism of the SNP. For example yesterday Nicola Sturgeon and others chose to turn life expectancy problems in Glasgow and Scotland in to a Scotland vs England issue rather than looking at the shared problems that we need to find solutions to. Life expectancy in Glasgow is similar to other post-industrial cities in the UK. And we have huge variation in life expectancy in Scotland as we have in the UK. I live in Perthshire where life expectancy is above the UK average – so to me a lower (than UK) pension age and the burden this will place on my children has no attraction except personal greed. What I want to see is the Scottish government taking responsibility for the powers it has and trying to target and solve problems – not pass the buck.

    I was recently at a Yes meeting where Natalie McGarry empasised that the key to escape from poverty is education. This was the main theme of the meeting. I was perplexed by the link between the need for Independence and the improvement required in education since education is already completely devolved and we already have the power to increase taxation (with more power in the pipeline) to spend on education, but we choose not to do it. The whole message was that rUk is holding us back, rUK is to blame for our problems, but yet it was openly said that we already have the power.

    For me Nationalism is not about anti-English name calling. It is about failure to take responsibility for your own problems and instead lazily passing the buck. In that respect the catch phrases of the SNP and UKIP are almost identical “we think that Scotland / Britain should be run by Scottish / British people” and “we don’t want Scotland / Britain run by (mythicial elite in) Westminster / Brussels”

    I am surprised to see you assume that nationalism is restricted to SNP. SNP happens to have Nationalist in their name, but other parties practice Nationalism including to my dismay the Scottish Greens, since I usually think of UK Greens, and Greens in the general as more liberal and less Nationalist. There are definite elements with the Conservative party who are Nationalist though most of them seem to be defecting to UKIP at the moment. The Liberal and Labour parties are by contrast generally liberal and non-nationalist – they don’t view the people of one nation or another as being more or less eligible for the benefits of freedom, fairness, health, education, etc – these things should be shared out irrespective of national boundaries.

    For me the key decision in this referendum is not Scottish Nationalism vs British Nationalism. It is not about which kind of Nationalism is best. The key decision is whether I want Scottish nationalism or not and I don’t. The next question on the horizon might be do we want British Nationalism (EU exit) or not – and we’ll maybe need to vote again. If UK is moving in the direction of an EU exit referendum it is absolutely critical that Scots are involved in the decision – the worst possible outcome of all would be for us to leave the UK followed by rUK leaving the EU. Where would that leave us – 70% of all Scottish imports and exports are from/to rUK – this trade and our prosperity are bound to be affected if we are no longer on the same side of the EU border as rUK – and worse that division would hasten different currencies and other divergences that would be undesirable. We need to retain our voice at the UK top table if we want to influence many aspects of our lives. Withdrawal from the UK would have many consequences that are often associated with withdrawal from the EU – loss of influence over every day issues.

    I would like Scotland to stand tall and say no to Nationalism in September. I would like Scotland to be known round that world as the country that values working together, values shared sovereignty, values the objective of giving everyone in our wee world the same opportunities.

    I’ll skip your anti-British tirade. I don’t see any of this when I visit England, or speak to people there. Do you think there is no greed / tax avoidance / benefit cheating / government incompetance etc in Scotland – these are common problems – not England’s problems.

    1. Hi Andrew,

      If you have read this article then I can’t see how you can so widely misinterpret and misunderstand what I am saying. It’s as if you are already set up for pigeonholing what everyone is saying in a particular way and the fact that I am not saying what you are attributing to me, and the fact that the independence movement is so much more than the SNP, is a bit of an irrelevance for you.

      How does my saying “And nationalism in Scotland is not the preserve of the SNP” open me to your being “surprised to see you [Justin] assume that nationalism is restricted to SNP”? How is my saying “I always have been and always will be British in terms of belonging to this shared island with all its diversity” turn what I am saying into an “anti-British tirade”?

      If you have responded in haste then I’d be very happy to discuss your responses once you have read the article as thoroughly as I read your earlier posts, which I found helpful. Which is why I am disappointed in what seems a bit of a knee jerk reaction with the knee hitting you not me.

      But we all have our off days (I certainly do – for evidence see various posts on Bella and elsewhere where I wrote before I really thought) so if you’re having an off day then fair enough! Have a good walk in that wonderful Perthshire air, and maybe catch you online tomorrow.

      1. fehvepehs says:

        Ane o the winna be swayed no’s. He’s made his choice and he’s entitled to his opinions, eh jist think he’s wrang an you are right Justin.

    2. scrum5 says:

      Andrew, you seem quite blase about the differing life expectancy in Scotland compared to the UK average and to Wales, Northern Ireland and the regions of England. There are areas of Scotland with higher life expectancy, and Aberdeenshire and East Dumbartonshire are higher even than Perthshire, but cities like Dundee and particularly Glasgow are poor in comparison, and numerically they are affecting the national statistics. It is simplistic to infer that the Scottish Government has all the powers to address the causes of low life expectancy in Glasgow when successive regimes in Edinburgh and Westminster over decades have had little impact. Education is indeed important, but so is health, diet, living conditions, job prospects, poverty, and genetics, so those brought up in poor housing with low income and poor employment prospects may unsurprisingly have low self esteem. The discussion on pensions is on the effect of the statistics, where on average people in Scotland will live for 2 years less that in the UK generally, so will live to collect 2 years less pension, on average. It is not Scotland vs England, just statistical fact. If we are able to get the average life expectancy in Scotland to the UK average, that would represent the biggest improvement in social conditions in living memory, and would be welcomed by all.

      There is no doubt that the UK has the resources to at least try to bring about such a change – it is to be regretted that it shows little inclination or appetite to do so. It would matter more to an independent Scotland of whatever compilation that an improvement be made to these figures, as this would have enormous economic benefits to the country through improved health and well-being so reducing health service burden as well as creating a fitter workforce. Voting YES in September will put it on the agenda.

    3. northbritain says:

      “SNP happens to have Nationalist in their name”.

      Er. No it doesn’t, Andrew.

      It is the Scottish National Party.

      At least try and get the basics right please. If you can’t even get that right…

    4. Clootie says:

      I see you have made your mind up!

      Did you actually read the article before you posted the response?

    5. Illy says:

      “Life expectancy in Glasgow is similar to other post-industrial cities in the UK”

      Really? Life expectancy in London is similar to life expectancy in Glasgow?

      “What I want to see is the Scottish government taking responsibility for the powers it has and trying to target and solve problems – not pass the buck.”

      The trouble is that Holyrood only has the power it has, and most of the problems we want it to solve need more powers than that small set.

      “the worst possible outcome of all would be for us to leave the UK followed by rUK leaving the EU.”

      You think that’s worse than a result in that referendum where Scotland votes to stay in, and England votes to leave?

      Also, “When did you stop beating your wife?”

    6. Johnny come letely says:

      There are none so blind as those who will not see!

    7. Abulhaq says:

      “the key decision in this referendum is not Scottish nationalism v British nationalism”. Oh Sir, yes it is? You are I sense a dyed in the wool Briton. No problem with that, but please do not pretend that you are standing tall on some morally superior, nationalism free high-ground. The Empire, and the current political dispensation, wasn’t built on altruistic humanitarian intentions. The British state, like its trans-Atlantic protegé, may purvey a lite, easy on the stomach, confection rich in self-satisfied virtue and magnanimity but a species of nationalism it is nevertheless. This world may or may not be “wee” but it is a cut-throat, competitive and complex place and growing more so as new forms of imperialism roar around seeking prey. We Scots were prey in 1707, a lesson I trust well learned and an inspiration to return to a decisive Yes in september.
      By the way, the more I hear about the terrible perils of Scottish nationalism, the buck passing, the English hating and blaming etc the more nationalistic I become; just like salt on a wound.

  7. fehvepehs says:

    Whut can eh say!
    That jist aboot covers the lot.
    Well written and to the point.

    For me the choice o YES or no (see how eh bigged up the YES) is quite simple.
    If you believe that all the money raised in Scotland should be spent the way the people of Scotland want then VOTE YES.

    However, if you believe that we as nation, should pool the money from Scotland, England, Wales an N. Ireland and then divvy it oot pro rata but wi provisos then vote no.
    That is it in a nutshell.

    Continuing on: The people who are YES voters winna be cheenged between now and the day o reckoning.
    The staunch no people winna be swayed either.

    Eh mean, how many times has a Mormon or Jehovah Witness come roond the doors and went away with a convert. And believe me, eh on occasion had them in for a blether and they couldna be cheenged to be an atheist. They even came back to the hoose for anither go as eh was a challenge.

    The people oot there who can be convinced ti VOTE YES only need to be nudged very gently in the right direction.

    Eh fur one am gonna print oot yer blog here and yase this as meh bible ti convince doubters
    Chucked a few Dundee wurds (spellings) in ti mak it mair difficult ti read.

    1. Brilliant!

      . . . and there’s also something in the challenge of a real exchange – you with the Jehovah Witness who came back for another go – there’s something about a real and good exchange which isn’t actually about winning but about the fact that we matter to each other. And this is part of the problem with the No side not turning up. If the realisation spreads that they are just not turning up, that it doesn’t matter to them to enter into dialogue, it only matters to silence, then it becomes clear that one side here is wanting democracy and another wanting obedience.

      But it is not as simple as that, of course, there are those on the Yes side who have a slogan not a conversation, and there are (rarely, I admit, but we saw it in some of the Skeptics debate in Glasgow – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UafGNaOEMNU) there are times when some on the No side are willing to really engage and take society seriously. And that is seriously welcome.

  8. Chris Primrose says:

    I can just see you advising the Americans in 1776. Way to go! Have you no faith in your country?

  9. YESGUY says:

    Oh Andrew you need to read that again ,I know what your saying and its all down to interpretation but i think you got the wrong message

  10. YESGUY says:

    Andrew you need to step back and try looking at things from another way. Any way other than what you wrote. IT is so wrong in many ways i think your at it.

    Bait the cybernats. ??

  11. David Newton says:

    Andrew – the whole point of the yes campaign is to take on as much responsibility as possible in this interconnected world – it is that simple.

  12. Jock says:

    Excellent article, with one (relatively minor) correction required:

    ‘Great Britain’ is the name of the larger of the Britannic islands or ‘British Isles’. Great Britain is thus very much a place. The term “Great” referring to its larger size, nothing more. However, this is also the name adopted by the realm, the combined and unified kingdoms of Scotland and England, with the inclusion of the English Principality of Wales, which incidentally is also a recognised nation, though neither a kingdom or state in the eyes of the law.

    Scotland is a country and a kingdom, but not yet a state. Independence will remedy that.

    But above all this political wrangling, above all the economic reports and opinion, there soars one issue to trump all others… that of the Scottish nations sovereign statehood.

    Forget the Tories, Labour, Lib Dems, the Greens, UKIP and even the SNP… Independence is about Scotland’s nation statehood… that which no Scot should forego lest under immediate threat of annihilation.

    1. northbritain says:

      It is true that ‘Great Britain’ is the name of the island. It was to differentiate from Brittany or Lesser Britain.

      Which brings the obvious question: why Great Britain and not Greater Britain, if Brittany was Lesser Britain? Answer: the assertion works better just using ‘Great’.

      1. Jock says:

        Who cares?

        Not I.

    2. Alasdair Frew-Bell says:

      Britannia was the Roman province below the Antonine wall as it was territory inhabited by Celtic British. Modern Wales, never fully integrated was styled Cambria. Though that usage may be Late Latin. Caledonia was the territory north of that. The terms Britain, British, Briton are not neutral. They carry an imperial connotation. The Arthurian myth, Alfred the Great’s chroniclers and Oliver Cromwell’s regime used the words before the contemporary British state took shape. The supra-national aspect appealed to some Scots unionists as it suggested something other than integration into the English state. However, many Scots would happily and proudly refer to England as the imperial power and the term British did not travel well in international usage. If independence is the outcome of the referendum making a clean sweep by dropping the term entirely, except in historical contexts, would remove any confusion. The Irish seem to manage OK.

  13. braco says:

    Great read Justin.
    Wide ranging, personal and with much food for thought. Many thanks min!

  14. A very thoughtful piece indeed. I was talking to a journalist of an English newspaper the other day, and saying that this is not just about us: it is also about how England starts to explore a post-imperial identity once the mask and myths of Britishness begin to be deconstructed south of the Border.

    I especially appreciated the truth of your remark about Kenyon Wright “the architect of devolution far more than any politician”. I remember in the Assembly Hall as Devolution was gaining a head and one of the key documents claiming a Scottish parliament was being launched. Kenyon came in wearing his kilt, and the entire hall stood in spontaneous standing ovation. I thought to myself: “here is the ‘father’ of the nation” – moreso than the politicians gathered well.

    John Chalmers the incoming Moderator is a lovely man, deeply spiritual, but I did wonder where he was coming from on this one. I see his point, yet to make the point at this stage does, as you rightly point out, risk sweeping under the carpet the current reasons as to why the seeds of divisiveness are being sown. It reminds me of the Justice, Peace & Integrity of Creation theme within the World Council of Churches in the 1980s, and how it all started with the peace people realising that you couldn’t have peace without justice, and later, that justice included environmental justice. Right now the best role the church can play is, as I heard Ian Galloway (former convenor of Church & Society) say, “holding open the space for the debate.”

    Again, very good to hear these issues being aired.

    1. Absolutely

      . . . and holding open that space for debate cannot be a neutral process, it has to be one that calls out for positive debate, and names the lack of debate from one side, and calls for them to be willing to trust people to debate and think honestly, rather than seek (inadvertently, I’m sure, in the case of John Chalmers) to scare people with stories about how democratic debate might lead to a divided society on September 19th.

      . . . differences are fine. A real open honest debate that ends up with whichever side winning on Sept 18th is healthy. Seeking to close down the debate with fear whether intentionally (the mainstream media, the UK Government, the CBI, the financiers) or unintentionally (the Moderator Designate of the General Assembly) is what is dangerous. I would hope John would come out very clearly on this, even if he is not likely to be reported in the media, or is likely to be misquoted.

      Is he up for this? Is he willing to take on the mantle of the Galloways – both Kathy and Ian, the Harveys, George MacLeod – all those in the Church of Scotland who have held positions of authority and who, however problematically, have spoken up for deeper truths, have pointed out injustice and inequality and the need to tackle them?

      I may be a son of the kirk, but I am always suspicious when I hear the word ‘spiritual’ or ‘deeply spiritual’.

      Splitting spiritual from material, God’s from Caesar’s, is where the problem comes from.

      Being willing to speak out clearly in terms that are compassionate, and that power is inevitably uncomfortable with, is the measure of whether spirituality can enter the public domain and remain true rather than be used.

      Kenyon Wright has been a shining example of this clear active compassion . . .

      How can we best encourage John Chalmers to be too?

  15. deewal says:

    Is a Labour Party member a Labourist ? Is a Conservative part member a Conservative-ist ? A member of the Scottish National Party is a National. A member of the only true Scottish Political party for the last 60+ years and the only reason we are having this referendum. The other aforementioned Party’s are National Conservative and National Labour. There is no such thing as Scottish Labour, Scottish Conservative or Scottish lying Mercenary Party’s.

  16. You are quite right that the EU is not Europe, and the UK is not Britain. We will still be British – and European – in an independent Scotland. Also, we will not have left the UK, as is continually reported, because there will not be a UK, as the union that created the United Kingdom will have been dissolved. Perhaps all we inhabitants of the island of Great Britain will have to reapply to join the EU after the referendum. But let’s not bother José Manuel Barroso with that right now.

    It’s certainly good to get these things straight in the face of the blizzards of scaremongering misinformation coming from the no campaign. You are also right that you don’t have to be a nationalist, much less nationalistic, to favour Scottish independence. It just doesn’t really make sense for a country to be governed by people who’ve never been there, or only been there very occasionally, and know nothing about it. However, if Ireland and Iceland have a higher GDP than the actually existing (to deploy an old East German phrase) UK, I will eat my favourite tartan blanket. Higher GDP per capita perhaps?

    1. Whoops . . . You’re absolutely right . . northkelvinpopsoc you spotted the deliberate mistake (not!)

      Yes, higher GDP per capita, and per capita is what matters since that relates to the standard of living of actually existing people, families, communities, and what also matters is of course how that is divided.

      Thanks for the corection!

  17. chrismaclullich says:

    Andrew, I also feel a strong sense of fraternity, solidarity, commitment, mutuality and trust with people in the rest of the British Isles who are afflicted by, struggling with, and seeking solutions to the problems of poverty, inequality, lack of a voice, elitism, neo-liberalism, pollution, WMD, discrimination, looming climate calamities. It’s just that Scottish independence is a more pragmatic and more likely to succeed in actually achieving alternatives. What we aspire to seems a distant unattainable dream in the context of the UK.

    ‘Nationalism’ can be a powerful organizing construct for good or for bad. I don’t think that there is much to fear in the inclusive, aspirational social movement for Scottish independence. Indeed it is a counter-movement to toxic British Nationalism.

    Whether you like it or not, the sense of belonging in Scotland, and feeling alienated from Westminster politics is a shared sentiment that has crystallized into a movement for change. People see the space of Scotland as one with potential for a better way of organizing things, people and resources than the corporate-spiv-politican regime that we currently suffer. The Scottish character of this movement is based on shared experience, a memory of values that are currently debased and a perception of the vitality of our cultures.

    I agree with Billy Bragg’s well known statement that Scottish independence would be the best thing to wake up the English Left. Miliband’s policies are to the right of Thatchers in the 1980s in some areas. The NHS is getting broken up, with the most profitable pieces going to the private sector and noone in England seems to be putting up a fight. I don’t think that it is corny to say that the social movement for Scottish independence will inspire those with similar social ideals south of the border.

    1. Thanks Chris – very clearly put.

      Someone was writing yesterday (in the below the line comments in the Evening News of all places) that Yes is at about 40%, No at about 45%. He suggested that – apart from those for whom independence has been an end in itself, and those for whom the UK staying together is an end in itself – the rest haven’t had to reflect on this issue before, and when they do at least twice as many shift to Yes as they realise it is a far more likely route to the ends they really want.

  18. This made my heart sing. While Scottish nationalism (small n) is totally different from 18th and 19th century Nationalisms, the word carries unfortunate connotations to many people. Though a member of the SNP, I prefer to call myself a Scottish Sovereigntist. The sovereignty which the Scottish people have in accordance with the Treaty and Act of Union, but which is usurped by the UK Parliament because the Scots, who participated in the framing of the Treaty and Act, failed to include any mechanism to correct any Westminster violation of our sovereignty, is what we desire to be implemented in practise.

    In England, authority comes from God to the Monarch in Parliament who impose it on the people. In Scotland authority comes from God to the people, who delegate it to the Monarch and Parliament. So the Queen is not the Sovereign of Scotland, and the Parliaments do not have sovereignty either. We have, in theory, the authority to reject the authority of the unconstitutional SUpreme Court of the United Kingdom, (the High Court of Justiciary and the Court of Session should reject its judgements) but the only mechanism we have to do it is to vote YES in September.

    The “Great” in “Great Britain” refers only to size, not to any political, imperial, military or moral greatness. It is to distinguish our island from “Britain”, or “Brittany”. “Great Britain” or “Grande Bretagne” is in distinctinction from “Britain” or “Bretagne”. This is so in spite of Maggie Thatcher’s talk of Great Britain becoming great again because of her policies, which actually diminished the UK morally, democratically, and in equality..

    1. Hi William,

      Interesting this point you raise about ‘Great Britain’ and which Jock and northbritain raised earlier. I guess it will be completely immaterial if we succeed on Sept 18th but, whatever the origins (and I bow to the three of you, I’m sure you’re right on the origins of the term) we surely don’t need to include ‘Great’ to distinguish this island from Brittany?

      This is a liberation struggle – albeit one that is thankfully able to happen in hearts and minds and conversations rather than in physical struggle. It is one which nevertheless is up against some fierce inequality in terms of the context of the debate.

      In terms of the power to set the terms of the debate:

      – the Yes side wins all the way if people have the chance to realise the status quo is not an option, to realise that things will continue moving one way (deepening inequality), or can have the chance to move another way with a Yes; but

      – the No wins if the debate can be framed as pointless, a waste of space, a nasty process ‘steeped in negativity’ to quote today’s Herald.

      That is why it is crucial to speak out when people say this is a negative process (assuming we are experiencing it as positive), and this is why it is great the 3 of you assert that ‘Great Britain’ refers to nothing more than geography, even if the word ‘Great’ has been used to imply something far more than size. It’s political/ cultural purpose is not simply geographic, but yes let’s accept that it is just geographic, as long as we make that true!

  19. Rocky says:

    Great picture by Stewart Bremner.

    Loving Red Hair YES Female portrait.

    Captures Alastair Gray and Charles Rennie MacKintosh.


    ps. and the Sunday Herald.

  20. elspethc says:

    You are persuasive. I want “One World” in which the inequalities are tackled through Human Rights, disagreements resolved by dialogue and then more dialogue and the already done damage to ecology/climate, continued use of fossil fuel etc. is offset by interaction between all peoples. Only thing to do is keep trying to get there. Until I read this I was in the can’t have more nation/national stuff therefore have to keep on trying to make some headway in the current situation. Maybe you are even convincing, as yes, the kind of nation and the way it could show a different inclusive perspective does matter. So now thinking about it. Thanks for the work you must have put in to writing this piece.

  21. Well said, Justin. Your experience is similar to mine. I have now lived in Scotland almost as long as I lived in America, and I don’t see any contradiction in claiming two homes, two dominant influences in terms of my national identity. I have rarely met anyone in Scotland who would object to that. There is part of me that would argue that what we are experiencing is not ‘nationalism’ at all (though of course we could have a further discussion about the different meanings of that word), but rather a movement for local empowerment and the kind of political , social and economic changes which no longer seems possible or permissible within the United Kingdom. For a large number of people, nationality barely comes into to the reasons for voting yes. Though of course Scotland’s languages, cultures, histories and social differences- which are so little known or respected outside of Scotland or even in the Scottish education system– give strength and outlet to their convictions. I was convinced of this when I did my PhD research in 1996/7 before the devolution referendum, and I am still. Obviously there are people who are Nationalist in a much narrower and more dangerous sense– we would be wise not to pretend they don’t exist- but they are not the prevailing force and neither are they driving the agenda. Our task is and will be to hold our politicians to account, and to ensure that if we do vote for independence, they help us create the kind of country we believe in: one that does take responsibility for its own problems and its own solutions, and does not blame others (England, immigrants, the EU, etc). As things stand, we do not have the ability to do this. Increased devolution might have been my own preferred route. It was, in fact, David Cameron who turned this referendum into a straight Yes/No– obviously thinking that would kill the movement dead. It has not, and that says a lot.

    1. wanvote says:

      As both Justin and yourself have expressed so thoughtfully and clearly, the core of the yes movement and of Scottish independence is about allowing and achieving maximum participation and democracy for people living in Scotland.

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