Graduation Address by Dr Bettina Bildhauer

uniofstalogoA row has blown up after an academic chose the graduation ceremony at St Andrews University to compare the Scottish nationalist movement to the xenophobic far-right of France and Germany.

I have just left my daughter’s graduation ceremony at the University of St Andrews with great sorrow, a heavy heart and bitter disappointment that the academic who delivered the graduation address used the opportunity to warn her captive audience that all nationalism leads to xenophobia, referencing her German roots in order to justify this ill-informed, inappropriate and offensive assertion.

How dare she.  She asserted a personal political opinion and tainted a graduation ceremony by her ill-conceived political posturing. In doing so, she accused me, my family and many friends seated in the Younger Hall of being Nazis in the making. I am insulted, affronted and deeply upset.
Who considered this an appropriate graduation address? I wonder if the University of St Andrews endorses this stance?
This is an extract from the relevant section:

St Andrews University Graduation Address
Thursday 26th June 2014, 2pm ceremony
Dr Bettina Bildhauer, School of Modern Languages

“Chancellor, colleagues, graduates, ladies and gentleman, it is a great honour to be able to address you all here today and be one of the first to say congratulations, um, to us, to your new graduates, your new graduates (sic), but also to the families and friends, um, and to my colleagues from the various departments and units of the university who have helped you all along the way, um, we’ve deserved this one day of celebration and I always think that St Andrews does graduation days particularly well…It baffles me how much public opinion has changed since I was born… But there also seems to be a widespread shift towards nationalism, English, Scottish, French and German, that I as a German find deeply worrying, because the lesson from German history is that nationalism will always create outsiders and develop into xenophobia. Many of you will disagree with me, but this is why it’s so important that you graduates take your role as graduated instruments (sic) seriously…”


Complaints can be directed to:

Professor Louise Richardson [email protected]

Dr Bettina Bildhauer [email protected]

Comments (217)

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  1. Thanks Jackie for bringing this to our attention, I have send an e-mail to the university to register my discontent.

  2. Alasdair Frew-Bell says:

    Wie man sagt auf Deutsch, totaler Quatsch! Frau Doktor. Scottish nationalism is not THAT kind of nationalism. You ought to know better. Obviously reading too much Daily Mail, oh the irony…..

  3. andyshall says:

    An inclusive Scotland is not demonstrated by attempting to ban opinions people may dislike.

    1. The academic’s comments are reprehensible.

      The place she made them wholly inappropriate.

      She could have written an essay for Bella Caledonia which justified her opinion. So, please, we can do without snide crapology about insulting opinion being censored.

      1. Robert Graham says:

        agreed time and place ,you try giving your opinion on any “no” web site and you will see what censorship is its either blocked or just disappears end of. and thanks to the contributor for highlighting the story its sad that this is going to be their memory of what should have been a proud occasion there is and can be no justification for what happened

      2. Much obliged, Robert, for your intervention. It isn’t for nothing HRH felt St Andrews an appropriate university for the prince!

    2. Clootie says:

      A time and a place. A graduation is not the place for any political speech YES or NO.

    3. Alasdair Frew-Bell says:

      All opinions are welcome in a democracy but let them be intelligent, reasoned, informed opinions based on fact. This resurrected SNP=fascism canard cannot be simply shrugged off. It must be countered because it is a baseless slur propagated by those who actually fear a truly democratic and egalitarian Scottish state.

    4. You are quite right Andy that opinions should be banned merely because we disagree with them. However a graduation ceremony was not the place for this, and particularly just now.

    5. revjimbob says:

      The point is that this was not an appropriate place for this address, as I am sure you know.
      She can say what she likes down the pub. Who is asking for a ‘banning’? What does that even mean?

  4. muttley79 says:

    This is not really a surprise unfortunately. It comes weeks after Darling’s accusations that the SNP represent blood and soil nationalism. It looks very much like the entire independence movement in Scotland is going to be smeared with the Nazi/fascist tag by the No campaign, and the wider British establishment. This has been long used as a tactic against the SNP, and it looks like it will be used more widely against Yes in the last few months of the referendum campaign.

    The No campaign do not want to debate the issues because all they have is their remorseless negativity and fear. I would say that this comment at a graduation ceremony is part of BT’s reliance on a scorched earth strategy, where they do not care about the methods used to get a No vote. It is basically a tactic to prevent change by demonising and smearing your opponents. I don’t think these comments were spontaneous, as the No campaign will have sounded out their supporters and sympathisers ages ago (just as Yes will have done).

  5. Disgraceful! Outrageous!

    I know the former principal as a friend, Brian Lang, and though a decided No voter, he’d never make the cardinal error of allowing a member of staff to insult his a nation, let alone the people attending the graduation event.

    This incident proves that not all academics are intelligent people.

    Life at a university is no guarantee of avoiding gross bigotry.

    1. Robert Graham says:

      well said grouse beater its like trying to hold back a great wall of lies with one hand and with no help from the media who should be questioning both sides as for academics yep sometimes common sense is missing from their makeup its a pity this occasion was used in this way and i hope we would condemn it if it was a “YES” supporter as well ,It wasn’t clever it was crass and inappropriate

  6. Clootie says:

    …but who was pulling the strings?

    1. Douglas says:

      Clootie, I took you for a reasonable person, not a conspiracy theorist…

      1. Clootie says:

        It is trait I have unfortunately developed over the last 2 years for some strange reason 😀

    2. dg299 says:

      Well, one must remember that although it is called a “Scottish University,” it is, in fact, a British University, and therefore an extension of the State.

      However, I think we need to read the speech and determine whether it was truly an attack on the Scottish Independence Movement or a broader statement of the increasing popularity of right wing nationalism throughout Europe. A lot of this seems very familiar to one who has read History.

      There is no question that the speech was inappropriate for the occasion, and that the speaker was a poor choice for a graduation ceremony. I simply ask that given her area of expertise (‘blood as a crucial part of conceptualizations of the body, gender and subjectivity’) we set emotions aside and look at the text to see what was meant.

      Graduation speeches are meant to be a final lesson before turning the graduating class out upon the world – “beware of xenophobia, fascism, and blind nationalism” is not a bad parting shot, although I do maintain that they could have come up with something a bit more cheerful, less divisive, and potentially insulting.

  7. Let us hope that St Andrews actually teaches their undergraduates to think for themselves and not believe all that’s said to them, especially when it is unsubstantiated.

    A great pity that the comments spoiled what was a milestone day for a proud parent. Instead of a day Jackie Powton will always remember with pride, the gloss has been sanded form it. I remember the day my own daughter graduated, and would not have liked it being sullied in this way.

    1. dg299 says:

      As a recent graduate of the University of St Andrews I can assure you that the University most certainly promotes critical thinking – it insists upon it. We were encouraged to question, painstakingly research, and develop our own thoughts and opinions; as long as we were able to clearly state our reasoning and document the argument with valid sources (academic, peer-reviewed, or refereed).

      I am deeply sorry to hear that Dr. Bildhauer’s speech was found acceptable for a graduation ceremony: it most certainly was not. I can, however, appreciate a call from an academic historian or even a professor of international relations to be wary of nationalistic fury, or xenophobia.

      Dr. Bildhauer is a Reader in German at the School of Foreign Languages, whose research ‘is concerned with blood as a crucial part of conceptualizations of the body, gender and subjectivity’ (taken from her bio page on the University of St Andrews’ website). I can understand her viewpoint, based on her area of expertise (which may include “blood and soil nationalism”), but it was a very poor choice, and one I hope that Dr Louise Richardson – Principal and Vice Chancellor of the University, will issue an apology for. I urge all graduates to write to her, register your displeasure and press her for one: Remind her that being alienated at graduation will be remembered when it comes time to donate to future fundraising drives (of which, young graduates, you will find are quite frequent).

      A final word in defence of this speech, albeit unsuitable to a joyous celebration as a graduation ceremony, there is a modicum of truth – not so much in relation to the Scottish Independence movement, but to Europe and the world at large: Fascism, extremist nationalism, and xenophobia are indeed growing stronger again, and if one looks at our recent world history, one can clearly see the dangers these ideologies pose. We should indeed remain vigilant; both looking without and within our own hearts and ranks.

      An inappropriately somber note for a momentous occasion but a thought-provoking one nonetheless.

  8. The principal would not have known, word-for-word, what a member of staff would say, other than expecting the usual praise of graduates and exhortations for successful careers, mixed with an invitation they should stay in touch with their alma mater. If procedures are followed I suspect the academic will be reprimanded.

    Then again, that will depend on how many letters of protest the university receives.

  9. There was a time when the SNP was simply denigrated as ‘tartan Tories’ – a misnomer attached by the Labour Party ruling elite to try to undermine Scottish Nationalism. Now they are more desperate, The Labour Party is seen by millions as failing the people who have loyally voted for it so now the Labour apparatchiks and their media and academic cronies need a new label. Nationalism equals Nazism apparently . Pathetic . Basically Labour is running scared.

    1. MBC says:

      Exactly. Has she ever attended any SNP meetings? Or Yes meetings? Has she ever had any contact with MSPs who are SNP? On what first hand knowledge does she form this opinion?

  10. Dan Huil says:

    Dr Bildhauer’s ignorance of Scottish politics and Yes supporters is puzzling since St Andrews is, during term-time at least, one of the most cosmopolitan places in Scotland. She can only have gained her political “insight” from reading the Daily Record and Daily Mail.

  11. Leigh says:

    Bella Caledonia – Why have you chosen to platform Jackie Powton’s attack on academic freedom?
    From what you’ve reported, Bettina Bildhauer expressed a balanced and inclusive concern about the widespread strengthening of nationalism as a social value system throughout Europe – a concern that evidently I share with Bildhauer.
    If Powton wants to contest those widely held views here, on Bella Caledonia, then I look forward to her doing so – rather than seeking to censor others’ voices for challenging her own political stance.
    Powton’s exclamation of “How dare she”, however, does carry with it the implication of Bildhauer as an outsider, so actually demonstrating Bildhauer’s worry. As does Powton’s deliberate inclusion in the transcription of a non-native speaker’s um’s and err’s – which also comes across as a petty attempt at undermining Bildhauer’s personal and academic authority.
    And if we’re electing to be censorious then use of “captive audience” by Powton in this context might be construed as carrying racist connotations, intentional or not.
    Moreover, Bildhauer doesn’t reference “her German roots”, as Powton tellingly chooses to express it. Rather than any such statement of nationalist familial belonging, Bildhauer more sensitively said “as a German” she finds “a widespread shift towards nationalism” deeply worrying in reference to “the lesson from German history”.
    Powton does actually end up performing the very thing she claims not to embody. And it’s alienating reactionary conservatism like this that will have myself and others abstaining rather than voting ‘yes’.

    1. There is no “attack on academic vfreedom,” nor is there any censorship.

      The good doctor choose the wrong place and the wrong time to promote her personal opinion and in consequence removed attention from her graduates where it6 belomnged.

      It was >i>their day not hers.

      She could have chosen a dozen different routes to promote her opinion, and by the ethics of those set against democracy, would be given a platform in swift time no matter how thin or contentious her views.

      The hoary old reposte of being put off acquiring genuine democracy is one hellova contradiction.

      1. Leigh says:

        The next time the BBC email John Robertson’s Principal I’ll need to be reminded that it’s not an attack on academic freedom.

      2. The two instances have no common parallel.

        The BBC is charged with impartiality – they are expected to give everybody a fair hearing, not to dismiss complaints as unsubstantiated or ‘flawed.’ Do they do that with Darling’s claims?

        Allowing Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight depict his producers as ’13 year olds” should mean giving Professor Robertson air time to discuss his findings.

      3. Leigh says:

        there seem to be two strands:
        1. the content, which I’ve addressed in my post above;
        2. that the subject itself was inappropriate:

        to “have no common parallel” with the perilous situation of the BBC emailing Robertson’s Principal (to have him disciplined or worse?), you, as a higher authority, would have to start to select in what settings ‘academic autonomy’ applies and when you choose to remove it – Robertson, good; Bildhauer, bad – and once you start down that slope of politically opportune differentiation then what remaining autonomy there is has gone > not a future I look forward to

        so at an academic event within academia delivering a speech as an academic to many likely future academics (and everything else graduates may do and become in life) the subject of nationalism in Europe is as commendable as any other

      4. Leigh – now your creating false excuses.

        I’ve address your arguments elsewhere.

        A comparison of Scotland’s request for renegotiation of a long-outdated, one-sided Treaty as Nazism in the making demands the ridicule it attracts.

        Without realising it, the doctor and you are suggesting the British government are party to encouraging a kind of Nazism since Cameron signed the Edinburgh Agreement, and acceded to the plebiscite. That means, every member of that parliament were hoodwinked or misled, as must be HRH The Queen

        Perhaps you should direct your annoyance at Westminster.

    2. Douglas says:

      Yes, indeed, the nats won us the referendum, and a certain kind of nat threaten to lose us the referendum…

      I saw the Rev on Wings Over Scotland the other day indirectly referencing the Holocaust to Milliband’s absurd speech about border checkpoints which I didn’t think was at all a good idea.

      It just shows a lack of sensitivity to the German and the European twentieth century experience, as does this post. Maybe some of the Rev’s critics are right after all.

      Everybody lost WWII in Europe, every single country, except Britain, in a way which is very traumatic for Europeans, especially Germans perhaps.

      So I agree, this post is insensitive or maybe just plan daft.

      I am voting YES to self-determination but not to Scottish nationalism, and I admit the nats, the minority of small minded, narrow, ignorant Scottish nats, are enough to turn anybody off…

      Remember, though, that most YES voters are from a very broad spectrum, and that the small minded nats are the exception to the general rule, at least in my experience, albeit they tend to make the most noise…

      1. Posting badly composed propaganda doesn’t help you acquire adherents, nor boost Leigh’s spurious claim it’s really all ‘censorship.’

      2. Clootie says:


        I think we should return to first principles.

        A graduation is
        a) A recognition/celebration of academic attainment
        b) A milestone marker for the student.
        c) A family event

        Any speech should recognise this. If it was a graduation from a medical school would we expect a political speech related to NHS financial support and government policy.

        Each side has passion but I wouldn’t expect the best man at a wedding to argue his case/side in the referendum during his top table speech.

    3. Alasdair Frew-Bell says:

      This is a particular can of worms that Dr Bildhauer ought not to have opened. The rôle of academics in the world of politics is often rather questionable, their prejudices often delivered from towers too solidly ivory. Laymen assume their opinions are of a higher order than the average. Not so, as the history of the good doctor’s country testifies. Germany is now a model democracy. Why should we Scots aspire to less? We know what we are. Phantoms from another country’s past or allusions to reactionary extremism in certain EU states contributes little to our case.

    4. what a ridiculous set of comments. Dr Bildhauer expressed a personal view which it is clear not everyone agrees with. No doubt she feels strongly about this, as you do, but that is not the same as claiming it is widespread.
      What is not forgiveable is to express contentious political views at what is an academic celebtration. There is indeed a time and a place for this – for instance the lecture theatre, perhaps a tutorial, or in a publication of one kind or another. To do this at what is essentially a social event is a serious misjudgement from an academic of Dr Bildhauer’s experience and seniority.
      However as you warm to your subject you make a number of assertions which are simply ridiculous.
      Firstly to equate “How dare she” with “the implication of Bildhauer as an outsider, so actually demonstrating Bildhauer’s worry” is excessive. But to suggest that the use of “captive audience” with “carrying racist connotations, intentional or not” verges on the hysterical. Perhaps you have never been at a graduation cerermony, but whether you have or not, attending the graduation ceremony of a child (or other family member) is an infrequent occurrence. Walking out is not something that anyone would do lightly.
      Dr Bilhauer may hold her views with sincerity, and it would be interesting to debate them. But a graduation ceremony was not the place to raise them

    5. Scott H says:

      You miss the point on several levels. Dr Bildhauer was speaking, in this setting, as a representative of the University. It is not for her, nor any academic or other employee, to use this platform, to voice any political comment, be they pro or anti independence, for or against the UK government,, an immigration policy or any other political issue. Everyone recognises the right of free speech but you misundertstand the very concept being challenged. Your right to speak freely is restricted by place and platform. What Dr Bildhauer has done is bring the University into disrepute and the outcome, whether under a private company or state funded institution is likely to a fall between a written warning or the demand for resignation.

      1. Leigh says:

        I really don’t think I am missing the point – nothing Bildhauer was earlier stated to have said was particularly political, never mind contentious, or bringing any institution into disrepute. I’m in agreement with all Douglas has said.

    6. Robert Graham says:

      it was neither the time or place for what was a thinly disguised political comment and i hope supporters of “YES” would condemn the speaker if it was the other way around you try doing that on a “NO” website your comment will disappear like snow off a dyke and please don’t condemn bella and its contributors for their comments this always has been a open forum for both sides to air their opinions this is why you haven’t been censored or blocked in any way but just replied to in what i hope is a reasonable way without any abuse directed at you personally i hope you at least would agree ?

    7. djewesbury says:

      I couldn’t agree more strongly with Leigh on this. I do not understand, as an academic, why a parent of a graduate – a guest of the university – should seek to prescribe what we can say and when we can say it. A graduation ceremony is an excellent occasion for broaching the difficult questions that graduands should have on their minds; whether these are political points or otherwise, there is no reason why the platform should be inappropriate for difficult or contentious subjects. It’s what our universities are supposed to be for! There is simply no right to silence someone in an instance such as this.

      What’s more, trying to instigate a round of internet-baiting in response to comments one doesn’t like is likely only to lead to unnecessary, personalised vitriol and bullying; witness the calibre of many of the comments posted here already. Censuring leads to censorship. How simple does that point have to be for people to understand it? If you expect to have the right to tell Dr Bildhauer what she may or may not say as an academic in Scotland then you are already trying to ‘encourage’ her to censor herself; and that is unacceptable, in any way and at any time. I doubt that Powton would have complained as strongly had she agreed with Bildhauer’s points.

      And as for the emotive language she uses, I am again in agreement that she (unintentionally) reveals the ‘blood and soil’ in her own thinking.

      What an unsavoury, poorly-judged response to the exercise of free speech.

  12. It is a pity that an “academic” cannot differentiate between imperialism and self-determination.

    I notice her field is languages, rather than history, but that shows even more that this is an personal opinion, and not the result of any expert insight.

  13. Douglas says:

    Grouse Beater, you are a certified vote loser, Get back in yer box!!!

    1. And you convince no one of anything.

  14. Neil McAdam says:

    I just kept it short:
    FAO Dr Bettina Bildhauer and Professor Louise Richardson.

    To compare the kind of civic nationalism that is going on right now throughout Scotland, with the kind of xenophobia which lead to the 2nd world war is appalling.

    English for YES:
    Scots Asians for YES:
    Polish for YES:

    And by the way the referendum is open to the people who live in Scotland, NOT just Scots who live here, and NOT even to ethnic Scots who live abroad.

    Please educate yourself before you open your mouth in a public forum again.

    Neil McAdam

  15. Barontorc says:

    My first point is, that I have no axe to grind over the rights of a person to express a personal view, which is a right they clearly do have, but they should not have done so, on such an occasion.

    I would expect that St Andrews University would also think very badly of it and deal with it.

    My other point is that the virtual demonization of us Scots must stop. It is an affront to our civil rights and to any sense of human justice.

    To equate what we are undertaking, as anything other than the exercise of our democratic will, has neither a moral, nor an impartial basis and tantamount to the full-blown oppression of our civil rights.

    Dr Bildhauer’s apparent ignorance of Scottish politics does not in any way enhance the stature of our oldest university.

    1. Douglas says:

      Except it is not a demonization of the Scots, read what she is as quoted as saying (if indeed she said it)

      “there also seems to be a widespread shift towards nationalism, English, Scottish, French and German, that I as a German find deeply worrying”

      So not “the Scots”….but all nationalism in Europe in general.

      There is a very widespread belief in Germany that all nationalism is bad and given the history of German nationalism that is not at all a surprise.

      There was a very eloquent German contributor on Bella a year or so ago who supported indie Scotland but admitted to having had big reservations because of the perceived dangers of nationalism.

      Leigh is absolutely right, the appropriate response to this speech was an article on Bella by Jackie Powton trying to explain to Dr Bidlhauer that Scottish nationalism is civic, not ethnic, and is pro European and inclusive.

      Not these conspiracy theory hysterics and ridiculous outrage, which as Leigh says, actually proves she has a certain point…

      1. The wonder is not what the good doctor averred, but that anybody of any intelligence can equate 300 civil years of Scotland ruled by Westminster, without a bullet fired, finally achieving a plebiscite on the issue, as something close to the rise of Hitler’s Germany.

      2. Douglas says:

        Except she didn’t compare the Scottish referendum with the rise of Hitler in Germany, Grouse Beater, you’re either blind or an idiot, no in fact, you’re probably both..

        And this is what the Rev said the other day on Wings Over Scotland re Milliband:

        “So, this afternoon’s big story is that the son of Holocaust refugees (campaigning on the same side as Holocaust deniers), is threatening to put a whole race of people in a ghetto by building a barbed-wire fence and guard posts across their only land border?”


        So I whole-heartedly endorse the decision of YES Scotland to distance themselves from the ramblings of the Rev, and I second it and third it, and fourth it.

        And I’m with Leigh, so many of you nats are so stupid it puts you off voting.

        Why bother?

      3. She didn’t compare the Scottish referendum with the rise of Nazi germany.”

        In that case her gratuitous remarks are redundant – “Duggie.”

      4. Marga says:

        Douglas – “There is a very widespread belief in Germany that all nationalism is bad and given the history of German nationalism that is not at all a surprise. ”

        But the academic is not in Germany, she has the privilege of living in Scotland and assessing on the ground what is happening. She has not done so, or is she adopting the apparently widespread belief in Germany, that German views are by definition right and must be imposed on others? My views may be influenced by writing from Spain.

        Anyway frankly, to me, it is disappointing that someone in charge of guiding young thinkers should apparently live in a bubble, not just intellectual but cultural. Any ceremony in any society has rules, that does not make it censorship.

        St Andrews must deal with this situation constructively but severely. People will be watching.

      5. rabthecab says:

        The appropriate response to this ridiculous outburst during a Graduation ceremony is to call for Dr Bildhauer to apologise, then resign her post. There is a time & a place for everything, and during students graduation is *not* the right time, nor is it the right place, to make allusions to the horrors of the Holocaust.

  16. I am informed that the great majority of students at St Andrews University are English, and 25% are from the Far East, that is, Japan, China, and South Korea, the rest, the minority, are Scots.

    One has to suppose Dr. Bildhauer felt she was in a safe place.

    I am also informed by my wife, who has an Honorary Degree from the University, that the good doctor’s comments, far from being a surprise, are more likely to habe been approved in advance by the principal.

    1. Grazia says:

      Exactly! Someone else posted-‘Why isn’t she lecturing the English given the parties that run down there’ Yet you’ve just proven you know that she is addressing largely English students.

  17. rkb66 says:

    Given that this isn’t the whole speech, I would hesitate to start throwing stones. It should also be remembered that the lady is telling her story, her fears, her hopes which will all be based on her history and experience. We do not share that history or experience. I don’t believe my nationalism is exclusive – I hold the view that all who live in Scotland and contribute to our community are Scots. They may label themselves in many different ways – creed, race, sexuality, age etc etc I simply see Scots. In similar fashion Scots who emigrate may always consider themselves Scots but must also adopt and adapt to the country that accepts them. Ultimately we all choose to live here – independence is not about identity, it is about democratic power to make decisions for ourselves. I believe there are universal values that have been corrupted by big business and imperialism – Scotland has an opportunity to choose egalitarianism combined with innovation to show there is a different way. Listen and learn; facts not fear; let the beauty of our land fill our hearts.

  18. I found it really odd that the link to her CV doesn’t mention her alma mater, as most do. It just states that she has a doctorate from Cambridge (with a thesis on “Blood in Thirteenth-Century German Literature“). That omission piqued my curiosity. However, it turns out she has a degree in languages from the perfectly respectable University of Cologne. That’s certainly nothing to be ashamed of – it’s a well-regarded uni. But Bildhauer is a very unusual name. So perhaps the fact that the head of the international academic exchange programme at Cologne shares the same name — though probably a perfectly innocent coincidence (let’s not forget the recent Lally incident here!) — may be reason enough to hide that particular light under a bushel.

    1. Good work, Katherine. Thank you.

  19. rkb66 — You are too kind. “It should also be remembered that the lady is telling her story, her fears, her hopes which will all be based on her history and experience” Having lived in Germany for twenty years, I am confident that she knows full well the difference between ethnic nationalism and the quest for self-determination.

  20. Sorry — my response to rbk66 may have been unclear. I should add that, during that time, I worked in highschools, (incl on Holocaust awareness projects). They are very politically aware. After all, they’ve had their noses rubbed in their own history for long enough that even those with the most modest school qualifications (let alone a PhD) are perfectly aware of the difference between ethnic nationalism and civic nationalism. So I’m not buying the excuse that this is merely “based on her history and experience”. If it is, she certainly wasn’t listening in class.

    1. rkb66 says:

      There was no attempt to make excuses for the content of the speech, but to challenge those jumping on the reactive band wagon. We do ourselves a dis-service if we don’t listen. Your understanding of the German education system only adds to my thinking that we should interpret the words with caution. Bit of a longer response below, thanks for adding to my understanding.

      1. but to challenge those jumping on the reactive band wagon

        Is that so? Speaking for myself, I believe my association with the University over ten years leaves better informed than others apologising for the doctor’s clumsiness.

        Others have said what she has said long before her. After a time one is left shaking one’s head more in sorrow at yet another dupe rushing to insult, than at the stupidity of the utterance.

  21. Full Transcript (transcribed by myself from video footage of the graduation – any mistakes are mine) By including all hesitations and mistakes, I am simply following standard practice for transcribing.

    St Andrews University Graduation Address
    Thursday 26th June 2014, 2pm ceremony
    Dr Bettina Bildhauer, School of Modern Languages

    Chancellor, colleagues, graduates, ladies and gentleman, it is a great honour to be able to address you all here today and be one of the first to say congratulations, um, to us, to your new graduates, your new graduates (sic), but also to the families and friends, um, and to my colleagues from the various departments and units of the university who have helped you all along the way, um, we’ve deserved this one day of celebration and I always think that St Andrews does graduation days particularly well. It always looks to me as if a big wedding’s going on and everyone’s invited and, like, rushing along and bickering and taking photos and wearing lovely dresses or, at least if not exactly lovely then very special dresses (makes reference to academic gown) [laughter].
    So, what does graduation actually mean though. Um, it comes from the Latin ‘gradus’ or ‘step’ so it’s a stepping, from the same route as ‘degree’ or ‘grade’. And I can’t help but think that it’s quite ironic to call today the day of the stepping when most of us have been desperately worried about not tripping up on this stage in our fancy shoes, but if today is the day of the step let’s run with it. Graduation is called a step probably because it initially referred only to taking a ma, a Bachelor’s degree, as a step on the way to a Master’s or PhD, until then even Masters and Phds became known as just degrees, as just steps. I think this is apt, however long you’ve studied, whichever degree you’re graduating with, it’s only ever just a step, a preliminary stage. Yes this is a big day, yes the graduates among you are supposed to leave the bubble, go out, get great jobs, make lots of money, but some of you might not be able to say yet what you want to do with your lives or where you might be going. And, your parents might disagree with me but I think that’s not a bad thing.You might even be considering taking another degree, another step, just to see where it takes you and if there’s a clearer path ahead after that. St Andrews would always welcome you back with open arms. There’s something reassuringly provisional about the academic world, about its teaching and its research. It’s always open-ended, never satisified with answers, always just a step, not a destination. The blogger Jenny Lawson, aka The Bloggess, captured this sense of openness and preliminarity when she decided to refer to the whole year 2013 as the library. She says, maybe it’s insanity or maybe it’s just me but somehow I think we all need a year in the libaray. A year where it’s safe to make mistakes, mistakes. A year where it’s ok to have to escape and stare out the window without someone asking you when you’re going to get back to work and fix your life. A year of getting lost in dut-dusty forgotten corners and a year of finding the want. The want to leave, the want to play, the want to shrug off the dreams and walk out into the sunlight, the want to pounce on 2014 with glee and rapture. If you haven’t found that want yet don’t worry, but if you’ve had your time in the library in 2013 step out and don’t be shy. You new graduates are now the people with the wide horizons, who’ve (sic) those who have got at least one degree and that means a new degree of understanding too. You’ve studied Modern Languages, Philosophy or Social Anthropology. You can analyse what’s going on. You have the frameworks to see the values hidden in a Hollywood film or a news programme, to see how political rhetoric puts a spin on things, to see how the British world view is just one of many. You have not just graduated, but you have become finely graduated instruments (sic) yourselves, attuned to measuring small degrees of change in your environment. You’ve got a training and a sensitivity to be able to tell if public opinion is about to shift, if there are new kinds of texts and films, new kinds of arguments, new kinds of values emerging. It baffles me how much public opinion has changed since I was born, and even since I graduated, especially in the areas of equality of women and gay people. Male homosexuality was still a crime in Germany just twenty years ago and yet very soon here in Scotland it will be possible for two men or two women to get properly married to each other, and I’m saying this on my own civil partnership anniversary. But there also seems to be a widespread shift towards nationalism, English, Scottish, French and German, that I as a German find deeply worrying, because the lesson from German history is that nationalism will always create outsiders and develop into xenophobia. Many of you will disagree with me, but this is why it’s so important that you graduates take your role as graduated instruments (sic) seriously, that you sound early alarms when something concerns you. You are the opinion makers now, when you’ve got something to say, step forward. Whatever steps you take, in whichever direction, rest assured that St Andrews will always stay with you. We might think of the university as an institution, as the schools, the courses, the buildings, the website. But it’s not. It’s a community of people, it’s an ever changing hive mind. Every year a bunch of fresh new Andreans step in, and every year a bunch step out, as you’re doing today. Like a body that’s constantly shedding sh-cells and growing new ones, the university is always changing while always remaining itself. In the same way, most of you will leave St Andrews now, but it will always stay a part of you. For you new graduates, the experiences you’ve had here, the people you’ve met, the things you’ve learnt, the books and boyfriends, the bops and bakesales, the all-nighters and happy days will always be part of you. St Andrews, being the amazing community that it is, formally recognises this by making you lifelong members of the so-called General Council. Stay in touch, via this council, via social media, or by coming to visit. We will always love to see you back, whatever steps you take in the meantime. All the best.

    1. Alasdair Frew-Bell says:

      Interesting, but alters little regarding reaction to the controversial elements. Scottish National party is liberal re homosexuality. Not a characteristic “fascist” reaction unlike that of the Golden Dawn movement of Greece. Interestingly it was a Greenock born Scoto-German John-Henry Mackay who through his works, notably The Hustler and The Swimmer, promoted that trend to liberalisation in interwar Germany later brought to a halt by the Nazi régime.

      1. Douglas says:

        Frew-Bell are you blind, can you read? She is making a general point that the world is always changing, that what was unacceptable in her day is now acceptable (homosexual marriage) that what was seen as taboo for her as a German in the past (nationalism) is now on the rise across Europe, and that her students, as graduates, have the capacity to make the right choices…

        …there is no political content in her speech at all. It is a run of the mill academic spiel which somebody;s mother took offence at for reasons unknown, and Bella decided to publish for some unknown reason…


      2. Alasdair Frew-Bell says:

        Douglas….how can you be so naive? everything at the moment in Scotland is “political”. Or is it that in your guts,as some have inferred, you really wish to teach us nasty nats a lesson and vote NO. either way few could care very much. Doctor Bildhauer’s remarks were, given the kind of anti-independence black propaganda hawked by the opposition, quite misplaced. Btw. graduates having the capacity to make “right” choices i find rather ingenuous.

      3. Douglas says:

        Frew-Bell, so many of the people on Bella these days are like a dog with a stick.

        Somebody is said to have said something somewhere about something or other, and that’s it, everybody is off racing for the stick without even thinking about it…..

        Dog comes back wi stick and a few hours go by….

        Man throws stick again, and dog rushes off again…

        Of course I’m voting YES, but it will be despite a certain kind of narrow Scottish nationalism which I find above all stupid and boring, stupid and boring to the point of actually making me feel I don’t want to be on the same side as these people in anything.

        The Rev’s piece on Wings the other day is too much, I won’t be reading Wings any more, whoever said The Rev employs the same tactics as the Daily Mail is bang on.

        I agree with you though that the SNP is a broad Kirk…

      4. Alasdair Frew-Bell says:

        Douglas… a “cosmopolitan” I too get queasy at certain manifestations of ethnic pride. Mesmerised crowds, smashing glass, blood on the pavement….Every people, nation has its particular genius. What a fascinating species we are. So let us rejoice!

    2. Ashley HusbandPowton
      Thank you, Thank you Thank you!
      It reads very different when you have the whole address!

    3. Marga says:

      Thanks for the transcript, very interesting. A speech by a fairly young woman.

      I found her references to her own personal life intrusive and patronising in the context of a ceremonial occasion and an address to graduate students, and her personal opinions on nationalism jarring, strange and uncalled for. What kind of ambience exists in the faculty if she found this particular reference appropriate, I wonder?

      The day was not hers (her anniversary notwithstanding) it was her students’. And standing back from the detail of the speech, a critique of any political or ideological stance is out of order in a gathering of adults on a ritual day of celebration. You are bound to offend someone. It is just not acceptable.

      For me, her speech resounds with a lack of sense of appropriateness. Apologies and/or explanations are due.

      1. Douglas says:

        Marga, there’s no space to reply to you above, so I will do so here.

        What is this line of yours “the privilege to live in Scotland” supposed to mean? The woman in question is a European citizen and has the RIGHT, not the privilege, to live anywhere she chooses in the EU.

        It’s that kind of comment which smacks of the worst kind of petty nationalism, and as somebody who lived outwith Scotland for many years, in a country called Spain, where not one single person in two decades ever described my living there as a “privilege” or made any allusion to having a different status due to my nationality, a wee bit embarrassing.

        Foreigners should always be treated with extra warmth and care. They are contributing and enriching our country and culture, and they are making the difficult choice which is living in another country. They don’t have the same friends and network of support that natives do. They should be given the benefit of the doubt, and if they are women, more so.

        What did this German lady do to deserve a series of comments such as can be found on this thread? It is embarrassing, frankly.

    4. Clootie says:

      I am going to stick with my first assessment. It was inappropriate, ill judged and a display of bad manners.
      I would be saying the same if the academic had praised the concept of independence.
      It was not a hanging offence but an academic should not have been the story – it was the students day.

      The speaker may have intended to make a valid point as Douglas and others have pointed out. However if you are going to enter the political debate you should be fully aware of the current status of said debate. We have had a continuous effort to associate the independence movement with fascist concepts and dictatorships. If you are going to raise the topic of nationalism then frame it to ensure it is not seen to be re-inforcing such implied slurs.

      An example esprit de corp – “morale is the capacity of a group of people to pull together persistently and consistently in pursuit of a common purpose”

      A Royal Marine is poud of his commando but he can also be proud of his nations armed forces, NATO or when he dons a UN peace keeping beret.

      Civic nationalism is VERY different from fascism, it is inclusive and positive, and if you enter the debate you should recognise that first – especially given the negative image being pushed by a number of leading politicians on the unionist side of the debate at present.

  22. qzchambers says:

    It’s interesting that English political leaders have never descended to comparing the modern Scottish nationalism of the SNP with that of the Front Nationale or the Austrian Freedom Party, for example. They know better. If it was a genuine concern, we can be sure they would have. Something to point out to the uninformed who lump all kinds of nationalisms together.

    1. Many thanks, Ashley.

      Yes, the good doctor is equating small country nationalism with fascism and that is reprehensible. And the Germany she talks of is the most successful European state currently. Wish it was Scotland.

  23. daviddynamo says:

    Dr Bettina, your Popos are oot the Fenster!

    If Frau Doktor Bildhauer is concerned about a rise in nationalism, she ought to be talking to and warning the people of England. You know, the place where they have all of these political parties to vote for: BNP, UKIP, Britain First, British Democratic Party, Liberty GB, National Front, National Liberal Party, and English Democrats.

    1. YESGUY says:

      Well said David.

      We are being compared to nazi’s and only want the freedom to govern our own country. When name calling is thrown in and examples like fascists and nazi’s are thrown into the mix is any one surprised by the reaction.? I want independence does that make me a nationalist, nazi, fascist?

      The good doctor could at least take the time to come to a YES meeting and see for herself. And maybe the fact that she is German has clouded her view. I dunno , what i do know is that mentioning fascist/nazi in the same country where a national referendum for independence is being taken only shows ignorance . Is she blind and deaf to the voice of the people here. I took her comments as just another Unionist view to tar Scots who wish for the right to govern themselves as a cheap and nasty insult to all in this country.

      A graduation speech should be about hope not a warning . And there is a time and place for this kind of comment.

      We are trying to start anew in a fair and just country and this kind of comment seems to come straight from the BT message of doom.

    2. Grazia says:

      Well, she is. It’s at St Andrews after all, which attracts many many English students.

  24. Douglas says:

    Talk about making a mountain out of a molehill….!!!

    Her comments seem completely harmless to me…but then again, I am “a graduated instrument”, which is a pun, don’t you get it?

    Not a very good pun, but not a mistake (sic) as some of you seem to think…ie, a graduate has the ability to discern…

    Give the good lady a break!!!

    1. daviddynamo says:

      “nationalism” “worrying” “outsiders” “xenophobia”. No, Douglas, these words the Doctor used were intended to link the Scottish movement for independence with right-wing fascism, and bring up the spectre of “National socialism”. She deserves to be challenged for what she said.

      She also writes “as a German”, not “as a new Scot”, or “as a German-Scot” or something similar, indicating that she is not integrating well in this country. This suggests that she does not engage enough with local people, and is to some extent dissociated from events, thoughts, and opinions in Scotland.

      1. Douglas says:

        She is making a general speech to a bunch of graduates….you guys are fricking paranoid, you know that?

  25. daviddynamo says:

    Doc B: “the British world view is just one of many.” Exactly so , but a shame that you, as a teacher/facilitator at a university in Scotland, do not think there is a “Scottish world view”. Are we too we, too poor, etcetera for you, Doc Betty? Or is it that, outside your own specialist area, you don’t know Scheiss from Shinola?

  26. Douglas says:

    Bella, why the FF did you publish this story?

    Too much of the sun today?

    It’s just a laughable and absurd to see so many people taking offence at a woman who is saying “things have changed so much since I was young, but as graduates, you are equipped to make the right judgements in a changing world” which is what in essence she is saying….

    1. I hope she and you agreed a suitable fee for your role as personal apologist.

  27. Callum McKinnon says:

    What she does is express a concern, based on her own country’s history, about the risks of unquestioned nationalism. This concern applies whether or not Scotland does vote for independence. In fact, one could agree with her concern about nationalism developing into xenophobia AND support independence.

    The only person who compares Scottish nationalists to ‘Nazis’ or the far-right is Ms Powton; the author of the Bella Caledonia article.

  28. Gordon says:

    The title of the party that got us this democratic referendum is the Scottish National Party, not the Scottish Nationalist Party. It is a party that wants to be in and part of Europe and to share her resources with other counties. Dr. Bildhauer may be an academic, but if she classes Scots as being Nationalists in the sense of the Brownshirts, Nazis or any other right wing extremist parties that are now raising their ugly heads in the European continent , she Is completely out of touch and should not have even broached the subject. Scots know what the SNP stand for. One of its planks is immigration and the positive effects this will have on our country.
    She should be ashamed to express such ill-informed views as an academic. It will not do her standing any favours. As it is, she will not have influenced many who are qualified to vote. Someone must have put her up to this, as her view of Scots and the SNP are so wrong as to make her look foolish.

  29. bellacaledonia says:

    This is what you were thinking of I think Douglas?

    1. Douglas says:

      That’s the one! Thanks.

  30. rkb66 says:

    Thank you for the fuller transcript, very appreciated. The thing about chips on shoulders is that they are there because the person wears them. I will make it clear that I do not know this person (left Westwood Secondary, Easterhouse Christmas 1982 to try and avoid being one of Maggies Millions), I have not attended university (got my degree through Open University, whilst working). I am a Nationalist and I take no offence at this speech. Please note the phrase “I take no offence..” Offence is not given, it is taken. Do we fear that some nationalist may have the taint of fascism? Do we recognize that there are some in Scotland who have a perspective that is xenophobic? And so, when someone links nationalism to Nazism, how do we respond? Denial? Defensive? Attack? Or do we see in context the warning that is being highlighted and the encouragement of the next generation to stop, listen, think, spot danger and be prepared to stand up for what is right:-
    “You can analyse what’s going on. You have the frameworks to see the values hidden in a Hollywood film or a news programme, to see how political rhetoric puts a spin on things, to see how the British world view is just one of many. You have not just graduated, but you have become finely graduated instruments (sic) yourselves, attuned to measuring small degrees of change in your environment. You’ve got a training and a sensitivity to be able to tell if public opinion is about to shift, if there are new kinds of texts and films, new kinds of arguments, new kinds of values emerging. It baffles me how much public opinion has changed since I was born, and even since I graduated, especially in the areas of equality of women and gay people. Male homosexuality was still a crime in Germany just twenty years ago and yet very soon here in Scotland it will be possible for two men or two women to get properly married to each other, and I’m saying this on my own civil partnership anniversary. But there also seems to be a widespread shift towards nationalism, English, Scottish, French and German, that I as a German find deeply worrying, because the lesson from German history is that nationalism will always create outsiders and develop into xenophobia. Many of you will disagree with me, but this is why it’s so important that you graduates take your role as graduated instruments (sic) seriously, that you sound early alarms when something concerns you. You are the opinion makers now, when you’ve got something to say, step forward. Whatever steps you take, in whichever direction, rest assured that St Andrews will always stay with you.”

    I am encouraged to see the challenge that ‘the British world view is just one of many.’ I hope the young people hearing this speech, research beyond the main stream media between now and September, look beyond the rhetoric, and appreciate the Scotland that allows this lady to celebrate her civil partnership anniversary is the Scotland of the future and the one which a Yes vote will deliver.
    The question for bloggers is, please before you TAKE OFFENCE and put pen to complaint letter – check your shoulder for chips, and ask, is there a positive challenge here for our next generation. Let’s remember Edmund Burke ( ) – All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing. Surely as an ancient nation moving towards a modern democracy we want the next generation to always be vigilant against the rise of evil intent.
    Apologies if this is a long response but I think there is a little too much negative reaction here, that adds little to the debate.

  31. Angus says:

    The ‘rise of the right’ she refers to in Europe (and perhaps in England) cannot be associated with civic nationalism….she pretended that those who support right wing nationalism (which is indeed on the rise everywhere except Scotland) are in some way related by implication to Scottish independence.

    This is simply not true, I see the move to the right as being a part of British Nationalism and you don’t need a degree to see that and the indisputable (and mistaken) knee jerk race to the right in England’s politics.

    I am not really bothered about this speech, it comes across as a deliberately contrived and shallow effort at best and did the author no favours whatsoever.

    The apologist Douglas above is a bit too one sided in a pretty dire attempt to justify what was not the cleverest of interjections in a boring speech.

    Here is an example of a good speech from 1971 by Jimmy Reid.

  32. “…the lesson from German history is that nationalism will always create outsiders and develop into xenophobia…” And there’s the rub: is she not putting the cart before the horse here? Surely it is xenophobia that creates nationalism — specifically ethnic nationalism — and not vice versa. But nationalism in the sense of a will to self-determination does not necessarily create xenophobia at all. On the contrary, as we see at the moment in Scotland, there is a real wish to be more internationally connected (fear of being kicked out of the EU) and a real wish to welcome more immigrants. Just take a look at some of the support groups: EU citizens for independence, Poles for an independent Scotland, Oui pour l’Ecoss, Scottish Asians for Yes, etc etc

    1. Pete Bradley says:

      It’s Ecosse.

      1. Haha — thanks, Pete. I saw that as soon as I posted it. Unfortunately there’s no “edit” function here. It’s also “Scots Asians For Yes”,,, (not “Scottish Asians”) which I realised too late as well, and couldn’t correct either. I’ll try to be more careful next time… nervously reaching out to click “Post Comment” 😉

  33. And she sounds as if an immigrant herself welcomed at a Scottish University.

    1. rkb66 says:

      You are absolutely right, Grouse Beater. She should be grateful to be here,along with all other immigrants, and these people should check with you before making any kind of comment to ensure it fits with the message you would like everyone to hear. Because with your ten years association with that university you are in a position, surely not just to speak for yourself, but us all. Thank you. Apologies from a pleb that has had to wear other folks shoes.

      1. Douglas says:

        Why should she be grateful to be here?

        She is a EU citizen and we are in the EU.

        She has got just as much right to be in Scotland as you have!!!

        And you lot on this thread are doing all you can to prove her point!!!

        What a bunch of numpties…

      2. RKB66 and these people should check with you before making any kind of comment

        That statement betrays your intent; not quite the objective observer you portayed earlier, not exactly the pious saint employing diplomacy to calm troubled waters, just busted.

      3. Douglas says:

        Sorry rkb, mistaken identity….

    2. Grazia says:

      Douglas, grouse beater, try reading rkb66’s comment again with a sense of irony. Some of the comments on here are pretty disgraceful, this is just a sarcastic reflection

  34. tammcgarvey says:

    I’m not a nationalist I am internationalist but will still be voting YES. I love my country but totally respect other nations too. What I do not support is the neoliberal free market, mainly based in places like London and Wall St. that destroys nations by propping up corrupt politicians, stripping nations of their assests and keeping populations in debt, in fear and under subjugation.
    Time for new ideas and Scotland is as good a place as any to generate a society based around economic and ecological justice.
    Its the new tyranny I’m against. I think its justified to celebrate Bannockburn too. Saying no to tyranny in 2014 is as valid as it was in 1314.
    Dr. Bildhauer should be getting her facts straight before she makes such ill-informed statements, especially when so many Scots died fighting fascism.

  35. A fine remark worth repeating: Dr. Bildhauer get her facts straight before she makes such ill-informed statements, especially when so many Scots died fighting fascism.

  36. G. P. Walrus says:

    Having read the transcript kindly provided above I can understand why the Jackie Plowton might have felt momentarily annoyed but really this is a huge storm in a teacup. I really think some of the reaction here has been way over the top – which is very unusual on Bella Caledonia.

    1. You should have heard her off-the-record opinion.

  37. goldenayr says:


    Are you Bay Rok aka Indy Now,Yeah1,Doris etc,etc?

    1. Barontorc says:

      Go for Yeah1 – the shoe fits.

      1. goldenayr says:

        All the same,misguided,guy Baron.

    2. Douglas says:

      I have been posting above and below the line at Bella Caledonia, under my own name which you can click on, for about the last four or five years, and it;s the only site I post on.

      So the question is not who I am, the question is who you, Grouse Beater and people like you are, people who have obviously only recently discovered Bella Caledonia, and have succeeded in dramatically bringing down the tone of the below the line exchanges in a matter of months.

      Bella used to be a place where you would learn something from other posters, who were almost always polite, even when views differed. Now it is just a place where people come to get angry and accuse people of things.

      So, why don’t you learn the house rules, man you and that loon Grouse Beater. You are all posting so much crap in such an accusative tone that the people who actually know stuff about Scottish history, Scottish culture and independence won’t bother posting these days.

      And they’re right not to. Why would they risk meeting somebody like you or Grouse Beater. You guys offer nothing but anger and bad feeling.

      1. Elizabeth Buist says:

        I have just came on to this site and this my first post. I would be grateful if you would stop referring to anyone that is a nationalist as a nat! You say it in quite a sneering manner! If as you say you are a polite and respective person normally in your comments. I am a member of the Scottish National Party and quite proud of the fact. You have even stated that the SNP are a broad kirk so you are actually being insulting to quite a lot of people. I actually tuned in to pick up facts and figures as I was unfortunately not taught Scottish History at school and heard this was a good site to come too.

        Will reserve my judgement on that…

      2. Troll behaviour: moving a discussion from debate to dispute by means of derision and abuse, making false accusation, consequently drawing reader attention away from topic onto the troll.

        The question is whether or not an intelligent person knew the impact of the words she chose, and if so, why she did not add, “but I do not refer to the people of Scotland’s wish for good self-governance because it is a civil process denied them 300 years, now conducted by due democratic process.”

  38. barneythomson says:

    Ach, that’s no a speech, this is a Speech –

    1. YESGUY says:

      Yes Barney
      That’s a speech.


  39. Robert Graham says:

    dear dear douglas having read most of your rants i ask you “WHY” are why are you on this site is it your aim just to stir up controversy and label most if not all contributors as nuts when most of us are just commenting on a recently graduated students parents view of what should have been a political free zone for both sides this wasn’t the time or place to voice this academics own personal views on what was a thinly veiled link to our referendum it was not as you say a general comment on the world just now but a direct reference to the “YES” campaign and to link it to dangerous extreme movements elsewhere. So its grouse beater 1 douglas 0 in my opinion ,like yours that comment is as relevant as your posts

  40. Mike says:

    Looking historically at ‘Nationalism’ – the ‘scary’ word that is used so pejoratively by the opponents of the SNP. Perhaps the ‘Yes’ supporters should learn to explain the ‘Nationalist Revolutions’ of 1848, when Nationalism (allied with Liberalism) were 19th century movements against Imperialism. This was a struggle for sovereignty against the might of the Russian, Austro-Hungarian, Ottoman and British Empires. Nationalist revolutions throughout Europe were for freedom not imperialistic conquest.
    It was the desperate battle to end subjugation of smaller nations by the immense power of the repressive regimes who had stripped so many small states and people of their language and culture. These were all to be subjugated for the glory of the ‘Great’ Empires. These were the empires that were to lead to the ‘Balance of Power’ and the First World War. It was NOT the desire for national freedom by small nations that caused the war but the massive pride and military arms race of those who opposed the freedom of small nations.

    Those who either maliciously malign these brave ‘nationalists’ of the past either deliberately mendaciously or simply through ignorance of history should not continually get away with trying to align nationalism with fascism. Surely those supporters of the Union who claim to be ‘Socialist’ (George Galloway, Ian Davidson etc., etc.) should be challenge to as to what brand of ‘Socialism’ they aspire.

    The ‘Socialism’ of Joseph Stalin, Pol Pot, Moa Ze Dong and other tyrants who claimed to be socialist states. Where the small nations right or wrong gaining sovereignty from the centralised despots of the USSR or where they ‘Better Together’. Those that misuse the meaning of civic nationalism cannot claim that their ‘definition‘ of socialism is a benign form whilst their interpretation of ‘nationalism’ is so detestable. At present the party that has been in government the greatest number of years in NZ is the New Zealand National Party. Like many ‘national’ parties it was so called after an amaligation of two other parties, the Liberals and the Reform party to form a ‘National’ party. Of course that’s their name and no one in NZ calls it supporters pejoratively ‘Nationalists’ or ‘Nats’. Most if not everyone in New Zealand is nationalist in that they have chosen a way of life and culture, slightly distinct from say Australia and certainly different from the USA and even the ’Motherland’ – the UK. However we are most certainly internationalist as well and do promote our sovereign view on the world stage where like virtually ever small nation we are represented on international forums such as the UN – Scotland is not.

    Remember the ‘Atlantic Treaty’
    “The right of small nations to self f determination.”

  41. Douglas says:

    You mean everybody on this site has to be in agreement about everything, Robert, right? You don’t think that is slightly an undemocratic way of thinking and fundamentally uninteresting?

    That’s not how Bella used to work. Bella used to work best when people disagreed and exchanged ideas, now it is boring, petty, stifling, hostile, angry and devoid of interest.

    So you’re right, what am I doing posting on Bella? I won’t be henceforth.

    Over to you geniuses and your rage.

    1. goldenayr says:

      Hmmm…must have been bang on the money with my question about you.

  42. EricF says:

    So much froth. The phrase highlighted at the start of the article, and which Katharina has also emphasised is this: “the lesson from German history is that nationalism will always create outsiders and develop into xenophobia”. I find that remark inappropriate and offensive. My German wife finds that remark inappropriate and offensive. Excellent as the starting point for a debate, but, for a graduation speech, particularly one made in the middle of our referendum campaign, inappropriate and offensive. By “our” there I do include Dr Bildhauer, by the way. Had a Russian academic given a graduation speech in the middle of an election stating “the lesson from Russian history is that socialism will always create totalitarianism and gulags” then there would have been many who would also consider that to be inappropriate and offensive.

  43. David Allan says:

    Well we’ve been informed; perhaps Dr Bildhauer would like, at a German graduation speech, a Scottish academic to inform those newly graduated as to the horrors of unification and British nationalism

  44. tartanfever says:

    Some here defending the ‘right of free speech’.


    I always liked what Kiekegaard said about it,

    ‘ People demand freedom of speech as a compensation for the freedom of thought which they seldom use.’

    Clearly Bildhauer also falls into this category.

  45. Wullie says:

    I don’t think Scottish nationalism has killed anybody for a very long time and is unlikely to ever do so.
    British nationalism, on the other hand, has killed people from Belfast to Bagdad, the Falklands to Herat, as the coffin industry well knows, and the British state proposes to spend squillions on the obscenity of a Trident replacement while people queue at food-banks.
    Germany, sensibly, has learned its lesson and turned its swords into ploughshares but don’t hold your breath waiting for an ivory towered academic, whatever their nationality, taking a reality check and raising this scandalous and outragious, sabre-rattling situation, at a graduation ceremony at St Andrews or anywhere else.

  46. Carnyx says:

    Reading the whole speech I think her comments were fair enough, as a Scottish nationalist and internationalist married to someone with a different first language, nationality and religious background I deeply disagree with the claim that nationalism “always” leads to xenophobia, I also disagree that this is thee lesson from German history. I’d argue that German historical culture contains several distinct aspects and particular political situations which eventually contributed to the catastrophy of the Third Reich, she wrongly makes her statement like German history is a Kantian universal, indeed I’d go further and argue that thus certain German and Balkan perspectives on Scottish independence can be particularly poor at appreciating what’s going on, but I recognise her own academic interests in the cultural significance of blood in medieval German literature, combined with little study of nationalism in general, might lead her to such a conclusion. Whatever, she is not actually calling all Scotsnats “Nazis”, I actually agree with Douglas, although I think making such contestable assertions at a graduation speech are inappropriate.

    1. she is not actually calling all Scotsnats “Nazis”

      I accept much of what you have had to say save the sentence I quote.

      In reality, by association, she is telling her students what to think.

      There appears to be a hope students will make a false connection between unacceptable forms of nationalism and Scotland’s honest aspirations. If she did not mean that, then her remarks are clumsy and ought to have been left from her speech. If she meant the interpretation I draw, something is seriously wrong with St Andrew’s teaching.

  47. Stuart Vallis says:

    There is the difficulty in the word nationalism, which on the continent of Europe means something different to people. After the SNP won in 2011 I was telling people here (in the north of Switzerland) how happy that the SNP had won and there would be a referendum. The reaction was “YOU a nationalist! who would have thought it!” then you have the work to explain what is the difference between what they think nationalism is and what I think it is. Its a bit like trying to explain to people that Scotland is not a sub region of England, since here people routinely use England to mean the whole UK, its not meant in a bad way, just the way they have learned it. For Nationalism, I thought Robin MacAlpine made the definition rather well:

    As far as criticism of Frau Dr. Bildhauer, I suspect she is able to take it, I am sometimes discussing politics with Germans (I am right on the border), people are forthright and frank, and they put me right when I am talking rubbish. It is a learning process, no big deal if you want to engage people on the politics of their country and in their language you are of course going to need to learn a lot and you can make mistakes which offend people. Also Dr. Bildhauer has a Phd, so is for sure used to defending her ideas robustly and being challenged.

  48. Alasdair Frew-Bell says:

    She’s an academic with opinions. She is not Moses bearing holy writ. The context for her comment was inappropriate. She unwittingly? politicized an event that ought to have been free from such extraneous baggage. Academics are no more wise or sensible than the rest of us. Though they do certainly have an edge on many politicians. Gove…Russia will welcome Scottish independence…quaking in my snowboots!

    1. Gove…Russia will welcome Scottish independence

      Did Gove really utter that nonsense, Alasdair?

      Goodness me. We are not proto-fascists at all but hell bent communists!

      I wish the opponents of democracy would make up their minds. I am losing a small fortune on trading Tee shirts. What next? Che Guevara or Hannibal Lecter?

      1. Alasdair Frew-Bell says:

        according to The Times and that organ, as we all know, never lies……..

  49. Grazia says:

    A silly thing to say, no doubt, for various reasons. But I also think it is hysterical and an attack on academic freedom to try and start some kind of campaign on this, and will backfire if people start reacting in a knee-jerk way. It’s exactly the ‘bullying/quashing opposing views’ line that BT want to promote.

  50. jdman says:

    email sent to the principle of Saint Andrews University

    The disgraceful address by Dr Bettina Bildhauer at a recent Graduation ceremony where she conflated the aspirations of a nation to be akin to Nazism was deeply deeply offensive to me and to the country which is this Dr’s home,
    if she does not understand the desire for self government in Scotland she would be well advised to avoid comment because all she has done is to insult a great many decent people,
    You may well wish to consider this persons suitability for the post she inhabits as comments such as hers only inflame a population already confused by the deliberate fog being created by the main stream media and of course the main culprit in the stifling of reasonable discourse THE BBC and consider a more conciliatory approach, as when a great many of her students will return home to their own countries but the indigenous students will remain, subject to such disgusting misrepresentation as this which is reprehensible .

    A public apology and resignation of this person will suffice.

    And before I get vetted for my suitability by Douglas to post here, I have posted on this site longer than you Douglas.

  51. jdman says:

    “Will reserve my judgement on that…”

    Dont judge the site on the basis of a single poster Elizabeth,
    Bella is a shining light in the debate.

  52. Grazia says:

    Rather than jumping over every comment I’m putting this here

    Alasdair Frew-Bell: mocking her being German and making your own little Nazi dig is not acceptable- it’s you who sound like the Mail.

    David Dynamo, the same to you with your ‘scheiss from shinola’ shite. And as for saying ‘as a German’, this acknowledges that she brings her own cultural perspective inevitably. One thing which Scotland is much better at generally is freedom from this rubbish, which really does back up her concerns. Would you introduce a Football Test where you have to support Scotland to be considered Scottish? Or just have to call yourself Scottish to show you’re ‘integrated’? Thankfully I see little chance of this happening. In fact I’m pretty certain the minority of embittered Nationalists (in the xenophobic sense) will fade even further in the event of independence, just as they did after devolution (I’m only putting this last bit in so someone doesn’t try and explain to me that civic nationalism doesn’t equal xenophobia as if everyone on here doesn’t know that)

    1. Alasdair Frew-Bell says:

      the nazi dig is in your mind, not mine. what is it with brits and their “narziz”. i certainly do not mock her. suggest you refine your comprehension skills. genug gesagt davon, nicht?

      1. Grazia says:

        So the Mail thing had nothing to do with the Mail’s support for fascism ? how is it ironic then?

  53. Molitor says:

    The language used on this site in relation to the speech by Dr Bildhauer and the actions promoted here more than justify the very careful warning Dr Bildhauer has given against the dangers inherent in any nationalist ideology. Some of the posters here – including the author of the original article – should take a long hard look at what they are advocating and at the culture they are creating.

    (1) In response to an expression of opinion, Ms Powton has called for – and succeeded in generating – a public campaign for an individual to be attacked and for her employer to be approached with a view to demanding that person’s dismissal. This is the public orchestration of a culture of fear which is wholly incompatible with a free, tolerant and calm democracy.

    (2) Dr Bildhauer’s concern that nationalist movements anywhere threaten to create the conditions for outsiders to be marginalised and reviled has led to a baffling torrent of comments – on this site and elsewhere – confirming these very concerns.

    There are repeated references to her foreign origins (ranging from “Frau Doktor” to “Scheiss” and the not-so-subtle attempts to mark out her command of English as imperfect). There is the claim that enjoying the “privilege” of living in Scotland should come at the cost of free expression. And there is the telling observation that her reference to her German origins marked her out as insufficiently integrated. Add to these personal insults about her alleged lack of insight and some preposterous insinuation (by one “katherinablum”) that there may be something fishy about Dr Bildhauer’s first degree, and you get a scenario of mob-bullying against someone immediately marked as an outsider and treated accordingly.

    All of those who posted these statements or approved of them should ponder what this says about the inclusivity, tolerance, openness and fairness of their political culture. It’s how one reacts to the messages one dislikes, how one deals with opposition that is the measure of one’s tolerance, and if the spirit shown in many of the posts above is the spirit that breathes through Scotland’s civic nationalism, then maybe its proponents have a fair bit of work to do.

    (3) Finally, on the point raised by Dr Bildhauer: It may well be correct that many supporters of Scottish independence have no truck with an aggressive form of nationalism, but these are not the people against whom her warning would have been sounded. The broad movement for Scotland to separate from the UK is clearly not monolithic, though, and it is certainly the case that there are many voices that justify concerns about where political nationalism – even its Scottish variant – may lead.

    I was struck by the tone of many comments on the recent STV poll in the Borders/D&G (showing a substantial lead for “NO” there). Many of the Yes-supporting posts called into question the Scottishness of the whole population in these areas, called them “English settlers”, “immigrants”, and “Borderline Scots”.

    I was also deeply disappointed by the First Minister’s eulogy on Bannockburn yesterday, calling this 700-year old slaughter of “English” soldiers the “wellspring of modern Scottish nationhood.” How is this nationalism, with its reference to war and victory, modern, civic and inclusive? Could a Scot living in England feel at home there, if David Cameron declared Flodden to be the reference point for the English nation?

    A final thought on Scotland “civic” nationalism: EU residents in Scotland currently form equal parts of the electorate. Their votes have contributed to giving Holyrood and the Scottish Government their legitimacy; their votes may help deliver a Yes-vote. But, according to the SNP’s draft constitution, they will not enjoy automatic citizenship in the newly liberated nation, but will lose their vote, even though they were part of the democratic process before. Automatic citizenship will, however, be granted to those UK citizens not resident (nor currently enfranchised) in Scotland, but born on Scottish soil or related “by descent” to Scottish citizens. Nationalism often looks a lot less “civic” and more like all the other nationalisms the word has suffered – over the centuries – when you are at the receiving end of it.

    As a non-Scot resident in Scotland, I feel more alien and marginalised now than I did two years ago, and it’s moments like this one – when a a freely expressed opinion leads to that person being singled out as foolish and foreign, personally attacked and with her livelihood threatened – that make me feel this way.

    1. As a non-Scot resident in Scotland,

      That remark addresses the convoluted ‘reasoned’ excuses you list.

      It is clear you have no conception let alone perception of what it is like living in a nation where decisions are made by someone else somewhere else, decision that affect lives and futures.

      You, like a few others here, do your best to depict the good doctor’s utterance as innocent and benign. It is up to her, not you, to explain why she said what she said, and chose to do so in that august setting.

      1. Molitor says:

        By claiming once again that outsiders, such as me (or Dr Bildhauer, I guess), have “no conception” of the political situation of the country in which I have lived and worked for more than a decade, you only confirm how exclusive, homogenised and inward-looking your political attitude is.

        What are the conditions I would have to meet? Scottish birth? Scottish descent? Or do I just have to agree with you?

        And thanks, also, for telling me that it is not “up to me” to make the points I chose to make.

        In essence you have told me – twice – that my voice in this is not legitimate. Very “civic”, I must say.

        1. Exaggeration and distortion. Not the standard of debate to which I wish to participate.

          If you do really perceive the political problems Scotland endures by power lying elsewhere your diatribe shows no sign of acknowledging the issues or the remedies.

          Unless the good doctor impressed upon you to make public her fears of Scotland’s right to genuine democracy, your diatribe might well do her a terrible disservice, for you make matters worse but injecting the debate and her remarks with a personal opinion all your own.

    2. Douglas says:

      I agree with all of that I’m afraid to say, Molitor.

      I hadn’t noticed the UK status only for voting rights in the Constitution, thanks for that.

      I was outraged not to get a vote in the General Elections in Spain when I lived there, so I fully sympathize.

      Unfortunately the EU is no more than a trading club with Beethoven’s Ninth as background music. There should be a EU law which obliges all states to give any EU citizens voting rights in all elections after one year’s residency. Anything else makes a complete mockery of the idea that we are all European.

      And don’t worry about Grouse Beater. Apparently he is tipped to form part of the new diplomatic corps of the first indie Scottish government, and you can see why, right?

      Does anybody in the SNP out there have the remote control for Grouse Beater? Could somebody please switch him to “OFF” for a couple of days at least?

      1. Axel Koehler says:

        To this, Douglas, I have nothing more to add than what I already expressed in my letter below, and in my latest contribution further below.

        Einen schönen Abend noch, agus slàn is beannachd leat an ceartair. And cheerio just now.

        A. Koehler

    3. Molitor — I didn’t insinuate that there was anything fishy about her first degree. That’s your reading of it. I merely expressed surprise that she did not mention her alma mater, which, as I pointed out, is a well-regarded university.

      1. Molitor says:

        Let me quote you: “But Bildhauer is a very unusual name. So perhaps the fact that the head of the international academic exchange programme at Cologne shares the same name — though probably a perfectly innocent coincidence (let’s not forget the recent Lally incident here!) — may be reason enough to hide that particular light under a bushel.” – Honi soit qui mal y pense …

  54. Bannockburn yesterday, calling this 700-year old slaughter of “English” soldiers the “wellspring of modern Scottish nationhood.”

    Like the good doctor you associate without context.

    Bannockburn is normally described in history books as, ‘resisting an invading army.’

    1. Molitor says:

      I am not saying the Scottish feudal lords leading their troops against an English army in 1314 were doing something inherently wrong at the time.

      I am saying that for a 21st century politician to claim, in the context of a referendum campaign, that “modern” Scottish nationhood sprang from this 700-year old carnage and thus to associate the Scottish nation he is proposing to lead to independence with warfare and fighting its English neighbour, is deeply disappointing.

      This is run-of-the-mill 19th-century nationalist rhetoric. The hackneyed old stuff you got in Germany (the battle against the Romans in the Teutoburg Forest), Poland (battle against the Germanic Knights at Grunwald), France (Battle of Gergovia), or Serbia (Battle of Kosovo). Always, the same old nationalist narrative about “our” warriors vanquishing “theirs”.

      If I wanted to generate a thoroughly new and different kind of nationalism, I would stay away from these blood-drenched old tales. But perhaps that cannot be done. I guess one cannot really make a “civic” purse out of nationalism’s ear.

      1. I have already stated my reaction to your comments.

        I look forward to cheering on the next commemoration of the Battle of Britain. A visit to the Mary Rose museum is on my list, Henry VIII’s warship that sank taking with it the lives of 600 souls.

  55. Molitor says:

    @ Grouse Beater, July 1, 2014 • 15:39

    Not quite sure what to make of this …

    I reckon I disagree with you about Scotland’s political status quo and its future, but I concede readily that you have a right to your own opinion (and a right to express it).

    But I would request, with all due respect, that you don’t seek to challenge – on whatever grounds – my right to do the same.

    So please stop telling me, yet again, that I had better not add “a personal opinion” to the debate because that’s what happens in free societies with “genuine democracy” – people express their opinion without fear.

    1. You repeat the calumny.

      I have nothing to add to my previous remarks.

    2. @Molitor: that doesn’t mean there is anything even remotely “fishy” (your word) about her first degree. Nor did I insinuate that there was. It is, however, as you are surely aware, most unusual to omit the name of your own alma mater in an academic CV – especially when it is one of the oldest universities in Europe, and highly regarded. There could well be a perfectly innocent reason for not mentioning it. Sharing an unusual name with someone in a position of authority/influence in the same (or closely related) field may be a complete coincidence, but in itself perhaps reason enough to drop any mention of it in order to avoid unwarranted and/or false speculation within the small world of the academic exchange community and to ensure their work is appreciated entirely on its own merits.

      1. Molitor says:

        “[U]nwarranted and/or false speculation within the small world of the academic exchange community” that you have done your very best to generate – by vetting Dr Bildhauer’s CV, coming up with an alleged “find”, searching Cologne’s website for the name “Bildhauer” and then posting the results of your sleuthing on this blog with a nudge-nudge-wink-wink comment that there could, perhaps, be “an innocent” explanation for this allegedly unusual omission. Come off it and stop digging.

  56. Axel Koehler says:

    Dear folk here on Bella Caledonia,

    after having thoroughly read this thread, and thus sacrificed a fair amount of time I should have devoted to my work, e.g. my forthcoming book projects such as a photographically and scholarly valuable illustrated work on the Gaels in Thirty Years War Germany and various Scotland-set short stories, as well as planning and booking my holiday in Argyll this summer; finding it interesting and at times very familiar, I decided to add some thoughts of my own to the discussion.

    As for the question whether I am entitled to participate in the debate, which I know will doubtlessly be posed by some: I have lived in Scotland throughout most of my student time, both undergrad and postgrad (a decade altogether), holding degrees from three Scottish universities, and despite having had to move back to my native Germany in 2008 for the want of a job in the country which I had chosen, and still regard, as my new home and most favourite, most-loved home from home, I am still very much in touch with my spiritual and cultural home of choice – teaching Gaelic in Germany, writing (as a freelance scholar) about shared history of my native Hesse and Gaelic Scotland from mediaeval times, and following the Scottish news closely and incessantly…For those of you unfamiliar with my recent publications, please check out From Breadalbane to Brucker Muhl: Scottish Highland Soldiers in Hesse 1759-62 (Colonsay: House of Lochar, 2012); my related essays in Scottish Gaelic Studies and Am Bratach; as well as other, more folkloristic essays I published in Scottish Gaelic Studies in Gaelic language (if you have it), and – more recently – my essay in tribute to Neil Munro (1863-1930), Para Handy and the Clyde puffers, possibly the first ever text about, and in homage to this subject written in German: Irland-Journal, XXV, 1.14, pp. 188-91 (78-81 in PDF online version):

    For the current topic, then: I disagree with Dr Bildhauer’s address on the grounds that between the lines, she did liken Scottish nationalism to the xenophobic kind of nationalism as currently prominent in Le Pen’s France, Wilder’s Netherlands and Orban’s Hungary, to name but a few. Why else would she have inserted ‘Scottish’ into that line that sparked Mrs. Powton’s, and others’, ire: “But there also seems to be a widespread shift towards nationalism, English, Scottish [sic!], French and German, that I as a German find deeply worrying” – well, hailing from Germany myself, despite having been taught my country’s recent past – the unfortunate twelve-year “millennial empire dark age” and all the ills it brought about – as thoroughly as I have read Dr Bildhauer’s speech, I am not buying her wide-spread concept of nationalism being generally bad and ill-conceived, and necessarily leading to xenophobia and discriminating and ostracising minorities. Saying that, I should emphasize here that I am neither of the right-wing persuasion, nor too far down the left lane – yet I am a patriot for both Hesse and Scotland in the best civic and democratic sense. Many people from either side of the common political spectrum have tried to sort me into a drawer since my teenage years, but I do not fit into any drawer, and I hate to think in drawers (as too many of my fellow country folk tend to do, but people in Britain are not entirely innocent of, either): culturally, I am moderately conservative, while politically-speaking, I am centre left. As for Scotland, you will have to go a fair amount of miles until you bump into some other non-native born Scot who feels so strongly for the country, its traditional languages and its cultures. If that makes me a nationalist in Dr Bildhauer’s worst sense of the word, I take great umbrage at that: though I would not describe myself as a Scot, nor as a German-born Scot, nor even as a German – I am a severely gaelicised Hessian European…and I hate the way the Tories in Westminster have taken, and are still taking, in the wake of UKIP: yon folk, dear Dr Bildhauer and colleagues, and supporters, are the real threat for Europe, and world peace – and not the SNP or the supporters of Scottish Independence from other parts of the political scenery.

    Which is why I would myself favour independence and self-determination for Scotland, the nation I have devoted most of my life to, as soon as possible – and if I were still biding in the country itself and not once again reduced to the status of a mere annual visitor, I would most certainly vote YES on 18 September 2014!

    During my time in Scotland, I never experienced xenophobia from most Scots – if at all, then only from the clientele suffering of the Jockholm Syndrome or Morbus Cringus Scotticus, if you pardon my Pythonesque Latin. Likewise, I encountered many young German exchange students and postgrads with very one-sided views of Scotland hardly ever acquired from first-hand knowledge (because they would hardly ever mix with real locals, preferring the company of their fellow international students instead, and neither would they ever consult sources other than those they were prescribed by their lecturers and professors at home, or on location – in fact, they would just about avoid anyone or anything with the potential to turn their restricted mindset, and world view, topsy-turvy or bun os cionn, as I would say in my most favourite Scottish language, and the language of my work). I have the strong suspicion that Dr Bildhauer once belonged to that set of European exchange students whom I have come to name the “Mehr Schein als Sein” bunch (connoisseurs of the German academic system among you will not take long to see the pun in this term) who are these days, in the Post-Bologna era, even encouraged in their shallow, one-sided views. I have suffered my own fair share of abuse, passive aggression and nit-picking at their hands…or rather, tongues…and I am still ready to say: Forgive them, for they know not what they do or say. But there is no excuse for them not to do their homework properly before they make any utterance on the current situation in Scotland, and that should mean to consider the sources from either side of the debate! Anything else would not make them scholars, but pseudo-intellectual lambs to be herded any which way a superior mind pursuing its own agenda chose…as is probably the case in St Andrews, given the nature of that university.

    While it may be well-intended what Dr Bildhauer had in mind with her words, she should be aware of whose interests the outcome of her speech might serve – and certainly not along the lines of “Am deutschen Wesen wird die Welt genesen”, whatever the political background: when in Scotland, do as the Scots do! Missionary-style thinking will not do her much good.

    Kind regards,

    Axel Koehler, MA hons (Abdn), MPhil (Edin), MSc (RGU)

    P.S.: before I first came to Scotland as a resident student, I had already been very familiar with the country and its history and culture(s) from my childhood on, having intensely travelled there, and studied every source I could get hold of. I suppose that should give me some more authority on the matter than dear Dr Bildhauer.

    1. Dear Axel

      I am grateful for your most thoughtful, considered contribution, as will my German friends, Wilfieid and Maike, (a highly successful business couple) reading this thread appalled at how easily and without shame the Scottish nation is maligned.

      For my own part, I am working in the campus at the moment – at the invitation of the University – on a project to be opened later in the year. As you’d expect I’m privy to the response of students and staff unhappy at the good doctor’s louche opinion.

      Thank you again, for your remarks – greatly enjoyed.

      1. Axel Koehler says:

        P.S.P.S.: It may be a slightly different topic, and it is not exactly from an academic context, but those of you who follow the goings-on in the Gaelic world may well remember another example of misinformed German intervention in a Scottish, or Scotland-related, matter:

        Earlier this year, in February, the Gaelophile anarcho-punk band Oi Polloi was refused the stage at an “alternative festival” in East Germany: the organisers had cancelled the gig on the grounds that they held Gaelic to be reactionary and separatist, and the ideals the band stood for – the right to one’s land and language – reminded them “of the blood-and-soil ideology of the German far right”. An anarcho-punk band?? Aye, right! That happens when misinformed, superficially-educated and ideologically blinded people – in this case an interest group from the German far left – encounter left-wing advocates of one of Scotland’s oldest, yet still vibrant, cultures! See these links for more information: and (entries 3-6 Feb 2014)

        And this is why I keep preaching to my fellow country-folk to do their proper research if they want to hold an opinion – and while I would hate to infringe on anyone beyond my due, I would recommend that to some people in Scotland, or elsewhere in Britain too, especially with regard to Scotland’s indigenous cultures in older and recent history, and in the present.

        It is too prevalent these days to fire blasts of opinion without any deeper knowledge of a subject matter. Sadly, that is also the case in academia…

        Also: ideology and religion are sadly too often governed, or taken over, by small-minded nit-pickers and control freaks – and that applies to all ideologies, philosophies and religions without boundary! Some ideologies, however, were made for excluding and oppressing “misfits” from their very conception: enter UKIP, BNP and Cameron’s “New Tories”…

        1. I did not know until now Oi Polloi were obstructed from performing. Extraordinary.

    2. Molitor says:

      Amid the many cheerful facts about your numerous academic qualifications, your Gaelic-Hessian proclivities, your formidable immersion into matters Caledonian and your interesting recent publications, there are a number of points in your post that attracted my particular attention:

      (1) You conceptualised a category of ignorant and isolated German exchange students with a “restricted mindset” who – unlike you, of course – failed to understand Scotland properly, and then you claim that Dr Bildhauer, who you also accuse of not having done her homework, must fall into this category. Unless you have any evidence for this, this is nothing but an arrogant smear against someone who has achieved a senior academic appointment at a leading Scottish university – which is clearly something not everyone can do.

      (2) While you are at it, you also slight the University of St Andrews, which you appear to describe as the natural home for “pseudo-intellectual lambs to be herded”. May I ask on which basis you think it fit to pass this kind of judgement?

      (3) You go to some lengths to express that you disagree with Dr Bildhauer’s concern that nationalism – regardless of where it arises – involves the risk of generating outsiders and xenophobia, but you do not offer a single argument. It’s all assertion and histrionic outrage. If you really believe that Scottish nationalism – uniquely among the various manifestations of this ideology – is immune to this threat, then kindly offer an argument of some reasoning.

      (4) Your assertion that “Dr Bildhauer and colleagues, and supporters are the real threat for Europe and world peace” strikes me as nothing but bizarre and foolish. Please substantiate this accusation – that an academic warning against the risk of nationalism generating xenophobia constitutes a real threat to world peace – or withdraw what is an outrageous claim.

      (5) “when in Scotland, do as the Scots do” is a similarly problematic point: On the one hand it implies that there is a monolithic Scottish volonté générale to be followed (which there clearly is not: the country is deeply divided on the issue of Scottish nationalism and independence); on the other hand your comment implies that any individual (and especially a newcomer) had better toe the line rather than express his/her opinion freely. If taken seriously, this comment postulates a homogenised unanimity that smacks of totalitarianism, rather than of a welcoming, free and diverse democracy. I suggest you have a look at Popper’s “Open Society and Its Enemies” and then decide which side you’re on.

      Sic tacuisses …

      1. Axel Koehler says:

        Molitor, Molitor,

        what have ye got on yer monitor? There are oh-so-many things you got wrong – did you read my text with the usual passive aggression of the one whose very own world view has been criticised, and thereby missed some things? As they say in German, “Nur getroffene Hunde bellen?”

        I suggest you read my stuff all over again ere you go all berserk on me…

        1) I have been in academia long enough to know that high positions and PhDs are not necessarily the result of superior intelligence and understanding – and I know fine that more often, it is the credits, the budget and the connections that count – I have known a great many scholars who never had a PhD nor achieved the status of a reader or a fellow, because they either had to give up or postpone their PhD programme due to monetary reasons, and who did not get the chance of a paid doctorate; and such who were successful PhD candidates who were promised a great lot of a career on achievement of their degree by their supervisors, only to find themselves neglected by the latter once the big day came, and had to resort to non-academic jobs that had the hell to do with what they had striven for…e.g. my best mate during my postgrad days. So come on, Mollie, don’t try to impress me with posts and titles – I don’t do Titelhörigkeit, nor Kadavergehorsam!

        2) I did not intend to slight the students or staff of St Andrews summarily, and those whom I referred to can do with some criticism – I have nothing to add, nor to take away from my statements!

        3) Here I intend to express that I don’t do dogmas prescribed by PC (especially in Germany), and I do not adhere to any current mainstream party nor ideology nor religion, and when some folk say the Scottish Independence movement were but an ideology for small minds, here’s my reply: they have to live with the fact that their own ideology leads to narrow-mindedness and tunnel vision, too – as that is what ideologies are all about! Once an idea turns into an ideology, it is idiocy – and the dogmatists have already taken over! Try to prove me otherwise with your knowledge of Scottish Independence – bet you can’t, for you, just like me, cannot look into the future!! Always to deduce that future from the past of some other country, though, is a bit simplistic, don’t you think? And nope, I am not doing statistics here – they’re for nerra-nebbits and nit-pickers!

        4) Molitor, g’dangit!! Read that paragraph again, or it is “Setzen, sechs!!!” – I said that UKIP and the “New Tories” were a threat to peace in Europe, and the world (as likely supporters of the US right-wingers etc.).Nothing to withdraw here, dear Sir!

        5) If you prefer to interprete my statement thus, it betrays your own narrow view – not mine! What I was referring to here is that the last thing Scotland needs is the condescending counsel from an incoming, and possibly not yet integrated lecturer to the people to better forget their strife for independence and self-determination, as it constituted exclusive nationalism and could lead to worse, merely because…I agree with you that the people of Scotland will need to be alert once they achieve independence to prevent this from happening.

        Yet what is all that warning off beforehand, leaving them not even the chance to go their own way and demonstrate that they can do better??! To all you international indysceptics: Stop nannying Scotland, it is not an immature child – give the people a chance! Cut that “Wehret den Anfängen…” stuff and all that mistrust – leave it to grow, you would not keep your own offspring like that for fear what could happen, or would you? Well, that would reveal more about your lack of confidence than about them…same goes for Scotland!!

        And yes, I am allergic to those among my fellow country folk who merely observe Scotland through “German spectacles” – that’s like comparing apples and pears. Get off your high saddle, and lower your nose, it does not suit you to judge a country and its people from an outside, or a one-sided inside perspective…that’s what I mean with “When in Scotland, do as the Scots do.” Once again: ere you can afford an opinion, you should consider the matter from all sides and sources, and neither a PhD nor a high-profile academic job guarantee wisdom! “Ji kokt ok blots mit water!”

        Have a pleasant day yet, Sir.


        Axel Koehler

      2. Molitor says:

        Dear Mr Koehler,

        I am sure you can see the irony of quoting the proverb “only kicked dogs bark” before launching into such a such a lengthy tale “of sound and fury, signifying nothing”.

        (ad 1) You accuse – without any evidence at all – a successful academic (and a whole cohort of German students you claim to have observed) of ignorance and lack of insight – to a degree that allows you to challenge her entitlement to speak her mind. To find that unacceptable has noting to do with “Titelhörigkeit”, but with a modicum of “Gesprächskultur”.

        (ad 2) You DID slight the students and staff of St Andrews summarily, and, I would guess, without knowing much about the place.

        (ad 3) The historical track record of nationalism as a political lodestar is pretty bleak, and where it’s still with us it does not look to me to be all that tolerant either. So if you want to blast off, as forcefully as you have done, against a warning as to where nationalism might lead, you had better try a bit harder than “no-one can foresee the future”. Going with the data, knowledge and experience we have strikes me as more reliable than “Who knows? Let’s suck it and see!”

        (ad 4) So “yon folk” refers to the Tories and UKIP, and “dear Dr Bildhauer …” is a direct address to your audience, rather than an explanation of “yon folk”? I am happy to interpret your somewhat ornate Wodehousian prose this way and to withdraw my comment with apologies. – However, to call the Tories and UKIP a threat to world peace – much though I dislike them – also strikes as on the shrill side.

        Moreover, UKIP and the SNP are effectively peddling the same rotten old goods: our nation first; let’s get out of trans-/international connections. I reject them both – for the same reasons. (Btw – I enjoyed your “Setzen, Sechs!” from someone so proud of his rejection of “Kadavergehorsam”.

        (ad 5) “What I was referring to here is that the last thing Scotland needs is the condescending counsel from an incoming, and possibly not yet integrated lecturer” – This makes my point entirely: You single out Dr Bildhauer as an “incomer” (with less legitimacy?) and speculate (without any evidence, I would expect) on the level of her integration. And you do all this in an effort to challenge her right to say what she thinks. Moreover, your lengthy response does not address the essence of my criticism of your peculiar earlier injunction, “when in Scotland …” You clearly invoked this saying to silence a critical voice (regardless, even, as you say yourself, of Dr Bildhauer’s intentions).

        Finally, there is no need for “German spectacles” to be worried about what is going on here. There is enough talk of “blood Scots” (vs “colonists”), of Englishmen being told to “go home”, of “true Scots” vs “Quislings” afoot in the debate at the moment to make people uneasy about what the culture of a future iScotland would be like. Sectarian nastiness is not unknown in these parts

        1. Axel Koehler says:

          Molitor, Molitor,

          ye’re still using the wrong monitor…

          May I assume that you are German yourself, showing many of the traits that I find so “likeable” amang ma ain folk?

          – your reliability in replying and listing each of the points I made and you are picking on
          – your aptness to put every word on the scale (looks so familiar… )
          – the stubbornness with which you eagerly match each of my points with your set of standard
          reactions to challenges of the very worldview I am criticising
          – the eagerness with which you accuse me of attempting to silence an opinion…I am merely challenging and criticising it.
          – the eagerness with which you are trying to sort me into the right-wing drawer merely because I challenge current (undifferential) German views on nationalism, and other dogmas of the post 1968 world view: I am neither right-wing nor left-wing, though I ascribe to liberal ideas and democracy: I am a free thinker, and was encouraged thus in the family I grew up in – I shall not suffer to have my opinions and world view to be prescribed, and stifled, by any self-appointed authority, party, or religion, or school of thinking.
          – the eagerness to have the laaast word (da-da-da-dub-dah! Mooch left, mooch right, shimmy on…) in our wee sparring…

          I know enough of the University of St Andrews to have come to the conclusion that anything indigenously Scottish tends to be seen there as nationalist in the negative sense, so why not turn the pike the other way?

          Now it is your turn to tell me how much you know exactly about recent and older Scottish history, and culture, beyond what they teach in English, and mainstream history departments, and anglocentrism.

          And yes, I dare to challenge the world view of a successful and established academic – why does my dissent to her irk you so? Some folk in academia become far too self-righteous and self-complacent, and there is not enough real challenge and dissent in discussions academic these days. Do you just want to show me my place and silence me because you doubt my being on par with you? Scotland is an egalitarian country, the imported hierarchical thinking has only ever brought trouble…

          I shall not be intimidated, even if you revealed a thousand titles behind your avatar name – and a thousand lawyers in your retinue…

          And now, I still have some serious work to get on with.

          All the best,


    3. You seem to have a pretty good grasp of things there, Axel. I’ll lift an Ebbelwoi to that. 😉

      1. Axel Koehler says:

        Thanks a million, I appreciate your support! Prost! Air do dheagh-shlàinte! Lang may yer lum reek! 😉

  57. daviddynamo says:

    Those in positions of authority who use their positions to emit smears and slurs against the independence-minded people in Scotland are being challenged, as never before. The failure of the mainstream media has led many to seek information from other sources, and in general people now do not blindly trust the established sources. (This is a great bonus of the independence referendum.)

    In particular, I do not like being tarred with the “nationalist = fascist” brush, which is what the No people continue to do, incessantly. And it is not just me, many others are also fed up with the casual undercurrent of denigration against those who want an independent Scotland.

    So, when a teacher at a Scottish university spouts out this tired old “nationalism = bad = hate the foreigner” cliche, that teacher is going to be told to stop spreading her idiocy in public. Her views will be subject to reasoned criticism.

    Similarly, when a commentator like rkb66 writes about “chips on shoulders”, implying that once again we Jocks, we Sweaty Socks, are mere “Chippy Scots”, then that person is going to be told that such casual, unthinking, bred-in denigration is nowadays totally unacceptable, and we do not accept being treated as second-class citizens, either in the UK or in Scotland.

    The abuse from the unionist side is being spotted and called out as never before, and the unionists don’t like it. Well tough, it is time for you to stop being abusive in the language you use.

    Scotland is not “getting above itself”, what is happening is that the Scottish people, all of them, those born here and those more recently arrived, are choosing to reclaim our place in the world. Our place as a sovereign nation.

    1. Another zinger. Time to break open the champagne.

  58. YESGUY says:

    Axel . wonderful and honest piece sir a joy to read. Thank you.
    Dynamo, well said. We have been under a barrage of scares and smears for years. But now we will be heard.

    Grouse Beater, if i ever need some one to speak for me can i give you a call? I enjoy your posts and am an avid reader. keep up the good work and shout as loud as you can . This is our time and we will not be silenced.

    1. You’re welcome to do that.

      And yes, don’t you love Axel’s remark – ‘missionary-style thinking won’t do her much good.’

      Scotland is crammed with missionaries at the moment..

      1. Yes Guy – you’ll reach me on grousebeater.wordpress

        The most recent blog is: “George Galloway – Scourge of Scotland”

  59. Guy Rowlands says:

    So many independence supporters – many of them, in my experience over-excited, dreamy nationalists of at least the 19th-century kind – consistently argue that their’s is nothing like the nationalism that produced so much misery in the world in the 20th century. But what many of these (you?) people do not realize is that any movement that sets out to create or recreate a nation, based in large part on demonizing existing political structures and manufacturing a sense of oppression, within a union of different regional and ethnically-orientated identities, will awaken some very serious demons, as it already has. Indeed Salmond’s Bannockburn remarks bear at least a passing resemblance to much of the stuff spouted in German romantic nationalism of the first half of the 19th century – and if you want a peaceful way forward it is always dangerous to invoke battles as defining moments of liberation, as the German states did that of Leipzig in 1813…. All this movement is having an insidious effect, seen not least in remarks on many webpages. But it is not just in cyberspace. In the course of the last month one colleague who has dared to have the effrontery to challenge the myths of Scottish “civic nationalism” and challenge the sanity of economic separation had the place of his children’s schooling publicized in a sinister fashion (incidentally on a thread on a webapge posted by Jackie Powton’s daughter). Another colleague, wearing a No badge, was followed home from a bus in Edinburgh by two men who took photographs of him and sought to find out where he lives. Civic nationalism is in the end just nationalism that hasn’t yet reached a stage of rabid anger, and – I’m afraid – every European movement for small-nation “liberation” has started or ended by inflicting some degree of persecution or scape-goating on its own minorities. If Scotland does vote Yes – a remote chance now – then don’t imagine the Scottish government would get nearly everything it wants in negotiations with London. It is therefore highly likely that angry people would look for scape-goats and fellow-travellers north of the border. Anyway, on 19th September I look forward to this unpleasant tail-end of the 20th century finally being buried in these islands. I write as a historian of war and of finance – who also recognizes a potential financial disaster in the marking when I see one – and as a Scot and a Brit happy to write under my own name, not hide behind a pseudonym.

    1. Rowland: independence supporters – many of them, in my experience over-excited, dreamy nationalists of at least the 19th-century kind

      Just as well those supporting independence do so to move their country out of the grip of 19th century colonialism and into the international world of 21st century.

    2. Axel Koehler says:

      @Mr Rowlands –

      though I was neither born a Scot, nor a Brit, but bred a Scotophile German, I am not hiding behind a pseudonym either…

      …and I stick to my support of YES, no matter whether you come up with tired old cliches about nationalist Germans or not: for any cliche or put-down ye may come up with, I shall have a reply relating to the British right-wing past, such as “Oswald Mosley”; “The Mitford sisters”; “British Holocaust deniers” etc., etc.

      I am not, repeat: not, “anti-British” nor “anti-English” – many of my friends in the Scottish Gaelic scene are English – I am just very pro-Scottish! And the decade I lived as a resident in Scotland – I enjoyed it very much, and my heart still calls for more…

      However, from personal experience I can tell that I have suffered more anti-German xenophobia when I travelled in, or across England, than in Scotland from locals…unless (as I said before) they were stricken by the ancient pestilence called the “Scottish cringe”.

      How come there is a considerable amount of English supporters of Scottish independence? These appear to be of the rare open-minded kind who do not play “white settlers” in rural districts of Scotland and actually integrate into their respective communities, adopt the local language(s) and participate in local culture. And even if they are not resident in Scotland, they most likely belong to the well-travelled kind who have already lived in other countries – not in compounds, but really among the locals – unlike Joe Bloggs who hates foreigners and their food and ways, even sees indigenous languages of Britain other than English as foreign languages and votes either BNP or UKIP…

      Is this fear of Scottish independence as you are trying to rationalise it really that rational? Is it not sometimes born out of a bad conscience originating in the very condescending behaviour towards Scottish people in general, even shown by some Scots themselves? Those who highlight the “ethnocentric” approach of Scottish nationalists, and lump other independence supporters from all over the political spectrum along with them, should look at their own kind of ethnocentrism, viz. anglocentrism, first!

      If you know some of my native tongue, you might recognise the following saying –

      “Sie sehen den Splitter in ihres Nächsten Auge, aber nicht das Brett vor’m eigenen Kopf!” (cf. Matthew 7:3, the present saying is a parody – but a true one!)

      Kind regards,

      Axel Koehler

      1. Grazia says:

        It’s somewhat beside the point, but let’s not tar all the Mitford sisters with the same brush. Jessica was a legend!

        1. Axel Koehler says:

          Thank you, Grazia, for this information – I shall look into this once more.

  60. Phil Robertson says:

    I think there is a tendency to see everything as pertaining o the referendum, It seems to me that a much more likely reference is to the recent Euro elections. In Europe as a whole there was an alarming increase in the votes for nationalist, usually right wing, parties.

    Neither Scotland nor England was exempt from this with significant increases in the UKIP vote. Scotland now has its very own UKIP MEP.

    I think Ms Powton is being over-sensitive (and slightly misleading by changing “nationalism” to “all nationalism”) in her posting.

  61. Molitor says:

    @ Axel Koehler, July 2, 2014 • 15:24

    Let this be my last offering in this exchange. I find your posts too confused to wish to continue herafter.

    You appear VERY concerned with nationality and national stereotype (and appear to have a more than dollop of German self-loathing). Whether I am German, British or Ruritanian should be as irrelevant to the debate (unless it’s a debate with a nationalist) as the place of Dr Bildhauer’s birth. So I will not engage with your long list of “What AK thinks Germans are like”.

    You are not one for dogma and prejudice, you insist, but you proclaim that at St Andrews “anything indigenously Scottish tends to be seen there as nationalist in the negative sense”. Professors Robert Crawford and Steve Murdoch or Dr Alex Woolf (the last are two founder members of “Academics for YES”) may be surprised to hear that, but don’t let evidence get in the way of your “conclusion”.

    As I prefer playing the ball (of argument) rather than the man (who conveys it), I see no need to justify to you my right to speak in terms of my expertise in Scottish history, politics and culture. I have a stake, a voice and a vote in the future of this country and society, though, because I live and work here and have done so for many years. And in a free country, that should be good enough.

    I agree that hierarchies and titles have nothing to do with it; that’s why I don’t introduce my qualifications (or lack thereof) to this debate. No “MA hons (Abdn), MPhil (Edin), MSc (RGU)” from me.

    And for the last time: I am perfectly happy for you or anyone to engage with Dr Bildhauer’s argument and to explain why there is no need to worry about what Scottish nationalism may lead to. That would be a debate. That is democracy.

    My beef with you and other posters on this site is that you don’t want to enter this debate, but stifle it. You have, on several of your posts, failed to engage with the argument (and there is already academic work on the incomplete removal of “ethnic” aspects from even the SNP’s tame version of Scottish nationalism; for a quick first gateway into the debate see the link at the end of my post).

    Instead you have sought to challenge Dr Bildhauer’s right and ability to say what she said. You have called her uninformed, under-prepared, an incomer, poorly integrated, condescending, a preachy missionary and described her comment “the last thing Scotland needs”. Others on this site have written to Dr Bildhauer’s boss to call for her resignation or for her to be reprimanded. This is the anti-debate, anti-openness, fear-inducing atmosphere that so annoys me.

    I have not, anywhere, ascribed right-wing leanings to you. This is not a matter of right or left, since either side is equally capable of illiberality, intolerance and aggression. But you have bad-mouthed and made a case for silencing someone whose opinion you dislike. You may call yourself a “free thinker” and you speak freely, but you fail to extend this right to those with whom you disagree.

    1. Molitor much as you would ilke this to be “… as irrelevant to the debate (unless it’s a debate with a nationalist) as the place of Dr Bildhauer’s birth….” it was in fact Dr Bildhauer herself who brought that up, saying expressly “I as a German” and referencing both that country’s history and her own experience within the nationalist context. It’s really quite simple: I agree with Dr Bildhauer that the rise of xenophobic rightwing nationalism across Europe (as reflected in the EU elections) is of concern. I disagree strongly with her attempt at tarring the Scottish movement for self-determination with the same brush, as it is diametrically opposed to the policies of UKIP, FN, Jobbik, NPD etc

      1. Molitor says:

        What I argued – and I think you know this – is that where someone was born (i.e. which nationality one can ascribe to him/her) must be irrelevant for the question of whether (or not) they should be allowed to speak freely and without either fear or the need to justify themselves for speaking out. Several contributors to this thread have argued – directly and indirectly – that because of Dr Bildhauer’s German roots she should not have been critical of Scottish nationalism at all.

        That people’s background has a bearing on how they see things – e.g. a Jew may well be more sensitive to anti-Semitic threats – is obvious and to be welcomed. That’s where diversity comes from.

        I am pleased you agree that the rise of some nationalisms is problematic; the next step is to accept that even the Scottish variant has some dark aspects that have the capacity to worry those who do not see themselves as part of the nation whose independence is being sought at the moment.

        There is one anonymous poster contributing to the “Scotsman” website who has repeatedly announced that, come September, English traitors will be “put to the sword”. It is memorable lapses like this that make the celebration of something like Bannockburn by leaders of the Yes campaign so distasteful to me.

    2. Alex Koeler – you have bad-mouthed and made a case for silencing someone whose opinion you dislike.

      He has done no such thing.

      And as ever, baseless accusation doesn’t come with paragraph and clause notated.

      No one here has said the good doctor cannot enter into the debate – I began my defence of my response stating she could have taken a dozen different routes to express her opinion, with the dividend of getting enough space to support her terse doctrine. She didn’t. She choose to take a gratuitous side-swipe.

      1. Molitor says:

        Sigh … Here are two quotes from AK:

        “I encountered many young German exchange students and postgrads with very one-sided views of Scotland hardly ever acquired from first-hand knowledge (because they would hardly ever mix with real locals, preferring the company of their fellow international students instead …) …I have the strong suspicion that Dr Bildhauer once belonged to that set of European exchange students whom I have come to name the “Mehr Schein als Sein” [=”more pretence than reality”; also a “pun” to say that they are more after formal certificates than after real learning] bunch … who are these days, in the Post-Bologna era, even encouraged in their shallow, one-sided views.” – Hardly a compliment, don’t you think?

        “the last thing Scotland needs is the condescending counsel from an incoming, and possibly not yet integrated lecturer” – This sort of says she should not have spoken, don’t you think?

      2. Well now, only the last line gives you reason to be irked. I read it as Koehler felt the doctor ought not to have spoken ‘on that occasion.’ Nothing he said elsewhere gives cause for your accusations, and again, neither does anything you’ve quoted from him minutes ago.

        Your most pertinent remark you made some while ago: ‘Let this be my last offering to this exchange.’


    3. Axel Koehler says:

      One point to you – Steve Murdoch is the only person at St Andrews I know so far who falls outside the anglocentric picture I have got, and drawn myself, of that university…I actually happen to know him personally, as much as one of his (former) co-operators on Scotland and the Thirty Years War, Dr Kathrin Zickermann.

      As for German self-loathing, I have less of that than most of the exchange students (and postgrads) from there I have come across in Scotland so far, and have been referring to earlier. Not even a dollop! But as the word goes, “Ich kenne meine Pappenheimer” (if ye know that idiom), and sometimes, stereotypes such as the ones I have listed do apply, whether the self-appointed clergy of PC like it or not…I have known many folk in my country of origin to whom the listed stereotypes apply perfectly.

      And I have no liking for those of my fellow country folk who constantly seek to apply their received insights into the actually many-fold, and not to be simplified and summarily reviled phenomenon of nationalism to other places and other countries such as Scotland, though their dark premonitions may apply in some quarters – besides, I think, there ought to be more differentiation in those terms in Scotland: what most posters (myself included) here positively refer to as ‘nationalism’ rather constitutes patriotism, which ideally should be the love of one’s country without the exclusion of any ethnic group…yet, if you do not even differentiate between ‘patriotism’ and ‘nationalism’, possibly because the term “patriot” has also already a history of false use and misappropriation behind it since the French Revolution and its blood-stained aftermath, that’s your business…

      Mind, if you wanted to exclude everything that has ever been misappropriated by the wrong people in history, there would not be an awful lot left, would there? That includes religion and even those few things left to please us in everyday life…as the Scots word goes “fit hiv ye then?”

      It is the continually condescending treatment of Scotland, its people, its economy, and its genuine traditional languages and cultures (as opposed to the Royalty-favoured Victorian kitsch version of Highland, and even Lowland culture) by the authorities in London, and the upper class all over the UK, that makes many people support independence. How different might things be if Westminster had introduced federalism and treated Scotland as an equal partner in the UK? Makes me wish sometimes the French Revolution had left a deeper impact on British society, in the positive and not the Jacobine sense, of course…Robert Burns would appreciate this thought.

      The current government in Westminster with its obstinate and bigoted ways, snubbing the EU and courting the right wing – it will not make things better in, and for Scotland, and the increasingly aggressive and dismissive tone of the Better Together campaigners should speak volumes to a person with common sense!
      Whether I would like to see Alex Salmond as the leader of a brave new Scotland after a successful YES, I do not know: as much as I admire his charisma, I would not like to see Scotland governed by a person who courts people such as Donald Trump and Sir Ian Wood (and yes, I have followed the news about the goings-on around Union Terrace Gardens and the Links of Menie in Aberdeen Voice)…to lead the country into a new dependence, and thus from the frying pan into the fire.

      One wee final anecdote re. the interpretations of “nationalism” in Scotland: it was in 2005 at the Gatliff Hostel in Berneray (Sound of Harris), when a ladyfriend of mine from Glasgow of Gaelic descent, and myself, had a conversation with a lady from “the better half of Edinburgh”, discussing the impact of the Clearances until the early 20th century and more recent times – with crofters, and even Lowland and urban tenants, still under threat of eviction (s.…She listened half-attentively and bored, and finally said: “But that (sort of talk) is nationalism!” Do you think that reaction was fair, from a crofter’s or other smallholder’s point of view? I may be from a middle class background myself, but my immediate maternal ancestors were cottars and smallholders (in rural Hesse) – so I naturally sympathize with Scottish crofters rather than landlords, especially culturally alienated / indifferent and absentee landlords…

      And for a down-to-earth person, university-grad or not, it is hard to swallow when someone (irrespective of background, but not of cultural experience) who has so far only seen the sunny side of Scottish academia lumps Scottish nationalism, or rather, patriotism and love of freedom and independence, along with the worst bouts of past and current European ethnocentrism…and hardly anyone on the Unionist side ever mentions WASPish “British” ethnocentrism along the lines of the tabloids, the sectarian lodges etc., etc. – is that fair??



      1. Molitor says:

        Like you I deplore the Tory attitude to Europe; like you (perhaps even more) I have great misgivings about Alex Salmond (who will never build the Nordic nirvana so many Yes-supporters dream of); like you I dislike aggressive British nationalism (of the UKIP/BNP variety) – but I guess I draw a different set of political conclusions from this. My hope is …

        – For Scotland to stay in the UK and make it better; help elect a better UK government in 2015 and beyond (rather than be saddled with a Tory-led mighty neighbour forever);
        – For Scotland to help keep all of the UK within the EU should an in/out referendum be called;
        – For the people of Scotland and the UK to drive forward the development towards a healthy and effective federalism within the UK to give more regional accountability and autonomy without introducing a new border, fomenting nationalist strife and the suffering the rancour (and grave risks) of a formal split.

  62. @Molitor 18:56, we seem to be talking at crossed purposes here – I am not in any way suggesting that Dr Bildhauer should not be allowed to speak out because of where she comes from. I am simply pointing out that she is downright wrong in equating the Scottish independence movement with something entirely different. No matter where she comes from. (Alistair Darling made a similar insinuation in his recent New Statesman interview. And he was wrong too)
    I agree with you that an individual’s personal background may indeed make them particularly sensitive to certain political developments – but, if anything, surely that presumed sensitivity makes it all the more shocking that, “as a German” (her own words) she so completely misconstrues what is happening politically in Scotland and appears unable to discern between narrow-minded rightwing xenophobia on the one hand and a quest for self-determination and greater democracy on the other..

    1. Molitor says:

      I appreciate that it must be very hard to see this from the inside, but believe me – for someone who is not part of the movement there are aspects of the nationalist campaign in Scotland that very much strike you as aggressive, exclusive, marginalising, backward-looking and ethnic.

      It may be part of the SNP rhetoric at the moment to come across as pro-immigration at the moment (mind you, immigration of skilled, employed, young foreigners to salvage the pension system), but I know many “English” Scots who feel a darn side less welcome here now than they did a few years ago.

      Clan-gathering, Bannockburn re-enacting, Saltire-waving marches up Calton Hill in the company of deeply dodgy foreign nationalist movements imported for the day does not make for a pretty picture in the eyes of those who feel marginalised by this kind of display.

      Not every Yes-supporter, certainly not, not even the majority, I reckon, go for this. But it’s there and it is not without importance. “Yes” would do a better job of facing up to this and addressing it, rather than claiming it does not exist.

  63. Molitor

    You simply cannot help yourself.

    You’re still throwing up assertions of phantom rancour and chaos issuing from Scotland’s right to self-governance, naming honest ambition for greater democracy as nasty nationalism.

    The nationalism you espouse in NOT healthy, given only on conditions set down by Westminster. That’s the same parliament telling ‘foreigners’ to go home, closing down immigration, threatening to close borders and erect others, waging illegal wars, privatising the NHS and all educational systems, and dismantle its welfare system placing in jeopardy the poor and the vulnerable in their tens of thousands.

    Neither you nor Dr Bildhauer seem able to accept open democracy in full spate.

    Neither you nor Dr Bildhauer seem able to understand Scotland is a separate country.

    That ideology you prefer is wholeheartedly rejected by the people of Scotland, many of whom are not Scots.

    1. Molitor says:

      Tearing the UK apart would cause rancour. The Scottish electoracte is deeply divided on the issue of separation (with, if the polls are anything to go by, a solid majority currently opposing separation). Scotland is not currently a separate country and I very much hope it won’t be any time soon. We will have to wait until 19 September to see whether it will be you or me who will have to prove if they can accept a democratic outcome with dignity and a willingness to go forward together.

      And for the record, I don’t espouse any nationalism.

      1. My apologies, Molitor, you make plain I did not make my point clearly.

        The people of Scotland, not all of Scottish birth, many English, comprehensively rejected Westminster’s neo-liberal ideology and venal doctrines some years ago.

        Whatever the outcome of the plebiscite in September Scotland will choose its own orthodoxy; it will re-establish its own values. The political parties of Westminster have already conceded that by offering to provide greater powers, thus acknowledging Scotland is a separate country locked in an unjust and antedivulian Treaty it wishes to junk for a new relationship.

      2. Molitor says:

        I am glad we can both look forward to a steady development of UK federalism, with Scotland growing into the kind of federal deal that works best for it and for the UK (and the EU) of which it is and will remain a valued part. Naturally, a 300-year-old constituional settlement needs adjusting every now and then, and I am confident that this will be happening over the next few years.

        As for the comprehensive rejection you mention, which election are you referring to? The three massive victories for Blair’s New Labour in Scotland? Or 2010, when Con & LD massively outpolled the SNP, but most seats still went to Labour?

        All the research we have indicates that in in political, social and economic matters, the Scottish population thinks very much like the UK average – not exactly the same, a little, as it were “to the left” – but not very much so.

        But let’s hope we will come up with something more flexible and less hierarchical than a Scottish “orthodoxy”. Not to share fully in an “orthodoxy” makes you a heretic, and we would not want to stigmatise the healthy democratic phenomenon that is dissent in this way, would we?

        1. Axel Koehler says:

          Picking up the ball from Grouse Beater, I have come to wonder, Molitor, who you really are –
          Slender Man, Cthulhu, Nyarlathotep, Sauron etc., etc., Arthur Machen’s “young man in specs”, or even the above-quoted Dr Bildhauer herself? Ach, disnae matter really –

          but ere I venture off to bed for an early start to a busy day, let me round off today’s battle with a wee sang:

          Hail, Saint Molitor, I sing to thee
          from bonnie Hesse in dear auld Germanie
          of the virtues of a country most dear to me,
          from John O Groats to Lockerbie,
          where there’s many a folk, and community,
          that would be free –
          now, to be free or not to be,
          is entirely their own choice, ye see,
          and I am looking forward to the
          outcome of the referendum, oh dear me,
          whatever it may be,
          A Mhoire Mhàthair! A Thì!
          Let it not be a calamity
          of the kind of “Vae victi(s)!”
          Let it flourish between the Northern,
          and the Western Sea!

          Alba gu bràth! Amen.

          Agus oidhche mhath leibh uile an ceartair!

          Acsail Òg

      3. If readers are to take seriously waffle in your last post we are left to suppose the Edinburgh Agreement signed by both Cameron and Salmond is nothing more than a shopping list from Cameron to Salmond: A crate of best malt, some tins of shortbread, and a signed photograph from Kevin Bridges winner of a Perrier Award.”Thanks for the favour Alex. September the 19th for delivery will be fine. I’ll get you an invitation to the next champers at Number 10. Thanks, awfully. Now, let’s smile fo the cameras as if we have sealed something terribly important for our two nations.”

        Treating your post with the absurd humour it deserves is my ‘considered’ response.

  64. Molitor says:

    “Hail, Saint Molitor, I sing to thee
    from bonnie Hesse in dear auld Germanie
    of the virtues of a country most dear to me,
    from John O Groats to Lockerbie,
    where there’s many a folk, and community,
    that would be free –
    now, to be free or not to be,
    is entirely their own choice, ye see,
    and I am looking forward to the
    outcome of the referendum, oh dear me,
    whatever it may be,
    A Mhoire Mhàthair! A Thì!
    Let it not be a calamity
    of the kind of “Vae victi(s)!”
    Let it flourish between the Northern,
    and the Western Sea!”

    … and there was me thinking William McGonagall was dead …

    1. Axel Koehler says:

      Oh, Molitor, aye, aye, fit like?

      Hey jolly Mollie, are ye waukin yet
      and are yer drums a beatin yet?
      If ye were waukin, ’tis fairly late
      tae gang tae this blog in the ev’nin…


      I’d rather be ca’d Willie McGonagall,
      than be a dour dollie wi nae humour at all!
      Tae be a scholar is ma trade,
      tae be an intellectual nae really that much,
      I’m nae dour an moralistic eneugh tae be such,
      an maist o them wi lack o humour are made…

      I’m a stubborn Gaelohessian,
      and may sometimes be dour,
      ach is e duine gun tur a th’ ann an duine dùr –
      an’ aat’s fit wye I’m nae lik ‘aat roon the hour!

      An ‘aat, jolly Mollie, is ma flytin retour!

      Mar sin leat, ‘ille,

      an toodeloo the noo!

  65. Akerbeltz says:

    Here’s what I wrote to them:

    Dear Prof Richardson,

    I’m writing to you regarding the following statement in Mrs Bildhauer’s address to the assembled graduation audience:

    > But there also seems to be a widespread shift towards nationalism, English, Scottish, French and German, that I as a German find deeply worrying, because the lesson from German history is that nationalism will always create outsiders and develop into xenophobia.

    I’m somewhat perplexed that such blatant political posturing is not frowned upon at what should be a joyous and inclusive ceremony for all assembled but let’s just be generous and file it under ‘freedom of speech’.

    We are of course all entitled to our personal opinions but I would have expected more from the University of St Andrews in terms of quality of research – even for a simple opinion piece by a modern languages member of staff wishing to educate us about modern history. Perhaps she might benefit from visiting a couple of lectures on modern history because history, like language, is a learned skill, not something that is inherited by chromosome.

    Unfortunately I cannot see how likening the current civic movement in Scotland for Scottish independence to the rise of fascism in Germany is anything but blatant ignorance, either of the rise of fascism in Germany, the independence movement or possibly both. It is also an oddly illogical statement to make because while the lesson from Germany certainly tells us that the rise of nationalism may result in xenophobia (and worse), one cannot therefore conclude that any nationalist movement will automatically result in another Holocaust. The term ‘nationalist’ covers a wide range of nuances. A quick look into a dictionary like Collins reveals that nationalism is either
    1 a sentiment based on common cultural characteristics that binds a population and often produces a policy of national independence or separatism
    2 loyalty or devotion to one’s country; patriotism
    3 exaggerated, passionate, or fanatical devotion to a national community.
    Indeed a wide range of meanings. Unless Collins got it entirely wrong, the recent celebrations of Armed Forces Day in Stirling fall slap-bang between points 1 and 2 of nationalism. Only that in this case the flavour is ‘British’ not ‘Scottish’. Should I be worried about living in Britain then because the population (and government) feels the need to celebrate its nationality with a display of modern weaponry rather than celebrating a day of, say, European Brotherhood?

    Any movement of whatever flavour will always include nutcases which abuse it as a platform for their own agenda. If we are not to judge the CSU by the odd fascist that crops up from time to time, then one also should not judge the Yes movement by the odd fascist but rather by its broad, overall agenda and modus operandi.

    I am an openly gay, half-German half-Chinese middle-Eastern looking bloke who is descended from a Jewish great-grandmother who barely survived two world wars and the Holocaust (most of the rest of that branch were not so lucky…). I see nothing, absolutely nothing, that is even vaguely like the rise of fascism in Germany in the Scottish independence movement overall (ignoring the odd nutter, same as I ignore the odd nutter in any other political party or movement). It is a civic movement that has at its heart the desire to bring a greater degree of democracy to Scotland and to allow the people of Scotland (note the wording, I deliberately did not choose the term ‘Scots’) a greater say over their own future. A movement which stands in stark contrast to the recent successes of parties like UKIP further south and which actually DOES make me worry about the path the UK is taking. On September 18, I will be voting Yes. You may want to ponder on that.

    1. Axel Koehler says:

      Is math a rinn thu!

      That’s what I admire about you: your eloquence – you put it far better than me, I think. Less aggressive, less piqué.

      Theagamh gun tig mi an uisge na stiùireach dhut a chaoidh, ‘ille…

      Let’s see what Molitor has to say on this one. 😉

      1. Molitor says:

        Well, since AK is clearly gasping for a bit of instruction, here is my response to Akerbeltz:

        (1) Writing to Dr Bildhauer’s boss (rather than to her) confirms my concerns about the orchestrated attempt to generate an atmosphere of intimidation which has spread round Scotland over the past couple of years.

        (2) I am amused by Akerbeltz’s stern injunction to Dr Bildhauer (to take the study of history seriously and not just attend a couple of lectures) – which is then followed by a rigorous analysis of the concept of nationalism based on … looking up the word in Collins dictionary.

        If he wants to reflect a little more deeply on what he is writing about with such confidence, he should consult authors like Kedouri, Gellner, A.D. Smith, Breuilly, Hobsbawm, Deutsch or Anderson. – For an impressive recent summary of the state of the art, I would recommend the “Oxford Handbook of the History of Nationalism” (ed. by John Breuilly). I doubt that Prof. Richardson, a noted political scientist, would have been very impressed by the argument offered in this post.

        (3) I note that Akerbeltz seeks to undermine the claim that Scottish nationalism would lead to fascism or nazism, but that is not what Dr Bildhauer warned against. She said – and I would agree – that nationalist movements (especially, I would add, when they are political) lead to the identification and marginalisation of outsiders and, eventually, to hatred of “the other”.

        In the case of the current Scottish project, the “other” may well not be marked by ethnic origins, but by their lack of commitment to the “cause” or by their (alleged or real) proximity to England/the Union/Westminster/the Tories. Yesterday, for instance, your fellow Yes-supporter “Scotboy” (on; at 8:22) ranted against the “Westminster unionists propaganda machine, aided and abetted by collaborating Vichy Jocks” – thus likening Scottish supporters of the Union to collaborators with the Nazis. Sure, Akerbeltz concedes that there are a few “nutters” – but forever belittling these dark aspects of what is being pushed for in Scotland is not an adequate response.

        (4) Finally, Akerbeltz (and AK et al.) keep asserting that Scottish nationalism is profoundly different from all the other nationalisms that have gone before (and which have – pretty much without exception – manifested ethnic, aggressive, exclusionary, homogenising tendencies). Now, I (and several academic researchers) can see numerous parallels between Scottish nationalism and all the other variants of that ideology (and the history of organised Scottish nationalism certainly provides a rich seam of ethnic and fascist embarrassments – the darker moments of Hugh MacDiarmid and all that).

        Here are a few absolutely standard elements of European nationalism over the centuries which are all present in the current Scottish case: The focus on and instrumentalisation of the nation’s history (usually of suffering) and collective descent (I noticed that AK recently contrasted a friend of his “of Gaelic descent” with a foolish lady “from the better half of Edinburgh”), the praising of the collective genius and innate virtues (“fairness”) of the Scottish people over the centuries (just read the preface in the White Paper), the championing of “authentic” native languages (contrasted with tainted “imperial” idioms), the importance of warriors (Wallace, Bruce) and battles (Bannockburn) as emotive reference points, the construction of a hostile and hated “other” (England, Tories) and an almost eschatological belief in the all-healing, all-empowering moment of national liberation (Pete Wishart called it “the tsunami of creativity” that would sweep the land).

        Even at the “highest” level of reflection – Alasdair Gray’s infamous recent attack on “English colonists” in Scotland and his insistence that “settlers” must blend into the pure culture of the “local natives” – there is still much left in the Scottish national project that, to me, smacks of homogeneity, volkishness and “them-vs-us”. Mike Russell, for instance, recently argued that Scottish researchers ought to be “aligned” with the national government, so that they can pursue “national interests”. To me, this is dangerous stuff and has a worryingly familiar ring. There is also, quite irrefutably, a powerful and irreducible core of pretty blatant anti-Englishness, which is troubling, given the large number of English residents in Scotland and the continued existence of England as a neighbour after a possible separation.

        All these points, I think, deserve careful consideration from the proponents of Scottish nationalism – esp. if it really is so different, so tolerant, so open. But apart from the vigorous and outraged assertion that any criticism, any worry, any opposition is illegitimate, ill-informed and dishonest, I have as yet heard nothing to demonstrate to me that in the case of “McLeopard” nationalism has changed its spots and that those happy to let this animal off the lead really care very much if it frightens anyone.

        1. Axel Koehler says:

          Thank you, Rev. Molitor, for your repetitive sermon. Have you actually ever read the other pages, and threads, of this blog, or are you just here to take your shots at this one, going all Reiner Luyken on decent folk espousing an honest cause – including English people reseident in Scotland:

          You denounce people like Akerbeltz and myself as secretly right-wing “Jubelperser” – how dare you, because it just happens to suit your narrow, can’t-be-helped mindset? And you just keep spouting the same dross (ye may well be getting paid for) over and over again – jeez, that makes you even less of an intellectual than myself!

          If I should be asking for instructions, o worthy Rev. Molitor, than certainly not from a dour humourless singular-minded know-all like you!!! I’d sooner go for a pint with Akerbeltz and Grousebeater!

          How’s that article here for a change – most apparently yearning for “the (g?)olden times of the Raj”..: – those are the real right-wingers to be very afraid of! Or keep on dreaming your utopia of a boring Borg-like assimilated world without any variety of ethnicities, and ideas (in which the extreme left and the extreme right are oh-so-alike to each other)…

          Akerbeltz tried it without overdue aggression, and you still keep nit-picking – ye know what? Pòg mo thòin! Denk doch, woas de widd, dou Olwel! Hannjer!! Gieh doch fort!!

          Mar sin leat,


      2. Molitor says:

        Dear AK,

        There was really nothing in your post that one could meaningfully engage with.

        You described yourself as a scholar, but there is no attempt at all to approach the issue in a scholarly fashion. Instead you personalise the issue and insult me and invent insults.

        Where did I call either you or Akerbeltz “right-wing” or anything like “Jubelperser”?

        Yes, I have a number of issues that I am asking you – or Akerbeltz or Grouse Beater – to discuss with me, but all I get back is invective, calls to shut up or somewhat theatrical outrage (“How dare you …”).

        Do you really have nothing substantial to say? Can you make no defence at all of the cause you claim to support – other than bluster, assertion and diversion? Nothing on the very specific issues and examples I raised?

        So I ask you, someone with numerous qualifications and who claims to be deeply immersed in and knowledgeable about Scottish history, culture and politics, calmly to explain to me and other readers of this thread what it is about Scottish nationalism and about the political project designed to bring about a separate Scottish state for the Scottish nation that makes this process wholly unlike other nationalisms in other places (and at other times – more or less recent)?

        Why are concerns that have sadly been proved justified in most (if not all) of these other cases so utterly misplaced in the Scottish case that you feel it appropriate to call me a “dour humourless singular-minded know-all” just for raising this point?

        If you have no answer(s), then so be it. I will draw my own conclusions – but you should ponder this absence as well.

        With every good wish.

        1. Axel Koehler says:


          whether you like it or not, your way of putting your point across is irritating to quite a lot of people,
          and you do have a know-all or, more suitably – even the Swedes use this term – “Besserwisser” approach.
          “Altklug” or precocious would be another suitable term.

          You continually refer to your own stock source texts, but refuse to take aboard other people’s viewpoints unless they are supported by scholarly texts – that is academic haughtiness and perniciousness even I deplore about my fellow university folk: worse, you ignore links to other texts (blog texts / newspaper articles) I or other people have given you…

          Akerbeltz (whom I know personally) is a calmer person than me, and even he’s had enough. I come from a hot-tempered lot – and yes, I am very conscious and confident of my Hessian ethnicity, and adoptive Gaelic cultural belonging, but not to the exclusion of others – and felt the time had come to speak my mind a bit more directly.

          In any way, my insults are not invented ones – as exotic as they may seem to you: they are straight from my native dialect, of which for certain reasons – which semi-native speakers of Scots, and Gaelic, or other indigenous dialects and languages of Britain would find familiar – I am not even a proper native speaker, though I still retain my natural accent (in German, I mean – you could not distinguish my English accent from any West Highland person).

          It seems you are a person who would rather do away with the concept of ethnicity for good, merely because it has been misappropriated and put to evil use so often….and that is such a typical attitude of today’s society: something is potentially harmful, so it must be abolished! A fairly naive and simplistic idea, and it will never solve the real problem(s). Would you rather live in a monotonous world, be that Scotland, or elsewhere in Britain or Europe, without any ethnic variety left and the only culture being the bland “western-style” (ergo: Anglo-Americanised) global consumerist culture we already have in (too) many places?

          See, that’s what today’s shallow education in many so-called “western” countries leads to…and on the other hand, academic institutions more often than not teach literalism and nearly unconditional trust in and reliance on texts…goodness me, how close is that to religious fundamentalism and narrow exegesis of so-called holy writings? Also, in the arts and humanities, a kind of provincialism – a discipline-restricted view of things, has spread, at the expenses of true interdisciplinarity. Of course, if you are of a younger generation than me, you won’t know it any better or different…”Wer’s net annerschter waaß, dem schmeckt’s Kraut wäi’s Flaasch”, as we say in my native parts.

          Anyway, I digress, back to the issue of hot temper – the best reply to your issues and points so far is the one by Douglas (s. above), though – possibly to your chagrin and displeasure – he has not quoted any sources either (how dare he? Er, and why should he, knowing the things he writes about from experience, if that still counts anything – just like me, having lived in Scotland long enough so far?), though I do not entirely agree with him on the Bannockburn issue – it cannot be as crass to objective English residents in Scotland as an Orange March is to people in Catholic townships in the Six Counties or in the Glasgow area…



        2. Axel Koehler says:

          P.S.: You object to the use of “a nation’s suffering” for “nationalistic purposes”, such as the Clearances. Good for you that you do not deny them, as so many British establishment types have done when they were not trying to relativise them.

          OK, I shall demonstrate my scholarly skills (in case you doubt them, or my successful completion of studies, incl. postgrad ones, at three Scottish universities), and give you some facts of evictions in the manner of the Highland Clearances in fairly recent history – undertaken by a landlord with close connections to Nazis of considerable prominence notorious for having been present at their party rallies: Derick S. Thomson, ‘Knoydart, Men of’ in: Derick S. Thomson (ed.) et al, *The Companion to Gaelic Scotland*, 3rd edn (Glasgow: Gairm, 1994), p. 145; Graham Starmore, ‘The Knoydart Alternative’, North 7 (July-August 1980); Archie MacDougall, *Knoydart: the Last Scottish Land Raid* (Billingham, Cleveland: Lindhurst Publications, 1993); Dennis Rixson, Knoydart: a history (Birlinn Ltd, Edinburgh, 1999); Paul Callan, ‘Hitler’s Aristocratic Admirers’ in: The Express, 7 Sep 2009, online available from:; ‘Knoydart Estate’ in: Parliamentary Debates, online available from:; Stephen Goodwin, ‘Knoydart bereft of Saviour’ in: The Independent, 23 January 1999, available fro:

          You seem to be under the wrong impression that the Highland Clearances and all that were a mere typical “Scotland vs England” thing – Douglas and others in this thread will surely support my words that this marks your shallow and stereotyped knowledge of Scottish History: you are obviously unaware that the Gaels as one of the oldest ethnic peoples in Scotland have suffered at the hands of their fellow Scots from the Lowlands because of their “otherness”, and had already been reduced to the status of an ethnic and linguistic minority under threat by the Stuart monarchs in the 16th-17th century before England entered the scene through the Act of Union in 1707 – so please leave the Gaels out of your one-sided assumptions on the supposed right-wing background of Scottish nationalism, and other autonomy seekers, or else modify your black-and-white view of the issue and read Michael Newton’s *Handbook of the Scottish Gaelic World* (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2001), before you risk a big mouth on “the instrumentalisation of ethnic minorities” in the Scottish case and end up as a laughing stock: it is not as simple as you put it, it is rather a “people vs the upper class” matter, as is much of the resistance against Westminster.

          I must be away now, but in my next post I shall provide you with some sources on what you call Scottish nationalism, and the origins of the SNP which were rather left-oriented, than right-wing. You might of course take the easy way out, and say all the sources I’ve given you were biased anyway…but that would reveal more about you, than about the issue at stake.



        3. Axel Koehler says:

          Dear Molitor,

          thank you very much for clarifying your points. Yes, things got a bit too heated up between us, on my side, and I was fairly aggressive. I am sorry for that, and if it came across as very rude – as paradox as it may sound – it was not meant that way. Rest assured the terms “Olwel” and “Han(n)jer” are relatively harmless darts in the vocabulary of Hessian verbal injuries: for your reference, please check the new online dictionary for Oberhessisch (our equivalent of Doric):; and for ‘Olwel’ the related southern Hessian dialect in: I am aware you have German, so this should not pose any difficulties. The only Hessian-English dictionary available online so far is a pdf document exclusively encompassing the Frankfurt dialect, which – although closely related to mine as a fellow Rhine-Frankish vernacular, does not feature these two terms, and ‘Han(n)jer’ is exclusively Upper / Central Hessian.

          But I digress. No, I did not mean to be rude – which is not my style, and which is why, even when writing with aggression and losing my temper, I usually tend to avoid calling people names that do not agree with my polite upbringing, rural or not: I would sooner resort to rustic terms such as the ones above, or their equivalents in Scots and Gaelic. This may seem rude to “more refined” and urban folk, yet actually, it is not really. There are worse bullies than me, trust me. As for my other utterances you found uncivil, well, please accept my sincere apologies, I was messing around with you there – and a fair bit cruel at that: I wanted to see how far you would go, and how long you would keep up our duel – though, unlike Akerbeltz and Douglas, I was using a claymore or Lochaber axe (metaphorically speaking) against your rapier. But admittedly, at times you were using a cudgel as well, and happened to press all my wrong buttons:

          Until you finally clarified your points after my post with the bibliographic notes, I thought you were one of the PC mafia, the thought police of modern Orwellian Britain. If this sounds confusing, please let me explain: admittedly, having been bred in a rural environment where plain and honest speech is still much more appreciated than in the ivory towers you and I attended, I have a strong aversion against PC speech which very much reminds me of Orwell’s newspeak; and the current censoring of classic literature “for the benefit(?” of the younger generations by replacing words and phrases with such which are regarded more politically correct today reminds me very much of the job Winston Smith does in Orwell’s darkest novel. There are a lot of other things these days going on which to me are reminiscent of another work by Orwell, viz. his famous fable – I’m sure you know which one I mean – but that is another story just now…but why am I telling you that? You might be working for MI5 or MI6, for all I know – but then, I do not care, even though I know the NSA folk must be having a ball with this, too…Howdy partners, I hope ye had some good weekend fun with our bitching here!

          Anyway, I digress once more. I know fine that, as a person preferring plain words and honest ways, I must be something little short of a dinosaur – at my young age of 41. And in many other ways, if you met me at a pub or a ceilidh, you might find me quaint and old-fashioned – I prefer to call it “timeless”, and I believe in timeless virtues. Anti-PC, quaint, culturally conservative and fond of matters traditional (music, dances, dress, food, storytelling) – that’s enough for some folk to lump me along with ethno-centric and xenophobic right-wingers. Except I’m not. It just suits their one-sided little mindsets to do so, because someone like me – as liberal as one may be – does not fit their idea of a “brave new world”. Which is why anyone, no matter what gender or background, who appears to sort me into a right-wing drawer presses one of my no-go buttons…

          For all the eccentricities and flaws I have, I am a well-meaning, kind-hearted and genuine person (and as much as that is true, as everyone who knows me personally in Scotland, Germany or elsewhere would testify to, I hate to say it or repeat it, since explaining oneself means to apologise oneself for being oneself – which causes pains to my dignity, and few people these days know what dignity is, though many profess to fight for human dignity). But there are some things that drive me well doolally at times – and one of them is to be placed alongside the wrong people: hyperlefties calling me right-wing, feminist fundamentalists calling me sexist because I do not ascribe to their worldview, being an old-school gentleman and at the same time a critic who keeps replying to them that anti-male discrimination constitutes sexism as much as anti-female discrimination, and being attracted by female beauty and making honest compliments does not constitute sexism at all, etc. etc.

          All in a nutshell: I hate fundamentalism, even though I may have come across to you as a fundamentalist in the present debate: I am honestly sorry for that, but see – I identify very strongly with Scotland, as much as I identify with Hesse. No native-born Scotsperson, no matter what mother tongue, is probably ever going to understand me and really appreciate my sentiments, and be it the most open-minded one: because tribalism is inherent. In all of us. I’m sure every anthropologist such as Eliade or anthropo-/ethnologically motivated psychologist such as Jung can testify to that in their works.

          I have known, and loved Scotland strongly since my seventh year of age – no matter whoever in my home town would pass it off as a childish reverie that would one day fade away. But nope, it hasn’t. And – at least partly – I made my youthful dream come true, lived in the country (though not for long enough – yet – a resident for my liking) and studied her languages and traditions. My intended proper settling down in my home from home has not really materialised so far, but I am still young enough not to give up hope. I mentioned “the easy way out” in relation to you above. Well, I could have taken the easy way out myself in a way, saying “I did not find everything yet what I was seeking in Scotland, and aye, there were some people – incl. former lecturers – who really gave me a hard time despite my fondness, my dedication and my performance, so why bother about Scotland any further?” But I am not a person like that, I still do love, and care for the country – the finest wee country I have ever known, and still join into singing Dougie MacLean’s *Caledonia*, no matter what his sentiments re. independence are. And I still have good friends all over the country, Gaelic-speakers, Doric-speakers, no matter whether they are – pardon the term 😉 – indigenous, or English, Polish, Lithuanian…aaand, yesss, German! As a loyal person, I hate to give up on them!!!

          I want the best for Scotland, and I may be a dreamer, an emo, a nerd, but I still believe that in the current situation, “indie” is the best thing. Please do not believe I did not myself have my doubtful, faltering moments re. independence, and – since I am at the time being no proper resident – do not even have a vote and a say in the matter. For one thing, I share Finlay MacLeods reservations about how Gaelic may really fare in a “brave new Scotland”, as there is still a lot to be done to break and overcome the old prejudices and hostile attitudes. I also share your and Douglas’ reservations re. the new constitution, being merely a Scot at heart and not (knowingly) by DNA or birth…But since it is not all merely about Bannockburn (s. above), I shall stick to “indie” until proven otherwise. Call me whatever (except too early in the morning), this is how I tick – though you might give in to the reflex to say in good plain German “Dann tickst Du halt nicht richtig, Junge!” Too late, ma maanie – I’m beyond help, care and return! And by all that is sacred to me, there are a lot o waur folk than me…

          Leis gach deagh-dhùrachd / aa the best,


      3. Molitor says:

        Thanks for finally entering the debate with me – rather than at me. Even though there are still numerous ad-hominem poison darts in your text which don’t really help (not me, at least).

        Whether or not you find my style of arguing agreeable or not is of secondary importance to me – a matter of taste, rather than one of substance; I personally would prefer to be annoyed to being personally insulted or threatened with being forced out of my job. I care more about the substance of the conversation.

        I never asked you or anyone for scholarly quotes or references and only listed some key texts on the theory of nationalism in response to Akerbeltz’s accusation agst Dr Bildhauer that her analysis of nationalism lacked depth and scholarly penetration. I am very happy to hear any argument and I myself quoted widely different sources myself – blogs, politicians, literary figures. There is no haughtiness in what I am asking for – an honest, substance-focused conversation is perfectly alright.

        As for ethnicity – well, it depends what you mean by it (and frankly, I find the notion of a Hessian ethnicity problematic). I am absolutely fine with (and warmly welcome) cultural, linguistic, artistic etc. diversity and would be very keen to protect and foster it. But I am very uneasy about politicising ethnicity to the point where it directs behaviour and duties, rights and obligations.

        The debate here has been frequently phrased in terms of one’s Scottishness imposing a duty on the individual to take a particular stance in this current debate – i.e. “true Scots” support independence. This is where my over-riding concerns for liberty and individual expression come in.

        I do NOT wish to live in a society where research is measured according to how it benefits the nation, and where my worth as a citizen depends on my agreement with a given set of cultural and political preferences.

        I must be able to feel that I am a fully accepted member of the Scotland that Yes-supporters want to build, without having to like Burns, BBC Alba or Iain Banks. But the impression given is often not so tolerant. You make a passionate plea for diversity and against the homogenising forces of US consumerism. Fair enough. But the boot is on the other foot as well.

        I don’t recognise your disdain for how humanities are studied and researched nowadays. Never before has interdisciplinarity and a critical engagement with texts (and a variety of textual forms) been more prominent.

        On your final point: whether the argument that “Northern Irish militant Unionists are even worse” is really good enough to salvage the celebration of Bannockburn, I am not so sure about. Two worngs don’t make a right.

      4. Molitor says:

        Dear AK,

        Somehow your “PS” moved above my response even though you posted it afterwards.

        I will respond – now definitely for the last time – to your comments, but I would like to tell you that the tone in which you address me is rude and aggressive. Usually, I would give a non-native speaker the benefit of the doubt – you may not have meant to sound so impolite; you may have even thought it witty. But given your freely declared linguistic prowess I must assume that you intended to be uncivil (“big mouth”, “laughing stock”, “take the easy way out”), and that I don’t have to put up with. Blame it on your hot Hessian blood, but I think it’s bad manners. For all the learning you scatter so liberally across your posts, I have learned much more from Douglas’s sincere explanation of his views than from your curious and intemperate streams of consciousness.

        Here are my comments on the issues you addressed in your PS.

        (1) I did not object to references being made to a nation’s past suffering. I merely pointed out that this is a very common phenomenon in all manifestations of nationalism and is therefore yet another respect in which Scottish nationalism resembles the standard pattern – rather than constitute a radically different form. The context of my argument was to point out the structural similarity of all nationalisms, not to challenge the reality of past suffering.

        (2) I did not offer ANY observation on the nature of the Clearances, so I should not be accused of misunderstanding them. I don’t think they were simply an English-vs-Scottish issue and I don’t deny in any way that these processes created much and deep suffering and, in some instances, did so until quite recently.

        (3) I never doubted that you had gained your academic qualifications (incl. the postgraduate ones!). Please don’t insinuate that I had.

        (4) I have not made any statements either about the Gaels and whether or not they were part of any right-wing form of nationalism.

        (5) And please stop suggesting that I automatically identify nationalism with right-wing views. Nationalism has been left-wing or right-wing or centrist. I find the taxonomy unhelpful. I am much more concerned with the capacity of nationalism to generate collectivism, homogeneity and quasi-totalitarian tendencies – of the right or of the left or of no discernible direction.

        South Korean nationalism is not any less horrible because it comes in some weird left-wing garb. Franco spun Spanish nationalism from the right, but was also an abomination. Left or right? Who cares, when freedom and individualism are damaged?

        So there is no need for you to provide evidence that Scottish nationalism had strong left-wing affinities. I am happy to accept your word for that – but it was still nationalism, and that I don’t like. It makes people care – above all, or even exclusively – for an “imagined community” they call their nation, and makes them lose empathy for the sorry rest of mankind.

        “Now when London is threatened
        With devastation from the air
        I realise, horror atrophying me,
        That I hardly care.”

        (H. MacDiarmid, 1940)

      5. Molitor says:

        @ AK

        Thanks. No hard feelings. Life’s too short.

        1. Axel Koehler says:

          One more wee thing, though:

          “I don’t recognise your disdain for how humanities are studied and researched nowadays. Never before has interdisciplinarity and a critical engagement with texts (and a variety of textual forms) been more prominent.”

          Yes, you are right – and you are not. It just depends on the context: in my experience, there has been more interdisciplinarity going on between the Dept of Celtic and the Elphinstone Institute (talking Aberdeen here), or the Dept of Celtic and Scottish Studies and the Dept of Nordic Studies (regarding my other alma mater in EB), than between these respective Depts of Celtic and the English or French, or even German departments at these universities – though there certainly are intersections to be dealt with (in terms of literature: Arthuriana; the phenomenon of James MacPherson; Scottish Gaeldom and the Highlands in English language fiction from Shakespeare to the 21st century – I have actually created a trilingual illustrated web documentary on this particular topic:—das-schottische-gaelentum-und-das-hochland-in-englischsprachiger-fiktion-vom-18-jh-bis-zum-21-jh—scottish-gaeldom-and-the-highlands-in-english-language-fiction-from-the-18th-to-the-21st-century; etc., etc., or in terms of sociolinguistics, the situation of minority languages in the respective countries, e.g. the Celtic languages and the dialects of Norman patois in the UK, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands; Breton, German and Vlaams in France; Friisk and Sorbian in Germany, etc., etc.). Certainly, there are universities where at least a few open-minded individuals in the departments dedicated to the major languages work together with the Dept of Celtic, if there is a chair of Celtic in existence at all…but these are exceptions, not the rule, and as much as I remember from Aberdeen (much to the chagrin of my great Gaelic mentor Dr Seumas Grannd), the head of Modern Languages to whose faculty the Dept of Celtic belonged [sic!] kept pursueing a passively aggressive policy towards our department, and would be heard making disdainful comments about Gaelic, even in presence of Alex Henley / Ailig O hIanlaidh, Gaeldom’s leading sports reporter. Co-incidentally, that head of school happened to be a “public school boy”, but I do not intend to tar all of those with the same brush here…

          Let me demonstrate my point by another example: Gaelic scholars incl. John Francis Campbell of Islay have long since proven from the late 19th century onwards that *Ossian* by James MacPherson (1736-96) – in his own community known as Seumas Bàn MacMhuirich – was not mere invention, but indeed based on Gaelic mythology and the various oral narratives evolving from it. Yet still countless Anglicists keep teaching that MacPherson was a mere fraud, as if nothing had changed in research since the days of Samuel Johnson – how’s that for interdisciplinarity? And why is the latter obsolete idea still being taught in most high school English classes? Worse, Hugh Trevor-Roper also stuck to that evaluation in his notorious essay of the ‘Invention of Highland Tradition’, as you referred to Hobsbawm earlier on: Trevor-Roper had no Gaelic at all, and was a true-blue, die-hard Tory – and made the great blunder of lumping MacPherson’s pseudo-Homeric drawing-room version of Gaelic epics and genuine, non-falsified (or kitschified, pardon my neologism) Gaelic tradition along with Victorian kitsch Highlandism or Tartanism – one cannot offer an objective view of what is genuine and what is not in Gaelic tradition without having a good working knowledge of the language, and a profound knowledge, and experience, of the culture pertaining to it. One would not judge items of French culture without a single word of French as a scholar in one’s sound mind, or would ye? So why do it with (or to) Gaelic?

          In 2011 I published my monograph *Die Helden der Fianna: Goethe and Ossian* (Wetzlar: Phantastische Bibliothek), more info about which you will find here:—goethe-und-die-glen. While it received a very favourable review by Ronnie Black aka Prof Ronald Black aka Raghnall Mac’ille-Dhuibh in the ‘Scotsman’, as well as in the press of my own native area – Wetzlar of Goethe fame being just a few miles downriver – it went largely unnoticed or ignored by the Depts of English, and German, at the universities of Giessen and Marburg…merely because it challenged, even shook some people’s word view? How’s that for interdisciplinarity? By Jove, does that not show what I implied in my initial posts in this thread, viz. that even scholars are not above bias and stubborn clinging to their old, overcome positions for power’s and prestige’s sake, according to the auld sang “Quod licet Iovi, non licet bovi?” As I was saying earlier in Low German, “they are but cooking with water themselves”, ordinary human beings with all flaws and vices…

          And yet, ere I hit the road to Morpheus’ realm (or the Dreamlands, hopefully not H.P. Lovecraft’s tonight…), another example: my aforementioned best mate during postgrad times shared an office with a female German exchange postgrad working on a thesis implying that “the Gaels in Ireland (ok, slightly off-topic here, but not that much really…) oppressed the Anglo-Irish”. Nope, not at all, dearest madam, historically – analogous to the Highland-Lowland divide – it was the other way round. But naw, nae, never would she listen to reason, which compelled my mate to blurt out to me that “female German PhD students these days were all nutters” – now, with all due respect, he was wrong! And far more sexist, and rude, in his statement than I in my earlier statements re. dear Dr Bildhauer, who just happened to put her sentiments into a clumsy and controversial wording, and situation…as a wise old man would say: well-meant is not always well-acted, nor well-received! But hey, I never pretended not to be a controversial person myself, eh? 😉



          P.S.: for another unusual, yet not unlikely, approach to James MacPherson as a creative voice of 18th century Scotland, please check out my essay on the man himself as progenitor of the genre of Fantasy, especially the sub-genres of epic, and dark or gothic fantasy, in: Dieter Petzold (ed), Yearbook 30 (2012) of the Inklings Society: pp. 199-227. It is written in German, with a summary in English.

  66. Akerbeltz says:

    The reason I wrote to *both* is that normally there are guidelines on what you can and cannot say in such an address. If her speech was within those guidelines, raising the issue with her boss will be of no consequence. If not, then that’s up to the university to decide.

    As to the ‘couple of lectures’ – perhaps I should have used [sarcasm] tags for the sarcastically challenged.

    That aside, I have few rules in my life but one of them is not to argue with folk who are so in love with their own view of the world that there isn’t a snowball’s of having a debate where both sides are willing to see both sides of the argument (and yes, oddly enough I *am* willing to see the potentially darker aspects of the Yes campaign). So I’ll leave it at that and yes, feel free to round me up with a clever Parthian shot regarding my unwillingness to continue debating with you, Molitor.
    Be well.

    1. Molitor says:

      You don’t want to continue. That’s fair enough.

      Take care.

    2. Molitor persists in defaming by turning the particular into the general. Here’s one glaring example: “an orchestrated attempt to generate an atmosphere of intimidation,” is as close to libel as he dare get.

      From his past utterances it’s safe to presume he considers that to be free, unrestricted speech.

      1. Molitor says:

        Nothing at all on the substance of my contribution, Grouse Beater? Can’t engage? Won’t engage?

        1. The only contributor here keen to categorise democracy supporters – many youths born in the last two decades, others English – as Nazi sympathisers and worse, is you. The good doctor only implied it.

          You state it.

          The ‘conspiracy’ you allude to: coincidentally, others commit the same folly stating the calumny and then been forced by their colleagues to resign.

          Only unlike your dark mutterings, they used their own name. More fool they – eh?

          I counsel you to cease your provokation.

          All you have left is inane repetition.

      2. Molitor says:

        This is such an important topic, which makes it so frustrating to have to debate it at this level.

        1) I explicitly said this is NOT about the Scottish independence campaign leading up to nazism (which would be an absurd claim), but that there are other issues (about exclusion, marginalisation, freedom of expression and cultural homogeneity) that worry me.

        2) Not sure why you put conspiracy into quotation marks; I never used the term. But did you just warn me that I might lose my job?

        3) If I could persuade you to address the substance of my concerns, rather than repeatedly tell me to shut up, that would make for a more enlightening conversation.

        1. I explicitly said this is NOT about the Scottish independence campaign leading up to nazism (which would be an absurd claim)

          I quote you directly because in one succinct sentence you negate all you have asserted and tried to insinuate.

          One other matter readers will have spotted – the claims of Yes campaigners shutting down debate’ that you make, ad nauseam, you make on a website devoted to the Yes vote and yet no one has stopped you.

          Hoo haar!

          That you see are deliberately oblivious of that freedom betrays your real intentions.

      3. Molitor says:

        Things don’t have to be at the level of nazism to be problematic. The worry – for me at least – starts way before one gets to that realm of ghastliness.

        I repeat, any accusation of nazism or similarly catastrophic outcomes is shrill and nonsensical, but there are, for me, other serious worries that I would like to be able to debate.

        Are you really treating it as a privilege that I can express a dissenting opinion? In any free society that should go without saying. If you declare this public forum an exclusive sphere where only “Yes” opinions should be heard, then I will happily leave you to it, but what kind of conviction is it that does not bear challenging?

        I don’t understand your final comment.What does it betray about my intentions that I take free speech as a given in any civilised democratic forum?

        And what does “Hoo Har” mean?

        1. any accusation of nazism or similarly catastrophic outcomes is shrill and nonsensical Molitor

    3. Molitor says:

      Overly selective quoting does sort of distort the meaning, wouldn’t you say?

      1. Overly selective quoting does sort of distort the meaning”

        Good. You’re learning a little self-awareness.

      2. Molitor says:

        I don’t think you are capable of engaging in a constructive conversation, so I will bow out, it’s a waste of time.

  67. Douglas says:


    I agree with some of what you have to say about certain elements of Scottish nationalism – for example, the importance given to Bannockburn which seems to me to be ridiculous and boring more than dangerous, but in any case, crass and unthoughtful to English residents in Scotland – and also, of course, about the case in point here, the lady at St Andrews university.

    So many people with the time to go writing outraged letters to institutions which they have probably never set foot in: they don’t call it petty nationalism for nothing, though it should always be remembered that writing outraged letters to the authorities is something of a hobby for thousands of people in Britain, and always has been. .

    I would have preferred the SNP to set out the case for a new country with a state-of-the-art written Constitution for the 21st century, which would have included a referendum on the monarchy / republic within a ten year spell and made citizens’ s rights the central concern.That would have highlighted democracy and governance as the main reasons for independence, which I think it is for most people, and it would have broadened the appeal of indie.

    But while I accept some of the points you make, what I find questionable in your analysis of Scottish nationalism is that you largely ignore the status quo in the UK today.

    You point out a number of arguably worrying or at least suspicious traits within Scottish nationalism which you might be right about to one degree or another, but you consider these in a kind of vacuum, whereas the only meaningful analysis would involve a comparison of some sort with Britain today, surely?. Are you trying to argue that Britain is inclusive in a way that an indie Scotland is unlikely to be? If so, in which way?

    I don’t see an inclusive Britain around me. My European friends resident in Edinburgh tell me they don’t get a vote in the UK at national elections either as you must know.

    The newspapers and the BBC give a disproportionate amount of time to UKIP and to running stories against “foreigners”, and we invade some foreign land along with the Americans more or less every ten years.

    I see a culture in Westminster and Fleet Street which is much more hostile to the “other” than anything up here in Scotland.

    The current Westminster government even sent those notorious “go home vans” around the streets of Britain. How does that make you feel as a European living here? I find it extraordinary, and nonpareil in Europe today.

    And it’s not just bluster for the papers: you only have to look at Cameron and the complete fool he made of himself re the Juncker appointment to see that the Tories are for real about Europe.

    Are you suggesting that there is anything so hostile in the independence movement? Frankly I don’t see it. There are a few nutters who post abusive things in the newspapers, but on both sides of the debate, and not just the indie debate,any debate about anything….

    Finally, you talk of Federalism in one of your posts, but I see no prospect of that at all.

    Who is going to champion this Federalism? It’s not going to be Brown and the Scottish Labour Party, who could have given the current Scottish parliament far more powers than they chose to – like the German Landers have or the Basques for example – and reformed the House of Lords, but never did either. And if Federalism was really a prospect, why is it not on the ballot paper?

    Finally, in terms of straight forward bigotry and corruption, nothing can match the British State which still today bars Catholics from the throne, and in The House of Lords, has a second chamber whereby political corruption is institutionalised as an operative principle, with peerage given in exchange for political donations.

    There is nothing like it anywhere in the world, and so of course you get madmen like Blair who can do what they want once they are in power and lead us into an illegal foreign wars, because there are no real checks in place (“a Hutton style enquiry” – remember Blair’s words)

    Where is the political party with a programme for change? There is none in sight…

    So I think the points you make about Scottish nationalism are more or less true to one degree or other about certain things, but they are minor in comparison to the war in Iraq, Trident and the Tories on Europe.

    Nationalism exists to some degree in every other country in Europe, that’s the truth, and any cosmopolitan knows what I mean.

    Of course I wish the Spanish didn’t celebrate the conquest of America the 12th of October every year with a huge military parade in the streets of Madrid, or that the French didn’t celebrate the decapitating of so many French nobles each July, or that the Americans for that matter and their extermination of the indigenous Americans, or the British and their never ending war memorials, ceremonies, parades and displays and the Trooping of the Colours and no apology for 800 years of treating Ireland like a colony.

    But all these things will continue to happen, no matter the result in September. The independence movement has no monopoly on petty nationalism, which is the norm in Europe.

    In short: I would say that the more likely way that xenophobia will rise and Britain will be further marginalised in Europe and perhaps eventually leave the EU is if people like you vote NO in September. And in a certain sense, Cameron and the Tories have already killed the idea of Europe these last two or three years..what kind of Britain is it that would try to undo 50 years of European integration?


    1. Molitor says:

      Dear Douglas,

      Thanks for your thoughtful piece – much of it I agree with!

      The “status quo” is a huge issue, of course, and I share many of your misgivings about what we currently have. My comments here have been focused on one side of the debate, mainly because of the (unproven, in my view) claims about the superiority of the Scottish national offering. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. For Scottish nationalists to argue that their precepts are devoid of all the complications and dangers that other nationalism have always embodied strikes me as a sign of insufficient self-awareness and insufficient self-reflection. That’s why I got onto this topic – triggered by the attempt to unleash a shitstorm agst Dr Bildhauer.

      I cannot respond to all the points in your post, but here are a few jottings:

      – I have lived in the UK (England & Scotland) since 1996 and have found it an open, welcoming and diverse place. I am unhappy with the governmental (esp. Tory) attitude to Europe/EU, but on the whole I have spent time with so many immigrants (Eastern Europe, Southern Europe, India, US, Iran, Uruguay) that I feel able to say that this is a decent state and society for a diverse population. Scotland, where I live now, is much more “white”, but in England the multi-coloured, multi-ethnic reality of the world has become entirely normal, and the idea that I would want to orientate myself in terms of my Oxfordshire or Hampshire or Cornish ethnicity would strike me as strange and narrow. Bizarre interludes (such as Go-Home-Vans) are the exceptions that prove the rule of a generally very tolerant society. Where in the world would you rather be gay, or atheist? Where are you better looked after when you are both poor and ill?

      – EU residents don’t vote in UK-wide elections, it’s true, but the difference in the Scottish case is (a) that they would lose a vote (for Holyrood) that they once had and (b) that the SNP claim is one specifically of inclusive “civic” nationalism (i.e. based on the participation in the democratic body politic). This promise has been shown to be hollow in a draft constitution that favours birth of Scottish soil and descent from Scottish citizens.

      – UK federalism is a given fact. It’s here already and will go further – for Scotland more than many other parts, but also for London, Wales and NI. It will happen in a muddly way – no post-1945 German tabula rasa. But the argument has been won against London-based centralism and in favour of growing devolution. Scotland does feel very different now from 1997 and from England and it will grow even more into its own ways and preferences – even after a No vote. Btw, in many respects Scotland is already stronger than the German Länder.

      – Nothing can match the British state for bigotry and corruption? Not really. Italy, Hungary, Belarus, France, Belgium … Even in Europe there are so much worse states and societies. There is a lot wrong with the UK, but name more than five or six states in the world where things are clearly and substantially better.

      – But my main point is about an optimistic ambitious outcome: Scotland can and must make a positive difference to the whole UK, tilt the balance in favour of more positive relations with Europe, a more centre-left government than the Tories, less dominance of London and the South-East.

      It would be bad for the UK to lose this Scottish contribution, and it would be very bad for the separated Scotland, too. Trident would move 80 miles South, the Tories would govern forever and cUK would leave the EU with 70% of Scotland’s markets and a fair share of Scotland’s economy. We should not make for the life boats but try and get onto the bridge.

      Must stop now. Watch Brazil.

      1. Trident would move 80 miles South,

        Your geography is as wild as your assertions.

      2. Douglas says:

        Dear Molitor,

        Many thanks for your reply.

        Of course there are others countries in Europe which are worse than Britain for civil liberties, you’re right, it’s a bit of an exaggeration to say otherwise, though Hungary for example did vote with Britain against Juncker! You only need to look at the parties which the Tories sit with in the Euro Parliament to get an idea of the odd company the Tories keep in Europe.

        I would say things have gotten a lot worse in terms of civil liberties over the last twenty years, it’s one of the things I have noticed since I came back. In fact, the spirit behind this post, which calls on people to write to St Andrews university to complain about Dr Bettina Bildhauer, rather than being specific to Scottish nationalism, is typical of a climate of delation and denunciation which is common right throughout the UK, a climate encouraged and fostered by the State against its own citizens, either potential “benefits cheats” or “terrorists”, or “neds hanging about street corners” or “illegal immigrants”, or “muslim extremism”.

        On top of it all, we have the surveillance state and, unlike our friends in the US and Europe, we do not have the same constitutional guarantees, and so you have the incredible scene of The Guardian being raided by Mi5 and ordered to destroy the Snowden files….we are drifting towards a state of 24 hour lock down in which the State can and will interfere with civil liberties as it sees fit.The alarm bells should be ringing all over Britain in my view.

        As for the Britain constitutional arrangement, all of the evidence suggests that anybody who goes down to London to reform the system ends up – on the contrary – being reformed themselves. The Labour Party couldn’t even reform the House of Lords after three terms of office.

        It took 100 years to get a Scottish parliament, and we only got it after 18 years of Thatcherism had created a Labour Party which was so driven by its Scottish contingent that not to have delivered the parliament would have been almost impossible.

        The referendum is an anomaly in British politics and it won’t be allowed to happen again in another 100 years. A NO vote is not the start of something, it’s the end of a 20 year window in which the Scottish parliament exerted itself in a way which it won’t be allowed to do again in the near future, or at least that’s my opinion.

        Because I can’t see any real federalism being delivered in the event of a No vote. On the contrary, some more arbitrary powers will be granted, – they’ll put some bells on the parliament, powers that no government will really be able use – and they will cut the block grant.

        Within ten years, free tuition fees will have gone, free prescription charges will have gone, and the NHS in Scotland will be on its way to being privatised. Gordon Brown will continue mumbling the word “federalism” in his sleep as he dozes in front of the fire in his slippers.

        There are 30 billion worth of cuts already coming down the line as advanced by Osborne. Scotland will never be the same again and Westminster will rightly say, “Scotland, you’ve had your say, now shut up”….

        As for Trident, it’s an ethical question. I don’t believe in paying my taxes for nuclear weapons, much less in a country with spiralling inequality, one in four in child poverty, and collapsing social mobility.

        And I think that British foreign policy is not only unethical, backward and neo-imperialistic,
        I think it is catastrophic for world peace.

        The day I became absolutely committed to voting for independence was when the US bombers on their way to bomb the democratic state of Lebanon to rubble in 2006 were refused permission to stop at Shanon airport in Ireland but were allowed to stop at Prestwick in Scotland.

        Why can’t we have that please? I said to myself. So even Federalism doesn’t do it for me, for that reason, that Britain is a vassal state to US foreign policy.

        On the wider issue of Europe, I am a federalist. I would like to see a Europe of the cities and the regions rather than the nations, all of whom use petty nationalism to one degree or another.Cities are dynamic and cosmopolitan places, exciting places, much more exciting than nations.

        But a realistic time period for a federal Europe might be 100 years, and it can only happen from the bottom upwards, not the top down which is the current EU way of doing things. You need to create a Europe of Europeans, and that will take time. The European project has gone far too fast. To have a common European currency before a common European vote in all elections for all European citizens says it all really.

        Nice to chat.


      3. Molitor says:

        Dear Douglas,

        just a few comments to bring our conversation to a conclusion; your posts have restored some of my faith in the ability of the Yes-side to offer a thoughtful exchange – a tone which was badly damaged by the tone and content of several of the other offerings here. In the words of that great philosopher, Billy Joel: “The only people I fear are those who never have doubts.”

        I am uneasy about talking about the Tories so much when talking about the UK (or England); Scots should not be identified with the SNP now (or, in the 1950s, with the Tories, when Scotland was the only part of the UK EVER to return a Tory vote of more than 50%). The Tories have not won a workable majority in the UK (even under FPTP) since 1992 and it looks like the will not manage it in 2015 either – unless Scottish separation gives them a huge and lasting structural boost. I don’t want to defend them or their policies, but want to think of ways to replace them with a better government.

        I am much less pessimistic about further federalisation in the UK than you. The Scottish Parliament did not turn out to be the final step; further devolution to Scotland was passed under the current govt and also devolution to Wales and NI. It will continue and will deliver lasting and significant differences across the UK reflecting the preferences of the local populations.

        As for foreign policy, well that strikes me as too speculative. Remember, Iceland, Denmark, Norway all made military contributions to the Iraq war and the UK stance was backed by the votes of the Scottish electorate and even endorsed by Holyrood. So there is nothing intrinsically Scottish or intrinsically small-state to stop foreign policy mistakes from being made. Just making Scotland too small to do things we are opposed to strikes me as overly timid. We should want the capacity to do good things with big resources and trust ourselves and our democracy to use these powers for good.

        I am simply not convinced that there is a strong enough link between the very desirable things you have listed and the decision to separate Scotland from the UK. I am convinced that iScotland would suffer considerably and that the fallout – politically, culturally, in terms of intra-community relations – would be very painful.

        Very brief and inadequate comments on very big issues. Thanks again for your thoughts and good luck to all of us – whichever way this goes.

        1. Axel Koehler says:

          So, Molitor, since a lot of water has flown down the Forth, the Tay, the Dee, the Don and the Deveron etc. since this discussion here above, Westminster still wants to tear Europhile Scotland out of the EU and into the Brexit disaster, and England is currently a shambles in this pandemic that has this whole world in its grip, with Nicola Sturgeon having adopted an Angela Merkel-like responsible approach to Corona – more responsible and pragmatic than Boris, Cummings and Gollum Gove the Toad actually (and gets hounded for it by Unionists and Brexiteer trolls all alike), fit div ye say iv noo?

          Fit div ye think iv noo? Have yer thoughts changed now? Don’t ye think Scotland wouldn’t be better off in the EU now, without the burden Westminster has become and is still becoming each day? Especially since the last voice of reason, Ex-Speaker Bercow, has now left Westminster for good?

  68. I am convinced that iScotland would suffer considerably and that the fallout – politically, culturally, in terms of intra-community relations – would be very painful. Molitor

    Simply holding ‘feelings’ that Scotland will sink without trace in no sense or manner rates as incontrovertible evidence it will do so, or offer a scintilla of reasoned argument that it might. It remains baseless opinion.

    ‘Intra-community relations’ is a totally meaningles phrase. It illuminates the shallowness of the opinion.

    This thread issued from a seriously clumsy, glib, and offensive remark made by a staff member of a university at a public gathering. The remarks bore no context and carried no justification.

    And entire week has past in which any number of democracy haters decided an honest movement for greater rights is, in fact, closely allied to fascism or, indeed, Nazism writ large – an outrageous smear on a nation!

    Molitor does not separate himself from that defamation but encourages it. He encourages it but posting a mass of innuendo as proof.

    Pitifully, he offers no discussion on democratic structures needed in Scotland to make it a better place to live. His point of departure is exactly the same as the No campaign: stop discussion at all costs. He attempts to taint it as much as the university doctor sought to tarnish it.

    Greater democracy – the entire raison d’etre of the Referendum – is studiously avoided.

    There is absolutely zilch, nada, nil effort devoted to the notion of increasing the happiness of people.

    Ignoring the cringeworthy comment that only one other dealt with his ‘argument’ respectfully, his comments are symptomatic of the sort of dubious clap-trap that is thrown in front of genuine discussion on policies to alleviate material and political poverty in Scotland. All effort is engaged in tripping it up, overturning hope.

    It’s important to express protest and anger at egregious errors and omissions because for the past few weeks the mass of the No campaign’s debate has degenerated to cesspit level hoping to drag all else down with it.

    The debate is a simple and uncomplicated one: what political powers do the people of Scotland need to enhance their prosperity, and how best can self-governance be protected from regressive acts?

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