Our Friends in the South


Robin McAlpine at Glastonbury

Robin McAlpine at Glastonbury

Among the green leather at the heart of the British state and in a muddy field in rural Somerset, the Big Slander of the No campaign continued to fall apart.

I was down in the South of England at the weekend to attend two events and I genuinely had no idea how they would play out. The first was organised by Red Pepper and OpenDemocracy in the House of Commons. A mixed audience of 200 people (some London-based Yes supporters, some people who came along out of curiosity at what was happening in Scotland) heard six stories from a panel of Yes supporters (Neil Ascherson, Joyce McMillan, David Gregg, Cat Boyd, Pete Ramand and me).

At the end of the session the audience had half an hour to comment. The most telling words came from those not associated with the campaign in any way. They said variations of the same thing – “my god, what they say about you is a total lie – this is really inspiring and the people of England should be helping you”. We were described as Britain’s ‘indignados’, the Spanish movement of citizens sick of state and elite corruption. Person after person stood up and asked us what they could do to help. There was a show of hands (for fun). Not a single person in the room did not put up their hand in support. The chair of the meeting closed by saying that she believed she may have just sat through the best meeting held in the Houses of Parliament that she could remember in her life.

I’ll be honest, I’d had little sleep (out at a debate in Troon the night before and up early for flights) and I found myself fighting back emotion. I’ve had to endure an awful lot of ‘socialism of convenience’ during this campaign. It comes from people who didn’t let the word ‘redistribution’ pass their lips six months ago and who won’t utter the word again after September – but who will happily talk about solidarity for the next two months so long as it remains an abstract concept useful only for moral blackmail. That balmy night in that emotionally-charged committee room there was real solidarity. The sound that solidarity made was “would it help if we organised a convoy of busses from English cities to come up and help you with canvassing?”

Yes. Yes it would.

From there I headed off to Glastonbury where I’d been invited to talk at Billy Bragg’s Leftfield tent at a session organised by left-wing think tank Compass. During a sunny lunchtime the day after a deluge more than 300 people came to listen to a debate about the future of the left in Britain. Again and again it kept coming back to Scotland. And again it all amounted to much the same thing – “we talk about a mass campaign to change society – up there in Scotland they’re doing it”. Backstage with the lefties there is no question they see their best chance of change coming from some kind of real and substantive change in Scotland. One person had simply been looking at the media and taking it for granted that we were a noble but losing cause. I told him I figure we’re perhaps something like a three or four point swing away from winning. “Really?” he said, “Christ, you’ve got to do it. You’ve got to wake us up.”

When you own the guns and when you own the ink you can force the people onto their knees and then report that this is their natural position. The British social and political elite and the No campaign are the same thing. Any lie (that the Scottish Government phones business leaders and tells them to shut up or they’ll regret it…) is told by one of their own (David Cameron say), endorsed by another (perhaps Johann Lamont), is aggressively circulated by their social media hangers-on and is then reported by their tame media allies.

And so it is that we are portrayed as English-hating, anti-modern, backwards-looking, reactionary and above all uncontrollable, uneducated, despicable barbarians, fascists and hatemongers. Alastair Darling appears to believe that it is acceptable just to call us ‘vile’ at will, Lamont to call us a ‘virus’, Sarwar to use any version of dictator or oppressor and their social media supporters – well, there is quite literally no line they won’t cross (if you have a strong stomach for extreme language and vicious personal abuse have a look at https://twitter.com/BritNatAbuseBot).

I can’t remember an honest, civic campaign which has been so relentlessly demonised by its opponents. I can’t remember a media so closely coordinated with the campaign of demonisation. And I can’t remember a portrayal of a group of people so wholly unrepresentative of what and who they really are.

So when each member of the panel in that Westminster committee room were asked to answer the question ‘what can England do to help you?’, my answer was straightforward. Bear witness. We are a grassroots campaign of ordinary people who have been accused of the most awful behaviours and attitudes. Look and listen to us. Do we really seem like fascists to you? Is Neil Ascherson an English-hating zealot? Is Joyce McMillan covered in Scotland the Brave tattoos, hollering freedom? Is Cat Boyd contemptuous of the poor of England? Is David Greig a knuckle-dragging Neanderthal?

The progressive left in London are among Scottish independence’s biggest supporters. They admire our determination to build up a real grass-roots movement of scale and focus. They are in awe of the way we have engaged ordinary members of the public in town hall meetings (that was us, the No campaign has tried to close down engagement with the public). But above all they are 100 per cent behind the vision of a fairer nation for which we are campaigning. They want it for us – and they want us to show a way forward for them.

That’s the thing about trying to create a villain out of good people – it doesn’t last. In town hall after town hall I meet undecideds who come up to me afterwards and express mild surprise at how positive and nice and friendly and inclusive we are. They expect some version of the lie and that is not what they find. This is true in spadeloads of the people who are really campaigning on behalf of a more just Britain (and here’s a hint – if you want to identify who they are they’re not the ones cutting unemployment benefits for the poor or proposing another five years of austerity).

And so to Andy, met outside the Toastie van on one of the main drags in a mud-splattered Glastonbury at three in the morning. He doesn’t get it. Even after half an hour of chips, curry sauce, beer and talk he didn’t really understand why we couldn’t just stay and hope Britain got better. But in hugs as we leave he tells us “I don’t know if you’re right or wrong but you’re good, honest, nice people, you seem to want to do the right thing and you’ve made me feel really welcome in Scotland and so whatever happens I hope things are good for you.”

You too Andy. You too. Scottish independence is an act of love, not an act of hate. More and more people are coming to know this. Increasingly, those who tell the lie about us will have to answer to others for what they say.

Activists meeting on Scottish Independence in House of Commons

Activists meeting on Scottish Independence in House of Commons

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  1. That was somewhat fabulous.

  2. Les Wilson says:

    In a word, excellent!

  3. Marian says:

    Its truly awful how the British state has conspired with its media lackeys to demonise this totally peaceful and inspiring campaign for independence by the ordinary people of Scotland simply because they have committed the “crime” of wanting their ancient nation to be independent again in the world.

    1. bringiton says:

      Marian,I think the crime (in the British establishment mindset) is that we threaten their hegemony.
      They aren’t interested in what the future holds for Scots,only what it holds for them and the negative impact a Yes vote will have on their prospects.

      1. I agree wholeheartedly bringiton, not only do we threaten the hegemony of the British establishment but the Labour hegemony in Scotland and we can never forget that they were willing to sell their souls for their own narrow self interest.

  4. Alistair Davidson says:


  5. mary vasey says:

    Thank you robin for helping g to get the true message out. I’m just an auld, disabled, coffin dodging, fascist cybernat. How I wish I was more able to get out and canvass etc., unfortunately I am housebound but have the internet so I do keep myself up to date and post YES friendly articles on facebook. It’s not much I know but does make me feel I’m contributing in however small a way. I do agree with your Common Weal, it’s beyond time this selfish me,me,me -take, take, take attitude by the powerful & politicians was ditched. Hopefully come September 19th we in Scotland will be on our way to doing that. Keep up the good work you and your fellow YES colleagues are doing and we will win. Many thanks fae one auld wifie.

    1. Ian Kirkwood says:

      Good on you Mary. I appreciate reading your post and that you too are playing your part. Wha’s like us? Great stuff and brilliant post Robin. Hopefully there will be some substance to the promised help. There is a lot to do and we need all the help we can get to defeat the establishment and their MSM lackeys.

  6. dennis mclaughlin says:

    we’ll all be hearded into sports stadiums a’ la Bosnia Herzogovina………IF they thought they’d get away with it they bloody would!.
    the BRITISH State is running scared of a grassroots movement here in Scotland and even if it’s a NO this September ,we up here in Northern Britain will never accept the status quo.

    1. Dave Daniel says:

      “even if it’s a NO this September ,we up here in Northern Britain will never accept the status quo”. So, if the people of Scotland reject independence “we” won’t accept the democratic decision!

      1. DR says:

        Well, no – because that’s not how democracy works: democracy is a continuous process of working to make change and respond to change.

        And what that comment says *is not* what ‘not accepting the democratic decision!’ means. Working peacefully within the law to promote ones political beliefs *is* ‘accepting the democratic decision’. It doesn’t mean changing ones mind, actions or beliefs to conform with the majority – if it did, there could *be* no democracy! Democracy isn’t sitting down or shutting up either – that’s actually the original meaning of ‘idiocy’ in the first democracy.

        More than anything, I wish there was a wider understanding that this is a process, not an event. People in Scotland have been working towards independence (and voting Yes to some form of it) at least since universal suffrage gave them the opportunity to do so. The debate about what democracy in Scotland means won’t stop with a Yes vote, so why should it stop with a No? Both that debate – and pressure to enhance the accountability of politicians, in whatever terms – are fundamental to maintaining all democracies against the constant and universal tendency of any government to solidify and codify its own power.

      2. Oh, we’ll accept it. And then take the democratic choice to begin campaigning again the next day.

        Take your stirring elswhere

  7. Douglas MacLean says:

    Another excellent article. The people of Scotland campaigning for Independence are not and never have been anti English. Anti the corrupt political system at Westminster? Yes. Standing up for Scotland? Yes.
    Looking for a better future for Scotland? Yes. And the list goes on. Once Scotland becomes Independent, political change will follow in the rUK. Westminster’s corruption is coming to an end.

  8. JGedd says:

    Are there going to be convoys of English activists coming up to help? Because that would be truly great. Imagine the MSM and Better Together trying to spin their way out of that one. English people coming up to help English-hating Nationalists….? No, wait a minute…..

    1. Adam Neilson says:

      If they can effectively hide the fact that as many as 100,000 English folk are Yes Scotland members, and that thousands of us are active within the wider movement – they’ll hide that too.
      They simply don’t have to report it, and as as many as 1.4 million Scottish voters have no easy access to a computer and get their news from that same MSM, they won’t know it happened.
      They’ve managed to successfully hide a huge grassroots campaign from most of that 1.4 million, and convince others that the campaign IS the SNP.
      For me, that’s the most depressing and frustrating thing about the referendum – the shocking power of the media – a media that today makes Soviet-era Pravda look like rank amateurs.

      1. JGedd says:

        True Adam. The media wall of fortress UK has been totally astounding in the way it has obscured what has been going on. The thing is, it has been like this for a long time. Very little of the truth manages to get through the chinks and in this campaign, with the whole establishment swinging in to action to smother one side of the argument, its methods are shown to be as unsubtle as a totalitarian state.
        There is nothing sophisticated or clever about what they are doing. All that is required is a crude monopoly of media communication and constant repetition of lies and misinformation. It’s an old formula but it’s instructive that it didn’t require a brutal authoritarian regime to achieve it.
        Perhaps if we could attract the attention of the outside world through its media. ( Notice how they have produced in some of us a siege mentality which is why I would appreciate the help of English – and Welsh and Irish to come join us.)
        With the Commonwealth Games taking place there will be international press in Glasgow who might be interested in a demonstration against BBC bias.

  9. You brought tears of joy to my eyes with that. Surely the ones doing their best to sow distrust, division and hatred are going to reap the whirlwind. I am convinced that success for Yes in September will start a snowball rolling…Oops mixed metaphors…

  10. Adam Neilson says:

    It would be nice to think that not only was the Guardian in attendance at the Westminster event – but that that ‘left wing’ journal actually reports it.
    For 18 months the Guardian has accused us of all the things (and a few more) Robin refers to, And Severin Carrell, Michael White, Martin Kettles, and a few others should be ashamed of themselves.
    A few years ago I remember White – like the others a committed Blairite – writing that the SNP (or ‘the YesScotland campaign’ as the Guardian calls them) was wrong to lower prescription costs (no mention of Welsh Labour introducing free prescriptions) because ‘the English taxpayer’ would be paying for it !
    The Guardian’s profound hypocrisy is shocking.
    They’ve spent almost two years demonising a political party that has, is, and will introduce the policies and principles that the Guardian has been demanding of Westminster for over 40 years, while promoting the unionist cause.
    Hell, they’ve even reprinted Daily Mail articles in their ‘Scotland’ section’ !
    Never a mention of Yes Scotland, the Common Weal, RiC, or any of the pro-independence groups and organisations – it’s all been ‘Salmond Accused’ and ‘SNP Campaign Falters’ – at least it was up to the point when I gave up with the Guardian completely 5 months ago.

  11. Tom Platt says:

    What a great article I am English voting Yes for Scotland the land that is my home.

  12. Tom Platt says:

    What a really great article!

    (That last post “escaped” before it was ready.. Sorry)
    I am English voting Yes for Scotland the land that is my home.

    Me too.

    Scotland has become my home..although I have nothing but fond memories of the Midlands of England and elsewhere in Uk that I have lived. Anyone feeling the same way is invited to join “English Scots for Yes”, previously “English for Yes” and better named IMO than “Anglo Scots for Yes”.


    1. Ian Kirkwood says:

      Can Scots living abroad join as honorary members. If YES, I am in!

  13. wanvote says:

    Well done, Robin and all the others for taking the real story of Yes directly to English folk. Very, very heartening to read of the responses you got from those who listened. Genuine people talking to genuine people, no politicians and no MSM, that’s how it’s done and you all did it!

    1. Ian Kirkwood says:

      Sigh. I love this!

  14. Dan Huil says:

    Great stuff. Doffing of my Tam O’Shanter to all of you.

  15. Maureen Luby says:

    What a wonderfully heartwarming article – thank you! One of my brothers, who lives in Essex, has just posted this on Facebook “Being asked about the referendum more every week. They’re starting to think about it down here. Confused looks every time I tell them that THEY DON’T subsidise Scotland. No animosity. Most think we’ll be lucky to get away from Westminster.”

  16. Graeme Menzies says:

    My wife and I lived in the Midlands for 10 years (we are both Scottish by birth) and we loved every moment. Moved back home for family reasons and now both committed Yes voters. We miss all our friends down south and wish them and all residents of England well, but look to our future as an Independent Nation standing on our own feet.

    We are not Nazi ogres as some would have you believe.

    1. Ian Kirkwood says:

      Thanks for clarifying that Graeme, we did wonder your know! ;-))
      All the best.

    2. Pete Bradley says:

      The Nazi ogres are the ‘Unionists’. Generally speaking, the Yes-type Scots I’ve met have been a lot more pleasant (and certainly Anglo-friendly) than the No-types.

  17. Billy McChord says:

    “Scottish independence is an act of love” so true, I was just reading this post from an ardent ex skinhead pro Yes comrade in Alloa this morning

    “Sittin in ma front gairden haein a coffee and a smoke, gentle summer rain fawin oan ma uncovered heid and a wee breeze stirred the trees..Ah heard the clock in the toon a mile distant, strike sevein and then a gull laugh oot loud. Mibbe it kens somethin ah dinnae, widnae be a surprise really. Nivir used tae be a moarnin person, at times ah’m still no ,but, iviry noo and again its guid tae get up and contemplate oor surroundins and the peace we live in and think ,aye, ah might no hae much but a hae a lot mair than maist fowk in the wirld dae.

    Hae a guid day people and get oot there and help someane today if ye kin. Aftir aw we are Jock Tamsons bairns and if we kin help ithers it enriches oorsells”

    Does that sound like a nasty cyber nat to you? Good on you Michael McFadyen and the thousands of others that are working for a better Scotland.

  18. Heather says:

    Great article, thank you. Good to hear, once the real message gets out there that people are fully behind Scotland making a go of it without the shackles of westminster dragging her down. Coming from Gateshead, and living in Scotland for 25 years, I have always thought that Scotland should be Independent. Now it is within reach we have to go for it! I can’t wait, wow, how brilliant for that to become a reality.

  19. My partner is a strong supporter for Yes, she moved here from Australia two years ago. This week, long lost relatives of hers from Oxford were in Edinburgh. We met up for the evening and it wasn’t long before our yes badges moved the conversation onto the referendum.

    These are educated people in their early sixties, professionals with political awareness, that we’re talking about. It was utterly astonishing, I mean utterly utterly utterly totally astonishing, just how little they knew.
    Informed only by mainstream media, down south, they get very little information, secondly the info they get is extremely biased and thirdly, that bias is rarely countered or questioned.

    Whilst their level of enquiry could be questioned I do not want to seem overly critical of them as individuals, it is, after all, the situation with the majority of english folks ( and they’ve been preoccupied with world cup humiliation recently ).

    As we calmly laid out the Yes arguments, as we saw them, it was amazing to see them digest the information with widening eyes. They are now disavowed of their previous beliefs, which were..

    We hate them and that’s what’s driving us to get away from them, it is blind hatred. Our hatred of them is such that we are knowingly heading towards dependency on oil that will run out before the end of the next football season. It is such that we will throw away all our trade with them. It is such that we are knowingly heading towards greater levels of poverty because we’re about to loose all our subsidy from London. It is such that we don’t care if it means difficulty seeing them again or have to queue for visas to attend Glastonbury

    They thought we were like a fledgling, teetering on the edge of the nest about to fall flat on our faces on the ground below, with a pathetic flutter on the way down. I’m happy to report that they now understand our potential to take off on a soaring flight just as the nest is crumbling.

    The point is we cannot expect the majority in England to understand any of what’s happening unless we tell them directly and correct their false assumptions. Your post is heartening in sharing some of what is being done.

  20. Clootie says:

    Robin – truly outstanding piece, thank you.

    I’m convinced that the civil movement will never go away now – we all want fairness. I am fortunate to be one of those who will be asked to contribute a little more to support that new world. That will be a pleasure because it will be money to help others instead of to maintain obscenities such as Trident / HofL / Military force projection etc.

    YES does not end on the 19th of September whatever the result. (it may change it’s name and I would be happy for that to be “The Common Weal”)

  21. alistair Armour says:

    Awesome my friend, simply awesome

  22. I went to one of the Yestival events last night, all the people were so nice, not one seemed to notice I was English, and there was no hatred there, the tone was not even bitter like all the media would have us believe. It was cheerful, and hopeful, and funny, singing, poetry, music, photos, chatting, stories and wives tales.

    Many genuinely moving that left me deep in contemplation.

    I was a yes supporter long before I arrived there, but am frequently to question my beliefs and if I am right, and getting out among those sweet, passionate, compassionate, optimistic people only reaffirmed my belief in independence.

    If all events are like that, with the same tone, the ability to make you think and feel then a Yes vote is guaranteed.

    And a Yes vote, just the possibility gives me something I have not had in years; Hope.

    To yourself and all others, thank you for all your hard work and spreading the good words, and showing what is good about us and society.

  23. Fordie says:

    Bear witness. That’s it.

    And that’s hard. Cause it’s sore.

    And that’s Labour and labour-lite in Scotland.

    And that’s the votes we need.

  24. alancuzen says:

    i love the british countries who make up the UK however from a governance point of view we are no longer compatible politically but i will tell you one thing the people of England are the best i have ever partied with they know how to have a good time which i hope we can keep going upon a yes vote because if we are truly better together we are truly better apart depending on circumstance. so as a scotsman i will say this if anyone threatened my England i would be first to sign up

    1. goldenayr says:

      I think your post is the perfect sign off to the nicest story of the ref.

      Thank you alancuzen for keeping the faith.

  25. Great article. Am following debate from England and am English. I have been wrestling with how to appeal to the better sense of the English, most of whom don’t give Scotland much head-space or don’t get the vision which the SNP share only (so far) with the radical left in England. My take on it is to appeal to “national honour” – i.e. honourable dealings between nations.

    With this in mind, I came up with the Reigate Declaration – a statement on behalf of “we the people of England” as to the terms of an honourable relationship with the people of Scotland, in the light of the referendum. Here’s the link to it as it appears on my blog. http://upholdingenglishhonour.wordpress.com/2014/06/27/promoting-positive-relations-between-the-peoples-of-england-and-scotland-the-reigate-declaration/

    So far, it’s had plenty of positive feedback on the FB page “English people for Scottish independence” and Mike Small of Bella told me likes it! There’s a poll on the blog. Any thoughts on how to get it some traction in England would be appreciated.

  26. Fraser says:

    Thanks for all the hard work the Yes campaign has and is doing. I myself have spent more than half my adult life living in England. Where l was perfectly happy and welcomed as part of the community (apart from the occasional idiotic knuckle dragging NF voter). In order to have my vote l have moved back to Scotland. It is more important than any other vote l or any Scott will ever make. An independent nation is the only way for us to have a democratic government of fair representation. Politicians’ will always be open to corruption but as other countries of our size have proved it’s a lot harder for them to get away with. I love my country and want no more for it than the English want for theirs. Thanks again for all.

  27. Andrew says:

    Reblogged this on bentley steed and commented:
    Essential reading for viewers in England, especially if you’re not one of the 1%

  28. Fay Kennedy. says:

    It does my heart good to hear this and the great comments. In the land down under it is a disaster with the most extreme right wing government in the English speaking world. Can’t wait to be in Scotland and feel the great vibe.

  29. hektorsmum says:

    Can I just say thank you in a very humble way, had a bad day yesterday and that has fair cheered me up and revitalised me.

  30. Muscleguy says:

    “When you own the guns and when you own the ink you can force the people onto their knees and then report that this is their natural position. ”

    Perfectly put Robin. I am going to steal that.

  31. Graham Ennis says:

    As Neal Ascherson said in London at that Commons meeting: “The Union is Over”….whatever happens now, YES or No, the psychic curse that has lain on the Scots for 300 years has been exorcised. A large part of them feel something dark has been finally lifted, and they have once again self-respect and self-regard. that can never be broken in future. Once a Peoplehood become emotionally and mentally free in spirit, they cannot be crushed. It is now just a matter of time. The UK is doomed.

  32. This is why we are so dangerous. Do you think you are a dangerous person part of a dangerous campaign for radical change that threatens the very core of the old British establishment? There is no telling where independence for Scotland could lead. Our friends in England could see that a different path with different priorities is possible. And that scares London even more than Scottish Independence. Just why the Labour party continues to support the growing inequality of Britain is a mystery only explained by their own dependence on a system that might give them a turn at government at some time in the future. Inequality grew during the period of the last Labour government so why would a future one be different?

  33. Duncan Clark says:

    Don’t be too embarrassed about crying, I was on the verge of doing it myself after the first three paragraphs. Great piece.

  34. Squirrel Towers says:

    Excellent article Robin, if we could spare the time we should be spreading the word down south. I am English (living in Scotland) and have been out actively campaigning in Perthshire today with Women for Indy. The reason I write is that we have had many English folk over to chat this morning (its the holiday season), to get some information and ask questions. They apologise at first “We don’t have a vote” they say, but they are curious and want to find out about things. We talk to them and explain we are not members of any party and have never campaigned for anything before but are out on the streets with our balloons, Aye cupcakes and good cheer. They leave better informed with thanks and stickers for their cars to spread the word down south. We also had a New Zealander, Aussie, Irish person and German who were all VERY pro-Yes…it seems a natural thing for people from outside the UK to see the sense of a Yes…..I hope there is a car in 14,000 miles away with a ‘Yes’ sticker on it next week!! Interesting times!!

  35. Came onto your article rather late, Robin,but nevertheless it gladdened my old heart… However recently reservation/misgiving/disquiet are creeping into my bones over the actions/inactions of Police Scotland. Signs emerging of a Caledonian Met [?] which I think could just scupper success on the 18th if any more autocratic/heavy handed moves ocurr. Am I being too sensitive?
    I did see a whale off Husavik in Northern Iceland with a “Yes” sicker on it’s tail

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