So Far So Good. British Unionism’s Review of 2014

George Osborne Underlines UK Government's Opposition To Currency Union

In the first part of our review of the year, Robin McAlpine talks of ‘swooning and fainting’ and ‘pooling and sharing’.

The shock of 2014

Not much more than a week after the referendum I received a phone call from a journalist. It turned out to be the most remarkable phone conversation I have had in over 20 years of working with the media. This journalist had procured evidence that would categorically prove beyond any argument that the SNP could win no more than a maximum of three seats from Labour in the 2015 General Election. In the hour that followed nothing I could say would put so much as a dent in this journalist’s absolute certainty that a Labour landslide was ahead.

My argument was that a block of 20 SNP MPs was a realistic target and that the substantial change in mood on the ground in Scotland made it quite possible. I suggested that a campaign that pitched the SNP as a coalition-maker (or sustainer) on a pro-Scotland, drag-Labour-to-the-left agenda would be hard to fight against. I told him that the numbers on the ground were massively stacked against the pro-union parties. I calmly repeated the polling numbers being achieved by Ed Milliband personally in Scotland.

What I got back was a series of pretty contemptuous and unmistakably hostile put-downs. Ground campaigns don’t matter, he said. Labour had the real fighting machine in Scotland, he said. No-one would buy for a second the line that the SNP could hold anyone to account at the UK level, he said. But above all, it was numerically impossible and since everyone knew it was a fantastical proposition my every argument was invalid. At one point he demanded that I stop talking so he could espouse further on his theories – which I thought rather inverted the concept of journalism.

The same journalist recently ran a front-page story predicting a Labour wipe-out in Scotland.

In looking for a moment which encapsulated what happened in 2014 in Scotland, this phone conversation seemed appropriate. Utter certainty about things which are wrong. Lots of (expensively procured) data but no knowledge. A yawning chasm between the professional observers and the reality they claim to observe. This conversation contrasts sharply with one I had with a journalist whom I hold in much higher esteem (though who also writes for an anti-independence newspaper). In the spring he phone me up and said simply “I have this feeling that I have no idea what is going on”. 

This, as simply and as briefly as I can, is what I think was going on in 2014.

Every lover regularly turns pale in the presence of his beloved

The rules of courtly love are strangely familiar and yet distinctly odd. They were an extended part of a chivalric code of honour which prescribed the expected behaviours of a medieval knight. The tenets of courtly love are filled with swooning and fainting, cast-iron commitments and handy loopholes. They tell us that every lover regularly turns pale in the presence of his beloved. And yet biologically speaking no-one really turns pale on a regular basis as a result of meeting someone else. So the court becomes a fog of whitening powders and feigned fainting. Since everyone agrees that the recently-applied paleness is a sign of true love and since anyone who disagreed would be base in their morals, no-one does. In the closed confines of the courtly system, power, money and influence mean that whatever they decide to be reality becomes reality. The other key thing to know about the chivalric codes is that they do not apply to anyone outside the court; chivalry easily accommodates mass slaughter.

The primary feature of 2014 in Scotland was the end (fingers crossed) or at least the major disruption of court politics. In 2013 if you wanted to be a political correspondent in Scotland you could probably get away with having only 30 phone numbers in your contact list. All you really needed was one each of an official contact, a gossip and a rent-a-quote from each of the political parties, the business organisations and the Scottish establishment. You would speak to everyone else (including the trade unions) so rarely that you could just look up directory inquiries. If you were a courtier in one of the political parties you would have a similar looking contact book. If you were a mover and shaker in the Scottish establishment you’d have the same numbers too.

Here too a set of obscure rules define reality. For example, if two people in one political party hold a view which is anything other than both identical and expressed identically, the fabric of the space-time continuum will be disrupted. Acceptable behaviour and unacceptable behaviour are universally agreed. So for example a weekly parlour game in which Johann Lamont rolls out synonyms for ‘you’re a dirty liar’ is scored according to the balance of oohs and aahs from the press gallery. Three councillors carefully burning a document over a metal bin in ‘the real world’ however is nothing short of the rattle of the barbarians at the gates.

Outside of court, people think differently. If you wish to call someone a liar then the honourable thing to do is to say it – and prove it. I genuinely wonder if the media have any idea how little regard the outside world holds for a clever simile. On the other hand there is an undeniable honesty in an act of defiance like the burning of an inanimate object.

I imagine the whole damn court being shifted to my local boozer. I’d like to see them function by their courtly rules among the commoners. It would be entertaining to see how they deftly call Big Rab at the bar a prick – but totally get away with it because they paraphrased TS Elliot. I’d equally like them to successfully have Wee Rab (there are quite a few Rabs) thrown out for the unacceptable act of scrumpling up a newspaper and chucking it into the fire uttering only the one word “pish” as it burns.

“But” says the courtier “that’s all well and good for ordinary people but our world is different”. Yup, that’s the point. Your world is fake. We don’t believe it. For almost two years I spent most mornings reading the newspapers and most nights in town halls at public meetings. I heard what people talked about, what they asked, how they asked it, what they expected in a reply. I saw a whole generation of new political figures emerge untouched by the court system. I heard them cheered.

I watched politics change before my eyes and it did not come from the court. I read newspaper articles in late summer about how ‘the SNP’ had now brought the NHS ‘into play’ as part of either a smart or desperate gambit. I note how in fact Phillipa Whitford (a breast cancer specialist, not a politician) made a series of searing speeches in early spring that went viral on YouTube. I spoke at meeting after meeting throughout the spring and summer in which a whole succession of Yes speakers raised and repeated the analysis of the danger the NHS faced. I watched room after room change its opinion. I saw the Daily Record catch up on this months after it happened. I saw the SNP catch up a couple of weeks after that – and then saw the rest of the press pack catch up only after all of that.

The court clung desperately to the belief that its only job was to compare the Scottish Government’s spreadsheet with the UK Treasury’s spreadsheet and to inform the public who won. Scotland has been spiralling out of its control ever since. Things may possibly revert to normality for the courtiers. God knows they are trying to reassert their outdated book of etiquette, to pull up the drawbridge, to confine politics once more to their tiny, limited domain.

Until they do, it is simply impossible to understand Scotland until you understand that the courtier system has broken down and the political narrative in Scotland is being defined from outside. Thirty phone numbers in your book just isn’t enough.

A man, plunging to his death, says ‘so far so good, so far so good’

A man stands on the edge of a skyscraper. He looks down, takes a step forward and falls. As the pavement below rushes towards him he repeats over and over to himself “so far so good, so far so good”.

Such is unionism in Scotland. The defining characteristic of British nationalism in Scotland in 2014 wasn’t swagger, fear-mongering or entitlement but confused befuddlement. As politics escaped from the court system and leaked into real life it kept coming back in ever-more altered form. The total certainty of what ‘the commoners’ wanted, believed, hoped for, responded to was used to shape the dog whistle that was blown. The size and shape of the dog that appeared scared the pants off them.

This is all because British nationalism created a new place for its own convenience – let’s call this place Scotchland. Scotchland is a barren land in which proud patriots scrape a living so they can watch Strictly Come Dancing at the weekend. The people of Scotchland had bestowed upon them great riches. They benefitted from both the NHS and the right to buy their council house while sheltering under a nuclear umbrella of peace. It was a happy place, content with the synthesis of all that was great about the British Empire – until it was split asunder, torn apart, betrayed by the idea that something could be different.

Better Together fought its entire campaign in Scotchland. The media printed all their newspapers there. British nationalist leaders built their castles there. It was like one giant role-playing adventure game where they got to write their own history, create their own characters and enact their every fantasy. The Scotch, after all, can be measured, weighed and counted. It is possible to prove that they are most certainly not special in any way. And in the end, the unionist forces triumphed emphatically in Scotchland, securing its borders for themselves for another thousand years.

It was Scotland they had trouble with. The problem with manufacturing conceptual entities in the pursuit of political goals is that at some point reality intervenes. Barring a hard-core of extremists Scotland is a country without a nationalist bone in its body; in which two out of three people in the 2011 census described themselves as ‘Scottish only’, rejecting entirely their British identity. It is a nation of people ashamed of Braveheart; who still like Braveheart. The unionists never understood Scotland’s expression of national identity. Watching them trying to recite the words was disturbing as the plummy vowels of Gordonstoun and Loretto and Heriots were distorted horribly into the grating, jarring syllables of ‘proud, patriotic Scot’. It was like listening to a wolf trying to baa.

If their trouble with identity was bad, their problem with empathy was positively tragic. They really, really thought that we’d be grateful for being humiliated. They thought that a Tory Chancellor arriving in Scotland to put out of our heads any silly notion of our right to the infrastructure of our currency would be met with affection and gratitude. They did not get Scotland at all – or rather, they could not understand any part of Scotland which did not fall for Osborne and his tough love. They still don’t.

In Scotchland there is something else which is ‘true’; no-one is neutral (apart from the IFS). All are in a fight to the death with justice and honour at stake. When the barbarians are at the gate, anyone without a musket in their hand is a traitor. It is the comfort with which the media picked up arms and joined the fight that shocked many. Perhaps the biggest disjunction left in the clash between Scotchland and Scotland is the ongoing belief among the unionist-activist hack-pack that they have any honour left. Despite the universal knowledge that by any definition of democracy the Scottish media failed and failed miserably, you will travel a long, long way before you find any contrition. Put simply, the Scottish unionist media is more than proud of its year.

This is all a complex subject; there are many journalists you may well assume to be No men and women who were no such thing. The Scottish media remains full of good people. But they don’t get to write about Scotchland and Scotchland is the only place their newspapers reported on. Once major newspapers reported the entire campaign with as little as three arch-unionist journalists – and in once case two out of the three were based in London. They wrote about a Scotland so backwards, so inherently pre-modern that posing a democratic question to its people was far too risky. We’d be tearing each others throats out on the street. Those who want to pose the question are outside normality. Their actions can always be understood as barbarism. Britain – their Britain – is civilisation. (As always, the Sunday Herald is to be honourably exempted…)

In the end, reality wins out over fantasy. No blood was spilled, no glass was broken; Scotland lived up to its democratic duty in a way and with a maturity that should shame the current British Empire. Remember, Scots-born voters voted Yes. Without ‘English immigration’ Scotland would now be independent (English-born voters voted three to one against). Yet everyone of us ‘barbarians’ embraces the ideal of those resident being part of our community wherever they started their lives. Not a single one of us has formed a UKIP, not one of us has talked about the ‘English problem’ or asked whether these incomers have distorted out politics and what we should do about it.

The new project is the re-provincialisation of Scotland. All that ‘proud patriot’ stuff was for last year. This year even our ‘quality press’ shall continue to report on our future mainly in terms of which cat is stuck up which tree (or more accurately which issue of local bureaucratic administration has been marginally mismanaged). The Scots got to talk about monetary policy and macroeconomics for a year and they nearly went mad with power, demanding some sort of say in how their lives are run. It must never happen again.

Here’s the big news. Scotchland never existed. Scotland, on the other hand, largely learned to be happy to be itself. I sit with my legs dangling over the edge watching the unionist fantasy plunging ever downwards.

So far, so good. So far, so good.

If Scotland in 2014 hasn’t profoundly shocked you, you haven’t understood it yet

In quantum physics, a subatomic particle exists everywhere and nowhere at the same time but, until you measure it, it has little or no characteristic. This madness was until comparatively recently simply the conjecture of quantum physicist Niels Bohr. He said that if quantum mechanics hadn’t profoundly shocked you, you hadn’t understood it yet.

And that’s the thing. Prior to 2014 real, involved and participatory democracy in Scotland was simultaneously everywhere and nowhere at the same time. Everywhere because each citizen was engaged in their own discussion about the nation in which they lived, whether they knew it or not. Nowhere, because these discussions were invisible, had no agency, acted upon and changed nothing, just as if they were never there in the first place. The only thing that made them real was when they were measured.

And guess what? When you measure democracy in Scotland it is something quite different than what we thought it was before we measured it. Unionists hate the fact but Scotland is already seen by many around the world as a case study in ‘quantum democracy’ (no, no-one is calling it that…). It is in the act of measuring it that democracy becomes real. Everything looks different.

Labour is dead. Not in the way people think (though why not a single mainstream media source seems the slightest interested in how many people voted in the Labour leadership election still surprises me, even in their bias). It is much deader than that. If Labour was to be anything in Scotland it had to be a radical reforming entity. Quite how it could be that thing is hard to say, but that’s what it had to be. I suspected that Labour was no such thing anymore, but only when it was measured did the scale of the problem become clear. I had rather assumed that Labour in Scotland was a right-of-centre organisation. I assumed it simply because virtually every one of the left-of-centre people I knew when I was a member of the party had left in disgust. The fact that there were so many alternative options in Scotland made it easy. But since Labour in Scotland doesn’t do democracy, for our knowledge of what Labour ‘is’ we’ve mainly relied on what Douglas Alexander told his cheerleaders in the media.

But here’s the thing; there simply isn’t a more right-wing figure in the party that could have got the leadership job than Murphy. The ease with which the remaining members of the Party picked him strongly suggests that there is little left sentiment remaining. But that’s not the alarming thing. There has always been an assumption that only the trade unions could save the soul of Labour in Scotland. And yet, even with a very vigorous and very visible campaign, the trade unions barely managed to get half of their own affiliated members to vote for their preferred left-wing candidate. I’ve met some awfully reactionary trade unionists and I knew they had no difficultly making Labour their home. I know that most socially progressive trade unionists have long since disaffiliated to Labour. But even I was surprised at just how blatantly right-wing much of the trade union vote turned out to be. Labour can say whatever it likes about its left credentials in Scotland but there is damn little evidence that this is reflected in its members, its politicians or many of its voters.

Forget for a second that it is a husk of an organisation with no activists and no real staff. Forget the plodding weakness of its politicians. Forget the manufactured radicalism of Gordon Brown as finessed by the unionist media. Look at what Labour really is. It is a home for a unionist vote that is mainly right of centre but which doesn’t vote Tory. Labour in Scotland, like it or not, is primarily a unionist party. In fact, it is fast becoming the United Unionist Party of Scotland. Tactical voting pacts with the Tories are not uncommon conversation points among its activists. When Neil Findlay’s campaign manager decides to criticise Jim Murphy it is not because of his right-wing politics but because he has shown an insufficient commitment to opposing Scottish national identity.

Labour as a mass party of the working class is stone dead in Scotland. It is now an expression of British nationalism for those that can’t quite stomach the Tories. It is not a future I’d like to be living in if I was a Labour person.

But it is most certainly not just Labour which is suffering from the shock of democracy. I’ve heard party managers in the Scottish Greens assure me that a three-fold increase in their membership has just made them more like themselves. It’s not true; there has been an influx of people with a Green social radical agenda but not an influx of the ‘middle class recycling set’ which also made up a part of the Green membership. So it has become more radical whether some people like it or not.

However it is the SNP which is the real democratic shock. And the early signs of how it is coping are mixed – to say the least. The SNP, post-referendum, has been protected as a totem of the Yes movement and this has meant that there has been a remarkable self-restraint in the wider movement in analysing the failures of the campaign. In reality, the SNP spent a year being dragged around behind a much more vibrant non-party campaign that did most of the groundwork. It wasn’t the SNP that changed the discourse in Scotland – in the early stages of the campaign the ‘don’t rock the boat’ message was the gospel. It was when the public responded to campaigns by RIC or Women for Indy or NHS Yes or Business for Scotland or National Collective that the SNP appeared almost forced to come in behind a campaign that was distinctly more radical and imaginative than anything it itself anticipated – or seemed to want.

The shock of democracy is hitting the SNP as much as anyone. Nicola Sturgeon has made some wise noises about become a different kind of party. In government, a much better than expected land reform bill is probably its first expression. And yet the party’s own courtiers still seem to think it wise to block popular figures from the campaign like Craig Murray because he isn’t tame and compliant in the manner expected. Indeed, the party’s more craven members took to social media to discredit Craig Murray as if the last year hadn’t happened. And if the leadership can’t understand that politics has changed it will suffer; suspending councillors for acts of protest (burning the Smith Commission report) was foolish in the extreme. They’ve just gained 60 or 70 thousand members, almost all of whom came into the party through the real and direct democracy of the referendum campaign. I doubt there is a single one of those people who thinks protest is an invalid part of politics.

The SNP is Scotland’s great hope of the moment. When democracy was measured it showed two things; a massive desire for change and a real willingness to see the SNP as the vehicle for that change. If it can channel that great reforming energy effectively it will change Scotland forever. If it behaves like it has behaved in the past and has started behaving again – well, it has nothing to lose apart from 60,000 members.

Because that’s the other shocking thing about Scotland in 2014; it turns out that leadership is not a title but an action. The SNP manager class would have lost the referendum in a dispiritingly weak manner had it not been for the leadership of others – locally by individual activists from within its own party, nationally from the many non-affiliated Yes groups, intellectually from almost anywhere but from within itself. Likewise, the voluntary sector, the trade unions, the churches and the rest may well claim that they couldn’t participate in the campaign for various reasons. Fair enough – but you can’t just give up on leading when it suits you and think you can return seamlessly to that role at a later stage.

Democracy is everywhere and nowhere until you measure it. We measured it in Scotland. No-one expected what we found.

In the warm light of amber and the harsh glare of the future

During the referendum we were told there were two possible futures for Scotland. There still are. One is a warm, comfortable place in which time is suspended as if we were trapped in amber and insulated from reality. That future sounds very much like ‘accept your defeat, make your hopes and aspirations go away and cede the future to us’. It is the future of Scotchland. It is a retirement home for the courtiers. It is the End of History for Scotland. And it is a desperate fantasy of a British unionist elite which knows it is in trouble.

The other is hard. In it the many things we Yes campaigners warned about will happen – not least awful, biting austerity, its human toll, the collapse in public life it will engender and the likely return of a Tory administration to Britain. But that harsh future seems to be galvanising those who are not British nationalists, the many people who surprised themselves by voting Yes – or who nearly did. We have captured the politics of resistance and it is us who seem best prepared to live in the future as it really is.

So this is the battle ahead, I think. Will the political court beat back the barbarians at its gates and secure its future as if nothing had happened? And remember, that court stretches beyond just unionists – there are a few in the SNP who love that world and also wish it to return. Will the narrative about Scotland – its people, its democracy – continue to be provincialised? Will New Scotchland emerge, King Jim on its throne striking down foes with the Daily Record? Will we lose our new democracy now it will only be measured in the old Westminster-style way?

Or will the new forms of political structure and the new intellectual climate in Scotland combine with the greatly-strengthened desire for change among activists to create a genuinely new Scotland, different from the Britain it inhabits.

I suspect it’ll be a long battle. But here’s the thing; just like the journalist with whom I opened this piece, reality is reality. If the SNP wins big in 2015 and again in 2016, that reality is unmissable. It is a plea for change. And as a result, one way or another, change will come.

A personal thanks

I know much of this only because I was privileged beyond anything I have ever experienced to be invited into this new Scotland by the many people who were building it. For the vast majority of the almost-250 public meetings and events I spoke at, it was local organisers who asked me to come. Every time I turned up exhausted in a town or village hall somewhere in Scotland the organisers were effusive in their thanks for my time. Those thanks were the wrong way round. They – you – could have run those meetings, this campaign just fine without me. I would have missed out on the most important experience of my life if it hadn’t been for you. It was my invitation to see a Scotland alive in its democracy that changed my life in ways I simply couldn’t have anticipated. Now that I have seen what I have seen I can never go back to believing what I once did and I can never see things the way I used to see them. I just talked – others did the work to let me. It would be insane to try and start naming them – there are so many. But if any of you do read this, please accept my deepest gratitude. You really did change my life.

That is what I think I should offer thanks for, but it is not what I feel I should offer thanks for. Because what has perhaps left an even deeper mark on me was what I have been able to feel for these last two years. You simply cannot buy the sense of camaraderie, of shared hope, of kindness and of love that I have felt over the last year. I have been moved to tears many times (and not only because of exhaustion…). No matter what happens from now, this two years you allowed me to share with you all will never leave me.

It was the greatest thing I have ever been involved with. I will never forget. Thank you.

Comments (102)

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  1. Monty says:

    I wish I could share your bleak optimism.

  2. MBC says:

    And thanks to you too Robin and blogs like Bella the wider Yes movement continues and shows no signs of dying down. You said it right when you said it was about the camaraderie and the sudden and surprising discovery of ourselves as a community of hope, a community of aspiration. A community that can imagine a different and better Scotland.

    It was the old Scots kindliness that was reborn. We found our soul again.

  3. Magic analysis Robin. If only the SNP can be brave and seize the moment. Surely they have to believe that to be radical will win the day?

  4. kencfisher says:

    Well said Robin, and well said MBC. The different and better Scotland is already here, it’s a work in progress.

    1. P Charles says:

      Beautifully xenophobic.

  5. Darien says:

    A brilliant synthesis, obviously not written by any bland career politician in a fancy suit.

    I expect we may well see the election of 30+ SNP MP’s in May 2015. But they should not prepare themselves for a tedious and pointless 5 years at the Westminster trough; they would never defeat a Tory-Labour unionist alliance there on any vote, so there is really very little point in being there.

    Just as the union began with a majority of Scots MP’s, so it should end the same way. The 30+ Scots MP’s should therefore march up to the top o’ Calton Hill and declare Scotland’s independence,. They would have the Scots people behind them, and the union ends there and then.

    But, such action would take men (and women) of courage and conviction; people like Craig Murray, and Robin. Re-gaining our nation’s independence is not for the faint hearted, or loyal party apparatchiks, Nicola.

    1. David Allan says:

      Darien , I’m with you – the talk of a second referendum to obtain international recognition diplays a faint-hearted approach. Did New Zealand or Canada or Australia or many of the other former colonies or dominions require endless referendums – I can’t understand why there appears only one route that the SNP will consider. As a devolved nation there must be other constitutional routes to Independence.

      1. Kenny says:

        I agree. At some point, the unionist vote is going to utterly collapse in Scotland. Not because they are unionist, but because they are “Westmonster”. The system is corrupt and only held together by lies, money printing and Scottish oil/whisky. A good majority of YES parties in Holyrood in 2016, coupled by an economic shock as all those derivatives and debt come home to roost (and they must), and I can very well see us either declaring UDI or just waking up one day and finding the system has collapsed anyway (de facto independence). Don’t forget 2017 is the anniversary of the Protestant revolution (1517) and the Russian revolution (1917). For now, good luck to us all in 2015 and let us all work towards being independent in our hearts and minds, deeds.

      2. There is a degree of ambiguity as to whether New Zealand, Canada or Australia actually are independent, and when exactly that (if it did) happened.

        There are many routes to Independence, or to something that approaches it. Personally this SNP member will take any of them, provided that nobody dies.

    2. ScotBrit says:

      Why are you so terrified of another referendum? It has set the precedent for constitutional future and it would be morally indefensible and a democratic travesty to pursue a policy that had been rejected by the people via any other route. Such a route ends in violence and hate. It is a sad reflection that this is what Scottish nationalism has become.

      A minority cannot rule the majority. The core definition of a tyranny and the manifestation of everything you proclaim to be against.

      An general election – baring a complete manifesto focus on independence cannot be said to be a vote for such. I would however welcome the SNP to campaign solely on independence in 2015 and 2016.

      1. Darien says:

        “I would however welcome the SNP to campaign solely on independence in 2015″

        In case you were not aware, the SNP do not have any function at Westminster other than to secure Scotland’s independence. Independence is their very purpose. Scottish Nationalists have had to live with the British Nationalist first-past-the-post system for long enough. If its good enough for them to do with Scotland as they please, its good enough for Scots to reclaim our nation. To Westminster sovereignty is all.

        As for your statement: ” A minority cannot rule the majority”, surely governing Scotland with one Tory MP is hardly democratic but Scots have meekly put up with that grotesque insult and similar for generations. “Tyranny” is what Scots live with day and daily.

        I have to agree you are right about Imperial Britain’s history of violence and hate, there is little doubt about that. I doubt they would seek to inflict such on Scotland (again).

  6. muttley79 says:

    Interesting article Robin.

  7. Bernicia says:

    ‘In quantum physics, a subatomic particle exists everywhere and nowhere at the same time but, until you measure it, it has little or no characteristic. This madness was until comparatively recently simply the conjecture of quantum physicist Niels Bohr. He said that if quantum mechanics hadn’t profoundly shocked you, you hadn’t understood it yet.’

    At the risk of being a veeeerrry annoying pedant….Aren’t you refering to Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle (both the position and velocity of a subatomic particle can never be simultaneously measured cos by doing so you change either the position or velocity. + quantum state and wave particle duality?) Hence Shrodinger’s cat..if this is the case then things unmeasured can exist in multiple states (many worlds theory – or idealsim in philosophy?) Hence Einstein getting in a huff as a materialist and saying ‘god doesn’t play dice’? And Copenhagen interp still stands and is problematic cos it doesn’t accord with space time causality and why the boffins are obsessed with a unifying theory? Not madness at all perfectly logical if mind bending!

    1. JBS says:

      You keep thinking, Bernicia, that’s what you’re good at.

    2. Bothy Basher says:

      To continue the scientific note Bernicia, just for you –

      ”Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I’m not sure about the universe.”
      ― Albert Einstein

      1. Bernicia says:

        Haha, Fair play JBS, BB. Happy Hogs!!

    3. IAB says:

      Would love someone to teach me this stuff

      1. Dr Ew says:

        If you want a primer on the philosophical implications of quantum mechanics and the Uncertainty Principle, may I suggest you seek out Michael Frayn’s astonishing play ‘Copenhagen’. It tells the (essentially true) story of head of development of the Nazis’ nuclear weapons programme Werner Heisenberg visiting his Jewish former mentor in occupied Denmark, 1941. if you can’t see the live play then I’d recommend the excellent film adaptation starring Daniel Craig as Heisenberg, Stephen Rea as Niels Bohr and Francesca Annis as Margrethe Bohr…

        …which I’ve just discovered is available to watch in full on YouTube! Follow this link here:


        And, by the way, fascinating analysis in your article, Robin.

      2. Bernicia says:

        Manjit Kumar’s book ‘Quantum’ is excellent and entertaining also as it spices up the dry science with the drama of the lives of the main protagonists in 20th physics – Schrodinger was an inveterate womaniser apparently.

  8. gonzalo1 says:

    And thanks to you, Robin, for your sterling efforts and long may you continue to inform and educate.

    1. Bothy Basher says:

      I agree. Thanks.

  9. A great read Robin.

    Maybe the SNP heartlands can learn from the independence heartlands and seek to run an inclusive campaign in 2015 that may even stand the test of time?

  10. steve davies says:


  11. Excellent article Robin – you put into word eloquently what I had struggled to properly rationalize in my own mind – that the rules were being changed and those who felt entitled to “Scotchland” as you called it weren’t happy – us serfs were meant to be apathetic and blind to the Court’s machinations, just place that X for the monkey in the red rosette and keep your mouth shut.

    No more, the moat has been crossed and the portculis jemmied a few, tantalizing inches open.

    I agree (as much as Craig Murray was perhaps misguided in believing a selection process was the time to discuss policy) – the SNP, in part due to having the weight of the most undemocratic media this side of Pyongyang against it, are rather rigid in their insistence on discipline and order – no public disagreements or chinks in the armour are allowed and, as such, they were often muted and unsure how to get behind the referendum. I’m a newly signed up member but I see them as a vehicle, a means to an end – my desires for the new Caledonia are far more radical. But we gained so much from letting – or needing – so many organisations, collectives and individuals do step up and do the campaigning, hold the demos, write the blogs.

    And that brings me to the biggest “win” for us all. The rise of the alternative media – Bella, The National, the ballsy and MSM-baiting Wings, and, a glance to the blogroll on the right shows so many, many more filled with quality writing, with evocative visions, with accurate information rarely shared by the complicit Unionist rags.

    We are not alone anymore and the media cannot silence all the radicals, the dreamers, the hope-filled, the socially just – who not only dream of a better Scotland but will not stop sharing these dreams, hopes & visions till enough people realise it is possible and within our grasp.

  12. David Houldsworth says:

    Fantastic piece of work Robin, thank you

  13. David Allan says:

    From one who listened to you intently at the public meeting in Cumnock Academy Ayrshire way back December 2013 when we all looked forward with anticipation to the campaign year ahead. I take this opportunity to congratulate you and the others involved on the material within “Common Place”- it’s inspirational .

    250 Public meeting an outstanding achievement deserves all of our appreciation. AND this fantastic contribution to end such an exhaustive year is truly remarkable .

    I agree entirely with your remarks repeated here re the SNP ” In reality, the SNP spent a year being dragged around behind a much more vibrant non-party campaign that did most of the groundwork. It wasn’t the SNP that changed the discourse in Scotland – in the early stages of the campaign the ‘don’t rock the boat’ message was the gospel. It was when the public responded to campaigns by RIC or Women for Indy or NHS Yes or Business for Scotland or National Collective that the SNP appeared almost forced to come in behind a campaign that was distinctly more radical and imaginative than anything it itself anticipated – or seemed to want.

    I also expressed surprise regarding Craig Murray, particularly the fact that he was not given the opportunity to appear in Hustings and present his case for selection. SNP members should have been given the opportunity to hear his views and make their own selection choice accordingly. The new membership would have seen that as a signal of the SNP’s recognition that they need to modernise thinking in so many areas to reflect the views of the influx of YES activists.

    I see no evidence to suggest that this is happening. The Craig Murray situation could and should have been anticipated and for me worryingly indicates that little has altered. Vetting panels could have been briefed to alter their techniques. It’s a pity the Hustings wasn’t used to give new members an much greater opportunity for participation in what could be more democratic selection process.

    Yes activists through the variety of groups they established showed the imagination and energy needed to create the mass campaign that YES became and to sustain it from the beginning.

    At the end of such an amazing year I thank them all .

    The Independence Campaign continues! Had we started 2014 in the position we are in now who knows what the victory margin would have been.

  14. punklin says:

    SNP and wider movement are two separate things. SNP has to operate as a machine within a system, albeit one it wants/has to change. But it cannot usurp it in one go. The wider movement can (and must, imho) reinvent politics.

    The vital thing is not to confuse these two and, worse, not to divide them but to get them working together.

    1. A simple, trenchant, well-made point.

    2. Absolutely. It is vitally important people realise this. While we must keep the momentum going, we must also temper it with restraint and remember that the SNP are walking a fine line. We must all do our own bit in our own way whilst letting others do theirs. It’s all for the common cause.

  15. Journalism at it’s very best …who needs thirty phone numbers when all SCOTLAND Is hanging on to every word

  16. Brian Fleming says:

    Robin, forgive me if my question displays ignorance. Despite my dearest hopes, I was unable to spend 2014 in Scotland.

    I keep reading about the new democracy in Scotland. But what IS this democracy? How is it changing people’s lives? People attending meetings and speaking out is great, as a first step. But what is happening ‘on the ground’? I want to believe Scotland has genuinely changed, but what is actually different?

    By the way, as a long-time member of the SNP, I particularly liked your comments on the party. The quietism of the ‘don’t spook the horses’ approach HAS to change. If anything is really changing in Scotland, it must in essence be a revolutionary process. It is a common feature of revolutions that the party or group that starts the process gets left behind once it’s underway and acts as a brake rather than an accelerant, trying to hold onto control. If that is now happening in Scotland, how will the Independence revolution progress from this point? I’d love to read your thoughts on this.

    1. IAB says:

      I wasn’t able to spend 2014 in Scotland and I’ve been working abroad for years due to lack of secure jobs at home. When I went back in August, I felt Scotland was back. The energy was unbelievable and the positive nature of the Yes campaign was breathtaking. My son and his apolitical friends had become (and continue to be) active, politically aware, pro-independence citizens. I even spent part of my leave canvassing and delivering newspapers. Friends are still attending meetings, being proactive (eg by collecting for food banks) and generally working within the community to encourage undecideds that a independent Scotland is possible. The GE push will start in the coming weeks. For most, the SNP is a vehicle and Salmond will work behind the scenes to push their (and our) agenda. Once the deed is done, the SNP will splinter and Scottish politics will reshape itself again. Things are moving.

  17. Kenny says:

    Have yourself a wonderful New Year, Robin, you are a credit to our nation. Thank you for all your hard work and passion in 2014.

  18. Dan Huil says:

    Excellent article. Thank God for sites like Bella, WOS and others. Will 2015 see the unionist media finally getting its comeuppance? Here’s hoping.

  19. As someone who spent the frst 40 years of her life in England and the most recent 15 in Scotland, I regret that “English-born voters voted three to one against” although I’m proud to be one of the quarter who voted Yes all the way. I’m also proud of the fact that there has been no anti-immigrant campaign, because I know that if the boot was on the other foot and English issues which had popular support locally were being negatively impacted by a Scots vote, the haters would be out in force. Thank you for a brilliant article.

    1. Bothy Basher says:

      Thank you Clare – you’re welcome here.

    2. IAB says:

      You can be lucky enough to be born Scottish or you can become Scottish – we’re all Jock Tamson’s bairns

  20. Big jock says:

    I think your comment about Scots born voters voting yes is interesting. It explains the surge in SNP membership after a no vote. The fact that our English neighbours voted no despite calling Scotland home. Speaks volumes for the insecurity of their identity. I suspect the Poles and Asian Scots voted yes in the majority. For many English in Scotland and JK Rowling is one. They feel secure keeping Scotland in Britain. It means they don’t have to accept that the Scots are a different nationality and in some respects it means they own us. This could be a real problem for us in the next referendum. Unionist English people not accepting Scotland as a nation is holding our nation back!

    1. Bothy Basher says:

      ” Unionist English people not accepting Scotland as a nation is holding our nation back”

      Bollocks Jock. Don’t blame others for the result. That’s a form of discrimination which in Scotland we reject and have risen above. We are not UKIP, nor BNP. The English folk here are welcome as I was (mostly) in England.

      Stop it.

      1. ELAINE FRASER says:

        I couldn’t agree with you more Bothy Basher. Blaming certain sections of society for our ills just isn’t on is it?

    2. IAB says:

      I actually spend part of my time with the English for Yes campaign and found them to be informed and positive. We could equally make the same remarks about the older group (of which I’m a member) as they were No voters. Education, clear policies (eg on currency), accurate reporting and positive examples of social action are what will change things, not going down the anti-immigration road being taken by England at present.

      1. IAB says:

        Sorry – spent

  21. stephen p says:

    I would point out to all those that are referencing revolutions and colonies becoming independant that there is a fundemental difference. The majority wanted it. Not so in Scotland

    1. Darien says:

      One could argue that a majority of Scots probably did vote Yes last September.

      Scotland is not a colony; rather, Scotland is one of two principal component parts of the UK state, as per the 1707 Act of Union. However, Scotland is treated much like a colony, an example being the ‘gift’ of a devolved parliament.

      1. Kenny says:

        “One could argue that a majority of Scots probably did vote Yes last September.”

        Eh? The result says otherwise, unless you want to go down the ethnic nationalism route and narrowly redefine your definition of ‘Scots’.

    2. alharron says:

      Most revolutions don’t start off with the majority wanting independence: a minority grows, until it becomes a majority. Indians were fighting for independence since 1857, but they didn’t gain it until 90 years later. Irish nationalism was going for a century before the revolution. Even peaceful revolutions like Canada and Australia took place over decades.

  22. Karen says:

    An excellent article and a well made point about the SNP. I and many other yes voters turned to and joined the SNP after the referendum as they were and are still perceived as the only formal political vehicle that can drive the yes agenda forward whilst extracting the maximum benefit for Scotland from the Smith Commission recommendations. The SNP is currently benefiting from the confidence and support of thousands of Scots who are perhaps more politically radical than the pre referendum SNP. Whilst I understand that the SNP do not want to alienate the don’t know/no voters and the objective is to win them over and achieve a decisive yes vote next time round, the party has to be very careful not to alienate the thousands who have already gotten behind them since September. Since the referendum it has often been repeated that the Unionists wanted to put Scotland back in its box and return to business as usual. As a nation we are refusing to do so. However, this also applies to the SNP. I have a vague unease that the party is now trying to reassert pre-referendum ideology on the new membership and I do not think this will work in the long term. The SNP are on a trial run. If the party tries to put the new members back in a ‘pre-referendum box’ and fails to integrate and manage the aspirations and energy of the new membership, they will simply lose the support. The Yes movement is here to stay and it is a massive movement. The SNP should ignore and alienate this movement at its peril. It is not out of the question that a new party could emerge, in due course, from this movement, to challenge the SNP if it fails to live up to the expectations of its new members. The SNP will never have a better opportunity to seize the political moment and deliver the changes that Scotland now clearly wants. Many who voted no have regretted their decision and would vote differently now. Now is not the time to be politically coy. To survive, the SNP must evolve or, as Labour in Scotland has, die. If it can happen to SLab it could happen to the SNP. Time will tell.

    1. Darien says:

      “Now is not the time to be politically coy”

      I agree. Especially now the unionist establishment is on the run. They only survived the initial battle through deceit and fear. We have to remember that they despise what we are about. There is no respect for us – we are hated. That begs the question – why cooperate with them on anything? That includes SNP MP’s gracing the Westminster chamber with their presence, now or in future, only to be insulted and ridiculed. Our Holyrood Ministers barely talk to them, and seldom even get proper replies to letters. So there is no respect for us. Their only aim is to undermine an SNP-led Scotland at every opportunity. This suggests Scotland’s government should already have an explicit policy of non or limited cooperation with Westminster. Why is that not the case? Unionists are obviously not to be trusted. The Yes campaign has an early opportunity to deliver another and perhaps final blow in May. SNP candidates should use that opportunity as a mandate to deliver independence, which is after all the party’s purpose. Forget about any idea of a Labour-SNP alliance – that is pie in the sky and would deliver little even if it was a goer. No need to be coy Nicola – two million + Scots are right behind you. Go for the mandate at every opportunity.

      1. Mick d says:

        Good points darien, agree 100%.

  23. bowanarrow says:

    I said it before, If I don’t get what I want I am going to scream and scream and scream. I may even hold my breath until I turn blue. Mind you, I can not think of any way that that type of behavior will achieve the end we in Scotland are looking for. We are in a game of brinkmanship with westminster and this is no time to be demonstrating a disunited front. If I were a no voter, which I am not, and I was reading these statements from some people on here, I would be clapping my hands in joy to see this. The SNP have been trying to achieve independence for Scotland for a long time, A LONG TIME, and to hear some of our “new” members saying that, “its this way or the highway” is rather self serving of them. The SNP are trying to achieve something that has never been done in any dealings within the british empire, and that is to get rid of westminster control with no bloodshed or segregation (by colour or religion). We are very near to doing something I personally did not think was possible, INDEPENDENCE and it is so close. It will just take a little more time and COOPERATION. Is that so much to ask? TIME! Which the SNP have invested a lot off and they are going to do what is needed and NOT sell out THEIR, our OUR principles, to achieve ALL our goals.

    1. Darien says:

      The Scottish people are the road to our nation’s independence. The SNP is merely the political vehicle we have selected to achieve that purpose. Speed of the vehicle is important, as is direction. Reverse gear or pointless cruising needs to be avoided. The vehicle must be pushed hard to reach its final destination. Otherwise it might sit comfortably in the slow lane where political time-servers dawdle.

  24. Alastair McIntosh says:

    What a beautifully written and powerful piece. It was the analysis of court powdering and fainting that got me. There speaks the Scots generalist intellect, the product of a broadly-based education that’s able to make metaphoric connections and produce a bardic politics; thus as Hamish Henderson said, double meaning intended: “poetry becomes a people.”

    1. 1314 says:

      Och, goan yirsel Alistair – but a ‘generalist intellect’ wuid sharely hiv includit the recuperative powers o’ smellin’ sauts.

  25. Brilliant article, Robin.

    Thanks for the effort you put into showing us a different and more inclusive way in which to think.

    I hope the SNP can harness the energy and thinking of the wider Yes movement so that we can remain a single entity in fighting for our independence. The last thing we need is to turn in on ourselves and fracture. We must remain together in order to defeat the Unionists. Fingers crossed we can do this.

  26. joseph O Luain says:

    Great work, Robin. Perhaps too much energy was expended on the SNP, though. I’m with punklin (above). The SNP is a bourgeois party operating in a bourgeois polity, it is therefore difficult to see how else that party might conduct itself.
    That, at any rate, is my understanding of punklin’s point.

  27. ‘Together we stand ,divided we fall’ so the saying goes.
    That the YES tribe are together is a given as it stands and I’m sure that discussing how we mean to go on together is one area that all interested parties will bring out for debate.
    Not healthy to have unquestioning obedience to one party’s directives or objectives,but it has to be said that the SNP are that party and at this moment in time I have every confidence that the correct balance and way forward will be achieved mutually.
    Anyways folks ,things sure look a lot better than they did on the morning of the 19th and the words of Robin McAlpine are always music to my ears.
    This testament being as refreshingly heartfelt ,thought provoking and topical as usual.
    All the best to you Robin for the New Year
    And as for everyone here at Bellacaledonia
    Thanks for being there
    Keep up the good work.

    So to all Have a Happy New Year!!!!!!

  28. fionamacinnes says:

    RE the Craig Murray issue – it is discomforting but I think we need to be clear that the battle that the SNP has to fight – as the only party that can bring that fight to Westminster is a battle on the old ground under the old rules (FPTP) which is why they will need such tight control. Of course Craig Murray and others like him are hugely valuable – but as lobby fodder in London I dont think so. The pluralist and unbuttoned politics that is busting out within Scotland is for the Scotland that we want to shape when we get the opportunity to do so. It can happen now within our own context and it does not have to be held in abeyance, but Westminster is no place for truth! The diverse voices must keep their dialogue up and stay alive but we need to recognise the 2 very different political contexts that exist and not turn in on the one vehicle that can deliver the common aim we all seek. The SNP machine is the vehicle for the moment, meanwhile keep stirring the pot!

    Thankyou Robin – we are waiting for you in Orkney!

    1. Monty says:

      Not surprised that the SNP did not want him as a candidate. I can’t see it working out well in the long or medium term for the party. He has his own agenda and independence and now the SNP were a good way to pursue this. It was likely to result in a falling out sooner or later after which he would blast away at the party. If selected as a candidate his blog would also give no end of intemperate remarks that the press would bring up to him and the party during the campaign. He has stood as an independent before and I suspect this is where his future lies.

      1. Darien says:

        “I can’t see it working out well in the long or medium term for the party”

        Scotland has no use for SNP time-server MP’s to sit comfortably and achieve nothing at Westminster over “the long or medium term”. The 2015GE is an opportunity for a Scots majority of 30+ SNP MP’s to deliver more or less immediately what they believe in, and what they are standing for – an independent Scotland. That is how the union was enacted and that is how it should be ended.

  29. Brian Powell says:

    Through the Referendum I redefined the ‘contribution’, of the press(majority of it), the BBC and Labour, to the democratic process as similar to so much wank as compared to actually having children.
    There are a certain amount of actions involved in the process which are similar but ultimately nothing productive comes of the former, just self-gratification.
    Neither the MSM nor Labour staked a place of honour or positivity in the constitutional future of Scotland.

  30. Juteman says:

    Fantastic article, Robin.
    The hostile media was a major factor in the first defeat. I hope the ‘National’ becomes more radical. Another Morningside newspaper with a Scotchland slant simply isn’t good enough.

  31. Steve says:

    NB the votes of non-Scots did not actually win it for No. Had non-Scots been barred from voting, the votes of Scots were still actually No. However, exclude the votes of pensioners and it’s a narrow Yes. I think the reality is that of vested interests of many ordinary people. The SG needs to consider how we develop economically away from the current path dependency. Our renewables, financial services and much of our engineering sector has developed in a British Government context and it takes vision to seek alternatives. Does Smith give us the powers to seek out better opportunities? Many No voters will feel vindicated by the oil price, but I hope they will feel some sadness and shame as they proclaim their Scottishness at the bells tonight.

  32. Great article, Robin. As with a few others, I disagree with the Craig Murray point, though. His contention was that he’d been disbarred because of his answer to one specific question, which was always a pretty ridiculous proposition, and subsequent accounts of the vetting process from others – both successful and unsuccessful candidates – have since filled in the blanks to give a far more realistic picture, suggesting that he wasn’t simply a victim of his refusal to lie about whether he’d vote for the bedroom tax. Unfortunately, his behaviour since has pretty much validated the decision of the vetting panel. I would say one of the things to take from the campaign is that our arguments can’t be reliant on the individuals who present them, no matter how passionate they are or how many YouTube hits they get.

    But that’s nit-picking. Overall, a great article, especially the stuff about measuring democracy. If nothing else, the referendum has shown beyond a shadow of a doubt that those of us who want independence are not just a tiny wee minority of heidbangers. Independence is now a mainstream idea, one even the unionist press has been forced to accept, because every single one of their anti-independence articles has tacitly acknowledged it is an idea worthy of public discussion. Never again will people have to shy away from admitting they favour independence for fear of being ridiculed by peers, and that’s perhaps the single biggest step towards making it a reality. From now on, discussions will be about what independence could look like, rather than having to defend the very proposition itself. Things that people perhaps kept schtum about during the campaign can now be properly explored in preparation for next time.

    And as for your 250 public meetings, can I just say that getting my picture taken with you after you spoke in Aberdeen was a highlight of the campaign! Let’s hope at least some of the things you spoke about at those meetings can come to fruition – they can only help us move towards independence.

    1. Darien says:

      Aye, we might contrast the visionary, experienced and highly talented orator Murray with his ‘executioner’ Hudghton, the latter an obscure party apparatchik who has spent the last 15+ years at the Brussels trough achieving precisely zip.

      Independence will never be delivered by political time-servers, comfortably set in well-paid posts, slowly becoming part of the court furniture. As Robin notes, independence will be ‘hard’.

      However, I am sure Robin is overwhelmed with your adoring statement that: “getting my picture taken with you after you spoke in Aberdeen was a highlight of the campaign”.

      1. Doug Daniel says:

        Oh come on. Murray’s done some important work highlighting the criminal behaviour of the British state, but there’s more to being an MP than being able to make a passionate speech. He was always a potential liability, and if that wasn’t obvious before, then his behaviour since has proven it.

        By the way, any chance of being able to read a Bella article in 2015 without you calling for UDI in the comments…?

  33. Simon Brooke says:

    Robin, what makes you say the Land Reform Act is ‘better than expected’? It’s almost unbelievably feeble, and merely provides a screen for the bastions of privilege to cower behind.

    1. There is no “Land Reform Act” yet. The Scottish Government has only got as far as announcing plans for a Land Reform Bill. It would be sensible to wait to see what is in the Bill before deciding whether or not it is “feeble”. If it addresses the recommendations of the Land Reform Review Group effectively, it will be a worthwhile piece of legislation.

      Happy New Year!

      1. Simon Brooke says:

        That’s disingenuous. We already know what will be in the bill. An extension of the community right to buy to include ‘abandoned’ land. An aspiration – without teeth – to increase the amount of community owned land from 2.6% of Scotland to 5.1%;.And, separately – in a separate bill – a proposal that all children inherit, which, given that the average number of children a Scots couple has is less than two and the propensity of the landed class to marry into the landed class, is unlikely to lead to any significant dilution of land ownership over the long term at all.

        To call this ‘feeble’ is generous. It is more or less nothing – unless you know where in Scotland you can find any significant amount of ‘abandoned’ land. The isle of Gruinard, perhaps?

      2. muttley79 says:

        Andy Wightman has been studying and writing about the ownership of land in Scotland and for decades, and he thinks the proposals could be significant. Other land campaigners have also welcomed them.

    2. Steve Arnott says:

      I would like it to go further – but then it’s not just private land ownership that bothers me. The fact that public transport, energy, finance and construction are overwhelmingly in private hands is just as much an issue. Any Scottish Government however, will be limited in what it can do as long as it is not truly sovereign. The democratic argument for independence is the argument for the meaningful powers to adequately address all forms of injustice in our society. It is unlikely, in my view, that the SNP alone will be the vehicle that can make those necessary changes, even once those ppowers are secured.

      But hey, Nicola…prove me wrong.

  34. MacBee says:

    Glad you called out the green dilemma Robin and I hope a senior Scottish green picks up on it before the green surge becomes a green exodus out of frustration

  35. Roboscot says:

    A self-regarding article lacking self-criticism but criticism of the SNP aplenty. Here’s one point. How many people did people like McCormick alienate with the idea that an independent Scotland would be a left-wing dystopia where the hard-working wealth creators would be heavily taxed (before leaving the country) in order to pay for layabouts to live on the dole just like in the ‘good old days’. I’ve been a member of the SNP for 36 years but the rise of the loony left on the Yes side had me doubting the virtues of constitutional independence for Scotland for the first time in my adult life.

    1. Darien says:

      I think you need to read the article again. If you truly believed in the Scottish nation you would take anything the Scots people decide on after independence is won.

      As for “I’ve been a member of the SNP for 36 years” – what do you want, a chocolate watch?

    2. Steve Arnott says:

      The idea that some Californian rich kid with share options, or a Tory stockbroker in the City of London, or Brian ‘got in quick when Thatcher privatised the buses’ Soutar are ‘wealth creators’; but that those that toil in the Chinese sweat factories, or work in a supermarket on zero hours contracts, or drive the bus, or who are ‘layabouts who live on the dole’ – currently donating between a fifth and a third of their income to the electricity company shareholders this winter to stay warm, BTW – are not ‘wealth creators’ seems to me a sort of voluntary economic blindness.

      Take away the welfare state, and the incomes of those who depend on it, together with their tax and spending contribution and the Scottish, UK and world economies would nosedive. The struggle for both independence and a socially just Scotland is unlikely to be won from the kind of nonsense right wing views ‘Roboscot’ expresses above.

  36. DaveyM says:

    Robin’s insight is one of the most refreshing things about the process towards and beyond the referendum. Thank you, Robin.

  37. Jonathan Wills says:

    This story about the British nationalist journalist rings a bell: during the campaign a man from the Guardian asked to interview me as a local councillor – and then spent about half an hour attempting to assassinate the character of Alex Salmond. I was reminded of the advice I received from my first editor: “If yer lugs wir as big as yer mooth, ye might mak a reporter.”

    1. dave oh what says:

      Gosh – interesting point JW…. with utter respect for many ZE freens, I have wondered recently how the majority Union stance wid change if London decided northern isle sites might be ……. a ‘suitable’ Trident location option?

    2. muttley79 says:

      Wasn’t Severin Carroll was it?

  38. shego says:

    The standard long boring waffle from bella

  39. callmecathy says:

    Pretty sad 3/4 of us English Scots (or whatever we’re calling ourselves) voted No. Definite issues there I can’t even articulate yet. Makes me think about what the Yes campaign could have done to better reach out. there.

  40. Grasshopper says:

    Robin, thank you for changing my life; without doubt one of the major heroes of the campaign. Long live Common Weal.

  41. Ken Waldron says:

    A refreshing article that chimes with the times: thanks Robin!

  42. Will McEwan says:

    I am surprised at how many people find it impossible to express any opinion on the referendum campaign without attacking the SNP. There is a growing myth that the SNP was some sort of inanimate bystander as much cleverer people took over the campaign
    The actuality is that the SNP welcomed with open arms a huge range of activists with a huge range of different views into a campaign which was the child of the SNP. It was the SNP that set up and funded a YES campaign and manned it with a collection of non SNP notables – which then proved less than fit for purpose and many of us at the sharp end out on the streets rather wished the SNP has just remained in charge. All across Scotland it was basically the local SNP that put up premises and stood back and welcomed everybody in and which organised meetings featuring a huge diversity of speakers.
    There is no possibility of political progress without disciplined and coherent political activity. That is the fact. But it was always thus. I have watched all my life in organisations which toil for years and then when they get stuff right they are suddenly the destination of much cleverer people who lose no time in telling them how they should be doing things better. These are the same people who disembark again when things get less rosy. I really have no idea why Robin had to detour from the otherwise excellent thrust of this article to have a go at the SNP and I have no idea what purpose this is expected to serve.
    I have been 55 years in the SNP and I have never imagined it to be perfect at any point of those years.
    But the reason we are here today is the SNP. Fact
    I haven’t heard anyone in the SNP having a go at Robin McAlpine

    1. Taranaich says:

      And I’d dare say that was the best possible outcome. Think about how vilified the SNP are in the press, and how every organisation – even the likes of Labour for Indy, the SSP, and so forth – were accused of being “SNP fronts.” Not only was it good that non-party-political campaigns took the lead, and the SNP took the back seat – I think it was critical.

      Could we have gained independence if the SNP chose to do the opposite, to lead and let RIC and WFI or BFS follow? Could we even have gained 45% of the vote from the 25-30% we started with? I guess we’ll never know, but I think (hope?) the SNP realised early on that while they represent the political arm of the independence movement, only the people could have taken it as far as they did.

      If there was a failing, it was we started far too late. Two years to counter centuries of the cringe, of institutionalised cultural and political suppression, and Westminster’s machinations was just not enough time to turn things around. We saw by virtue of cutting the unionist’s 30 point gap to a 10 point gap that the campaign was working – it just didn’t close in time. But if the campaign has shown me anything, it’s that the journey from No to Yes is a one-way street.

    2. Darien says:

      “the reason we are here today is the SNP. Fact”.

      No, the reason we are here today is a large and rising proportion of the Scottish people have had enough of the status quo. Politicians and political parties are regarded as dubious and untrustworthy. As Robin implies even the SNP time-server political class can become comfortable with the status quo and take their foot off the gas. That is why they will exclude people like Craig Murray, because such people would up the ante, and disrupt existing cosy unionist-driven court arrangements. The people are not daft and most are no longer interested in what the BBC and MSM say and spin. The SNP may be the political vehicle but it will be the Scottish people who deliver independence, should they so desire, and however and when they desire.

      As for “I have been 55 years in the SNP”. What do you want, a chocolate watch? You might as well say you have been fighting for independence for over half a century but thus far failed to deliver. Why not tell the 30+ SNP MP’s elected next May (a Scots majority) to declare independence, which is what they supposedly stand for? That would up the ante. Or will they instead meekly join the Westminster court for 5 years at the unionist trough?

  43. Taranaich says:

    Great piece. I love “Scotchland,” but even that name is too dignified for the sorry creation of the No campaign – the “land” appelation suggests an autonomy and nationhood that they surely don’t believe in. “Scotlandshire” is far closer to the regional, minor status they clearly believe in, in practise if not in rhetoric.

    “It was like one giant role-playing adventure game where they got to write their own history, create their own characters and enact their every fantasy.”

    And the campaign is still going on. No didn’t win because it lied and manipulated and had the backing of the entire British establishment, it “won the economic argument.” Alex Salmond isn’t going to Westminster to continue the fight for independence, it’s because “he couldn’t let go of the limelight, and was happy to abandon his constituents for a better job.” The question of Scottish Independence isn’t still ongoing, it’s “settled for a generation.” The referendum wasn’t a surprisingly close result, it was “a resounding and comprehensive victory for the union.” The campaign wasn’t an amazing democratic achievement in engagement and illumination, it was “pointless and damaging division inflicted on a previously happy and contented nation.”

    “Remember, Scots-born voters voted Yes. Without ‘English immigration’ Scotland would now be independent (English-born voters voted three to one against).”

    Well let’s be fair, that’d also be the case if the over-55s didn’t vote, or if women didn’t vote, or the middle & upper class. That a quarter of English-born voters voted Yes despite the desperate attempts to apply ethnic nationalism to the independence movement is a cause for celebration and appreciation to those English Scots for Yes to me.

    The thing is, that 45/55 dynamic will not be static. It WILL change. The question is, how long will it be before that dynamic is inverted? The Unionists would say a generation at least, but given the independence movement cut a 30 point lead to a 10 point lead within two years (combined with the vast majority of pensioners being pro-union) suggests it’s going to be a lot sooner than that. Can the unionists honestly, genuinely defend the idea that even if 55% or more of people support independence in, say, 2019, then they cannot be allowed to pursue it, simply because they “had their chance” in 2014?

    The “once in a generation” argument only holds water if the unionists still hold the majority in Scotland. 55% is not a majority that’s going to last when it was 65-75% this time two years ago.

  44. Norrie Hunter says:

    Robin you inspired me and so many others with your bite size analysis of economics which i took to the streets.
    As for the SNP i will be voting for them in the GE but only because i detest Labour more.

  45. Airconditioned says:

    Beautifully written analysis, a real inspirational read. Keep up the good work!

  46. Steve Arnott says:

    A superb article by Robin McAlpine, an illuminatory shaft of light that descibes EXACTLY how thousands of us feel.

  47. Highland girl says:

    Thanks Robin for all your work and ideas. Hugh MacDiarmid once said that his work was like a volcano -out comes the ash , the smoke and loads of rubbish but amongst it all are the real gems! Without throwing out loads of ideas we never reach the gems. So great discussion going on here and over many New Year Days dinner tables. Lets hear it all and out of it will come the way forward.
    At the moment the people of Scotland are placing their faith in the SNP, the SNP need to embrace debate about how they create a new party of involvement and discussion. But those who presently hold power over the Standing orders and agenda committee amongst others will need to change or else lose the opportunity of our generation.
    A Scottish Civic Forum linked to the Scottish Government could be a body to work for the Government on how to involve people and start the process of working towards creating a participatory democracy here in Scotland -not led by individual MPs, MSPs etc. We are all the leaders, each one of us who is active in our own community. Thats how the referendum campaign worked at its best – when all of us took responsibility for it. Lets continue in that spirit.

  48. Will McEwan says:

    Much enjoying the insighful and sophisticated contributions from Darien. There is nothing more enjoyable than reading bollocks delivered with such confidence.
    As I said an excellent piece from Robin which would have been improved without a couple of completely unnecessary little swipes at the SNP. Lots of people came in strongly to the battle on horses supplied by the SNP and the reason we are here today is the SNP.

    1. David Allan says:

      My own experience , the lots of SNP people who came in strongly, left their charge almost to the last minute, had they been as actively involved at the outset of the campaign then perhaps the eventual outcome would have been more favourable. Many SNP members expressed annoyance at the posssibiity of having to be “subsumed” into the YES Campaign.
      The SNP leadership failed to provide early direction and that was an massive tactical mistake!

  49. Darien says:

    Rather a contradiction that – (bollocks = insight + sophistication). Maybe you should be a politician, or a SPAD.

    So answer the question: What is to stop a majority 30+ SNP MP’s declaring independence in May? Is that not the way the union began, and should it not end the same way? Is independence not the primary aim of SNP MP’s? And if these SNP MP’s decide to reject that mandate for independence and instead take the unionist shilling, what do you think they will achieve in their 5 years at Westminster where the odds are stacked against them – 30+ against 500+ ? Smith’s devo-nano is all that is on offer there, if that.

    Delivering any nation’s independence inevitably takes some bottle. It will be ‘hard’, and not given easily as we have seen (and unseen) with the unionist dirty tricks during the ref. As Robin suggests, we already have ‘nationalists’ at Westminster and Holyrood (and Brussels) who seem content to be career time-servers within the unionist court. Even after 7 years of SNP Gov at Holyrood, many of the ‘public’ institutions within establishment Scotland remain unionist/elite led – they have largely been left untouched. That shows a lack of bottle or willingness to engage (the ‘gatekeepers’ within), and rather an appetite to integrate the new political ‘leadership’ within the unionist court.

    Perhaps Robin’s intellectual contribution is beyond mere party apparatchiks?

    1. I would rather take a little longer and have nobody die.

      1. Darien says:

        A worthy and PC aspiration few would disagree with, like motherhood and apple pie. However, the reality is that Scots folk are already dying / dying earlier than they should be, and in their thousands, due to unionist policies, especially welfare, energy and economic policies. And this is no recent phenomenon. How many Scots have died because of unionist policies, over the generations?

  50. Just Give me Some truth, not waffle says:

    Watch out for the inverted self-selecting middle class tartan saviours of the pseudo-intellectual Scottish radical ‘court’ who demand all the money they can get their hands on from us the public to save the poor working class suffering from austerity and then squander it on their own airy-fairy schemes, when it should be going to food banks to feed people who are starving. £20k a month demanded! or was it more? not even a blush!

    I have no respect left for anyone who yells give us all your money for our wonderful ideas on how to save the poor when so many of them are starving to death and freezing in squalid rooms and the tartan saviour is really about self elevation and self preservation! Only the self obsessed middle classes could produce ‘leading lights’ who crave attention so much and who must be crooned over and lauded because they want to tell us all they have all the answers or need all our money so they can come up with all the answers to save us. Why use 50 words when you can indulge in 5000. Terrific piece. Of waffle.

    1. rosestrang says:

      Foodbanks are a sticking plaster created in response to callous policies regarding poverty and inequality. We need foodbanks now yes, but you can’t dismiss political strategists and organisations who seek to change politics. What worries me most about the fact of foodbanks is that their existence reflects some sort of Cameron vision of a ‘big society’, or in other words: ‘sorry plebs, your issues aren’t of interest to the wealthy elite so you’d better help each other since we’re not going to’. We should not have to rely on charity for basic survival when there is enough money for everyone to eat.

  51. Alex Wright says:

    A brilliant piece of waffle, as is your critique J G m S t, n w. However,there is more progressive enlightenment in the longer post. My hope is that you can curtail the bitterness which oozes out of your diatribe, and the obvious compassion you have for the less fortunate of our people can be channeled into liberating our country, therefore really making a difference.

    Robin, once again you have opened my eyes and my mind. Thank you.

  52. Just Give me Some truth, not waffle says:

    Alex, I have been around in politics far too long not to spot the middle class types who while they genuinely care about progressive change, cast themselves far too quickly as the crystal ball gazing expert we all must listen to and throw our money at to have the privilege of their ideas. You dont seem to get this do you? Robin has went over the top so often with rambling waffle (some of good ideas and other bits the ideas of others) that all the radical ideas must come from Commonweal and from his grey matter that all we need to do is throw money at him and wait for the answers to all our ills. I dont need tartan saviours from the suburbs. I dont mind radical original thinkers from the suburbs who listen to others but I resent self promoting oracles. Maybe he does not mean to put across this image but ranting at people at a meeting in Glasgow that he needed their money and needed it now was embarrassing to hear.

    Sometimes the man who kicked the Jimmy reid Foundation into touch (and never ever quoted the great radical himself – does that not say something?) is a bit like Neil Kinnock when it comes to historical analyses – weak and waffle. yes, some criticism of the SNP he has made is valid. Successful parties always attract careerists and the seeds of potential collapse are already there within the party to see. Success is all down to who you crawl to and what ego you placate in Edinburgh. So I agree with some of his views. But I wont be waiting around for the all the answers from any oracle. Sometimes the ego blinds the content even if it does not hide the genuine compassion some commentators feel. You might know of the syndrome among some socialists that some are more equal than others? I read his piece just after the Ref result and while it showed some insights, it was mostly wasted letters on the page. He really could do with sitting down with a team and thinking critically through the analyses he makes, sharpening up points and going from diagnosis to prognosis with a bit more calibration. A more focused team, together approach would be far more positive. I for one will will plough my efforts into real change now by helping to feed people at food banks and will THINK FOR MYSELF. Prof Michael Hudson or Chomsky say more in three sentences than Robin says in twenty pages. There are as Brian McNeil says in his song, No Gods and Precious Few heroes…………I do my thinking myself. I dont need tablets of stone from a think tank. Nor do I need followers either as others do or crave so much. .

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