2007 - 2021

Is Scotland Sacred?

scotlands-rorschach By @Jonathan_Rowson

Dad, is Scotland Sacred?

Don’t be ridiculous, son. Scotland’s not even sovereign.

So what’s all this stuff I’ve been hearing about the importance of standing up for Scotland in this election? The need to make Scotland’s voice heard in London? And I don’t just mean the SNP. Labour are at it too: Jim Murphy, of the Scottish Labour Party, for Scotland, in Scotland! It sometimes sounds like Scotland is all that matters.

Well it’s our country, isn’t it?

Right, so we keep saying, but why should a country matter so much; why does it count in a way a city or a region doesn’t?

Being a country just means more; and meaning is political currency. There are hundreds of thousands of cities and regions, but there are only 200 or so countries in the world, and we’re one of them – it’s a status claim I guess, but a valid one.

Sounds like Nationalism to me. England, Wales and Northern Ireland are also countries – meaningful things too – and we’re not standing up for them, are we? Not to mention the UK – that should be a delicious cocktail of meaningfulness, no? What’s so special about us? Isn’t it a bit parochial? What about solidarity with people like us who just don’t happen to be Scottish?

Nationalism is not a four letter word. Nor is capitalism, for that matter, but you’ll find you need something resembling nationalism to resist the incursions of global capital. There is a social and cultural and civic fabric built into the idea of nationhood that helps you know what to protect, which makes all the difference between living in a society with a market, and living in a market society. Mass privatisation and austerity means the UK’s centre of gravity is now the latter, and for many the idea of Scotland is the only game in town to bring back the former. And caring about Scotland doesn’t mean you stop caring about anybody else you know? At a human level, we all remain equally important…A man’s

Oh please, spare me the Burns…

But politically, other countries are not extensions of us in the way Scotland is. Have you heard the expression: “You have to be somebody before you can be nobody?”

Oh for God’s sake, now you’re getting mystical.

Well anyway it’s a bit like that. If you can identify with one part of the world with confidence, and feel you have a stake in that place, it’s easier to contribute meaningfully elsewhere. It’s a place to stand.

But I already have a place to stand. It’s called values, policies, allies, plans – that’s plenty!

And where do those things stand? Look closely enough at things that appear to be universal and you’ll find they need to stand in a place; and moreover the cultural conditions of that place have to be right before they’ll stick.

And that’s Scotland now, because the UK has somehow failed? Scotland is the new default touchstone, the thing we trust in? And that’s why we’re all going mad for the SNP?

Yes, sort of. The power of the Yes campaign was the rediscovery of the connection between politics and culture. For the same reason, in terms of its political institutions and priorities, lots of people don’t identify with the UK in the way they used to; they don’t see themselves as part of it emotionally or existentially. The idea of 4 nations working together feels increasingly chimerical, more an aspiration or memory than a reality; a worthy but outdated idea. Scotland is easier to invest your hopes in, even if you have to throw in your lot with people you wouldn’t otherwise agree with.

But didn’t we reject precisely that idea? We talked about this stuff for months on end and decided it wasn’t for us?

True, but that’s only part of the story. Guardian Commentator, Suzanne Moore, put it rather well: “There is a refusal to understand that an organic social movement does not fall apart once it feels its own power.”

Nice. So in the process of seeking constitutional power, the yes campaign generated cultural power that now seeks political expression?

Well said. It’s a kind of political physics; a conservation and transformation of energy. For some, the referendum was protracted argument followed by a decisive vote, but for many it was a life transforming experience. Lesley Riddoch, for instance, called it ‘the best year of my life’, and she wasn’t alone.

OK, but yesterday I read a piece by Alex Massie that freaked me out. He says the SNP is like the new religion, effectively replacing the Church of Scotland. And you have to admit, with over 100,000 members and the SNP likely to win virtually all the Scottish seats it’s getting a wee bit creepy, no? When Nicola Sturgeon was given a standing ovation by 12,000 people at the Hydro Arena part of me was glad for the positive vibe, but it did have a bit of a mega church feel to it. I just felt somehow safer with the diversity of the yes campaign.

Well, Massie is on to something, but it’s not ultimately about religion at all. It’s about the fundamental human need for touchstones, without which we struggle to make sense of our lives, alone and together. The idea of Scotland has become a capacious and pliable holding pattern from a myriad of hopes and dreams, and the SNP are the main institutional vehicle for that.

So you’re telling me Scotland matters because it’s a source of meaning, identity, and belonging? It’s about knowing who you are in a geopolitical home that is big enough to be fascinating and small enough to feel familiar. It helps shape our shared sense of moral boundaries. And from that place, our sense of what matters flows, and political norms and policies follow?

Yes, that’s about it.

So then the idea of Scotland really has transformative power, and that may be why it’s so willfully misrepresented? And it’s because of our broader cultural appreciation for what politics could be that we’re not too fussed when the oil price drops – even if seriously undermines SNP economic policy? People say we’ve lost our economic heads, but it’s more like we’ve rediscovered our political souls?


So back to my first question Dad. Is Scotland Sacred?

Comments (94)

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  1. S.G says:

    amazing piece! Well done 🙂

  2. Yorkshire is known as ‘God’s own country’ – I don’t think Yorkshire people take this in a literal, theological sense. They just think it’s a very nice place, which it is. So I wouldn’t get too hung up about Scotland being ‘sacred’. It’s a nice place too. Here’s to a federation of generally nice regions and nations in a democratic Britain

    1. Hey plater says:

      ”Yorkshire is known as ‘God’s own country’ – I don’t think Yorkshire people take this in a literal, theological sense. ”….I wouldn’t be so sure.

      The article doesn’t see Scotland as sacred; viz. ”Don’t be ridiculous, son. ”.

      You say Scotland is just like Yorkshire – ”a nice place”. Scotlandshire is not an attractive notion.

      You might remember in your rather nice view of’ a democratic Britain’ that there is a democratic deficit in the UK and Scotland is making its own response to that.

      Join us and forget ”old maids cycling to the village church on Sundays”.

      1. Frederick Robinson says:

        Haggis an’ shortbread an’ tossin’ ra caber instead? Or Jimmy Shand? Cliches are not arguments.

    2. Scotland = Country, Yorkshire = County.

      1. Magnus Ramage says:

        @pictishbeastie: Undoubtedly, Scotland is a country and I think few would dispute that (whatever one’s opinion of its relationship to the UK). But Yorkshire hasn’t been a county for a century, and it’s too big to be considered such – it’s better thought of as a region. Still different from Scotland, but likewise different from (say) Buckinghamshire which really is a county.

      2. Frederick Robinson says:

        Scotland = part of the United Kingdom of (Northern Ireland and) Great Britain – that invention of Jamie the Saxt when he became James I – he ‘the husband and the whole isle (his) wife’.

    3. Ian says:

      There many people in Scotland not living in a”nice” place or having a “nice”poverty free life thanks to the lack of “niceness” by the not very “nice” political establishment which have dominated our country for centurys.We now have the opportunity to improve the” niceness” for the majority of us Scots and the quicker the better.free of the not very “nice”people from WM.

    4. Dean Richardson says:

      What about a federation of generally nice nations?

  3. Good piece, except for the bit about Massie. He is nothing more than a hysterical Unionist, at the thought of democracy being exercised.

    People joined SNP seeking influence, connection, and to work towards the current goal. I do think a very different pattern will emerge next year, as we appreciate the importance of a good opposition, although personally I want SNP to continue running Holyrood. They have more than proven their competence on what they are allocated, and could so much more with resources.

  4. Ignorance is Strength says:

    What you say about nationalism is good but you forget that some of us express that left-wing nationalism through the Scottish Green Party. Also you cannot have a society with a market. The capitalist market is inherently bad and although you can’t magic away the market we shouldn’t just accept it as the best way to run an economy.

    1. Corporatist Hell says:

      “The Capitalist Market is inherently bad”.

      No it isn’t. It is imperfect and its effects are not linear, but globally, capitalism has and continue to lift millions out of poverty. (Inequality may be increasing between nations and within nations, but globally, inequality is falling).

      “You cannot have a society with a market”.

      Yes you can. I’ve just looked out the window to check, and the ‘society’ of the UK, however you want to define it is still there. There is order, there is peace, there is stability (mostly).

      “We shouldn’t just accept (the market) as the best way to run an economy.”.

      Any sane, rational person would. The various forms of state regulated capitalism operated across the world consistently provide a better quality of life and standard of living for most people than the alternative – Socialism.

      Socialism wherever its been tried has consistently provided a poorer quality of life and standard of living. It’s often been a complete disaster, enslaving people in poverty under totalitarian regimes, sometimes even killing millions, sometimes deliberately.

      Oh wait, let me guess: “It will be better next time”.

      1. bellacaledonia says:

        I think you have finally broken through my boredom threshold

        1. Corporatist Hell says:

          I’m happy to bore you.

          While you’re being bored, do you actually have anything of substance to offer regarding the points I’ve made – ? Which are a reflection of reality in the world over the past 100 and something years.

          (I doubt it – in the same way you had nothing to offer when I called you out on that utter rubbish you were talking about the sole reason for foodbanks being changes to benefits. Which is complete nonsense, the reasons for them are many and complex. But that doesn’t suit the propaganda narrative you peddle to the kool-aid drinking moonies on here).

          If people like Ignorance is Strength think they can expect – or demand – a socialist utopia – or at least a substantive ‘redistribution’ from the richest to the poorest – in an independent Scotland, they are going to be extremely disappointed – and possibly angry. How many more will be disappointed or angry?

          Maybe quite a few more, if people like that ned the SNP have got standing in Paisley become MPs.

          Enjoy the results of that social tinder you are stacking up – you are welcome to it, and your independent Scotland.

      2. Hey plater says:

        I am thrilled to find someone like you who looks from his window and sees that society is still there, orderly, peaceful and stable – the rich man in his castle, the poor man at his gate. I suppose at least you’re not a Thatcherite as you recognise society exists, marching in health and happiness to a golden life.

        But you are definitely on something. Strawberry Fields Forever…If Six Was Nine….

        1. Corporatist Hell says:

          “Someone like me” – what am I like? Care to expand on whatever assumptions underpin your ad-hominem?

          “The poor man” does very well out of me – we are higher rate taxpayers and we are taxed on our earnings via PAYE. We are net contributors and are happy to contribute to society in this way.

          My wife is in many ways a conservative and possibly a Conservative. However, contrary to the leftist meme this does not automatically make her selfish, cruel, grasping or “evil”.

          I’m more onto something than on something (the time comes to give all of that kind of thing up).

          1. Hey plater says:

            Sure, CH. I’ll expand. You are complacent and ignorant; not assumptions, but drawn from your own text. As for ad hominem remarks, just look at your comments to Bella.

            The ‘poor man” does not do well out of you – the opposite is true; you do well out of him. You are a higher rate taxpayer whose tax contribution has fallen for decades while you suck on the labours of others -your ‘poor man’. You are not a net contributor but a net drain on society. That’s the society you need to increase the wealth you gain.

            ”I’m more onto something than on something ” – too true, you’re onto something. Something for nothing.

          2. JBS says:

            Just the thing for you, Corporatist Hell.

            ‘YOU SHOULD TAKE

            care not to get run down in these stormy times. It is more than ever a duty to keep strong and well – to fortify the digestive powers – to get rid of such enervating ailments as biliousness, constipation, sensations of dizziness, flatulence and the whole train of dyspeptic troubles. For this purpose – correction and toning up the stomach, liver, and bowels

            BEECHAM’S PILLS

            have long been known as a mediate of remarkable efficacy. Their great value has been attested over and over again by people in all classes of society and of all ages. For restoring the proper functions of the digestive system and maintaining them, Beecham’s Pills can hardly be surpassed. Do not be satisfied with fluctuating health. Take Beecham’s Pills and keep fit

            ALL THE TIME

            Sold everywhere in boxes, labelled 1s. 3d. and 3s. 0d.’

            Now, how many boxes shall I put you down for?

      3. steelewires says:

        Is not the UK a Market with a collection of societies which it exploits?

        “… globally, capitalism has and continue to lift millions out of poverty.” I keep hearing Tories say this. But it’s not true. I’ve lived in 6 countries on 4 continents. One of those countries is one of the poorest in the world. In spite of all the mining companies that have mines there, the workers are still on poverty wages. Mos of the people I knew could only afford two meals a day; many only one meal, which consisted of rice with a thin sauce with little nutrition.The only people who benefit are the elite who are already wealthy (by nefarious means). In spite of all the aid given to that country, and the profits made by mining companies, more wealth is extracted from it than investments into it and aid given to it. It’s just getting deeper into debt. Capitalism is exploitation.

        1. Frederick Robinson says:

          Ach, Adam Smith, ye’ve goat a loat tae aswer fer…..

      4. Ian says:

        Capatilism clearly is failing to lift people out of poverty when aprox.65 people are richer than the bottom fifty percent of the population.Its all we have until its modified into something more equitable and as the “common weal” shows we may find some answers there.

        1. Corporatist Hell says:

          Apart from the stuff about childcare which is fair comment, everything about ‘Common Weal’ is either a. socialism, which is a terrible idea or b. made up nonsense.

          There are no answers in ‘common weal’. None.

      5. Frederick Robinson says:

        You may ‘look out of your window’ etc. Likewise, I look out of mine and see the sea, seagulls, people walking their dogs, grass, cyclists, a lot of concrete, many many cars, buildings a-plenty (but not enough to accommodate everybody), I pick up my paper and read of murders, rape, drug-addiction, mental illness, unwanted pregnancies, child abuse and neglect, alcoholism, binge-drinking, food banks, unemployment, cancer, overpaid celebrities and footballers, MPs and others too, but with expense-claims to boot, closed shops, abandoned factories and workshops within our capitalist paradise….the list goes on: since we’re discussing international capitalism, international exploitation of effectively slave labour, wearing out of natural resources, pollution by industry and transport, whether vehicular, rail, by sea or air – even in ‘space’, ever more-cluttered with technological junk.
        All caused by socialism, of course.
        You need to go to Specsavers.

    2. Hey plater says:

      Capitalism is amoral but your remarks on society and market are naive to say the least.

  5. David Erdal says:

    We punters must be vigilant: we have to control our leaders, not the other way round.
    There is a serious danger in any human being having a great deal of power. People with power are told the information that pleases them, rather than the truth that will sting them; they are told that their own ideas are the best ideas; that their own character is beyond compare; that their own actions are just the ticket. If you are in that position, it goes to your head – ask any corporate chief executive. When you have power you tend to see all who question or disagree with you as idiots.
    Alex Salmond was at his best when he was running a minority government. He was not in a position to ignore unpalatable facts (except that until we get full fiscal autonomy the Scottish government does not have to face the responsibility for ensuring we create wealth as well as spend it). As the leader of a minority government he had to listen to people who disagreed. After he was given an (unlikely) overall majority things got rougher.
    Nicola Sturgeon convinced me to vote Yes, on the grounds that we would have the possibility of getting the responsive government we wanted; but she now faces a problem that most people have failed to deal with successfully – think Stalin, Mao, Mugabe, Hitler, and, even in a less violent, democratic system, Thatcher and Blair. She will, if the polls are right, have a lot of power and standing in Scotland, and few dissenting voices, which will be easy to ignore.
    We have to hope that the fact that the SNP will be at best a minority partner in a loose coalition in Westminster will keep her feet – and Alex Salmond’s – on the ground.
    We punters must be vigilant: we have to control our leaders, not the other way round.

    1. 1314 says:

      ‘and few dissenting voices, which will be easy to ignore.’

      You’ll not have noticed that we’re still in the UK then and that the chances that there will be nobody out there criticising her every move are non existent? The same will apply to any other supporter of independence who becomes politically significant.

      1. David Erdal says:

        Ok, need to edit: ‘few dissenting voices with any power’. We in the UK invaded Iraq even though the dissenters flooded the streets of our cities in greater numbers than had ever been seen before. The lack of an opposition with any power allowed Blair and his subservient courtiers to ignore the dissenters. Then Blair’s lot got away with sexing up the dossier, lying, intimidating the BBC into compliance, intimidating the chief government lawyer, Goldsmith, into changing his advice and no dissenters made any difference, because of the huge majority. Huge majorities are just dangerous. One of the top lawyers in the Foreign Office, Elizabeth Wilmshurst, was a powerful dissenter: she knew the truth of the legal position and the variable legal advice. She resigned over it: one assumes that Jack Straw, her political boss, if he had been a man of principle, would have reported and explained the issues behind that resignation at Cabinet. Our generation will never know if he did, so all we can do is guess – not sure you’d get good odds on that one. Dissent does not matter if the dissenters have no power.

        1. leavergirl says:

          Absolutely right. You’ll have to keep at them. Power goes to people’s heads with tedious regularity, esp. when it’s people who have been chasing that power for years.

          Maybe Nicola needs a court jester?

          1. Jim Bennett says:

            I’m sure that Corporatist Hell would like to apply. However, methinks he lacka the appropriate qualification!

        2. Frederick Robinson says:

          And – I disagreed with him, but nevertheless, in spite of all the conflicting advice and information he received (some of which he may have contrived to suit his view) – Tony Blair could only ultimately ‘guess’ what Saddam Hussein had in mind and in the way of WMD. It was a bad guess; but his was no worse than, say, Colin Powell’s ‘guess’, in full view of billions on TV, that what looked to me like a large Winnebago was, in his opinion, a WMD-bearing vehicle. As for the many dissenting voices, the tragic thing is that the protestors still only amounted to a modest percentage of the entire population, even, I suspect, in merely electoral terms, a minority.

          1. Frederick Robinson says:

            PS What if he’d been right?

    2. benmadigan says:

      I think mass support at the moment is part of a drive to get as many SNP candidates into westminster as possible. Next year, at the election for the Scottish parliament, parties like the SSP and greens will be campaigning more strongly so the Scottish parliament will hardly represent a one-party state

    3. I think it’s up to Ruth Davidson and whoever replaces Jim Murphy to keep Sturgeon honest. They may need to relax their unionist beliefs to even get in the door though.

      1. Hey plater says:

        Yes, Davidson and Murphy will have a key role in keeping NS honest. If Jim can leave behind his past of fiddling expenses, flipping homes and abandons the Jackson Society we’ll be assured of a good watchman.

        I’m glad you made this point. It shows your acute grasp of reality. Thanks.

      2. Atrahasis says:

        Yes, we’ll definitely be relying on a man who spent 9 years at University of Strathclyde but didn’t graduate to help our dear Nicola steer a steady course through these precarious times.
        Are you for real?

        1. Frederick Robinson says:

          Graduation isn’t everything. The important thing is study. I believe Einstein was a very unsuccessful student in terms of qualifications.

  6. jean martin says:

    great piece, really enjoyed it.

  7. bringiton says:

    The SNP may be a church but it is a very broad one with people from all parts of the political spectrum supporting it as an organisation.
    The huge increase in membership since the referendum,has meant an influx of mostly politically left of centre people which has encouraged the SNP to adopt more left leaning policies.
    The SNP has in fact replaced the British Labour party in Scotland as the party of progressive politics,Labour having abandoned Scotland in the pursuit of middle English votes.
    They left us,we didn’t leave them,to paraphrase the late Jimmy Reid.
    This political space was dominated by Labour for many decades who operated effectively a one party state over that period without people accusing the likes of Dewar,McLeish and McConnell of being Natzi dictators.
    It appears that it is only when a political party which is not of the Westminster establishment comes to power that these “issues” are raised.
    We do need plurality in our politics and I suspect that eventually,those SNP members from the right of the political spectrum will leave to form new parties.
    The social democratic core will remain however as it will be the members who dictate policy and not focus groups or media owners with a narrow political agenda.
    A church united for now.

    1. Frederick Robinson says:

      The counter to Scottish Labour ‘operat(ing) a one party state….without being accused of being Nazi (sic) dictators’ perhaps had something to do with Scottish Labour being connected with, and answerable to, British Labour. The SNP have no such constraints: they are cocks in their own walk, operating according to their own rules (and interestingly, hoping to tell British Labour what to do, on the basis of their minority of seats). Pure power-mongering. I find the eccleciastical tone adopted over Scotland’s current position and the Mass Rally atmosphere of SNP gatherings just a little worrying.

  8. Don McKay says:

    It would be helpful if you included all of Sctland, I.e. include Shetland!

    1. bellacaledonia says:

      It’s an illustration!

      1. Hey plater says:

        I once complained to the Beeb about Orkney and Shetland being excluded from the map and they told me the same thing.

      2. douglas clark says:

        Well, re-illustrate!

      3. hossmackintosh says:


        if Shetland and Orkey vote for Danus Skene SNP and kick out Alisdair Carmichael then you definately have to add them to your Scotland illustration.

        Apparently, Carmicheal did not even turn up for the formal hustings this weekend – so looking good.

        Check out Shetland Times – and Yes Shetland. Not very happy with their missing Lib-Dem candidate.

        You have also mucked up the Uists, Benbecula, Eriskay and Barra!

        I am amazed “Barraload” has not been complaining already, over and over and over and over again….

        1. Barraload says:

          Sorry to disappoint you. I was waiting for the SNP manifesto to see if they’d fess up on the bit that the article swats away – the economy.

          But no, we still have to believe that the SNP’s ideas will work because they alone can grow the economy faster than anyone else thinks possible. And not only are they supremely and uniquely talent in this they can do it with no effect on inflation or resulting in higher borrowing costs. Hurrah it is wonderful to know.

          This in my view makes nationalism sort of akin to a religious cult, Only believers can take the leap of faith that it will work out economically. They support Labour’s tax pledges but at least Labour acknowledge that they are part of a package that has unpalatable parts too

          Vote for milk and honey. Vote for the SNP It will be a culturally cosy place and poorer. Oh well

          1. Wul says:

            I’ve never understood this; why does independence need to make me richer before it’s deemed worthwhile? Is money our only f****ng yardstick?

        2. Barraload says:

          Wul I am not using that yardstick. I intend to vote labour which will probably make me worse off

          I am asking a perfectly reasonable question about how the SNP fund their spending pledges and so far no-one can provide even a scent of an answer.

          You and others are being led by party who patronise you as not being able to cope with the harsh realities but that should not blind you to them, if you have an independent mind

          But if you want to keep dreaming and believing then that’s fine.

          1. Wul says:

            Why single out the SNP?
            They are all at it, making promises about what they will spend. I’ve done enough research to know the Scotland would have enough wealth & resources as an independent country to make it a decent place to live. ( Even the F.T. agreed with this analysis) That’s enough for me.
            If the SNP or anyone else makes a mess of running things, we can boot them out. My goal is an independent, socialist democracy. I don’t want any friends of Donald Trump or Rupert Murdoch running Scotland.
            You make the same mistake (deliberate or otherwise) as so many commentators, conflating a desire for independence with blind faith in the SNP. That ain’t the way things are….open your eyes.

  9. Dennis Smith says:

    Good, thought-provoking stuff. Is Scotland sacred? Here’s one possible answer. In any reasoning we need to take some things for granted. There’s no neutral standpoint outside the world from which we can survey the world as a whole – no Archimedean point.

    Let’s call these things we take for granted our foundations. Foundations come in two possible types. We can treat our foundations as provisional. They’re the best working hypotheses we have but we’re prepared to revise them in the light of new evidence or in the light of counter-arguments from other people.

    Or we can treat our foundations as absolute and beyond criticism. This is how much religion works, though fortunately not all. It sees its own foundations as sacred: any criticism appears as blasphemy and blasphemers should be punished.

    Obviously Scotland should never be treated as sacred in the second, absolute sense. But I see no reason why Scots should not treat Scotland as foundational in the first, provisional sense so long as the meaning of Scotland is left open-ended, a matter for democratic negotiation with fellow Scots and non-Scots.

    Are provisional foundations sacred? Who knows? Our foundations make us who we are and there’s an argument that we should always treat ourselves (and other people) as sacred. As long as we ourselves remain open to change I’m not sure that the terminology matters.

    1. Frederick Robinson says:

      Wasn’t Archimedes’ most famous stand- (or rather sitting- then leaping-up-) point in his bath, when he realised his body-mass was displacing an equivalent amount of water? So far from surveying the world as a whole, he surveyed it from about as subjective a viewpoint, physically, as it’s possible to achieve. Perhaps you were thinking of something else?

      1. Dennis Smith says:

        No. Archimedes said (or is reputed to have said) ‘Give me somewhere to stand, and I will move the earth’. Oxford dictionary of quotations, 3rd ed. 1979. p.11

  10. Hey plater says:

    ”The power of the Yes campaign was the rediscovery of the connection between politics and culture”


    Gramsci is not dead but alive and well on Bella!

    Plus – Scotland can regain its place in European politics as it had long ago. National is international as far as Scotland is concerned.

  11. Yes Scotland is sacred, but only to the archetypal Scot, for only they know WHY Scotland is sacred.
    For anybody else you might just as well ask, is Daffy Duck sacred?
    And yes I do know why Scotland is sacred, but there is absolutely no point in explaining it to others.
    Least of all the English. For the Scottish psyche remains just as big a conundrum for them today, as it always has been, and always will be.
    A clue for them might be, first you have to be a people before you have a unique collective psyche.

    1. Corporatist Hell says:

      “And yes I do know why Scotland is sacred, but there is absolutely no point in explaining it to others.”

      Really? Why? I’m genuinely keen to gain an understanding of why Scotland is sacred, and the ‘conundrum’ of the ‘Scottish psyche’.

      Or because I don’t know or understand, does that mean I’m excluded from your exclusive clique?

      Would anyone coming to Scotland, including those with the best of intentions, be similarly excluded?

      “A clue for them might be, first you have to be a people before you have a unique collective psyche.”

      What happens if you are one of ‘the people’ (whatever that means) but you are seen to be working against the ‘unique collective psyche’ – ?

      Again, would one be excluded?

      1. Hey plater says:

        Don’t worry, CH, you are not one of ‘the people’ as I showed you when we discussed your profiting from the happy but ‘poor man’ who you saw from your window, and all was good.

        Above is your wander through Jungian key words, but it’s too jumbled to explore further.

        In a new Scotland there will be a place for you, tho’ I would recommend some re-education. Perhaps working for a year in a food bank? Living on their rations of course. All is calm and ordered……One would not be excluded.

        I was full of sympathy for you when you said your wife is a Tory – the ‘nasty party’ as a top Tory said. The enemy within, eh?

      2. Wul says:

        Perhaps the answer is this: The world is mostly a beautiful place and being truly alive in it feels good. I want to celebrate the place where I am from (wherever that might be) and I want it to flourish. I want your place of birth to flourish too. Let’s celebrate together and agree: I won’t steal from you, you won’t steal from me. There is enough for everyone’s need (but not everyone’s greed).

      3. Frederick Robinson says:

        ‘The (Scottish) people’ is also, as far as the Referendum was concerned – a moveable feast. If you were born and lived most of your life in Scotland, but then, say, went to live in warmer climes in your arthritic old age, sorry: no vote for you, you’re not (SNP) ‘Scottish’. If, on the other hand, you came from a far distant land and had lived in Hibernia a quite modest amount of time on September 19, 2014 – welcome to the (SNP) ‘clan’! And other such anomalies making (they thought, incorrectly) the vote more likely to go the way ‘the (SNP) Scottish people’ wanted. Ach, weel….

        1. Dean Richardson says:

          Hibernia? What’s living in Ireland got to do with the referendum? Sure you don’t mean Caledonia?

        2. Wul says:

          What nonsense! There’s nothing “moveable” about it. You live here, you get to vote. You don’t live here, no vote. If you leave Frederick, you leave. You chose another country to live in? Enjoy it and vote in elections which will affect your life. Expecting to have a say in a country which you don’t live in is an unreasonable & egotistic wish.

    2. Ian says:

      Lke yourself i dont live in Scotland having left for France six years ago and i have not lost my emotional attachment for my place of birth.I also know i could’nt have left if this “revolution” had been happening then.

    3. Frederick Robinson says:

      If Scotland is sacred, then I’m afraid as far as the terms of the Referendum were concerned, you, Mr Dow, were cast into outer darkness. (As was I, for slightly different reasons: but not my ex-wife, daughters and grand-daughter, who continue to live within Scotland’s sacred bourn.)

  12. douglas clark says:

    My membership was when we were around 22,000 strong. The people that came after me knew that there was a fight on. I salute them for digging in and getting on with it. The post referendum bounce in membership is utterly remarkable.

    For it was not all about Nichola – who I think is the politician of her generation – it was about a positive response to dissappointment. That is something the world see’s all too rarely. A figtback if you will.

    And it came from the grass roots. It came from folk that didn’t really believe we could had made that big a mistake.

    Yet we did.

    It is a casting off of preconceptions, there is an open mood about all of us now.

    You saw, ordinary Scots that came up through the referendum campaign, strike ordinary, insert extraordinary Scots that appeared in our conciousness in a way that we had never seen before.

    There are surgeons as well as sturgeons, there are wee lassies that gub professional politicians, There are folk like Paul Kavanagh who came to the fore. And this site has been a force for good in pushing issues that the State would rather see brushed under the carpet.

    There is, now,, an alternative world that allows us to dream, unlimited by what we’re ‘telt.

    This is an exciting time to be alive.

    1. Ian says:

      Well put.Whats the point in life if we cannot dream of something better.

  13. Alison Kennedy says:

    Sacred? I suppose it’s sacred as any other country. I also don’t care about the oil price, I want Scotland, to make it’s own decisions, for the people who choose to live here. Since the Union, the English have lost their identity which may be why they fail to understand the Scottish psyche and the yearning to be independent. The Scottish people have managed to retain their very strong culture and beliefs which makes Scotland unique.

    I don’t know how we have managed to retain this very strong identity. Most countries overshadowed by a neighbour ten times it’s size could easily be consumed yet we have managed to retain our own education and legal system.

    The Scottish Enlightenment where people were urged to think for themselves rather than believe what they were told seems to be alive and well.

    1. douglas clark says:

      It was said, perhaps wrongly, that island Greeks – way back then – lived on olive oil, bread and wine. Our diet would be a tad better. Good food, adequate bread and wine from the whole of continental Europe.

      I absolutely detest the idea that the Union would even attempt to starve us into submission, just ’cause they could.

      I would have thought that right minded Englishen and women would find that a tad abhorrent?

      It would become a second Berlin Airlift.

      1. Hey plater says:


    2. Barraload says:

      This sums up so much that i struggle with

      I feel British having lived and worked in Scotland all my life. I also feel Scottish. This separation of identities by creating new boundaries feels invidious as it is creating a new breed of outsider

      And not caring about the oil price? There seems to be a lot of fellow believers who accept this too. There is no reason at the moment beyond blind faith to believe that the SNP can achieve any of their spending pledges without revenue from oil so presumably you’d feel ok with a culturally pure Scotland if benefits get cut as a result of a declining economy

  14. douglas clark says:

    “fightback” might have been better than “figback” whatever that is 😉

  15. emilytom67 says:

    I was at the Common Weal gathering on Friday night a couple of call offs from speakers meant it was a bit of a damp squib but Elaine C Smith was worth the wait,we “the people” have to have the biggest input not the other way around as it has been for centuries and the SNP will be kept up to the mark if the go against the will of the people.

  16. Hey plater says:

    Emily, I’m not being cheeky but punctuation has a vital role in meaning.

  17. Douglas says:

    Sacred? What, what, what!!! Oh my God…

    …I almost misread the word as “scared” which is a much more accurate adjective for the canny Scots….

    Sometimes children are more intelligent than adults, which reminds me of that old Groucho Marx line…

    Chico: Why, a five year old child could do that!
    Groucho: Well, then go and find me a five year old child….

  18. thom cross says:

    Might I pose an alternative question? Is sovereignty sacred? After all the sovereignty of the people is at the very heart of what we call democracy. Is it not at the heart of the SNP agenda: rule No 1 in its constitution?
    There is the current clamour for the SNP that suggests a popular sentiment for sovereignty: that we ‘ought’ to have more power in order to exercise sovereignty over the public affairs of Scotland. More and more people are finding the intellectual clarity that declares Scotland ‘ought’ to be more than a virtual nation with a popular cultural consciousness.
    Scotland ‘is’ a subsidiary nation within the UK state. It ‘is’ currently engaged in the process of acquiring incremental power which ‘ought’ to lead inevitably to greater sovereign authority.

    Scotland ought to have sufficient cultural confidence, to express national consciousness that includes the need for a nation state: that a nation state is a ‘just’ constitutional construct; that sovereignty is a natural demand of social justice.
    Scotland ‘is’ a neo-nation with national civic institutions, national cultural characteristics and intellectual sensibilities (ways of feeling) that are national and can be shared.
 We are seeing some of these popular demands finding acceptance beyond the boundaries of nationality.
    Scotland ‘ought’ to have self-determination as a fundamental principle of natural justice and as a common good. Scotland ‘is’ intellectually sovereign, yet constitutionally subservient.
    It is this blatant contradiction that inhibits, represses and indeed prevents an empowering collective sense of political confidence that ought to be able to translate into a liberating nationalism.

    It is this journey from a national consciousness to a progressive liberal nationalism that is the task of this generation of political forces in Scotland. These forces exist within and without the SNP; within and without political institutions.
 The ‘ought’ and ‘is’ dichotomy, dialectal in essence, is used and profoundly explained in the first two pages of ‘Questioning Sovereignty’ by the wonderfully erudite Scot, Sir Neil MacCormick, whose passing (2009) we should always remember in April.
    But what MacCormick poses in ‘Questioning Sovereignty’ is the political reality that in the 21st Century we are faced with the challenge of interpreting sovereignty in the post-sovereign world of integrated economic/security/ social/ legal multi-state communities of shared sovereignties.
    We will have to give up aspects of our sovereignty by joining the EU, the World Bank, the IMF, the International Court of Justice, but as McCormick explains, sovereignty is not like property, “which can be given up only when another person gains it.”
    With some wit in his erudition he tells us that (sovereignty) is ‘ more like virginity, something that can be lost by one without another gaining it and whose loss in apt circumstances can even be for a matter of celebration.”
    We may need to remember these MacCormick lessons as we proceed from the speculative political world of ‘what ought to be ’ to the real world of ‘what is’.

    1. Thanks for this particularly thought provoking comment – the MacCormick quote is worth knowing about!

      The opening question is also a good one; perhaps it’s not Scotland as such that has sacred-like qualities, but the felt sense of Sovereignty and all that entails- power, freedom etc. In that case Scotland has emerged for many as an opportunity to make that otherwise abstract felt sense concrete.

      By the way (in response to a few other comments, rather than yours) the use of ‘sacred’ is not as misplaced as some might imagine. In everyday language it is associated with religion, but it is a central idea in sociology and cultural psychology. I develop some thoughts on the broader relevance of the term this piece for Open Democracy:

    2. Frederick Robinson says:

      Virginity can also, of course, only be lost once.

  19. Jim Bennett says:

    Wonderful article.
    One minor point of nationalistic pedantry: Northern Ireland is not a country. It’s not even a province, It’s merely six counties.

  20. Darien says:

    Sacred is the wrong word to use. Priceless is more appropriate – independence is always regarded by any independent nation as priceless. How can anyone put a price on nationhood?

    40 years ago an Englishman told me that Scotland was merely a ‘sub-nation’. That reality, and insult, albeit legally and constitutionally true, made me a Scottish nationalist. How could any Scot not be a Scottish nationalist? Not to be a nationalist is not to believe in your own nation. Scots unionists simply do not believe in a Scottish nation.

    As a Scot, if I were to move to any other nation, I would still consider myself Scottish. That is why I appreciate that people from England who come to stay in Scotland, will mots probably continue to think of themselves as English, and vote accordingly for English unionist parties, thus thwarting Scottish nationhood.

    1. Shaun says:

      How could a Scot not be a nationalist? Well, I find the ideology of nationalism somewhat abhorrent, and the idea that I am somehow different enough from the people a little bit further south that we cannot coexist under the same governance ridiculous.

      1. Darien says:

        So you don’t believe in nationhood full stop? Ergo, you think there should be no nations in the world because you want everyone to be governed by the one entity (Westminster I assume)? Don’t you know the British Empire has gone?

        1. Shaun says:

          That’s a nice straw-man there, but I’ll still reply despite the likelihood of a recurrence.

          Nationhood isn’t something that personally excites me, but I really dislike the politics of nationalism, i.e. the politics of division. You asked how a Scot could not be a nationalist, and I answered. I certainly don’t think there is something about the folks down south that precludes us from being governed as one.

    2. Frederick Robinson says:

      Paradox, Darien: I am English by birth, lived and worked in Scotland for 30 years, returned to England after a stroke, for my health. My ex-wife and daughters remain in Scotland. Had I still been there last September, I could have voted in the Referendum. As it is, those 30 years counted for nothing: my grand-daughter (16 years old the week before the Referendum) could vote, though. The terms of the Referendum ‘thwarted Scottish nationhood’ as far as I was concerned.

      1. Darien says:

        You returned to England for your health? Is England a healthier place to be then?

  21. John Page says:

    I could never express myself as well as Jonathan……..very interesting article.
    As the son of immigrants I could not articulate why I have a strong connection with the idea of an independent Scotland……..but I do know that I have an instinctive affinity for Mhairi Black (ungraciously described above as a “ned” by our resident narcissist) and a visceral dislike of her unctuous opponent whose party in Scotland was described wonderfully in a post yesterday to Bateman’s blog as a “self-licking ice cream”

  22. Alistair MacKinnon says:

    For supporting information and how this affects the individuals, within a community or a nation, take a look at The Globalisation of Addiction By Alexander Bruce.
    He picks apart the loss of sovereignty of peoples and the imposition of a market system that eventually leaves its members in states, we see all too often in Scotland.

    Reaffirming Scottish Sovereignty will be like leaving an addiction with all the concomitant pains. The pushers of the current legal impositions (Parliament, The EU, World Bank, IMF) will fight tooth and nail to keep Scotland tied to its current state and not wish to see what it ‘can’ do, as opposed to what currently ‘is’.

    Its time to cut the ties that bind.

    1. Ian says:

      Should an independent Scotland be successful it would become a mirror to all the faillings of what was the union and this is their greatest fear.

      1. Barraload says:

        and if it is not successful what will it be an example of then? Maybe “how cultural ideas struggle if they ignore global economic realities?”

        1. Douglas says:

          Barraload, why not successful? If we were able to handle the Romans, why would we worry about you money obsessed free marketeers devoid of any spiritualism…?

          Scotland has woken up to itself, and all your bags of stinking London imperial cash will not put the people back to sleep…

          As George Buchanan (1506-1582), he great Montaigne´s tutor, referred to in his day as “the prince of poets” ( a Scots LATIN poet now you mention culture and diversity) put it:

          “But the real boast…of the Scots is this: to encircle the glens in the hunting, to cross, by swimming, the rivers, to bear hunger, to despise the variations of cold and hot weather; not by moat and walls, but by fighting to defend their native land, and to hold life cheap when their good name has to be maintained; once a promise has been made, to keep faith; to revere the holy spirit of friendship; and to love not magnificence but character.

          It was due to these characters that when wars roared throughout the world…and there was no land but made subject to the foreign yolk….one solitary nation in its old home bade on and still enjoyed its traditional freedom.Here the fury of Angels halted, here the Dane stuck after defeating the Saxons, and when the fierce Danes were subjugated, the Normans too.

          If to turn the pages of history books disgust not, here too Roman victoriousness halted its headlong march: that onrush which…not Arabia´s rough desert plains, not the Sudan with its heat, or the Rhine and Elbe with their cold delayed – to Italy´s headlong rush Scotland put a stop, and it is the only nation in the world along whose frontiers, not with mountain summit. not with rapid river banks, not with a barrier of a forest…did the Roman power defend the marches of its empire, but with a wall and trench; and though other nations it drove by force of arms from their homes or else defeated and preserved for a disgraceful life of slavery, here, content to defend its own territories, Rome built a long wall as defence against the battle-axe of the Scots. Here all hope of advancing were abandoned, and by the Solway River the boundary stone marks the limit of the Roman Empire”…..

          EXACTLY….and we´re being run by a bunch of poncing Bullingdon Club JESSIES…!!!

          1. Barraload says:

            As ever a fascinating post but just one question. Boring and lacking in erudition. How will the SNP afford their spending pledges. As far as I am aware Scotland is run by a devolved government in many ways including health where the SNP reduced spending compared to the rest of the UK, unless you can get your head around some really convoluted justifications

            But why worry when the Romans thought were were not worth fighting over. I like to think that one day they just woke up and thought “the hang with it this isn’t a place worrying about”

          2. Douglas says:

            Barrowload, you make a great exhibition of the kind of a poncy hair-splitting detail which I associate with the fastidious, anally retentive, bean-counting, shopkeeper mentality of our distant, knee bending, thrice invaded cousins down south…

            …you are talking about a POLICY. An independent Scotland is a CONVICTION or a BELIEF…

            The country of Buchanan, Burns, Hume, RLS, Wallace, MacDiarmid, Flora MacDonald, being governed by a bunch of glorified book-keepers with the intellectual weight of the common household fly….the graves of Scotland are heaving, the earth is churning…but our time is coming.

          3. Barraload says:

            Douglas I think you know that you are trying to wind up the emotion. Fly flags as much as you lie and quote poetry that I enjoy learning about. But one day you’ll have to pick up the tab after the party is over and so far the SNP are pathetic in ignoring the questions that a good Scotsman like Smith for example, will want to ask

          4. Frederick Robinson says:

            I understood that long wall (well, two: Hadrian’s and the Antonine) was/were built to keep the PICTS out, not the Scots, who came over from Ireland and ‘invaded’ in the West, successfully replacing the Picts, so doing the work the Romans failed to do.
            But I can’t help imagining all this in comparison with the life of someone living in Dennistoun or Easterhouse, flolr example, on benefits in the present day.

          5. Darien says:

            “a good Scotsman like Smith”

            Aye, right: he’s a right ‘credit’ tae the multi-millionaire financial engineers back at Deutsche Bank Londinium.

            You onionists dinnae like being shown the Scotland exit door, just like the Romans. They lasted 400 years, by the way.

  23. Hey plater says:

    Well Barra load o’…

    ”As far as I am aware Scotland is run by a devolved government” As far as you’re aware.

    ”But why worry when the Romans thought were were not worth fighting over. I like to think that one day they just woke up and thought “the hang with it this isn’t a place worrying about”

    Yes Barra, why should you worry. Be like the Romans and pack it in.

    Your little pinprick windups are disgraceful on a serious website. You’re at it. I have seen real wind up merchants in shipyards when we had them. Your efforts are feeble. Foxtrot Oscar.

  24. Barraload says:

    Always a joy listening to you. Can you just once try not being personally offensive. It broadens the mind and maybe you’ll find you like it

    Meantime you worry me that you represent the type of reception that non-believers will have in the new scotland. maybe we should all be burned at the stake as heretics

  25. arthur thomson says:

    Scotland is and has always been sacred to me. I think the author of the statement – ‘the hang with it this isn’t a place worth worrying about’ – should understand that he/she has stumbled upon the reason why he/she cannot engage meaningfully with those who take the view that independence is priceless.

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