Advancing Scottish independence outside of Scotland

Is there a place for Scots living outside of Scotland to champion independence?

When it comes to advancing the cause of independence, what is the role of those who identify as Scottish but live elsewhere? In 2014, only people resident in Scotland were asked whether or not Scotland should become an independent country. This ensured that those most affected had a say in their future but differed in approach from other recent referenda, such as the 2015 marriage equality referendum in Ireland (only Irish citizens could vote, not Irish residents). The decision to allow only Scottish residents the vote chimed with the civic nationalism of the SNP and, I believe, was the right decision. However, an inability to vote should not lessen the role of those living outside of Scotland to work towards a different result next time.

I left Scotland in 2011 and have spent the past six years living in Dublin and London. From Andrew Neil to Andrew O’Hagan, London is full of Scots who have something to say about Scotland. However, to what extent these discussions reflect everyday life in Scotland remain less clear.

In the run-up to the 2014 referendum, I witnessed a gap between how some people discussed Scotland ‘from afar’ and what was actually happening on-the-ground. Events like the Let’s Stay Together rally in Trafalgar Square, the week before the vote, and the single ‘Scotland, You’re My Best Friend’, although arguably well-meaning, ultimately failed to encapsulate the reality of the situation north of the border.

This disconnect between idea and reality stayed with me. And as time passed and the Scottish Parliament voted in March 2017 to commence the process of negotiating a second independence referendum, I felt the need to take some action (no matter how small) to provide an informed space to discuss Scottish constitutional politics in London.

Three months later in the upstairs room of a pub in central London, and with the help of another London Scot, we launched ScotRes, a London-based research forum that explores and debates subjects related to Scotland and Scottish independence.

Since launching, ScotRes has co-organised the event Pathways to Statehood: Scotland and Catalonia with the Delegation of the Government of Catalonia to the United Kingdom and Ireland and the Centre for Small States at Queen Mary, University of London. This Sunday (22 October), ScotRes is organising its third event, a panel discussion Four Conversations: a United Kingdom? in association with the Bloomsbury Festival.

ScotRes has benefited from hearing the views and opinions of English, American, Canadian and Catalan speakers and audience members at our events. And although the group’s organisers are pro-independence, events explore the strengths and challenges of independence and welcome those from across the political spectrum. Too often we spend our lives in echo chambers and much is lost when only one side of any story is heard.

Running events in London does not detract from similar events taking place across Scotland – there is no finite amount of energy for political engagement. Furthermore, any framing of ‘Scottish issues’ as removed from the rest of the UK or other international actors is an unhelpful way to think about the constitutional questions we all currently face.

Whether we look at the work of those campaigning for Irish independence in the United States in the early twentieth century or, more recently, international interest in events taking place in Catalonia, nations seeking statehood will require international legitimacy. This can only ever come by looking beyond your borders and engaging with activists and interested parties in other countries.

With the current lull in Scottish constitutional politics, now is the time for groups like ScotRes to focus their efforts on discussing ‘what next?’ The high-speed politics of the past few years might have disorientated many people attracted to the Yes movement, with some now choosing to retreat rather than engage. Groups like ScotRes can help keep the momentum going and continue to debate and discuss Scotland’s future in 2018 and beyond.


By Dr Kevin Guyan (@kevin_guyan) – an equality and diversity researcher and co-organiser of ScotRes.


Four Conversations: a United Kingdom? will take place on Sunday 22 October at the Bloomsbury Festival, London. Follow the conversation using the hashtag #4viewsUK.


We really need your support to develop and we’d like to ask you to support us by donating to us here.

We’ve got big plans to launch our new site, to launch new publishing and events projects, and to extend our platform of writers – but all of this needs your support.

Bella Caledonia remains free (and ad-free) and takes us hundreds of hours a month to research, write, commission and edit.
If you value what we do, please consider supporting with a recurring monthly donation of your choosing.
GoCardless to set up a small monthly donation to support independent journalism in Scotland.

Comments (12)

Join the Discussion

Your email address will not be published.

  1. Alasdair Macdonald says:

    A good idea.

    Reading the so-called ‘progressive’ metropolitan press and listening or viewing the broadcast media the inherent bias and mendacity is obvious – to someone living here in Scotland. Since most of the readers/listeners/viewers do not live here many tend to take what they are being presented with as accurate. Many such right-on people automatically equate independence with nationalism and nationalism with Nazi-ism, and therefor bad. When we get racist cartoonists like Mr Steve Bell continuing to work for the ‘progressive media’ after representing the Scots as indulging in incest, we see how morally biassed the readership is.

    So, if ScotRes can rapidly rebut and present factual information south of the border I applaud you.

  2. Sandy Ritchie says:

    Scots living elsewhere in UK should be allowed to vote in the next referendum…if and when that occurs

    1. MBC says:

      Not feasible or desirable either. There should be a residency requirement of sixteen years for residents not Scots born though.

  3. Crubag says:

    I’m not sure the Irish example is the best one, the Republic is famously restrictive on referenda – it’s not enough to be a citizen, you have to be resident in Ireland, or if overseas intending to return within 18 months. Only those posted abroad on state business have access to a postal vote.

    And that is under a system where it is easy to see who is a citizen, rather then some sense of affinity with the home country.

    1. Martin says:

      The Republic simply isn’t as anti-referendum as you assert. Check the facts. Where you’re correct is in asserting a continuity between Scotland (pre/post – independence) and the Emerald/Squalid Isle. I’ve commented on these pages previously that the ‘sunny uplands’, Nordic vision of post-independence is a total fantasy. Scotland will sadly face several decades of graft-full, nepotistic, and deeply, deeply corrupt political practice before it matures – by convicting and then locking-up these post-independence bastards, before it becomes a truly “grown-up nation”. This is what explains why many middle class, middle-aged, east-coast voters, voted as they did. They simply didn’t believe the soft-soap bullshit from Madame, and why should they. It’s patently bullshit.

      For the record, I’m very much pro-independence, and pro-Brexit (for good old socialist reasons) and unlike most on this talking shop, I’ve lost £1000’s as a result, living as I do in SE Asia.

  4. Martin says:

    So, Dr Kevin is a “diversity and equality” researcher, or was that equality and diversity? I wouldn’t want to put anyone’s pro-noun’s out of joint, least of all our learn’ed friend DOCTOR K. Christ, if you want to know why kids in school have zero bloody respect for ‘teacher’, best just look to the old Italian organizational adage….. yes, the one about about fish.

    So, young Kevin. It’s just occurred to your tenured, or soon to be tenured are, that those Scots living (for whatever reason, (mine, NO bloody jobs for +40 year old’s, and no bloody chance there of). Jesus son, at this rate of intellectual development you’ll be knocking on the Rector’s door any day.

    I love this website, and it’s contributors and commentators. Never has there been a more profound dissidence between reality and perceived reality. Between the factual and the stated. BC may not offer much, but what it offers better than any other media is a looking-glass into the crazy world of publicly-funded academia, and the wider public sector in the early 21st century. A Swiftian world brim full of grotesques, demi-gods, baboons and minions, all in the pay of the tax-payer, but utterly unaccountable to even the basic precepts of the common sense and decency of the poor sods paying for this most absurd of jamborees!

  5. Martin says:

    The “Contributors” bio page is a hoot. Classic inverse proportionality at work. As one would expect 99% are total puff jobs, with just the requisite amount of self-deprication, just. Meanwhile, the only bloke on the list that anyone (outside the rarified world of the academic/NGO/public policy/BBC sphere) would have ever heard of, namely bloody Irvine Welsh, has to his considerable credit – a sparse, one line credit. Good on you man. At least you understand what it is to be Scottish.

  6. MBC says:

    This is crucial work you are doing. Many thanks. When Norway gained independence from Sweden in 1905 the work of Norwegian business interests abroad in cultivating foreign support for independence was absolutely vital.

  7. Brotyboy says:

    My London-based Scottish friends, some of whom are now erstwhile, are Unionist to a man. They sit smug in their status as millionaires or middle class property owners who know better than the common man about Scotland’s fiscal position because they are accountants. The one who studied economics at Heriot Watt in the mid seventies thinks Scotland could not survive as an independent country. Their minds are closed. Good luck with your project, I hope you succeed.

  8. MBC says:

    I would agree with Brotyboy about London Scots. Those of my friends who bailed out of Scotland in the 1970s and 1980s have opinions about Scottish independence that are little different from your average Londoner and Daily Mail reader, though more left of centre in their other opinions. England just changes people. That’s one good reason to not give them a vote in any future Scottish referendum on the constitution even though they are Scots born. There’s an information vacuum about Scotland in England and if you don’t live here, you cease to have any idea of what is going on in Scotland or what it is like to live and work here.

  9. David Hood says:

    Scots outwith Scotland and Indy – been saying this for years; better than the infamous – or other such description – GlobalScot, we could and should have a pro-indy group acting almost as mini-Consuls for Commercial and Political engagement around the globe.

    I hope that we can set up such with Business for Scotland, and with the growing Hubs from ScotGov/SDI, surely we can organise a global, strongly branded and widely engaged network, that actually works? (Unlike GlobalScot, with its skewed focus).

  10. Steven Ritchie says:

    There are plenty Scots who don’t live in England, but who live outside Scotland. Regarding non-residents not being able to vote, the truth is Scots living outside Scotland didn’t get the vote because Scotland is not officially a country and we are not officially Scottish citizens in any meaningful legal sense. The Scottish Government has no say on who gets to vote in Scottish Parliament elections either. Only Scottish residents can vote in “local” elections such as for the Scottish Parliament because of factors outwith Scotland’s control.

Help keep our journalism independent

We don’t take any advertising, we don’t hide behind a pay wall and we don’t keep harassing you for crowd-funding. We’re entirely dependent on our readers to support us.

Subscribe to regular bella in your inbox

Don’t miss a single article. Enter your email address on our subscribe page by clicking the button below. It is completely free and you can easily unsubscribe at any time.