2007 - 2022

Nat Students Are No Longer Radical

As a Glasgow graduate, Rob Brown is sad to find its Nationalist club proclaiming social democracy.

Stumbling upon the website of the Glasgow University Scottish Nationalist Association recently brought me back to my own student days beneath the soot-stained, neo-Gothic tower on Gilmorehill. A grainy photo of pals posing with placards outside the Scottish Tories’ 1981 conference in Perth, triggered a surge of nostalgia. Scrolling down, however, another aspect of the GUSNA site unsettled me.

Its first online banner slogan – Fighting for Scottish Indepdence (sic) since 1927 – was obviously just an embarrassing typo. The second – Fighting for Social Democracy since 1927 – was utterly depressing.

Haven’t any of them studied the astounding history of the club they signed up to in freshers’ week? Is this what radical nationalism has been reduced to after a dozen years of devolved rule by the SNP – a tartan-trimmed version of social democracy?

GUSNA (pronounced Guzna) was a precursor of the SNP. It was formed in 1927 to promote Scottish nationalism, culture and self-government, not social democracy. A year later, quite incredibly, its leader John MacCormick brokered the merger of various organisations that would form the National Party of Scotland. This law student also became the NPS’s first national secretary.

In 1951, ‘King John’ (as he came to be hailed) founded the Scottish Covenant Association, which mounted a mass petition for Home Rule. The same year, this galvanising figure was elected by students as Lord Rector of his alma mater, declaring in his inauguration address: Glasgow University, if it is anything at all, is a Scottish University.

It was also in this cradle of political nationalism that a small bunch of law students (aided and abetted by MacCormick, by then lecturer in his subject) successfully plotted to break into Westminster Abbey on Christmas Day 1950 to retrieve the Stone of Destiny. Technically an act of treason, it became a caper which captivated the nation. Many years later, it was even celebrated in a movie starring Robert Carlyle. No films yet about a bunch of ultra-conformist scholars spellbound by social democracy!

In 1984, when I was among its members, GUSNA organised a campus ceilidh to commemorate the Red Clydeside leader John MacLean. The shindig even featured a republican flute band and its attendees included Matt Lygate – recently released from prison after serving 12 years for a politically-motivated bank robbery.

A staunch republican socialist, Lygate had just been adopted as the Nationalist candidate in the rectorial election of that year. Such an extreme subversive was never going to get elected to the University Court, of course, but it tells you something that he was even nominated.

So does the fact that the bulk of GUSNA members rallied behind the ’79 Group, at least until that left-wing nationalist faction (which included a slim, young Alex Salmond) was proscribed by the SNP’s then leadership. Those idealistic undergads were into democratic socialism not social democracy.

No wonder. Back then that creed meant the breakaway Social Democratic Party, led by a quartet of Labour defectors branded the ‘Gang of Four’. They could no longer stand being in the People’s Party when it committed to a massive redistribution of wealth and power to the people alongside unilateral nuclear disarmament.

Unfortunately, those earlier ‘Tiggers’ had lethal fangs and claws: one of their gang, Roy (later Lord) Jenkins, won a famous by-election in 1982 in Glasgow Hillhead, the constituency encompassing the ancient university and its leafy Victorian environs.

The SDP never broke the mould of British politics. It simply prolonged the trauma of the Tories’ callous economic onslaught. Also it distracted many Scots from what nationalists termed the ‘Doomsday Scenario’ – a second toxic dose of Thatcherism that Scottish Labour’s ‘Feeble Fifty’ at Westminster simply swallowed.

So, when they proclaim an almost century-long crusade for social democracy, Glasgow Uni Nats are sadly displaying some historical ignorance. Just like me in my spotty student days, they’ve also still got an awful lot to learn about the real machinations of power.

Pictured protesting against the ‘Westminster Power Grab’ in Glasgow rather than at Westminster, they appear scared of speaking truth to power where it is located – north and south of the Border. With a glowing endorsement from Nicola on their site – “I might not be First Minister if I hadn’t joined GUSNA all those years ago” – they come across starstruck Sturgeonistas.

The tragedy is that this glowing testimonial from its most famous alumnus could all too easily be turned on its head: GUSNA might not be so depressingly moderate if this Glasgow law graduate had not become our First Minister!

Maybe the whole Yes movement would adopt a far more rousing tripartite motto – Independence, Equality and Ecology – if Scottish Nationalism was led by somebody who understood the true meaning of those noble words, a natural leader with the creative intellect and charisma to spearhead a passionate crusade in pursuit of those glittering prizes?

Alas, it isn’t.

Now, I know what many of you will groan at me: listen up pal, Nicola Sturgeon isn’t just some daft wee student politician. She got into big grown-up politics when she graduated from Glasgow University and sacrificed her legal career. She trudged round the tenements and tower blocks, campaigning tirelessly for independence, and now spearheads a phenomenally successful political force poised to finally achieve the break-up of Britain.

Really? Can anyone seriously claim that about an FM who isn’t even seeking a Section 30 order for indyref2? The tragic reality is that Nicola Sturgeon is all too typical of one-time student radicals who swiftly shed their rebelliousness when they get their feet under a ministerial desk.

I’m not suggesting that this Ayrshire lass has entirely forgotten her upbringing in Burns country. I’m sure she would like to make Scotland a freer and fairer country. But not to the degree necessary to forge true and lasting social justice.

It was she, don’t forget, who commissioned the Sustainable Growth Commission, chaired by a corporate communicator. No single trade unionist was invited to participate, so no surprise its recommendations were somewhat to the right of social democracy.

It was also the current SNP leader who recently reached out to Unionist MSPs in the debating chamber at Holyrood, inviting them to bring her their proposals for constitutional and procedural changes. Ominously, she assured them several times that they might be surprised by how receptive she would be. More common ground exists, she purred, than they might think.

It isn’t only wild conspiracy theorists who suspect Sturgeon may be prepared to settle for something short of independence. If you watched BBC Scotland’s recent trio of documentaries on the 2014 referendum, you’d have seen her candidly admit that she is a nervous pessimist by nature. She never dared to imagine the SNP could win power at Holyrood. I doubt she ever seriously dreams of Independence Day.

Reporting on the 2011 Scottish election for the New Statesman, I shadowed the then Deputy First Minister in her constituency south of the Clyde and reached this sad conclusion: “She has grown in stature – sketchwriters would no longer dare dismiss her as a ‘nippy sweetie’ – but it is hard to envisage her as a national emancipator.”

I stand by that judgement because I believe it has been proven by subsequent events (and non-events). Let’s face it, folks, Nicola Sturgeon is our Feart Minister.

When we’ve reached the point where even student nationalists at Glasgow University advocate a peely-wally political creed like social democracy rather than national emancipation – and idolise their party leader like some Holyrood celebrity – the independence cause is in a dismal state.








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  1. Chris Downie says:

    I called it long ago when I said that she won’t deliver independence. I stand firmly by this prediction. The SNP under her stewardship have become a virtue-signalling party of devolution, NOT a party of independence.

    It should be noted that mitigating Tory policies, however admirable it may seem in many peoples’ eyes, actually damages rather than enhances the case for independence, as it has long given many the impression that devolution works for Scotland. Conversely, now that a decade of aggressive austerity is kicking in for millennial generation who have known nothing else in their adult lives, the SNP are inheriting a poisoned chalice, as they are seen by many of these same people to have gone off the boil, after a decade of competent management.

    I foresee her kicking the can further down the road, until “the mandate” expires in 2021. A minority administration would likely suit her and Murrell, as they remain in power until 2026 with no majority and no pressure to deliver independence which, in case some forget, is the party’s reason for existing Inthe first place.

    1. Jo says:

      “……no pressure to deliver independence which, in case some forget, is the party’s reason for existing Inthe first place.”

      Which is true Chris but, to be fair, no SNP government can set their domestic responsibilities aside to focus solely on Independence.

      The first full term was about proving they could govern. The second term brought an overall majority and an Independence Referendum which was lost. The third term was secured a month before the EU referendum and, well, not much progress has been made since, on anything really.

      I think it’s sensible to bear in mind what both Salmond and Sturgeon said, in 2014, after the vote was lost, about the next one. We heard the terms, “once in a generation” and “once in a lifetime”. Sturgeon also said she wouldn’t risk a new vote unless she knew it could be won. She spoke of wanting to see polls showing 60% in favour.

      As a YES myself I don’t know what possessed her to throw Indyref2 into the mix after the EU referendum result. It wasn’t even three years on since 2014 and she has ended up making a rod for her own back. She incensed many who said it was too early and she has had the more radical Indy folk on her tail ever since demanding, when, when when?

      Personally, I think the Brexit business was difficult enough without juggling everything else too. I think she’s made a real mess of it.

  2. Jo says:

    I liked this piece and enjoyed the read. What I’ll do however is think about it a bit more before replying, Ron.

  3. Alasdair Galloway says:

    When I was at Glasgow Uni – 10 years before you from what I gather – reading Political Economy (no NOT Economics, which my Herald spat with MacDonald, I hope illustrates even if only a wee bit) and Sociology, one of the courses I did was Labour Economics and Industrial Relations with Laurie Hunter. An important concept in the latter part of the course was the distinction between substantive issues of dispute, and procedural issues of dispute. For instance the former might concern whether an employee could be dismissed, while the latter might set out a procedure that should be followed to do so. Or the former might be a demand for a pay rise, while the latter is the procedure through which that would be discussed.
    I think that distinction has relevance in the independence debate. Whether or not we become independent and how that might be achieved – referendum, UDI or whatever -is a procedural issue – it determines how we make our decisions, at Holyrood or at Westminster. The latter concerns what those decisions are – for instance would Scotland be social democratic, radically right wing (eg freedom of the market) or socialist.
    If we pursue that line of thought, then I think it shines more light on the FM’s thinking. I think you are right that she is a social democrat, but that is somewhere that Scotland might end up IF we become independent. But I see no necessary conflict between being social democratic and assiduously pursuing independence. If I read you right Rob, your preference for an independent would be more radical (or leftist) than the FM’s would be. But that is a matter that will only be settled finally once the Scottish electorate have voted in an independence election (ie for the first independent Scottish Parliament), so the primary question – what has to come first – is surely how best to secure that independence. She might be social democratic, but the main implication of that is that she and you will be on opposite sides in the first post indy election.
    So lets look at the other side of it, that she has not aggressively enough tried to secure a S30 order, or pursued independence by other means. I think its pretty clear that this will not be forthcoming from Theresa May any time at all. Indeed probably from no Tory politician. I have seen it written that she is relying on a UK election in the second half (last quarter) of this year when Corbyn will be the biggest party but short of a majority, so might look around for his version of the DUP – ie that the SNP might come to a supply and confidence arrangement, but instead of 10 billion we get a S30 order. I think its impossible to say this would NOT happen, but its by no means certain is it? One thought of my own is that if you read Chaos Theory funny things happen during chaos. So what I hear you ask (I think)?
    Well this. In my 67 year life time I dont think I can remember a period of greater political chaos – and I lived through the winter of discontent! The local elections in England are probably no more than an hors d’oeuvre. For the European elections my advice is get the pop corn out for its going to be good fun. Will it get worse? Well we keep saying it cannot, but it keeps proving us wrong. In a situation such as this it seems to me that the most important qualities are flexibility and improvisation – basically touch feelingness is critical, and to commit to a particular course of action without the ability to leave it and move to something else could be quite drastically the wrong thing to do.
    I think I can see this in her strategy – wait till there is at least a Brexit agreement of some kind seems to me a good idea. She might well be a nervous pessimist, but I find it hard to accept your conclusion “She never dared to imagine the SNP could win power at Holyrood. I doubt she ever seriously dreams of Independence Day.” – if that were true she might as well have joined the Labour Party. Perhaps the core of this is the advice “softly softly catchee monkey”, particularly as we wont win independence only on the votes of the radical left. An old – English – friend of mine told me that my Yes vote in 2014 was from the heart, while his No vote was from the head (he didnt find the prospectus convincing). That said, he is horrified by Brexit, and I suspect there are a lot of No voters from 2014 who are willing to be convinced because they are repulsed by what is going on in England, but are waiting for the argument. We can fixate on what that argument might be (I have my own moans about the GC report believe me) but these things are substantive (see above) and wont be determined till after independence. Right now we need to get the procedural issue of independence over the line, and that’s what matters.

    1. Rob Brown says:

      Nicola may very well be a social democrat, Alasdair. She’s also on her way out and the problem is the people coming up in the ranks are to the right of even social democrats. Chris Deerin (a right-of-centre commentator who used to write for the Scottish Daily Nail) wrote recently in the pro-New Labour New Statesman:
      “Sturgeon, like her deputy John Swinney, emerged in the era of Alex Salmond, when the arguments for independence were often based more on heart than head. That has changed. The SNP has developed a technocratic approach in office…The brighter young stars of the movement have emerged in this new era of governance and are serious policy people with ambitions to deliver under whatever constitutional settlement Scotland has. Some are the kind of people whom in 1997, might have joined New Labour – they’ve gone where the glamour, action, and drama are, as young talent does.”
      The fact that the Unionist commentariat is looking upon this shift so favourably should be of concern to all of us who believe independence will mean we live in a radically different.

      1. Rob Brown says:

        No radically different country will be on the cards if these are the people who lead us to whatever amount of self-government they are prepared to settle for. In their moment of triumph they’re not going to give up the added glamour, action, and drama to anyone else.

      2. Alasdair Galloway says:

        two things Rob
        First, the right wing commentariat are not always, far less necessarily right. Moreover the SNP is, always has been and always will be, a “broad church”. How many parties could include Fergus Ewing (say) but also Jim Sillars?if you focus on those more like the former but ignore those more like the latter you will get a distorted view of the party.
        Secondly, when Nicola joined the party the SNP were a fringe party at best, but now have made the transition to being a party of government, not that far from achieving their core aim (though whether they will remains open to debate). This change of status was bound to attract in the political butterfly who will go wherever power is. I dont necessarily see this as a bad thing. What I do see as bad things is the continuing SNP iron discipline, requiring adherence to whatever the line of the party happens to be, on pain of something nasty. Not only is there not the intellectual flexibility to cope with different views which are pretty much inevitable (see first point), but faced with something like a five or six fold increase in membership immediately after the referendum, the party has done nothing to respond to this change. If a membership of 20,000 is a party, what is one of 120,000 (nearly)? Speaking to someone in our local SNP the main effect seems to be that they need bigger rooms for meetings. What they might do with these new members is something that they just dont seem to think about, other of course than a source of money. A membership of 120000 is no longer just a party, but a movement.
        There will be a radically different country Rob, if folk will vote for it. Sturgeon could no more hold it back than impose it.

    2. Jo says:

      “Well this. In my 67 year life time I dont think I can remember a period of greater political chaos – and I lived through the winter of discontent!”

      Absolutely Alasdair. I’ve said the same here quite recently. Chaos wherever you look.

      As you say, what’s still to come? Who would even try to guess? And there’s the Salmond business too.

      1. John B Dick says:

        David Steel said the other day that people in every country criticise their parliment, and people in Scotland have every right to criticise their parliament, but that compared to what is going on at Westminster ……

        I don’t think I have ever heard an argument in favour of independence that wasn’t at root a criticism of a failure of the Westminster System.

        Can it be beyond the wit of man to devise a federal or similar system of government that satisfies opinion in all parts? Is that inherently impossible. and if so why?

        Westminster will never deliver it, of course.

        Fundamentalists who want all their minority desires dealt with at one go can only produce failure, whether it be radical left, environmentalism, republicanism or leave-EU. Lets just get independence first and argue about the details later.

  4. Chris Downie says:

    Playing devil’s advocate here, is it not a foolish tactical game being played here – by SNP and the wider YES movement alike – to ignore the fact that the 60-40 split in the EU referendum was similar among both Unionists and Nationalists? While NI’s 56% Remain vote was distinct among both camps (DUP backed Leave, Republicans and Alliance voters overwhelmingly – apparently in the 80’s – backed Remain) there are clearly many SNP/YES supporters who want out of the EU and they have been marginalised completely.

    It’s not rocket science to deduce that the nationalist NE turned blue in 2017 due to low turnout, largely because they are not keen on Sturgeon and Murrell’s strategy of, in many people’s eyes, swapping one master for another.

    I’d also point out that Sturgeon and her cronies were all to keen to point out (quite rightly) that independence was a viable prospect back in 2011/12 when the polls unanimously showed support at a static 30% or so. Yet, they are strangely silent when you consider leaving the EU starts from 38% support, despite few politicians backing it on either the Unionist or Nationalist side.

    If there is another referendum under her tenure (and I’m far from convinced there will be) then I predict that the YES/Leave demographic will be pivotal to the outcome. Give them a fair hearing and we’ll likely win, but ignore or marginalise them and we’ll likely lose – then it really is off the table for a generation, possibly forever.

    1. Rob Brown says:

      Very good point, Chris. The SNP high command obviously assume they still have all the Yes/Leaver voters still safely in the bag. Big mistake, I reckon. Since June 23 2016 they have reduced the case for Scottish independence to a way of blocking Brexit and/or Boris. I suspect that is because the SNP cannot imagine or articulate a vision of taking back control of our country that might captivate a large majority of their compatriots and persuade them to take what is always going to be giant leap of faith.

      1. Millsy says:

        Basically what you are saying is that Yessers who don’t like the EU will prefer to remain ( no pun intended ) within the UK , regardless of how chaotic or Loony a Tory Government is in power .
        If that is the case , as Private Frazer predicted , we are doomed !
        However , being a nervous pessimist myself , I still think that most Scots will see the writing on the wall for a democratic UK , where social democracy ( ha , ha ) will be just another idea that dies along with any other political slogans that the lunatics who currently hold the reins of power despise .
        Bring independence , even if it scares the sh*t out of Nicola , Rob , and any other scribbler who feels the need to undermine the inevitable .

      2. Millsy says:

        Basically what you are saying is that Yessers who don’t like the EU will prefer to remain ( no pun intended ) within the UK , regardless of how chaotic or Loony a Tory Government is in power .
        If that is the case , as Private Frazer predicted , we are doomed !
        However , being a nervous pessimist myself , I still think that most Scots will see the writing on the wall for a democratic UK , where social democracy ( ha , ha ) will be just another idea that dies along with any other political slogans that the lunatics who currently hold the reins of power despise .
        Bring on independence , even if it scares the sh*t out of Nicola , Rob , and any other scribbler who feels the need to undermine the inevitable .

        1. Rob Brown says:

          Yeah Millsy, that’s right, don’t you be getting agitated by scribblers like me who have been scribbling about the struggle for Scottish independence in serious publications for over 30 years. Just keep taking the tabloids – The National and the Sunday National – and you’ll keep feeling everything is perfectly going to plan. You can even look forward to a special 64-page pictorial supplement the morning after Independence Day.

          1. Millsy says:

            Keep your kilt on , Rob ! And tell me , in your 30+years of scribbling for ”serious publications” , how much closer to Independence have you moved us ? Or are we only allowed to vote for a Independent Scotland that fits your ” serious ” principles ?
            And what have you got against any publication that purports to support the Independence cause ( God knows they are few and far between ) ?

          2. Willie says:

            Yes Rob, serious publications you say.

            That’ll include the esteemed Scotsman I presume. Indeed, just read again your Scotsman article of 24th May 2012 about “ why Independence is no passport to success “


        2. Rob Brown says:

          Well Millsy, one thing I did as the founding deputy editor of the Sunday Herald was to provide a strong counter-balance to the devolution dullards who dominated that publication’s editorial conferences in its infancy – several of whom waited until the Yes campaign was surging in the polls before zealously converting to the Indy cause. And I did the same at STV News when the people in charge of its political coverage did not disguise their support for Donald Dewar and Scottish Labour. Again, several of them only discovered their inner nationalist around 2013-14. Fair weather friends of national freedom, I think you’ll find. Careerism and opportunism is as prevalent in the media as among politicians.

          1. Rob Brown says:

            You did ask, Millsy, what I felt I’d done to progress the independence cause so I told you.
            If the SNP’s current policy platform – discredited social democracy and membership of a nuclear military alliance – doesn’t matter, then why is it spelling it out in such minute detail? Do you really think that if it led Scotland to its version of ‘independence’, this party on the euphoric aftermath of its victory would simply melt like snaw aff SGC a dyke?
            The one thing the New Nats believe in is being in power or even semi-power, as they currently are and would happily settle for if it means another five years on outrageous salaries and gold-plated pensions.
            Any poor and/or genuinely radical person who goes round the doors campaigning for that is daft and/or in for a very big disappointment.

        3. Rob Brown says:

          Just to add, the greatest compliment ever paid to me in all my time as a media pundit (for The Independent and Scotland on Sunday) was when right-wing ranter in The Scotsman described me in print as “the scourge of the Scottish media establishment”. That really made my day.
          Now, after a decade away, I aim to become the scourge of the new Scottish Establishment – the no longer nationalist SNP high command and their cheerleaders in the media (of whom there are quite a few, even at Pacific Quay).

          1. Willie says:

            The “ scourge of independence “ more like from what I can see Rob.

            And a “ ranter” too.

            Takes one to know one as they say. But then again it takes all types to make a world, and at least you can have a laugh at slapstick for what it is.

          2. Millsy says:

            Well , you certainly don’t hide your light under a bushel , Rob ! However in the ten years you claim you were ‘away’ us poor stay-at-home Scots did improve our chances of Independence greatly .
            Regardless of your feelings about the SNP leadership ( and I share much of it ) I don’t see divide and conquer as a worthwhile tactic in this fight . Come Independence you and I and everyone else will get the chance to put forward our own ideas , choose our own party to support – or none for that matter !
            Until then I and many others will thole the deficiencies we see in the SNP leadership – but remember , the Yes campaign is diverse and inclusive . It includes the SNP too !

        4. Rob Brown says:

          You did ask, Millsy, what I felt I’d done to progress the independence cause so I told you.
          If the SNP’s current policy platform – discredited social democracy and membership of a nuclear military alliance – doesn’t matter, then why is it spelling it out in such minute detail? Do you really think that if it led Scotland to its version of ‘independence’, this party – in the euphoric aftermath of its victory – would simply melt like snaw aff a dyke?
          The one thing the New Nats passionately believe in is being in power or even semi-power, which they would happily settle for if it means another five years on outrageous salaries and gold-plated pensions.
          Any poor and/or genuinely radical person who goes round the doors campaigning for that is daft and/or in for a very big disappointment.

    2. Jo says:

      “Give them a fair hearing and we’ll likely win, but ignore or marginalise them and we’ll likely lose – then it really is off the table for a generation, possibly forever.”

      Chris, are you actually saying that YES people who also voted Leave would vote NO in a future Indyref2 if their wish to be out of the EU isn’t granted?

    3. Josef Ó Luain says:

      Many folks in the Yes/Leave category will, I believe, desert the SNP in sheer frustration at the unacceptability of its wait-and-see position on Indy and its technocratic drift, but only if Corbyn can attract them in a forthcoming GE with an inspirational and radical programme. That’s to say: It seems highly unlikely that the SNP will be losing too many Yes/Leavers, no matter how marginalised they’re made to feel.

    4. Alasdair Galloway says:

      Chris I take your point about the fishing community ‘s concerns about the CFP, but the assumption was that any Brexit agreement would give the EU no leverage with regard to fishing. I think that is naive in the extreme. IF there is a trade agreement I cannot see the EU not demanding that fishing rights are part of that agreement. Indeed as a coastal state there are international agreements requiring us to make agreements with other coastal states, particularly given their proximity. The notion of the Icelandic 200 mile exclusive limit is just not going to happen for the UK under almost any circumstances.

  5. Graeme Purves says:

    Having cut my political teeth in one of GUSNA’s sister organisations, Aberdeen University Scottish Nationalist Association (AUSNA), in the mid-1970s, I find myself in close agreement with this assessment.

  6. Darby O'Gill says:

    Though male, pale and stale myself, I am rather proud to live in a country led by Nicola Sturgeon, a young woman who has risen from relatively humble beginnings to the position of First Minister by dint of her intellect, compassion and principles. However, living in a household with an annual income equivalent to ten times the national average wage must inevitably tend to distance one from the realities of everyday life for many Scots struggling to survive . A gesture such as ‘the 10% solution’ may be required to re-affirm her original conviction that independence is the only route that will tackle inequality and lead to a better life for all Scots.

  7. Rob Brown says:

    Response to Willie (or whoever is hiding behind that pseudonym) you seem obsessed with one single article I wrote while excluding the hundreds of others I’ve written on the constitutional question.
    If you or anyone else reads your favourite article of mine carefully, you’ll understand the context in which it was written: I was renewing my passport in 2012 in Dublin, a city which had become an economic disaster zone amid its delusions of ‘Independence in Europe’ (then and now a complete oxymoron). 2012 was also the year in which the SNP started to bellow Nuclear-free in NATO! – equally oxymoronic.
    In that context, I signed off that article by saying: ‘I cannot say for certain what I’ll be when my new passport reaches its expiry date in 2022 – Scottish, British, European, World Citizen? Quite possibly, an even stranger mixture of all the above.’
    One thing that is now certain is that there will be no independent administration in Edinburgh issuing Scottish passports by 2022! And whose fault is that – mine for filing one despairing dispatch from Dublin in 2012?

  8. Rob Brown says:

    Just to add: I didn’t write the headline and I wasn’t happy with it as I don’t think it captured the main thrust of my argument.
    That said, I do believe Independence (of and by itself) is no passport to success. Which is why I now write articles arguing that our campaign should be for Independence, Equality and Ecology.

    1. Wul says:

      “I do believe Independence (of and by itself) is no passport to success.”

      Of course! No argument from me on that score. Just like leaving the parental home is no guarantee of success.

      An independent Scotland could be a complete fuck up. But it will be an Edinburgh fuck up, not a Westminster one. I’ll be to get there in an hour to protest and the folk inside the Parliament will be able to understand what I’m shouting at them.

      Independence is it’s own reward. Any hardships will need to be tholed and worked through. Our country has the necessary resources, I’ve checked. That’s all we need. We can fight over who has power afterwards, just like any other normal nation.

    2. Willie says:

      Fair enough Rob. We are I hope all on the one side.

      Independence for many of us is a journey to a better Scotland. It is not however a guarantee of it.

      Currently within the movement for independence there are differences of opinion on how to proceed, and yes, there is emerging criticism of the positions being taken by the FM .

      If indepence from England was easy we would have had it by now. It is however not easy, the world’s biggest colonial empire does not cede it’s last possessions readily.

      For that reason we need to stick together and it would be a disaster if the SNP as the premier independence party was weakened.

      Splits we do not need, and that is why the iron discipline of the SNP is the choice of so many.

      And yes, the SNP does not speak for all of the independence movement. But the wider independence movement knows that and that is why over 100,000 people could march in harmony in a sea of blue All Under One Banner.

      Our time will come and then with a constitution we can be proud of our re-established country can make its decisions itself within the cut and thrust of international relations.

      That I think is our passport to success.

      1. Rob Brown says:

        I think you and I – and probably most people on this site – are pretty much on the one side, Willie. But I don’t think the SNP still wants the same as us – independence. From Sturgeon’s recent statements and inactions (touched on in my article), it is pretty clear its high command is preparing to settle for something short of that. Assuming they aren’t split asunder in the not too distant future. Interesting comments last week from MacAskill about the upcoming Salmond trial: “From what I hear, some leading SNP reputations could be well and truly burned. Where that goes, no one knows but it’s a factor that has to be taken into account.” Certainly does, as I argued in one of my first pieces for Bella at the start of the year. Nice to see Kenny catching up with me!

        1. Derek Henry says:


          You are about 3 years ahead of most Indy voters on this. Please keep up the good work and keep telling the truth no matter what push back you get.

          Both us know where this is heading and we both know it will be no independence at all. Those responsible for getting us there will be in total shock when they actually find out where they have led us to.

          I’ve said from the start as soon as you start lying to steal voters to win independence then the SNP are no better than other political parties we have fought against all of our lives. Then I woke up and realised the SNP weren’t lying they were infact going to lead Scotland into the heart of the EU. If the Scottish and Indy media don’t start holding them to account it will be too late.

          Nobody will be able to stop them Rob and we know it and instead of big red alarm bells ringing the size of big ben. Indy voters are singing Ode To joy and waving EU flags.


        2. Derek Henry says:


          You are roughly 12 months ahead in your thinking of any Indy think tank I’ve had the pleasure to work with.

          My own personal view is it is duplicitous of the Indy movement to attack the growth comission for all the right reasons but completely ignore the exact same rules embedded in the EU treaties for all the wrong reasons.

          What angers me even more and infact I’m furious about it. Is I’ve worked with people within the Indy movement who know fine well all the dangers of EU membership. They know the treaties and they know all about the neoliberal globalism within them but just won’t cross that line and write about it or even say it.

          Why Rob ?

          Because it’s indy at all costs – Don’t upset the 60% who voted to remain- We can sort it out afterwards – This is their grand plan !!!!!

          So basically lie to Lib Dem voters and Labour voters who want to remain to win independence and then try and explain to them and Indy remainers why the EU is a very bad idea after independence is won. All the while the SNP are wanting to be at the heart of Europe anyways. The SNP and remainers will steam roll right over the top of them.

          Then as you know Rob we are all fooked. Leavers and remainers with no independence at all. We have swapped one currency issuer with another and swapped the block grants with the IMF instead. If we are very lucky the IMF will leave us the lighthouse on Bass Rock in public hands.

          1. Rob Brown says:

            Thank you, Derek. If you’re right and I am three years ahead of most Indy voters, that doesn’t trouble me at all. It’s taken over 300 years to come anywhere close to restoring Scotland’s national sovereignty so what’s another three years? No danger of the SNP ‘leadership’ mobilising a solid majority for their phoney version of ‘independence’ in the meantime.

          2. Derek Henry says:

            The way I see it at the moment there is

            A 20% chance of Indy

            And if there is an Indy there is 95% chance it will be at the heart of Europe

            I would like to see those %’s the other way around.

            95% chance of Indy and 20% chance it being at the heart of Europe.

        3. Me Bungo Pony says:

          Utter p*sh Mr Brown!!

  9. Me Bungo Pony says:

    Agent Brown wrote; “Those idealistic undergads were into democratic socialism not social democracy”.


    Agent Brown’s crusade to destroy the indy movement’s chances of achieving it’s goal continues apace.

    1. Rob Brown says:

      You must think the current SNP-controlled Indy cause is very weak and brittle – or I am an incredibly eloquent and persuasive individual – to get so agitated about my twice per month postings on this site. Thank you for that very generous compliment.

      Just one other thing before you go off to chew some more hay, agents normally conceal their identities behind pseudonyms, Bungo Pony.

      1. Me Bungo Pony says:

        The most successful agents hide in plain sight and have no need of pseudonyms Mr Brown. Think Burgess, Philby, McLean, Cairncross and Blunt. Turning up for a job interview with …. any organisation …. and claiming your name was “The Blue Max”, or such-like, would be a bit of a faux pas when it comes to an infiltration attempt.

        I assume your activities that attempt to undermine the Indy movement extend beyond this web site. Perhaps finding that elusive charismatic, radical, left-wing leader that you prophesy will lead the forces of righteousness in smashing the SNP and then carrying the people into the promised land of an independent, socialist Scotland. That is part of the fantasy you are spinning to convince people you are pro-independence isn’t it?

        1. Rob Brown says:

          If you’re on a spy hunt, my little pony, I’d suggest you try to identify and expose the sleeper agents who’ll have penetrated the SNP from top to bottom by now. Interesting wee parlour game to try to guess which of the Scottish Cabinet (and their favoured courtiers) are in that category.

          1. Me Bungo Pony says:

            Ahhh! Sowing the seeds of paranoia. A favoured tactic of the British Establishment. Well played Agent Brown 😉

        2. Rob Brown says:

          Salmondgate seems to have sown such seeds already, judging by the reactions of many Nats.
          Seriously, you should read Politics & Paranoia by Robin Ramsay, the Scot who has tried to keep tabs on the security services since 1983 through his (now online) magazine Lobster. Although based in Hull for most of his adult life, he seems sympathetic towards Scottish nationalism whenever he touches upon it. With his unparalleled knowledge of Parapolitics and deep states, as well as of contemporary British history, I’ve no doubt he would concur with me about where the real threats to the Indy cause are coming from.

          1. Me Bungo Pony says:

            Yes, that’s it Agent Brown. Keep up the good work and Ermine shall surely be yours. Just as it was for so many of your “Left-Wing” comrades before. Pip pip.

        3. Rob Brown says:

          Many thanks, my little pony, for that very helpful link. I was particularly struck by the passage it included from a NewsNet article by Christopher Silver:
          “In 2014 the Yes campaign lost. It didn’t lose because of a hostile media. It didn’t lose due to UK government duplicity at the eleventh hour, nor because of frightened pensioners. These were all contributing factors to the final result: but the Yes campaign lost because its case wasn’t compelling enough. The sheer level of commitment might make this hard to thole, but if we don’t separate out the case and the movement, there’s a risk that we become isolated in virtuous defeat.”
          Given that Yes is no further forward almost half a decade on from 2014, I rest my case.

          1. Me Bungo Pony says:

            There has been no concerted campaign for Yes (how could there be with no prospect of a referendum and a country to run), while the Tories have made No their single, solitary policy and campaigned vigorously for it. Despite this, Yes is now in an arguably stronger position than in 2014 as are the SNP. That is a remarkable feat. Your case is not so much rested as dead in the water.

            Dislike the SNP all you like Mr Brown. Disagree with their policies. Put forward your own preferences. But don’t pretend the Indy movement would survive the SNP’s demise. Don’t pretend there is a credible, coherent and unified left waiting in the wings to “inherit” the SNP’s mantle at the forefront of the Indy campaign. Don’t pretend independence would be achieved sooner if the SNP were smashed aside.

            At best, it is delusional to believe any of the latter. At worst it is a deliberate attempt to split the Indy movement and destroy any chance of independence for decades at least. You appear to be an intelligent man so I find it difficult to believe you are deluded. Which leaves us with the second possibility …. Agent Brown,

            But perhaps you are just a bit …. over zealous. Perhaps you really are committed to achieving an independent Scotland. If so, take a reality check. Accept a strong and successful SNP is essential if Scotland is to become independent. Work with other left wingers to put together a case for a socialist Scotland that can be put to the people …. in the first elections to the Parliament of a newly independent Scotland. But first and foremost, achieve independence.

          2. Alasdair Galloway says:

            The difference you have with Rob Brown about the lack of development of the indy case since 2014 is an interesting one. I take your point about no referendum in sight, and also that there is a country to be run, but I wonder if you give the SNP a wee bit too easy a ride.
            A case can be taken forward other than during a campaign. It is for instance generally agreed that we lost in 2014 because the case was not strong enough – so lets work on making it stronger. Looking at where we went wrong last time/ where the weaknesses were – even where our strengths lay and making them stronger still. For instance one of the strengths of the Yes campaign was “grass roots”. There is a lot of support out there – not necessarily a majority, but still a lot. How interested are the SNP about using that? Or does everything have to come through the party? Remember in Catalonia there are several independence parties, pretty much from one side of the political range to the other. Competition of ideas can be presented by the Unionist side as lack of clarity, chaos even, but in my view – especially when there is no campaign – it is healthy. A movement debating ideas is one that is going to take things forward.
            One of the things that I think the SNP got wrong in 2014 was to so precipitately close down Yes, which – for much less for I buy the cost argument – could have become a mass movement think tank, with branches in every town, debating the sort of issues cited above – what went wrong, what went right, what could we do differently next time. In particular if there is clarity about the distance between the SNP and Yes (one is a political party, the other is not) then this might encourage others, who are not in the SNP and dont necessarily want to be, to remain involved in the independence movement.
            2014 was a national conversation. Dont you agree we seem to have stopped conversing – having a dialogue – with each other, and instead spend far too much time arguing with each other, when it should be the Unionists we argue with.

          3. Me Bungo Pony says:

            But Mr Galloway, there ARE lots of Yes groups out there working away and the SNP DO work with them and support them. You only have to read The National to see that. And the SNP HAVE worked on the case for independence. Like it or loathe it but the Growth Commission Report was a lot of work in addressing the economic case for independence. Obviously not everyone was going to agree with all of it (including me) but, never-the-less, it exists and may well assuage the fears of many who voted No in 2014.

            The SNP’s problem after 2014 was that it HAD to be seen to have accepted the result AND that it could continue to govern Scotland in the interests of ALL its peoples (“get on with the day job”). It therefore couldn’t go straight back into campaign mode without risking electoral meltdown and independence being lost for decades. In my opinion (not unbiased) they have done a remarkable job in governing Scotland well (we live within the UK framework, are restricted by it, yet Scotland’s public services are almost universally better than the rest of the UK’s), thereby retaining power (and a pro-independence majority in Holyrood) while maintaining a high expectation of inevitable independence (despite a “one trick pony” Tory opposition making the “precious Union” it’s sole policy).

            The SNP have had a difficult tightrope to walk with a mountain of responsibility on their heads. The likes of Mr Brown have the luxury of no responsibilities and expectations when they lecture the SNP on what it should have done or should not have done. And really, that’s fine so long as the criticism remains constructive and designed to further the Indy cause. A cause which I think all reasonable people KNOW requires a strong SNP to ensure its success.

            Mr Brown wants to destroy the SNP and (he says) replace it with some fantastical, mythological socialist alliance which simply does not exist and will not exist any time this side of independence. You mention the range of Catalan pro-indy parties. That culture does not exist in Scotland. There has only ever really been one credible pro-indy party in Scotland for nearly a century and that is the SNP. The fortunes of independence are, for good or bad, inextricably linked with their electoral success. Mr Brown knows that yet he still argues for their demise.

            As I said, criticise the SNP. Disagree with it. Form your own parties/organisations to argue for independence separately from it. Put forward your own plans for an independent Scotland. Even Michael Fry in The National argues his right-wing vision of Indy Scotland. It all helps to cement the idea in people’s minds that there is more than one model out there on which to base your decision to vote Yes on. Something that was missing in 2014. But what you DON’T do is attempt to fatally fracture the Yes movement by destroying its political focus.

        4. Rob Brown says:

          I do accept that it is mighty difficult for the SNP to simultaneously deliver under devolution and deliver us from devolution. Indeed, I issued that warning in writing as soon as they came to power in 2007. That was why it was so crucial to call the referendum at the right time and win it.
          While they did far better than widely expected in 2014, the Nats were always onto a loser. Not simply because the Yes campaign wasn’t tied to socialism. I would not classify myself as a conventional socialist, far less a Communist, since both those creeds emerged as a reaction to the miseries of the industrial revolution. They’re not fit for purpose in the post-industrial 21st century.
          But nor is shallow populism, which is all the SNP offers. It might appear impregnable but our dominant (and domineering) political party could rapidly implode due to the internal strains of the Salmond trial and/or a setback in the 2021 Holyrood election. Where will the Indy cause and the case for indyref2 be then?

          1. Me Bungo Pony says:

            And yet you actively work to achieve that implosion without any credible alternative. Why …. Agent Brown?

    2. Rob Brown says:

      I’ve told you why over and over again, my little pony, but your deep-set paranoia obviously makes it impossible for you to process the thought that someone else might genuinely have a different conception of independence and how to attain it.
      You clearly do fear that the SNP is extremely fragile and that any criticism of it from any quarter (even little old me) could sink the whole Yes cause. Yet you seem incapable of pondering what that implies about our governing party.
      Anyway, I’m tired of going round in circles so this is my last reply on this particular thread. You’ll just need to eagerly await my next posting in a few weeks time when, no doubt, you’ll trot out the same conspiracy theories if I’m not simply being an SNP cheerleader.

      1. Me Bungo Pony says:

        Pot and kettle Mr Brown.

  10. James_mac says:

    We get it Ron, you don’t like the SNP. I am not sure what the point of the article is. Are the SNP hardcore communists? No. Will we get a second independence referendum? No. No real suggestion about how we can go about getting a second referendum with the Tories banning any future Scottish referendum. But you did get “Feart First Minister” in there? Yes.

    I dont know what I read or what was the purpose of it. 2/10

    1. Rob Brown says:

      The point is that the Scottish nation has been in a state of suspended animation since there was a 45% Yes vote way back in 2014. For almost half a decade since then the SNP-controlled Indy campaign has shown it cannot get it up.
      As Scotland’s governing party, our Feart Minister, guided by Fred the Shred’s former PR flunkey, changes party policy on fundamental issues every few weeks, leaving most of us increasingly bemused as to what an independent Scotland would be like – or even seriously wondering whether the SNP leadership still truly believe in independence. (Just stroll through comments on this site if you doubt the level of disillusionment).
      Doubtless dazed and confused, Young Nats at Glasgow University have taken to telling their fellow students that the SNP has been committed since it’s foundation at that institution to the creation of a Scottish social democracy. They (and probably others like you) should read a chapter in The Radical Approach, a book of essays edited by the sadly departed Gavin Kennedy. Titled ‘Beyond Social Democracy’, it was written by the party’s then sharpest intellectual, Stephen Maxwell.
      That was published in 1976! In the subsequent four decades, the SNP has signally failed to build upon Maxwell’s bold attempt at radical thinking. Shallow populism is probably the best definition of what it now peddles.
      In my article I touched upon what I consider a more stirring rallying cry – Independence, Equality and Ecology – which I aim to expand upon in future Bella articles. Meanwhile, if you believe that sounds like Communism, I suggest you look up that term in any dictionary.

      1. Chris Downie says:

        To throw another few arguments out there:

        1. Aren’t the SNP (inadvertently or otherwise) actually helping the status quo when they place emphasis on “mitigating Tory cuts”, in that they are simply giving the impression to many (especially ‘soft NO’ voters) that devolution works and is thus adequate for keeping the hated Tories at bay?

        2. Additionally, when they’ve indicated they’d do a deal with Labour (first Miliband, then Corbyn) after a GE, to put them in power against the Tories, aren’t they being cunningly deceptive, in implying that there is a lesser of two evils, when the Bitter (sic) Together alliance showed that in fact, when it comes to the crunch, the 3 main WM parties will inevitably join as one to thwart Scotland’s aspirations? Surely the message should be that no WM government is good for Scotland?

        3. Also, while I understand the logic some commenters imply about the SNP distancing themselves from grassroots YES, so as to show independence is not a one-party endeavour, why have they attended Remain events? Further to that, isn’t the determination to overturn the democratic wishes of England and Wales setting a very dangerous precedent for overturning a future YES vote, should the Tories/Labour/DUP decide they don’t like the result?

        4. What have they done to reach out to the estimated 35-40% of YES/SNP voters who voted Leave, mostly for very democratic and principled reasons? After all, a future Leave campaign post-independence would be starting from a much higher point than the supposed 28-30% independence was sitting at in 2011. Will the feasible EEA/EFTA options receive a fair hearing while Alyn Smith et al are at the Party’s forefront?

        1. Rob Brown says:

          Good questions, Chris, are here are the only possible answers:
          1) Yes
          2) Yes
          3) Yes
          4) No

          1. Me Bungo Pony says:

            I disagree ..,, obviously;

            1. NO: Throwing the poor and vulnerable under the bus for political point scoring when you have the power to mitigate their WM induced suffering is simply not an option. Not only is it immoral, it gives the Unionists an open goal. I’m surprised (not really) socialist, man-of-the-people, Mr Brown supports this.

            2. NO: They are showing their willingness to be co-operative and reasonable. When it is inevitably thrown back in their face by the WM Labour Party (with the full support of the Scottish branch) they can legitimately point to it as proof of WM’s stubborn, “Union or death”, intransigence concerning Scotland. Not a good look.

            3. NO: They are standing up for Scotland’s interests and wishes. In this case, being taken out of the EU against its will. For whose interests would Unionists be demanding a confirmatory indyref? WM’s?

            4. YES: The SNP “corporately” support membership of the EU. However, on achieving independence, we will be outside the EU requiring us to apply for membership. That would require a referendum. There are plenty of voices in Scotland to put the “isolationist” case …. even within the SNP. How could the case be suppressed? Farage and co couldn’t be silenced. How could Alyn Smith silence their Scottish equivalents? It’s conspiracy theory nonsense.

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