2007 - 2022

Blessed People, Forever British

We’ve talked about These Islands before, but not for a while.

There’s a caption competition vibe about Neil Oliver’s pose by the side of the loch for his latest essay for These Islands. Does he need a pee? Is he going for a dip? The article, billed as “An emotional paean to Britain and to union, by Neil Oliver” is certainly that. The piece dribbles with emotional waffle: equal parts bogus-philosophy; sentimental ramblings and egotistical cant.

It’s chock full of shit history and romantic mawkish nonsense. It’s like someone talking to their granny in the Waltons:

“The union is more than 300 years old. The coming together of Scotland and England, on May Day 1707, was hardly a happy one and no one denies it. The bride was poor and the groom knew he was being married only for his money. Unhappy or not it was to prove the best thing that ever happened to either of them.”

Oliver studiously avoids actual argument logic or analysis, instead he just resorts to heartfelt pleas:

“How to make the claim that we, the inhabitants of these islands, are one family? In the end I can only speak for myself and from my own heart. That much is all I truly know.”

This tactic – to appeal to his heart and his own personal feelings – doesn’t really wash. Partly because he reeks of the insincere and the inauthentic, and partly because he appears so arrogant.  Plus, you’re meant to be a historian and you’re meant to be engaging in political debate, so just saying “I can only speak for myself and from my own heart” doesn’t come across as honest and soulful it comes across as shallow and stupid.

Oliver’s ego is mirrored in his self-regard and his hilarious (ahistorical) exceptionalism for Britain. He writes:

“I have circumnavigated the coastline multiple times. I have criss-crossed the interior. I have seen the landscape from the sky, from the cockpit of fighter jets, vintage biplanes and microlights. I have been on its encircling waters in kayaks, battleships and just about anything in between that floats, and under its waters in scuba gear and a nuclear submarine.”

Now, really getting into his stride (in his khaki no-nonsense lightweight trousers):

“I have been around enough of the wider world to know that most places are not like Britain, not at all. Every time I hear the place being run down for some or other alleged failing I want to ask, “Compared to where?” That anyone at all would imagine it were possible to break this wonder into pieces and yet somehow retain its fragile, precious gifts in each of the tattered remnants is beyond me. A torn fragment of a work of art is not enough. Once its gone, it is forever and we will all be diminished by its passing.”

If that bit made you chuckle this might make you boak:

“This Britain of ours has been and remains a bright light in a dark and darkening world, a magnet for humanity moving in hopes of somewhere better. When the EU was conjured into being it copied our union in hopes of having a fraction of its success. Whatever the intention, those builders fell short of the mark. There is no EU welfare state, and German taxes do not pay for healthcare in Greece or pensions in Spain. Most of the wider world would rather it were more like us, that it might have what we have had. When it comes to western liberal democracy, ours is the original marque.”

This warm and fuzzy glow may you’ll have noticed bypassed any of the bad bits of British history, and it’s view of Anglo-European relations may prompt a giggle or two in Strasbourg, but it’s at least consistent. Back in 2017 – writing for These Islands – Michael Jary (Senior Partner at OC&C Strategy Consultants) had much the same shtick. Jary wrote:

“Of course, any picture is complex and multivariate, but by and large Britain is viewed with warm respect for its vibrancy, culture, entrepreneurialism, and openness, and as an exemplar of liberty and democracy.”

Yes sheeple, an “exemplar of liberty and democracy.”

Back then Jary mirrored Oliver’s nonsense:

He says: “It is natural to think of liberty being first an English, and then a British, invention: rooted in the Saxon past”.

Wonderfully natural I’d say.


“Britain now enjoys a continuity and stability of political and personal freedoms which is unparalleled elsewhere.”

Having firmly established the UK’s utopian status he explains:

“The UK’s economy is twice the size of Russia’s, and unlike Germany or Japan, it possesses nuclear weapons.”

Jary and Oliver’s rose-tinted Empire Loyalism is likely to be quietly embarrassing to the few actual Unionists trying to gather a response to the polls and trajectory of the Yes movement.

The reality is that we are more in preparation and anticipation now than anything else. In this state we can expect more drivel. I predict a binary between really hard nasty attacks and passionate if incoherent ‘paens’ like this. The second will be used to soften the blow of the first, like a constitutional shit-sandwich.

What’s striking about Oliver’s analysis is that there isn’t any.

But also as a tv historian there isn’t any history. Brexit isn’t happening. Windrush didn’t happen. Thatcher didn’t happen. The Empire didn’t happen. Nothing ever really happened. None of this matters.

For Oliver it is all about a Gushing Me:

“When I toured Britain with one of my books last year and the year before, going from theatre to theatre, I stepped out onstage one memorable night in Liverpool into a welcome of cheers that took me aback so much I almost burst into tears. I have no connection to that city on the Mersey and yet I was nearly knocked to the back wall of the stage by the wave. I know that might sound self indulgent [it really really does Neil] but I have to write about what I have experienced as a citizen of Britain, to make clear why it all matters to me the way it does.”

It might be worth reminding him that in Britain you’re not a Citizen you’re a Subject, but by this point the reader is engulfed by the tremendous inanity of it all.

Finally Oliver writes in abject surrender: “I don’t base my decision on politics or economics or even history.”

We noticed.

Reaching a crescendo of incoherence he screams across the loch:

“I love Britain more than anywhere else in the world. With all my heart I declare that those of us born here, or who have made a home here by choice, are the luckiest, most blessed of all people. I am British. I will always be British.”

You will Neil, you will.


Comments (80)

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  1. Welsh Sion says:

    This from the man who wrote in his book on the History of Scotland,

    “It is a strange and vaguely unsettling experience to be in your own country and yet find yourself surrounded by fellow Scots whose language you do not understand [i.e. Scottish Gaelic.”

    What’s stopping you from learning it, big man? How can you hope to understand that bit more about “my country” its myriad histories, traditions and cultures without knowing its language?

    Ah, but my mistake. “My country” for Neil Oliver is Britain – not Scotland.

    How enlightening is Adam’s earlier article on Scottish Gawlic.

    1. Anndrais mac Chaluim says:

      He could always get a native speaker like Torcuil Crichton to teach him.

    2. Anndrais mac Chaluim says:

      He could also get a native speaker to teach him another of Scotland’s languages: Polish. In fact, more Scots speak Polish in the home than speak Gaelic. As Oliver himself says in his article: ‘Our parents, happy or not, are gone now and never coming back.’

    3. Time, the Deer says:

      Chan eil sinn ga iarraidh!

    4. Anndrais mac Chaluim says:

      Nie chcemy go albo.

      1. Time, the Deer says:

        So you’re allowed to reject Oliver, but anyone else doing so in this thread is ‘infantile’, playing ‘playground politics’, and only objects to him because he is ‘politically incorrect’. Have I got that right?

        There’s no ‘demonisation’ in criticising a defender of racists and of colonialism, an inarticulate, cliche-spouting charlatan and all-round grifting chancer. One does not need unionism as a reason to dislike Neil Bloody Oliver.

        1. Anndrais mac Chaluim says:

          No, you haven’t got it right. I don’t reject Neil Oliver. I don’t know the man. I maybe met him once, a long time ago. I criticised as sentimental the prose of the article, to which Mike provided a link, and as spurious the contrast between geography and culture contained therein. As for the man himself, I’ve nothing to say.

          It’s the vacuous ad hominem thuggery that’s infantile, and for much the same reason that the sentimentalism of his article is infantile. It has no discursive value; it is purely expressive, on the one hand of Neil’s visceral love for these isles and, on the other, of a visceral hatred for Neil Oliver and his ilk.

          Demonising the man himself by calling him ‘a defender of racists’, ‘inarticulate’, ‘cliche-spouting’, ‘a charlatan’, ‘an all-round grifting chancer’, and ‘bloody’ might endear you to a particular ‘othering’ gang, but it contributes nothing of substance to the political debate.

          Indeed, Neil ‘inarticulates’ this himself, when he speaks of the visceral hatred that pollutes civic life in Scotland, in the interview Michael posted below.

          1. Time, the Deer says:

            Have a good night, mate *thumbs up emoji*

          2. Anndrais mac Chaluim says:

            Nae bother!

  2. SleepingDog says:

    Caption? “Neil Oliver, Scotland’s floater”.

    1. david says:

      Harsh, but fair.

      1. Anndrais mac Chaluim says:

        Farsh but hair.

    2. Alastair McIver says:

      You win.

      1. SleepingDog says:

        @Alastair McIver, ach, but now I’m thinking “Neil Oliver, Floater of Scotland” would be more lyrical.

        1. Anndrais mac Chaluim says:

          Although, he seems a definite ‘No’ rather than a floater.

  3. Anndrais mac Chaluim says:

    Gushy sentimentalism! He looks, in that photo, as if he’s about to burst into a chorus of ‘For These are My Mountains’. Do you think he based it on an Alexander Brothers album cover? At least he’s not wearing a kilt.

    1. Anndrais mac Chaluim says:

      That apart, though, he does in passing make some interesting historiographical observations about the unnaturalness of nationality and the constitutive myths of Scottish identity, and an interesting ontological point about such identities as individual existential choices, by which he justifies his right to Britishness. But like most patriotic paeans, it’s largely pap.

  4. Jane says:

    I think he’s mistaking geography for culture, but hey ho. Also I wish he would stop referencing crannies, definitely boak.

    1. Anndrais mac Chaluim says:

      No, in the article I think he’s contrasting geography, which is physical, with culture, which is fictional – which is fair enough.; I wouldn’t quarrel with that.

      But he seemingly goes on to imply that, because geography’s physical, it’s essential, while culture, being fictional, is accidental and therefore arbitrary – which latter is an extraordinary thing for a historian to say. The fictions we tell ourselves are just as important as the physical facts of our environment to how we’re historically constituted. How else could he in fact identify himself as ‘British’ or whatever?

      1. Anndrais mac Chaluim says:

        Sorry, I’d like to rephrase that last bit.

        ‘…which arbitrariness is an extraordinary thing for a historian to claim. The fictions we tell ourselves are just as important as the physical facts of our environment to how we’re historically constituted. Without them, how else could he in fact identify himself as ‘British’ or whatever?’

        1. Frank Waring says:

          ….. if culture was really the ‘…fictions that _we tell ourselves_…’ it might not provide such an insurmountable barrier to rational thought.
          The narratives of the British Empire — which might have been better referred to as the Anglo-Scottish Empire — that Neil Oliver’s generation absorbed from their parents and grandparents provide, unconsciously to them, a framework for their political thought, which is — in some essential respects — totally illusory.

          1. Anndrais mac Chaluim says:

            Yes, I think that’s more or less what I said: it’s disingenuous of Neil to that the fictions that frame our identities carry less weight than those that frame his ‘Britishness’, which he seems to be claiming is framed not by cultural fictions but by the geographical fact that he’s an inhabitant of the British Isles.

          2. Arboreal Agenda says:

            Is ‘fiction’ really the right word here? It isn’t ‘made up’ as the only thing that gives anything a name is a human being. That would make everything we ever thought, a fiction. Geography is not separate from how we feel as it shapes what we are (the whole edifice of psychogeography makes this clear). The weather is similar. So the physical entity that is the British Isles affects its inhabitants psyche and identity and that is not fictional but very real. In that sense there is a distinction to be made between feeling kinship with the notion of being British (i.e. of this island) to that of Scottish or English. One might add the caveat though that Scotland, England and Wales also have their distinctiveness in terms of physical geography and weather but that is much more subtle and with lots of blurring, so this is where one could argue, the fictions begin and the borders erected.

          3. Anndrais mac Chaluim says:

            It’s a ‘fiction’ insofar as it’s a human construct, as opposed to a ‘fact’, which is [thought to be] independent of what we think of it.

            Deliciously, the very idea of a ‘fact’ and the distinction between fact and fiction are themselves human constructs, which we employ as biological organisms to help us make sense of our raw experience and therefore survive in our environment. As Marx insisted, we exist as self-creative beings, as beings which develop the capacities peculiar to their species as they live and work together to produce their means of subsistence, and which in the process of so producing their means of subsistence generate their various conceptions of the world and of themselves (‘ideologies’).

            Basically, then, we ‘make up’ the world and ourselves (including the distinction between – or ‘alienation’ of – the two) as part of our technology for survival; thus, all culture is useful fiction or ‘praxis’ (in the Marxian sense). Thus, also, we can with Marx define ‘communism’ as the future state in which this alienation between subject and object, ‘man’ and ‘the world’, value and fact, worker and work, is finally overcome; a state in which (as Marx puts it) nature will be fully humanised and nature fully naturalised.

            There you go! Historical materialism in a nutshell.

            It’s for similar considerations that 20th-century ‘irrealists’ like Nelson Goodman would say anent cultural artefacts like geography: that while it’s true we didn’t make the stars as a carpenter makes a table, it’s we in fact who make them ‘stars’.

            Of course, as Hegelian fictions go, Marxism is the self-reflexive daddy of them all.

          4. Anndrais mac Chaluim says:

            Of course, that should read ‘… a state in which (as Marx puts it) nature will be fully humanised and MAN will be fully naturalised.

          5. Frank Waring says:

            I hope that replying to myself will turn out to be a good way of adding an illustration to the last of the long list of earlier replies. An article in the Guardian this morning described how an experienced observer sighted a drone at Gatwick, and reported it to the police operation there, only to realise some minutes later that what he had seen was a helicopter 10 miles away. What he had seen, I would say, was never an object in the real world, but a feature of the model of the world that he has constantly running in his brain. Both the ‘truth’ and the ‘fiction’ had the same status in his brain and in his mind. The truth/untruth distinction lies in the correspondence between the model and the real world, and in the cases we’re talking about here, determination of this correspondence is much more problematical that it was at Gatwick.

          6. Anndrais mac Chaluim says:

            Yep, the observer’s original hypothesis, by which he sought to explain his observation, was subsequently falsified by further observation. Quite sensibly, he modified his hypothesis to take account of the data supplied by this further observation, and this modified hypothesis will remain true until it too is falsified by some future observation. That’s good scientific method, according to Karl Popper.*

            Now, what the observer observed is factual, his explanation of what he observed was theoretical, and Popper’s axiology (the narrative that enables relative values of ‘true’ or ‘false’ to be ascribed to alternate theories) is fictional. It’s ‘fictional’ because evaluative criteria are not observable facts, nor can they be made ‘true’ or ‘false’ by observation and, so, axiologies don’t themselves qualify as ‘theories’; it’s just a non-factual (hence ‘fictional’) device of the sort we need to assume prior to the fact in order to make explaining things possible.

            *Other axiologies are available; Popper’s is just one of several. The big philosophical question is: Can we distinguish between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ axiologies? It’s difficult to see how we possibly could. The conclusion that we can’t might be described as ‘deep relativism’.

          7. Frank Waring says:

            I think we may be essentially in agreement, but I find it hard to be sure, because — as it seems to me — you have overcomplicated your explanation to the point of mis-description. The Gatwick Guy was not performing the Popper Ritual. There was no hypothesis formation, there was no attempt to devise an experimental/observational protocol which could potentially falsify the hypothesis. GG reported an observation to the police, and later reported a different observation (derived, apparently, from the same sensory input).
            I think that the most insightful way to describe this situation, is to say that his observations were not of ‘objects in the real world’, but of features of the model of the world that is constructed and perpetually reconstructed in his brain by processes that are probably only understood even ever so dimly by a small number of people, not including me.
            I am English, but I have lived in Scotland for my entire adult life. For most of that time, I would have opposed Scottish independence, and I still did when the referendum campaign started. I realise now that that automatic opposition was due to the fact that I had never been led to think that the UK was anything but one country. But after 20 years of devolution, it was quite clear that Scotland was on average, over the years, less badly governed from Edinburgh than from London. So at the start of the campaign I asked many of my unionist friends to identify some of the material benefits that came to those who live in Scotland from being governed from London rather than from Edinburgh. This would have been an easy task while the Anglo-Scottish Empire was a real thing, and even possible to some extent in the 50’s and 60’s, but not by 2014 (of course if I asked the same question now, some would dutifully trot out the Gers nonsense).
            Once I started to ask the question ‘Why not?’ rather than ‘Why?’, I changed into an independentist. No, I can’t suggest an easy way to lead Neil Oliver down that road.

          8. Anndrais mac Chaluim says:

            I’m not suggesting that the Gatwick Guy enacted Popper’s axiology; all he did was make a mistake. I was using his mistake to illustrate the distinction I made between ‘fact’ and ‘fiction’ in my critique of Neil Oliver’s position.

            I agree that your Gatwick Guy’s were not observations of ‘objects in the real world’, if by ‘real world’ you mean some world which exists outside and independent of his observations of it, but of features of the model of the world that is constructed and perpetually reconstructed in his brain. They couldn’t be, since he can have no immediate access to and, therefore, certain knowledge of any such world, but only to the world as he experiences it; that is, to the world as its constructed and perpetually reconstructed in his brain by (again as Popper would have it – there are other epistemologies; you pays your money, you takes your choice) a predictive process of conjecture and refutation.

            Again, I’m not suggesting the Guy enacted Popper’s phenomenalist epistemology; all he did was make a mistake, then correct it.

          9. Arboreal Agenda says:

            I still think we are materially affected and shaped by physical geography and the weather 🙂

          10. Anndrais mac Chaluim says:

            No doubt the land does affect us materially as a factor of production. To borrow an example from another thread, it affected Somhairle MacGill-Eain’s self-creation in his production of An Cuilthionn. Neither Somhairle nor his poetry would be what they are without the land he exploited as a resource in his ‘making’.

            We’re here getting into the aesthetic realms of the blesséd Heidegger (e.g. Der Ursprung des Kunstwerkes) and the no less blesséd Nan Shepherd (The Living Mountain). But no one quite says it like Somhairle.

      2. Although I refer to him as a historian and so does he, I’m not sure that’s true

        1. Anndrais mac Chaluim says:

          Well, he’s certainly not an academic historian, any more than David Attenborough, whose broadcasting style he echoes, is a scientist.

        2. Anndrais mac Chaluim says:

          I’ve just read an article about him in the Ayrshire Magazine, where he self-identifies as ‘an enthusiast and generalist’ rather than as a historian, with a degree in archaeology and a career in journalism, which, he pursued after graduation through a three-year indenture scheme with a local paper ‘doon hame’ in Dumfriesshire. I’ve just realised, on reading this, that I met him once, back in the 1990s, when he was deputy editor of the East Lothian Courier and I worked out of the Pans.

          It’s a small world! He’s certainly done well for himself!

          1. Time, the Deer says:

            Incidentally, he didn’t get a very good result for his undergraduate archaeology degree, and I am reliably informed that no one in the department remembers him even being there – which doesn’t mean that he wasn’t there, just that he was utterly forgettable.

            Oliver is as much an historian as Trump is a self-made millionaire – i.e. he made the claim once himself, and other folk have repeated it so often since that it has to some ears become truth.

          2. Anndrais mac Chaluim says:

            No, I think we’ve established that he’s a journalist and broadcaster.

          3. Time, the Deer says:

            So you did. I was adding that he was also an unremarkable archaeologist, by all accounts.

  5. PamB says:

    In para 7 please correct your use of “your” x 2 to “you’re” x 2. I couldn’t read further than that.

    1. Thanks Pam. The lockdown has been hard on us all.

  6. Michael says:

    It might be worth considering that the experience of reading Oliver’s peice is probably how many reasonable people who support the union feel when reading a lot of analysis-free pro indy verbiage.

    Purley tugging on the heart strings, whether that is to invoke sentimentality or repulsion, is manipulative nonsense. The indy movement would do well to recognise this.

    1. SleepingDog says:

      @ Michael, yes, this mind versus heart thing seems like a false dichotomy. I think this is explicitly rejected in other cultures, perhaps Korean philosophy (for example) which unifies Mind-Heart. One’s values are not contested by different organs, although biology shapes them. So “my heart says” rhetoric does smack of sophistry, or at least pseudoscience. I do remember it seeming odd that Neil Oliver often appears to be bursting into tears in his television programmes. Anyway, I thought he was a (qualified, practising) archaeologist rather than a historian.

      1. Anndrais mac Chaluim says:

        Yes, but he not Korean (he is constituted, ‘heart’ and ‘minds’, by an entirely different set of historical circumstances), and basically, constituted as he is, all he’s saying is that he loves Britain, which is a purely emotive utterance and hardly worth remarking.

        His reporting of the biological fact that he loves Britain is no more interesting than would be his telling us that he has dark hair; all we can do is note his emotional disposition; it brooks no criticism.

    2. Anndrais mac Chaluim says:

      The indy movement would indeed do well to recognise this: that purely tugging on the heartstrings, whether to invoke sentimentality or repulsion, is manipulative nonsense.

      ‘Pots and kettles’ springs to mind.

  7. Welsh Sion says:

    Welsh nationalism , I understand . Obviously. Scottish nationalism, I understand. Irish nationalism, I understand (but I don’t condone the use of violence against the person). English nationalism, I kinda understand, too (even if it means I profoundly disagree with it.

    But ‘British nationalism’, I don’t get. Oliver admits that it’s some sort of attachment to a heap of windswept rock in the North Atlantic, which is ok, I guess, as far as it goes. But ‘Britishness’ is so much more and so much less at the same time. Like the British State it supposedly idolises, it’s a completely artificial construct. It’s fluff and flummery (a word derived from Welsh, incidentally), and has one its spokespeople one who flounces around the place, unruly hair flapping and flattering himself that he is some ubermensch and not associated with those barbaric tribes who speak languages he doesn’t understand. [That’s enough fl- alliteration , Ed.]

    Pronouncements such as these surely undermine any sort of objective gravitas and belief we should expect from any historian worth his salt? Obviously this kind of guff does not and will not wash with intelligent Scots and Welshies – they have grown up and no longer defer to the all-knowing, all-omnipotent London centre of the universe.

    Your days as servile British flunkey are numbered. The game is up. All that remains is for the Welsh and Scots to play the end game. And as a historian )I use the term loosely), you should only be too aware, that history, states and peoples never remain the same indefinitely. The momentum and the right of the sovereign peoples of Scotland and Wales are on our side. We are on our respective journeys to freedom.

    And no sentimentality for some fake identity, based on a fake reading of history and maudlin sentimentality for the days of yore when much of the world was coloured pink will stop us now.

    Onward / Ymlaen!

    Dros Gymru / For Scotland.

    1. Anndrais mac Chaluim says:

      But it’s evident from the article itself that what he’s writing there isn’t history. It’s a paean, rather, as billed; an emotive work that expresses an enthusiasm, a purely biological state, rather than an opinion or judgement that can be measured as true or false, right or wrong. It makes no claim on our belief, any more than the cry ‘Dros Gymru’ does, and is for that reason innocuous.

      I can see why some might find it offensive, though, biologically speaking.

  8. Craig P says:

    He’s right in one way, national identity is ultimately an emotional question, even if we dress up our political arguments in economic coats.

    The good news is it is easier to change our coats than our identity, and there are enough Scottish-identifying soft unionists to win independence if they thought it would financially benefit 1.themselves 2.Scotland.

    British-identifying unionists like Oliver, who would keep the UK no matter what, are in a minority in Scotland.

    1. Anndrais mac Chaluim says:

      It is, but shouldn’t be, an emotional matter, any more than it should be, as Oliver has it, ‘a state of mind’, any more than it should be, as others would have it, a matter of ethnic identity. National identity should be purely a dispassionate matter of political citizenship. Anyone who participates in the civic life of the imagined community that is ‘Scotland’ is Scottish; anyone who participates in the civic life of the imagined community that is ‘Britain’ is British.

      Away with all this divisional emotive-cum-biological nonsense! Dros Gymru!

    2. Welsh Sion says:

      The good news is it is easier to change our coats than our identity …


      You wouldn’t be harking back to ‘Angus Alba and his two shirts’ (c) would you, Craig P? 😉

    3. Alan Reid says:

      Hi Craig

      Are “British-identifying unionists like Oliver” really such a minority in Scotland?

      The last time sentiment was tested, less than 12 months ago in the UK General Election – of those Scots who took part: 54% voted for so-called unionist parties – and only 46% for the SNP/Greens.

      On that basis, separatism still has a lot of explaining to do in the run-up to 2021.

      1. Anndrais mac Chaluim says:

        Wheesht, Alan; let them believe their own hype. Some of their faces after the 2014 vote were a picture.

  9. JeanReid says:

    Put your wellies on Neil!

  10. Squigglypen says:

    My back was breakin'( gardening)..My heid busting( washed car). ……. but yer article about our Scottish Quisling ye did make me laugh…

      1. Alan Reid says:


        If you’re looking for “actual argument, logic or analysis” – you will find it on These Islands – lots of it.
        If I’m honest, sometimes rather more than on this site – which is interesting and entertaining, but at its worst – simply denigrates into a forum to call fellow Scots “Quislings”! Indeed, I’m rather disappointed in your own article, which I found somewhat mean-spirited on this occasion. I know you can do better.

        Indeed, if Scottish independence is such a great idea, then you really must stop being so defensive when other Scots have different perspectives.
        Particularly when Mister Oliver’s perspective is as articulate, heartfelt and as genuine as yours.

        I feel that contributor Anndrais mac Chaluim did try and engage with Oliver’s argument constructively, and was pleasantly surprised when I read that “most patriotic paeans … it’s largely pap”.

        A criticism in recent arguments for Britishness is that they are too based on dry economics – which although powerful, are somewhat soulless. So in 2014: the “Yes” side lost the intellectual argument (and vote) – but won the campaign because of an emotional appeal to hearts and mind, albeit “largely pap”, as described by Anndrais. From a “Better Together” perspective, the referendum was a closer-run-thing than it really should have been.

        So, somewhat ironically, I see Oliver opening up of a new front in the campaign by Unionists – a new emotional appeal to Scots to discover/or reaffirm a sense of “Britishness”. After all, Scots have played a disproportionate part in the moulding of the British state over the last 300 years. It was largely created by Scots, and its merits, and its sins – are also ours.

        Although I do share some of Anndrais’s concerns, I see a welcome invitation in Oliver’s argument for Scots to take a wider and more rounded perspective of their history – rather than than be overly influenced by the narrow Braveheart rhetoric far too prevalent in separatist discourse.

        The next six months in the lead-up up to the 2021 Holyrood elections will be interesting times!

        1. Anndrais mac Chaluim says:

          ‘…this site… at its worst… simply denigrates into a forum to call fellow Scots “Quislings”!’

          Aye, it has a problem with ad hominem arguments, which Mike has tried to address in his moderation, but these are fallacious and can just be ignored. The articles themselves are generally well-written and thought-provoking though.

          I didn’t know about the ‘These Isles’ site until Mike’s article pointed me in its direction. I’ll hae mair o a gander at it. I might even create an account so I can put in my tuppenceworth.

          1. To be honest the amount of abuse and ad hominem on this site is miniscule compared to others where it is commonplace and encouraged. “Quislings” comments there are few.

        2. Hi Alan
          sorry about this, I will try harder. I must admit to being drawn into a less than serious tone by the unintentional humour in Neil’s essay.

          I welcome Oliver’s new front in the campaign and wish you well with this approach asking Scots to reaffirm their Britishness. I do have doubts that this particular time in our illustrious history is the best moment to enact this strategy, Operation Yellowjacket and all.

          I have to admit to not having visited or thought of These Islands for some time, but spurred by the idea that its brimming with argument, logic and analysis I will check it out.

          Thanks for your comment.

  11. James Robertson says:

    Caption suggestion:

    ‘And apart from all that, Colonel Custer, how did your battle plan go?’

  12. william smith says:

    And lives in New Zealand, go figure eh!

    1. Anndrais mac Chaluim says:

      I thought he bade in Stirlin, tho an Ayrshire man.

      1. Arboreal Agenda says:

        He certainly did as I saw him there in the street not more than two years ago.

        I’ve always loved Coast as a programme and like Oliver as a result. This is my main encounter with him. I think he is a generally a pretty popular figure outside of the political sphere. I’m struggling to understand why his emotional appeal for the Union is met with such disdain other than his is just a voice in its favour. The piece is actually rather good in that appeal and like his TV stuff, people warm to him, and maybe that’s the problem: this may be seen as risible hot air by many on the nationalist side, which from that perspective it surely is, but for the waverers, the disengaged? It could be quite effective and the ridicule here will have zero effect on that and in fact, could produce the opposite effect: he’s no George Galloway or Gordon Brown.

        1. Anndrais mac Chaluim says:

          The impression I get is that he’s unfashionable or ‘politically incorrect’.

          The sort of demonisation that he and other gainsayers are subject to is one of the less edifying aspects of Scottish nationalism. But it does serve to reinforce a sort of ‘them-and-us’ cliquishness or ‘solidarity’, like flag-waving. (“Look at that Neil Oliver! He’s one of *them*. Ooo, yuck! What’s he like?”) It’s all a bit infantile; playground politics.

          1. Arboreal Agenda says:

            Same thing happened with Brexit – anyone associated as being pro was demonised and trashed. A few deserved that, most didn’t. And the result? In England and Wales, and thus the UK, we got Brexit, an idea I voted against without hesitation.

            The thing is, if the mode of ‘persuasion’ is attack and ridicule, then all you do is entrench someone’s view and quite probably widen it to those of the same ilk, but uncertain, who think, ‘hang on a minute’. The other parallel is that most thought the Brexit cause would easily lose as polls showed that consistently so there was little attempt to really try to make a strong pro-EU case. There was no ‘vision’ as that did not seem necessary (along with the fact there wasn’t any actual vision in the first place), so the game was simply to have some fun taking the piss out of Brexiters as it was easy, and far easier than trying to shift people’s mindsets.

            Some of the comments on the Oliver piece invoke the idea that quietly, his view is what a lot of people think or are at least sympathetic to, and these are the people that may well matter in any new referendum. People who like Britain aren’t going to persuade it is in fact, shit, but they might be persuaded an autonomous Scotland would be better.

          2. Anndrais mac Chaluim says:

            Yep, I’ve always found the electoral strategy of calling the voters you need to swing ‘dopes’ or ‘patsies’ a strange one.

          3. SleepingDog says:

            @Anndrais mac Chaluim, in modern parlance, it may be ‘negging’, but calling sections of the electorate the equivalent of fools or felons is hardly different from the Christian oratory of addressing ‘sinners’, and that seems to have worked.

          4. Anndrais mac Chaluim says:

            No, mental illness is modernity’s moral equivalent of sinfulness; psychiatry is the new priesthood.

        2. Derek Thomson says:

          You do know that Boris Johnson is Prime Minister? You do know that Michael Gove is a senior cabinet minister and in all probability the next Prime Minister? You do know that Jacob Rees-Mogg wants to close down Holyrood? You know all that don’t you? Don’t ask me to have a scintilla of identity with these vermin. The English people put them there, let it be their problem, not ours.

          1. Anndrais mac Chaluim says:

            There you go, Arboreal! Just what we were talking about.

          2. Derek Thomson says:

            What were you just talking about?

          3. Anndrais mac Chaluim says:

            Ethnic hatred.

          4. Arboreal Agenda says:

            Sigh, yes, Anndrais.

            Wonder what political regime comes to mind when the the word vermin is used for fellow human beings?

          5. Derek Thomson says:

            Sigh, yes Arobreal, what kind of regime indeed. A regime that persecutes refugees, that deports people who have lived here all their lives, that sends vans out on the street threatening people with arrest if they don’t “go home”, that suggests using wave machines to “push back” (or drown) desperate migrants, that wants to undo all protections that working people have accrued over the last fifty years, and instead create a sweatshop economy based on low wages and no protections, that hands out billions of pounds of public money to their friends and cronies? That kind of regime?

          6. Anndrais mac Chaluim says:

            Precisely, Del. That’s the sort of régime you get when you start calling others ‘vermin’. I’d have hoped Scotland would be better than that; apparently, it’s not.

          7. Derek Thomson says:

            Scotland IS better than that Anndrais – we don’t vote in vermin, but they still get to rule over us. If you don’t think Johnson, Gove, Rees-Mogg et al are vermin, fair enough. I do, and I make no apology for it.

      2. Michael says:

        Oliver was in Stirling on the 25th Nov 2020 at least! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yhNoCKFDO8I

        1. Anndrais mac Chaluim says:

          How DARE he criticise Ian Blackford! F*ck*ng liberal. No wonder all ‘right-thinking’ Scots hate him!

          1. Anndrais mac Chaluim says:

            He should get-tae back to New Zealand where he belongs, cos he disnae belong here, the pretendy archaeologist/pseudo-Scot/traitor-knave that he is.

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