Save the Date. Save Scotland.

Work as if you lived in the early days of a better nation, painted Alasdair Gray, the Michelangelo of Riddrie, perched under the ceiling of the Oran Mor.  

That phrase wasn’t Gray’s own; he took it from a Canadian poet.  It became a pro-indy maxim.  In 2014, it defined how we campaigned: the positive case for a fairer, stronger and more creative Scotland.

We know, from history, that the gestation and birth of a new nation affect what kind of country it grows to be.  Conceived in brutality, India and Pakistan fight bitterly to this day.  Palestine has never recovered from the lop-sided formation of Israel in 1948.  

Violent divisions plagued Ireland and Northern Ireland from the 1920’s up to the Good Friday Agreement of 1998 – now threatened by Tory recklessness.

On the other hand, the velvet divorce which separated the Czech Republic and Slovakia in 1993 seems to have left both states unscathed and, relatively speaking, thriving.

During indyref1, many of us in the YES movement felt that how we sought and fought for independence was key to the nation we would become.  Not just YES versus NO, but what kind of society Scotland could be.  Our approach was willfully idealistic, seeking ideas from as many people as possible.

But we lost.  3 years later, I went for a drink with a couple of friends who’d voted NO.  Seeing the mess of Brexit and the broken promises of Westminster, they’d changed their minds.  Let’s face it, said one, independence couldn’t be any worse!  Picture the tee-shirts: Vote YES – it couldn’t be any worse!

Since then, things have deteriorated sharply.  The UK’s in crisis: shortages and steep price rises in food, fuel and energy; a chronic dearth of labour; a widening gulf in wealth; ballooning national debt; soaring levels of poverty; barely functioning state services; the worst public health failure in history (say a cross-party group of MPs) and corruption rife, with Tory donors winning lucrative contracts and ministerial posts.  

Recent verdicts on Britain couldn’t be more damning: an Orwellian state (American writer); they don’t keep their word (Irish deputy PM); EU workers won’t help the UK out of the shit it created itself (Dutch TUC) and the UK has no intention of keeping to what it signed up to (CEO of the European Policy Centre).

The Houses of Parliament are falling to bits.  The head of state is nearly 100 and the heir a septuagenarian.  The UK may not yet have failed like, say, Lebanon, but it looks like a failing state.

All this from a bull-headed right-wing government to which Scotland remains tethered.  Most of the money and power remain firmly in Westminster’s hands.  However we vote, whatever we do, we’re bound to the Tories’ chaos.  

The Scottish government has made a good fist of softening the cruellest blows from Westminster and handling the pandemic more competently.  But mitigation and management can’t solve our deeper issues.  How much longer can we cling on with the current devolution settlement – itself under attack by the Conservatives? 

We urgently need greater control of what happens in our country.  It’s becoming clearer by the week that the only way that’s going to materialise is if we get a chance to vote on independence, one way or the other.  Gordon Brown and Labour’s perpetually promised federalism is moonshine.  

The Tories are making it clear how they see Scotland.  Andrew Bowie, Scottish Tory MP, recently published Strength in Union, essays by leading Conservatives.  Its grasp of history and its analysis are so shallow, they wouldn’t drown a gnat (or a nat).

In the book, Alister Jack asserts: the UK is one great nation, not four.  The Scotland-England border is just a road sign and Brexit’s in the rear-view mirror.  Would that be the rear-view mirror where you see all the parked lorries?

The British government provides a transparent tax regime.  Just don’t read the Pandora, Panama or Paradise Papers.  

But what if this isn’t just a set of essays, but a manifesto?  Are the Tories planning to realise Theresa May’s view of Scotland as just another region, like Yorkshire?  Away with your separate legal and education systems and your parliament!  It might seem hare-brained, outrageous and unworkable, but would you trust them with Holyrood?

Unless we do something to fight back, Tory chaos and disruption will destroy us all.

One thing could move us on.  Name the date now for an independence referendum.  

The tactics of such a move – what if/when Boris says no to a section 30 order?  How can we set up an alternative plebiscite? What are the legal options? – are bound to be laboriously discussed.

But beyond process, the idea and the reality of a second indyref would seize the initiative, shift the political momentum and capture people’s imagination.  And the campaign for a YES vote would reinvigorate our politics.

Let’s rekindle the idealistic spirit of 2014.  We still need vision, ambition and creativity to lift us out of the present deadlock and into the future.

Things will change.  Daring to look beyond the referendum (assuming the right result this time!), fresh ideas and new voices will arise.  We’ll need them to tackle the most pressing issue of all – the climate emergency.  Could the SNP-Green alliance prefigure a broader rainbow of pro-indy forces?  Could Scottish Labour, or a reformed part of it, join in?

Further ahead, a newly independent Scotland will need international leverage.  Rejoining Europe could be a two-way street.  Ask not what the EU can do for you, but what you can do for the EU?  The European Commission is battling with illiberal member states like Hungary and Poland.  Scotland’s enlightened democratic traditions should make it a welcome returner to the fold.

But first things first.  Save the date.  Save Scotland!

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Comments (12)

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  1. Robbie says:

    Aye Right Away, D o it Now, before Boris tries to obliterate us like his poem says. Cause that’s his aim.

  2. Meg says:

    It would be so simple if we could declare that original agreement of Arbroath null and void. Signed not by the people but by those supposedly representing the people but actually only in their own interests.
    This is an unconsummated marriage. In any other context …

  3. Ewen A Morrison says:


    The direct vote of all the members of an electorate
    on an important public question such as a change in
    the constitution: regaining our independent state;
    Scotland’s Independence resuming again is certain!

    © Ewen A. Morrison

    1. Mons Meg says:

      It was pretty certain the last time too.

      1. Dougie Harrison says:

        I beg to differ Meg. Cameron granted Alec Salmond’s desire for a referendum some time before it happened in 2014. He did so ONLY because he thought since polls then were showing support for independence running at 20-33%.

        So for the indy campaign to grow that to the near 45% eventually won in the referendum was a quite remarkable achievement. A matter which ALL who support indy now should be aware. There is a deep bedrock of Scots self-awareness for us to treasure – and help realise!

        1. Dougie Harrison says:

          Sorry folks; my first sentence above shouldnie end with ‘33%’. There should be a comma after that number, and it should continue… ‘the UK was safe. The UK supporters were REALLY SHAKEN that we managed to raise that figure to within an ace of a majority, on ONE OF THE HIGHEST TURNOUTS in UK history ever.’

  4. Niemand says:

    Right so this is at the behest of the SNP and basically no-one else. But they aren’t going to do it are they? NS is a great talker, really impressive on the stand, and as far as I can tell from the record of a government in power with huge public support for eight years, that is all she is good at. The SNP remind me of that comedy routine where TV execs sit around dreaming up new shows by simply coming up with snappy titles, then having come up with a good one, actually trying to imagine what such a show might be. Obviously the joke is they are are all ridiculous and unworkable. This is the way the SNP drive policy and it fails again and again. There is no substance underneath, no cunning plan, nothing, and this applies to any strategy for seeking independence. Making a good fist – really? The Tories have provided about as many open goals for furthering independence imaginable.

    But you know what? ‘Vote YES – it couldn’t be any worse!’, might actually work. It was the reason many in deprived areas gave for voting Brexit.

  5. Paula Becker says:

    Paul Bassett’s claim that the Scottish government has handled the pandemic more competently is of course nonsense. We have just had 21 weeks of excess deaths and the trend continues upwards but nobody in the Scottish Government seems able to explain why. See this exchange between Anita Morrison (Head of Social Care Analysis and Support) and Professor Richard Ennos ( retired Professor of Evolutionary Biology, Edinburgh University)
    The Professor concludes : ‘There is therefore a prima facie case for Covid 19 vaccination being a contributing factor to the dramatic rise in summer excess deaths in Scotland in 2021.’

    1. Mons Meg says:

      It’s not nonsense, but it is premature. We haven’t had the independent public inquiry into the handling of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic yet; so the claim must be based on prejudice rather than evidence.

      1. Nicholas Ennos says:

        Independent my arse

  6. SleepingDog says:

    Just what is the strange allure of the tax-stealing turd-flood Tories? I wonder if the Nemesis System of inter-orc backstabbing rivalry of Shadow of Mordor/Shadow of War is partly based on the UK Conservative Party. And if so, how can the developers of these games hope to patent it, given the obvious prior art?
    Of course, what the Uruks love is spectacle, the kind of political theatre where heads roll, braggarts boast and bullies strut on stage, while cheating, bestial manouvres and dark arts are rudely applauded.

    1. Mons Meg says:

      Got it in one, SD; it’s all part of the spectacle of our politics.

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