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Independence is a State of Mind

Our Scotland 2042 series imagines Scotland twenty years in the future. For details about how to take part go here.

17th September 2042

Dear Islay

I think I can safely call you my ‘No1 granddaughter’, since all my other grand-children are male, of course. At present, anyway! Thanks for your eRaven (it’s a bit like what we used to call a ‘letter’) with your brilliant ideas for my funeral. Look, I’ll come back to that. But you were clearly wanting to know how we’ve got to where we are. So here’s a bit of recent history. ‘They say’: “If you don’t know where you’ve come from, you don’t know where you’re going”. This truism is usually attributed to Maya Angelou.

In the 2024 UK general election, the SNP won all 59 Scottish constituencies under the slogan ‘Even Stronger for Scotland’ and the promise of an independence referendum. It was not surprising then (some folk said they saw it coming a mile off) when the new Rees-Mogg administration made it their first priority to offer Scotland a Section 30 Order, with a ‘use it or lose it’ injunction. Indyref2 within 3 months!

The SNP leadership looked soft and flat-footed and was catastrophically underprepared for this ruse, but could hardly decline the challenge. The movement was still divided by ill-tempered tangential squabbles. Neither the ‘Leave’ nor ‘Remain’ campaigns offered inspiration or any kind of momentum. ‘Remain’ was meticulously prepared, however, and generously funded with dark money. And, as in the 1979 devolution referendum, the 40% Rule proved fatal. You were old enough in 2024 to know how we all felt.

With the benefit of hindsight, the national movement was naive about the challenges it faced, and I’ve no doubt that the British state had many other cards up its sleeves. For a country which, in my lifetime, had interned opponents without trial, experimented with novel forms of torture on its own citizens and been prepared to gun down unarmed civilians in the street, why would it not?

Recriminations in the movement escalated, as we licked our wounds. Many of us asked: “Are the Scottish People sovereign all the time, or just when some random Spawn of Eton says so?” (We tended to use intemperate language in those days). In effect, the debacle brought the Salmond/Sturgeon era to a close. It explains why we are now so suspicious of aspiring leaders with the ‘presidential’ style, and so rigorous about the grassroots not relinquishing power. Subsidiarity is everything. Maybe it was good to learn this before independence!

So, how did we recover our position after that? There were definitely some dark days, months, years. I like to think that my best-seller “Independence is a State of Mind”, published in 2029, was a turning point. I know you think this is a grandiose delusion. But never forget your inheritance will be largely made up of the royalties!

The impetus for change and renewal emerged from an unlikely quarter. And by accident. When SNP grandees Sir Peter Wishart and Lord Smyth of Kiev proposed a ‘Royal Commission on Independence’, the wider movement said “fuck the ‘Royal’ bit”, took the ball, and ran with it, making the commission their own. This led directly to a three-year diet of Citizens’ Assemblies and that rigorous deep consultation which reignited the energy, hope, and expectancy we knew from the period around 2014. We called it ‘People’s Democracy’, with a light reference to the Irish movement of the same name in the 1970s.

Within the movement, regeneration started with a belated post mortem on the 2014 referendum defeat. It had taken ten years to address that. Special attention was given to the SNP leadership’s approach to its members and supporters. You will know what I mean by ‘salami tactics’, defined as ‘a divide and conquer process of threats and alliances used to overcome opposition’. Sequentially, and over a period of time, the SNP had made party membership untenable for socialists, eurosceptics, feminists, Christians, other people of faith, and indeed anyone who had the ‘wrong’ opinions on strategy. Commentators called it ‘strong leadership’ but the only word I have for this now is ‘suicidal’. Salami-slicing is meant to be applied to your opponents, not your supporters!

The citizens’ movement embraced the marginalised and downtrodden, and arrived (yes, laboriously) at a solid consensus on the big independence issues: a constitution, currency, pensions, Europe, land and resources, nuclear weapons, and, of course, climate change. The process was as important as the outcome. We came to appreciate that a profound moral shift was needed. There was much less tolerance for the self-entitled behaviour which some of our MPs and MSPs had learned so quickly.

On our own initiative, we examined and changed our behavior on social media. (It wasn’t until 2035 that the US Supreme Court finally ended the historic Twitter mega-class action ruling that ‘Twitter, being powerfully addictive, has proved to be as damaging to the human psyche, and to society, as tobacco is to our lungs’, – effectively bankrupting and closing the platform).

What we meant by ‘campaigning’ was questioned. Shouting at people and stuffing leaflets through their letterboxes might possibly help to galvanise committed supporters, but was useless for the subtler process of changing hearts and minds. The Non-violent Communication discipline (of Marshall Rosenberg) became popular. What was the point of achieving independence if the country had been split down the middle? ‘Ulsterisation’ as the last desperate gift of the British?

So, that’s it in a nutshell. You and your commune know just what you have to do tomorrow. Always remember independence isn’t the ‘final goal’, it’s just a start.



BTW, I will definitely get a biodegradable coffin offof the website you suggested, and yes, by all means drape a big saltire over it. I’d ask you, however, to resist your brother Brodie’s ideas about the masked military colour party and rifle salute. That doesn’t really chime with how I lived and campaigned, or would choose to be remembered! X

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Comments (2)

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  1. Neill Simpson says:

    A dowie dauner doon memory loan.
    Excellent writing, Malcolm, as always.
    Editor, could you make the “2042” articles easier to find? I overlooked the email about the “2042” project and only found this article when it was brought to my attention by a friend. Searching the Bella site for “Independence”, “Mind”, or “Kerr” failed to find it. Luckily I recalled “2042” to find it.

    1. Yes, will do – I’ll flag it up again.

      All the 2042 submissions can be found here: https://bellacaledonia.org.uk/category/scotland2042/

      More to be published very soon.

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