Telling the New Stories of Scotland and Independence

The first of two parts discussing the stories and songs we use to understand who and where we are. Part One: Stories.

Gerry Hassan writing in the National (‘How the Scottish independence movement can learn from story‘) states: “Acknowledging that ten years after 2014, independence is in a cul-de-sac and needs to regroup, reappraise and do things differently is inarguable. To do this it needs to understand the power of story, why its previous stories have been limited, and therefore needs to find a convincing new story.”


He outlines some of the complacency and stuckness that much of the independence movement feels. Hassan marks out five stories – or narratives – we have used up until now and why they aren’t working. These are:

    “This postulates that Scotland is a nation and, ipso facto, should thus be an independent nation-state. This tidy, logical perspective misses that the world is not and never has been organised by such principles: a point understood by such scholars of nationalism as Ernest Gellner and Tom Nairn and post-colonial analysts such as Fred Halliday. Many nations the world over are not independent such as Greenland, Catalonia, Tibet, Kurdistan, for a variety of reasons.” 
    “The second is the presentation of independence as a principle irrespective of detail and policy. This could be called the “Braveheart” vision of independence – emotive, expressive, with a romantic pull drawing deeply back into history. Yet this part of the independence coalition has never been enough to create majority Scottish opinion because it is silent on the kind of Scotland that will emerge with independence. It automatically assumes that an independent Scotland is morally and politically superior to a Scotland in the union – irrespective of the nature of that independence and union in real life. Not surprisingly it does not have the characteristics or detail to speak to and create a long-term popular majority.”
    “Third is the “whataboutery” argument which looks at the deformed nature of British politics and the British state, proposing that we need no part in this and must become independent as soon as possible. This powerful and understandable response falls short in that it tends to ignore the current state of Scotland and again assumes that widespread repulsion at the debasement of British public life is enough to carry people to independence. At the centre of such a stance is an evasion and lack of responsibility for modern Scotland including devolution, the Parliament and track record of the SNP in government. The cause of self-government has to involve taking responsibility – what Fintan O’Toole called “the art of growing up.” All our limitations and shortcomings cannot be blamed on Westminster, Tories or the absence of certain “levers” in Holyrood. A mature mindset would have an honest discussion about challenging areas such as local government and a decade plus of cuts; about drug deaths and rising social inequalities; about the state of public services and the pressures on arts and culture funding – to name but a few.

Invoking the wreckage and carnage of Westminster is not enough. It is an abdication of that “art of growing up” and of looking at ourselves honestly and candidly and facing where we can do better collectively. That is tough in a culture of noise, and often binary politics, but just focusing on the nature of the British state goes alongside ignoring or minimising the real-life political choices we make every day in Scotland which helps no one.”

    “Fourth, is the SNP case in recent times of offering essentially “continuity Scotland” as a version of independence. This makes people feel less scared, see less risk and view independence as entailing less upheaval and disruption. The “continuity Scotland” case builds on the fact that Scotland feels and is different and, in many areas, already has significant autonomy. Thus, the argument goes, the achievement of independence is a gradual road that Scotland is on which is building up and expanding what we already have. However, the continuity case begs the question – what is the point of change if things remain broadly the same? Ultimately in relation to Scotland this case rests on reassurance which is an important part of any successful politics but does not make a positive case for change.”
    “Fifth is perhaps the most powerful independence strand of recent times – Scotland as a progressive beacon of hope and enlightenment. This gained traction under Thatcherism, the rise of the SNP under devolution and 2014. It still has mileage, but like the third point about the British state this must have a relationship with present-day Scotland. Too much talk of “progressive Scotland” has been shaped by self-congratulation, smugness and making comparisons with the rest of the UK to believe we are “progressive.”

The 2014 independence prospectus has gone, alongside the world it was based upon. This is not just that the UK has left the EU but in 2014 there was an underlying assumption that an independent Scotland would sit in a relatively peaceful and prosperous part of Northwest Europe. The world is now a good deal more instable and dangerous than ten years ago. Although Putin had invaded Crimea in 2014, subsequently we have seen the ongoing invasion of Ukraine, Israel’s escalating indiscriminate violence in Gaza alongside the rise of Trump and the threat to US democracy and the international order. Any future independence has to navigate such turbulent waters.

Independence can never be considered in a vacuum. One wider factor is the death march of this reprehensible, failed Tory Government and anticipation and potential of a Labour Government. Whatever the minimal offer from Labour and miniscule difference between the two Westminster parties polling in Scotland confirms that most voters recognise there is a difference between the two. Following from that Labour coming to office will demand that independence change fundamentally.”

People may be resistant to challenging these stories but it seems hard to argue that these narratives have been successful in so much that polling remains at roughly 50% in favour of independence, but have not been successful in transforming the debate or the country beyond that.

There are other sub-stories we are told and tell each other. 

  1. TWO WEE (ETC)
    There is the story that Scotland is too wee, too poor, too stupid – a Unionist standard that is often told implicitly in the message that Scotland survives only with the benevolence of the Union Dividend. For this story the message is that Scotland, somehow, never explained, is unable to stand on its own two feet, which is, if you think about it, an odd argument after hundreds of years of Union. What is it about here that makes us uniquely incapable of self-rule?
    A second is that we are blessed as part of a unique and precious Union. We are in a Partnership of Equals, a Family of Nations. Actually, this argument has largely been abandoned by the Unionists, who now deny they ever made it.
    A third argument we experience, or is it even an argument as much as a feeling or a cultural phenomenon, is that of the cringe. This is the experience of some, often older people, who find most of Scottish culture and traditions simply embarrassing. This ranges from hatred of the Scots language to denying that Scotland has any discernible culture at all, to complex arguments that Scotland doesn’t really exist – normally built around arguments about Orkney or Shetland or the country not being really unified.

    There’s a positive element to this story in that at times Scottish culture has been sort of rarefied and celebrated in an uncritical way. In defending a culture that has often been under attack we can end up creating a cultural infrastructure that celebrates ‘everything Scottish’ without question. Some people have called this Dreichism.
    A fourth is a version – or an inversion of the Wha’s Like Us argument – it is a romantic story of us as perpetual failures, a nation that endlessly seizes defeat from the jaws of victory and becomes Glorious Losers. There is a version of this, Scotland as Underdog, which has some qualities to it as it instils a sort of humility. But Scotland or Scots as ‘glorious failures’ can become self-fulfilling and limiting. If it becomes learned-behaviour it is deeply problematic. 
  5. RISK
    In a world of extreme precarity the idea of ‘risk’ is almost absurd. ‘It’s too risky out there on your own’. This is a mixture of dredging up fears of how an independent Scotland will protect itself against any external threats: a view which has seen the likes of Labour dinosaur John Reid pose that we could be an easy touch for terrorist future opportunities; but also now given greater purpose in the new ‘Dad’s Army’ Britain and its response to global threats and instability. ‘Stop the World Scotland wants to get on’: the battle cry from Winnie Ewing onwards in the 1960s becomes something the British state wants to use as a spectre seeing us getting bullied around by any passing authoritarian.

These stories need to be interrogated and scrapped.

The first, the story of Scotland as a blasted heath with few resources is an embarrassment but needs to be countered not just by outrage but by demonstrating the resources of people and place that we have. No-one seems to make the case for the vast potential of the games industry, no-one seems to be utilising our renewable resources by creating an indigenous just transition industry. No-one seems to be making the case for a sustainable and nourishing food sector, such as exists in Denmark – captured as it is by land-use and ownership and the conservatism of the NFU and the commitment to highly-damaging industries such as salmon farming. 

The story about being in an ‘equal partnership’ is such nonsense it’s been abandoned by those that previously argued it. But highlighting the structural inequality is essential in debunking that myth and it is deeply related to the first point, the idea of Scotland as a place of few or no resources.

The idea of the ‘cultural cringe’ is largely a generational one. But self-hatred comes in waves and is inculcated by much of the Scottish press. In recent times this has become so intense that it has become difficult for people to imagine anything happening here at all, nevermind conceiving of the upheaval and transformative energy required to break from the UK and become independent. If we cannot set up a bottle return scheme how can we possibly become independent?

Story is about all of us, as a collective, as a society, realising ourselves as conscious agents and actors in our lives together. This is what self-determination means, being in charge of your own story, as much as you can. Story never stops, never completely ends in a society and nation, and never ever in a democracy becomes a completely totalising project, with any dominant story at any point always having counter-stories engaging and challenging it, and eventually on some occasions supplanting the dominant perspective. This has been Scotland’s story so far with the rise and fall of collectivism and socialism, ascendancy and then decline of unionism, and the re-emergence of self-government and then independence. This will go on in the future.

The power of story requires connecting it to intellectual and popular ideas, possibilities, agency and structures, while recognising that politics is about more than policy and party politicians.

Here are three different approaches to storytelling we need to employ.

First, and this is perhaps the biggest change in narrative we require, we need to tell ourselves that Scotland is a place where things happen. We need to get to the place where Scotland is a Heterotopia – a place that is somehow transforming rather than stultifying, limiting or intensely negative. 

Second we need to be future-focused rather than obsessed with the past (all those tea towels, all that oil, all those castles, all those men, all those tragedies).

Finally we need to look at who gets to tell the story. At the moment the public narrative is dominated by a group of men of the same age, the same race and the same politics, most of whom know each other and share the same outlook on life. This leads to a turgid narrow and negative commentary on our lives and any possibility for change. The need to diversify the storytellers is clear, but this means many younger voices, more feminine voices and lots of new voices. More KD Lang less RD Laing you could say. Maybe the forums for who and where stories are being told are already made? 



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  1. Edward Cairney says:

    We sure as hell need to get a very clear narrative. “Nothing in life needs to be complicated, only if we want it to be.”
    Scotland is on a new journey, our very own turas, it’s a new journey and we’re at the start of it.
    We need to look North, we need to look outwards, we need to look inwards but not South, there’s not much there for us any more, that has gone.
    We’re on the road to reinvention and all we have to do is travel that road and embrace it. The stories and song ballads need to reflect and drive this.

    Songs and tales for the journey.

  2. SleepingDog says:

    Via “vast potential of the games industry” and connecting the final three points (transformation, future-focus, mass participation) I would suggest the most apt format would be a game (better even than a song about a story that has no end), and the mode, play. I would like to see an Independent Scotland become a Laboratory of Biocracy, an ongoing project to represent non-human life and planetary ecology at all scales in government. And in doing so, recognise how poorly the human population of Scotland have been in this role since even before the Tudor War on Nature. We need biodiversity in our politics, and planetary realism in our policies.

    1. Can you tell other people a bit about what biocracy is?

      1. SleepingDog says:

        @Editor, biocracy, in the sense I use the word, is governance representing all life, not just humans. In that sense it can be viewed as an upgrade to democracy, using life sciences and proxies as health indicators at scales up to the planetary. As a concept, it is something that political philosophers and others are likely to arrive at independently from first principles, and perhaps give different names and strengths to. I watched a short talk by a South Korean academic leading up to the idea, just this morning. There is a collection of essays by Lynton Keith Caldwell on Biocracy: Public Policy and the Life Sciences, which does a decent job but doesn’t quite take the concept far enough. I’m not here to plug my blog, but I’ve written up some thoughts there.

        As I’ve commented before, there are a range of views on legal and political representation of nature that may be becoming mainstream in the next year, largely because of our global environmental polycrisis and perceived failure of current political systems. The Guardian has pulled together a summary of these.
        Of course, various human cultures have had a healthier relationship with nature throughout history and prehistory, but we have to look at how we manage that at greater scale and greater complexity with greater urgency than ever before.

        1. 240130 says:

          That’s all very well, SD. But you still haven’t said who’d get to choose the human ‘proxies’, who’d represent non-human life (viruses, say) in our decision-making, or how they’d be chosen.

  3. albert gorman says:

    too wee, too poor, too stupid was invented by John Swinney – as you are well aware. It has never been used by anyone pro-Britain to describe Scotland.

    1. I didn’t know that Albert, thanks. It still a view held by some whoever coined the phrase?

    2. I didn’t know that Albert, thanks. It still a view held by some whoever coined the phrase?

    3. Derek Thomson says:

      The word is not the thing described.

  4. Hugh McShane says:

    There’s always a whiff of Stehen Noon-ism about GH’s pieces- in all the commentary, theres no mention of the forces that ‘have catched Scotland,’+ will continue to hold her fast- the piece assumes Scots are autominous decision makers- we appear,de facto, not to be- rump- UK is unthinkable for the British…

    1. Hugh – a series of stories told to and by the British is a good idea

  5. Alasdair Macdonald says:

    Firstly, thank you for continuing to keep alive the debate and ideas about ‘a better nation’ – Bella Caledonia!

    However, anent this –

    “No-one seems to make the case for the vast potential of the games industry, no-one seems to be utilising our renewable resources by creating an indigenous just transition industry. No-one seems to be making the case for a sustainable and nourishing food sector, such as exists in Denmark ……”

    There ARE people who are making the case for our computer games industry. There ARE people who are utilising our renewable resources … And, there ARE people who are making the case for a sustainable and nourishing food industry.

    There ARE people living in Scotland who ARE capable of running a prosperous, just and equitable independent country.

    However, they do not get enough opportunity to make more people aware of it, largely because so much of the media is unionist owned and unionist controlled. When they do get a mention it is to highlight a failure or to sneer at an alleged inadequacy. On the other hand we DO have outlets like Bella Caledonia and a few others who do provide such people with platforms.

    While people like Gerry Hassan and yourself are right to highlight the issues and the problems which we ourselves have to confront, sometimes, I wonder if you have the balance right between highlighting problems and publicising the positive.

    One thing I think the Scottish Government (of all hues) has failed to do is to deal seriously with the redistribution of power and resources to communities. We do have the Community Empowerment Act of 2016, but it is quite difficult for communities to empower themselves under the act. Nevertheless, we should continue to seek to do this, because, it is only by taking what powers we have and actually deploying them to achieve SOMETHING BETTER that we gain the confidence and expertise to become more ambitious.

    Part of the problem lies with the vested interests like Councillors, Council officers, Trade union officers, MSPs, civil servants. Many of them, despite being decent people who have the common good in mind, are risk averse and also, sadly, somewhat greedy about the powers THEY have and use that as justifications to “ca’ canny, learn to walk before you can run, etc”. It is institutional inertia. Most people are actually creative and responsible and can, indeed, be trusted. However, there is also a fair number of people who are ‘fearties’ – risk averse, lacking confidence, the people for whom the media will always provide space for their gloomy ‘vox pops’. Sometimes, we just have to go ahead and DO just to show that we CAN.

    So, I think we must push the Scottish Government to devolve more powers and, importantly, revenue and revenue raising powers, to much smaller local units than we have at present. These powers should be constitutionally guaranteed. I was heartened to read that Ms Kate Forbes and a few others had met to discuss ways of moving this argument forward.

    We need to give more people experience of running things.

    1. 240127 says:

      Yep; I’m with you there, Alasdair. The Community Empowerment Act of 2016, which builds on the Local Government in Scotland Act of 2003, provides communities with the formal right to assume powers and resources from local authorities; however, those communities still lack the capacity to make that right effective. This is partly (and perhaps mainly) because of the continued reluctance of local and national government to involve people and communities in identifying local needs and priorities and targeting budgets more effectively. Participative democracy helps build community capacity for self-governance.

      Those who have a vested interest in preserving the current establishment (MSPs, civil servants, local councillors, and council officers) are understandably resistant to their disempowerment in favour of local communities. That’s why the change has to be led from the bottom up, through grassroots organisation and community development, with local communities forming action groups that identify and prioritise local needs directly and demand the participation of local and national government authorities in addressing those needs.

      The current legislation allows, through ‘participation requests’, a community body to enter into dialogue with public authorities about local issues and local services on their terms.

      Where a community body believes it could help to improve an outcome that’s currently delivered to it by a public service authority, it can request that authority to participate with it in improving that outcome. This could include suggesting how service providers could better meet the needs of users, offering volunteers to support a service, or even taking over the delivery of the service itself. Under the Act, the public service authority is legally obliged to agree to participation request and set up a process unless there are reasonable grounds for refusal, as decided ultimately by the courts.

      The basic idea is that a community can grow into its self-governance by taking back ownership of more and more of the power and resources of (and responsibility for) public service provision from central and local government as its capacity to do so develops; less ‘shrinking’ the state than dispersing it through the redistribution or decentralisation of its power. This idea isn’t going to be realised overnight. Community development and empowerment – democracy – is an endless process of incremental improvement rather than a destination.

    2. SleepingDog says:

      @Alasdair Macdonald, of course, there are examples of greater devolution within the British Empire today, if we care to look, but evidently not every case shines brightly, if critics of Channel Island governance are to be believed.
      Smaller doesn’t mean better, and local ‘traditions’ are not necessarily best practice, as apparently some thought of Faroese mass slaughter of whales recently. When those indoctrinated into pyramidic hierarchy claim to speak from the bottom, we all too often find their theocratic-humanist bigotry blinds them to the absurdity of their phraseology. To truly turn the pyramid on its head, we must place the non-human natural world on top, and hurl theocratic royals into the deepest pit below.

      1. Edward Cairney says:

        We will always find excuses. There will always be people who will say “better the devil you know” but just a question:
        Is Scotland a county or a country? If it’s the former, we’re doing fine but if it’s the latter, what the hell are we playing at?

        1. SleepingDog says:

          @Edward Cairney, I was addressing the kind of community-level devolution ’empowerment’ that some are calling for; whereas smaller does not in practice mean ‘more agile’, and in fact some reactionary types may be looking to cling on to their squalid sumps of backwater patriarchy which exist up and down Scotland, though there are flickers of flame:

          I support Scottish independence, not to create more minor fiefdoms looking inward, but to wrench power from theocratic-humanistic structures and distribute authority for policies in the widest (non-human) sense.

          1. Edward Cairney says:

            I get where you are coming from sleeping dog but you can’t micro manage this, who’s going to micro manage it? We need to kinda start from a clean slate.

          2. 240129 says:

            So, you think that real communities are too ‘small, stupid, or evil’ to be trusted with governing their own public affairs (i.e. independence)? I agree that our real communities aren’t always democratic enough to govern their own public affairs justly, but we’re getting their.

            At the same time, you hope that making the imagined community of ‘Scotland’ independent will issue in the creation of a ‘biocratic’ fiefdom north of the border?

            You’re joking, surely!

          3. 240129 says:

            ‘I agree that our real communities aren’t always democratic enough to govern their own public affairs justly.’

            Which is why we need to ensure that, in our community development work (whether at local or nation or supranational level), we establish sufficient checks and balances on the exercise of power to minimise the risk of tyranny.

  6. Alastair McIver says:

    The fundamental problem I have with this is that the stories we tell ourselves – the good, the bad and the stupid – simply aren’t the problem.
    The problem is that Westminster used the power of the courts to abolish democracy in Scotland. To take away the basic principle that whether we choose Independence or not, it is, fundamentally, up to us.

    Do not turn around and tell us that the stories we tell ourselves are the problem. Stories and counter-stories and counter-counter stories get told in the course of a debate. The debate has been stolen from us. We must not blithely accept that Independence has slipped off the table through no fault of our own. No, what happened is that it was dragged off the table kicking and screaming. And we must do some kicking and screaming if we want to put it back. Claiming that our stories are the problem is claiming that Scotland is the problem, which is just the cringe in a funny hat.

    50% support for Independence is not what we would hope it would be. But that’s a lot better than 45%. It hasn’t gone much over, but it hasn’t dropped much under either – and that’s without an active referendum campaign. The last time there was a referendum campaign, it pushed support for Independence from 25% to 45% – a phenomenal achievement which we cannot simply dismissed. And it hasn’t been as low as 45 since.

    But it won’t go much above 50 when there is no democratic debate. That’s not because our stories aren’t good enough, it’s because those stories are fiction. We need a real, active, democratic campaign for Independence so that we can tell our stories with meaning.

    “Scotland Why Not” is a perfectly legitimate question that has an identifiable answer. The opponents of democracy successfully abolished it – that’s why not! It is true to say that a number of nations aren’t Independent. That fact is irrelevant. Plenty aren’t, plenty are. Why not Scotland?

    “Braveheart” – I can’t believe I have just seen a supporter of Scottish Independence characterise arguments in favour with that word. It is used to ridicule the movement by those outside it. The movie is a non-seriously enjoyable action-adventure romp, with every bit as much to do with actual history as Indiana Jones. It is not part of the real-world debate on the constitution and never has been – none of us are about to paint our faces blue and chop up anyone on horseback!

    But the future does built on history. That’s how time works.

    “Whataboutery” – Let us not pretend that every decision of the SNP has been correct. I rage-quit them a couple of years back because their education policies are consistently backwards. But they also gave us free prescriptions, free tuition, and any number of good things. Westminster, on the other hand, sucks. This does not mean that no future Scottish Government will suck, but we have the option of voting for someone else! We don’t meaningfully have that at Westminster. Let us please not let go of the Westminster-sucks argument!

    “Progressive Scotland” – well, we are. That is not to say we are morally superior to anyone else, but the closer you bring power to ordinary people, the better those people behave. The policies that are likely in an Independent Scotland are more progressive than those of the dying colonial monarchy we’re currently stuck to, and this is the reason why Independence is morally urgent. It’s not safe to be poor. It’s not safe to be disabled. It’s not safe to be a refugee. It’s not safe to be in a country at whom Scotland is brandishing nuclear weapons against the will of it’s people. This is the moral argument for Independence – let us please not let it go!

    I could go on. But I think I’ve said enough. The stories we are telling aren’t the problem. The abolition of democracy is. Let’s stay angry about that, and fight it with every non-violent means at our disposal.

    1. Hi Alastair – today a poll shows support for Scottish independence leads the Union by four points, and I agree with you to ‘stay angry about the abolition of democracy’ but I do think thinking about the stories is important because narrative frames how people see the world and I do think drawing back and discussing the ‘meta’ (sorry!) picture is useful.

      1. 240127 says:

        Are you sure that ‘drawing back and discussing the “meta” (sorry!) picture’ isn’t just ‘drivel’?

    2. Hi Alastair – today a poll shows support for Scottish independence leads the Union by four points, and I agree with you to ‘stay angry about the abolition of democracy’ but I do think thinking about the stories is important because narrative frames how people see the world and I do think drawing back and discussing the ‘meta’ (sorry!) picture is useful.

    3. Hi Alastair – today a poll shows support for Scottish independence leads the Union by four points, and I agree with you to ‘stay angry about the abolition of democracy’ but I do think thinking about the stories is important because narrative frames how people see the world and I do think drawing back and discussing the ‘meta’ (sorry!) picture is useful.

    4. John says:

      Alastair you are correct in highlighting the democratic deficit in Scotland at present due to Westminster. it includes:
      1.Having a government ruling party in Westminster which electorate in Scotland have comprehensively rejected in 8 out of last 11 elections.
      2.Being removed from EU despite a substantial majority of electorate including all regions in Scotland voting to remain in EU. Westminster then giving no consideration to electorate in Scotland’s vote in withdrawal agreements.
      3.Westminster blocking Holyrood’s request for an independence referendum. This highlights fact that electorate in Scotland will only be allowed to vote on independence if electorate elsewhere in UK (effectively England) permit it.
      These are powerful arguments for independence and they have had a large influence in me changing my mind to support independence. They should be raised at every opportunity to keep in forefront of electorate’s attention.
      In addition to above independence supporters must make argument for devolving power post independence from Holyrood to localities to ensure better governance and counter the swapping Westminster for Holyrood argument.
      The other key areas that will garner support for independence are :
      a)economic- giving wavering voter’s confidence that Scotland will be a more prosperous country post independence. The economic outlook for UK continues to be bleak so there are opportunities here.
      b)the provision of high quality public services to ensure a well educated, healthier and fairer society where the less well off members of society are protected and given opportunity. This will to some extent depend on Scotland being an economically prosperous country. Good Holyrood governance in the already devolved areas of public services will also help build confidence in how independence could be beneficial.
      c)Cultural confidence can help build confidence in independence. I would provide one note of caution here in that many Scots who are not in favour of independence still have a pride in Scottish culture and their Scottish nationality.
      The issue of having a print media which almost overwhelmingly hostile to independence and a tv media which has a natural interest in promoting the status quo is not sustainable or democratic in a country where half of the electorate support independence.

        1. John says:

          I possibly should have added that I think the development of the culture of Scotland along with the democratic deficit are powerful tools in opening a significant majority of electorate up to possibility of independence.
          The probability that Scotland will be economically prosperous with high quality of public services and will be a fairer and more egalitarian society will seal the deal with majority of electorate.

    5. Jamie MacDonald says:

      Brilliant! Very well said..

      1. Jamie MacDonald says:

        ..Alistair McIver.

  7. Edward Cairney says:

    Prior to 300 and odd years ago, Scotland was leading the world in new ideas. The fire didn’t go out in 1707, it just meant we were no longer working for ourselves, we were now working for a boss, the new and burgeoning British Empire. We have done pretty well to maintain some sense of who we are but there has been a gradual dumbing down all done very skilfully using the frog in the pot of gradually heated up water method.
    Songs can inspire, songs can say things that can’t be said by any other means and songs can be used as a means of exploring who we are.
    Back in the day, the likes of the Corries were never off the radio and TV. I doubt if they would get played nowadays on the super sanitised media.
    We need to start finding out who we are and for that, we need songs about past, present and future.

    1. 240127 says:

      The Scottish Enlightenment, when the self-styled ‘North Britons’ led the world with the new ideas with which we then went on to colonise the entire globe, flowered after 1707.

      1. Edward Cairney says:

        Yes, some of us did colonise, not the entire globe, feet and legs ?, but yes a fair bit of it but and here’s the but, we did it for someone else, not ourselves. Why in the name of god would Scotland want to colonise the entire globe?
        Some of us did it for money and loyalty to the county of North Britainshire.

        1. 240128 says:

          We did colonise the entire globe with our Enlightenment ideas during the course of the 18th, 19th, and early 20th centuries. We wanted to do so a) to develop markets for the exploitation of land, labour, and capital and b) to rescue savages from their benighted condition.

          1. Edward Cairney says:

            I don’t think you can blame the Scottish Enlightenment for colonial empire building. That mostly comes down to commerce. The Roman Empire is a good example of that. They had a lot of great thinkers but it was greed that stoked the fires of that empire.

          2. SleepingDog says:

            @Edward Cairney, dynastic rule, patrilineal primogeniture and the accidentally-print-friendly Latin alphabet that led to European book-mediated idea communism also bent the path to European empires, but the root of the second lies more with Greeks, I think.
            But we digress. Although folk tales often kick at and overturn these things.

          3. Edward Cairney says:

            What a good idea

          4. 240129 says:

            But the Roman empire did colonise the known world with classical culture, just as the British (and other European empires) colonised the known world with the ideas and values of modernity that flourished with the Scottish Enlightenment. But, yes; the medium through which that ‘civilisation’ of savage races took place was largely commerce.

          5. Edward Cairney says:

            Yes, I take your point. We and the Romans etc., did spread (their/our) version of classical culture, and with it came much brutality which none of the savages could understand for they had all grown their own sets of organic values.
            Last but not least, the Scots made brilliant slave drivers because we are people too.
            I still think the best way forward is to ask ourselves “is Scotland a country?”

          6. 240128 says:

            Isn’t ‘How should an increasingly diverse and pluralistic population govern its public affairs?’ a better question? What institutional arrangements do we need to have in place so that a general harmony of constructive interaction can prevail despite the differences that obtain among the various peoples and diverse communities that nowadays make up ‘Scotland’?

          7. Edward Cairney says:

            I agree with you entirely.

    2. 240127 says:

      And what on earth do the likes of the Corries have to do with who ‘Scots’ are in our contemporary multi-ethnic Scotland?

      1. BSA says:

        From the Enlightenment to the Corries, your priggish judgements have some range.

        1. Edward Cairney says:

          If you don’t get it, let’s just leave it there. Most people will. There should be no limits to how broad the discussion gets. We’ve been backed into a corner for too long, does it every time for the colonial status quo.
          Narrow views are what gets us fighting among ourselves.

  8. 240127 says:

    Gerry’s right; we are the stories we tell ourselves. The trouble is that, in post-truth societies like Britain, we all still think the stories of our own particular tribe are the true ones; it’s the cursed conceit of being right, as MacDiarmid put it in a story he told, that’s problematic rather than the obduracy of those whose stories are different from ours.

    We need to cultivate an establishment (the whole matrix of official and social relations and their institutions within which power is exercised in our society) in which we can tell each other our respective stories under conditions of restrained dissonance, a ‘speech-situation’ in which a general harmony of constructive interaction can prevail despite the diversity, dissensus, and dissonance among our various tribes and the stories that constitute them, a ‘speech-situation’ in which differences can be accommodated short of conflict. The alternative is a society riven by culture wars and class conflicts between ‘majorities’ and ‘minorities’ that the power-hungry can exploit.

    The cultivation of such an establishment is far removed from the ‘corporate transformation’ programme that the Scottish government in currently undertaking in preparation for ‘Independence’, in order to ensure that Scotland remains financially prosperous and competitive following its disincorporation from the UK. This corporate transformation leaves the whole matrix of official and social relations, through the institutions of which power is currently exercised in Scottish society, relatively unchanged. The underlying ‘speech-situation’ remains essentially the same.

    Independence is a pig in a poke. The power-hungry tell us that ‘we’ (the righteous) will be able to build a ‘better’ (more righteous) Scotland once the power of the state is fully in their hands. But this is just to perpetuate the cursed conceit of ‘being right’ that plagues our post-truth society with that conceit’s culture wars and tribal conflicts.

    But, of course; all this is just another story… ‘Yet ha’e I Silence left, the croon o’ a’.’

    1. Edward Cairney says:

      240127, is that an Orwellian name?
      I think we just have to take our chances.
      However, we need a constitution, we need a 100% impartial media and that should be enshrined in the constitution, we need to embrace the values of Francis Hutcheson and Bob’s your uncle, we might just pull it off ???

      1. 240128 says:

        No, it’s the date.

        We do have a constitution. It consists in the aggregate of fundamental principles or established precedents that constitute the legal basis of our polity and determines how that polity is to be governed. In the UK, its written in numerous fundamental Acts of our legislature, court cases, and treaties.

        The messaging that’s communicated through the media can never be impartial; it’s always coloured by some perspective. What we should have as part of our constitution is our ability to say and think what we want legally protected.

        1. Edward Cairney says:

          It’s a back to front date?
          I think if we could somehow prevent the Scottish Media industry from being the property of some malevolent entity/person, that would be a result?

          1. 240129 says:

            No, labelling the entry numerically, by year, month, and day, ensures that it’s saved to my journal in chronological order.

            Bella’s part of the Scottish media industry, which isn’t owned by any single malevolent agency. The Scottish media industry in remarkably diverse, dissonant, and polyphonous when it comes to its messaging.

  9. Julian Smith says:

    We have been preparing a set of YouTube short videos which attempt to portray a Scotland after independence. Have a look.
    We’re about to start a new series, so comments on our first series are most welcome.

    1. Edward Cairney says:

      Brilliant!, well done.

  10. Satan says:

    Reading that predictable space-filler was a waste of life.

  11. Satan says:

    I suppose the article is a mild improvementon the Scottish stories told on the current deepest well of culture: TikTok. TicTok is also probably the main reason for the populatity of Scottish independence, with YouTube for intellectuals.

    1. 240129 says:

      Don’t forget that unionism is more or less equally popular among consumers of media messaging. Culture war and its prosecution depends on the curation of such polar oppositions.

      1. Edward Cairney says:

        Has everything always to be about us?

        1. 240128 says:

          The title of this article is ‘Telling the New Stories of Scotland and Independence’; of course it’s all about us.

          1. Edward Cairney says:

            You misunderstood which is fair enough because I didn’t explain. When I say “us” I mean us here and now. We need to be thinking more about the future us, that’s more important than anything.

          2. 240130 says:

            Indeed we do. And there’s no shortage of people telling new stories about ‘Scotland’, including the one I tell of an increasingly pluralistic and polyphonous society that has outgrown its former ethnic and cultural identity and requires new frameworks of public decision-making that do justice to the diversity, dissensus, and dissonance among the individuals and communities that now make up the ‘nation’. Having our own wee Westminster in Edinburgh just doesn’t cut it.

          3. Edward Cairney says:

            We’re a Cinderella state, no doubt about it, we can do better, a lot better.

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