The Strange Death of Scottish Nationalism (and Scottish Unionism)

The nature and culture of the forces for Scottish independence, and the forces for the Union have completely changed since 2014. That is going to shape what happens next, writes Mike Small.

This week saw the uncovering of a number of offensive posts from Wilma Brown, Labour’s prospective candidate in Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath, including one suggesting that First Minister Humza Yousaf was giving money to Hamas. Others she liked included ones suggesting that Holyrood should be abolished or run by ‘direct rule’. She has since deleted her account.

Special Measures

But rather than condemn the unfortunate individual who will be dropped by the Labour Party quicker than you can say ‘Rochdale’, it’s worth looking at what is going on in Scottish politics where a great many people are converging around a hatred of the current Scottish Government, the SNP and even the idea of sovereignty (and I know these are different things).

This may be because both the incumbents of Holyrood and Westminster have a very stale ‘end days’ vibe to them. Rishi Sunak’s Conservative Government looks increasingly like an elderly pet that needs to taken to the vet for the very last time, and Humza Yousaf’s beleaguered government is still tainted by Branchform, surrounded by hostiles and seemingly unable to form a coherent strategy for EXIT. While the Culture Wars are (for now) a great motivator for the Tories to prime their base vote, for the SNP they are a red flag for all of their sworn enemies (and former most fervent allies) to descend in wrath.

But if the runes are being read for an SNP collapse and a Conservative extinction-level electoral wipe-out, something else is going on here with noticing.

The first is that, despite (arguably) horrendous and confused leadership from the SNP, meaning that any coherent routes to independence are very difficult to discern, yesterday Redfield and Wilton reported a  ‘Yes’ leads of 2%. It’s the first lead for ‘Yes’ since November 2022 [Scotland Independence Referendum Voting Intention (6-7 April): Yes 44% (+1) No 42% (-4) Don’t Know 14% (+3) ]:

What does this tell us? Possibly that it doesn’t really matter how badly the SNP do in government, how little coherent strategy there is towards independence, nor the extent to which a media is saturated with ‘Scotland is awful’ messaging, a core of 50% or so of voters want independence. That is both remarkable AND depressing if you think what could have been done with that core vote if inspired and directed?

But if the complete death of Scottish nationalism – like Mark Twain’s demise – has been ‘grossly exaggerated’ – this is not to say what impact a BIG SNP loss at the next general Election will have. But what may have happened is that ‘Scottish nationalism’ has transmuted into support for independence, which is not the same thing.

Quietly over decades, two things have become a sure reality. The first is that by a significant measure, people just assume their identity to be ‘Scottish not British’. This doesn’t mean they are woad-smeared nationalists, they are (we are) ‘just Scottish’. It’s a quieter, deeper assumption. The numbers on this are unquestionable. The share of Scots who identify primarily as Scottish has risen from 57 % in 2012 to 72% today. It’s hardly going down again. What was once an outsider thing to believe in has become, despite what you might read or hear from every media outlet, just normal.

The second thing that has happened is that a significant number of people (about half) want to run their own country, and those that don’t, and assume that this is somehow impossible/unthinkable are in their sixties and seventies and eighties.

But there is a mirror to the changes that have taken hold of the movements for independence in the movements for dependence. Talking about the BBC Scotland documentary series The Years That Made Modern Scotland, which traced the nation’s quiet transformation over the past five decades, the academic Scott Hames notes (‘The Quiet Collapse of Scottish Unionism‘): “The distance travelled is remarkable, but in tracing the rise of national identity and political confidence, an untold story lingers at the margin: the collapse of Scottish unionism as an outlook and a sensibility.”

“This is no fault of the programme makers. The story of how Scotland got to be this way is also the story of how it gradually stopped being something else, and the latter tale is almost impossible to tell. Even in the period of the Union’s sleepy pomp, from around 1850 to 1950, scholars find it challenging to pinpoint the Union’s meaning in Scottish culture. Today, its patterns of dual loyalty are largely illegible, overwritten by competing Scottish and British nationalisms. Few of the programme’s viewers can recall feeling British Scottishly (or vice versa, according to preference), and you cannot vox-pop sheer amnesia, or film a lingering absence.”

Herein lies the problem. Weighed down by the ridiculous self-harming (and subsequent over-compensation of Greatness) that was Brexit-era Britain, and confused by Mass-Flag-Raising Brit Nationalism, actual Britain, real-life Britain has slowly disappeared, Unable to confront any of the cross-current of competing identities and incapable of any real constitutional reform, Britain just slips away, drowned by its leaders own self-deception under a sea of bunting.

Banal Unionism

Now, the Unionists who argue for dependence have to do from a position of pretending that none of this really happened, that nothing has changed. As Hames points out: “When acceptance of the British constitutional order went without saying in Scotland, quietude was the measure of its strength. Because assent to the Union was scarcely a question, writes Colin Kidd, “there was no need to make a vigorous case on its behalf”, and so a banal unionism functioned as a sort of wallpaper in Scottish political life, which only began to curl and fade in the 1960s.”

Perhaps the high-point of this tactical ‘Scottish Unionism’ was the absurdist theatre of Michael Forsyth returning the Stone of Destiny as he felt the Winds of Change in 1996.

People over 50 (maybe?) will remember what Hames describes as the ‘banal unionism of a sort of wallpaper in Scottish political life’ well. When the TV went off at midnight the ‘national anthem’ (then unquestioned) went on before the TV ended for the day. The same would happen at theatres and sporting events where the Union Jack would be flown and the ‘national anthem sung. Now, as Hames concludes: “Unionism has no new songs”, observed the poet Kathleen Jamie in 2014, nor a distinctive political language in which to sing them. The tunes and emblems nearest the hearts of Scotland’s No voters are strongly aligned with an Anglocentric British nationalism – the formation traditional unionism defined itself politely but firmly against insisting on a visibly Scottish way of being British.”

The choice is much blunter now. The love-bombing (see below with Trinny and Suzannah) is no more.

This is a paradox but goes some way to explain the emergence of wilder ‘No’ voices like the broadcaster Neil Oliver and similar who have descended from a strident Unionism to an overt British Nationalism. He has, like so many of his colleagues undergone a covid-inspired journey from a curmudgeonly (if dull) commentator to a wild-eyed loon high on the conspiracism of the far-out and the far-right.

Now, as ‘Britain’ and ‘Britishness’ fades completely away the more desperately urgent it is to assert it. The concept of a Union of Equals or a partnership or anything like it – has been quietly abandoned. This will change very little under an incoming Starmer Labour Party already draped heavily in Union Jack iconography and leaning heavily into British nationalism. Not just that, but Wilma Brown is the thin-end of a wedge that sees strange bedfellows co-joined in their hatred of the SNP and hostility to Holyrood and Devolution. She spoke the quiet bit out loud, as the saying goes, and must be hustled off-stage pronto.

This may have some way further to go, and not just on the ‘No’ side. As the efforts of liberal centrist governments fail, and the surge of populism rises, we don’t know what expression this might have in Scotland or in the entity formerly known as ‘Britain’.

Ire and Salt

With the language of ‘Union’ quietly abandoned, and the constitutional reforms long-promised by Labour’s Gordon Brown shelved, the idea of Labour as a modernising force has been extinguished. While Blair rifted on endless ideas of ‘re-birth’ and ‘Newness’, Starmer promises less a future than a steadier more managed decline of a past we should, somehow, be proud of. Under Starmer Britain will collapse more slowly and with less obvious effect seems to be the sub-narrative to much of their messaging.

What will happen under a Labour government wedded to both the economic plans and strictures of the Conservatives (we know they’ve told us so), committed to Brexit and unable or unwilling to countenance any constitutional change other than (checks notes) ‘Mayors’?

Some have suggested that a possible direction for the broader Yes movement in Scotland, and possible adjacent progressive forces, is to re-assemble a sort of civic coalition of the kind we saw emerging to bring about devolution in the 1990s, a sort of Constitutional Convention 2.0. But this idea ignores three significant changes outlined above. The first is that the idea of a ‘Scottish Unionism’ that argued for a distinct role for Scotland within the Union, and often celebrated (even in the most cursory fashion) aspects of Scottish culture, law or politics has all but been abandoned.

The second is that those advocating the Union from south of the Border have changed tack and tone completely and now argue for total assimilation rather than partnership. It’s hard to see the circumstances where either of these traditions or tendencies return.

Finally, the forces that might have once argued strongly for devolution have also changed hands. The Scottish Government, and to an extent the Scottish Parliament is now surrounded by voices that claim they are a Metropolitan Elite blind to the needs of rural Scotland, that they are engaged in an endless woke war, that they are incompetent at even the most basic policy-making and on (and on). That much of this language echoes that of the Brexit fiasco and that of the populist right, and is now being spouted by the very parties, think tanks, pundits and apparatchiks that brought you devolution is being smoothed over. There are two establishment Scotlands’ – one in power and one waiting in the wings. They aren’t very different, offering different colours of managerialism and little to really face the enormous inheritance of grotesque poverty we are experiencing, nor the unimaginable effects of climate breakdown we have only begun to see the reality of.

Blah Blah Blah

It will be interesting to see whether the hordes of lobbyists, commentators, producers and editors that cultivate the narrative of ‘everything in Scotland is awful’ will maintain this line if, as now possible the SNP are ejected from office. In other words, is it the institution of devolution itself that attracts their ire, or only the present incumbents (insert your own invective here: wokerati, metropolitan elite etc etc). You can imagine the embedded PR firms, lobbyists and media people just adjusting their profiles and contact lists, and shifting their schmoozing to the incoming political networks, which they are already well acquainted with. A return to a ‘banal unionism’ is within reach for those for whom that is the height of their political ambition.

It is perfectly possible that it will be a successful ticket to just ‘not be the SNP’ – just as it has served Starmer very well to just ‘not be Jeremy Corbyn’, and with a pliant and relieved media corps it may be very possible to bask in the glow of having ‘defeated the Tories’ for some time, but at some point some of them may have to actually do something about the tidal wave of socio-ecological crises that are engulfing us. At that point, we may be back to where we are now, where any effort to approach any of these problems is met with the internal resistance of a deeply conservative and deeply reactionary political-media class resistant to any change at all.


Comments (47)

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  1. Cathie Lloyd says:

    Interesting and worth trying to tease out these developments. But I think you need to focus on the more global (north) developments which provide the context for the debate here. More than weariness with present incumbents we have a populist rightward trend aimed at what they see as ‘woke’ and particularly any attempt to deal with the climate crisis. We have regular campaigns against any policy initiative which ignore prior consultations and try to defeat new policies within hours of their enactment (Hate Crime, Building regs). This is part of a wider campaign against this imaginary thing ‘woke’ and I recommend reading newish studies published by the Institute of Race Relations which have a wide applicability. in particular Mainstreaming the far right, which has a broad applicability.
    On a different tack I’d point out that while the activists in the Yes movement are ageing it would be worth exploring a slight disconnect between the growing numbers who support independence (or do they see it as self-determination), nationalists and those still mobilised in the Yes movement. I think there may be interesting developments here. Could there be an untapped reservoir of support for self determination here? Could they be on the way to forming a new hegemony around self government? Its not unusual to see streams of opinion running in different directions, that kaleidoscope which has yet to form a coherent shape. People like Mike need to be on the watch like this to nurture promising developments, while exposing ones which lead nowhere.

    1. Thanks Cathie.

      You say: “it would be worth exploring a slight disconnect between the growing numbers who support independence (or do they see it as self-determination), nationalists and those still mobilised in the Yes movement.”

      I’m not sure what you mean, can you explain a bit? thanks

      1. Cathie Lloyd says:

        I’ll try. The yes movement is visibly ageing (I observe). Yet more people are supporting independence. So is there an untapped reservoir of Indy supporters who don’t feel the need to be part of a local group- or – don’t have the time / inclination for organisations? So is there an underlying shift in beliefs/ ideas ?

        1. Ah I see, yes there s a few things here. I think there is an untapped group of people (arguably the majority) who dont protest or campaign because there’s nothing specific to campaign on. I think too if you look at the outward face of Yes it looks older, yet if you look at the demographics of the pro Yes people its overwhelmingly younger people with 70-80% Yes in inder 25s.

    2. SleepingDog says:

      @Cathie Lloyd, my earlier reply seems to have disappeared, but I agree with your point on needing the Global North context. Woke (as in know your own history) is a real enough thing, though.

      1. Cathie Lloyd says:

        Race and Class had a useful issue on woke and the extreme right in 2023. Sadly little on Scotland but that could be done

        1. SleepingDog says:

          @Cathie Lloyd, that would be ‘An anatomy of the British war on woke’? I see this is open access, I’ll have a look:

          I agree that ‘woke’ can be (mis)represented by many straw men, and it is interesting to see the projections (such as religiosity) that the far right project upon their phantom opponents, perhaps unwittingly revealing their own demons. But also that people can (mis)identify as ‘woke’ in ways which *are* quasi-religious, self-serving, ego-dominant and quite alien to the original concept.

          An original concept perhaps neatly and accessibly summed up in the graphic novel Wake: The Hidden History of Women-Led Slave Revolts by Rebecca Hall and illustrated by Hugo Martínez, possibly the most-woke graphic novel ever written and illustrated 🙂

  2. SleepingDog says:

    The idea that the playing of the British national anthem in broadcast and other events went unquestioned is simply false. It would be far more useful for Bella to publish an article on how such crass enforcements of banal nationalism have been long resisted.

    1. Graeme Purves says:

      I heartily agree!

    2. I’m talking about back in the 1950s and 60s and 70s Sleeping Dog. I remember the time this began to change. Are you saying that there was never a time when the singing or playing of GstQ was played without challenge?

      1. Graeme Purves says:

        I think there was always at least muted resistance. Back in the 1950s, my douce Border grocer grandfather was harangued by a member of the local gentry for failing to take his hat off for the Hanovarian anthem at a rugby match! 🙂 My grandfather was no nationalist, but in no doubt about his Scottish identity and steeped in Border history and the writing of Walter Scott and James Hogg.

        1. SleepingDog says:

          @Graeme Purves, this Oxford University Press blog mentions early ridicule of the anthem, and the composition of alternate versions such as this one:
          “‘God Save Great Thomas Paine’ was penned in 1793 by a Jacobin sympathiser, the Sheffield balladeer Joseph Mather”

          Unsurprisingly, it goes on to relate:
          “By the late nineteenth century, public performances of ‘God Save the Queen’ itself provoked occasional hostile reactions in Ireland and Wales”

          What historical records are available (draconian British royal secrecy means we only just recently had a carefully selected version of the Georgian Papers made publicly available) show that our royals were terrified of the people rising up against them. I assume that’s the real reason they have five Foot Guards Regiments of the Household Division outside their hoose. There was a fear that Revolution might be on their doorstep after the Russian people ditched their Tsar (which is why the King overrode PM Lloyd George’s offer of sanctuary in Britain and told his cousin to fork orf, desecretised archives say).

        2. Cathie Lloyd says:

          I remember being clipped on the shoulder by irate audience member in 1960s Swindon for remaining seated. And also mad rush for the exit at end of film to avoid the national dirge

      2. SleepingDog says:

        @Editor, you might reflect the British tradition of critiquing mawkish displays of patriotism that prompted the well-known quip of Samuel Johnson or the musical mock of ‘pomp and circumstance’, the characterisation of Jingoism and so forth.
        I realise that strong dissenting traditions have been suppressed in establishment-favouring British histories (it would be awkward to recognise people objected to racialised chattel slavery from the start, hundreds of years before ‘abolition’, for example), making books like Priyamvada Gopal’ Insurgent Empire: Anticolonial Resistance and British Dissent necessary correctives.

        Norman Baker wrote in And What Do You Do? What the Royal Family Don’t Want You to Know (2020) that our national anthem was only good for clearing cinemas and waking up BBC viewers.

        I think there is a difference between ‘questioned’ and ‘challenged’, but the idea that we were all royalists of some degree in the 1950s is as ridiculous as in the 1600s. And maybe in the 1950s fewer practising Christians proportionally to justify the theocratic sentiment (who gave God credit for winning WW2?). The BBC is a royalist, royal-chartered institution that produces royalist propaganda. Yet even it seems to have found the mandated playing of the royalist-theocratic anthem every night counterproductive in its role.

        The BBC was and remains a worldwide and colonialist enterprise, so you could ask people beyond the shores of Britain what they (or their parents or grandparents) thought about the playing of the anthem. Rebellious Scots to crush wasn’t the only objection.

        I think the more general and important point is that, although there has always been significant opposition to the Anglo-British Empire, the question of whether the BBC played the national anthem every night was not a great priority, and it might even have been welcomed for what it revealed.

        As an aside, philosopher Susan Neiman has written a very interesting discussion of the German national anthems in Learning From the Germans, and why the East German anthem wasn’t selected for the reunified nation, which raises questions which might well have been raised in the UK, but suppressed as they have been in West Germany.

        1. I never suggested that “we were all royalists of some degree in the 1950s” but we were in a more deferential era, and the widespread standard/compulsory use of God Save the Queen at public events was (largely) met with a sort of quietism.

          1. SleepingDog says:

            @Editor, I was thinking of the paragraph in this article:
            “A glowing review in The New York Times hailed the book for filling ‘a void in the literature, giving voice to the previously voiceless while it compels the rest of us to look at the events of 40 years ago in a new light.’ Nguyen responds in his memoir, as he has done elsewhere, with acid humor, quoting Arundhati Roy’s observation that there’s no such thing as ‘the voiceless,’ only the ‘deliberately silenced’ or ‘preferably unheard.’ As he quips in the book, ‘Vietnamese people are not voiceless! They are really, really loud!'”

            There was apparently a lot of anti-royalist sentiment among serving British military by 1945, but the penalties of speaking out were severe. Even the histories of British military mutinies were heavily suppressed in the last century. Postwar social gains, the end of national service, the appearance of decolonisation and lifting of some kinds of censorship might have given the majority of people hope that the country was moving in a more progressive direction. Maybe royalty was expected to fizzle and die without revolution. Perhaps the majority doesn’t think that now.

            If we’d had social media in the 1950s, I think some of these sentiments would have been more difficult to silence. For a while, the state did show an interest in popular opinion through Mass Observation (which is almost certainly why the Tripartite Invasion of Egypt in 1956 was such a closely-guarded and royalist conspiracy: the fear of the conspirators of public opinion is recorded in declassified files). Every generation of historians seems to stumble upon another strata of unheard voices.

            You might be more critical of all those creative types so honoured in Bella who failed to make such voices heard.

            One could as easily argue that people have finally got frustrated with the failure of entrants to the political system to challenge the Establishment, and that mistaking (limited) patience for deference is not a mistake the Establishment made, as records show. Does the Spycops saga suggest the British Establishment were comfortable relying on ‘deference’? Political censorship of the theatre? D-notices? MI5 vetting of BBC personnel? etc

      3. Martin Tierney says:

        To throw in a couple of pennies worth, growing up in an Irish diaspora Catholic household in the ’70s, then about 20% of Scottish population, I would say there was never a time that GSTQ went unchalleng ed. In those far off days without remote controls it was a race to jump from the couch toturn off the TV before as much as a single bar of that dirge had sullied our household. I would confidently say those of similar origin had the same view.

        1. Thanks Martin, I’m sure you’re right – I suppose i was thinking of that time when this revulsion/opposition became a public display – ie at Hampden and Murrayfield when it was drowned out by boos till it had to be replaced.

    3. Niemand says:

      Yes it seems a peculiar fever dream of some to assume that the playing of the national anthem invariably resulted in the majority of Brits immediately standing to attention. They used to play it in cinemas in the 1950s (and beyond), at the end – cue the stampede to get out as quickly as possible.

      I am sure the ‘respect’ for the anthem has waxed and wained but it has always had its critics and neither is it necessary to love such jingoism to have a basic support for the union. Not everyone is either a Rees-Mogg or an Alf Garnett. Most are nowhere near them and have a much more sensible attitude to things.

      1. Cynicus says:

        “They used to play it in cinemas in the 1950s (and beyond), at the end – cue the stampede to get out as quickly as possible.”
        Thanks for posting those words and saving me the trouble.

      2. John says:

        Emotional support for the Union has decreased with each passing decade since 1950’s.This is not surprising as many of the emotional bonds of the union (WW2, nationalised industries etc) have diminished over this period.
        The democratic legitimacy and therefore support of union has decreased since 1979 with the successive Tory governments being elected with policies that have little support in Scotland.
        We are rapidly arriving at a position where many people in Scotland are now opposed to independence because they are wary or frightened of consequences rather than being supportive of Union. It is not a particularly happy position for a nation to be in.

        1. I think there’s a lot in what you say John. There’s very little in the way of a ‘positive case for the Union’ – there never was – but now post-Brexit and in the aftermath of the Conservatives long long time in office there’s very little vision. So what people (some people, a very specific demographic) are holding on to is ‘fear of change’. That’s a desultory place to be.

          1. Niemand says:

            Agreed, it is not and the default position (change is scary) can be hard to shift.

            So the question is how to shift it?

            My gut feeling is that for those who prefer the status quo mainly just because it is the status quo will not be persuaded by continually and somewhat repetitively pointing out the iniquities of the union and especially ‘those down south’.

            There are two reasons for this:
            1) they don’t necessarily buy into those iniquities, even if they are have no great love of the union and in relation to that
            2) they do not trust arch-nationalist rhetoric on the matter when it can seem so negative and does not necessarily tally with their experience (which tbf one cannot entirely blame them for).

            What they need is to be offered a concrete vision of why they should no longer support the status quo in terms of why it would be better, not why and who it to blame for it currently being so bad. I know one can link those things together (quite naturally really) but we get much, much more of the latter and little of the former. Taking the leap into an unknown requires much more than a negative rationale (or it needs to be so bad that there is almost no choice and that is not the way it is and probably never will be).

  3. John says:

    Brexit was primarily an expression of AngloBritish nationalism and is a massive threat to devolution due to:
    1)Brexiteers can no longer use EU as the threat to UK sovereignty so they have turned their sights on the devolved parliaments in Edinburgh and Cardiff. They don’t care about future of Northern Ireland as became abundantly clear during Brexit referendum.
    2)The UK Internal market centralises more power in Westminster rather than devolving the returned power outwards.
    Neither of Main UK parties have any great interest in devolution and if Tories lose next election they will lurch to a more right wing and nationalist outlook which will not only be hostile to devolution but will wish to abolish it. Labour may wish to maintain status quo but where Tories go Labour tends to follow out of fear of middle England.
    We may appear to be in a lull at present with no apparent route to independence but it will not last and within a decade there will be a clear choice between independence and Westminster. Demographics and the increasing irrelevance and hostility of UK and Westminster institutions makes me confident that independence will be the longer term outcome. It will require real leadership from SNP and Yes movement and a clear plan to achieve it however.

  4. Edward Cairney says:

    Has anyone heard the words passion or vision recently? does it even exist anymore? Scottish independence is actually pushing an open door, or it will be if we can find the door? The door is there right enough, we just have to open our eyes. Or could it be that we’re mistaking all these rabbit holes for doors…….?

    1. Boyce Franks says:

      Exactly. Our SNP leaders have shown no hunger. Vision, or urgency for independence. They have done the opposite. Under Nicola, the SNP party itself became the focus, not independence. All those massive mandates bought them power which they failed to use.

      Truly astonishing failure which our Indy editorials and journalists are still not recognising or dealing with.

      Someone needs to call them out.

      1. Alec Lomax says:

        I don’t agree that nobody is calling out the SNP on an alleged lack of urgency on independence. There are quite a few bloggers and letter writers to the National (usually Alba supporters) who criticize the SNP (more than they attack the Tories, curiously enough).
        Also, I’m amused to read that Wilma Brown ‘likes’ a post from Wings over Scotland (which is owned by a Tory supporter living in Somerset). It seems that not-so-great minds think alike !

        1. Well that’s kind of the point Alec – that Wilma Brown (or similar like her) and WoS are united in their detestation of the SNP, but the question your left with is what do they offer instead? Very little I think. This is not to say that the SNP shouldn’t be the subject of severe criticism (aa they are). But being ‘critical’ s not the same as to ‘hate’. Very often in the circles being described everything is reduced to personalities – so that in hyperbolic terms the SNP have ‘failed’ because of this or that personality (usually Sturgeon or own or two others) – and in return the SNP would have ‘succeeded’ if only these people had been replaced by X Y or Z. This analysis allows the arguments to churn and the grifter blogs to earn but it does very little to analyse the systemic problems of the situation ie the role of the British State, the wider failure of electoral politics, or the problems of mobilising a transformative movement within the narrow confines of Scottish society.

  5. Satan says:

    I think that unionism and nationalism in Scotland have both become stale, boring, and petrified, and they are both 10 years past their sell-by date. I get the feeling that the same type of people will be shouting the same things at the same type of people in 20 years time.

  6. Gavinochiltree says:

    Decades upon decades of agitating for Home Rule failed and we got shafted with Devolution instead ( power retained). The SNP have never realised this, and rather than fight for autonomy and sovereignty in incremental measures they jumped the gun and went for the whole hog. The closeness of 2014 woke the Anglo-Brit Nat establishment up and without the threat of Irish-style resistance they have zero respect for democracy and “mandates”. The SNP are still the most potent vehicle we have, but they must wake up and set down what issues are worth the fight and what can be left for a rainy day. Much of the last few years in “power” has been an embarrassment .
    Build a core of constitutionalists, legal and political expertise and set some targets.
    The media will never be onside with independence so treat them with the contempt they deserve.

  7. Boyce Franks says:

    The yes movement have become acutely aware of the failure of the SNP to take advantage of the poorest, weakest. And most unpopular British government in history. Additionally, they have noticed a determination of the SNP to focus on implementing divisive policies that alienate half the population (females) instead of dealing with core economic issues, planning reforms, and land rights. All this while simultaneously attacking an innocent man(Salmond) who brought Scotland the closest to independence its ever been, and trashing the most popular and informative independence site it ever had (WOS).
    So the so-called leaders of independence are out of touch and not credible. Respect and patience has gone. Nicola presided over the destruction of the most powerful indy party Scotland had. Salmond handed a jewel over and Nicola sold it to the greens for consensus and power because she wanted ‘Both Votes to the SNP’.

    Your analysis is as detached from the real world as the SNP is from independence and it feeds into the general narrative that Scotland is now leaderless and utterly clueless on how we get what most of us still want, independence.

    1. Alec Lomax says:

      WOS has been trashed by it’s transphobic, conspiracy-theorist owner more than by anybody else. He was going to start his very own Wings independence party – whatever became of that?

  8. Karen Ann Donald says:

    The vilification by the entire BritNat media has more to do with the image of the SNP than the reality. Do these people who “hate” the SNP hate it enough to give up the most well-known and loved benefits of voting for them ? Free prescriptions, free child care, free education, the baby box and so on. I think not !

  9. Graeme Purves says:

    I had hoped that the Independence Referendum result would have been the catalyst for the building of a strong cross-party independence movement. Instead, previously non-aligned independence supporters flocked in droves to the SNP’s banner, and the self-focused selfie-politics of its new leader. I couldn’t get my head round that response at the time, having been unimpressed by the SNP’s dull and technocratic referendum campaign, and having already resolved to leave the party.

    Perhaps we can start building that strong, cross-party independence movement now?

    1. John says:

      Graeme – the 2014 independence referendum raised the issue of independence up the agenda for many previously undecided and non committed voters on both Yes and No sides. Most of these people would not have been involved with the various independence supporting movements and activities prior to 2014. The increased membership and vote for SNP in 2015 General Election was the easiest way for these people to show that independence has become an important issue for them.
      It looks inevitable that SNP will lose seats at next GE and possibly seats and power at next Holyrood election which is probably due to there being no obvious democratic route to independence in sight and disillusionment with current Holyrood government due to poor delivery and lack of competence on some issues, incumbency, infighting, hostility of media and economic uncertainty.
      A cross party movement for independence would be desirable but this will require Labour, Lib Dem and Tory involvement (appears highly unlikely at present) or it just looks like political fragmentation of political independence movement which only benefits Westminster supporters.
      To try and replace SNP will take years so IMO SNP remain only current political vehicle for independence but they need to work with all other Yes supporting organisations rather than dictate to them to advance independence cause.
      The SNP may need to go through political reverses at GE and next Holyrood election to bring focus and dynamism back to them politically and in meantime the other Yes organisations need to keep campaigning to keep up momentum and profile for independence.

      1. Graeme Purves says:

        I agree with most of that, but I think a strong cross-party independence campaign could provide a safe space and platform for pro-independence voices within the Labour Party, and potentially other parties. Build it and they will come.

        1. Paddy Farrington says:

          I very much agree. That’s the way to go.

          1. John says:

            I very much agree that this would be very helpful unfortunately with current Labour leadership north and south of border I am not sure they would allow Labour representatives or members to stay in party if they joined any cross party independence organisation.
            Certainly worth a try though.

          2. Graeme Purves says:

            I think that’s probably true, but it would not be a good look for them, and the profile and reputation of any members they expelled would be enhanced.

        2. Do you mean rather than ‘Labour for Indy’ a non-party Yes project that could attract cross party internal members support Graeme?

          1. Satan says:

            I think the ‘yes movement’ were an all-encompassing apolitical body for 6 months, a decade ago. For balance, the ‘no movement’ were an all-encompassing apolitical body for 6 months, a decade ago. I get the feeling that the whole thing is for something like frustrated stamp-collectors in 2024.

  10. Jerzy Jaxson says:

    As an American interested in UK and Scottish politics, I am always shocked at the level of bias and outright subjective attack “campaigns” the general UK media exhibit every single day. It is the most absurdly apparent failure of a once-vaunted media culture I can possibly think of when a consistently dominant, election-winning, highly popular political party is subject to such poverty-stricken analyses and reporting in what sometimes appears to be a coordinated messaging strategy.

    It’s insanity and terrifying to watch as someone who greatly values representative democracy and the “free” press owned by an increasingly small number of people.

    1. Thanks Jerzy – is the US media not also partisan, or does it offer in a different way that your seeing? Thanks for commenting.

      1. Jerzy Jaxson says:

        Oh, the US media goes where the dollars go typically, as I think most do, Bias is inherent in most of our media, some unintentional/cultural layers, but they are subtle about the more directly biased material, usually. You can still pick out a narrative line they all seem to jump on and push, like Biden too old and therefore Trump is winning, identity stuff, etc but the singular, consistent, negative narrative against the SNP, to me anyway, is off the charts.

        It may be that I started paying close attention towards the end of the SNP’s period of long party control of power in Scotland and it’s starting to show support fraying but it really seems like the narrative is driving the polls, especially in English press. Perhaps my own biases play a role, as well. I try to avoid that type of thinking but some of it is just built in. The concept that Scotland is denied the opportunity to vote up or down on independence is very odd to me. I think about Texas or California wanting to peel off from the US (some do) and how I would respond (go ahead) but that’s apples and oranges to your legal and governmental framework.

        Probably more than you wanted to read but that’s what I see.

        1. SleepingDog says:

          @Jerzy Jaxson, weren’t Texas and California annexed by the USA, along with Hawaii and goodness-knows-how-many territories? I believe they flooded Texas with immigrants first… Although England did at times try (sometimes successfully) to annex Scotland, the Union was a political one in the end, though of course politics decided by an elite. And England successfully annexed Wales and Ireland (the latter state being reversed in stages). I mean, all of the USA was annexed. Does this lead to the kind of karmaphobia in USAmerican politics that fears what went around will come around?

          I don’t know if you recognize the picture drawn by Freedom Press’ regular news column Notes from the US?

          Or indeed the sketch of USAmerican history education in Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong by James W Loewen?

          Yet aside from all the bad things USAmericans copied from the British, at least they don’t have theocratic hereditary monarchy. Well, the last time I looked. I note that the SNP still seems to back British royalty staying in charge, which doesn’t seem very independent-minded to me, and civil republicanism seems to be on the rise in the UK and wider realm.

      2. Jerzy Jaxson says:

        Just to add: I see a difference between Scottish media calling out the SNP for things that affect Scots but the whole attitude of the UK press towards the government and blanket denial of the legitimacy of asking for independence under under the supposed spirit of your union.

        1. John says:

          Jerry – I am sure the vast majority of Scots, including contributors on this site, expect the Scottish media to hold the Scottish government to account over their actions and policy failures.
          The problem we face is that the majority of tv media (STV excepted) are essentially UK managed and the their coverage appears to be directed from a centralised UK narrative. The newspaper media coverage is even worse with most Scottish editions of papers being no more than UK paper in a tartan cover while other supposedly Scottish papers (eg Scotsman) are now owned by proprietors who are antagonistic to Scottish government.
          This leads to the bizarre situation where 90%+ of newspapers and majority of media are hostile to independence when 50% of population support it and they are deeply worried by this hence their need to discredit the case for independence at every opportunity. The lack of balance afforded to the Scottish government and any political party, organisations and individuals that support independence are an extension of the media’s hostility to independence.

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