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Wings Over Scotland

Another country

Posted on July 30, 2013 by

Wings Over Scotland went to London last weekend, for no particular reason other than a change of scenery. After a trip to the faux-bohemian Camden Market – in which about six different stalls are now repeated over and over in a sad, gentrified mockery of its previous more anarchic life, yet while still maintaining much of the vibrant feel – we set off in no particular direction and found ourselves in Trafalgar Square.

Despite having been to the capital dozens of times, I’d never visited the home of Nelson’s Column, which is far bigger in real life than it looks in pictures, managing to dominate what is a very large plaza with no shortage of other imposing monuments and decorations. (Including the vast National Gallery and, at the moment, an incongruous enormous bright blue cockerel.)


Suitably inspired, we elected to take a stroll to the Embankment, past the London Eye, and from there on a walking tour of the heart of the British establishment. Searching for exploitable weaknesses, obviously.

On the train in from Bath, I’d eagerly absorbed the first few chapters of Iain Macwhirter’s “Road To Referendum”. (More followed on the way back.) A companion book to the recent STV series, it covers far more ground than could be squeezed into three hours of television, and by the time we pulled into Paddington Station I’d learned a great deal about Scottish history between the 13th century and the 1960s. (Having left school before 1990 and therefore having been taught absolutely none.)

There’d also been time to very quickly become annoyed by the technical standards of the e-book edition I was reading on a 7-inch tablet. Given that I’d only paid £1.19 for it (price still correct at time of writing) it’s hard to demand too much, but if there’s one telling and dismaying signifier of the decline of the printed word, it’s the atrocious subbing which afflicts much of it now that nobody’s prepared to pay for proper editors any more. You’ll have to forgive a digression here, because it matters.

Throughout my entire life up until the last five or six years, I can never remember seeing a single spelling or grammatical mistake in a book. (One of my favourite books ever, “Flowers For Algernon” by Daniel Keyes, would have been robbed of almost all of its incredible gut-punching power were any to have carelessly been let through.)

Yet nowadays they’re everywhere, mocking the proud histories of English and Scottish education alike with the inability of even professional wordsmiths to spell, punctuate and proof-read, and even by the dismally low standards of the modern day “Road To Referendum” – certainly in its electronic edition – is littered with them.

Some examples are trivial – the embarrassing rendering of Andy Stewart’s most famous hit as “Donald, Where’s Your Trousers“, for the love of God – and some are understandable in a developing format, like the frequent sudden appearance of chapter titles in the middle of pages.

(One can forgive such jarring but inconsequential crudities in a world where magical mobile devices allow readers to choose for themselves how many words appear on a page, and even the relatively tiny amount of effort and expense required to get around it may be hard to justify within the strangulated budgets under which many publications are now produced.)

But others are significantly more distracting and destructive, introducing ambiguity where (presumably) none is intended, and never more so than through the modern curse of inappropriate capitalisation.

I was barely into the second chapter when I was cursing the constant references to “Nationalism”, a word which is not a proper noun and merits no upper case except when starting a sentence. It muddies any description of Scottish politics, because it feeds the misconception – still absurdly, inexcusably common in non-Scottish newspapers – that Alex Salmond is the leader of the Scottish Nationalist Party.

(It’s no less idiotic, unprofessional and insulting to a party of government established the best part of a century ago than it would be to talk of the Labourers Party, the Conservatories or the Literal Thundercats.)

Scottish “nationalism” is so unlike any other political form that it is effectively a complete misnomer, which has come about only through a lazy corruption of the SNP’s name. The word “national” is not inherently linked to nationalism. The SFA don’t call Hampden the Nationalist Stadium. If a well-known coach and train company were to change its name to Nationalist Express it might find the nature of its clientele uncomfortably altered, as might the English Nationalist Opera.


At one especially soul-destroying point, the book even finds itself referring farcically to “small ‘n’ Scottish Nationalism” [sic], a formulation so thunderingly cretinous I almost gave up there and then and started playing Candy Crush Saga instead.

But this is more than the nitpicking of a grammar Nazi. What Macwhirter is referring to for much of the book is a political creed which would more correctly be called “Scottish National Partyism” (or as it’s more commonly and generically described these days, “civic nationalism”) and which – certainly in the modern age – bears no similarity to most other political nationalist movements.

He talks frequently of this misnamed “nationalism” and the more historically traditional forms of nationalism as entirely different things, repeatedly drawing attention to their almost polar dissimilarity to each other, but does so using (or having a clueless junior sub-editor use in his name) a proper-noun form of the word which allows no such possibility of nuance in meaning.

This is more time than we intended to spend talking about inappropriate capitalisation, but it’s a constant irritant throughout the first half of the book in particular, and repeatedly yanks the reader out of Macwhirter’s otherwise absorbing prose to tut and to pause while mentally double-checking which kind of “Nationalism” he’s talking about on this occasion before continuing. It’s a moronic trait and it needs to stop right now, even if a few public hangings are needed to set an example.

(If I’d come across the phrase “baited breath” that really would have been the end.)

But anyway. Back to London, because this post aims to intertwine a book review with a travelogue and a broader political point, and it’s no good running away now because you’ve already invested too much time listening to that rant about how modern editing is going to Hell in a handbasket, so you might as well buckle in and knuckle down.


From Trafalgar Square, thanks to some misleading signposting, we’d walked down Northumberland Avenue (a dark, gloomy street much less pink than I’d expected from its portrayal on the Monopoly board) and across the Golden Jubilee bridge at the Embankment tube station, past a curious mini-carnival and towards the Eye.

From there you pass the enormous and palatial County Hall, former home of the GLC and now a curiously neglected and underused building tragically disfigured with the ultimate indignity – a tatty, sweaty, cramped little windowless McDonalds in its ground floor and basement. But that’s just the warm-up.

From County Hall you cross the flat, unassuming Westminster Bridge, with the vast Palace Of Westminster – seat of English and British government for centuries, though most of its structures are less than 200 years old – dominating the view.

If I can ever bring myself to write a civil letter to my treacherous Liberal Democrat MP, Don Foster, I plan to one day take the tour of the interior – which oddly is free to UK citizens by appointment when Parliament is sitting, yet costs a hefty £16.50 a skull when our elected representatives are on holiday – but it’s a plenty impressive piece of work even from the street (and more so from a boat on the filthy Thames).

About a hundred yards further down the road you turn right into Parliament Street and Whitehall, and that’s when you really start to feel it.


While it’s a captivating constitutional, colonial and and cultural condensed history of Scotland in its early stages, “Road To Referendum” really starts to come alive – certainly for political nerds like ourselves – when it hits the 20th century. It demolishes many ingrained myths about Scottish politics, such as the commonly-held belief that the country is somehow “naturally” Labour.

Of the 306 years since the Union, Labour’s period of dominance covered barely 30, between the powerful Scottish Unionist Party (“Unionist” being used in the Irish sense of the word rather than the UK one) and the recent rise of the SNP which is held back only by the antiquated British electoral system.

Macwhirter is particularly interesting in his depiction of the SUP as a party which, while the forerunner of the Scottish Conservatives, was in fact a very different beast – uncomfortably rooted in Presbyterian sectarianism, but in many ways more socially liberal and progressive than the modern Labour Party, and still the only party to ever secure a majority of the popular vote in Scotland.

(One of the book’s few disappointing aspects, other than the subbing, is that having expended a considerable amount of time enlightening readers as to how the Scottish Unionists weren’t just the Tories under a different name, the author then casually treats the two as interchangeable at several points later on, referring to the 1970s Scottish Conservatives as “the most successful political party in Scotland” in much the same way that some people claim a certain Glasgow football club which has only existed since the middle of 2012 has won dozens of trophies.)

Macwhirter also lays bare the notion that Labour were always committed to devolution, revealing an intensity of opposition within the party to “home rule” that really only abated for a brief period in the 1990s when the hegemony of Margaret Thatcher concentrated Labour minds on the new phenomenon of the democratic deficit. By the end of one particularly eye-opening chapter, the reader is left with a sense of astonishment that the 1999 Scottish Parliament (a) ever came into being at all, and (b) was allowed to have powers anything like as substantial as it ended up wielding.

(We also learn that Labour may also have been its own worst enemy when it came to the 1979 devolution referendum. The feeble, toothless Scottish Assembly the party half-heartedly proposed, barely campaigned for and then sabotaged might have ended Scotland’s appetite for self-government once and for all, but in foiling it with the 40% rule Labour both blew that chance and sowed powerful seeds of small-n nationalist disgruntlement in a people crudely cheated out of something they’d voted for.)


If you haven’t walked along it on foot, it’s difficult to convey the sheer overbearing majesty of Whitehall. The scale of it is epic, intimidating even the stoutest ego like being bludgeoned with a massive shark fashioned from glittering titanium hammers. (And that’s not even counting the machine-gun-toting cops at the gates of Downing Street.) Yet very little of it is showy, and few of the buildings are particularly tall.

They are, rather, imperial, in the sense of an Imperial Star Destroyer. They have the same clinical, functional white and grey lines as Darth Vader’s flagship from the iconic opening scene of Star Wars, and the same air of impossibly vast indestructability. You get the feeling you could drop a pretty sizeable nuclear bomb right on the Cenotaph and achieve no more than a light coating of soot.

I’d thought to take pictures, but the buildings are so immensely proportioned they defy photography, requiring to be shot from so far away in order to capture their full fortress-like magnitude that they’re rendered paradoxically tiny-looking in 2D. The flagpole alone on the old Foreign Office must have weighed as much as a couple of the shiny new Routemaster buses with the charmingly retro open rear platform that are just starting to patrol the streets.

Even passing through it as a tourist, and even as one dedicated – in a small and peaceful way, of course – to the dismantling of the very fabric of the British state, it’s an inescapably intoxicating place. The thought of these mighty buildings, every one of them oozing history and power, being the place where you go to work is dizzying.

For Scottish Labour MPs, the threat of being abruptly and unceremoniously expelled from such titanic, ageless glamour and sent home to provincial wee Scotland, to the humbly-artistic shanty-town clutter of Holyrood squatting serenely but modestly at the bottom of Arthur’s Seat, must gnaw at their souls until they can barely sleep.


The sternly aloof buildings of Whitehall are impervious to irritants as petty and transient as politicians. The prosecution of the Icelandic Prime Minister, briefly described in the book after the great financial collapse, could never happen here. You can’t imagine the great marble monolith of the British state lowering itself to even discuss such a penny-ante indignity, let alone go through with the case. It would be like a great bull elephant suing a tsetse fly for biting it.

Macwhirter, born and brought up in London and having spent much of his professional life at Westminster, seems to have a distinct distaste for Alex Salmond. Not the dismissive contempt of the elephant for the fly, not a hatred, perhaps not even a dislike as such, but a respect for the First Minister’s achievements that is qualified and grudging and leavened with many criticisms, some of them oddly personal.

It’s hard to pin it down, but this reader’s impression was that the root of it is Salmond’s unashamed provinciality, his lack of interest in preserving the grand heritage of Great Britain, to which Macwhirter has an obvious attachment. We’ve been noting for a while now his increasingly plaintive yearnings in the pages of the Herald for devo-max – the answer to a question the Unionist side won’t allow to be asked – and in “Road To Referendum” he finally reveals that position explicitly.

“In an ideal world, all the parties in Scotland would get together and work out a form of federalism, based on Devolution Plus (or minus, or whatever), which would provide a workable way forward.”

Indeed, Macwhirter makes a very reasonable and rational case for the long-forgotten “Devo Plus”, and spends much of the last chapter simultaneously convincing himself that it could and should happen while reluctantly acknowledging the numerous reasons why it won’t. The two sentences that close the book are a more or less open final plea for it: “Independence in the UK. Living apart, together.”

(In the service of that goal he perpetuates the myth that the parties of the Union are proposing “more powers”, one of several disappointing lapses in the book’s mostly-diligent reasoning. The worst of these almost beggars credibility, inexplicably repeating the comprehensively-disproved notion that “Labour can only govern in Westminster, generally speaking, on the strength of Scottish Labour MPs making up the parliamentary majority”, something which has in fact almost never been true and gets more and more false with every reduction in the number of Scottish MPs.)


As you come out of Whitehall, you turn into the enormous curving Admiralty Arch and beyond it the gratuitously vast spaces of Horseguards’ Parade and St James’ Park, leading up the Mall to Buckingham Palace. If London is (as observed by Macwhirter and many others) a country within a country, then the Westminster area is a rich principality within that country. Uncountable acres of prime real estate in the heart of the city are given up solely so that the monarch and government can enjoy the illusion of a leafy, pastoral environment from a lost time.

But what you realise on the walk through Britain’s vital organs of power is that that time isn’t lost at all. It’s made up nearly the entire history of the UK (or more accurately England), and it’s coming back with a vengeance. The current government, a coalition with no real ideological opposition in Parliament, is more or less openly reversing generations of progress and reverting Britain to a new feudal age.

An exaggeration? The poor are being reduced to almost-literal slavery, forced to work for the profit of corporations for free on pain of destitution. Hard-working families still have to beg the state for subsidy in order to live. The notion of ordinary people owning a home, a fantasy for most of human history before quite late in the 20th century, is once again disappearing out of sight. Increasingly the poor are being driven from the wealthiest cities altogether. The 14-hour working days of the Industrial Revolution, described vividly by Macwhirter in the middle section of the book, are a reality again, as desperate people hold down two and three jobs just to keep their heads above water. This, not the brief post-war social democracy, is the “natural order” of Britain.

Trying to shift this ancient weight of establishment and privilege – built first from stone and then from iron – has utterly exhausted the Labour Party. It was allowed to make some progress after the wars, because the public mood demanded a tangible reward for its sufferings and power knows an irresistible tide when it sees one.

But the left lacked the experience and discipline to manage its own troops, and the trade-union excesses of the 1970s – whether nobly motivated or otherwise – irritated the rest of the population enough that the state could finally build its flood walls, draw the line on progress and begin patiently reclaiming its ancestral lands.

Labour had a last massive tantrum in the form of its 1983 manifesto and then gave up the ghost, conceding its founding values one by one to become a sort of Tory reserve team, used chiefly to keep the first-XI players of the Conservative squad on their toes. The state was a manager threatening its underperforming big-name forwards with being substituted for the up-and-comers, but the gameplan would stay unchanged.


“Road To Referendum” is a book which should be read by anyone with the slightest interest in the independence debate. It’s impeccably balanced and even-handed, turning an equally unforgiving eye on all participants on all sides – including its own author, who isn’t shy of pointing out the fallibility of his past predictions. It’s fulsome in its praise of figures on all sides too, including the SNP’s John Swinney and Labour’s post-war Scottish Secretary Tom Johnston, whose portrait in Bute House is apparently accorded great regard by the First Minister.

Its final chapters, concerned with the present day, could provide a wealth of quotes for independence supporters and opponents alike. (We might selectively harvest those on our side of the argument later.) Macwhirter himself is clearly at the dead centre of the argument, a devolutionist fighting his own despair at the prospects for devolution at a time when Scotland and the rest of the UK no longer want the same things. He is certainly neither a clear Yes nor a clear No, and if you were to ask us which way he’ll vote in 2014 we honestly wouldn’t want to have more than a pound riding on it.

The book has a fair measure of flaws too, some of them the fault of lazy, inept or simply non-existent subbing but others clearly lying at the door of the author. Macwhirter is sometimes frustratingly inconsistent from one page to another – as well as the examples we’ve already noted regarding “Nationalism” and the relationship between the Scottish Unionist Party and the Tories, there are simple empirical mistakes like the assertion of Scotland’s importance to Labour and even the state of the polls. Within the space of a few pages he describes the margin of public opinion as “two to one” against independence, and then as 34% against 50%. Which is it?

But on the whole, this is a vital read – much less for the analysis of the current political arena (which is still a usefully concise crash course for beginners – someone really ought to send a copy to the Guardian’s doggedly clueless Michael White, to be shared with the entire English political press corps) than for the fascinating and highly relevant study of how we got here, and its insights into the Scottish psyche.

(The length of this review, if nothing else, should serve as testament to how much of note is contained within its pages. We’ve left out much that deserves comment.)


It’ll leave you no more certain as to which way the Scottish people will jump next September, but much better-placed to understand whichever decision is taken. And we do mean the Scottish people, because if there’s one thing “Road To Referendum” establishes beyond a scintilla of a doubt it’s that Scotland and the rest of the UK have less in common now than they’ve ever done.

All that remains to be seen is how literally, politically and technically true that divide becomes. Our journey at the weekend, even though both the start and the end were notionally in England, was unmistakeably one to a foreign land, in multiple senses. If you live too inconveniently distant from London to go and fully appreciate it for yourself, let Iain Macwhirter be your tour guide. It’ll be an education.

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137 to “Another country”

  1. kininvie says:

      Land of Hope and Glory, Mother of the Free,
                How shall we extol thee, who are born of thee?
                Wider still and wider shall thy bounds be set;
                God, who made thee mighty, make thee mightier yet,
                God, who made thee mighty, make thee mightier yet.

  2. Doug Daniel says:

    Grammar Nazism? A bit of Sevco ribbing? It’s like you’ve written this article specifically for me.

  3. Ray says:

    Thanks for taking the time to write that review. I have only passed through London and have never put aside the time to visit for a few days, something I hope to correct soon.
    As for the book, I am only into chapter two and I’m already irritated by the constant use of “Nationalism” and even “independence”, although the latter I suppose can’t be avoided in a book about…Scottish independence.
    The formatting of books these days also pisses me off, but if there’s a spelling mistake or horrible piece of grammar early on in a book I just won’t buy it unless I’m really interested in the subject. This is where the likes of Amazon’s sneak peak option thingy is quite useful.

  4. Thanks for this piece Rev. It’s made me go and order the book.

    But can you explain to my boss why I haven’t been doing the job she gave me for the last fifteen minutes! lol

  5. Tasmanian says:

    Some of the fundraiser money should be spent on getting you an MS Office licence Stu. Unless you prefer to be reminded what software was like when Tony Blair was in power…

    Great article. Should probably send a copy of the book to my Scotlandshire-resident friends.

  6. Donald MacDonald says:

    Excellent review, and a fine article in its own right. I have walked the hallowed streets of Whitehall, and concur. Only a Yes vote can cause the slightest murmur in the solid complacency of that burgh.
    One of my personal bugbears is the misuse of ‘lead’ where the author obviously means ‘led’. I hate that.

  7. Seasick Dave says:

    Thanks for an interesting read, Rev.
    I’ll pass on Mr McWhirter’s book because I find him to be too McWhirtercentric for my taste and his palpable dislike of Alex Salmond can be gratuitous at times.
    I had to smile at the following paragraph though… 🙂

    For Scottish Labour MPs, the threat of being abruptly and unceremoniously expelled from such a titanic, ageless setting and sent home to provincial wee Scotland, to the humbly-artistic shanty-town clutter of Holyrood squatting serenely but modestly at the bottom of Arthur’s Seat, must gnaw at their souls until they can barely sleep.

  8. Murray McCallum says:

    Grammer Nazism – im terryfied of makeing misteaks now.
    “If you live too inconveniently far from London” – that is an interesting concept.  I live about 35 miles south of London.  I can actually see Wembley stadium from the top of a local hill.  I used to work in central London – a 1 hour 50 minute (expensive) single journey to go the 35 miles.  It would probably take me the best part of 3 hours to get to Wembley.
    Behind the facade of London grandeur (there are indeed amazing buildings and sights) there is a complete failure to modernise for latter 20th century living.  Lots of money spent on big showcase projects that do not actually benefit the majority of ordinary citizens.  Seems to me that so much of southern UK life is now about appearance rather than substance.

  9. Dave McEwan Hill says:

    I’ve sussed that Macwhirter is in a difficult place a lot of the time,recording the reality on the constitutional issue while wanting to deny it in the same breath.
    The federal solution he so obviously desires he must know to be unworkable and entirely unwanted in England but it is probably the last viable defence of the union 

  10. John Lyons says:

    Nice picture of Trafalgar square.
    Does anyone else find it massively ironic that Trafalgar square, named after a battle in which the English, sorry, Brittish defeated the French has a giant blue cockerel in it? Blue being the colour and cockerel being the animal most commonly associated with France?
    Or is this some kind of avante garde (more french!) ironic art I don’t understand?

  11. Doug says:
    o/t – even Farage thinks the Tories’ anti-immigrant rhetoric/mobile posters are ‘nasty’.

  12. MajorBloodnok says:

    Boris Johnson said to the BBC reporter interviewing him at the unveiling of the huge blue cockerel that (I paraphrase) it would provide suitable material for those inclined to think like Finbar Saunders.  I can’t wait until he’s PM.

  13. Albalha says:

    It is the latest of the so called Fourth Plinth installations, this by a German artist and will be there for 18 months ……

  14. David Smith says:

    A decent review of the book Stu. I read mine in six days flat which believe me is a record for someone with the concentration skills of a (g)nat! I found it measured and objective although I chose to ignore the grammatical issues! 😉
    I can recommend the book as a good, informative potted history of how we got to where we are today and there is a good reference list for further reading. Whilst I do have other interests, at the moment I finding it increasingly difficult to tear myself away from Scottish history and politics so where I go next, reading wise is going to be interesting!

  15. First class review and a story well told. 
    However, shouldn’t that be: “neither a clear Yes [NOR] a clear No”? What’s sauce for the goose  . .  😉

  16. Macart says:

    Cracking piece Rev.
    Although I’m reluctant to type anything now that teach is marking. 😉

  17. Sneddon says:

    I used to work in Whitehall near downing St. One of the benefits of working in that particular dept was you were able to use the nearby stables to keep your horse.  That benefit was dropped quite recently , the heartless barstewarts! 🙂

  18. Doug Daniel says:

    Great stuff, and so true about the “natural order” of Britain. It’s easy to see why the British state remains so utterly unreformable, seeing as “tradition” seems to be the whole foundation of it. Remove one building block – be it the head of state, the unelected upper chamber, or even merely how MPs are elected – and there’s a danger of the whole thing crumbling down.
    I can’t see any way back for the UK – already people are crying out for a true alternative to the three main parties, but the system has been effective in ensuring that it retains total control. Even if there was a total collapse of the UK geographically, you can bet London would continue to function exactly as it does now, carrying on as if the British Empire never collapsed.
    London really is a great city to visit, mind. Stepping out of Kings Cross to those massive wide streets for the first time is quite awe-inspiring. I felt like a dwarf when I walked around Whitehall – it was like whoever drew up the blueprints for the buildings accidentally multiplied all the measurements by 1.5 or something.

  19. kininvie says:

    On the cliche-police front, you wouldn’t care to edit out that ‘hard-working families’ would you? Every 2nd-rate politician uses it as a buzz-phrase, and I can’t stand any more of it…

  20. Tasmanian says:

    Doug – in context, I think Farage is saying it’s ‘nasty’ for the Tories to steal their anti-immigrant stance without backing it up with harsher border controls. As in, the Tories are being nasty to UKIP. That’s my impression…

  21. panda paws says:

    This is why I rarely comment in WOS.  Scottish History was not the only omission from my education – I was not taught English grammer either! So grammer Nazis scare me almost as much as Project Fear does 🙂
    I enjoyed the book though I didn’t agree with everything in it. I think he made a fair fist of it. 
    And almost frightened to ask but it’s bated breath rather than baited isn’t it?

  22. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

    This is why I rarely comment in WOS.  Scottish History was not the only omission from my education – I was not taught English grammer either! So grammer Nazis scare me almost as much as Project Fear does



    But on a serious note, typos aren’t a big deal. Spelling mistakes aren’t a big deal. People are human, and while errors annoy me they only matter if they get in the way of understanding, which capitalising “Nationalism” does.

    “And almost frightened to ask but it’s bated breath rather than baited isn’t it?”

    Indeed. It’s breath which is being held, or “abated”, not breath that’s full of worms.

  23. JLT says:

    Been to London many times, and it is a country within a country. Even Boris wants a city state status like that of Hong Kong and Singapore.
    Scotland needs to be independent. It has to! I find the future utterly frightening if this nation votes ‘No’. As I’ve said in the past, if this goes t*ts-up, then we’re off. I’m not staying to be jeered at by Unionists (who at the same time have no f****** idea of what it is that is about to hit them), or watch Scotland get savaged badly by Westminster. If need be, it’ll either be New Zealand, Australia or Canada. I would rather offer my Step-Daughter a better future in a foreign land, than be told by Cameron and Co where she resides in the new Class system. Stuff that!
    In some ways, it makes me wonder that if it does go wrong, will we see an exodus of Scots once more, in which it could be termed, a 21st Century Clearances?

  24. John Lyons says:

    I’ve thought about that too JLT, but could never leave Scotland. There’s simply nowhere I’d rather be, even with a Tory Government rolling back Holyroods powers. If Britain is built on a tradition of pomp and ceremony, Scotland is built on a tradition of defiance, and that’ll continue, long after we’re all dead, even in the face of a no vote.

  25. Jiggsbro says:

    I’d vote for the Liberal Thundercats.

  26. Triangular Ears says:

    I will read the rest of this in detail when I have time later, but I feel the need to say I totally agree with your comments on spelling and grammar and especially on the “National” vs “Nationalist” points.

    I’ve been trying to get this point across to people for ages that the SNP are not “nationalist” but “national” and that this stems from the origins of the party.  It’s a very subtle point but very important, as getting people to understand this helps destroy part of the unionist argument, particularly the ones around anti-Englishness or supposed Scottish superiority.  Well done for raising this point so eloquently.

    As a wee aside though, when I was a boy, my school happened to celebrate its 400th anniversary.  My school was called <my home-town> Grammar School and the depute head always rattled home that is was “grammar”, not “grammer”.  I can still hear him say “G-R-A-M-M-A-R” out loud.

    Well, as part of the 400th anniversary celebrations, a brass plaque was made up, to be unveiled by a local celebrity (if I remember correctly) with the local press in attendance.  Yes, you’ve guessed it.  As the wee curtain was pulled back the depute head couldn’t believe his eyes when he saw “<my town> Grammer School”.  He was not happy!

  27. Hetty says:

    I haven’t been to London for many years, and I don’t want to nor can I afford to, so I might buy the book sometime soon. Thanks for the review. I just don’t get the hatred toward Alex Salmond, it’s so blatantly and freely expressed by many.
    We were in Cumbria/Yorkshire last week, and my son spent much time getting extremely worked up about the terrible grammer on signage and shops etc.
    He was delighted to point out the use of apostrophe etc on shop and road signs when we came back across the border.
    One thing I noticed, it was often, though not always, cheaper down there for food and drink, but, we had to pay for everything, eg, parking in the middle of nowhere ( my bro was driving us places)  and to use any public loos, although as one security guy said in a wee shopping centre when I asked where the ‘public’ loos were, the reply? ‘There are no public loos here only private ones’!
    The other thing which bothered me was seeing many ‘private land’ signs, and my sister pointed out the farmer could shoot us if we walked on his/her land. Nice I thought, what time’s the train back to Edinburgh? Nice countryside, with lots of barbed wire and no access to much of it, give me Scotland any day.

  28. Ellie says:

    I’ve always thought that Whitehall could be summed up by this quote
    “”The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.” from the Go-between.
    I’ve been meaning to buy the MacWhirter book and after reading this I’ll go ahead and get it, a good balanced view of the debate is to be welcomed.
    Side note; following independence Rev I really think your next campaign should be educational standards.

  29. JLT says:


    “This is why I rarely comment in WOS.  Scottish History was not the only omission from my education
    Like you, Rev, I went to high school in the early eighties. I remember History very well. I fell in love with it, but I was baffled at the same time.
    In second year, we got taught Edinburgh 1760 – 1820 (note …we are talking the British Empire here. 50 odd years after 1707 …and only at this point …50 years after of abject poverty from the signing of the union, did we see a Union Dividend!)
    In third year, we were taught three subjects in History; Farming in Scotland 1720, World War 1 and the Russian Revolution. The thing was I remember thinking ‘Is this it? Is this Scottish History?’
    In fifth year, it was Hitler and the Nazis.
    So, school taught me Edinburgh in the Union, the rank rotten Runrig system in Scottish Farming (and how English Farmers taught us how to farm because we were too wee, too poor, too stupid), WW1 (Brits beat the nasty hun), destruction of a royal family (how dare they?) …and the rise of Nazism, which was in fact …pretty good to learn. That’s when I really fell in love with history, because Nazism is so dark …and it was another reason for the establishment to point out that we beat the nasty hun again!
    It was not until my thirties that I started reading Scottish History, and I had my mind blown away. What a history? From the Wars of Independence, to the tragedy of the Stuarts, to the conniving and backstabbing of the Black Douglas’s, the Red Douglas’s, MacDonald’s, Stuart’s, Campbell’s. The wars with England (not all defeats either), the political manoeuvring of Scotland with bigger states, Knox, the Reformation, the Killing Times, and finally …Darien.
    A brilliant history. Just as great as England’s, if not darker. Seriously …read Magnus Magnusson’s book on Scotland, or the Scottish Enlightenment by Arthur Hermann. 
    You will challenge every unionist on Scotland once you know the real history of Scotland.

  30. Braco says:

    JLT, and that would make no one more happy than the British State. Emigration is no guarantee of acceptance and happiness either, as many nationalist minded exiles can testify.
    All I  am saying, is that a NO vote (which I truly believe, all things being equal, is not going to happen) will not be the end. We will still be closer to Independence than we ever have been before, with 2015 and 2016 Scots elections just round the corner and an electorate sold a NO vote on unkeepable promises from the ‘Scottish‘ Unionist political parties and MSM.
    The wrong time to fold a winning hand, I would suggest.

  31. JLT says:

    John Lyons / Braco,
    Oh, don’t get me wrong, guys. I’m pinning my faith on our countrymen to see the light and do the right thing. I still believe it will be a Yes win (albeit, a narrow one). If we win, I’ll be here forever. I have to. I voted ‘Yes’ so I must remain and help the country become a better one!
    But …I do fear the worst if it is a ‘No’

  32. FreddieThreepwood says:

    Having met the chap a few times in my previous existence as a journalist, I would bet the farm on Macwhirter voting ‘Yes’. I agree, Rev, the man’s an uber devolutionist/federalist, but independence (particularly the ‘don’t scare the horses’ independence currently on offer) will contain far more positives for him than minuses – and far more than remaining in the union will.
    There is no question in my mind that he is retaining as much old-fashioned journalistic distance as he can from the Yes camp in order to preserve at least a show of balance and neutrality – hence the odd (and odd) carping pieces about the campaign’s progress or the SNP’s failure to rise above an almost entirely hostile media. 
    But the more bigots like Foulkes and Wilson casually dismiss him as a ‘Nat’ the more I know the small ‘n’ nationalist (sorry Rev) in him will determine that he votes ‘Yes’.
    (And can I apologise for the lack of an umlaut above, Oberleutnant Von Grammarstern … don’t know how to deploy them.)

  33. a supporter says:

    Why am I not impressed  by London? Perhaps it is because I live a mere 50 miles away and for many years had to travel occasionally there to work and meet in those ‘grandiose’ offices you describe. They were nothing special to me or my colleagues after having to go through the nightmare of travelling to/from and in London. I couldn’t wait to leave it each time. And in 30 years I have not gone there once for leisure activities.
    Give me Glasgow or Edinburgh any day. And if I had to choose a large city I’ll have Paris  any day over London. Paris is far more impressive architecturally, monumentally, and environmentally.

  34. Training Day says:

    I was ‘taught’ Scottish History in so far as a tale about a cave and a spider extended.  That was it. 
    Recently I met my History teacher and asked why we were not taught Scottish history in Scotland.  ‘It wasn’t important enough’, he replied matter of factly.

  35. Neil MacGillivray says:

    A fine depiction of the seductive power of the British elite which has always had the effect of reducing Scottish Labour members to total subservience and continues to influence them in resisting independence. I am saving Iain MacW’s book for a holiday read in places where the tentacles of the No mob do not reach.

  36. a supporter says:

    “and my son spent much time getting extremely worked up about the terrible grammer”
    C’mon Hetty goose for tha gander and all that!

  37. a supporter says:

    The wars with England (not all defeats either) 

    If you do a quick google you will find that for the nigh on 60 battles between Scots and English >the battle honours were more or less even.

  38. birnie says:

    In my green and callow youth I was an army officer attached to the Coldstream Guards in Windsor, working also with the Household Cavalry and the King’s Troop, Royal Horse Artillery.  When going to Whitehall on duty, my civilian dress was brolly and bowler, and lunch was taken at my club, the Junior Army and Navy.
    I was utterly seduced by the grandeur of it all – privileged seats at the Trooping of the Colour and the Garter Ceremony at Windsor Castle – even attending a private ball for the Queen.  Sent abroad to the colonies, I was enthusiastic about keeping the locals in their place and forcibly ensuring their allegiance to the mother country.
    Rev Stu’s analysis of the appeal of the grandeur of central London for the provincial politician or civil servant is absolutely correct – the gravitational pull is impossible to exaggerate.
    Now that I have reached maturity I repent, I repent, I repent when I think ashamedly of my ignorant folly.  My atonement is unrelenting effort in the cause of YES!

  39. Braco says:

    consider also the reactions in the Scottish electorate to five more years of Tory/UKIP rule, the holding of a UK referendum and subsequent removal of Scotland from Europe that may bring. Add to that the likely popularity of the SNP at Holyrood as the only party trusted to protect Scotland from Westminster (as all the current polling suggests) and who knows what manifesto commitments they will be forced put forward in order to try and counter Westminster’s likely attempts at re gaining power over devolved matters as well as punitive cuts in our budget.
    In these circumstances and with no change in the UK Unionist parties to understand the politics of the Scottish electorate, I can see independence coming within five years of a NO vote. Possibly without even the need of a second referendum.
    These are very, very interesting times.

  40. Robert McDonald says:

    Great post Stu. ” I almost gave up there and then and started playing Candy Crush Saga instead.”, that made me laugh out loud (frightened to post LOL now!).

  41. Caledonian Lass says:

    Great article, Rev.  
    London is a city of contrasts.  On the one hand there is great wealth and grandeur:  on the other abject poverty and homelessness.  It will shortly be a place where only the very wealthy can afford to live.
    With regard to McWhirter’s yearnings for devo-plus, it couldn’t have worked for Scotland as Westminster would still have been in overall charge, with the most important matters still reserved to it.
    I can’t understand why anyone could believe that if even if a slight majority of the Scottish people  were  to vote no in the referendum (God forbid) more powers would be granted to them. Westminster would take it for granted that those voters had no confidence in their country and that the people approved of their London-based policies.  Scotland would be in a very dark place then with more welfare ‘reforms’, no end to the bedroom tax, privatisation of the NHS, Trident kept on and and an end to free University education, etcetera.

  42. Stuart Black says:

    75% of people on CiF spell ‘lose’ as ‘loose’, drives me mad…

  43. Jeannie says:

    It was not until my thirties that I started reading Scottish History, and I had my mind blown away.
    I know what you mean, JLT.  There’s nothing annoys me more than some unionist spouting the “throwing away 300 years of a shared history” line.  You would think Scotland had not existed before 1707.
    I love Scottish history, but I start not three hundred years ago, but thousands of years ago with the hunter-gatherers, then the neolithic farmers, the amazing people of the Bronze Age and the Iron Age, the Romans in Scotland, the coming of the Celtic Church during the “Dark Ages”, the the culture of the Picts, the arrival of the Dalriadans, the relationships with the Britons of Strathclyde, the union of the Picts and Scots to form the basis for the kingdom of Alba, the raids and settlements of the Vikings, The Lordship of the Isles, the early kings of Scotland, the coming of the Normans, the Canmore line of kings, the Guardianship, the Wars of Independence, the Stewart monarchy…..and so on.
    It’s a wonderful story and we’re still writing it.    this year, I got fed up looking at pictures in books and took myself up to Orkney to see the neolithic sites.  Absolutely amazing.  Pictures in books just don’t do it justice.  If you haven’t been already and you get the chance, take yourself up there.  I was looking at a neolithic settlement, over 5000 years old – and the houses had internal drains.  You can’t help but realise how clever our ancestors were.  They took full responsibility for their lives – they didn’t just leave it up to somebody else.
    Going back up again in a few weeks time to see the current archaeological dig at the Ness of Brodgar – another neolithic site being excavated.  Our history is amazing.

  44. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

    However, shouldn’t that be: “neither a clear Yes [NOR] a clear No””


  45. John Lyons says:

    Jeannie, took the words right out of my mouth. The Scots wars of independence were about the middle of the history of Scotland.
    I like many of you studied history at school. It was the only exam I ever failed! And I now work as a historical costumed performer and Battle re-enactor!!! (Coming to Fort George, the Dunfermline Bruce festival and the Ironworks medieval banquettes in December!!!)
    But my issue isn’t with the lack of history taught in schools. That’s all history! (Pun intended!) My issue now is with the grammer. In English it’s Grammar, but could it be grammer in Scots? Who knows how to spell anything in Scots? We get money invested into Gaelic all the time, and I don’t grudge it, but it costs a fortune because it’s a dying language. We could do with a few quid invested in Scots now, before we find it’s a dying language too and we need ten times or even a hundred times that amount of cash to save it.
    Maybe it’s that language thing that’s the problem with grammer in Scotland. I’m not quite old enough for it, but I’ve heard tales of kids getting belted at school for speaking Scots and then getting belted at home for speaking English. Is it any wonder folk are sometimes a bit confused?

  46. Murray McCallum says:

    I’ve read, and tried to read, several histories of Scotland over the years.  Some stand out bits for me were a collection of eye witness / period accounts put together by Tom Devine.  I’ve got Neil Oliver’s “a history of Scotland” on a shelf still to complete – I see he starts from the geological history of Scotland.  Poor Neil does not seem to be to everyone’s taste but I personally quite like the non-pompous and accessible way he writes.

  47. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

    ‘There are no public loos here only private ones’!”

    If you need a wee in central London now it’s 40p (at train stations) or 50p (on the Embankment).

  48. Jeannie says:

    I can see independence coming within five years of a NO vote. Possibly without even the need of a second referendum
    I’m not so sure we’ll get a second chance.  The 2014 Scottish Government has powers to hold a consultative referendum only and currently Westminster has, temporarily, given it the power to hold a legally-binding referendum.  There is a sell-by date on this – 2014.  After that date, the situation changes and Westminster can simply refuse to give us the power to hold anything other than a consultative referendum in the future.
      It is especially important at the moment to use this power to vote Yes, because the way in which we arrive at a decision on independence can influence the ease with which we would be able to negotiate remaining within the EU.  So long as both Scotland and Westminster have agreed to abide by the referendum result, the EU has little reason to refuse membership so there is no better time than now to vote Yes.  For example, Spain would not have a problem with an independent Scotland having EU membership so long as both sides (Scotland and Westminster) are in agreement (as they currently are) because it would therefore not set a precedent for Catalonia.
    If we leave it to a later date, we probably won’t get the consent of Westminster to hold another legally-binding referendum at all which would mean holding a consultative referendum only and in the event of a Yes vote, having to declare UDI.  Other EU countries with regions striving for autonomy would not wish to support such a move on the part of Scotland so might object to EU membership – though in the future, the situations in those countries might well have moved on, to be fair.
    All things considered, it seems to me that there will be no better time to become independent than next year and we’d be fools to throw the chance away – we might not get the chance again.

  49. Seanair says:

    Living in a “hostel” off Sloane Square I used to walk to Whitehall past Wellington Barracks where for what seemed several months the soldiers practised for Trooping the Colour. Gradually I realised that my juvenile wish to live in London was misguided and that Scottish people were looked down on because they hadn’t attended the “right” schools. The Empire which London was the capital of (sorry Rev.) included Scotland–not an equal partner.
    18 months were enough for me and I headed back to Scotland.
    PS My boss, who was a kind soul even took me as his guest to the UNION JACK Club! Ugh!

  50. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

    They were nothing special to me or my colleagues after having to go through the nightmare of travelling to/from and in London. I couldn’t wait to leave it each time. And in 30 years I have not gone there once for leisure activities.

    Give me Glasgow or Edinburgh any day. And if I had to choose a large city I’ll have Paris  any day over London. Paris is far more impressive architecturally, monumentally, and environmentally.”

    I wouldn’t want to live in London. It’s a brilliant place to visit, culture and history as far as the eye can see (if there’s one thing I’ll give Tony Blair some credit for it’s making museums free), but the simplest journey is exhausting. On Sunday, due to the incompetence of TfL, it literally took longer to get from Kings Cross to Camden (1.6 miles) than it had taken to get from Bath to Kings Cross (116 miles).

    I’ve seen pretty much every city in the UK (except Liverpool), and Edinburgh knocks them all into a cocked hat as a place I’d want to actually call home. I like Manchester and Newcastle too, but if I had to pick somewhere else to move to, Cardiff would be in with a real shout.

    It has more of the sense of scale of London than anywhere else (helped by a whacking great castle right in the middle), but it’s a manageable size and pretty well-connected to the rest of civilisation, except for the comedy toll on the Severn Bridges.

    It’s near the seaside (Barry, Porthcawl, Penarth all within half an hour or so), and if you fancied a more peaceful life Caerphilly is exceedingly pretty, a ten-minute commute on the train, and absurdly cheap by modern standards.

    I haven’t been to Paris for FAR too long (like, 20+ years long). I really need to get that photo ID sorted out.

  51. Nick says:

    Nationalism is primarily a political project which seeks to make the national unit and the political unit congruent (Ernest Gellner).

    I’d say that fairly accurately describes the raison d’etre of the SNP and the wider independence movement.

    Therefore, it is not incorrect to describe the SNP as a nationalist party, nor independence supporters as nationalists.

    Denial, for all its good intentions, plays into the hands of those who wish to prolong Scotland’s regional political status.

  52. Hetty says:

    Ok, my son has just dissected my post for terrible grammar and other mistakes…
    I had to say to him that English was never my strong point, our English comprehensive in the 70’s was huge and about crowd control not educating the working classes!
    Nuf said from me.

  53. Currywurst says:

    The SNP are Nationalists. Deal with it.
    London is, and always will be, there. “Independence” or not. That sheer concentration of wealth, power, stock market, globalisation and 20m people is always going to stamp all over any faffing about with tax rates and grants that can be done from Edinburgh. It is, and always will be, where serious companies and talented people want to go. (At least for a while, in the latter case.)
    Deal with that too.

  54. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

    “I’d say that fairly accurately describes the raison d’etre of the SNP and the wider independence movement.”

    A Trident missile is long and thin and pointed at the end, but that’s not the most important thing about it. It’s highly disingenuous to suggest that “nationalist” isn’t a loaded term, and the definition you cite is just one of many, and not the one that I suspect would be the first to the mind of the average person in the street.

  55. Hetty says:

    Oh and a friend recently was in Paris and fell in love with it, he’s a West coast Labour supporter, and had nowt positive to say about Scotland on his return. I did point out that they didn’t visit the poor areas in Paris though.
    I visited Liverpool just after the Toxteth riots, I liked it and the people are very friendly, not sure what it’s like now though.
    The loos in the Lakes were only 20p, but if we ran in two at a time it was only 10p! Through the barriers I mean, not the actual loo!

  56. panda paws says:

    @Training day
    I did better than you! Not only a cave and a spider but also the wisest fool in Christendom!
    Which made a nice break from the Norman conquests, the Magna Carta and the Plantegenets/War of the Roses! Later history included the Chartists, the Corn Laws, and the Peterloo massacre
    Plus the lives of those working 14 hour days in the Mills and children down coal mines or as I like to call it – IDS’s 10 year plan.

  57. The Man in the Jar says:

    With a nod to the spelling nazis allow me to tell about my experience of history lessons while at school in Scotland in the mid sixties. My history teacher a Mr. Alexander (not so old in his thirties at the time) would give us some homework. It took the form of a list of dates and corresponding events which we were to memorise it was all 1066 battle of Hastings stuff. At the start of each lesson we were all told to stand and Mr. Alexander would walk up and down the rows of desks calling out a date to each pupil in turn. If you got the date and event correct you could sit down. The last three standing were taken out to the front of the class and given the “four of the best”. Oh how I loved school NOT! In fact I spent most of my time avoiding school altogether. So please Mr. Spelling nazi cut me some slack.

  58. Robert Bryce says:

    The hatred for Alex Slamond is simple to explain. He’s a threat to unionist MP’s and their champagne lifestyle. They despise him for this and will take every opportunity to crush him. They don’t fear independence, they fear a substantial drop in cash flow!

    That doesn’t bother me per say but the complicit media sickens me. These so called “journalists” are playing with people’s lives day in day out at the behest of their parliamentary pals.

    They’ll eventually come unstuck though. As the saying goes “If you play with feathers you’ll get you’re arse tickled”. 

    I can also appreciate what you say about being charged for everything down south.

    I stayed over in a hotel just outside Birmingham and had to pay £10 for parking overnight in their own bloody car park! 

  59. jim mitchell says:

    Two points, first, I think that it is now clear that if Scotland votes no then not only will there be a determination on Westminster s part to make sure that Scotland gets no extra powers, but also that it will make sure the current position that we have arrived at will be very difficult, if not impossible to reach again, however many rules it has to change or break.
    Second, if anyone is looking for a book that really gives insight to the mind of unionist MP’s, particularly Labour ones, then might I suggest a read of Winnie Ewing’s autobiography, yes it’s few years since she was an MP but I doubt  if the attitudes have changed.  It also gives a clear view, not only into the running of the 79′ referendum, but of what and who really brought about the downfall of the James Callaghan government.
    Mind you, the things you live through and still forget, like, that after the second General election of 74′ the SNP not only had 11 MP’s but 42 Second places, that’s how close we came, also that despite the 79 referendum, the final decision was reserved to Westminster, who, if it had wished could have allowed a yes decision to stand, but we all know the folly of expecting that place to act in our interests   

  60. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

    “Deal with that too.”

    Gosh, okay. How might I do that, exactly?

  61. JLT says:

    For me, it’s that missing 300 years as you say that I love about Scottish history. It’s just this dark intrigue, and if I’m guessing (because I am – I have never seen the TV Series, or read the books), it is much more politically intriguing than ‘A Game Of Thrones’.
    With major families all at each others throats as they vie for power to the Scottish Throne, we also have Knox rising up with his Presbyterian tsunami. This in turn leads him to conflict with Mary, Queen of Scots. Then we have the Stuart Kings as they become ‘British’ kings, and become more English in their ways. Then Charles Stuart decides that Scotland should be Episcopalian. This leads to the Killing Times – another round of religious wars, which ends up with Cromwell, execution of Charles and the restoration of the Stuarts.
    Dark and infuriating. Scottish history is one of extremes. That’s what I loved about that missing period of Scottish History – from the wars of independence to basically (boo,hiss) …the Union.

  62. muttley79 says:

    O/T  I was just having a look at LFI webpage.  Euan McColm has struck again it seems.  He is calling Labour for Indy a “bullshit organisation.”  What a charmer!!

  63. pmcrek says:

    Great article, but onto more mundane matters, whats that big blue chicken all about?

  64. Jiggsbro says:

    Recently I met my History teacher and asked why we were not taught Scottish history in Scotland.  ‘It wasn’t important enough’, he replied matter of factly.
    He was right. The teaching of history – at least at secondary school level – is about finding out how the world was in order to understand better how the world is. And being the world, there’s an awful lot of history, only a little of which can be taught. History in schools, therefore, tends to focus on the most momentous – the Russian revolution, the world wars, the Renaissance, the Cold war – leavened with the most accessible or interesting. And, in most countries, it tends to focus on the pupil’s own country. In the UK, that’s the UK. Scotland’s history may be just as great as England’s, but neither are as momentous or world-changing as the UK’s. Scottish history is, simply, less important than UK history.

  65. Robert says:

    Been to London many times.
    Hate loathe and abominate the place….can’t wait to get out of the craphole.
    There are many places in England that I adore but that cesspit is not one of them.
    The only good thing is the road out of it.

  66. NorthBrit says:

    “faffing around with tax rates” has been quite important to London.

  67. handclapping says:


  68. Luigi says:

    Great article, Rev.
    The massive imperial structures in London are certainly impressive to most, and intoxicating to many.  The imperial effect is slightly diluted now, by the numerous, quirky skyscrapers that have appeared in the past two decades. Imperial London is morphing into cappitalist London.  With Scotland and the rUK now heading in different directions (much to MacWhirter’s angst),  a new fault line between London and the UK has also developed. A yes vote in 2014 may not end in Scottish indpendence.  A quasi-independent city state London (like Singapore) and a federal rUK may well be the end product – who knows – what are Boris and Dave planning?
    By the way, any plans to visit Edinburgh? There’s certainly a buzz about the place these days (in spite of the trams)!

  69. muttley79 says:

    London is, and always will be, there. “Independence” or not. That sheer concentration of wealth, power, stock market, globalisation and 20m people is always going to stamp all over any faffing about with tax rates and grants that can be done from Edinburgh. It is, and always will be, where serious companies and talented people want to go. (At least for a while, in the latter case.)
    Deal with that too.  
    Hate to break it to you, but you do know that the UK is one of the most unequal states in the Western world?  No one is denying that London has powerful institutions.  However, what kind of a society have they produced?  Not a good one in my opinion.  In addition, you talk about talented people being attracted to London.  Does this include political giants, such as Margaret Curran, Jim Murphy, Bain, Davidson, Alexander etc?  Also, what good is it that London is so powerful, when life expectancy figures for some parts of Scotland are worse than that of the Gaza Strip, one the most poorest parts of the world?  Is this yet another Union dividend?

  70. Robert Louis says:

    As a young man (21), I visited and then stayed in London for the very first time.  The epic scale of whitehall is as described above, and I can recall thinking just how marvelously seductive it all was.  This was where it all happened, big ben, Downing street, and Westminster. I even went into the House of Commons for the first time, and even the Lords, with the thrones and all.  Oh yes, I could feel being ‘British’, seductive as it was. 
    However, not long after being in the town, I got my first ‘chippy jock’ comment (I was assured it wasn’t meant to be offensive!), and combined with other nonsense such as ‘England owns Scotland’,  I rapidly realised London to me at least was a city in (as the Rev puts it) another country.  London means as much to me, as say New York.  It is not mine.
    I can fully understand why the pathetic individuals such as Danny Alexander are seduced by it all, to the extent they forget they even ever lived in Scotland (let alone represent Scottish constituencies).  I can see why generation after generation of working class Labour MP’s from Scotland have so enjoyed ‘troughing it up’ in Westmidden toon.  Far, far away from their ‘parochial wee homeland’, such that they comfortably buy into the British colonial rhetoric of the Westminster mandarins.  Sadly, none of the current encumbents from the Labour party can wise up to how they have been seduced by faux majesty,wealth and riches within the streets of Westminster
    Only independence will solve Scotland’s problems, such that our elected representatives will have no good reason to wine and dine in Westminster with all the attached flummery. They will be here IN SCOTLAND, reminded day in, day out, that it is this country, Scotland, which they are paid to represent.

  71. handclapping says:

    Dunno wot hapened there 🙁
    London can not continue its global pretensions without raping its hinterland. I do not want Scotland to be part of that hinterland.
    Deal with it.

  72. Celyn says:

    “(If I’d come across the phrase “baited breath” that really would have been the end.)”

    Hah! I aimed a grumble about that very thing at some blogger person in the Herald yesterday.   Not very polite, perhaps but anybody who was still scribbling about a new royal baby by then probably deserved it, and I really don’t think that “the world’s media waited with baited breath for any form of update”.  I’m sure one or two of them might just have had a bit of war or famine or actual domestic soap opera stuff to worry about.  

    RevStu,that was quite some review of the Iain MacWhirter book, and thank you for including the link.  I’m surprised it became so affordable so quickly.  (Such pessimism!  It’s being Scottish that does it).  And now it lives on my wee e-book thingwie.

    As for history in Scottish schools, like many here, I had damn little of it. Seems to be a familiar story, eh?  The odd mention of Bruce and his eight-legged friend, and not much else.   My Dad was luckier, in that the late Oliver Brown was his French teacher and although I’m sure he taught French very well, he also made sure those weans had a better grasp of Scottish history and politics than most.  

  73. tom says:

    JLT says he’ll quit Scotland following a no vote. I left 30 years ago and have lived in several countries on mainland Europe, currently France, where I’m likely to remain. In the event of a no vote – although I am not eligible to vote – I’ll dump the British passport and take French nationality. Over the years I have become increasingly infuriated at being a native of a country that hardly exists and, if it votes no, seems to have no self-respect.

  74. Training Day says:

    “And, in most countries, it tends to focus on the pupil’s own country. In the UK, that’s the UK. ”

    Not so.  I was taught plenty of pre-Union English history from Hastings to the Tudors to the English Civil War.  I was taught nothing of pre-Union Scottish history.  English history and UK history were therefore conflated, and conflated with a naked political purpose. 

  75. John Lyons says:

    I was trying to think of something nice to say about London. I struggled, but I came up with one. It reminds me of the time I passed through it in a kilt on my way to India. Buckingham palace was small and drab after the Taj Mahal, which is not only a wonderful piece of amazing architecture but also an amazing story. The people of India are always smiling and brightly coloured. London is grey and miserable. Frankly I’d rather spend the rest of my days in the black hole of Calcutta than in London.

  76. Arbroath 1320 says:

    Great piece Stu.
    My partner and I spent a few years living in London and we passed along Whitehall regularly. As we drove along it we were always very respectful and saluted Downing Street as we passed. By salute I mean of course the one finger salute! 😆

  77. ianbrotherhood says:

    Was there any mention of McCrone in the book?

  78. Shinty says:

    The only thing I remember of London, was the scum around the bath.

  79. Macart says:

    You say nationalist like its a bad thing? No idea what you believe in, but I do have some idea about what the Scottish National Party has achieved and what they believe in. Doesn’t seem like a bad aspiration either. A renewed democracy, a constitution, international representation, control of resource, tax and spend, an inclusive society with accent on education and industry. I’d be fairly happy being called NATIONALIST (all in caps) with aims like those.

  80. macdoc says:

    That’s just simply nonsense.  What you said is factual in that Scottish history isn’t as relevant on a worldwide scale because we are a small nation. However this does not mean that Scottish history should be swept aside. Why because we are Scottish and like any other nation on earth our own history should occupy a sizeable percentage of the school curriculum and TV documentaries etc.
    That is not to say that the anything else should take a back seat of course  not I find history throughout the world fascinating. No one is suggesting we take a parochial view but to state that we shouldn’t teach Scottish history because it isn’t particular relevant in a worldwide sense in cringeworthingly embarrassing and the stuff we are likely to hear from our political opponents who wish to deny all things Scottish.

  81. Erchie says:

    @a supporter
    Paris is as open as it is, without central high buildings on the scale of London, only because it is undermined by catacombs and mines
    They built as big as they could until the buildings started to sink

  82. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

    “Was there any mention of McCrone in the book?”

    Yes, but only a brief passing one.

  83. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

    “By the way, any plans to visit Edinburgh?”

    I’m planning to be up for the rally in September.

  84. Macart says:

    London is a great city, full of great people. Mrs Macart and I worked there back in 90-91 up in Finsbury Park and made a lot of of good friends. Days off were spent in Leicester Sq Odeon, Adams Rib and the Haagen Daz shop. 🙂 Did a bit of the old tourist route too, very impressive so it is, but its just a city. Doesn’t matter how big or impressive the buildings are, its the people inside them that make a thing truly great. 
    Right now all the impressive architecture in the world wouldn’t make up for the accumulated stink emanating from those buildings on the banks of the Thames. There’s still a great city surrounding those buildings though.

  85. Shinty says:

    Scottish history is, simply, less important than UK history.
    I think the truth of the matter is, had we all been taught Scottish history, (not the sanitised version) we’d have been independent long ago.

  86. Nick says:

    ‘A Trident missile is long and thin and pointed at the end, but that’s not the most important thing about it. It’s highly disingenuous to suggest that “nationalist” isn’t a loaded term, and the definition you cite is just one of many, and not the one that I suspect would be the first to the mind of the average person in the street.’

    I am not suggesting that ‘nationalist’ is not a loaded term.

    However, the majority of people will consider the SNP to be a nationalist party and will associate the independence movement with nationalism, whatever their definition may be.

    This is a problem as long as opponents of independence are the only ones defining nationalism.

    Denying that the Scottish independence movement is in any way nationalist only reinforces the idea, spread by those same opponents, that all forms of nationalism are malicious.

  87. Caroline Corfield says:

    Architecturally London can’t hold a candle to Glasgow. I was shocked at the timidity of London when I first visited it. It has it’s moments but it’s so understated for the centre of an Empire that ran so much of the world. It’s this pretend self-effacement, false modesty which when you look beneath it actually says ‘i’m superior because I have stiff upper lip’. If you’ve been to other great cities of the world then London isn’t very special. I actually find it a bit provincial myself, except for the pockets of cosmopolitaness that various other nationalities bring to it. And I’m personally affronted that some Ozzy chain has ruined De Hems a traditional Dutch Brown pub where the free Dutch met during the war. That’s a bit rambly, sorry, it took me a while to find London a pleasant place to be. 

  88. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

    “If you’ve been to other great cities of the world then London isn’t very special.”

    Oh definitely, certainly in a visual sense. Most of it is deeply unspectacular, but the Monopoly Quarter is still undeniably impressive.

    Glasgow I never really took a shine to, despite my family all being from the west and spending a lot of time in and around it. It’s probably my least favourite part of Scotland.

  89. chalks says:

    London, a family member worked at the HoC, I went along for a visit to her office.  She worked for the NATIONALISTS ; )….anyway, I was led to up stairs, through doors, to her offices, cramped and right next door to the Plaid Cyrmu (spelling?) lot….that pretty much said everything I needed to know about Imperial Britain and our wonderful democracy.
    For the Unionists down there, it is out of sight, out of mind, funnelled away like rats they treat us with disrespect and contempt that we dare to believe we can do things better and our own way.  We do not believe in their great Empire and we do not believe in the ‘ruling class’ having an entitlement to rule over anyone.
    I got a tour of the HoC as well and it was above everything else, pretty depressing.  A unionist would have enjoyed it, but a Nationalist that believes Scotland is a country, not a region and not a toy to be picked up and put down whenever Westminster wants something.
    If Scotland votes No, I am getting out.  I’m not living in a country that loathes itself to the point of wanting to extinguish itself and call itself part of England.

  90. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

    “Denying that the Scottish independence movement is in any way nationalist”

    I’m not doing that. I’m saying it’s not helpful to use a word with such an ambiguous meaning already, and then muddy it even further.

  91. ianbrotherhood says:

    Road to Referendum was first broadcast on June 4th, 11th and 18th. The release of the book coincided with showing of Part Two. As you know, some of us here (including you) were watching, waiting to see how he would deal with Gavin McCrone’s report.
    In the end-up, he didn’t.
    The Holyrood magazine interview with Healey was on May 19th.
    There wasn’t time for the book or TV series to be amended. If Healey hadn’t confirmed the deliberate downplaying of North Sea reserves (and if the Sunday Post hadn’t gone on to make it a MSM story) would Macwhirter’s book and series have made any significant difference to the narrative we’re still being fed?
    I’m sorry to keep harping on about the same thing. I wanted Road to Referendum to be a success (if for no other reason than to get it right up George Foulkes) but I fear that Iain Macwhirter has done his reputation no good after all.
    The McCrone Report is, by any measure, one of the most dramatic stories to have emerged in Scotland/UK in the past fifty years. It is completely relevant to the unfolding story of the Scots’ fight for independence. Macwhirter’s belittling of it should concern us all.

  92. sionnach says:

    Excellent article, Rev! Clearly, despite (or maybe because of) its faults, this is a thought-provoking book.
    A comment about history. My history lessons (at an English Grammar School) were so focused on England’s Glory that I was left without a number of key contexts. For example, I was told nothing about the pre-Conquest stuff that led to the Norman invasion, and even with a heavy focus on the Tudors, the Union of the Crowns came as a complete surprise. Don’t even recall being told anything about England’s medieval attempts to dominate Scotland: but then, Bannockburn wasn’t England’s most glorious moment…
    I’ve been remedying these omissions in recent years: Scotland’s history is utterly fascinating! Let’s hope next year sees the start of a new and exciting chapter.

  93. Iain says:

    “London is, and always will be, there. “Independence” or not. That sheer concentration of wealth, power, stock market, globalisation and 20m people is always going to stamp all over any faffing about with tax rates and grants that can be done from Edinburgh. It is, and always will be, where serious companies and talented people want to go. (At least for a while, in the latter case.)
    Deal with that too.”  

    And in just over 13 months, there’ll be a 2 horse race to decide whether we reject the hegemony of all that wealth, power and ‘stamping’. I strongly suspect that the possibility that the Yes horse may win is something you can’t deal with.

  94. Shinty says:

    The McCrone Report is, by any measure, one of the most dramatic stories to have emerged in Scotland/UK in the past fifty years. It is completely relevant to the unfolding story of the Scots’ fight for independence
    Couldn’t agree more – it’s what got me started.  Ashamed to say I never paid much attention to politics nor what was really going on before.  Boy has it been an eye opener.

    Wake up Scotland from your media induced slumber.

  95. Ken McDonald says:

    Quote “Scottish history is, simply, less important than UK history.”
    Less important to whom exactly ?

  96. scottish_skier says:

    CW: It is [London], and always will be, where serious companies and talented people want to go.

    Erm, I work in energy / oil and gas and Aberdeen is far more important than London. Hence the title ‘Oil and gas capital of Europe’. While some corporate HQs are located in London [and BPs legacy of being a nation oil company at Sunbury), we can expect these in Edinburgh post independence as that’d be the capital of the new tax regime they’d be operating in. A slightly lower level of corporation tax would be a bonus on top.

    Huston, Calgary, Oslo, Kuala Lumpur… All far more important and talent attracting than London.

  97. a supporter says:

    Ian Brotherhood et al. It was the McCrone Report that got me started into Independence support too. When I discovered how Scotland had been cheated, on top of the constant comments about subsidy junkies in the English press, it was the last straw. I wonder if the YES camp really appreciate know how powerful a tool it could be if used properly.
    (And now we have McCrone himself belatedly doing the rounds trying to play down his original findings.)

  98. Jiggsbro says:

    Less important to whom exactly ?
    The world and the way it is now. I did explain that part.

  99. scottish_skier says:

    As for nationalism. I’ve never met anyone in Scotland who truthfully equated independence supporters/the SNP with ‘nationalist’ parties in the xenophobic sense. They’re quite aware that’s its about independence (dodgy nationalist parties exist in states which are already independent such as the UK).

    Only people who have asked me if there’s any truth to that assertion are people from England because they don’t live in Scotland / know much about it apart from what they are told by UK newspapers.

    In contrast everyone is aware what full on British nationalism looks like: BNP, Orange Order, EDL/SDL, National Front, Tories/DUP (union flag symbolism), One Nation Labour (union flag symbolism), UKIP, burning Irish flags, rioting etc. This stuff is on the telly and in the papers all the time after all.

  100. gerry parker says:

    As Louden Wainright III sang in Primrose hill.
    London, “Somewhere to go, but it’s no place to be.”

  101. DMyers says:

    However, the majority of people will consider the SNP to be a nationalist party and will associate the independence movement with nationalism, whatever their definition may be.
    Will they?

  102. Alba4Eva says:

    I really enjoyed this article.  Thanks.

  103. Tom Hogg says:

    Apropos an earlier comment, Arthur Herman’s book “The Scottish Enlightenment” is not called that in the US, from where the author comes. Oh no. Over there it’s called “How the Scots invented the modern world”.  Make of that what you wish.

  104. Karamu says:

    Just noticed a book on the shelf of my local library: “1000 Years of Annoying the French”. Didn’t read it but the jacket talks about 1000 years of Britain’s relationship with France….

  105. Celyn says:

    John Lyons says:
    30 July, 2013 at 2:25 pm

    I was trying to think of something nice to say about London. I struggled, but I came up with one.”
    Oh, I tried that game too, when I lived there for work.   I think I settled on “oh, well, it has pandas”.  Then I thought, “well, now I have seen the pandas, can I escape this place now?”
    And of course it no longer has pandas anyway, just pollution and corruption.

  106. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

    “Apropos an earlier comment, Arthur Herman’s book “The Scottish Enlightenment” is not called that in the US, from where the author comes. Oh no. Over there it’s called “How the Scots invented the modern world”. Make of that what you wish.”

    Mine has both titles:

  107. Juteman says:

    Great book. I’ve passed it on to a few folk.

  108. The Man in the Jar says:

    As we seem to be doing book reviews can I recommend “The Mark of the Scots” by Duncan A. Bruce published by Birch Lane Press. It is a bit American in places “Scots in the Baseball Hall of Fame” and items about Scots in American Government but a good book otherwise.

  109. Ronnie says:

    Mine is entitled, ‘The Scottish Enlightenment – The Scots’ Invention of the Modern World’.
    But also on the cover is Irvine Welsh’s comment, when representing the Guardian – ‘Every Scot should read it. Scotland now has the lively, provocative and positive history it deserves.’
    A good read, which really opened my eyes to what the world owes our predecessors and which went some way towards making up for the abysmal lack of Scottish history at school.
    However, I did receive a good grounding in English, punctuation, spelling and grammar, which is why, I suspect, such errors leap off the page at me, disrupting and often diminishing what the writer was saying.
    Yes, I understand that correcting others online is considered to be bad manners, but I long for a simple and polite Glossary where posters can check spellings, meanings and punctuation before they send. (RevStu?)
    After all, folks, the world is reading what you say.

  110. Dave McEwan Hill says:

    When I was an educational inspector at the Ministry of Education in Kano State, Northern Nigeria (Kano State had twice the population of Scotland) we at the inspectorate  came up with a plan to teach the children history in a very exciting new way (All my Nigerian colleagues at the Min of Ed had been taught English history in Nigerian schools.Their own history wasn’t important. Sound familiar?)
    The plan was to start in primary school by teaching the children the origins of  their village and the peoples in it or its immediate area, then as they moved along the school similar story of their local government area or city,then their state then their nation and then the part and place of that nation in the world. This was to be co-ordinated with appropriate geography lessons spreading out in the same way. This seemed a terrific plan to me but I don’t think it came to anything as Nigeria since then has in many ways gone backwards 

  111. Currywurst says:

    “Erm, I work in energy / oil and gas and Aberdeen is far more important than London. Hence the title ‘Oil and gas capital of Europe’. While some corporate HQs are located in London”
    There’s a rather large white tower block with flags on it on the south bank of the Thames. Shell House. Wonder what goes on in there? Then, as you say, there’s BP in Sunbury. And ExxonMobil in Leatherhead. And BG in Reading, with Centrica down the road in Windsor. And I recall going to meetings at the UK HQs of Eni, Total and Conoco, all of which were within 20 minutes of Paddington station.
    Are you claiming that “independence” is going to make a blind bit of difference to where these firms locate?
    This just illustrates one of the many stupidities of the “independence” campaign. Incur certain cost and disruption in order to gain, er, well, nothing.

  112. “However, shouldn’t that be: “neither a clear Yes [NOR] a clear No””
    Naught now. However, your original text read: “. . neither a clear Yes or a clear No”. 

  113. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

    “This just illustrates one of the many stupidities of the “independence” campaign. Incur certain cost and disruption in order to gain, er, well, nothing.”

    Except, um, control of all the tax revenue from those companies.

    Still waiting to hear how I should “deal with” London’s pre-eminence.

  114. Dave McEwan Hill says:

    No mention of Britoil. The Tories removed its HQ (and several thousand jobs) from Scotland (Glasgow) and placed it down south.

  115. Dave McEwan Hill says:

    I think you’ll find those firms will locate their HQs where they get the best deal 

  116. Henn Broon says:

    Long time lurker first time poster.

    I’ve lived and worked in London over the years on many different occasions last time being 2005 where I was working within SW1 in Dover St.

    Yes I agree many of the sites mentioned can at first appear, from a quick touristy glance, rather impressive.

    However, I’ve always felt, these sites were rather densely packed. The Ritz, Piccadilly, Leicester Square, Trafalgar etc etc are all within spitting distance of each other. It becomes very noticeable the longer one spends time in and around the area and environment. It all becomes very small very quickly somewhat like visiting one of those model villages and very much in keeping with Rev Stus’ monopoly board with the rare exception being Oxford St and Regent St which in my opinion stand out resolute like two Sargent Majors would to the naive eye of a 16 year old on national service.

  117. JLT says:

    Jiggsbro says:     
    Recently I met my History teacher and asked why we were not taught Scottish history in Scotland.  ‘It wasn’t important enough’, he replied matter of factly.
    He was right. The teaching of history – at least at secondary school level – is about finding out how the world was in order to understand better how the world is. And being the world, there’s an awful lot of history, only a little of which can be taught. History in schools, therefore, tends to focus on the most momentous – the Russian revolution, the world wars, the Renaissance, the Cold war – leavened with the most accessible or interesting. And, in most countries, it tends to focus on the pupil’s own country. In the UK, that’s the UK. Scotland’s history may be just as great as England’s, but neither are as momentous or world-changing as the UK’s. Scottish history is, simply, less important than UK history.
    The guys right …and wrong.
    Yes, key events such as WW1, WW2, the Nazis should be taught, especially for all Europeans.
    But when your own history is being openly denied to you …and the excuse is, that ‘it doesn’t really matter’ …well, No, that’s wrong!
    A nation is built on it’s history and its culture. Scandinavia prides itself on its arts, its architecture and its Viking past.
    For us, we should be teaching kids in primary, the early history (what is Scotland, how was it founded by the Celts, Picts, Britons, Angles, etc) up to the point of Robert the Bruce and the winning of the Wars of Independence.
    In High School, kids in first and second year should then be taught the Reformation, Cromwell, the Killing Times, Darien, the Union, Empire, Clearances, 20th Century Scotland.
    If they want to take History after that, then they learn WW1, WW2, European revolutions, and in 5th year, Nazism.
    I can’t see why Scots History can’t be taught until 3rd year.

  118. Atypical_Scot says:

    Never judge a message by the grammar. Never judge a state by it’s historical architecture.  

  119. Robert Kerr says:

    Rev, Please visit Paris and savour the Imperialism there. There is a certain elan which London lacks.
    I worked in London for six weeks and in Paris for six months. Paris is in two parts, Haussmann’s and La Defense, both statements of Imperialism.
    I skimmed McWhirter’s book in Waterstones and read the last few pages. He is no friend of Independence. At least then in print.
    I never bought the book, maybe when I next go to Hay on Wye (Y Gelli) I may find a copy for a few shillings as remaindered stock.
    Hail Alba

  120. Taranaich says:

    I’m very intrigued by your appraisal of Westminster Palace, Rev. I have my own story of the place – which I have absolutely no intention of ever visiting again.

    Many years back, when I was just out of university, my local school invited me to work with the children on a nation-wide project. The gist was to make a presentation to renovate a disused or neglected part of their area, and the winning entry would have their idea made a reality. Our lovely town has a hill with a great grey gash in it: a disused quarry, useless to man and beast, save the local druggies using it as a stash. The schoolkids decided it would make a great outdoor adventure park: our town has a dreadful dearth of such places, so it seemed a good idea. A few weeks later, we were informed we were the regional winners for the whole of Scotland! We were overjoyed… only to learn that by “nation-wide” they meant the whole UK. So we were invited to the finals, which took place in Westminster. Two teachers, two students, and myself took the plane down to London.

    When we got there, I got my first tangible taste of how London tends to treat the Scots. Our MP, the late David Cairns (I won’t speak ill of the dead since it isn’t relevant to the story), welcomed us, and took us on a tour of the palace. First stop… the steps where William Wallace was tried and sentenced for “treason.” We know because there was a little plaque on one step. The inobservant or anti-Scottish could step on William Wallace’s name. Now, Mr Cairns clearly took us there because it’s a bit of Scottish history in Westminster, and we did appreciate it, but at the same time… we were taken to a place where one of our greatest heroes was sentenced to death. It’s one of the few pieces of Scottish culture in the whole place, and it’s one that effectively takes a national hero and reminds you he was falsely tried as a ("Tractor" - Ed). Pretty easy to spin that into “know your place, Jock.”

    Along with the Welsh team, we were the only non-English school represented out of some forty finalists – several from London alone. The Northern Irish team couldn’t attend, since they couldn’t afford it, and the competition didn’t pay up either. Of course we didn’t win, and of course a London school won in the end. We didn’t care: it was awesome enough we won for Scotland, though we really could’ve done with a new recreational facility in our town, which has lost so much over the past 20 years.

    But what bothered me more was the reception. The Welsh and northern English school teams were all friendly and approachable enough. But there was something off about the London/South East children: they seemed vaguely anxious not to talk with us, not even the other children, and their adult company were rather cold. I didn’t immediately think “oh, it must be because we’re Scottish” until I noticed that every time one of us spoke, someone within earshot turned around and shot such a hateful, angry glare in our direction, as if they were thinking “who let the Jocks in?”

    It was a strange experience, that even children would be the target of such fierce disdain. But as we walked the corridors and halls, I came to the realisation that it wasn’t just the people – it was the building itself. Rev’s discussion of the oppressive, cyclopean architecture is apt, but I’d go so far as to say there’s a sinister ambience, a miasma even, of corruption and decay permeating the walls. There were generally two types of MPs I encountered: obsequious, deferent toadies, and entitled, spoilt, smug lords. The toadies constantly chattered with nervous laughter, as if afraid they would be beaten with a newspaper if they spoke out of turn or failed to please. The Lords waltzed around with their noses upturned, every inch the arrogant, highborn gentry you’d expect. Of course I can’t speak for all the MPs I encountered, but that was the prevailing stereotype.

    At the risk of waxing poetic, it’s almost as if the centuries of ghosts have imbued Westminster with a malevolent life of its own, a genius loci which suppresses any thoughts of fairness or democracy, the tentetsof feudalism and decadence festering away and seducing even the freshest, most idealistic young politician. I was immediately guarded, and I didn’t feel oppressed so much as challenged. I can definitely understand what Rev means when he talks about how seductive it must be for MPs. It didn’t work on me, maybe because I had already been to the Natural History Museum: if it has a genius loci, it’s one that fosters learning and discovery over greed and avarice.

    Scottish history is, simply, less important than UK history.

    I disagree rather emphatically. For one thing, what could be more important to a country’s history than its’ own history? For another, Scottish history is of pretty notable significance to the rest of the world: the Scottish Enlightenment, the Scots’ role in the Industrial Revolution, the fact that we have the most inventions and innovations of any small country, not to mention the many important Scots which affected the world like Andrew Carnegie, Sir Walter Scott, John Buchan, Robert Burns, and so forth.  For every “big event” you mention, I can think of a Scottish figure, event or invention that was either directly related, or an equivalent to it. Which is why the lack of discussion of Scots despite their relevance to school teachings is so infuriating.
    And, in most countries, it tends to focus on the pupil’s own country. In the UK, that’s the UK. Scotland’s history may be just as great as England’s, but neither are as momentous or world-changing as the UK’s.
    The problem comes when UK history is equated with English history. The World Wars, the Cold War and so forth are as Scottish as they are English, yet it’s usually the latter’s perspective which is actually taught.

  121. lumilumi says:

    Thanks, Rev, for your review. Now I definitely have to order my own copy of Ian McWirther’s book. The STV series was unavailable here but the book will have more, anyway.
    Thanks also for the description of Whitehall. I know exactly what you mean. I wandered the streets as an impressionable early twenty-something and the imperial, impregnable scale of it bowled me over. The next time I saw anything similar was in St Petersburgh in Russia. And that was on an ever grander scale! Eat your hear out, Britain! 😀
    Our little Finnish capital Helsinki is so provincial, small and cosy, even though it has doubled for St Petersburgh in several films made during the Cold War when western film crews weren’t welcome into the Soviet Union. (Architecture in the old centre of Helsinki is in the same “Empire” style as prime imperial St Petersburgh.)
    I’m looking forward to reading McWirther’s book (with a pinch of salt), my latest “history of Scotland” book is by Magnus Magnusson (Sally Magnusson’s Icelandic dad). Very entertaining, informative and well-written (end edited!). Perhaps unionist, but not rabidly so. It ends in the early 1990s, the last chapter mentions that now there’s going to be a new regional Scottish Parliament.
    My brother wanted to learn something about Scottish history and l lent him a couple of books. He afterwards complained that it was so messy, he couldn’t make head or tail of it. The MacSomethings slayed MacOthers or MacAnothers over and over again, and then they slayed the troops of evil English kings until the MacNobles took English money and titles and slayed their own country. I nodded to my brother, that’s about it.

  122. JLT says:

    My brother wanted to learn something about Scottish history and l lent him a couple of books. He afterwards complained that it was so messy, he couldn’t make head or tail of it. The MacSomethings slayed MacOthers or MacAnothers over and over again, and then they slayed the troops of evil English kings until the MacNobles took English money and titles and slayed their own country. I nodded to my brother, that’s about it.
    But that’s the intrigue of the dark politics of Scotland from around 1300 to 1700. It really was a delicate balancing act, trying to work out who to side with who.

    But there is more to it than that. We have 2 almighty religious wars (The Reformation and The Killing Times), fighting England, the rise and fall of the Stuarts. Gripping stuff really!

    English history was pretty much the same in this period. If had religious wars, Family v Family (Plantagenet, Tudor, York, Lancaster), fighting France, the rise and fall of the Stuarts
    No difference really! English history is more or less on a par with Scottish history. They both entwine and separate at various points. Our history is just as great as Englands. There is no difference, and there is absolute no reason why Scottish history should not be taught to our kids!

  123. Craig P says:

    London’s a great place, and for me, the ‘best of both worlds’ is to have a major world city like London only a few hours away whilst at the same time avoiding it sucking us dry like a vampire, which independence offers, whereas the union only offers our necks.

  124. Hetty says:

    O/T sorry. Just been reading an article in National Collective about the Scottish gov trying to protect ‘wild Scotland’ from developers. One thing we noticed in the Lake District recently was the signs saying no access and also the private companies’ signs regards parking etc. Our distinct impression was that it is definitely owned by private companies, who say where you can go, down a little diddy path, but no further thank you very much. No thanks. This must definitely not be the way in Scotland, one big theme park pretending to be countryside and even pretending to a bit wild, which is utter rubbish. Keep off our wild places big companies! Take a hike!

  125. Hetty says:

    Ok, I will endeavour now to watch the bbc’s ‘A History of Scotland’ one more time on iplayer, some of which is I have to say is very good, for a very novice learner re; Scottish history.
    It was made before all of the referendum debate started, interestingly.

  126. Dinnatouch says:

    I was sent down to London to work for a month about 12 years ago. One of the things that struck me most about it was its size – it’s tiny! Not Greater London of course, but the actual touristy bit, the bit that does the governing. 
    I took a walk one night from London Bridge to Oxford Street, taking in Pudding Lane, the Tower of London and Tower Bridge, the City, St Paul’s, Smithfield meat market, the memorial to Wallace, Fleet St, the Embankment, the Houses of Parliament, Westminster cathedral, Buckingham Palace, St James’ Park, Whitehall and Downing St, and Trafalgar Sq. 
    All that took me less than two hours, and that was me just wandering without any idea of where I was going. The power and influence that has its base in London is inextricably tied to the history of the city. London is a unique city, but the wealth and power concentrated in such a small area blinds it to the rest of the country it’s supposed to be governing. 
    PS, don’t drink the tap water. 

  127. Dave McEwan Hill says:

    I believe the tap water has been through up to six kidneys before you get it

  128. Frances says:

    For anyone interested in Medieval to Modern (1707) Scottish history I would recommend Dundee University’s distance learning corse – fascinating, well written and researched books and an intellectual challenges all the way. 

  129. The Man in the Jar says:

    Thank fuck I cany spell then all these “horrendous” errors go right over my head. Likewise some of my friends are musicians they can’t sit down and just enjoy a piece of music without picking at it. Chill FFS

  130. Richard McHarg says:

    Currywurst on a bit of a rant?  
    It’s like that scene from Zulu, where Jack Hawkins, playing the drunk Swiss pastor, declares: “you’re all going to die.”  
    The silly sausage always makes me smile.

  131. Chic McGregor says:

    Here is my 2p.

    I want to discuss the base nature of Scottish nationalism.

    Nationalism has really nothing to do with socio-economic structures or geo-political boundaries necessarily.  Fiscal control and even a politically autonomous area, while desireable for pragmatic reasons, are not essential for the existence of nationalism.  Nationalism is at base  IMO, simply about cultural identity.

    Consider this.  If Scotland were culturally identical to England, then there would be no justification for independence, in fact I think we can go further and state that if that were the case Scottish nationalism and the call for independence would simply never even have arisen in the first place.

    Of course British Unionists use (completely false) economic arguments, in a negative fashion, to try to scare people off of the idea of independence, and even falsely based fiscal scaremongering, morally bankrupt though it is, does unfortunately work (because most people haven’t the time, skill or resources to check the claims out).
    The independence pursuing Scottish Nationalist is then forced to give counter economic arguments.  However, one should not then be led into construing a basis of Nationalism in terms of those national-economic arguments.

    [Aside Q: Is someone who would like an independent Scottish set-up but doesn’t vote for it because he believes the fiscal scaremongering may have an element of truth, a Unionist or a Nationalist?]

    There may well be national-cultural predilections with respect to the distribution of wealth within a defined national area but that is a whole different story about implementation rather than aspiration.

    Anyway, back to, IMO, the basis of Nationalism.

    An individual relates to benchmarks of the shared values and expectations of his/her culture.  At any one time, the individual is aware of what is or is not expected within his culture, and many values may change within his lifetime.
    There are many, many feedback systems which serve to ensure that the individual is ‘up to date’.
    To name but a few, schools/education, theatre,magazines, movies, TV, radio, public meetings, private conversation, art, literature, advertising, music, museums, history industry, internet, ideas and practices from other cultures and so on.

    In theory, while those responsible for controlling the output of these feedback mechanisms have a duty to offer the occasional ‘new angle’ on things, generally the main effect of the feedback system is to reflect ‘current state of play’.

    Because of the importance of the feedback system in terms of cultural influence there are many factions which try to control it.  Usually, by far the best resourced and most powerful (in terms of funding and franchise allocation and other pressures) is the government of the national region, and since in a democracy the government is elected by the people then this should, most of the time, ensure that the feedback output does indeed reflect popular (i.e. culturally aligned) opinion.

    Scotland suffers greatly in this respect since the controlling British Establishment lies outside its national border.

    Cultural benchmarks are used by individuals, even if only unconsciously.  When an individual acknowledges that his/her stance on a particular issue is different from the cultural norm, even. dissidential, it is nonetheless still metered in terms of those cultural benchmarks. 

    Indeed, depending on personality type, he/she may well take more personal satisfaction the further they are away from the cultural norm, but note that in order for them to do so, even the most outrageous ‘enfant terrible’ is, in that very act, still acknowledging those benchmarks, albeit implicitly.

    There is of course a sometimes elaborate, if shallow, epidermal cultural layer which, while often the most visible, serves only to act as little more than badges or rallying flags.  They are often of such a short-lived nature that it is arguably more appropriate to considered them in terms of fashion, rather than culture, and are largely culinary and sartorial in nature.  I refer of course, in a Scottish context, to such things as Haggis, Kilts, Whisky, Tartan, Shortbread and son.  Their real cultural value is virtually

    Of course, there are regional culturettes, e.g.s Highland, Lowland, NE, WoS, Borders etc.  but those orbit a cultural centre of gravity, or perhaps more accurately operate
    within a sphere of cultural influence with an understood set of benchmarks.
    Scottish National culture has, IMO,  a quite different centre of cultural gravity than that of  the various culturettes orbiting the English one.

    However, although we have expressed Nationalism in terms of cultural identity rather than economic or political identity, we are, in a sense, no further forward. In fact we have only pushed the ambiguity regarding ‘nationalism’ into the term ‘cultural identity’.

    It would make a long post, very much longer to discuss the detailed multi-layered structure of culture.  However, everyone has at least a vague notion of their culture at the conscious level and actually a very deep understanding at the subconscious level.

    It is sufficient for the moment to simply describe the different beliefs about culture in order to demonstrate the different types of Nationalism, without recourse to disecting the internal structure of it.

    The easiest way to describe the different beliefs regarding culture is to simply and baldly state my own and then point out where others differ.

    My beliefs on this I have expounded so many times before on the net that I have actually itemised them. I apologise beforehand for the seemingly ‘blindingly obvious, doesn’t require stating’ nature of some of them, but sadly the years I’ve spent on the net have caused me to seriously doubt whether there is anything so obvious that it does not require stating.
    Anyway, they are as follows:-

    1) Different cultures exist.

    2) All cultures have the right to continued existence and develop. (Even Scottish culture(s)).

    3) There is absolutely no genetic requirement for ‘membership’ of any culture. Anyone raised or otherwise formatively emersed in a culture can become a full and participating member of that culture regardless of family history.

    4) Different cultures are a good thing, they offer different perspectives on things which make for faster, better, solutions. They also make the World a lot more interesting (can you just imagine the tedium of living in a monocultural World?).

    5) No culture has any rights, privileges or intrinsic worth superior to those of any other culture, all are equally valid.

    6) All practices and stances that are accepted within a culture, however ‘strange’ to others, are valid and should be tolerated, wherever possible, by members of other cultures.  There are however some unavoidable exceptions. For instance, the infringement of any of the above cultural ‘rules’. For example, the  belief that one culture is ‘better’ than another, and therefore ‘deserves’ extra rights and priviledges, even if held by the majority within that culture, is not excusable as simply being part of their cultural make up.
    Also there are some things which are simply unacceptable by common international standards, e.g.s  murder, cannibalism, genocide, sacrifice, slavery,  etc.

    The above lists the main beliefs I have regarding culture, and IMO is completely consistent with what I call Scottish nationalism.

    So how do other interpretations differ?

    OK, some people believe that cultural membership requires certain genetic
    antecedents. (This is also called nationalism by some)

    Others believe that some cultures are superior to others and may even insist
    that that accords them extra rights or privileges.  (This is also called
    nationalism by some)

    Some believe that it is so self-evident that their culture is the best
    possible, that they feel obligated to take over other countries in order to
    ‘train’ them.  Even genocide may be deemed necessary. (This is also called
    nationalism by some, imperialism by others).

    All of the above ‘alternative nationalisms’ exhibit a common thread which in fact makes them the antithesis of ‘Scottish nationalism’ as I understand it, namely intolerance towards other cultures.  My view of nationalism is that diversity in cultures and nationalities should be actively encouraged.

    I believe that most Scots have views more similar to mine, that they view nationalism in terms of righting inequities rather than creating more priviledge, of cultural tolerance rather than intolerance.

    In fact I cannot think of another instance where the same word can have such opposite meanings.  Although there is the contra-example of ‘flammable’ and ‘inflammable’ which should be opposites but in fact meaning the same thing.  For me, the use of ‘nationalism’ for both the egalitarian, anti-imperialist, pro-cultural diversity Scottish nationalism and for privilege-fixated, imperialist, culturally intolerant British nationalism, is the same kind of weirdness.

    That is why some people use capital ‘N’ and small ‘n’ to try to draw a distinction between two things which are in every real sense, opposites, but for which the same word is used.  It may not be grammatically correct but it serves a purpose.

    I think ‘imperialism’ and ‘anti-imperialism’, or ‘pro-culturalism’ and ‘anti-culturalism’ would be in some sense better, certainly closer to the truth.

    Yet ‘Nationalists’ (capital N) believe that different cultures are probably not a good thing and that we would be better off with one global culture – i.e.  theirs’.

    A basis for cultural globalism of left or right variety, albeit with entirely different motivations, could just as easily be called ‘cultural imperialism’.  One sickening aspect of this stance, by both left and right extremes, is the ‘politically correct’ stance often adopted by many of that unholy alliance’s adherents whilst at one and the same time attempting to perpotrate, IMO, probably  the most politically incorrect and damaging act in human history.

    Such globalist ‘ideals’ are in any event, a pipe-dream.
    A moments consideration with a modicum of extrapolation can quickly demonstrate this.

    To do this lets create an extreme scenario here:

    Using cloning technology, a magic wand, or whatever, we re-populate the entire World with identical people.  Let us even say that we can do so such that they are all ‘instant’ young aduilts all with the same memories, cultural benchmarks etc. as well as being genetically identical.

    Within a very short space of time, different regional groupings will start to produce different perspectives on things. There are various reasons for this:

    Different environments will create diversity of life-style and result in some different pragmatic priorities.

    Some unique ideas will arise spontaneously and randomly in individuals and ‘catch on’ with others in their locale.

    Geographical features (even simple distance) will create natural groupings, pragmatic centres of interaction.

    Even before that first generation dies off, there will already be cultural diversity.

    Like I keep saying.  Cultural identity/national identity has nothing to do with genes, and it does not take a genius either to see why humanity has evolved to incorporate a natural tendency for cultural diversity.  The survivability and development of human civilization is greatly enhanced by it.

    History teaches us that in any one era, the culture(s) making the most contributions to the advancement of civilization are typically different from those doing so in another era.

    Size of culture would not appear to be a factor either.  Plucking some examples from the air, small countries like Greece, large countries like China and middle sized countries like Egypt have all had ‘their day’.

    I also extremely doubt whether anyone living in one era could predict who ‘the main cultural player’ was going to be in the next.  The logical extrapolation of this, is is how can anyone be sure now, what the, so claimed, ‘best’ culture might be?

    Even from a basic human self-interest standpoint, it would be extreme folly to try to destroy any present day culture, let alone all but one.

  132. Calum Craig says:

    @Chic McGregor
    Having just (last night) started reading Guns, Germs and Steel, I think you are spot on with “Different environments will create diversity of life-style and result in some different pragmatic priorities.”.
    Totally agree with your analysis on the basis of culture and nationalism as well. “Scottish National culture has, IMO,  a quite different centre of cultural gravity than that of  the various culturettes orbiting the English one.”. Probably why I look at today’s Sun with such revulsion.

  133. Taranaich says:

    That was a great read, Mr McGregor, and I endorse it entirely.

  134. Chic McGregor says:

    Thanks guys.  I’m heeding the Rev’s words and trying to skew my input away from the more humorous side to the more serious.

  135. Nick says:

    I enjoyed reading your post Chic.

    However, regarding the two types of nationalists, N and n, this is my understanding:

    N: those who recognise Scotland as a nation, recognise Scotland’s right to self-determination and advocate the establishment of an independent Scottish state.

    n: those who recognise Scotland as a nation, recognise Scotland’s right to self-determination and advocate a degree of political autonomy short of independent statehood.

    A majority of Scots are one or the other or somewhere in between (this we can see from the 1997 referendum and consistently from opinion polls on the constitutional question ever since).

    Thus, much of the current debate focuses on economic and political matters rather than questions of culture and identity.

  136. lumilumi says:

    Thanks for the great read, Chic.
    It seems to me that nationalism is only a problem when the nation doesn’t have a country to call its own. Finnish nationalism was a problem to Tsarist Russia, not to Finns.
    Arts also play an important part in “awakening” dormant national feeling. Or helping people find their national identity. A Finnish nationalist once famously said “Swedes were not, Russians we don’t want to be, let us be Finns.” and then set about being Finnish, creating distinctly Finnish culture and art. I thought Scots for the most part were quite unequivocal about being Scots. Maybe it’s the “British” that needs redefining and reassuring by the likes of BT.
    Ah, as to arts, the late 19th centry/early 20th centry saw a burst of arts and culture in Finland. Writers, composers, painters. It became the golden age of Finnish painting, led by Akseli Gallen-Kallela, whose pal, a composer, was inspired by Finland’s plight and quest for independence. Among others, he composed this piece called “Finlandia”. The dark tones in the beginning represent the Russian oppression, then there’s the fragile sound of hope, and defiance… The piece was banned by the Russian authorities, his friends’ writings weren’t published in the MSM… But the word was out there. Even before the internet!(People hardly had landline phones!)
    ‘Mon Scotland, you can do it!

  137. Cuilean says:

    I have very fond memories of London as a child. My mum, a history teacher, forced my sister and I into the Strangers’ Gallery to watch a sleep-inducing question time between Edward Heath and Harold Wilson. My sister and I were the only ones there. It was a tiny perch with rock hard seats. The whole chamber itself was tiny. My mum was not allowed to sit with us, as only two females in an all female party could sit together. I gather this was because of the female suffragettes’ penchant for flour bag throwing less than 40 years earlier. Mum was led off, between two ushers, to the House of Lords. I say ‘led’ but my mum being completely undaunted by her escort or her surroundings, seemed in my memory to be doing the leading. We were staunch nationalists even then and I felt even at that early age a strong sense, as I sat there, newly motherless, that this was not my place, these were not my traditions. As I was only 8 at the time and used to any spectator event involving Saturday mornings at the local cinema minors event (not miners) suffice to say I was horribly bored at the absence of Batman etc. Mum returned at the end of our duly appointed hour to watch the ‘great and the good’. We had wanted to access the old saxon hall within Westminster where Wallace was tried without success. So instead Mum took us to Smithfield where we found eventually a small, grubby plaque down an alley (overlooked by all) which stated that this was the site where Scottish patriot, Wallace was executed. I found more sense of connection with that one grubby little plaque (now replaced with a far grander plaque) than all the spires of Westminster put together. Footnote perhaps the SNP founding members (pre Hitler/Mussolini so understandable) could have avoided today’s toxin by choosing the Scottish Suffrage Party or the Scottish Patriot Party? I wonder who has the old grubby plaque? I’d love to see it again.

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