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Latvian lessons

Posted on October 24, 2013 by

Latvia has been ruled by others for most of the past thousand years, with Riga even being the largest city in Sweden until they carelessly lost it to Peter the Great in 1710. Independence from Russia came in 1918 and then from the Soviet Union in 1991.


I arrived in Riga a few months later and stayed for a year and a half. At the time I joked that, apart from my paid work, I was there to observe what they were going through and to take notes for when Scotland became independent. It’s been a long time but some things, I hope, will be relevant to the process over the next year.

Latvia has a population of 2 million, but only about 1.2 million are native Latvian and most of the rest are Russian. Having both world wars and the Russian Civil War rage across your territory was bad enough for population numbers, but the Latvians found themselves fighting for the Czar against the Kaiser, against both the Red and White armies in the civil war, then for and against the Soviets, always with the hope of some kind of freedom when the fighting stopped.

In 1918 they got it as both the Russian and German empires collapsed in defeat. It didn’t last long, and then the trains started running – first to Siberia, then to the Nazi death camps, and then Siberia again.

Under the Soviets, Russians were encouraged to move in. It was the Soviet California, with long sandy beaches, and, whisper it comrade, you could get Swedish radio with real rock and roll. But more Russians meant more Russian, on street signs and in shop names, in schools and in the media. You could still be educated in Latvian, just not for all courses, and not for all careers. Life without speaking Latvian was easy, without speaking Russian was much more difficult.

But they kept the culture and the language alive, they sang their folk songs and had their festivals and when the time came they built their barricades and held hands around their Parliament. Their independence party won two thirds of the seats in Parliament and held a referendum. 73% of residents, Latvians, Russians, Ukrainians and all, voted Yes.

Latvia has lots of trees, beaches, folk songs, interesting beer but not much else in the way of resources. The Soviets, amongst other things, built a factory to make light trucks, minibuses and police vans (like the one below, but usually with more mud attached, since not all of the Riga streets were paved).


Just like at Linwood in the 1980s, though, the engines were made hundreds of miles away in another country. They were delivered by train, but using open wagons, so the engines were exposed to the rain, snow and ice on their journey. Not the best start in life for a piece of precision engineering, and every engine needed to be reworked almost from scratch when it arrived in Riga. That was typical of the Soviet economy: take perfectly good raw materials and turn them into useless junk.

(Here the City of London takes the profits and taxes of the whole country and turns them into payday loans, sub-prime mortgages and PFI schemes. But those aren’t useless junk, are they?)

Oddly, the best way to get a new car was via the Riga based fishing boats who would bring them in from Peterhead or Aberdeen, which had the best performing Lada dealerships in the UK. After the minibus factory had converted them back to left-hand drive they were much sought-after.

(Having been made for the export market, these ones worked. The electrics worked, the brakes worked, the trim didn’t fall off, in fact the whole car worked the way it should. A domestic Lada, fresh from Samara, might work long enough to get you home, if you were lucky, and then it would sit for months while you tried to scrounge the spare parts it needed.)

Latvia had no oil, no whisky, no industries that made anything worth having (even the bus factory closed eventually) – not even golf, tartan or shortbread. Although they did have tourism thanks to those long Baltic beaches – just take the train from Riga to Jurmala (26km of white sand), and get off at Bulduri station on Edinburgas Prospekt. Before the war they had one of the highest standards of living in Europe.

By 1991 the Soviets couldn’t even deliver cigarettes. Jam jars of fag-ends were selling for 3 roubles each in the market if you were desperate enough, and enough were. People could see that things had to change and they changed them. Things still aren’t easy for them, but they would never think of going back.

Old Soviet types sometimes ask why the Latvian people aren’t grateful for all the roads, schools, hospitals and factories they built for them. Why don’t they appreciate the culture and learning they were given access to, the career opportunities that opened up, in the party, in Moscow, if only they learned a useful international language like Russian?


In the centre of Riga is the Brivibas Monument, the Latvian Statue of Liberty. All through the Soviet years there would be a courting couple or two on park benches nearby. Around important dates there would be more. On important days like the anniversary of the Soviet invasion, or the old Independence Day, there would always be some nationalist, dodging through the traffic, with a bunch of flowers to lay at the foot of the monument.

Then the ‘courting’ couples would make their move, to arrest them, clear away the flowers, and cart the hooligan/nationalist/subversive/patriot off to KGB headquarters. The flower layers tried working in teams to beat the guards, the first one or two sacrificing themselves so others could make it and have their flowers sit for a few moments longer. In the 1980’s they came in their thousands with their flowers, and were met with water cannons, but in the end not even the KGB could stop people remembering their history.

The official Soviet tourist agency said that the monument was put up in thanks for the Soviets liberating Latvia in 1945, but they could never quite explain how the Latvians had managed the foresight to build it before the war. Lucky we don’t have anyone telling lies about our history or trying to stop people celebrating it, eh?

When I first arrived in Latvia the local currency was still the Soviet rouble. That had been fixed at 1 to the dollar in the 1980s but now it was about 85-1, and sinking fast. I once had a restaurant bill which arrived denominated in dollars, pounds, Finn marks, and Deutschmarks; anything was welcome, except roubles. But in May 1992 they got new and colourful Latvian rublis to replace the Soviet ones.


(These had a Scottish link – the Glasgow Numerical Printing Company, who used to print bus tickets for Glasgow Corporation buses, were now printing banknotes for Latvia. It was only a transitional currency, but it worked and the Latvians made sure it held its value.)

Within a year there was another change, to the Lat, which has been worth about a Pound since it was introduced in 1993. Latvia’s currency has been stable for 20 years and next January they will be joining the Euro. The old Soviet Rouble became the Russian Rouble, and fell like a stone until 1997 when it stabilised at 6,000 to the Dollar. They took three zeros off the end making it 6 to 1, but it collapsed again in 1998 to 30 (or 30,000,) to 1.

Some people say that introducing a new currency is incredibly difficult, but the Latvians didn’t know that and did it twice in a year. Then they pegged their new currency to a basket of other countries currencies and kept it stable. Of course they didn’t have to worry about the volatility of oil, just the total collapse of their old Soviet economy and the trouble of building a new one from scratch. Easy, really.

Latvia only has 2 million people, but it stood up to the might of the Soviet Union to get its independence. They didn’t have a plan for the next 30 years, no one cared about how they would pay for things or even about the price of a stamp. Independence was enough to start with, then they would make their own way in the world.

They joined the UN immediately, and the EU and NATO. And the IMF, the ICRC, the World Bank, the WHO, the WTO, and everything else they needed. Their Foreign Ministry has a list, but only of the 30 biggest. The paperwork wasn’t that difficult apparently.

NATO recognises that they can’t do everything on their own. For air defence, they, along with the Lithuanians and Estonians, get help through the Baltic Air Policing program. NATO air forces take turns in providing a squadron; Norwegian, Belgian, Dutch, Danish, Turkish F-16’s, Czech Gripens, Spanish Mirages, everybody helps out. They pay back by specialising in niche tasks they can afford to do.

The US, France, Germany and Poland help as well. The UK sent some Tornado F3s back in 2004 but nothing since then. Even Romania managed to send some ancient MiG 21s. I’m sure there must be a good reason why we haven’t helped more, given that we have ‘the best armed forces in the world’, but I can’t think of one.


Latvia has been in the EU since 2004 and will join the Euro in January. With 2 million people, they have 4 votes in the Council of Ministers and 9 seats in the Parliament. Scotland, with 5 million people and the greater clout of the UK, has 6 seats in the Parliament and the UK votes for us in the Council of Ministers. But even faced with the might of the EU and with not much of an economy (they’re 4th-bottom in terms of GDP per head), Latvia still managed to hold off joining the Euro until they decided they wanted to.

When I lived in Riga 20 years ago, I had an apartment with a ‘modern’ Soviet television. It had a remote control, just like in the west! Except the remote was attached by a 1.5-metre cable, making ‘remote’ a relative term. It was far too easy to find yourself disconnected if you sat down too far back or if someone tripped over the wire. It was a bit like devolution – it kind of worked and it was kind of like what other people had, just not as useful or secure.

Latvia has had real independence for over 20 years now. It’s doing fine. It hasn’t asked to go back to Russia yet. But maybe they’re much smarter and stronger than us, or something.

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127 to “Latvian lessons”

  1. Andrew Morton says:

    Perhaps we’re just a tad too comfortable. Just a bit more repression and we’d have had a human chain from Gretna Green to John o’ Groats.

  2. Doug Daniel says:

    In reference to the first rollover caption, I must protest – I know fine where Latvia is on a map, and it’s only partly due to my Sporcle quizzes obsession.

  3. iain taylor (not that one) says:

    Excellent. Loved Latvia after 7-8 working visits in the 90s. The Lithuanian story (which I know much better) is similar. 
    Independence allowed the people to blossom & flourish.

  4. mealer says:

    Very informative.Thanks.

  5. Scott Minto (Aka Sneekyboy) says:

    Visited Riga a few years ago and I have to say its a lovely place. Good history, good bars and good people.
    When you see what they had to struggle against, and how successful they are domestically now in comparison, it really does beggar belief that there is even a question mark over Scotlands viability.
    We can do better for ourselves, its been done before by those like Latvia who had less.

  6. Brian Powell says:

    If we vote No, we are voting to be something called British, we know that because that is what the Better Together campaign have said repeatedly. We can’t pretend we weren’t told.

    But to England and the world, British is English, but we don’t seem to want to be that. The overwhelming majority  say their identity is Scottish.

    Maybe people here are a nation that things just happen to, ‘we’ don’t want to choose, it just happens.

    Many, many ‘things’ happened to the Latvians, and they choose to be Latvians, but in a real way, not just sometimes. They know their history.
    However we seem to be so disengaged from the political process that our political knowledge is barely above zero, which is strange as we have ahd decades of modern studies taught at school.

    But there are many, many people who don’t know what devolution is, and what devolved powers we have, and what remains with Westminster, or what it means.

    There was a letter in a Scottish broadsheet, where the comment asked how would we pay for the bedroom tax if we were Independent!

    We need to have streams of Latvians, Norwegians, Danes, Dutch etc come here, and if they could stop laughing at ‘us’ long enough, describe what it is like to be Independent.

  7. MochaChoca says:

    It must be baltic over there

  8. Craig Stewart says:

    This made for excellent reading. Would it be possible to do similar articles for all the other countries who’ve gained independence in recent times? Would be interesting to chart trends between them all to give us an idea what to expect… 🙂

  9. Ian Brotherhood says:

    Thanks, Douglas Lennox, for this piece – very interesting stuff, and a welcome respite from all the doom and gloom.

  10. FletcherOfSaltoun says:

    Douglas, great stuff. Nicely written and made me smile on a number of occasions. The little digs were excellently understated.

  11. Alba4Eva says:

    …They never turn up for football matches though 😛

  12. Doug Daniel says:

    Excellent article, incidentally. Love the quips about the currency and the paperwork.
    When people from these countries look at us, with our enormous natural resources and wealth, and then see people suggesting that the price of a stamp or being a few quid worse off is enough to put them off the idea of independence, they must think we’re quite pathetic. What would voting No say to the world about Scotland?
    Unionists like to say you can’t compare our situation to the likes of the Balkan or Baltic states because they were escaping communism or civil war, but the fact these countries have made a success of themselves against such backgrounds just shows how utterly ridiculous it will be if we decide we can’t risk it.
    Let’s not embarrass ourselves next September, Scotland!

  13. Gillie says:

    When I was in Tallinn, Estonia, I found out that under the Soviet Union they once had a factory there that made shoes for the left foot only, the right foot shoes were made in another factory in Siberia. 
    That’s unionism for you. 
    With independence Estonia has booming economy, and not a left-footed shoe shop in sight.

  14. Horacesaysyes says:

    Excellent article, Mr Lennox. 🙂

  15. Iain says:

    Very good, informative piece, nicely understated humour. Would love to take a trip up the Baltic countries all the way to St Petersburg, one day…

    You’d think a state broadcaster worth its salt would be giving us informative snapshots about recently independent countries, and the various barriers & problems (and lack thereof in many cases) encountered. Still, it’d be difficult to fit in amongst all the royal christenings and bake-offs and misrepresenting what EU ministers have said.

  16. Desimond says:

    Excellent read, the flowers versus water cannons image was very strong. If you build it, they really will come.

    Sadly I fear any NO reader would say “Yeah, but thats cause theyre WEE’ER than Scotland isnt it!”

  17. Desimond says:

    With independence Estonia has booming economy, and not a left-footed shoe shop in sight.

    You saying the country’s not for turning?

  18. Andy-B says:

    Good piece Doug very interesting.
    Latvia kind of puts us to shame, they have very little in the way of resources, amongst other things, yet they decided to push ahead with independece anyway.
    Scotland on the other hand has a wealth of resources, and many industries, not to mention the food and drink sector,yet some Scots still think we’re too wee.or stupid or poor to be a successful independent country.
    Latvia has put paid to the idea, too wee, too stupid too poor.

  19. Really interesting read. Small historical nitpick: while Riga was indeed tussled over by the Swedish and Russian Empires in the 17th and 18th centuries, the rest of Latvia belonged to the Duchy of Courland, an autonomous dukedom whose infantry were very highly regarded amongst Eastern European states and who even briefly launched an overseas colonization venture in Africa and the Caribbean. They held the islands of Trinidad and Tobago from 1654 until 1690, when in the midst of a major imperial war they ceded them to the Dutch in return for protection against Swedish attacks on their merchant fleets in the Baltic Sea. More long-lasting was their fort at the edge of the Gambia River, where Couronian merchants remained active in the slave trade well into the 18th century.

  20. Reading that just reaffirms what a complete redder for us all a No vote would be.  In such a horrific scenario I hope they bulldoze Holyrood and if that means we have to relive the Thatcher years all over again then so be it – we deserve no better.  Maybe in another 30 years we’ll collectively grow a pair.

  21. An Duine Gruamach says:

    Thanks for this – a very informative read.  I agree with what Craig said above – it’s be wonderful to see more articles like this on other countries as well. 

  22. Helpmaboab says:

    This is a real pleasure: a fine portrait of a nation I knew little about.
    It’s now an ambition of mine to visit Riga and stroll along ‘Edinburgas Prospekt’ while breathing the seaside air. Is the name of this street modern or is it perhaps a tribute to the old Baltic Sea trade links?
    ‘Too wee, too poor, too stupid’? I think not. Rather, ‘Wee, wealthy, wise.’

  23. tartanfever says:

    Thanks Douglas, what an excellent article.
    Especially enjoyed the story of Lada’s being shipped over there from Aberdeen on fishing trawlers. 

  24. pa_broon74 says:

    Interesting read there.
    One distinction I’d make though, things in Latvia pre-indy were pretty grim. They didn’t plan per se because they probably thought how much worse could it be than this?
    Here in Scotland, there are rafts of folk who don’t realise just how shit things are and how much worse they are going to become. In a sense, that we have all the resources we do conversely works against the indy cause.
    Don’t get me wrong, I’m still regularly astounded by people who say they’re voting no, I just don’t get it and sometimes, neither do they – meaning, they don’t quite know why they’re voting no either.
    The point still stands though, Latvia started with very little and are doing ok, we’ll be starting from a much stronger position so should do even better. It certainly shoots the tw/tp/ts arguments down.

  25. Jingly Jangly says:

    U got the wrong country, that was Estonia that didn’t turn up….

  26. Dcanmore says:

    Great article! Not quite Latvia but here is a great reworked promo film of the funkiest Soviet era car, a 1960s Czech Tatra…

  27. Murray McCallum says:

    Very informative Douglas and a good read too.
    A major bit of trickery going on but a good little Lada niva 4×4 add here

  28. velofello says:

    Excellent article. I wonder if the Scotsman or the Herald would be interested in publishing it as a general interest article for their readers?

  29. proudscot says:

    I wonder how many “unionist” enemies the Latvians had amongst their population, to sneer at and denigrate their pro-independece minded compatriots? I wonder if they had a Lamont, or a Wee Ruthie, or a Wee Willie Rennie, continually sniping at their SNP equivalents, while at the same time taking their instructions from their Moscow masters? Finally, I wonder if the pro-indy Latvians had their entire press and media ranged against them, and had to rely on virtually “underground” websites like NNS, Wings, Bella, etc. for honest news untainted by Moscow (Westminster in our case) propaganda? Just a thought!

  30. faolie says:

    Great stuff Douglas. I love the bit about the organisations they joined and how it wasn’t even that difficult! Clearly they didn’t have a Better Together campaign telling them how risky it was all going to be.
    One more thing that struck me was the Russians insisting that the Latvians must be grateful for something they’d ‘done’ for them. I was reminded of Jeremy Paxman’s series on the British Empire where he’d insist on asking people in ex-colonies if they weren’t grateful for being occupied because look at what they’d got from the Empire. Of course they looked at him as if he was deranged.

  31. Have a look at the amazing documentary “Homeland” by Juris Podnieks which tells the story of Latvian independence movement; filmed there and then. Available on DVD only from

  32. SwedishJock says:

    I will openly say that I am on the fence regarding the Yes/No vote and that I want good information to help me decide how to vote and not propaganda from any side.  I thought this a  good article, however, and it is the same with every comparison with another country, the main problem Scotland faces is not to do with industry – Scotland has lots of that, neither is it banking Scotland has enough banks nor is it natural resources – Scotland has lots of those, the main problem is a cultural problem.

    To compare with Latvia, or any other Eastern European country, is a false comparison in that they were fighting against a recent regime (not centuries old) forced upon them and therefore the people had a real common purpose. To also compare with Nordic countries, which many people try to do, is again a false comparison, workers and management in Scandinavian countries work together for the common good of the company – even if it means taking a pay cut, to get workers and management in Scotland (or any British country for that matter) to work together in a similar way would not be a miracle, but would take a such a massive change in attitudes from both sides it would take decades during which the Scotland would be in turmoil.

    I would like to be wrong, but current events at Grangemouth refinery show that there is still a them and us attitude in existence, sadly.

  33. Jimsie says:

    I have travelled in Bosnia a number of times since the shooting stopped in Dec 1995. My first visit in 1996 was a real eye opener as I had never seen a war zone. Blackened burned out buildings and rubble everywhere . Bosnia had never been an independent country in its history but since it won freedom from the big bully next door it has made great progress even though there is still mistrust among the ethnic groups. Sarajevo has rebuilt and repaired the shell damage and is a beautiful cosmopolitan city. Well worth a visit. The people are just like the Scots…. they like a drink and a sing song! The fact that THEIR team has won a place in the world cup has had a unifying effect. Scotland would do well to emulate the success of some of these new nations if only our people would get off their knees.

  34. Duncan says:

    I do feel we need to be careful putting up other nations as models as they can come back to bite us (Ireland/Iceland/Cyprus). I daren’t even mention Norway now as I get responses about aspiring to live under the most Right Wing government in Europe.

    If we now hold up Latvia as a model we’ll just get comments back about their educated youth leaving en masse to work in England or about their growing  problem with neofascist groups.

    Best to stick to our own uniqueness.

  35. Alba4Eva says:

    Jingly Jangly, I know it was Estonia.  I was just generalising between the 3 Baltic states with comedy license   😉

  36. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

    “I daren’t even mention Norway now as I get responses about aspiring to live under the most Right Wing government in Europe.”

    I think they’re a way short of that yet. I’m pretty sure WE have the most right-wing government in Europe.

  37. Juteman says:

    Do you think anything will ever change under the present system?

  38. Andy-B says:

    @Dcanmore brilliant wee video, if only a had one o them, a Tatra T630, I wouldnt get stuck in M8 traffic in the morning.
    A quick wee check shows they still make trucks, they were founded in 1850, as The Schustala & Company. they’re the third oldest car company in the world behind Daimler and Peugeot.
    At one time they were known as The Nesselsdofer Wagenbau-Fabriksgesellschaft.
    Phew try saying that after a few jars.

  39. big_al says:

    Circa 1985, my auntie had one o they tv’s wi the remote on a wire – they were posh though.
    We made do with our black and white portable.

  40. Duncan says:

    The ConDem alliance is nothing compared to the ConProg alliance in Norway. Have a look at Progress Party’s policies on immigrants and islam, consider why Anders Breivik held two positions in the Progress Party’s youth organisation FpU.

  41. braco says:

    ‘(or any British country for that matter)’
    Follow your own logic min. We are currently under UK governance. We aim, after a YES vote, to begin to, by direct Scottish governance, influence and grow our own individual culture. Together.

  42. Dave McEwan Hill says:

    Swedish Jock
    And you think it wise to use unfortunate issues of a Scotland as part of the UK to argue against independence. I don’t follow you. So if we remain in the union the “them and us” attitide will disappear? Is that what you are saying? And if we go for independence it will remain
    So much of the cringe is refined nonsense like this. They use unfortunate conditions we, as members of the union are in, to attack independence. 

    There is no validity in any of the points you make. Every independent country in the world has a different past. The argument for independence is that a community which regards itself as a unified country regardless of how it got there is best placed to run its own affairs. That is all
    We want to be independent to change things, not continue doing the same stuff 

  43. Juteman says:

    I also think there will be an independence ‘bounce’. A sense of self-confidence and pride will enable many things to be accomplished. Staying in the dead union is just a spiral downwards.

  44. msean says:

    Great piece.Interesting to see how all the too hard to do if you are stupid or too wee,  no campaign stuff, was easily done.Nae currency? Nae bother,in fact,we’ll have 2 lol.

  45. scottish_skier says:

    The ConDem alliance is nothing compared to the ConProg alliance in Norway.
    Erm, Norway is centrist. Sometimes the right wins, sometimes the left. That’s how you get the social democratic ‘centre’. In Britain, the right has won every time since 1979, hence the UK bankrupt and falling apart. The right is getting stronger too, what with UKIP doing well.
    I spotted pictures of anti-immigrant vans going around London recently. Also heard police were stopping people who looked ‘foreign’. Any ideas who’s behind that?
    And why is it prominent unionists dislike my ‘foreign’ wife so much?


  46. braco says:

    O/T, sorry.  For Dave McEwan Hill.
    I was wondering if you could leave a post for Murphman over at Bella on the Newco Britain? article.
    Sorry to ask, but I worry my point of view will easily be dismissed as just another ‘bluenose’. I think he may be a genuine switherer, despite my initial knee jerk reaction [though still not sure]. Your knowledge would certainly help anyway, in case any one else with similar concerns should read it and be left anxious.
    Sorry again for asking, it’s just that I know you would be a far more convincing advocate to him, rather than my own particular ‘absolute equality doctrine’ type future vision of Scotland that we periodically quibble over. ~(wink)
    Thanks min (hope you don’t mind too much)!

  47. Craig P says:

    Really enjoyed that article Douglas, thanks. 

  48. muttley79 says:

    When you see what they had to struggle against, and how successful they are domestically now in comparison, it really does beggar belief that there is even a question mark over Scotlands viability.
    Step forward Scottish Unionists and the MSM…
    @Swedish Jock
    Have you ever thought that the cultural problem you describe is precisely to do with the fact that we are not independent?  Do you think it is a good motivation for a nation, such as Scotland, blessed as you say with industries, resources etc, to be constantly told that we should not take on the full powers that similarly sized nations in Europe enjoy?  It is like parents telling their kid that they will never amount to anything.  If you take this attitude it should not be a surprise at the extent of the damage you do to collective self belief and confidence in Scotland.
    You say that we should not compare ourselves to Norway?  Why not exactly?  It is a small, northern European nation, with abundant natural resources.  I do not understand you saying we should not compare ourselves with a similar sized European nation.  You say the present situation at Grangemouth is somehow an argument against independence?  At present we are ruled under the Union, and do not have the power to resolve it in a way we would want to.  To be honest, I find this an astonishing way of looking at things.  Also, what exactly does a “British country” mean?  There is no such thing.  Scotland is a nation that is part of the British state.  There is no British country, or countries.  Britain is essentially a construction of two nations, a province, and a principality into a nation state.

  49. kininvie says:

    I remember watching cars being loaded onto Polish fishing boats in Lerwick …er some time ago. I imagine the Shetland car export business may not be quite what it once was 🙁
    Love the article, Douglas.

  50. john king says:

    Duncan says
    “Best to stick to our own uniqueness.”
    Dont you mean obsequiousness?

  51. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

    “At one time they were known as The Nesselsdofer Wagenbau-Fabriksgesellschaft.
    Phew try saying that after a few jars.”

    After I’ve had a few jars that’s pretty much all I can say.

  52. Rod Mac says:

    If you think we have a right wing government just now ,be very scared, because  if we lose the Referendum, come 2015 the UK will have the most right wing government ever.

    One that will be hell bent on teaching those pesky Scots a damn good lesson they will never forget.

    how dare we question the supremacy of Westminster and the Home counties ruling elite.

  53. HandandShrimp says:

    As part of my penance for being an accountant I have to undertake CPD and I have spent the day listening to updates and refreshers on tax and the remarkably complex and likely to end in tears new “everyone is opted in” employee pension saving scheme.
    However imagine my surprise to find we also had an hour long session with Professor Swales of the Allander Institute on independence. Unsurprisingly he was not for (loathe to embrace change was how he described it) but did, by gift of power point, set out his case in a reasonable and fair manner. He was challenged on a couple of key points (a room full of accountants won’t take facts and figures at face value) and, to be fair being an affable and pleasant bloke, ceded on points like we would be forced to join the Euro. He did also, rather fairly I thought, make the point that a No vote was not without risks and that he could very well see further austerity coupled with a revision or removal of Barnett if we vote No.
    However, he did run through the usual Better Together touchstones and I was a little surprised that he pushed the countries with borders sell less to each other line ie Canada and the US (fortunately there was an accountant who had worked in both countries in the room and another working for an firm that sells all over the world and argued that selling abroad is not the big deal some make it out to be).
    It is a fact that most consumption is domestic and 65% of Scotland’s output goes to Scots with about 65% of the remaining 35% going to rUK. However, his graph showing Ireland in 1920 sending 90% of it exports to the UK and only 20% now was missing a key line….total GDP and exports across the time line. That 20%, even allowing for inflation, will be a lot more than 20% in 1920. 1920 Ireland was a very poor country and despite its problems recently has closed the GDP by quite a way.  In 1920 Ireland’s GDP was 4% of that of the UK whereas now it is about 8%.
    That is probably enough of the exciting world of accountancy…I don’t want to get people too fevered with excitement.

  54. Ivan McKee says:

    @ SwedishJock
    Thanks for the comments.
    I think you are right about the Us and Them attitude that exists in the current UK.
    A big part of what we want to achieve in a Scotland after Independence is to move away from that towards what exists in Scandinavia (I have worked in Finland and Norway so understand something about that attitude).
    If you want more information have a look on the Business for Scotland website
    Also  have a look at the work the Jimmy Reid Foundation has done on the Common Weal project.
    You will also be interested to know that Business for Scotland and the Jimmy Reid Foundation have had constructive discussions on where we share common ground. We don’t agree on everything of course but do recognise that the Us and Them attitude is something we need to move beyond in an Indy Scotland.

  55. muttley79 says:

    rather fairly I thought, make the point that a No vote was not without risks and that he could very well see further austerity coupled with a revision or removal of Barnett if we vote No.
    What did he mean when he said he ‘could very well see further austerity?’  There is no could about it.  The Coalition government, including the wretched Danny Alexander, have said that austerity is continuing to 2020 at least.  I do not understand how he can admit all this stuff and still want to vote No?

  56. John H. says:

    Sorry O/T.
    The Grangemouth situation could be working in our
    favour. My wife came home tonight and told me that
    a woman in her office who had been a pretty firm
    No, has changed to a YES now. She thinks that the
    Westminster Government has somehow
    arranged events to frighten us into a NO vote.

  57. HandandShrimp says:

    He is an economist so he will hedge his bets on the numbers. Yes austerity will continue but they have yet to publish beyond 15/16 I think. I spoke to him afterwards and told him I was an evil cybergnat (he laughed and shook my hand) and we talked about some of the issues regarding information. He said one of the biggest hurdles on information was the UK Government not being prepared to discuss key issues like currency.
    He is a No voter, an English academic who has lived and worked in Scotland for 40 years. He just likes things as they are but he was quite clear that Scotland has the history, machinery and unique culture to re-emerge as a country. He was scare story lite. With a room full of accountants it was always going to be more academic than emotional but I did note that the three or four questions/points of order were all questioning the veracity of the No position. None came from the No side…although I must assume there were No supporters amongst the 60 or so people in the room. 

  58. scottish_skier says:

    An Us and Them attitude’ is intimately associated with the economic right and social authoritarianism/totalitarianism (Tory, UKIP, New Labour and increasingly the Libs).
    Private sector vs public sector. ‘Real Brits’ vs immigrants. Rich vs poor, middle class vs poor… It’s the core of centre-right individualism; me/us vs you/them.
    Given the UK has been heading ever more in this direction since 1979, it’s hardly a surprise it crops up.
    Considerably less prevalent in Scotland than the rUK as indicated by voting habits since the dawn of (ahem) democracy in the beginning of the 19th century ; Scotland consistently neither right nor left, liberal nor authoritarian, but on balance nicely centrist. Bit like Scandinavian countries.

    That’s proper centrist of course, not neoliberal centrist, i.e. somewhere between Labour and the Tories.
    Great lessons from Latvia Douglas.

  59. Archie [not Erchie] says:

    Douglas Lennox, ‘Latvia has had real independence for over 20 years now. It’s doing fine. It hasn’t asked to go back to Russia yet. But maybe they’re much smarter and stronger than us, or something.’
    Just wondering what that ‘something’ is? Sounds familiar and after a skim through 500 years of Latvian history on WikiP. it is all too familiar. Clans subjugated, land swapped between outside invaders, papal interference and Calvanistic missionaries.

    Quite a good history in the Eurovision Song Contest as well. Riga not Gigha is THE place to be.

  60. ewen says:

    I lived for 12 years in Lithuania from 95 to 07, right up near the border with Latvia. Riga is where we fly into when we go back.

    Latvia and Lithuania managed to nurture their desire for freedom under regimes that tried to destroy their languages, their intelligentsia and their culture. Lithuanian aristocracy were Polonised after their leader became king of Poland, they suffered from mass emigration, war and occupation and yet they kept their identity.

    Lithuanians have their Bannockburn – zalgiris and even though the country isn’t as rich as Scotland, I envy them their independence.

  61. braco says:

    now that I have calmed down sufficiently,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

    ….. thanks for the report from the accountancy front line. Very interesting.

    Seems to follow the same pattern as the over all ‘debate’. Authority speaking their ‘truth’ (view) to the audience/public. Majority silent but the small percentage that actually comment are doing so to question or refute that truth.
    I can’t help but feel, with less than a year to go, the YES campaign has pitched this thing just about perfectly.
    Thanks again for the info.

  62. Douglas Lennox says:

    “Really interesting read. Small historical nitpick:..”

    That’s one of the things about Latvia, it was never a country in its own right. It was split up and fought over by the Teutonic Knights, the Poles, Lithuanians, Swedes and Russians. The Latvians first go at being a nation state was 1918.

    It’s now an ambition of mine to visit Riga and stroll along ‘Edinburgas Prospekt’ while breathing the seaside air.

    It’s actually a lane running alongside the railway line with people’s back gardens on the other side, not as impressive as it sounds but it was a nice surprise to see the name. It wasn’t even paved when I was there, just a dirt track. Jurmala is worth a visit in summer though, endless white beach in the sunshine backed by villages full of bars and restaurants under the cool shade of pine trees.
    Thanks for all the nice comments.

  63. HandandShrimp says:

    I thought I might watch QT tonight to see if there was anything about Grangemouth. However I see Hitchens is on…there is only so much one can endure so I think maybe not.

  64. Geoff Huijer says:

    Did Latvia not have a Latvian Broadcasting Corporation lying and feeding them misinformation about being Better Together with the Soviet Union? Or every newspaper telling them they were too wee, too poor and too stupid?
    Perhaps their electorate were just fully informed of the facts…which kinda makes the decision a no-brainer really.

  65. kendomacaroonbar says:

    O/T  Anyone know of any Dunfermline exit poll ?

  66. kininvie says:

    Scottish Skier,
    Surely the ‘us and them’ thing goes back much further and is rather more ingrained than you suggest. I’d hesitate to draw any firm lines but I’d trace its roots to the religious wars – which, with the Covenanters, became essentially a struggle of the ‘little’ people against the establishment. From there to the weavers….to the Clearances…to Red Clydeside…to Thatcher…the idea of one class against the other is a part of Scottish history and mythology.
    It can be poisonous – and it is something we need to overcome before we can move to any kind of Scandinavian model and see co-operation and consensus as a necessity rather than a kind of wimpish failure to stand up for your rights. And it’s something we need to think about. As we well know, part of the ‘too stupid’ slur is that we are incapable of running a country because we will all squabble and fall apart – and we shall need to prove the untruth of that.
    And we shall need to work to prove it, not just assume it will happen, because, historically we’ve been an argumentative bunch and all too willing to pick up the sword against each other when things weren’t going the way of a particular faction.

  67. Albert Herring says:

    That would’ve been USSRBC Latvia, Geoff.

  68. lumilumi says:

    Thanks for the article, Douglas. A very good read.
    And thanks for the map, I always confuse Latvia and Lithuania. My mnemonic is the alphabet: Latvia above Lithuania 🙂 We Finns of course know Estonia, our neighbours across the Gulf of Finland and our brothers. They speak a language almost mutually intelligble. Latvian and Lithuanian are Indo-European languages and totally different. Their histories are quite similar, though.
    As regards to Edinburgas Prospekt, it could well be due to Hanseatic Baltic Sea trade. Or maybe some enterprising Scot? The Finnish industrial revolution was started by a Scot, a James Finlayson, who founded a cotton mill by the banks of the mighty Tammerkoski rapids in the 1820s. Finlayson’s high-quality home textiles (sheets, towels etc.) are still very popular in Finland, it’s an Finnish institution, though I think most of the stuff is now produced in lower-wage economies such as the Baltic states.
    It is a bit of a false comparison to compare the Scottish independence struggle to that of Latvia. The histories are so different and things really were very very bad under the Soviet Union. Someone above asked whether Latvia had their equivalents of Unionist parties denigrating everything Latvian and their indepencence party, and what about the press and internet…
    Er… Soviet Union was a one-party state. Of course there would’ve been Latvians trying to climb the greasy pole in party hierachy, a job in Moscow being the big prize. And what press? It was all Soviet Union state-controlled. Parts of the Baltic states could get some Swedish or Finnish tv/radio, otherwise it was all Pravda and similar local papers. There was no internet. There were, however, samizdats. Carbon copied pamphlets discreetly circulated among the dissenters. As bad as the Scottish MSM is, it doesn’t begin to compare, and now of course the internet is making a huge difference.
    The fact that Tallinn and northern Estonia could receive some Finnish tv nearly sparked a diplomatic incident once. The Soviet Union accused Finland of  propaganda. In the 1980s, there was a long-running series of tv commercials with “K-kaupan Väiski” (“Waynie of the K-supermarkets”), a very big, jovial butcher amongst slabs of meat, advising Finns on what to make with that week’s specials. While shops in the Estonian Soviet Socialist Republic had empty shelves and people queued for hours for a sausage or two.
    Ladas were quite popular in Finland in the olden days because they were cheap and sort of reliable, or at least you could fix them yourself. After the fall of the Soviet Union, the Russians, and to some extent, the Estonians, came and bought all the second-hand Ladas and they disappeared from or roads. Now, of course, the newly rich Russians buy higher-end new cars, many of which are imported through Finland, and the not-so rich Russians come to Finland to buy the older Japanese or other western cars.
    Sorry to have gone on a bit but the early 1990s were an iteresting time, and neighbouring the Soviet Union and the Baltic states under Soviet rule made it very interesting for any Finn.
    I happened to be in the capital of Estonia, Tallinn, on the very day Moscow acknowledged Estonian independence. You’d expext fireworks and street parties, wild celebrations, right?
    No. We Finns in our party wanted to order (Soviet) champagne and celebrate, but our Estonian friends were wary and cautious. They didn’t dare to believe their dream had come true. Also, their happiness was so deep, so heart-felt, that banal partying couldn’t do it justice. It was a very strange experience.

  69. braco says:

    Anyone know of any By-election night coverage available on the internet to us unworthy dwellers with the foreign. Maybe a live blog/ discussion (please Rev)?

  70. HandandShrimp says:

    Too early, they can’t do an exit poll until after 10pm. Given it is just a by-election they might not bother.

  71. kendomacaroonbar says:

    Thanks H&S much obliged 🙂

  72. scottish_skier says:

    Surely the ‘us and them’ thing goes back much further
    Oh sure, but then democracy as we know it is a rather new thing, and without that it’s going to be largely dog eat dog.
    In Britain’s case – the ‘mother of all parliaments’ (ahem) – there are folk alive which were born before it was a (pseudo-)democracy.

  73. scottish_skier says:

    RE Dunfermline.
    Damn quiet on this front. Wonder why. Surely if it’s Labour shoe-in we should be hearing all about it?

  74. HandandShrimp says:

    I heard Prof Curtice say the other day that given the background to the by-election, mid-term and natural Labour seat this should be a Labour win. He said if the SNP retain it it will be a “stupendous” result for the SNP.
    I think if the SNP retain it, some will be wanting to write Johann’s jotters but the Grangemouth fiasco might be her lifeline. Events outwith her control etc.,

  75. Piemonteis says:

    I’m also hoping to find some sort of coverage on the by-election from abroad. For Donside, I found coverage on Northsound, so perhaps this time Radio Forth or even Radio West Fife.
    Otherwise, it might have to be twitter.
    Also, I’ve been following the odds over the last few days and, although they’re not indicative of who’ll win, the Labour odds have been shortening and the SNP lengthening, until today, when the SNP have been at 1/100 with Labour at 1/10… Although I’ve just checked again and now Labour are 1/100 and SNP about 5/1. This is on Betfair, however, which I don’t understand.

  76. braco says:

    a struggle of the ‘little’ people against the establishment. From there to the weavers….to the Clearances…to Red Clydeside…to Thatcher…the idea of one class against the other is a part of Scottish history and mythology.
    Certainly true in a strictly historical sense, but we are a Nation that has (purposely) been denied the detail of our history, never mind falsification of it’s basic framework, and so within it’s absent volume we have somehow formed, what some might call stereotypes or archetypal, ideals of Scottishness (often a million miles from today’s British Scottish reality).
    These archetypes such as, lad o pairts, classlessness, education for all, openness, no worse and no better, etc etc…. are for better or for worse (much better in my opinion) the foundations we have salvaged from the disaster that was our UK experiment and that we will build from in an Independent Scotland.
    The arguments of where these deep seated self identifying stereotypes/archetypes come from (authentic or foreign…~sigh) are for, what will become, dusty old historians to argue over. By the time they will have been conflated by academics, we can be sure by then they will be fully accepted as plainly obvious Scottish societal norms.
    I would also add, that one of those historic illusions that Scots have always clung too, and that has served us well, is that the class we are all fighting is in some way alien to our Scottish culture. Made obvious by our ruling classes Etonian voice,(present company excluded of course [weeridface]), demeanor and primary place of residence.
    I would say that it’s this widespread historic experience and knowledge that underpins the most civic aspect of our so called ‘nationalism’. That is the principle of citisenship through actual residency no matter your origin.
    And long, long, long may it continue!
    P.S. I really enjoyed your article kininvie. Thanks.  Any chance of another?

  77. Marcia says:

    It seems the First Minister has been in the constituency this evening – photos of him smiling with voters for S-A S are on twitter. If it was a shoo in for Labour he would not be there.

  78. lumilumi says:

    As regards the Dunfermline by-election, Labour ought to win it comfortably. It was an accident that Bill Walker, then of the SNP, got in in 2011 on the wing of the astonishing SNP landslide.
    The SNP have a mountain to climb after Bill Walker was revealed and convicted as a domestic abuser. He was, of course, suspended and then expelled from the party but it’s an useful stick to beat the SNP with. It doesen’t matter that their candidate, Shirley-Anne Somerville is by far the better candidate than Labour’s dismal, rambling and raving Cara Hilton.
    This constituency also used to have a substantial LibDem vote, but their candidate isn’t very good, and what whith general public anger, or at least disappointment at the LibDems, the Tories’ little helpers in Westminster…
    Nah, Labour will win it, unfortunately, and wait for the MSM glee at taking a seat from the SNP. It must be a sign that nobody wants independence etc. etc.

  79. The Man in the Jar says:

    I was a young Trooper serving in “A” Squadron 4RTR, The Independent Tank Squadron in West Berlin during 1973/74. I was stationed in Smuts Barracks right next to Spandau prison I saw Hess a couple of times.
    Anyway I was lucky enough to get onto a couple of official trips into East Berlin. Talk about grim! It was such a contrast to West Berlin. The West Berlinishers (Thats Berlinisher not Berliner. A Berliner is a type of donut. Kennedy’s “Ich bin ein Berliner”? well you work it out) did their utmost to show off to the east. Not to take the piss but to show what can be done. You should have seen the firework displays at New Year. It all went off at bang on midnight with typical German efficiency. The whole west of the city erupting all at once. This was seen as sending a message to friends and families across the wall.
    Anyway one place that I visited was the Checkpoint Charlie Museum. I dont know if it is still there overlooking the checkpoint or if it has been moved to a more prominent museum. It was a surprisingly small place. The exhibits were astonishing. Home made aqualungs for swimming to the west, tunneling equipment most showed the extraordinary determination and resourcefulness of those trying to escape from the east. 
    This was well before digital video so no active displays (I have since watched some cine footage of these events) but lots of old black and white photos of desperate people making a desperate bid for freedom. Some of the photos were of those that did not make it. Bodies draped over the barbed wire or lying in no mans land. One set of photos has lodged in my mind so vividly that I can still remember them as clearly as the day that I saw them. It was a series of photos of a young Vo-Po (Volks Politsi) guarding an as yet unfinished part of the Berlin Wall which is just some barbed wire across a road. In the series of photos you can see him look to his left and then to his right to check that it is all clear and then takes a run up and leaps the barbed wire still with his AK47 in hand. He made it! Many did not.
    What would those East Berliners make of Better Together I’m positive that they just would be unable to comprehend the mindset at all. They risked everything for the right to a decent life. they did not know what would happen to them when they reached the West. Needless to say that they had to leave everything behind not jut possessions but family and friends as well. All we have to do is turn up and put a cross on a bit of paper.

  80. Scaraben says:

    Yet again, while reading the comments I am struck by the number of people posting them who have lived or are living outside the UK – it seems to me that it must represent a much higher percentage than for Scotland as a whole. Is there something about living and working abroad which makes people look more favourably on independence and more determined express their support for it? Similarly, there seems to be quite a high percentage of people with spouses/partners from outwith the UK; does this have a similar effect?
    Perhaps a Wings survey could shed some light on this.

  81. braco says:

    thanks pal.

    If I find somewhere, I’ll post it up on here. Would you do the same? Its getting worse and worse for folk outside the UK to keep in touch with live Scottish political electoral events, in my experience, so I am sure there are others out there in our boat that would appreciate a place to start hunting from.


  82. HandandShrimp says:

    I would agree, although the Labour/Unite/Falkirk thing was shabby and Labour have conducted a half arsed and frankly unprofessional campaign. The only reason that this could even possibly be a SNP win is that Labour are a mess and the SNP candidate more experienced and polished.

  83. kendomacaroonbar says:

    @Hand and Shrimp
    I tend to agree with you… why would anyone vote Labour given what they must have read or heard in the past year ?

  84. Archie [not Erchie] says:

    @Braco – Looking around but twitter seems your best bet. S_A_Somerville hasnt replied to my tweet but I guess she is busy. However if you give me your ASL I will try to groom you with promises of up to the minute personal coverage over in Quarantine…. 🙂
    Previous references to my workshare penance should be removed before someone reads them.
    Gin and raisins supplied by Macart Major and Bros, Unlicensed Victuallers.

  85. Andrew Morton says:

    That’s a live text feed.

  86. annie says:

    Just want to to add my thoughts/wishes  anyone comparing Shirley Ann and Carla  cannot be in any doubt who is the better candidate I truly want to think that people are savvy enough to work out who is their best candidate and serves their interests it has to be SNP.

  87. call me dave says:

    BBC coverage Dunfermline 23:00 but some scrolling text operating now.

  88. kininvie says:

    I disagree with you on the history thing of course. We are all of us made by where we come from, and the tales we are told and tell…it’s not just a matter for dusty old historians – it goes deep into our bones, no matter how exaggerated or inaccurate the tales. You only need to read these threads and see how many people come up with their own, their parents’, their grandparents’ experiences to see how the influence runs….
    What I’m saying (I think!) is that a lot of these tales involve conflict and faction (I agree with you that there’s the positive stuff too). With independence, we are not going to start from year zero – we are going to start with a legacy, and quite a lot of it is a legacy of hurt. We need to deal with that. We shall also need to deal with the hurt of the No voters.
    I believe we can do it. But everything is not going to be sweetness and roses overnight. I doubt we shall need a truth and reconcilliation commission, but we shall certainly need a collective determination to make this thing work for all of us, and not just whichever group our myths have told us we belong to.

  89. HandandShrimp says:

    They are predicting a latish result aren’t they? I think I will sleep on it.

    PS I see someone on the Beeb has tweeted that they expect Labour to win but the SNP could win it

    I think that is called hedging your bets.

  90. kendomacaroonbar says:

    I wonder what the Falkirk Oracle predicts ?

  91. braco says:

    Andrew Morton and Call me Dave,
    thanks, really appreciated, but I now have my own ‘special’ reporting correspondent, windae hingin, who has a clear and uninterrupted first eye view of the Dunfermline  by-election. Lucky it’s a lovely clear night fae the windae cause it’s pure monsoon where am drinkin!
    who exactly is doin this creapy stalker thing anyway? (snigger)
    Is your offer serious? No pressure.

  92. Archie [not Erchie] says:

    @ Braco – Indeed the BBC have a live link with tweets etc on the link supplied by Andrew Morton. I shall defer on the grounds they have a quicker response but quite humourless.

  93. The Man in the Jar says:

    People that I have talked to over the last couple of days are angry about Grangemouth and the anger is mostly towards the unions and Labours involvement with them.
    The people of Dunfermline can see the night sky lit up by the flares and lights of Grangemouth. A bit too close for comfort. Add to this a rather “uninspiring” candidate and I think that Labour will have a problem getting their vote out. 
    I am not writing Dunfermline off just yet.

  94. Piemonteis says:

    Not getting anything from Forth or West Fife.
    Last time around, STV had really good online commentary, but there’s nothing on the site yet.
    Someone’s tweeting that turnout is around 42 and 45 percent. Does anyone know what happens with postal vote counting?

  95. muttley79 says:

    O/T  Caroline Flint has very nice hair you know…

  96. braco says:

    so it’s going to have to be me alone forcing the creepy stalker thing is it?
    Cheers min, For some humour, let’s hope it’s an upset then eh? Imagine the rank air in the bunker even at the moment, as it seems to be a bit squeaky and tricky to read, even now!

  97. lumilumi says:

    Thanks, TMITJ for your story of East/West Berlin. People who have not seen/experienced it really don’t know how bizarre it was.
    The day Moscow acknowledged Estonian independece, I happened to go there. I asked the border official, a young Estonian recruit to the Soviet army, to stamp my passport. At first he declined, then looked around to see that none of his superiors were watching and discreetly and underhandedly stamped the back page with a genuine CCCP stamp with the date. When I was leaving the country two days later they’d somehow got new stamps and I got an “Eesti Vabariik” stamp! That old passport is something I treasure and will show to future generations.
    As to Latvia… I admit my shocking ignorance, but there’s one Latvian name that I and most Finns will always remember and think fondly of.
    Arturs Irbe.
    He was the phenomenal young ice hockey goalie at Riga Dynamo and instrumental in the Soviet Union winning the Ice Hockey World Cup in 1989 and 1990. Then, in 1991, he refused to play for the Soviet Union team because Latvia had declared independence, though the Soviet Union hadn’t acknowleged it yet.
    That would’ve been sporting (and even actual) murder in the Soviet Union, but it was breaking up and the extremely talented Latvian goalie was able to move to North America and make a good career there. He’s since come home to Latvia. But back then, I think we all Finns admired him for his goalie skills and his taking a stand about his country.

  98. Vincent McDee says:

    Sorry I’m late but, Douglas, that story is so simply illuminating it got me a wee emotional, if I don’t want to lie. Beatiful!
    Thank you kindly for the telling.

  99. Kev says:

    Bold of Salmond to be out and about in Dunfermline tonight unless hes quite sure of a win….I still see Labour taking it albeit by quite a narrow margin.

  100. Calum Craig says:

    Yet again, while reading the comments I am struck by the number of people posting them who have lived or are living outside the UK – it seems to me that it must represent a much higher percentage than for Scotland as a whole. Is there something about living and working abroad which makes people look more favourably on independence and more determined express their support for it? Similarly, there seems to be quite a high percentage of people with spouses/partners from outwith the UK; does this have a similar effect?

    I think so- it was living overseas and seeing how the rest of the world views the UK that pretty much sealed the deal for me.
    Last summer I saw lots of “proud to be Scottish and British” type comments about the Olympics on Facebook- I think every single one of them were from people I am 99% certain have never left Scotland.
    We grow up with the Scottish/ British duality and if we never live elsewhere we just kind of assume that other folks get that point as well. But, they most definitely don’t and that realisation I think is at the very least a push to the Yes side.

  101. braco says:


    they get counted along with all the normal votes I believe. I have nothing yet either I am afraid, all though I thought I may have been able to share access to an Aberdonian ‘deepthroat’ that I have been cultivating since the last By-election special.

    Unfortunately he seems to have preferred to watch the result coming in from the safety of his cellar, rather than risk the dizzy heights of the potentially Pulitzer prize winning opportunities fae hingin oot a’ the auld kitchen windae.

    I fear for an independent Scotland with only this kind of manpower available.

  102. Andrew Morton says:

    BBC say Labour ahead on most of the tally sheets they’ve seen so far.

  103. lumilumi says:

    Thanks, Call me Dave, for the link to BBC text commentary on the Dunfermline count.
    I notice that somebody was tweeting how it was a very high turnout, at between 42% and 45%. I know that’s typical, even good, in by-elections and council elections, and you can’t force democracy down people’s throats, but it makes me wonder why so many people are so tuned out of politics, so turned off.
    Is it because the voting public see all politicians as so far removed from their ordinary everyday lives, playing petty political games and not actually representing their constituents? Preferring instead to engage petty political point scoring, and scoring big personal gains on expenses and flipping houses etc. The UK FPTP system also effectively disenfranchise two thirds or even three fourths of the electorate, no wonder people think their vote doesn’t matter, why bother, nothings going to change…
    Some reactionary hereditary Lord in the House of Lords might stand up and declare in his cutclass Oxbridge accent that this just proves how wrong it was to give the vote to the plebs. They don’t want to vote so they’re better ruled by us.

  104. Kev says:

    Dearie me, in bbc interviews of some voters in Dunfermline, 2 out of the 3 labour voters said that they voted for them because “they’ve always voted labour”, that age old problem continues, you wonder if they are even aware of any of the policies they have just voted for..thats maybe an alternative idea for elections – instead of choosing between parties/candidates on a ballot paper, vote for the policies that they stand for and choose the ones that you support…then you would be forced to actually think before voting and not just do it out of habit…

  105. Calum Craig says:

    Dearie me, in bbc interviews of some voters in Dunfermline, 2 out of the 3 labour voters said that they voted for them because “they’ve always voted labour”, that age old problem continues, you wonder if they are even aware of any of the policies they have just voted for..thats maybe an alternative idea for elections – instead of choosing between parties/candidates on a ballot paper, vote for the policies that they stand for and choose the ones that you support…then you would be forced to actually think before voting and not just do it out of habit…
    Aye, saw the “my father was a miner so I voted Labour” comment…. They couldnae spell critical.

  106. lumilumi says:

    Well, this was always Labour’s to take unless the screwed up majorly. They’ve only screwed up minorly, so…
    And apparently some of the Tory vote didn’t vote for their own candidate but for Labour to keep the SNP out. They really are better together. 😀

  107. ewen says:

    A lot of us do live abroad. A lot of us are in relations with non Scots which belies the unionist rants about family foreigners. We are international nationalists. The unionist don’t  like people having a world view and experience of other independent nations.

  108. David Smillie says:

    @ Scaraben – 9.58
    Scaraben, I lived and worked in Dublin in the 1970s and it led me to support Scottish independence.  It was the capital of a poor agrarian society in those days, but it was relaxed, friendly, tolerant, crime-free (apart from rare IRA clowns), and its government seemed to know what it was doing.  De Valera wasn’t long dead, and a social revolution had just begun.  I never came across any anti-English prejudice, but there was a feeling of relief that they could keep London at arms length and the man in the street was very aware that London would try to exploit them whenever and wherever it could.  Hence a strong desire to support all and every Irish institution and business as a bulwark against Brit imperialism.  I was impressed.  However, like the Germans, many Irish people thought that the Scots were just a variety of English, and knew virtually nothing about us.  Northern Ireland and the Troubles stood between the Irish Republic and Scotland and they were terrified by what was happening in the North.  They have the potential to be very good friends to Scotland if we can control the more moronic Orange elements here.
    I also worked in a pulp mill in Southern Norway before the oil really got under way.  Norway was a poor country in those days, but a free one.  It didn’t make me feel any great desire to stay in this Union either, though to tell you the truth I was more interested in blonde girls and drink than politics at that time. 
    I think you’re right about the foreign experience of readers of Wings.  I have spent years travelling to newly independent states, especially small ones, to see how they are getting on.  A fascinating experience and one that has encouraged me to believe that an independent Scotland would be very successful.  And a hell of a lot happier.

  109. Alba4Eva says:

    Its Depressing Kev.  I sometimes think that there should be 2 sections of a polling station.  The first bit you have to pass through has 5 random multiple choice questions on Scottish Politics… If you manage to get 4/5, you can then pass to the voting section to mark your cross.  That would weed out a good chunk of those who really don’t have a clue what they are voting for and provide a result which better reflects the campaigns.  
    If Dunfermline choose Labour tonight after the downright garbage and lies that Labour spouted in that leaflet, then they deserve everything they get.

  110. braco says:

    I think we agree on the history thing, in the same way that bickering siblings agree on their family values. That is,  totally…. and not at all!
    All i was trying to say in my usual long winded manner, is that I think ‘Scots’ have already filtered all their stories and myths and come up with what I, and I hazard most other Scots, see as the positives of our ‘national’ society.
    The result of enduring centuries of being powerless to actually turn these positives into any kind of Scots reality, now means our democratic society is (uniquely?) blessed with the happier coroliary. That is, as a new Nation (maybe unfairly to the seemingly equally guilty onlooker), now being able to walk away from a shameful and guilty past.
    Not as an act of denial, but rather as an honest break from that addictive Imperialistic, non democratic mindset so obviously still prevalent within the controlling corridors of power that direct the actions of OUR current UK of etc..
    If we vote YES, I think and hope we will follow every other modern Nation and start looking to the future, instead of wallowing and trying desperately to re invent some (supposed) glorious update of our past.
    I have only ever lived in that future Scotland, the one of the myths. I have been able to breath, as a self confessed idealist, quite easily day to day and person to person, in everyday Scots society. I am starting to recognise some of that self same idealism now, in some of the politics of the here and now, and I am honestly so excited and driven by the possibilities!
    What a time to be alive as a Scot!

  111. braco says:

    David Smillie,
    great post, thanks.
    I was in Dublin during the election of Mary Robinson and it really felt like the change was happening.  Even from the perspective of working in Glasgow, Dublin seemed poor then. How times change.

  112. The Man in the Jar says:

    Regarding other countries (Germany) not recognising Scotland and confusing it with England that has not been my experience.This happened to me on several occasions so I don’t think it was coincidence.
    Like I mentioned in my earlier comment at 9;57pm. I was in the army and spent about eight years serving in Germany including West Berlin. To my shame I didn’t learn much German hard to understand if you are a civilian working abroad but in the forces you can live without having much contact with locals if you wish. My first posting  to Germany was to a Scottish regiment 4RTR (now gone) I was instructed very early on by some of the older guys four words in German “Ich bein ein Schottlander” (apologies re spelling) and told not to forget them.
    It was not uncommon for squaddies to partake in the local brewery’s finest and Germany has a fair share of breweries consequently we spent a fair amount of our free time in a Gasthaus or two. Typically what would transpire would be. Group of squaddies enter gasthaus and order say four beers. Bartender somewhat sullenly pours four beers. This can take a while in a gasthaus by the way. While pouring bartender speaks to other bar staff or a local customer. Listening in we could pick out the word “Englander” that or they would just come out with it “Englander?” This would be met with a chorus of protests “Nein, nein ich bein ein Schottlander!” the barman would then apologize profusely with smiles and handshakes all round. Quite often we would get the first round on the house. Not only did they know the difference they understood the affront to our nationality.
    Admittedly some Germans were confused about Scotland we did our best in our frankly crap German or in many cases the German person could speak near perfect English. Best we could do would be to compare Scotland with Bavaria which seemed to work most of the time. This was in the seventies and eighties mind!

  113. Andrew Morton says:

    So possibly the worst candidate of the lot got elected. That’s democracy for you. I guess Pitcorthie school will now close.

  114. msean says:

    Dirty tricks do work then.

  115. braco says:

    Man in the Jar,
    yes, in my experience German’s understand and recognise Scotland already.

    I have had nothing but positive reactions in Baden-Württemberg, after my obvious strenuous denial of “Englander?”. This has been consistent over the 2 decades of visiting ma lassies parents.

    They also understand the position of the Welsh. I think it’s the Federalist history and constitution of Germany that explains it.
    I.E. they don’t really understand it in our terms. I think they might be just as surprised [but pleasantly so] as England and the rest of Nation State  Europe. The myth of our happy, civilised, democratic, royalist UK/Inglaterra  is still very potent abroad.
    I suppose it’s a bit like when Thatcher still (and growingly) was wildly popular abroad, long after she had been defenestrated and vilified at home.

    I hear similar stories for the more obvious Mikhail Gorbachev, Tony Blair and even Lech Wa??sa.

  116. clochoderic says:

    Joanne lamont emerges from the bunker …

  117. john king says:

    I think Alex Salmond will use Cara Hilton as a stick to beat the SLAB with,
     she could turn out to be a gift to us 🙂 

  118. john king says:

    Andrew Morton says
    “So possibly the worst candidate of the lot got elected. That’s democracy for you. I guess Pitcorthie school will now close.”

    The nearest contender for worst candidate was the UKIP nutter, but for serious contender she was clearly the worst, two minutes listening to them showed Shirley-Ann Somerville as the outstanding candidate by a mile,
    I hope the people of Dunfermline are ashamed of themselves. 

  119. john king says:

    I think all of the population of Dunfermline should be made to watch the chairman of Dunfermline Building Society telling Glenn Campbell about the betrayal of the company by the Labour government,
    and then tell us how they’ve always voted Labour
     you can fool some of the people some of the time

  120. Elliot Bulmer says:

    Check out the Constitution of Latvia:

    There’s a (rather hurried – and unpaid!) article I wrote about it here which some Wings readers might find interesting (there’s a Latvian summary at the top, but the article itself is in English – scroll down):

  121. Andrew Morton says:

    You CAN fool some of the people all of the time.

  122. Calum Craig says:

    Re the attitudes of Germans. This is what a German guy whose podcast I listen to said about the issue:
    “Nationalism is nationalism. It’s a relic of the 19th century and as misplaced in Scotland today as it was in Germany in the 20s. The man is entitled to his opinion, but that doesn’t mean I have to agree with him. For Scotland to split from the UK makes just about sense as for Bavaria to split from Germany. The fact that the reasons are different doesn’t make it less stupid.”

  123. Calum Craig says:

    For reference “the man” he refers to is Rev Stuart- I had sent him a wee description of the Wings Over Scotland story (as an interesting example of successful crowd funding) and to be fair they mentioned it on the podcast but the above comment was in an email to me when I tried to correct his comment about having a problem with “raging nationalists”.
    So, unfortunately not all Germans are as enlightened as others’ experiences….

  124. Vee says:

    Thank you.  This was a fascinating article!


  125. Bill says:

    Interesting enough story, but then of course most reasonable people accept independence is possible. The “too wee, too poor, too stupid” thing is a complete irrelevance as far as I’m concerned – I don’t care how many Unionists do or don’t use it, there’s no weight behind it at all.

    If you approach independence from the standpoint that it’s justified for its own sake, then the only thing that matters is proving whether it’s possible. I can understand that some people take that viewpoint, but for the rest of us – the floating voters who see both positives and negatives – it’s a completely different issue. For us it’s a question of which situation, out of two, gets a better deal for our local communities. On that count nice asides about Latvia are neither here nor there.

    I fully accept not everyone takes that functional approach to independence, but I don’t think it’s unreasonable to take that viewpoint either. What bothers me most about the independence campaign is the zealotry on each side – the Unionists tell us independence is a complete folly that only a flag waving idiot could buy into; the nationalists tell us that independence is a no-brainer and only someone bullied into submission by scaremongering could oppose it.

    Taking any sort of middle ground between those two extremes seems to get you abuse from both sides – which is odd given that it’s those in the middle who will decide the campaign, not the entrenched voters at the extremes.

  126. Dave McEwan Hill says:

    I have no idea where you get the notion that “the nationalists tell us that independence is a no-brainer and only someone bullied into submission by scaremongering could oppose it”.
    I have never heard the YES campaign or the SNP speak in those terms though the media and our enemies keep trying to insist that the YES side behaves in the deplorable way that Better Together does. Perhaps you can give us some examples 

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