We Are Not Alone

Tommy Sheridan used to have an answerphone message which said: “I’m out fighting the Tories – please leave a message.” Well I didn’t post yesterday because I was out fighting for independence…and when I got home today from a meeting connected to the cause I found a man from Labour for Independence* on my doorstep trying to convert the bloke who’s in painting my hall! The action for a Yes vote never stops and I’ve accepted an invitation to chair a Yes meeting in Edinburgh next month where I will be miscast as the unbiased moderator. I’ll let you know how I get on and if I was pelted with tomatoes (organic, on-the-vine…this is Edinburgh).

I was doing some reading online and letting ideas lead me when I came across a post on a thread where someone mentioned the success of small nations including New Zealand. A reply came in, I presume from a Kiwi, saying: Don’t imagine New Zealanders want to see Scottish independence…they think it’s a daft idea.So I wondered if that was true. There is an attitude from some recent smaller states entering the EU which sound as if they are lording it over the Scots and pulling up the drawbridge. You know, the thing – Scots will have to apply to get in and can’t take our approval for granted. So perhaps that’s a view shared in NZ, I thought.I messaged **Liam McIlvanney at Otago Univesity in Dunedin – twinned with Edinburgh if I recall – and told him who I was and what I wanted. Here’s Liam’s replyDear Derek,

Many thanks for your message. I very much enjoyed listening to you when I lived in Scotland.

As regards New Zealanders’ attitude to Scottish independence, I suppose the first thing to note is the – to my mind – rather surprising level of interest. There does seem to be a genuine appetite for hearing about the referendum. I’ve been on national TV news and national radio talking about the referendum, and our referendum events at the University of Otago are always well attended.

I haven’t come across any noticeable Kiwi opposition to Scottish independence. Most people seem to take a ‘If that’s what you want, then go for it and good luck to you’ kind of line. There is some interest in the idea that New Zealand – with its gradual disengagement from Britain and its almost imperceptible accrual of independence – might serve as a model for Scotland. There is also, particularly in the southern part of the South Island, some interest in the possibility that an independent Scotland would wish to cultivate closer ties with diaspora communities here.

What doesn’t seem to exist is any kind of anxiety about the effects of Scottish independence. NZ just isn’t sufficiently invested in a relationship with Britain for that to matter. The year zero of NZ politics is, of course, 1973, when Britain entered the EEC and abandoned NZ to its fate, forcing NZ to find entirely new markets for its goods almost overnight, This was certainly a more traumatic prospect than anything that an independent Scotland might be expected to face, so to that extent Kiwis pretty much fail to understand why anyone would be terribly apprehensive about embarking on independence when you have a market of 60 million people on the same island.

A ‘Yes’ vote in September might, I suppose, have some impact on fairly peripheral issues in New Zealand, such as the campaign (which will, I imagine, succeed) to replace the current NZ flag with a design based on the silver fern. Beyond that, there are no constitutional issues in NZ that might be affected by Scottish independence. Republicanism, for instance, is much less likely here than in Australia, principally because the crown is utterly central to the bicultural narrative that is the cornerstone of NZ society. The Treaty of Waitangi, signed in 1840, was between the crown and the tangata whenua (the Maori iwi or tribes), and the Treaty holds a sacrosanct place in NZ society.

The other thing worth noting is the pride, shared by all shades of the political spectrum, in New Zealand’s nuclear-free policy. David Lange’s impassioned defence of this policy in an Oxford Union debate in 1985 remains a defining moment in NZ politics. One effect of this is that Kiwis find it absurd that Scotland should be saddled with the UK’s nuclear deterrent, against the wishes of its population. It’s quite startling to hear Chris Auchinvole, a National Party list MP (effectively a Tory) declaring that Scotland should opt for independence simply to free itself from the scourge of nuclear weapons.

Finally, if you want to follow any of this up, by all means get back in touch, but it might also be worth contacting one of my former MA students here at Otago who has just arrived in Glasgow to embark on a PhD in Scottish Literature at the University of Glasgow. She was the star of our recent panel discussion on independence.

I’m enjoying your blogs – keep up the good work.

Very best

Liam McIlvanney

Stuart Professor of Scottish Studies

University of Otago

Isn’t that cool? An interest on the other side of the globe and a sleeves-rolled-up approach to just get on with it if you want to …what are you afraid of?  I’m paraphrasing, of course. And he reads the blog…just like you. But it makes me feel we’re not alone and I bumped into an American academic of my acquaintance in a coffee shop this morning who says she detects interest in the world of US journalism too.

Incidentally, the story the mainstream decided wasn’t a story – the UWS Broadcasting Bias Report – achieved 5500 hits on this site on day one, 5200 on day two and 3400 on day three…over 14,000 hits on one blog site for a single story. And since I am shared through other sites, you get an idea of how an alternative view ripples through the blogosphere. On which point my award of a Derek Bateman Broadcaster Union Jack oven glove goes to arch Unionist Grahamski Falkirk who heads the list for the most number of comments on my blog. Who’d have thought that a Unionist, one so dismissive of Independistas would be so enthusiastic about a Nat site…surely they are cruising to an easy win and don’t have to try so hard, no?

*Labour for Independence stages a public meting tomorrow at 7.30pm at the STUC , 333 Woodlands Road, Glasgow with a heavyweight line-up explaining why they are voting Yes…Charlie Gray (Sir), Alex Mosson, Jeanne Freeman, Bob Thomson, Allan Grogan and Deborah Waters. I’ll be there…come up and say Hello, Comrade!


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0 thoughts on “We Are Not Alone

  1. Awww ‘nat nice

    A very natty follower

  2. Fairly lifted me up today, sometimes it’s hard to peer through the fog of unionism. But never let it be said that we “cybernats” stay down long! Thanks Derek and others in the background willing us on…

    …Sure Grahamski will toddle along soon too.

  3. Excellent piece, Derek. It is the interest from outside and it’s credibility that NO try (unsuccessfully) to drown out It’s coming now for a’ that. PS strongly recommend Liam McIlvanney’s “where the dead men go”.

  4. Grahamski – still on the go I see… fighting for the subjugation of the Scottish people – that is as noble as a BritNat gets

  5. Lachie Macquarie

    Very interesting about the loss of the NZ’s, UK market when it entered the EU in ’73, I had forgotten about that. Wasn’t there some calls at the time instead of joining the EU, to forge closer links with the the “white” commonwealth? The New Zealanders felt pretty let down by the UK but I guess that’s an example of not having all your Basques in the one exit?

  6. Nice article Derek, and keep up the good work. cheers!

  7. Murray McCallum

    “The other thing worth noting is the pride, shared by all shades of the political spectrum, in New Zealand’s nuclear-free policy.”

    I remember watching a NZ All Blacks v France game where Josh Kronfeld had shaved a CND symbol into his cropped hair. It was his way to protest at French nuclear testing in NZ’s backyard while getting around wearing symbols on his kit. Was great to see.

  8. Aye we had a YES stand at the Highland Games last year and it was great the support we had from folk from all parts of the World. Been delivering the YES newspaper this week great way fight the BBC / STV bias.

  9. Always enjoy your posts Derek and regularly share them on Facebook. As I mentioned on an earlier thread (Thought for the Day), I noted that you are still featured on the website as ‘Derek Bateman and guests analyse the stories making the headlines in the Sunday papers.”
    Having listened to the programme, and expecting to hear your dulcet tones, I was sorely disappointed!
    You should ask for a fee, seeing as you are still analysing the headlines!

  10. Another great post Derek. I was over in NZ last week for a family funeral and almost everyone I spoke to wanted to discuss referendum, including of course many from a Scottish background. Typically the only person opposed was one of those who travelled from Scotland for service. Keep up the good work James

    On Wednesday, 22 January 2014, Derek Bateman Broadcaster1 wrote:

    > derekbateman posted: “Tommy Sheridan used to have an answerphone > message which said: “I’m out fighting the Tories – please leave a > message.” Well I didn’t post yesterday because I was out fighting for > independence…and when I got home today from a meeting connected to the > cause”

  11. Derek, I’m the guy who was converting your painter and decorator this afternoon. A pleasure. Guys, the fight’s on!

  12. I don’t know why folk are worried.
    Are you Scottish. Yes or No?
    That is what folk will see when they pick up their voting slip.

  13. Derek, I see that Dennis Canavan is joining the panel at the LfI event. Good to see YES Scotland and LfI getting together to show that it’s not all about AS as the onionists insist. Hope you can give us a report on proceedings because it certainly won’t be mentioned on the BBC or the press!

  14. Excellent as ever Derek. BTW any comments trickling out of Pacific Quay re the BBC trust findings or the academic analysis of media bias???

  15. Sorry can’t make it tomorrow night, but would appreciate a report from yourself.

  16. Dear David,

    Thanks for signing my petition, “The BBC: 1.Report without bias during the Scottish Referendum Campaign 2. Respond to “Fairness in the first Year?” University of the West of Scotland by John Robertson indicating bias in favour of NO campaign..”

    Can you help this petition win by asking your friends to sign too? It’s easy to share with your friends on Facebook – just click here to share the petition on Facebook.

    There’s also a sample email below that you can forward to your friends.

    Thanks again — together we’re making change happen,

    Maureen Fairgrieve


    Note to forward to your friends:


    I just signed the petition “The BBC: 1.Report without bias during the Scottish Referendum Campaign 2. Respond to “Fairness in the first Year?” University of the West of Scotland by John Robertson indicating bias in favour of NO campaign.” on Change.org.

    It’s important. Will you sign it too? Here’s the link:




  17. Unfortunately while on holiday I experienced the opposite. Around the table were Southern Irish, Canadian, South African and Australian all seemed to think independence for Scotland was a ridiculous idea. The Australian had been in Scotland on the day of the last independence march and said he found it frightening as he did not know what it was about, he also claimed that he read in a newspaper that a fat right group from Europe had been invited to speak.

    The Southern Irish couple were perhaps the most disappointing, my Celtic cousins declared that countries were better as a large group rather than being small and independent. But ironically they would not consider being ruled from Westminster.

    • I’ve also experienced this attitude in the Republic of Ireland (I spend a lot of time there as my wife is Irish) – people can be pretty dismissive of Scottish independence, but when I put to them the prospect of re-joining the UK you can imagine the response. It’s only then that they start to see the see the contradiction in what they are saying. A lot of the skepticism is related to the economy (i.e. they relate the mess Ireland got into with being a small country) but, again, when I point out the mess of the UK economy that particular logic starts to crumble too.

      Like the Scots, the Irish appear to be very conservative in nature and therefore rather adverse to change. Probably the biggest barrier to a Yes vote in my opinion – lets just there’s enough time to reassure enough people…

  18. Had a Skype call from my cousin in Vancouver the other day and he was telling me that a new colleague of his from England (has an accent apparently) told him that on the subject of Scottish independence,of course,the Scots hate the English.
    He (my cousin) said he was surprised at this statement because everything he had read on the Scottish web sites suggested that we didn’t hate the English,only their government.
    I didn’t disagree.
    As you rightly say Derek,we are far from being alone.

  19. So the NZ people will be happy to see us succeed………that’s heart-warming indeed, considering they were so carelessly abandoned by the UK in ’73. Not only have they proved to be a successful, nuclear-free nation but a forgiving one also. May they continue to return to Scotland each summer to help us clip the sheep for they’re magicians when handling shears!

  20. As a Scot living in NZ I’m interested to read that Liam McIlvanney perceives a fair bit of interest here in the referendum because I have seen virtually no coverage myself. That may be because I avoid any unnecessary contact with NZ’s truly execrable media (and as someone who works in comms that’s saying something). Virtually all world news coverage here is bought in from the newswires or syndicated reports and articles from mainstream media in the relevant country. The only piece on the Scottish referendum I have seen was Boris Johnson’s fatuous guff from the Sunday Times or somewhere. If there has been any TV coverage it will have come straight from the BBC, so that gives you some idea of the neutrality of information that people in NZ will be getting.

    I don’t think any of my Kiwi friends or colleagues have broached the subject with me, which again may reflect only their personal political indifference or disengagement (a similar problem here to the growing voter apathy in the UK). Several of those people are only 1st generation Kiwis, however, with parents born in the UK, so I might have expected a little more interest. New Zealand is definitely quite culturally anglocentric – about 70% of the population is of European origin and the vast majority of that is of British and Irish ancestry. But despite lapping up Coronation Street and Eastenders on the telly I suspect most New Zealanders regard Scotland’s referendum as barely relevant to them and any opinion expressed upon the matter will be based entirely on emotional perceptions of their cultural heritage and an even lower level of information on the issues than pertains in Scotland itself.

  21. Derek you are visibly growing in strength and stature. The best thing you ever did was get out of that cess pit the BBC, it has destroyed many fine minds. Look what they did to Alistair Hetherington for daring to try and protect Scottish broadcasting.

    As to your invitation to the slithering Grahamski, you have more chance of meeting Lord Lucan.

  22. Derek,
    I’m reading your posts daily from Australia, and they are great reading.
    The attitude on Scottish Independence in Australia is one of bemusement and indifference.
    Our ABC and the MSM basically treats Scotland as a region of England, but it is too far from London to deserve any time on the news. Gordon Brown was introduced once on the ABC as the English prime minister, no-one seemed to think that this was strange, I did get a polite reply to my letter of complaint, but nothing ever changes.
    Your blogs give me great encouragement however, thanks for that!

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