The Nationhood Bypass

I detect a change of language…I’m sure I heard Johann refer to independence as ‘an honourable position’ or somesuch. It was certainly a long way from her previous efforts, suggesting almost linguistic schizophrenia. Imagine her in the morning pondering what thought mode she should adopt… ‘Independence – it’s either honourable or it’s a mutating virus that kills you slowly – which will it be today?’


Then there is Douglas Alexander’s latest epistle in the Scotsman. Does anybody else think Douglas may be morphing into his dad and turning into a Kirk meenister? His repetitive, preachy sermons on goodness and hand-holding conventions only need a tambourine accompaniment. Did his saintly humanity just desert him when he voted for war in Iraq?

Douglas has started to express his – and I have no doubt this is true – love of Scotland. ‘I love Scotland’, he wrote. Good for him. It’s about time some of these doom-mongers whose case is based on belittling their own people got in touch with their inner Scot. In fact, I could have written some of his article, except not as well, obviously. It is an admission of the impact his country has on him and how it is – careful here, Douglas – part of his identity. Yes, he actually does the identity bit and may, I hear, be applying for SNP membership soon. He refers to the land and emotion, pride and dignity.

It is a fair and emotional exposition of his love for this native land and I’m with him all the way. There is a problem of course and it arrives in the form of the BUT word…

Scotland is about more than flags and manifestoes. Yes, but…?

He just doesn’t think separating from the rest of Britain is good for Scotland because it’s about the future and solidarity and sharing and his piece falls away into that self-justifying morass of saying obliquely that Scottish independence just isn’t worth it, it’s not important enough when there are other things to get on with and anyway, it doesn’t help the hopeless and vulnerable in England and Wales. So we should wait for another Labour government to come along for 10 years or so to solve our problems (presumably because they’ve solved them before).

This reveals the empty core to the Unionist case which I’ll get to in a minute. You can see it today in the Herald where Catherine Macleod is repeating the same line, that breaking up is just silly when there ‘is nothing to be gained’. Why divorce when you’re happy? Yes, she did actually use the 1970’s Divorce word, although in her case she says ‘divorce from your friend’, not quite understanding the concept.

Catherine is important because she is part of the Alistair Darling, Brian Wilson Highland nexus and while writing her own material – obviously – is so close to the Darling mindset that she reveals his thinking. She worked for him in Downing Street.

And indeed, when you look back at Darling’s interviews, he says, for example, a currency union makes sense but you’ve got one now, so why bother going through the

independence rigmarole just to get what you already have?

All three of these Labour Unionists miss the point entirely. It is this: We regain our independence, we take back our nationhood, reclaim national self-respect and take our rightful place in the world, shaping policies around our own ideals and standing tall in our own right beside the other nations as equals.

They are utterly blind to what every other nation and people on earth take as an automatic right. It is enshrined in the United Nations charter – self-determination. How the hell can any Scot – proud or otherwise – fail to grasp the importance of their own country’s sovereignty? How?



They suffer from a nationhood bypass. They simply can’t intellectually link their love of, and pride in, country with that country’s statehood. It is constitutional blindness. They only equate statehood with Britain and would deny it to Scotland because somehow it doesn’t matter to their native land.

Isn’t this the very definition of British Unionism? That is, that Britain is their country, their state, the legal entity to which they pledge allegiance and Scotland – lovely though it is – is merely the place they come from. This to me is a state of wilful denial and is totally contradictory. The truly honest position for Johann, Douglas and Catherine is to say Scotland is a region of the country they adhere to – Britain. Within that country they have a regional identity like a Yorkshireman or a Cumbrian. They love their home area but that’s all it is, a badge of belonging. When it comes to it, they are British and proud and they accept Scotland is subsumed, officially, into the British state. Scotland should not, they believe, be ranked beside other nations.

When you add in the propaganda assault their campaign promotes in which Scotland’s assets are at London’s disposal and they tell us our ambitions will founder on our inability to make independence work, you’re left wondering just what this love of Scotland amounts to.

I suppose it means the real truth does lie in what’s in your heart not you head. You may be worried about the economics of independence but I still can’t imagine not voting for my country’s right to self-government. I regard it as self-evidently the natural thing – if you love your country – and comes with the unshakable belief that we can make it work, that we can overcome.

For too long the onus has been in Yes supporters to justify independence. How about the Unionists justifying ‘love of Scotland’ with voting against, for a change?



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41 thoughts on “The Nationhood Bypass

  1. Sooo love this article Derek, and will share it to some of my ”proud Scots but” friends. We should point out to them what the message their NO vote says about them, their country and how Scotland will be seen across the world. Cheers for this!

  2. To paraphrase another.

    “Scotland is in my heart, it’s in my soul, it’ll be my breath as I grow old”

    Voting for Independence is a ‘heart thing’.


  4. Your second-last paragraph says it all Derek. This is much more than a simple economic vote. For my part, even if I wasn’t convinced that independence will make Scotland more prosperous, I would still vote for it. There’s nothing at all wrong with voting from the heart, especially on an issue such as this.

  5. They can’t be honest, because it would require Douglas Alexander to peddle the same argument about the English. Britain is you country, you just happen you come from Yorkshire or Essex etc
    He wouldn’t survive if he tried that.

  6. I think the Herald is wrong not to reveal that Catherine Macleod used to work for Darling. She is wrong too not to admit it. Is she ashamed of her past political activity? Is she a member of the Labour Party? Why does she pretend to be someone off the street just giving her views? Very dodgy all round.

  7. Dr David Ritchie

    Actually it sums up what I firmly believe, that unionists don’t understand the idea of a union.

  8. These people may acknowledge they are Scots but when it comes down to it they much prefer that they are part of what they see as the bigger more powerful nation which is Britain/England. They also see the gravy train moving away at speed, they have tied their carriage to the wrong train and will live to regret it.
    The weasel words are easy, they do not really believe a word they say. They hope that these are the words they will be remembered for if they find themselves ( very surely) on the wrong side of the track.

  9. Gravy train is right. Those promoting a NO vote have much to gain. The average Scot gains nothing from a NO vote – but who knows what we may gain from a YES vote? So for most YES voters, it’s a decision of the heart – and so it should be. Do we want to stay in a country where people only vote for self-interest? Much better to vote for your principles, or vote with your heart.

  10. Was interesting to see Wee Doug admit that Scotland pays in more than it gets back that this was someone to be proud of…no me neither.
    I am sick of hearing “am a proud Scot but!”
    If its a no vote
    Then we have declared we are a region so lets stop the national team no football or Rugby or athletics that should focus a few minds.
    And on a final point if you are a labour voter please have a wee look at some of the BT sites.
    Its bad enough doing the tories work but theres Ukip,BNP and right wing nutters who frankly I thought no longer existed all running down there own

  11. There is a bit issue with these people, they get their wages, pensions and perhaps a cosy seat in the house of Lords. Yes, perhaps they love Scotland in a Brigadoon kind of argument.
    They come up every now and again, take a deep breath of air, and like it. Then reality hits and they say f@xx this, I need to go back and build MY future. What means more to me, the welfare of the Scottish people, or my own?

    My OWN of course, mugs!

  12. Great post as always, Derek

    O/T, is there a problem with your email alerts system? I have not received any since the Margo post on the fourth of this month. I registered a different email address from a different service on the 15th and received and activated the confirmation link but still no alerts to either account (and no, they are not going into spam/junk folders) I rely on the email alerts as I cannot always access the Twitter feed.

    WOS had a similar problem earlier this month which was resolved after a few days.

    • Ticking both the “notify” boxes before posting the above comment has solved the problem – I had previously tried to get the email alerts by using the “follow” button at the bottom right of the page and entering the email address there with no result.

  13. Hi Derek,

    You hinted at, what I personally think, is one of the key aspects that Labour voters have to realise.

    Once again the Labour party claim, ‘put us in power at Westminster and everything will be alright’

    For a century now we’ve heard that claim, a Westminster Labour socialist government will be good for Scotland, they’ll look after us. Putting to one side the rather annoying fact that there is no socialism in Labour anymore after having become more right wing than the Tories – the simple fact is that it has failed to materialise.

    Labour have had countless opportunities to put into play a proper devolved Scotland with serious powers and self control when they have held power at Westminster, they’ve failed on nearly every occasion. The only glimmer of light was the setting up of Holyrood, but even then it wasn’t made as a genuine gesture to the Scots, it was done so under some real pressure for a devolved parliament.

    My question to Labour voters is, ‘How long do you plan to keep deceiving yourselves that a Labour Westminster government will work for the people of Scotland ?’

    History shows us it hasn’t. Child poverty is on the increase, unemployment is high, the country is broke, most national assets are in private hands, pension levels are among the worst in the developed world, mortality rates are horrendous and a general malaise over confidence hangs like a low, black cloud, depressing our population. We have little industry, many communities once proud have become ghost towns. Our youngsters still leave in droves looking for a brighter future south of the border.

    Why on earth would anyone vote for more of this ? It’s a sad indictment of our Labour voting population that they cannot see beyond this situation and have the gumption to say enough is enough, lets get out of this and have a go ourselves.

  14. I think all of this lip service to “Scottishness” from No voters and their representatives is nothing to do with the heart at all and I believe that they know that. This is why their arguments always break down into irrationality which we recognize as “Proud Scot but…” It is a simple calculated choice for them – which, of course, may be mistaken nevertheless – that their own personal prosperity is best served by being in the dysfunctional economy of the UK.

    In the case of Douglas Alexander and other Unionist politicians the choice is straightforward. Their careers are dependent on the continuation of the present structure. It is transparent to those of us who wish for independence that they are self-serving politicians despite their unctuous words. Why do they do it? Do they believe that this hollow appeal to the emotions will work? in the end people will vote for what they think serves their interests no matter how mistaken they might be.

    The appeal of the Yes vote for me is that it is about voting for the benefit of the whole of the society not about personal self-interest. That isn’t really about saintly self-denial, but enlightened self-interest. In the end a fairer society is just a better one to live in for everybody So Dougie, it’s not really about an emotional rush to the brain but a considered choice for a more equitable society which tends to be a happier one.

  15. I don’t usually post, but this article is right up my alley, (so to speak.)
    I find myself screaming at the TV on those occassions when so-called Scotsmen and women say that, not only do they love their country, but how dare the YES side say they don’t, just because they are voting no.
    In 2012, Joan McAlpine was attacked because she called those who opposed the referendum as being anti-Scottish.
    She was right. They are. This article makes that point more eloquently…eloquintly..eloq…more good than I can!

  16. Well said Derek. Just over a month away and then it all starts to get really ugly from the BT side. I am worthing on the phones with the YES campaign and looking forward to it next Wednesday.

  17. Another nail on the head article Derek, thank you. This referendum is indeed a straight choice between countries – Scotland or GB – and unionists should just admit that without dressing it up in embarrassing ‘proud scottery’. Like yourself I find it strange that anyone living/making their home here would reject the chance to take full democratic control over this particular part of the planet and by extension the opportunity to make this society a much fairer and more prosperous one for its inhabitants. But there you go.

  18. I do have one worry though. I am in the Highlands where the English immigrant population is about 25%. Many of these people moved here for a high quality of life and I have many of my closest friends amongst them.

    The recent ICM poll showed that people born in England are more likely to favour a ‘No’ vote, presumably because they feel British. I lived in England for 20 years and faced with this kind of situation, I think I would have respected the majority opinion and not gone against it if that is how the polls develop.

    I know there are a lot of strong ‘Yessers’ amongst our Engish immigrants, but I hope those who are undecided examine why they came here and go with the majority population.

    As for Derek’s amazement at the Scotophobes born and bred here, contempt is not to strong a word.

  19. The Catherine MacLeod articles are not those of a working journalist. They simply regurgitate the Labour line. Even Andrew McKie tries to reflect on what’s happening in a thoughtful way – although from his admittedly right-wing perspective. I really don’t know what the Herald is doing giving MacLeod this regular slot.

  20. Every time I hear the BT labour chaps I think – poor wee souls having to defend their jobs and way of life on the radio/tv etc. And we get to vote them out. Excellent.

  21. Douglas Alexander loves Scotland because Scotland provided him with the mechanisms to build his political career. That, sadly, is where his affection for his country ends. Douglas also loves Tory policies.

  22. Any thoughts Derek on the BBC ” suspending” its membership of the CBI?

  23. It’s not surprising that there are large numbers of pseudo Scots to be found both here and in England. The Gaelic language and all Scottish dialects were banned from our schools allowing only “received pronunciation” to be used in the classroom. People forget that children were belted for using their own language. With this crude yet effective method confidence was crushed and the “new” offering absorbed into our culture as something aspirational. A great deal more than language was lost.

    I am amazed (and thankful) that, after so many years devoted to the destruction of our culture and consequently our self-worth, there is still a majority here with an intense interest in the future of our country.

    • You’d enjoy listening to Billy Kay over on Bella, quoting ” I got a prize for reciting Burns ” but the belt for using Scots on the other 364 days of the year” !

      • Just finished watching Billy Kay on Bella and you’re right, I thoroughly enjoyed his performance. Thank you.

  24. I read they weren’t leaving until 30th May and agreed with CBI.They said they would rejoin after the vote? So wait a minute they think there is going to be a no vote!As how else could they rejoin a defunct British organisation in an independent nation.BBC are a shambles incoherent,amateur,corrupt and downright thick as shit..Sorry for dipping into moderate language but how stupid are they.

  25. Yes, Derek, there is a degrading ‘Highland nexus’ – fully the equal of its Labour counterpart.

    But others from the Highlands – I know this, I’m one – take the view that ruling our country from a city in someone else’s country is self-evidently daft. (England – for example – wouldn’t tolerate it for a second – relocate Westminster to Edinburgh? Or Brussels?). This arrangement is manifestly the more daft when the overarching priorities applied by the rulers are consistently those not of our country, but are instead those of that city, London.

    You could quite reasonably say that London politicians focussing upon themselves and their own electorates is quite appropriate, for that’s their job – were it not they pretend to have also a holistic overview and concern, and claim often absurdly to know what constitutes Scotland’s best interests.

    But England’s got its nationalism sorted – normalised even. It looks a bit like anyone else’s; confident and unquestioning that it should exist. Like our British Scots they deny it’s nationalism, they call it patriotism, and it’s therefore a virtue.

    Our problem of course is our fellow-Scots. They know full well where the wish for independence comes from. But their careers! Their masters’ voices! There are knighthoods and damehoods out there for the taking!

  26. Someone needs to explain why they are such miserablists? Even when trying to sound positive, you don’t have to look far before that bleak despondency rises to the surface. 300 of years of Union and they have come to believe in a state of dependency, were despite being resource rich, we are somehow poor.
    They only way they can defend the union, and its the only way they do defend it – is to keep pushing this dependency to almost surreal levels. Darlings odd notion that if Independent, we could not appreciate “British Culture”, springs to mind. Yet despite this appearance of despair. Both Conservative and Labour parties both think Scotland can sustain higher levels of income tax than anywhere else in the UK. So their plan to make us feel more British, is to steal large chunks of our own money, then tax us more than anywhere else in the UK. How they think this would work, while telling us how the English pay for everything and they do mean everything, is what genuinely puzzles me.

    Having said that, it is clear to me that the “dependency as boon” defence of the Union, is a self defeating one. One it ignores the English. Who increasingly are being told they pay for all manner of things in Scotland and are getting angry. Secondly, the idea that Scots view of themselves as utterly wretched, is utterly wrong. No one enjoys being told they’re rubbish. Even a large number of Scots unionists would take issue with it. Yet they have placed their faith in parties who think they are on to a winner with this approach. You only have to look at Gordon Brown, touring Scotland’s day care centres in a bid to scare grannies to realise that Bettertogether is a one trick pony, and its a pretty rubbish trick at that.

    But what is the ultimate achievement of this campaign? Its to create a level of Anti-Scottish sentiment in England. That even in the event of a no vote, there is simply no way Scots will be able to enjoy “Britishness” ever again. Make no mistake, nothing will ever be the same again, yes or no. That much is clear to me.

  27. I’m voting for self determination for Scotland.

    To put it another way,

    I’d rather have 50p and be able to be myself and do what I like with it

    than have £5 and have someone else decide how I use it.

    The United Nations is backing me on this.

    Which is more than can be said for David Cameron, George Osborne, Danny Alexander,
    Gordon Brown, Alistair Alexander, Alistair Carmichael, and Alistair Darling.

    • And that, at the end of the day, is the crux of it.

      The EU, the Euro, currency, border controls, immigration, welfare and so on
      are all distractions.

      Do you want Scotland to make her own decisions or do you want Westminster
      to make decsions for her?

      If we decide that Scotland should make her own decisions all the above ‘distractions’
      become relevant; we can then discuss and decide on them.

      Should I spend my own income (meagre that it is) or shoud I hand it to my
      next door neighbour to spend it for me?

      I can decide for myself what to spend it on or I can just give him all my cash
      & hope that he gets the things I ask him to.

  28. Wonderfully written. Proud Scot but…

    It reminded me of an article I read in Bella Caledonia ‘Mentalists in Newtonmore’ where Danny Alexander appeared at a BT last week. This goes to the heart of the matter for me. Not so much about the BT campaign or what they had to say about an iScotland but how these politicians see themselves.

    “The Scots (he talks about us as if we’re not there) are very clever people. They could develop the necessary structures to survive but it would take them years.”

    This summed it up in two small sentences. The use of ‘The Scots’ and ‘they’. The author say Alexander talks as if we’re not there, but rather he talks as if he is not a Scot himself any longer. ‘The Scots’, not ‘we Scots’. ‘They could’, not ‘we could’. It hit hard when I read those two sentences.The cold detachment, the distance created in 3 small words. ‘The Scots’, that people, those over there and not over here. ‘They’, them, not I, as in me, nor us as in a common people. The language creates and instant barrier as if Alexander is an island among the community he is speaking. Of course, you will have to swim through the sharks to get to that island, to be part of his community.

    It appears that when they get to Westminster they become honorary Englishmen and sell out their own heritage and culture, doing a great disservice not only to the people here but to the parents who bourne them into this country, who brought them up in this country and gave them their identity, their education, their livelihood. They start referring to us in the most perjorative of terms. It’s almost like they are brainwashed upon entering those hallowed halls. They are on the gravy train and they don’t want to ever get off and that means the abandonment of one’s identity, and with it any self-respect they may once have had, and we see it time and again. They maintain the air of Scottishness when it suits them but try to play it down in all other senses as it is unlikely to further their interests. They are chameleons shedding their skin and taking on a new appearance, one that fits in with their environment.

    Anyone who says I’m a Scot but…means I wish I was really something else.

  29. Over my lifetime Labour has failed at national government and at local council level. I see no sensible reason to believe what Labour promise.The internet has provided many benefits to the public. Pro-independence websites, managed by some pretty bright people, have provided information and counter-arguments to the utterings of Brown, Darling et al. These websites has also revealed that a few of these “big hitters” are actually pretty thick although big on ego. They are, and have been protected from public scrutiny by the media. I’m appalled and astonished that Gordon Brown has such a thick skin and is so unscrupulous to lecture us and pensioners on the economic perils to pensions with independence. Happily his case is quickly demolished via the internet.

    Before the internet we had to rely on the BBC and newspapers, consider their present contribution to the Referendum debate and imagine a re-run of the 1979 devolution vote with the internet in place then.

    As Jan Cowan states above there was a deliberate policy to “British” us at school with almost no Scottish history. Oddly I do recall a few History teacher subversives who provided snippets of Scots history. Several decades back we took our young children on a long weekend to London. Visiting the British Museum I noted the references to North British not Scots on the display items. Visiting Westminster Abbey we viewed the Coronation throne alongside an English grandmother as she told her young granddaughter that the Kings and Queens of England are crowned on this Stone of Destiny. My wife was for handbagging her.

    I keep saying to anyone who will listen – “If you vote No and we lose the Referendum you will be very angry at yourself in about two years from now. Me,I’ll keep on campaigning”.

    • Was out canvassing in the Borders on Saturday and ordinary folk turned up – with one exception, there was someone who by dress and behaviour clearly wanted to be listened to, obviously a local politician of some years. Didn’t cut much ice with our new body politic so he didn’t hang around.

      So it’s not just the high flying big party apparatchiks such as the Alexanders who need getting rid of.

    • We were on a short break to London last year and went to the Tower of London – there was a short history on the wall about all the English kings and queens up to the present day.

      I said to the other half, surely they were kings/queens of GB after James 6th/1st?
      When I looked at the brochure provided a saw a tiny asterisk beside a short sentence which stated that ‘technically’ after Queen Ann they were monarchs of GB.

      The place was packed full of ‘foreigners’ and the impression they would take away is that they were all English.

      Also at the Tower, a Beefeater said that ‘Mel Gibson’, (not Wallace) had not been hung drawn and quartered at the Tower but elsewhere, Eh??

  30. PSB – “Proud Scot BUT” …love it ! ….Blind Boy Fuller (& Rory Gallagher)’s, Pistol Slapper Blues…. “Well, I know my dog anywhere I hear him bark” ….

  31. Wee Dougie may love Scotland but he clearly has no time for the Scottish people or indeed people anywhere -voting for the illegal attack on Iraq was not the act of a man overly concerned about the welfare of others. He is a nationalist with a nation of one: himself. Dougie’s patriotism begins, and very firmly ends, at home.

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