(Write?) of Reply

There follows a reply to my post ‘My Country is Britain’ from Professor Adam Tomkins of Glasgow University




Posted on August 4, 2014 by Prof. Adam Tomkins
That would be me, apparently: “the definitive Unionist”. So says ex BBC journalist and Nationalist blogger Derek Bateman. He and I appear in the same (thankfully unreleased) film, a tedious documentary about how left-wing Scotland’s indyref campaigners are, entitled Scotland Yet. I could watch only about half an hour of it but I appear to be about the only Unionist in it. Rather to my surprise I was given the opening line. As Bateman has it, I get the film rolling with the words: “For me, Scottish independence means putting an international border across my country. My country is Britain”. (I haven’t been back to the dvd to check he’s right — once was enough — but it sounds like the sort of thing I’d say.)

Bateman describes this line as “the definitive statement of Unionism in this whole campaign”. To my mind it’s no more than a statement of the bleedin’ obvious. A No vote preserves Britain; a Yes vote divides us into two. A No vote maintains Scotland’s position in the United Kingdom; a Yes vote means that Scotland leaves the UK to become a separate state. Bateman likes the statement because, for him, “it cuts through the verbiage and the politicking and goes straight to the heart of the matter”. Well, thank you Derek.

I agree with him that this is the heart of the matter: what state do you want to live in? Yet you would not know this from the vast majority of the SNP’s and Yes Scotland’s campaign literature. So much of the campaign for independence has focused on issues other than independence that you really do sometimes wonder if Yes know what they are arguing for at all. On the campaign trail I’ve heard more about austerity, food banks, and the bedroom tax than I have about independence, as if an independent Scotland would not have to worry about balancing the budget, tackling welfare dependency, or making work pay. Many of the figures in the Scotland Yet film put arguments that have nothing to do with statehood and everything to do with how we would all live in a socialist utopia if only we lived in a place where only socialist utopians had the vote. As it is the case that not everyone voting in Britain is a socialist utopian, so it must follow that Britain is A Bad Place and we must leave it. What this has to do with Scottish independence is anyone’s guess, for we all know that not everyone voting in Scotland is a socialist utopian, either. From the far-left perspective of a Robin McAlpine, for example, an independent Scotland would quickly become A Very Bad Place Indeed.

Bateman says that I understand what he calls “the real meaning” of next month’s referendum question and describes it thus: “you vote Yes if you regard Scotland as your first choice nation and you vote No if you prefer the alternative — the UK”. Well, I wouldn’t put it like that (as I’ll explain in a moment) but I see the point he’s making. He then starts to veer away, however, into an altogether different argument. He says that the point of the referendum is to decide whether you want “decisions about your life made in Edinburgh or in London” and whether it is the “UK or Scotland” that represents you. This is quite wrong. The choice we face is not the UK or Scotland, London or Edinburgh. The choice we face is Scotland alone, or Scotland as part of the UK. The true question is whether we want to be ruled from Edinburgh alone or from Edinburgh and London together. The option of being governed only by the UK or only by London is not on the table. Devolution removed that option 15 years ago and all the Unionist parties are committed to deepening and enhancing devolution further, in the event of a No vote.

There are some good and welcome things in Derek Bateman’s post. He understands that those Scots who, like him, don’t feel allegiance to Britain do not hate it or wish it ill. They wish simply not to be part of it. This is perfectly fair enough and if there were a majority of such people in Scotland there would be nothing at all any Unionist could do or say to win next month’s vote (but there isn’t such a majority and there never has been). Likewise, I was pleased to note that Bateman recognises that Unionists like me are genuinely affectionate towards and committed to Scotland. Certainly I am. Many things divide me from Mr Bateman but love of Scotland is not one of them.

What is missing from Bateman’s analysis is that we do not in fact have to choose between the options which he presents. We can choose both. We can be both Scottish and British. We can have governments and Parliaments that represent us in both Edinburgh and London. But this is what he cannot see. For him you are either a Britnat or a Scotnat (these are his words). He chooses Scotland, he tells us. And, for him, it is clear that this necessarily means he cannot also choose Britain. For Bateman, this is a zero-sum game. You can choose Scotland. Or you can choose Britain. And you must choose between them: you cannot choose both. This is profoundly misguided.

Bateman tells his readers that “Tomkins is a Britnat”. I am no such thing. As I have explained before on these pages what I love about Britain is precisely that it is not a nation, but a Union of nations. I am a British Unionist, not a British Nationalist. I love my adopted city of Glasgow, too, but that does not make me a Glasgow Nationalist. In my worldview, unlike in Mr Bateman’s, you can love things other than nations.

The decision we will make next month will not resolve a tension between two competing nationalisms, Britnat’ism and Scotnat’ism. It will resolve a tension between two competing visions of Scotland’s future — a separatist one that wants Scotland to leave the UK and become a new state, and a Unionist one that wants Scotland to continue to thrive within the great Union of nations that is the United Kingdom. I say “separatist” rather than “Nationalist” in that sentence not to upset people but because it’s accurate. I am a Scottish Nationalist, in that I believe that Scotland is a nation. But I am also a Unionist, in that I believe that the best future for Scotland is one in which she maintains her uniquely privileged position within the UK. This future is best for Scottish trade, for Scottish jobs, for Scotland’s security and for Scotland’s prosperity: that is the core of the case for the Union now, as it has been for more than 300 years.

For Bateman, however, all of this is beside the point. The only thing that matters is nation and, for reasons never explained, Scottish nationhood can be realised and made manifest only in statehood. This is an impoverished and depleted view of the world — but it is a view of the world upon which all nationalism ultimately relies. What makes the British nations special is that they do not need statehood to live and breathe and flourish. Indeed, they understand that they can flourish all the more without it — by joining with one another in a Union state rather than by going it alone as separate nation-states. England is not a state either, and nor is Wales.

Bateman has unwittingly hit upon an elemental truth of the independence referendum campaign. For him and for what he calls “Scotnats”, country, nation and state must all be coterminous. But for Unionists this is a false equation. Our identity is not so fragile that it needs such concrete reinforcement. We can flourish in a Scottish nation, a British country and a United Kingdom state all at the same time, just as we can be proud Glaswegians and committed Europeans without having to choose between them.

Bateman exemplifies one of the Nationalists’ greatest deficiencies in the referendum campaign: so blinkered are they by the ferocity of their own nationalism that they cannot see that their opponents are not themselves nationalist in outlook. This is not “Scotnat v Britnat”, a battle of competing nationalisms. It is Nationalism v Unionism, a battle between those who say “a nation cannot fully exist until it is a state” and those who say “don’t be so daft”. The argument is not Scotland versus Britain — are you Scottish or British. The argument is Scotland separated from Britain or Scotland within a United Kingdom: Scotland alone or Scotland as part of a family of great British nations.



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96 thoughts on “(Write?) of Reply

  1. “A No vote preserves Britain; a Yes vote divides us into two. A No vote maintains Scotland’s position in the United Kingdom; a Yes vote means that Scotland leaves the UK to become a separate state.”

    Britain isn’t going anywhere. After a Yes vote, the UK, thankfully, in it’s current guise, will be no more.

    This is just a regurgitation of the same old, tired, soundbites, which is a disappointment, as I really had hoped for at last the positive case for the union. Alas, it would appear there isn’t one.

    And that’s why I’ll be voting Yes.

  2. The point of independence just beyond your grasp Mr Tomkins.

  3. I must have the attention span of a gnat. I dozed off after the second paragraph. What can his Uni lectures be like?
    He was involved in a spat at a Holyrood Committee I recollect?

  4. Professor Thomkins arguement for a Union doesn’t live up to his billing. He thinks that all the countries in the UK are equal and respect each other. Then why do we have Trident in Scottish waters when it is clear that it is not wanted. Is that his idea of respect? Why do we have a Tory government every 8-10 years when clearly Scotland has never and never will vote for this party. Why is the Westminster government and it’s mouthpiece, MSM and the BBC, so dismissive of my country. Why is the majority of UK news about England, with bits about Scotland and rUK rarely mentioned and if so, always at the end of the news bulletin. |Maybe why my English cousins are so ignorant about what is happening in Scotland. It suits Prof Thomkins and his kin to disregard our arguments in favour of his own.

    • Absolutely Anne. Scotland is not seen at all as equal to the rest of the uk. We are laughed at, ridiculed and scorned while being called scroungers, when we know the reality is that Scotland has propped up the london elite and their uk for a long long time. Into their bargain, we are forced to house trident and wmd’s at Coulport, and are actaully expected to be grateful. Tompkins is living in cloud cuckoo land and clearly has no grip on the reality of Scotland’s situation while part of this dysfunctional and destructive so called union. We have to get out of it, and now.

  5. Graham Phillips

    I object to the old debating tactic of first misrepresenting the opponent, then criticising him for being what has been misrepresented. I am not a ferocious nationalist, I am a thoughtful individual who has lived in both countries, sees the difference between the two, and wants a Scottish way of life which suits Scotland and its people.

    How many times does it have to be said? England and Scotland are individually defined countries, the Treaty of Union is something we can debate the value of (and dissolve if we wish), and Britain is the rock we are sitting on. We cannot “have the best of both worlds” when the choice is between using the strength of Scotland’s resources to meet Scotland’s needs; and paying a premium to be given a devolved and limited parliament closely circumscribed by London policies.

  6. Prof Thomkins, if your Union of Great Britain is so equal and flourishing so well why has Westminster got a chronic and un resolvable debt of £1.4. Trillion increasing by £100 per anum? Why do we live in one of the most unequal societies on earth? Why do so many of our children need to emigrate just to find employment? Why did your favoured government actively seek to sacrifice so much indigenous industry at the alter of Londons financial temples?

  7. Should have been £100 billion

  8. Adam Tonkins’ write of reply could have been reduced to 5 words : the best of both worlds; in essence, a glib tag line.
    If you believe that Scotland has a “uniquely privileged position in the UK”, then you clearly inhabit a different universe to the rest of us!

  9. Interesting point of view. I would like to know who else Prof Tomkin thinks should join together in political union? If Scotland is best served by one, there must be other current nations similiar to us who should consider this move to be better together.

  10. he mentions not nuclear weapons, nhs or poverty unrelieved by uk
    desolation of manufacturing ,closure of pits with whole communities set adrift,or cuts coming our way
    i could go on,his argument doesnt enthrall or motivate me ,quite the opposite

  11. “We can flourish in a Scottish nation, ”
    Problem is.. we don,t.

  12. roddymacdonald2014

    Brevity is obviously not a Britnat virtue. That load of verbiage boils down to one flawed premise:

    “The true question is whether we want to be ruled from Edinburgh alone or from Edinburgh and London together.”

    As long as Westminster and Whitehall control the purse strings and the major decisions of war and peace, the economy and international relations, we are not ruled from Edinburgh and London together at all: We are ruled from London.

  13. Professor Thomkins,
    Go and spend a month or two with the foresters and the Scottish Forestry Commision, that way you will recognise the trees within the woods!,
    Your attitude reminds me of The Duke of Sutherland, you do not really understand the feelings of “the common man”, by that, I mean anyone out with your bubble of influence .

  14. Why does my passport say my “nationality” is British? Going by the Professor’s ‘Union not nation’ argument it should say Scottish!

    • As a passport is essentially a legal document, it should state the holder’s citizenship, rather than nationality. Then again, the ruling classes define the entire UK of GB & NI as one nation, and the people as ‘subjects’ rather than ‘citizens’. I really hope that one day I’ll have a passport that describes me as a citizen of the republic of England.

  15. Tomkims demonstrates as much of a blind spot for the motives of his opponents as he accuses Derek of exhibiting.

    My support for indy has far more to do with antipathy towards the UK (by which of course I mean the institutions of the state, not the people or cultures thereof) than a love of Scotland. Truth is I’m barely even a patriot let alone a nationalist. I guess I’d best be described as an Anti-Unionist The diminishment of the UK and the undermining of the certainties of the British Establishment is the whole point for me, because I believe that diminishment will ultimately benefit all the people of these islands.

    So when Tomkins complains about Yes supporters deploying “irrelevant” arguments about food banks and austerity, it’s he who is missing the point.

  16. A very bad place indeed?

    Based on what expert assessment or crystal ball precisely?

    We can already see the effects of poor government systems and practices under the current union, but the future of an independent Scotland is unwritten I’d have thought. I’ve lived under one system, consider it deeply flawed, harmful to the electorate of my nation and unwilling to change to suit the needs of the greater electorate of the UK in general. I have no idea what the future holds for an independent Scotland, but I believe the prospectus offered is far more attractive and democratic than that which we currently live under.

    I also have no doubt that as an independent nation the governments we mandate will have their share of mistakes as well as successes. However they will be our mistakes and successes made by a government which reflects our will, our needs, our aspirations. Its pretty much the point of being independent. You choose your own path for better or worse, but its your choice to make.

  17. I don’t see how we are flourishing in the UK

  18. If we have such a great union, explain the burying of the McCrone report for 30 years?
    That is just one of many questions i have, if he could explain them , he may get some respect.
    Westminster has lied for so many years, it’s no wonder we don’t believe any more.

  19. Derek Cameron( no relation )

    The future…a Unionist one that wants Scotland to continue to thrive..

    Debt interest at a Billion a week, false dawn economic recovery and never ending austerity led by people who have never had a real job in their lives.

    This is thriving ?

    • That struck me too. I thought it was a decent attempt at defending the union up to that point. Then he pretty much lost the plot.

      From 3,000 miles away, it is hard for me to get the real flavour of the campaign. Has anyone ever had a really good debate with a unionist on the merits of each argument – one that makes a nationalist go “Hmmm”?

      • The single argument that caused be to go ‘Hmmm’ was this. “Give me an example of an island divided by a land border between two nations where there was not trouble between them”

  20. A poor right of reply – technicalities of state, nation, and union mixed with a paragraph or two of soundbites.

    There is however one phrase which attracted my attention “… the best future for Scotland is one in which she maintains her uniquely privileged position within the UK.”

    I would rather Scotland elected its own government, set its own priorities and collaborated with the countries determined by its own vested interests (which can vary over time). There is no need to be uniquely privileged within anything – by definition that is not a sustainable position (of being “uniquely privileged”).

    The terminology of “privileged” is usually used to dupe unsuspecting customers to buy something they do not need. To make them feel “special”. How many readers have had a sales pitch that includes the phrase “privileged customer”? This usually means that you have been identified as a potential idiot who is easier to convince to part with your income and/or savings.

    This is indeed a very apt description of Scotland’s “privileged” financial relationship within the UK. Asset stripping would be another way of putting it but that doesn’t sound such a good sales pitch.

    • Well to be honest, we’re spoilt for choice here. I had it down to ‘uniquely privileged position’ or ‘a very bad place indeed’ to kick off from.

  21. A family of nations? Oh yes,
    Northern Ireland a bit of Ireland stolen by the Brittish,
    Wales conquered by the English and then made a principality of England.
    Scotland rich land owners bribed with the threat of English troops on the border.
    Some family, I would say a bit dysfunctional.

  22. “ll the Unionist parties are committed to deepening and enhancing devolution further, in the event of a No vote.”

    Oh, are they? Exactly how? In exactly what way? Other than in campaign promises that can be blown away with the wind, how have they guaranteed this? Which ‘enhancements’ have they even agreed upon between all three? None. They haven’t. They can and certainly will disappear like a puff of some after a No vote.

    Oh, but we aren’t supposed to ask that because focusing on ‘other issues’ is somehow inappropriate. Explaining how London has done a bad job of running Scotland or how Edinburgh might do better is irrelevent in his supposedly non-nationalist world view.

    Then of course he comes to the terrible evil of ‘nationalism’ and his scorn at being referred to as a BritNat, which he is, of course. Like it or not, and obviously he doesn’t like it, Britain is his nation and he defends it which makes him a nationalist of the British sort. And only in the distorted world view of those who defend Britain while pretending that they don’t consider it their nation is this even an issue.

  23. A union of equal states could be an interesting position post independence. Scotland, as a state, chooses to unite under certain treaties with England or rUK. What these treaties may be I do not know but they key is that Scotland could walk away should it choose to do so. Currently, Scotland is but a region of the UK which, in turn for some, is synonymous with Greater England. Scotland need to be an equal party in any union or treaty. It currently is not. This is where independence is key to Scotland’s future.

  24. I have to love this “one of the Nationalists’ greatest deficiencies in the referendum campaign: so blinkered are they by the ferocity of their own nationalism that they cannot see that their opponents are not themselves nationalist in outlook” because it so perfectly defines every statement of the *Unionist* position the Prof. supports. In comparison, his technical quibble counts for nothing.

    As a Yes voter, I care not if Scotland be a nation, state, principality or the city-state of Glasgow and hinterland. Scotland, to me, is its people: I want us to elect all our representatives to spend all our taxes *and* to un-elect representatives (all by ourselves) if they enact policies which fail to serve our collectively-defined interests. Aspects of government are ‘inappropriately’ part of the Yes campaign *because we are talking about how we want to govern ourselves* (not if ‘we we want to be a nation’).

    Do we want our self-governance to continue limited and conditional (vote No)? Or not (vote Yes)? If not, we *can* decide *everything else* as it needs deciding. (Will our decisions be better, easier, cheaper? Not necessarily. But they will be made by us.) It is natural to speak of the concrete expressions of current governance, as this referendum exists because, chosen by the votes of Scotland’s voters the policies governing us *would* be very different *even if made by UK parties at UK level*.

    The issue of nationhood comes into it only because, though the UK *is* a union of nations, it behaves as though they were regions of a unitary state (no need to have, or want, policies more than superficially tailored). Like a lot of Yes voters (not necessarily nationalist, while unionists necessarily are insofar as they perceive the *existence* of the UK to outweigh all questions of its democracy or governance) I would have voted Yes to fiscal control in the Union, or a Federal UK (or any reliable option to increase the democratic control and accountability of the policies governing my life and society). These things I would also do if I lived in England, though for obvious reasons, there is no appetite for them there.

    In short, the Prof. is a ScotNat, a BritNat (Britain is his country) *and* a Unionist. I’m a democrat. And only *No* is telling me to stop mixing politics into this important debate because it is all about nationalism.

  25. Oh wow. Wow, wow, wow. There’s so much here to take the piss out of the good professor, but declaring himself a Scottish nationalist because he believes Scotland is a nation is just priceless. To then go on and say “We can flourish in a Scottish nation, a British country and a United Kingdom state all at the same time” just shows that he doesn’t have a clue what he’s on about. He may know fine well that he’s speaking pish and is simply trying to speak with a forked tongue, but if he does indeed believe that, then it’s proof that having a PhD doesn’t preclude you from being an idiot.

    You cannot be a country within a country. This referendum will settle once and for all if Scotland is a country or simply a region of one. That is why you cannot “choose both”. For a man who accuses others of being blinkered, he’s got some very extensive blind spots.

    What good is nationhood without the power of statehood behind it? If Tomkins wants to claim the title of “Scottish nationalist” for himself, then what exactly does that entail? If it’s not the power of self-government, what is it? The ability to pat ourselves on the heads and say “we’re good little Scots, knowing our place in the world, but not trying to better ourselves”? Is it racial? I can think of no nationalism that ISN’T powered by a desire for self-determination, except for ones powered by a desire for racial segregation. My nationalism is about self-determination for Scotland – what is Tomkins’ about?

  26. I haven’t seen ‘Scotland Yet’ (though I do have the t-shirt) but if it was a Tompkins film it would doubtless be ‘Scotland Slept’. What a tedious display of ukok-up-yourselfism. Another Bore for Britain.

    I scrolled to the close and as my eyes glazed over once more, seemed to read ‘Norway alone or Norway as part of a family of great Scandinavian nations.’ The choice seemed utterly hellish.

    What is it about his idea of the UK that places everything else, every other possibility, as second best? He needs to get out more, practise a bit.

    Are we there yet?

  27. His government of choice says Scotland was extinguished and we only have a devolved parliament ”gifted” from London Governments, its can be powers removed or manipulated at will.

    Not good enough.

  28. Im not a britnat, more powers coming to scotland, an independent scotland would quickly become a bad place, international borders, how many lies can one man tell in such a short article, I disrespect him so much.

  29. I’m not much interested in talking about what Prof Tomkins wants to talk about, pointing out how we’ve got our ‘-isms’ in a tangle. Silly us. For me there’s no point in discussing what the ‘independence question’ means in isolation from the benefits that independence can bring us. (That’s fine for an academic exercise, but not for an actual referendum for goodness’ sake.)

    For me it’s about Scotland making its own decisions, keeping its own wealth and using it within Scotland in the ways decided by the people who live in Scotland. Like the other countries do. I don’t know if that has an ‘-ism’ – to me it’s the obvious, right and normal way to go about things.

    I’m not going to ask in which specific ways we have a ‘uniquely privileged position in the UK’, been following the debate for long enough to know that one doesn’t get answered.

  30. I think there may be a problem for the prof. the circles he moves in will not be affected by remaining in the UK – the circles I move in will be, for the worse. But then I am poor so what do I know?

    • As Harry Enfield’s character Mr Cholmondley-Warner might say, “Working class people – know your place.”

  31. Tomkins’ argument seems to be that the Yes campaign are more focussed on socialist aspirations than on being independent and that this implies that the Yes campaing does not know what it really wants. Does this really have to be spelt out to somebody of his intellect? Just in case, I will do so.

    Most people in Scotland have political aspirations that are to the left of the average in England. We know this because you just need to add up the votes for the SNP, Labour and the LibDems and compare them to the votes for the Tories, UKIP and the BNP. (We could get into a side argument about just how far to the left Labour and the LibDems are, but let’s keep it simple – it appears we need to.)

    The current constitutional arrangements prevent Scottish people from getting the government they want. So the lack of what Tomkins calls “socialist” policies (I would call them just plain civilised and compassionate) is a direct consquence of NOT being independent. It would be vacuous to argue for and achieve independence and then just follow the same policies – what would be the point?

    Is the esteemed professor aware of the concept of “means to an end”? Does this clarify it for him?

  32. “… a Unionist one that wants Scotland to continue to thrive within the great Union of nations that is the United Kingdom”.

    How are we thriving, exactly? And even more pertinently, how are we “continuing to thrive”? I’d love to see the Professor describe exactly how Scotland is thriving in this “great Union of nations”. He might brush aside the accounts of poverty, foodbanks, homelessness and a wasteland of communities where industry once thrived as nothing but empty rhetoric, but it’s anything but empty rhetoric for those who struggle to survive on a daily basis because of the vicious policies of the Westminster government.

    In fact, if anything, the dear Professor has helped cement even deeper my determination that Scotland should be independent, if that’s even possible, so entrenched is my belief that we must govern ourselves. If someone can be so blind not to see the truly devastating effects of living under this “great Union of nations” then I can dismiss his attempt to big up that union as easily as brushing away a fly.

  33. Now established beyond all doubt that jezerna Roza and Abies Alba are thomkins jnr in disguise. Same endless verbiage, massive hysteria over tiny points of law that matter not a jot and the extreme reactin to being called a britnat.

    According to the english government Scotland ceased to exist in 1707. Get out of that proffesor abies roza!

    If anybody can be bothered finding the quote from M Forsyth Mp when he was returning The Stone of Scone to Scotland (maybe). He said that he was a Scottish nationalist. Small n.

    Tomkins roza is a racist. Hates the idea that Scotland even exists or that us untermensch dare to stand up for ourselves. Why is a foaming at the mouth zealot like him allowed to poison the minds of students? People have been driven out of academe for much lesser crimes.

  34. Nice to see you having the decency to allow Prof. Tomkins a reply on your blog Derek, it’s a damn sight more than he does on his. I’ve made the mistake of looking at it a few times, and commenting a couple, and I have never yet seen a single independence supporting comment allowed through the moderation. Pretty much sums up the BritNat mindset to me. They really don’t like contradictory views, do they!

  35. Tompkins is being disingenuous in his assumption that the UK is somehow a family of nations. It is not – it is a completely unbalanced polity where the dominant nation – England – is ten times the size of all the others. Thus the claim that ‘England is not a state’ may be accurate from a constitutional lawyer’s perspective, but ignores the truth that the English do indeed think of themselves as living in a state – one which is variously called ‘England’ or Britain’, the two terms being seen as interchangeable.
    The result of this lack of balance within the ‘family’ is the cultural hegemony which manifests itself in ways which probably seem trivial to the good Professor, but which – repeated day after day and year after year – are profoundly dispiriting and ultimately enfeebling. Whether it’s shipping in southern journalists to BBC Scotland to cover the referendum, employing that ludicrous weather map on BBC TV which makes Skye look half the size of the Isle of Wight, claiming that there exists something called ‘received pronunciation’ which by definition denigrates those of us who speak in our own nation’s voice – I could go on all day.
    Sorry Prof – but this is a dysfunctional family, and I want out.

  36. I would like him to float south after a YES vote. We do not need the likes of him.

  37. The professor conspicuously omits any mention of those areas not devolved: especially defence policy and foreign policy. The ability to hold responsibility for these two areas, more than any others, define a nation state. The professor might not like to hear people in Scotland expressing views on these matters, views different to those held by Westminster, but these are exactly the matters on which this referendum result will hinge.
    His condescension towards prospective Yes voters is there for all to see; likewise Professor “My country is Britain” Tomkins’ hypocrisy in refusing to acknowledge the obvious: that he is a British nationalist.

  38. I’m sorry, I couldn’t read my way through all that he says. My Scotland is obviously a different one from that which Prof Tomkins inhabits. I want to see my country take its own rightful place on the world stage; a Scotland that makes its own decisions and tackles the social injustices that can be seen daily here; a Scotland that makes a real difference to the lives of its people, not a Scotland that gratefully accepts the crumbs from the table. Only the South East of England benefits in being part of this unequal union. It’s time to go our separate ways.

  39. I appreciate seeing his point of view as I have never really seen a Unionist explain why they believe ‘No’ is the right way.

    This warped (to me anyway) view of Scotland being ‘better off’ with Edinburgh and London just doesn’t cut it. Scotland is a net contributor to the UK (whilst assuming about 20+% of debt) so how does that make us better off than governing ourselves? Secondly, the ‘Parish Council’-style Holyrood, as it was once referred to can only enact certain policies (after Westminster has ‘allowed’ it) & gets Barnett Formula ‘pocket money’ back. How on earth is this better than handling one’s own finances, handling one’s own foreign affairs, and making decisions for oneself?

    I am starting to see what he means, but just cannot see how someone can come to the conclusions he has made without being myopic to the decades of Westminster ‘misrule’ we have seen.

    The Scottish or British thing (in terms of nationality) is nonsense. With independence I believe someone can still be Scottish and be British (if they want). I feel Scottish, full stop. It is not any of my business how anyone views themselves. That said, for me it is exactly about a choice; Scotland or the UK, Holyrood or Westminster. I choose Scotland.

  40. ‘He( DB) understands that those Scots who, like him, don’t feel allegiance to Britain do not hate it or wish it ill. They wish simply not to be part of it. This is perfectly fair enough and if there were a majority of such people in Scotland there would be nothing at all any Unionist could do or say to win next month’s vote (but there isn’t such a majority and there never has been).’

    I look forward to the prospect of the dear Professor having to eat these words on 19th September…………

  41. Jock McDonnell

    Prof, I think there is something you are not admitting to. You can’t have Britain as your country & equally consider Scotland as a country. Derek has discussed that before.
    Perhaps you are just living with denial, unionist double-think, but for you Scotland is merely a region, a province, a possession of Westminster. It’s time you face up to that conflict

  42. He might think we are a family of nations, but we’re not a family of equal nations. Politically and economically lopsided to suit a few to maintain the grasp of power. Internationally we are not reconised as a family of nations and thus Scotland has no say beyond her own border, and then again only a little say within it too. What the good professor wants to maintain is British Nationalism whether he recognises it or not, the union flag, historical empire, the Commonwealth, BBC, Royal Navy, RAF, Trident, aircraft carriers, Westminster and the Royals themselves are all components and symbols of British Nationalism.

    Put it simply the professor’s arguments are based on a construct and conditioning from his own mind that tends to be either distant or alien to everyone else’s idea of what the United Kingdom really is, a political State designed to enrich and empower the few called the Establishment. I hasten to add the professor either likens himself to be part of the Establishment already or is awaiting the invitation to the club.

    This pretty much sums up what is laughably called ‘democracy’ in Britain…


  43. Tomkins is an arrogant , disgusting liar.

    No debate from him just a “shouty ” piece from a frothing unionist who can’t see the difference of Scots wanting to govern themselves. His diatribe is spewed out with so much venom you cannot take him seriously.

    These bas***ds are typical in that they have a view and the rest of us are wrong. No debate, nothing to contribute but Britnat bile which to be fair i ignore without even noticing anymore.

    And to think he is allowed to teach ??

    Independence is more than one issue. Tomkins can argue all he wants but folk want to discus what independence can bring and they have their own ideas and hopes for the future. Tomkins argues it is all down to being Scottish/British and the staus quo. Is he that blind that he overlooks the corruption rife in the govt that runs our countries? Is he deaf to the Abuse of our disabled ?Foodbanks ?Child abuse in the house of lords.

    Does he expect my countrymen/women to vote no after being told for years we are subsidy junkies and cannot look after our selves with out the paternal eye of westminster ? To believe in a govt that taxes the poor and give our resources to they’re mate cheap. (Royal Mail , The English NHS and god knows what else as they never tell us anything) and use the state media to lie and peddle their propaganda ?

    He can Fu*k off. I find him a self serving loud mouth and will ensure he gets word of my joy in a YES vote .

    Fair play to you Derek for allowing him a reply although i wouldn’t print his sh**e on the public loo roll . This is what we are up against folks. Loud mouth , self opinionated loonies.

    This is gonna be a walkover

    YES 65% sept 18th less than 20% no

  44. “We can be Scottish and British”.
    But can we be Scottish and European?
    If we decide that we are British,England will decide whether we are European or not.
    The point of the referendum is to allow us Scots to take decisions which are in our interests and allow England to do likewise.
    Britnats like to pretend that what is in the interest of the City of London is in all ours.
    The evidence does not support this view.
    The New Tory party are saying that devolution has failed and should we vote No and they are elected to power in London,they will put an end to it.
    It is a lie that devolution powers will be enhanced should we vote No.
    The lesson surely is for everyone that two governments is one too many and that we Scots have to decide whether a Scottish government or an English one will serve us best.
    The British stuff is just nonsense.

  45. Scotland’s Privileged position eh? Perhaps given the way we have be right royally f**ked by the UK over the past 300 years he means the Missionary one? Or just the Submissive one.

  46. Don’t understand the gratuitous and excitable abuse directed at Prof. Tompkins. He makes a reasoned and logical case for the Union, which is pretty unusual for the Unionists, and he strips the issue down to its essentials as he ( with Derek Bateman) sees them. I don’t happen to agree with him because his logic strips things down to the point of being disingenuous in regard to the true nature of the relationships between the 4 nations and I just feel a bit too Scottish, compared to him, to accept that relationship.

  47. Am fed up saying this and Nos dont like to mention the legal advice that the Uk Government has accepted is Scotland ceased to exist on signature of the Union
    “That Scotland ceased to Exist there is no doubt” is the legal opinion
    No matter how much nos use proud and patriotic a No vote and you give that opinion validity
    Its that simple
    Only a Yes vote makes Scotland sovereign
    1888 the first item on the minute’s at that historic meeting with kier hardie and cunningham Graham was home rule
    Its 146 years on and labour have still not delivered and home rule is still not on offer A yes gets it all a no gets nothing
    Who wishes there country nothing
    Aye the very folk who claim to be proud

  48. We are in effect ‘ruled by London . Scotland is a net contributor to the UK economy yet as things stand we wait in line for our pocket money to be doled out. It’s time to control our own purse and make our own

  49. In one sense, Derek and Prof Tomkins are making the same point – which state do Scots want to be ruled by? Scotland or the UK? Prof Tomkins says “the UK” because it is flourishing. Derek and lots of other people say “Scotland” because it is not.

    Prof Tomkins should have acknowledged that the scenario of “one nation = one state” is the worldwide norm and reflects the normal expression of the desire for self-determination. The UK model is highly unusual and when it comes up for review, its supporters need to make a very strong case as to why it is a whole lot better than “one nation = one state” i.e. independence for Scotland. I hope they fail.

  50. It is a distinctive feature of many Unionists in Scotland that they refuse to admit the obvious, which is that they are also British nationalists. In fact, have any actually ever admitted they are British nationalists? I cannot think of any. Professor Tompkins is the epitome of this kind of Unionist. I think neutral people would pick up the fact he is a British nationalist in his writings and appearances on TV. You don’t have to be a British nationalist to vote No of course, you may just have doubts about independence, or be conditioned to think Scotland could not run its own affairs as well as any other small nation.

    However, there is no doubt that a sizable proportion of No supporters are British nationalists, in that they reject Scottish self determination in an aggressive and knee jerk manner. Therefore, I just cannot take Prof Tompkins denials about not being a British nationalist seriously. This article has done nothing to dispel this thought.

  51. So there you have it.

    According to Prof Tompkins view we should all stop moaning and just accept the fact that the 80% majority at Westminster aka the people of England, will always have the right to impose things on Scotland such as Trident, the bedroom tax, nuclear power stations, privatisation of the NHS, water, and everything else that takes their fancy, and partake in illegal wars, to name but a few of the things that Scotland’s people reject.

    “No Thanks” Prof – I’m still going to vote YES so that my nation can decide all things for itself.

  52. lastchancetoshine

    nothing to get puffed up about, here’s a man who has spent a great deal of his professional life writing about and advising on the British Constitution – something that doesn’t exist. Nice work if you can get it.

  53. The gentleman doth protest too much, methinks…

  54. This is priceless: ‘What is special about the British nations is that they do not need statehood to flourish’.!!!**?!!

    For Gawd’s sake man, we want our full sovereignty! Nothing less! This is NOT and never was a federal union! That was NEVER on offer! And never will be!

    We forcibly submerged nations of the UK are kept in a condition of perpetual adolescence by London rule, taxed fully, worked hard, but given only pocket money, board and lodging, back in return! We want all our taxes! We don’t want your sweeties any more! We want to run our own lives!

    For Gawd’s sake, what planet are you living on, man?

    Haven’t you noticed the execution of all our major industries under Westminster rule? The privatisation and sell off of our national assets? The squandering of our North Sea oil? The black hole of Lanarkshire? The male life expectancy in Calton that’s lower than much of the third world?

    Have you never ventured furth of Kelvinside in your short stay in Glasgow?

  55. Calling people who support independence “separatists” is not accurate. Separation is the short process you go through in order to become independent. Independence is a state of being, separating is not. Calling supporters of independence “separatists” is a bit like saying that a couple who plan to marry are “wedding-receptionists”, or like describing a month long holiday in the Caribbean as “a visit to Glasgow airport”.

    So no, calling people who support independence “separatists” is not accurate, it focuses on the process and not the state of being which is the goal of the process. And this is vitally important as it is the goal which informs and defines the process. The goal of the Scottish independence movement is a democratic, modern, tolerant and diverse Scotland which has governments which are accountable to the electorate of Scotland. This goal defines the independence movement and the means by which we strive to achieve independence. “Separatists” is reductionist and (deliberately) obscures the point.

    Your reductionism ought to be clear to you from the fact that not all those who are described as separatists seek independence – those in eastern Ukraine seek union with Russia, not independence. Their goal is to be incorporated into an authoritarian, expansionist and intolerant state, and that goal informs and defines their process of separation – seen with tragic results in mounting death toll in eastern Ukraine. Your term deliberately conflates this undemocratic and violent movement with Scottish independence. As such, supporters of Scottish independence are entitled to be insulted by your choice of words.

    The vast majority of words (all those with a lexical content as opposed to grammatical function words) come with a suite of emotional overtones and associations – this is the nature of human language. The word “separatist” comes laden with negative emotional baggage, and that’s the real reason you prefer it. You should at least be honest about that instead of trying to dress up your preference with a pseudo-semantic justification. You’re fooling no one except possibly yourself.

    For me, and for many supporters of independence, this debate has precisely zero to do with national identity. The correct term is independentists, or if you dislike that word “independence supporters” will do just fine.

  56. Separation also has negative connotations of being a wrecker. I.e., something is whole, but somebody wants to divide it. So therefore ‘separatists’ are by implication, bad people, a negative.

    That’s not the case here. Scotland is a nation. The UK is NOT a nation. It is a state (a polity with full sovereignty). But it is not a nation. It is an oddity in being a composite nation, or union state.

    The more common or garden word for a composite state in which one nation calls the shots is an empire.

  57. “The choice we face is Scotland alone, or Scotland as part of the UK.”

    Independence is not isolation. It is the capacity to freely negotiate the terms on which a nation engages with the world.

    If Professor Adam Tomkins doesn’t understand that then we have to wonder what the hell he is doing trying to lecture the rest of us on what independence means.

    When he then goes on to claim that “all the Unionist parties are committed to deepening and enhancing devolution further, in the event of a No vote” we cannot help but conclude that he really hasn’t a clue what is going on.

  58. please forgive me i could not even finish the first paragraph he just doesn’t get it . he is the guy who you get talking to in a pub while waiting on someone and after what seems an eternity in fact its prob about about 2 min you think oh f/k why me, come on willie- fred- joe whatever please please walk in and save me .ps i am glad his reply was the short version anyone who wastes so much energy spouting pish needs a long rest in the company of reasonably normal people to bring them back to earth

  59. Again disappointed with the lack of a positive argument presented in defence of the union. If this is the best academic case then it rests on an emotional appeal to old loyalties. As in any close relationship when we have been lied to, betrayed and ignored, we have to step back from it and go our own way.

  60. It is an established fact that over the past 40 years neither Scotland, wales, Northern Ireland or the North of England have “thrived” under the Union. Economic policies have been to the detriment of these “regions” (they are regions because they do not have the power of self determination). Parliament has failed to change the voting system, failed to reform the Lords, failed to police its fraudsters and the corruption within its midst, failed to tackle the excesses of the media, failed to protect us from state snooping into our lives and spectacularly failed to protect the poor, the sick and the vulnerable of our society, making scapegoats of them whilst allowing billions to be defrauded by the banks and big business both by tax avoidance and outright theft. Scotland can do better and has the opportunity to take the levers of power into its own hands. Nationalism of any kind has little or nothing to do with it, self determination and a determination that things must change has.

  61. wee folding bike

    Well if nothing else you certainly gave him enough rope.

  62. I am slightly surprised that in all of the – many very thoughtful and cogently argued – comments above, I did not read even one voice supporting Tomkins. Why is this? Surely it cannot be that no unionists read Derek’s blog… is it just that the complete vacuity of Tompkins’ arguments has embarrassed them into silence?

  63. Like others I struggled to stay awake to read it all. It never fails to amaze me how poorly “Professors” articulate their arguments. If this is typical of his academic writings then he’s an impostor.

    He should read “The Poor had no lawyers..” It’s a microcosm of all that’s wrong with the current settlement: the rich and powerful calling all the shots and stealing from the common people aided and abetted by the law-makers and lawyers. A bit like the bedroom tax. A world where privilege, nepotism, money and power conspire to ensure nothing really changes.

    The insult of “a socialist utopia” is a parody of what Yes voters want. We want the chance to make our own decision, to decide what kind of Scotland we want. Who knows if it will be socialist. But one thing is certain a No vote means there will never be socialism in the UK for the foreseeable future whether the Tories or Tories-lite win the next election.

  64. Dougie Douglas

    That’s very noble giving the good Prof the write of reply. Just don’t go expecting any unionist media or blog to reciprocate. They don’t do balance.

  65. Is this the same chap who blogs under his Slovenian girlfriends name?

  66. A rant about Britishness is not a reply. There are absolutely no convincing arguments. As for the notion of any meaningful devolution, you must be joking.

    I’m off canvassing for YES. Bye

  67. If we are equal nations and population was a sign of prosperity

    1911 Scotland’s Population 4.7m 1911 England’s Population 36.7m

    2014 Scotland’s population 5.12m 2014 England s Population 56.1m

    Enough said

  68. Generally I would abide by the rule “Don’t feed the troll”, however your actions in printing the professor’s ramblings highlight several key issues, in particular the one that Wee GInger Dug has pointed out. People such as the professor are not stupid, they are using their intellect in an attempt to obscure their lack of a real case for NO. One way that they do this is by using language to associate negatives with YES supporters.

    As a journalist Derek, you well know the power of words to convey meaning and emotion over and above the dictionary definitions. So we have “separatists” used by the Professor, military analogies by the MSM, “Salmond’s Praetorian Guard”. and countless references to Dictatorship, YESNP and other pejoratives.

    We do not need to play their game by smearing in return, but we do need to be careful in our choice of terms. For example, referring to whatever is left of the Union after we are Independent as the “rest of the UK” or “rUK” could be considered to have conceded that England, Wales, NI will be the successor state. which is far from certain. Clearly the professor does not like the descriptive term “BritNat”, accurate though it is, but that is no reason not to use it. Personally i prefer “imperialist” as MBC above suggests. Perhaps the good professor could access a dictionary and look up hegemony and cultural hegemony while he is at it.

  69. I understand Prof. Tomkins perfectly. In the same way as I understand the motivation of those who built the British Empire. I can understand those who enjoyed the benefits of the slave trade.
    note: I am not claiming these are the same thing other than people see the benefits of perceived success.

    Devolution – his concept of the “best of both worlds” is an illusion comparable with a very large cage for an animal that appears to be the outside world or the freedom Red Indians enjoyed in the dedicated reservations.

    The problem is that for an educated man I don’t think he has made the attempt to look at a different model. He looks at the Common Weal concept (dig at Robin) to imply another fear story. The Scotland envisaged by most YES campaigners embraces both Business For Scotland AND Common Weal. In other words a balance of policies. The idea of a moral arguement to balance excessive behaviour in business and finance.

    Prof. Tomkins could have recognised that Scotland could be a wealthy nation and his preference was the current model. He is entitled to that view.
    I see nothing in his reply that addresses the key issues of wealth imbalance of the nations/ military force projection / the gap between Rich and Poor / NHS v privatisation etc etc

  70. As well as the democratic deficit of the HoC, we also have the obscenity of a bloated House of Lords. It’s second only to China in the size of the legislative body and it is completely unelected. Even they complain today that there are too many of them!
    “The UK is one of only three countries worldwide with a second chamber larger than the first, along with Kazakhstan and Burkina Faso, and heredity is the primary basis for upper chamber membership in only one other country in the world – Lesotho.”
    Prof Tomkins doesn’t seem to understand that we want democracy in Scotland. Westminster will never deliver that.

  71. Well Mr Tomkins you have unwittingly shot your own argument. He says that being British doesn’t make him a nationalist but being Scottish does. This is the fundamental flaw in the logic of all unionists. They see Britain as somehow exempt from the definition of nationalist while Scotland or Scottish independence. If you are in favour of any nations status or independence then you are a nationalist. Whether that be on a larger scale i.e UK or smaller scale Scotland. The description labour luvvies wish to use over and over is I am an internationalist. The very word cannot exist without nations existing in the first place. We all belong somewhere! He also says we dont have to choose we can be British and Scottish. That’s right we can the same way you can be Glaswegian and Scottish. But Glasgow is not a country Scotland is. Being British means you choose to be Glaswegian and British and Scotland is just a region of Britain. Ask anyone from the continent and they will mostly not know that Scotland is not England. By accepting London rule we are consenting to not existing other than in our own heads as a nation. We are not a recognised nation although we proclaim to be. So you cannot belong to two nations as one of them has to be the legitimate recognised nation and at the moment we are just British in the world.

    • Dr JM Mackintosh

      Do not worry – they are going to spend ~ £10 billon refurbishing Parliament. I am sure they will fit in a few more Scottish lords. Prof Tomkins may even make it in some day – if he moves to England.

  72. Scotland thriving? With thousands of children in poverty? with food banks everywhere? In one of the most unequal societies in the world? Aye Right!

    Does Prof. Tomkins realise just how ridiculous his argument for the union are? Obviously not, just another unionist academic on autopilot. Many distinguished academics and experts, who should understand things about Scotland and really ought to know better, have been blighted by their emotional, unionist blind spot.

  73. He appears to have two fundamental contradictions in his piece.

    The first:

    ““For me, Scottish independence means putting an international border across my country. My country is Britain”. (I haven’t been back to the dvd to check he’s right — once was enough — but it sounds like the sort of thing I’d say.)”

    But then later goes on to say:

    “As I have explained before on these pages what I love about Britain is precisely that it is not a nation, but a Union of nations…
    …I am a Scottish Nationalist, in that I believe that Scotland is a nation. But I am also a Unionist, in that I believe that the best future for Scotland is one in which she maintains her uniquely privileged position within the UK.”

    This seems like a rather large contradiction. First he says Britain is his country but then later, when trying to convince us he’s not a British nationalist, he tells us that it is not a nation, Scotland is his nation, the UK is simply a union.
    So how exactly would independence mean a border across his country?

    The other glaring contradiction in his piece is this:

    “So much of the campaign for independence has focused on issues other than independence that you really do sometimes wonder if Yes know what they are arguing for at all. On the campaign trail I’ve heard more about austerity, food banks, and the bedroom tax than I have about independence”

    But by the end of the piece he’s saying:

    “For Bateman, however, all of this is beside the point. The only thing that matters is nation and, for reasons never explained, Scottish nationhood can be realised and made manifest only in statehood.”

    So first he complains that the Yes side are more concerned with the social aspects and possibilities when they should be focussed on independence, then ends up saying that the only thing that matters to Yes is nation.
    Which is it? Is it the only thing we are interested in or the only thing we aren’t interested in? He needs to make his mind up.

    • A bit of the second quote of my first point disappeared when I posted. It was –
      “As I have explained before on these pages what I love about Britain is precisely that it is not a nation, but a Union of nations…”

  74. west_lothian_questioner

    So… was that the long sought “Positive Case,” we have waited 307 years for?
    I’ll vote YES to kick it into the long grass then.

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