Thank You, Mr President

I’ve been inspired by Abraham Lincoln, or at least by the screenwriter of the Spielberg movie. As he pushed for the 13th amendment making slavery unconstitutional, Lincoln was also offered a peace deal by the Confederacy that would end the civil war but perpetuate slavery in the southern states.


He wanted both but clung to the belief that ending slavery was the greater objective and if he had the courage – and the cunning – he could win through.

Confronting a rebellious congressman who wants abolition but says America is ‘entirely unready for emancipation’ as it has too many unanswered questions, the President tells him: ‘We’re unready for peace too, ain’t we? When it comes it will present us with conundrums and dangers greater than any we faced during the war, bloody as it’s been. We’ll have to extemporise and experiment with what it is, when it is.’

That’s my view of our independence – that whatever the questions and conundrums, we’ll have to face them. We will find a way – our way – to deal with them and we’ll find our own solutions, the ones that work for us. Whichever decision we make, we don’t escape the challenges of the future and there will be many of those in the coming years under the Union if there’s a No. But we won’t be able to withstand those so well because we won’t have the powers and flexibility.


It can sound like an escape route from hard choices like currency but it isn’t, it’s just plain fact. Everything is a choice and we should refuse to be frightened out of ours by bullies and blowhards. If there actually is a refusal to work pragmatically on any subject including currency, then we will find an alternative. Through national debate and negotiation we will decide for ourselves which option we prefer. That IS the power of independence.

Later when his own Republican colleagues are arguing for compromise to accept the peace deal and avoid confronting the slavery issue because it’s too difficult to contemplate and has too many consequences, Lincoln slams his hand down on the desk and silences them.

‘We’re stepped out on the world stage now – NOW, NOW – with the fate of human dignity in our hands. Blood’s been spilt to afford us this moment – NOW, NOW, NOW – you heckle about like pettifogging Tamany Hall hucksters. See what is before you! See the here and now, the only thing that accounts…’

It was the nation’s chance to settle the question for all time, he says. It wouldn’t just free millions of current slaves but save ‘millions of the unborn still to come’.

That’s what our campaign is about too. It is creating the beginnings from which to build a better future investing in our unborn still to come. And what Lincoln would call the two-bit hucksters wheedling about compromise and middle ways bereft of detail or credibility are the ones who can’t see that future and whose vision is restricted by self-serving myopia.

We are not slaves and we are not at war. But we are engaged in a noble cause that touches the heart of every world citizen. In every other country the idea of their nation and their identity within it is an emotional impulse for its citizens.

How small and contradictory it sounds for today’s American president and the Australian Prime Minister to chide another country for pursuing its own independence from London. You really do need an irony bypass not to gasp at their ignorance and naked self-interest. You only have to imagine them going home and telling their own people that independence was a mistake and powers were to be returned to Westminster. The only logical explanation for their view is that they don’t honour Scotland with the status of a real country and truly see us only as a region of another – the classic Britnat formulation.


The words attributed to Lincoln are also a reminder that our opponents are focussed on the pettifogging detail. Of course it will be important, but currency like EU membership and defence and pensions decisions are consequential on the big decision, the one that really matters. ‘We’ll have to extemporise and experiment with what it is, when it is.’ Afraid of your own future? Then vote No.

‘See what is before you! See the here and now, the only thing that accounts…’

The question isn’t about currency – it’s about independence, national dignity and self respect. It’s about taking to ourselves the powers to choose, to select our own route to create our own country in accordance with the wishes of the people, and Yes, to make our own mistakes. But also to share our own achievements and triumphs – just like everyone else.

Our stories may be very different but the core principles remain the same. Lincoln reached beyond the small-minded and the self-interested to grasp the big prize, one that endures today for millions of those who were the unborn still to come…the living proof that he was right. He refused to be corrupted by the political fix, the easy option. It is tempting at the time but Abraham Lincoln showed what belief in a cause can achieve when it is backed by iron will. September is about dispelling fear and finding the backbone that comes from belief in a just cause and, as Lincoln said, it can’t for some future date, it’s for NOW. This is our moment.


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30 thoughts on “Thank You, Mr President

  1. Derek, you encapsulate our opportunity perfectly. Thank you.

  2. Should have said “Thank you, Mr Bateman.”

  3. smiling vulture

    The threats are louder an louder,to the point,a NO vote is all that matters.In the meantime Douglas Alexander calls for a convention,harmony after the vote,let bygones be bygones,won’t happen,these threats are part of history,part of their campaign.Scotland will never forget

  4. Steve Asaneilean

    Quite possibly your best post yet Derek. Truly astounding and a manifesto for us all. Thank you.
    I know I have now said it more times than a stuck record (that’s vinyl to you young uns) but Sept.18th is only the beginning of something, not the end. And whichever way it goes we must keep this momentum going and not let up until we have forged and galvanised the kind of society with which our future unborns can be proud.

  5. Two- bit hucksters…..whose vision is restricted by self-serving myopia. Yessir.

  6. I was dumbstruck by the breathtaking hypocracy of Tony Abbott, I wonder what benefit to the world made Australians decide to take independence from the UK and why dont I feel a deep sense of gratitude for thier selfless action?
    I wonder what Australians would think if they knew every parliamentary decision made in Canberra had to be run by the Queen up until 1986?

  7. Dear Derek, You have put the question into focus very eloquently. Unfortunatley I am only able to paraphrase John Stewart on the Daily show its the Government stupid !. Keep up the good work we are nearly there.

  8. The fact is that Scotland doesn’t have a voice in these channels, that’s why the UK’s characterisation of us as ‘separatists’ gains traction in the international club. We need some kind of informal high level diplomacy back channels, like Professor John Erickson of Edinburgh University managed to achieve during the Cold War with his Edinburgh Conversations. This was an informal exchange between Russian and western academics about areas such as arms control. Erickson is dead now, but he is one of the great Scots you have never heard of and he played a pivotal role in defrosting the Cold War. He was a fluent Russian speaker and was regularly consulted by the Pentagon and trusted by both sides as an expert witness.

  9. Getting the international community on board is important. When Norway won independence from Sweden in 1905 it helped that there had been informal lobbying of European heads of states and other important government figures by intellectuals and leading members of the Norwegian business community acting as informal diplomats. International law largely consists of what the international community agrees to. The international community was thus well briefed and largely supportive when the issue came up. It won’t do to hiss at Abott, Obama, Clinton, etc. We need to find a channel to them or to their supporters and advisers.

    • At the moment Holyrood has no international competency and if they try to develop one they will get slapped down by Westminster and ignored internationally. But after a Yes vote next month Holyrood will need to develop a diplomatic corps in advance of Independence and deploy it internationally. This doesn’t have to be overt. British diplomats who are Scots or sympathetic can simply be given the task aided by the system. I would expect that the setting up of this to be one of the first things raised in the negotiations if not before by direct contact.

      We cannot operate between now and March 2016 without diplomats. The world will be clamouring at our door and the UK diplomatic service will have to respond in some way.

      As part of the process of setting up a separate Scottish diplomatic service after Independence staff who want to transfer to it from the UK service will need to be identified. Both sides will need to know this, so it will happen. I expect some retired diplomats to offer their services too. They will have contacts internationally too.

      This is one area that simply cannot wait for 2016 and formally or informally it won’t have to.

      • Recently I was told by someone from Ireland that the Irish diaspora had been used and were very useful in lobbying and promoting Irish interests (especially, of course, in the States). He wondered why Scotland was not using its Scottish diaspora in a similar way. Perhaps, though, this is an area for exploration after indy.

        I do suspect there are quite a number of Scots around the world who are influential in their field and keeping channels informed of events back home.

  10. That says it all Derek.

    We will choose our own path, provide our own solutions to the problems the world throws at us.

    Currency? The corporate world? The difficulties of negotiating foreign affairs and treaties? All these are small things, the problems that each and every nation on earth worth the name faces on a day to day basis.

    The inalienable right to choose your own path and enjoying the freedom to do so, is beyond price. The Scottish electorate have been given a rare and precious opportunity in this day and age. In our generation we have been given the chance to decide peacefully and democratically, whether we choose to retain our sovereignty from September 18th onwards. To construct a system of accountable government that reflects our body politic. A government that will make decisions based on the needs and aspirations of that electorate.

    I don’t think rare and precious really adequately describes this chance and I don’t have the words.

  11. Very poignant and once again Derek you have been able to see exactly what needs to be said. Then have the ability to put your arguments over in a brilliantly clear and concise way.
    Kevin Bridges does it with comedy….looks at the world around him. Zones in and has us all laughing at the blatantly obvious, but we can’t see it till someone points it out.
    I am just now half way through a book about the slavery in America and it has opened my eyes how human beings can be so subjugated. Even after slavery was abolished some of the slaves were so afraid of fending for themselves they continued being slaves. They had been told they would starve and no one would give them medicine if they became ill. Where would they live? The fear of freedom kept them enslaved. This condition was entrenched after decades of stripping away all the dignity of the poor people.
    I am NOT saying the Scottish people are slaves, however there IS a similarity in the way some of the NO crowd continue to scare our people with the “you’re too wee” , “It’s a big cruel world out there” etc.
    I live in hope that with people of your calibre on the side of right, we can achieve a momentous victory and create a Scotland to be proud of.

  12. Well said.

    Independence gives us the freedom to make the difficult choices.

  13. Thank you Derek for having the words to describe what most of us feel about the selfishness and complacency coming from those NO supporters who come away with the “I have a good life, I’m comfortably off, in a good job, my kids are grown up and away from home, so why should I risk it all by voting YES?”

    It doesn’t appear to occur to them that they have a civic responsibility to their grandkids, and future generations, to ensure that everyone in Scotland (not just the privileged few) has the right to a good life, with good employment prospects and quality of life, and with an NHS, University and School Education, and Care for the Elderly, that is provided by the state to everyone through general taxation.

    With regard to Abbott (who is generally regarded as a national embarressment and worse by most centre and left leaning voters in Australia), the one thing that is noticeable about his intervention and that recently of Obama is their prime concern is Westminster continuance as a pseudo world power whilst showing complete indifference towards the reasons why Scots are considering independence.

  14. This was posted by a young man of 19 –

    So granda, remember that referendum back in 2014?
    Aye, what aboot it son?
    Just curious, what way did you vote granda?
    Well, (change in tone) I voted no son.
    Really granda, why did you choose to vote no?
    Eh, because. .
    Because what granda?
    Eh. . . Eh. . . because I didn’t like that Alex Salmond.
    Alex who ?
    Alex bloody Salmond, he was the first minister, nobody liked him.
    Oh ok, but did he no pass away 10 years ago?
    Aye, but still.
    But still what granda? surely he wasn’t the reason you voted NO, just because you never liked him, there must of been another reason?
    Eh……Because your better wi the devil you know son.
    But granda, my history teacher says, at the referendum we were £1.6 trillion in debt, there was cutbacks five years in a row and the national debt still went up everyday, the NHS was a shambles and there was food banks all over the country?
    Aye that’s true but . . . . . . . . . (Stuck for an answer)
    So granda, if there was cutbacks for five years in a row, why did the national debt not come down?
    Eh, . . . Well Westminster were obviously incompetent and they were building expensive things.
    Building things, Like what granda?
    Well son, you know that fast train between Birmingham and London you’ve never been on, they built that, that cost about £17 billion.
    But wasn’t there a train line there already?
    Aye son, but they wanted a faster one.
    Doesn’t seem right that, especially with all those food banks everywhere, did they build anything else granda?
    Well son, you see all those fancy new nuclear weapons near Glasgow?
    Aye, what aboot them?
    Well, they cost over £30billion to replace, and £3billion a year running costs.
    But granda, did Alex Salmond not want to get rid of nuclear weapons?
    Aye, he did that.
    Did Salmond not promise free child care for mothers wanting to work?
    Aye, he did that.
    Did he also abolish tuition fees?
    Eh…..Aye, he did that.
    Was it not him that introduced free subscriptions?
    Aye, that was him.
    Was it not under his government, we had the council tax freeze?
    Aye, that’s right.
    Ok granda, so what happened to all the food banks?
    Well, More and more appeared son.
    Gee wizz, did you know all this when you voted NO?
    Eh. …..Aye I did son.
    So why did you vote NO then?
    Well, there was this man on the telly shouting at Salmond saying it was his pound.
    But granda, did that man, the prime minister and that chancellor not say only 12 months before the referendum, that it was ‘desirable and logical’ that we should all use the pound?
    Aye son, they did, but they changed their minds nearer the time as they were obviously wanting us to vote NO.
    Did they not also say that Scotland was subsidised by the UK, so why were they so desperate for Scotland to stay in the UK?
    Well, they never really answered that one son.
    But granda, did you know that in many years up to the referendum Scotland was raising more revenue per head of population than the rest of the UK?
    Aye, a knew that too.
    I still don’t understand granda, why would you vote NO?
    Well another man on the TV said there would be men with machine guns at the border.
    But granda, there are no men with machine guns or any other men at the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland.
    Aye, I knew that as well.
    Granda, I really don’t understand why you voted NO?
    Well son. . .all the English politicians and media said it was for the best.
    But how could it be for the best granda, could you not see through the bluff and scaremongering? Did you not want change?
    Aye son, everybody did, but I was scared of change.
    So what happened in the years after the NO vote?
    (Big sigh). . . . We’ll talk aboot that another night son.

  15. It is a pity that the point being made was not made by Mr Salmond in his debate with Darling.
    I do hope he is better prepared for the next one. There is only one key issue and that is running our own affairs. The Velvet Divorce of the Czech and Slovak republics seems to have passed off easily enough and both countries prosper. Neither of these places has the natural resources or the brains we have here.
    Mr Salmond needs to keep to this point, stay away from stupidities about pandas etc, avoid smirking, and really get stuck in with passion.

  16. Some of the Middle class people I know who are going to vote No appear to be stateless people.
    They don’ t care what their state is or,more importantly,what sort of state it is so long as their standard of living is maintained and they can continue to pay the mortgage and afford the holidays abroad.
    They see the UK as represening the best bet in achieving their shortish term aims and have little concern for the wider community.
    Fortunately,in Scotland, these people are in a minority and will not decide the outcome of the referendum.
    I can sympathise with Lincoln,very frustrating dealing with narrow self interest.
    We shall prevail Derek,thanks.

  17. @Antoine Bisset: I really must take issue with you on a couple of points.

    The Czech/Slovaks are pretty talented engineers in my experience. And believe me creative engineering requires imagination and logic.

    Alex Salmond in the STV “show” was indicating the trivial issues – the waffle(?) that Better Together have raised to cause doubt and uncertainty amongst the headline reading only public.Note that it was Darling who was interrupting constantly during the “show”. Now why would he do that?
    I spent an hour last night at a meeting listening to Wee Ruthie waffling on, unchallenged, and being less than truthful.
    Visit U-Tube and observe Jim Murphy with his 100 towns tour waffling on, mind you he wasn’t unchallenged.

    Trust I haven’t offended but we really must defend our side in this campaign.

    • I agree with you, Gavin. Most important…..united we stand etc.
      Enjoyed your post, Derek. Thanks.

    • Gavin
      Thanks for your response. No offence, I do enjoy a rumbustious argument!
      I was not belittling the Czechs and Slovaks; far from it. Although I do think we Scots edge them in contribution to anything you care to name. I was comparing their separation to our proposal and it seemed a fairer comparison than most others, being recent and European. I do like to compare us to Uruguay. Ururguay became independent from Argentina, with British help, and currently has a growth rate of about 8%.
      I was trying to briefly make the point that despite having come out of the grip of the Soviet bloc only a few years previously, they were able to separate amicably and efficiently. Their economies don’t seem to have been damaged and we can still buy Pilsner Urquell. I have heard no stories about food banks or currency wobbles etc.
      My point is that we are in a far more favourable situation than either of these countries so we need to set aside the fear stories as everything will get sorted. Stuff like pensions, fo example, are a non-story as they are guaranteed (State/public sector) and the money is invested across the world (private).
      You say that Mr First Minister (see what I did there) was responding to the waffle of BT. I ask why?
      A good tactician will choose his ground. He will stick to his points unless a clear opportunity arises to outflank the enemy. He will have the facts and figure, and counter arguments ready. As in “a currency union is good for England too, and is their best option. The English politicians and their mouthpieces in Scotland may say different but are they truthful?”. Gloves off. Mr Salmond must manage the debate and not be managed. He must use the mediator if necessary to avoid time wasting and repitition by Darling.
      The main and paramount issue is self determination. The point is to manage ourselves and not be managed by our next door neighbours. Time to come out of the cocoon and be a butterfly and not a caterpillar.

      • I should maybe have underlined that the debate is to persuade the undecided and the no people. It is not to convince Darling.

  18. Brilliant article.

  19. The Scottish Georgina Orwell

    Love it how you pick your presidents – Mr Obama speaks now and to the current situation in the world, whilst “Project DAFT” looks backwards. That D for Deny (other opinions), A (for avoid real questions), F (for Fantasy that the world will bow to the new Scotland) and T for Threats (JK Rowling).

  20. Optimistic Till I Die

    Lincoln also said at one point ‘People need a revolution every few generations.’ I am fairly certain he did not mean a violent revolution given his abhorrence at the carnage of war, rather he desired a revolution in attitudes, a desire for change.
    It is some considerable time since there has been any major changes in attitudes in the UK; the last major changes were probably in the two decades following World War II and then during Thatcher’s period of office after the Falkland’s war (If war was the stimulus then perhaps the same status ought to be accorded to Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Middle East). Since the time of Thatcher and Reagan, one world view has dominated, seemingly supporting Margaret Thatcher’s view that ‘There is no alternative’. The fact is there is always an alternative. One simply needs the courage to seek it out and implement it and Scots are currently leading the way within the UK in challenging the status quo.
    The grass roots part of the Independence campaign is already freeing thinking, breaking ideological chains, and challenging the status quo. A vote for Independence would undoubtedly take this further as means will have to be sought to resolve the multitude of issues that will arise. However, unlike in the regions of England, once freed from the straightjacket of current neoliberal thinking and able to implement solutions that are best for Scots, one might then see another Scottish Enlightenment. What a gloriously optimistic thought.

  21. According to the most recent opinion polls, our FM did indeed manage to persuade some undecided and No People. As to him being unprepared — currency union has been the well publicised since the publication of the white paper, and I seem to remember even before. Salmond is Never unprepared. He is always on top of his brief, as any good politician should be. Salmond was playing to the women and the undecided, by throttling back on his usual bullish attitude, and it looks as if he was successful.

    As for Obama’s anti-indy stance, well according to the FT this morning his banks aren’t too happy by Cameron’s increasingly hostile anti-EU stance. And they are busy making preparations to relocate at least some of their business to Ireland,, which would leave a very large and deep black hole in the UK (hopefully by then rUK) economy. So an indy Scotland might be in a useful position regarding US companies wanting access to the EU.

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