Upon Visiting Blair Castle…

(after Thomas Pennant Visiting Scotland 1769)

blair-castleDeparting my lodgings perched on a steep grassy hillside overlooking the Rivers Tilt and Garry in the verdant valley or glen known as the Tom of Lude, I followed the cart path until it meandered to the stone gates of Blair Castle, ancestral home of the Dukes of Atholl.

In a clearing among ancient pines of gigantic stature I gazed upon the whitewashed walls and towers with crenelated defences and crow-stepped gables in the Scottish vernacular style.

The appearance was of the architecture of mythology and legend rather than the brute battlements of a battle-hardened protective keep such as that I encountered at Castle Tioram overlooking the waters of Loch Shiel on the peninsula of Ardnamurchan.

The edifice at Blair, it occured to me, had seen more battle over the dining table than in combat, nothwithstanding its occupation during the Jacobite upheavals.


Upon entry, I discovered a lavishly accoutred arsenal of flintlocks, bayonets and daggers exhibited as for amusement as opposed to any martial utility. Among the staircases and halls were personal belongings and portraits of Atholl antecedents and their honoured guests and poignant fragments of a nation’s historical turmoil such as the animal skin gloves and clay pipe of the one known as the Bonnie Prince, albeit without accredited proof of their provenance.


It seemed to me this brash display had as its design the seduction of the visitor so as to leave him in thrall, not to the history and story of Scotland, but rather to the glorification of the generations of Atholl family members who, despite every insurgency and rebellion, had nevertheless contrived to retain their own dynastic interests over the centuries up to including the castle itself.

I was called away by the sound of the traditional instrument known as the bagpipe whose horn flutes are fingered as a bag of air is pumped by the arm and whose doleful and lingering drones are said to reach deep into the soul of every Scotchman.


At the front door I came across the Duke’s own piper, swathed in the tartan plaid known as Murray of Atholl, trussed in leather and silver, a feather upon his headgear and a purse known as the sporran, stitched from badger pelt, hung from his waist. He struck an heroic figure, his bearing and distinctive musical airs, combining to represent in my mind everything that was noble and eternal about the ancient nation of the Scots.

Some yards distant a gentleman, simply dressed in the garb of a gardener or journeyman, was watching closely, a lugubrious mien betraying some melancholy.

On approaching him, I asked what could be troubling him when the very organs of his nation’s pride were being pressed with majestic flourish only yards away?

“Aye. It’s a grand sound the air makes”, he ventured. “But tis only air. The real nation of Scotland has the trappings of any country and the beating of most but has none of the rights to be truly the land yon piper is regaling.”

He informed me there had in recent times been a great national plebiscite in which the people had been invited to make a democratic choice of having their own sovereign government or of remaining under the rule of the government in London and had, to his despair, declared for the latter. He had in consequence discovered that his attachment to the rituals associated with nationhood had become discordant in his mind. He could no longer listen to the pipes he had loved without hearing voices jeer at him and the lament sound as if for the burial of a Scotland he loved as family. He said it had all come to an end, ignominious and disowned and no amount of Highland flummery could disguise the shame he felt. He was the saddest Scotsman I met on my journey.

As he bemoaned his lot, the words that struck me deepest from this forlorn but honest son of the estate were these: “Part of me has died, gone like the wife I knew for thirty and more years, and left but a memory, no tangible aspect to remain…”

I watched as he turned and walked solemnly away disappearing into the woods and no doubt to some artisan task, his shoulders bent forward under the weight of his burden. As I turned round, I noted to my surprise that the piper too had gone, vanished from his post and I was alone before the castle, my ears deafened by the sudden silence…

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67 thoughts on “Upon Visiting Blair Castle…

  1. A Scottish lament but redolent with an undercurrent of possibilities and intangible futures. We that live in this time have but a glimpse of the desires our nation aspires to. We can but point the way and enthuse our fellows and followers that there is a better aspect to our humble lives.

    Our past defines who we were, not what we will become. It behoves us all to grasp with trembling hands but pure of heart, confident in the knowledge that the trauma of a new and frightening future is a transitory moment in time, and a mild hiatus to a more perfect world.

    Alba gu bràth

  2. That was really depressing….

  3. This is not Elysium and we are not the heroes of old. We are the heroes of the future.

    Like the phoenix we are reborn from the ashes of September 18th – we are exceptional and we can prevail.

  4. It’s only half-time. Have a sook on your orange, pay attention to the coaches devising the second half tactics; the opposition are now arguing amongst themselves; get out there again, play for each other, and win.

  5. Les Wilson (Islay)

    Cheer up, Derek, and try saying ‘Atholl’ as if you had a seriously bad lisp … ‘Ath-hole’. Once we all see the aristocracy and landowning class in this light, we can watch them squirm as the existing Scottish parliament brings in swinging land reforms. Land reform – an ideal radical move for the SNP to carry out before the General and Scottish elections. Lets show the Ath-holes that YES isn’t beaten.
    Les Wilson (Islay).

    • Agree, Les, land reform and a Land Register which requires ownership to be held by a person not a trust located in a tax haven.

  6. There’s nothing noble or eternal about them now. They fairly showed themselves up in the eyes of the whole world on the 18th.
    They did their big pantomime act on the world stage, for a change, in front of the world’s media who were relaying the proceedings to their countries, which were full of folk waiting to see us take control of our lives at last.
    The result of the Referendum makes it perfectly clear that the culture we present is a sham: an act put on for the tourists. No-one abroad will ever take it seriously again.

  7. Slightly O/T – So much for democracy:


    “Unhappy at Spain’s refusal to give Catalans more powers, protesters have been energised by Scotland’s recent independence referendum, and many also waved the Scottish flag”.

    What can we do to support them?

  8. I thought it was a gothic revival and I was reading the beginning of a parable in the style of Bram Stoker’s ‘Dracula’. Not so off subject as one might think, given the many bloodsuckers firmly grasping fair Alba’s prostrate and defenceless form, by the hair.

    Gee, thanks for cheering us all up, Derek, just what we needed, at the start of another ‘happy-clappy’ week on the world-cruise ship, the good ol’ HMS ‘UKOK’; as we sail off into another very expensive but safely one-sided ‘war’ (no-one gets to bomb us from the air, oh no)! whilst the capatin & crew studiously ignore the huge tsunami of national debt just sighted on the horizon and closing in of the happy wee ship quicker than you can say, ‘best of both worlds’. Is the ‘Poseidon Adventure’ on the telly again tonight? It is? Oh good. How very appropos! ‘My heart will go on …’ Yadda, yadda yadda…

  9. its the way i feel too,i can only hope the snp will get us out of this place soon,i believe many no voters regret their decision,
    personally i will man the barricades if holyrood has the gonads to act rather than expel hot air

  10. That was brilliantly written! Is this part 1 of your “Thoughts on a Referendum”? Lampooning these apologies of national leaders, the “gentry”, is well overdue.
    Hope you will be serialising this on the new indymedia, which I trust will be broadcasting soon? I’m looking forward to the episode when an army of voters appears on the horizon brandishing The Vow.

    • ‘attachment to the rituals associated with nationhood had become discordant in his mind’ – Yes, I know the feeling. Watching the Ryder Cup and seeing all the Saltires was painful and confusung to me. I didn’t feel pride. Was I supposed to feel, as the BT car stickers claimed ‘Proud to be Scottish. Delighted to be united!’.

      Thanks Derek – you get it.

      • A lot of the folk waving the saltires don’t get it either.

        Alex Salmond was roundly booed on live TV when trying to make a closing speech at the Rider cup where minutes before Tom Watson was cheered for making a speech

        I then got blocked on twitter by a guy who had been at Gleneagles with a saltire as an avatar cos my avatar was 45, when I said I thought all those folk booing had no class.

        There was then a tweet spat where lots of folk piled in calling me a loon, a bigot, a loser and saying how much they enjoyed AS – that pie faced idiot getting booed etc

        Can you understand the mind-set of these folk, because I can’t?

        • You would think they would be generous in defeat, wouldn’t you?

          We have a lot of quislings, that’s for sure.

          I’m still puzzling about the No vote in the SNP heartlands.

          Is this the White Feather Club or what?

          • It’s actually quite simple why the SNP ‘lost’ the Referendum in their ‘heartlands’. Take the Western Isles. Under the First Past The Post System, at the 2010 GE, the votes cast were:SNP 6,723; SLAB 4,838; Libdems 1,097; Con 647; Others 1,412. So the SNP won in 2010, but, in a YES or NO, either or, situation, all the other parties’ votes outnumber the SNP 6,723, with a total of 7,994. So the SNP did not LOSE voters in these areas like Aberdeen etc, it is just that they were up against all the UNION parties who ‘pooled and shared’. It is actually a quite stunning result for the YES (SNP, GREEN, SSP etc) to have secured just over 45% of the vote. The papers and BBC are playing this stunning quite stunning result down, of course, But let;s not fall into the BBC’s lazy ways. It was and is, an incredible result for YES. many SLAB voters broke the habit of a lifetime by voting against their engrained beliefs. I hope and I pray that come the results of the GE in 2015, that people do not go back to the old tribal totems; that these totems have been chopped down and opportunities abound. The people joining the SNP is a good sign of that burning of the old tribe totem poles. But we need a free view channel before the election campaign begins in earnest, so that ‘feet can be held to the fire’ (as we all know the BBC aint holding any ‘feet to the fire’ now or ever).

  11. Having been in the centre of Edinburgh recently, I can too readily empathise with the sentiments in your piece. The sheer weight of braying, horse faced students pushing locals and old people out of the way, made me think I’d slipped back to Gunter’s visit of 1822. The No camp would have loved to have used Scott’s instructions to wish their beloved Cameron into town.

    How has so little changed?

  12. That was then, not the here and now. We are connected, we are still standing. We are about to see bt go through hoops to ensure they deliver as little as possible in the way of new powers while we get ready for round 2.

  13. If wi look to history (eh wis a’ways telt that it repeated itsel) then wi kin tak hert that although wi lost round one o the indy war, the momentum his become too big ti stop. Jist look at the numbers wha hiv jined up to pro-alliance perties. The shift will see the Red Tories (SLAB) booted oot in the general election. Then in the Holyrood elections in 2016 a clean sweep o Indy perties will gain the freedom for oor people. We hiv to believe and be ready to step up ti the mark. There is plenty going on….wur jist no on the telly any mair. This time we will be ready and the establishment winna be able to stop us. The air in Dundee is full o hope. Efter the result the windee posters came doon, like futba scarves getting thrown onto the pitch as the result o a last minute winner. The windee posters are a back up again. Get yer car stickers on. There’s fowk depending on us to eradicate foodbanks, keep oot o wars and make society fairer.

  14. Derek, we had 45% of the vote. We nearly made it. Many of those voting No were soft Noes who could have been won over but were disorientated by contradictory information, terrorised by unfounded fears or conned by promises of more devolution. They are not traitors. Stupid, yes, weak, yes, ignorant, yes, but still Scots and many have repented their vote. Dundee and Glasgow voted Yes. Three local authorities voted Yes. We are going to get there, it will just take longer.

    It took Bruce three attempts to win back the kingdom. He had to fight a civil war first because part of the kingdom was quite prepared to sell out, and he had to crush these Nawbags before he could even begin to take on the enemy. This pattern is found in many national struggles. Macdiamid called these sold out traitors ‘the loyal Kikuyu’. It is found in all colonial situations – there is a promoted contingent who are quite comfortable with the occupying regime. Gandhi had to defeat this lot too, so did Michael Collins. In the American war of independence 1/3 were rebels, 1/3 were loyalists, and the other 1/3 sat on the fence waiting to see which side would win. This is just the first battle. The troops are rallying. 45% is amazing. Considering.

    I’m going to the Women for Indy AGM on Saturday. Never give up. Never. Our cause is just and we will win.

  15. fehvepehs

    Totally agree with your sentiments-and as for your name-the very sound of it makes me long for a farfar bridy-yummee!

  16. Idea for political stickers for bus shelters, bus windows, public toilets, libraries, newspaper stands, etc: Welcome to Scotland, where around 55% of adult voters are cowards.

    • What a really fantastic idea for alienating not just the 55%, but the rest of the population who think stickers on street furniture are vandalism.

      • Okay, Morag, you’re right. I stand corrected. I’m still trying to shake off depressing feelings of negativity and anger. Thanks for helping me back on to an even keel.

  17. I don’t think we should attack the 55. We need to persuade enough of them to come over to us. We need to convince them of the validity of our arguments because if not we cannot win and we have no arguments. We did so well this time by focusing on the arguments and staying positive.
    Unfortunately too often Yes was portrayed as the cult of one man – Mr Salmond. Not our fault or his but we have to accept the possibility that it may have worked against us and if so we must not be painted into such a corner again.
    So please let’s keep going in a positive direction and let’s keep engaging with anyone prepared to listen.

  18. http://www.allofusfirst.org/

    Most of us reading this will have already seen this and bought our post Yes badges from them.

    I’m not being flippant. How many conversations were started by a little badge that brought people together by saying that you can talk to me, I want to hear you?

  19. I’ve taken to speaking to homeless people everyday on my walk to the office in Glasgow. Everyone who had a vote voted yes. They feel like the rest of Scotland let them down. I must have parted with nearly £20 explaining I was yes and I did care about them.

    I go into my office and I see a lot of selfish people who voted no. People who thought the vote was about them and their mortgages. Like yes people don’t have mortgages , or are some crazy extremists. I feel I don’t really fit in with my colleagues. My friends are the good people I meet on the street. Real people with real problems. These no charlatans at my work are not worthy of having a nation. Like Derek I feel they have stolen part of my soul in denying my nation its rightful status. Stuff watching Scotland at football! I don’t want to be a plastic 90 minute jock. I even know a guy who voted no because he thought Celtic would never get into the premiership if Scotland was independent. Have you ever tried to explain to a Finnish yes supporter about the stupidity of our countrymen!

    I think there we’re several classes of people in the referendum. The out and out independence supporters like me. Richer or poorer all our lives we desired independence. Then there were the civic yes people who were also proud Scots or from elsewhere and voted for a better nation based on the independence arguments. Then there were the soft no’s. They would probably say they were very Scottish but didn’t have the wit or the guile to go and learn enough before voting. They probably fell for the fear and smear crap. Then there is the I can’t be bothered group. They just saw the referendum as a pointless inconvenience to the X Factor or other such garbage. They voted no so they could go back to their dull existence. Finally we have the hardcore Brits. Ironically they are a strange mix of bedfellows and classes. The wealthy landowners and Tories.In bed with the scum of the earth knuckle dragging BNP, Orange Order,Rangers and SDL.

    So looking at these groups its easy to lose hope. I believe we can only obtain the votes of the ill informed economic no’s in the first group I mentioned. The hard line Brits are about 20% and they will never change. The apolitical lazy b**yards are also a lost cause. Probably about 10% of our countrymen fall into that category.

    So in the end we can only obtain independence from the 20% of soft no’s going to yes. I believe we can only hope to persuade half of them so its always going to be tight.

    The truth is Scotland is not strongly Scottish enough to have independence. When I say Scottish I mean the majority of Scots don’t have mentality of an independent nation. The Poles ,Asians,Africans etc do have and that’s why the majority supported yes. We live in a very strange nation and I still don’t understand my own people.

    • That’s my analysis too. The soft Noes are the ones to convert, but we will have to neutralise the impact of the lazy b******s, and fight the BritNats, and I mean, fight them. Not with weapons of course, but by robust dialogue and constant political challenges to the basis of their authority. Once the soft Noes see how destructive the BritNats are of Scotland’s welfare, they will rally behind effective Yes leadership. They are not traitors, fools maybe, but they share a desire for similar outcomes. They just thought those outcomes would be better secured by the Union. Not everybody lives and breathes politics, the soft Noes were insufficiently politicised. Apparently 25% of Noes only made their minds up in the last few weeks. That doesn’t sound like a lot of commitment to the Union there, and it represents 500,000 votes. So converting them would have meant 2.1 million for Yes, and 1.5 milion for No. A stunning result.

      I reckon the lazy b’s will probably not vote in large numbers at the 2015 general election, so if we can mobilise a powerful Yes Alliance to sweep the BritNats parties out of power, we will be in a stronger position to win more powers for Scotland.

      An absolute MUST is that we get them to affirm the permanence of the Scottish Parliament. On that hangs much else.

      • I had a conversation on twitter with someone who voted no because he didn’t believe in nationalism. Pointed out to him the most destructive nationalism is British – no that’s not nationalism that was a collection of different nations

        This is what we are up against – I know there is a quote fro Orwell re something similar in that the Brits don’t think they are nationalists but all other countries are.

  20. We have kept our yes stickers on the car. My husband was in Glasgow for the weekend and many people commented on the stickers. People chatted to him in the streets where he parked. One shopkeeper, Turkish, came over to shake his hand when he saw his Yes badge on his jacket. My husband is English so it made these encounters even sweeter. EVERYONE he met were Yes voters. We are not going away. We just have to chat, network and educate. If anyone reading this is in the Lochgilphead area on Sunday, 5th October, Michael Russell and all Argyll and Bute Yes groups are meeting in the School Campus at one o’clock to discuss a way forward. All invited.

  21. Sorry, terrible grammar, getting sleepy! I’m sure you know what I mean.

  22. Oh dear, we may be down but we are not out!

  23. In my experience most No voters listed reasons relating to themselves for their decision. Most Yes voters listed reasons relating to society of their decision.

    • According to Ashcroft’s poll, 50% of Noes gave concerns about banks, pensions, currency, etc, as their most important reason.

      But 70% of Yeses voted for the principle of independence as their main reason. Only 20% of Yeses voted Yes because they thought we would be better off.

      • There’s an article from Forbes showing how Scotland could strengthen it’s position re currency.


        • Try finding an article which is not full of unsubstantiated assertions and with “independent” sources that are not known HMG lackeys.

          • Yes, I read the Forbes article with interest but it didn’t offer any significant advice.

            E.g., advice that we should ‘lose the banks’ because their collective size is 12x that of our GDP is a non-issue since EU regulations require that a bank be based in the country in which it does most business. As long as we are part of the UK it’s OK for big UK banks to be based here, but if we were no longer to be part of the UK the law would oblige these large banks to be head quartered in England. This wouldn’t affect jobs, or branches, it would just be a change in name plate to a London address.

            The advice that we needed more Scottish businesses because most businesses in Scotland are ‘English’, I thought was plain weird, because why would these businesses want to move if the basis of their business remained perfectly sound? The English lady who runs her own shop and cafe in Kelso, for instance? Would she have no customers in indy Scotland?

          • OK I see that went down like a lead balloon.

            I am not an economist but we have to deal with the reasons why people voted No.

            The main one I encountered when canvassing was the currency issue – what will we use for a LOLR, what value will the Scottish £ have.

            I was not suggesting following all of the advice, I was suggesting that perhaps there were some indicators which could be used,

            The main one being, set up a Scottish currency in tandem until parity is seen at least that might allay some fears.

            It’s up for discussion and I see although the negatives came in, you have not suggested anything positive in response

  24. Big Jock’s analyis compares favourably with Ashcrofts poll of the Nawbags : 27%strong attachment to UK (the not scottish enough), 47% risk avoiders (The Fearties), 25% more powers (the Mugs). But the circumstances have not changed since 18/09 – the so-called risks are still there. IMO the scottish govt has to take the long view (maybe 10yrs) and build institutions which will serve to nullify the ‘risks’ eg start a scottish central bank, begin a scottish navy and base alongside Faslane, obtain EU agreement on rules to deal with secessionist states arising in the future, similar with NATO (although ridiculous to the politically educated, the lack of defence of oil rigs and coastline was a factor for the NO’s), pensions need to be undr scottish govt control, a feasibility study for the removal of Trident (fully costed with a timeline carried out by an internationally renowned Company eg Bechtel). And finally Alex Salmond (and by association SNP) has to be rehabilitated in the minds of voters who have succumbed to the daily smears in the MSM – his achievements vs labour failings ie you may not like his persona but as a politician batting for scotland he was brilliant.

    • I agree, but most of this is only achievable as an independent state. For example, we have no voice in the EU so we can’t control the discourse (as shown by the fact that only DC was allowed to ask the commission for advice about EU membership via article 28, which of course he didn’t).

      I have pondered something a bit more radical which frankly I don’t know enough about. What if the 45% declared virtual independence? There are going to be .scot internet domains. We may not have the legal right or ability to start a central bank, as you suggest, but we could choose to denominate our earnings and savings in Scotcoins (just like Bitcoins) and use a newly set-up Scottish on-line commercial bank. There isn’t much the UK could do about it, provided it ticks all the boxes . If enough people did it, it would count towards foreign currency reserves in the event of a new currency being set up, or it could be the new current. The main attraction for me is the fact that the UK economy is trashed and I expect Sterling to tank when the current bubble bursts. This was one of my reasons for supporting Yes, and if we used Scotcoins it means the 45% that had the foresight to see it coming wouldn’t be dragged down with the fealty 55% who will see their pensions and savings trashed.

      This is only my musings, I’ve no idea how feasible it really is.

      • Lesley Riddoch’s husband is thinking about how to start up a bank.

        I think we should start up a housing bank like Husbanken in Norway after the war. This was for post-war reconstruction. The way it worked was that the government provided mortgages for housebuilding – but also the architects, surveyors, engineers, etc. to advise homeowners on their self-build projects.

        In that a large amount of house building involves privatisation in UK, ie professional fees to the likes of architects, surveyors, etc., this is a way of keeping costs down, and offering trustworthy advice.

        In that we run a deficit (as does the UK, and as Ivan McKee had shown, this is worse than ours) one way of closing that deficit is to reduce welfare costs, not by reducing what it provided, but by making it cheaper to provide. The major component of welfare is housing benefit. As long as housing costs are high, and unaffordable for the poorest, this widens the deficit. If you had a state building company/bank you could create large amounts of affordable housing either for rent, self-build, or owner-occupancy.

        So something like a state housing bank hits two birds with the one stone: it will reduce welfare costs (and thus help close the deficit) and has the potential to become a state controlled national central bank.

        • Mellanie Phillips tried to downplay the Yes movement by saying a large group of people with a common goal can’t achieve all the optimistic promises hoped for (or words to that effect). I’d disagree. There are few forces in nature more powerful than a sufficient number of people with a common goal – it built Rome and it put a man on the moon.

          I think another referendum will never be allowed, legally, because they know they can easily lose it. That was our chance and some people bottled it. I’d forget about trying to win any No voters over. Our energies would be better spent if we accepted reality and take a different approach.

          If we can register and mobilise the 1.6million Yes voters then we can make unilateral radical changes to the economic landscape. As you have suggested, a Scottish peoples bank to build social housing. Maybe it should denominate in a separate currency to Sterling – there is nothing to stop it. A separate media – again funded by the 1.6 million unilaterally. Essentially screw the rest of them and press ahead with our crowd funded independence. Holyrood will be able to help us wherever it has the powers to do so.

          Essentially, we currently have the critical mass of population at 1.6 million. Our first task should be to get them all registered, then we can say – right, this is going to be our bank, our (shadow) currency, our media. For now, we’ll render unto Ceasar what is Ceasars. But let the No voters come across as they see the vision actually work.

          • Melanie Phillips is a professional troll.

            We do have a 2nd chance at indy – it depends on what ‘powers’ are on offer.

            It not acceptable, we call another referendum

        • No need to start a new bank.we already have a unique and independent Scottish bank which we should all consider switching to – Airdrie Savings Bank. Please check it out – it’s been there since 1835 and not going away anytime soon

          • Yes but it is not government backed or aimed at reconstruction of housing and supplying free professional help for self-build as Husbanken does. It’s just an ordinary bank. It doesn’t have a particular remit. Neither is it community owned.

            Many years ago local authorities used to issue mortgages. I met someone recently whose first home (a wee flat) was bought with a mortgage issued by Edinburgh District Council. I think this must have been in the early 70s, before local government reorganisation in 1975.

            My grandfather died in 1975 just as local government reorganisation was coming into force and many smaller municipalities were being merged into larger ones. It was lamented at the time as making local government less transparent and accountable, but the big guns behind this move argued that centralisation meant more bang for your buck. Critics (denounced as provincials) worried that big is not necessarily better and that there was such a thing as dis-economies of scale (as well as voter alienation when local decisions are more distant).

            One of the last things I remember him doing (he had angina and knew he was dying) was to withdraw all his savings where they were deposited ‘with the toon’ and divide them up between his four children. It surprised me to know that you could do that – invest money with your local municipality, but I think that was something these pre-1975 municipalities used to be able to do.

            Think about it, simple ‘retail’ local domestic banking of the kind Vince Cable always wanted to de-couple from international casino capitalism, isn’t rocket science.

            A saver (like my grandfather) wishes to park his money somewhere safe and local, where he can eyeball those responsible for looking after it, and as the local municipality they are held democratically accountable to the local voters for this duty of care. The managers are watched. So you offer him a straightforward 3% interest rate.

            A borrower (like my acquaintance) wants to borrow money to purchase a small flat. This borrower looks a safe bet, the flat looks sound, and anyway is security for the debt if unpaid. So you offer her a loan at 5%, and the 2% difference is your business.

            There is no need to restrict such local lending to individuals. In Norway now there is over 90% owner-occupancy, so increasingly those who use Husbanken are small municipalities who wish to access cheap loans to build specially designed high quality care homes for the growing elderly population. Groups of neighbours will sometimes borrow money to build children’s playgrounds or install other facilities that benefit their community and local environment. In each case Husbanken will not only provide the loan, but also the design and technical expertise. This keeps the costs low, and means that the project remains under the control of the neighbours or individuals who have sought project help.

            In the context of Scotland you could see how this could be user for a community buy out of land or prehaps a small locally owned hydro scheme. The applications are infinite.

            But it’s the access to free or low cost professional help that is the clincher.

  25. One of the first tasks of an Independence Think Tank would be to identify the issues which contributed to voters ticking No, as well as the issues which were woolly, unconvincing or ill thought out. We need some hard facts so we can prepare a sound intellectual framework for independence. I believe we have to argue unambiguously for fairness, equity, social justice and to be on the left of centre. We should support taking certain sectors back into public ownership, (eventually) – those essential service which no citizen can live without: power, water, transport, postal services, the NHS etc. We also need to identify where the opposition believe, or act as thought they believe, in the exact opposite to our credo: punishing the poor and vulnerable, rewarding the rich, privatising everything that’s not nailed down. Once the battleground is clearly drawn we can concentrate on our strengths and pulverise their weaknesses.

    Two simple examples: Brown derided the plan to reduce corporation tax, yet he cut the tax four times. He then warned about Scottish pensions, yet one of his first actions in power was a raid on pension funds, which many believe directly led to the end of final salary pension schemes. Yet despite this, he was allowed to get away with these scares. His record speaks for itself: one of the most meddling and disastrous Chancellors of all time. His reputation should have been publicly destroyed, he’s provided plenty of ammunition, yet he still managed to sway voters at the last minute. The same could be said of Darling – the man who saved the banks by getting taxpayers to foot the bill. How have these guys managed to retain any credibility? At the same time, one of the Establishment’s main tactics was to try and destroy Salmond’s credibility. We should have done the same.

    We must learn from these kind of omissions.

  26. What’s with all the negative vibes Derek?
    There are a lot of positive young people out there who need our support going forward.
    Whatever you do,never visit Broon Castle….very depressing place.

  27. posts are indicating that some form of an independent social bank could be set up – there are always ways and means – such a bank could be govt and privately funded – the ZOPA loans firm uses the peer to peer method of providing loans and is very successful. On the subject of another ref, this is unlikely but how can we know the future? We never foresaw the SNP landslide in 2011 which forced AS’s hand, and clearly the scottish govt did not have the time to get things really sorted for the ref. If it arises again we must be ready and an independent govt funded bank is one ingredient. Further, what happens if Catalonia is successful using the unilateral referendum and achieving Independence from Madrid ? Would that put an Indy Ref back on the agenda in scotland ? Anyway, “there are other routes to Independence” and one of those essential routes is the setting up scottish govt institutions.

  28. http://www.1001campaign.com/campaign-news/3-rounds-union/ Jim Sillars has a view : Independence in 3 years

  29. Excuse me if I sound a bit skeptical. We didn’t lose because we didn’t have a bank; we didn’t lose because we didn’t have social media outlets; we lost because our arguments didn’t convince the No’s to vote yes; we lost because we blustered over the unanswered questions when we should have pummelled away at those we could answer and explained that some could not be answered because the UK wouldn’t negotiate; we lost because we didn’t blitz on the consequences of a No vote of continuing rule by the rich for the rich; we lost because the full weight of the Establishment and their outriders was brought to bear; we lost because we couldn’t get our arguments into the MSM.

    We must avoid displacement activity and concentrate on developing arguments, getting our message through to the No’s and preparing for the general election, as Sillars says.

    There is a danger that after all the euphoria, those for whom a No won’t really make any difference (people like me, retired, comfortably off, in a good job) will return to their affairs. Each day I get more depressed by the actions of the UK government, and I despise it more and more, and their patsies Brown & Darling but it won’t affect me or thousands of others who’ve done very well out of the neo liberal consensus.

    So do we get people to vote Yes by appealing to their greed, as Thatcher, Blair and Brown did, or do we find arguments for challenging the status quo?

    • But I made these points very clearly when I was out campaigning but I still failed to convince stubborn Noes. And I’m normally quite convincing. Especially the point you raise that Cameron had (quite rightly) ruled out pre-negotiation, (because he’s not a Tudor monarch and cannot compel Parliament) so there were answers we just couldn’t get. But that we believed they would negotiate in the ways we expected because it was simply in their own interests to do so.

      My take on these stubborn Noes was that they were just too set in their ways. It was the sustained impact of ingrained prejudice operating not just through the MSM but operating over many generations to present a view of Scottish inferiority and English greatness. You can’t underestimate the impact of that.

      At the end of the day it all comes down to confidence and trust – who do you trust more to govern Scotland fairly and well? A distant Tory government? Or your own fellow Scots? With all our faults, and with all the risks, could we really do worse than Osborne and his cronies? With one fellow I could see that in his heart he really desperately wanted to vote Yes. But what I was up against was generation upon generation of views of Scottish inferiority and weakness. Just telling somebody that we are actually a wealthy country, the 14th wealthiest in the world, but that because we don’t control our wealth it is not well divided, so that most of us feel poor, but that’s not actually the case, just doesn’t cut it when you are up against that sheer weight of negative prejudice. If anything, encountering this prejudice on the doorstep has made me even more determined to fight for Scotland because it shows me how utterly toxic the Union has actually been, how corrosive of hope and enterprise. How utterly it had sapped and diminished our national spirit.

      For some, it was just too much of a leap.

      We can call them fearties if we like, and indeed some of them are pathetic fools, shallow, and scared of their own shadows. A disgrace, but every nation had its share of useless characters.

      But others are not in themselves fearties, but decent principled useful citizens who would normally put their shoulder for the wheel in any worthwhile cause and accept the pitfalls of fortune. They just wouldn’t do it for Scotland because they have been educated into believing we are too weak and inferior. Call them fools if you want to, but having met them on the doorstep I feel nothing but profound pity for them – and great anger at the system that has reduced their confidence to that.

  30. PS See Wings for the alternative petition.

  31. What I’m really saying is that what would do most to counter the sort of ingrained inferiority and negativity I encountered when campaigning is not just facts and counter arguments, but the lived experience of Scottish success. You can’t win on just arguments alone. It’s too abstract, it doesn’t shift the corrosive weight of negative prejudice against Scotland. What people need to see is the evidence of Scottish competence in action, of Scottish success, and to some extent, after only fifteen years, the Scottish Parliament has done that.

    But we need to build on that and do even more. And especially we need to build strong independent institutions from within civil society that are not controlled or threatened by Westminster.

    We need to show some muscle.

    I’ve always been sceptical that we could ever win true liberty by just sticking a cross on a ballot paper. Freedom is much harder won than that.

    If somebody gives you freedom, it is not freedom, but some other thing, clientage, perhaps.

    Freedom is that thing that a man or a woman takes for themselves.

    And we can do it. We can build such independent institutions. We can act to reduce our public spending deficit by doing things smarter, by building new houses, for a new Scotland, with a social bank, restoring the link between earnings and living costs. At one fell swoop we would reduce our welfare bill, better balancing revenues with expenditure. We would also be going a long way to ensuring that 40,000 well educated Yes-voting young people aged 16-24 don’t leave Scotland every single year. We would also be encouraging people to save, reducing crippling levels of personal debt if housing was more secure and more affordable; and enterprise is more likely to take off where living costs are lower.

    Nothing convinces like the visible lived experience of success.

    • Thanks for your well argued and illuminating replies, MBC. I agree with a lot of what you say and I agree that setting an example in government could be a very powerful motivator for change. I frequently hear Swinney being praised for his fiscal stewardship, for example. But I worry about the influence of the neo-liberal consensus which permeates all the WM political parties, Scottish Labour and Scottish Liberals. So, in Holyrood they will always be fighting against us.

      There may well be a group who have the subjugated colonialist mindset (although I would like to see some proper research on the No’s), but conversely there are so many who are comfortable with this political settlement because they have done very well. There is also a substantial group who have moved to Scotland, like some friends of mine who came up for the “quality of life” and voted No. My friends have no real commitment to Scotland – it’s just a nice part of the UK in which to live. I don’t know what we can do about them.

      We need to do the “by example” things you mention, but also to develop more compelling social justice arguments. Jones’s book “The Establishment..etc.” argues that the neo-liberal politico-economic consensus was initiated by Pirie and his Adam Smith think tank, aided and abetted by an ever increasing flow of fellow travelling think tanks. I think we have to do the same and target the “opinion formers” as well as the public.

      • Well my argument is really for doing something in civil society rather than in government, just as Derek proposes building an independent media from the grass roots without any government help. I am suspicious (as you are) of neo-liberal influence in governments, I’m suspicious even of the SNP, as they are not immune from such influences.

        What Scotland needs to shrug off is paternalism, the passivity of hoping somebody else is going to sort out your problems. We need to take an active stance, start behaving like an independent country, start doing things we dreamed of ourselves. Not wait for ‘the government’ to do something.

        Housing, for instance. Ordinary people could solve this by founding a housing bank or co-operative along the lines of Husbanken above.

        Same with energy.

  32. MBC is right: it’s a process of decolonisation that will gain freedom. The experience of constructive action will bolster resolution, just as the very existence of the Scottish Parliament has made many question the place of Westminster – because the Scottish Parliament, for all its faults offers a better way of dealing with public affairs.

  33. I totally agree with MBC,his statement ” What people need to see is the evidence of Scottish competence in action, of Scottish success ” is fundamental to winning arguments on the doorstep. Imagine for instance if a scottish central bank had been in place pre-referndum, possibly even a simple roadmap for transfer to a scottish pound as the currency, and scottish pensions already under scottish govt control. The arguments would hgave been so much easier. My feeling is that scotland will never get another referendum so we must build a country with institutions and controls that makes scotland an independent country by default – that is the long game. Maybe at some future time when the “corrosive prejudice” has been counteracted over time with a confident new generation full independence will come.

  34. Nothing succeeds like success.

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