Socialism and Nationalism

By Greg Philo

How would you feel about being rich? As Mr Swinney says, we would be the sixth richest in the world, while the rest of the UK would be a mere 16th if they are lucky. So that is one up on the Southerners, who we have apparently been subsidising. –


Even if this was true, how are so many people on the left lined up with such an appeal? The plan is that we take the resources , then leave the de-industrialised areas and dispossessed classes of the rest of the UK to cope with the uneven development of capitalism as best they can. How did we get into this state where an appeal which is so obviously divisive in terms of working class unity, is presented as progressive independence? I hear people on the left say we will set an example to the rest of the UK, but what example is it to the people in Durham or South Wales, except to dig for oil?

And there is another current feeding an intensely divisive nationalism which some do not wish to discuss. When I asked my students what the main driving force was, some replied, ‘Oh we just hate the English!’ Others rejected this, and it is true that many people in Scotland want nothing to do with anti-English racism. There are a million Scots in the South, we have relatives and friends there. But it would be quite false to say that anti –English attitudes no longer exist. Teachers tell me it is quite common for racist comments about the English to be made in the classroom, an attitude which presumably comes from parents. A 2006 Government study of school children’s attitudes concluded:

SCHOOLCHILDREN in Scotland show a “worrying hostility” towards English people and should be taught to curb their prejudice during anti-racism education, an Executive report has recommended.

The police here recently issued figures showing an increase in physical assaults which were racially based against English people. These figures were partially contested by the Nationalists with Roseanna Cunningham, the Scottish Community Safety Minister was rather confusingly reported as saying:

Although there had been an increase in Anti-English incidents, over the last four years the average level has “remained consistent”

Some incidents attracted a lot of attention, especially that of a disabled man being pulled from his car and attacked for having a Union Jack and a young boy being punched in the street for having an England football shirt. The crucial point is that a rise in nationalist fervour is likely to intensify a divisive racism. I was in Scotland all through the ‘Braveheart’ period and for some it was a grim time to be English, as recorded in this report:

Some interviewees suggested that any hardening and proliferation of anti- English attitudes was in large part attributable to the influence and success of films such as Braveheart and, to a much lesser extent, Rob Roy. The Braveheart ‘phenomenon’ was keenly felt by many of those we interviewed:

Braveheart was showing and as soon as the film was finished there were car horns honking and people were out on the streets and I thought ‘wow this is very scary’. And I’ve heard of people who were living in Falkirk who were English … driven out of the cinema and stuff by Scots consumed by this sort of crazy nationalistic spirit (male 38).

I’ve seen people with tears in their eyes after they’ve seen Braveheart, Scottish people with tears in the eyes, and the contempt they’ve had in their voice towards me being English (male 54).

– Ian McIntosh, Duncan Sim and Douglas Robertson (2004) ”It’s as if you’re some alien…’ Exploring Anti-English Attitudes in Scotland’. Sociological Research Online, vol. 9, no. 2,

The potential for division is obvious as such attitudes and the publicity they attract produce a response from the South and people start to speak in terms of ‘them’and ‘us’. In my recent focus groups there, I encountered a sense of puzzled betrayal as people made comments like ‘We know they hate us, but why do they hate us?’ This is important because I think it indicates a change. When I grew up in South London, there were jokes about kilts and accents certainly, and probably racist incidents but there was no folk narrative about Scots terrorists coming down and stealing cattle, no songs about the flower of England duffing up the Scots or any film like Braveheart. I know there can examples of racist attitudes towards Scottish people in England, but generally there was not a cultural attitude in that direction. The stereotypes for the Scots were different – good education system, good legal, good whisky , reminiscent of Tony Hancock’s description in The Blood Donor: “Fine Doctors the Scots and Engineers, it’s the porridge you know”. After all, we had built the empire with them, shoulder to shoulder; they were tough as well, the razor city, hard drinkers and hard fighters; as my mum told me, the enemy were terrified when they heard the bagpipes, a story told to her by my grandfather. The point is, they were on ‘our side’, as Barry Gibson writes, the Scots were ‘family’, –’unrequited+hate+affair’+with+Scotland.-a0277411221

But as everyone knows, family break ups can be very bitter, especially if one side perceives the other as motivated by racism and greed.

Socialism in One Country

Of course, there are better motives on offer. Some on the left tell us that this is the opportunity to oppose neo-liberalism, to defend social democracy and help the poor and dispossessed of Scotland. Once Scotland is independent and we are free of the Westminster parliament, all this is apparently possible. But neo-liberalism is not the Westminster parliament or the geographical expression which is the UK. It is the philosophy and practical application of Corporate Power in a global market based on profit and exchange. It is well served by a proliferation of small states who compete with each other to offer the most favourable terms for ‘business’. That is the rationale behind the commitment to lower corporation tax in the White Paper and why there is nothing on wealth taxes, nationalisation of land or even a guaranteed living wage. At present the SNP will not even agree to put up the top rate of tax to 50p. And it does not help for the Radical Independence left to keep saying that they are not the SNP and it will all be magically different in the future. We have the politicians that people vote for, in Scotland just as in Westminster. The Holyrood parliament has always had the ability to put up income tax and could have done so to help the excluded people of the de-industrialised West. But the politicians know that there is no appetite amongst the rich , the middle classes or those in jobs for higher tax. –

This is shown in other policies. The freezing of council tax, for example, is popular but is actually a subsidy for the middle classes and better off, while the decline in public services which results, has serious effects on those who depend on them with no alternative.

So the appetite for social democracy and the political will for radical social change is in many ways limited, here as elsewhere. This brings another question to the fore, which is: how different are the people in Scotland from those below Carlisle? There are some on the left who believe in a sort of Scottish Exceptionalism. Certainly, there are many excellent things here, the tradition of the red Clyde, the anti-racist groups, the strong activism, Gramnet, the help groups for refugees, the belief in a public sector and a cultural strand that favours collective action and community. But much of this would apply to other areas which have had industry, strong unions and community action – the North East, for example, Teeside, Humberside, Durham, Yorkshire across to Liverpool and South Wales and more. London does represent an enormous accumulation of wealth but is also a centre of radical activity and politics. Wealth there is very unevenly divided, over half of its population rent their homes, so a rise in property values profits some and leads to the eviction of others.

The picture in Scotland is more mixed than the election results and our one Tory MP might suggest. There are very strong currents of right wing opinion here. In the last election, 412,855 voted Conservative, 465,471 voted Lib Dem, 491,386 voted SNP. So around 1.4 million voted for these while just over 1 million voted Labour. The dominance of Labour MPs ( with 41 of 59) has a lot to do with the electoral boundaries and system, rather than just political preference. Social attitudes here are very conservative on many issues.

On Asylum, Refugees and migration, 58% want less immigrants (amongst whom some include ‘the English’). The Oxford Migration Observatory also examined the preferred policies for Scotland on refugees if we became independent. Just 16% wanted more welcoming policies:

The most frequent choice was that policy should be less welcoming to refugees and asylum seekers (43%) than in the UK, while 29% preferred to stay the same as the UK and 16% would choose a more welcoming set of policies.

There is also terrible racism directed at Black and Asian people. An attack on a Black busker in Sauchiehall st., was recently filmed and shown on tv. The man had been in Glasgow for 15 years and made this comment:

It was the second or third day (after arriving). Someone said to me, ya fucking black bastard. I was a kid of 20 or so. Since then it has been like that every day.

– Sunday Mail 16.02.14

Every day? In the Glasgow equivalent of Oxford St.

For our recent book on refugees, we interviewed a community worker, in a focus group, who told us:

When asylum seekers came to Glasgow I felt I had got a promotion, I felt I was promoted even though I was born in Glasgow, from being racially beaten up, abused, marginalised for most of my life. When asylum seekers first came to Glasgow, I was now seen as Glaswegian. (There was a boy who said) ‘You’re alright now but I don’t like these new folk’. I had suddenly been promoted from the bottom rung to the next rung. He said ‘now’ because there was a new group of people who could be marginalised and to bully.

– Bad News for Refugees:139

Then of course there is the vicious sectarianism, the religious divisions, the Orange marches, plus the other opiates of the masses and our less than brilliant record on the beating of children and domestic violence. Opinions and attitudes are mixed and divided, sometimes in the same people – in my focus groups, an anti-Tory, Labour voting nurse will also tell me about the ‘scum’ on the council estates and the guy up the road who is fiddling a disability vehicle. There are many contradictions – strange to sit in a radical union meeting and hear an MSP, a trade union equalities officer on the need to fight for rights, who has just voted against Gay Marriage. Meanwhile the leader of the Tories who is gay gives an impassioned brilliant speech in favour. The truth is we are like a lot of other places, and we would do well to remember that when people speak of Scotland or the Scots as having a “will to socialism” or write that “social democracy is hard- wired into Scotland’s soul”.

We are not so special that we can effortlessly deliver socialism to the world. I have no interest in any nationalism and certainly not in the preservation of the UK Ltd. But the key questions are, how do we best organise the struggle for social change and what is the impact of creating new boundaries and divisions? How for example can we combat the uneven development of capitalism in this island and its disastrous impacts on the people of the north and west if we do not have representation in the Westminster parliament? Certainly we should have grass roots action and popular movements, but the capacity to make laws and control the movement of resources is actually important. And there is no point in complaining that the Westminster parliament does not always represent our views. It is the one that brought in the Bedroom Tax and the Poll Tax, but also the same one that abolished slavery, promoted women’s and gay rights, brought in the NHS and nationalised large parts of British industry. Just after that most radical period, in 1955 a majority of the people in Scotland voted Conservative. Sometimes we advance and sometimes not. There are no short cuts, it is a very long political struggle.

If we believe that the UK Ltd is a particularly appalling concentration of corporate interests and financial capital which launches illegal wars, then that is all the more reason to be in there fighting for better policies. Without political representation, the possibilities for opposition are lessened. We can lose struggles as in Afghanistan and Iraq, but then sometimes an intervention is stopped as in Syria. What happens in a separated future, if without our 59 MPs, a war goes ahead – do we just look on from above Carlisle, feeling morally superior?

All this does not suggest to me that independence would open the way to a socialist Scotland, much as I would like one. The radical left, as we understand it, is not represented in the Scottish Parliament, even with proportional representation. But more crucially, the idea of a new socialist politics being born with a yes vote seems to me very unlikely, as a major consequence would be a surge in the worst elements of nationalism, above and below Carlisle and all the divisions which that brings- we would be divided by a new border and also within our own society.

Who is a Real Scot?

A new nation brings with it new questions of who belongs in it. Nationalism can very quickly divide people into who are Real Scots and those who are not. So Facebook entries on Independence now include ominous words like ‘the Will of the Scots’, ‘Scottish blood’, ‘the Scottish people’, and not wanting to be ruled by ‘England’. And this is from people who regard themselves as being on the left. Since I have been identified as a critic I am now being asked ‘Do I deny the Scots are a people?’, and, ‘ How can I disrespect my ‘host nation’ in this way?’ After many years here, for some I am still the guest while people born after I came are ‘the hosts’. Until quite recently, there were large numbers of bumpers stickers on cars saying ‘I am a real Scot, I am from Kilmarnock’, (or Falkirk, or Irvine etc). Of course there were none saying, ‘I am a Real Scot, I am from Islamabad’ , or South London.

A rise in nationalism begins to legitimise questions which would previously have been unacceptable. The view that English people should not be in senior positions or there are “too many” of them can surface quite openly. I have twice been public meetings where it has been said that there will be more room for Scottish academics after Independence, with less English ones. It’s extraordinary that someone like Alasdair Gray could publish a piece on the English as being ‘Settlers and Colonists’ and could write this:

By the 1970s the long list of Scots doing well in the south was over balanced by English with the highest positions in Scottish electricity, water supply, property development, universities, local civil services and art galleries.

-‘Settlers and Colonists’, in Unstated 2012:103

He must include me, as that is when I came up. But can we seriously imagine a major left wing literary figure in the South writing about Scottish people coming to England and not properly respecting or understanding English culture?

Am I a ‘settler’ or a ‘colonist’?

The SNP has ridden the tide of nationalism very successfully. It did not take off with opposition to neo-liberalism, but with the discovery of oil, whose nationality was also claimed to be Scottish. In the October 1974 election, you could not move here for yellow posters with the slogan ‘It’s Scotland’s Oil’. On this basis, they took 30% of the vote. But a nationalism which draws upon who is a Real Scot and how many English are here, is intensely divisive.

Some on the left are now providing cover for these grim tendencies by arguing that this is all about independence rather than nationalism; in future, all will be welcome and there will be no difference between people. But if this the case, then why draw a line between Berwick and Carlisle, or argue that the Scots are in some way ‘Exceptional’?

The divisions extend through the left, with people on different sides now denouncing each other as ‘scum’ and ‘quislings’. See for example the Trades Council Debate in Clydebank, (3/10/13) which was filmed so you can watch if you can bear it. A particularly grim moment is the response to an English woman: ‘Away back home ya bitch!’ –

This will take some time to heal whatever the outcome of the vote, but I think also that a yes vote would also have implications for the Scottish economy which would intensify these problems and jeopardise the welfare of very many people.

Class Unity and Uneven Development in Foreign Countries

A key issue in understanding future developments is that when a new nation is established, it becomes an economic competitor. There can be collaboration, but the essential principle is of each country pursuing its own interests. Once no taxes are paid to the ‘old’ country and there is no political representation there, then no favours are owed, there are no electoral constituencies to be satisfied. So without any of the factors discussed above, it would be quite normal for resources and direct investment to be moved from an independent Scotland to the south. Politicians on both sides are reluctant to speak much about this. Any mentions from the union side are denounced as a ‘threat’ and ‘bullying’, while the nationalists like to say that everything will go on much as now with no great shock to the economy. But it is quite obvious that independent states do not typically keep their government departments in another country (as for example DFID, now in East Kilbride). The same would apply to income tax collection, (Centre One , also in East Kilbride), and probably also to defence contracts. Why would heavy subsidies in green energy be put into another country when these would be gratefully received by constituencies stretching from Cornwall to Carlisle? We currently receive 28% of UK subsidies. –

The finance sector here is also largely owned and/or operates substantially in the south (as in ‘Scottish’ Widows, owned by Lloyds). Much of this would be very likely to move, especially given the rather flaky relationship now on offer with the pound sterling. There are many other examples which are not even publicly discussed – like the Research Council grant funding which comes to our major universities and is centrally allocated. Needless to say this isn’t given to foreign countries.

I am not mainly concerned with economic arguments as such but rather how such changes will impact on the potential for class unity and collective action. Nationalism divides and different perceptions form on each side. There are some here who argue that ‘Scottish oil’ has subsidised the south. But in the South people would note that Scotland’s share of revenues from this are now less than half of 1% of UK GDP. ( There are many there who believe that it is Scotland which is subsidised. They would point to our free university tuition, care for the elderly, no prescription charges and around 11% more spending per person than the English average (though still less than for London).

It is easy to see how a split would become bitter if perceived to be motivated by greed and racism. As the political and economic negotiations became tougher, there would be a lot of blaming here of ‘the English’. There is scapegoating – it is what happens when countries divide. The rightwing press in the South would leap on stories of attacks of English people. They are already running pieces like this and some commentators are now lining up to argue how the South would be better off without ‘the Scots’. I need hardly say that it is not a good idea for a small group of five million people to have an economic fight with sixty million who live next door.

Now of course, nationalists here would reject this description but it is very dangerous for the welfare of people above Carlisle if separation is perceived in the South as based on a grab for economic resources by the would-be ‘sixth richest nation’. The reaction in the south is likely to be ‘hell mend you’ and this would legitimise pulling the plug on the Scottish economy while the rest of the UK would simply hoover up the direct investment and subsidised regional development.

One result of such a shock to the Scottish economy would be to put pressure on government finances and to intensify the potential gap here between government income and public expenditure. Because Holyrood politicians have no appetite for increasing tax, then there would be cuts in spending, including or perhaps especially welfare. So it is a cruel trick on the poor to say they will be rich in the new Scotland. As it is, with the existing arrangements, the poorest groups have some protection. Spending on welfare and health has been relatively well sustained and we were able to protect people from the worst effects of policies such as the bedroom tax. But a new state would face a much grimmer prospect , buffeted by the winds of globalisation, in the queue for corporate investment with no one owing it any favours. In this, the shots would be called by the 500 people who own half of Scotland plus the middle classes and those with jobs, and it is obvious who would lose out.

If this sounds alarming, then bear in mind that it is on the mild end of the scale of what happens when countries divide. I am not suggesting that we will be like Ukraine but in the move from subsidy mode to ‘who owns what’, relationships can very quickly become icy. Above Carlisle we have a lot to lose from this. An increase in anti-English sentiment would prompt many people to leave. Scotland’s tourist industry gets 60% of its income from England. And while this bitterness and division is being generated, what happens to the collective struggle against neo-liberalism and crucially against the uneven development of capitalism in the island as a whole?

The Break-up of Britain

A key issue which faces us in this is not the secession of Scotland, but of London and the south-east. That golden triangle is now drawing in talent, investment and resources, at an extraordinary rate. As Vince Cable said, it is acting as ‘a giant suction machine’ draining the life out of the rest of the country. –

It also attracts massive international investment. Recently, the Chinese company APB Holdings revealed that it would be building a second Canary Wharf with the intention of focusing the headquarters of key Asian corporations in London. Boris Johnson announced that this would be the single biggest Asian development in Europe and construction would start this year. What is remarkable about this investment is that it was barely covered in the media – there is just so much of it. London and the Thames valley have become the focus of hundreds of thousands of key workers, not just in finance, but in design, hi-tech and information technology companies including Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard Oracle and Dell, plus communications, advertising, media, pharmaceuticals and many other industries. The problem is that all of this is going on just a bus ride from Buchanan Street and each year I see many of my students make that journey. One now owns a large TV company making programmes like The Voice and Who Do You Think You Are? He has told me that he could name off the top of his head at least ten other top people in his industry from Scotland, now all in the South.

Such a relentless process of uneven development can only be altered by very strong regional planning. It requires physically moving jobs and investment , including transferring government departments or media conglomerates such as the BBC, plus the development of new infrastructure, broadband, cross rail links to join northern cities laterally and the focussing of research, training and development in targeted areas. The problem with independence is that it removes any representation which we have in that planning. The movement of people south would continue, but there would be little we could do about it, short of re-building Hadrian’s wall. So we need to be part of a new alliance by which the north and west effectively force new policies on the south east.

There are many other areas for collective action. We found very strong public support when we suggested a substantial wealth tax, by which the richest 10% would contribute one fifth of their wealth to pay off the national debt. The opinion poll which we commissioned showed 74% of the UK population in favour ( There is also a strong public desire to stop tax avoidance, for public ownership of the railways, and key industries such as electricity and gas. The struggle for decent wages, the defence of the NHS, home building programmes, jobs for young people, apprenticeships and training also have extensive popular support. This politics has to be forged and fought for, through peoples parliaments, strong union links, effective political representation and demands for space in the media to explain the alternatives to austerity politics. I think the current debate on independence has got in the way of all this. It offers the division between those above and below Carlisle, the internal fracturing of our society and a fall in the living standards of the poorest. For us, socialism should come first and last and should not be used as a cover for a nationalism which would reduce our ability to take part in the wider changes that are so desperately needed.


  1. Donald Reid

    Interesting article but flawed in several respects I think

    1) what he calls antiEnglishness is anger at the status quo, inarticulately expressed and it’s hard to compare that with genuine discrimination against other groups who are powerless and excluded: that is NOT true of the English in Scotland

    2) his plaintiff call for a strong regional development policy is fair – but it precisely what has been missing in the UK these 30 years, despite our representation at the centre. It’s not an unreasonable response to say “OK let’s take the policy levers into our own hands”

    3) he patronisingly assumes throughout this that we are dependent on the largesse from the rich south and that capital would flee south in the event of independence. This is not borne out by current evidence that has shown Scotland to be a top destination for foreign investment even in the current febrile pre-referendum climate. Nor do the basic economic facts about Scotland suggest we would be beggared: we are net exporters, net contributors to the UK with lower underlying deficits and debt (the latter two made worse by association with the UK). Most newly independent countries would give their eye teeth for the resources and opportunities Scotland has (we speak English; are highly successful exporters and have huge open markets on our southern border; have world renowned brand in everything from food and drink and tourism to education, universities etc; and as well as all that we have the windfall of oil and renewable energy resources)

    4) the UK wide ‘progressive advance’ he is looking for isn’t looking very likely because the consensus in UK politics is hostile. The consensus in Scotland still makes this possible. I think it’s again reasonable to say that Scotland showing “it can be done” would strengthen the hand of progressives in rUK. If not, that’s who’s fault? If the democratic will of the majority in England is anti-progressive that’s their choice. But I suspect it will expose the democratic deficit in rUK and make the need for reform more urgent and crisply clearer.

    5) why are we meant to despise national boundaries? true progressives should be pushing power down to communities, to the people they claim to be so sympathetic to. So, decisions about Motherwell are best made in Motherwell. Ditto Scotland. Scotland happens to be a nation rather than a large town so this implies statehood. This doesn’t prevent you then co-operating with other entities (neighbouring local authorities or countries) in fact it’s usually in your self-interest to do so but at least it is YOUR CHOICE. We’re no longer going to be invaded or annexed for our resources are to subordinate us. This isn’t the 17th century it’s the 21st. People live in communities and aren’t to be homogenised into large states (and anyway why stop at large nation states, why not abolish borders across a continent? Why not? Because supra-national government as it evolves has to be balanced with a strengthening of the regions otherwise, as we have seen in the UK, the centripetal forces are too great and hard to reverse).

    6) if capital can organise across borders why can’t labour? Or progressive parties sympathetic to labour.

    7) I agree that the propaganda about Scotland’s wealth is crass and it’s neither Greg’s nor my ‘cup of tea’. But he seems to miss the point that this is out there to contradict the messaging every Scot has had since birth that we’re a basket case country and should be grateful to mother (England?UK?). So, to hear that ‘we have what it takes’ is a genuine surprise – and most pot the population probably disbelieve it, so deep is the conditioning. So, if we’re wealthy – wheres the money gone? What could we do with it which would be BETTER?? As a media analyst it’s kinda strange that he doesn’t get this, indeed he seem to go along with ‘Scotland is too poor’ myth himself, even after decades in Scotland.

    8) Lastly I find this analysis profoundly antidemocratic. Why should democracy only be fully empowered at UK level (rather than constituent nations or for that matter EU level?). Who’s democracy is it?? This seems to me to be unacknowledged British nationalism and, as I have already said, British democracy is deeply dysfunctional and whilst one could have believed it might evolve in a progressive direction once, recent decoders have seen us de-evolve (on worker’s rights; immigration; consensus on the welfare state).

    Eager to discuss further, because I’m sure we want similar social outcomes.

    • eddie

      Very much so. Tho I would like to add that the ‘propaganda about scotland’s wealth’ is not substanceless marketing. It is about what we, as a small, resource-rich, independent nation can do based on what other, similar countries, such as Norway, Finland have done. I searched the article in vain for references to norway. I can only conclude that that’s something they don’t want to talk about.

  2. pb

    Good article (and the follow up comment was also good). The only thing I’d say was that it might have been better to place the material on ‘anti-Englishness’ a little later in the piece.

  3. Gordon Munro

    The criticism from Donald seems to ignore the obvious that there is no analysis of power by yes beyond London which is code for English. If there was then the argument would be to use tax powers to redistribute wealth not to lower Corporation Tax. If the Left were stronger then that would be reflected in higher trade union membership ; popular demands to properly fund local government rather than cut by stealth with the ‘popular’ council tax freeze; the Single outcome Agreement for Councils would be lifted to enable them to determine their priorities than a dictat form the Centre. None of this and more is part of the debate as it is kept deliberately narrow and in raw emotional terms. Start by asking Powers for what purpose and we may begin to have a proper debate rather than the playground name calling we have at the moment.

    • Donald Reid

      I agree we need less top down centralism and use of the tax system to promote equality. And underpinning that, an analysis of the distribution and dynamics of power.


      (1) your description of the SOAs overlooks the fact that the whole point of them is to free local authorities from the previous ring fencing regime operated by Labour and allow greater scope top decide local priorities (= less central dictat).

      (2) the “popular” CT freeze is, er, popular and whatever the theory, it’s of practical benefit to struggling households.

      (3) London is NOT code for “English” that’s the reverse of the truth. ‘London’ is code for undemocratic WM rule. The issue is democracy not ethnicity. That statement is just perniciously wrongheaded and I can’t see where you get that from. I know many English people here looking for the same thing and I daresay that’s true in much of England too.

      (4) TU membership? I don’t know the figures so can’t comment. But there isn’t the anti-Union rhetoric here and I certainly hope that restrictive UK labour legislation can be loosened in iScotland. Good point to raise.

      (5) Taxation – it’s clear to me that the consensus in Scotland would be to use taxation to promote equality but we can’t do that unless we get independence. I don’t see the SNP policy of lowering corporation tax as a contradiction to that, as you seem to – it’s legitimate for any government to vary any taxes up or down to pursue full employment goals, which is what we’re after, right? But that’s for a general election post Independence, not a referendum issue.

      (6) “the debate as it is kept deliberately narrow and in raw emotional terms” – where’s your evidence of this? The White Paper is 640pp long, for goodness sake, spelling out everything about everything, deliberately downplaying the emotional / nationalistic / tartan and Braveheart sentimentalism and, if anything, too managerial and prosaic. The people reducing it to emotion and narrowing it to identity issues seem mainly to be on the antiIndy side, trying to make out it’s all just tartan jingoism. I’m not interested in any of that schmaltz and I don’t know anyone who is. It’s certainly not a vote winner outside a few numpties.

      So – the analysis of power you’re looking for is being done on a daily basis the length and breadth of Scotland by people meeting, discussing, arguing about what Independence is for. The White Paper is the proposal of the present government to radically alter the balance of power on these islands and they’re demonstrably further to the left than and other party and after the conscientising process won’t get away with sliding to the right. I suspect post-Indy the SNP will break up and the Labour party and others will find a renewed purpose and potential – IF they can move on from their present plight of being in cahoots with the Tories and failing to grasp the fact that they’ve haemorrhaged support because they have failed ordinary people and have been voted OUT OF OFFICE.

    • eddie

      Of course, if objecting to Westminster’s imperial domination at the expense of other parts of the empire is anti-english racism, then yorkshiremen, cornwallians, scousers and geordies are anti-english racists too.

    • eddie

      Of course, James Connoly is now seen as a hero for preserving ireland’s rightful place in the british empire.

    • Robert Scott

      Excellent response from Donald Reid – patronising assumptions must be challenged, even when they come from otherwise respected academics.

    • Lewis Buchan

      Hi John. I remember you from when I was a member of the SSP and always respected your views and comments about both Scottish and international affairs. Quite shocked to deduce from your ‘excellent piece’ comment that you may be lining up with the Brit Nats to vote ‘No’ in September. I’m genuinely disappointed. As a socialist I believe in class unity – not state unity – and it is a fundamental error to conflate the two. Socialists in Scotland should be voting Yes, and then use the new found opportunity to build the kind of society that can be a beacon on inspiration to workers across the globe.

  4. Peter Arnott

    For me the key sentence here is this. “A key issue which faces us in this is not the secession of Scotland, but of London and the south-east.” There may well be a nationalist “Pull” factor…but the negative “push” of the the Break up of Britain is the much stronger and much more socially and constitutionally disruptive factor in our living together on these islands. . Indeed, Scotland has been rather left behind, as have the English regions. Arguably, indeed, rather less far behind than many.

    The Break Up of Britain begins with the hegemony of big money power coincidentally located in London. Democracy and social cohesion are the casualties of this agglomeration of power and exclusively neo-liberal political paradigm far for than they are of Celtic separatism. Constitutional dysfunction is a symptom of this largely un-commmented upon (because natural, nay God Given!) economic and cultural imbalance. As wealth becomes more and more concentrated and polarised, so this “unequal development” becomes more and more damaging to the fabric of the nation state, as well as the fabric of “British Society.”

    Interestingly, it is those areas of stronger local identity on the Celtic Fringe who have been strategically best placed within this general tale of dissolution, to hold onto the now antique but very British values of social solidarity as expressed in welfarism and social control of resources.

    (I would argue that the labour government of 1945 -51 derived its mandate from what was the quintessential British Nationalist moment of “all in it together” at the end of the Second World war far more than from any more Internationalist ideology, and that it is the fading of that British national sense of identity that weakened social solidarity to the point where and its substitution by flags only has left us with the spectre of Farage…but another time).

    The question before us as socialists in Scotland is therefore strategic. Greg argues, I think better than most on the side of Union, that the disruption of the separation would outweigh the advantages for the left of a smaller, more left polity in Scotland as a counter weight to the political and economic – and neo liberal model – of “London” – (by which he means, as I’m sure we all do, the place where the money river flows, Peckham being as distant from that happy land as Prestatyn or Prestwick).

    The counter argument is that to wish for a revival of the values we share through the labour party once again capturing the “commanding heights” is equally a punt on a wing and a prayer – with the bitter experience of 1997 – 2010 too recent in the mind for it to be taken seriously.

    We can all look into crystal balls and hope and fear. However what is already happening, and what cannot be denied, I don’t think, is that the break Up of Britain is real. Devolution is a fact, and so the sovereignty of decision making for Scotland by the people who live in Scotland is already, therefore, a fact. The tectonic drift is all one way. One can only hope (and work) for civility in the widest and richest sense of the word.

  5. Jimbob Tanktop

    His points on the economy are risible, and display a distrust of English people which is wholly distasteful, as he suggests 52 million individuals could act against what may be their best economic interests in a fit of collective petulance as a reaction to…what, exactly? That Scotland decides it would rather have control over banalities like VAT levels and employment law? That is frankly, hilarious, and akin to the nonsense perpetuated by the right wing press. Ironic, given he seems to think anti-Englishness is a widespread problem. As an English man who has spent many years and seen his career flourish in Scotland, perhaps some personal affirmation of the underlying well of hatred he has faced would have carried more value than extrapolating an argument as being somehow representative of an entire country’s psyche.

    His predictions on the future movements of the financial sector are a scream, and read like the prognosis of someone who has no idea how the financial sector actually operates, yet still feels confident enough to think that simply because he says something it is therefore true. As he offers no real evidence as to the likelihood of this, I can only assume he has recourse to a reputable astrologer.

    The mention of Ukraine is utterly irrelevant. Want me to spin that? Ukraine is a country which recently managed to gain independence from its much larger neighbour and which has seen violent demands from agitators keen to restore the former union. Because the Crimeans who seceded from Kiev, and those in the East are Russian Unionists, not separatists.

    He entirely fails to address the civic issue or the democratic deficit which fuels the debate, and chooses to retread abject and insignificant ground, based on matters of ethnicity. By quoting the Daily Telegraph as a source of evidence of this – a newspaper which has, in its comments section chosen not to censor swathes of anti-Scottish abuse from its contributors – is enough to make a cat laugh. Similarly, this newspaper more often than not depicts a ‘typical’ Scot in any photograph accompanying a story of the referendum as a blue-face-painted, CU Jimmy hat-wearing hooligan. There’s a balanced source. From someone who has built a career examining media bias, it would appear to be only of concern if it fails to coincide with his personal bias.

    Also, Alasdair Gray (80) has spent many decades producing a body of work, both fiction and non-fiction, which runs to millions of words, so to appropriate three of those words, one of which is the conjunction ‘and,’ remove it from its wider context, and extrapolate that as somehow being representative of an inner well of untapped discrimination is intellectually lazy at best. I won’t say what it suggests to me at worst.

    Finally, he resorts to a trope familiar to anyone who campaigns for any sort of progressive change in society, that it would be *difficult.* Difficulty and complexity are insurmountable barriers for the banal. I choose difficulty.

    That apart, his writing style fails to engage and his regular lapse into the passive voice suggests someone who writes and analyses not to uncover or elucidate, but to enrich whatever confirmation bias he intended to polish for the echo chamber of his expected audience.

    That apart, I quite liked it.

  6. Jurran Nye

    I cannot understand the Norway obsession (above). Has anyone actually lived there? Has anyone noticed how grotequely divided it is culturally (try looking around Oslo for a few minutes) and the casual racism against refugees that comes from its petty, introverted nationalism? Has anyone noticed that it has used its capital to enslave people througout the world so its population can live off the labour of others? What is left about being a Scandinavian Saudi Arabia?. About being the national equivalent of world’s largest hedge fund? (At least the Swedes and Finns work for their high standard of living).Has anyone noticed it isn’t in the EU? (I thought YES was big on that)… Sounds like all that Scotland can be Iceland crap just before their banks crashed.

    • eddie

      I see no real evidence of a worldwide norwegian empire so have no idea how it has enslaved people. I think norway has been highlighted particularly as an example of a small nation which has chosen to go it alone, free from it’s previous status as part of a swedish empire, and has managed its natural resources to better benefit its people. It has a diplomatic reputation for such as these:

      so it’s not surprising that it’s subject to hate and misinformation from some quarters.

  7. Lewis Buchan

    Voting Yes and Voting No are both about ‘nationalism’ – those voting Yes see Scotland as the entity that should be a sovereign nation and those voting No see the UK as what they wish to be the sovereign nation.

    • eddie

      Well, kinda. Voting is about democracy, and local representation versus remote, non-representation might well be an improvement.

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