Nationalism: why it’s a retrograde step in history

Andrew Wills is a dry-stone wall builder and film editor. At the Anderson High School he was cut a great deal of slack by Geordie Jamieson, and, like so many others, was inspired by the late Donald Campbell. Andrew then went on to study music tech­nology at Rose Bruford College in London. After a stint as a video editor, and as an English teacher and volunteer overseas, he returned to Shetland in 2002 to work for Shetland Television, the Adult Literacy Service and Seabirds-and-Seals, to teach at Shetland College and to learn how to build dry-stone walls from Jim Keddie. From 2004 to 2013 he lived full time in the Czech Republic, and now divides his time between Prague and Shetland.

The theory of nationality, known since the late 19th century as nation­al­ism, argues that the nation is a desirable unit of political adminis­tration of sovereign states.

In contemporary Europe its advocates typically campaign for the partition of multination-states to form small nation-states. According to the historian Eric Hobsbawm the term Kleinstaaterei, or “small-state-ism”, has always been pejorative.

This must be due in part to the fact that small states cannot defend their own interests or maintain control of their affairs at times of international crisis. They require the protection of an international order, and when
that order beaks down, as all such orders do sooner or later, small states are left in urgent need of economic and/or military help from larger states.

Newly seceded European nation-states may lose their independence to the bureaucrats, diplomats or con­quering armies of superior powers, depending upon prevailing geo-poli­tical conditions. The smaller a state is, and the later it joins, the more independence it must relinquish to become a member of the EU, but the EU cannot be a final guarantor of security, because it is an international order, not a state.

Great military alliances such as NATO seem to guarantee security, until one of their members is attacked, at which point a major war is likely, because all other members are legally bound to take military action. The best guaran­tor of security through the centuries is a large multination-state like the UK.

Every time a multination-state has been partitioned into smaller nation-states, in Europe since 1900, there has followed a deepening of racial and sectarian divisions, or xenophobia. Contemporary “civic” nationalists may also be true anti-racists and multiculturalists, in their own hearts and minds, but in practice their project of making their nation a state destroys the conditions that are most conducive to cultural free­dom and pluralism.

This is because, across society, national sentiment in Europe is not purely civic, but also includes inextricable elements of religion, history, territory, language, ethnicity and culture. Therefore mak­ing the nation and state com­men­surate, in the form of a nation-state, intensifies conflict in society over exactly which ethnic, sectarian, etc., identity is truly national.

In a larger, multination-state, patriotic loyalty to the state implies no spec­ific national affiliation, so ethnicity, religion, language, etc., tend to be relatively depoliticised. This is not to say that there are no sectarian or inter-ethnic divisions in European multination-states, only that when such states are partitioned on nationalist lines, their divisions are invariably worsened.

20th-century examples of this include the intensification of the repression of the Sami people through “Norwegianisation” after the partition of the United Kingdoms of Sweden and Norway, the ban on immigration into Denmark soon after the partition of the Kingdom of Denmark to form the Kingdom of Iceland, conflict in Northern Ireland after partition and the condition of ethnic minorities there to this day, the fires of racist nationalism raging through eastern Europe in the 1920s and 30s after the partition of Austria-Hungary into a lot of small nation-states, the classification of many Russian-speakers as non-citizens without voting rights in independent Estonia, the denial of citizenship to many Roma people after the parti­tion of Czechoslovakia, the inter-ethnic conflict in the former Yugo­slavia, and ethnic tensions in the Swedish city of Malmo – which have led to the departure of 60 per cent of its Jewish population in recent years.

As far as I know, there is no racism at all among mainstream nationalist politicians in Scotland today, or among the majority of their supporters. I believe they are decent people who are honestly mistaken about the consequences of national secession.

Scotland has no immunity from the forces of European history, but I don’t think anybody would expect the increased social tensions caused by nationalist secession to find ex­pression here in the enactment by the state of repressive measures against minorities.

Rather, our hist­ory points to their informal expres­sion through the increased social exclusion of sectarian minorities, street violence, and the racist bully­ing of south-spoken children in Scottish schools. We have made great progress in Scotland in the fight against sectarianism, but 23 per cent of Scots describing them­selves as Catholic still live in depri­ved areas, whereas for those identi­fy­ing with the Church of Scotland the figure is 12 per cent.

Violence associated with Orange Order mar­ches has increased every year since 2003, and last year the Catholic Church spokesman Peter Kearney stated that Scotland is a hostile place for Catholics. I cannot see how any­one who has tried to learn the lessons of 20th-century European history could conclude that the partition of the United Kingdom on nationalist lines might help us to solve these problems in Scotland.

Surprisingly, some advocates of independence for Scotland think that they can campaign and vote for it without being nationalists. They can’t. However laudable or other­wise their political aims, if they seek to achieve them by making state boundaries coincide with national boundaries, they are nationalists.

Faced with this stark fact, liberal-minded nationalists often attempt to divert attention away from the poisonous effects of nationalism in 20th-century Europe, by holding up examples of “national” liberation struggles in South America, Africa or Asia.

This lacks historical sense. Unlike early-19th century Bolivia, Scotland is part of a democratic multination-state. The unifying prog­­rammes of Gandhi and Mandela were so fundamentally different from nation-splitting nationalism in Europe that it is misleading to use the same term to describe them. It is here in Europe that Scottish voters must look for precedents.

The Crimea is very close to Scot­land, and we need to make sure that we know as much as possible about the people who live there before we vote in the independence referen­dum. Since the beginning of the EU, no existing member state has ever been partitioned.

If an independent Scotland were granted favourable EU membership conditions, that would establish a precedent which Wales, Northern Ireland, Jutland, Catalonia, The Basque Country, Wallonia, parts of northern Italy, Corsica and some others of the 30-or-more European movements for nationalist secession, might seek to follow.

The prospect of such a series of precedents emerging in western Europe must alarm the heads of government in EU member states in eastern Europe, because they know that by normalising sec­es­sion, it would increase the plausi­bility of potential claims by Russia to, for example, predomin­antly Russian-speaking parts of eastern Estonia. They cannot prevent the first domino falling. They cannot interfere in the process of Scotland’s internal democratic constitutional settlement. So what power do they have?

The answer is simple: they sit on the European Council with the leaders of western-European EU mem­ber states. That council has the power to decide, by a simple major­ity vote, whether to accept or reject any proposal to renegotiate an indep­endent Scotland’s relationship with the EU under article 48 of the Treat­ies of the European Union. If such a proposal were rejected, Scotland would have no option but to reapply as a prospective new member under article 49.

It is hard to imagine that EU heads of government would vote for renegotiation under article 48, thus setting an attractive precedent for the partition of the very states they lead. To the contrary, they would have every incentive to force Scot­land to reapply, to revoke existing benefits, such as the UK’s EU rebate, and to impose such awkward and disadvantageous terms as might dis­courage their own nationalist seces­sion­ists.

The Schengen agreement might be imposed on Scotland, obliging us to establish passport controls on the border with England. Every new EU member state must now adopt the Euro. I see no reason to think that the European Council would make a special exception for Scotland.

What a gift to unionist leaders in Spain the opening of such negotia­tions would be! The harder they squeezed the Scottish fishing indus­try, the more they would gain for the Spanish fleet, and the further from reality all prospect of Catalonian secession would recede.

No main­stream politician in Scotland will take responsibility for removing us from the EU, because they know that the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of people depend upon the investment that EU membership attracts. In the end, independent Scot­land’s representatives would have to accept the terms dictated by the Council of Europe.

The way to solve problems in large multination-states like the UK is to democratise the state through devolution, not to partition it.

Eric Hobsbawm’s book Nations and Nationalism since 1780 is the source of many of the insights that inspired me to write this piece.


Add Your Comment
  • Eryn Galloway

    • September 8th, 2014 16:14

    I agree completely, but this gem of common sense will be bashed and over looked by the raging beast that is the Yes movement.

  • John Tulloch

    • September 8th, 2014 16:46

    Well, there you are folks – “chapter and verse” on nationalism!

  • Kevin Learmonth

    • September 8th, 2014 19:58

    At which point in Czech history would Andrew have judged the larger multi-nation state to be ideal? Austro-Hungarian empire, German occupation, Russian domation?

    That the Czech republic now exists in its current form, says a lot for democracy, and the confidence of a people to make their own decisions and govern themselves.

    • Andrew Wills

      • September 10th, 2014 0:02

      Hi Kevin,

      Thanks for taking the time to read my “Sounding Off”.

      If you look more closely at it, you’ll see that I do not “judge the larger multination-state to be ideal.” Two of the points I made are that when multination-states are partitioned on nationalist lines, social divisions are invariable worsened, and that small states cannot fend for themselves during a major international crisis. It seems to me that Scotland, as a very European nation, is unlikely to prove an exception to these trends. I would love to believe that Europe is now immune to major international crises, but what I read in the newspapers indicates otherwise.

      The three examples you suggest all illustrate the invidious effects of European nation-splitting nationalism in the 20th century.

      Although Austro-Hungary was not ideal, the western, Austrian part of it was very different to the eastern, Hungarian part. According to the historian Mary Heimann, in 1914 the Czechs had more than 100 MPs in the Vienna parliament, enough to block legislation or bring down a cabinet, and on the 24th of January 1917 the Association of Czech Deputies declared that, “… the Czech nation envisages the conditions of its development only beneath the sceptre of the Habsburgs.”

      Heimann has described how, at the Versailles peace conference, the sole deputy of the tiny Czech “Realist” party, Tomas Garrigue Masaryk, won the ear of the American president Woodrow Wilson, and succeeded in having implemented his vision of a chain of independent nation-states – Polish, Czech, Serbian and Hungarian – that would encircle the German-speaking nations, and, in his nationalist view, prevent the creation of a greater Germany.

      With hindsight we can see that Masaryk’s strategic thinking was completely back-to-front. In fact the Austrians, of all European peoples, could see most clearly that the rump state they were left with after the demise of Austro-Hungary was far too small to be viable, and so, in the atmosphere of virulent ultra-nationalism that partition had helped to foment, they were all the more eager to rush into union with Germany in 1938, and to assist as it picked off those small nation-states one by one.

      It is clear that nationalist secessionism, by bringing about the partition of Austro-Hungary, was a major contributory factor in the German expansion that you mention. The Czechs would have been far better off remaining in a non-ideal, but increasingly democratic Austro-Hungary, rather than setting up their own strategically weak nation-state.

      The effects of these nationalist debacles are still being felt today and there are clear lessons that we need to learn from them. In 2014, wars and nationalist annexations of parts of neighbouring states are still taking place in eastern Europe, and they would affect our EU re-entry negotiations in a bad way if we opted for “civic” nationalist secession from the UK.

      The Russian domination that you mention is still a vivid and horrible memory for many people in the Czech Republic. It too was brought on by nationalism, though of an awful kind that is, thankfully, unimaginable in Scotland. From 1945 to 1948, nationalist politicians in Czechoslovakia enthusiastically encouraged and collaborated with Stalinist communists in the ethnic cleansing of Germans and other minorities. Then they realised, too late, that those same communists were going to use their new-found power to lead Czechoslovakia into domination by Russia.

      The UK has been a bulwark against extremist nationalism in Europe precisely because it is a cohesive and diverse multination-state, and so has multiculturalism built in at a basic constitutional level.

  • Magnus Wills

    • September 9th, 2014 11:00

    ‘The Crimea is very close to Scot­land’ – is this a geographical mistake or just symptomatic of the author’s reliance on the possiblilty of imminent invasion by Russia as the only rational argument for a no vote?

    There is no formula to link Scottish independence to an increase in religious or racial persecution. On the contrary, the Treaty of Union is explicity anti-catholic.

    The most recent attempt to ‘democratise’ the UK failed with the no to AV referendum. There is little prospect of any further reform given the complicity of every part of the establishment to maintain the status quo.

    The current Westminster government is one of the most intolerant in recent history with ‘immigrants go home vans’, spurious ‘caps’ on immigration, constant flirtation with exit from the EU and a general culture of xenophobia. Perhaps this aspect of English nationalism is why so many South of the border are concerned by the mention of any nationalism. Perhaps the use of the phrase UK-sceptic be more helpful?

    In summary, a Yes vote offers the people of Scotland the chance to be rid of Tory rule and Trident while delivering a powerful kick to the corrupt British establishment. Those of us outside Scotland who seek a more progressive and just society should support this once in a lifetime opportunity for change.

    • John Tulloch

      • September 9th, 2014 17:06

      @Magnus Wills,

      You wrote: “In summary, a Yes vote offers the people of Scotland the chance to be rid of Tory rule and Trident while delivering a powerful kick to the corrupt British establishment.”

      Here’s a few things a “Yes” vote will deliver that you don’t mention:

      1. Accepting delays to the departure of Trident used as a negotiating counter to win concessions – for ever.

      2, Scottish socialists selling their erstwhile rUK “brothers’ down the river to permanent right wing rUK government, while fantasizing about establishing “Little Moscow” in Edinburgh (it won’t materialize – at least, not for long).

      3. Delivering a “shot in the arm” to what you refer as “the corrupt British establishment” who will be subsequently relieved of the tiresome interruptions of Labour governments.

      • Magnus Wills

        • September 9th, 2014 22:54

        So there’s nothing we can do then eh, John? It’ll always be rubbish because it always has been. You wouldn’t by any chance describe yourself as a pessimist would you?
        Remember, nothing can be achieved without hope!

      • John Tulloch

        • September 10th, 2014 9:17


        There’s plenty we can do, without leaving the UK.

        If this referendum returns an overall “No” and the “yes” vote is anything like as high as we are led to believe it will be, change will be unstoppable and it will be up to Scots to decide what they want and demand it.

        Why throw out the “baby with the bath water”?

    • Andrew Wills

      • September 17th, 2014 14:27

      Dear Magnus,

      Thanks for your comments on my article.
      I hope you didn’t find it irritating in any way.

      You have a keen eye for flawed writing, and I expect you would be capable of sustained, historically informed political argument over a couple of thousand words. Why not give it a try?

      Your keen eye homed straight in on what looks like a particularly ill-turned sentence, about the Crimea. That sentence is out of context above, because the Shetland Times editorial team had to delete the preceding paragraph in order to fit the article into the space available. Here is the deleted paragraph with the subsequent sentence:

      ‘”We shall have a national State…. Herein will lie the great strength of our State and Nation…. We are still strong enough, numerous enough. Let us therefore look hopefully towards our national future.”
      Edvard Benes, President of Czechoslovakia, 5 October 1938.

      The Crimea is very close to Scotland, and we need to make sure that we know as much as possible about the people who live there before we vote in the independence referendum.’

      The sentence about Crimea was intended, in this context, to bring to mind Neville Chamberlain’s infamous speech of the 27th of September 1938, three days before the conclusion of the Munich agreement, in which he referred to Czechoslovakia as a “far away country,” and to its citizens as “people of whom we know nothing.”

      My point is that the fates of eastern and western Europe are every bit as intertwined today as they were in 1938, although they are intertwined in a different way. The invasion of Crimea is not imminent, as you seem to suggest, but accomplished. This bears out the assertion that small states cannot defend their own interests, or maintain control of their affairs, at times of international crisis.

      “Complacent” would be the most appropriate word for the view that there can never again be a major international crisis in western Europe, and that we therefore don’t need to bear the possibility of one in mind when we decide tomorrow whether our great grandchildren are to live in a large, strategically strong state, or a small, strategically weak state.

      In my article above, I explain the process, or “formula”, by which partition could lead to increased racial and sectarian tensions in Scotland, as it did in Ireland and so many other countries. In order to prove me wrong, you would need to explain any mistakes you see in the arguments I put forward. Just saying “there is no formula” is contradiction, not argument, and leaves my arguments unchallenged.

      I don’t believe that the persistent social exclusion of Catholic people in Scotland today is a result of the text of the early 18th-century Acts of Union, as you seem to suggest. The exclusion of Catholics from inheriting the British Crown is anachronistic and should be abolished, but it does not affect people’s day-to-day lives in the 21st century.

      To see the Act of Settlement, extended to Scotland by the Acts of Union, as solely the result of religious bigotry, lacks historical sense. In the early 18th century, religion was linked to geo-politics in the UK in a way that is hard to imagine now. Perhaps it had some similarities to religious politics in the contemporary middle east.

      Bigotry was no doubt a factor, but in those 18th-century conditions, excluding Catholics from the throne was also a key policy in resisting the threat of invasion by the great Catholic powers of France and Spain.

      I was sorry that the alternative vote system was rejected in the referendum, but our UK constituency-based parliamentary system has many advantages, as is illustrated by the fact that a far-right political party now holds the balance of power in Sweden, where elections operate under the farrago of “proportional representation”.

      Far more significant in the progressive democratisation of the UK is the establishment of the new Scottish Parliament. It proves that the UK can become progressively more democratic, though its electoral system is flawed.

      The manifestations of English nationalism that you highlight are abhorrent. The partition of the United Kingdom on nationalist lines would tend to make them more virulent.

      The phrase “UK-sceptic” would not be more helpful, because it would tend to obscure what is really going on in this referendum. The Oxford English Dictionary defines a nationalist like this: “an adherent or advocate of nationalism; an advocate of national independence.”

      It is important to use accurate terminology, because time and time again, whatever the intentions of its proponents, European nationalism’s inherent conflation of national identity with constitutional politics has helped to bring out the worst aspects of human nature. (As I told my pal Dave the other day.)

      Withdrawing our representation from the House of Commons would not remove Scotland from its influence. It might start a bidding-war between a newly resurgent Conservative Party in Westminster and the Scottish Nationalists in Holyrood, over who was prepared make the biggest cuts in corporation tax. That would mean a race to the bottom for working people all over the United Kingdom.

      I look forward to sinking a few pints of London Pride with you down there in Peckham, hopefully as citizens of the same state. Then we can really set the world to rights.


      • John Tulloch

        • September 17th, 2014 22:01

        Have one for me, as well, boys!

        Memorable contributions to the discussion, Andrew, I hope we’ll be seeing a book, in due course.

        This time, tomorrow, the die will be cast.

        Best wishes to all “Bressay and Prague (and Kalliness) correspondents”!


  • Ivar Tamm

    • September 9th, 2014 11:22

    It is historically incorrect. When there were Kleinstaaterei in Germany, it was time called German Renaissance. (please read ). Vice versa united Germany – empire – started 2 world wars and commited horrible acts against other nations. Empires (includes British are THE real seed of racism, violence and suppression), not independent small states which tend to be too weak for military competition (agression) and therefore are much more successful in more culturally developed forms of international relations – arts commerce etc. Same is true thorough history – Axial Age or Axial Period (Ger. Achsenzeit, “axis time”) is a term coined by German philosopher Karl Jaspers to describe the period from 800 to 200 BC, during which similar revolutionary thinking appeared in Persia, India, China and the Occident. And it was time of small states (between ages of empires) that was unprecedentedly fruitful. Axial Age thinkers had a profound influence on future philosophies and religions (till now). But of course nationalism/chauvinism/racism can be dangerous poison – still, this is even more lethal in empires like nazi Germany or NuclearRussia.

    • John Tulloch

      • September 9th, 2014 16:39

      @Ivor Tamm,

      Your linked Wikipedia article bears the following caveats (copied and pasted):

      “This article needs additional citations for verification. Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. (April 2008)”

      “This article’s tone or style may not reflect the encyclopedic tone used on Wikipedia. See Wikipedia’s guide to writing better articles for suggestions. (April 2008)”

      • Ivar Tamm

        • September 10th, 2014 7:30

        Dear John Tulloch, thank you for your reply. I will write here just some more examples for basing my arguments and this time without any references :-). Some city-states that were on higher level than surrounding, preceding/ following empires: Sumerian, Egyptian, Phoenician city-states and also Greek poleis; merchant city-states of Renaissance Italy; Hong Kong and Singapore. Scandinavian nation-states are nowadays very liberal and tolerant, you can compare their positions in different reports. The most successful post-soviet state – Estonia – is also the smallest one. This is not just “cherry picking” (or at least not more than Andrew Wills`examples). There is no need for being intolerant in small states and nationalism or national pride or identity is also possible without hating others.

  • clive munro

    • September 10th, 2014 7:36

    John, re. part 3 of your reply to Magnus Wills: are you saying, then, that the people of England, Wales and Northern Ireland are inherently more right-wing than the Scots? Surely rUK will only be condemned to perpetual Tory rule if they choose, freely, to perpetually vote Tory.

    • John Tulloch

      • September 10th, 2014 9:44

      Hi Clive,

      I’m only making a logical deduction based on the claims of the nationalists.

      The rationale for people like Brian Smith’s and Jonathan Wills’ conversions to nationalism (as defined by Andrew Wills, above) is that, by becoming independent, “Scotland will be rid of Tory governments”.

      This is a major plank of the anti-UK, nationalist rhetoric spouted by the Salmonds and Sturgeons of this world, perhaps you disagree with them?

      The corollary of Scotland “being rid of the Tories” is that the rUK, particularly, England, must be predominantly conservative in values and will tend to vote Tory. If Labour wish to get an innings in government, they will have to move to the right of where they are now, into space vacated by the Tories who will become more right wing.

      Q.E.D. Permanent right wing government, into whose clutches the Scottish socialists will deliver their “erstwhile (trade union) brothers”.

      • Robert Sim

        • September 10th, 2014 22:26

        John, the rationale for those wanting independence is that Scotland will get the government it elects – of whatever political shade. That is the fundamental point of principle. I am sure Brian and Jonathan would agree with me.

  • Clive Munro

    • September 10th, 2014 11:56

    John, I can’t speak for Brian Smith or Jonathan Wills but I do know that many English socialists like, for example, Billy Bragg, think that Scottish independence, rather than guaranteeing permanent right wing government for rUK, will actually galvanise the rUK Labour Party into moving back to the left and offering voters a genuine alternative to the neoliberal agenda to which all three major Westminster parties are currently in thrall.

    • John Tulloch

      • September 10th, 2014 20:54

      The reason why neoliberalism is holding sway with the main parties is because it gets them elected. The “Old Labour” dinosaurs of the 1970s and 80s, like Arthur Scargill, Derek Hatton & Co, sickened everybody to the back teeth with the alternative that Billy Bragg wants to go back to.

      The problem with Billy Bragg’s view is that the unions’ grip on the country was prised off by the Thatcher government in the 1980s. Great swathes of the unions’ empires were swept away and the country has changed markedly since then so there aren’t the number of trade unionists craving for the return of their leaders to “beer and sandwiches at No 10,” to bring “Old Labour” back to power.

      Billy Bragg is an interesting fellow but Scotland becoming independent and being socialist doesn’t imply the rUK will be the same.

      I may be wrong but it looks to me that if the rUK Labour Party ever moves “back to the left”, they’ll get three hearty cheers from the Liberals who will inherit their left-of-centre vote.

      • Johan Adamson

        • September 11th, 2014 9:00

        Surely it is bad to have no opposition, therefore, neither rUK or Scotland should want that? Also, I dont understand the conversion to nationalism thing you are talking about. Surely you can be both left or right wing and also believe that independence is a good thing for Scotland. Once there is independence, surely only then will we find out the real leanings of the SNP, although we can probably guess by now, but werent they known in the 1970s as the Tartan Tories? So I dont fear the lack of opposition.

        Didnt you also miss out CND and Tommy Sheridan John?

      • John Tulloch

        • September 11th, 2014 14:51

        Oh, I don’t doubt there will be opposition in Scotland, Johan.

        Once the gloss wears off and the hard realities of independence set in and the economy of the new socialist Shangri-La implodes, Scotland’s working people will soon vote someone else in.

        But we will have lost many of the advantages of being in the Union.

        And when will Shetland’s electorate “get the government they voted for”?

      • Robert Sim

        • September 11th, 2014 22:06

        John, you say that: “The reason why neoliberalism is holding sway with the main parties is because it gets them elected. The “Old Labour” dinosaurs of the 1970s and 80s, like Arthur Scargill, Derek Hatton & Co, sickened everybody to the back teeth with the alternative that Billy Bragg wants to go back to.”

        Yes but elected by whom? Not by Scotland. And, like it or not, that is a huge driver behind the desire for independence. Many people want full control (within the modern context) of the levers of power to be in Scotland – not for us to have a few secondary powers devolved to us. It’s not an equal union, John; and that’s the point.

      • John Tulloch

        • September 12th, 2014 11:44


        Mick McGahey? Jimmy Knapp? Sam McCluskey?

        You want “full control of the levers of power to be in Scotland”?

        Well, unless Alex Salmond is lying about the kind of “independent” Scotland he wants, you won’t be getting them.

        He is planning to hand over control of monetary and fiscal policy I.e. the economy, to the Bank of England, the central bank of a foreign power.

        More worryingly for Shetland, he means to take Scotland into the EU which means he must hand control of fisheries to the EU, under the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), thus surrendering the derogation on quotas negotiated for UK fishermen by Westminster.

        All this for nothing, except that Alex Salmond will get to attend the United Nations and the EU to check that St Andrew’s Cross is flying the right way up. Maybe, one day, he’ll get to meet “Barack”, once his presidency is over and he’s not too busy?

      • Robert Sim

        • September 12th, 2014 17:03

        John – in your reply to me of today you list some trade-union leaders of the 70s whom you presumably blame for the problems of the UK at the time. However what you overlook is that when the Thatcher governments of the 80s took on the unions they sacrificed Scottish industry and thus a great part of Scottish society in the process. That made explicit the fact that Scotland was very much the junior partner in the Union and would have to do as it was told; and is an important reason why, ultimately, approaching half of the Scottish electorate at least will vote Yes next week.

        Of course, Shetland was not affected by that factor in the 80s; and indeed was fortunate enough to be able to move in a different direction economically. I can understand therefore why a number of folk here want to remain within the present UK at least. All I can say is that it will be the whole of Scotland which decides.

        As regards what you say about Scotland not being truly independent following a Yes vote, I did say in my post that I was referring to independence within the modern context, which means where self-governing nation-states cede some sovereignty in the common interest. It’s what the EU is all about. And, yes, there will be change and uncertainty under an independent Scotland. But we have that within the present UK. For example, we could be out of the EU very shortly if a Conservative government is returned next year and they hold their promised in/out referendum. I would rather that the Scottish people decide the direction of that for themselves.

  • Martyn Howie

    • September 10th, 2014 23:38

    In the context of the posts referring to ridding Scotland of Tory rule and the the installing of an electoral deficit in the rUK which would permanently lead to a right wing government in Westminster

    I proffer the following observation

    I note with interest the comment that “a Yes vote offers the people of Scotland the chance to be rid of Tory rule”… this is a naive assumption that is based on the tendency of the current electorate to vote for centre left parties or conversely parties on the left. The Tories are not absent from the political scene in Scotland true they only return 15 MSP’s out of 128 but that is and has been a consistent number (SC&U Party is the only palatable right of centre right party in Scotland). However electorates have the option of voting for who they feel best serves their interests or aspirations
    The shift in allegiance from Tory to Labour to SNP from the 1950’s to now shows the seismic changes that can happen. No one can predict what will happen in the future and If left wing parties are not cutting it in Scotland ( however implausible it may seem) a shift to the right in Scottish politics could occur. Furthermor the possible disentegration of the SNP as a political force in the event of a Yes vote (after all what use is a Scottish National Party which has acheived is raison d’etre), may see a shift of a section of the SNP vote to its natural home on the right. Of course in the event of a YES vote all political parties may need to re-evaluate and there may be the emergence of a diverse set of parties on both the right and left we just don’t know

    Certainly one can say that Scotland can be free of a Tory government it didn’t vote for (this time and in perpetuity) but in no way can one say that a Yes vote offers any guarantee that the people of Scotland will never again be subject to Tory rule (albeit home grown)

  • James Howitt

    • September 11th, 2014 3:20

    In an increasingly interdependent world barriers are being removed. Have a read of this from one of the most respected Lawyers within the European Union:

    From the Yes side his comments regarding EU membership are quite comforting. However this is balanced by an attack on where an independent Scotland will be coming from.

  • Clive Munro

    • September 11th, 2014 7:29

    I wouldn’t disagree with your analysis there, John, but why do you think neoliberalism, at least in voting terms, doesn’t hold sway in Scotland?

  • Billy Fox

    • September 11th, 2014 8:27

    Not forgetting the risks, the unanswered questions and speculative promises for an independent economy on currency, pensions, etc, this article for me gives one of the most compelling arguments why we should be voting No on the 18th September.

    In this dangerous world of the ‘big red button’ we should be breaking down borders not putting them up. When we strive for social justice we should be doing it in unity and solidarity, there is as much social divide between the north of England, Wales and Northern Ireland relative to the south east as there is with Scotland.

    We need to effect change within the UK, breaking off with its ensuing uncertainties is not the way to go. There are unsavoury political bedfellows on both sides of the debate, particularly in Better Together I have to say, but there is also a great many principled folk on both sides who share the same goals for a fairer society, working together these are the people who can make changes from within.

    This is not about individuals or party politics however, instead we must look specifically at the practicalities of how we can best achieve a fairer society and sustainable economy, that in my view is by remaining in the UK with increased devolved powers.

    • Brian Smith

      • September 11th, 2014 16:33

      Billy has the queer view that ‘in this dangerous world of the “big red button”‘ we should be bolstering regimes that promote illegal war.

      • John Tulloch

        • September 12th, 2014 12:17

        Brian has the queer view that Shetlanders should support illegal regimes who have no legitimate title to Shetland but who will be happy to reap the spoils under false pretences!

        Vote “NO” to save the fishing and enter an independent Scotland on YOUR terms.

      • Brian Smith

        • September 13th, 2014 11:16

        John, you will make no progress if you don’t set up a UKIP branch in Shetland.

      • John Tulloch

        • September 13th, 2014 14:22

        Thanks Brian,

        I have little knowledge of UKIP and hand’t realised it was their policy to restore autonomy to the Isles after all these centuries?

        Incidentally, UKIP stands for “United Kingdom Independence Party” and the United Kingdom comprises four distinct nations of people so UKIP cannot be considered nationalists, as defined above.

        Those who support the creation of independent nation states e.g. the Yes campaign, are the “nationalists”?

      • David Anderson

        • September 14th, 2014 16:17

        Yes Brian Smith , but Billy’s view on social justice for all are exemplary in my book and I am disappointed you do not take the opportunity to endorse them.
        If the Scots claim 91% of the oil revenues for themselves , as it seems they could , it is clearly going to have an adverse effect on thousands upon thousands of disadvantaged families in cities such as Swansea , Belfast and Newcastle to name but a few.
        Predictably Nationalists will claim Scotland has been hard done by in the past and there is no doubt Scotland has deprivation. But when I go to Scotland I am always struck by the obvious wealth which a high percentage of its inhabitants clearly enjoy.

    • Robert Sim

      • September 13th, 2014 12:57

      I honestly don’t understand why Scotland being a fully self-governing nation state should affect in any way the drive towards social justice in both Scotland and rUK. Am I missing something? By the same token, why is a fairer society best achieved by remaining within the UK?

      • John Tulloch

        • September 13th, 2014 22:47

        Be careful what you wish for, you may get your fairer society, in which everyone is poor – except the leaders, of course, they’ll have their ‘Dachas’ in Banff and Oban.

        (Wizzen hit da guyd o me no ta say “Kalliness an’ Bressa’!)


  • Kevin Learmonth

    • September 12th, 2014 17:35

    “Not forgetting the risks, the unanswered questions and speculative promises” just about sums up what is on offer by voting NO.
    There can be no increased powers without Westminister agreeing, and in the run up to UK elections in 2015 the Tories (and fellow travellers) will be looking over their shoulder at UKIP and trying to out-British them on imigration, the EU and Scotland.
    In any event “Increased powers” can also mean a diminished budget settlement from Westminister with Holyrood “free” to make any cuts it likes. Just as various governments have given local authotities increased “freedom” with less money and more power to cut stuff.

  • Gordon Harmer

    • September 12th, 2014 20:31

    Its not big red buttons we should be looking at as dangerous it is big red flag wielding people like Jim Sillars.
    As well as those who support him and his kind.

  • Billy Fox

    • September 12th, 2014 22:27

    Please don’t put words in my mouth Brian.

    Yours is a simplistic view…….no finesse. I’m guessing you might be a dab hand at playing snap but rubbish at 500 but of course this is not a game we are playing.

    • Brian Smith

      • September 13th, 2014 11:22

      Your big red button doesn’t have much finesse, Billy.

  • Clive Munro

    • September 13th, 2014 10:10

    John, you haven’t answered my question regarding the fact that neoliberalism, in voting terms at least, doesn’t appear to hold sway in Scotland to anything like the same extent it does elsewhere in the UK, especially in England. Of course you don’t have to, but I wasn’t trying to trip you up or anything-I was genuinely interested in your take on the matter. But, since I’m back on here, why this litany of bogeymen figures from the far left of 70s/80s British politics?
    Most nationalists that I’ve spoken to aren’t seeking an old-fashioned socialist utopia as you, somewhat disingenuously, imply-they’re simply looking for a fairer society rather than one which grows more unequal by the day. The sort of society envisaged, for example, by moderate centre-left politicians like the late John Smith and Donald Dewar. The problem, for disillusioned Scots, is that people of that ilk are nearly as thin on the ground at Westminster, these days, as the old dinosaurs you’ve been digging up.

    • John Tulloch

      • September 13th, 2014 13:25

      Clive, I was just haddin” aff so as not to detract from other comments I made that were more relevant to the potential damage of a Yes vote, especially, to Shetland.

      1. The Scottish bogeymen were in reply to Robert Sim’s comment regarding “who elected Scargill and Hatton”.

      2. The last I heard, Ed Miliband was threatening to renationalise the power industry and I don’t recall, either, John Smith or Donald Dewar seeking to do that?

      I’m not sure Billy Bragg is calling for policies like Smith’s and Dewar’s? Is he?

      3. Without claiming any great knowledge outside high school geography and listening to the news, if you look at the distribution of Labour strongholds in Scotland, they pretty well match the areas where the old mining, iron and steel, shipbuilding and other heavy, mass-employment industries flourished.

      These were concentrated in the Central Belt of Scotland and were sustained by subsidy until the 1980s when the Thatcher government administered of ‘castor oil’ by the ladle, to (among others) the Scottish ‘dinosaur’ industries.

      Grimaces remain on the the faces of people in these regions, which suffered badly in those harsh times.

      Foul-tasting medicine was also dished out everywhere else but the difference in Scotland is that, at least, three quarters of the population live in the Central Belt, thus neoliberal (‘pro-business’) politicians tend to get short shrift there and hence, apparently, Scotland, as a whole. Places like Liverpool, Bristol and the North East of England were also badly hit but their total population is much less significant in England than that of the Central Belt, in Scotland.

      There are plenty of moderate Labour people in Scotland, too, however, what I’m aiming at is the idea that “Scotland will be rid of Tory governments we don’t elect” and its implications.

      Setting aside that Labour have won Westminster elections due to the large contingent of Scottish socialist MPs, the removal of those MPs will surely result in the remaining parts of the UK tending to elect governments which are more right wing than the present Con-Lib coalition. It’s cultural, why should it change?

      It follows that Scottish socialist nationalists are, effectively, seeking to sell their erstwhile union “brothers” down the river to permanent right wing government.

      They can’t have it both ways and it’s especially galling when they’re prepared to vote against Shetland’s best interests, in order to establish a new Scottish socialist ‘Shangri-La’, in Holyrood.

      • Robert Sim

        • September 13th, 2014 22:34

        Have a look at the front page of this website, John:

        You will see from the facts and figures there that Scotland has never in the modern era had any meaningful influence over the makeup of the Westminister government. That also scuppers the idea that we can influence the direction of social policy at UK level.

        So it doesn’t follow “…that Scottish socialist nationalists are, effectively, seeking to sell their erstwhile union “brothers” down the river to permanent right wing government.” No left-wing Yes voter need therefore feel guilty next Thursday.

        Your take on the Thatcher government’s approach to Scotland in the 80s is also interesting, with your wry metaphor of Mrs Thatcher as a nurse administering a dose of medicine. I am afraid that the patient died during that particular operation. And that is one of the reasons. as I pointed out in an earlier post in this thread, why so many folk will vote Yes next week.

      • John Tulloch

        • September 14th, 2014 13:54


        You may continue to delude yourself about Scottish socialist nationalists not selling their erstwhile union brothers down the river if you wish, however, there was considerable resentment in rUK during the Blair-Brown governments about the predominance of Scottish MPs in very senior ministerial positions.

        You say of the Wings Over Scotland article, “That also scuppers the idea that we can influence the direction of social policy at UK level.”

        Robert, please!

        Gordon Brown was chancellor of the exchequer and prime minister with Alasdair Darling as chancellor for how many years – 12-13?

        Who consistently broke his own “Golden Rule”, overspending on, inter alia, social issues, earning the epitaph for his chancellorship that “he failed to mend the roof while the sun was shining”?

        And who deregulated the banks and took the BoE’s supervisory duty away, splitting it three ways, so nobody knew what was going on? Gordon Brown.

        I’m sorry, Robert, Scottish socialists were up to their ocksters in UK government policy and all the recent failures.

        Now some of them want to make Scotland independent because they know they’re unelectable at Westminster and they think they will be in power for ever, in Scotland.

        The corollary of which is “We’ll be alright, sod our erstwhile UK trade union brothers!”

  • Billy Fox

    • September 13th, 2014 14:49

    It’s not my big red button Brian it belongs to all of us and I fear we are stuck with it, so it needs to be managed – together!

  • Clive Munro

    • September 14th, 2014 8:12

    John. Firstly, I think, reading back through this thread, that you may have misunderstood Robert’s earlier comments, but I could be wrong. Secondly, I never suggested, did I, that Billy Bragg is calling for policies like those at one time pursued by Donald Dewar and John Smith? I merely mentioned that some English socialists think Scottish independence, in the long run, rather than condemning rUK to permanent right-wing government might actually re-energise left-wing politics in rUK, especially England. Personally, I don’t think it would, at least not to the extent that it would have significant electoral impact. I also don’t think Ed Milliband will get elected next year but, even if he did, I’d say there’s about as much chance of him re-nationalising power, or anything else for that matter, as there is of Gordon Brown’s ludicrously optimistic timetable for devo-max coming to fruition.

    • Robert Sim

      • September 14th, 2014 12:47

      A footnote. Clive, I think, is right is saying that John misunderstood me before. I know that this will cause others to lose the will to live; but when in response to John’s statement “The reason why neoliberalism is holding sway with the main parties is because it gets them elected” I said “Yes but elected by whom? Not by Scotland”, I meant the election of governments, not union leaders.

    • John Tulloch

      • September 14th, 2014 15:07


      I’ve lost track of it now but I’ve quite possibly misunderstood the meaning of your comments wrt Billy Bragg & co, however, I don’t think I misunderstood Robert’s line.

      I think you were both challenging my point about one-time international socialists becoming recent converts to Scottish nationalism, effectively, delivering their erstwhile rUK “brothers” into the clutches of right wing government.

      I added that I find it particularly repugnant when they are prepared, additionally, to vote Yes, against the vital interests of Shetland, in order to secure a cosy little socialist enclave, based at Holyrood.

      • Robert Sim

        • September 14th, 2014 16:21

        Gosh, John – you fairly twist and turn and alter your argument when you meet a factual obstacle. We weren’t speaking about which MPs were in leadership positions in the Labour party in the last couple of decades (your reference to Gordon Brown): we were discussing your assertion that, without the Scottish vote, rUK would consistently elect a right-wing government. I have demonstrated to you that that is a baseless assertion because in the past Scottish voters have had no influence over the political makeup of the Westminster government. I am not, as you quaintly put it, “deluding” myself here – those are the facts. So no-one voting Yes is going to be “…effectively, delivering their erstwhile rUK “brothers” into the clutches of right wing government”, no matter how often you repeat the idea.

        That is my final word on what is, after all, a relatively trivial matter in the context of next week’s vote.

      • John Tulloch

        • September 15th, 2014 14:53


        I wasn’t thinking of you at all when I wrote about “Scottish socialist nationalists delivering their erstwhile rUK trade union “brothers” into the clutches of permanent right wing government”, yet you’ve “gotten in sikkan a pipper aboot it” that I must assume the “cap fitted” well – so tightly that you are unable to shake it off!

        If you read the linked article below, which has a splendid graphical illustration, you will see that I am right.

        If it wasn’t for the large tranche of Scottish Labour MPs, we would – right now – have Cameron and Osborne but no Clegg, Davey, Carmichael, etc., moderating their policies.

        i.e. The Tories were forced into coalition by the Scottish electorate and if the Scottish contingent was removed we would have a more right wing government than now – end of, Robert!

        Enjoy – and then admit, please, that you were wrong. 🙂

  • Brian Smith

    • September 14th, 2014 10:17

    Not a very logical argument, Billy.

  • John Tulloch

    • September 15th, 2014 21:28


    This is a very interesting article and I’m conscious that you’re heading away.

    Like you, I’m optimistic that Thursday’s vote will be no, however, I’d appreciate the benefit of your views on whether the break-up of the UK has become more likely as a result of us being in the EU.

  • Robert Sim

    • September 15th, 2014 23:35

    @John, I will break my self-imposed silence to say that I did read the Telegraph article to which you refer and, discounting the journalistic hype, I see nothing there at all to counteract what I said. If you read to the foot of the article, for example, you will see two interviewees who think it is perfectly possible that Labour can win a rUK election.

    In any case, the “splendid graphical illustration” is interpreted correctly in the online article to which I referred you:

    “…on ONE occasion (2010) the presence of Scottish MPs has deprived the Conservatives of an outright majority, although the Conservatives ended up in control of the government anyway in coalition with the Lib Dems.”

    The article goes on to point out: “… that for 62 of the last 67 years, Scottish MPs as an entity have had no practical influence over the composition of the UK government. From a high of 72 MPs in 1983, Scotland’s representation will by 2015 have decreased to 52, substantially reducing any future possibility of affecting a change.”

    • John Tulloch

      • September 16th, 2014 9:15

      Robert (wearily),

      Psychologists tell us it’s ill-advised to emotionally identify with an argument or cause and develop a psychological “attachment” to it. This is because, when we are faced with evidence and logic that refutes our position, we experience loss of face, or worse, and continue “digging a deeper hole”.

      You have now conceded that your premise that the Scottish electorate has had no effect on the make-up of Westminster governments since 1945 is false – we need look no further than what we have now – yet you continue digging?

      Of course, it isn’t impossible that there could be future Labour governments in the UK, no-one can guarantee the way that people will vote, however, taking away the Scottish Labour contingent (“Scots Tory MPs are outnumbered by the pandas in Edinburgh zoo, (Ha-Ha, Hee-Hee, Ho-Ho!)”). But Labour may have to move to the right of where they are now to win, ergo, “more right wing government”‘ than in recent times.

      Since you are such a glutton for punishment, here’s another occasion when the Scottish electorate influenced Westminster, when they voted down Jim Callaghan’s Labour government in 1979. Here’s what Callaghan said of it:

      “We can truly say that once the Leader of the Opposition discovered what the Liberals and the SNP would do, she found the courage of their convictions. So, tonight, the Conservative Party, which wants the Act repealed and opposes even devolution, will march through the Lobby with the SNP, which wants independence for Scotland, and with the Liberals, who want to keep the Act. What a massive display of unsullied principle! The minority parties have walked into a trap. If they win, there will be a general election. I am told that the current joke going around the House is that it is the first time in recorded history that TURKEYS HAVE VOTED FOR AN EARLY CHRISTMAS ” (JT emphasis))

      Now we have the second time in recorded history when “turkeys (will) vote for Christmas”; Shetlanders who vote Yes, in the knowledge that it will result in the destruction of their £300million a year fishing industry.

      • Brian Hughson

        • September 16th, 2014 10:41

        God bless the self-righteous!

    • John Tulloch

      • September 16th, 2014 13:38


      You were another one who claimed, with Robert Sim, that the Scottish electorate have had little or no effect on the makeup of Westminster governments, which explains your patronising jibe and means my comment to Robert applies, also, to you.

      Keep them coming, I like knowing my debating opponents are out of arguments.

      i.e. Scottish voters forced a coalition with the Liberals in 2010 and were instrumental in causing the fall of the Callaghan Labour government in 1979, opening the door to Mrs Thatcher, three years early.

      • Robert Sim

        • September 16th, 2014 18:11

        John, let me help you out here. The counter-examples you have been discussing in your last two posts are true in themselves but do not alter the big picture, or the trend, which is that the Scottish electorate has had and will continue to have (after a No vote) little or no influence over the makeup of the Westmisnter government. It’s summed up here in the article to which I originally referred you:

        “…for 62 of the last 67 years, Scottish MPs as an entity have had no practical influence over the composition of the UK government. From a high of 72 MPs in 1983, Scotland’s representation will by 2015 have decreased to 52, substantially reducing any future possibility of affecting a change.”

      • Brian Hughson

        • September 16th, 2014 19:13

        Please don’t resort to using the word ‘jibe’. Your assumption re the meaning of my comment shows a lack of understanding.
        You appear to be too convinced of your own view to enable quiet and respectful debate.
        If you cannot concede on any point that you may, occasionally, have been a little inaccurate in your assertions,then there is little point in pursuing meaningful discussion.
        Therefore I withdraw.

      • John Tulloch

        • September 16th, 2014 21:40

        Clive/Robert/Brian Hughson,

        1. Withdraw away, Brian, the only point you’ve made was manifestly false.

        2. Robert, we have the Liberals in government because of Scottish voters. That is not insignificant. Nor was the fall of the Callaghan government ( which probably came to power thanks to Scottish votes in the first place) in 1979 insignificant. Had Scottish voters not influenced events, Ted Heath would have probably won the 1977 election and there wold have been no Mrs Thatcher and Jim Callaghan would have been in opposition.

        That may be insignificant, to you, Robert, it isn’t to me, and no amount of “twisting and turning” by you will persuade me otherwise.

        Clive, I’ll take the ‘bickering’ charge – good to make contact, stay well!

  • Ernie Lockwood

    • September 16th, 2014 9:23

    Well, irr we no hed lovely wadder even wi da nichts draain in.

  • Clive Munro

    • September 16th, 2014 12:31

    For anyone who’d like some insightful, articulate analysis of the forthcoming referendum I’d like to recommend Andrew Rawnsley’s last two Guardian columns on the subject. I might not ultimately agree with everything he says, but his calm, measured tones stand in stark contrast to the increasingly shrill, nasty bickering which now pervades much of the debate. I can’t do these links but they were written on the 7th and 14th September. John, if you’re still there, Billy Bragg has also eloquently re-stated his position in today’s Guardian. Again, I’m not saying I entirely agree with him but I think his points are worth noting.

  • Clive Munro

    • September 16th, 2014 15:15

    Hi John, shrill, dee? Weel, mebbe no. Nasty, though? Okay, no really. But come on, du’ll surely admit du’s no averse tae da odd bicker! That, by the way, is going to be my first and last foray into the Shetland dialect. It’s also going to be my last foray onto this site for a wee while. I’m going to divide the next 48 hours between finishing this week’s bumper edition of The Sunday Herald and transferring as many of my assets as possible into offshore bank accounts.

    • John Tulloch

      • September 16th, 2014 23:49


      Sorry, I’m back again but I know you’re a Herald fan.

      Don’t miss this article in the Herald:

      If this was the prospectus we were voting on, provided there was a decent accommodation for autonomy for the Scottish Islands, especially, Shetland, I’d be voting Yes.

      If Scotland votes Yes, Shetland will be welcome to join them at any time, irrespective of how they vote on Thursday; but Shetlanders will be wise to join on their terms, subject to a separate local referendum after negotiations.

      In the absence of an offer of meaningful autonomy (unlikely), Shetlanders must protect their long term interest by voting No.

  • Neil Anderson

    • September 16th, 2014 20:44

    Ive changed my mind , its 100% NO , nationalism is a dangerous ideology and this whole thing only serves to create conflict , dividing a country and a nation ! Complete and utter waste of time , money and effort.

  • Neil Anderson

    • September 17th, 2014 5:49

    Forecasts for a yes vote are predicting an instant 10% loss on the pound against foreign currency, this yes campaign is complete and utter nonsence !

    Wake Up !

    • Robert Duncan

      • September 17th, 2014 9:15

      That is the precise reason the UK Government’s currency union plans make no sense. A currency union would have maintained some stability. It’s not Scotland’s fault they have acted so irrationally.

  • Allen Fraser

    • September 17th, 2014 9:05

    The ‘Yes’ vote is being carried on a wave of euphoric nationalist hysteria bereft of rational consideration of the consequences of the partition of the United Kingdom.

    TV images of large ‘Yes’ political rallies with banners and marching bagpipes are reminiscent of film of the fascist rallies of 1930s Germany. The tactic of generating this hysteria while blaming the social and economic ills of Scotland on the UK government and the Tory party is one successfully employed by fascism throughout history.

    I don’t believe that the vast majority of ‘Yes’ or SNP voters have any fascist beliefs but then neither did the crowds that attended the 1930s rallies in Europe and Britain. History tells us that it is easy for people with the best of intentions to get swept up and conned by a movement that appears to promise a bright new future but masks something much darker.

    Personally, I am deeply suspicious of a leader of a party that has already moved the control of the police from the regions to central government. I find it worrying that without consulting parliament this new police force began patrolling Scottish streets carrying weapons openly.

    I get even more worried when I read in the press that Salmond is demanding a £10 billion share of armed forces from the rest of the UK if Scotland votes for independence. This ‘Scottish share’ of the UK armed forces is reported as consisting of aircraft, ships and the transfer of up to 9,200 regular and Special Forces troops.

    It seems that Scotland is pretty much split 50/50 ‘Yes’ and ‘No’. If Scotland becomes a separate country, and the fears of the ‘No’ campaign are realised, then the social and economic upheaval that will follow will be as bad as anything in our history. Each side will then blame the other and Scotland (like the partitioned Ireland) could be in a very dangerous place indeed.

    Let’s not forget that democracy and peace we enjoy as part of the UK is a precious and fragile thing and history has shown how easily that can be lost.

    • Brian Hughson

      • September 17th, 2014 12:45

      Nothing angers me more than comparisons with 1930’s Germany! The rallies in Scottish cities are predominantly spontaneous and consist of ordinary people.
      I cannot believe that there are still educated people in any of these islands that can still spout jingoistic propaganda.
      I joined this forum with an open mind.
      I leave it with a shake of the head and sad in the knowledge that some of the ‘old school’ negativity still prevails.
      I shall vote YES – and hope that everybody’s comfort (lethargy) is well and truly disturbed.

      • Ali Inkster

        • September 17th, 2014 16:47

        “predominantly spontaneous” if you believe that then you really are blinded by all the bull. The yeSSnp are promising all things to all people, but never explaining just how they are going to achieve these lofty aims. The first thing to go will be the dream of a fairer society as our oil money is pissed up against the wall.

      • Brian Smith

        • September 17th, 2014 17:58

        Never leet, Brian. Some Shetlanders are so terrified of political change that even a leaflet is enough to frighten them into fits.

      • John Tulloch

        • September 17th, 2014 19:37

        Here’s sumpteeng ta cheer you up, boys – Goarden Broon as you’ve never heard him before.

      • John Tulloch

        • September 19th, 2014 2:14


        The Orkney result is reminiscent of the Battle of Stennes – a rout by the Orkneyfolk!

      • Brian Smith

        • September 19th, 2014 2:53

        There never was a battle of Stenness.

  • Clive Munro

    • September 17th, 2014 9:48

    John, briefly: I’ve read it and it’s arguments are , to a point, persuasive. So too, however, are those of the lady in Robert Sim’s latest link. All I can say is that, in my opinion, and as one of life’s habitual ditherers, this is an incredibly complex and difficult decision. After a good deal of anguished introspection, though, and fully aware that independence carries many risks, what has ultimately swayed me is the fact that, as far as I’m concerned, Westminster politicians have long since stopped governing the UK in the best interests of the vast majority of its citizens. That’s why, in terms of their last-ditch, incredibly vague offers of further devolution, I simply don’t trust them and feel that the Herald has, on this occasion, got it wrong.

    • John Tulloch

      • September 17th, 2014 11:11


      Nothing wrong with “dithering”, you’re trying to sift through all the blarney and obfuscation – from both sides – and arrive at a logical decision.

      Robert’s latest source is a marked improvement on “Wings Over Scotland”. Christine Bell is obviously distinguished in the law profession and judging by her article, has defended many clients.

      Her article, ostensibly, written over a cup of tea, purports to represent her wrestling with her conscience over the “new offer of Devo Max”, however, she is actually providing a list of bureaucratic difficulties associated with increased devolution and, glossing over several independence-related items like the creation of new defence arrangements as though they are trifling matters, she creates a superficially plausible case for herself to continue voting No.

      She is, effectively, making a case for the “defence”, of her existing determination to vote Yes, while attempting to devalue the evidence supplied by the “prosecution”.

      i.e. it’s sophistry.

      I would advocate Shetland voters try to genuinely consider whether the serious, well-documented risks and drawbacks of complete separation of which the Herald warns, be wafted aside with the optimism of the Yes campaign.

      An important detail in the Herald piece is:

      “Antonio Gramsci, the Italian philosopher and politician, famously advocated pessimism of the intellect and optimism of the will. The Yes campaign, understandably, has emphasised the latter but effectively ignored the former.”

      Gramsci’s admonition is backed, more recently by one of the founders of “Positive Psychology”, from which cognitive behavioural therapy, a highly effective treatment for depression grew.

      Professor Martin Seligman, in his excellent book “Learned Optimism” details the devastating psychological effects of “pessimistic explanatory style” on “learned helplessness” and ultimately, depression.

      He is, also, at pains to emphasise that pessimists make better decisions than optimists and that this is crucial when making momentous decisions in, say, business and politics, which have far-reaching consequences.

      Hence, the title “Learned Optimism”. We should learn to apply it to areas like motivation, while applying a pessimistic viewpoint when appropriate and I venture to suggest that the Scottish independence referendum is one such occasion.

    • Malcolm Henry Johnson

      • September 17th, 2014 13:55

      Unlike Clive, I am not usually one of life’s ditherers which is a great pity. There have been so many occasions in my past when a small amount of dithering would have done me the World of good. With this in mind, I have made a real effort to take in as much of the current constitutional debate as I can and with one day to go, this is where I’m at:

      I’m completely unmoved by the competing Scottish and British nationalist arguments which is no surprise really as I’m happy to say the nationalist gene has skipped more than one generation in my family. I also feel very distant from the swiroil vs diroil shit-fight and all that goes with it. Nor am I swayed by the younger generation’s trendy take on the issue of “social justice” with its ever-so-watered-down prissy definitions. After all, in any capitalist system “Die Welfare State ist das Opium des Volkes” After all my dithering, it all comes down to a single argument.

      Democracy (for what it’s worth) is meaningless without accountability. There is precious little accountability right now because we have one parliament in Edinburgh and another one in London. When things go well, they both claim the credit and when things do not, they blame each other. Sure, there is a list of devolved powers which we can all refer to but in reality, the two sets of powers (devolved and centralised) are so intertwined and interdependent that it is almost impossible to calculate with any certainty where the buck really stops. As proof of this, I would refer you to anything that any politician on any side has said during the independence debate.

      If we remain within the U.K. this blurring of responsibility will continue. If Scotland becomes independent then we will have one less layer of government and it will become a little bit easier to know who to thank when things go well and who needs a kicking (electorally speaking) when things do not. Personally, I believe that all power corrupts so all governments are bad so I’m not saying that the new parliament will be any better than the previous two but at least there will be one less layer of government which for me is a move in the right direction.

  • James Mackenzie

    • September 17th, 2014 12:53

    Definition of a pessimist: a well informed optimist.

    • Johan Adamson

      • September 17th, 2014 13:41

      Id rather be disappointed occasionally than always think the worst, and not be forward thinking, ambitious and live in hope.

      • John Tulloch

        • September 17th, 2014 14:32


        Read my post above James’ comment.

  • John Tulloch

    • September 17th, 2014 16:39

    Readers may be interested in the linked article in the Argyll newsblog “For Argyll” which is about the possibilities for the Northern isles if they vote No and Scotland votes Yes.

    As I’ve said before, “all sane Shetlanders must vote No in the best, VITAL INTERESTS of Shetland.”

  • John Tulloch

    • September 19th, 2014 2:57

    I’ve had a special request for a song, to be dedicated to the Shetland “Little Muscovites”;-

    “The Norseman’s Home, in days gone by,
    Was on the rolling sea,
    And ther his pennon did defy,
    The foe of Normandy.”

    Then let us ne’er forget the race,
    Who bravely fought and died,
    Who never filled a craven’s grave,
    But ruled the foaming tide.”

    The Shetland people have spoken, loud and clear.

    • John Tulloch

      • September 19th, 2014 3:06

      Western Isles also sticking with the UK, Brian, result read out in Gaelic!

      Another old Norwegian province, of course!

      • Brian Smith

        • September 19th, 2014 8:11

        The Daily Mail has spoken.

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