Let’s dream of unicorns

It took hundreds of years to trap the unicorn. There was the hammer of the Scots that broke on the anvil of Bannockburn, there wis the flooers o the forest that wede awaa, there was the queen who lost her head and the tongue tied son who fled south to the riches of London and thought he’d been appointed by God. There was the king killer who killed Christmas and the disputes about bishops and the number of angels who could dance on the head of the pin that was stuck into the wart of a witch. But the unicorn still ran free in the hills. The forests rang to its cry, and it galloped along the shores of the sealochs.

Then what couldn’t happen by force happened by stealth, and the trap of Union was baited with golden bribes. The auld sang fell silent. The people wept, the townspeople rioted, but the unicorn was catched and would be held fast. Rebellions rose, rebellions fell, pretenders came and pretenders fled, but the unicorn was snared in the chains of empire. The promise of a partnership became the aggression of assimilation. Speak English, become civilised, reject all that you were born to in the name of modernity. Embrace the cringe of inferiority.

Don’t listen to the stories of imaginary creatures, the unicorns and kelpies, the banshees and selkies. Listen to the hammers and the steam, listen to the pickaxe digging the coalseam. Listen to the forging of steel, listen to the shipyards and looms. Listen to the voices of your betters. Welcome to North Britain, where all you can dream of is a narrow horizon, an aspiration to emigrate, a marginal improvement. And if you’re really really lucky your team might win a cup at the fitba. There are no big skies in this land, just small voices and constrained hopes. There is no such thing as a unicorn.

The dream of a land that stood for itself became a myth. It was put away in the treasure chest of memory, and there it lay lost and still while the chiefs turned into lairds and evicted the caretakers of the land who were washed away and over the seas. The unicorn was quiet in the dark while the ancient tongues grew still. It watched as the cities grew and the slums sucked in the people and crowded them together in poverty and hopelessness. The only spirits that the people knew were the ones that came in a bottle to self-medicate the pain. As the empire on which the sun never set conquered the world, the sun set on the unicorn and it dreamed its dream of the hills and the forests in the long North British night as nightmares assailed it from every side.

You don’t exist, said the voice in the dark, you can never exist. There is only the grey sky and the hopeless certainty that nothing will ever get better. There is no poetry in your soul, there is no soul, there is no poetry. You have to be practical, you have to get on, you have to play the North British game. The very best you can hope for is that things might not be just as shitty as they have been. There is no place for dreaming in North Britain. All there is is work, if you’re lucky. And when there is no work as there so often isn’t, then you can leave. It’s a Union benefit. And in return all you have to do is to speak English, speak proper, stand up straight and salute the Queen, and kill your imagination. Wheesht, your betters are telling you how it is. Listen in silence and bow your head. Dae whit yer telt. Don’t dream, don’t hope, don’t imagine that there can be a better way.

The unicorn lived in dreams, and that meant it could never die. It only slept, and as it slept it flew on the wings of imagination carried high by the updraught of dreams. The dream leapt from head to head, and the realisation grew that independence starts in the imagination, that self-determination begins with the self, that the personal is political. That’s the dream of the unicorn. Believe in yourself and you can make your own dreams come true, believe in the dream of the unicorn.

A people weighted down with the baggage of centuries realised that the only thing holding them back was their own fear and the sense of inferiority that they’d been taught for generations. Dream of a unicorn and you can cast off the shackles you’ve locked on your own wrists and ankles. Dream of a unicorn and a different Scotland becomes possible. Dream of a unicorn and you can change the world. Dream the dream of the unicorn and you can learn how to hope, and once you’ve learned how to hope you can never forget the lesson. The flame dances within you and lights up the darkness. You’ll always dream of the unicorn because you’ve realised that there is a better way. It’s the path we choose for ourselves, the path we make for ourselves, the path that leads to self-determination.

A better country is possible. A better country is within our grasp, and if we stand on one another shoulders we can reach for the unicorn. When you dream of the unicorn you’ve never been more awake. Reality begins with the imagination. Imagine a better country. Imagine hope for your children. Imagine the confidence to go your own way. Imagine the strength that comes from self-awareness. Tell the world that Scotland is back on the back of a unicorn. And we’re not going back to sleep.

The unicorn runs free on the hills. It gallops through the towns and villages. The imagination of a people has been unleashed, a people who’ve learned how to dream and hope. There’s no going back to the dark, the fear cannot catch us, the cringe is gone, and hope is alive. Let’s make it real. Let’s dream of unicorns and sing again.

Tomorrow, let’s vote for a Scotland that dreams its own dreams.

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100 comments on “Let’s dream of unicorns

  1. […] Wee Ginger Dug Let’s dream of unicorns […]

  2. ebreah says:

    Sir, till only recently I understood the significance of the unicorn in Scottish heraldy. Today though you have captured the essence of the significane.

    We are no longer dreaming of the unicorn. It has come back.

  3. Craig P says:


  4. Brian Watson says:

    I have this image of Ruthie D trying to mount a “unicorn” for the TV cameras….only to discover that it’s a Kelpie with a party hat .

  5. Macart says:

    Dare to dream.🙂

  6. Angus Skye says:


  7. Paul, you’ve been re-reading your Ray Bradbury collection, haven’t you?
    An excellent stirring piece, sir.
    Tomorrow, for the jaded faded Unionists, something wicked this way comes.
    Not long now.

    • Richard Smith says:

      I thought that dreaming of unicorns was a Blade Runner thing.

      “Wake up. Time to vote.”

  8. Guga says:

    I wish that your article could have been posted to every home in Scotland.

  9. Morna Kirk says:

    Guga, so do I! Utterly brilliant, WGD! You’re such a tonic! I so enjoy your writing and am always pleased to see another offering in my inbox. They’re always so perceptive and witty.

  10. One of the most moving pieces of writing I have read, ever. Thank you Paul.

  11. I seem to have something in my eye after reading that!

  12. diabloandco says:

    You made me laugh yesterday , today tears.

    • Macart says:

      Steady now.🙂

      Probably worth remembering for the cynics and those whose lives revolve around drab grey concrete and paving. People who probably consider themselves logical, level headed pragmatists and aspiration a risk assessment exercise. No great achievement, be it a work of art, science, exploration, philosophy, sport, music, architecture or statecraft, could ever have come to pass without vision or will.

      Great dreamers inspire, they motivate and they create great works.🙂

  13. gerry parker says:

    Re awaken the one in our imagination, and lets take the chains off this one.


  14. John Edgar says:

    The klunking North Briton, Gordon who saved the banksters, has not appeared to klunk and tread the boards with stern brow and Mani eyes declaiming in faux iambic pentameter thundering ramblings about “My Britain, My Scotland!” Has he been gored by the unicorn?
    It has been striking that all the former”big beasts” or “grandees” for (S)Lab have vanished from the Labour scene in Scotland!!
    Not so long ago they were strutting with the Tories till EVEL skelped them.
    Still, I suppose they do not care. The ennobled, privileged ones in the Lords are all better together there pooling and sharing the spoils of attendance fees and rich food from their “food bank” paid for by the populace.
    The working man and woman they kidded on for years will be the last thing on their minds as they nod in the chamber and learn to chant “heea, heea!” With bools in the moo. Others have been awarded with sinecures from the banksters for services rendered. Such was, and still will be (S)Lab until we are independent.

  15. Catherine says:

    Your blog had me in tears thinking about my dad … he passed away on Sunday morning a lifelong believer in Scottish Independence. He had just done a postal vote. He was always brilliant, imaginative and could see the big picture. Thank you Paul for all your wonderful words … a journal for all of us who envisage this Scotland. Let’s bring it on.

    • Saor Alba says:

      Will keep you and your dad in my thoughts Margaret.
      May he rest in peace and you find comfort.

    • Norma Slimmon says:

      I shall think of your dad when I vote SNP X2 Catherine x

    • hettyforindy says:

      Very sad, I hope we can secure independence sooner, rather than later.
      It’s always really heartening to hear of lifelong supporters of independence, your dad sounds like a great man.

    • bettyboopwp says:

      My sympathies for the loss of your dad. It hurts like Hell until your memories wrap around you like a hug. Let’s all go forward remembering those like your dad who dreamed of a better country.

  16. epicyclo says:

    Don’t forget the English army poised to invade if our turncoat nobility didn’t sign the Treaty.
    Don’t forget the Aliien Act of 1705 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alien_Act_1705

    The Treaty was signed under duress and by the use of bribes. It should be void for that very reason.

    • John Edgar says:

      One should not speculate, but what threats would Westminster issue when Scotland does campaign again and vote for independence?
      DC is currently working on a bill to thwart terrorists, defining terrorism as something or persons who threaten British Values!
      If Scotland “threatens” British Values by campaigning for independence and so “threatens” the British state and the Monarchy, will we be labelled terrorists?
      According to Neil Oliver, the SNP are capable of instigating a “hate fest”! As someone who works for the BBC, does the national broadcaster share his view? Sarah Smith might be working on that angle next or David Dimbleby as well at his next impartial event in the meeja.

      • Saor Alba says:

        It shows you what an arrogant prick DC is.
        As if everything should be re-defined in terms of being Brutish (British?).

      • Diane Shirley Sutherland says:

        And let’s not forget STV Twitter accusing the SNP of the “Ulsterisation” of Scotland, a gross insult both to the the people of Scotland and the people of Ulster who are trying hard to put the past behind them. Said “journalist” Aidan Kerr should be sacked, arrested or both.

        • Saor Alba says:

          Kerr is a twit (see what I did there) and should certainly be taken to task for his vile and offensive comments.

  17. Margaret says:

    As you stand upon the shoulders of those giants of Scottish men
    When you go to put your cross down, as you stand and hold your pen
    Think of the numpties we must bear, who couldn’t lick the bits
    Of the men of steel from Clydeside or those from Ayrshire pits

    Their vacuous ramblings every day, that surely grinds us down
    Wee Wullie spending all his time just acting like a clown
    Or Ruth perched high upon a tank as she plans what else to do
    Then she hits upon a clever wheeze, and tells us her bull is a coo

    If you live every day in a system, that causes you naught but despair
    Austerity is the new way of saying. you’re poor so we really don’t care
    But Kez will ride to your rescue she’ll tax till the pips start to squeek
    You’ll be able to keep on your fur coat,but under you’ll no have on breeks

    You may be onto your uppers, you may be down and out
    Your belly may be empty, but we’re told that there’s no doubt
    How we really should be grateful, we really should rejoice
    That the union flag still flutters,and we should respect their choice

    You have the chance tomorrow don’t throw it all away
    We see the price of voting no, we see the price we pay
    We know we have the people who can outsmart the rest
    When even coming second leaves them keeching in their nest

  18. Oh WOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Teary eyed now!! Brilliant, superb, mind blowingly accurate!!!!

  19. Davy says:

    That’s the way to do it.

  20. tom says:

    “The unicorn runs free on the hills. It gallops through the towns and villages. The imagination of a people has been unleashed, a people who’ve learned how to dream and hope. There’s no going back to the dark, the fear cannot catch us, the cringe is gone, and hope is alive. Let’s make it real. Let’s dream of unicorns and sing again.”

    there’s the stirring of a new national anthem in there.

  21. Tony L says:

    A wonderful, lyrical and poetic article. My scribbled words can not do justice to this Paul – So a simple Thank you

  22. Dan Huil says:

    Well said, WGD. Scotland Forever!

  23. Tinto Chiel says:

    An over-used term, but that was inspirational. Pity more people can’t read this before voting tomorrow.

    What I enjoy about you posts is that you are fully aware of the dreadful consequences of the Union for our culture and languages and how our history is taught. The main result, of course, is the Scotch Cringe, a serious psychological condition which would take psychiatrists many doctorates to unravel.

    The Brutish Empire, the greatest land-grab in history, has always imposed a hopeless nihilism on its victims, which you have summarised most eloquently here. Yet even some pro-yes academics still tell us we were willing participants in The Empire. Most of our participation seems to me to have been in emigration, working in the sweat shops of The Second City of Empire, and dying in disproportionate numbers in the army defending the indefensible Union. Most of my family, on both sides, had to go to the ends of the Earth because of the manufactured lack of opportunity here.

    I’m still utterly amazed that more Scottish people can’t see the colossal pup they’ve been sold by the Yoons (apologies in advance for hurting WGD’s feelings) but that’s the power of propaganda, pop-pickers.

  24. Alison Mulholland says:

    Absolutely storming! Thank you Paul, so very much xx

  25. Dave says:


  26. Jim Arnott says:

    Wee Ginger Dug – your writing just gets better and better. This latest piece is superb. I have just told my wife what I want for my 78th Birthday next month – Vols 1 and 2 of The Collected Yaps of the Wee Ginger Dug (signed of course – lol)

  27. Brian Fleming says:

    All I can say is a great big THANK YOU Paul. And I pray it goes well tomorrow. But viewed from afar (here in Finland), the trend of recent years strongly suggests the Unicorn is well on the road to recovery. As Aamer Anwar said in Princes Street Gardens in September 2012: “The spirit of Scotland, long suppressed, has reawoken.”

  28. Andrie. says:

    I read all your posts but never reply as others say everything better than I can, but with a wee tear in my eye I just want to say thanks for everything.

  29. Karen rodgers says:

    Absolutely brilliant. Best thing I have read ever ! This needs to be shared far and wide today.

  30. heathermclean19 says:

    A simply stunning piece of writing Paul!

  31. mumsyhugs says:

    Sniff sniff – got something in my eye – mascara all over the place!


  32. Capella says:

    Well that sent a shiver up my spine! Powerful piece of writing. Thank you Paul

  33. Puzzled Puss says:

    Thank you for a beautiful, poetic article that encapsulates so aptly all our aspirations.

  34. Shamur says:

    Loved it! Truly inspirational.

  35. Wee Jonny says:

    Fanfukintastic WGD.

    One thing I hate is being telt to speak properly!!!
    “I’m fukin Dundonian. I’m not English. I speak proper Dundonian!!” Is my usual reply .

    May the 4th be with you young Paul.

  36. MI5 Troll says:

    Real poetry Dug. I will be thinking of this tomorrow when I go into the wee booth with my pencil. Cheers!!

  37. Fantastic rousing piece of writing. This made me feel quite emotional. Alba Gu Brath!!

  38. Fantastic piece of writing! I felt quite emotional reading it and just hope many others manage to before Thursday’s vote. Alba Gu Brath and Dundee United forever!

  39. goldenbrodie says:

    Loved you writing. I was moved. With eyes wide open I am riding on the unicorn. You got to me with this one.

  40. Janet says:

    Best piece of writing yet, ever.

    No distractions, folks.

    If you vote Green, it says concern for the ozone layer.

    Vote socialist for public services at a price, with taxes to scare the middle.

    But if you vote SNP, it scares the shit out of the Establishment. They really don’t like it.

    I’m voting SNP twice over tomorrow.

  41. Brian McKay says:

    Paul, great and inspiring article. Hope this means that you’re now shaking off your own self-imposed shackles and giving both votes to the SNP.

    • Illy says:

      I don’t have any problem with him boycotting the SNP constituency candidate if they have the sort of issues that I think they do, and voting SNP on the list.

      The constituency vote is the closest thing we have to voting for a person, the list is voting for a government.

      Remember that and vote accordingly.

  42. James M.S. Cowey says:

    lovely, lyrical, inspiring – thank you!

  43. Gordon McAllan says:

    Luminous. Magnificent. Poetry is NOT dead. Thank you, Paul.

  44. Saor Alba says:

    A simple thank you Paul.

  45. Annelise Swanston says:

    A simply stunning and moving piece. Thank you, made my day.

  46. Lass fi' Dalkeith says:

    Choked up here. As I was reading this a hi-def animated short film with stirring music played out in my mind’s eye. Something for Scotland’s talents to develop perhaps?

  47. lanark says:

    Wonderful sir, I had a tear in my eye by the end. Pearse and Mitchel wrote inspiring verses to the Irish people, this is our answer. We won’t give up.

  48. beltie2015 says:

    a masterpiece, dìreach àlainn.

  49. Davy says:

    It is now time for the unicorn’s to stride out again, and show the world our magnificence.

    Saor Alba.

  50. I just reread this tour de force with Kid Canaveral’s haunting ‘Her Hair Hangs Down’ playing in the background. Even more stirring than the first reading.
    You should definitely produce this as a recorded idyll with music.
    ‘Funny how things turn out sometimes.’

  51. fionamgrahame says:

    I love this

  52. Bill McLean says:

    Excellent, simply excellent!

  53. Norma Slimmon says:

    Your writing transported me to a wonderful place. Thank you. Bare back unicorn riding here I come!

  54. fillofficer says:

    jeez, dug…gonnae no……….projectile optical secretions there ffs. utterly magnificent. SNPx2

  55. Paula Rose says:

    That’s lovely that is!

  56. The Scottish Play says:

    ‘We are such stuff as dreams are made of’

    …and though this vote cannot be lost, yet it shall be Tempest-tost.

  57. Dal Riata says:

    Sheer poetry from beginning to end. Brilliant!

  58. Mattia D'Ercole says:

    First time I make a comment here – but it was necessary.

    This wee piece reminded me that – for me – The Cause is not only a political one.
    For me is much more.
    I’m from Italy, but I fell in love with Independence, and I’m proud to have an SNP membership card in my wallet.
    I never went in Scotland – yet. But I wish to go there one day. Maybe when the #Indyref2 campaign is in full swing. Or even in the days near the Independence proclamation!

    Thanks, dug – or, to say Paìs Valencìa style – Gràcies, dug.
    We will won this war – for the sake of Scotland and of Mankind.
    Saorsa a-nis, Saor Alba gu Brath!

    • Mattia D'Ercole says:

      *win, sorry

    • bettyboopwp says:


      Your comment has humbled me. For those of us who have lived through the independence referendum and the hope it inspired in a country which has too long been held in subservience to another which does not share its ambition, there can be no better compliment than having inspired others.

      As you can see, we have some great writers like Paul and commentators who eloquently broadcast the desires of our cause. It is encouraging to find that we are not alone and that the cause resonates with people around the world.

      Thank you, You will be welcome when you come here.

  59. xsticks says:

    Some say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one…

    Great stuff Paul. I think that’s one of your best yet. You have a knack for stirring he soul.

    @Mattia – it is really heartening to have your support for our cause. I hope you manage to visit us soon you will be made very welcome😀

  60. David Smith says:

    I have a feeling that as you were writing this, Paul, that this was as much a personal expression in words of your own self awakening, and as such it spoke to me as well about my own personal feelings of doubt-of sadness-of not believing in my life that I had carried with me for many years and have since then cast aside. A very relatable and beautifully written piece.

  61. liz says:

    Beautiful Paul, Thank you.

  62. Saor Alba says:

    Paul. How can I access my profile to complete, so that I can get a wee picture beside my comments?

  63. Hazel Smith says:

    Such a beautiful piece Paul. Thank you.

  64. Carol Sadler says:

    This was a beautiful birthday present to me today,prodding my emotionsand making me teary with longing.Thank you for putting an old timers hopes and dreams into such beautiful prose.

  65. Kelsae Felly says:

    I’ve been reading your blog with avid interest for quite a while now Paul. Bit of a long time lurker like. But this wonderful and powerful piece of prose has finally made me comment. You’re some boy!

  66. hettyforindy says:

    Lovely to read on the eve of our election.

    I sincerely hope that we are all feeling positive about the future come Friday, we deserve it after a lot of hard work by bloggers, feet on the ground, (leafletting, knocking on doors etc) the SNP candidates themselves, our Edinburgh central Alison Dickie has worked so hard.

    And of course, the many commenters and poets here.

    Saor Alba.

  67. Very poetic. Slap a saddle on that bugger and get me to a polling station!

  68. bettyboopwp says:


    You always get to the point in your eloquent blogs. Some of your recent blogs have had real fire in them, gloves off and all that.

    This one is so incredibly emotional and tugs at the heart-strings for all the reasons so many like me believe we need to free ourselves from a union which has damaged our country so much. We all feel this pain.

    Without imagination, there is no hope.

  69. Tracey says:

    weans believe in unicorns, we should listen to the weans🦄

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