Nationalism and Thatessempee

How many times have you heard someone say that they’re not going to vote for independence because they “hate that SNP”. Often Thatessempee is spat out as though it was a single word, and a swerrie word at that. Just as frequently you’ll hear people say that they don’t want to vote for independence because they don’t like Nicola Sturgeon, or because they loathe Alicsammin, whose name has also developed a tendency among certain opponents of independence to be spat out as though it was a single swerrie word.

The overwhelmingly anti-independence media in Scotland has always been very keen to foster an association in the minds of the Scottish public between independence and a single political party. Most often the BBC presents discussions on independence by having on a sole representative from Thatessempee, and then “for balance”, he or she is up against a Labour person, a Tory, and a Lib Dem. The other main pro-independence party, the Scottish Greens, are rarely invited. Other smaller parties which support independence, like the Scottish Socialists who once had representation in Holyrood, never get a look in. The impression given is that Scottish independence is a party political project belonging in its entirety to Thatessempee.

The desire of the media and opponents of independence to foster the myth that Scottish independence is the sole preserve of Thatessempee is constant and unrelenting. How many times during the independence referendum campaign of 2014 did you hear the phrase Alex Salmond’s referendum? And how many times did you hear the UK being personalised by the name of the leader of the Better Together campaign as Alistair Darling’s No Campaign or Alistair Darling’s Pro-UK project? Never, that’s how many times.

The aim of this messaging is to discourage people who do not support the SNP from engaging with the arguments for independence. Yet there are many independence supporters who do not support the SNP. There are other parties which back independence. There are even people within the traditionally anti-independence parties, particularly the Labour party in Scotland, who privately support independence. A vote for Scottish independence is not a vote for the SNP. The anti-independence parties and their friends in the Scottish media just want you to think it is.

When Scotland does become an independent country, and there’s a now a majority in Scotland who believe that it’s merely a matter of time before that happens, it will be a democracy. An independent Scotland will not be a one party SNP state. Voting for an independent Scotland is not a vote to have Nicola Sturgeon as dictator for life. In fact, voting for Scottish independence is not even a vote of confidence in the SNP. It’s certainly not a signal that you support the actions of the SNP administration of the devolved Scottish Government. A vote for independence is nothing more and nothing less than a statement that you believe that it is up to the people of Scotland to decide what course this country takes. It’s a statement that the government of Scotland should be elected by the people of Scotland and should be answerable to the people of Scotland and to no one else. Voting for independence is not party political.

The desire for Scottish independence is motivated by a recognition that Westminster governance is not allowing Scotland to develop to its full potential. It is driven by the understanding that there is a great deal that is wrong with Scotland, and these wrongs and shortcomings can best be addressed if the people of Scotland have a government which is responsible to them, and which puts the interests of Scotland first and foremost. Saying that you refuse to vote for independence because you hate Nicola Sturgeon or Thatessempee is rather like saying that you’re not going to have your toothache dealt with because you dislike a particular dentist. You’d rather have the toothache.

You may also have heard people say that they are voting against independence because they don’t like nationalism. Opponents of independence are very keen to paint the Scottish constitutional debate as a debate between nationalists on the one hand, and non-nationalists on the other. However it is untrue. A vote against independence is equally a vote for a nationalist project, because by a vote against independence is effectively a vote to back the intensely nationalist project that is Brexit and to support a British state which is every bit as nationalist, if not more so, than an independent Scotland would be.

Opponents of independence are aided in this by a deficit of the English language. The English term nationalism encompasses two very different political philosophies. Nationalism can mean the aggressive aggrandisement of an existing state. It’s often xenophobic, authoritarian, and intolerant. However it can also mean the campaign for independence by a nation which currently doesn’t have it. These are not the same political philosophies at all, and in some languages they are called by different names. Scottish nationalism is of the latter variety, and in Spanish it would be referred to by a different word, independentismo. Unfortunately if you try to adopt this term into English and call yourself a Scottish independentist, people just ask you how much you charge for orthodontic work, so it’s unlikely to catch on.

Mainstream Scottish nationalism is of the civic variety. It defines Scottishness not by where a person was born, but by where a person lives or how they choose to identify. Mainstream Scottish nationalism is honoured to accept as Scots those people born elsewhere who have come to this country, made their lives here, and have become a part of Scotland’s story and journey. Scottishness is not about where you came from, it’s about where we are all going.

Brexit on the other hand is most definitely strongly characterised by many of the features of the first kind of nationalism, the intolerant xenophobic sort. Opponents of independence seek to blur the distinction to get people to believe that by supporting Scottish independence, they are also supporting intolerance, xenophobia and racism. The claim that supporters of Scottish independence are anti-English racists is a constant refrain. However the movement for Scottish independence is no more defined by anti-English racism than opposition to independence is defined by the sectarianism of the Orange Order, or the out and out racism of Britain First, both of which are groups which oppose independence. The claim that Scottish independence is racist is a tactic designed to prevent English people in Scotland from supporting independence. Yet one of the most active grassroots groups campaigning for independence is English Scots for Yes.

Even without Brexit, a vote against independence would still be a vote to support a nationalist project. It’s a vote to back a British state which is every bit as nationalist in its actions as any independent Scotland would be. In fact as a country which is quick to take military action around the globe in pursuit of what it sees as British interests, the UK is far more aggressively nationalist than an independent Scotland would ever be. Supporters of the British state do not get a free pass from nationalism just because they back the UK. Indeed, one of the defining myths of British nationalism is that it’s better than the nationalisms of lesser breeds by virtue of not being nationalist at all. It’s a comforting fairy story, but it’s not true.

The reality is that the debate about Scottish independence is not a debate between Scottish nationalism on the one hand and non-nationalism on the other. It’s a debate between two different visions for Scotland’s future. One vision puts that future into the hands of the people of Scotland, the other surrenders it to decisions made by a Westminster Parliament which is not primarily accountable to the people of Scotland. Both sides of this debate contain people who are nationalists, and both sides contain people who are not nationalists. The debate about Scottish independence is essentially a debate about accountability and democratic representation.

As we have seen with Brexit, Scotland is being subjected to a damaging and reckless estrangement from Europe even though the people of Scotland have consistently voted against it. Yet throughout this entire process the voices of Scotland’s parliament and elected representatives have been ignored and sidelined. As far as Brexit is concerned, British Government has made precisely zero accommodations to the needs of Scotland. This is merely the latest and most egregious example of Scotland’s needs and concerns not being met by the Westminster Parliament. This happens because Westminster Governments do not rely upon Scottish votes in order to get into power, so are free to ignore Scotland’s needs with impunity. British governments are not accountable to the people of Scotland.

Over the past 50 years, Scotland has only had governments in Westminster that it voted for for a total of 17 years. As long as Scotland and the rest of the UK were on the same page politically, both alternating between Labour and the Conservatives, this was tolerable. Scotland got what it voted for often enough that we could pretend to ourselves that Scotland really was a partner in a Union. There was always another election in five years time. But that foundation myth of Scottish Unionism has been blown out of the water by Brexit. Brexit is forever, not just for five years, and the way in which Scotland was treated by Westminster during the Brexit process has proven that Westminster governments have no interest in making accommodations to Scotland’s needs or concerns.

Scottish independence is about establishing the principle that the path that Scotland takes should be decided by the people of Scotland. It is about ensuring that Scotland always has a government elected by the people of Scotland, and which is accountable to them and to no one else. If we cannot vote them out of office they will not take decisions in our interests. Theresa May or Boris Johnson have no need to consider Scotland’s interests, and so they treat Scotland with arrogant contempt. They know that Scotland can’t vote them out of power.

The real reason for Scottish independence is to ensure that our politicians and our governments are kept accountable to the people of Scotland. It’s to ensure that Scotland always gets governments that it elects. It’s to ensure that those politicians always operate in the interests of Scotland and that they are kept accountable to us. It’s only by keeping them close to us in an independent Scotland that we can ensure that their backsides are within kicking distance of our feet and that we can vote them out of office when they break their promises.

That’s the very nub of the argument for Scottish independence. It’s not about party politics. It’s not about nationalism. It’s about democracy.

The plan for this article and several others dealing with key points in the independence debate is to collate them and publish them in book form when we have a date for the independence vote. Some of these articles have already been published on this blog and others have yet to be written. The idea is that when we know when Scotland will be voting, I will do a crowd-funder specifically for the purpose of raising money to get the book printed, and then it can be distributed to Yes groups and campaigners and given away for free.

There’s already a Wee Blue Book, let’s have a Wee Ginger Book too. This isn’t meant as competition for the Wee Blue Book – which is a fantastic initiative with proven success – but rather it is to be complementary to it. Different writing styles and different books can appeal to different readerships and different demographics. The more information we can get out there, the more people we can persuade to Yes. If you have any suggestions for topics for articles to include in this book, let me know and I will write something up – if I haven’t done so already.

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42 comments on “Nationalism and Thatessempee

  1. david says:

    I read that and thought wow, that’s a perfect, calm summation of all that it means to be independent in Scotland, and should be in a letter put through every single door in Scotland. Then I see your plan at the bottom of the post. Perfect, just perfect. You’ve got the calm, emotion laden end covered, with the potential revised wee blue book covering the facts and figures – seems like a perfect match to me! (Unlike Andy Murray who seems to be struggling a bit so far today)

  2. James Mills says:

    Excellent as ever !

    So good in fact that the BBC or Sky TV may soon be asking you to front a discussion on Scottish Independence .
    No , I don’t believe it either , Paul , but keep up the inspiring articles .

  3. James Cheyne says:

    A very well thought out summarise of what the people in Scotland think, rather than what main stream media are telling us and the rest of the world we think,
    In direct response to any topics you ask we may want to be included, would you consider writing an article on how the people of Scotland can use there sovereignty to bypass political parties to enable all of us to choose the government we want, as I personally am a bit confused on this subject, as you say and as I have always understood it to be, it independence is not a political party, but the sovereignty of the people.
    If it is us, and us alone that decides this issue, how are we mere mortals supposed to achieve making this happen?

  4. Andy Anderson says:

    Good article Paul.

    To me it is about one word ‘freedom’ to be ourselves

  5. Welsh Sion says:

    Regarding the different faces of ‘nationalism’.

    “That which destroyed the civilization of Wales and wrought havoc on Wales’s culture and brought into being the critical condition in which Wales finds herself today – it was NATIONALISM.” [Final word italicised in the original.]

    Source: Egwyddorion Cenedlaetholdeb (The Principles of Nationalism)
    John Saunders Lewis
    First President of Plaid [Genedlaethol] Cymru

    (Feel free to substitute ‘Scotland’ for ‘Wales’).

  6. Great stuff! Another brilliant idea – a Wee Ginger Book and a Wee Blue Book, how fabulous! Well done Paul ⭐️

  7. Bob Lamont says:

    Very well put indeed, eloquence personified, but must query the “…British state which is every bit as nationalist…” posit.
    The British State has generally and currently benefited a narrow and exceedingly rich elite, nationality is irrelevant in chasing $ or power to the political class which infect that particular organ.
    English Nationalism is certainly on the rise through Brexit, and goaded on by the ToryMk2 stopgap Mirage’s rise to power seems certain for delivery on a jingoistic wave of “revolution”, yet will not benefit the majority of England any more than did as Mk1. I would not want to be in proximity when that powder-keg goes off.
    What the British State does is croneyism, nationalism is a choreographed masque.

  8. […] Wee Ginger Dug Nationalism and Thatessempee How many times have you heard someone say that they’re not going to vote for […]

  9. Alasdair Macdonald says:


  10. The first reply to any person querying independence should be, An independent Scotland, WOULD SET ALL TAXES, COLLECT ALL TAXES, AND WOULD SPEND ALL TAXES FOR THE BENEFIT OF THE SCOTTISH PEOPLE.

    • Robert Harrison says:

      Thats why Westminster fears independence a theyd no longer get our taxes that go to Edinburgh instead b they wouldn’t be able to spend a penny of our nations cash on what they want c theyd have no control on our tax rates not even to set financial traps like they currently have done.

  11. I am at a loss for words. Fortunately, Paul isn’t.
    Its now official; Old England will become the 51st State on the 24th July 2019, now that Kim Darroch has been removed from office.
    Johnson will be looking out his Yankee passport, as he prepares to become the First Governor of the New State ‘Old England’.
    Nigel Farage will be a shoo in as The Honourable Senator, and Holyrood, Stormont (sic) and Cardiff ‘Assemblies’ will be disbanded.
    No need for May’s ‘War Chest’ to ‘crush’ Independence.
    The fears that a Herald Britland correspondent expressed that Pro Self Determination supporters have lain ‘siege’ to his precious Union will be allayed when the stars and stripes flutters defiantly from Edinburgh Castle, and Hyde Park hosts the Inaugural State Fair to welcome the Little Ol’ Englanders to the Yoonited States.
    Crush the Scots? Aye, right.

    The world, and England has gone mad.
    We have a mandate for Indyref2 now. Let’s do it, and do it now, before Cracker Barrel open a chain of eateries throughout our land.
    For what the feck are we waiting?

    • Bob Lamont says:

      Wine? Crackers?
      You are referring the cheese I presume ? Or is it the BIG cheese aka Trump?
      It’s not as if Johnson is unused to being in a state… Or anything else to comes to hand…. 🙂 Well, it would be rude not to defuse the situation.
      We are all champing at the bit, even horses are (there is a link there for Johnson), but I would not underestimate the shrewdness of SG in this. Whatever has been said/threatened/promised we are not privy to, let’s not play into Unionist hands by pressuring those who do…. 😉

    • Robert Harrison says:

      England has always been insane how do you think they hated thacther but kept her in for 11 years how they complained about the conservatives these days but oh look a conservative government still in power how they want brexit at any cost yet claim remainers just want to be dictated to the eu when they are being sold out to the USA through the back donor by there hated conservative government this is England being fine nothing to worry about so wonder what panic mode would look like down there.

  12. David Agnew says:

    There used to be a pro-union chap who used to comment on here sometime back. He was very fond of his union. He was very fond of being British. Britishness to him was far superior to anything Scotland had, because it wasn’t a nationalism you see. It was a superior identity because it transcended national identity by not actually being one. I wonder what he’d say now. I wonder what he would think of Britishness now, as reactionary right wing nationalists in England, take over an advisory referendum on EU membership, in a bid to turn the UK into a rancid racist little shithole?
    Whats going through his mind right now, as this superior non nationalist identity abases itself to a foreign power? Thats whats happening right now. The Darroch affair has seen the UK gov humiliated by a very serious breach of security. A foreign president attacking the PM and prospective PM candidates just sitting there incapable of sticking up for the high office they seek to hold. The usual suspects who lean to much to a gammon tendency and pro brexit, demanding a foreign nation gets to pick the UKs next ambassador. This is a major assault on democratic institutions and what we have is a servile and useless political class in the UK who will, when the chips are down, throw the country under a bus. This is then is the wonderful UK we were sold and people bought on 2014. I wonder what our yoon friend thinks now. I wonder if he will pop along to school us on how brilliant it is to be British. After today he might be a little less prideful on that celebration of mediocrity he tried to claim was superior. Because brexit is what a slavish devotion to mediocrity gets you. Scotland and in fact the other UK nations deserve something better than to be British. Lets end this Union soon.

    • weegingerdug says:

      Eh … I probably banned him for annoying me.

      • David Agnew says:

        lol yeah most likely or he got piled on once too often and took the hint 🙂

    • This is England ‘taking back control’ and handing it on to the good ol’ US of A.
      If they can sack England’s most senior diplomat, what chance of Fox holding back Texas Steroid Stakes, and Jack Daniel’s Scotch?
      I repeat; for what are we waiting?
      I refre to ‘England’ in this offering since Johnson’s Declaration of English Independence at Carlisle last week by announcing that WM is now the ‘English’ Parliament.
      Btw where are Davidson Rennie Mundell Laird and Leonard hiding while their country Scotland is under the greatest threat to its very existence ever?
      Not a dickie bird.
      Potholes and pissoirs are their level of politics.
      This is all a bit too scary and grown up for these two-bit glorified coonsillors, isn’t it? It is all way too complicated and above their intellect, or inclination?

      For What Are WE, The Citizens Of Scotland, Waiting?
      Rise up Scotland, and drive the enemy from our door.

      The ‘enemy’ being those who would ‘crush’ our road to Self Determination.
      The ‘enemy’ who is setting aside millions to thwart the democratic will of the People of Scotland by flooding our land with symbols of English Colonialism, the Union Jack, the Butcher’s Apron..

  13. ‘Steaks’ even.

    • Bob Lamont says:

      I would refre you to the probability the previous Scpellhecck was probably correct. 🙂 Stakes in this instance may not be so inaccurate…
      I agree that there is a systematic attack both on our markets and our identity, but we are strong enough to resist both. There’s a greater prize looming… 😉

  14. Puzzled Puss says:

    Sorry to be pedantic, as I have no desire to impugn your brilliant article, but impunity (para.13) shouldn’t have a g in it. Looking forward very much to the Wee Ginger Book, by the way!

  15. bedelsten says:

    That’s a good idea, a wee ginger book, or a wee ginger-dog-eared book, a 21st century book of ours.

    The weeblue book is, as a bit of generalisation, the overview of why Scotland can be a successful independent country. Common Weal’s various policy documents cover the nut and bolts of running an independent country e.g. how to launch a Scottish currency. The bit that’s missing, sometimes touched upon by Lesley Riddoch, is about democracy and how it could and should work in an independent Scotland.

    The centrist tendencies of successive Westminster governments has sucked the lifeblood out of local government but, in Scotland, politics was reenergised in 2014, continues vibrantly alive today and, post-independence, will want to keep living and breathing – those Yes hubs are not going back into their boxes. Proper democratic countries have a much devolved politic where local decisions are made locally and backsides are kept within kicking distance. We have the talent. We have the motives. We can do that. We can run our own villages, towns and cities. We can run our own counties and we will run our own country.

    And we need to do that urgently. The stakes / steaks are perilously close to the cliff edge, or something, especially once the oaf gets the keys to No. 10.

  16. Charles McGregor says:

    One of the Nationalisms is imperialistic. It believes that the culture and benchmarks of other nations is inferior to their own, therefore those should be either ignored or perhaps ‘corrected’. Sometimes that correction can require intervention militarily or politically. Of course, any such errant nation should be expected to pay for this correction if only in kind, from say their natural resources. There is only one allowable politico-cultural stance – THEIRS.,

    The other nationalism is anti-imperalistic. It does not want to ‘correct’ other cultures or invade and extract natural resources of other states. It sees the diversity in culture between different countries as a very good thing. It wants to learn from the differing cultural perspectives on offer, not attempt to convert them to its own ideas.

    No points for guessing which is which.

  17. bringiton says:

    The British state has historically and even in recent times used violence to impose it’s will on other countries.
    It is up to Unionists to justify their support for this establishment and justify the reasons why Scotland doesn’t have the normal democratic rights of other countries.
    They always end up denying that Scotland is a country,or certainly claiming that it is a country which cannot exist without England.
    Timorous beasties.

  18. alice sharp says:

    Read with interest and keenness your idea of publishing a WGD book. I volunteer as a literacy tutor working with folk who are the most vulnerable in our society. They depend on benefits to survive. I talk with the elderly and they too speak of their total dependency on benefits. They do not trust the British state to protect their benefits on independence. They think they will be punished by the British State for voting for Scottish independence.

    I would be grateful if you would consider the above for inclusion in your potential thoughts for the indie WGD. Best regards Alice Sharp

    Sent from my iPad


    • weegingerdug says:

      That’s certainly one of the topics on my list of things to cover.

      • A. Bruce says:

        A brilliant article as always Paul and a topic that needed your excellent analysis. I’m looking forward to the WGB book.
        You know what Groucho Marx said “Outside a dog, a book is man’s friend; Inside a dog it’s too dark to read” But not if we’ve got you shining a light on it.

    • ArtyHetty says:

      Which is why Scotland needs social security powes in full. As with other powers like immigration, telecommunications etc, the UK, (English) government refuse to devolve those powers to Scotland. We all know why.

      At the moment, the Scottish government have some powers with regard to benefits. It’s all being worked on as we speak. Disability benefits such as PIP are now devolved, but the transition is not an easy one. Caers allowance will be devolved and some pensions(?). It’s all on the SNP website.

      Social Security Scotland is already up and running, it’s being developed and they are being very thorough in how it should be implemented and in how it should function, for instance no Atos ‘assessments’ ( interrogations).

      I am not sure the timescale, but it seems to be taking longer than planned, I did hear that the DWP are not exactly being helpful with passing on information etc. That would not surprise in the least.

      Englishgov flatly refuse to devolve replacement of many main benefits, lincluding their horrendously cruel so called, ‘universal credit’. This means that the transition of some benefits to Scotland is very complicated, because people will be dealing with DWP and with Scotland’s social security system.

      You can get information online and have be involved and attend information panels etc. The people that you work with can also become involved in the way in which the Scottish system is being designed and developed. That is very much encouraged in fact.

      Scotland’s system will be much more humane, and person centred. When independent, benefits recipients in Scotland, will not be at the mercy of England’s DWP.

      You can reassure the people that you work with, that the UKgov cannot ‘punish’ them, after independence, because benefits will be a SCOTTISH government power in total. You can resassure people that at the moment, PIP etc is well on it’s way to being within the powers of the Scottish government, and will be a fair and very much a person centred system.

      • Craig P says:

        >>As with other powers like immigration, telecommunications etc, the UK, (English) government refuse to devolve those powers to Scotland. We all know why.

        When the allies invaded Iraq, the first things they took control of were the oil fields and broadcasting stations.

        These are the last things the British government will willingly give up. If the Scottish government ever does get control of our oil fields and broadcasting stations, that’s when we know we’ve won.

  19. Respect Paul! You are on fire at the moment. The book for Yes campaigners is a great idea too, and will be of considerable value in promoting discussion with those we need to yet convince.

  20. exile says:

    Good morning Paul, the Wee Ginger Book is an excellent idea. Thanks for all your work on the blog.

    Could you include articles refuting the idea that the UK is a “democracy”? At best it is a part-democracy, as the Lords is wholly unelected. There’s also the issue of the UK’s unelected head of state. The two non-democratic institutions combined in 1963 to appoint Lord Home as the UK Prime Minister.

    “Ginger” is a great word….my Chambers dictionary says a “ginger group” is ‘a group within eg a political party seeking to inspire the rest with its own enthusiasm and activity’; as a noun it gives the meanings ‘stimulation’ and ‘mettle’; to ginger is ‘to make spirited’. Keep on adding mettle and spirit to Scotland!

  21. Electric blue says:

    You always seem to write what I am thinking only with more eloquence than I could ever muster.
    Loved this article.

  22. Dave tewart says:

    Would like to see a piece on No Fault Compensation for Industrial injuries as a alternative to NO LEGAL Aid for legal representation.
    Our Scandinavian Friends have this a the default position.
    All part of updating our legal position after independence.
    So much needs to be done but lets get freedom first.

  23. Iain McGlade says:

    Just on the subject of nationalism.
    I don’t consider myself a Nationalist, but you’ll struggle to find anyone more pro-Indy.
    I am an Internationalist and, while I’m not an SNP member, I see what they say and regard them as an Internationalist party.

  24. Scozzie says:

    Great idea to have a Wee Ginger Book of articles…would like to see some of these themes covered in the book:
    – A ‘caged dug’ (got to give the wee dug a titled article 😉 reserved / devolved powers, democratic deficit etc
    – Summary of Scotland’s top industries
    – Critique of GERS
    – Summary of 2014 to now (all the bat-shit crazy stuff)
    – Independence is normal, giving power away abnormal
    – Mon the oldies – what’s in it for me?
    – Media (all the bastards not just BBC)
    – We’re no shite – how all independent countries have self belief and don’t suffer the Cringe / success of other independent countries of last 50 years
    – EU and your knowledge of the fabled Spanish veto
    – How the status quo is never the status quo (for those that are inclined to vote no as they fear change)

    While some of these will probably be covered by WBB, balancing your knowledge with your wit and humour can cut through to people who perhaps don’t do ‘hard politics’ as such.
    For social media – please, please, please also do little 3 minute videos (of each topic) to be shared – people are so much more likely to click on videos.

  25. JMD says:

    Excellent piece. Anyone serious about regaining Scotland’s independence should print off as many copies of the article as they can and put them through all their local letterboxes.

    Wee Ginger Book? Bring it on!

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