Iain Macwhirter’s thinking could be more toned

From: Mairianna Clyde


It’s always worth listening closely to the words of Scotland’s greatest historian, Professor Sir Tom Devine. At the weekend he gave my colleague Neil Mackay a vivid picture of the current state of the Union – and why it’s in deep trouble in the wake of Boris Johnson and Brexit. But between the lines, I think Sir Tom was also delivering a quiet warning to ardent Scottish nationalists who think independence is just a matter of time. It’s not a done deal.

Tom Devine (whom I knew personally in the 1990s as a doctoral student) was always a Labour man who thought that independence would be achieved despite the SNP, not because of them.

But Macwhirter forgets that the Tories appear keen on reversing devolution, and that Scotland’s political culture has expressed a different direction to England’s under the Tories. These alone are reasons for getting out, the old cry of ‘Scotland free, or a desert’.

Basically the union has survived because England left us alone. England’s aims in securing the union were limited. They had no imperial interest in our assets. Now they do. And actually, this can be traced back to Labour’s nationalisation in the 1950s and Thatcher’s selling off of the family silver in the 1980s.

Many Scots were alarmed by Labour’s nationalisations of Scottish coal, industry, trains. Though others – more naive, it turns out – were caught up in the euphoria of the idea of the people’s ownership. Because within a decade Beeching was closing off Scottish branch lines, British steel was favouring English plants, then along comes Thatcher and sells the lot off.

The union has changed. No longer is England indifferent to us. They want what we’ve got. Their interest is imperial. There is no need for an economic case, just the recognition that the union is predatory. They already took our oil.

4 thoughts on “Iain Macwhirter’s thinking could be more toned

  1. The North British Hotel in Edinburgh go renamed. A good sign, given the prevalence of UK-wide institutions to think of Scotland as “North Britain”
    It was renamed as The Balmoral. I’m not sure that’s much better, and was one in the eye for those with republican persuasions.
    The most significant change of attitude was when rugby crowds started booing ‘God Save the Queen’. Live. On television. With an audience that included England. SRU much embarrassed, but then (as now) were a bunch of old farts. This forced small movements in the UK edifice.
    Just as important as the Beeching cuts and Thatcherism.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. I was delighted when the ‘royal museum of Scotland’ was renamed the ‘National Museum of Scotland’, in Edinburgh. I suspect Alex Salmond had something to do with that. He did do some good things for Scotland.


  2. British constitutionalism only remained politically tolerable if Westminster did not seek to impose English cultural values on Scotland. Though Westminster has always privileged English cultural values and undermined the capacity of Scots to govern ourselves (see GERS), as Westminster tends to be dominated by English Tories, there has definitely been a shift in the legal tone of government since Thatcher. Now Brexit represents the outright colonisation of Scotland’s legal identity by English Torydum. So until ‘our’ legal Establishment start responding appropriately to the constitutional violence represented by Brexit, then I’ll reserve judgement on their capacity to support open democracy.

    The Spirit of Laws is Not Universal: Alternatives to the Enforcement Paradigm for Human Rights

    Liked by 2 people

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