I-i-i-n-n-n-d-d-d-e-e-p-p-e-e-n-n-d aaah! Separation – a reply to John McTernan in Prospect Magazine

I’m more amused than captivated by the views on Scottish independence of people who don’t live here. Lots of celebrities have spoken up on one side or the other although I suspect they know more about the intricacies of astrophysics than they do about Scotland.

John McTernan likes to air his opinion on the referendum. Don’t know if he counts as a celeb but, like them, I doubt he’s got his finger on Scotland’s pulse but he thinks he does and so feels entitled to record his impressions in Prospect Magazine 24 July 2104 in an article entitled ‘Why Patriotic Scots will be voting No.’


I suppose the response to that is some will and some won’t. Then again never fully trust anyone who evokes ‘patriotism’ as a justification for preserving Scotland as a subjugated region within a UK that is inevitably dominated by its much larger neighbour. Not even when that person refers to the nationalist Hugh MacDiarmid to  demonstrate just how much he LOVES us.  Just what is it you LOVE about Scotland John? and all those celebs who are clueless about the place.

John McTernan sticks to  #naw’s  standard terminology – ‘separation’ never independence possibly because they know that independence is positive and progressive and worth aiming for. But no, it’s as if they can’t quite get their tongues round the term ‘independence’ – i-i-i-n-n-n-d-d-d-e-e-ppppppppppppppp – no can’t do it – separation – that’s a whole lot easier – more negative, bad vibes, scareyyyyyyyy.

Actually John it’s not separation at all: not physically and not politically – it is independence – there’s a world of difference. By not daring to engage with the term you fail. They all fail.

John McTernan is right to say the numbers supporting independence have been relatively stable over the years but something has changed here though possibly looking from the outside he wouldn’t recognise it.  What’s changed is that more people are not just quite enthusiastic about Scotland taking responsibility for itself – pursuing policies which chime with the different mindset there is here to England’s – but also because there’s an opportunity to see the long cherished hope realised .

I’m one of those. I never used to care much about independence and I don’t know what changed me, perhaps studying History at University where I came to realise that Scotland’s position in  world affairs was rarely acknowledged – as part of the UK Scotland is invisible both within and outwith these islands. The UK is too often solely England but never solely Scotland. It’s not as though anything has changed. Yes the media have discovered Scotland and for the past year or so we’ve been bombarded with Scotland this and Scotland that but it is all part of the #bettertogether smokescreen aimed at persuading voters into believing we are fully integrated part of the UK. It will all vanish like snow off a dyke after the referendum and everyone will return to normal with Scotland shut back into its box.

John asks ‘why’? Why go for independence.  He asks it with reference to the Scottish Enlightenment – as in Hume and Smith asked ‘why’ a lot in their pursuance of enlightenment so it is reasonable to apply the same approach to the referendum. And yes it is.

But in John McTernan’s citing of Hume, a giant of the Enlightenment, he takes no cognisance that this giant of a thinker was flawed as a man, as in his disagreement with Beattie over the issue of slavery.

When Beattie asked why slavery? Hume responded along the lines of why not? Why not because black people, in his view, were not quite human so he couldn’t see Beattie’s difficulty with the issue.

So, John when you ask why ? – realise the answer may not be what you expect. It is a reasonable question but only if you’re open to the response why not?  What you are saying is really why bother?

My response is that a Yes vote resulting in Scotland regaining its independence will be better for Scotland in every aspect of Scottish life – politically, socially, economically, culturally, for our health and for our well-being AND – of equal importance perhaps that  other places will benefit as well.  Why? Because in Scotland it is inevitable there will be support for a more socially democratic regime than we get/expect from future UK governments where austerity and private capital is the driver.

Privatisation has all but eradicated the NHS in England. This is the consequence of England voting for conservative policies from Tories, Lib Dems, and Labour. All of them support this drive towards the market that is so damaging to the once sacrosanct publicly run health care system that put people before profits and spreadsheets. That this hasn’t happened in Scotland speaks volumes. Support for the above parties has fallen here because there’s no appetite for their rightwing policies – for the pursuit of austerity at any cost, for adopting the market at the expense of public safeguards.

John weakens his case when citing Gordon Brown for the man once highly regarded in this country no longer holds the nations’ respect: he is the voice of rightwing social democracy happy to go along with illegal wars and unrestrained capital.  Under Brown and Blair the spivs got richer and economic inequality increased. Where is the equality involved in illegal wars supported by Brown and Blair? Where is the equality in the doubling of the 10% tax rate for the poorest in the UK? Where is the equality in the introduction of the bedroom tax? That’s what we got and will get with Labour. Never mind the soundbites this is the reality of electing UK Labour in the future. A change in government will give us what we have now with knobs on. Brown wanted to free capital and see where that’s landed us. Labour relies on our short-term memories and a compliant media. Scots have long memories, John.

‘The United Kingdom is a massive engine for redistribution and social justice. We tax the wealth of London, a great world city, and distribute it across the country.’

The idea that London’s wealth is redistributed around the country is certainly quixotic. According to John McTernan London is supporting the rest of the country which is strange because to the rest of us London is a pampered and subsidised parasite that is hugely damaging to the economic and cultural life of those regions and countries making up the rest of the UK.

Astronomic sums are spent in London. Compare the funding it gets in all manner of ways compared to what is spent elsewhere.  Suggesting London’s wealth filters down to the rest of us is bogus even quixotic and certainly claptrap.

Why should Scotland NOT regain its independence? It is logical for a country that is marginalised by its size in this uneven and unequal Union to want to advance itself: to get the government its people chooses that will allow it to broaden and build its economic base and fund social policies that are in tune with the majority of its population.

No-one is  saying everything will be great from day one. But the mistakes Scotland make will be ones of our own making and the solutions will be too.  We want nothing to do with your austerity cuts shouldered by the poor that are inflicted on us by Tories and Lib Dems with Labour lurking in the background thumping its fist asking ‘how hard do you want it?’

If Yes supporters gloss over potential hurdles then No voters are equally glib – desperately erecting hurdles more ludicrous by the day. There is never acknowledgement that aspects of Scottish life could be improved through independence. By overstating their case No voters show themselves to be petty-minded, vindictive, carping, sniping, ungenerous and yes, dishonest.

McTernan’s nasty little aside in his summing up is an example of this abusive and bullying behaviour that the UK media is happy to ignore while frothing at the mouth whenever a supporter of Yes goes too far.

Scotland doesn’t need to be patronised. It doesn’t need London’s cash. It doesn’t need the reactionary politics that are becoming so harmful in England. Scotland needs to move forward into the future with confidence. We have the means to become hugely successful participants on the world stage. Our people have made great things happen all over the globe there’s no reason we can’t do the same for ourselves. Anything less makes no sense whatsoever.

6 Comments to “I-i-i-n-n-n-d-d-d-e-e-p-p-e-e-n-n-d aaah! Separation – a reply to John McTernan in Prospect Magazine”

  1. I’m not sure why people still insist the debate has been poor and that, by implication, there is insufficient information for you to come to a decision on how to vote.

    Information is not found in the media, but the web is awash with sites providing libraries full of information, from the Scottish Government (whose website has a section on the referendum listing relevant papers and links), the UK Government, the Yes campaign, the No campaign. In addition all the Yes organisations, including Business for Scotland, have websites and there are hundreds of blogs on both sides. Sites like Wings over Scotland, reviled by the No people as peddling trash and bile, has an excellent reference section, and its articles all cary references. Many of these have information available or links to short videos of, for example, the economic case for independence.

    Further information is available on the sites of many think tanks, the latest of these is N56 which has to date produced some excellent reports, the first of these is on, and called, Facts, providing a mass of information and statistics in a most readable format.

    Then there are official GERS statistics, EU statistics and OECD statistics, UN statistics as well as those produced by many charities. Google any of them.

    What a terrible pity it would be if a No vote was achieved because people just shrugged, repeating what friends say, and couldn’t be bothered to spend a few minutes doing a bit of research on their own. The future with No is dire, more austerity, poverty and food banks. The future with Yes gives us an unbelievable opportunity to build a healthier, wealthier and more equal country. So before you opt for the status quo, which actually no longer exists and which is now far riskier than independence) flex your fingers and get them to do some Googling, for the sake of your own future.

    • There’s been lots said during the run-up to the ref but I haven’t been impressed with the debate. I don’t really think there’s been one, more sniping. However I agree there is more than enough information to help us make up our minds and when bettertogether says their questions haven’t been answered – well they will never be answered because they are not listening. Their minds are closed.

      You have provided an excellent list of sources for relevant material so thanks for all of that.

    • You are right Jings but I have issue with identifying who is truly independent in terms of their stance on independence. I note that N56 has been set up by a well known SNP supporter.so immediately you have to ask how neutral they are.

      Regardless of any of that one of my biggest gripes is that the SNP have been after this for years. I remember the early 70’s and the “It’s Scotland’s Oil” campaign which I thought was brilliant. However here we are 40 years later and I have to ask – what have they been doing in the Intervening period? All the things that have been brought up – currency, membership of the EU., how will separation work, what of the British institutions etc should have been resolved years ago. Instead we got a White Paper paid for by the Scottish Government (us in other words) which quite frankly I’d be embarrassed to show anyone. It is long on promises and to be charitable lets just say a little short on detail.
      If this goes against the Yes campaign then the SNP will rue the lost years when they could could have put together a credible, beyond reproach, case for Independence.

      • I’m not going to answer for Jings but if I can comment briefly – obviously the Scottish National Party has been campaigning since its inception for independence and they did enjoy wider support 40 or so years ago when oil started coming down the line. Then a lot of that support dissipated.

        Their problem then, as now was that everything was stacked against them – the media was used by successive governments to undermine them – and let’s be frank – by lying to the public as we have since discovered.

        It’s more difficult for governments and media to pull the wool over our eyes now because of social media but that doesn’t stop them trying – and playing dirty.

        Support for independence goes way beyond the SNP, of which I am not a member, but still a hostile media likes to present it as purely a single party movement. This is a perversion of the truth.

        It’s not up to the SNP to be entirely responsible for making a case for independence. Other parties could do it, certainly individuals like me have not come to supporting an independent Scotland through SNP politics. I’ve come to the conclusion that only by breaking away from the confines of a UK run by people out of kilter with the way we live our lives in Scotland can Scotland hope to flourish in the future – and flourish it will if that’s what people want.

        If people here are happy for us to play a subsidiary role within the UK and virtually no role in the EU and globally then they’ll vote no. That way nothing will improve. Things will either stay the same or get worse in terms of social provision for the less well-off, health services, education, land distribution, universal postal service, voice in directing economic policy, voice over provision and situation of nuclear weapons etc etc. If you’re happy with this fair enough. Many of us are not and our numbers are growing while No numbers, though possibly still greater at the moment, are decreasing as folk open their eyes to our potential.

  2. Excellently argued as usual although I disagree with what you say especially the thing about No voters being petty etc as there is (as you acknowledge) plenty of blame to go around on that front. I fear also that we are already seeing reactionary politics caused by this debate primarily. That is not to say we shouldn’t have the debate but it seems to be pretty divisive and I worry about what is going to happen after the result is known especially if (as I suspect) the “No”‘s carry the day.

    The trouble mainly though is that the level of the debate generally is very poor.so many like myself are still not really sure how to vote and if you don’t know what way to vote then it is easier and pragmatic to go with the status quo than to vote for the unknown and unexplained.

    • Thanks for reading the blog.

      I agree there will be a danger of considerable ill-feeling once the result is out because so many awful things have been said during over the last couple of years.

      My feeling, certainly from the yes side of the argument, is that some high profile No people are deliberately trying to add heat to the debate to try and get a reaction from opponents then go running to the press screaming – look at these nasty cybernats. But if you look at social media the really nasty stuff is definitely coming from bettertogether.

      All that said I suspect, like you, there will be a no victory in September but I think that will just be the start of the real movement into independence. Give it a couple of years, until after the Westminster election and it becomes clear the direction of UK politics and Scots will again be demanding we go our own way, and possibly by the Scottish government declaring independence. By this stage I believe many more will have been converted to the support the movement for going out on our own.

      There’s not reason in the world why Scotland can’t have a brilliant future. We have much more going for us than say Croatia and Denmark – both smaller and without our economic advantages.

      If you’re unsure which way to vote – look around at the corrupt establishment we have in the UK. We would be away from that and although Scotland would develop its own establishment there is no way it will ever be the inbred backslapping one that currently dominates every aspect of our lives.
      I’d say that’s worth voting yes for.

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