Saltire laid low

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19 September 2014




Carol Ann Duffy, UK poet laureate, born Glasgow (Scotland) in 1955


In the wee small hours of this morning, when the results of an historic referendum on independence for Scotland were announced, the country was seen to have tossed itself definitively into the rubbish bin of history.

A majority of Scottish voters opted to pass up the opportunity to secede from the United Kingdom – England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – and thereby transform their nation into an independent sovereign state.

Just as they had done at Dunbar in 1296, at Falkirk in 1298, at Gencoe in 1692 and at Culloden in 1746, the Brits returned in triumph this morning to trample in the dust the high hopes of Scottish patriots, their long-cherished dream of independence fading as fast as the morning mist on the bleak rain-soaked slopes of Ben Nevis.

On this occasion the Scots caved in without a shot being fired.

The inhabitants of ancient Caledonia have long had a reputation for toughness, for speaking their mind, for their valour in battle, with the Black Watch of Perth the most feared regiment in the British Army.

Not any more.

Faced with an unprecedented opportunity to stand on their own two feet, to show two fingers to the “effing Tories” from Westminster, to escape from under the coat-tails of the nanny state from below the Cheviots, how was it that these sons and daughters of the thistle voted?

Like the patsies and wimps that they have now been shown to be, their macho boasting revealed as no more than hollow posturing, they caved in to their historic overlords, tugging their forelocks and tipping their tam-o’-shanters as they swore continued fealty to the master-race in Whitehall.

Scotland has been yoked to the United Kingdom since 1 May 1707 following the Acts of Union of 1706 and 1707 passed, respectively, by the English Parliament and its stooges in the Scottish Parliament.

The Scots who voted in yesterday’s referendum were asked to answer “Yes” or “No” to this question: “Should Scotland be an independent country?”

The result out this morning showed that 55 % of those voting – two million voters – chickened out of the chance to make Scotland independent, while only 45 % – 1.6 million voters – opted for freedom.

Some 660 000 registered voters – over 15 % of the total – did not even bother to turn up at the polling stations.

After three centuries of subjugation to the English Crown, the cowed citizens of Scotland, their marrow sapped, their spirits dreich, had come to love their chains. Shunning the sunlit uplands of freedom, these Uncle Toms in kilts and sporrans preferred to stay fettered to the the leg-irons that bound them to the English tyrant.

Given a historic chance to forge their own destiny, these sons and daughters of the manse, like the flocks of sheep on their highland moorland, fell obediently into line behind the Sassenach bellwether.

Sir William “Braveheart” Wallace, the martyr of Falkirk, would be turning in his grave.

In his Dictionary of the English Language (1755), Dr Samuel Johnson, the Great Cham of English Literature, defined oats as “a grain, which in England is generally given to horses, but in Scotland supports the people”. Faced with a unique opportunity to savour the sweet nectar of liberty, the Scots have chosen to remain bunged up with the lumpen porridge of servitude.

To be fair to the “Yes” camp, it ran a brilliant campaign, outshining the nay-sayers at every turn, apart from the currency question: the pro-independence movement wanted to retain the pound sterling, against the wishes of the UK Government, whereas they ought to have proposed either the creation of an independent Scottish currency with a Scottish central bank to act as a lender of last resort – the truly independent option – or the adoption of the euro.

However, the result goes to show that however brilliant your campaign you cannot persuade reactionary cowards whose minds are closed to change. You can take a horse to water but you cannot make it drink.

Whatever one thinks about the result it is hard not to feel a little sorry for the leader of the “Yes” campaign, Alex Salmond, who announced his resignation today as Scotland’s First Minister. Had the vote gone the other way, he would soon have become Scotland’s first Prime Minister. As it is, he will be relegated forthwith to a footnote in the history books. In the ruthless zero-sum game that is unproportional politics, the winner takes all.

The winning argument put about by the “No” side concerned the supposed risks – to jobs, to health and education, to mortgages and business loans, to the national debt – if Scotland went it alone. This was an appeal by number-crunching spinmeisters with slide rules and statistics not to the gut feelings and national pride of the man and woman on the Sauchiehall Street omnibus but to crude self-interest masquerading as common sense.

In any case, it is blindingly obvious that there is no course of action which does not involve risk. Retention of Scotland’s subsidiary role in the United Kingdom does not come without risks. The Scots have been belly-aching for decades about being short-changed by Westminster. Now, when they had a chance to do something about this and stand on their own two feet, they flunked it. They will not get the opportunity again in our life-time. The winners will see to that. It was only because, rightly as it turned out, they saw the pro-independence campaign as a no-hoper that they allowed the referendum to take place at all. Given that the odds shortened dramatically in the course of the campaign, Westminster won’t make that mistake again.

In the campaign the elites of the UK and Scottish political, media and business establishments lined up, as usual, to support the status quo, playing on fear of the unknown to persuade the Scots to refrain from challenging the received wisdom.

Only four of the 32 local authority areas covered by the referendum showed a majority for independence, although that included Scotland’s largest city, Glasgow. As expected, the Noes took Edinburgh, the country’s capital, which has been heavily colonized by English settlers,  the carpet-bagging “North Britons”, over the three centuries since Scotland went under the English yoke. Even Falkirk, cockpit in 1298 of of Scotland’s most glorious defeat, sold the pass.

It should not be forgotten that the Scottish elite have amassed rich pickings from the union by taking the high road to London and snagging top jobs in the British capital, in both public and private sectors, and very prominently in politics. Tony Blair, UK Prime Minister from 1997 to 2007, and his successor, Gordon Brown, UK Prime Minister from 2007 to 2010, are both Scots.

It is only to be expected that this social stratum did everything it could during the referendum campaign to ensure the continuity of the union. On the Isle of Skye, for instance, Hugh MacLeod, the head of Clan MacLeod, wrote a two-page letter to staff on his estate setting out his reasons for voting “No”. “Of course, how you intend to vote is entirely a matter for you but as your employer I feel I have a duty to share some of my personal thoughts and concerns with you,” he wrote.

Parts of Scotland have long been a hotbed of Calvinist Puritanism and it is likely, it seems to us, that, particularly in the more remote rural parts of the country, the reactionary social attitudes associated with such beliefs will not have favoured the radical change implied by independence.

However that may be, the die is now cast.

The UK political elite – the leading lights of the Westminster partitocracy – promised Scotland the earth during the last two weeks of the referendum campaign when it seemed, according to the polls, that the “Yes” camp might win after all. All sorts of devolutionary goodies where going to be showered on the heads of the Scottish people if only they refrained from opting for full independence. Will this now happen? Dream on. The Brits have had three hundred years to do the right thing by the Scots and the result has been sweet fanny adams.

Scotland will soon sink back into the role of provincial backwater earmarked for it by its English masters – just as soon as they have milked the country dry of the proceeds of its one remaining asset, North Sea oil.

The result of the Scottish referendum will be welcomed by the centralizing bureaucrats at the European Union’s headquarters in Brussels. The fragmentation of nation states into small self-governing entities is anathema to the EU as it encourages the formation of larger and larger cross-boundary institutions to meet the challenges of the homogenizing globalisation that it blindly champions.

By contrast, the referendum result in Scotland is likely to fall like a pail of cold water on the heads of pro-independence campaigners in restive regions of other European states such as Catalonia and the Basque Country in Spain.

The next flashpoint in this saga will come on 9 November 2014 when the Catalan regional government is to hold a referendum on independence for Catalonia against the wishes of the central Spanish government, which has called the referendum illegal on the grounds that it represents an attack on the unity of Spain.

Watch this space.


Antigone1984 has always supported the underdog, the little man, small states, local politics and local production. Small independent states have the flexibility and freedom to decide what is best for their citizens in full knowledge of the local terrain. Unlike big states they are not enmeshed in a distant stultifying centralized bureaucracy (such as the European Union). The progressive way forward is encapsulated in the slogan “Small is beautiful”. It is a no brainer, therefore, that for someone who wants a decent, just, honest and equitable society a sensible way to achieve this is to upset the establishment apple-cart and vote for regional independence and national self-determination.

Technical note:

The “saltire” is the Scottish national flag, which consists of a white X-shaped cross on a blue background. Destined now to pass into oblivion.



 You might perhaps care to view some of our earlier posts.  For instance:

  1. Why? or How? That is the question (3 Jan 2012)
  2. Partitocracy v. Democracy (20 July 2012)
  3. The shoddiest possible goods at the highest possible prices (2 Feb 2012)
  4. Capitalism in practice (4 July 2012) 
  5. Ladder  (21 June 2012)
  6. A tale of two cities (1) (6 June 2012)
  7. A tale of two cities (2) (7 June 2012)
  8. Where’s the beef? Ontology and tinned meat (31 Jan 2012)

Every so often we shall change this sample of previously published posts.


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