I started off this Flag with the purpose of covering the very first issue of the Scots Independent in November 1926, but the current political situation decreed I should do more, so here is a miscellany of recent events.
Brian Cox was a surprise guest at Alex Salmond Unleashed at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe; he sees the arrival of Brexit as making the second independence referendum inevitable.
I met him briefly at Dynamic Earth in Edinburgh on the 2014 referendum night – good memories of Brian Cox, bad memories of the referendum. His comment that the Yes campaign has to get its act together is very apt, and now that the SNP and the Scottish Independence Convention have had a meeting things are looking very much brighter.
One of my non-political friends asked me what was Alex Salmond up to, and I said he was keeping his name in the public domain. I met him at Gordon Wilson’s funeral and asked him if he had plans for a comeback. He said “Yes”. Watch this space!
Re the meeting between Nicola and Elaine C Smith, George Kerevan said that in the Yes Campaign the SNP was the elephant in the room, which is something I had also been thinking about. During the Referendum we were very much aware of this and we were not encouraged to promote the SNP; in fact, on quite a few occasions the teams I was with did not have very many SNP members. I got away from declarations as I had been in the field since 1966, in fact I avoided controversy by saying I was a “BOBA”. When asked to explain I said I was in the SNP Before Oil and Before Alex. I had absolutely no problems with Yes supporters, being stunned and delighted at their desire for independence.
Viewing the current state of affairs as to how Westminster was dragging us deeper and deeper into the Union, making independence more difficult I thought the time has come to cut the Gordian Knot, and I was pleased to find that Gordon McIntyre Kemp writing in the National had also used the same expression. Most readers will have come across the expression but forgotten its significance. In the ancient world, pre Roman times, Alexander the Great had invaded Phrygia, at that time a province of Persia. An oracle had stated that a person who could unravel the province’s very elaborate and complicated knot would become the ruler of Asia. Along came Alexander who strove to unravel the knot; he was unsuccessful, then pulled out his sword and cut the knot. He did become the master of all Asia.
Over the years the SNP have cut quite a few minor Gordian Knots. Should we scrap the tolls on the road bridges? “John (Swinney), can we afford this?” “Yes” said John – so we scrapped the tolls. Incidentally when Willie Rennie was fighting the Dunfermline by-election, which he won, his fellow Liberal, Tavish Scott was opening new tollbooths on the Forth Road Bridge while Rennie was calling for them to be scrapped – no conflict of principles there.
The same happened with prescription charges, and with student tuition fees
Last month I gave a talk on the history of the Scots Independent to a meeting of the Edinburgh SNP Club. In my researches I was given a few front pages by Ian Hamilton, our Business Manager. One of these was the front page of the very first Scots Independent of November 1926. I had never seen this before, and I believe that very few people now alive would have seen it – well it was published 8 years before I was born, so anyone having read it must now be over 100.
In any event it was published by the Scots National League which evolved into the Scottish National Party. I see that Nicola says she would have called the party something else, due to the sometimes very nasty types who have been associated with nationalism in general, but the nationalist movement in Scotland was never a “blood and soil” issue. The world has moved on and many things have changed, mostly for the better. I have a National Insurance Number, as has everyone else, I did National Service, as did all of my generation (Who generally voted No”.) And Scotland how has a newspaper called The National which supplies an awful lot of useful information; I do believe that if we had had that at the time of the Referendum we would have won
I am proud to be a Scottish Nationalist. Note the difference – during the Referendum Campaign we got a lot of “I am a proud Scot but…” and then went on as to how it was to be British. I particularly remember one occasion when I was on a Yes stand in Davidson’s Mains in Edinburgh; a wee man with a wee dug approached us. He said he always wore tartan, and had worn the kilt in many countries of the world. He asked if I had ever worn the kilt, and I said “Only when I was paid for it”, which he just ignored so I could not burst into “There was a soldier, a Scottish soldier” as he was not interested in what I had to say just what he had to say. I then said if you are such a proud Scot why are you happy to be ruled by the English?” He was indignant “I’m no ruled by the English!”; I mentioned 650 MPs in Westminster but only 59 Scottish MPs, but he ignored that and marched off dragging his wee dug, tartan clad, along behind him.
This wee tale is an intro to the next part which is the front page of the very first Scots Independent in November 1926, a succinct summing up of Scotland’s cause; as regards the wee man, the points raised by the English historian Defoe towards the end makes the case he denies.
I am in touch with the son of the man who wrote this front page, and also with Professor William Gillies, the grandson of the first Editor, whose sister is Anne Lorne Gillies, our candidate in the Western Isles some time ago. There is a lot of history to the Scots Independent.
I have reproduced the front page below.
Scots Independent Nov 1926
“It is fitting that, in this our first issue, there should appear a brief exposition of the aim and standpoint of the Scots National League. In one sentence – the League’s object is the restoration of Scotland to her former position of political independence.
“That Scotland was a sovereign nation is an indisputable fact. As a result of the incorporating Union of 1707, the sacred heritage of national Independence was lost to Scotland. Deplorable lack of foresight allowed the incorporation of Scotland within England, and placed entirely in the hands of the latter country the powers of administration of Scotland, the control of Scottish interests, and the destiny of the Scottish race.
“The trials and experiences which our people have suffered through two centuries, and the present condition of our country, prove conclusively that the position of our native land in political subordination to England has been a grievous tragedy and a blunder of highest magnitude”.
The ability, the enterprise and the industry of our race have received worldwide recognition, yet Scotland today is a country without status among the nations of the world. It is generally admitted that, in the development of the overseas Dominions, the Scots have been the leading pioneers, yet Scotland is presently the only country in the “British Commonwealth of Nations” that is without recognition or representation. Throughout the world, thinking men and women deplore Scotland’s degraded position – a position which is clearly realised when it is remembered that the total Scottish representation at Westminster is but 74 against England’s 492 members, thereby subjecting Scotland, in all matters at home and abroad, to the wishes of England. The Scottish nation is therefore without power to settle any matter concerning their own interests. In all matters which affect national dignity, honour and rights, the status of Scotland is in every respect similar to that of an English county. Since 1707, the most tragic year in Scottish history, Scotland has been governed in all the essentials of her national life not in accordance with the genius and traditions of her race, but ,in all things, according to the current needs and interest of England.
The tragedy of Scotland is writ large throughout seven generations of our history: in no way are these tragic results more conspicuous than in the attitude of many of our own countrymen to the righteous claims of our Nationality. English Government has been responsible for the saddest chapters in Scottish history. It has led us into many wars. It has depopulated our straths and glens, denuded our countryside, and scattered the flower of our race to every part of the world. Our country is heavily taxed: three-quarters of our revenue is spent furth of Scotland. The economic possibilities of the land of our birth have been ignored: progress has been retarded: the aspirations of our people have been suppressed. At the present time our country is but half-populated: as a consequence of the centralisation of government in London, the Scots are denied the opportunities in their own country to which they are entitled. They are compelled to emigrate in scores of thousands every year. “Scotland stands today impoverished and impaired in body and soul, in a way that must gnaw at the heart-strings of every reflecting Scottish man and woman” yet the attitude of many Scots to the supremely important question of our national rights is so unworthy of their race, that one is compelled to believe that national subordination has led to their individual enslavement – body, spirit and soul.
The tragedy of our country had been deepened by the Scottish sections of the English political parties. The time has arrived that Scotsmen should grasp the serious truth that however eloquent representatives may be, however glib and numerous may be their promises, this handful of members , in all things that concern the rights , interests and welfare of Scotland, is utterly powerless. Scotland’s representatives at Westminster in 1926 are occupying the same position as their predecessors since 1707 – a position aptly and truthfully described by the English historian Defoe, who wrote:- “The Scots are allowed to send to Westminster a handful of men who will be unable to make weight on any question whatever: they will be allowed to sit there for form’s sake, simply to be laughed at.!”
Here we have the painful truth. Scotland , the mother of a race whose industry, enterprise and valour are universally acclaimed – a country which has given to the world many men famed in all walks of life – a land renowned in world history – a country without voice or place in international councils, without even representation in the councils of the “British Commonwealth of Nations”