November 1926 saw the launch, under the auspices of the Scots National League, of a new monthly Nationalist newspaper entitled The Scots Independent. Father and son, William and Ian Gillies, along with Tom H Gibson as Business Manager, set in motion what has proved to be, the longest surviving political newspaper in Scotland in the Twentieth Century — into a new Century the newspaper continues the long haul to convince our fellow Scots of the need for and merits of the cause for Scottish Independence.
The Scots Independent was to the fore in calling for the formation of “a Scottish National Party” and the Scots National League was among the bodies which came together to form the National Party of Scotland in 1928. The new Party flourished on the foundation of branches which had been built up by the Scots National League and used the Scots Independent to gain new members. Thus Scotland had in 1928, for the first time ever, both a newspaper which championed the Independence Cause and a Political Party prepared to seek an electoral mandate for Scottish Freedom.
The National Party of Scotland was to merge with the Scottish Party in 1934 to form the present day Scottish National Party which today is the Scottish Government.
The devolved Parliament, now meeting in Edinburgh, falls far short of the Independence sought by both the Scottish National Party and the Scots Independent but could well prove to be a stepping stone to that ultimate aim.
Since the foundation of the Scots Independent in 1926 real progress has been made. Since 1974 the SNP has contested every Scottish constituency at Westminster General Elections and gained 35 seats in the first ever democratic elections for a Scottish Parliament in 1999. Following the 2003 election the Party had 27 MSPs and also held five Westminster seats, and controlled one local authority with Council seats held throughout Scotland and has a voice in Europe through two excellent Euro MEP’s, Ian Hudghton and Alyn Smith. Thanks to the Scottish National Party constitutional change remains high on the Scottish Political agenda.
This moved closer with the Scottish Parliament and Local Government Elections in May 2007. The Party elected 47 MSPs, one more than Labour, and Alex Salmond became First Minister and formed a minority administration; the Party had 1,297,628 votes cast for it, some 54,000 more than Labour. It was the first election lost by Labour in Scotland in more than 50 years, and the first ever election won by the SNP. In his capacity as First Minister, Alex Salmond has visited Belfast, Cardiff, Brussels, London, and was made a Privy Counsellor by the Queen.
In the Local Government Elections, the SNP had 363 Councillors elected, 15 more than Labour; it no longer controls any council outright, but is in ruling coalitions, among others, in Aberdeen and Edinburgh. We also hold 7 Westminster Parliamentary seats.
Over the years the Scots Independent has been served by some outstanding Scots as editor, from William and Ian Gillies in 1926 to the present incumbent, Jim Lynch. In between, people of the calibre of Arthur Donaldson, Dr Robert D McIntyre (first ever SNP MP in 1945), Tom H Gibson, John L Kinloch, Alastair Macdonald, Michael Grieve, Albert D Mackie, Dr David Murison, Douglas Stewart, Alwyn James, Colin Bell, W Kenneth Fee and James and Jennifer Taggart have ensured that the Scottish Cause has been well backed in print.
Contributors over the years have included literary figures such as Neil M Gunn, Hugh MacDiarmid, Lewis Spence, Sir Compton MacKenzie, Robert Bontine Cunninghame Graham, George Campbell Hay, Sydney Goodsir Smith, Alexander Scott, Neil R MacCallum and Donald Campbell. The newspaper gave full support to the Scottish Literary Revival set in motion by Scotland’s greatest twentieth century poet Hugh MacDiarmid in the 1920’s.
Since 1983 the SI has honoured a Scot each year with an award named after the late W Oliver Brown who over many decades contributed a pithy column which was the first item read by many SI devotees. The “Oliver” was first awarded to the author and climber Tom Weir and is now regarded as the Scottish equivalent the “Brits” so-called honours list. The roll call of winners indeed does read as a list of outstanding Scots – Tom Weir, Prof. Derick S Thomson, Ewan Bain, Mary Marquis, David Stephen, Jimmie McGregor, Muriel Gray, George Rosie, Norman MacCaig, Dr John Purser, Gordon Wright, Dorothy-Grace Elder, Colin Bell, (jointly) James S Adam and Sir Alastair Dunnett, Elspeth King, The Gaberlunzie (Gordon Menzies and Robin Watson), Paul H Scott, Kenneth Roy, Iain Anderson, Jimmy Reid, W Kenneth Fee, Dr Winifred Ewing, Dr Alasdair Gray, Harry Reid and Phil Cunningham.
The SI is produced on a voluntary basis. Tom Preston, Business Manager since 1958, retired in 2007, and has been succeeded by Ian Hamilton. We acknowledge the many contributors, past and present, and the SI dispatch team which was disbanded in 2006, due to organisational changes. All those associated with the SI regard their service as a trust, a duty to be carried on until the day Scottish Freedom is achieved.
But the production of a Nationalist Newspaper would be pointless without the existence of a political party to secure the goal of Independence. That is why, although the SI is independent of the Scottish National Party, it urges electoral support for the Party. The paper records, the month by month, march towards “real” Scottish Self Government.
The survival of the Scots Independent since 1926 is due solely to the many helpers and readers over the decades. Unlike most political newspapers the SI receives no subsidy from a political party, but relies on sales and the generosity of its readers, particularly the growing number of postal subscribers. From Auchtermuchty to Australia, from Zetland to (New) Zealand the SI is distributed world wide every month by the 51 Cowane Street, Stirling Volunteers.
Our online weekly edition, “The Flag in the Wind”, was launched on the Web on 9th June 2000. The SI’s 75th anniversary in November 2001 was marked with the release of a specially commissioned CD “Independent Scots” recorded by premier Scottish Folk Duo Gaberlunzie, Gordon Menzies and Robin Watson.
In March 2015 we launched a new style website. We hope this will encourage our readership to interact with us and that we will become a source of information for students of Scottish Politics and History as our archive section gets uploaded.
Until Scottish Independence is achieved, the SI team will continue to do their best to live up to the vision of the Scots Independent founders — to promote all that is best in Scottish Nationalism and all that is best in Scotland.