Scotland’s bid for independence explained!

For the benefit of The Dabbler’s international readership – and probably for many puzzled inhabitants of what we still call the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Island – Daniel Kalder explains the how, when, why and wherefore of this independence malarkey.

As a Scot living abroad, I am often asked questions about my homeland and its relationship with England. So for those perplexed by all this independence malarkey, this week I decided to answer all the most important questions on the topic in one E-Z cut out n’keep guide. Let’s go!

1)    Is Scotland a country, or what?

I’ve been asked this many times in Russia and the United States, even though both countries have a federal system and the idea of a large entity made up of smaller entities should be easy to grasp. Maybe that’s the problem: Scotland is not a state, or a province- it’s a country, only it’s a country that joined with another three countries to make a kind of mega-country with (until recently) one parliament. Kind of like The Beatles, where England is John, Scotland is Paul and… I’ll let the Welsh and Northern Irish decide who gets to be Ringo.

2)    So why did Scotland unite with England?

When Queen Elizabeth I died, her nearest Protestant relative was King James VI of Scotland, so he was invited south to make sure Catholics didn’t take over. Scotland retained its own parliament until a century or so later when the country went bankrupt following a disastrous attempt to colonize a wet jungle full of mosquitoes. The English bailed us out and we have never forgiven them.

3)    So have the English really oppressed the Scots, then?

Actually they invited us to join them in subjugating other less technologically advanced peoples around the world. We Scots were over-represented in the colonies, as well as in the parliament in London. Glasgow was the empire’s second city. Nine of the last thirty prime ministers were Scottish, and much of the hierarchy of the last Labour government was Scottish.

4)    Hm. So if the union worked out OK, why the demands for independence now?

There was much skullduggery involved in 1707 to make sure the Act of Union passed, and some folk are still annoyed about it. Many of the arguments for independence are rather abstract, and involve waffle about our “dignity” and “self-respect.” It is also fueled by romantic/nostalgic blather about Highlanders. Some members of what passes for Scotland’s intelligentsia like independence because it would mean more power and influence for them. Then there is the economic argument that since what remains of the UK’s oil and gas is mostly in Scottish waters, we would end up being like Norway, where the government gives you lots of free stuff. My own suspicion is that Freud’s “narcissism of small differences” is involved: “…the phenomenon that it is precisely communities with adjoining territories, and related to each other in other ways as well, who are engaged in constant feuds and ridiculing each other.”

The English and Scots are very alike, and nationalists can’t stand the fact.

5)    What would change?

Who knows? We’d still live on a wet rock and rival Belarus for lowest life expectancy in Europe. Little things to distinguish us from the English would be exaggerated. There would be more bilingual signs in Gaelic and English, even though nearly all the Gaelic speakers live off the mainland and speak English anyway. Kids in school would be forced to read rubbish novels purely because their authors were Scottish, and some loons might try to force the Scots language on them as a subject.

6)    What’s that then?

A synthetic fusion of regional dialects that was pioneered by the unreadable Scottish poet Hugh MacDiarmid. Nobody speaks Scots, nobody ever has, but I once heard a major academic compare its “revival” to that of Hebrew, which was resurrected by the Jews arriving in Palestine in the 19th century and made the official language of Israel in 1948. But the Israelis had no common tongue, so that was necessary. In Scotland we speak the language everyone else in the world wants to speak. There is no comparison.

7)    Sounds like you’re not too impressed then?

The date proposed by Salmond tells you a lot about his mentality: 2014 marks the 700th anniversary of the last time the Scots beat the English in a fight. He also wants 16-year-olds to be allowed to vote because apparently schoolchildren are disproportionately fond of independence. Meanwhile as soon as Scotland became completely autonomous he would seek to surrender our newly won sovereignty to the EU, where we would be about as influential as Slovenia, maybe. We would also be obliged to use the euro, which is very possibly doomed. However we would get some free money.

The English have been excellent neighbors. We make a good team. Scottish philosophy and science flourished after the union, as we produced the likes of Adam SmithDavid HumeJames Watt et al. I identify with that heritage, and couldn’t care less about hairy dudes painted blue. I am both British and Scottish, and I would still think of myself that way even if Britain disappeared.

(RIA Novosti previously published a version of this post).

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Daniel Kalder is an author and journalist. Visit him online at

30 thoughts on “Scotland’s bid for independence explained!

  1. Brit
    January 25, 2012 at 13:19

    We’re now in the odd position where most English want the Scots to be independent and most Scots want to remain in the Union.

    I can’t see anything other than a crushing defeat for the much-vaunted Salmond (who has gained popularity by avoiding talking about imminent independence) if it is indeed a straight in/out question, simply because the Scots are at root a practical people and all the romantic guff will be blown away by the harsh realities of confronting such issues as what currency the Scots will be allowed to use, who will take on the burden of the RBS debt, what will happen to Scottish MOD-based jobs like Trident etc.

    But if Devo-Max is an option that will probably win, and might well suit everyone best anyway.

      Adrian Ratnapala
      January 31, 2012 at 11:48

      I think Devo-Max (or at least Devo-More) is an excellent idea, and would be popular in England – but the English would not dare do it with while Salmond is a political force. They wouldn’t trust him to stick to a deal that says “you get this much and no more”. Ironically, they would be much happier with the idea if Labour were in charge, but I expect Scottish Labour prefers the status quo.

        January 31, 2012 at 13:36

        It has belatedly occured to me that Salmond’s “simple, straightforward” referendum question – “Do you agree that Scotland should be an independent country?” is anything but. “Independent country” could be consistent with Devo Max. Also there’s no timeframe mentioned.

        To make it unambiguous the question should be: “Should Scotland leave the United Kingdom immediately?”

  2. Worm
    January 25, 2012 at 14:52

    The grannies of england should enforce some strict trade embargos halting the import of Edinburgh Woollen Mill products and tins of shortbread. Hit them where it hurts I say

    • Gaw
      January 25, 2012 at 15:20

      Steady on Worm. I’ve got a feeling that our supplies of Glengoyne come from somewhere up there.

      John Halliwell
      January 25, 2012 at 16:13

      Yes, steady on. My paternal grandmother was born in Edinburgh Castle and I’ve been working on a claim to the place for years. So don’t go upsetting Alex who is, let’s agree, an extremely handsome, generous, fair-minded and highly civilised Scot who, I’m sure, will agree to all reasonable Sassenach claims come 2016.

    January 25, 2012 at 15:57

    @ Brit- perhaps that is the root of Salmond’s “political genius” (such as it is)- knowing the Scots to be (largely) pragmatic he sought rather to irritate the English to such a high degree that they would crave to be rid of us.

    He is also greatly aided by the cosmic ineptitude of the other parties north of the Border.

    • Worm
      January 25, 2012 at 16:52

      “he sought rather to irritate the English to such a high degree that they would crave to be rid of us.”

      Truth be told, every bloke knows that this is actually a very effective way of getting rid of annoying girlfriends

  4. Worm
    January 25, 2012 at 16:55

    If this separation were to create a new frosty culture of distrust, can I be the first to coin the phrase ‘The Irn-Bru Curtain’ (copyright worm 2012)

    • Worm
      January 25, 2012 at 16:56

      damn. just googled it and some bloke at the Telegraph has beaten me to it 🙁

    January 25, 2012 at 17:13

    Daniel, oh Daniel, do you not follow the comments in the Scotsman, that great tumbrel of the shoulder chipped, any negative mention of independence will invite the wrath of the Stuarts upon thy napper. 12.30 today, the venue, my hairdressers in Queen St, topic of conversation, the most cost effective way to boil alive the Nats, who only came out of seclusion as the oil glugged ashore “its oor ile”
    A minority, many of whom, on a personal level, are second degree racists, sour, poor creatures, would make life impossible for the majority, this in a modern democracy, ignore the bullshit, in a short while they will fade to black.

    More facts…Salmond’s constituency has a a higher percentage of the employed on the state payroll than any eastern block country had. The clan system was near slavery, the lowlanders thought the highlanders were a bunch of spear throwing fuzzy-wuzzies. Mel Gibson is an actor.

    I blame Sarkozy.

      Hey Skipper
      January 26, 2012 at 21:14

      * Mel Gibson is an actor. *

      Since when?

    January 25, 2012 at 17:23

    Wager time, let’s say by close of business this Friday, how many abusive comments have been filtered?.

      January 25, 2012 at 20:00

      What can I say? “Hier stehe ich”, etc.

    January 25, 2012 at 17:59

    Jimmy fae the West You are certainly lobotomissed. The curry mucher should publish the ONLY question on independence. Not “preferred option”, a dishonest attempt as there will be another option. The man is pathetic and a feartie. ________________________________________________________ You dumpling heid. Salmond is not unelected Cameron who unilaterally decided Scotland would veto a new EU settlement! Salmond will not set the question. Is it really democracy and public debate that is troubling you? It is the ex-Labour Leader who wants to lead the third option. Not Salmond or the SNP. Stop posting urine! Salmond wants a Yes-No referendum like Miliband the leader of a broken party aptly supporting broken Britain.

    Copied & pasted from today’s Scotsman, red meat supplier and once great newspaper, pretty much typifies the debate on both sides.

      January 25, 2012 at 20:05

      It (The Scotsman) went downhill after they moved from the building at the top of the north bridge. From an architectural point of view, anyway. I don’t remember how great it was before that.

        January 25, 2012 at 20:24

        It was one of the least manic newspapers, reasonably balanced, some say after Andrew Neil sold out it went downhill, the circulation certainly did, from 80,000 to 40,000 although is that simply the general trend?. Neil is now a creature of the BBC albeit a well heeled one, unkindly labeled ‘Brillo’

        January 25, 2012 at 20:39

        True, it wasn’t very manic. Extremely un-manic. Those dismal circulation figures certainly explain why they pay peanuts, though.

    January 26, 2012 at 02:20

    Is this where one says “Such a parcel of rogues in a nation! “?

    (Though as an American, I find this of only just more interest than discussions on the status of Belgium, and that because I don’t read French quickly or Dutch at all.)

      January 26, 2012 at 06:39

      Ah the Special Relationship… You sound like Obama, George.

    January 26, 2012 at 12:23

    Was your tongue firmly lodged in your cheek when writing this? I hope for your sake it was.

    I’d be embarrased to put my name to such historically incorrect nonsense.

      January 26, 2012 at 20:44

      What? You mean there wasn’t any skullduggery? Hoots, mon!

    annie morgan
    January 26, 2012 at 15:42

    hee hee, I certainly did enjoy those comments!

    Wouldn’t dare comment myself, though – living in Canada where we have the Big Brother to the south, and with whom any number think we we ought to join, perish the thought.

    Joey Joe Joe Jr.
    January 26, 2012 at 17:11

    I was rather hoping Poddington might make an appearance.

    January 26, 2012 at 19:05

    Daniel, as a man in the know, might I ask you about the matter of passports? Would an independent Scotland require its citizens to hold an identifying document which provides evidence of their essential Scottishness? In which case, how might one go about acquiring one? I could be interested, particularly if the other nations of the UK go their own way too, in which case I could be interested in their passports as well. Perhaps I could hold triple citizenship (what’s the point of having two Irish grandparents, one Scottish, and one English otherwise)?

    January 26, 2012 at 19:46

    Indeed Mary, independence offers many opportunities for passport-collecting, and a Scottish one might be easier to come by than you’d think given that the SNP officially prefers “Civic Nationalism” over its ethnic variety, and just as well since there has been so much intra-island cross-breeding going on over the last couple of centuries.

    Your Scottish passport would definitely have Gaelic in it, and very probably some Scots too (you can pick up Scots “translations” of English documents at the National Museum of Scotland, so why not?). Merely declaring love for Scotland and living there for a bit would probably qualify you. It will certainly score you a grant from the Arts Council, I’ll tell you that for nothing.

    January 26, 2012 at 20:34

    Yes, it’s probably sensible to go for the civic nationalism option given the cross-breeding in these parts. On the other hand, the ethnic view of identity creeps into play quite regularly in nationhood debates. It’s all most inconveniently confusing.

  15. Worm
    January 27, 2012 at 09:15

    Well, I think we can can gather from the almost total silence of Scottish Nationalists on this post, that they all agree wholeheartedly with Daniel’s exposition.

    January 27, 2012 at 09:52

    25th Jan Worm, Burns Night, they are either hungover or on their was back from Budapest, the new venue of choice, give it time.

    Budapest Haggis, said to contain more fat and gristle, like it used to be.

    January 27, 2012 at 15:29

    Yes, I think I’ve resolved the matter once and for all & it wasn’t even all that difficult. No need for a referendum then, we can all be friends.

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