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What the SNP really believes Tom Nairn's critiques of Englishness inspired the nationalists

She also loves Tom Nairn. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

She also loves Tom Nairn. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)


September 8, 2021   6 mins

Nicola Sturgeon has yet again declared that an independence referendum is at the heart of her government’s programme. “Our democratic mandate,” she said yesterday, “is to allow people to decide the country’s future is beyond question.” And now that she has the zombie Scottish Greens in her grasp as junior partners in a coalition, getting a majority for holding a referendum (“Covid permitting”) is, for the moment, beyond question.

Depressingly for thoughtful nationalists, the folly of independence is now also passing into the “beyond question” area. Scots-born, Ivy League economist Mark Blyth, who recently (remarkably) accepted a role as an adviser to Sturgeon, claimed that the endlessly repeated trope that an independent Scotland would quickly become like Denmark and other Scandinavian states was impossible, and that plans for an independent economy showed “a complete lack of specificity”. In earlier comments Blyth said that the effect of independence on the Scots economy would be like “Brexit times ten”.

That Scotland should now be careening towards an economic train wreck has many authors. But one above all stands out, for imbuing the country with a heady, and electorally powerful mixture of Anglo-hatred, romanticism and boundless faith in European Union membership.

The mixture was concocted over 40 years ago by the Scots writer and academic Tom Nairn, who will be 90 next year. He can reflect that his writings — especially The Break Up of Britain (1977) and to a lesser extent After Britain (2000) — provided Scottish nationalism, the most potent of European secessionist movements, with a framework within which secession could be seen as essential for Scots’ self-respect. Though a Marxist, his is not primarily a programme for a more equitable economy, or a march through the institutions to craft a political system dominated by the working classes. It is most powerfully a textbook for despising England.

He has been adamant that his polemics are not anti-English, and has pointed to polls showing that Scots don’t hate English people – denials which are echoed by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon (her now shamed predecessor, Alex Salmond, is a different matter). But that is not the point.

Scots can be as friendly to the English as they like, but England can only be seen as a ball and chain round Scots legs. In The Break-Up, Nairn’s favourite trope is firing off baroque fusillades of abuse aimed at the degraded husk of England — and the Britain it dominates — which now finds itself “a creaking English snail-shell of archaic pieties, deferential observance and numbing self-inhibition”; a country of  “rapidly accelerating backwardness, economic stagnation, social decay and cultural despair;” “a sinking paddle wheel state”, a “palsied corpus of Unionism”, an “indefensible and inadaptable relic, neither properly archaic not properly modern”, requiring “a motorised wheelchair and a decent burial” within the “hopelessly decaying institutions of a lost imperial state”.

As well as hopelessly decaying, England is hopelessly racist. In After Britain, Nairn yokes a “malign Euro-scepticism” to England’s “own brutish (racial) prejudice” and “post-imperial exclusiveness” — and produces the murder of Stephen Lawrence in south London as the prime example. Yet it was a murder which produced an outpouring of revulsion from all layers of British society, a report accusing the Metropolitan Police of institutional racism, a campaign by the Daily Mail — that most English of papers — to bring the culprits, at first acquitted, to justice, an appointment of Stephen’s mother, Doreen, to the peerage and the funding of a Stephen Lawrence Trust. The Lawrence killing showed the opposite of Nairn’s slur: it showed an English population, with a proportionately much higher number of people of colour than Scotland, appalled by it: in 2012, nearly 20 years after the event, a poll showed 66% of the British thought the sentences on the two men convicted too lenient, while two per cent thought them too harsh.

The casual attribution of a racism, which infects all of society, is indicative of Nairn’s style: sweeping generalisations of social malignity as a kind of jelly to hold his abuse. In The Break-Up, he devotes a chapter to the former cabinet minister Enoch Powell, finding that a speech Powell gave on empire in 1964 — ironically, in Dublin — had the effect of re-creating English “in the obscene form of racism”. Powell was in Nairn’s eyes England’s “nemesis”. When, in 1968, he gave a speech presaging “rivers of blood”, Edward Heath, the party leader, quickly fired him from the shadow cabinet.

But even when Nairn was writing The Break-Up in the mid-late Seventies, it should have been obvious that English nationalism was a weak thing, that liberal, leftist and much centre-right opinion recoiled from racism and that institutions as the universities, the broadcasters (BBC and ITV), the trade unions, the churches and business corporations were similarly minded. Yet, 23 years later, in After Britain, the same urge to paint England as mired in “brutish prejudice” is peddled.

Nairn’s other large gift to contemporary nationalism is to propose that nationalism is next to socialism. Complaining, in The Break-Up, of Marxism’s “notorious inability to come to terms with modern nationalism”, he emends that fault, claiming that his analysis, which has shown the “moribund nature” of the British, has given the Scots “good reason to want out, and good cause for claiming that their exit is a progressive action.” He continues: “Lenin argued that nationalist upheavals could contribute to socialist revolution
 in the great centres.” Lenin does argue, in The Right of Nations to Self-Determination (1914) that national revolution leading to secession can be supported by revolutionary socialists on democratic grounds: but stresses that this can only be a transitional phase from “a completely victorious and consolidated socialism to complete communism”. To invoke approval of the main creator of the Soviet Union shows an ambition for a socialist Scotland of the “vote once, and forever” variety.

The SNP, which Nairn has consistently and enthusiastically supported, has never been socialist: it had been, for much of its history, incoherently pro-free market. Even Salmond, a little before taking power, commended the economic policies of Margaret Thatcher, until forced to retract. Nicola Sturgeon’s social democratic stance is largely window dressing: in its governing years, since 2007, it has presided over a sharp decline in the quality of education in schools — once a source of pride: a recent survey by Legatum found it the worst in the UK, hurting the poorest children most. Health care is better — but drug use is the highest in Europe, children in care are double the UK national average, its biggest city, Glasgow, has record rates of murder, knife crime and domestic abuse, local government has been enfeebled by the centralising policies of the SNP and investment prospects are the weakest in the UK. Socialism of any kind is neither an option nor a real ambition of the nationalists: were it to become independent, it would be forced to compete with Ireland in providing a low-tax environment for mobile corporations.

Europe is seen as the saviour — built up by Salmond’s rhetoric, mimicked by Sturgeon, focusing on vague issues like “ideals”: as she put it in 2019 in a speech at the European Policy Centre, “the basic values” are common, these being “an idealism to the EU project which appeals strongly to us
 it is, at its heart, a peace project”. But it is not a peace project: its core mission to replace European states’ nationalisms by an all-Europe federation.

Nairn has a long and consistent attachment to Europe, publishing, in 1972, “The Left against Europe” as a special issue of New Left Review, using the insights and policies of the then-powerful Italian Communist Party, which argued that Europe’s states must transcend “narrow national limits” in order to confront the international trends governed by capitalist integration. The SNP did a U-turn — Salmond, who took the leadership in the early Eighties, was among the first to grasp that the leaving of the British union, fearsome for a majority of Scots (as the 2014 referendum on independence showed) would be moderated by the prospect of a safe and “progressive” European home.

But Europe is not a home for secessionist regions or nations: many, especially the Spanish and the Belgians, look on Scots nationalism as a threatening example for their own secessionist-tending movements. Even if no veto is wielded over its entry bid, it will — as Fabian Zuleeg, director of the Centre where Sturgeon spoke, has made clear — be required to “uphold and defend the principles of European integration, not least in accepting the terms and conditions of membership in full… shoring up stability and highlighting the benefits of EU membership”. Thus no opt outs, no long-term avoidance of membership of the Eurozone nor Schengen, no special treatment. Nor, for that matter, the  ÂŁ10-12 billion a year, presently paid from the UK Treasury under the Barnet formula, from EU funds; and a hard border with the rest of the UK. States are about power, and the ability to enforce policies; and the EU, as a would-be state, can be no exception.

In this, Nairn has broken with his former comrade, the long-time editor of the New Left Review, Perry Anderson — whose voluminous and often savage critiques of the EU posits it as an undemocratic and undemocratisable monster, with a parliament as ‘“the least consequential component of the Union” which provides “the appearance of a democratic assembly behind which oligarchic coteries are comfortably entrenched.” Wolfgang Streeck, a former director of Germany’s foremost sociological centre, the Max Planck Institute and a Review contributor, writes that “there is no supranationalism (in the EU) at all, or only as a veil behind which the real action, national and international, takes place. France sees Europe as an extended playing field for its global ambitions; Germany needs the European Union to secure production sites for its industries
 and Italy needs ‘Europe’, in particular Germany, for its survival as a capitalist nation-state and economy.”

What does it need Scotland for? Only as an irritant to the rest of the UK, but it must be a well behaved irritant. Streeck and Anderson’s hard-headed assessments are a reproof to Nairn’s — and Sturgeon’s — cloudy romanticism. In this, as in his view of England, as in his ambitions for socialism, Nairn operates in a sphere of abstract utopianism, and has taught the nationalists to do likewise — at least in public. It has worked: romance, idealism, anti-Englishness, national pride, a mixture which has succeeded so far, beyond what even Nairn could have dreamed. But is it now, itself, in the kind of decline it attributes to England? That’s another day’s work.


John Lloyd is a contributing editor to the Financial Times and is writing a book on the rise of the New Right in Europe.


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John K
John K
2 years ago

I have concluded that the leadership of the SNP (especially Sturgeon) do not really want independence – the reality would be as bad as bad can be.
What they want is the jobs, power and control that comes from campaigning for independence and blaming the English for all their failures. This can go on for years more without them actually having to deliver.

Jonathan Story
Jonathan Story
2 years ago
Reply to  John K

I agree. In which case, yapping incessantly about independence is a depreciating asset. But the incessant unpleasantness is gradually instilling poison into the UK body politic.

Sarah Atkin
Sarah Atkin
2 years ago
Reply to  John K

This is what I have felt for a while now (about Sturgeon) and I live up here. Salmond was a true believer so, although I loathe him and loathe nationalism, that at least deserves some respect. He also did set about trying to govern when first elected. Sturgeon? Not so. Independence is just too much like hard work. It will go on for years until it’s squarely taken on.

Cheryl Jones
Cheryl Jones
2 years ago

Separating the UK from 40 years of a non-state (apparently), trade only (guffaw) continental bureaucracy has been a shyte show that Sturgeon has claimed has made Scottish independence even more necessary. Surely it should demonstrate the other way around. After 300 years, being part of the same state, culturally/genetically close peoples and part of the same geographical entity, surely means by now that WE ARE NO LONGER SEPARATE COUNTRIES IN ANY MEANINGFUL WAY. Devolution is merely federalism within the same nation state. Wales seems to have largely accepted that. Like Bavaria. Or Brittany. Catalonia has tried and failed. It’s really too late. I think of myself as British rather than English now. Or at least a weird chimera of both. I believe leaving the EU was only possible for us because we’re not in the eurozone and we’re separated by the Channel. And it’s only been 40 odd years. Any later or more integrated and i think it would have been impossible, which makes me feel, as a Remain voter, slightly relieved the Brexiteers took the braver choice. There is something to be said for the parallels between Brexit and Scottish Indy and how upside down it sometimes seems (ScotNats deride Brexit but then use Brexiteer arguments about their own independence and do it without irony) but the EU is not the USA. It is a crawlingly slow oil tanker with no common culture like the USA. Its history is wildly different. It really does more resemble the artificiality of the USSR more than the organic growth and deliberate ‘pledge of allegiance melting pot’ history of the USA. An experiment in nation building that may have had its day in the sun and now appears to be reatomising on ethnic and racial lines. If ScotNats think the EU is Scotland’s future then they really might want to think again.

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
2 years ago
Reply to  Cheryl Jones

Excellent summary.

David Whitaker
David Whitaker
2 years ago
Reply to  Cheryl Jones

Very well expressed. I also think that Britain is extremely fortunate in being an island (NI excepted – more below) and that enormous geopolitical asset is not sufficiently recognised, in all the debate about Scottish independence. What might France give for sea borders, or Poland, or Czechoslovakia (as was)! As for NI, look at the problems our international border there is causing us. If it weren’t for the precedent it would set for the Scottish Nationalists, I would apply the geographical argument and let NI go. Land borders are bad news, and Britain is so lucky not to have any (almost none anyway). We should treasure that fact.

Peter LR
Peter LR
2 years ago

Has the SNP produced a document outlining its financial reasons for independence? The one for 2014 relied on oil income which is no longer ‘green’ and largesse from joining the EU would have to wait several years during the application process.
A referendum taken after negotiating with the UK the terms of leaving re: border, debt share, road access to Europe, etc would make the process realistic.

Tom Lewis
Tom Lewis
2 years ago
Reply to  Peter LR

Yes, the Scottish “government” produce a financial statement, every year, to demonstrate how strong the Scottish economy is, and how it will support an independent Scotland, The trouble, for the SNP, is that, after high expectations when first implemented it now, as it has always shown, demonstrates, even with self published gloss and spin, how weak the Scottish economic case for independence is.

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
2 years ago
Reply to  Peter LR

I would also see “EU largesse” in a sober light…there is a positive attitude to an independent Scotland rejoining the EU. However, I have read that that welcoming attitude is contingent upon Scotland showing that it can run its financial affairs in a sound way over a number of years. The EU needs another financially incontinent net recipient like it needs a hole in the head and a profligate Scottish government would very quickly exhaust any goodwill.

Benedict Waterson
Benedict Waterson
2 years ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

There are budget deficit rules for states applying for entry, meaning that Scotland would have to get its deficit in check over a number of years, through some sort of austerity measures

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
2 years ago

Yes, indeed. Whenever I read about the SNP, they seem to be pledging something else that costs a bunch of money, like greening the economy or introducing universal income. Call me crazy but this seems like a great way for the independence movement to shoot itself in the foot. Surely if they were serious about breaking away they’d be reining in expenditure and telling folk that this is what is required for Scotland to make it on its own and possibly rejoin the EU. My logic and SNP logic clearly aren’t overlapping.

Last edited 2 years ago by Katharine Eyre
Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
2 years ago
Reply to  Peter LR

They will fuel the Green Economy with taxes from the oil industry which they have vowed to destroy.

Cheryl Jones
Cheryl Jones
2 years ago

Dumb as boxes of rocks then

Andrea X
Andrea X
2 years ago
Reply to  Peter LR

That shouldn’t come as a surprise as the SNP are very good as a pressure group. Alas they are useless at/ uninterested in governing, hence… here we are.
There again, they keep being voted in, and you cant even complain they haven’t delivered.

Iris C
Iris C
2 years ago
Reply to  Peter LR

The oil revenues came from fields off Shetland which continue to produce BUT Shetland has indicated that it does not want to be part of an independent Scotland and has a case to remain part of the UK
Orkney and Shetland were only exclusively part of Scotland in the years between 1472 and 1707 – Danish/Norwegian before that (Shetland is nearer Norway than it is the Scottish Mainland) and part of the UK thereafter.
Thus if Westminster ever introduces a bill allowing Scotland an independence referendum, it should contain a clause allowing Orkney and Shetland (singly or together) the choice of staying in the union with England, Wales and Northern Ireland or separating..

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
2 years ago
Reply to  Iris C

Orkney and Shetland and the Western Isles certainly voted heavily NO in the 2014 IndyRef, but then so did everyone in Scotland outside Greater Glasgow and the city of Dundee.
I must take issue with your statement in parentheses though – contrary to popular belief, Shetland is almost twice as far from Norway as it is from the Scottish mainland. “The nearest railway station to Lerwick is Bergen” is something I’ve heard often. No it isn’t – it’s Thurso.

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
2 years ago
Reply to  Peter LR

Emotion beats this hands down. Most people will not be interested in the detail, only the excitement.

Steve Hadden
Steve Hadden
2 years ago
Reply to  Peter LR

I just don’t get it, why the Scots would want to leave the UK and to join the EU. If the aim is to increase self-determination and improve democratic accountability how can moving from being 5 million voices out of 60 to 5 million in 450 million be an improvement. It is as if they are prepared to suffer any hardship so long as they can be free of the English. Sounds like cutting your nose off to spite your face to me.

Catriona Flear
Catriona Flear
2 years ago

Tom Nairn had a cheek, considering how many Scots have gone down South and contributed so much to making Britain and all its parts prosperous. Talk about seeing it through one lense
..it’s a cloudy one at that!
Scotland can’t even get enough Civil Servants to collect tax, instead relying on UK government department for this and many other public sector areas.
They had to make a point last year and not run the 10 year census with the other parts of the UK, now they don’t have enough Civil Servants to do it this year
..or maybe even not next. The result is no statistics to know what Scotland needs in the future.

Last edited 2 years ago by Catriona Flear
Hugh Oxford
Hugh Oxford
2 years ago

Having voted for devolution back in 1997, I am increasingly of the opinion that devolution itself was always a project of neoliberal corporate globalist elites.
It’s only a working hypothesis, but it can be easily constructed from the evidence.
First, it was Blair’s project, and he was the neoliberal corporate globalist sans compare.
Secondly, devolution and independence weaken the UK and strengthen the global corporations. Blair would have known that. An “independent Scotland” would be like Ireland: a football to be kicked about by the global elites, a profit centre for their enrichment. A weaker UK would be less capable of self defence.
Thirdly, on all the core ideological issues: abortion, gender ideology, immigration, same-sex marriage and so on, Holyrood might as well be controlled by Goldman Sachs. And when I say Holyrood, I mean Holyrood, not just the SNP.
That hypothesis would concur with the mediocrity of many MSPs, because ultimately these people are wholly reliant on corporate patronage when their political careers fail. They have no other careers to return to.
It also accords with the reality of life in Scotland: neglect bordering on genocide of the white working class population, an almost total indifference to their suffering, whilst Holyrood focusses on implementing neoliberal socio-sexual ideologies and social control.
I think this is where a “follow the money” analysis leads.

Last edited 2 years ago by Hugh Oxford
Pete Marsh
Pete Marsh
2 years ago

Even the Swedish and the Danes gave up on socialism in the 1970s when they saw their industries stagnating and their economy starting to go the way of the USSR. The Nats would be a Venezuela style disaster.
Not that they could apply the socialist policies, they’re just window dressing to attract votes: An indie Scotland joining the EU would have to implement a harsh Greece style austerity regime, and then battle Ireland to attract US tech companies via ultra low corporation tax.

Last edited 2 years ago by Pete Marsh
Matt B
Matt B
2 years ago

The antipathy of the SNP to the UK and the culmination under Biden of a 20-yr face-plant of the US-UK special relationship bodes darkly for the Clyde – to the delight of some useful eejuts. While Alex dances at RT will Scotland hold the EU’s northern flank – and budget for it?

Last edited 2 years ago by Matt B
G A
G A
2 years ago

Just let them go.
Beautiful country but they really, really don’t like the English, anecdotally (good enough for me to forge an opinion with).

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
2 years ago

It is inevitable that Scotland will break from the UK. If it is good for them, then I wish them ‘Bon Voyage’. If it is bad it is their fault – people can always vote ‘No’. The politicians will ensure that they win the referendum, whatever ordinary people think.

Wales will follow soon afterwards. Does it matter? No. It is meaningless.

Andrea X
Andrea X
2 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

But when is Yorkshire getting a vote?

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
2 years ago
Reply to  Andrea X

People in Yorkshire are more streetwise. Something about which side of the bread is buttered.

David Wildgoose
David Wildgoose
2 years ago
Reply to  Andrea X

Us Yorkshire folk are English. That’s how the UK state discriminates against us – no differently to other English people in less fortunate counties. The only part of England that gets the kind of fawning attention that our Celtic appendages get is London.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
2 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

I don’t see that it is at all inevitable. Objectively and rationally the case for Scottish independence has got very much worse since 2014. You can also look to the Quebec example, that Canadian province got much closer to a vote for independence that the Scots have (so far). The constitution is also a reserved matter for the UK, so a referendum can (legally) be blocked indefinitely.
But should it come to pass, I would advocate that rUK (or whatever we will be called!) should strike a very hard bargain indeed – and that this point, in a very nice manner, be made absolutely clear to the Scots. For example, the Barnet formula, an internal administrative and financial matter for the UK government, be stopped or phased out rapidly as soon as a ‘yes’ vote is registered. The ‘have cake and eat it’ fantasies of SNP politicians, taking all the credit for UK spending while none of the blame, need be indulged no longer. Another is the inevitable hard border.
I like Scotland and have Scottish friends, and such a divorce would in my view be something of a tragedy. However you maybe right that the constitutional air needs to be cleared – this could otherwise go on for years. Of course all democrats should respect such a vote.

Last edited 2 years ago by Andrew Fisher
G A
G A
2 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Fisher

People don’t vote objectively and rationally, though.

Colin Elliott
Colin Elliott
2 years ago
Reply to  G A

I agree that people vote primarily for emotional reasons, and there’s nothing wrong with that, although I’d hope that the emotion hasn’t been created on the basis of lies and distortion of facts, and on events of hundreds of years ago rather than months.
However, it seems to me sensible that when the time comes for the UK government to discuss and negotiate a second referendum, they insist on a preparatory period during which the future situation is agreed on and implemented to some degree, e.g. ending the Barnett formula, and constructing border posts and procedures to allow the EU will be able to prevent England’s access to the Single Market.
The cost of reversing it in the event of a ‘no’ decision would be worth it if the electorate had become wiser, and useful if they haven’t.

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
2 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Fisher

I think you are forgetting one important thing – boredom. Right now, especially after lockdowns, life is a bit boring. Why not make it more exciting with flags and music and demonstrations. Everybody will be talking about it and will want to join in. The reality will not be important.

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
2 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

What would be fun is if Joxit were on a regional basis. The border regions with England are all unionist and probably so would the Shetlands and Orkneys be. They should be allowed to stay for the same reasons that the rest should be allowed to go.
What actually departed would the stupid basket case regions that blame England for everything but that are subsidised by England. That would of course end so that within at most 2 to 3 years Scotland would be like East Germany without the nice weather.

Gilmour Campbell
Gilmour Campbell
2 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

Love “Joxit”! Did you invent?

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
2 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

And people will still vote Labour, especially in the populace areas, as a protest against…er….Margaret Thatcher. As these oldies die off the young are being brainwashed in the belief that language = freedom. This is why it will happen.

If there was a decent port in Wales, it might not be a bad thing. But without a port there would be two hard borders for everything coming in.

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
2 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

Just out of interest I looked at Facebook about a month before the recent election and one of the Labour members was saying that the UK was obviously anti-Wales because BJ had not bothered to learn the Welsh language. This was removed the next day.

hugh bennett
hugh bennett
2 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

Well, if that`s true it confirms what I said, that they really are a joke.
its not Margaret Thatcher, its the huge mounds of money the Assembly keeps throwing at those poor downtrodden folk in the valleys, while happily ignoring serious social, economic and health issues in the rest of Wales because they cannot be assured of buying votes there.
There are seeds of revolt, there are folk waking up, the last national vote was affected by the Pandemic and “the better the devil you know syndrome”.. Overtime all it needs is a Welsh Conservative Party willing to act with confidence,never backing off, keep shrugging off the media flak, and keep calling these Welsh Labour idiots out!

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
2 years ago

I bet that some of Nairn’s best friends are English

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
2 years ago

Scots enthusiasm for leaving the UK is closely correlated with North Sea oil revenue. Both have been a thing since the mid-70s and will fizzle accordingly. It’s about how long it takes Scotland to notice.
Scotland wouldn’t see any of the oil revenues anyway, as they are apportioned to the UK by 1965 treaty. The treaty doesn’t mention Scotland, and the UK will still exist, so the treaty will continue to apply meaning the revenues will still be the UK’s.

Richard Slack
Richard Slack
2 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

Oil companies are hard-headed realists. The oil comes ashore in Scotland and that is to whom they will pay the revenues, they are not going to build fresh infrastructure to land it in Newcastle. It would be up to the government of continuity-UK to challenge this under international and maritime law. It would take decades to reach a judgement. The UK will settle for a small compensation and walk away.
Reference to oil however is interesting. Norway had an oil boom and used the revenue to build up infrastructure and a sovereign wealth fund. The UK under the Tories used the money to pay compensate workers for the destruction of industrial jobs, particularly in the North to smash Trade Unions, Scotland will have realised that.

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
2 years ago
Reply to  Richard Slack

The oil comes ashore in Scotland

Welll, no. The principal North Sea grades are Brent (around 6 cargoes a month), Forties (15 to 20), Ekofisk, Oseberg (3 to 5 each) and Troll (10 to 15).
The first two load in Sullom Voe and Hound Point, which are in Scotland, but Ekofisk loads in England, Oseberg and Troll in Norway. The non-Scottish-landed oil is already more than half, but even that’s assuming the Shetlands want to become part of Little Scotland. If they vote to stay with the UK, then they will stay whatever the SNP would like. Nicola’s not exactly in a position to send troops to annex the Shetlands, is she?
Then of course there is the fact that the Scottish production is declining. “Decades to reach judgment” are exactly what Scotland does not have.
In effect the SNP has a last chance to lie to the “vooters” about Scotland’s economic prospects before the one and only – and highly contentious – source of revenue simply dries up. Scotland will then basically have no industry left to speak of, and of course once the defence industry, and all the higher earners individually, head south.

L Paw
L Paw
2 years ago
Reply to  Richard Slack

The UK under the Wilson Govt’s of 1964-76 closed more coal mines than Margaret Thatcher did. The Blair/Brown Labour gov’t did not repeal any significant industrial relations legislation brought in under previous 18 years of Tories.
Industrial relations in 1970’s Britain virtually destroyed our economy. Healey as chancellor in 1976 had to go to the IMF for a bail out loan.
Years of poor management, lack of investment and militant union striking left swathes of British industry outdated and uncompetitive by the 1980’s. Thatcher enabled new small businesses to thrive and create jobs, financial services sector to massively grow and generate wealth and employment.
The Left was the first to complain if workers made unemployed were not paid benefits. Britain is hugely better off without dominant trade unions wielding power, the remaining public sector and rail unions dominated by their marxist leaders are evidence of that.

Peter Mott
Peter Mott
2 years ago

But is it now, itself, in the kind of decline it attributes to England? That’s another day’s work.

I suspect it is. The UK governemt just needs to keep saying “No” and in time it will just fade away – because there is nothing in it really. But I shall await a follow-up piece.

Last edited 2 years ago by Peter Mott
Christopher Barclay
Christopher Barclay
2 years ago

There is another possible future for Scotland – as a Chinese colony on the edge of Europe. Or as a country threatening to be so and blackmailing England into continuing to subsidise Scotland.

Earl King
Earl King
2 years ago

If many think the hard border in Northern Ireland with Ireland is a difficult unsolved problem with the EU what he hell is Scotland going to do with Briton? LOL barbed wire and watchtowers as Scotts smuggle larger electric British Tea Pots across it? It is as absurd as people in Texas talk about succeeding from the US. If Scotland is hell bent on become connected to the EU again…..I cannot figure out why? Uninhibited travel? Do they want more muslim refugees? I don’t think Briton would prohibit Scotland from hosting some Afghan refugees. I get the divide. Texas wouldn’t want any of CA policies. None of them….but surely Briton and Scotland can find a way to allow them more Independence. For example a ban on Churches Fish Chips stores….

Zorro Tomorrow
Zorro Tomorrow
2 years ago

There are more differences between the south and the north of England; London and ‘not’ London, than between England and Scotland. Twice as many people vote Labour than the population of Scotland of whom over 50% don’t want independence. That an independent Scotland will be austere indeed is a fact not an opinion unless the EU, Russia or China decide on a bail out; the real reason Westminster doesn’t want a referendum. The sociology and the politics wouldn’t be pretty.

Last edited 2 years ago by Zorro Tomorrow
hugh bennett
hugh bennett
2 years ago

y

Last edited 2 years ago by hugh bennett
Milos Bingles
Milos Bingles
2 years ago

I don’t blame the Scots for wanting independence from England’s Eton-educated rabble. Good luck to them. The Scandinavians are far more progressive than our Governments Little Englander mentality.

Richard Slack
Richard Slack
2 years ago

60 years ago, when Trinidad and Tobago became independent, the first Prime Minister, Eric Williams said “yes, an independent Trinidad will make mistakes but they will be our mistakes and we will be able to take responsibility for them.” Williams was a historian who analysed the legacy of slavery, indentured labour and colonialism and concluded that an independent country could not do any worse.
Probably the biggest recruiting sergeant for Scottish Independence is the current PM and his cabinet. The English, I suspect, love a roguish toff, a weakness Orwell pointed out is his wonderful essay on Boys’ Weeklies “the weeklies serve the function of instilling into the minds of young boys the ideas that “the problems of our time do not exist, that there is nothing wrong with laissez-faire capitalism, that foreigners are unimportant comics and that the British Empire is a sort of charity-concern which will last forever”. In the final paragraph he summarises by writing “All fiction from the novels in the mushroom libraries downwards is censored in the interests of the ruling class. And boy’s fiction above all … is sodden in the worst illusions of 1910”
It is possible that the Scots, or at least some of them once had the same opinion, after all the Scottish Tory party was once described as “all lairds and baillies” but I suspect not anymore. They will have looked at the current Government with its rampant cronyism, incoherence, chaos, outmoded pompous procedures and dishonesty and formed the view that they could do better. It is hard to argue against such a view.
Those advancing the cause of Brexit frequently dismissed their critics as peddling “project fear”. It is intersting now to seen largely the same people using the same approach, to scare the Scottish people into staying in line.

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
2 years ago
Reply to  Richard Slack

They will have looked at the current Government with its rampant cronyism, incoherence, chaos, outmoded pompous procedures and dishonesty and formed the view that they could do better. It is hard to argue against such a view.

Well, other than by pointing at the SNP, obviously.

Richard Slack
Richard Slack
2 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

What I know of the Scottish Assembly strikes me about how adult its procedures are and far less anachronistic than the “Mother of Parliaments”. The Prime Minister at Westminster can openly, intentionally lie to the House with no come-back whereas someone pointing out that he is lying has to stand on the naughty step for a day.

William Cable
William Cable
2 years ago
Reply to  Richard Slack

The Scottish Parliament appears grown up in the same way the Chinese People’s Congress does

Catherine Barton
Catherine Barton
2 years ago

Breaking away from the UK is seen as a serious proposition and desired by the majority of Scots, including and especially, by the ‘new Scots’ now living here since 2016 – 80% of my associates in Glasgow are the new Scots moved up from London looking for a more balanced work-life existence.
They have bought their property – some of them even bought two properties! – and would prefer to base themselves here in Glasgow than in the ever growing caustic Brexit Britain that has been created over the years. Its us lot up here that need to be convinced its realistic. And thus far, the SNP are doing a ‘no bad’ job on the whole, but there are many unanswered questions. Lets see what her document produces and we can go from there.
Opine away everyone – but it’s Scotland’s choice. We know it and they know it. And the more Westminster MP’s speak to elected Scottish MP’s like dirt on their shoe – the more rage against the Union is conjured up here. So step carefully i’d say to them if they want to hold on to a Global Britain where Scotland is part of it.
I’m on the fence until I see the plan.

Last edited 2 years ago by Catherine Barton
Jon Redman
Jon Redman
2 years ago

What would be the best reason you would make to the rest of Britain for us to regret the departure of Scotland from the UK? You’re not likeable, but are you in any way necessary or useful?
The parochial solipsism of Scotch nationalism is its downfall. If you want to leave, you should be campaigning for a UK wide referendum, not one in Scotland. You’d be expelled by a landslide.

Richard Slack
Richard Slack
2 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

I was born in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. A part of me deeply regrets that in the years between 1870 and 1916 political judgement in Westminster caused the loss of Ireland and with it a chunk of shared history. The decision to keep the 6 Counties in the EU Customs Union and Single Market ultimately will place their presence in the United Kingdom at risk. With it goes the red diagonal cross in the Union Flag.
I am as English as anyone. My politics are well left of centre though I have lived all of my life within a 40 milie radius of Chelmsford in Essex but my England is the England of Bunyan, Milton, Shakespear Elgar not the strangulated public school braying of Boris Johnson. England without the rest of the United Kingdom with be hugely diminished and I would mourn that. It would also be a laughing stock amongst the nations.

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
2 years ago
Reply to  Richard Slack

We have lost nothing by the departure of Ireland. We’d only gain by the departure of Scotland.

Richard Slack
Richard Slack
2 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

and Serbia has gained from being the bit remaining after the rest of the former Yugoslavia dropped off?

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
2 years ago
Reply to  Richard Slack

England won’t be Serbia. Scotland will be Serbia, but without the cuisine, the beaches or the weather.

Frederick B
Frederick B
2 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

Where are Serbia’s beaches? The country is entirely landlocked! ( I recommend the purchase of an atlas).

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
2 years ago
Reply to  Frederick B

Whoooooooooosh

Matt B
Matt B
2 years ago
Reply to  Frederick B

Serbia’s beaches indeed!

Last edited 2 years ago by Matt B
James Finnemore
James Finnemore
2 years ago
Reply to  Richard Slack

Boris Johnson is just a passing phase
 you cannot have a long term policy based on him!

Peter Mott
Peter Mott
2 years ago
Reply to  Richard Slack

Yes, I agree. Especially Scotland has provided a socialist anchor and alternative for the UK. Labour is a pale relice without them.

Colin Elliott
Colin Elliott
2 years ago

So Brexit Britain is caustic? Yes, that is true, and mostly because those who fervently wish to remain in the EU have fought a long and dirty campaign to do so, much to the delight of EU negotiators, but it seems to me that the campaign for Scottish independence has spawned similar antagonism. It seems to me that Sturgeon and her party are rude and disrespectful at every opportunity. I sometimes think that everyone has become too inured to it.

Catherine Barton
Catherine Barton
2 years ago
Reply to  Colin Elliott

I agree – it’s a divisive subject and raises lots of tempers and blood pressures. But it’s often argued from the point that leaving the UK means being anti English – and that’s just not true. Please stop taking offence that we want to leave the UK. We just don’t vote Conservative.
For the rising numbers of Yes Voters of late, it’s all about Westminster. We are as mortified about this lot as a good number of English people are. But Scotland has never voted for a Conservative government for a long long time. It’s not democratic. The policies are from two separate worlds. We are different. Simple.
As for being more rude and and disrespectful – not true either – it comes from both sides – hence the Anti English nonsense. I could list the scuffles in Westminster between the parties, but there’s not enough hours.
No one is really anti English – only the dumb few, who do get called out for their blatant bad judgement.
We are Anti English – that’s only in Sport for goodness sake.

Peter Mott
Peter Mott
2 years ago

The SNP detached some 50 socialist inclined member and left the Labour party helpless and unable, of course, to form a coalition.

James Finnemore
James Finnemore
2 years ago
Reply to  Colin Elliott

As a remain voter I have been ashamed by the behaviour of many remainers

Peter Mott
Peter Mott
2 years ago

You don’t merit all those unlikes! The UK position that is emerging is that there must be a settled will for a 2nd referendum, which is indicated by 60% being in favour over a period of time. That is the democratic route to independence. Many will protest this, but power lies with the UK and short of terrorism (cf. Ireland 1921) the UK Parliament will set the terms.

Francis MacGabhann
Francis MacGabhann
2 years ago

This reads like it was written by a department at MI5 staffed by graduates of one of the lesser public schools, one of the ones where they didn’t teach understatement and that less is more.

Last edited 2 years ago by Francis MacGabhann
Tim Bartlett
Tim Bartlett
2 years ago

As a scholarship boy from a minor public school, I’d have to ask why we’re getting the flak? From Eton to the local comprehensive we’re all idiots.

Matt B
Matt B
2 years ago

People come here to escape Twitter.

Last edited 2 years ago by Matt B
Andrea X
Andrea X
2 years ago

I confess I started skipping through the article faster and faster. My loss, no doubt.

G A
G A
2 years ago
Reply to  Andrea X

It’s a good read, excepting the awful American phrase ‘people of colour’

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
2 years ago

It is interesting sometimes going in some depth to the intellectual roots of a current issue. Tom Nairn was, in my view unfortunately, undoubtedly very influential.

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
2 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Fisher

But an epic pi11ock too. Why anyone pays any attention to anyone who professes Marxism I can’t imagine.