The Silliest Thing I’ve Read about Scottish Independence

We are, of course, currently living through the run up to a vote to determine whether Scotland will remain within the United Kingdom or breakaway to form a new country.

I’ve just read the silliest and most foolish thing that I’ve ever read about Independence, published this morning in the Huffington Post.

Love America and its people though I do, I would have to say that not all of its citizens are terribly knowledgeable about other parts of the world. Very many Europeans have stories to tell of the ignorance of Americans abroad, such as the ones I met who conversed with me for half an hour in a train in France before asking me what language we speak in Scotland. (They thought it was “garlic”). When I was travelling over there recently, the kind of people I was staying with were the kind of Americans who do know a bit about the world and even they were embarrassed by the things some of their fellow citizens say.

This article in the HuffPo today tries to align progressive Christianity with Scottish Nationalism. Indeed, the headline describes this alignment as a perfect fit.

The “struggle” for independence is compared to standing in solidarity with the Sandinista regime in Nicaragua, the end of apartheid and the attempt to end genocide in Darfur.

Now, I may think that the argument for Scottish Independence tends towards the fanciful sometimes but there’s no-one I know who is in that camp who would make such silly claims.

If Scotland becomes independent it is very possible that we will witness the birth of a Western democracy in which national security is achieved through education rather than by military prowess and in which the wealth of a nation is tied to the well-being of ordinary people rather than upon the solvency of financial institutions. And who among Progressive Mainline Protestants cannot support such ideals as these?

The author of this seems to have stumbled upon the SNP website and believed every word as gospel truth. He is a Presbyterian minister in California. He works at Foothill Presbyterian Church and my facebook feed is filling up with folk who think they’ve got an unusually ignorant minister, even for America.

He goes on to make a comparison between the place of Scotland in the UK to that of Tibet in relation to China. (His argument is that if “progressive” Americans don’t speak out about Scotland then they should keep quiet about Tibet).

All I can say is that the tanks are not rolling by on Great Western Road.

Scotland faces a great deal of uncertainty over this referendum. I fall into the majority of people living here who are not persuaded that Independence would be a good thing.

Just read that last sentence again if you don’t live in Scotland – yes, a majority of people who live here don’t want (or are at least not yet persuaded) that Scotland should go it alone.

There are arguments for and against Independence. It is a conversation that we need to have here. It is a matter that needs to be settled. However, there is no getting away at the moment from the fact that the majority of people here don’t want it. That may change but it does rather puncture the idea that Scotland is an oppressed minority in which mainstream religious people will automatically fight for the right to a separate future.

Scotland clearly could become Independent. The question is whether it should.

I’m not persuaded that it should at this time. That’s partly because I care about Scotland and am simply not persuaded that the bucolic future outlined by the Scottish National Party on their website would be likely to come to pass. Another reason I’m unpersuaded is that I care about the rest of the UK and wouldn’t like to condemn it to Conservative party rule for generations. (Without Scottish MPs the House of Commons would tilt even further to the right and what we’ve seen recently is more than enough to make us fear the outcome of that).

No doubt there are some who having seen the effects of Tory rule think that the answer is for Scotland to break away. I don’t think that. I think the response to poor government is to change the government not change the constitutional settlement of these islands.

The idea of Americans trying to align that with religion is chilling. The money that poured in from the USA to fund Irish terrorism should remind us of how little some folk understand about how to keep the peace.

Oh, and by the way, the argument that Christians must necessarily support independence for Scotland has nothing to do with Tibet. It is more like the idea that Christians should support the attempts to free Texas from the hegemony of the rest of the USA. There’s a minority of religious republicans think that’s a good idea after all.

Fortunately there’s a solid majority of people who think they are nuts.


  1. Fr Dougal says

    Excellent response!

  2. Andrew says

    Its amazing how some people stumble across a massive issue and feel they just *have* to make a comment and jump on the bandwagon without really knowing the facts. There are many forward thinking western democracies where the wealth and security of the nation aren’t tied to financial institutions and nuclear weapons. The UK just isnt one of them.

    I assume you’ve read which has been widely trailed elsewhere.

  3. Good post. But can I ask – how exactly do you propose to ‘change the government’ when we only have 9% of the votes?

    Scotland is (and always has been) more left-leaning than the rest of the UK. Which party would you suggest would represent us fairly in Westminster? As I see it it’s a choice between right-wing Tory or right-wing New Labour.

    Alternatively, we could take responsibility for our choices and choose our own government – one we actually want and who fits our (slightly odd) social leanings. That way, if it all goes to hell we only have ourselves to blame. Or, you never know, it might work out just like the SNP tell us it will. What do we have to lose? Things can’t exactly get much worse, can they?

    Thanks for the article – made a very interesting read.

    • Ah John, I believe that there are people who vote in England and Wales and Northern Ireland too. We do it with them.

    • Alan R says

      Scotland has not always been left leaning. In the 1951, 1955 and 1959 elections the conservatives won the biggest share of the vote in scotland – indeed in the 1955 election the conservatives secured 50.1% of the vote.

  4. Join the club! Some years ago I totally failed to convince an American colleague that there were no political prisoners in NI, only people convicted of offences which would be categorised as serious crimes in any country living by the rule of law. Some of the contributors to the journal he subscribed to were convinced that there British troops were occupying Dublin!

  5. Hello Kelvin. Regular reader, first time commenter (I think!).

    As a supporter of independence you’re quite right to point out that this article is wide of the mark. While he does have a semblance of sense in trying to link Christianity with causes of social justice and liberation; he has, has you say, rather missed the point of the Scottish independence debate in that it is not about shrugging off a yolk and more about deciding what is the best future for ourselves.

    However, I just want to take you up on the “saving England” argument. It’s an oft-heard one but flawed for three reasons:
    1. It presumes that Scotland only exists within the UK as mere lobby fodder to save England from itself.
    2. It insults England by suggesting that it somehow needs saving from its own self-destructive voting tendencies.
    3. In terms of parliamentary arithmetic, it simply doesn’t add up. There’s not a single example of an election where Scotland has “saved” England from what would otherwise be a Conservative government, and delivered it a Labour government instead.

    Yes based on the last general election a Scotland-less UK would be even more heavily Conservative, but that’s an entirely hypothetical scenario. In all likelihood, Scottish independence would be a spur to firstly constitutional reform in the remnant UK, and secondly a debate on the English left about how to rejuvenate and come back stronger, with the solidarity of fellow lefties north of the border cheering them on.

    That sounds a lot more exciting to me for both sides of the border than Scotland being some wistful American’s vision of an oppressed nation!

  6. Zebabee says

    Down in Englandshire the bulk of the population seem to be quite unconcerned about Scottish Independence in any shape of form. Many citizens of the USofA seem to have no concept of anything outside their own town never mind state. One dear person I met could not understand why there was not a bridge from Dublin to Glasgow and was cross that the currency beween the two countries was different. This is just an example of their inward looking mindset and helps to explain why they as a country make the international mistakes that we are suffering from in the past number of years.

    With regard to Scottish Independence can somone please tell me if this could happen if Scotland is tied to the UK pound or the Euro? Should not the case for Independence include bringing back the Scottish Groat for currency and being outside Nato and the European Union? Something like Icelandic position.

    • I believe the plan is to stick with the pound initially and see how it goes. There are a lot of countries who share a currency – there’s no reason for Scotland to be any different. This kind of question is answered on


  7. Tamas Marcuis says

    Saving England. Again that flawed argument. In the Last 140 years there have been only two occasions that Scottish MP affected the result of a British general election. Both of these instances were over 45 years ago. The effect of no Scottish MP’s going to Westminster would in real terms be zero. I personally object to the idea that Scotland should be held responsible for the democratic will of another country. Or worst used to circumvent democracy.
    Yes not all Scots are convinced at present to go independent. But that is barely half of those polled. It’s also a soft number. That is to say not firm and likely to go down. Polls do show that numbers for independence are hard and long established. The unionist can’t guarantee their own voting block and certainly not the intentions of the undecided.
    I lead with the “saving England” issue first to show that most of the reasons given by No supporters are questionable or simply false. Like the old American saying you can’t lie to all of the people all of the time. Many Scots at some future date will feel very embarrassed at how easily they were conned.
    Not being ethnically Scots my reasons are purely economic and political. I’ve lived in various countries and picked Scotland as my home. I believe them main reason most English people are not interested is that they are not purposely trying to harm Scotland. They are surprised, bemused and even hurt that this referendum is taking place. They are too easily misled that it all the work of a few racist nationalist and as such the government really should be trying to stop all of this nonsense. Yes ignorant and patronising but not bred of ill will. But from such beginnings great animosity can grow.

  8. Iain Macmillan says

    You know it really is kind of pathetic that someone in your position should decide to write a blog article on Scottish Independence and manage to make such a glaring, and Anglocentric, error as you do in your very first paragraph with “form a new country”. Really? I must’ve misunderstood something in my extensive study of my nation’s history because I could have sworn that prior to 1707 we were an independent nation, until we were bullied, threatened and sold into the unequal, and often abusive, union we’ve been stuck in for the last 300 and odd years. Even though I was brought up an Episcopalian, and was in fact a choirboy at St.Ninian’s in Perth, it’s exactly this sort of attitude from the clergy of that church that means I have had nothing to do with them for years and have nothing good to say about them.

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