Labour Pains, Labour of Love

Labour: Where Did It All Go Wrong?

Where did it all go wrong? (Photo: Ian Jones)

By Irvine Welsh

When I think back to how the Scottish independence debate has evolved in terms of my personal journey, I can see it in three distinct phases. The first was best expressed by the bitter and ugly sentiment “its all the English’s fault.” This guff was fairly ubiquitously trumpeted when I was a kid, and largely sustained, I believe, by an infantile football mentality. I was always unmoved by this idiocy: nobody was going to tell me that my cousins in Wolverhampton or Aunt in West London were in any way culpable for our circumstances north of the border. In retrospect, the ban on the annual Scotland v England match was the best thing that ever happened to the debate, it helped folk think a little more clearly. When ‘politics’ is mixed up with football, the end result is invariably the ossification of cretinism. This phase left its psychological legacy; to this day I find it hard to support the Scottish national team, or, indeed, have any truck with the term ‘nationalism’.

I’ve been greatly inspired by the post-devolution generation, and their pragmatic thinking on the issue of independence.

I came from a family of trade unionists, and in my youth I was a Labour Party supporter. My political hero was Tony Benn. I recall, with my dad, watching Neil Kinnock in a political broadcast, and, roused by the Welshman’s stirring oratory, I joined the party in my teens. I hated the SNP, regarding them as a divisive force of tartan Tories. I loved Brian Wilson’s attacks on them, in magazines like the West Highland Free Press and the short-lived Seven Days.

For most of my young adult life, I moved between Edinburgh and London. As the 1980’s wore on, I noted how things started to change in Scotland; there was a growing realisation that the problem wasn’t the English, it was our own stupid selves. Whatever our circumstances, they were only existent because we tolerated them. This was what I regard as ‘phase two’ on the evolutionary scale of the Scottish Independence debate. It was progress, for sure, but the downside of it was the self-hating element, which the character Renton identifies with in Trainspotting. Ultimately self-loathing is no more edifying than the scapegoating of others, but in order to make headway it’s probably essential to face up to your own shortcomings, no matter how painful. And this led us to stage three of the debate.

I’ve been greatly inspired by the post-devolution generation, and their pragmatic thinking on the issue of independence. I believe they have enabled an emotionally backward and immature country (as all countries, by definition must be, when they are governed from elsewhere) to grow up and move forward. It’s this generation who have given us phase three of the independence debate: beautiful, wonderful phase three, which says that it doesn’t matter who is to ‘blame’, the important thing is to fix it.

When I was recently back in both Scotland and England, it was instructive to see how generational the independence debate has become and how my own one has split on the issue. There is certainly far less unanimity between us than there is with the smart, educated young people I met in Edinburgh. Almost to a man and woman they were enthusiastically, if critically, on the ‘yes’ side of the discussion. Crucially, the few who demurred seemed very different from the depressed, resentful naysayers of my own generation, in that they were also highly ebullient about the ongoing discourse. This youth represents the new Scotland; they won’t be looking for safe a Labour seat in Westminster, or marching in sectarian parades with flute and pipe bands, and they are equally unexcited by the tartan army-esque see-you-Jimmy buffoonery of kitschy nationalism.

It’s a little painful to report that the representatives of this post-devolution generation were far more impressive than many of my old comrades. Of my motley crew, the ones excited and revitalised by the independence debate are all firmly ‘yes’ advocates. But my ‘no’ friends, all people I respect (and yes, love), were invariably annoyed, scared and even angry, that this debate, this democracy, this real discussion on their own futures was even taking place. When I asked why, what kept coming back was that we should be talking about something else. That they were almost all Labour Party supporters should come as no surprise, nor should it be a shock that the ‘something else’ was usually defined as ‘kicking the Tories out.’ To what end, I would enquire. To build a fairer society, was the invariable reply. So I wondered, sometimes out loud, sometimes not, how exactly they intended to do that. Through Trident? War in Iraq? NHS trusts? Deregulation of the City, with subsequent bailouts after they fucked it up? Through the House of Lords? Or the continuing negation of democracy, and siphonage of the country’s resources to a transnational elite?

It struck me that we, the post-war consensus generations from hippy to punk to post punk to house, have left them, the new breed, this youth engaged and politicised at grass-roots level by the independence debate, with absolutely nothing. The trade unions have been debilitated, Labour rebranded as a centre-right conservative party, the welfare state and the NHS destroyed, and with this, a massive redistribution of wealth from everybody to the super rich. And all of this took place on our watch.

So if the current youth of Scotland, with their free tuition fees and free medicines, have been ‘bought off’ by Salmond, it has been in exactly the same way that I was ‘bought off’ by Bevan.

The delusion by many on the left, that by trying to maintain the United Kingdom (the clue is in the name) they are fighting to preserve some sort of socialist internationalism, is an astonishingly persistent one, representing the ultimate triumph of hope over experience. The UK has always been an imperialist construct, set up to protect and further the interests of the rich. There was a brief period after the Second World War when it sought to be something more. The elites conned people into participating in the bloodbath of WW1 on the promise of ‘homes fit for heroes’ and the ‘patriots’ were rewarded with more slums, a depression, and hunger marches that met with only the indifference and hostility of the UK state. Then, the ordinary folks were shunted back into the line of fire to face the Nazis. Something fundamental did happen when we opened Hitler’s death camps at Auschwitz and Dachau, and our collective humanity was stirred. Moreover, people returned in the mood to fight for concessions, and the elites were pragmatically ready to concede them.  So we had the emergence of a post war consensus and the welfare state.

I was a benefactor of that consensus. I took evening classes at the local college for a pound, had my university fees paid, obtained a full student grant, and benefited from universal healthcare. For the social equivalent of me today, making this progress would be impossible without accruing a lifetime of debt and becoming no better than a slave – fuck that bullshit. So if the current youth of Scotland, with their free tuition fees and free medicines, have been ‘bought off’ by Salmond, it has been in exactly the same way that I was ‘bought off’ by Bevan.

All that has now gone, and the Labour Party will not be bringing it back. Tony Blair and Gordon Brown were no aberrations; they were the natural progression of a movement that has ‘evolved’ from its radical roots into a centre-right focus group-driven party of power. Now, on a policy level, they chase middle England votes, while lecturing working class people on their ‘duty to vote’ (Labour), in order to ‘keep the Tories out’.

Gordon Brown’s recent book My Scotland, Our Britain on the case for the union, like his critique of Thatcherism, Where There Is Greed, would be highly impressive if this was still 1985, and he himself hadn’t been in power for so much of the time that has passed since it was. Yes, politics is the art of the possible, but the message from the Labour Party to the people, is that in the face of neo-liberalism, nothing is possible – but keep voting for us anyway. Why?  Because, goes the stock reply, ‘we care more than the Tories’. This is true of Labour voters and party members, but it hasn’t been true of the leadership for a long, long time. They don’t seem to care that much that it’s likely that UKIP, the right-wing of the Tory party and the Mail and Sun will set the agenda at the next election. A no vote is therefore a vote to preserve that poisonous dialogue of nationalist politics, with more unwanted racist policies on Europe, immigration and security, foisted onto Scotland.

Our Labour has gone; it probably died when it got rid of Clause Four, the ‘public ownership’ statement, which served as the radical conscience of the party.

An anti-independence argument, repeated in the discussions with my old Labour-supporting pals, is one I’ve consistently heard down the years. It contends that we have to ‘stand alongside our comrades in England.’ I agree wholeheartedly, but fail to get how ‘standing alongside’ somebody involves trudging to the polling booth every five years and sheepishly sending down a cluster of political class lobby-fodder careerists to Westminster, who then continue to preside over the transfer of resources from the rest of us to the super rich. The brutal truth is that we haven’t properly ‘stood alongside’ any English or Welsh comrades since the miners strike of 84-85, because we haven’t been able to – the UK state has made sure of that with its anti-union laws. Yes, the same ones the Labour Party has had plenty of chances to modify or repeal, and let people in their workplaces have a role in our democracy. I recall twelve years later, really ‘standing alongside’ comrades in Liverpool during the dockworkers dispute, to the complete indifference and embarrassment of the Labour Party, who would rather have had everybody just go home. Towards the end of the strike, I was sitting in a London hotel with Dockers leader Jimmy Nolan and the writer Jimmy McGovern, meeting American intellectual Noam Chomsky. Jimmy Nolan was telling our visitor that they had far more support from Larry Bower’s New York longshoremen than the UK Labour Party or senior Trade Union officials like Bill (Lord) Morris. Where was this ‘internationalism’ or ‘solidarity’ from the Labour leadership? By contrast there was significant support from the Labour rank and file. They deserved better then, and they deserve better now, than a leadership that stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the Conservative Party against Scottish independence. Our Labour has gone; it probably died when it got rid of Clause Four, the ‘public ownership’ statement, which served as the radical conscience of the party. (I think of it as being the member of the band who kept it real. Nobody listened to him that much, because they knew that if he had his way they would never sell another record. But once he was kicked out, the band quickly lost its soul and now contests the ‘political’ version of Britain’s Got Talent every five years.)

Therefore I don’t designate what we’re currently doing as ‘standing alongside’ anybody; I call it endorsing a set-up that maintains our joint misery. Better to call time on that self-defeating nonsense and encourage and inspire others to do the same. This ‘internationalism’, so publically heralded by ‘No’ leftists, (but only in response to the Scottish independence threat –otherwise its generally forgotten about) has in reality been used as a Trojan horse for a corporate-led globalisation and imperialism, where this transfer of resources from the rest to the rich is aided and abetted by the UK state.

On a related note, as well as Scotland and England, I visited Ireland, where I lived for five years, in order to attend a wedding. I felt just as close to my friends there as I did to the ones in England and Scotland: we don’t need to have the same domestic governments to moan about in order to bond as human beings over common areas of concern. It’s called internationalism, and as tough a concept as it is for some people to grasp, that doesn’t stop or start at London. Independence isn’t divisive; gross inequality, as promoted by the UK state, now that is schismatic.

So perhaps the unionist apologists from my generation should consider that it isn’t just about them any more. A march towards democracy is a process, not a destination; it’s not solely about a ‘vote’ on September 18th, or any other vote. It’s not about politicians, including ‘Salmond’ (the bogey man who brought us free prescriptions, paid higher education fees, and protected the NHS from Labour and Conservative privatising trusts – that’s also the one who hasn’t led us into war in Iraq, deregulated the City, redistributed our wealth to the already stinking rich – we should choose our demons with a sense of perspective), for once, just this once, it simply isn’t their party.

What I think it is about, is this generation having something of their own, a project that inspires them. The rest of us should be cheering them on, not sneering, grumbling, or ‘standing alongside’ establishment reactionaries against them, fuelled by a petty strop because we so manifestly failed to deliver on our own dreams. For the new generation, social progress is about more than trying to vote in a right-wing Labour Party every five years.

So maybe its time to let those smart young Scots take the lead in building something different and inspirational, free from the whines of the browbeaten, gloomy naysayers and vested interests of the elitist no-can-dooers. And, while we’re at it, support the bright young people of England in getting on with creating a truly post-imperial, multi-ethnic civic identity and democratic society, based on ability, rather than cemented rank and privilege. Give them the chance to take the fight to the Tories, UKIP, EDL, BNP and other small minds, without being distracted by the Scottish agenda, which will not go away. As with the young Scots, I believe in their ability to do just that, without a cynical, moribund Labour Party leadership professing to enable the process, but in reality always standing in their way. Because it’s our great conceit that we’re currently ‘standing alongside’ people in England; in my opinion, we’re just getting in their road.

I looked at the smirking face of Tony Blair and thought: there is no fucking chance I can ever vote for this guy. I’ve felt massively liberated ever since.

I believe that our joint aim should be to make these islands the home of a batch of healthy, vibrant democracies, instead of a chess piece in the saddo G7/militaristic ‘sphere of influence’ games of the power brokers: those war-mongering (never war-fighting) cowards and their pathetic groupies in the privately owned media. Let this happen in Britain, in Europe, across the world. That’s internationalism, not preserving an elitist, reactionary, pomp-and-ceremony failed UK state, which has over the last thirty-five years systematically crushed every single gain that non-privileged people in this country have fought for.

Sept 18th is a very small but important step in that process. A ‘yes’ vote won’t deliver the kind of society people aspire to any more than a ‘no’ vote will derail the aspiration towards it, but it will be a setback to a reactionary UK state, that has promoted little but elitism, hierarchy and the transnational superrich, at the expense of democracy.

I’m still –even now- often asked; don’t I feel sad at abandoning the party of my parents and grandparents? I went through that dilemma years ago, when I looked at the smirking face of Tony Blair and thought: there is no fucking chance I can ever vote for this guy. I’ve felt massively liberated ever since. On the contrary, I feel very angry about the current Labour Party’s continual betrayals of everything those generations fought to achieve. Brian Wilson still attacks the SNP, but now from the right, and I can’t believe Jack McConnell signed up for all this to argue against food banks from the House of Lords. Neil Kinnock is now a Brussels commissioner who probably doesn’t even know there’s a referendum in Scotland, but in the Yes movement I feel the same kind of inspiration I did when I was seventeen, after hearing his moving and invigorating speech in that broadcast. I know that plenty others who joined the Labour Party had one of those big moments in their youth too, and that’s why I’m writing this piece.  Although I detest what it has become, with its detached political class leadership, and spineless, focus group opportunism, the voters and the rank and file members of Labour remain the salt of the earth. Underneath all the cynicism, defeatism and no-can-do-ism they’ve swallowed down the years, I believe they still want the same thing: a fair and democratic society. They’ve just been fighting rearguard actions for so long, to defend jobs and services, many have simply forgotten how to go on the offensive. For the first time in years the UK establishment are taking a kicking by the people, and it is on the issue of Scottish independence. Labour should be gleefully putting the boot in, not shielding our blows on their behalf. So we need real Labour people to be inspired again, as they were when they first joined the party, in order to help build new democracies in those islands. And if they try to tell us that they are getting that inspiration from either the UK state or the Labour leadership or the No campaign, we just know that they are faking it. Maybe some have merely grown old and tired. That happens to us all, but becoming a defacto Conservative and standing alongside the establishment, that still remains an optional part of the ageing process.

But after mouthing off about the Labour Party, it’s only fair that I make a personal declaration as to where my own politics lie today. Like most people, I’ve moved away from my tartan Tory perception of the SNP and accept it as a benign, bourgeois party of the centre-left. Yes, it’s nakedly opportunist, but that factor certainly doesn’t distinguish it in modern politics, and its fairly narrow goal of Scottish independence makes it harder for it to sell out. Nonetheless, its not my party, I’ve never voted for them and would find it hard to do so, for the same reasons I can no longer vote Labour and will obviously never vote Conservative – it’s not in my internationalist DNA. Having long given up on parties, I’m stuck with having my political aspirations for these islands placed squarely in the hands of a new, broadly-based, grass roots campaign led by a different generation, and I wouldn’t want it any other way. I’m now a dedicated ‘phase three’ yes man: let’s get it sorted out. But I want as many of my old buddies, and as many real Labour people on that journey as possible, and for bigger reasons than to deliver a yes vote for social progress on the 18th. That, as I’ve said, is only part of the process. I want them onside, because the core values that they believe in; fairness, justice and democracy, are the only values that a new Scotland -and a new England- can be constructed on.

 



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122 replies

  1. Coming from South Yorkshire, I can totally identify with Irvine’s essay. I think the reason many from Labour are supporting ‘No’ is they are scared of being shamed by the brave Scots who have decided that enough is enough. I have friends in Dundee who are all voting Yes- these are not crazed Nationalists, in fact they are better socialists than Ed Miliband will ever be.

  2. Excellent – thanks for that. I really hope that younger people are going to show us old duffers how to be positive. Too many of the 50-somethings (my cohort) are too comfortable and too risk-averse to see this referendum as the first step on the road to something better.

    • Yup its the oldies who are going to stop the young from doing what they want which is to turn this country into a socially progressive and kinder one

      • I agree Alex. There are too many people over the age of 50 who suffer from M.E. Me,me,me. They don’t see the big picture and have no thought or care for the future generations. It realy depresses me

      • don’t class all oldies as being no’s,there are thousands of us who have have been fighting for independence since before some of you were born. I’m 74 and voting yes.

        • I agree Eddie. My name is also Eddie and I have been fighting for an independent Scotland all my life. Unfortunately, according to the polls, we are in a minority. It does really depress me that, if their is a NO vote, the result could be down to our generation. I don’t know how older people can do this to the young people who have the possiblity of a brighter future if the vote is YES

  3. That was excellent.

    Cheers Irv.

  4. This, this, a thousand times this. Thanks Irvine.

    “What I think it is about, is this generation having something of their own, a project that inspires them. The rest of us should be cheering them on, not sneering, grumbling, or ‘standing alongside’ establishment reactionaries against them, fuelled by a petty strop because we so manifestly failed to deliver on our own dreams. For the new generation, social progress is about more than trying to vote in a right-wing Labour Party every five years.”

  5. Wow – amazing. Thanks. For me Labour finally lost it when they agreed with the Tories to replace Trident. Every time they crow about inequality or social justice, it just doesn’t square with paying £100bn for weapons which can kill around 1 billion people. I have made this point regularly on BT articles and have now been banned. Not sure how many other English people have been banned by BT so perhaps I should feel proud.

    • Don’t worry friend, it’s the same for all who happen to disagree with them unlike ‘YES’ sites where you only get banned/blocked if you go beyond the pale.

  6. Great, really inspirational. A worthy addition to the pro-independence canon. Still waiting to read anything even vaguely inspiring from the No camp.

  7. Great article Irvine. Your path is shared by many of us who feel betrayed by what the Labour Party have become.

    I’ve got a couple of general questions maybe some posters would like to give their views on:

    1) Thinking about Bevan and the Welfare state, do you think the Welfare State would have been introduced if WW2 had not happened ?

    2) For all the disaffected Labour voters out there, on the return of a Yes vote, is Scottish Labour beyond saving ? Should we just start a brand new party ?

  8. Exactly Irvine Welsh, what was that song the Left used to sign? The Internationale Unites The Human Race…

    Inter (Between) Nationale (Nations). As you say, the clue is in the word…

    And Scotland is a nation and Britain never was…Britain was a deal done in an Edinburgh smoke filled room, a grand bargain struck between two emergent bourgeoisie who, oh, what do you know,, suddenly found they had so much in common….

    The people of Iraq, India, Egypt, Palestine, Argentina, Pakistan, Lebanon, Iran and countless other countries will raise a glass in our honour when we vote YES.

    There is nothing more international right now than a massive Labour vote for YES….

  9. Brilliant peice, made the hairs on the back of my kneck stand up… well done Irvine Its their time hope they grasp it with both hands… (auld Muirhouse punter)

  10. I feel strongly that, with all due respect to Labour for Indy, the very word Labour should be abolished from the dictionary post referendum.
    I can’t even hear the word labour without my gut clenching in anger. Even went in the ‘cream puff’ with my partner when she announced that a friend had gone into labour. Even typing the word elicits a ‘red mark’. Even Google doesn’t like it.
    How about the Radical Party of Scotland?

  11. Beautifully written. Next Thursday really is only the beginning. Have shared this with everyone I possibly can.

  12. I can’t see how internationalism would preclude a vote for the SNP. A little humility would not go amiss. I mean, who delivered the referendum in the first place? Apart from that, an excellent article indeed. Thanks Irvine.

  13. Superb Irvine Welsh. Just about the best thing i have read on the whole debate. This is not about a campaign of Kilt wearing Lunatics playing the bagpipes. It’s about a broad spectrum of society who have had enough of the status quo and dare to believe things can get better. A true Internationalist will vote Yes and inspire others about how to build a fairer and more compassionate society.

    • I agree entirely. All thinking left of centre people are voting YES because they know it is the only way forward for Scotland. I do not understand the Scottish Labour supporter who is voting NO. They seem to have become entrenched in this idea that a vote for YES is a vote for SNP. They cannot see passed the end of their noses. If only we could change them and get rid of the bigots, we would be home alone.

    • Dom what is wrong with wearing a Kilt or playing the Bagpipes ot both?

  14. Brilliant, absolutely brilliant.

    Thank you.

  15. For Scottish Labour voters,the ONLY way to keep English Tory governments out of Scotland is to vote Yes.
    As long as Westminster holds onto most of our cash,they will always control what we can and cannot do.
    Excellent article….thanks.

  16. If only Irvine could get a prime time TV spot a YES vote would be a certainty. These so called Labour NO voters really depress me. What are they hoping for, that maybe once every 20 years we will get a right wing Labour Government which will change nothing. Why can’t they see that Scotland would be a fairer, left of centre country than the UK will ever be. It will also be nuclear free with all the money being spent on the health and welfare of the population.

  17. A beautifully crafted piece that I enjoyed reading. Thanks Mr Welsh

  18. Was it not Kinnock and his manoeuvrings which destroyed Tony Benn’s chances of winning the deputy leader position from Healey? Lost by 1%. Maybe Labour died then.

  19. a bit wordy and pedantic but it gets there in the end. Better editing would have allowed as much to be said in half the words. Anyway having chewed through the gristle I agree with him. Its just a shame he has had to wrestle so hard to accept that his views have changed

  20. for a guy who writes such mediocre books, this is one hell of an essay

  21. A well-written essay, but I am afraid it is simply making a good case for a bad cause. Separatism is not forward-looking – it is an attempt to go back to an imaginary, rose-tinted past. The socialist policies of old Labour just did not work – they made Britain the sick man of Europe. Nostalgia for them is a dead-end street. And that is what separatism is all about – attempting to bring back failed policies, and kidding ourselves it will lead to a fairer society. More than ever we need to reject the negativity of separatism, and make sure that the second most prosperous region of UK does not become a poverty-stricken back water.

    • You can say ‘separatism’ as often as you want: it doesn’t make a case! Noun substitution is always a good test. ‘Voting is not forward-looking – it is an attempt to go back to an imaginary, rose-tinted past… voting is all about attempting to bring back failed policies, and kidding ourselves it will lead to a fairer society. More than ever we need to reject the negativity of voting, and make sure that the second most prosperous region of UK does not become a poverty-stricken back water’. Or UK? ‘The UK is not forward-looking – it is an attempt to go back to an imaginary, rose-tinted past… the UK is all about attempting to bring back failed policies, and kidding ourselves it will lead to a fairer society. More than ever we need to reject the negativity of the UK, and make sure that the second most prosperous region of UK does not become a poverty-stricken back water.’

      The act of separation has *nothing* to do with ‘the socialist policies of old Labour’. It has to do – only! – with the ability to enact policy, and the responsibility for living with the result. It is not dogma or doctrine. It imposes nothing on the future, much less recalls the past. The only thing that leads to a fairer society is people committing to building one – it will never be easy, it will never be perfect, there will never be a ‘right’ way, and it will *never be over*. The only way to harness that commitment is people setting policy: that is all that makes democracy worthwhile. If you’re not a democrat, fair enough. Own it.

      But do not attempt to pretend that the problem with voting is that people don’t vote right. That is *your* problem alone.

      • Well said. My sentiments exactly.

      • “But do not attempt to pretend that the problem with voting is that people don’t vote right. That is *your* problem alone.”
        I am not sure how the comment about not voting right relates to what I said – although it is possible to point to elections where I am sure we would all agree the result was worse than unfortunate. I don’t want to fall foul of Godwin’s law, but one of my all-time heroes, Dietrich Bonhoeffer had no doubt in 1933 that a particular election gave the ‘wrong’ result, and said so – and 12 years later was executed. I do think some elections do give “wrong” results. I have however not used that comparison here, although I am alarmed at the disinformation and black propaganda being used by the Nationalists

        As for being backward or forward looking, the more I read Irvine Welch’s essay and the comments on this website, the more convinced I am that it points to a desire to go back to the Labour Party of 19xx. I have seen nothing which honestly grapples with the problems of the 21st century, or provides a basis for hope going forward.

        If Union had not gone through in 1707 and was just being proposed now, I would say “Ignore the politics of fear. Of course we Scots can thrive as part of a bigger country. It opens up far better opportunities for our children and grandchildren to thrive. Let’s go for it”.

        Voting Yes to leave the UK is the biggest betrayal imaginable for succeeding generations. Our generation would never be forgiven

    • Scotland is a nation, not a region, just as England is a nation, rather than a bunch of regions.

      • I honestly believe England doesn’t exist.
        And probably hasn’t existed since 1914. (With the brief exception of 1966 of course).

        England is an illusion of Merchant Ivory films, the real country was an amalgamation of trading opportunities, principalities and small kingdoms who were eventually subsumed into one nation via dynastic in-fighting. Wars of Roses etc…and augmented by immigrants from all over the world who came for the idea and created their own reality. The Huguenot weavers etc…

        I don’t think England lost its identity, but more likely, it never had one. My England is the North. A very different England to the “tea at four” illusion of nationhood given us by successive rulers & film makers.

        If YES equates to a total rethink of identity & nationhood for us all it will have done us proud. If NO then I hope that the debate creates political positivity for us all to change what is stagnant and deadening about Westminster UK politics.

  22. Thanks Irvine, I could relate to every word.

  23. Thank you for expressing the thoughts that have been churning around in my mind for the last couple of decades. My background and route to Yes parallels yours, and, in my 60s now, I’m faintly embarrassed that it took me so long to see through “New Labour”.

    I was raised with an almost tribal belief in the party and their MPs and trade union officials. Now I believe the only opportunity Scotland and the other UK countries have of social justice and a more equal society is getting a majority Yes vote. And , having been out canvassing and leafleting most days for the past month, I think we’re actually moving towards doing it. Something is going on out on the streets -when 25 people, most of whom have never met each other, and many of whom aren’t in any political party, spend a couple of hours chapping doors and talking to people who are interested in the opportunity we have to improve our society , I think we can all have some hope again.

    • I am the same age as yourself and would hate to think that out generation will ruin the future generations of Scotland by voting NO. I differ slightly to the extent that I have always voted SNP, as I saw it as a means to an end to be able to live in a fairer more left of centre society. What really frightens me is that, according to the polls, it is our age group who are mostly voting NO. They are so entrenched in Labour is the answer to everything or they are backwards thinking bigots. King Billy etc

    • Unfortunately, I cannot see England moving to a more equal society if Scotland votes Yes. All I can see is a massive shift to the right, which as an Englishman scares the bejesus out of me. From a purely personal point of view I hope you don’t vote Yes as my heritage is impossible to untangle from both sides of the border, but I certainly can understand if you do. I and many others will be watching very closely if Scotland does become independent, as I will be strongly considering emigrating if a new fairer society emerges.

  24. Totally identify with your essay Mr Welsh.

  25. An amazing piece, it gave me goosebumps.

    Thank you, very much indeed.

  26. I can add nothing new to the comments above. I just wanted to say thank you!

  27. I am not a labour voter, I never have been, but this is an exceptional piece towards a voice for independence and a voice for the people again well put Irvine

  28. Of all the excellent essays on the independence debate, this surely is the best!
    thank you Irvine!

  29. Inspirational Irvine. Thanks for this

  30. Irvine, well said, you speak for my generation and background, if I was more literate I would have said the same thing. Thank you for speaking my thoughts.

  31. I like how it imagines a sparking of change in England too. Very positive vibes coming from so many folk.

    • Doubt if a ‘yes’ vote will have many positive results for the North of England.

      The voice of dissent in Westminster [coming mainly from the northern parts of the UK] is weak enough already. Without Scotland it will be even easier to ignore it.

      • Maybe we could move the border south & join Scotland? It’s not such a mad idea if you track the Border’s movement over the last millennium. As a northerner if have always found I have more in common with my Scottish friends than those of the southern counties.

  32. Brilliant simply brilliant

  33. That was an amazing Essay

  34. I voted NO in 1979 because I believed that the ordinary people / working class should stand together and that ‘nationalism’ was a distraction.

    I have regretted my vote more and more as each year has gone by.

  35. really good, thanks.but why is Tony Blair chatting with Sandi Toksvig in the photo?

  36. That was spot on, brilliant, love it! Inspirational 🙂

  37. Wonderful. I’m of the same generation as Irvine and have never understood the ‘Vote Labour’ no matter what mentality. Never did even though I was brought up in Lanarkshire! In a strangely unionist environment. Labour did a good job in embedding the ‘you cannae’ do that mindset. This is what we are fighting against still.It was always evident to me that party came first, Scotland second. I believe that, in my lifetime, Labour have damaged Scotland as much as the Tories. Roll on Independence and a variety of parties including a true Labour party in the Keir Hardie tradition.

  38. Thanks Irvine and Bella for reaching out to those with Labour loyalties who still need convincing that the only way to restore the values they believe in is through Independence. So many of them will have been very uncomfortable joining the Coalition in Better Together and exasperated that their own politicians are so unconvincing in arguing anything beyond fear and loathing of the SNP. They stuck with their party loyalties as best they could but as it’s become clearer and clearer that Yes has become a mass movement far beyond the SNP’s wildest dreams, it’s also become clearer that the Labour Party leadership has not thought through the consequences of siding with the Tories. It’s not just that folk see that as betrayal but also the constant negativity, fear-mongering, obstructiveness and downright arrogant scorn for the capabilities of the Scottish people to run our own affairs. Perhaps the worst of that was the other night when Lord George Robertson described us as a “minor entity in North Britain”.
    But actually the worst betrayal was this very evening when (no doubt soon to be Lord) Gordon Brown did the Tories dirty work cooking up a fast food feast of half-baked new power proposals, of which the Labour Party’s is the most insipid and tarting it all up with a timetable that he has absolutely no control over and wants us to trust the Tories to deliver. Never mind the utterly undemocratic nature of the announcements by all the Unionist parties since YESterday, showing complete contempt for the 1 in 6 voters who have already posted theirs in based on what was on offer on their deadline. Purdah my arse. And the Electoral Commission’s washing their hands today of any responsibility for overseeing the process is shocking and alarming. Now we are told to complain by sending an email to the “Propriety & Ethics team” at Cameron’s Cabinet Office!
    You really couldn’t make it all up but more and more people who have long voted and supported Scottish Labour are making up their minds to join the mass movement that will transform this country for the truly better with a Yes vote and revive the values of true Labour.

  39. Superb Reply from Tam Dean Burn – EXCELLENT article from Irvine Welsh, articulating clearly and cogently the fallacy of Internationalism when Self-Organizing Collectives are the true, intuitively comprehended wave of NOW – the only way to resist and overcome the War / GMO / Geo-Engineering-HAARP / Big Pharma / Bankster CORPORATE takeover of the entire planet via bought and paid-for poltical parties and media.

    Scotland is ideally placed to rally and focus the conscience and common sense of the world onto all peoples’ shared, achingly needed and fervently envisaged future of Peace, Equality of Opportunity, Decent Food and Agriculture and Cooperation as opposed to the bogus false flag fascism in which we are currently drowning.

    I had my first “NO” campaigner at my door last weekend – he abruptly shrank away in bewildered fear when I calmly asked: “Aren’t all political parties for-profit corporations? Isn’t it a fact that the Labour party was at one time trading as “Alastair Darling MP” ? ” He knocked on no other doors in the close. I sensed he had met a solid steamroller of “YES!” ‘s throughout his afternoon’s endeavors… He was exactly the sort of individual who needs to read Irvine’s article.

    Thank you, Irvine Welsh, and all here! Onward !

  40. Diamonds for sure – if a little dusty at times.
    But nothing a splash of Scottish water won’t wash away,
    leaving them sparkling!

  41. Doesn’t he live in Miami these days? Love the work but a couple of jaunts to the homeland every year doesn’t make Irvine Welsh a particularly plausible commentator of any description.

    • Does location mean he hasn’t a voice? As one of the few writers to give voice to a rarely examined Scotland, I’d rather listen to his views than the child wizard billionaire. They are of a similar age, both have lived in Edinburgh, both have been members of the Labour party. One gained fame and great wealth through fantasy, the other on interpreting reality.

      Sometimes you really need to stand outside a problem to properly observe it. Mr Welsh in his essay has done that in a clinical, emotionless manner. He’s described his own path from one side of the spectrum to the other, for that he must be applauded. Ms Rowing, on the other hand has stayed true to a Labour party that thinks naught of cosying up to the most avaricious billionaires, of eradicating its own supporters rights of selling baubles for cash, of implementing immoral off the book accounting in the shape of PFI, of bailing out bankers who in a sensible world would have been jailed, of vowing to continue the austerity cuts on an even deeper scale than the Tories and who have gleefully joined hands with their global superpower bestest pal to bomb the fuck out of a people who were no threat to us.

      So yes, Irvine Welsh is a plausible commentator and long may he continue to cast his wary eye over the newly restored Independent Scotland.

      • Absolutely spot-on Ewen. Don’t recall David S questioning or crticising the signatories of the latest begging letter, or of those who embarrassed themselves in that nonsense first video.

  42. “The UK has always been an imperialist construct.” Agreed. It’s why the Irish bailed out. As a Irishman (w/a Scottish grandmother) living in Scotland for some years, admittedly during Thatcher’s time, I got sick of the blaming-the-English culture. I discovered the absence of chips on my shoulder and felt “Thank heavens our mistakes are all our own”.

    For a people who were patronised and told we’d be better off together we haven’t done too badly, recent bank crash aside (the economy is recovering fast now). Per capita income is higher than the UK’s and the standard of living is higher by almost every measure (infant mortality, life expectancy, literacy etc.). Inequality is lower and we have fewer social problems. We have no need of nuclear weapons. We have no unelected upper chamber of government. No monarchy. No established church. No new leasehold property. Steadily the trappings of a feudal empire are being removed. We still have a lot of Ireland owned by wealthy non-resident English people–but not as much as used to be the case and not as much as Scotland today.

    Today the UK exports more to Ireland than it does to Brazil, Russia, India, China, Israel, Turkey and South Africa COMBINED. (The rUK likely exports even more to Scotland). This is why the UK government loaned £6bn to Ireland a while ago when it had to bail out the banks. A default would have been CATASTROPHIC for UK banks and likely collapsed a couple of them–taking a few hundred thousands jobs with them. The money went straight back from Ireland to those banks and the Irish are paying commercial interest rates on the loan. Any suggestion that Scotland would have to “Fend for itself” in the event of similar circumstances can be taken with a bucket of salt. If the UK couldn’t tolerate an Irish default it’s less likely to tolerate a Scottish default.

    Ireland has recovered sufficiently (despite Mr Darling saying it’s bust) that it can now borrow at lower interest rates than the UK. Scotland will do at least as well if not better than Ireland when it’s in control of its own destiny.

    The NO campaign has lied about an independent Scotland having no currency. This is hogwash, a bullying bluff. Ireland used the pound for 60 years (pegged the punt to sterling). Scotland can do the same whether the English like it or not and for as long as it likes.

    Scotland has a strong hand. it’s in a vastly superior position to Ireland at the same point in its struggle for independence. Like most Irish people I look forward to seeing Scotland take its place among the nations, in the EU and on the world stage. Many of us feel that the problems of N.I. will be more tractable when the old order is unfrozen. I think the Scots are going to achieve that one way or the other, but I hope it’s by achieving independence. If it happens please visit Ireland soon. You will not be allowed to buy drinks for a good while. Not because we have any shared anti-Sassenach sentiments but because we will delight in your self-determination and in the changes for the better this will surely trigger in the rUK. We’ll all be better neighbours as result.

    • I’m sure that there were all sorts of reasons why first Scotland and then Ireland became part of a United Kingdom but whatever the reasons there had to be a consensus or it would not have been possible. There must have been argument but a majority thought advantages outweighed disadvantages at the time.

      Similarly after the Easter rising in 1916 the perceived view is the Irish people were overwhelming for a break with the Union which was not the case since if a system of proportional representation had been in place then Ireland would not have succeeded in gaining independence as they did at that time. The Nationalist vote was only 47 percent yet the result for Ireland was catastrophic as it caused a civil war and partition of the country as a lot of Irish were pro- union and pro-treaty.

      I mention this because people become very passionate about nationalism and usually such referendums are always contentious. Even today in the island of Ireland there are many who prefer to stick with the Union. Demographic changes mean that a united Ireland, of which I would be in favour of, would not be possible. The population of the North is steady if not increasing slowly- there is now 1, 8 m- whilst that of the ROI varies and now stands at 4,6m. A united Ireland could not ignore the traditions of the Unionists. It also has to be said that 14m people in Britain are of Irish descent and a significant number in England are of Scottish (and Welsh) descent so in terms of culture and ideology we are not that different. As I said before Father Ted is hilarious but I’m not sure that the French would find it quite so funny
      .
      This is born out in the way Ireland runs its affairs and some sections of government would be concerned about a smaller UK within the EU since it is recognised in Ireland at government level that their interest are similar to those of the British interests since a bigger country has more clout. I believe passionately the EU but would be more sceptical living in a small country and being dominated by much larger countries and economies
      .
      In a blog by Elaine Mulcahy she is trying to make a case that independence for Ireland has been a success which the Scots would be advised to follow. It may be true that average salaries are higher in Ireland but wage distribution is very unequal. This inequality has been fuelled by low direct taxes and higher indirect taxes such as VAT which stands at 23% squeezing those at the margins of society. The highest level of personnel tax in Ireland is 41% whereas in the UK it was until recently 50% and Corporation Tax stands at 12.5%, in the UK its 20%. These taxes have been successful in attracting inward investment but at the expense of lower wage earners. It has been reported that 10% of wage earners take as much as 38% of total incomes-in the UK it’s about 25%- and 250 people own 35% of the total wealth and, as I mentioned before, unemployment is still much higher than in the UK. With regard to Scottish independence Salmond wants to do the same and he is particularly keen to introduce a 12.5% Corporation Tax rate. As it stands the EU tolerate this but do not think it is fair. If there is a YES vote in Scotland this could further aggravate the situation in Europe and especially Northern Ireland and to some extent England and Wales. He says it will create 27, 000 jobs, which will be at the expense of jobs in Europe and especially Ireland as some corporations may prefer to re- locate to Scotland.

      Being a small independent nation does not mean the country will be fairer. I wouldn’t put myself down as a Tory but because we live in a democracy laws are generally fair and if not they are made fair by successive governments and being large means there are many pressure groups to ensure equality. It may be true there is a lot of spending in the south east of England but a lot of people live there, perhaps a 20m or a third of the entire UK population. Notwithstanding this fact money is fairly divided and Scotland is not disadvantaged by this. Scotland for example receives in the region of 10% more funding per capita for health care than the rest of us. Injustices, of course, exist but they do also in Ireland and they will continue to do so in an independent Scotland. Salmond wants independence from RUK to run Scotland’s own affairs but would be happy to be part of the EU and I guess eventually monetary union with much less power and influence which seem to be very weak reasons for breaking up a Union which works
      .
      ELMET

      • Elmet, what you write makes a lot of sense. The outcry about inequality in UK, with particular reference to Scotland, strikes me as very hollow. In 1997, we were asked whether the devolved Parliament would have tax-raising powers, and this was granted and it was enshrined in the Scotland Act (1998) that the Scottish Parliament could vary the rate of Income Tax by up to 3p in the pound. Neither the Labour administrations from 1998 to 2007, nor Alex Salmond’s administrations from 2007 to 2014 have ever attempted to use this lever, which they asked us to vote for. It could have raised several billion pounds by now, but they chose to do nothing and simply blame Westminster, or the Tories or whoever was the chosen whipping boy of the day.

        Not only so, but I never detected from those now screaming about inequality in UK or in Scotland any campaign asking the Scottish Government why they did not use the powers they already had. It may not have been a perfect solution, but it was not insignificant, and this all makes me very cynical about the idea that somehow a separate Scotland is going to be a beacon of prosperity, justice and fairness

      • Your first sentence reveals some unfamiliarity with historical fact

        “I’m sure that there were all sorts of reasons why first Scotland and then Ireland became part of a United Kingdom but whatever the reasons there had to be a consensus or it would not have been possible.”

        Really, you think there were referenda involved? And in the countries of the empire too? Please: go read some history. Ireland was colonized and its people were forced off their own land. Their language and religion were outlawed.

        In skimming over the rest I noticed a claim that Ireland is a more unequal society. This is untrue. Apply yourself to the evidence (e.g., http://www.publicpolicy.ie/income-inequality-ireland-2/) and you’ll find that inequality increased during the worst of the financial crisis but the long term trend is in the direction of greater equality (unlike the UK).

        Whether the union works is a matter of opinion. I don’t believe it works and I don’t think most Scots believe it works. The latter would be a very good reason for ending it.

        • Three hundred years ago nationalism wasn’t as it is now and populations in general would not have know what state they lived neither would they have cared. Being part of a state is a relatively new phenomena and the British state came into being in stages as did other states in Europe too. It wasn’t until 1871 for example with Bismark that there was a coherent German state.

          During the 18th century, before the railway age, the east coast of Ireland and particularly Dublin became very wealthy on the back of British trade with the ‘colonies’ (though I don’t like using this word as I know it upsets some Irish and Scottish people though they were colonisers themselves). Dublin became the second city of the Empire and similarly on the back of the Empire the cities of Edinburgh and Glasgow grew and became prosperous.

          Neither Scotland nor Ireland were forced into a United Kingdom and I know a lot of you out there will disagree with this but the fact is history is neatly written by the winners. What were the emotions and feelings of real people at the time which were probably just as they are now as we can all read through the passionate comments on this blog. After the Great Famine, which also occurred in other countries particularly in Germany and Scotland, a fact often ignored, there was a rise in nationalism and eventually the Irish Nationalists held the balance of power in the UK with Parnell as leader. This led to many reforms but the Nationalists were content to support Britain’s role in world affairs-they could have voted any legislation down- but as a result Irish and Scottish people took advantage of this and settled elsewhere in the world.
          It is true that nothing is forever so it could be that nationalism as we know it will disappear. Britain and England will change but by the same token so will Ireland, Scotland and Wales and relations therein. In my opinion, unlike other countries just yet, the British Isles are politically difficult to understand. For those of you who don’t like the term British Isles I’ll continue by using the term North Atlantic Archipelago. (NAA) Though I myself am Anglo Saxon, it is the Celtic part of the NAA that are British and as such were so named by the Romans. This is just one of many anomalies worth mentioning.

          There are many others. England is governed by the English, Scots, Welsh and Northern Irish as well as the EU. The flag is the flag of St George. We are though fairly but not completely independent since we have our own currency. The Welsh have their own governing body with limited powers, have their own flag and language and are governed partly by the rest of us and the EU. If there is a yes vote Scotland will still have the Queen as head of state and if Alex gets his way will maintain the currency union with RUK though it will have only a part of the Union Jack as its flag and will be a country where a few people will speak a different language. As a result this means that Scotland will not be that independent as RUK continues to control the money and the head of state will still be the Queen. Northern Ireland is part of the UK with its own flag and government but uses the pound sterling. The republic of Ireland is geographically part of the NAA and says it is an independent country with a few people speaking Irish in the west of Ireland. It is though a member of the EU and uses the Euro. As many as 30 institutions are still upheld by Royal Charter particularly concerning medicine in general such as The Royal Institute of Surgeons, science, art music and engineering etc as the Irish must feel it is better in these circumstances to part of a bigger organisation. Membership of the Euro renders the country dependant on the vagaries of its chosen currency which is controlled by the European Bank in Frankfurt and by definition the Germans so taking into account al of the above one has to pose the question how independent is Ireland with a population of 4.5 million in a union of 500million. The same will be true of Scotland if the country becomes a member of the EU.

          Furthermore, because England has a large population speaking the same language and has similar institutions it has been easy for Irish, Welsh and Scottish people to come here when times are difficult in their own part of the NAA. Because of the financial crisis Ireland in particular has seen an exodus of its people to find jobs here-a bit better now though I agree as it is in the rest of the UK. The unemployment rate is still stubbornly high though at 11 per cent which is a little less than half the UK’s. Either a state is independent and self sufficient or not yet it seems to me England is perceived to be a pretty good country when the going gets tough. A hundred years of independence has not changed much income differentials and income distribution in Ireland vis a vis the UK today and there is nothing to suppose this will happen in an independent Scotland.

          Then, of course we have many smaller NAA islands which are self governing but have the Queen as head of state and are part of the UK and it could be that Orkney and The Shetland Isles look more to Norway than Edinburgh or London and a lot of people in the Boarders feel less nationalistic than others. London is remote from Scotland and by the same token the west of Ireland has grievances with Dublin and some island communities in Scotland feel the same about Edinburgh. To further complicate the issue the NAA has at least 5 international football teams none of which are any good. ROI is one but shares the international rugby team with NI. Northern Irish sports men and women can elect which team they would like to represent and the NAA is represented in the Olympic Games by ROI and Team GB, NI choosing their best option. Everybody in Ireland watches some British television as they will continue to do in the event of YES vote in Scotland and we English will continue to use Ryanair and drink Scotch whisky. The Irish continue to come to England for abortions for legal reasons and medical treatment as their health service is not entirely free. The Scots will do the same since any system they set up, though they deny this, will probably incur some charging. By the same token we will still take holiday within the NAA and buy property there as well as sharing a joke with them and understanding well their humour and traditions. Mrs Browns Boys and Father Ted go down as well here as they do in Ireland as does Scottish humour.

          Well where does all that leaves me? Confused and it leaves foreigners even more confused as they just don’t understand and cannot distinguish the differences between the various parts of the NAA. My father in law who is French says ‘vous Brittaniques vous etes tous dans le meme sac’. In other words we’re all in the same bag so I just shrug my shoulders and agree. Any further breaking up of the British Isles will devalue the supposed independence they seek to achieve and in the long term I am of the opinion it will be counterproductive for all of us.

          Just for your information I would never vote Tory I am pretty patriotic about Yorkshire which I regard as a region in the EU and I live in the British Isles or NAA if you prefer.

          ELMET (the name given to the British Kingdom of West Yorkshire)

      • I don’t think many people were involved in making the decision to set up the original union!

  43. A truly stirring analysis. Moved me to tears. I am in South Yorkshire and I wish the people of Scotland will finally get the ball rolling for real change across these isles.

    I, friends and family would love to join you in celebration on the 19th.

  44. What a read! & if you want to see how much has changed since the 80’s, go & see Pride, an absolute belter of a film!

  45. I’m the same generation as you Irvine – and learned the reality of the British state on the same streets of West and South London where as anti-fascists we stood together with young black and asian people to oppose racism, stood on the picket line at Grunwick’s to defend the rights of its asian women workers to form a trade union, and stood on picket lines with Miners during the 84/85 – and was physically attacked regularly and brutally by the Police for doing so. I’ve always voted Labour – not because I’m stupid or misguided but because for all that parliamentary democracy ever meant – it was some kind of accountable control over the violent forces of the state – forces that were/are always employed to stand in the way of progress and to act on behalf of the rich and powerful. The Labour Party was able, because of its history and origins, to mediate some of the worse excesses on behalf of the powerless – which, by and large, they did and that was worth voting for. The same struggles go on today – but what has changed is the site of those anti-capitalist struggles. By its very nature contemporary capitalism is multi-national – and the policing is now done on their behalf by nation state armies – as it was with utmost brutality on behalf of the Oil companies in Iraq … on behalf of the very same oil companies the SNP are now going to build our future as one of the world’s rich and prosperous nations. The other building block of new Scotland will be the same multi-nationals that move capital around the world in search of ever greater profits (regardless of the human consequences) that are going to be lured into Scotland by reduced taxation. And this is the blood soaked soil from which our new Scotland will flower? The invasion of Iraq demonstrated that the Labour Party was no longer fit for purpose – unwilling to defend ordinary people from the excesses of capitalism – unless your “ordinary people” refers only to those who live in first world social democracies – and it is only in this narrow national context could the SNP be described as benign. But at least they aren’t hypocrites – they make no pretence of their ambition of sustaining the economic welfare of those living in the privileged first world economy that is Scotland – and they won’t care how many pacts with the devil will be made to sustain that ambition. My reluctance to abandon Labour, despite its betrayals, is not some nostalgic addiction to “Kicking out the Tories” – but is the fact that, despite the odious Blair, Labour is still a mass popular party that has Internationalism engrained into its DNA – and the fact that the current Independence debate when placed in the context of campaigns such as “Making Poverty History” is terrifyingly (for those living in the third world) insular. I’m voting Yes – for change and accountability – but to then to abandon the Labour Party to it’s right wing would be to betray the poor here and in the third world in favour of our own comfortable existence in the first. Lets dump the British State and then set about reclaiming Labour.

  46. As many have said, this is the first piece that has really articulated how I feel about the referendum. I am a working class kid from the 70’s ‘made good’. Brought up on the values of socialism – work hard, play fair and for God’s sake don’t let anyone down. But in the last couple of decades embarrassed by Labour’s ‘sell out’. Now, I’m excited about the possibilities. Of seeing my daughters’ generation having a real chance to be amazing in a redefined democracy. It’s not too late for me either. Perhaps a new opportunity to contribute in an environment where ability and passion are favoured. Who knows? Thank you Irvine for saying the words I have struggled to put together!

  47. Absolutely brilliant demonstration. Welsh is still as sociologically accurate as ever!
    Nico (A french that strongly supports the Scots to become independent!!)

  48. Amen Brother! Fantastic piece. I posted this elsewhere but it’s equally pertinent here: Labour’s poultry offer of income tax powers is a watered down version of the Lib-Dems & even the Tory’s. What a disgrace they are. The Tory’s are quite content to draw the line at keeping control of our oil-gas reserves with this offer of more powers ( which ultimately is what all this hullabaloo is about for Westminster)- but Labour need more than that, they cannot be content with control of the largest reserves of fossil fuels in the EU; they also need a more direct control of the populous by limiting the devolution of power, even compared to the Metropolitan Tory toffs. This for me sums up the moral squalor of New Labour perfectly. The true maleficence of New Labour is that we never explicitly know what the Tory-Lite of Blue Labour are offering us- at least with the true blue Tory’s we know what we’re getting. I would rather someone came at me with a knife head on than smiled at me then knifed me in the back.

    • I agree entirely. We must vote YES and rid ourselves of this immoral, lying Westminster machine. Be they Labour or Tory they are all pathalogical liars who will do anything to remain in control. Darling and company to not care about Scotland or its people. All they care about are their jobs and later in life a nice little seat in the House of Lords.

  49. Perfectly sums up the journey so many of us have taken.

  50. Thank you, Irvine Welsh. We must be the same generation, and I agree with your view of the past and the future.

  51. From someone who is a Scot but living in Barcelona I was very priviledged to be able to read your piece. I believe too, the Indpendence move isnt about English-hating (an easy argument) but agree with you that Scots often blame others for their own faults-failures and have been doing so for far too long. They might also be feared of the scaremongering about banks not wanting to lend, nor being able to have a currency. I have a cheese shop and need cheese to sell, banks are shops and need money to lend hence if you cant borrow from one, go to another or maybe just print it! A new Scottish currency (not Monopoly!). The negative aspects of not being able to do this, or that, is quite enticing. Ban something, and everyone wants it. Scots shouldnt look back in anger but walk slowly and cannily forward dodging all the obstacles that will be thrown in their way. Scotland should say Yes not meekly, but loudly and shake off all those dreary garments and complexes of being too poor, too small, too afraid. I am excited about the vote on 18th September and sad I cant vote. I will be joining my host country in a few days time while we try peacefully to request the right to have the right to vote for Independence. The Catalans are looking eagerly to Scotland to show the world an exemplary way of moving on, creating and without shedding a drop of blood. The Labour Party have a chance in a lifetime of wiping their slate clean by joining the Yes campaign. They should think about it quickly as time is running out. Its never to late.
    Katherine

  52. This is a great sentiment but I fear it is Irvine Welsh stuck in 1985. Scotland will be financed by oil companies and Rupert Murdoch is showing a lot of interest in the media. We will attract the worst kind of investment which will punish the most vulnerable. We are building a fairer scotland, better NHS and schooling system, through devolution and will continue to do so. Rip off the plaster too soon and we will bleed. The vultures are circling.

    • “Rupert Murdoch is showing a lot of interest in the media.”

      Murdoch is a meddlesome 83 year old billionaire, who with a combination of Scottish ancestry and Aussie ‘screw you’ belligerence has set his career in the UK on getting it up the Westminster establishment, to such an extent that both sides of the coin spend years on their knees slebbering for his endorsement.

      His corporation already owns two of the best selling tabloids in the country and Sky broadcasting employ 6,500 in Scotland. What more do you think he’s after? The remnants of the BBC or is he perhaps considering doing a Howard Hughes – Nicaragua deal and buying himself a country?

      Rupert Murdoch, 83, how long do you think he’s got left to wield his Mr Burns type of malevolence on poor unsuspecting, innocent Scotland, a people knowing for lying on their backs and inviting belly rubs?

      Scotland’s woes aren’t being healed by a sticky plaster, we’re fucking haemorrhaging. The only option is radical surgery to remove the dead hand grip of Westminster from our balls.

      • “Scotland’s woes aren’t being healed by a sticky plaster, we’re fucking haemorrhaging”

        Just a few numbers are very revealing. These are from 2012, but no reason to believe they are much different now:
        GDP per head per annum in UK is £20,873; in Scotland, excluding Oil and Gas it is £20,571
        Average earnings per week in UK is £506; in Scotland it is £498 – a whole £8 minus tax less
        Public spending per head per annum in UK is£11,000; in Scotland it is £12,300 – I suggest that that £1,300 difference more than makes up for the £8 per week difference in pay

        Closer analysis shows that Scots are better off than Welsh or Northern Irish, or English in any part of England except the South East (the overcrowded part of the country where cost of living is much higher)

        Salmond tells us that Scotland is 14th richest country in the world – obviously based on current numbers. That would put us considerably above rUK. Of course, there is no guaranteeing that Scotland would be able to sustain that level of prosperity if we separated from UK, which in turn would stand to gain from much of the Financial Services moving south. However, that is where we are just now.

        I also had a look at the table of countries by ‘corruption’. On this score UK came 14th “least corrupt” out of a table of 175 countries. Yes, the Nordics and other English speaking countries like New Zealand, Australia, Canada fared better, but most of Europe was rated a ‘more corrupt’ than UK

        The venom and hatred against Westminster I have seen on this site has quite frankly been shocking, and singularly lacking in substance. Is Scotland “haemorrhaging”? Not yet, but if “Yes” wins next Thursday, it looks like the haemorrhage will start

      • @ Iain Gibb

        I’m touched Iain that you would look at GDP, Subsidy and Corruption as your identifiers of Scotland being a prosperous part of the Union. Can you also furnish us with unemployment figures, particularly for young people, zero hours contracts, food banks, mortality rates among middle aged men in parts of Glasgow, Lanarkshire, Fife and Ayrshire. Oh while you’re reading up on this anything on the 400% rise in the use of foodbanks in the past 12 months including those which saw a spike during the school summer holidays, where parents were unable to afford to feed their children what they would normally eat at school lunches.

        It would also be grand if you could include the public spending figures for London, I believe they’re a tad larger than Scotland, and yes I understand London has a larger population than Scotland, but it does fit into Scotland geographically at least fifty times, so public spending across such a large area may explain the figures a bit.

        As to UK being low on the corruption scale, my friends in Spain, Germany, Franc and Italy all suggest that it’s nothing to do with British business and government officials being more honest, it’s just they’re better at it than their counterparts. After all look at how honest all those Westminster politicians were during their expenses scandal. Duck house anyone?

        The reality is that I don’t hate Westminster I just believe it to be a model well past it sell by date, where the aristocracy and landed classes are that one step closer to treating us serfs.

        • Ewen
          Thanks for your reply. It is always difficult to know from a black and white typed post to know exactly what is meant – tone of voice, body language are both missing. It is possible to read your first sentence as sarcastic, and also possible to read it as genuine. I have been caught too often reading a post in the wrong way, that it makes me very wary sometimes how I respond. Please forgive me if I misinterpret you.

          Regarding unemployment, the latest figures I could see were on a BBC web-site for April: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-business-27048018 You will notice the sentence: “The Scottish unemployment rate is 6.5%, which is below the average of 6.9% for the whole of the UK.”

          Regarding Youth unemployment, I found thus on the Scottish Government webpage for Jine 2013: http://www.scotland.gov.uk/News/Releases/2013/06/LMS12062013 Again I point you to some sentences: “Scotland is outperforming the UK on all three labour market indicators of employment, unemployment and inactivity rates for both the headline statistics for the population as a whole and the statistics for young people” and further down: “The Scottish youth unemployment rate of 15.2 per cent is lower than the UK rate of 19.5 per cent”.

          Interestingly, when I was growing up in Scotland in the 1960s and 70s, unemployment was always higher in Scotland than in rest of UK. It was only after Mrs Thatcher came to power that unemployment levels in Scotland fell below that of rUK.

          I have no indication that there is a substantial difference between Scotland and rest of UK as regards zero hours contracts, or that that would change in Scotland if Scotland separated from UK.

          Food banks are a much fairer and more localised way of dealing with people in need than Civil Servants sitting in Central Offices with their calculators making blanket decisions for the entire community, while never meeting those affected. Simply doling out more and more money engenders dependency culture, and exacerbates poverty. The Social Security budget in UK is already about £3,000 for every man, woman and child. What do you propose? Charge everybody £4,000? Would that fix it or make it worse? No – I consider the clamour about food banks to be wicked and dishonest criticism of an initiative that may really help, mot least by involving the local community.

          Regarding mortality rates in parts of Scotland – the Health Service has been devolved to Holyrood since 1998. We have already seen that Scotland as a whole is at least as wealthy as rest of UK, more is spent per head on health in Scotland than in rUK, so the problem must lie in Scotland not Westminster. The inequality is within Scotland, and that has been up to Holyrood to address, but I have not seen either Labour (1998-2007) or Salmond (2007-2014) attempt to do anything about it, nor anyone else who is complaining loudly about Westminster.

          As for London, I see it as the powerhouse which generates more than its share of wealth for the UK. I would hate to live there – when there on business I considered it the loneliest place on earth. But, diminish London and all UK suffers. Why do we hate success?

          Regarding levels of corruption, I never said UK, or Scotland or anywhere was squeaky clean. In the interests of transparency this was the table I used: http://www.transparency.org/cpi2013/results I am well accustomed to people producing ‘research’ to ‘prove’ their point, and we have to be wary of bias. I do not know much about the organisation who produced this table – as far as I know it was done in good faith, and I used it in good faith. The excuse that some people are better at hiding corruption strikes me as pretty weak. What did strike me as interesting was how corrupt all the self-proclaimed socialist countries seem to be with Venezuela rated 160 out of 175. I see absolutely no reason to believe that a separate Scotland would be one whit less corrupt than UK – I am not aware that Scottish MPs were significantly different from English in the parliamentary expenses scandal, and when I see unhealthy friendships like Rupert Murdoch and Alex Salmond, I think there is cause to worry.

          Finally, just back to the numbers question, take home pay is a good indicator of prosperity. I did see another report looking at disposable income, and it reckoned Scotland had on average one of the highest disposable levels of income anywhere in the world – Norway has a far higher disposable income numerically, but have you ever tried to buy anything there??

          It is not just numbers – but numbers are measures which point to underlying reality, and it does seem to me that anyone saying that Scotland is ill-done by, is either wilfully ignorant or deliberately mendacious.

  53. Really insightful article, agree with lots of with you say, Irvine.

    You’ve clearly touched on the political vacuum that exists at the moment. ‘Blairised’ Labour are on another planet altogether from the working class, and you also correctly categorise the SNP as an opportunist, bourgeois party.

    I don’t think we can give up on the idea of a political party just yet. The need for a ‘Party for Us’ – the working class and sections of the oppressed middle class, trade unionists, socialists, young people and other disenfranchised sections of society – is going to be a big issue, particularly if there is a ‘Yes’ vote. The RMT union (of the late Bob Crow) officially back the building of such an organisation. Imagine, just imagine, the electrifying effect it might have post-referendum if steps were taken in this direction. It might even re-energise some of your old Labour comrades!

  54. An excellent essay and very moving. Niave to think though that ‘phase ones’ are the strongest part of the movement, niave to think that ths bright young things are representative of the youth throughout the country (which ever one). Niave to think that the bright young things will keep such a ethical political view when they have families, mortgages, carreers, pensions and stress of the real world alongside the realisation that thier taxes are paying for the life style of others at both end of the ecomonic spectrum, one of which is a legitimate target while the other would be political suicide (my guess about 20%). Maybe all the bright young political youth will follow Irvine’s, and thousands of others, by taking thier skills and money eleswhere once the party is over and the politicians are found to of pulled the wool over their eyes again!

    • Why are you even bothering to comment on this page? If you have absolutely nothing constructive to say then why say anything at all? The problem with the UK is it is overcrowded with naysaying folk like yourself bringing us all down with your whining self-defeatism. By your logic we might as well not try anything at all as everything in the end just turns to shite anyway. God there’s a real dark nihilism at the heart of British civic life- the worst culprits are the left wing “internationalist” intellectual elites who slyly insinuate that “democracy is dangerous”. It’s no mystery why the left in this country are such abject failures & are an ideological punch bag for the right wing establishment. It’s this kind of scoffing patronizing pessimism that poisons all hope & ambition for real progress- the problem with such notions is they’re self-fulfilling: once you believe change is not possible then it will never happen. We have a polarization between hope versus fear, change versus status quo, faith versus cynicism- there are always choices- & to paraphrase Yeats: the worst lack all conviction.
      As Yeats said: In dreams begins responsibility. We dare to dream. We dare to take responsibility for our own choices & decisions. Faith is like a muscle, an organ, that needs to be used & exercised, or it will atrophy. This atrophication of hope & faith into the laziness of crippled pessimism is the defining characteristic of the 20th Century, it runs through the majority of the Wests cultural production; just maybe the 21st C will be radically different. It’s easy to dismiss all hopeful endeavours as “naive” & “utopian” as so many of the sneering milksop commentators are want to do- but all cynics delude themselves into believing they’re “realists”, hence “superior” to the idealists & “dreamers”. But what is happening here in Scotland is a real return to democratic essentials that cynics misrepresent as utopian- they cannot recognise what they’ve never known. Pessimism is a lethal virus, it spreads like an infection & kills everything in its tracks. Hope is the antidote, the contagion we need to cure ourselves of this nihilistic existential malady. Faith is the raw energy, the primal matter, from which we build a new scoiety: its what we build with it, how we do it & why that matters- but without that foundational raw matter of hope, belief & faith nothing is possible. As Graham Greene said: Innocence is a kind of insanity. The Yes Movement is a kind of innocent insanity in believing everything is possible- it’s the best corrective we have on these islands to the nothing is possible pessimism of mainstream UK politics embodied by Westminster. Keats also said “An intellectual hatred is the worst”- one only needs to take a cursory glance at the morose Guardian comments section to view a virulently articulate unfolding of trenchant anti-Scots sentiment- the worst of it is that many English & their Anglo-unionist compatriots aren’t even aware of their unprocessed venom.

  55. @Elmet 10.32 September 10th.

    “Neither Scotland nor Ireland were forced into a United Kingdom and I know a lot of you out there will disagree with this but the fact is history is neatly written by the winners.”

    Fuck me feller, you’re wrong on so many points, the tired cliché of ‘history being written by winners’ is why historians exist, to reexamine and split truth from jingoism, propaganda and such woeful ignorance.

    If you knew the first thing about Scottish history, you might make reference to the fact that there had been three attempts at Union of Parliaments in 1606, 1667, and 1689 and the utter turmoil brought upon the Scottish Parliament by its English counterpart and pressure which led to the Act of Settlement 1701, Act of Security 1704, and the final nail in the coffin of Scottish Independence The Alien Act of 1705, which determined that Scottish nationals in England were to be treated as aliens, and estates held by Scots would be treated as alien property and subject to seizure.

    It also introduced an embargo on Scottish products being imported into England and English colonies. The Act held a codicil that it would be suspended “if the Scots entered into negotiations regarding a proposed union of the parliaments of Scotland and England.”

    So despite English troops, being massed on the Border at Carlisle Castle and riots in the streets of Edinburgh, Glasgow and Dumfries (where the acts of Union were torn up to great acclaim in front of 10,000 and the Provost under threat of execution ordered to ride to Edinburgh to protest) you naively claim that nobody was forced into Union. The uncertainty continued throughout 1707 and 1708 to such an extent that Queen Anne withheld Royal Assent on the 1708 Scottish Militia bill for fear that her loyal Northern Britons would ally with France in her recently restored war with France.

    The fact is that the history of 307 years ago is completely irrelevant to what the YES campaign stands for in todays contemporary Scotland. My advice to you before indulging in such ill thought out claptrap to shore up your leaky defence of Union is to actually educate yourself on the subject.

  56. One of the very best essays on the whole thing. It brings to the fore a point so obvious that it keeps being ignored, namely: AFTER Yes and Independence, then the entire form and function of the political agencies in Scotland will change. Currently, the Parties (like Labour, SNP) have to work within the current U.K. and Devo-Min contexts and so much of their form has been shaped by the situations in which they find themselves. After independence, Scotland will have years to develop their own home-grown political systems, and I hope that they will go slow at the beginning. There are so many interesting models out there which Scotland might want to try, and the multi-party parliamentiary system being just one of them (and by no means necessarily the best). More power and funds to local communities; a greatly reduced top-level government whose job is mainly to set the rules and a much greater local and county level governments and so on. Single Party (‘Unity’) governments without parliamentiary kerfuffle all the time and rather regular plebiscites/referenda on big issues. If they fail, that is like Vote of Confidence failure from the people and new elections are called. Public owenership of all major assets like forestry, fish, oil, water. Settlement subsidies for new farmers (land grants etc.); subsidies for those having children; parent-run childcare, local schools, free job training including funds to study abroad when local institutions don’t have the program in question etc. etc. So many things can be considered and gradually worked through by a sovereign people.

    That is what the vote is about and although Salmon sort of says it, it is not clear enough: Do we want to be an independent, sovereign people? If we are Scottish, truly Scottish, in heart and brain, OF COURSE WE DO!

  57. A wonderful thought provoking piece of writing

  58. As an Englishman, I dread the prospect of Scotland leaving the Union…My country will end being ruled by the Daily Express and we will have Spitfires flying over the White Cliffs of Dover.

  59. So the argument runs that because the grand experiment of installing a true Labour utopia has failed, leaving everyone bitter & twisted, then young Scots should embark a new project and vote for an Independent Scotland (which would be nice for the youngsters to keep them busy in the school holidays….)?

    Leaving aside debate on the actual merits of the data showing just how failed a nation state Scotland actually is (covered admirably by @Iain Gibb earlier) the critical distinction in Mr. Welsh’s argument seems to rest on what can best deliver on the hope and aspirations of young people in Scotland? Should it be left to the State (good old-School Socialism) or should it come from the individual (Thatcherite Conservatism)? And in either case can Independence deliver the conditions to allow this hope & aspiration to take root?

    So while the Socialist promise has (inevitably) collapsed under the weight of its own contradictions perhaps the greater failure has been the inability of Tories over the past 20 years to deliver on the core promise and premise of individual liberty and opportunity by dialling back the dead hand of the State. Reading this essay one can understand why Tory politicians might have given up hope when faced with intransigent tribalism but no one said politics was easy.

    A market solution to the problem (obviously heretical) could look something like Scotland signing an underwriting agreement with the rest the rUK (paying a suitable fee of, say, £5bn) that would allow the country to “have a go” at establishing an Independent state over the next, say, 10 years at the end of which time if it was judged a failure then they would be welcomed back into the Union no questions asked.

  60. Hi Irvine, my name’s averil. I took over my partner’s twitter account and kept his name due to laziness and the delightful novelty of having my words judged as a man’s would be. That’s not important. I’m writing to tell you i’m dundonian and was born in ’77. I grew up watching thatcher destroy all that was good around me. When I was 21 I moved to cambridge and was homeless, mentally ill and addicted to heroin for nine years. I’ve recently lost the methadone habit I was forced to acquire to be ‘rehabilitated’ and get a council house. I went back to college to do my gcse’s, have been published in a magazine called ‘flack’ (written, produced and sold by the homeless community) and been accepted at anglia Ruskin university to do a ba (hons) writing/english literature. I’ve been recently diagnosed with asperger’s syndrome (a high functioning autistic spectrum disorder) and am in receipt of esa (dole) for depression/anxiety, i’ve been diagnosed with since I was 12. My application for funding from student finance England for disabled student’s allowance has been turned down. I can’t even prove my identity as I know of no ‘persons of good standing within the community’ with a valid passport to vouch for me. Apparently my pals who have kept me alive for the past sixteen years society views as worthless, I knew that already of course but I digress. The student services finance department of anglia Ruskin don’t even know what route I should go down for funding. I have a council house rent to pay etc. It genuinely feels like i’m the only person to ever to go to university from the dole. A friend of mine, single mother had to drop out in the middle of her third year because the funding she was receiving got abolished. Now here’s why i’m telling you all this. Some students receive private scholarships from corporate entities, private individuals. All come with terms and conditions attached. They range from sexual favours to clean urine tests, consistent test scores. The latter was for recovered addicts, some American foundation I believe. So irivine, any chance of establishing the ‘Irvine welsh scholarship for writing’ with me as it’s first beneficiary? Email and samples of my work are available should you be interested, thanks.

  61. Irvine Welsh, can we please remember too that Devo Max is not on the ballot paper because David Cameron did not want it there, despite all the polls suggesting that it was what 65% of Scots wanted,

    And the reason he did not want that option on the ballot paper can be seen here in this video in which, a British Prime Minister – or maybe I should put those words in inverted commas – LAUGHS in parliament at the idea of devolved Scottish oil revenues in the parliament of the capital of the country which governs us, steals our wealth and then tells us that it LOVES us.

    And this man just came here yesterday to patronize us yet again with another bullshit emotional speech when he knows full well that this is not about emption this is about an elite stealing the wealth of ordinary Scots and about politics and fairness and social justice.

    The video speaks volumes and is short…

  62. In a post independent Scotland who will we be sending to the Scottish parliament? Careerist politicians of course who will still be centre right elected every 5 years or so. Your discussions on labour are slightly slanted, they brought about the national minimum wage as well as a devolved parliament. Although I do recognise the many flaws you have discussed with the new labour movement. A Labour Party to emerge out of Scotland would not be more socialist, raising taxes to provide better services does not carry sway with the modern electorate. We live in a post-thatcher world where the individual takes centre stage and society a back seat. The rise of individualism is what will replace nationalism and that is to be feared in many ways. The answers to many of the current economic woes lie in Thomas piketty’s excellent ‘capitalism in the 21st century’ where he calls for a global tax. The practicalities in which to employ these solutions seem very far off, particularly if you are breaking down tax arrangements into ever smaller areas.

    A fair and democratic society is what is wanted, but is an independent Scotland any more likely to achieve this in a world where neo-liberal economics are a dominating force? In a nation of five million when you are competing against many billions in the global market place it is tougher. Already corporation tax in an independent country is to be cut that is a massive step backwards. This continues the trend of Thatcherite policies. Many will argue that won’t be the case if we vote for a different party, however market forces will put pressure on a smaller, weaker administration than we already have. If we look at privatisation in the U.K. these policies that were initiated were never repealed. There just no longer is the left position in mainstream politics north or south of hadrian’s wall. I do believe Westminster politics needs shaken up, the House of Lords needs replaced for example, but to replace parliament with another parliament and a wee constitution does not change things for the person on the street I’m afraid, despite rankin’s upbeat rhetoric. Just because the changes I want aren’t within the framework of a Scottish nationalist perspective doesn’t mean you can’t be forward thinking and aspirational.

    The young if I am to take your generalisations are optimistic so by that definition does that make the old more pragmatic? The old are representative of the country as well, the current “young generation” voting will become the more conservative types in the future, if I am to believe this broadly sweeping statement.

  63. excellent essay Irvine. We in Ireland envy your chance to get a peaceful independence. No country has ever wanted to become dependent again once free. As Molly Bloom would say YES YES YES

    • But Scotland is NOT ‘dependent’. The average Scot has more say than the average English person, simply because Scotland is over-represented at Westminster – and if someone isn’t a raging socialist, what chance do they have at Holyrood? At least in UK we get a real change of Government. I will feel disenfranchised and robbed of my heritage if I can no longer be part of Great Britain (or UK if you prefer that nomenclature)

  64. Nice piece, and fair observations. All politics aside, I love that your evolution of music stops at house. Hip hop is crap.

  65. A great article which put my views more eloquently than I could myself. My heart says I hope it’s yes to give the corrupt bastards a good kicking. The real gut wrench is Brown said none of this when he was in power.

    Yes there will be financial hardship, organised by the southern power brokers in the short term. Take a longer view (if the electorate will tolerate it) and a Scandi style independence is possible.

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