Death of a Nation

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I drew pictures during the referendum campaign. Political cartoons lampooning the arguments, figures, and ideas of the time. It was fun, but cathartic. In hyperbole, I felt I could imbue my feelings on independence and the UK in a medium that fit the grotesquery and raw emotions.

I drew a picture on the 19th of September, 2014. I never shared it with anyone. Not my family, my friends, my brothers and sisters in the Yes campaign. It was grim, gory, dark and cruel. I couldn’t face the world. I felt like an entire nation was dead. Murdered.

I remember the count, in the early hours of the 19th of September, 2014. We Yes campaigners were excited, optimistic and cheerful, if our nerves were fairly wracked. The No campaigners, on the other hand, were sweating bullets: to go from a safe No to borderline – indeed, only 86 votes made the difference to the official count in the end – was a damning indictment of what was a Labour stronghold for the better part of a century. I remember the relieved cheers from the New Labour councillors and activists,their “No Thanks” rosettes proudly affixed to their lapels. As they pumped their fists into the air, I heard their chant:




I couldn’t understand why they were so jubilant: didn’t they realise they had lost too?

List of countries that have gained independence from the United Kingdom

United States: 3rd September, 1783
 Canada: 1st July, 1867
 Australia: 1st January, 1901
 New Zealand: 26th September, 1907
 Afghanistan: 19th August, 1919
 Ireland: 18th April, 1921
 Egypt: 28th February, 1922
 Iraq: 3th October, 1932
 Jordan: 25th May, 1946
 India: 15th August, 1947
 Pakistan: 14th August, 1947
 Israel: 14th May, 1948
 Myanmar: 4th January, 1948
 Sri Lanka: 4th February, 1948
 Sudan: 1st January, 1956
 Ghana: 6th March, 1957
 Malaysia: 31st August, 1957
 Cyprus: 1st October, 1960
 Nigeria: 1st October, 1960
 Kuwait: 25th February, 1961
 Sierra Leone: 27th April, 1961
 South Africa: 11th December, 1961
 Tanzania: 9th December, 1961
 Jamaica: 6th August, 1962
 Trinidad and Tobago: 31st August, 1962
Uganda: 9th October, 1962
Kenya: 12th December, 1963
 Malawi: 6th July, 1964
 Malta: 21st September, 1964
 Zambia: 24th October, 1964
 The Gambia: 18th February, 1965
 Maldives: 26th July, 1965
Barbados: 30th November, 1966
 Botswana: 30th September, 1966
 Guyana: 26th May, 1966
Lesotho: 4th October, 1966
 Yemen: 30th November, 1967
 Mauritius: 12th March, 1968
 Nauru: 31st January, 1968
 Swaziland: 6th September, 1968
 Fiji: 10th October, 1970
 Tonga: 4th June, 1970
 Bahrain: 15th August, 1971
 Qatar: 3rd September, 1971
 United Arab Emirates: 2nd December, 1971
The Bahamas: 10th July, 1973
 Grenada: 7th February, 1974
 Seychelles: 29th June, 1976
 Dominica: 3rd November, 1978
 Solomon Islands: 7th July, 1978
 Tuvalu: 1st October, 1978
 Kiribati: 12th July, 1979
Saint Lucia: 22nd February, 1979
 Saint Vincent and the Grenadines: 27th October, 1979
Vanuatu: 30st July, 1980
 Zimbabwe: 18th April, 1980
 Antigua and Barbuda: 1st November, 1981
 Belize: 21st September, 1981
 Saint Kitts and Nevis: 19th September, 1983
 Brunei: 1st January, 1984

Look at this page. Look at all these nations, proudly asserting their nationhood, bravely leaping into the unknown to take command of their own destiny.

Then at the bottom of the list, after the British territories who decided to remain British territories., and just before a territory that was handed over to another country.

Countries forming part of the United Kingdom that have voted not to be an independent country

Scotland: 18th September, 2014

It doesn’t matter that the No campaign lost a 20-point lead despite having the support of the mainstream media, the three largest UK parties, big business, and scores of celebrities. It doesn’t matter that the head of the No campaign was calling 60/40 a “close” result. It wouldn’t even matter if Scotland votes for independence in a second referendum: according to the history books, Scotland was the only nation to ever vote against its own independence.

Don’t give me any nonsense about British colonies like the Falklands or Bermuda, or French states like Quebec. Scotland was an independent nation for almost a thousand years before the Act of Union. The Falklands and Bermuda were not nations, let alone independent.

Sure, independence has been rejected before, and some colonies have chosen the UK over another. When Bermuda had an independence referendum, 73.6% voted No. When Gibraltar was asked if it wanted to share sovereignty with Spain, 98% voted No. When Northern Ireland had a referendum on whether it should be part of the UK or a United Ireland, 98.9 voted for the UK. When the Falkland Islands had an independence referendum, 99.8% voted to remain under British Sovereignty. The highest pro-independence percentage of any Puerto Rican referendum is a mere 5.49% – not surprising given the brutal suppression of independence movements by the Spanish.

Even if Scotland does vote for independence in the future, that first No vote will haunt our nation’s history. Nothing can undo that.* Do you truly think our grandchildren will look back in 100 years and view that decision to surrender their sovereignty with anything but contempt? Do the people of India lament that the Indian Liberal Party had it right all along? Are the citizens of the United States pining for the days of the Loyalists? Would the independent republics of South America crawl back to France, Spain or Portugal now?

You can call yourselves Proud Scots all you like. You can shout your acclaim of Scotland all you like. When it came to the crunch, you voted against Scotland taking command of its own destiny, in favour of allowing the United Kingdom to do so instead. I don’t particularly care how “proud” you think you are in giving away the sovereignty of your nation out of fear, or uncertainty, or even love of the Union. Your actions are what matter. And your actions speak for themselves, regardless of the “pride” you profess to feel for Scotland and its people.


I remember the count in the early hours of the 8th of May, 2015. I remember seeing New Labour councillors, activists and counting agents filing into the Waterfront. The atmosphere was not dissimilar to the referendum – at first. Then the mood started to change. The samples came in. We all went around, watching the count, some of us taking tallies. Every single polling station had the SNP either in a close contest, or outright winning. Gourock? SNP. Wemyss Bay? SNP. Greenock East End? SNP.

It’s been a year. The official result was 45/55. A year later, we have 56 MPs out of 59, 110,000+ members, over 50% of the vote, and look to sweep Holyrood’s constituency in 2016. Independence is now being called inevitable by people who oppose it. And yet, little could shake my frustration with those New Labour voters who cheered and roared their acclaim of the union last September, yet stood crestfallen – devastated, even – at the results in May. I couldn’t understand why they were so despondent: didn’t they realise they had won too?

Yes, the SNP did shake the foundations of history in delivering the greatest proportion of Scottish MPs from any party… but we were still in the UK. The Unionist parties were wiped out but for one MP apiece in Scotland… but we were still in the UK. The Conservatives triumphed on a pitiful percentage of the vote for an overall majority… but we were still in the UK. And guess what? The SNP could win every single constituency and a good chunk of the regional seats next year, and go on to dominate the council elections in 2017… but unless something dramatic happens, it would all be as part of the UK.

In a way, John McTernan was right. As long as Scotland remains part of the UK, New Labour are still the winners. I feel zero sympathy for the MPs who lost their seats, the activists who chapped doors as much as we did, the voters who still believed in New Labour and the Liberal Democrats: we are still in the UK. You are still victorious. Everything the SNP want to do is hampered by the weight of New Labour and Conservative MPs of England – that’s your Better Together right there. Even when you demand the SNP mitigate the harm of the Bedroom Tax. Even when you plead for the SNP to do something you fought to prevent them from being able to do. Even when all they propose is what you used to propose, back when you had some semblance of morals.

Scotland died on the 19th of September, 2014. But in the hours, days, weeks, months, and now year following, Scotland was reborn. Nations die and are reborn according to the will and actions of the people.

As I pondered last year: the rest of Scotland’s history has only just begun.

*Well, nothing, apart from proving that the referendum was indeed rigged. You can see the emotional appeal in such a notion, where even the subversion of the democratic process is preferable to believing 2 million people really would prefer to give up their sovereignty to a government that treats them with contempt and negligence.

12 thoughts on “Death of a Nation

  1. Marconatrix says:

    Looking at your list of countries and dates, it would be interesting to flag up which of them were allowed to go freely and which had to fight for their independence. For instance I hadn’t realised that Canada became independent as far back as 1867, which must have close to the high-point of Empire. If they had a War of Independence then I never heard about it. Surely the revenue loss to London must have been immense when Canada, almost half a continent, ceased to send its taxes ‘home’!

    Canada was of course a fairly well developed land by then, mostly inhabited by ‘civilised’ people (meaning that most of them were white and spoke English) and so no real threat to the ‘Mother Country’.

    But isn’t Scotland, in everything but size and distance, in much the same position? How could an independent Scotland constitute a threat to England? Does Nicola plan to march on Derby? I think not. So why is Scottish independence, nay, even DevoMax, something akin to the status of the Isle of Mann, something that has to be fought tooth and nail, another case where Britannia waives the rules?

    What really is their problem?

    • alharron says:

      You know, I was actually working on a post a while back looking at all the countries that declared independence from the UK, how they’re doing now, and whether there’s any desire to return.

      Malta is a particularly interesting case with the benefit of hindsight. In 1956, they had a “UK integration” referendum, where they would retain their existing parliament, and also start electing members to the UK parliament – sort of a reversal of other UK territories which became *less* integrated. Yet because this would mean Maltese MPs could affect UK legislation, UK MPs were worried it would mean other colonies would want to have their MPs, and possibly start to influence the outcomes of general elections. Unfortunately, due to boycott and low turnout the Maltese equivalent of the 40% rule meant it never came to anything. Malta felt betrayed, and in the constitutional referendum less than a decade later, they went for full independence.

      As ever, you have to look to what Britain got out of Malta. It used to be a vital strategic point in the Mediterranean for the UK, but following WW2 that started to decline, docks and shipyards were neglected, and the Maltese people felt short-changed. Evidently the UK government didn’t see any advantage in holding onto Malta anymore.

      And, as far as I can tell, Malta seems happy enough independent.

  2. Oneironaut says:

    This explains exactly why I can never, ever forgive the No voters…
    We had hope, and a chance at a future and they stole it from us.
    Every person who dies as a result of Westminster-inflicted poverty is more shared blood on their hands. They voted for it to happen after all.

    It’s probably why I get more of a feeling of solidarity with the refugees who come here than with my own people now.
    Last year, they voted for my country to no longer exist. To become a region of a country foreign to me. “North Britain”.
    I refuse to consider myself “British”, as I feel it’s a nationality permanently associated with thieves, murderers and worse.
    So I consider myself as a refugee in a foreign land, grateful only for the fact that my own displacement from my home nation was through insults and sneers rather than bullets and bombs.

    One year on… Can’t say I felt like celebrating it, would have felt like celebrating a funeral.

    • Tom Platt says:

      We are Scottish. Some of us were born English and some born of other nationalities. . We will remain British even after Scotland becomes Independent again. To say truthfully, “We are British” is a geographical statement but much more than pedantry is at stake. Britishness is not the problem It is UKishness that is the real problem. It is the way in which Westminster tries to run the politics of our Scottish nation that is the problem. They are interfering in matters that do not need to concern them.

      • alharron says:

        Sadly, I feel the battle for Britishness is a bit like the Unionists’ fight to “reclaim” the saltire – I use apostrophes because nobody actually took it from them – it has been co-opted and twisted so much that it’s become difficult to separate Britishness from UKishness.

        As long as the UK adopts Britishness as a synonym for the UK Establishment – that weird kind of Britishness that equates Britain with a small corner of the southern part of the island – then Britishness will unfortunately suffer by association.

        Come to think of it, that’s a good angle to fight a campaign on – a pro-British indy movement that emphasises the common bonds between the nations are not dictated by transient political arrangements. Some worry that Britishness would be “destroyed” in the event of independence, but surely being British predates the UK – even the constituent nations themselves?

    • alharron says:

      I don’t blame you for feeling that way. I do indeed feel like that a bit, but try to spin the positive slant as marking the birthday of the New Scotland. Bittersweet indeed.

  3. Tom Platt says:

    This article is much more than a work of art. It is work which is very close to the way my heart feels and obviously comes from the heart. Edinburgh on Friday ( I couldn’t be there but I heard and saw good reports), and Glasgow on Saturday, provided further stepping stones to Yes2. We will do it if we ensure that May 2016 ensures that political parties based outside Scotland are much reduced in Holyrood. Why are Westminster based parties even involving themselves in Scottish matters?

  4. Sadly, the world equates ‘British-ness’ with the imperial construct and the bloody shadow it casts over the face of the world. For that reason I renounced my British identity. I will not be renewing my UK passport next year when the current one expires. I have no desire to travel in the world under the flag of the occupier and make myself a target for all those the pigf***ers and their neocon masters have antagonised the world over. Only when I can claim a passport issued by the state of Scotland will I again travel overseas.

  5. Jonathan says:

    I’m not British, but I have to say that I don’t think Scottish voters rejected independence. It was never on the ballot. The SNP did not intend to make Scotland an independent nation. They wanted, and still do, to take Scotland out of the UK and into the EU, turning it from a province of one, into a, much less influential, province of the other.

    EU member states, with the possible exception of Germany, cannot be said to have full sovereignty, and what they do still possess is likely to be eroded further in the near future.

    All these countries and territories that were formally under British dominion became fully independent countries, with control of their borders, their legislation, their currency, their immigration policy, and their culture.

    An SNP-ruled Scotland would have none of those things.

    The YES voters voted to, one day in the future, erect a statue of Alex Salmon as the first leader of a modern Scotland. Nothing more. Nigel Farage offers Scotland more liberty and control over their affairs than the SNP.

    • alharron says:

      If the 2014 referendum was to be a vote for the SNP’s White Paper, then that would have been the question: “Should the Scottish government implement the proposals contained in Scotland’s Future?” Then it would be similar to the case in Malta, where the question was explicitly on whether the government’s program (independence in all but name) should be implemented. The question was this, and only this:

      Should Scotland be an independent country?

      Nothing about the SNP’s plans for NATO, or the EU, or the Commonwealth, or a currency union. Just on whether Scotland should be independent, or not. Just on whether Scotland should be independent. Because when Scotland is independent, the people can decide for themselves what they should do about the EU, NATO, etc.

      All those questions are irrelevant while Scotland is part of the UK – because Scotland will have no choice but to go with whatever their much larger nation does. That’s what this was about – for Scots to take control of their own affairs, and not submit themselves to the whim of a much larger population who do not share their political direction.

      • Jonathan says:


        But the Scots, headed by the SNP, which they would have been for years after independence, would have joined the EU, though perhaps not NATO, their borders would be porous and open to mass immigration from the least civilized places on the planet, and their national culture and identity eroded much like that of other Western European nations.

        As for this White Paper, it only supports my point–a referendum on independence requires no White Paper. It is a matter of freedom. Do we want to be free–Yes or No?

        Instead people talked about the Bank of England, whether Scotland will keep the Sterling, or what percentage of oil revenues you will get to keep. When people are not Free and crave Freedom, such questions are of no importance.

        I am not mocking you or your efforts, sir. You seem a noble and patriotic Scot, and as a citizen of one of the countries on the list you included in your post, I am sympathetic to what you attempted to achieve.

        But I loathe the SNP and their politics. They would not have made Scots free nor independent. And as they were the alternative to White Hall, I view it as no real alternative at all.

  6. […] of Scotland if they really wanted to remain in the UK. 300 years. For a moment, it all seemed to be for nothing. Scotland was the only nation on this planet to give its sovereignty away by means of a referendum. […]

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