Scottish independence

edited January 2021 in Speakeasy

I got a lot of angry replies on Twitter the other day, when I retweeted a story I wrote about Scottish independence last summer.

My argument was (and still is) that independence could be economically costly, at least in the short term.

A few tweeters argued I had overstated the risks of dissolution and underestimated the opportunities, and I had good discussions with them.

But the vast majority of replies hounded me for describing Scotland as a “region” and not a “country”, which I know it is.

The only reason I use “country” as well as “region” to describe Scotland is that its constitutional status — a country within a country — can be confusing to readers who aren’t familiar with the UK. That’s all. I meant no offense.

But it's revealing that so many Scots were triggered by it.

I’m not offended when somebody refers to the Netherlands as “Holland”, but people in Friesland or Limburg might be. Those regions have their own histories, their own identities, in Friesland’s case their own language, and they have long felt neglected by the center.

Similarly, it seems to me the Scottish independence movement is animated less by excitement about a building their own state and more by an inferiority complex vis-à-vis the English, who have imposed a decade of Conservative Party rule and Brexit on the UK. Hence the insistence that Scotland is an (equal) country.

The irony is that I'm actually sympathetic to Scottish independence in light of Brexit. But that doesn't matter to diehard nationalists. Use one wrong word or point out that breaking up the UK will not be quick and easy, and you're "anti-Scottish" or - surely worse - a "Tory".

I hate this sort of black-and-white thinking. There's a serious debate to be had about whether Scotland would secede or not; so far, I've encountered few nationalists who are interested.

Did I just have bad luck? Or is this torrent of insult emblematic of the Scottish independence movement?


  • Hi Nick. I might be able to explain the response to your article over the use of the word 'region' rather than 'nation' or 'country'. There is a historical slant to this; in the 19th and early 20th centuries there were various but concerted efforts to supplant the identity of being 'Scottish' with one of being 'North British'. This would leave Scotland as a geographical region of the British Isles, not a political entity in itself. Indeed, Scotland was politically castrated until the re-establishment of the Scottish Parliament at the dawn of the 21st century.

    I also suspect that those reading your article may not have realised that you were Dutch. The media in the UK, both printed and TV, is overwhelmingly dominated by London-centric, public-schooled, Oxbridge educated people. The so-called 'regional TV', and in particular, the 'regional press' is similarly dominated by unionist voices. In fact, in a nation where over half of the population support independence, there is only a single daily newspaper that represents that view. I am afraid that you may have been mistaken as one of the many British unionist voices,

    And so, the use of 'region' rather than 'country' can be seen as an insult by many. The response could be described as the result of a siege mentality - from people constantly having to justify and defend the authenticity of their own identity.

    Also - Scottish political Twitter is a bear-pit. Approach with caution, and only while wearing an asbestos suit, a gas mask, and carrying a fire extinguisher. 😁


  • Thanks, @jcvstephenson! I think you may be right, and at least some readers assumed I was a British unionist and then that whole history and "siege mentality", as you put it, factored into their reaction.

    In general, I've become wary of political debate on Twitter. The platform just doesn't lend itself to nuance. Many users are more interested in posting snippy one-liners and "scoring points" than they are in engaging with arguments. When you show a willingness to be persuaded or change your mind, the reaction is more often "so you admit you were wrong??!!" than appreciation.

  • Regional elections are tomorrow! In anticipation, I've summarized what I believe are the most persuasive arguments for and against independence.

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