Determinants of Independence

1. Culture

Historically the Scots have suffered more than most from a heavy dose of British Anglophone cultural imperialism, also known as cultural colonialism. Cultural imperialism involves an unequal relationship which favours the more powerful, in this case Anglophone,‘civilisation’ and its culture. In any colonialism project the main divide between the ruling hierarchy and the native is inevitably cultural and linguistic, language forming the basis of culture. Where power lies is the pertinent feature here and power over Scotland clearly does not lie in Scotland, far less with Scots language speakers, the latter now a minority in Scotland due to the national Scots language neither being taught nor given any statutory authority.

Many Scots today appear to exhibit Schiller’s “packaged consciousness” whereby the British msm creates, processes, refines and presides over the circulation of images and information which determines beliefs, attitudes, and ultimately the behaviour of Scots pertaining to their very identity itself. Scots have been fed a concentrated British Anglophone cultural ‘package’ for such a long time it is little surprise that some Scots today hold to a British and hence Anglophone ‘national’ identity and buy into the notion of British exceptionalism, and with that comes an implied Scottish ‘inferiority’. 

The native bourgeoisie under cultural imperialism and colonial domination tend to ‘mimic the colonizer’, according to Albert Memmi, in an effort to progress socio-economically and to maintain their status and privileges, in the process casting aside and denigrating their own supposedly ‘inferior’ culture and language. Colonial schools (private fee paying) and elite universities further the segregation process along, with the top jobs often reserved to such groups, according to the Elitist Scotland report. Advertising most of Scotland’s top administrative and commercial posts primarily in the imperial metropolitan capital’s press represents another feature of colonial reality, hence Scotland’s mostly Anglophone meritocratic elite today. 

A consequence of this ‘cultural conditioning’, suggested Scots language expert Dr. David Purves, is a deeply entrenched feeling of Scottish inferiority which we know as the Scottish Cultural Cringe and a ‘schizoid national psyche’ resulting in a people lacking in confidence to run their own affairs.

Depriving a people of learning their own language, Scots in this case, is a common feature of colonial oppression, which facilitates another ‘power’ ruling over them and also serves to divide a dominated people. Frantz Fanon claimed that the desire for independence and nationhood can only derive from our ‘national consciousness’ which is dependent on the national culture and language that necessarily gives a people their national identity. Indeed, the struggle ‘to re-establish the sovereignty of any nation constitutes the most complete and obvious cultural manifestation that exists’

The aim of assimilation in colonialism is therefore progressed by denigrating a ‘peoples’ culture and depriving them of their language in an effort to replace their national culture and identity and diminish their desire for nationhood or independence. Any quest for independence is ultimately a fight for a national culture which means the struggle is therefore primarily dependent on culture and national identity rather than political ideology, ‘for liberation is a cultural phenomenon’.

Gramsci’s theory of ‘cultural hegemony’ reflects here the ruling class order maintaining cultural control and usage of that control as the primary tool by which they – the ruling class -keep itself in power. In Scotland this cultural control is maintained by what Scottish folk singer Dick Gaughan called ‘an illusion of culture’, and the idea or rather fantasy that there is one ‘British’ culture which is shared by one ‘British’ society within one ‘British’ nation; the foundation of this illusion is language, the English language. This cultural illusion, which is an artificial political construct, extends to music and the arts, though its basis is language, and specifically the English language, reflecting an Anglophone cultural hegemony controlling Scotland and its institutions and forming its ruling establishment. The British State has in effect built a ‘racial separation wall’ and a racial entity that can exclude others, such as Scots language speakers, under a mantra of the importance of the elevated Anglophone culture in which language plays a decisive role. Colonialism, after all, involves racism, prejudice and worse.

Those Scots of indigenous culture and identity for whom the Scots language remains predominant, naturally form the bulk of the pro-independence vote in Scotland, much as indigenous language speakers in many former colonies sought secession. The anti-independence ‘No’ vote, on the other hand, which is enhanced through an irregular and non-reciprocal residence-based franchise, is to a large extent Anglophone. The latter emphasizes and reflects those primarily holding to a British national identity and tends to be made up rather differently and will be substantially boosted by ongoing uncontrolled demographic change and may now perhaps comprise people mostly of non-Scottish indigenous culture and heritage, language, and identity. All ‘peoples’ in self-determination conflict are linguistically and hence culturally divided, reflecting the natural desire of an oppressed people to reject and fight against what the UN calls the ‘scourge’ of colonial domination and (cultural) imperialism.

The cultural capital of Anglophone elites therefore differs from that of indigenous Scots native speakers in Scotland, the latter now mostly comprising the working class, which in itself is no accident in a colonial dominated society reflecting structural inequalities. The Scots are a people who remain subject to an ‘alien’ culture and language that is imposed on them which is not their own and which makes them, and is intended to make them feel inadequate and inferior, hence the ‘Scottish Cultural Cringe’. This also provides impetus for the mainly bourgeoisie segment of the native population to opt for greater assimilation and in the process to cast aside their own culture and language. Outcomes here reflect the imposition on Scots of what Professor Michael Hechter termed an ‘ethnic division of labour within the UK internal colonialism model’. This process is referred to by Bourdieu as ‘enculturation’ and is an inevitable and intended outcome of cultural and linguistic imperialism.

The ultimate aim of cultural imperialism is therefore to remove and replace the natural national culture of a colonised people. According to Frantz Fanon, ‘cultural obliteration is made possible by the negation of national reality’, implying that once national sovereignty is forfeit, the national culture is surely going to follow suit. In terms of colonial and cultural domination, the Scots are therefore culturally and hence ethnically oppressed, giving rise to the psychological condition we refer to as the Scottish Cultural Cringe (the scientific term for which is internalized racism) and a negative feeling of inferiority amongst Scots which also results in a range of associated long-term adverse health impacts. This condition, which is closely connected with prevailing societal inequalities, lack of attainment and under-development of the Scottish people and nation, is imposed by and embellished through adominant Anglophone cultural hegemony. 

Scotland therefore needs to halt the ongoing ‘symbolic violence’ inflicted on its people by a British Anglophone cultural and meritocratic elite and allow Scottish culture and the Scots language, which collectively form the basis of Scottish identity and hence national consciousness, to develop naturally and respectfully and without undue external influence and domination. In this regard independence is necessary because, as Fanon reminds us,‘national sovereignty and independence is the only guarantee of national culture.

Scottish national culture therefore represents a key determinant of Scottish independence.

Alf writes about culture being important. Here is an example of how it won Estonian Independence.


This is the first paper from Professor Alf Baird setting out the key determinants of Scottish Independence. I am delighted to be publishing them all on the Yours for Scotland site with one article each week, published every Sunday. The idea is to broaden the case for Independence and to allow Independence supporters to be well equipped for marshaling our arguments for Independence and able to explain both the need and benefits of such a move. Please share these papers widely.


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  1. Ooof! How different it all seems seen through a Scottish prism. This bites through all the smoke and mirrors that Scotland has been blindsided by for centuries now. Got the book now, so I’ll be a conversational pain in the backside to all and sundry, fair warning.

    Liked by 9 people

  2. The shackle of internalised racism has indeed been hugely significant in keeping Scotland down. Mental colonisation ensures physical colonisation.

    The oft repeated meme of too small, to poor, is the absolute manifestation of that. How could we pay pensions, have our own stable currency, defend ourselves etc… is a mindset deeply entrenched. And all inculcated by our superiors.

    Too wee, too poor was I believe very much part of our not winning the referendum and we all know fellow Scots who through the centuries of carefully constructed colonial cultural and economic oppression have succumbed to the mental colonisation.

    Prof Baird’s series of commentaries on the determinants of independence will I believe shine a light in bite sized chunks that will enlighten thinking. Too many do not know they have been mentally colonised and of the geniuses used to achieve that.

    But for anyone who has doubts about how a coloniser can imbue inferiority one only need think of the skin whitening practices adopted in many of the ex British colonies in Asia. The Asian equivalent of the Scot with jorries in his mooth.

    I look forward to reading more from Mr Baird over the coming weeks.

    Liked by 10 people

  3. I would agree with most of what Alf has written, it reflects my own views though tbf I lacked the academic references to back them up. Where I would quibble though is in the term “meritocratic elite”. I don’t think the group of people referred to are meritocratic as much as assimilated in the “native” and imported in what Alistair Gray decried as the White Settlers in Arts and Cultural organisations.

    Much has been written about the No vote in 2014 being concentrated in the middle and upper classes with the working class being more likely to vote Yes. It was suggested this was due to those having nothing to lose hoping for a brighter future and those doing okay/well not wanting to be worse off. I suggest, however, that the issues raised here also pertain. The working class is more likely to embrace Scots culture whereas the elite are more likely to be anglocentric either by birth or assimilation.

    However on the day that the Times report the Yes vote is down to 48% excluding don’t knows, the issue is what do we do about it.

    The Stonewall National Party isn’t thinking at all about indy far less the determinants affecting voting patterns. I look forward to the rest of the series.

    Liked by 11 people

  4. Yes, meritocracy can obscure the ways in which institutional ethnic discrimination contributes to inequality among ethnic groups. In colonialism the meritocracy tends to be mediocre, which most of us would probably agree is where we are today in Scotland, i.e. run by a pretty mediocre meritocracy.

    Other ‘determinants of independence’ will cover aspects such as demographics, colonialism, and “what we do about it” in the context of the constitution and self-determination (voter franchise etc).

    Liked by 7 people

  5. Seems very similar to the process instigated by the Statutes of Iona in 1609 to effect the demise of the Gaelic culture and language.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Of course meritocracy can obscure the ways in which institutional ethnic discrimination contributes to inequality among ethnic groups.

    A clear example of this has to be the disparity in educational and academic attainment between the social classes aside of any discussions about what metrics are used to measure entitlement to the meritocratic class. Or the selection or insertion of people at an early age into elitist schools and universities.

    Fascinating how it all links and how what we see, hear or think is all too often an illusion, and an insidious misrepresentation of what is.

    Liked by 5 people

  7. A very insightful article.

    If anybody needed to know why there is such ‘controversy’ in Northern Ireland over the proposed introduction of the Irish Language Act this article explains it. The fight for national identity is first and foremost one of culture. It raises the questions of “are we good enough and are we smart enough to run our own affairs? Too wee, too poor and too stupid is the answer from the coloniser and the defeated mind of the colonised.

    It reminds me of a conversation with my barber in the run-up to the 2014 referendum. When I asked why he intended to vote ‘No’ he said “ah, we cannae manage oorsels”.

    The double irony of a successful self-employed person running his own business deploying his own vernacular to denigrate himself and his countrymen was lost on him.

    The colonised mind manifest.

    Liked by 10 people

  8. I’m half Scottish by birth but was actually born in England and lived there until I was nine when we moved ‘back’ to Fife. I can totally agree with everything written here, especially about the Scots language. By the time I was seven I was totally aware that Scotland was a different country and that I ‘belonged’ there. Certainly my dad made sure that I was told about Scotland and we visited family here but the most important thing that mad3 me see Scotland as a country separate from England was all the wonderful scots words I learned from my grandmother when she visited us.

    Liked by 7 people

  9. And yet we are told that ‘Scotland voted to be in the EU’ …. and even on Alf’s terms a more repressive relationship.

    Can he square that particular circle for us?


    1. Not sure what the EU comment is about.

      The EU is not, unlike Britain, trying to destroy other people’s language and culture. Ireland, small as it is plays a full part in EU.and by and large a very happy about their membership..Moreover, I don’t see the French or the Germans, unlike Britain sending gun boats to French fishermen or Spanish fishermen off the coast of Gibraltar. Or, as was the case forty years ago sending gun boats to Icelandic fishermen.

      For Ireland there have been many good things about being in the EU. The country over the last twenty five years has prospered from an economic backwater occasioned by its colonised past. And no, the EU is not forcing them to speak French or wear leiderhosen. The British of course forced the Irish to speak English, allowed millions to starve to death as they did in India, and did everything they could to destroy Irish culture.

      So whilst I appreciate there are differing views on the EU, which the British, or should I say the majority English do not like, the comment about the EU comes across very much as a trolling comment I am afraid.

      Liked by 8 people

      1. The aim of the EU is to create a Federation, which requires the suppression of national sovereignty (aka political freedo of member states)

        Thus the desire for Scottish Independence in order to give it irreversibly away in support of the EU federal dream, is incoherent.


  10. It’s about time Scotland acknowledged the post-colonial turn, as ‘our’ government pose as much of a threat to Scotland’s democracy as does English Torydum.

    As far as I understand things, British nationalism and gender woo woo are pretty much the same anti-foundational ideology, as both seek to re-imagine material reality by privileging the imaginary over the real. Both are also inescapably racist and anti-democratic. British nationalism is also the cause of Scotland’s cringe.

    Affirmation and reaction: Towards a critical biosemiotic sociology

    Liked by 3 people

  11. Although not Scottish, this is my home and always will be, I question the term Scot’s language as to my knowledge there are more than one. For example Gaelic and the Doric are languages with differing backgrounds.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Yes, indeed, Graham. We have three distinct languages in Scotland, with two of those, Scots and Gaelic, having many dialects because of their longevity and fast-rootedness in various parts of Scotland. A school of thought exists today that thinks that Pictish, much older than Gaelic, which arrived with the Irish Gaels, was largely understandable to those Gaels and vice versa, both having their roots in ancient Celtic dialects. Scots is a district language from English, albeit their roots are broadly similar. It has many dialects, the ‘broadest’ or densest being Doric, in the North-east of the country, and that dialect, too, has many words with Gaelic Pictish roots. Welsh and English (Angle rather than Saxon) are also long-lived in Scotland, but in the areas near the border lands. English became established as the main language among the ruling class after the so-called Union of the Crowns because they were aping their English ‘masters’ when they moved south. Children were punished in our schools for using Scots or Gaelic in the classroom, and each has a similar history of suppression.

      The Scottish working class to this day speaks Scots or Gaelic as a main language. The three languages would have equal status in an independent Scotland, but, crucially, it is to be hoped, children would be able to learn Scots and Gaelic as languages in the pantheon of languages, instead of being forced to learn English to the detriment of their own native languages in some areas of Scotland. Scottish history would also become the main history taught instead of British history, which is more or less English history. Don’t take that the wrong way, though, because I, for one, and there will be many other Scots, love English history and language. The Irish were mocked for re-introducing Erse into their schools (the great James Joyce, a Protestant, left Ireland because he objected to the ‘narrow culturalism’ the Irish Nationalists introduced, or so he claimed), but a recent survey done by the Dail discovered that most Irish young people spoke Erse (Irish Gaelic, slightly different in pronunciation from Scots Gaelic) and were glad and proud to speak it, albeit English is still used extensively, so it has, in the longer term, been a success story. Cornish and Manx (Celtic languages) are also making a comeback, as is Welsh. We are a diverse lot although you could be forgiven for thinking otherwise, so crushingly imperialist is English, in the islands.

      Liked by 4 people

  12. And as any student of the post-colonial should appreciate, if the law hope to serve the interests of justice, it needs to be compatible and coherent with cognitive linguistics and Natural law, a.k.a. universal practical reason. Which is why Scotland needs to do far more to protect itself from anti-foundational ideologies, not embrace them.

    Cognition and Consensus in the Natural Law Tradition and in
    Neuroscience: Jacques Maritain and the Universal Declaration of
    Human Rights

    Liked by 2 people

  13. So if Scots ever want to enjoy the benefits of open democracy, then we’ll need to do a lot more to resist the anti-foundational nature of contemporary constitutional practice in Britain, which is empowered by Westminster’s turn towards populist and majoritarian authoritarianism (see Brexit).

    On constituent power


  14. Culture is, indeed, the vanguard of any attempt to establish or re-establish national hegemony. An imposed culture will always weigh heavily on the reluctant recipients and, from the point of view of the imperialist, will always necessitate heavy-handed methods, while, for the oppressed, the recipient, it will always be excruciatingly painful and mentally disorientating for many generations until the oppressed have no memory of their own culture. Anyone who tries to tell you otherwise is a liar.

    Liked by 6 people

  15. Graham Hobson, the language is Scots. It has many dialects as others have informed you. Those dialects used to change every 5 x miles. But the Scottish Education system has progressively and indeed aggressively attempted to expunge its usage in the classroom and therefore indirectly in society.

    Children were ‘belted’ by the tawse for speaking ‘lallans’ (lowland /border) Scots in class by teachers brainwashed by anglocentric standards that dictated that R.P. was the ‘right’ or ‘richt wye tae spik’.
    Try listening to BBC Scotland broadcasts from the ’60s and even ’70s and you will hear ridiculous attempts by native speaking Scottish presenters trying to emulate their betters. Funny and easy to lampoon now, but it has had a terrible detrimental effect on the Scottish psyche. As Alf explains more in an academic sense, the awful ‘Cringe’.

    The psychological effect of creating core beliefs that are at odds to the individual can cause a cognitive dissonance.
    A form of fight or flight, or ‘freeze’ in the person. In practice: the child becomes withdrawn and unsure with the conflict between classroom and home. Most develop two languages: English of a sort in school and Scots at ‘hame’. Others will just feel conflicted in the greater world, hence the well known Scottish social reluctance to speak in public, unless at ease with other Scots speakers. A phenomenon that is less common with working class English people, who often are defiantly assertive in speaking their dialect when faced with R.P. This personal experience is reinforced by the political feelings of powerlessness that many Scots already feel politically as they grow to adulthood.

    There are other factors: internet; Australian and U.S. speech influences in movies/msm, which are inevitable to a degree. But the most all persuasive malign influence is of course the BBC in Scotland, which now is importing more and more N.I. and English presenters and reporters. More importantly, the almost hegemonic presence of Anglophone ‘experts’ in every subject, many now resident and over represented in our Universities and Arts based organisations, is present to a degree that excludes almost every other cultural and national voice. During the Pandemic, most critical business voices have also been predominantly Anglophone people hostile to the Scottish government’s handling of the Covid crisis. These influencers at a subliminal level affect Scots speakers detrimentally, causing that dissonance and feelings of inferiority.

    Academic experts in our language such as Billy Kay are shunted into broadcasting slots that are marginal. I listened recently to his latest programme and he is wonderful at finding the broader cultural and international connections of our language and culture with words that are directly taken from a diversity of historical trading with European nations, which hopefully, we may on day re-establish.

    One of the sad ironies of the current joke SNP ‘government’ is its total disinterest, indeed I believe a hostility to Scots language and culture (unlike Gaelic) whilst in Loyalist Ulster, ‘Ulster-Scots ‘has an equal standing with Irish Gaelic, with place names with their Scots derived names. If Scots children were taught Scots as well as standard English, and more crucially encouraged to use it, along with a complete history of our country, as well as our literature, music and art, the colonial mindset that Alf writes about so eruditely would begin to recede. Unfortunately, it is our indigenous culture that is currently receding not its colonial conditioning.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. “in Loyalist Ulster, ‘Ulster-Scots ‘has an equal standing with Irish Gaelic, with place names with their Scots derived names”.

      This is not actually true at present.It should be true very shortly.
      Ulster Scots and Irish Gaelic are part of a forthcoming Language Act which the reactionary DUP (Unionist/Loyalist, extremely anti-Irish culture) has opposed for the past 15 years. Irish Gaelic street and road signs are regularly defaced by Unionists/Loyalists.

      However if the Stormont Assembly does not pass the Language Act by September of this year, it will be passed by Westminster in October, so promised the NI Secretary of State.

      We’ll see what happens in the autumn

      Liked by 2 people

  16. It’s difficult to imagine quite how the Republic of Ireland could ever have came into existence without the bedrock of its cultural-memory and the relentless activism of the late 19th century Gaelic Leaguers. There’s nothing outside language and culture, but endless opportunities exist within, it would seem. I’m already looking forward to the next paper in the series. Crystal clear, thank you, Alf and YfS.

    Liked by 5 people

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