There was a big response to the excellent essay from Jim Sillars which was published on this site yesterday. Many were excellent but this one from my correspondent Breeks struck me as highly constructive and visionary in terms of the opportunities that existed, and still exist, if only the Scottish Government would act positively to those possibilities. I publish below his excellent comments.

Great words from Jim Sillars.

What particularly chimes with me is the relationship with England post UK. 

Back when Westminster’s Brexit negotiations were bedevilled with the Irish backstop, and Europe held out the prospect of transitional “holding pen” status for Scotland, I felt there was truly golden opportunity for some hard sell Constitutional bargaining. 

The Union I firmly believed was Constitutionally defunct with the two sovereign entities of the UK at irreconcilable loggerheads, the subsequent Northern Irish Protocol didn’t really resolve the Northern Irish Backstop and Good Friday Agreement, and to my mind, that’s when Scotland should have made it’s move.

Scotland could have secured Independence, but largely mitigated the shock of Independence on the whole UK by presenting Scotland as a buffer state intermediary between Europe and a Brexited England. Scotland in the EU, but with a legacy of UK trade which was accommodated in special status for Scotland, (not unlike the NI protocol) but which allowed the English economy to filter trade to and from Europe through Scotland. The issue of a Border in the Irish Sea would have moved geographically to the Scottish / English border, – a hard border yes, but with Scotland across that hard border being a benign buffer state “filtering” EU / English through trade.

Scottish Independence could have been the cushion England needed to make their Brexit debacle more viable. And while I find nothing very appealing about Scotland cushioning rampant English Nationalism and the folly of Brexit, there would have been a vested interest in London for seeing Scotland’s Independence recognised quickly and smoothly.

Pipe dream? Maybe. I’m no expert. The big flaw in my thinking is probably not understanding how absolutely vital Scotland’s resources are to Westminster. The idea is seductive, but I fear is no negotiation that Westminster can contemplate willingly, not until compelled to address Scottish Independence delivered.

So yes, I want to count that as one more failure for Sturgeon, but this one would always have been tough. 

That status for Scotland wasn’t pursued and we are now peripheral bystanders to the alternative arrangement that is now evolving. But the notion persists in my head, where an Indy Scotland styles itself as the Istanbul of Western Europe, where the North Sea / GUIK Gap shipping lanes function as our Bosporus, and Scotland becomes a trade hub at the convergence of EU / EFTA / US / English / Commonwealth trade zones, and turns Scapa Flow into a massive modern Container Facility, with strong links to the entire European sea board. 

Brexit was such a massive opportunity missed, squandered by Scotland’s longest serving FM. If only her driving ambition had been to be the “last” FM of a devolved Scottish assembly rather than its dreary longest serving.


There is no connection between Breeks and Professor Alf Baird that I know of but I am sure there would be agreement between them on the massive opportunity that exists at Scapa Flow. All it takes is the vision and the will. Professor Alf Baird lives in Orkney so for once we have the right man in the right place. That just leaves the need for our Government to recognise the opportunity and do something about it. Then he would be there at the right time as well!

I am, as always



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  1. Really no point in dwelling on what might have been. It’s like saying if Tony Blair’s father had used a condom there would have been no Iraq War.

    Let’s look forward !

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Problem there Graham is the people who missed the boat and squandered the golden opportunities in 2016 are the same people currently running Scottish Independence into the ground, and rejoicing because the great leader is so impervious to criticism.

      So low is my confidence in Sturgeon and her SNP, that the latest talk about IndyRef2 in 2023 is already a plodding, pedestrian disaster which my every instinct suggests is doomed to failure.

      Scotland must be much more hawkish and predatory in it’s outlook, much sharper than we are, and learn to distinguish between Red Nation Scottish affairs which Westminster has no say in, and White Region UK domestic sophistry full of tripwires and cul-de-sacs which Westminster fully controls.

      I fear the only hope we have is in the SSRG and the latent potency of Scotland’s Sovereign Constitution.

      Liked by 23 people

      1. Look forward to what – another seven years of Sturgeon running the independence drive into the ground.

        Another seven years of rotten and corrupt government from a rotten and corrupt Nicola Sturgeon. Time we got real and got rid of Sturgeon and got the wheels back on.

        Time we got the wheels back on and that is exactly what people like Breeks and many others are trying to do. And to do that we need to get rid of Sturgeon and her compromised ilk.

        Liked by 11 people

  2. Well said Breeks, read your comment yesterday and I think that you’re spot on. It would make you weep the opportunities that have been missed, but even now, when they are trying to con us into believing there will be a referendum next year, where is the work being done.

    We need our own central bank and our own currency. Let’s talk to the right people to sort out the mess that the politicians have made. Bring in the experts for the NHS, not the administrators too many of them anyway. Teachers who actually know what they are talking about, Alf Baird and Stuart Ballantine ( sorry if I’ve got your name wrong) hopefully they would still be willing to advise and help sort out the ferries. Talk to the people of the islands and listen to what they want and need. Lets talk about EFTA and find away back into our former trading partners just a few ideas off the top of my head to perhaps start talking about. It’s not that we are unable to make a lot of progress, it would appear that, for whatever reason this so called government of ours is unwilling.

    Liked by 16 people

  3. Thanks for posting this Iain.

    There is no link between myself and Alf Baird other than online comments, but there’s an awful lot of sense in what he says.

    I’ve known about the strategic significance of the GIUK gap for a long time, and indeed Scapa Flo, though usually in a military context rather than trade. My father was RAF, and flew as aircrew in RAF Swordfish, so there were no shortage of books in the house about the Battle of the Atlantic and Bismark etc.

    It “feels” from the UK maps we are raised looking at, that Scapa Flo is way, way, out of the way, and too remote to be viable for anything, but look at this map not centred on the UK, but on Greenland / Iceland / UK gap…

    Then put a dot on Scapa Flo and the strategic significance of a near perfect natural harbour becomes crystal clear.

    What I did learn from Alf was the concept of big container ships needing a fast turnaround, offloaded and re-loaded in as short a time as possible, with minimal delays waiting in queues trying to enter ports. That means quick in and quick out, and Scapa Flo plonks them right back in the deep water shipping lanes. Then all the massive loads can be processed for distribution with a greater degree of finesse into smaller vessels for transport to their final destination. It’s not just a port, its a funnel.

    It would require a big capital investment, but the EU is just the type of organisation to do it, but the imagination takes off. The ships, the cranes, the renewables, maybe tidal schemes, the support vessels,… the engineering, the jobs, the careers…

    And an end too to all that “UK” infrastructure investment Scotland helps pay for, but which invariably runs out of steam above Birmingham and Manchester.

    Liked by 17 people

    1. Breeks – I had never thought of Scapa Flo in that light. It’s not just EU investment we need but Chinese/Russian input. Scapa Flo could be part of an Arctic maritime trading route.

      Liked by 2 people

    1. “ We will see her loyalty to Scotland on Friday! ”

      Now Friday is here and there she was coming down the steps of St Paul’ s with Peter (Murrell, not the Apostle).

      She was (quite literally) in the pink. She looked every bit the part of the British Establishment she has striven so hard to become.

      Alas, she was not loudly booed as was Boris Johnson on the way in. Still, I suppose we should be thankful that BoJo got the bird outside the cathedral. VOX POPULI, VOX DEI?

      Liked by 2 people

  4. When all the civilian aircraft were moved from Prestwick to Heathrow after the War the message was clear. When a survey in the sixties highlighted the position of Scapa Flow on a great circle distribution point for container operations it was buried and on and on went the policy right up to the crushing of the Peterhead Carbon Capture Project by denying funds.

    When you fail to learn from History the same mistakes will happen again and again. However it is OUR mistake because the policy is quite deliberate by London. “All Roads must lead to Rome”

    Those who say “what is the point of looking back” are obviously content with their Colonial Masters shaping their children’s future.

    The most important concept for an Independent Scotland is to NOT be a mini UK.

    Liked by 16 people

  5. This was always a perfectly practical and equitable solution. “Ah, but that would mean a hard border with England”. So what. Northern Ireland has four designated Customs points of entry; Belfast port, Larne, Warrenpoint and Belfast (sorry, George Best) airport. That 2.1 POE per million people. A combined Scotland / Northern Ireland would merit 15 Points Of Entry. Minus the four Scottish international airports and Grangemouth and Glasgow docks, this leaves 6 POE along the Tweed / Solway (Customs at Larne would be redundant). Who many HGV suitable crossings are there along the Tweed / Solway?

    What always surprised me about the Brexit process was Theresa May’s interpretation of a vote with a UK wide margin of victory of 4%. When Theresa May, leader of the Conservative & Unionist Party made her calculation (and calculation it was) she chose to prioritise the future of her party over the continued integrity of the UK. Make no mistake, Theresa May was smart enough to realise that Scotland and NI voted Remain with 24% and 12% margins of victory respectively. Choosing a hard Brexit, at least in theory, put the Union at risk. And yet, that’s what she did. Pursued the monumental fool’s errand of trying to mollify the fanatics in the ERG.
    So why take the risk? Unless she secretly knew that the occupant of Bute House would do the bidding of her handlers in Foggy Bottom and widnae rock the boat.

    Liked by 11 people

  6. How we might “look forward” without acknowledging and learning from the past is quite beyond me. Dismissing history as a guide to contemporary action is surely something best left to very drunk optimists.

    Liked by 8 people

  7. Scottish history is full of object lessons.
    Number 1, that England could be a friend.
    Number 2, that England might be a friend.
    Number 3, that sharing an island there was a possibility of mutual rapport.
    Number 4, that conceding ground on anything would not be taken as exploitable weakness by England’s rulers.
    Not only Scottish history offers confirmation, the histories of every people England has crossed is verification.
    The US inherits many of the traits, with an admixture of the self-righteous.
    At least the English don’t preach.

    Liked by 5 people

  8. What financial position would England be in now, if Scotland had become Independent in 2014. Clearly Scotland voting to remain in the Union in 2014 has saved the Tories from oblivion, this is something for Labour and the Lib-dems to think about.

    Liked by 6 people

  9. So much has changed over the past «covidian» years. The lesson Scotland might learn from that is yes to being a free and sovereign nation in the world but no to being a plaything of globalism and its agencies. The national interest is not served by links with systems that subvert the democratic process by creating élites unaccountable before the tribune of that free and sovereign people.
    Scotland’s «soul» is not for barter. Once bitten etc…

    Liked by 5 people

  10. Brexit was always an English project. An English mania. A mob hysteria whipped to a frenzy in a post-industrial hinterland, long neglected by a mercantile South East.
    Headline results for Leave, margin of victory:
    United Kingdom 4%
    England 7%
    Wales 4%
    Scotland -24%
    Northern Ireland -12%

    Prof. Danny Dorling, Cambridge (Geography) calculates that the majority of native Welsh voted Remain. There were 650,000 English in Wales during the vote so for this to be true the English in Wales would have had to vote Leave by a margin of victory >12%. Well, 5 out of 9 English regions did vote Leave by this margin or greater.

    Using the same methodology and assuming that the English in Scotland voted Leave by a 7% margin of victory (and correcting for turn-out), the margin of victory for Remain among native Scots would be 28%.
    Being dragged out of the EU in these circumstances. We should have been rioting in the streets. Aye weal, the failed solicitor disnae think it’s worth making a fuss.

    Strange that two of the most fanatical and deranged Brexiteers (Mark Francois & Nigel Farage) had French surnames. Are we in our current mess because someone was bullied in their formative years?
    Francois in particular is a comical character. How could anyone take him seriously? Now he wants to “divulge” from EU standards. My favourite line from a review of Francois’ self published Brexit book; “Francois knows commas exist but he likes to maintain the element of surprise when using them.”.

    Liked by 7 people

  11. Rhetorical question: In the event of an emergency could Scotland feed and clothe its people and have the energy resources to sustain what contemporary society considers «the material norms»?
    The days of dependency whether political, cultural or economic ought to end with independence. Ejecting one form of dependency to invite another is perverse. The «global village» concept belongs to a older and possibly more innocent era, the events in East Europe have exposed its fatal technocratic flaw.
    Scotland, like many other nations struggling with the arbitrary globalist order, needs to refocus.
    Maybe those of my post millenial generation will…..

    Liked by 5 people

  12. Something that many people seem to forget that ports and airports are no longer government monopolies, they are in the private sector.

    If a container terminal in Scapa is such a good idea, why are no port operators developing it?

    If Prestwick is such a great airport, why do no airlines (other than O’Leary’s mob) fly there?

    They can if they want to, it’s not “Westminster” stopping them.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Because they paid hard cash, we are important customers, they use us as feeder services to fill their direct flights. We of course have far fewer direct flights when compared with countries with similar populations so they cash in twice as we need two flights when it should only be one. The Government will do nothing either they get two payments of APD KEEPING IT THIS WAY!

        Liked by 4 people

    1. I apologise, I gave you a like because of my clumsy fingers , but whilst I am here , INSTEAD of continuously denigrating ANYTHING and EVERYTHING about Scotland , and inserting continuous negativity and inferences about being too wee ,too stupid and too poor , WHY don’t you try and SELL the union to us disbelievers , EDUCATE us on the benefits that remaining with the rest of the uk means to us , tell us about the GREAT advantages we get from the union . IF you are Scottish tell us how being considered as vermin as posted by the current PM of the union makes you feel
      Do you feel proud that you appear to be encouraging your fellow citizens to keep on begging WM england for hand outs , irrespective that they REFUSE to publish or furnish true financial figures
      IF you are Scottish and believe that you are considered respected and valued within the union show us some evidence
      ONE of the reasons I have always wanted independence is I believe Scotland can do better , at 71 years of age I have lived under MANY governments in the uk ALL of them bad and ALL of them impoverished Scotland and Scots

      So sparks instead of diversionary negativity SELL us the union

      Liked by 7 people

  13. So much comes down to a hierarchy of fear

    The people fear the govt more than the govt fears the people. The SNP fears the British establishment more than it fears the Scottish people. Politicians fear for their careers more than the consequences of not speaking up and they fear being smeared by the establishment press more than the consequences of not doing the right thing – they don’t fear the people they are supposed to represent. Political parties fear corporations more than they fear the people. People fear for their jobs if they demonstrate due to the fear of being arrested. People fear taking on the govt in court due to the prospect of financial ruin. The UK govt has the population in a constant state of mild fear – fear of being attacked from abroad or the fear of having our jobs taken away by foreigners.

    I voted YES in 2014 due to fear for my son’s future. Most people who were still dialled into establishment media voted NO. Project fear worked.

    Soon, many more people will fear the prospect of themselves or their family members going hungry or literally perishing. The fear of this will likely exceed the the fear of arrest. This is something a Government should fear, yet it seems that they don’t. Maybe this is due to England not having succumbed to an invading force in modern times, where the fabric of it’s establishment and it’s customs are ripped up. It is said however that even William The Conqueror stopped short at the walls of the city of London. Perhaps more than a millennium of over-confidence shall prove England’s undoing, for I believe that is where the people will act first. Being a British institution, it seems holyrood shares the same arrogance as the big Parliament in London.

    Of course we get to choose which flavour of corporate neoliberalism we want every 4 or 5 years and some of us even go to the trouble of emailing our MP/MSP, only (if we are lucky), to receive a standard reply from their Parliamentary assistant – politicians are far too busy for anything like that. Of course they become much more focused when an election looms, but that’s pretty much our lot. Is it any wonder there is so much apathy?

    So, the question is, how do we get our politicians to fear the people? How do we make them more accountable? How to we turn their customary comfort into a mild continuous discomfort?

    I don’t really have the solutions, but I believe that promising organisations like Salvo and the promotion of the claim of right will go someway to putting pressure on the political establishment. Our politicians should be very careful about dismissing our constitution. What can £600k can buy these days?. Posh dinners and a politician’s legal costs, or a hard-headed assembly with a decent Legal fund and the will to use it.

    So what could it be used for?

    Well one example might be the Scottish Government’s ideas to bring forth Henry VIII clauses at holyrood. Those of us who have followed the excellent work of Sara Salyers these past months about our constitution, will understand that this is a bit like asking for sugar on your chips. These clauses have no relevance in Scotland and thus the people’s official response to Holyrood should be that they go forth and multiply.

    Would this be worth a legal challenge? Absolutely. Firstly because it pushes our constitution into the public sphere, but also because it serves notice to our politicians that they WILL be held to account by the people.

    No one wants a revolution. When the dam bursts, everything gets swept away, including the good things and there’s no guarantee that we are left with anything better, yet this is where we are headed if the political establishment continue to ignore the plight of the people.

    Liked by 10 people

    1. A great comment Scott and one I heartily agree with , your suggestion of a legal challenge to WM on the basis of overstepping the mark is correct , BUT it is one I have been going on about for ages
      FIRST we have to LEGALLY CHALLENGE the SG for it is THEY who are failing US by NOT challenging WM , but as you say we need the finances to begin that challenge and that is where problems arise , as in our Martin Keatings challenge OUR despicable SG DELIBERATELY and WANTONLY messed with the judicial process to WASTE TIME and FINANCES and SABOTAGE the outcome
      We have to be smarter WE are at the mercy of raising funds from people who can’t afford it and it is even getting worse now
      THEY have the BENEFIT of UNLIMITED FUNDS ours , to PROLONG AND DEFEAT that challenge

      Liked by 8 people

      1. To have ANY HOPE of a legal challenge which IMO is IMPERATIVE we have to have the
        financial backing of the resources of the SG , to ensure a level playing field and ANY chance of progressing our case and to do that we have to do it as cheaply as possible but with as strong a case as the declaration of Arbroath and the CLAIM OF RIGHT

        As the declaration of Arbroath STATES
        ‘For as long as a hundred of us remain alive, we will never on any conditions be subjected to the lordship of the English; for it is not for glory, nor riches, nor honours that we fight, but for freedom alone, which no good man gives up except with his life’

        Mike Fenwick has produced a DECLARATION OF A SOVEREIGN SCOT which he is distributing on indy marches , what about the first 100 sovereign Scots who would donate £100 pounds each to facilitate a CHALLENGE to the SG to FUND and UNDERWRITE all legal expenses in pursuance of repudiating the NONSENSE of the sect 30 demand that Sturgeon insists on and also to repudiate the CLAIM by WM that parliament is sovereign

        This challenge would EMPHASISE and EXPOSE the INACTION and BETRAYAL of Sturgeon and her minions whilst also EMPHASISING and EXPOSING the LIE perpetrated by WM that parliament is sovereign , It would also give worldwide publicity to the sovereignty issue and the CLAIM OF RIGHT

        Using 100 Scots men and women who have signed the DECLARATION OF A SOVEREIGN SCOT would SYMBOLISE the TRUE meaning of the DECLARATION OF ARBROATH and would educate , expose and highlight to ordinary Scots the power that they have in determining their own FUTURE and expose the lies and misinformation being constantly fed to them that politicians have the power over them

        It is OUTRAGEOUS that citizens who oppose the lie of WM that parliament is sovereign and who have a SG who will not challenge or expose the lie have to crowdfund and beg their fellow citizens for funds to legally challenge their elected government about their inaction and betrayal , but at the same time that same government is using our tax money to oppose our challenge and defend THEIR INACTION

        It has been said many times by many people that our constitution the Declaration of Arbroath and the Claim Of Right are the keys that UNLOCKS our freedom but we CANNOT UTILISE THEM until we rid ourselves of the BETRAYERS and COLLABORATORS and to do that we have to get them into court , as our Martin Keatings case showed this government deliberately and willfully caused unnecessary time wasting and excessive financial charges in an effort to defeat the case and eventually succeeded in sabotaging the outcome , we cannot allow the same thing to happen again

        The SYMBOLISM of using the 100 Men and Women that the DECLARATION OF ARBROATH relates too to challenge the SG would receive worldwide publicity and support from the Scottish diaspora

        Are there any Scottish hero’s out there in the legal profession such as Gordon Dangerfield Robert Black QC or Joanna Cherry QC who are willing to SAVE their country Scotland and their fellow citizens from the corruption currently inflicted on us

        Liked by 3 people

      2. Yes it would have to be a challenge to the Scottish govt. They don’t have unlimited funds as they are currency user. WM, as the manufacturer of sterling DO have unlimited funds. And yes I agree at a time like this crowdfunding is a very tall order. The 600k was a value for money comparison. What has that hard-earned money done.

        So why don’t one of the more progressive political parties set aside such a fund (as part of their manifesto). Why would they? To tell us they’re offering something different and are happy to be held to account.

        Liked by 3 people

  14. Glad to see this voiced Breeks. No reason it couldnt be mooted as a solution to the current Stormont stalemate – better late than never I suppose. If nothing else you’ve confirmed for me that I’m not a lone lunatic for suggesting such a thing – I posed it as a solution on more than one occasion at online events only to be met with uncomprehending puzzlement from the high heid yins on the panels (one of whom may have been Kirsty Hughes but I’ve forgotten now – might have been a European Movement in Scotland event, in which case they have a vested interest in not understanding of course – silly me finally figured out EMS are unionists), but for those wanting independence and self respect for their country its a serious failure in seeking ways to look after our interests.

    Liked by 6 people

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