The Cause: A History of Scottish Nationalism

21
1343

It could be said in the present day that Scottish patriotism is now more rampant than at any time since the Wars of Independence” – Professor Allan MacInnes of Strathclyde University 
 
A major new series chronicling the rise of Scottish Nationalism is to be broadcast this month on BBC Radio Scotland.
 
In The Cause, Billy Kay explores themes of identity, culture, history and politics to trace the development of Scottish nationalism and its political expression in the rise of the SNP. 

It could be said in the present day that Scottish patriotism is now more rampant than at any time since the Wars of Independence” – Professor Allan MacInnes of Strathclyde University 
 
A major new series chronicling the rise of Scottish Nationalism is to be broadcast this month on BBC Radio Scotland.
 
In The Cause, Billy Kay explores themes of identity, culture, history and politics to trace the development of Scottish nationalism and its political expression in the rise of the SNP.

Billy speaks to nationalist who have devoted their lives to a movement which a few decades ago was regarded as peripheral and irrelevant, but which is now at the centre of national life.  These include veterans like former Party Chairman James Halliday and editor of the Scots Independent Jim Lynch, seminal figures like Gordon Wilson and Winnie Ewing, and the family of the hugely important figure of “King” John MacCormick – all tell their version of their story from within the movement. 

Others recall the sneers, the personal hostility and animosity their Scottish patriotism provoked at one time and the sacrifices many people made for the cause of Scottish independence in the past.  Modern Scottish nationalism is expressed by Humza Yousaf MSP, whose father was the first Asian member of the SNP, and by First Minister Alex Salmond who looks forward with optimism to the future.

The commitment and passion of the many nationalist activists interviewed is given context by the analysis of eminent historians in the field such as Professors James Mitchell and Richard Finlay of Strathclyde University and Dr Peter Lynch of Stirling University.  They are joined by authorities on earlier periods of Scottish History –  Fiona Watson from the University of Dundee e.g. highlights the importance of the Wars of Independence in the creation of our national identity.  

Billy also records the people and the atmosphere at live gatherings which celebrate that history: on the battle field of Bannockburn; at Arbroath Abbey for the Declaration of Arbroath; at Bonnymuir where the 1820 Society commemorate the Radical Rising of working class men who carried a banner with the words “Scotland Free or a Desert”; at the former mining community of Redding near Falkirk where the men of the Sir William Wallace Grand Lodge of Free Colliers hold their annual demonstration to remember the struggle of Scottish miners for freedom and their identity with the struggle of Bruce and Wallace for Scottish independence. 

The crucial role of writers, thinkers and artists like Hugh MacDiarmid, R B Cunninghame Graham, Eric Linklater, Compton Mackenzie, William McCance and JD Fergusson in the National movement will be highlighted by important commentators on Scottish cultural history like Tom Nairn, Paul Henderson Scott and Tom Normand of the University of St Andrews.

This cultural dimension will grace the series with poetry from Barbour to MacCaig, and readings from Burns, Scott, Stevenson and MacDiarmid.  Music and song will also feature from Burns “Scots Wha Hae” to the Corries “Flower of Scotland” and Hamish Henderson’s “Freedom Come All Ye”. 

The moving theme music is  by Sarah MacNeil’s band Cherrygrove  –  Sarah is a student at the Royal Conservatoire of  Scotland who composed  “Free or a Desert”  to commemorate  the Scottish political martyrs of 1820, John Baird, Jame Wilson and Andrew Hardie.

This major series of five programmes on BBC Radio Scotland begins Monday September 24 at 14.05, repeated September 29 at 6.04 and October 1 at 02.00.

The Cause: A History of Scottish Nationalism.  Programme 1 – The Battle for Scotland    
Broadcast Monday September 24 at 14.05, with repeats later in the week on Saturday morning September 29 at 06.04, and on Monday October 1 at 02.00.

The diversity of reasons why Scots feel a strong sense of identity with the country.  The Wars of Independence, their importance in the forging of Scottish identity, and the echoes from those days in the modern nationalist movement.  “Too long in this condition” – the growing feeling in the 1960’s and ‘70’s that Scotland was becoming a cultural colony of England and the backlash that provoked with the rise of political nationalism.  

The Cause: A History of Scottish Nationalism.  Programme 2 – Free or a Desert?   
Broadcast Monday October 1 at 14.05, repeated Saturday October 6 at 06.04, and on Monday October 8 at 02.00.

The 1820 Society’s commemoration at Bonnymuir and the link between the struggle for democracy and the demand for a Scottish Parliament.  James Keir Hardie and RB Cunninghame Graham’s founding of the Scottish Labour Party with Scottish Home Rule at the core of its philosophy.  The formation of dedicated nationalist parties in the 1920s and 30s and the creation of the SNP.  The peripheral nature of the SNP through till the 60s, yet the support for the idea of Home Rule expressed in King John MacCormick’s Scottish Covenant Association and the popular response to gestures like the liberation of the Stone of Destiny.

The Cause: A History of Scottish Nationalism.  Programme 3 – Flower of Scotland  
Broadcast Monday October 8 at 14.05, repeated Saturday October 13 at 06.04, and on Monday October 15 at 02.00.

The rise of cultural nationalism in literature and the folk revival of traditional music.  Radio Free Scotland and the struggle to get recognition for the nationalist movement on radio and television.  The slow transformation of the SNP from a small, marginalised “sect” to an organised political machine capable of achieving sporadic but spectacular successes such as Winnie Ewing’s victory in the Hamilton by election of 1967.  The lasting effect of that victory in the surge of popular nationalist sentiment.

The Cause: A History of Scottish Nationalism.  Programme 4 – At Hame wi Freedom
Broadcast Monday October 15 at 14.05, repeated Saturday October 20 at 06.04, and on Monday October 22 at 02.00.

“It’s Scotland’s Oil” campaign and the high of electing 7 then 11 Nationalist MP’s in 1974, contrasted with the deep depression and divisions which emerged within the movement following the rigged failure of the 1979 Referendum.  The growing feeling of marginalisation and alienation among Scots under Thatcher’s Tory government leading to a huge surge in demand for a Scottish parliament culminating in the successful Referendum of 1997.  The international dimension of Scottish nationalism expressed in Hamish Henerson’s song The Freedom Come All Ye which became an anthem for the pro-parliament groups in the period.

The Cause: A History of Scottish Nationalism.  Programme 5 – A Very Special Place
Broadcast Monday October 22 at 14.05, repeated Saturday October 27 at 06.04, and on Monday October 29 at 02.00.

We compare and contrast the civic nationalism which has developed in Scotland with ethnic nationalism in other countries.  We hear about the loss of the parliament in 1707 and the positive results for the cultural well-being of the nation on regaining it in 1999.  Brither and Sister Scots look forward to the referendum and contemplate the kind of Scotland they would like if their desire for independence comes to pass.  Looking to such a future the First Minister believes Scotland can be a “very special place.”