Why J Miller proposed a National Party in Scotland in 1908

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By J Miller

I was incredibly privileged many years ago to have been entrusted by my Grandmother with a collection of letters and manuscripts written by my Grandfather, whom I am named after.  I am now in the process of transcribing these documents so that I can share them with other members of my family.

Today, as we stand on the threshold of a referendum on independence it is good to look back and see what a long road we have travelled and to reflect on the people who have guided us to this cross roads in our history.  My Grandfather was one of those people, here is his letter written 20 years before John McCormick (pictured) and Robert Bontine Cunninghame Graham would create the National Party of Scotland:

Why I proposed a “National Party” in Scotland by J Miller


Returning to my native country, I found myself immersed in poultry farming for a year.  During that time I also kept my eye on the position and trend of Scotland.  When at last I was freed from poultry farming by my brother’s marriage, and the disintegration of his brothers and sisters, I followed my sisters to Dunblane.

Our ancestors at the Myres and the Boards had always been endowed with the Liberal outlook on social affairs, the first Miller at the Myres being a Covenanter who fought at the Battle of Drumclog, was taken prisoner and shut up in Greyfriar’s Churchyard, Edinburgh.  He managed to escape from there and came and settled at the Myres in 1679.  Since then there has always been a Miller in the Myres to this day, my generation being the 8th, born and bred at the Myres.

My father being a pronounced Liberal and a follower of Gladstone imbued me early with Liberal ideals of independence and thrift.  That was seen in my endeavours to make British influence paramount in the Argentine and to turn that country into a democratic one, as opposed to the totalitarian country, to which it has now descended.  The London controlled British Railways in the Argentine, however, put a spoke in my wheel, and I was able to accomplish nothing.  This bore in on my mind when I returned to Scotland and saw the subservience of my native country to the London Government.

As soon as I got to Dunblane, I wrote my brother at The Boards asking him if he would kindly give me a letter of introduction to the head of the Liberals in Stirlingshire.  He sent me a letter of introduction and I sent it with my own on the present state of Scotland.  I got such a douche of cold water from the Chairman of the Stirlingshire Liberals, that I turned from that party, and in Dunblane produced the letter to the Glasgow Herald proposing the formation of a National Party in Scotland, “which would know neither party politics, nor church dogma”.

The Scotch have been known for their ‘canniness’, and they certainly  have been very ‘canny’ about forming a National Party.  I had two letters in answer to my proposals, one in the Glasgow Herald above the signature of ‘Celt’, which was sympathetic, but thought I was too pessimistic; the other an inclosure of part of the Treaty of Union to show that that was broken when the English Law Lords gave a decision on the union of the Free and U.P. churches.  I was “complimented” on my letter.  These were all the encouragements a proposal to form a National Party was given in 1908.

Scotland had to go through a holocaust of a bloody war, before she wakened up to realise what a predicament she was in.  It was about the year 1924 that a gentleman, who had been in the war, wrote articles in the press, headed “Wake up Scotland” and signing under the pseudonym of “Restalrig”.  He was attacked violently by two correspondents in the same paper, one under the letters “A.R.”, and the other under the strange title, “Scotland for ever”.  As no supporter of “Restalrig” came forth to take up the cudgels for that gentleman, I ventured to insert my letter of 1908 proposing the formation of a “National Party” in Scotland.  This came to the knowledge of some Edinburgh and Glasgow men and the result was the formation of a “National Party” in Glasgow in 1928.  It was fitting it should have been formed in Glasgow, as it was in the Glasgow Herald it was first proposed.

It has been well said that ‘a prophet has no honour in his own country’.  That is specially true of Scotland, as the result of my proposal was my having again to quit my native land to keep body and soul together and not starve.  It was to Canada, the land of the free, that I emigrated.  I carried with me a copy of the letter I had written to the Glasgow Herald, well knowing that Scotland would one day see the need of such a party.  During my sojourn of two years in Ontario, Manitoba and British Columbia, I kept my letter with me.  While in the latter province I received an urgent appeal from my eldest sister to return to Scotland.  I retraced my steps across the breadth of Canada and the Atlantic, being on about the last ship to see the “Titanic”, ere she plunged to her doom.