Ultra-Nationalism in Scotland consists of a mixture of Scottish Nationalist traditions. These traditions have influenced the creation and development of Siol nan Gaidheal and indeed the Scottish National Party.
The S.N.P. is, however, made up from a very different mix of Scottish Nationalist traditions than those that influence Siol nan Gaidheal. Most significantly, Siol nan Gaidheals concerns are mainly cultural and social whereas those of the Scottish National Party are political and economic. Siol nan Gaidheal is not interested in contesting elections. Electoral politics are the remit of the Scottish National Party. SnG is Ultra-Nationalist in the sense that the National Revolution will only be starting when a Scottish Parliament is set up.
In the years after the 1707 Treaty of Union, Scottish Nationalism as a political force was weakened through association with movements such as the Cameronians and Jacobites which were mutually antagonistic, sectional and sectarian. It is this bitter lesson from Scottish history which has taught Siol nan Gaidheal to be completely anti-sectarian in its approach to the National Question.
Democracy is a tradition which has deep roots in Scottish history. At its base is a strong belief in the sovereignty of the Scottish People which originated with the Celtic idea that the community should be served by leaders who ruled by consent rather than by selfish dictatorial control. If the King, Queen or Clan Chief worked against the people, he or she could be deposed. Even King Robert the Bruce was warned against traitorous action in the famous Declaration of Arbroath. Siol nan Gaidheal adheres to the fundamental democratic traditions of Scotland.
Republicanism, a development of Scottish democracy, emerged from the Presbyterian Protestant challenge to the autocratic authority of the Stuart Kings of Scotland. Religious republicanism developed during the long struggle of the Covenanters and reached an apex of radicalism in the 1680s when the Cameronians declared war on King James and the Jacobites.
The Cameronians were nationalists and burnt the Treaty of Union in the areas of South West Scotland which they controlled. However after the 1707 Union the Cameronians were manipulated by successive English-dominated Westminster governments to fight a civil war against the equally nationalist Jacobites. The English, through the perennial tactic of divide and rule, defeated the last great Jacobite rising in 1746 and were almost able by the mid 1750s to extinguish both Scots culture in the Lowlands and Gaelic culture in the Highlands. Even the name Scotland was replaced on maps with "North Britain".
With the Highlands held down by thousands of English soldiers based at Fort George, a military complex which cost more to build than Scotlands entire Gross Domestic Product in 1750, and the Lowlands dominated by political bosses bribed by London, Nationalism in Scotland emerged as a strong folkic cultural movement.
James MacPherson, a Gaelic poet, restored Highland confidence and prestige through his passionate if idiosyncratic promotion of the bard Ossian and the ancient literary tradition of the Gael. Ossian and the heroes of the Celtic Golden Age provided the inspiration for the European Romantic Movement and a revolutionary generation of new European Super-heroes, foremost among whom was Napoleon Bonaparte.
Edinburgh, deprived of its status as capital of an independent Scotland, redirected its energy towards intellectual enquiry. "The Athens of the North" led the European Enlightenment in the fields of philosophy, economics, sociology, technology, medicine, physics and geology.
Robert Burns, Scotland's National bard, stimulated a huge revival of Lowland Scots language and culture. Burns was responsible for creating a great folkic nationalist tradition which for the first time linked the Jacobite legacy of the Highlands with the radicalism of the Covenantors and a new secular political movement, Scottish Republicanism.
Revolutionary Republican ideas which in a number of instances were originally formulated in Scotland spread back to the British Isles from America and France. The Society of the Friends of the People under the leadership of Thomas Muir created a tradition of Scottish Republicanism which has remained an important strand of Nationalism in Scotland until the present day. Muir was arrested by the British State and sentenced to transportation in Australia. He escaped and made his way to revolutionary France where he formed a Scottish Republican Government in exile.
Meantime in Scotland a revolutionary movement called the United Scotsmen spread republican ideas and planned a rising. The insurrection was betrayed and the United Scotsmen were forced to go underground. As a result of severe repression throughout the Napoleonic era the Radical Rising was postponed until 1820.
In 1820 a Scottish Provisional Government was declared and a rising took place. Unfortunately for the Republicans, the British State forces were informed of the date and radical leaders such as Baird, Hardy and Wilson were betrayed before the revolution could spread. The leaders of the 1820 Radical Rising were quickly brought to trial and hanged for treason against the British State.
After the collapse of the 1820 Rising, Scottish Republicanism experimented with different types of political action. A section of the movement influenced by the pioneer socialist Robert Owen set up a number of co-operative communes in Scotland and abroad. They failed due to bad organisation and Robert Owens followers turned to Trade Union activity, which also failed.
Scottish Republicanism participated in the great political movement which led to the passing of the Reform Bill in 1832. Political reform however was confined only to the upper and middle classes. Scottish radical republicans felt betrayed and set up the Scottish Chartist Movement which campaigned for the vote to be given to all Scots. The Chartists were convinced Republicans and set up memorials all over Scotland to the memory of the Martyrs of the 1820 Rising. Scottish historical heroes, and particularly William Wallace, inspired their activity.
The Chartists did much to organise the emerging Scottish working class but their leaders were constitutionalists and confined their action to petitions and demonstrations. The British State and the ruling elite considered them to be dangerous revolutionaries and they cynically used sectarian divide and rule tactics against the Chartists.
The outbreak and spread of potato blight in Ireland and the Scottish Highlands caused famine and a huge movement of population into the major towns and cities of the Scottish Lowlands. Employers used the displaced Gaels from both countries as a cheap source of labour and also employed them as strike-breakers. The native Scottish working class in the Lowlands were mainly Protestant and were therefore easy prey to anti-Irish and anti-Catholic propaganda spread through Masonic and Orange lodges by the ruling class interests that controlled them. Republicanism became associated with Ireland and Fenianism and consequently declined as a political force among the native Scottish working class. Religious sectarianism once again provided a useful weapon for the preservation of English rule in Scotland.
The fighting traditions of the Scottish Highland clans had been the greatest threat to the British Government during and for some time after the Jacobite Rising of 1745. After the collapse of the rising, unemployed Highlanders were recruited into "Highland" regiments of the British Army. Soldiers in the "Highland" regiments were allowed to wear Highland dress and preserve a few "safe" Highland traditions. The "Highland " regiments fought against the republican Americans and the French and did much to extend the British Empire.
Gradually, the Jacobite image of the Highlander as a rebel changed. By the 19th century the Highlander was accepted as a quaint but docile supporter of the British Government and its empire. Highland dress and culture became fashionable and even the Hanoverian King William the Fourth masqueraded as a Highland chieftain dressing in the kilt and lauding the Tartan throughout his single visit to Scotland.
Sir Walter Scott launched a new wave of Celtic romanticism with the publication of scores of historical novels and poems. Scotts works portrayed a somewhat romantic view of Scottish History which entered the consciousness of a whole generation of educated Europeans. One young girl influenced by highly romantic notions of Scotland was Queen Victoria. She became a sort of high priestess of a Tartan Tory cult with a temple at Balmoral in Aberdeenshire.
Here she built a Scottish baronial castle from where she could rule over a fantasy Scottish Kingdom of deer forests, grouse moors and Highland games. Queen Victorias fad for Scotland was imitated by a whole host of aspiring Highland lairds who built castles and shooting lodges all over Scotland.
Towards the end of Queen Victorias reign, the Tartan Cult went down market. Best selling novelists of the Kailyard or "cabbage patch" school put forward an idealised image of a Scottish rural past which combined debased elements of Highland and Lowland cultures. This "Brigadoon" version of Scotland proved very popular with the descendants of emigrant Scots and led to the Tartan image that Scotland still has for people in most of the world. Scots, too, seemed to enjoy the joke and laughed at the antics of Sir Harry Lauder and his lookalikes on Music Hall stages and seaside picture post cards. This laughter at the cartoon kilted Scot made it difficult for early Scottish Nationalists to be taken seriously as a political force and probably explains why the modern Scottish National Party downplays Scottish culture.
Sir Walter Scotts Celtic romanticism did provide positive results for the Scottish National Movement in his promotion of a serious interest in Scottish history. Scottish history and Antiquarian Societies were established all over Scotland and these historical studies re-awakened the case for Scottish Independence. In 1853 the Association for the Vindication of Scottish Rights was set up as the first overt Scottish Nationalist organisation.
Modern Scottish Nationalism was forged in the Highlands during the bitter struggle between the Crofters and the landlords over the right to use Scottish land. Ancient Celtic tradition did not recognise individual ownership of land. The clan chief held the land in trust for the use of the people who lived upon it. The clan as a collective community owned the land. After the failure of the Jacobite Rising, Anglo-Saxon ideas of individual property ownership were given legal force in the Highlands. The chiefs were taught in English schools to believe that they and not the clan owned the land. The scene was set for the greatest betrayal in Scottish history, the events which became known as the Highland Clearances.
In the North Highlands, 10,000 members of the ironically pro-Hanoverian Clan Sutherland were cleared from their glens to make way for the more profitable cheviot and blackface sheep. Clansmen and women who refused to go were burnt out of their homes in winter and forced to starve on the seashore while awaiting transportation to Canada and other British colonies. The Sutherland Clearances are mentioned in Marxs "Capital" as one of the worst examples of inhuman capitalist exploitation. Soon, clearances occurred all over the Highlands and Islands of Scotland.
The clansmen who remained in the Highlands made a poor living as crofters and fishermen and had no rights of tenure to what theybut not British lawregarded as their own land.
Eventually social resistance grew against the landlords and their supporters in the British Establishment. The Presbyterian Highlanders joined enthusiastically in the religious rebellion against the Established Church of Scotland which had collaborated with the landlords during the Clearances. After the Disruption of the Church of Scotland in 1843 most of the Protestant Highlanders joined the new Free Church.
The bitter legacy of the Highland Clearances and the struggle of the Highland Crofters to obtain security of tenure over their land was fundamental in bringing together the different strands of Scottish Nationalist ideology. One of the influential figures in this process of fusion was the land reformer and journalist John Murdoch. He was the editor of "The Highlander" newspaper from 1873 to 1881. Murdoch was a keen supporter of the Celtic Revival in both Ireland and Scotland. For Murdoch there was an intimate connection between the restoration of Gaelic Language and Culture and the Land Question in the Highlands. A people taught to undervalue or even deprecate their own heritage could not but be demoralised, timorous and unsure of themselves. A people encouraged to take a proper pride in the heritage of Scotland in contrast would confidently insist on their rights, including their right to land and national self-determination.
John Murdoch had lived in Ireland where he had witnessed the struggle of the Irish crofters against their landlords. He was aware of the establishment of the Irish Land League by Irish Nationalists such as Michael Davitt. This movement united the Irish crofters in a campaign of civil disobedience against their land lords. Murdoch advocated the adoption of similar tactics in Scotland. He was a prime mover in the creation of the Highland Land League and the Crofters Party.
The Crofters War between the British government and the people of the Highlands put the Land Question firmly onto the political agenda of Scotland. Radicals in the Highlands and Lowlands united to campaign against landlordism. One result of this co-operation was the formation of an independent workers' party, the Scottish Labour Party, by figures such as Keir Hardie and R.B. Cunningham-Graham who went on to become founders of the British Labour Party and the Scottish National Party.
The experience of the Highland Land League led to the development of a political programme called Social Republicanism which advocated land nationalisation and community control over land use. They extended Robert Owens ideas on the establishment of co-operative communes and campaigned for the creation of land colonies in the Highlands made up of Scots who were fed up with industrial wage slavery in the central belt of Scotland. For a while, Social Republicanism was more influential among Scottish radicals than the Marxist Socialism which gradually replaced it.
The Land League was a mass movement of people power. Neither gunboat diplomacy nor police coercion could break the will of the Highland crofters. Eventually after the election of Crofter Party Members of Parliament in the Highland area, the government compromised and passed the 1886 Crofters Act which granted the Highlanders security of tenure over their land and established a judicial tribunal, the Crofters Commission, to determine the rents they should pay. The Crofters War was ended but no land was ever given back to the Highlanders who had suffered the Clearances.
The Crofters War contributed to a wave of political nationalism which achieved the first gains for Scotland since the defeat of the Radical Rising of 1820. In 1886 the post of Secretary of State for Scotland was restored and moves were made to set up what became the Scottish Office. Administrative devolution for Scotland was back on the political agenda.
In 1886 the Scottish Home Rule Association was formed to campaign for a Scottish Parliament albeit within the framework of the United Kingdom. The Association persuaded both the Liberal Party and the new Labour Party to include Legislative devolution on their political programmes. By 1914 the Liberal Government had passed a Home Rule for Scotland Act but after the First World War, largely as a result of the 1916 Rising in Ireland, devolution for Scotland was dropped.
Events in Ireland provided the inspiration for a new generation of uncompromising Scottish Nationalists. The Gaelic Revival continued in both Scotland and Ireland and there was a cross-over of Celtic cultural and political ideas. James Connolly and John MacLean, for example, developed a distinctive blend of Celtic Communism and Marxism. The Republican Socialism they created contributed to revolution in Ireland and revolt on the Clyde.
Celtic Romanticism had always been associated with mysticism and spirituality. During the 1890s this tendency intensified. Writers, poets and painters seemed fascinated with a Celtic Twilight which stretched far back in time to the myth-shrouded days of King Arthur and Fionn Mac Cumhaill.
W.B. Yeats, perhaps the greatest Irish poet of his time, saw no contradiction between his political work as an Irish Nationalist and his esoteric experimentation as a member, with Alistair Crowley, of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn.
Scottish writers and poets such as Lewis Spence, the Hon. Ruaraidh Erskine of Mar and William Gillies were also interested in the religious and spiritual dimension to national consciousness. Erskine was a Catholic as well as a Gaelic Revivalist who believed that the Protestant Reformation was responsible for the English domination of Scotland.
William Gillies was a friend of John Murdoch and a former Land League activist. Like Murdoch he had lived in Ireland and was a firm supporter of Sinn Fein and the 1916 Easter Rising. He and Ruaraidh Erskine were responsible for the foundation of Scotland's first Ultra-Nationalist organisation, the Scots National League.
The Scots National League advocated the idea that when the Scots voted for Independence for Scotland, they should ignore the Westminster Parliament and withdraw Nationalist M.P.s to form a separate Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh. This was a similar strategy to Sinn Fein which had followed the same tactic in Ireland after the 1918 General Election. This Ultra-Nationalist political strategy was adopted by the Scottish National Party through the influence of the Scots National League when the former was constituted after 1928.
There is considerable irony in the fact that while most Scottish Nationalists supported the struggle of Ireland for independence, the Irish in Scotland and those of Irish descent were against Scottish Independence. The reason was mainly due to the past history of sectarian tension which had been generated by Unionist politicians in order to preserve a fundamentally artificial British State. Protestant bigots equated Home Rule in Scotland and Ireland with "Rome Rule". Narrow minded Labour leaders tried to prevent those of Irish Catholic background voting nationalist by spreading the lie that an independent Scotland would be similar to the Protestant-dominated province of Ulster. Incredibly the Labour Party believed that international socialism would be furthered by preserving the Union with Conservative England. Scottish Nationalists have always maintained that Celtic solidarity and the destruction of religious bigotry would play an important part in achieving independence.
The National Party of Scotland was founded in 1928 by the amalgamation of four organisations. These were the ultra-nationalist Scots National League and the Scots National Movement plus the devolutionist Scottish Home Rule Movement and the Glasgow University Scottish Nationalist Association. The National Party of Scotland was largely an ultra-nationalist organisation until it joined up with the devolutionist Scottish Party to form the Scottish National Party in 1934. The devolutionists purged the ultra-nationalists from the SNP and forced them to form alternative organisations.
The father of modern Ultra-Nationalism was the poet and patriot Hugh MacDiarmid, or Christopher Murray Grieve to use his real name. MacDiarmid was a borderer from Langholm in Dumfriesshire and therefore very aware of the cultural and ethnic differences between the world view of the Celtic Scots and Anglo-Saxon English.
MacDiarmid founded and promoted the Scottish Renaissance Movement with a view to totally rebuilding Scottish life and culture using elements from the past to transform the present and future. He rejected the sentimentality of Celtic Romanticism, the Kailyard, the Tartan Cult and debased folkic culture. MacDiarmid believed that Scottish writers would be more creative if they used Scottish language to express the Scottish Spirit. Gaelic would be the most suitable medium for the purpose but Scots or Lallans would be a useful half-way house between English and Gaelic.
In a way which intertwined an extraordinary intellect with workman-like purpose he created a new literary language, Synthetic Scots, by bringing together the riches of all the Scots dialects. MacDiarmids most famous poem, "A Drunk Man Looks at the Thistle", an analysis of the Scots situation, is in Synthetic Scots and his example was taken up by two generations of Scottish writers, dramatists and artists.
MacDiarmid believed in the "Gaelic Idea", that Scotland is an essentially Gaelic Celtic Nation which can only reach its full creative potential and consciousness if the subconscious Gaelic element in the Scottish Spirit is freed and allowed to flourish.
For MacDiarmid and indeed for Siol nan Gaidheal the rising Gaelic sun is a symbol of a shining idea for the future of Scotland which replaces the mistaken nostalgic notions of the Celtic Twilight so popular with non-Celtic New Age sentimentalists. While MacDiarmid as an individual may have rejected much that is of continuing value to Scottish culture, the intellectual and creative power of his Scottish Renaissance Movement continues to inspire Ultra-Nationalists.
MacDiarmid not only experimented with Scottish culture, he also attempted to find a political philosophy which would spread his ideas and regenerate Scotland. He was expelled from the SNP for Communism and from the Communists for Nationalism. He was attracted to Italian Fascism and set up a Scottish Fascist combat organisation called Clann Albainn which existed in an underground format for many years. Eventually MacDiarmid formulated a Republican Socialist philosophy similar to that of the Red Clydeside leader John MacLean. Towards the end of his life he became President of the 1320 Club, the ultra-nationalist forerunner of Siol nan Gaidheal.
When the radical Ultra-Nationalists like Hugh MacDiarmid were thrown out of the Scottish National Party in 1934 they set up new organisations and newspapers to publicise their ideas. The "Free Man" journal for example kept up the tradition of Scottish Renaissance cultural nationalism and attacked the soulless economism of the devolutionist SNP Wendy Wood set up the Scottish Democratic Self Government Organisation and founded the Scottish Watch as a youth movement. After a spell in a croft during the war she established the ultra-nationalist Scottish Patriots in 1947.
Within the exceptional conditions created by the Second World War, Ultra-Nationalist traditions came together to first challenge and then overthrow the devolutionist leadership of the SNP In 1942 "King" John MacCormick was defeated by Douglas Young, a conscientious objector and member of the pacifist nationalist pressure group "The Scots Neutrality League". Young remained Chairman of the SNP until 1948. While he was in office the Party achieved their first electoral breakthrough. In 1945 Dr. Robert McIntyre was elected to the Westminster Parliament as the SNPs first M.P.
Although the SNP lost the seat in the subsequent General Election, the SNPs success forced Labour to campaign in favour of Home Rule. Unfortunately, after the General Election, Labour dropped its pledge to set up a Scottish Parliament because the idea conflicted with their philosophy of economic planning and centralisation.
Douglas Young allowed Hugh MacDiarmid into the Party and through his influence stimulated a second wave of Scottish Renaissance activity. Scottish Nationalism was once more a force to be reckoned with. During the war, it is significant that Tom Johnston, the Labour Secretary of State for Scotland, used the threat of nationalism to gain economic concessions for Scotland from the Westminster coalition government.
In 1948 the Ultra-Nationalists fell out among themselves and Douglas Young was forced to leave the SNP The political initiative was picked up by John MacCormicks devolutionist Scottish Convention and Scottish Covenant Association.
The Scottish Covenant obtained over two million signatures in favour of Home Rule but like the 19th century Chartist Petition it was ignored by the British government. Only the Ultra Nationalist position of creating a National Party which would obtain a mandate for Independence gave any hope for the future.
The Scottish Covenant Association benefited as a result of the removal back to Scotland of the "Stone of Destiny" in 1950. Ian Hamilton, the leader of the students who took the stone, was a "covenanter" and he campaigned up and down Scotland for John MacCormicks devolutionist cause. MacCormick vetoed Ian Hamiltons nomination for a Parliamentary Seat and eventually the Covenant died of indecision and lack of direction.
The Covenant, the Scottish Patriots, and the more shadowy Scottish Republican Army, were prominent in the campaign against the use of the "Elizabeth the Second" numeral in Scotland as of course there had never been a Queen Elizabeth the First on the Scottish throne. Scores of ER II symbols were blown up during what came to be known as the great pillar box "war". S.R.A. men were put on trial and police informers were chased in the streets by members of the Scottish public. This heroic if admittedly quaint age of Scottish nationalism was soon celebrated in song and these events did much to stimulate the Scottish Folk Song revival.
Meanwhile, rebel Ultra Nationalists under Douglas Young formed a new group, the Scottish Congress, to campaign for independence. The Congress used Ghandis tactics of non-violent civil disobedience and hoped to set up a representative convention as an alternative to the Westminster Parliament.
Scottish Congress was an alliance of the non-SNP ultra nationalist organisations including United Scotland, led by Doctor Mary Ramsay, Wendy Woods Scottish Patriots, Oliver Browns Scottish Socialist Party, and the Scottish Republican Party, led by Gordon Murray. Congress was kept together by the veteran radical nationalist Roland E. Muirhead who also produced the longest lasting ultra nationalist newspaper, "Scottish Forward", which ceased publication on Muirhead's death in 1964.
Scottish Congress like Siol nan Gaidheal left the business of putting up parliamentary candidates to the S.N. P. Congress dissolved into the SNP in 1965 but many of its members kept together and in 1966 they formed the nucleus of a new Ultra Nationalist organisation, the 1320 Club.
The year 1320 marks the date of the Declaration of Arbroath, a document sent to the Pope reaffirming Scotlands determination to remain independent from England whatever the cost. The Ultra Nationalist members of the new 1320 Club were just as determined to fight if necessary for the independence of Scotland.
Founding members of the 1320 Club were Hugh MacDiarmid, Oliver Brown, Nigel Tranter, Dr. Ian Taylor and Major Frederick A.C. Boothby. The Club operated within and outwith the SNP and its members believed that forward planning and armed action might be required to defend an elected Scottish government against repression from England. During the late 1960s and 1970s it seemed very possible that Scotland would shortly become an independent Nation.
In 1967 Winnie Ewing won the Hamilton by-election and in the following year the SNP was regularly getting over 35% of the Scottish vote and winning hundreds of local council seats. By the end of the two General Elections of 1974 the Scottish National Party had 30% of all votes cast in Scotland and eleven parliamentary seats. Even the mighty Labour Party in Scotland split when Jim Sillars set up his Scottish Labour Party. It seemed to be only a matter of time before the minority Labour government would fail and the final Independence election would be held.
The 1320 Club stimulated the formation of an alternative government and an army to defend it, the Army of the Provisional Government (A.P.G.). A so-called "Tartan Terrorist" tradition began which has continued to the present day with a host of groups among which the Scottish National Liberation Army (S.N.L.A.). The A.P.G. was infiltrated by British State Agents and its leaders were caught and put on trial in an attempt to discredit the National Movement. "Tartan Terrorism" has proved ineffectual (so far) and more often than not it has been used as an excuse for the forcible break-up of Ultra Nationalist organisations by the British Authorities. Siol nan Gaidheal is totally opposed to the use of violence and terrorism in the political struggle for independence. The ends do not justify the means.
The British Government will use any form of dirty tricks to discredit the National Movement. The main British State tactics are delay and pretence. Minimum reforms such as devolution will be promised and so-called negotiations will occur in the hope that the Scottish people will tire of the political process and become disillusioned with the forces of change.
When the political time is right, reforms such as Devolution or Home Rule will be dropped. During the 1970s the Scottish National Party fell into the traps laid by the British Establishment. The Party was conned into supporting the Labour Governments policy of minimal devolution. The Scottish people got fed up of talking shop politics and many stayed at home instead of voting in the 1979 devolution Referendum. As a result the "Yes" side won by only 32% of vote to 30% against. The 40% Rule set in place by the traitorous Labourite George Cunningham was used to ditch devolution. Alas too late, the SNP in Westminster voted out the Labour Government. The Scottish People refused to support the SNP and the Party lost nine seats. Scotland was forced to endure well over a decade of extreme Thatcherite Conservative rule imposed by England.
The first manifestation of Siol nan Gaidheal was born in 1978 as an Ultra-Nationalist reaction to the frustrations of the great devolution debate. The founder of this Siol nan Gaidheal, Tom Moore, wanted an organisation whose aim was to inspire nationalism without inhibition or restraint. Scots should be conscious, proud and unashamed of their own identity. The old S.N.G. challenged the moribund devolutionist leadership of the SNP and built up the morale of rank and file Nationalists shattered after the defeats of 1979.
Siol nan Gaidheal injected spirit, emotion and good fun back into the demoralised Nationalist movement. Whenever the kilted S.N.G. columns appeared, a shiver of excitement and expectation spread among friends and foes alike. For a while it seemed that Siol nan Gaidheals aggressive combination of militant activism and what opponents disparagingly and predictably labelled "Jacobite Romanticism" had hit on a formula of hope for the National Movement.
Militant nationalism was on the march. Left-wing radicals in the SNP set up the Republican Socialist 79 Group whose influence enabled Jim Sillars, the ex-S.L.P. leader to join the National Party. Sillars brought with him the old Scottish Labour Party policy of Independence in Europe which provided a new platform for the devolutionist tendency within the Party. Even the old 1320 Club joined in and merged with Siol nan Gaidheal.
At the stormy 1982 Ayr Conference, in between the thunder and lightning, the Scottish National Party split and threw out both the 79 Group and Siol nan Gaidheal. S.N.G. became a proscribed organisation to the SNP, a status which has remained in force to the present day. Prominent radical nationalists including the future SNP leader Alex Salmond were expelled from the party. Although proscribed, S.N.G. has always had great and sustained support, openly and covertly, from the vast majority of Nationalists, both the rank and file and in many cases, from those who publicly decry them.
Since 1982 when its Ultra Nationalist wings were thrown out of the Party, The Scottish National Party, like the Labour Party, has sacrificed its principles on the altar of imagined electoral success. Union with England has been substituted for Union within Europe and the SNP has remained silent about the cultural imperialism of the English invasion of Scotland.
The most radical Ultra Nationalists within Siol nan Gaidheal were concerned enough about the possible destruction of Scotland as a Nation to set up a military wing Arm nan Gaidheal (Army of the Gael) to free Scotland by force. Inevitably, "Tartan Terrorism" failed and the first manifestation of Siol nan Gaidheal was broken up by the force of the British State.
In 1988, anticipating the upsurge of Scottish Nationalism which led to Jim Sillars victory for the Scottish National Party in Glasgows Govan, Jackie Stokes founded a completely new Nationalist organisation, and took the name Siol nan Gaidheal.
A new chapter in the history of Scotland had begun.
This particular manifestation of Siol nan Gaidheal had been launched after several years were spent studying the actions, mistakes, results and deaths of all previous Ultra Nationalist organisations. Lessons had been learned, and safeguards installed. From the beginning, there was a complete determination that this S.N.G. would prosper despite interference from the forces of the British state. The organisation was set up in such a fashion that members were given information on a "must know" basis. There were branches set up all over Scotland, and others established in England and the rest of Europe.
These branches' activities were strictly controlled. The hierarchy consisted of a twenty two man National Executive Committee but even their decisions were controlled to a certain extent by the National Organiser (Jackie Stokes) who retained power of veto over each and every decision taken.
Working to the blueprint he had drawn up, Stokes, established a SnG Colour Party, this to impress and aid recruitment, anyone seeing the drum beating, black banner waving , Colour Party in their Black Shirts and kilts couldnt fail to be impressed and old and young alike flocked to join the ever-swelling ranks of Siol nan Gaidheal. However, only the very able and bright were promoted into the various smaller committees that were set up to cover Scottish Culture, Education, Security, Research, History, Politics etc. There was also a strong SnG Womens Movement in progress.
SnG also set up a group of articulate individuals with long-term knowledge of the Scottish scene, these were employed as a mobile force to tour schools, colleges and universities giving lectures on SnG policy and world view. Their task was primarily and candidly to recruit the best individuals these establishments had to offer. Their secondary purpose was to investigate the percentage of English students attending each of these establishments in order to add to the research being carried out by others on the proof or otherwise of what was known as "The Englishing of Scotland"
Siol nan Gaidheal carried out many campaigns successfully, they worked unceasingly to promote the Gaelic language and to that end, sent questionnaires to practically every school in Scotland asking teachers and headmasters to support the teaching of Gaelic. They also supported the use of Scots or Lallans as a language that historically has its own value in Scotland.
Perhaps their most successful but most controversial activity was the collecting of data on those they perceived as being English appointees in top jobs in Scotland This received wide publicity and indeed support, though predictably, this was mostly tacit. Siol nan Gaidheal proved time and again that it was no accident that these people could arrive in Scotland and be guaranteed a high paying job within days of their arrival, despite there being more than enough equally or higher qualified Scots to fill the jobs. Inevitably, English people began to get nervous when they received a letter from S.N.G. notifying them of our determination that they would not sit comfortably in their office seats whilst better-qualified Scots were consistently ignored and that we were fully aware of their characteristically English "old boy" network.
The general public were reassured by Siol nan Gaidheal that their activities were not "racist",that facile charge applied to anyone in Scotland concerned with securing at least equality of treatment for indigenous Scots. SnG had no hang-up with ordinary English people who wished to stay and work in Scotland, but there was in existence a seemingly deliberate plan to ensure that every aspect of Scottish culture would be controlled by English appointed non-entities with little or no knowledge of Scotland or Scottish affairs. Anyone who doubts this should look objectively into who controls cultural and heritage affairs in Scotland. From ballet to opera, from museums to dance groups, from theatres to art galleries, from historic and natural heritage organisations to grant-making bodies, from local visitor and interpretation centres to castles and stately homes, the whole cultural edifice in our country is top heavy with English carpetbaggers who wholly ignorant of native conventions and priorities, have an inordinate power of erosion of our distinctiveness.
Despite all the campaigns and other activities involving Siol nan Gaidheal, and if half of what you hear is true, it is remarkable that this particular organisation was not destroyed by the British State, furthermore, in all its time in existence, not one member of Siol nan Gaidheal was ever arrested by the police and charged with anything to do with either "terrorism" or any other crime. It seems that we are beginning to learn how to deal with those who will always oppose Scottish Ultra Nationalism.
Siol nan Gaidheal consists of a mixture of the best Scottish Nationalist traditions. Both the extremes of Unionist devolution and radical political republicanism are rejected by an organisation that is basically cultural and fraternal. Racism and sectarianism are particularly abhorrent to Scots character and custom and have no place in Siol nan Gaidheal.
Siol nan Gaidheal considers Scotland to be a spiritual homeland with a global contribution to make to the development of mankind. The movement draws inspiration from certain spiritual aspects of what has often inaccurately been termed "Celtic Romanticism" and the ideals of the Scottish Renaissance blended with the determination of our Celtic-Gaelic warrior ancestors.
The new Siol nan Gaidheal continued to grow under Jackie Stokes direction to become the largest organisation of its type in Scotland, much larger by far than even he had anticipated. Many rank and file members of the old S.N.G. re-joined and a whole new generation of young people enthusiastically committed themselves to the cause of radical Scottish Nationalism. This new mass membership wanted action and the S.N.G. organisation evolved to meet the demands of this large influx of people. Besides the formation of branches and the setting up of committees as well as the controlling N.E.C, "Siol" also set up an Ard Fheis (Annual General Meeting).
Despite this, the pressure of the day to day business of the organisation increasingly had to be shouldered by the National Organiser. Siol nan Gaidheal undertook to attend and at times organise every Scottish march, rally and commemoration. They created the Black Saltire banners, inserting black instead of blue as the background of the St. Andrew's flag, the explanation being that our country was in mourning for its lost sovereignty and nationhood. They created more banners depicting the Rising Celtic Sun symbol over a new Alba, other flags depicting Celtic Bulls and Boars and many other innovative Celtic-Gaelic designs and wording.
Siol nan Gaidheal organised folk nights, dances and other cultural events at both local and national levels. A great deal of charity work was done and donations of money and books etc. were made to Gaelic play groups and schools. Larger donations were sent in support of groups such as the Assynt Crofters in their successful "land war".
Siol nan Gaidheal contributed to the popular rise of Scottish Nationalism which occurred in the early nineteen nineties. In fact for a moment it even seemed possible that the SNPs slogan of "Scotland Free by 93" might be proved to be right. In the first months of 1992 with a General Election expected at any time, there were a number of events which seemed to be signposts on the road to Independence. SNP leader Alex Salmond easily won the Great Debate in the Usher Hall in Edinburgh on the constitutional future of Scotland. For the first time opinion polls showed more than 50% support for total independence and most incredible of all, the Sun newspaper turned overnight from the Unionist to the Scottish Nationalist cause. It was in this heady atmosphere of a General Election campaign that Siol nan Gaidheal held its weekend long Ard Fheis. There was a press conference, folk nights, childrens entertainment and a whole series of classes and workshops on Scottish Language, History and Culture. This event was extremely well attended and not just by members of S.N.G., many Scottish and foreign students from the colleges and universities "Siol" had lectured at, came along to listen and be heard. Valuable contacts were made that weekend and much exchange of information and cultural comparisons evaluated. Everyone who attended agreed that this was an experience that must be repeated, promises were made from all the students to return with friends for the next Ard Fheis. Siol nan Gaidheal had truly become the University of Scottish Ultra Nationalism.
Unfortunately this great bubble of optimism burst with the result of the General Election of 1992 and the return of yet another Conservative Government. It seemed as if the hopes and disappointments for Scotland of the 1970s had been played again in the early months of 1992. Many Scottish Nationalists could not believe that all our hopes had failed. A vigil was organised outside the Scottish Assembly Building on Calton Hill and briefly an all party organisation Scotland United was set up to press for Home Rule. A series of mass demonstrations were held but the Tory government were unmoved and "Scotland United" faded away. It was in this era of disappointment that the National Organiser of Siol nan Gaidheal, Jackie Stokes, suffered a heart attack brought on by the stress of running S.N.G., a not unsurprising outcome considering the workload he was shouldering. An attempt to delegate the running of "Siol" was made, but unfortunately, the people appointed were unable to do the job fully, and ultimately, Stokes was forced to close the entire organisation down. The demise of Siol nan Gaidheal led to the dispersal of its membership. Some rejoined the Scottish National Party, but most drifted away from the Nationalist scene altogether. The frustration felt by some radical members led them to go and form other organisations such as Scottish Watch and Settler Watch, both dedicated to campaigning against the "Englishing of Scotland".
Meanwhile, Scottish National consciousness gradually recovered and confidence returned once more. A great interest in Scottish culture and history was stimulated by a number of Hollywood and independently-produced films about Scotland and its people such as "Braveheart", "Rob Roy" and "The Bruce". On Mayday 1997, a Labour Government was returned with a massive majority and a pledge to establish a devolved Scottish Parliament after a referendum. At long last the future of a Scottish Parliament was back in the hands of the Scottish people.
Responding to the challenge of new times and the demands of its former members, Jackie Stokes re-established the third manifestation of Siol nan Gaidheal in the new year of 1997.
The National Organiser of S.N.G. has stated that if Labour adhere to its pre-election promises to the Scottish people, then "Siol" must be organised to meet the challenge of having our own Parliament and to accept this as the first step to complete Independence. However, knowing Labour's history of betrayal of the Scottish peoples trust, we must also stand ready to deal with this also. Despite the considerable promises made prior to the General Election, Labour thought they would desperately need the votes of the Scottish electorate, they now have such a majority they can afford to either water down their earlier proposals, or find a way to sink the very idea of a Scottish Parliament. The official S.N.G. view is that Labour will betray us again, they were, are and always will be a Unionist Party who will do all in their power to deprive the Scottish people of their independence and sovereignty. Siol nan Gaidheal will be paying very close attention to their actions in the future and will take up the challenge when it comes.
Jackie Stokes handed over to a new National Organiser in July 2000, but continued to assist in the running of the organisaton, concentrating mainly on the web site and forum. His untimely death on 24th July 2001 was a blow to Siol nan Gaidheal, but his vision remains true and the work continues. The Third Manifestation remains an active reality.
Siol nan Gaidheal supports the revival of the Folkic traditions of Scotland and the Gaelic and Scots languages. The land of Scotland from which we as a people and our culture spring, is central to our vision. Sustainable land use is vital for the future of our country. Land must be reclaimed for the benefit of our people. Siol nan Gaidheal seeks to liberate the Scottish people from the worst excesses of English/British Cultural Imperialism and believes that English people resident in Scotland will integrate into and make a full contribution to the community of Scotland. SnG will dedicate itself to fulfilling our commitments to our country and people, we will thus not stand idly by and watch our country being used, abused or betrayed by enemies both internal and external. We are content to leave party political action to the Scottish National Party and the Scottish Parliament. SnG exists to promote, safeguard and stimulate a third Scottish Renaissance which will use the best past traditions of Scotland to forge a new Nation which will be an example to the world.
That having been said, Siol nan Gaidheal will as always continue to be active in the broader Independence movement, participating in rallies and protests, using the large banners we have had created to get the message across, and utilise social media, sticker campaigns and appropriate 'stunts' to highlight the ongoing campaign to attain full Independence from the millstone that is Westminster. Only by demonstrating the absurdity of remaining tied to a government which actively attempts to destroy the Scottish people's will, culture and often livelihoods can we justify our continued existence. The real work starts on the day that Scotland becomes, once again, a Free and Independent nation.
"For we have faith in Scotlands hidden powers, the presents theirs but all the past and futures ours."
Siol nan Gaidheal The Scottish Cultural and Fraternal Organisation
" For even if they should say something true, one who loves the Truth should not, even so, agree with them. For not all true things are the Truth; nor should that truth which seems true according to human opinions be preferred to the true Truth - that according to the faith." Clement of Alexandria
|Return to Politics
|Return to Index