The Most Shameful Smear

The Common Green

It’s (hopefully) no secret that I’m not a member of the SNP so some may question my stepping in to this current scandal. I am, however, a member of Yes Clydesdale and it was through them that I first met Philippa Whitford (in fact, it was a talk organised by our group which went viral and was responsible for launching her political career).

Through the course of the indyref I had the opportunity to sit on Q&A panels alongside Philippa and can find absolutely nothing but praise to say about her.

She is a person of incredible knowledge and inspiration who took the incredibly brave step of moving from a hard fought career in healthcare to casting herself into the thankless kindergarten where people make animal noises” which is the House of Commons.

So to today and Dr Whitford finds herself the target of the latest and lamest SNPBAD smear…

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Regeneration: Ramsay, Burns and Scottish Independence

As we quickly approach Burns night, a great constitutional debate has sparked across social media which has both sides of the independence debate claim Robert Burns as their own; thus, I decided I would release a chapter from an academic work of mine in which touches upon this subject.

Burns by Iain McIntosh

Robert Burns by Iain McIntosh © Scottish Poetry Library

Ramsay and Burns are very well known for their politically based poetry. Allan Ramsay was known to be an incredible influence on Robert Burns. Both poets were intimately  involved in a literary movement known now as the Romantic Movement, which saw works in Scottish, Irish and English Literature flourish, and the literary world was gifted  with wordsmiths like Shelley, Byron, Wordsworth and of course, Burns and Ramsay.

Murray Pittock made the argument that Ramsay was in fact the avatar of Romanticism in Britain:

Ramsay is an avatar of subsequent literary development in several areas: in his promotion of a Scottish public sphere, in his alter mentality and inflection of genre, designed to protect and promote a distinctive national voice by transforming predominantly English uses of literary kinds, not surrendering to them; and in his development of a taxonomy of glory to justify a continuity of kinds and forms in a distinctively Scottish Literature, for which he is largely personally responsible.These developments can be interpreted (as indeed they used to be) as connected to what have come to be seen as conventional values of Romantic Literature.

This passage reflects on Ramsays giant footstep he left for others to follow, and his part in the inception of Romantic Literature. Pittock goes on:

Ramsays Scottish literature is one driven from premises of feeling and sentiment, where the Bards make their first significant appearance in Scottish writing as guarantors of native distinctiveness and quality, a role which does not emerge for them in England until the 1760s.

Pittock established the key aspects and differences between Scottish and English Romanticism; but he also established the foreshadowing of Scottish Romanticism onto English Romanticism.

The critical study of Romanticism is often considered to be fairly Anglo-Centric; Ian Duncan wrote that the term Romanticism has come under intense scrutiny and debate in literary studies in Great Britain and North America in the last couple of decades. Only very recently has that debate begun to address the terms anglocentric underpinnings.

This could indeed be a highly relevant point for discussion, as Scottish Romanticism did often reflect on National status; however it displayed the feeling, the sentiment, and the political discontent that much of the later English works demonstrated.

A key influence on the Romanticism of Allan Ramsay could  indeed be influenced by the Act of Union itself. Ramsay was in vehement opposition to the ceding of Scottish Sovereignty to the English Parliament in 1707. If one concedes the incredible influence of Allan Ramsay on Romantic Literature, one could consider the concept of the Act of Union having a considerable impact on the development of Romanticism as a whole. The energy and regeneration of Scottish Literature was so strong as was felt by Allan Ramsays fury, the tremors were felt in literature across the British Isles.

Allan Ramsay performed this regeneration of Scottish Literature by reflecting on historical characters of Scotlands past, and alluding them to the great Classical characters seen in Latin Literature, such as Virgils Aeneid. This could not be any more apparent than in Ramsays poem, A Poem. This poem was incredibly radical for its time, and within a few lines, Ramsay makes a bitter comment regarding the Act of Union:

The good of our ———— and Scotland sought.

For like a Noble Scot of Antient Race,

He spurned at our Slavery and Disgrace.

Poor Slaves to England, Wretched, O ye Gods!

The speaker of this poem is travelling through the Classical Greek underworld, as Virgils Aeneas was tasked to do, as a means of finding the pathway to found the great city that was Rome – a tale that would have been very well known across communities at the time of Ramsay. The speaker on his travels through the Stygian River and descension through the Underworld, encounters a hero of Scotlands struggle for Independence, Robert the Bruce:

Of Valiant BRUCE approachd to him and said,

Tell me, how fares it with my Albions now,

Can they with Ease to the Proud Saxons bow?

O Gods! Is the Great Soul of SCOTLAND FLED;

Or does She Dream on some drowzy Bed.

Will she not rise to gain Her Old Renown,

And Show She wears an Independent Crown.

Ramsay puts words in the mouth of one of Scotlands former Kings, and mourns the loss of Scotlands Independence. In setting the poem in such a well known place among Ramsays contemporaries, and contemporary society, this places Scotlands cause in context to make people reflect, and strengthen the message of the injustice of Scotlands political situation. Scotlands literature is placed in the context of the worlds historical literature, and this would have surely had his readers sit up and take notice of what was going on around them, and the travesty that was the Act of Union. By using famous characters of the Scotlands past, Ramsay triggers a Renaissance in Scottish Literature, by forcing others to consider what the heroes of the past would think of the present circumstances – this was evident in the poetry of men after Ramsay, such as Robert Fergusons Poem, The Ghaists: A Kirk-yard Eclogue. Ramsay subsequently incorporated to his poem another hero from the time of the Wars of Independence; this time, William Wallace:

WALLACE came next with Aspect Stern, yet kind;

And askd, If there was none of Martial Mind,

Who durst like him, through Blood and Ruin go,

To save Old SCOTLAND from her Hated Foe.

No, no, the Doctor said, theres none at all:

Our Peers are False, our Gentrys Courage Small,

Then did the HERO groan and wish tho late,

It wight be granted by Eternal Fate,

For him once more to head the Valiant Clans,

SCOTS should have freedom large as their demands.

Raw passion is seen in these lines by Ramsay, evoking Scotlands historic and literary past while referencing his contemporary politicians and landowners in order to make a critical comment on Scotlands predicament within the Great Britain. Another literary device deployed by Ramsay in order to make this critical point on the Act of Union, and the loss of Scotlands Sovereignty was his use of language. This poem, despite Ramsays reputation of presenting a distinctly Scottish Romanticism, is noticeably lacking in Scots language. This was almost certainly, given the context of the poem, a means of reflection on other aspects of culture that Scotland faced to lose as a result of the Act Of Union: it reflects the growing sense of Anglicisation, and the infectious nature of surrendering Sovereignty out of Scotland, and the fear of cultural annihilation.  Therefore, Ramsay has retrieved characters, and literary traditions traditions from long in the past, and renewed them to make a critical comment on Scotlands place in the Union, as was done by so many writers at the time. Ramsay regenerated Scottish Literature, and jumpstarted the larger Romantic movement of literature – this poem contained raw passions, and sophisticated political thought, mourning lost liberties.

A poem in which Ramsay deploys similar themes, but adapts his language to look reminiscent of the works of Dunbar and Henryson was one found in his collection The Evergreen, known simply as The Vision. In their introduction to the Poetry Collection Scotlands Poets and the Nation, Riach and Gifford describe The Visionas outstanding example of  angry nationalism. The editors go on to comment:

Ramsays trick is to pretend that he is writing about the Wars of Independence, when his real message, invoking the spirit of the past in Wallace, is an exhortation to present rebellion and the re-assertion of Scottish Independence. And his successor Robert Fergusson and Burns continue his nationalist, visionary poetry.

The lines that make this critical comment more than apparent have a real contemporary tone to the world of Ramsay: Our trechour piers thair tyranns treit,

Quha jyb them, and thair substance eit,

And on their honour stamp;

They, pure degenerate! bend thair baks,

The Victor, Langshanks, proudly cracks

He has blown out our lamp;

Quhyle trew men, sair complainand, tell,

With sobs, thair silent greif.

By writing these lines in the present tense, the reader can see the passion seeping through the words of Ramsay. The Lords and Peers of Scotland are widely regarded as those responsible for the sale of Scotlands freedom. The language of the selected passage shows clearly the angry nationalismRiach and Gifford spoke about previously. Furious words such as trechourand degeneratewreak of pure rage on behalf of the speaker, and what is seeming more than apparent, Allan Ramsay himself.

Allan Ramsay invoked the spirit of writers of the past, such as Henryson and Dunbar, and brought in the voices of historical characters of the past such as William Wallace and Robert Bruce, and renewed their voices for the present, and the fight for political self-determination for those living in Scotland.

Burns, whom i have hitherto mentioned was majorly influenced by both Allan Ramsay and Robert Fergusson. Like his predeccesors, Burns had taken an interest in the Scots language and used it in much of his poetry. Burns, like Ramsay is beginning to be credited as one of the major influences of the subsequent Romantic Period in Literature.

Scotlands greatest poet did not live to see the birth of the new literary movement (if one dates it from publication of Lyrical Ballads in 1798), but his work was such a powerful influence on its authors, many would claim him as its godfather, if not its progenitor – titles he deserves to share with Cowper.

Burns was regarded as Scotlands Bard . Katie Trumpener in her critically acclaimed piece, Bardic Nationalismdescribed the notion of the bard as:

For nationalist antiquaries, the bard is the mouthpiece for the whole society, articulating its values, chronicling its history, and mourning the inconsolable tragedy of its collapse. English poets, in contrast, imagine the bard (and the minstrel after him) as an inspired, isolated, and peripatetic figure.

Burns was indeed a mouthpiece of a poorly represented segment of society, however, by attaching the label ‘bard’  to him, many perceive him as a mere regional poet, and absent from the great Romantic Tradition. Burns was a major player in the Romantic Era of literature, and inside his sentimental heart lurked a political giant, crying out for the lost liberties of not only his land, but the lost liberties of all peoples when faced with oppression from those above them in the gravy-train of society. Robert Crawford discussed Burn’s conflict with this status of the ‘Bard’ :

In adopting the description ‘a Scotch bard’ and calling it his ‘highest pride’, Burns attempts to valorise this patronising term. It allows him again to side firmly with those supposedly rather primitive Ayrshire peasants from whose society he comes and whose language he often uses.

Burns played with the old status of the bard  which had strong links back to Scotlands past, and traditional Folk Tales, and presented himself as a man of the people as he unleashed his radical politics onto society. His poem A Mans A Man For AThat is a key example of him doing this.

Then let us pray that come it may,

(As come it will for a’ that,)

That Sense and Worth, o’er a’ the earth,

Shall bear the gree, an’ a’ that.

For a’ that, an’ a’ that,

It’s coming yet for a’ that,

That Man to Man, the world o’er,

Shall brothers be for a’ that.’

Burns in this poem discussed the fraternal nature of mankind – the reader can clearly see the egalitarian nature of Burns’ politics – what shines through is the radical in Burns – one can almost envisage Burns’ as a republican with the egalitarian and internationalist politics at work in this poem. Burns’ used his status to retrieved the sentiments and the imagination of the past, and renewed them for the future as he looked forward and asserted himself in Scottish society.

His poem, ‘Scots Wha Hae’ does the same, however makes a clear case for Independence as well as general liberties for the people, whether against the brutality of employers or landlords. This poem is very like that of Ramsay’s ‘The Vision’ as it plays on the tradition set by the likes of Henryson and Dunbar, of creating a setting which is based firmly in the past,  but sentiments and themes are ones which are incredibly relevant to the present and future. This was a technique that many writers adopted as a means of placing some distance between themselves and their work, through their fear of repercussions if their publication is considered Radical by the authorites. It also plays firmly with the tradition that has been hitherto discussed regarding Ramsay of retrieving from the past, and renewing for the future as a means of making a case for Independence.

By Oppression’s woes and pains!

By your Sons in servile chains!

We will drain our dearest veins,

But they shall be free!

Lay the proud Usurpers low!

Tyrants fall in every foe!

Liberty ’s in every blow!

Let us Do—or Die!!!’

The note for the Scots Wha Haenotes that it should be sung alongside an old Scots tune Hey Tutti Taitiewhich was said to have been the tune to which Bruces troops marched to Bannockburn to face Edward II in the penultimate battle in the Scottish Wars of Independence in the thirteenth and fourteenth century. By retrieving a tune from the past, Burns was inviting his audience to hum the tune that was hummed by the Scots preparing to fight and die for Independence. It is evident here that Burns was taking a full and open part in the regeneration of past texts and past traditions in order to make the case for Independence, and called on his readers to display the bravery that their ancestors had shown years before. This revival and renaissance was typical of the revolution that Ramsay had started in reaction to the Act of Union in which Scottish Artists fought for their identity and fought to assert their cultural uniqueness and individual contributions they could make to the literary world.

Such a Parcel ORogues In A Nationwas very like Ramsays text, in which it can be described as an example of angry nationalism. The poem, like Ramsays poem attacks the wealthy few who sold Scotland out for more riches for themselves.

‘Fareweel to a’ our Scottish fame,

Fareweel our ancient glory;

Fareweel even to the Scottish Name,

Sae fam’d in martial story!

Now Sark runs o’er the Solway Sands,

And Tweed runs to the Ocean,

To mark where England’s Province stands,

Such a Parcel of rogues in a nation.’

This stanza reflects heavily on Scotlands past, and proud history. This poem asserts that all of this was sold when the Act of Union was signed. The repetition of Fareweelreflects the severity of the actions of those few who signed the Act of Union. Fame, Gloryand Nameare all what Burnssays Scotland has signed away with the surrender of sovereignty. This poem is perhaps the most radical in Burnsentire collection, as it doesn’t have the suitable historical distance to be excused – Burns was writing not long after the 45 and Culloden as seen in the Jacobite Rebellions, and to write so close to a time when those fighting for the Scottish Kings against the new British Kings had been subject to a massacre would have been incredibly dangerous. It was published posthumously however,  presumably due to its dangerous content. It is likely that Burns would have passed this poem around friends of his, and allowed them to personally reflect on the lost liberties; but it wasn’t for general public consumption till after Burnsdeath.

Burns in Such A Parcel ORogues in a Nationdraws on Scotlands history; referencing culture and tradition, urged Scotland not to give up on these things. Burnspoem was truly a symbol of the Renaissance of Scottish Literature in the 18th century, in the face of Cultural Annihilation. Both Burnsand Allan Ramsay in their poetry fought for the re-assertion of Scottish Independence, and their work, along with the work of their contemporaries was to be referenced and serve as an influence to future writers seeking to recover, and renew older elements of Scottish Literature in order to make the case for Scottish National self-determination.

Why we need an SPFL with teeth…

We need to talk about December 28th, 2015.


At the tail end of last year, The Rangers faced Hibernian at Ibrox at a top of table clash in the Scottish Championship. Hibernian’s Jason Cummings saw the away team take the lead, however after an end-to-end clash, The Rangers came out top winning 4-2. Unfortunately it is not the football that everyone remembers from that game.

The game broadcast was shown live on BT Sport, and former-Rangers manager, and match commentator Stuart McColl was in the middle of declaring what fantastic atmosphere existed in this fixture when we heard it: bellowing from the Rangers stands the infamous ‘Billy Boys’, prohibited under the OBA rang across the stadium, and was broadcast into thousands of homes. Many i’m sure will have felt a feeling of disbelief as the infamous line was screamed shamelessly by what seemed like thousands of Rangers supporters, who declared they were “Up to our knees in fenian blood.” At that moment, the atmosphere at Ibrox became hostile, and it felt like we had all fallen down a wormhole leading to dark and sorry past.

Throughout the game, the 900-strong Hibernian support were declared ‘Fenian Bastards,’ and ‘Fenian Cunts’ as well as having numerous items thrown down at them  by the surrounding Rangers support. The focus of those involved in the anti-catholic chanting soon turned to Hibernian head coach, Alan Stubbs, which was then tweeted and retweeted by Rangers supporters at the game and watching from home.

image2 (1)

One of several twitter accounts openly sharing this Sectarian chant. 

As had been previously mentioned, it felt like all those watching the game had been transported back to a dark, and unacceptable past. It seemed that a large number of Rangers supporters online and at the match had came to a conclusion that the social standards, and legislative devices which demanded an end  the sectarianism had disappeared.

I noticed a very depressing statistic as the afternoon went on. It appeared on trendsmap on Twitter, and had issued a notification of a word that had begun to trend in Glasgow. See the screenshot below:


The songs chanted at this match stirred up old divides, and knocked us back decades for 24 hours. This went long beyond the football, and the SPFL must take action against this kind of behaviour: The time is now for strict liability to fight sectarian singing. The SPFL must make clubs liable for the behaviour of their fans; the SPFL must work with the police in the fight against Sectarianism.

Uefa imposes liability to clubs for the behaviour of fans in continental competitions, as Rangers have been punished for sectarian chanting whilst playing in Europe.Uefa have even imposed strict fines to giants, such as Bayern Munich when a very small group of fans displayed a homophobic banner.

gay gunners

Crude caricature of Arsenal midfielder, Mesut Ozil deemed homophobic by Uefa, and led to Bayern Munich receiving a hefty fine. 

The fast action taken by the SPFL against Robbie Neilson, and other managers who have dared criticise the quality of refereeing by some of the officials is embarrassing, when contrasted with their complete lack of action against punishing those involved in bigotry. Today ( January 19th 2016) the SPFL Board are due to ‘discuss’ the behaviour of the Rangers support from the match on the 28th December 2015, but football clubs in Scotland overwhelmingly rejected the prospect of the strict liability rules being implemented domestically. So, regardless of the conclusions of the SPFL ‘discussion’ today, there will likely be no action against Rangers for the behaviour of a large collective of their fans present at the match on the 28th. 

It is time for Scottish clubs to step up, and give the SPFL the teeth and the motivation to try and eradicate Sectarianism from our game. 

Stokes signs – times are changing for Hibernian

tony stokes

There is a wind of change blowing around Easter Road. Since the club’s shock relegation to the Scottish Championship, the club’s attendance’s haven’t been what they should be, and finances have taken a serious hit. Following the devastating defeat to Hamilton Academical in 2014, a large swathe of supporters rallied outside the stadium calling for the resignation of club chairman, Rod Petrie after years of perceived complacency around the club’s SPFL status.

Ever since, Leanne Dempster has taken the reigns as Chief Executive and unproven Alan Stubbs was appointed as head coach there has been a new energy around Easter Road. Whilst this hasn’t quite been reflected in the attendance’s as of yet, it seems almost inevitable that once Alan Stubbs drives the team back to the premiership, the club will continue in this new direction which can only bring the club success.

The signing of Celtic striker, Anthony Stokes on loan till the end of the season, as well the electric form of youngster, Jason Cummings aren’t the only reasons Hibs fans should be excited. Former Celtic midfielder, Dylan McGeouch has been dominating the middle of the park in this year’s Scottish Championship, and linking up with hot prospects, John McGinn and Liam Henderson.

Soccer - Ladbrokes Scottish Championship - Hibernian v Rangers - Easter Road

Jason Cummings celebrates his stunning opener against Rangers

Whilst Rangers supporters dismiss the prospect of a title challenge from the Leith-based side being 5 points clear of them, it wouldn’t be inconceivable to consider the possibility of the Leith men winning all their remaining Championship fixtures, including their home match against The Rangers scheduled at the start of March; thus ensuring the Championship title remains in Edinburgh and securing automatic promotion for Hibernian, forcing The Rangers to battle in the play offs for a second year running.

Off the park, times are changing as well for Hibernian: Leanne Dempster has taken the club by the scruff of the neck and is changing the way the club is run, and who it serves. There has been a real focus on supporter engagement and involvement with the club. Posters are displayed across the vestibules of Easter Road encouraging supporters to buy shares in the club in a drive to secure fan ownership at Hibernian. HSL (Hibernian Supporters Limited) is a group spearheaded by former Justice-Secretary, Kenny McAskill and Proclaimer, Charlie Reid, and it now has a stake of roughly 8% in the club, taking fan ownership up to 20% ,and ever growing.

Amongst the supporters, you can’t help but notice the quiet confidence and excitement that they have for their club. Whilst even political commentators still ridicule Hibs’ dismal record in the Scottish Cup and the club’s historical mental bottle, supporters still smile. Enthusiasm and excitement long absent from Easter Road have now returned, and the stands are starting to rumble.

Blogging again

I should say, after over a year of neglect, I have decided to blog again. Obviously, my previous posts led up to the referendum, so new posts will not be quite be the  same thematically.

I hope to still offer a critical approach, and my focus will remain on Scottish/British politics, literature, and occasionally a bit of fitbaw!



Burns, Moore and Romanticism

rabbie burns

Since Burn’s night is fast approaching, I thought i would upload an essay I’ve written on Robert Burn’s and Thomas Moore, and how they tie in to the notion of ‘Romantic writers.’

Ian Duncan wrote that ‘the term Romanticism has come under intense scrutiny and debate in literary studies in Great Britain and North America in the last couple of decades. Only very recently has that debate begun to address the term’s anglocentric underpinnings.’ Generally when one thinks of the literary romantic period, one would assume that what is being referred to is the era of English Literature which featured the prominent figures of Blake, Wordsworth, Shelley and Byron.

Burns and Moore are however oft neglected in the study of Romantic literature, despite their considerable influence on writers heavily studied in the Romantic era, in particular the influence of Robert Burns. Much of their work is consistent with the assumptions and pre-requisite’s of the modern description of Romantic Literature. Both poet’s engage with nature, advocate self-expression, both emotional and creative self-expression, and both rebel against their established orders in many of their poems. In Duncan Wu’s anthology of romantic literature he said this of Robert Burns:

‘Scotland’s greatest poet did not live to see the birth of the new literary movement (if one dates it from publication of Lyrical Ballads in 1798), but his work was such a powerful influence on its authors, many would claim him as its godfather, if not its progenitor – titles he deserves to share with Cowper.’

Burns was a strong influence on Thomas Moore, and much of Moore’s poetry was in line with the assumptions of Romanticism, as will be demonstrated in this piece.

‘It was Thomas Moore, however, who came closest to achieving the status of national writer that was afforded to Burns, particularly through his interest in the genre of the national song. Moore’s involvement in the Burns dinner demonstrates that he embraced the cultural practices of the early Burns cult, which were establishing and promoting Burns as a national bard.’

Status as the ‘National Bard’  could well be what limits the romantic study of Burns and Moore in broader contemporary criticism. Many critics simply rate the two poets to the study of Irish and Scottish Literature. ‘Despite the slowly increasing visibility of Scottish and Irish writers in Romantic studies, Robert Burns remains a somewhat peripheral figure. This is despite the fact that some of most influential scholars on the work of Burns over the last half-century have been convincingly making the case for liberating his work from traditional and popular readings that see him as only narrowly relevant to a Scottish vernacular poetic tradition. Raymond Bentman, for example, argues against ‘hermetically sealing him off from the period he lived in’. Indeed, there are tangible connections between Burns and several of the most familiar English Romantics.’

Burns was initially resistant to the status of the ‘bard’, and at times even parodied such a status, as he feared exactly what has happened in much of his criticism – that he is studied within the limitations of national boundaries. Both Burns’ and Moore abided to what would allow them to be considered National Bard’s.

Katie Trumpener in her critically acclaimed piece, ‘Bardic Nationalism’ described the notion of the bard as: ‘For nationalist antiquaries, the bard is the mouthpiece for the whole society, articulating its values, chronicling its history, and mourning the inconsolable tragedy of its collapse. English poets, in contrast, imagine the bard (and the minstrel after him) as an inspired, isolated, and peripatetic figure.’

Certainly, both Burns and Moore could be considered mouthpiece’s of their societies, and resisted the loss of Liberties that had been brought about to them – in particular – both poet’s resisted the annexation of their two land’s into the British Empire.

Burns wrote the poem, ‘Such a Parcel of Rogues in a Nation’, which had echoes of Allan Ramsay’s collection ‘Evergreen.’ It savages those at the pinnacle of Scottish society selling out Scotland’s people for ‘English Gold.’

‘Fareweel to a’ our Scottish fame,

Fareweel our ancient glory;

Fareweel even to the Scottish Name,

Sae fam’d in martial story!

Now Sark runs o’er the Solway Sands,

And Tweed runs to the Ocean,

To mark where England’s Province stands,

Such a Parcel of rogues in a nation.’

This mourns what Burns sees as the loss of Scottish pride and identity that being brought into the Act of Union. Burns here stands for Scottish values against Imperialism, and stands for his society, and cries for liberation. 

Moore also does this, with his particularly tragic poem, ‘The Minstrel Boy.’ He mourns the lost liberties of Ireland.

‘The Minstrel fell! But the foeman’s chain
Could not bring his proud soul under;
The harp he loved ne’er spoke again,
For he tore its chords asunder;
And said “No chains shall sully thee,
Thou soul of love and bravery!
Thy songs were made for the pure and free
They shall never sound in slavery!’

The Harp is often represented as signifying Ireland, as is seen on crests, and even Irish beer. The stanza I have selected is an incredibly emotional piece of literature, as it like Burns’ does in much of his poetry, mourns the loss of liberty. Moore does so with the silencing of the Harp – the national symbol of Ireland, and it reaches a climax with the vision of the dying Minstrel Boy tearing his harp strings apart on the battle field, as he feels the harp is too beautiful, and too pure to play in the confines of slavery.

This could certainly be seen as a cry for Irish liberty against British oppression. Burns and Moore both certainly defend their national liberties against oppression, but both examples of their poetry could be read in an internationalist perspective. The Romantic era is one which featured strong examples of political radicalism, as was evident in the poetry of Lord Byron and Percy Bysshe Shelley, so it is somewhat strange that the poetry of liberation by Moore and Burns is mostly read in a simply National Perspective, in stark contrast to Byron and Shelley.

A very interesting example to look at is Burns’ poem, ‘Scots Wha Hae.’ Now, this may seem a strange choice when discussing international liberties in the Romantic Literature context, as it is a poem which is regarded as an unofficial National Anthem for Scotland. It is also a poem which celebrates Scotland’s military victory in the fourteenth century to regain Independence from England. 

‘Scots, wha hae wi’ Wallace bled,

Scots, wham Bruce has aften led,

Welcome to your gory bed,—

Or to victorie.—

Now ’s the day, and now’s the hour;

See the front o’ battle lour;

See approach proud Edward’s power,

Chains and Slaverie.’

The poem however is also a call to arms for all oppressed people during the time of Burns’, whether it be the workers or politically oppressed.

‘By Oppression’s woes and pains!

By your Sons in servile chains!

We will drain our dearest veins,

But they shall be free!

Lay the proud Usurpers low!

Tyrants fall in every foe!

Liberty ’s in every blow!

Let us Do—or Die!!!’

The final two stanzas do not mention England or Scotland, Kings or Queen and have no nation or land, or people specified. The final two stanzas should be read in an internationalist perspective. ‘Lay the proud usurpers low’ does not solely refer to the English, who Burns may have saw as robbing the Scottish people of their liberty, but it can also stand for cruel employers, brutal landlords or those who would seek to assault one’s democratic and personal rights. Burns, in what some may view as a purely national poem, demonstrates himself as a strong internationalist with concern with people who have liberties oppressed across the globe, and not just Scotland. Burns here places himself well within the themes of the typical Romantic Poets of the 18th and 19th century, and his influence appears to have been strong. Robert Crawford would agree with this statement. In his critical piece, ‘The Bard’ he said:

‘Yet, for all he was clearly nourished by that fountainhead of modernity, the Scottish Enlightenment, Burns was in several ways the first of the English-speaking world’s great Romantic poets. Paterson, whose essay even gets the year of Burns’s death wrong , is not to be trusted on dates: it was his 1770s and subsequent experience of the era of the American and French Revolutions which set Burns in the vanguard of Romanticism in the English-speaking world where Romantic tonalities had earlier been essayed by his countrymen James Thomson and James Macpherson.’

Crawford also criticised how critics had previously when attempting to look beyond Burns’s status as a National Bard and discuss his qualities as a Romantic Poet, many deliberately omitted his side as a radical political poet, as has been previously discussed with his poetry.

The interanationalist, and egalitarian nature of the poetry of Robert Burns is seen in his poem, ‘A Man’s a Man For A’ That.’

‘Then let us pray that come it may,

(As come it will for a’ that,)

That Sense and Worth, o’er a’ the earth,

Shall bear the gree, an’ a’ that.

For a’ that, an’ a’ that,

It’s coming yet for a’ that,

That Man to Man, the world o’er,

Shall brothers be for a’ that.’

This poem discusses the fraternal nature of mankind, and asserts that all men are born the same, no matter what nation, colour or creed they are born in to. This is typical of the Romantic era of literature, and due to the time and date of Burns’s composition of this poem, it certainly adds to previous assertions that Burns could well be the ‘Godfather’ of the romantic era of literature.

It is not just the political poetry of Burns and Moore which place them in the Romantic Era of Literature – they also composed literature of sentiment – literature of the self expression of emotion. Burns’s poem, ‘My Luve is like a Red Red Rose’ is widely regarded as one of the most beautiful examples of love poetry ever written. Robert Crawford added this beautiful description to a beautiful poem: ‘Years later Burns would make poetry from such geological speculations, fusing them with his own sense of human vulnerability and passion in one of his greatest love songs, ‘A Red Red Rose’ in which he imagines a time when ‘seas gang dry’, and ‘rocks melt wi’ the sun.’ This poem’s sentiments are so strong, it has been quoted in contemporary times by politicians to signify their devotion to the people, notably, Alex Salmond has been known to quote this particular poem. This  poem reveals all the emotion and sentiment that was involved in the romantic period of literature, and a vulnerability is seen in Robert Burns, who has been known for strong and defiant political poetry. The line ‘rocks melt wi the sun’ emphasises the strength of the leave felt by Burns, as it issues the statement that his love is as lasting as the land, and even in the unlikely event of geographical revolutions, his love will endure.

Moore was no different in his ability to write poetry of great sentiment. His poem, ‘The Last Rose of Summer’ is considered by many as a masterpiece.

‘’TIS the last rose of summer
Left blooming alone;
All her lovely companions
Are faded and gone;
No flower of her kindred,
No rosebud is nigh,
To reflect back her blushes,
To give sigh for sigh.’

This poem can be regarded as one which relates to the passing of time, and growing older, as one’s life draws closer to an end. It reflects the universal them of the sense of mortality – however, Moore subsequently makes the poem seem like an example of love poetry in his second stanza:

‘I’ll not leave thee, thou lone one!
To pine on the stem;
Since the lovely are sleeping,
Go, sleep thou with them.
Thus kindly I scatter
Thy leaves o’er the bed,
Where thy mates of the garden
Lie scentless and dead.’

The line ‘I’ll not leave thee, thou lone one!’  evokes an incredible sense of romance and devotion. It conforms to the Romantic Period’s sense of self-expression of emotion. Moore was a great friend of Shelley and Byron, and was deeply involved in the Romantic Period.

To conclude, both Burns and Moore have produced poetry that would certainly fit the criteria to be considered Romantic Poetry. It is likely that their regional status however has had an effect on their reading as Romantic poets, due the apparent anglo-centric study of Romantic Literature. Burns however was incredibly influential on Thomas Moore himself, as well as an influence on William Wordsworth – Burns can be considered as the ‘Godfather’ of the Romantic Era of Literature, so it has been a strange conundrum that Burns’ has just been studied as a Scottish Poet by many critics, and his universal nature has been stifled by anglo-centric nature of literary criticism.


Burns, Robert ,’ Selected Poems (London: Penguin Books Ltd) 1993.

Crawford, Robert ‘The Bard’. (London: Pimlico) 2010

Dornan, Stephen. Robert Burns and Hibernia: Irish Romanticism and Caledonia’s Bard, ‘Ireland and Romanticism: Publics, Nations and Scenes of Cultural Production’, edited by Jim Kelly (Basingstoke: PALGRAVE MACMILLAN, 2011)

Moore, Thomas. ‘The Minstrel Boy.’ The Broadview Anthology of Literature of the Revolutionary Period 1770-1832 (edited by D.L. Macdonald,)(London: Broadview Press) 2010

Trumpener, Katie. ‘Bardic Nationalism’. (Princeton: Princeton University Press) 1997

Wu, Duncan. ‘Romanticism: An Anthology.’ 4th ed. (Chicester, Blackwell Publishers Ltd, 2012)

‘Scotland and the Borders of Romanticism’, eds Leith Davis, Ian Duncan, and Janet Sorensen (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004) (accessed on Friday 14th November, 2014, 1600)

Why Independence is one of the biggest opportunities for solidarity

An argument that the No Campaign, and in particular Unionist members of the Labour Party use to poison the independence debate with is that a Yes Vote will end any sense of Solidarity among workers from Scotland and rUK. What I’d like to do is damn that assertion as purely gutter politics, and comparable to the now laughable Better Together claim that Doctor Who would be no longer available in Scotland post a Yes-Vote (despite hitherto this claim, it had been aired in over 50 countries.)

The Depute Leader of the Scottish Labour Party, Anas Sarwar is guilty of peddling the preposterous claim that Voting Yes would consign the workers of England, Wales and Northern Ireland to Conservative Domination of General Elections. Let me make this clear: In just two elections since 1945 out of 18, has the result of the Scottish Election had an impact on the overall result of the General Election. That’s twice in 70 years that the rUK has voted Tory, and The Scottish Election has imposed Labour: that in 1964, when Labour held a majority of 13, and in 1974 when Labour achieved a majority of 4. In short, when rUK wants Labour it gets Labour 89% of the time, and vice-versa when it wants Conservative (to the dismay of the Scottish Electorate.) Thus when the Scottish People gift themselves the right to self-determination , it will not be an act which will consign our friends and relatives South to Conservative dominated politics. To say the opposite is not only deceptive, it is also grossly irresponsible.

Men like Anas Sarwar, and even George Galloway – (a man of whom I highly respect for his outspoken views on Trident, the Iraq War, and Tory Welfare policies, who did sadly block me on Twitter for questioning his strange views on Scottish Independence,) continue to state that Scottish Self-Determination is a betrayal of ideas of Solidarity amongst the working class across the UK. A viewpoint such as this is not only ‘nonsense-on-stilts,’ but to say that Scotland having a fully functioning Parliament would be detrimental to Solidarity is parochial.

In 2010, the rUK opted to raise the price of tuition fees in rUK to £9,000 a year. Scotland has an Independent education system under devolution. One may come to the conclusion that Scottish students are unaffected by this, as they are guaranteed free-education by the devolved Scottish Government, so assume that they would have done nothing. This conclusion would be wrong. I among many other Scottish students took to the streets in England , and stood in support of our friends’ South and their right to affordable education. Education in Scotland is the envy of many students in rUK. Our Independent Education system is a progressive beacon, compared to Westminster’s Dark Star. Imagine how much more we can do with Independence!

Many will remember the Poll Tax. It was introduced in Scotland before it was introduced anywhere else. Yet, when Scotland was suffering Thatcher’s cruel policy, and Ruk was not, many from England, Wales and Northern Ireland came to the Scottish streets and stood with us. We do not all have to be suffering the same pains to be support one another. To say the contrary, as some Unionists do is not only negative politics; it is melancholic politics.

Do the working classes of rUK want us to reject our right to self-determination, due to these negative politics? Of course not! The idea that solidarity between rUK and Scottish working classes is mad, and parochial. A Yes Vote will allow us to join the world community, and share solidarity with not only our friends in rUK, but the rest of the world. I want solidarity with the workers of France, America, Germany and the UK. Let’s vote Yes and join the world – an Independent state in Europe – an Independent member of the UN and Nato – we will be a fully fledged member of the International community, so able to share solidarity on an equal basis. Independence is Solidarity’s biggest opportunity in 100 years. The real threat to Solidarity is the insular politics of the rUK, and the rise of UKIP who want to shun the world. I say, Lets join it, or as Winnie Ewing said: ‘Stop the world! Scotland wants to get on!’