Our Falkirk Moment 164

The largest battle of the Jacobite 45 was not Culloden and not Prestonpans but Falkirk. On 17 January 1746, amidst a howling winter storm, an 8,000 strong Jacobite army routed a similar sized Hanoverian force under Lieutenant General Hawley, which had been marching to the relief of Stirling Castle. By every conventional measure it was a Jacobite victory. They held the battlefield while the Hanoverians retreated pell-mell to Edinburgh, they captured the Hanoverian artillery and baggage, Hanoverian casualties were higher by about four to one. Yet the history books tend to call it a draw.

The Hanoverian force broken at Falkirk formed 80% of the victorious force at Culloden a few months later. Falkirk was decisive because, had the Jacobites chased Hawley’s force as it retreated to Edinburgh in great disorder and with shattered morale, it could have been destroyed. This did not happen, for a variety of reasons. The most important was that Charles Stuart thought it prudent to get all his ducks in the row by capturing Stirling Castle first. The second was that Charles had failed to appoint an overall commander or a commander of the left wing, and spent the actual battle with his senior staff indoors around a fire staying out of the storm, while George Murray, fighting on foot, led the right wing of MacDonalds and Athollmen to victory.

You will gather that the research for my biography of George Murray continues. But unless you are particularly slow today, you will gather that I see a lesson here for the Yes Movement.

This is our Falkirk moment. Both the Tories and Labour are riven by internal dissent over Brexit. The UK is in palpable political chaos, and the prospect of remaining tied to Westminster has never been less appealing. It is not the job of the SNP to “save the UK from a bad Brexit”. It is the job of the SNP to win Scottish Independence, after which Scotland can decide itself on whether it wants to be in the EU or not (and the fact is that when last asked it very much did).

I fumed when the SNP fought the last Westminster election on a “don’t mention Independence” platform, and deservedly lost MPs as a result. I fumed still more when I was not allowed to hold a fringe meeting on Indyref2 at the SNP conference, and the subject was rigorously excluded from the motions before the Conference itself. Now that Nicola Sturgeon is daily putting further and further excuses forward for not moving on Independence, I am inclined to fear that the comfortable fire around which Charles Stuart warmed himself during the Battle of Falkirk, is an apt analogy for the position of the SNP Establishment, who are doing very nicely, thank you, out of their position within the UK, and show no inclination whatsoever to stop warming their toes at the Establishment hearth and move out into the storm and bullets.

I have no more claim to be a strategic genius than the next man. But when I see my sworn opponents, disoriented, in disarray, and fighting fiercely amongst themselves, I cannot help but feel that now is the time to attack them.

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164 thoughts on “Our Falkirk Moment

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  • Kula

    You had blotted your copybook with ignorant commentary on Hungary but have redeemed yourself with this post. This is absolutely the moment to go on the offensive. Although it also becomes clear that the SNP have been compromised. Could you stand behind the Chartists? I am thinking of the South African UDF who mobilised ordinary folk alienated by the partisan politics of the ANC. The Chartists have a similar grassroots appeal.

  • Sharp Ears

    Only one SNP MP had the backbone to disrupt this sickening little Tory fest today on the delights of Bahrain and on the new UK naval base there.

    ‘Carol Monaghan (Glasgow North West) (SNP)
    Many people will be disturbed to hear the hon. Gentleman refer to a close friendship with a country that has such a dismal human rights record. Will he use his relationship and experience with the Bahraini authorities to press them? If we are talking about our global influence, we should press those authorities to review their human rights record.’

    • Kerchée Kerch;ee Coup

      George Brown stressed back in the 1960s that Britain should close down its Bahrain base and get out of the Middle East as far and as fast as possible.(Of course at that time Iran was our ‘Policeman of the Gulf’.) Seeking the quotation, I looked like a journalist or primary school student at his Wikipedia entry. Though I disagreed with his ideas on a number of points and was somewhat amused by gossip about him in Private Eye, I feel strongly that an effort should be made to give a fuller picture of his ideas and achievements.

      • Northern Sole

        You’re talking about Baron George Brown, am I right? The celebrated socialist, right? Only in the cesspit that is the (supposed) United Kingdom…

  • MArk Carroll

    When it comes to independence Craig you are beginning to sound like a one trick pony – independence, independence, we want independence!
    So let me ask you a question – if the SNP were to succeed in gaining independence – then what? Where is the master plan to create a better future by doing something different? Can you back up your rallying cry with something more substantive than a retelling of Scotland’s past battles? What about telling us how an independent Scotland would create a better future for Scotland’s children. Tell us why Scotland would be better or worse off under that scenario.
    Now don’t get me wrong, I’m fully in favour of independence – if those who advocate it had a plausible plan to build a successful and sustainable Scottish economy, and gave an appearance of competence and commitment to deliver on its promises – but, as they haven’t, I’ll bide my time.

  • MickyD

    Ah Craig , the penny drops … Sturgeon et al never wanted independence . They are petty bureaucrats interested in keeping themselves near the trough at all times

  • Tony M

    My reading is that the Glasgow and Argyll militias, with a contingent from Paisley too, turned up AFTER the battle was over and immediately took to their heels back home. Records exist of their behaving provocatively in Glasgow, firing weapons in the streets etc. for several days after. A sort of armed orange-walk.

    Col: Yes if necessary indy without the Borders or D & G, I’m currently living in the Borders and it’s still a sickening semi-feudal backwards-looking place, but a Glasgow boy through and through and would leave for parts further north and leave the cowering borderers to simmer in their own special cringe at a drop.

    I do think leaving the EU trumps Independence however and it is wrong to mix the two. Nicola Sturgeon has fumbled this badly. If anything more Scots have moved to that position vis-avis the EU in the interim since the EU referendum, and where were those EU high-heid-yins whispering sweet nothing when we needed their support -nowhere, quite the contrary they knifed us in the back. The EU itself is crumbling to dust, a new looser association, setting standards for food, environment and not much more, and open to trade with the rest of the world on fair terms, not the suffocating protectionism and isolationism it is sliding inexorably towards. The Blairs and the Browns of this world and their fawning minions support the Remain position and the over-centralised power-grabbing political and economic monster the EU has become –enough said, to do the exact opposite of them is clearly the wiser choice, we can no longer delude ourselves as they do that the EU can be changed from within, can be re-modelled as we’d like it to be. We’ve woke up and that pipe-dream, pleasing as it was, is no more.

    The ideal position is to leave the English Union asap and remain in the Euro Union as the successor state when England/Wales leaves and launch and transition to our own currency, to be followed within one year with a Scotland only multi-issue referendum, on outstanding issues: the EU, NATO, Monarchy and other contentious matter. Those three all belong in the dustbin of history. Full participatory democracy needed, politics is too important to be left to politicians, their job is simply to enact the will of the people and such opinions as they might have themselves will be listened to with forebearance, ridiculed or heeded as fits and then they’ll get on with what they’re told at the ballot box, or move aside for those who will.

  • DiggerUK

    “I have no more claim to be a strategic genius than the next man.”
    The rest of the article supports your claim …_

  • Sharp Ears

    Sánchez. He say ‘No.

    Spain Brexit: PM threatens to vote no over Gibraltar
    13 minutes ago

    The whole thing is fraught with dissent and trouble.

    The DUP went back on the terms of their £1 billion bribe by abstaining on the Budget debate. They have received nearly half of the bribe so far.

  • Republicofscotland

    Unfortunately Scotland is full of modern day toom tabards, as the 4th Earl of Louden and George Munro of Culcairn (Co founder of the Black Watch) were, in their hunt for Charles Stuart at the behest of the Duke of Cumberland post Cullodeon.

    As for the SNP and the timing of indyref2 Theresa May will never sanction another referendum on it, no matter when its called. Though I do believe we’re closer to a second indyref than anytime in the past two years.

  • Chris

    I tend to agree that this is an opportune moment.

    But to suggest that Nicola Sturgeon, John Swinney and the rest don’t yearn for independence as much as or even more the rest of us… I think that’s unfair, unhelpful and simply wrong.

    The disagreement is about tactics and the likelihood of securing and winning indyref2. That’s all.

  • David

    So Sturgeon will speak to Corbyn and try and form a remain/single market/common travel alliance with this man whose actions since the brexit vote have made it patiently obvious that he supports leave even though about 70% of his party’s supporters do not.

    Scotland’s independence will remain on the back burner while we work our way through another ritual of proving that a well known political dinosaur of England is as extinct as we already knew he was. He won’t be persuaded to common cause with SNP on this or any other matter because SNP bad means SNP bad and Tartan Tories are always Tartan Tories even when their ranks are very obviously significantly populated by many people of a strong left wing persuasion. It is unlikely he will even want to be seen with Nicola because that might imply that she was as important as himself which is definitely not how a prime minister to be, even in an ever persistent state of waiting, should come across to the public. Even if Nicola gets the Corbyn nod by proxy after meeting, instead, with one of his minions there is still no guarantee that Corbyn can control the votes of his MPs.

    Eventually when all the dust settles on this ritualised pointlessness it will then be time to request another independence referendum from Theresa May or her replacement. The response will be, “now is not the time”, with no indication of when the time might be followed by an extended period of hot air where an outright no to indedpendence referendum 2 will not be delivered because it will be much more politically convenient to keep the whole process spinning along and going nowhere. Eventually on the far side of eventually we won’t get independence referendum 2 and will have to put plan B into action at which point we will all realise that the better time for plan B was now.

    I hope it doesn’t happen like this but if it is to happen any other way then some leading SNP politicians will have to stop letting Peter Murrell and Nicola Sturgeon totally dominate the process.

  • Amir

    Would it be possible to use the Assange mistreatment as an excuse to entice E.U. to put extra pressure on Perfidious Albion. E.U. Parliament has no jurisdiction on foreign policy but abuse of Assange’s human rights, would allow E.U. to demand even more concessions while at the same time helping Assange? Would you be able to submit a petition to E.U. Parliament, correctly?
    I have tried to petition E.U, via their website but I am doing something wrong and it is not publically available for additional endorsement ( https://petiport.secure.europarl.europa.eu/petitions/en/registration/register ).

  • MBC

    What will happen if Parliament votes down Theresa’s deal? How will the SNP vote, come the day? Sturgeon has said SNP MPs will not vote for it. It will be a bad deal for Scotland, as it will for the whole UK of course.

    But at this late hour, the alternative is now a cliff edge Brexit.

    So my guess is that after a lot of bluff and bluster MPs will settle down and vote for the deal. This will leave the DUP, the SNP and the Brexiteers on one side, and the surly pragmatists of both Labour and Tory on the other.

    But how much of an own goal would it be, if the vote is narrow, and it fails because of the SNP votes, who will then have awarded the Brexiteers what they most wanted, the hardest of hard Brexits?

  • MK

    One day CM will write some stuff on the vertical divisions in the world, rather than horizontal ones. Sadly, these days it’s like hearing Fox news side with CNN over Acosta. Good luck with your EU saviors.

  • Busted Flush

    I’m not sure whether Nicola is a) scared b) too comfy with the status quo and the wealth it gives her c) a union plant.
    Whichever is the case,we could do a lot better by ditching her.

    • Jo1

      I think your options are all way off. I think Sturgeon knows the mood and the big picture in Scotland right now…which is that the level of support needed for Indyref2 isn’t there.

  • gordie

    Unfortunately, too many of our countrymen and women refuse to see what we see and I suspect Brexit will need to bite a fair percentage of them on the arse before they will change their point of view.

  • Vivian O'Blivion

    Good news for a change.
    Cast your minds back a few months and this forum was petitioned with an invitation to submit individual responses to a Scottish Government consultation on mechanical kelp dredging. Well apparently the outcome of the consultation is that the Scottish Government is not minded to license such activities. Destruction of the seabed for excess commercial gain has been knocked on the heed.

      • Vivian O'Blivion

        Surely the settlement units were essential to house desperate families from the diaspora fleeing persecution in their countries of birth. Can’t believe for a minute that they are really holiday homes for Russian dual passport holders and Airbnb property speculators. Jared Kushner amongst others must be terribly disappointed having donated so generously to the construction.

  • John2o2o

    Hmm, attack them, Craig. What with? You don’t have enough votes. (Note to Nationalists: I am indifferent on the issue of Scottish independence, neither for nor against it).

    History is a strange beast. I think it’s useful to remember why the Stuarts were out of power in 1746 and the Hanover dynasty was in. The parliament of the united Scottish and English state saw the Hanoverians as preferable to having the a little-too-Papist Stuarts in power bringing their Catholicism to Great Britain.

    Many a Glaswegian Orangeman would doubtless nod in sage agreement!

    Their Glorious Revolution of 1688 saw the ascendancy of Catholic James’ Protestant daughter Mary and son in law King Billy to the English throne, followed quickly by his sister in law Anne.

    And what of the Boyne?

    I find it highly amusing to consider the rage of your average Orange bigot at the thought of Scotland as a Stuart – and Roman Catholic – Kingdom. Rome – the eighteenth century version of Brussels would have gladly welcomed Scotland back into the fold.

    Indeed, Rome was the birthplace of “bonnie” Prince Charlie. Arguably more Italian than Scottish. You know that his brother was a Roman Catholic Cardinal?

    And of course, Craig, the Stuarts ended their days as guests of the Vatican.

  • fwl

    Sad that when this nation is divided over Brexit some wishe to use that as an opportunity to divide further.

    Nationalism whether it be Scottish or English or Welsh or Irish is not a good thing in itself. If you come from a place you want to improve it and look after it, but that is not the same as demanding that your different and should be cut off from the rest. If you have a language or culture use it but don’t use it to divide use it to link or just use it for the love of it.

    I understand that at heart Craig like many is deeply disappointed by how the UK or Westminster establishment has behaved over the Berlin Wall came down (or since WWII or since the Glorious Revolution) and believes that an independent Scotland would be different, that one is bad and the other would be good.

    I just don’t buy that. Much of Empire was built by Scots and at heart though we have different accents we are the same not different.

    Just as Craig sees an opportunity so will others and in Scotland’s weakness they will see cynical opportunities. No revolution survives without being captured and sold out (which is of course part of the Brexit danger). Devolution, local government and a federal United Kingdom is one thing, but independence is another.

    What is the point of suggesting that the EU as a union welcomes all European states and so would welcome Scotland without accepting that as such it is not better than a federal UK. It is blind to say the EU is a good whoever its members might be but a UK is somehow bad.

    In any event there is no getting away from the basic fact that the EU is moving towards a United States of Europe. Ok for Europe – not ok for the UK. Not if you can’t even tolerate a United existence on these islands and if your complaint is that its never possible to reform here that we are all beyond redemption then what story are you telling yourself which allows you to believe that if you can’t reform the UK you can reform the EU?

    Labour (for all their many faults) understand this.

    • kathy

      ‘Sad that when this nation is divided over Brexit some wishe to use that as an opportunity to divide further.’

      Not half as sad as being dragged out of the EU against our will by the English nationalist vote. You do realise that Scotland voted to remain in the EU with a 65% majority? So spare some of your tears for Scotland which is a nation unlike the UK as you stated. Scotland will be totally destroyed by this stupid piece of English xenophobic self-harm.

    • Kenny Smith

      Question to all you people supporting subjugation. Is Scotland a nation? If yes then if wants to leave because it’s bigger neighbour constantly treats it like shit then it should be able to do so and it’s citizens can argue for that to happen. If you answer no it’s only a region no better off than Yorkshire then it is not a union you defend its domination because there is no union if it’s just greater England, a vassal state to borrow a brexiteer phrase. We don’t think we are better than England and if the union wasn’t stuck in 1707 then there wouldn’t be a call to leave it. Bottom line there is only 2 signatories to the treaty of union Scotland and England. Wales and Ireland are not internationally classed as nations they are a principality and a province, no offence meant to our Celtic cousins but it’s the way it is. A supposed partner in a union can’t be slapped to one side on issues that it’s citizens reject then think the union is in their best interest. The steady UK portrayed in 2014 is up in smoke we chose to be strapped to the bus with no way out the chaos or we take the wheel and try and steer our own path, time for Scots to get a spine and get off their knees. As for the SNP, I’m not a member and I am getting itchy with them I’ll give them time yet but in my opinion they are being too nice, if they let this slip then I’ll never forgive them

      • Jo1

        Oh give it a rest and stop insulting folk who don’t do politics as recklessly as you do.

        Let what slip? You actually believe the level of support needed actually exists in Scotland right now? You know it doesn’t. Nowhere near. But you’d risk losing another referendum under those circumstances.

        I’m for Scottish independence but I would rather pose the question at a time we’ll win rather than face yet another defeat along with the humiliation that will come too.

        • Kenny Smith

          If we can’t force home how utterly defenceless and ignored through this shambles then we might as well chuck it now. If we let this moment pass our goose is well and truly cooked. After the supreme court shafts us and it will Holyrood will be stripped further and a new act of union will be passed by a majority of English MPs locking us in forever.

    • Northern Sole

      “Nationalism whether it be Scottish or English or Welsh or Irish is not a good thing in itself.” Seemed to go rather well for the Irish though, didn’t it?

      How long have you lived in Scotland by the way?

  • Sharp Ears

    O/T At the conclusion of a Q&A on Business/Energy/Industrial Strategy matters in the HoC today, there was a suggestion that ‘small scale nuclear reactors’ are being considered by HMG.

    What are the pros and cons of these? Proliferation of dangerous material? Pollution? Safety?

    ‘Bob Blackman (Harrow East) (Con)
    What action is the Minister taking to promote the development of small-scale modular nuclear reactors so that we can diversify the energy supply?

    Richard Harrington rose—
    Mr Speaker
    Small-scale modular?

    Richard Harrington
    Nuclear reactors, Mr Speaker.

    Mr Speaker
    Well done!

    Richard Harrington
    Not that small, though. I am sure that you could do with a personal one sometimes, Mr Speaker.

    I assure my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow East (Bob Blackman) that the Government are treating the development of small modular reactors very seriously. A successful conference on the subject was held recently. I am happy to inform the House of future progress.’

  • Sharp Ears

    Three cheers! Scotland beat Israel 3-2 at Hampden Park. Steven Forrest scored all three goals.

    They’ve won the game and won the Group.

  • Andrea

    I don’t think anyone has ever suggested that Nicola Sturgeon doesn’t want independence….and be fair.

    This talks about strategy, what about assuming those elected to strategise are holding off for a reason?

    Could it remotely even possibly be that the strategy here is not a ‘battle’ against Westminster, but a battle to get The much bigger prize of Europe fighting in Scotland’s corner. To be seen to be doing everything possible to achieve the aim of staying in the EU would achieve those ends.

    I have no doubt if Scotland took a militant position, rather than a conciliatory one – then Westminster would use the military…. They are already gearing it up.

    As would exhausting all diplomatic strategies before you go off half cocked – when a sizeable portion of the country would still vote to stay in the UK.

    Instead of focussing on the SNP – those supporting independence should be doing their own “project fear” out in the streets where it matter – voting – to spell out the outcomes for Scotland at a grass roots level of remaining tied to a festering rotting corpse.

    The grassroots task is to lead…. Not to follow and bitch and moan about every move made by the SNP.

    Some army! squabbling in the ranks – when it should be pushing forward.

    Ordinary people should never ever forget the aftermath of the 2014 referendum – when the people catapulted a landslide victory for the SNP…… At Westminster – Not attacking them for losing that battle. That was a battle by the people led by the people from behind, and the SNP just provided a focus for their aspirations.

    In the end it is not the leaders who win or lose battles war or fights…. It’s the fighting power of ordinary soldiers, and their determination to get where they are going. Pushing from behind is something Scotland does know well.

    And if the SNP DID come out fighting ….it would be just the distraction from ‘self destruct’ the Tories would love to manipulate to their advantage in the racist climate down south… and spook those in Scotland who are resistant to change and want to sit on the fence as long as the fence will hold ….. A lost referendum at this stage would cost Scotland dearly….

    • Vivian O'Blivion

      Well said, and the ordinary foot soldiers will know best how to bring the reluctant converts over to Indy on an individual basis. Perhaps not with a dogmatic shove but observing their baby steps to leave their cultural safe zone, standing behind them to catch their faltering steps towards the realisation that an imposed English Nationalism leads to isolation and the dominance their “ruling class”.

  • David D

    Couldn’t agree more. Scotland should leave the union, England needs some good news right now.

    • Kenny Smith

      Aye nae bother chips n gravy. England fought hard and dirty to keep Scotland. There is no answer to ” your such a terrible burden but we won’t let you leave ” As Gerry Cinnamon says ” people of Sheffield and Nottingham already know, we are doing this for them and it’s only the start of the show ” We don’t hate English people, it’s not the normal Joe in the street we just want our country back. Listen to leave arguments like take back control from decision makers hundreds of miles away but those same arguments applied to Scotland are somehow laughable. As much as the EU has its faults we are in a far more restrictive and suffocating union now and bottom line we want out

  • FranzB

    The Jacobite rebellion was a small sub plot, stoked up by France, within the various wars around the War of the Austrian Succession. The Stuarts didn’t want Scottish independence, they wanted to ascend to the throne of England, Scotland and Ireland. There was little support in England for a Catholic gaining the crown. Prussia made territorial gains and France made political gains at the end of the War of the Austrian Succession.

    As long as the UK does leave the EU, then this will increase Germany and France’s power within the EU. If the SNP stick the knife in at the death and ensure the UK does leave, then I’m sure Paris and Berlin will be suitably grateful to the SNP when Scotland becomes independent (which is hopefully not too far away).

    Robert Burns didn’t think much (quite rightly) of the Jacobites. (the Wikipedia link has the original harsher lyrics).


    • Kenny Smith

      I’m sorry Franz the bonnie prince vowed to restore the Scottish parliament. Yes he would still have been the monarch but before 1707 we existed as 2 separate countries for 103 years with the same monarch. He wanted an end to the political union. Also England and Ireland was one crown because at that point Ireland was English territory it wasn’t added to the union until much later and unlike Scotland it wasn’t asked. On paper anyway Scotland entered it on it’s free will. Going on about France and Germany like they are happy the UK is leaving then you really have to pull your head out your Archie they’d much rather we were still in it and as Scotland already fulfills the criteria for joining then why wouldn’t they welcome us being a member

      • FranzB

        KS – “… they’d much rather we were still in it…”

        Not sure I agree. If the UK were to remain a member of the EU, then Merkel and Macron could abandon any hope of an EU army.


        Interesting that on the brink of the UK leaving the EU, Macron and Merkel raise this issue. It’ll just be a couple of offices in Brussels of course, but it’ll provide political cover for reducing commitment to Nato. Tectonic plates seem to be moving in the direction of the Russian bear.

        • Kenny Smith

          Bollocks, why would Scotland be denied? Is it because of a Spanish veto? Countries with less to contribute are in so we can be too, the Republic of Ireland for godsake is no better or worse than us or any other small/ medium size country

  • Hen Broon

    I tweeted that very thing to Wishart, who after much sighing and denying blocked me. Where are these MPs going to get a job as lucrative as that of an MP. It is that way for a very good reason. They just look and sound to bloody comfy in Westminster. Tuvkeys not voting for Christmas. Nicolas ears will be ringing with reasons to kick the can down the road.

  • John

    Interesting article but I understand the SNP being cautious as a second Indyref defeat would end hopes of an Independent Scotland for decades

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