The National interest

Along with Thursday 18 September 2014, Monday 24 November that same year is one of those dates which are significant enough to have lodged in my increasingly unreliable memory. It is the day The National launched in a nation still thrumming with the democratic power that was so tragically squandered.

The National’s masthead proudly declared it to be,


It still does. It still is. It remains the only newspaper that speaks for an aspiration shared by around half of Scotland’s people. The aspiration to restore Scotland’s independence. The hope and determination to free Scotland from an imposed political union contrived over three centuries ago for the purpose of subordinating this nation and its sovereign people to the will and the interests of an emerging imperialist British state. It still is such a political union. It still does what it was designed to do. It remains an insufferable blight on Scotland.

I was recently reminded of the editorial in that first edition of The National. Written by the newspaper’s founding editor, Richard Walker, it included the following

During the referendum campaign, it became clear that there is a democratic deficit in terms of the Scottish media. The raison d’etre of the National is to redress the balance and cogently to argue the case for independence.

More than five years later, the democratic deficit in terms of the Scottish media is, if anything, greater than it was then. Unquestionably, there is an even greater need now for a newspaper which supports Scotland’s cause. We need The National. Scotland needs The National.

And now The National needs us. If we wish to have a national newspaper that is truly Scottish in its outlook; a newspaper that offers an alternative to the view from inside the British media bubble; a newspaper that presents the news from a Scottish perspective, then we must ensure that The National survives the current difficulties. Because, if The National fails it is extremely unlikely that there will ever be such a newspaper again. We will never again have a newspaper that supports Scottish independence.

Even if you are sometimes irritated by the way The National covers a topic; even if you occasionally disagree with the line taken on a particular issue; even if The National tends to fall somewhat short of your own ideal for a Scottish newspaper, you have to support The National because without it there is no hope of ever achieving that ideal. It is not, in any case, the job of The National to pander to some purist notion of of Scotland’s cause. The National exists, as Richard Walker said in that first edition, to redress as far as one newspaper can the appalling imbalance in the media in Scotland. Anything which does this to any degree is doing a great service to both the independence movement and the Scottish nation.

It is through its media that a nation presents itself to the world. But a nation also sees itself through its media. If what Scotland sees of itself through the distorting lens of the British media is what Scotland believes itself to be, then Scotland is a nation impoverished and inadequate and unworthy in every way. The National matters, not because it lets us see ourselves as others see us, but because it allows us at least a glimpse of what we really are – and what we might be. To lose The National now would be like losing ones sight again a few years after having it restored.

The National needs you to take out a digital subscription. That is all. I can personally testify to the quality of The National’s digital edition. Even in normal times when it’s possible to pop down to the shop to buy a copy, it’s great to have that digital edition there on your phone, tablet or computer first thing in the morning. I still get the hard copy whenever possible. Or rather my wife does. The digital edition can either replace or augment the traditional newspaper. It is a good thing!

This is the bit where I’m supposed to give you all that pish about how I know times are hard and people are struggling and blah! blah! blah! I won’t! I decline to be so condescending. If you are in such dire financial straits as to be unable to afford a digital subscription to The National then it’s for sure you don’t need me to tell you. Nor do I imagine you place much value on my sympathy; or any value at all on threadbare platitudes. My plea is to anyone who can possibly manage it, even at some tolerable personal sacrifice, to help preserve something which is more than just a newspaper. More than just the light by which we see through the murk of British Nationalist propaganda. More than just the true mirror in which we see our nation reflected.

More than all of this, The National is a token of our self-respect in a Union which allows us none. It is a symbol of the defiance which has for centuries has held out against efforts to subsume Scotland into initially an imperialist ‘Greater England’ and latterly an equally alien right-wing British state. It is the newspaper that supports an independent Scotland.

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14 thoughts on “The National interest

  1. Despite recently finding much reason for criticising the paper, I concur.

    I have had a print subscription for a while, because I like a physical newspaper, because it helps out my local newsagent and employs the lad up the crescent who delivers it. Recently I was given a three month free digital subscription because I am already a subscriber to the print edition, and I agree, it is a very good site – I even managed to search for and find letters I have had published as well as responses to these.

    Like you say, it really is imperative that there is a newspaper that supports Scottish Independence, and I will continue to subscribe.

    Nevertheless, I am becoming increasingly disturbed by two things: that the paper seems to be taking a more and more narrow view of the movement, as led entirely by and controlled by the SNP; and that the paper seems unwilling to accept criticism on these matters.

    Before this crisis I was seriously considering ending my subscription, but I have now changed my mind. Circumstances have changed a great deal and when this virus thing is over the status quo ante will not return, as my Munro bagging buddy put it recently, “you can’t screw this one back in.” On the other side of this, I suspect we have moved a little closer to Independence anyway.

    All we need now is for The Scotsman to be bought over by a consortium of Independence supporters.


  2. If it is that important, maybe we should ask a question: How much would it cost to buy The National, and establish it as a Social Enterprise? Maybe to answer that you have to ask who is it that actually owns The National?

    Work your way back … back through Newsquest, then through Gannett, back through Gatehouse, then New Media investment Group, … keep going and you will end up at Softbank, based in Japan, the ultimate owner of The National.

    Maybe not your thing … but if it is head to the Wiki on Softbank, and you will find info such as this:

    On 27 May 2017, Softbank and the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia (PIF), the kingdom’s main sovereign wealth fund, partnered to create the Softbank Vision Fund, the world’s largest private equity fund with a capital of $93 billion.[65] Softbank Group will contribute $28 billion to the investment fund, of which $8.2 billion will come from the sale of approximately 25% of British multinational Arm Holdings shares.[66] Saudi Arabia is the main investor in the fund: its Public Investment Fund (PIF) will inject $45 billion into the Vision Fund over 5 years, becoming its largest investor in terms of volume.[67] Other investors include Apple, Qualcomm, ARM, Foxconn, Sharp, Larry Ellison and Mubadala.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. On Facebook I responded to this with a simple “So what??”. I wasn’t being glib. I genuinely find no relevance in any of this. In fact, it goes a long way to explaining why The National as it is may be the best we can hope to get. The structure of the market makes it impossible to start a new newspaper from scratch. Or as close to impossible as makes no difference for our purposes. Either a new pro-independence newspaper was going to piggy-back on an existing stable of titles, or it wasn’t going to happen. Richard Walker knew that. And knowing it, what he did was quite remarkable. He launched The National with no staff or facilities of its own and a budget that was roundly mocked by shoestrings. And he secured editorial independence. As much editorial independence as any newspaper editor has. He deserves glittering plaudits for this achievement.

      Softbank is probably aware of The National in the same way as an elephant is aware of the parasites on the tics on the birds that peck insects from its hide. The multi-layered, multi-tentacled nature of big business may be deplorable. But it’s what we’ve got. The National wasn’t going to change this. Nor was it possible for The National to come into being outside the ambit of this behemoth. I’m not saying we shouldn’t try to change things. But neither can we sensibly pretend that things are not as they are. We have to compromise some principles in order to survive. I regret as much as anyone that we have managed to create a socio-economic system which requires that people compromise their principles to survive – and/or abandon them entirely in order to ‘succeed’ – but survival is necessary. If we were all the research the provenance of our food in the way you’ve researched the provenance of The National, we’d all starve to death while clicking links in Wikipedia.

      There is nothing to prevent The National being bought and run as a social enterprise other than the reluctance of the owners to sell or the unwillingness of anyone to buy. Running a newspaper entirely independently of that big business behemoth is never going to be feasible. Newsprint has to be purchased somewhere. As do the presses which will turn the newsprint into newspapers. A rational economic assessment of the enterprise is, shall we say, daunting. Even if it was run as a non-profit organisation with social support, it would be horribly precarious. Scandinavian countries have such newspapers but they require substantial state subsidies.

      And here’s the thing! Anyone looking to launch such a social enterprise would be obliged to consider the extent to which it could rely on support from the community. If they look at the folk cancelling subscriptions in a petulant hf because they didn’t like a headline, The National is going to seem an even less promising prospect.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Hmmm, I understand that The National is completely under the influence of ‘Commissioner’ Wilson and his lobbyist cronies these days.

    You will remember the realignment of columnists a while ago, when Wilson himself and Angus Robertson were accommodated at the expense of others who were, let’s say, more of the grassroots rather than the ivory towers.

    Since then, the National has been IMO an SNP / Sturgeon fanzine as much as a serious newspaper, so I’m not convinced at all that in its current form it isn’t part of the problem rather than part of the solution.

    As with other things that were born in the aftermath of the Referendum, the National has proved to be quite the disappointment.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. The editor of the National chose to print the women’s letter thereby giving them a platform, even although Salmond said that he would not take any action until the current crisis had abated.
    Is his newspaper worthy of support any more than the others who indulge in this sort of “journalism”?


      1. Are you sure there is a pro-indy media? Just because it used to be doesn’t mean it still is.

        Nothing is more dangerous than a wolf in sheep clothing. It creates a dead end where it keeps competition out whilst stopping a new Indy voice from emerging.

        Sure this may not be the case with The National. However, I fear we may again be seeing the early warning signs and YES are again ignoring them so as “not to rock the boat”. How’s that working out for YES at the moment. Trapped in a Union with an Indy party who spent the last 3years trying to save England and telling YES to pull their head in. Forgoing a once in a 300year opportunity.

        Pete,r you have always stated that there is no road to Indy that does not defy Westminster…It is probably also the case that there is no road to Indy that does not defy the Press. Don’t be afraid of letting go something that used to be indy if it is no longer- find another way forward.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Ian Caldwell, that really is a naive and dare I say immature reaction. Effectively you are asking the National to stick its fingers in its ears and say “Lalalal I’m not listening” on all our behalfs. Or you are even blaming the National for the News.

      The women wrote the letter, it is a fact. The content of the letter is a fact. I don’t want to be shielded from facts by censorship. Benign censorship become malign all too quickly.

      Yes, I was outraged by the letter. To think that these people are SNP SPADs just indicates the degree of deluded entitlement of a faction within the party. And better for the National to print it. Of all the things where you could accuse the National of failing, that one should not be on the list.


  5. Despite deep misgivings I re-subscribed yesterday but also agree that my disquiet at some of the decisions has me keeping that subscription on a tight rein!

    Having just one newspaper on side keeps those headlines in the public eye and truly that is important.

    I think if we trace ownership of everything we admire, agree with or buy it possibly will lead us to stop eating, drinking and any other pleasure we’re allowed atm. In other words, pointless… 😀


  6. It could be argued that partisan either way is damaging to YES.
    Wouldn’t YES be better served by a news outlet that was just rational with clear arguments that hold water.

    We have become TOO accustomed to news that “sounds true” but doesn’t stand up to the slightest bit of questioning.


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