Edinburgh Book Festival: Iain Mcwhirter; Scotland's Democratic Revolution, Review

Edinburgh Festival review
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Edinburgh International Book Festival
Iain Macwhirter
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The title of Iain Macwhirter’s event at the Edinburgh International Book Festival - ‘Scotland’s Democratic Revolution’ – had a dramatic tone, but whether dramatic upsets were the cause of the massive queue around Charlotte Square Garden and packed-out Baillie Gifford tent or something more subtle was the substance of Macwhirter’s event and his book ‘Tsunami; Scotland’s Democratic Revolution’.

The ecological event conjured up by the title refers to the massive alteration to Scotland’s political landscape as a result of the 2015 election, in which the Scottish National Party wiped out the other ‘mainstream’ parties in Scotland by achieving 56 Westminster seats and an unprecedented share of the vote.

It was undoubtedly a dramatic moment as recounted by Macwhirter, a political journalist whose work appears in both The Herald and Sunday Herald, and who is thus well placed to observe both sides of what some regard as Scotland’s present political divide.

Macwhirter argued that the result of the 2015 election altered the political landscape in Scotland sufficiently for this to be termed a revolution. Nevertheless, Macwhirter was forced to concede that although the fifty-six SNP MPs it has produced have been instrumental in altering or halting a certain amount of proposed legislation, their number limits their abilities in this respect.

The impact of their victory continues to be felt mainly within Scotland rather than furth of it, and here Macwhirter’s view that many Scots continue to exhibit an ‘independence of the mind’ that disregards much of ‘mainstream’ media opinion, relies for its news on blog posts and social media and continues to see ‘the independence question’ as largely one of ‘when’ rather than ‘if’.

Equally, the current positions of the other principal political parties at Westminster do little to challenge this, relying on a combination of denigration of their opponents and re-iteration of messages that no longer have the traction they once did.

Asked by the Chair for his views on Royal Bank of Scotland’s announcement that it intended to move its headquarters to London in the event of Scottish independence, Macwhirter pointed out that this was merely a regurgitation of the bank’s position in 2014 and that in any case, as it was facing sizeable financial penalties from US based law suits and already suffered a very poor public image, perhaps an independent Scotland would be better off without the bank.

Iain Macwhirter; Tsunami: Scotland's Democratic Revolution Cargo Publishing 2015 ISBN 9781 91044 9639