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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting if not fully engaging
I like the journalistic style of this book. It means that a subject that could otherwise be quite heavy is dealt with in an approachable yet informative way.

I have to admit that I did not have a deep knowledge of Scottish history beforehand not being from these Isles originally, but I think he makes a good argument in the brief historical/cultural overview...
Published 9 months ago by Amazon Customer

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The long and winding road
Having missed the television series, I was looking forward to my first effort to understand the historical and social background to the referendum this year. Some parts of this read too much like a television script - a sudden change of tone, as if the presenter is now speaking direct to camera after a film extract.

However, some parts of the historical...
Published 6 months ago by C. J. Tyler


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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting if not fully engaging, 19 Nov 2013
By 
Amazon Customer "maria2222" (London) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Road to Referendum (Hardcover)
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I like the journalistic style of this book. It means that a subject that could otherwise be quite heavy is dealt with in an approachable yet informative way.

I have to admit that I did not have a deep knowledge of Scottish history beforehand not being from these Isles originally, but I think he makes a good argument in the brief historical/cultural overview that sets off the book where he points out that there wasn't a real independence movement that had any traction with the general population till the British Empire was at its last throes, the Second World War had brought better conditions to the workers (a support Scotland had not received from England before they were needed in war) and the fall of the "Kirk" which had held tightly onto the people to stay in their place.

He looks at the rise of the Scottish National Party, the future with(in) the EU and many other relevant issues that are well worth a walk-through and it is a good way to put it into context but also a good way to look at the arguments for and against independence. I think it is very evenly balanced.

I found the book informative and interesting - maybe a bit long in the middle for a general reader like me (and possibly skipping a few too many details for an interested party), but I think he did enough for it to warrant a read - especially as the vote is coming up in less than a year's time and it will of course have a massive impact here if Scotland should decide to go it alone.

This book is accompanied by a TV series which I have yet to watch, but if it is anything like the book, it should be an interesting watch.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "Road to Referendum" - An Independent Scotland?, 24 July 2013
By 
Red on Black - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Road To Referendum: The Essential Guide to the Scottish Referendum (Kindle Edition)
Iain MacWhirter is a Scottish political commentator, who perhaps lacks the amiable wit of Brian Taylor but who makes up for it for a cool first person analysis of the most fascinating development in modern British politics the potential independence of Scotland. In 1977 the New Left political commentator Tom Nairn wrote a book called the "Break up of Britain" . It was an often flawed book full of rather sweeping judgement, but at its central core was an argument that postulated that "Britain was a pre-modern state, closer to the multi-national Austro-Hungarian Empire than a `proper' nation. Its component parts were held together not by a written constitution but by a fading loyalty to the archaic and undemocratic institution of the Crown in Parliament. With the arrival of the European Union there was no reason why Scotland in particular shouldn't split off and join the ranks of small European nation states" . It appears that moment may have arrived. In this book Ian MacWhiter charts how we are now only 15 months away from the potential dissolution of what has been seen as one of the most stable political unions in modern history. Indeed Scotland has played a huge part in the success of the British state not least since they helped create it after 1707 along with the currency union based on sterling. The Bank of England was even founded by a Scot, William Paterson. The enthusiastic participation of Scots in the British establishment not least in Westminister has seen the Labour party dominated in recent years by politicians from north of the Border names like John Smith and Gordon Brown but also one of the greatest labour post war politicians Robin Cook. Whilst many in the North East of England have been calling for the end of the Barnett formula for many years which sees Scotland receiving a larger share of public expenditure than its English counterparts Scots in turn happily point to the fact that much of British prosperity over the past 40 years has been built on their reserves of oil and it is only right that what has been one of the poorer UK geographies gets it fair share of funding particularly as wealth has become more concentrated in the South East.

MacWhirter clearly charts these debates and more in detail, yet in the last analysis it is politics not economics that drives the independence debate. How this has happened in recent years is remarkable not least when we bear in mind the sheer unpopularity of the Scottish Executive from its inception in 1999. The starting point could not have been worse with "feeble debates and unimaginative legislation" covering the new Sottish politics for the Herald newspaper was for MacWhiter a massive bore. As he states in terms of journalistic copy writing about the Executive "was like delivering the last rights three times a week and then having to write an obituary every weekend". Matters were made worse with the massive debacle of the new Scottish Parliament building at Holyrood and its elastic budget which saw costs boom from a stingy 40m estimate to a gargantuan 400m overspend. Yet the political plates were shifting especially the death of the Tory party over the border accelerated by the Thatcher poll tax experiment. The hegemony of Labour also broken as they did their level best to self implode at first around the Wendy Alexander affair and the later characterless Iain Gray's "Meatball Marinara Incident". Finally of course there was the rise of the SNP and its charismatic leader Alex Salmond. The latter's Lazarus like return to the leadership of the SNP in 2004 (after standing down in 2000 following internal criticism after a series of high profile fall-outs with party members) is one of the most remarkable political comebacks of modern times. Whatever your views of Salmond as a master political strategist or "the most dangerous man in Britain" he is a hard working politician who has dedicated his life to the cause of Scottish independence. He is also ably supported by the astute SNP deputy leader Nicola Sturgeon who often gets him out of trouble such as when she had to "unsay" his assertion that he had legal advice from the European Union that an Independent Scotland could remain in membership. "Wily" and "slippery" are oft used adjectives used in the British press to describe Salmond, but in the Scottish context he is a remarkably dominant figure which MacWhirter puts down to the Scots seeing him as the "most capable person around to do the job" and also his desire to talk up all things Scottish as a "dedicated worshipper in the church of the positive". Not even he however could have imagined the 2011 SNP landslide where in a PR system designed to produce coalitions the SNP seized power with a majority and laid the basis for the date with destiny in 2014.

A short review precludes an examination of David Cameron in all this, Osborne's views on the use of Sterling as a currency and equally the key question whether Scottish Independence would be economically sustainable. Alternatively is the rather offensive "Too wee. too poor, too stupid" thesis that Scotland will be financially crippled by independence nearer the mark. All eyes will be on the 2014 independence referendum and at stake are not only political reputations, a nations destiny but the future direction of the British state and what now appears to be an increasingly fragile 300 year old deal.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent and Educational Book on why Scotland is voting on independence., 17 July 2013
By 
Tommy Dooley (London, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Road to Referendum (Hardcover)
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On 18th September 2014 Scotland votes on its future, whether to remain a part of the Union or to break away and become an independent state. Needless to say the UK Government has shown a lot of interest and has many a mandarin working away on the case for the Union or indeed the `no vote'. I should know as I am one of them, which is why this book intrigued me. I had thought it might be a bit dry as many books dealing with constitutional issues are, but Iain Macwhirter has done the very difficult task of making it not only interesting but also entertaining and compelling.

He takes the reader and leads them gently back through the mists of Scottish history to the highs and lows everything from The Battle of Stirling Bridge to Culloden. Fans of the Mel Gibson `Braveheart' film might like to know it was called the Battle of Stirling Bridge as it was fought partially on it and not a muddy field in Ireland as depicted in that rather ill informed film. Macwhirter covers that too as well as other parts of Scottish heritage. He takes us back to the Darien expedition for the colonisation of the Isthmus of Panama which more or less bankrupted Scotland and led in part to the negotiations for political union.

He also compares other countries and looks at the whole issue of EU membership North Sea Oil, renewable energy and the remarkable rise and rise of the Scottish National Party, under Alex Salmond that is. He also relives the days of the Red Clydesiders and the dark, dark days of the Thatcher government where Scotland was effectively used as a Guinea pig for the poll tax and other unpalatable ideas. But he does much more too he takes a passionately balanced view of both sides which is highly refreshing and does it with wry humour that is very much welcomed.

It is clear he loves Scotland very much as indeed do I and this is a companion to the STV series of the same name. After reading this I am very much looking forward to seeing the full series as there are some quotes here from some of the participants and so it looks like being an excellent and informative piece of TV as indeed this journalistic book is too. I enjoyed every bit of it and learnt a lot too which is always nice especially when I thought I was up on most of the issues. So it is well researched, entertainingly and informatively written and educational to boot. I can't wait for Mr Macwhirter's next project as this was superb.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Informative portrait of politics in Scotland - but may not help undecided voters!, 13 Aug 2014
By 
J. Dawson (Edinburgh, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Road to Referendum (Hardcover)
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The nearer the referendum draws, the more desperation there is behind the pleas from both sides, and yet it seems there is still very little substance to back up any of the visions of the future which voters are being offered. I hoped reading this book would help me to make a choice between a much-reviled status quo and putting Scotland, at least temporarily, in the hands of a man who showed no regard for his own constituents when Donald Trump brought his billionaire bully-boy tactics to Scotland. Sadly, this book does not paint either option in a terribly flattering light so in terms of my own desire for clarification, it offered little.

It is, however, a well-written and relatively accessible account of Scottish political history that debunks much of the romantic mythologising of Scotland's folk heroes and goes some way towards making up for the failures of the broader UK educational system in teaching Scottish history. As someone who moved to Scotland from abroad 20+ years ago, this taught me much about my adopted homeland and how it is perceived both in Scotland and the rest of the UK. It also brought home to me, in a way few other sources have, the devastation of the Thatcherite years and the fallout which many communities are still suffering.

Iain Macwhirter's book is an ambitious one, and not a light read, but he has done the job remarkably well. It might not make our decision easier next month, but if everyone who was voting took the time to read this first then at least we could feel confident in making an informed choice when we cast our ballots.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Informative read on an issue which will impact far beyond Scotland, 20 Aug 2014
By 
Dr. Paul Ell (NI, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Road to Referendum (Hardcover)
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This book is very shortly set to be out of date with the referendum on Scottish independence due to take place in less than a month. As someone who's English living in Northern Ireland I guess I have more than a passing interest in the debate and the outcome of the referendum. What's particularly interesting from a NI perspective is that the British/UK government has demonstrated that it is prepared to allow a democratic vote from a constituent country within the Union on whether it wishes to remain part of the Union. This doesn't necessarily solve the Northern Ireland problem as many would suggest that a vote restricted to the Northern Ireland of today is undemocratic as the state was established to ensure an inbuilt Unionist majority. Indeed if a vote were held today there would, no doubt, be a very large majority in favour of the Union, a vote against a break from the UK which would attract more voters than from just the traditional Unionist community. Of course, from the other perspective, the `nationalist' NI position would be that only an all Ireland vote on the constitutional position of NI would be valid, something that Unionists would not accept, and even then a majority for a break with the UK would not be guaranteed.

So interesting questions and impacts for NI from the Scottish vote. This book is neither pro or against independence. In fact it does a very good job in charting a neutral path whilst explaining both sides of the debate. It's also very readable. It sets a very good and well grounded historical context to the independence vote and a particularly interesting section on the rise of the Scottish Nationalist Party including their remarkable win, that was never meant to happen, in the last Scottish Assembly vote. The pre-war history of Scotland is necessarily an overview with increasing detail from the 1950s. The debate on how Scotland would fare as an independent county I found insightful as was the discussion of government from a somewhat distant Westminster.

Overall this book should be of value to anyone with an interest in UK politics. If the vote is for independence somewhat bizarrely I suspect the book may attract more English readers then! It's certainly pertinent in an England looking favourably to an extent on the UKIP vision of the world, to the debate about whether Scottish MPs should vote on legislation just impacting on England (although of course the reverse has always happened for Scotland) and for the UK's future in the EU with the SNP firmly in favour of continuing membership. Moreover, if Scotland goes, the remaining parts of the UK are pretty much guaranteed a right of centre government for the foreseeable future. Well worth a read, and five stars.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The long and winding road, 17 Feb 2014
By 
C. J. Tyler "cjtbrocco" (England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Road to Referendum (Hardcover)
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Having missed the television series, I was looking forward to my first effort to understand the historical and social background to the referendum this year. Some parts of this read too much like a television script - a sudden change of tone, as if the presenter is now speaking direct to camera after a film extract.

However, some parts of the historical background and descriptions of major characters, is excellent and enlightening. His developing view of Salmond's political rise helps to balance his usual portrayal in the English media. His analysis of how Scotland has come to the current position is persuasive and will certainly remain a topic of conversation in my household (and with Scottish relatives) for many years after the referendum itself.

I was disappointed that, having set the scene so well, there is little about where this might all take Scotland - where its future might lie either within or outside the UK. The debate on the referendum has moved on since the TV series was made, to be more about whether it will be possible for Scotland to be independent and retain the pound, renegotiate EU membership and keep its oil revenues.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Informative must read on one of the crucial political debates, 4 Aug 2014
By 
S. J. Williams "stevejw2" (Leeds, West Yorkshire United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Road to Referendum (Hardcover)
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I've felt pretty exercised about the issue of Scottish independence for some time now: I'm not a Scot, don't live in Scotland though I have many friends who do, but feel a bit like a party in a divorce case who has absolutely no say in a decision which will affect the whole of the UK and can access little in the south of the border media to rehearse and elucidate the arguments. My gut instinct is that nationalism as a political force is pretty destructive. And I also feel that if Scotland leaves the UK the metropolitan elite and London-centric tenor of much of political life will leave me wanting to go with them!

This book is a really good read providing essential background to Scottish history and the development of the independence movement. It seems to me a pretty even-handed exploration of the arguments (in other words, I didn't agree with all of it!) and is admirably clear: I wish I had read it months ago so I could have been better informed when having discussions with friends north of the border. Strongly recommended, especially to non-Scots, many of whom seem to have little interest in what seems to me to be a hugely significant vote.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars By Far The Best Book On The Referendum, 6 Aug 2014
By 
Scottish Dave (Edinburgh, Scotland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Road to Referendum (Hardcover)
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For me this is the perfect read for background information on the Scottish referendum. It starts off going into Scottish history and how it relates to where we are today. However, MacWhirter gets the balance just right about how much time is spent in past centuries (other books tend to spend too much time here and it gets a bit tedious). The book really comes alive in the 20th century chapters and the history of the home rule/independence cause. It's not a book about Scottish history as such. Instead you get a very insightful look at the events over the years that have lead to the referendum. What else is especially satisfying about the book is that it's written by someone who was undecided about the referendum at the time of writing - a real breath of fresh air compared to similar books written by London based unionist Scots. If you want an impartial look at how we've come to this point in Scottish independence then look no further than this book.
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5.0 out of 5 stars I am Scotland, 14 Aug 2014
By 
W. Rodick (Cheshire, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Road to Referendum (Hardcover)
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Independence is a feeling not a bank account
Government for the people not the monarchy
Responsibility is not to be feared
Inclusion is the word.

Dependence shackles the heart
Self rule means work to be done
Imagine the bile of society gone
Clarity of wants and desires
Agreed
Freed.

I have not yet fully read Iain Macwhirter's comprehensive book concerning the referendum on an independent Scotland that takes place in Scotland on Thursday 18th September. But looking through it, and specifically at the many photographs, I can discern that how independence affects the average guy is not something the author will dwell on. History and politics and famous people populate this work.

I am making a pitch for independence for the individuals in Scotland. Individuals working it out. Assuming a Yes vote this would mean real power. From when the count is complete until March 2016 is the period of time for the mechanics and terms of secession to be negotiated. In other words England has done this before. Many times.

There is nothing to fear but fear itself. Someone said that about something. It had rattled me here in Cheshire that the debate has centred on the money question. How will I live without this or that? Mr Macwhirter reports the findings of a 2011 Survey which found that 65% of Scots would vote for independence if they were 500 better off but only 21% in favour if they thought they would be 500 worse off. Like I say, the English are adept at manipulation of the agenda. Managing the media. Make no mistake, the Establishment are afraid of an independent Scotland.

They are throwing you beads. A No vote for more devolution. Same old London. I know the idea of Scotland may be a strange one. So many different communities. I also know the trains to London are packed with commuters. But what if the shackles were off? What if people wanted to go and live and work in Scotland? For the feeling.

The benefits would come over time. The realisation of power and opportunities. If Scotland's existing mouth pieces (Councillors and MPs) are not talking for the people then with an independent Scotland there is far more chance for any individual to garner support and be promoted.

As for history: freedom would be hard earned.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Scot!, 10 Aug 2014
By 
C. Cassidy "poodle extreme" (bucks, england) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Road To Referendum: The Essential Guide to the Scottish Referendum (Kindle Edition)
This book is a must-read in the run up to the Scottish referendum on Independence. The author explores the subject from every conceivable angle, delves into relevant history, and provides comprehensive analysis of all the major issues. What has the potential to be fairly stuffy, is written with energy and enthusiasm. It also benefits from being fairly up to date (February 2014) and is very well priced on Kindle. The biggest problem that the author faces however is the fact that for many people outside of Alba the entire subject is almost treated with indifference.
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