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on 8 April 2017
For me, the first 40% was totally boring and an unnecessary journey through history.
The author's personal dislike of Salmond was also unnecssary.
That said, there is plenty of analysis of the pros and cons of an independent Scotland even if it was a bit wordy and repetitive at times.
As an Englishman I do feel far better informed about the issues and I now see the SNP in a different light.
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Iain Macwhirter writes in clear, concise prose. Many first-time voters will find this a useful summary to look at the changes that have happened to Scotland and it's ruling élites, more especially when those élites don't follow the wishes of those who gave them their careers, pensions enoblement etc etc.
christopher donohue, Beith
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on 25 March 2017
There 's a new and urgent relevance to Ian Macwhirter's readable but authoritative survey of the shifting sands that make up the United Kingdom. Highly recommended.
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on 8 September 2015
Great product, great service!
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on 19 March 2017
Essential reading for anyone interested in the Scottish Independence referendum.
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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,Gordon Brown and 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 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 fair that what has been one of the poorer UK geographies gets a fair share of funding particularly as wealth has become more concentrated in the South East.

MacWhirter clearly charts these debates, but recognises in the last analysis that it is politics not economics that drives the independence debate. How this has happened in recent years is remarkable especially when we bear in mind the sheer unpopularity of the Scottish Executive at its inception in 1999. He points out 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 it "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 seismic plates were shifting especially the death of the Tory party over the border accelerated by the Thatcher poll tax experiment. The hegemony of Labour was 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. Equally there is no space for the 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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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 19 November 2013
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
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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on 10 July 2013
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )|Verified Purchase
This is a very entertaining, lucidly written and balanced portrayal of the journey Scotland has undertaken to arrive at September 18, 2014. The book accompanies the television show, and provides much additional supporting information to contextualize the historic times in which Scotland now finds itself. Much of the media portrayal on the subject of independence is deeply flawed, offering only the fear, smears and misrepresentations of Project Fear[1]. This serves as a very worthwhile antidote to that - neither uncritical nor dismissive. It's well worth your time if you would like to know more about why independence is suddenly an issue on the mainstream of Scottish politics.

[1] The internal code name that Better Together have given themselves.
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on 13 February 2015
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I have approached this book from an unusual angle - I obtained it after the referendum. I positively wanted to read it regardless of the ship proverbially having already sailed because I followed the referendum very closely and I still want to understand the issues better.

Incidentally, I could not believe it when Scots said that, in England, if you asked people what they thought about the (then) forthcoming referendum they would think you meant the in/out one on Europe. To me, the issue of Scottish independence was of massive importance to the whole of the UK, and grasped me the moment in 2012 that the date was set.

I found the book a pleasure to read - it is not heavy.

The book takes a balanced view, which is welcome - you don't want to read a polemic.

This is a good, informative read which helped me to understand the issues better.
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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Road to Referendum is an incisive, witty and always critical historical account of the rise of the Scottish independence movement which skilfully analyses the shift patterns of the nationalists as they pursue their single goal of a separate Scotland.

This is a very detailed book which keeps itself to the marshalling of a historical — principally 20th and 21st century — narrative, rather than appealing to slogans or trying to make its own case for or against. In doing so, it neatly skewers some of the most important unresolved issues with the referendum, and demonstrates how things such as monetary union were kicked into the long grass. The books was prescient, since these things only began to be public issues after it was published.

For those seeking to understand rather than to judge, this is a book which explains a great deal, and does it always in a witty and apposite manner.
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