Parallel Worlds: An Exhibition of Materials from the Iain (M.) Banks Archive

The Player of Games (Japan, 1988), A Song of Stone (Italy, 1999)

The Player of Games (Japan, 1988), A Song of Stone (Italy, 1999)


The University of Stirling Archives is delighted to announce a new exhibition presenting a selection of foreign editions of Iain Banks’ novels from his personal collection. The exhibition highlights the international appeal of Banks’ fiction and shows the variety of ways his work was presented in different countries around the world. The volumes on display are part of a larger collection of almost 200 editions of Banks’ work translated into a range of languages and designed to reflect the tastes of readers in a range of markets including France, Germany, Israel, Russia and South Korea.

CR Rus001

The Crow Road (Russia, 2007)

The exhibition also features a book sculpture commemorating Iain Banks which was presented to the University by the Edinburgh International Book Festival last September. The sculpture is part of a set produced by an anonymous artist celebrating literature and the love of words. It represents Banks’ 1992 novel The Crow Road and is accompanied by a tribute to the writer from author Ian Rankin. The exhibition is on display in the Archives & Special Collections area of the University Library and runs until Friday 4th April.

Iain Banks was one of the most popular and critically acclaimed Scottish novelists of his generation, and an alumnus of the University of Stirling. The University is delighted to be working with his estate to collect and preserve an archive of his working papers and make this material available to researchers with an interest in his work.

Interviewed by the University for an alumni profile Banks reflected on his time at Stirling:

“I did get in a lot of writing… as well as a fair amount of walking in the hills. What I remember most keenly is the wonderful feeling of freedom of being there, and the sheer intoxication of living and working in a place devoted to learning, to the pursuit of knowledge. I still smile when I think of the place, the time, and my years at Stirling were some of the happiest and most productive of my life. All that, plus I got to be an extra in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, How cool was that?”

Some examples of Banks’ student writing can be found amongst the University’s own archives in the pages of the creative writing journal Cairn. Launched in Spring 1973 Cairn featured poetry and prose written by students and staff of the University, including the poet Norman McCaig. The journal is one of several student titles which are held in the University Archives along with a full run of the student newspaper Brig, which was first published in 1969.

William McGonagall, ‘Poute’, and the Bad Poets of Victorian Dundee



William McGonagall is the most famous ‘bad’ poet in Scottish history. But he was not a one-off. Stirling’s Chair in English Kirstie Blair restores him to his own publishing context, and asks whether he was really so exceptional.

In his essay on ‘The Great McGonagall,’ Hugh McDiarmid commented that:

McGonagall is in a very special category, and has it all to himself. There are no other writings known to me that resemble his. So far as the whole tribe of poets is concerned, from the veritable lords of language to the worst doggerel-mongers, he stands alone.

And indeed, McGonagall does stand alone today. Of all the ‘scores of utterly worthless rhymers’ that were operating in Victorian Dundee and elsewhere, he is the only poet we remember. Yet while MacDiarmid may not have known of any writings resembling McGonagall’s, a substantial body of such writings did exist, and would unquestionably have been known to McGonagall’s Dundee audiences and to the poet himself. For the enormously popular weekend newspapers of mid-late Victorian Dundee, the People’s Journal and the Weekly News, home of McGonagall’s first publications, both fostered a lively culture of bad poetry. This is a culture that has entirely disappeared from view, but it is well worth recovering, not simply because it presents McGonagall’s work in a different light, but because he was arguably neither the worst nor the best bad poet of his times; he was simply the one most prepared to relinquish anonymity and pursue a career in performance as well as in print.

Continue reading at The Bottle Imp.

Professor Kirstie Blair is Stirling’s Established Chair in English, and an authority on Victorian poetry. She is currently researching Scottish working-class poetry and the local newspaper press. She has two articles forthcoming in the field in 2014, ‘“A Very Poetical Town”: Newspaper Poetry and the Working-Class Poet in Victorian Dundee’ (in Victorian Poetry) and ‘“Let the Nightingales Alone”: Correspondence Columns, the Scottish Press, and the Making of the Working-Class Poet’ (in Victorian Periodicals Review).

Read Walter Scott!



“It is, then, sixty years since Edward Waverley, the hero of the following pages, took leave of his family, to join the regiment of dragoons in which he had lately obtained a commission.”

It is, now, two hundred years since Walter Scott opened Waverley with these words, launching a novelistic career that would make him world famous, transform the novel, and transform Scotland. The Waverley Novels are a rich celebration of all the shades and variations of human life from queens to beggars, geniuses to idiots, rebels to reconcilers: and Scott loves them all indiscriminately. He’s an egalitarian writer. I could live by his values.

“We shall be better here,” said the beggar Edie Ochiltree – “the air’s free and mild, and the savour of the wallflowers is refreshing. They smell sweetest by night-time, and they’re maist aye seen about rained buildings. And now I wad like a wise man to tell me whether Heaven is maist pleased wi’ the sight we are looking upon—thae pleasant and quiet lang streaks o’ moonlight that are lying sae still on the floor o’ this auld kirk, and glancing through the great pillars and stanchions o’ the carved windows, and just dancing like on the leaves o’ the dark ivy as the breath o’ wind shakes it— than when it was lighted up wi’ lamps, and candles, and wi’ the mirth and the frankincent, and wi’ organs assuredly, and men and women singers, and sackbuts, and dulcimers, and a’ instruments o’ music—I wonder if that was acceptable, or whether it is of these grand parafle o’ ceremonies that holy writ says, It is an abomination to me.” – The Antiquary.

All historical, adventure and fantasy novels owe a debt to Scott. Why, then, is he so little read, even in the country he helped to define?

Walter Scott lived within two miles of me. In the nineteenth century, he was the best selling author on the planet, by several orders of magnitude. He pushed his successful contemporary Jane Austen completely off the radar. Yet in my generation, he is almost totally unread.

I’d never thought of reading Scott. I love classics, but Scott was somehow buried under horrid Victorian dust of the worst sort. I thought I’d better read a few for my PhD, a social history of the Edinburgh West End church of which he was a member. I was spectacularly surprised.

In dear old Jane Austen, you know you’ll get ‘three or four families in a country village’. You’ll know everyone’s exact rank and financial worth; men and women have their places, the common people are invisible, and there’s a happy marriage at the end which cements the social structure. It’s funny, it’s sweet, yes I want to be Lizzie Bennet – but it’s a patriarchal hierarchy: effective anti-French Revolution propaganda. I can enjoy it, but if I lived in it I’d be out with placards against it.


In Scott, you might get anything: an inspirational cottage girl, a villainous lawyer, a gorgeous farmer, brainy, sporty, fabulous women who are spies, politicians, doctors – anything except wives-in-waiting. You get half-mad, autistic, or beggarly-poor characters who are as three-dimensional, wise and heroic as the rich and clever ones.

Most of Scott’s novels are set in the past – he invented the historical novel – but one, St Ronan’s Well, was contemporary, and took on Austen head-to-head. It was disliked by the reviewers, perhaps because all the elegant society ‘at the well’ are a mixture of fraud, absurdity and callous selfishness. The authentic, noble characters are: a misanthropic landowning, innkeeping woman; a tactless, gossipy nabob who couldn’t give a toss about anybody’s rank; and a well-born girl who (although Scott’s publisher forced him to censor this bit) has an affair. It made me want to cheer.

What can the modern reader expect to find in the Waverley Novels? Here are four things which I think explain why they went out of fashion, and why I don’t think that should bother you:

1. A leisurely journey. Scott’s readers had longer attention spans than the modern paper-back buyer, so you can either luxuriate in, or skim past, the long explanations and chatty characters. There is often a strange character who appears in a preface to explain how the story came to be discovered: Scott plays with the novel genre, wrapping his narrative in layers of fictional author and editor. It’s part of the fun: a plot will start eventually, and these early chapters contain some of the most delightful bits, where Scott toys with your sense of reality.

2. A bit of twee… Scott’s romantic portrayal of the Scottish Highlands in Waverley has inspired every tartan outfit, Landseer painting, and harp-music-accompanied-helicopter-filmed sequence since. To us, it can seem a bit hackneyed. But when the first readers followed Waverley to Flora’s hidden loch, they’d never been there before.

3. Not a Victorian. This is 1814. Jane Austen is just publishing Mansfield Park. Waterloo hasn’t been fought yet. Queen Victoria hasn’t been born. Victorians were influenced enormously by Scott; but Scott was a man of the Enlightenment. Edinburgh was buzzing with science, history, politics, philosophy, and above all a sense that old mistakes could be amended and all men and women could work together to create a better, fairer and more beautiful world. Scott buzzed with it as much as anyone. Scott’s authorship was (for a time) anonymous: many people guessed Waverley was by the political reformer, Francis Jeffrey.

4. The best novels, set in eighteenth-century Scotland, have quite a lot of Scots dialogue. You’ll get used to it! He was writing for a British audience, so he did make sure it was comprehensible.

The treasures you’ll find are splendid nature writing, fun adventures, and above all brilliant characters. I’ll let you explore all those for yourselves.

Scott was a variable novelist (he wrote 27, for money, increasingly frantically at the end of his life), so start with some good ones. 2014 is the bicentenary of Waverley, so you might want to read that, but here are a few of my favourites. Take your pick:

Guy Mannering: Set in Dumfriesshire and Edinburgh in the 1770s. Comic lawyers, serious gypsies, smuggling, two rather second-rate heroines, but the best characters are the farmer Dandie Dinmont, and the extraordinary Dominie Sampson. Sheer delight: I would prescribe it to anyone who is depressed.

Rob Roy: Gallivanting Glaswegian and Highland adventure set around 1700. Scott’s best romance starring a tremendous heroine who can translate ancient Greek and ride with hounds, and a superb anti-heroine (Helen Roy) which shows you what happens when all that female strength and talent goes bad. Don’t hold your breath for Rob Roy: he doesn’t appear till waaaay through the book. Just enjoy the mystery!

The Antiquary: Set on the east coast of Scotland in the 1790s, a gentle comedy involving a lot of eccentric male historians, and a girl and a beggar who are far better historians than any of them. Hurrah! Will the French invade? Or will the ladies in the post office open something scandalous? There’s also a rich theme of German Romanticism.

Heart of Midlothian: Rightly famous. Set in Edinburgh in 1736 (it opens with the famous Porteous Riot). The heroic Jeanie Deans will melt your heart.

Redgauntlet: This is all about Jacobites in Lancashire in the 1750s. Ideal for fans of Morecambe Bay, mist, spies, and mysterious women in green. It has some very funny bits. They all have some very funny bits.

Old Mortality: I’m not sure you should read this first: I got stuck and put it down the first time. The second time I loved it so much I think it might be my favourite. It’s set in 17th century Scotland with two gorgeous heroes, Morton and Evandale (both in love with the same girl: it has tragic bits…), and two tremendous anti-heroes (Burley the Covenanter and Claverhouse the Jacobite), and these four dance a psychological dance across muir and bog, in and out of castles and battles.

St Ronan’s Well: See above!

The one I wouldn’t recommend at first, is Ivanhoe. Ivanhoe transformed English culture and created Merrie England, but it was so influential it reads as a parody of itself. When you read it, as an experienced Scott addict, bear in mind he was the first person to write this stuff. It’s the Middle Ages through the eyes of Regency comedy and the Enlightenment: Rebecca is one of Scott’s most enlightened characters. Scott also makes a bold attempt to write in a Mediaeval idiom. No-one had ever done that before either, and he keeps it up admirably, but there’s something about ‘prithee gentle swain’ that the modern reader just can’t take seriously.

On its 200th birthday, we have the opportunity to read Waverley and the others with a fresh eye, and have fresh opinions, as it is almost impossible to do with established classics like Pride and Prejudice or Jane Eyre. That’s why I’m excited about hearing what you have to say about it – and I’d like the discussion to be public: this isn’t a research project, it’s an attempt to start a fashion! There’s a Twitter hashtag, #Waverley200. But you have spent far too long reading this blog. Go and read Scott. And if you can bear to put it down for a moment, please come back and thank me – because you will! 


My interest in Walter Scott was a sideline to my PhD in history at the University of Stirling with Professor David Bebbington, The Episcopal Congregation of Charlotte Chapel, Edinburgh, 1794-1818, and my interest in Charlotte Chapel grew out of the fact that I am a member of the busy Choir of St John’s, Princes Street, the new chapel to which the congregation moved in 1818. My PhD comprised a reassessment of the founder and rector of the congregation, Bishop Daniel Sandford of Edinburgh, and a prosopographical study (that is, a collective biography) of 431 members of the congregation, enabling intellectual, religious and social history to illuminate one another in a microstudy of society in the first New Town of Edinburgh. Having completed the PhD I am taking up a history postdoctorate at the University of West of Scotland Business School researching the business practices of George Gilbert Scott. I am passionate about communcating history to the public and have given public lectures, for example at the Old Edinburgh Club, Edinburgh Georgian House and in Previously, Scotland’s History Festival. I also talk about history a lot, and about Walter Scott, nature, the environmental crisis, and church music, on twitter @eleanormharris.

Back to Scotland’s Future: Re-editing the ‘new Scottish politics’

Scottish Parliament 1
(Image © Adrian Hart, 2007)


Unsurprisingly, the debate over Scotland’s constitutional future has been forward-looking: projecting the nation as capable and deserving (or not) of political autonomy. But it has also drawn from an existing toolbox of meanings and representations, situating itself in a juncture between past and potentiality. Current debates clearly reflect the legacy of ‘new politics’ discourse emergent in the devolution campaign of the 1990s. Both campaigns, I would argue, are drawing lessons from the mitigated results of the ‘new Scottish politics’ in order to bridge the gap between their rhetoric and the political and economic realities facing Scotland.

Read in this light, the White Paper (Scotland’s Future) can be seen as seeking to establish a compelling equilibrium between aspiration and reassuring realism. Both the SNP and the broader Yes campaign are attempting to reframe the principles of ‘new politics’ as compatible with independence, rather than as the exclusive dividend of well-calibrated devolution within the union.

Devolution and ‘new’ Scottish politics

Talk of ‘new politics’ in Scotland was first associated with the campaign for the Scottish Parliament in the mid to late 1990s. At the time, most advocates of home rule, including many of the parties, civic groups and churches that made up the Scottish Constitutional Convention, emphasised ‘new Scottish politics’ as the potential dividend of devolution: a break from ‘old’ Westminster politics, considered by some to be discordant and divisive. The Labour UK government saw devolution as a means of enabling the development of appropriate Scottish responses to issues faced north of the border while fostering distinctiveness within the union. While the SNP also bought into the ‘new politics’ rhetoric, it presented the progressive potential of devolution as an improvement in the broader context of a continued effort towards full independence, which they argued to be the only means of bringing about a truly new Scottish politics. Overall, proponents of devolution presented ‘new Scottish politics’ as the positive culmination of new institutions, new policy processes and a new political culture.

While devolution has undeniably transformed the way policy decisions are made and implemented in Scotland, the extent to which it has delivered on its promise of new politics is contested. Most significantly, the institution of a Scottish parliament repatriated the debate and negotiation of policy in devolved areas to those they were due to affect. Indeed, the new Parliament was imagined as a forum for cooperative and constructive deliberation, supposedly in contrast to the adversarial House of Commons. This institutional development was wedded to the principles of consultation and civic participation, which the Scottish government has since extensively operationalised by involving local authorities, associations, unions and professional bodies in the negotiation and design of policy priorities. Additionally, the willingness of the main parties to cooperate, illustrated by the experience of the 1997 campaign on the devolution referendum, as well as their substantial overlap in policy matters and electorate, led many to believe a different, and more consensual, type of political behavior would become the norm.

The Scottish government has successfully realised some of the cornerstones of ‘new politics’. In particular, devolution led to significant changes in institutions and has certainly impacted upon the policy process. Nevertheless, the contrast between ‘new’ Scottish and ‘old’ Westminster politics has been overstated, and electoral competition being what it is – the intense and fraught vying for attention and support in a context saturated by adversaries and alternative ideas – inflated hopes of consensus politics have been somewhat frustrated. In this sense, devolution has not appeared to engender and embed a new political culture in Scotland. In particular, evidence would suggest that in the sixteen years since the Scotland Act established the Scottish Parliament, there has not been a significant move away from traditional adversarial politics. Rather than being the product of a putatively distinct political culture, cooperation in Scottish politics, when it happens, has tended to be the result of perceived mutual advantage or a shared goal.

Re-editing representations of Scottish exceptionalism

The representation of Scotland as different is not new. In fact, the myth of a Scottish exception pre-dates the debate over devolution and has recurrently surfaced throughout the period of the union. It is therefore not surprising that the inter/national debate over the upcoming Scottish independence referendum has re-edited the conversation over the possibility of new and different politics in Scotland’s near future. Indeed, this is an old discussion reinterpreted and reissued. What is interesting, however, are the emerging modalities of the most recent debate, with the Yes campaign vying to shift the framing of ‘new’ Scottish politics away from its connotations of fostering political and policy distinctiveness within the union and towards a broader discussion of sovereignty and democracy.

Scotland’s Future notably couches the constitutional future of Scotland in terms of democracy and progress. As such, the Scottish Government attempts to frame the discussion as one over issues of legitimacy, appropriateness and sovereignty, placing the representation of the stakeholders in the referendum at its heart. Rather than opting for a nationalist representation of the Scottish people heavily anchored on a purported cultural or ethnic singularity, the SNP has sought to put forward a case built on civic nationalism, whereby an independent Scottish state would derive its legitimacy from the expressed will of those who live and work on its territory. In keeping with the democratic principle of self-determination through participation, this general will is posited as being expressed through the making of decisions:

Decisions about Scotland – decisions that affect us, our families, our communities and the future of our country – should be taken in Scotland to reflect the views and concerns of the Scottish people, rather than by governments at Westminster with different priorities, often rejected by voters in Scotland. (Scotland’s Future, Introduction)

Interestingly, the act of making decisions on political and policy matters is presented as inherently worthwhile, separately from the act of making the right policy decisions. Thus, prefacing the White Paper, First Minister Alex Salmond states: ‘No-one is suggesting an independent Scotland would not face challenges. We would be unique is this was not the case. But we are rich in human talent and natural resources […] With independence, we can build the kind of country we want to be.’ In this sense, the challenges an independent Scotland would undoubtedly face are not rejected but owned, as the price and privilege of self-government.

This approach seeks to establish­ the viability and desirability of path-breaking political decisions in the context of significant uncertainty and risk. In this context the Yes campaign is faced with having to find an equilibrium between providing sufficient (and sufficiently compelling) information about how it would address the implications of independence, and setting out a case for autonomy liable to attract voters with a variety of policy preferences.

In Scotland’s Future the SNP has broadly resisted the urge to instrumentalise the White Paper as a definitive manifesto on what policies would look like in an independent Scotland – which would require the unpalatable hubris of projecting both a Yes vote in the referendum and the election of an SNP government in the first democratic elections penciled in for 5 May 2016. Instead, they opt to emphasise the role independence would play in opening up the twin realms of politics and policy to democratic design by those living and working in Scotland.

The document’s 670 pages lay out a relatively detailed vision of the policy options an independent Scotland could envisage, from free childcare provision to the re-nationalisation of Royal Mail, seen through an undeniably partisan lens. This strategy nevertheless aims to decouple the partisanship of policy preference, associated with electoral competition and routine politics, from the discussion of the future of sovereignty and legitimate representation in Scotland, considered above adversarial and short-termist party politics. Attempts are made to emphasise the democratic implications of, and policymaking opportunities afforded by, independence; these are discussed more prominently than the policy minutiae that would attend realisation of these opportunities. Correspondingly, broad principles that have become recurrently linked with representations of Scottish society, such as social justice, fairness and prosperity, are preferred over discussion of how each could be achieved through policy.

This effort to depoliticize the issue aims to place at a remove the political aspect of decision-making from the referendum debate, arguably to minimize its association with the perceived pettiness of politics at a time when trust in politicians has plummeted. While depoliticisation is a strategy associated with New Labour in the late 1990s, it did not emerge as an element of the debate over independence until recently and, therefore, cannot be considered an intrinsic aspect of the original ‘new politics’ discourse.

Unsurprisingly, in the context of vigorous campaigning for Scotland to remain within the union, and in the absence of similar blueprints setting out the modalities of possible increased devolution, this particular vision of Scotland’s future has met with widely contrasting responses. Thus, proponents of a Yes vote, such as Robin McAlpine (director of the Jimmy Reid Foundation) consider it a successful harmonisation of priorities and preferences in the context of a nation-building project supposed to enhance participation and representation regardless of partisan politics:

What I was looking for was a promise that between a Yes vote and the first democratic election in 2016, the SNP wouldn’t behave like it had the right to design a new country all by itself. The paper promises we will all get to play a part in writing a constitution and that its opponents will be included in the negotiating team that agrees the deal we get when leaving the UK. So I am reassured. (Jimmy Reid Foundation)

Conversely, critics, such as leader of the Better Together campaign, Alistair Darling, interpret this stance as a smoke-and-mirrors deflection tactic resulting in the failure to address key questions about how an independent Scottish government would set about achieving its naïve and nebulous goals.

In the 1990s, talk of ‘new Scottish politics’ was tightly tethered to the campaign for devolution and the establishment of a Scottish Parliament. This transformation was argued to hold the key to the development of new institutions, which would enable fair, inclusive and effective decision- and policy-making processes through which Scottish solutions to Scottish issues would be found, and ultimately would foster a consultative and cooperative political culture unlike the adversity held to characterise ‘old’ Westminster politics. Central to this argument were multiple and competing interpretations of a perceived Scottish difference. Scotland is different: her population’s problems and interests are different; the principles and priorities she is built on are different; the future she seeks for herself is different. Far from idiosyncratic, incantations of Scottish exceptionalism are a systematic fixture in debates over the nation’s political future. Unsurprisingly, with less than a year to go until the referendum on Scottish independence, the current debate has re-edited this tradition, merging old and new ideas and strategies, as the stakes are raised and Scotland’s constitutional future is reimagined once again. On the one hand, we see elements of the original ‘new politics’ discourse maintained; see the renewed interest in the possibilities an independent Scotland would afford the nurturing of a new political culture. On the other hand, elements such as the attempted depoliticisation of the democratic implications of the referendum have only recently been mobilised.

Overall, the white paper reframes the possibility of ‘new Scottish politics’ in terms of democracy and self-governance, and breaks away from traditional conceptions of representative and fair politics in Scotland solely as the reward reaped from effective devolution within the union. This exercise of projection and meaning-making seeks to navigate the obstacles presented by overwhelming uncertainty and staunch opposition – with very mixed reactions. 

Emily St.Denny is a Research Assistant at the ESRC-funded Scottish Center on Constitutional Change, working as part of a team looking at policymaking in Scotland. She is also working towards a PhD in politics and public policy on the subject of contemporary French prostitution policy. She is based at the Division of History and Politics at the University of Stirling.


Here Comes Scotland, Ready Or Not


New to the independence debate? Baffled by what you’ve already heard? Stirling politics lecturer Peter Lynch offers a more expansive view of the ‘who’ as well as ‘what’ of constitution-making.

Brace yourselves – here comes Scotland.

It’s 2014 and you’re going to be hearing rather a lot about us this year. Some good, some bad and quite a lot in between. Some cultural, some sporting and definitely quite a lot political. It’s a big year for us after all. We’re just not sure how it’s going to go.
If you live in Scotland, you might have heard a lot of the political stuff already. The media has been covering the independence referendum on and off for the last two years and you might even have met campaigners out on the stump in Bathgate, Linwood, Methil, Irvine and a host of other towns and villages across Scotland. If you live somewhere like Miami or Canada, you might be tuning in for the first time but you will be hearing a lot more about us this year and some of it will be baffling. What do the Scots want? And what are they actually voting on come 18th September?

Well, here are three different ways to think about the independence referendum and its significance.

First, it would be a fundamental mistake to adopt a minimalist view of the referendum – that it’s a simple Yes/No vote on independence come September. It’s a lot more than that. The way to understand the referendum more fully is as a process not an event and also an example of constitution-making, as state and citizens participate in a lengthy debate about the future and what it should look like.

Some of this is about government structures and policies – the constitutional nuts and bolts if you like – but it’s also about ‘who’ we are, what values we support and what kind of society we want to live in. The referendum has thrown all sorts of issues and debates up into the air, far more than the governments can control, and organisations and individuals at all levels will have their say.

Second, the referendum is about independence but it’s about a particular version of independence. It would not be an exaggeration to suggest that the referendum is actually part of a process of turning the UK into a hybrid confederation – by democracy and negotiation. What the Scottish Government is proposing is NOT classical independence, but modern European independence. It proposes to retain the UK and EU single markets, keep the Queen as head of state and share the pound with the rest of the UK. The Scottish Government proposes a range of other, quite practical, arrangements for sharing institutions and policy and also seeks a share of UK assets. That’s not to say the UK government would accept all of this of course, but it does tell you about the ‘type’ of independence being advanced here.

Third, whilst it appears on the surface as though the referendum is all about governments and political parties, there is also a lot more to it than that. Whilst the referendum provides a tricky political problem for business – wary of offending customers at home or abroad by being seen to take sides – other organisations have seen the referendum as an opportunity for constitution-making and agenda-setting and sought to examine a wide range of issues and interests related to the referendum.

Take the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, which set up a Commission on Strengthening Local Democracy or the islands councils that used the debate to seek more autonomy within Scotland and the UK. Trade unions like Unison sought to use the debate to promote the devolution of more powers that falls short of independence but beyond those of the main pro-Union political parties – even though it’s not on the ballot paper.

The Network of Development Organisations in Scotland has used the debate to set out its stall for greater Scottish and UK engagement in international development issues and a range of charities and civic groups are also engaged in debating the issues around independence and what they want from a ‘Future Scotland’ across social and welfare policy.

Institutions and pressure groups are engaging and so are the public through public meetings, consultations and conversations with family, friends and neighbours. And that’s all before we get to the campaign proper over the summer months of 2014.

Peter Lynch is an expert on Scottish politics and is currently involved in a project on the devolution referendums of 1979 and 1997 with the Stirling-based Scottish Political Archive. He is also Director of the MSc in International Conflict and Cooperation; a second edition of his SNP: The History of the Scottish National Party appeared in 2013.