The Illusion of Freedom

Scotland Under Nationalism

October 2009 9781850659952 276pp
October 2009 9781850659969 276pp
Temporarily out of stock


Alex Salmond, a talented politician in charge of Scotland’s devolved government since 2007, is mounting the biggest challenge to the British union state in its 300-year history. His fast-growing Scottish National Party wants Scotland to cease being the invisible country of Europe and to embrace independence. This book argues that if the Union is demolished, change will remain elusive and Scotland will continue to be run by the close-knit administrative, commercial and religious elites who have dominated the country for centuries. Tom Gallagher contends that the SNP remains fixated by resentment towards England and has no strategy for reviving a struggling economy and the deep-seated social problems which disfigure urban Scotland. He argues that the SNP are not committed to independence, that the SNP is a super-unionist party, that it recoils from popular sovereignty and is an enthusiastic backer of the EU’s plans for a post-national Europe based on federalist rule from Brussels, and that it endorses a radical multi-culturalism that devalues individual citizenship and places Scotland at the mercy of globalisation.

Gallagher’s hard-hitting analysis will stir emotions and generate debate, especially his claim that if the SNP triumphs it will reinforce the authoritarian trends which have disfigured Scottish history and contributed to heavy emigration. He passionately believes that moral and practical energies need to be released if Scotland is to renew itself, but fears that as long as the country is seen in romantic and propagandistic terms, this overdue transformation will be stillborn.


‘The narrowness of contemporary Scots nationalism, its contradictions and denials — above all of the strength of the unionist tradition and the Scots’ attachments to it — have had little criticism in the past two decades. Tom Gallagher’s book is a sharp, elegant and informed exception’. –– John Lloyd, Contributing Editor, Financial Times   

‘An original, enlightening and enjoyable read … the book is very marketable, with solid research, clearly reported. … Gallagher indicates some of the dilemmas facing both the SNP, Scottish nationalism, national culture and the opposition parties in advancing the Scottish enterprise.’ –– Bernard Aspinwall, previously Senior Lecturer in Modern History, Glasgow University, 1965-95

‘Tom Gallagher offers an intelligent and incisive account of the run-up to Scottish Devolution and of its early years. He shows how little real change has been effected, and argues cogently that the SNP, its leader more interested in presentation than policy, resembles Old Labour in its social conservatism and New Labour in its cultivation of interest groups and top-down style of government. Scottish politicians will not like this book, but they should read it, and do so with attention. They might then learn to mend their ways.’ –– Alan Massie, author and essayist


Tom Gallagher is Emeritus Professor of Politics at the University of Bradford. He has published one novel, Flight of Evil, and sixteen single-authored books on democracy and authoritarianism in post-1870 Europe, ranging from Britain to the Balkans, and including the acclaimed Salazar: The Dictator Who Refused to Die.

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