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Scotland and the Scots, 1707-2007

Christian Auer

XVI. Religion and Sectarianism

113. Scotland, Province or Nation? 1937

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1In 1937, John Torrence published Scotland’s Dilemma: Province or Nation?, a nationalist pamphlet in which he recommended that all Catholics be expatriated. The pamphlet sold over 55,000 copies.

2John Torrence, Scotland’s Dilemma: Province or Nation?, Edinburgh: Oliver and Boyd 1937, p. 14-18.

Emigration! It is the negation of national policy. It has been–in the reckless, insensate form in which we have known it–one of the causes of our impoverishment, one of the sources of the decline in national stamina. It is based on the false defeatism which represents Scotland as a country naturally and incurably poor, with no choice but to send her best away. And it is peculiarly dangerous at this moment when we stand on the threshold of an age of declining birth-rate and shrinking population.

Scottish Nationalists stand against this curious madness of race-suicide, this attempt to cure haemorrhage by bleeding, this fantastic programme of saving Scotland by expelling the Scots. They want a more populous, more prosperous and more Scottish Scotland. And they are alone among parties in wanting it. They are alone in protesting when a proposal is made to send three hundred Scottish fishermen and their families in a mass migration to Vancouver. They are alone in exposing the export of “specially selected” Scottish children to farm schools and English training centres. They regard such projects as crimes perpetrated by the State against the nation.

In the same way, they are not prepared to acquiesce tamely in the downward slide of the national birth-rate. For with their conception of regeneration goes the idea of confidence in Scotland’s destiny. They regard our children as assets and not as liabilities. And they do not for one moment believe that our country has approached the optimum population which she can be organised to support. Nor are they disposed to admit that a nation is helpless to grapple with the grave problems which birth-control sets it.


This whole problem of population has a poignant bearing on the Nationalist idea. For, owing to the total absence of a statesmanlike attitude to immigration, we stand in danger of being supplanted on our own soil by the unselected and uncontrolled influx of a population from Ireland. There are said to be 600,000 Irish on Clyde side; in Dundee one out of every six people is of Irish extraction.

Nationalists have neither hostility nor contempt for the Irish people. But, if they believe that Scotland has not received the best type of Irish immigrant, they need only look to police court reports and prison statistics to find corroboration.

If they take the view that the Irish represent a recalcitrant element unready to share in the outlook, purposes, and traditions of the Scottish people, they have no lack of evidence. In March 1916, at the height of the crucial Verdun battle, the Glasgow Herald published this news-item: “Cross channel steamers leaving the Clyde during the past few nights have been taking hundreds of men eligible for military service from outlying districts in Scotland back to their homes in Ireland.”

The quotation seems to call for no comment. Nationalists look with horror upon the sectarian and racial bitterness which has inevitably followed the uncontrolled influx of the Irish. While sympathising with those who are roused by the defenceless state of their country against the “invasion,” they reject anything in the nature of persecution. They recognise that the Scottish people have granted educational facilities of an unparalleled generosity to those immigrants.

  • 11 The Anglo-Irish Treaty (6 December 1921) between the Government of the United Kingdom of Great Bri (...)

But they ask for Scotland the elementary right of a nation to control and select its immigrants. They intend to set up social standards and to exact assurances of loyalty to our Scottish outlook. And in particular they seek to make an end of the present intolerable position by which Scotland under the Anglo-Irish Treaty11 cannot return to the Irish Free State those of its subjects who become a burden upon the public purse of Scotland. This glaring injustice will never be terminated by a Westminster Parliament, clinging to the hollow pretence that the Irish Free State is part of the Empire. It can—and it will—be ended by a Scottish Government refusing to be bound by the 1921 treaty between London and Dublin. Sane, sound and sympathetic tackling of a serious national difficulty can come only from a Scottish Government negotiating on equal terms with the Irish Government and resolved on securing fair treatment for both peoples. This fact is crucial.


11 The Anglo-Irish Treaty (6 December 1921) between the Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and representatives of the de facto Irish Republic concluded the Irish War of Independence. Northern Ireland, comprising the six counties, was given the option of seceding from the Free State, and retaining her own Home Rule legislature subordinate to Westminster, an option which she immediately took.

© Presses universitaires de Strasbourg, 2013

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