‘Origins of the Present Crisis?': The Emergence of ‘Left-Wing’ Scottish Nationalism, 1956-1979

Ewan Gibbs, Rory Scothorne

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


The current state of the radical left and, more broadly, politics in Scotland has its roots in the unique set of political, economic and intellectual conditions found in the 1960s and 1970s. Where mainstream accounts of the origins and development of Scottish nationalism - and its increasing popularity on the left - emphasise political and economic origins in these decades, this chapter emphasises the equally crucial intellectual developments of the period. Khruschev’s ‘secret speech’, ‘de-Stalinization’ and the Soviet invasion of Hungary in 1956 engendered a growing plurality of perspectives on the European left, and it was under these new conditions that the British left increasingly questioned Stalinist orthodoxies, and established critiques of labourism and the ‘British Road to Socialism’. The search for alternatives to the classical Marxist, social democratic and Soviet canons led to a new theoretical heterodoxy, bringing Gramscian and world-systems theories to the fore along with a more politically ambiguous conception of the ‘national question’. Within the Scottish context of increasing concern over the influence of remote administration and growing external economic control, these influences enabled a new theoretical expression of, and an appeal to, the experiences of the Scottish labour movement. This fusion of political, economic and intellectual concerns is encapsulated in Gordon Brown’s Red Paper on Scotland, Tom Nairn’s The Break-up of Britain, and Stephen Maxwell’s The Case for Left-Wing Nationalism. This chapter integrates an analysis of the intellectual development of left-wing Scottish nationalism with a consideration of the growth of its influence within the labour movement during the 1960s and 1970s.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationWaiting for the Revolution
Subtitle of host publicationThe British Far Left from 1956
EditorsEvan Smith , Matthew Worley
PublisherUniversity of Manchester
ISBN (Electronic)978-1-5261-1368-9
Publication statusPublished - 2017


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