MORE THAN a year after the referendum on Scottish independence, the turmoil caused by the shifts in Scotland’s understanding of itself wrought by the campaign is still in the process of settling back down. This process may last for several more years and travel beyond the next independence referendum. This is no bad thing. Since the birth of democracy in these isles, Scotland has never been granted the opportunity to take stock of itself as a nation: what she stands for; where she came from; in which direction she is choosing to travel.

Those who want us all to “move on” following the referendum and never discuss it ever again betray a fundamental misunderstanding of what happened during the campaign. Either that or they simply never really had any empathy for what makes Scotland and what makes us Scots. This wretched and pitiable attitude is perhaps inelegantly represented by several, but by no means all, who were driving the No campaign. Their petty, vindictive and mean-spirited attitude throughout set a dispiriting tone for the No side and almost killed the Labour Party in Scotland. Like those other barons and lords on the acquiescent wing of the party – McConnell, Reid, Robertson and Foulkes – some, such as Alistair Darling, will be rewarded for ensuring that whatever socialism or radicalism he thought he was espousing it was of a type not considered strong enough to disturb the workings of the UK establishment. Like those other chocolate socialists, some will be given ermine as a reward for ensuring that the left never got ideas above itself.

In the year or so since September 18, I have heard Darling and others attempt to dismiss the upsurge in support for Scottish nationalism as being merely part of a global phenomenon of extra-parliamentary radicalism that is both untutored and unkempt. By doing so, he and others are expressing their contempt for those who found their voices during the campaign and discovered that they were as eloquent and informed as the professional politicians and the media commentariat. By lumping Scottish nationalism in with other popular movements of the left and right – both benign and extreme – Darling and his acolytes are saying: “Look, don’t get any ideas that we are taking this seriously; this is just a fad that will pass and then we can get back to our top-down arrangement of governing without any fuss or interference in the natural order of things.”

In this they are trying to put the genie back in the bottle; to refill a burst bag of sugar using a fork. In fact, I very much doubt that Darling, Brown and Robertson and all their fluffers and panderers were as afraid of an independent Scotland as they were of the new legions of ordinary people who were gaining access to ideas and theories which the political and media professionals once regarded as their exclusive preserve. As that great iconoclast and non-conformist Lance-Corporal Jones might have observed: “They don’t like it up ‘em.” Independence would always have been preferable to them than the prospect of the hoi-polloi storming the citadels of their influence and power.

It’s also worth remembering that dear old Denis Healey, who sadly died on Saturday following a lifetime of service to the institutions of the UK and its bulwarks of power, was cut from the same cloth as Darling, though of a far more agreeable and persuasive disposition. Healey it was who, in an interview with Mandy Rhodes, editor of Holyrood Magazine, laughed at how the British Labour Party had acquiesced with Margaret Thatcher and her Tories in concealing from Scots the true extent of the oil and gas revenues that had been taken from the North Sea. “I think we did underplay the value of the oil to the country because of the threat of nationalism but that was mainly down to Thatcher,” he said.

“We didn’t actually see the rewards from oil in my period in office because we were investing in the infrastructure rather than getting the returns and really, Thatcher wouldn’t have been able to carry out any of her policies without that additional five per cent on GDP from oil. Incredible good luck she had from that.”

Many of the leaders of the No side on our constitutional debate would not, I feel, appreciate the themes and challenges contained in a startlingly beautiful photographic exhibition at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery and which runs through to April next year. The Ties That Bind features the work of four of Scotland’s finest photographers – Colin McPherson, Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert, Sophie Gerrard and Stephen McLaren – as they pointed their lenses inwards to Scotland in those tumultuous months during and after the independence referendum.

The images they captured haunted me last weekend and I know they will beckon me to behold them again on several more occasions; not so much to increase my understanding of them but rather to understand and interpret my own feelings on first observing them. They describe communities and convey flavours of a Scotland that many of us either do not know, have forgotten about or would rather ignore. Here, alongside the unravelling of Scotland’s enthusiastic participation in the Jamaican slave economy, we also find images of the Borders Common Ridings and the unchanged ways of a community not very far from most of us but a planet away from our experience.

There are stark and beautiful portrayals of three women who live among the ancient grass and stones of Scotland’s wild places and fashion a subsistence in them. Closest to my heart are the pictures of a fondly remembered and greatly admired former colleague, Colin McPherson, who has conveyed the relentless faithfulness and love of working people for their community football clubs at a time when corporatism, greed and unearned riches mock such seemingly empty and redundant values.

Together, they conveyed to me a Scotland which too often I have chosen to ignore and even to disparage. To understand these values, these people and the communities in which they yet prosper is to come to a fuller understanding of Scotland. The campaign for independence gave us a chance to pause and reflect on what Scotland means. Few of us took that opportunity but these four artists did. What they captured was more timeless and authentic than perhaps even independence itself.