Course S0115 – Scottish History 2015-2035 

Unit 12 – Social origins of the civil war 

Reading 1 (reproduced courtesy of Wikipedia)

After the SNP lost the first referendum in 2014, the party split. The liberal-left founded the Scottish People’s Party, which was the beginning of the end for Labour. It was the social conservatives however that caught the public mood and drew support from across the political spectrum. They came together as a movement rather than a party – a shifting coalition of groups, loosely organised, but powerful enough to dominate the Scottish Parliament. Historians today refer to them as the Neo-Puritans.

SaltireThe Scottish Neo-Puritans made smoking illegal and prohibited the sale of alcohol, although small amounts of whisky continued to de dispensed through chemists as a controlled drug. Exports were exempt. The greatest battleground, though, was food. Colour-coded advisory labels, initially introduced to raise public awareness of health risks, were later adopted as the basis of prohibition by the Consumer Protection Act of 2021.

Penalties varied, but the “three strikes” rule stripped serial offenders of all access to public healthcare. Anyone found guilty of “intent to supply” was stripped of their rights immediately. In practice, the Food Enforcement Department, whose agents were popularly known as “the Feds”, targeted foods that were high in fat, sugar and salt. It was a popular policy, and was generally credited with saving the Scottish National Health Service from bankruptcy, but during the 20s, resistance groups began to mobilise.

The best known of the early groups was “Phat”, an umbrella organisation that met secretly in disused chip shops throughout Scotland to trade illicit goods and “shoot up” on brown sugar. These were mainly symbolic acts of resistance to which the authorities normally turned a blind eye. Gradually, however, the rebel forces splintered, and gave way to the so-called “battle of the brands”, which attracted younger and more militant activists.

The Cadbury Corps (established in 2022) were the first of the new militias. The so-called “McCoy Boys” were less numerous but more violent. The Irn-Bru street-dealers also developed a fearsome reputation, although police records suggest that their regular foot-soldiers were less aggressive than their sociopathic leader, the “Irn Man”, who had previously served on the national council of the pro-alcohol vigilante organisation known as the “Buckfast Brigade”.

It came as no surprise that Marmite was both an early target of the Puritans, and a focus of resistance to prohibition. The Feds’ anti-Marmite posters (2027-30) are now regarded as design classics. They generally included staged photographs of cadavers in domestic settings, often sitting at kitchen tables. They always contained the tag-line “Salt (based on sodium) 9.8 percent” in bold yellow letters on a black background. Many people hated yeast extract regardless of its salt content, but those who loved it were fanatical, and organised themselves into local militias known as the Marmite Soldiers.

The Marmite Soldiers were dedicated to smuggling shipments across the border (which was fenced and patrolled by 2026, supposedly in response to rebel action), storing it securely in secret caches, moving it around the country – “spreading the spread” as they liked to describe it, creating a network of safe houses in which Marmite could be eaten by consenting adults, and proselytising for the right to eat high-salt foods. The Puritans called this “Black Propaganda”.

After 2027, the struggle became increasingly violent. Small arms were imported by the rebels from Northern Ireland, where many weapons had remained hidden since the Troubles of the late 20th century. Initially, handguns were circulated for protection. Later, assault rifles and IEDs were used to murder Feds. Perhaps inevitably, these developments inflamed sectarian feelings. For some decades, these historic tensions had been expressed in Scotland only as theatrical tribalism, associated mainly with football clubs. However, communitarian divisions ran deep, particularly in the West of Scotland, and a number of the new militias fractured along sectarian lines, the best-known of the anti-Catholic chocolatiers being the ultra-violent “Blue Smarties”.

By 2032, civil war appeared all but inevitable.


Answer any two of the following questions (50 marks each)

1. The Scottish Health Service was killed by the civil war, but fatally wounded long before” (Mackay, 2037). Discuss.

2. Did the “Irn Man” believe in freedom or violence? Illustrate your conclusions with reference to his writings and witness statements (refer Unit 11).

3. If Lord Salmond had won the 2014 referendum, the civil war would never have happened. Do you agree? Explain your reasons.

4. Should those who consume excess fat, sugar and salt be entitled to benefit from public healthcare? Summarise the arguments for and against.

Word limit 2500.

© Gerry Webber 2013


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