Debating with ‘The Economist’ its Scottish Independence Coverage

An Exchange between Gerry Hassan and Jeremy Cliffe

June 11th 2015

June 10th 2015 17.00

Dear Gerry,

Thank you for your letter of May 14th (1). Zanny has asked me to reply on
her behalf.

On our use of “secession”, “secessionist” and “separatist”, I refer
you to my email of March 24th. On “partition” and “dismemberment”, I
repeat the points made in that earlier message. Those terms are
descriptive and accurate. We use them in other contexts where – unlike
that of the United Kingdom – we support the separation in question.
For example, we welcomed both the “dismemberment” of the FSA and the
“partition” of Sudan.

Nor is Scotland’s pro-independence movement the only one of its kind
to which we apply such language. As a keen reader of The Economist you
will know that we  use “secession” and “separatist” in our coverage of
its Catalan and Quebcois counterparts. Indeed, a quick perusal of our
recent pieces on Catalan nationalism shows that we have used every one
of the terms to which you object in that context too.

Your claim that we “rarely” refer to the SNP as pro-independence is
incorrect. As a cursory search of our website shows, we do so

One final point. While respecting the nationhood of its different
parts, The Economist also values the integrity and identity of the
United Kingdom as a whole, in the context of which Scottish
independence indeed constitutes dismemberment, partition, dissolution,
fragmentation – and any number of other descriptions of the act of
breaking up a coherent entity. It is hardly surprising that some of
these words carry historical or ideological baggage, happy and
otherwise. But that does not make those words inaccurate – or indeed
the act itself inherently undesirable.

As such, I remain unconvinced that the terms we use are pejorative or
otherwise inappropriate and would encourage you to engage (and by all
means disagree!) with the arguments that they convey instead.

Thank you for your interest.




June 10th 2015 17.33

Dear Jeremy,

Many thanks for your reply.

I would say to you that given the Economist’s august traditions and
reputation it would be helpful to if possible refrain from the terms
‘partition’ and ‘national dismemberment’.

These are both inaccurate and not really helpful and should be beneath
both yourself and the magazine.




June 10th 2015 17.39

Dear Gerry,

I cannot say I have ever used either term in my pieces for ‘The
Economist’ – but your point is noted.




June 10th 2015 17.49

Thanks Jeremy,

‘The Economist’ has used both terms – as I have cited.

Would really aid your coverage if they weren’t used in future.





1. ‘A Letter to the Editor of ‘The Economist’ on Scotland and Scottish Independence’, May 14th 2015, pub. June 4th 2015,