The Separation Top Ten


Last week, I attended the Glasgow Launch of National Collective and it was a really fantastic evening. There was a great mix of quality entertainment on show, a large and passionate crowd, a positive and unifying cause, and, generally, it was just a thoroughly enjoyable night. During the course of the event, I happened to notice the numerous pieces of art on sale within Mono, including a work entitled “Separation”. I couldn’t help but get my photo taken with it – and fired it up on Twitter – in homage to the petty agenda devised by many in the No camp that states, even although ‘independence’ is the widely accepted term for a nation’s self-determination across the globe, words like ‘separation’, ‘separate’ and ‘separatist’ should be used instead.

The reasons for this are pretty straight forward of course – whereas ‘independence’ throws up images of positivity, responsibility and growth, ‘separation’ provides the type of connotations that Better Together’s entire campaign relies on – anxiety, fear, and negativity. Use of language in this way is hardly anything new in the world of politics and propaganda, but something about it has always irked me a bit – to be honest, I think it was just the sheer pettiness of it that annoyed me most.

As I was leaving Mono at the end of the Glasgow Launch, I briefly spoke to National Collective’s Ross Andrew Colquhoun, who had seen the earlier photo on Twitter and mentioned it to me, saying “it was great to see someone taking something negative (like separation) and turning it into a positive”. That was obviously the idea behind the image but hearing someone else say it triggered a train of thought in my mind. Just how negative are words like ‘separation’ and ‘separate’? The connotations are undoubtedly so, hence why it is used by the Unionists instead of ‘independence’, but is it really that bad? Were there examples of the word out there which weren’t negative and were, in fact, positive?

And so I embarked on a slightly tongue-in-cheek quest to piece together “The Separation Top Ten” in a bid to prove, at least to myself, that such terms can be positive meaning I need not feel annoyed again…

10. “Separate Ways” by Elvis Presley

Not the most famous of Elvis Presley songs to be fair. In fact, I had no idea the track even existed until I started piecing together this Top Ten. But I guess that’s one of the benefits of ‘separation’ – there’s so much possibility out there!

The song itself was written by Bob West and Richard Mainegra and was recorded by Elvis in 1972. Funnily enough, the song was actually a success in the States, with the B side beingAlways On My Mind, reaching sixteenth position in the Hot Country Singles chartHowever, in the UK, the tracks were switched, with Separate Ways becoming the B side and, therefore, the less well known of the two. However, the song is actually a decent wee number!


9. “Separation” by Edvard Munch

Although I admittedly wasn’t particularly interested in school, I did enjoy art.  It was my favourite subject in fact and I was pretty decent at it, if I do say so myself. During the course of my school career, I studied a few painters – at one stage I remember having to do a little bit of writing about Edvard Munch. I would hardly say I was a fan but he had painted The Scream which, of course, I associated with the horror movie and the masks that were all the rage at Halloween around that time, with the blood that squirted down the front if you squeezed the plastic heart connected by a tube. So, in my mind, Edvard Munch was actually pretty cool (although through no real effort of his own).

When I was searching for the use of the word ‘separation’ in the world of art, it was a pleasant surprise to see his name appear. Although about the loss of love, the 1896 painting is an impressive piece and, like all works of art, can be appreciated and enjoyed by many.


8. “Six Degrees of Separation”

Although also the title of a Will Smith movie and a song by The Script, I refer to the actual concept in this list – the theory that every human being is no more than six ‘steps’ away from each other.

The theory was first suggested in 1929 by Hungarian author Frigyes Karinthy in his short storyChains, and has been studied further in the fields of social sciences and mathematics. It has its detractors of course, who suggest that the theory is flawed, but on a simplistic and personal level it’s quite a nice idea I reckon. In a world that can be so divisive thanks to many factors, such as geography, religion, gender, language and so on, the idea that you could be only six steps away from any other human being on the planet (yes, even David Cameron) is a reminder that, essentially, we are still all the same and it is indeed a small world.


7. Separation (air traffic control)

Now here’s a handy concept. In the world of air traffic control, ‘separation’ is pretty important. In fact, it’s completely necessary. Rules known as ‘separation minima’ are applied by those in air traffic control towers in order to ensure there is a minimum distance between two aircraft, for pretty obvious reasons.

So the next time you’re on a plane and successfully make it to your destination without hitting another aircraft, just remember that it was ‘separation’ which allowed that to happen. The word might have its negative connotations, but in this case being allowed to enjoy your overpriced Ryanair vodka and coke in peace without the inconvenience of a midair collision is something that even Alistair Carmichael would appreciate.


6. The Separation Process
Glen Morangie distillery

In the world of chemical engineering, the word ‘separation’ isn’t negative – it refers to an extremely important process that serves many essential purposes. With the vast majority of elements and compounds found in impure states, it’s vital that the raw materials undergo separation to ensure that the purified components are extracted, before they are used for productive use.

Whether it’s refining of crude oil or the distilling of water, separation has become a crucial process in the industrialised modern world.


5. “A Separation”
Image from

Okay, so the subject of the film itself isn’t the most positive. There’s a break up, financial difficulties, instability, lies – perhaps enough negative buzzwords there to suggest it might be a Better Together campaign video. But, actually, it’s a critically acclaimed and award winning Iranian movie.

Released in 2011, the drama went on to win a plethora of awards, including an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film and a Golden Globe for the same category. Perhaps more importantly, the film was released at a time when filmmakers and other creatives in Iran regularly found themselves shackled by censorship, making it an artistic success on two fronts.


4. Cell Separation
Image from

Cell separation, or cell sorting, does exactly what it says on the tin – referring to the separation of cells according to their properties. Because these cells are the very basis of all life, the ability to do this has led to many developments and established principles in the world of medicine.

As our medical and scientific knowledge and understanding continues to grow, there’s no doubt that cell separation will continue to play a big part in the future. Unfortunately, however, my own personal knowledge and understanding of such issues isn’t anywhere near extensive enough to say much more on the subject…


3. “Separations” by Pulp

As a pro-independence campaigner, you don’t have to search far – especially on social networking – to find someone suggesting you must be completely anti-British. Contrary to this belief, there are many elements of British culture that I love – one example being Britpop. Although it was Oasis and Blur at the very forefront of the movement, some of my favourite bands of all time were also playing a part, such as Ocean Colour Scene, Supergrass and Pulp.

However, before Britpop exploded, Jarvis Cocker and his band mates had been slowly but surely climbing their way up the music industry ladder from as early as 1978. The albumSeparations, although certainly not their biggest release by any means, marks a very important stage in the band’s career. With the album released in 1992, it was this album along with its singles, My Legendary Girlfriend and Countdown, which garnered the band mainstream attention. This platform then allowed Pulp to go on and, although reluctant to call themselves a part of Britpop, establish themselves as the successful group many of us still love today.


2. “Separating the Wheat from the Chaff”
Image from

Not only does this refer to the traditional, agricultural method of winnowing, resulting in the literal separation of the wheat from the chaff, it’s also a well-known and regularly used phrased.

When you decide to ‘separate the wheat from the chaff’, you make a deliberate effort to separate the useful stuff from the useless stuff, the important things from the unimportant things, the relevant facts from the propaganda and lies. And when a majority of people in Scotland have managed to separate the wheat from the chaff over the coming year, it will be ‘independence’ which will follow…


1. “Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)” by Journey

And so top spot goes to another musical entry. I’m not the biggest Journey fan by any means. There are many, many rock bands from the 1970s and 1980s that I love, but I wouldn’t put Journey anywhere near them. That said, the band is responsible for the odd good track or two.Don’t Stop Believing was, of course, a good example once upon a time, before it was completely overplayed and done to death in recent years.

So what about the second appearance of a song named Separate Ways in this chart? Well, the song itself is pretty much four minutes of the sound of the 80s, complete with required synth solo. But what ensures its place at #1 in my chart is the utterly fantastic video. With its array of tank tops, mullets, perms, wonderful facial hair, cutting edge slow motion effects, the band rocking out on top of a pile of wooden pallets, and, bizarrely, a synthesizer attached to a corrugated iron wall, it’s terribly difficult not to find yourself chuckling at such an onslaught of accidentally hilarious cheese.


And so, although the negative connotations will still remain with the vast majority of people, the next time I hear Alistair Darling, Anas Sarwar or any of the other doom-merchants prattling on about ‘separation’ rather than ‘independence’, I will no longer feel annoyed. Instead, I will go to my Separation Happy Place where I will see a mullet-boasting, tweed-jacket-wearing, 80s musician, hammering away on the keys of his synthesizer which has somehow managed to glue itself onto the side of a metal shed, while his band mates do ‘The Slosh’ upon some wooden pallets. And I will smile.

Because in the immortal-yet-not-actually-well-known words of Elvis:

I see a change is coming to our lives
It’s not the same as it used to be
And it’s not too late to realise our mistake
We’re just not right for each other.”

Jason Henderson
National Collective