Gaughan assembled the song in response to the result of the first Scottish Parliament referendum in 1979 which had the controversial ruling whereby a simple majority was not enough to win a devolved parliament for Scotland. Instead it required that 40% of the entire Scottish electorate, not just those who voted, had to vote yes. A non-vote was therefore effectively a "no" vote. In the referendum 52% of those who voted voted yes, but as this only amounted to 33% of the electorate, the scheme could not be realised.
"Both sides the Tweed" speaks of the corruption involved in the negotiations leading up to the Act of Union of 1707 which linked Scotland and England on terms which nationalists believe did much damage to Scottish culture. The tone of the song, however, is conciliatory and may be read as a reaction against the Anti-Englishness of some Scottish nationalistic songs. The title refers to the River Tweed which marks the border between Scotland and England. The song is one of those which has been mentioned in recent discussions on a Scottish national anthem.