East, west, hame’s best
The residing insult is how much my country’s elected senators are regarded as common caretakers, guardians of Scotland on behalf of Westminster politicians, sadly a view held by some of our own in Holyrood. What hope is there for our children’s happiness, and the lives of our children’s children unless we close ranks? Will they be forced to leave their homeland in search of work?
So many of my relatives were forced to flee to far off places, paid to leave, to Australia’s corners, to Nova Scotia’s bleak coastline, to Africa’s interior, aye, and even to Paisley. (I spent three years there as a student, a place degrading.) Whatever life our forefathers created far from home, their hearts remained in Scotland. You can see it in the letters, and in the ‘wee bit of Scotland’ they recreated. They felt compelled to honour the memory of their forefathers.
The quality of light
What is it about this rain-soaked, corbie choked, drystane and fanked field of dreams?
Is it the painterly quality of light? There is something unique, iridescent about the north-west light that visits no other land. Sit outside a slate roof cottage in North Uist at midnight and marvel at the pearlescent water before you, fingers of land and inlets black in silhouette.
Raise your eyes to the heavens as far north as you can travel and the awe-inspiring shifting flashes of the Aurora Borealis would have men believe a superior being watches over us. It is not Westminster that illuminates our land. It is the land and the people.
Rugged and ragged
I have travelled this world over, through green places nourished by rivers abundant with fish, stared into bottomless crevasses; visited the ruins of ancient civilisations the bones of their dead underfoot; traversed arid deserts where the air is so heavy with silence you can hear your heart beating.
I walked renegade coyote tracks that skip across the desert until they rise up to meet the sky. There shamans placed their palm in berry juice and left their red imprint on the rock to tell tomorrow they existed.
Visiting the lands of the American Indian I understood their oneness with the heavens, a spirituality, came from their land under vast skies that gave them a kind of bravura, a fearlessness of eternity. The cities they help build did not belong to them, but to a different people. And when they returned to the land they had inhabited so long, where they chased the buffalo, they saw it savagely corralled. No one needed to own a horse anymore for there was no buffalo to hunt or to honour its death for giving them life.
Why should we not love our own birthplace with the passion of an American Indian, that would light beacons on every Mohr and mountain top? Why love Scotland less than an artificial construct called Britain, speak less well of it to such an extent we would not wish it protected?
A breath of wind
In every glen, rock and boulder each breath of wind whispers stories of our forefathers, stories of struggle and triumph, of strain and fortitude, handed down generation to generation. Why let stories of lives vanished disappear, their meaning mean nothing, never gifted to our children?
In times past our Highland soldiers recited tales of their ancestors before advancing into battle. That way gave them courage. They knew who they were and what they fought for. They whispered the tales over and over again to seal their existence, and ensure they returned from the battlefield renewed.
Are we not to be citizens of the world with our own land that we can till to gather the harvest of our labours?
Think again about Scotland’s history, last century and the ones before, the history Scotland’s detractors wish forgotten. Think how politicians refer to Scotland as a place of scroungers, drunks, and whingers. Their respect for Scotland is no more than a person might have for a stranger’s dog, and just as fleeting.
Bringers of hope
Granted, my contribution as an essayist is a lonely occupation, but in fact, very little is done individually. It’s usually done in groups by collective action, by objective defined, and by interchange. We saw that camaraderie writ large as Referendum day neared.
Part of the cleverness of the system of domination and control is to separate people from one another so that doesn’t happen.
The challenge is for Scotland to unite. By unite I mean English in Scotland with Scot, aye, most definitely English working here, and Polish, Chinese, Italian, Spanish, Indian and Pakistani, all the cultures who generations ago made Scotland their home.
To do less will have us fail to create a place where all have the right to happiness.