A new poll shows a large majority of the Scottish population would vote for independence returned if there was a second Referendum. There’s hope in that.
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 youth. I can think of worse places to die than Paisley, but not many.) 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. Though few returned their children did.
They felt compelled to know the history 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.
I have seen the Garden of Eden in hills of Tuscany, and the pleasure gardens of Moorish Spain. There I marvelled at waterways created to quench the dry terraces of orange trees, and in Italy galaxies of vivid red poppies swaying over undulating hills.
Rugged and ragged
Here in my homeland I stroll by rugged castles, and among silver birches, woods carpeted with cerulean bluebells and wild garlic. Battlements, colour, scent, we have our own unique topography worth preserving, some of it fashioned by the Romans and the Spanish. We were true northern Europeans once upon a time. We welcomed them, we did not argue for separation from their culture or trade.
I have travelled this great 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 under foot; driven across 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.
The people who had lived there thousands of years ago carved wondrous icons dug deep into red cliffs. Shamans placed their palm in berry juice and left the imprint on the rock to tell tomorrow they existed.
What do we do to show we exist?
I saw great cities built to enhance men’s vanity and power. The tallest buildings of Manhattan were fabricated by indigenous Indians, many were dispossessed Indians, balancing on girders hundreds of feet in the air.
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, and 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.
In so many regards the same holds true for Scotland.
Why should we not love our own birthplace with a passion that would light beacons on every Mohr and mountain top? Why be expected to love Scotland less than an artificial construct called Britain? Or speak less well of it to such an extent we would not wish it protected from the tempests that assail its boundaries?
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 passed 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? Why should we not be a member of the United Nations? Scotland will never be proficient in international human affairs if it is restrained as a territory of a powerful neighbour.
I wonder if England sees its hold over Scotland more or less akin to ‘humanitarian intervention’, the kind of intervention they practiced in India, and more lately Iraq. We have a cricket team now, and there is oil still. Iraq has oil and plays cricket among its smashed existence. But there is a difference. India celebrates the anniversary of its independence from British rule.
Comparison beyond the pale? 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.
The democracy they offer is only one day every five years. That isn’t the democracy I read about in the works of Plato, Socrates and Aristotle, held fast in the soul of freedom. Westminster’s politicians will trouble us every day for five more years and leave us powerless the rest of the time.
Elections bring fresh hope – what can we do?
There are things we can do in groups we can’t do by our self. 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 their home Scotland.
Scotland won’t regain the right for its citizens to control their lives if we do not resist the neo-liberal onslaught. It reduces us to passive pawns. Where is our spirituality? Where is our bravura? If we do not vote for Scotland what will we gain that makes our lives better?
Westminster has made plain we gain nothing but their derision.