If a Scot anywhere says, give me my country to govern again, he is judged a fool, and everything is done to demean him and mock him.
When an Englishman says he wants his country back to govern again, and shouts freedom into the face of Europeans, his countrymen praise him and applaud.
The only freedom the people of Scotland can get is through the struggle to regain the civil rights we don’t have but English do, and all those we have lost and should care so much that we’ve forfeited.
Handball not football
Scotland is allowed the small things, the also ran, the junior event, the touring production, the amateur show, the provincial television station, a parliament with next to no economic power. The charade does not make us feel we are a proper nation.
Westminster warns they will punish us if we use the very pound sterling we helped create, or they will place border controls to corral us if we resist their rule, or they will fine us, reduce the allowance they give us from our taxes if we do anything they dislike. And then they have the effrontery to demand they know what it is that makes us say we are constrained or oppressed.
We have an England that saw fit to use Scots men and women in two world wars and have them fight and die for liberty and freedom but they will not allow us to govern ourselves. What kind of freedom is that? We have an England that saw fit to use Scotland as a guinea pig for unpopular policies. What kind of friend is that? We have an England that destroyed a nation’s industry rather than support it. What kind of ally is that? And they say, and still say, stay with us for together we are Utopia.
A different reality
The English have a set of assumptions, a reality, that is different from Scotland, shared by some Anglophile Scots. Their reality is based on a century of empire, wars and battles, heroes made, territory captured, ruling waves, a domination of foreign cultures. And yet they do not understand why we Scots do not see things as they do.
To English, the Scotsman or woman, you and me, standing before them, protesting, holding a placard, is stupid to resist their system to which the think we owe our identity. That’s how they see us, and scorn our demand for better values.
They defend an English system, an English reality. It isn’t one constructed by Scotland for Scotland. They dislike what they see as European supremacy imposed on England, but think nothing of English supremacy imposed on Scotland.
Once we were warriors
There was a time last century when the Labour party, always a Unionist party committed first and foremost to England’s might and ambitions, that actually fought hard for Scotland’s corner. There existed Scots who felt Scotland had a right to a share in the United Kingdom’s wealth that Scotland helped create. But here’s the rub, they had to fight for it. It wasn’t Scotland’s without asking, it wasn’t Scotland’s by right or by deed.
Back in the 1960s even the Conservative party recognised they had ignored Scotland’s material and social plight for too long. Too long was two hundred years. The British Treasury was draining Scotland of its earnings and squandering it on imperial wars and weapons to enhance the status of greater England they liked to call Britain
The British Treasury gave Scotland £600 million to help clear our city slums, to rebuild, to create outer city communities, to encourage entrepreneurism. The Highlands and Islands Development Board was set up. The whole of Scotland – except Edinburgh – was considered a priority development area. We got a fast breeder reactor, an aluminium smelter, a second Forth Bridge, a Tay Bridge two years later, and the promise of 10,000 jobs created at a monster coal pit called Longannet. Life looked good.
Our new found hyper-activity was mirrored in our culture. The Edinburgh International Festival of the Arts grew in all directions in activity and fame. Our artists were feted in London. BBC Scotland adapted and produced some of our greatest novels. New, bright filmmakers and writers were everywhere. James Bond was a Scotsman.
And there’s more
The flow of money didn’t stop there. A brace of universities sprang up, or perhaps a mortarboard of higher education: Heriot Watt, Dundee, Stirling, and Strathclyde. And following the new elite there came the intuitions to teach the teachers to teach, Ayr, Hamilton, and Falkirk, the dominies who would attain a lectureship in the new universities one day and a few be principals. The working class were still called the working class but saw a ladder to middle-class if they were willing to take it.
What happened next?
None of those advances did any good for Labour in Scotland. They won Westminster but at each general election they gained no more than a handful of seats from the Tories.
England’s parliament couldn’t sustain the expenditure. They took everything we had built with the money given us one by one except our bridges, and they might have removed them had they not been cemented down hard, pile driven into Scottish bedrock.
An incontrovertible harsh reality opened before them. Their struggle for their nation’s equality, for parity, was never ending. Those who gifted it took it away again.
Running even the remnants of an empire is a costly business. By handing largesse to the Scots Westminster had raised expectations it could not sustain, nor could their local staff, the Scottish Labour branch. Labour had no alternative means of income. They had no power. Every gain evaporated, or regressed.
The British government discovered they couldn’t balance their books. So they took to stealing Scotland’s oil. Sticking their name on it doesn’t make it any the less theft, no two ways about it. Only, when it’s billions upon billions of pounds it’s grand larceny on a scale hitherto unknown between two nations.
Same old, same old
Unemployment did not reduce, talented youth did not stop emigrating. In 1967 over 47,000 left Scotland. Scotland’s social problems were unsolvable by showering short-term money at each problem. Scotland’s ills were as unmanageable as Cromwell’s parliamentarians said they were, before setting Scotland free again.
The Scottish electorate became disillusioned, disaffected. They looked at the SNP and its policies as a potential champion for Scotland’s needs. That is where we are today, with a rump Tory party none actually elected to Scotland’s parliament, and a useless, spurned Labour party still holding tight to Britishness.
But one compensation emerged: we have food banks for the destitute.
What of the individual?
By the time a person was mature, in their thirties, they saw themselves as not quite part of the English fraternity. They felt somehow second-class, not wearing the right school tie, never part of the right rugby club, second-rate in some painful cases, or just not worthy. And they began to consider what that would do to their children.
It affects us all in unconscious, subliminal ways in our daily lives. We might not notice it, but others do when we cringe on hearing some Scot make good, be accepted, praised, or merely speak in a Scottish accent. “That can’t be so”, we say. “I kent his faither.”
Where are we now?
We are witnessing another awakening of English imperialism and the intolerance that rides with it at the expense of the people of Scotland. Next comes calls for more taxes to be spent on more weapons of mass destruction, and the rekindling of the Cold War – there has to be a constant enemy to keep the nation in perpetual anxiety ready to do the power elite’s bidding. Add to that more neo-conservative austerity and Brexit and we – democrat and unionist – are in a serious fix not of our making.
But there is hope, real hope.
The youth of Scotland want absolute change and see it through the SNP. Whilst a proportion of the elderly are locked into nebulous Britishness, fearing a mythical loss of pensions, they are passing on. Our optimistic youth grow in number. And just as the Catholics in Northern Ireland will in short time be far greater in number than British loyalists and so make Ireland what it should be, a united land, so will Scotland’s youth throw off the claustrophobic weight of inferiority by voting Yes.
England, your England
Our English cousins have to ask themselves, why they want to keep hold of Scotland in the first place when so many of them think we are a stupid people, a burden on their state, persistent litigants. If all they want is our oil – and they do – then let’s sit down at the table and make a deal over who gets what oilfields, agree, call it a day, and each go govern our great nations as equal friends, not one as mendicant and the other as thief.
It comes as a surprise and sometimes a shock to a person born and living in Scotland that the flag they have sworn an allegiance to, the Union Jack, the same they and their elders salute on ceremonial days, and their forefathers before them, doesn’t have a place for them as an equal person in British Utopia. And perhaps they are looking at England now aghast, wondering what the hell it is turning into.
On the days you wonder what your role is in Scotland, and what your future is in it, and the future of your children, remember this: you are not and never will be English. But you might just be accepted if you say you are British.
When you say you are British you have given up the fight for political and social equality. You are saying it is a consolation, at least you are not completely Scottish.
If you are happy to kneel before inane, irrational, grotesque colonial cruelty, ready to die for another nation’s wars, no one but you chose that destiny.
The rest of us have had enough. We choose to govern our nation again.