Sending a one-person petition to the President of the United States of America turns out to be an easy affair. The address of the White House, and how to reach the President in Washington, is all there on the Internet. No need to storm the Senate building. You can email him if handwriting defeats you, though a hard copy letter is more difficult to ignore sitting in an in-tray on a desk. The President has an array of staff who answer correspondence from the general public; so, I expect to receive a ‘thank you’ from one of them. If I do receive a reply I hope it arrives in time to catch me still here.
I await a swell of sour tweets from the malignant, the kind that begins, ‘who are you to write to a president?’ antagonists who find it hard to compose a shopping list for Scot-Mid without their tongue lolliping out the side of their mouth, but have no trouble in gobbing on a passerby. From the more informed will come the predicable defamation, ‘Don’t you know what Biden did when Vice President under Obama?’ But then, this is what stopped Scotland from grasping its destiny, fear. If we speak freely of liberty what will happen to the United Kingdom? – and so on, and so forth. Men fear thought more than anything else. Fear paralyses action.
In this instance, Joseph Robinette Biden Jr., has no choice but to do good for the USA, for Donald Trump bequeathed him a disaster. Who wants their legacy to be one of making a cataclysm out of a catastrophe? My only anxiety is a natural one, I hope President Biden does not remember Trump’s mother was Scottish and takes it out on me.
The President is well aware of Scotland constitutional ambitions. I hope to have him understand the nuances of the argument omitted from press stories, opinion columns, and history books, so that he throws off received wisdom and be pragmatic. I have wondered why our government has not appointed a permanent emissary to put our case, taken to as many heads of state as possible, starting with the President of the United States, together with a crate of the finest Scotch whisky.
14 May 2021
Dear President Biden
I must begin with belated congratulations on the occasion of your election as President.
In paying tribute to you, I believe I speak for many people in Scotland relieved to see sanity return to the Whitehouse. We hope you will be bold in substance, radical in ideas, and steadfast in upholding truth and justice. I am pleased to see legislation you have passed to-date demonstrates a profound moral sense and a humanitarian creed.
You have your hands full renouncing your predecessor’s anti-democratic, cruel, self-centred policies, reviving your nation’s well-being, spiritually and economically brought low by the Covid pandemic. I trust, I plead, that halting wars is on your agenda. Peace and international friendship is devoutly to be wished if we are to concentrate our efforts on mitigating the worst of climate change that lies before humanity.
On the subject of international friendship, my immediate reason for writing to you is to draw your attention to the political situation Scotland finds itself in through no fault of its own. In 1707, only earls, some lawyers and clergy had the vote, and used it to sign the Treaty of Union with England. The rest of the population, denied democracy, wept in the streets, or rioted. Since then there have been many attempts to restore Scotland’s self-governance, all halted by England’s might one way or another. Hope is cancelled. In any other situation, this would be called sanctions imposed by an occupying power.
Your respect for your Irish-Celtic antecedents is well known. Back in the day the Irish populated Scotland, and many more fled here during the years of English rule and the Great Famine. My grandfather was Irish, Patrick Reilly from County Mayo, my mother, Maureen Constance Reilly. I was born here in Scotland’s capital.
Like our Irish cousins, we Scots are a fiery, argumentative bunch, but unlike the Irish unwilling to die for our country. We die for other people’s countries. Our era of Enlightenment taught us it was desirable to use the ballot box and not the bullet, but the peaceful route makes for a long, hard slog, a wearisome journey to full civil rights when your opponent insists on moving the finishing line further and further away. Liberty remains a mirage.
Though there are noble exceptions, in dealings of equality, Englishmen are not generally swayed by empirical evidence and truth. An Englishman will explore every avenue until only common sense is left. Logic is not his passion. Foreigners are treated with suspicion, and in Victorian terms, governance is only for the wealthy elite. Scots are never quite English enough, told we will be classed as ‘foreigners’ if independent. We might become a prime minister one day, but for the United Kingdom, not for an autonomous Scotland. We got a parliament of sorts by agitating for many years, but for all the powers it has, it might as well be wampum, a string of beads for the natives. For the last 300 years and longer, England’s administration has suppressed dissent by the sword, by taxation, by censorship and by brutal policies. In Westminster today we are outnumbered twelve to one.
In 2014, Scotland’s governing party offered a new relationship with England based on mutual respect, a genuine partnership of equals: no borders, continued free trade, we keep the monarchy as head of state, cultural and scientific co-operation continued in return for our sovereignty protected. This petition of good neighbourliness rested on keeping what we earn. In swift rebuff, the new treaty was categorised as ‘separatism’, a slur, considering the UK registers Scotland with the United Nations as a separate country. We saw a referendum in 2014, undermind by false promise and later, pulling Scotland out of the European Union against the will of the people.
England dumping Europe is not described as separatism by our ever present vacillating neighbour. Scotland’s trade is blocked to the west – Ireland and the USA, and now blocked to the east in trade to Europe. Boris Johnson’s ‘Internal Market’, a right-wing snare, will control all our trade. We are effectively corralled. Our rights are traduced, our lives constrained, and the Highlands left as a playground for the rich, infrastructure and rewilding under-developed, land still in the hands of influential private hands, our trade and culture undermined. We are back in the 1700’s, only with iPhones and cars.
You will perceive a strong movement in England to retain the UK parliament as its own. This is an understandable ambition, one many Scots support, but it is disingenuous – Westminster has always been England’s parliament, in agenda and in foreign policy. Scotland is the subservient partner. Boris Johnson’s administration is tightening the screws to hobble our Parliament more than it can bear. We live in a colonised reality.
Honour demands mention of English who live and work in Scotland. Some want our independence restored, alarmed at the resurgence of intolerance emanating from their old homeland. It would be dishonest for me to omit their hopes, for Scotland is an inclusive land where Irish, Polish, Italian, and Indian peoples have contributed to our culture for generations. Frustratingly, we make progress towards the ideal only to find new hurdles and ditches placed in our way; we experience setbacks and bereavements among our kind denied basic justice.
Every nation has a right to exercise free will and conduct itself with dignity. The soldiers of colonialism, British civil servants, press and media are fully engaged in the tactics of fear, humiliation, division and smear. English politicians are unable to grasp the imminence of their actions. The situation is intolerable and at crisis. Only the other day people in a Glasgow street stopped a Home Office van in the wee small hours from snatching and deporting two legitimate asylum seekers. The mood was rebellion, the means non-violent action. It worked. The men were released. Martin Luther King would be proud. You can see why we envy Ireland its freedoms, its advances and above all, its independent thinking.
I do not know if this letter will reach your outer office, let alone your desk. Undaunted, I ask that you look upon Scotland’s honest ideals with equanimity and good will, that you dismiss the concocted complications of England’s elite, the fabrications and falsehoods of Lords and Baronesses claiming Scotland is unfit to be a nation state again, an inferior sub-sect of the species Homosapien. They do not realise ‘sapien’ means wise.
Better a Scotland friendly than a Scotland coerced.
Scotland has no wish to be anything more than a normal nation state, to return to nationhood. We wish our quarrels left behind yet we are forced to reflect we are in the grip of an alien ideology. Thinking of Boston’s act of rebellion, perhaps we might get more political traction if we threw crates of England’s tea into the River Clyde in Glasgow!
How pleasant it would have been to meet you one day to talk as two patriots with pride in our countries. I want Scotland renewed, not the biggest small nation, nor the most powerful small country, just a normal independent nation. Now a white haired old man, I learn I must ‘attend to my priorities’ before day’s end. And on that admission, please accept this letter written from the heart that seeks hope for so many.
In short, I ask that you respect and support Scotland’s sovereignty.
I wish you well and a long life!
Writer, essayist, educationist.
Letter Sent to President Joe Biden
The White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D C 20500, USA