I was born in Scotland and my early education, in particular history lessons, was largely focused on the strife between the English and the Scots. In ancient battles, rare Scottish victories were hailed as heroic and defeats excused as Goliath beating David. This insidious indoctrination is still ingrained. Despite living in England for over 40 years I still feel a tingle of excitement, silently cheer, when a foreign team scores a goal against England. Embarrassingly, when I first arrived in England, as the guest of some newly acquired English friends I did cheer out loud and punched the air when Poland scored to deny England a place in the 1974 World Cup. My English friends were quite astonished; they had no idea that we Scots were like that.
This thread of thought began as I watched “Digby Jones: the new troubleshooter” on TV. The theme of the show is that Digby Jones, a well know industrialist, mentors struggling companies. In this particular episode the company was Hawick Knitwear based in the Scottish Border region. Digby Jones advice was to expand their business by marketing their products in Japan and China where apparently there was an insatiable demand for anything made in Scotland. It was interesting to me that the Japanese and Chinese view Scotland as a unique and distinctive culture.
This made me ponder, why on earth does Scotland want independence when the world seems to think we are actually independent.
The trouble is that many Scots have a simplistic, romantic view of their nation. It is a trait of the Celts, probably found at its most extreme in the Irish Republic. For example, we Scots are rightly proud of the many inventions and achievements that we, as a small nation are responsible for. My mother had a tea towel embroidered with a list; it was a very large tea towel. But consider this, many of these inventions and discoveries actually came about because we were part of Great Britain not a separate isolated entity. Just to take three of the names on my mother’s tea towel; Logie Baird was based in London when he invented television, John Louden McAdam was the Surveyor General for Roads in Bristol when he developed his road construction system and Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin in his laboratory at St Mary’s Hospital in Paddington. The reality is that these are actually British achievements; Scottish ingenuity partnered with English or American industry, finance and facilities.
Alex Salmon, the SNP leader is as smooth and eloquent as a used car sales man. The car he is trying to sell has beautiful bodywork, a reliable engine and a long and interesting history. He reassures us that it will have a sound warranty and that there is membership of a recovery service in the event of a breakdown. We have all experienced such deals.
The promises often fail to match the reality. The dents have been skilfully filled, the mileage ‘clocked’ and the warranty expired.
To make the idea of breaking away from the United Kingdom palatable Salmon, the salesman, wants to keep some familiar institutions in place; a few home comforts. To ease the separation Scotland is to keep the Queen and the Pound.
Hold on a minute! Keep the Queen of England! I remember in 1968 when the Cunard Liner Queen Elizabeth 2 was launched on the Clyde there was a quite a stramash (Scottish for uproar) The Scottish Nationalists were outraged. Scotland, you see, has never had a Queen Elizabeth the first; how dare they name a ship built in Scotland Queen Elizabeth II cried the Nationalists. That was then, now, of course, keeping the Queen is acceptable; a political expedient. The same can be said for keeping the Pound. Laughably, Salmon accepts that this will mean that the Bank of England based in London will control Scotland’s currency. An odd definition of an independent nation.
Then there is the idea that Scotland can break away from the United Kingdom and still be a member of NATO and apply to join the EU. Salmon is going to be disappointed. Spain, France and about 15 other countries have problems of their own with separatist movements. These countries will not welcome Scotland joining their ‘club’ thereby setting a precedent for this sort of thing.
Anyway, why throw off the shackles of the United Kingdom then chain yourself to the European Union? Instead of Scotland being controlled from London the instructions would come from Brussels. The risks are enormous. Gordon Brown was on the money when he pointed out that when the Royal Bank of Scotland went bust in 2007 an independent Scotland would have followed it down the proverbial pan. Edinburgh, truly, would have lived up to it’s nickname ‘Athens of the North’!
On the 18th September the referendum will take place. Along with about 900,000 people born and raised in Scotland I will not have any say in the future of my country, but the newly franchised 16 year olds and foreigners living in Scotland will. The Yes campaign, backed by a lottery winner, cheered on by film stars living abroad and fuelled by dubious romantic historical tales, may well carry the day. What then? What of the aftermath. The Scottish Nationalist Party will cease to have a purpose, disband and new political parties and movements will emerge with different political agendas. There will be nobody to pin the blame on if Independence disappoints the people.
My personal hope is that Scotland will remain as part of the United Kingdom; I hope that we will continue to celebrate our culture, our creativity, to be proud of our history and achievements. I hope we will stop naval gazing. Cease this obsession with ancient wars and perceived slights by our neighbour. As Britain together we have fought good wars, explored the world, discovered and invented, excelled at sport and, on the whole, been a power for good in the World. Perhaps, because I got out more, lived abroad, I find all this ‘Brave Heart’ stuff mildly interesting but largely irrelevant to the present day.
Sadly, as I have been denied the opportunity to vote on the destiny of my homeland and if Scotland decides to become independent I will stick with my United Kingdom passport, continue to be British but still silently cheer on England’s soccer opposition.