Sunday, January 26, 2014

Robbie Burns and the Scottish Independence Question

Well today is Robbie Burns Day, and all over the world tonight the Tartan Army is marking the bard's birthday, piping in the haggis, and no doubt drinking heavily.

And although I don't drink, and I don't eat the awful offal.

I'm extremely proud of my Scottish heritage.

And this is a momentous year in the history of Scotland. The year when a referendum will be held in September, to decide whether the country should become an independent nation. 

So I imagine one of the questions being heatedly debated around the haggis table tonight is: if Robbie was alive today would he vote for independence? 

And like the Guardian's Liz Lochhead, my answer would also be YES. 

Because although Burns was a complex man:

Burns is, according to the poet Edwin Muir, "to the respectable, a decent man; to the Rabelaisian, bawdy; to the sentimentalist, sentimental; to the socialist, a revolutionary; to the nationalist, a patriot; to the religious, pious …"

To me he will always be a rebel voice. A man who opposed slavery and was an early supporter of the French Revolution. A man who loved the common people and mocked the powerful.

A man who wasn't afraid of change, and dreamed of a better more just world. 

Then let us pray that come it may,
As come it will for a' that, 
That Sense and Worth, o'er a' the earth, 
Shall bear the gree, an' a' that. 
For a' that, an' a' that, 
It's comin yet for a' that 
That man to man, the world o'er, 
Shall brithers be for a' that.

Just like I do.

And that's what this independence referendum is all about. To determine the kind of country the Scots want to live in. A Con place or a progressive one.

A country like Britain where David Cameron and his right-wingers are trying to destroy government, and waging war on the poor.

Or a country like Scotland that still believes in social programs, is strengthening medicare rather than privatizing it. A place where hungry children come before weapons. And where university education is FREE.

Not just for rich kids...

So yes, I'm pretty sure Robbie, or Rabbie as we call him, would have voted YES to independence.

...Though I am heartily sick of the ubiquitous, daft "if Burns was alive today how would he vote?" question – my gut feeling is that (och, just read him!) as a libertarian, a democrat, a lover of freedom and autonomy, a revolutionary and a romantic, of course he'd be voting for independence.

And so will most of the people in this little village way up in the north of Scotland that I know so well...

(click pic to enlarge)

I'll make sure of that eh?

Because if I can't help save this country, I will try to help create a country where our precious values can live on. And I will be heading there this summer to join the Yes campaign.

But there will be plenty of time to tell you about that journey, and how what happens there could have a big impact on Canada, as we continue our long journey to try free this country from Stephen Harper and his Cons.

So tonight I'll just leave you, as I do every year, with my favourite version of that old Burns poem.

Sung by a fabulous member of the New Scotland, the pride of Paisley, Paolo Nutini...

Here's to Robbie Burns.

Down with the awful Cons,and their offal leader.

Up with the rebels. Freedom. Freedom. Freedom.

Scotland FOREVER...

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Unknown said...

Thanks, Simon, great post!

Anonymous said...

I always thought William Wallace had a bit to do with Scottish independence.

Simon said...

Hi Maudie...Thanks I'm glad you liked it.Scotland is a very small country, but it has contributed a great deal to the world. As of course it had to, to make up for inventing haggis.... ;)

Simon said...

hi anon...yes there is also the weight of history that I will write about in another post. But interestingly enough the referendum will be held less than two months after the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn, where Robert the Bruce, Scotland's greatest hero, defeated the English. But I'm sure that's just a coincidence. ;)
And as for Wallace, who preceded Bruce, I admit I sometimes don't give him his due, after he was played by Mel Gibson, which totally revolted me. But if you remember he was chopped into pieces which were then exhibited in towns all over Britain. So yes, it's not the main reason, but I'm also supporting Scottish independence for him, and all the other Scottish martyrs...

mizdarlin said...

As a daily reader of the Guardian (best news media in the world!) i am a bit confused about what is happening in Scotland; it seems as if undue attention is given the conservatives in the fight for independence, and though of course I support the Scots in whatever they decide...being of Irish heritage, and a Republican (in the Irish sense) I can't help but wonder what a newly-independent Scotland will look like..hopefully, not Blighty...

Anonymous said...

Hi Simon I hope this doesn't mean that you'll be leaving Canada. I'd miss you a lot and we need you here. XXX

Simon said...

hi mizdarlin...what the SNP is trying to do is contrast the monstrous policies of the Cameron government with the more enlightened policies of the Scottish government. It's a clash of values at its core, and it appeals to the idea of society as a collective or a community that takes care of others, rather than the Con vision of an individualistic society or JUNGLE. It's an interesting debate, one I wish we were having here. And it's much more than tribalism. If it was I would be in trouble eh? Because my Mum is ENGLISH !!!!
And I'm half a SASSENACH !!!! Oh the shame, the shame. ;)
Seriously though, I think an independent Scotland could be a progressive beacon, modelled on the Scandinavian countries. or at least better than England which is much more Conservative than Scotland, where Cons are almost an endangered species. And is being turned into a jungle by Cameron and his ghastly cronies. Finally, I think if a really progressive government ever took power in Quebec, the same thing could happen here. For where is it written that one must live in a country whose values you don't share?

Simon said...

hi anon...thank you for those sweet words , but no I won't be going anywhere. This is my country, and I've set myself three goals. Work for Olivia Chow to defeat Rob Ford. Help out the Yes side in Scotland however I can. And of course work to defeat Stephen Harper in the next election. I'll make time for all of them, and of course keeping blogging wherever I am...

lagatta à montréal said...

We, in Québec solidaire, are for an independent Québec for very similar reasons as those you cite. I know that there are also narrow-minded "ethnic nationalists", here, in Scotland, in Catalonia and Euskadi (the Basque country), and those wouldn't consider you, Paolo, or the many Muslim, Jewish and People-of-Colour Scots, not the proverbial "true Scotsman"). For some of us it is a matter of not wanting to live in Harperland. And yes, it was a shame to have the vile fundie, homophobe and antisemite Mel playing Wallace...

Ironically, one does not find many names more Scottish than Cameron, hein?

The Scottish Socialist Party, alas badly damaged by the hubris of a certain Tommy Sheridan some years back...

And for you, a vegetarian haggis recipe: