Saturday, August 23, 2014

Scottish Independence and the Struggle for a Con Free Country

It's now less than a month before the people of Scotland will vote YES or NO to independence.

And some Canadian newspapers have been running stories, mostly comparing the campaign to the one during the last Quebec referendum.

But after spending a couple of weeks in Scotland recently, I have to say that while there are some strong similarities.

It's also very very different.

Starting with the fact that if you were a casual visitor to Scotland, and didn't know a referendum campaign was raging, you might never know one was going on, for there are almost no outward signs of the turmoil beneath...

Those were only one of a handful of posters I saw in people's windows in all my time there, shuttling between Glasgow, Edinburgh, and my family's home in the highlands.

I saw no NO signs, no billboards, no graffiti, no t-shirts. I heard no passionate arguments in the streets. I could hardly even get members of my own family to talk about it.

" I turn the radio and the television off when it comes on," my mother said. "We don't talk about it. It's just too horrible."

So I remember how grateful I was when after trying to get a big tough looking guy on a train to talk about the referendum, he finally rolled up his sleeve to show me the blue YES band on his wrist. 

Only to venture the opinion that the whole thing was "fucked," and then lapse into taciturn silence in classic Scottish fashion.

While I stared out of the window at the beautiful countryside rushing by, feeling strangely disappointed...

Where was all the excitement? How come I seemed more excited than they were? And where was my YES t-shirt ? Dammit !#@!!!! 

But of course there is a passionate debate raging, in newspapers, on television, in town hall meetings all over the country, especially on social media that wasn't around during the Quebec referendum campaign. And especially on Twitter sites like this one.

And as you can see, while the NO side is playing basically the same game it played in the Quebec campaign, warning that separation could lead to economic disaster. And no you can't keep the pound.

The YES side is offering up the vision of a very different country. A progressive country that rejects the Con values of the hideous Cameron government in London, and seeks to preserve the social safety net that they are destroying.

One that among other things rejects militarism, in favour of better services for children and seniors, and wants to strengthen medicare instead of privatizing it.

Which as Scotland's most distinguished historian pointed out the other day, is entirely consistent with that country's history.

"The Scottish parliament has demonstrated competent government and it represents a Scottish people who are wedded to a social democratic agenda and the kind of political values which sustained and were embedded in the welfare state of the late 1940s and 1950s. 

"It is the Scots who have succeeded most in preserving the British idea of fairness and compassion in terms of state support and intervention. Ironically, it is England, since the 1980s, which has embarked on a separate journey."

And as the YES side proclaims, is a one in a lifetime opportunity too good to miss.

We have one opportunity 30 days from today – one opportunity to use our wealth to build a better, fairer and more prosperous Scotland. A Yes vote is not a magic wand – like any nation, Scotland faces its challenges and will not always get things right.

But when we cast our Yes vote on September 18, we can do so with confidence. We should have confidence that we are ready and well-equipped to be an independent nation. We should have confidence in our ability to make this talented and resourceful country a better place to live.

What the referendum campaign isn't however, is an appeal to Scotland's history and its long history of resistance, a so-called Braveheart campaign.

‘Yes Scotland’ champions have worked to distance themselves from tribalism, England-bashing and appeals to historic enmity. They are not interested in discussing Braveheart (described by the Times as one of “the 10 most historically inaccurate movies” of all time). 

“Every time a journalist brings up Braveheart—the minute they bring it up—I know they have no idea what’s going on,” says Scottish National Party (SNP) MP Angus Robertson. “You don’t win votes about the next 700 years by talking about the last 700 years.”

Which I have to admit I believe is a mistake. Because while I think they are right about focusing on the future, and I share the YES side vision of a kinder, gentler Con free society.

And I can hardly be tribal when my Mum is English eh?

The struggle of the Scottish people to run their own affairs is a determining part of their history. 

As this excerpt from a BBC documentary demonstrates, that history of resistance goes back far longer than even 700 years...

And the weight of that history still hangs over the country, like the monument to Braveheart (the patriot William Wallace not the hideous Mel Gibson) looms over the town of Stirling...

Which is not far from the site of the Battle of Bannockburn where Robert the Bruce beat the English nine years after they executed and dismembered Wallace. And the Scots for a while at least, were finally able to rule themselves.

Which is why Robert the Bruce and William Wallace stand guard at the entrance to Edinburgh Castle...

Are their country's greatest heroes, speak to my rebel heart like few others.

And why despite the narrowing but still unfavourable polls.

A NEW YouGov opinion poll for the Times has added to evidence that support for independence has risen with one month to go before the vote. The poll recorded the highest level of backing for a Yes vote in its polling on the referendum question, although No support maintained a 14-point lead.

Or the eventual referendum result.

I will always believe this:

So when I attend the military tattoo in the courtyard of Edinburgh Castle, in the shadow of those statues, my heart fills with pride at the history of the Scottish people.

At their achievements all over the world, including Canada, whose history they have also helped shape.

And I know they can do it, stand up to the Cons, and march confidently towards the nationhood they deserve, and the better world they want...

In my next post on the struggle for Scottish independence, I'll look at how the old Scotland has engaged the new one...

And how the campaign has managed to mobilize the young like never before. Like I want to engage them here.

For freedom knows no boundaries. 

Here's to a Con-free Canada, and a Con-free world.

And of course Scotland FOREVER !!!!

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Anonymous said...

I must state that I am not a lover of Steven Harper or his Conservative agenda. His fiscal record speaks for itself. The conservatives couldnt run a lemonade stand with out bankrupting it.
Unfortunately your misty eyed view of an Independant Scotland ( or Quebec) neglects to mention the fact that most of the wonderful socialist perks such as daycare, free medicare, subsidized housing, subsidized education must be paid for with evil taxes.
Taxes wi\hich predominantly come from the rest of England. ( or Canada if you are talking about Quebec). Scotland has been a net reciever of tax revenue. Not a giver of taxes.
Next up is the issue of currency. The British pound? Nope. The Euro? Sorry, not for at least a few years AND an EU vote which means prepare for more Polish plumbers and Gypsies in caravans.........When the Czech Republic and Slovakia broke apart they tried using a similar currency. It lasted a year and then they went their seperate ways. The industrial financial Czech country's currrency went up. The rural , non industrial Slovak country's currency dropped like the Stone of Scone.
Which brings us to Industry. Sorry but Glasgows ship building days are done. Please see Seol or Gdansk for ship building contracts. Off shore oil is running out but you may be able to pump evil carbon under the North Sea for a few Scottish pesos.
As for separation. Whats good for the goose is good for the gander. Be prepared for enclaves to want to separate from a newly independant Scotland. ie the Hebridies which has more in common with the Norse Vikings than William Wallace.

Good luck with the vote but my own personal observation is....Countries are stonger when they stick together not when they tear themselves apart with small minded, short sighted bickering about wrongs done to them 50 or 100 or 500 years ago. Get over it and get on with your life.

Simon said...

hi anon....I'm sure you are aware that the No side's slogan "Better Together" is better described as "Bitter Together." And that it's sole aim seems to be to put the Scottish people down and make them think they are not capable of being an independent country. I disagree. Scotland is a wealthy nation that can easily be one of the most successful countries in the world. It does not depend on England, it does not agree with its reactionary Con government, taxes are not evil, it can keep the pound if it wants, the oil is not running out, the notion that bigger is better doesn't work when the Westminster government's values are not its own.
So while I may be a bit of a romantic idealist, which I do not apologize for in this grubby world, I respectfully suggest that you get over it and get on with YOUR life...

Anonymous said...

Let me guess,
You're in your mid 20's and know everything...........Oh to be that naive again..........
As for "Keeping the pound if it wants" .....Sorry but THAT wont happen. England merely has to change ITS fiscal policies(ie raise taxes, raise interest rates, raise import duties until Scotland cannot follow suit. Becuse it MUST follow suit if it wants an "equal" GBPound) to force a seperated Scotland to adopt another currency such as the Czech Republic did.
U.S. dollars anyone? Hmmmmmmm hows THAT for an independant Scotland? Followed by rampant inflation. Please see Venezuela for "US dollar socialist utopia' "Sorry ma'am but your pension is now worth 1/3 of what it was last week....." Riots in the streets soon to follow. or military dictatorship. Take yer pick. .
Scotland ISNT wealthy. Its a net reciever of tax dollars. Just like Quebec. But you keep living in that delusion that they pay more in to the rest of the confederation than they take out. Just remember that the politicians that are pushing for this will still receive their pensions from their former country( Great Britain or Canada). Talk about urinating on the hand that feeds them.
Good luck with separation ( either in Scotland OR Quebec) just dont come whining back to the "host" country (England or Canada) when things dont turn out as peachy as you thought they would and your socialist "utopia" (has denigrated into a overtaxed , underemployed, corrupt, crime ridden mere shadow of its former "greatness"( see Venezuela.)

But as the french say, "C'est la vie."


lagatta à montréal said...

I'm Québécoise and alas my 20s are well behind me. Your contempt is utterly disgusting. I want nothing to do with Harperland, and the progressive Scots I know feel the same. Their fight is against Thatcherism and New Labour which has done nothing to restore the society destroyed by the Iron Lady, not nostalgia for Robert the Bruce or William Wallace.

I'm amused by his contempt for Scotland and Québec - hey, he must have forgot the First Peoples!

Anonymous said...

My 'contempt" for Scotland and Quebec? No mes amis.
I only have contempt for deluded seperatists that believe "everything will be peaches and cream" when they leave. Bwahahahahahahahahahaha
How utterly naive.
As for "First peoples" and treating them with "contempt". I would have to take lessons from the good people of Montreal on THAT score.
Surely you remember how the wonderful pure laine Quebecoise treated the elders and children that tried to leave Oka Reserve during the protests of the summer of 1990. Bricks and concrete blocks heaved at them from highway overpasses. All while cursing them in french ......on tv ......... Nice......
Its not just Harper thats a moronic idiot. I dare say a few french bigots could surpass Mr Harper in that regard. Just ask any Jews in Montreal.

As I have said before and I will keep repeating. Quebec is a "have not" Province. It recieves more tax dollars than it pays out. Scotland is the same. Argue all you want. The numbers dont lie no matter how much you try and denigrate the messenger. Go ahead and seperate. Just dont come whining back to your host country when everything goes in the crapper.
Oh, I almost forgot to mention .....I'm half Scottish and half french, unfortunately that doesnt leave any room to be half aboriginal but my parents had to start somewhere.