ScotlandMonday, May 11, 2015 · 1000 words · approx 5 mins to read
I’m inspired to write this by Matt Gemmell. The foreword to his most recent newsletter was about the country he holds dear, and because I used to hold her dear myself and my thoughts and memories are clear, especially about the recent General Election, I feel energised to talk about her too.
I’m Scottish. Well, sort of. I wasn’t born there, but I lived there from ages 0 to 24, and despite that being quite a long time ago now, I still talk like a Scot. I also have a strange affinity to her. I left because I might not have lived to 25 if I hadn’t, so in many ways I hate it with a capital H. I go back there now and it’s rare that I don’t get an overwhelming desire to leave after a few days, raging from the bottom of my subconscious. “There’s nothing good for you here. Turn back.”, it whispers. The whispers are getting slowly quieter as the years roll by, but other than family there’s nothing for me there any more.
Which is sad, because the country is overwhelmingly beautiful in every direction where man has not yet settled. The beauty is often cold, grey and stark, but it’s beauty nonetheless. The west coast is incomprehensibly eye-opening, and her mountains have no equal anywhere else on this island. Her best drink is the best drink. Her people are warm, well meaning and just want to get on. There’s not many of them, and the land doesn’t afford many opportunities to prosper, but quietly try they always have.
So I hate her and I love her in somewhat equal measure. My former citizen status also gives me a reasonably unique viewpoint with which to write this all down. We voted recently for new government, as a United Kingdom. Which is all well and good, but were nowhere near United and it’s barely a Kingdom. Westminster largely dictates how the Scottish people get to live in their beloved country, and you’ll rarely find a people more patriotic, as the national documentary, narrated by and starring Mel Gibson, will convince you if you haven’t seen it already. That governmental status quo has never been OK with Scottish people, at least since I’ve been old enough to acknowledge it.
From my perspective, Scotland understands the value of unity with neighbouring peoples, but the fact that England are the neighbours is almost neither here nor there. You could cut Scotland off at Hadrian’s Wall and sew it back on to mainland Europe — preferably on the west coast of Portugal if I get to pick — and it would be just as happy, and arguably feel just as United. In that situation, Scotland would always be warmly accepting of their neighbours and keen to say hello and work together, but cautious and keen to control their own destiny if it’s all the same to everyone else.
It’s that national control over their own destiny that’s never been possible. I’m not terribly keen on nation states in one key way, but I accept they exist and I believe they can reserve the right to make things well for themselves as much as possible. Scotland has never been able to do that, tied through history to the neighbours in the South, neighbours who have always had the control.
It’s against that backdrop that the country went to the polls in referendum last year, to figure out if leaving the United Kingdom to go it alone was a good idea. The end result was No, but it was very close to being Yes. Lots would have to be worked out for the latter to actually be a success, but at least they’d get to try themselves, and fail themselves if that’s where the future took them. Scotland was cautious, but it was most definitely testing the water for a future Yes vote. If I was still there, I’d have voted Yes.
So it’s with optimism, and a lot of trepidation, that I watch the Scottish National Party establish a record sitting majority in Scottish parliamentary constituencies. 56 seats out of a possible 59. I’m not sure there’s an analogous situation in any other modern democracy in the world (although I admit to not doing a shred of research to back that up). The whole country voted for nationalism in parliamentary elections, as it should. If it’s not the right time yet to ask to go it alone, it now has as much political firepower as it can muster to make sure those down here in England listen, and listen very very carefully.
That’s the last point I want to make. I’ve lived in England now for over 10 years, and here near London for approaching 6. Especially since moving close to the capital, I can count the number of times anyone down here has given a stuff about anyone up there on a single finger. That time was during the referendum, when England wondered, although honestly without really giving a single shit, whether Scotland would go it alone.
Nobody down here cares, Scotland, so I urge you take your 56 MPs, make good trouble for yourself down here, find your voice again, become heard, and then vote again and go it alone. They don’t have your best interests at heart here. While London is growing ever bigger and prospering, it never will. Honestly, Westminster doesn’t appear to have the best interests of the rest of England, Wales or Northern Ireland at heart either, although I’m willing to believe that thinking’s the result of being so close to London for so long.
If you go it alone, I’d think about coming home.