The Scottish Referendum on Independence happens next week. The last colony in the English Commonwealth is proposing to break away, ending a Union between two sovereign nations that has lasted around 300 years. Whatever the outcome, one thing is clear, the relationship between Scotland and England will change.
I am like millions before me a Scottish exile. Some left Scotland willingly, many left unwillingly. That is why there are more McLean’s in the Auckland phone book than in Scotland, why the largest Scottish Gaelic speaking community in the world is in Canada, and why the world’s largest Highland games is in South Carolina.
Like many Scots my is heart shouting YES !!!, and my head is saying hold-on – The thought of a Scottish passport and border posts at Gretna Green and Berwick might make the heart race a wee bit faster, but if we cannot go it as a nation then we are heading for trouble.
However, over the last few days, following the various campaign reports and opinion pieces in the Glasgow Herald, Guardian and Scotsman, I am coming to the inexorable conclusion that the NO campaign is basing it’s strategy around pushing the hold-on buttons. It peddles the notion that the Scottish nation cannot take care of itself, that it does not have the intellectual or social capacity and maturity to stand as as independent nation. That I find patronising and deeply offensive.
Scots are not daft. We realised very early on that if a small nation on the edge of Europe is to make it’s mark in the world we had to be better educated and smarter than most. We started with the Declaration of Arbroath, which among all the Braveheart bits defined for the first time the concept of a constitutional monarchy, in which the Crown is responsible to and for the people. No Divine Right of Kings for us. It took most other European nations, including England to have a civil war to come to the same conclusion.
We had the first implementation of universal primary education in the world. Every parish had a primary school, and every Scottish child had to learn their 3 Rs. Even today we have 4 of the six oldest Universities in the UK and more tertiary education places per head of population than most other countries. Tertiary education is free for Scottish residents, unlike the rest of the UK.
As a result of our dedication to universal education, Scots have held most of the primal engineering patents, including steam engines, tyres, road coverings, TV and telephones. The phrase “Clyde Built” denoted the Rolls-Royce of shipbuilding. No Industrial Revolution without the Scots. In most Hollywood minds engineers are always Scottish. Think Star Trek.
Scots are among the leaders in medicine. The pioneering work of Alexander Fleming on penicillin ensured fewer troops would die in WW2 and the Korean War. No computers or the atom bomb without the work of J. Clerk Maxwell. Scots are and have been world leading minds in finance, literature, philosophy and economics. Scots founded the Bank of England, US Navy, Texas Rangers, and to our eternal shame the Ku Klux Klan.
Scotland has different education and legal systems to that of England. Where the English legal system is based around common law and precedent, the Scottish system is Roman-Dutch. We also have 15 man juries, and the “Not Proven” verdict.
Ever since the declaration of Arbroath, Scots have had a deep sense of social justice and care for their own. Scots define it as “We are all Jock Tamson’s Bairns”. If you do well, there is a social responsibility to help those who are not so fortunate. Think how many lives have been affected by the Andrew Carnegie Foundation. Research “New Lanark” and the history of Adult Education through community based initiatives to see how Scots have helped shape the face of education and society world-wide.
Look up the “Scottish Enlightenment” and find that Scotland was once the leading intellectual country in Europe. Voltaire, I think it was once said that if he were to sit in George Street in Edinburgh, in one hour all the leading minds in Europe would walk by.
Not too shabby for a nation of less than 5 Million souls.
The society crafted since the Second World War, particularly by Thatcher and continued by Blair and Brown, betrays those ideals. It is based around money, greed, social one-upmanship and a devil take the hindmost social structure. It calls for the dismantling of the common services that define a socially just society which cares for all equally. It is operated by an unholy alliance of accountants, bankers and marketeers that know the cost of everything and the value of nothing.
Ask yourself, if Scotland were an independent nation facing a referendum to create the UK, would you vote for Union given the social and political circumstances that prevail in England? If your answer is No, why vote to stay in the Union ?
So when an effete Mayfair Scot like Tony Blair or David Cameron or Gordon Brown or Billy Connolly or JK Rowling tells us in a Nanny Knows Best voice that Scotland cannot stand on it’s own two feet, I know what I want to say. That by patronising me, and treating me like a naughty child who wants to run away, you have convinced me to vote Yes. If I were able to vote that is.