It’s one thing to rant online about independence: it’s quite another getting out onto the street and conversing with folk in a public setting. So for a good few months now, I’ve been getting involved. I’ve attended meetings for organisations as diverse as Radical Independence Campaign and Christians for Independence; I’ve handed out leaflets at stalls; I’ve delivered newspapers, and have the ink-blackened hands to prove it. And I’ve had a brilliant time doing so, meeting all sorts of people from all angles of the upcoming referendum, engaging with the people in the area I live in to a degree I never felt comfortable with before.
“Life is hard for Hamish. The last two harsh winters have all but crippled him. ‘I’m sure all the farmers in these parts will vote NO,’ he says.
‘In the last 12 years I’ve only ever made a profit once. Two years ago I hardly had any lambs at all because the weather destroyed most of them. I’m still recovering.’
Life for Hamish is already hard. Up at 5am in all weathers, he works till 10pm most nights for the kind of money that barely keeps food on the table. To make ends meet he drives lorries for a haulage company.”
I’m still naive and unjaded enough to be shocked by such sad stories as this poor farmer who’s experienced such terrible times, and still astounded that it’s the Scottish government which is blamed for his ills. Not the UK government, which decided to siphon off tens of millions from the EU earmarked for Scotland, and decided to give it to farms in England. Not the UK government, which has seen to it that Scottish farmers have among the lowest CAP rural development fund in the EU. Not the UK government, which is embarking on the exact same type of social cleansing as the Highland Clearances in its “urban development” forcing all but the richest out of the big cities.
I have less sympathy for the couple who seem to think keeping Scotland in the UK might somehow save them from Alex Salmond’s “blight” of renewable energy. In what universe is renewable energy – cleaner, safer, more environmentally friendly – a blight?
You want to see a “blight”?
“I was born in Inverness, I’m a passionate Highlander, and I love Scotland. I will take a stand to keep the United Kingdom together. I will give my life for my country as my grandfather did in the First World War. And his brother Charlie. Highland regiment! British Army! I am British forever! We will never, never change! We will keep our union together in the name of Jesus!”
Social media has erupted over Nigel Kirk Hanlin, whose appearance on Question Time’s final show recorded in Scotland before the referendum was certainly memorable in comparison to the usually fairly bland and tepid proceedings of the show. I really didn’t feel much desire to talk about him: he’s just like dozens of other No voters I’ve encountered along the campaign trail, with the same anger and repudiation of the “Nationalists” attempt to break up their country.
I didn’t see much point in commenting on him, but the media seems to disagree: not only did Huffington Post UK and The Independent run it, but the Scottish Daily Mail are interviewing him. Meanwhile, unionist Facebook pages and Twitter accounts are extolling the passion, energy and heart of Mr Hanlin in his determined patriotism.
Or is it… nationalism?
I am aware that many object to the severity of my language; but is there not cause for severity? I will be as harsh as truth, and as uncompromising as justice. On this subject, I do not wish to think, or to speak, or write, with moderation. No! no! Tell a man whose house is on fire to give a moderate alarm; tell him to moderately rescue his wife from the hands of the ravisher; tell the mother to gradually extricate her babe from the fire into which it has fallen; — but urge me not to use moderation in a cause like the present. I am in earnest — I will not equivocate — I will not excuse — I will not retreat a single inch — AND I WILL BE HEARD. The apathy of the people is enough to make every statue leap from its pedestal, and to hasten the resurrection of the dead.
- William Lloyd Golding, “To the Public”, No. 1 (1 January 1831)
When I started Wilderness of Peace, I knew that I was going to dip into some deeply emotive subjects. That was a conscious choice: I’d made a point not to discuss politics, religion, and so forth on my other blogs – The Blog That Time Forgot and the Bannockburn Comic Blog – precisely for that reason. But even so, there are some matters – subjects I don’t discuss with many people at all – which I did not want to bring onto the internet: very private things, specifically things that affect me on a personal basis.
But right now, one of those things is being fostered, quite deliberately, and quite powerfully, by certain groups and individuals in order to further their goal in the campaign. And I am genuinely afraid that if something is not done to stop this, then we run the risk of driving what was the most peaceful independence movement in history back into the gutter. Because let’s be entirely clear: George Galloway and others are inciting sectarian hatreds in the middle of a campaign that has nothing to do with sectarian hatreds. This isn’t tantamount to incitement, this isn’t like incitement, it is incitement.
And we have to stop it.
The 9th of September last year was the 500th anniversary of the Battle of Flodden. When the Kingdom of England declared war upon the Kingdom of France and Henry VIII claimed overlordship of Scotland, the Kingdom of Scotland chose to support the Auld Alliance – the longest contiguous alliance between sovereign states in history – by diverting England’s forces from the French front. This culminated in the largest ever battle between the two nations, and was the last time a British monarch fell in battle. It was considered the greatest defeat in Scottish history.
Here’s how the BBC reported the occasion:
The 28th of June this year was the weekend of the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn. When it seemed clear that the forces of Robert the Bruce would reclaim Scotland after taking Stirling Castle, Edward II mustered his forces to crush the Bruce’s army, ending any hope of Scotland reasserting its sovereignty. It was the largest English army ever to invade Scotland. It was considered the greatest victory in Scottish history.
Here’s how the BBC reported the occasion:
It is in truth not for glory, nor riches, nor honours that we are fighting, but for freedom – for that alone, which no honest man gives up but with life itself.
- The Declaration of Arbroath, 1320
Those of you who follow one or another of my various blogs will be well aware of my comic commemorating the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn. Likewise, those of you who know me more for my constitutional and historical observations will know that I have a great fondness and appreciation for Scottish history.
Yet frustratingly, one of the most common protestations I hear from the Yes camp is how it’s not about Bannockburn. It’s not about Braveheart and Robert the Bruce and 1314 and FREEEEEDOM. This is about the future, social justice, democracy, accountability, solidarity, and responsibility, not about old wars and long-dead kings and Robert Burns poems. Bannockburn, they say, is only ever brought up by anti-independence campaigners, to use as a stick with which to beat pro-independence campaigners – “anti-English,” “xenophobic,” “jingoistic,” “Nationalist,” “racist.” The Wars of Independence have become so tainted by misuse that they’ve spawned a variation of Godwin’s Law – Gibson’s Law.
I disagree. This is about Bannockburn, and Braveheart, and everything else – how could it not be?
Dr Richard Marsh writes “My grandson in England, aged ten and quarter, looks utterly baffled and very sad at thought of his Grandparents being in danger of becoming foreigners. He keeps asking “Why Grandpa?”
“Grandpa, will you and granny be foreigners?”
My aunt was born in Kenya. My cousin was born in Singapore. Several of my family members were born and live as far afield as Denmark, Canada, the United States, and beyond. I cannot imagine my feelings about my grandparents would change an iota if they were born in a different nation – why should they?