“We could be on the brink of the end of the United Kingdom as we know it”, said Emily Maitlis of the BBC recently.
On Friday morning, the United Kingdom will feel the full impact of its recent separation. Irrespective of whether Scotland gains independence from the 78th largest sovereign state in the World or not, the great divide has already taken place through the litany of impassioned opinion, and relationships will never be the same again.
Like most divorces, it’s the sparring that cuts the deepest: the angry words, the apportionment of blame, the accusations, the fury and the sulking. When bad relationships come to a head, the parties seldom kiss and make up. Instead it’s down to the divorce lawyer to initiate proceedings and attempt to negotiate a mutually beneficial financial settlement that won’t put one or the other party out of pocket.
As for Scotland, the imminent referendum has split the nation into two almost equal camps: Yes and No. Choosing one or the other should, prima facie, be a simple task but the forensic debate that has accompanied that single question has led to further enquiry on a subject where there is little precedent upon which to offer informed answers. Politicians and supporters from either camp, therefore, have resorted to the usual dirty tactics of the slanging match and opinion, not facts, has provided the bases for serious discussion.
The romantic ideology of a subdued and conquered nation rising up against its oppressors to the rallying call of freedom can be highly persuasive. Heroes like William Wallace and Robert the Bruce have been resurrected from their graves in aid of the Yes cause only to be met with the boos and jeers of the opposing forces telling them that the people of Scotland should not dwell on the past but look instead to the future.
But it is the past that moulds and shapes the individuals we are today and even historical events can form the foundation for emotive argument. Maggie Thatcher’s axe came down on the Scots in the ’80s with as much force as Edward I’s infamous hammer did in the 13th century. The Iron Lady even violated the Act of Union by using Scotland as a testing ground for the poll tax a year before it was inflicted on the rest of the United Kingdom. Westminster commended her efforts by bestowing upon her the highest order of Knighthood. The Scots still hate her.
Tony Blair led his kingdoms into a war which the majority of Scots (as well as the rest of the UK) did not condone. David Cameron’s misguided refusal to include a Devo Max option in the referendum has been taken as evidence that Westminster either underestimated the sheer force of Scottish sentiment or had little care for it.
History has become that proverbial elephant of Scottish pride: the one that may forgive, but refuses to forget.
Scotland will decide tomorrow whether it secedes from, or remains in, a three-hundred year union. Whatever the decision, the strength of national identity, which has been rippling on the surface of Scottish opinion for centuries, has now become a significant tidal force.
Like many other countries across the world, we are on the brink of the end of a unity as we know it, whether Scotland becomes independent or not. Globalisation and the call for national identity has ensured the tide’s been receding for centuries around the shores of bold Britannia. Those mighty waves crashing against her proud flotillas of war and conquest now cause little more than a tiny splash against a plastic bathtub bobbing in the midst of an ever-widening ocean of disappointment and discontent for some.
Yes or no. A nation will decide. My only hope is that, whatever the outcome, we have a final chance to leave the bitterness behind and look forward to a harmonious future with our closest neighbours.
I’ll leave you with a note from fellow author Mary Smith:
Something to share and invite others to do for the next few days. Share a Scottish love song and make this a week of love and celebration, whatever way you are voting. There are folk for whom this has been an anxious time, and there are folk, like those in Catalonia, who are banned from this kind of democratic decision. Whether you are voting yes or no, share a song, celebrate your vote, and let’s show the world we can respect one another. Something to share and invite others to do for the next few days. Share a Scottish love song and make this a week of love and celebration, whatever way you are voting. There are folk for whom this has been an anxious time, and there are folk, like those in Catalonia, who are banned from this kind of democratic decision. Whether you are voting yes or no, share a song, celebrate your vote, and let’s show the world we can respect one another. http
Here’s mine from twa local lassies:
Emily Smith, The Silver Tassie: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fHgC49wuZ9Q
Mary Barclay, Blackbird: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rOC5bYie888