The World Is Watching – A View From the USA
The world is watching Scotland this week. This is nothing new to those of us who know and hold our Alban ancestors in great respect. We have been keeping an affectionate eye on Scotland for hundreds of years. Like tens of millions of others across the globe, I am descended from those of Scotland’s children that left Scotland and started families across the seas – the Scottish ancestral diaspora.
We have grown in the tens of millions and developed differently than we would have in Scotland. We know of course that only Scotland is Scotland – the weather, the landscape, the Scots. There is no Scot like a Scot from Scotland. Yet, likewise, there is no Scot like a Scot from America or Australia or Singapore. Scotland owns us all, as Robert Louis Stevenson and others have noted, to the twentieth generation and beyond.
With its mind lately on independence, Scotland may not have noticed that as the Scottish nation has recently become ascendant in the eyes of the world, so has its diaspora. More people are aware and proud of their Scottish ancestry and heritage today than at any other moment in history. Scotland today has a very big and very supportive global family and that is no small thing.
The matter of Scottish independence is now burning brightly on the world’s screen. The transformation of ‘the Scottish question’ into a question of global importance via the unpredicted success of the YES campaign means that the world is now closely engaged with what had previously been portrayed as an internal if not somewhat trivial British matter.
Despite sharp prodding of journalists, most of the leaders of Scottish diaspora organizations have remained silent on the question of Scottish independence while the debate remained almost entirely a Scottish matter. As the President of The Council of Scottish Clans & Associations I have been one of those who have withheld opinions. However, as the President of the United States has now officially opened the ‘butting – in’ season in America and the rest of the world has followed course, I will add my individual Scottish American voice to the din.
Of course I cannot and do not speak for the Council of Scottish Clans & Associations on this matter as COSCA has not taken an official position on the Scottish referendum. However, as the debate over Scottish independence widens to the world, the voice of the Scottish diaspora ought to be heard. So count my voice simply as one of those who care.
It’s the Union Stupid.
My own view toward Scottish independence has only recently been solidified. It has been determined more by the demeaning, warlike and punitive nature of the NO campaign itself than by the whizzing shrapnel pieces of economic, social or political substance that I have managed to catch while following the heated battles. It isn’t that all of the facts and figures and ‘what if’s’ are unimportant. Of course they are important – those that aren’t simply fantastical scaremongering. Yet there is something much more fundamental that seems to be motivating the heart of this young, energetic, upbeat & spirited YES campaign. Something that must be settled even before you can get to the economics.
As Henry McLeish insightfully predicted as early as 2012, the rock solid refusal of Westminster to honestly accept Scotland as an equal partner within the British Union will eventually result in a sovereign and independent Scotland outside of the Union. Britain’s relentlessly negative drum beat has finally led me to place one of those snappy wee YES twibbons on my social media profile and I suspect it has moved more Scots in a similar direction than almost anything else in the campaign. The manner in which London has approached and conducted this campaign is the best evidence that many at Westminster prefer to dominate Scotland instead of deal with her as an equal sovereign partner sharing an influential but very small set of islands. That is no good foundation for a political union.
In the wake of a YES vote the need for England to live next to Scotland on a friendly, cooperative, commercially active and healthy basis will of course remain as important as it has always been. If a new union of interests as to certain areas of life appears to be in the best interests of both nations in the future, logically, there is no reason both Scotland and England as friendly neighbors would not pursue that or some other mutually beneficial path. Certainly it is hard to believe that the people of Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland would want anything other than a decrease in the present level of conflict. That is what the rest of the world will want.
Yet until the very recent fear and panic set it, Westminster’s NO campaign statements sounded as though September 19th following a YES vote would initiate a period of intentionally destructive economic and social warfare levied against the people and institutions of Scotland. While not at all an unprecedented reaction by England, it doesn’t really predict the sort of temperament that you might want to cuddle up to in a 21st century political union. Point of the YES team made. The British Union was improperly founded and has matured in a way that disallows Scotland’s people the opportunities to freely and completely pursue their national vision for the future.
I Am Unanimous In That
In a way, the original referendum campaign is over. The YES campaign has already won victory: Scotland is, by now, fairly united that fundamental constitutional adjustment must come and come now. All that is left is for Scotland to determine what the relative positions of the two nations will be in the negotiations that will follow the vote. Will Scotland choose to enter those discussions unified as a free and independent member of the nations of the world or as a questionable sub region of a marginally and temporarily repentant overlord? That question remains critically important.
Scotland has gained the high ground. A NO vote now surrenders the nation. The time to back down and hope for the best deal – if ever there was such a time – is past. Scotland seems to be growing more united behind major constitutional change but London is clearly not. Achieving a true commitment to a different fundamental relationship between Scotland and England south of the border is not a thing that can happen in a day and it won’t occur without a strong hand. Success will require unity and clarity of purpose in the people of Scotland so the leaders can be held to no less. If Scotland believes that it is every nation’s equal in the 21st century it should begin 2015 having made a clear and unavoidable declaration of that belief on September 18, 2014.
Can The Torch of Liberty Be Loaned?
I am a great fan of the American independence movement – the old one back in 1776. The primary point of the American Revolution was to break old bonds that no longer made sense and create something better and more just than anything mankind had attempted before. Historical scholarship is now firmly united in the view that we got our ideas about freedom, liberty and justice more from 17th and 18th century Scottish enlightenment thinkers than anyone or anywhere else. Aye, and the development of America was largely engineered by the pioneer Scots who flowed across the country and Arthur Hermann has sold an awful lot of books entitled “How [the Scots] Invented The Modern World (And Everything In It)”. For good and for ill this isn’t the first time Scots have been at the heart of major political change in the western world.
Our modern world could use some peaceful reinvention and no one may be more keenly aware of that than Scotland’s Yes voter. Certainly no one in western civilization is presently more willing or better equipped to take the first difficult step along that path with courage, commitment, selfless virtue and goodness of heart than the people of Scotland and those around the world who support that nation. After all, these are the people who, over the course of decades of work and commitment, have come to the brink of engineering a major political revolution crafted with ideas and dogged human communication instead of bullies and bullets. Perhaps it is now time for America to lend the torch of liberty back to the people of Scotland so that they may advance the cause of human freedom, equality and justice a little further on down the line.