It was probably inevitable that I would grow up to be a musician, and to support independence. When I was a wean my Dad made a special effort to keep the hills and heather alive with songs and stories, his work at Mortlake brewery having brought us to London. Even today, tears are never far from his eyes when he sings Dougie McLean’s Caledonia:
And if I should become a stranger, know that it would make me more than sad…”
Music is a major part of how Scotland talks to itself about itself, and not just the folk classics. Having seen the ecstatic response of an Arches crowd to Rustie’s After Light, I can tell you that even instrumental electronic music can express an emotion both universal and deeply local, the peculiarly melancholic hedonism of the post-industrial era.
Still, culture alone is not a justification for statehood. Scotland’s music, literature and philosophy have thrived within the United Kingdom, perhaps even been driven by the need to carve out space for a nation without a state. It is a different set of experiences that have convinced me that we need independence, and soon.
In 2006 or so I found myself living in the Hamiltonhill council estate in North Glasgow. For a commuter-belt Perthshire boy this was quite the culture shock. You can read all the statistics on unemployment and “indices of multiple deprivation” you like, but none of that prepares you for seeing a man in the local pub sobbing, surrounded by discarded scratchcards. Christmas was coming, and the kids wanted new trainers he could never afford, so he spent his giro on hope.
This country used to make things. Most people had secure jobs, doing meaningful work. There were no call centres, no temp agencies, no three-month contracts selling insurance. We all know the story – Big Bad Thatcher came to power, the trains were sold off, the pitheids sealed up, and the towers of Ravenscraig came tumbling down. We became a country that makes its money from the unholy trinity of finance, insurance and real-estate. A country run solely by and for bankers – with an economy that does not need healthy, educated workers.
The United Kingdom is beholden to the financial piracy of City traders. In contrast, an Independent Scotland could use its vast renewable energy potential to reindustrialise the country. I’ll be voting Yes because I want to live in a Scotland where people build things again, a Scotland of inventors, creators and labourers. A Scotland with compassionate, social democratic values. A Scotland where no one feels that a scratchcard offers their only hope of dignity.
On National Collective
I’m delighted to join National Collective. Scotland’s art and culture are some of our greatest assets, and it will be vital to the Yes campaign that we reach out to people’s hearts as much as their heads. This is Scotland’s greatest opportunity in three hundred years, and National Collective offers a great way for artists to get involved in the campaign.