It’s coming yet for a’ that,
That Man to Man, the world o’er,
Shall brothers be for a’ that.”
- Robert Burns
The story of egalitarian Scotland is one we like to tell again and again. We are a progressive, radical nation. We believe in equality, free education and the common weal. We’re all Jock Tamson’s bairns and we’ll sail off together into our own utopian republic.
Like many, I believe in the story of egalitarian Scotland. At least, I’m willing to believe it in the hope it comes true. There is also the story of conservative Scotland, the Scotland in which change is undesirable and we cling to our traditional values. Both of these Scotlands exist, and in the event of independence we will have to decide which to follow.
Across the globe, the Scottish brand is universally adored. We are the world’s long lost relatives. We are a mythological land of castles and whisky. Scotland is loved, Scotland is quaint. Nobody has a reason to hate Scotland because we have never made our own decisions. We have never waged illegal wars in the Middle East, at least not by choice. Scotland is a totally neutral nation, which has its advantages. It also has its disadvantages.
If Scotland becomes independent and sells itself as modern bastion of egalitarianism, we are bound to make enemies. So be it.
Two weeks ago Iceland threatened to cut all political and cultural ties with Russia. This was a direct response to Vladimir Putin’s decision to pass anti-gay laws, leading simultaneously to a wave of homophobic attacks being committed throughout Russia.
A statement from Reykjavik reads: ‘In light of the developments concerning the affairs of gay, bisexual and transsexual people that have taken place in Russia over the last few months, the district attorney, Human Rights Office, Office of the Mayor of Reykjavík, and City of Reykjavík chief administrative officer propose amendments or the termination of the collaboration agreement between Reykjavík and Moscow, in cooperation with the Ministry for Foreign Affairs.’
Like Iceland, an independent Scotland must surrender its friendly neutrality and seize the opportunity to stand up for human rights on the world stage. We have become too comfortable in our disengagement from the rest of the world. As Iceland has shown, you don’t need to be a large power in order to make the headlines and do good for the rest of humanity.
Already we have quelled racial and religious hatreds in many parts of the world. Humanity, on the whole, is moving forward, and gay rights are a part of that journey. Earlier this month, the actress Tilda Swinton posed for a courageous photograph in central Moscow, holding a rainbow flag. Those in Russia who attempt to replicate such a demonstration are subject to fifteen days in detention for promoting “LGBT propaganda”.
Resisting imprisonment, torture, abandonment and abuse, even from loved ones, gay men and women have consistently been amongst the strongest, most courageous people in human history. We must show them solidarity on a national scale.
We are on the brink of lifting the ban on same-sex marriage. Scotland’s story of freedom and peace is waiting to be told to the world. A ‘Yes’ vote in the independence referendum will not guarantee the egalitarian Scotland, but it will at least give us the opportunity to design it, and develop an international voice for the good of humanity. We can escape the power-obsessed diplomacy of the British state and establish ourselves as a nation with something to say. That alone is worth the risk.