I’ve just recently returned to Glasgow after living and working in Chicago for the past two months and while celebrating the 4th of July, I was inspired to write about our our journey towards independence, having been removed from the debate whilst over in the States. After all, the American Declaration of Independence was partly based on the Declaration of Arbroath and almost half of the signatories were of Scottish descent.
Andy Murray’s Wimbledon win was celebrated by me from across the pond, where I watched the Salmond photobomb story unfold and the claims that we should somehow be embarrassed by our own flag. Seemingly you are a patriot if you come from any country other than Scotland – where you are branded a nationalist. My confusion over how nationalism has been branded as bad for Scotland but good for the UK is similar to how oil would be detrimental to an independent Scotland, but an asset to the UK in the years to come i.e. its always a double edged sword and we can’t win either way.
I decided I had better educate myself on what Chicagoan friends were reading up on Scottish independence due to a fair number of them thinking we were already an independent country, enquiring when our own independence day was – leaving them more confused than before when explaining that yes, we are a country but we have a second government situated in London with reserved powers and laws are imposed upon us that the majority of Scotland does not agree with. When you start thinking about how absurd and unnecessary this is for Scotland its difficult to stop!
So I turned to the ‘main stream media’ hoping to find at least somewhat more impartial information surrounding the independence debate than is currently found in the UK.
The Chicago Tribune, boasting one of the largest circulations of news in The States – last touched on the issue in April with issues surrounding Scotland’s continued use of the Sterling. Despite the use of words such as ‘split’ from the UK which to me, did I not know anything about the independence debate immediately sets a negative tone, there is no outright criticism as to why it should not be so. Merely a warning at the end of the article that only around 30% of Scots are in favour and a whopping half the population are not. Opinion polls can change, and often do.
Meanwhile the New York Times warns us that we ‘may want to think twice about going it alone’. As we have ‘benefitted disproportionately from the spoils of the British Empire’. No mention of what we gain from the British Empire now, and really as a forward thinking Nation that is all that matters.
A particular fascination surrounds celebrities that ‘endorse’ Scottish independence such as Sean Connery, Brian Cox, Gerard Butler and Alan Cumming, which I’d been following while in Chicago – as more and more Scots creatives back the case for an independent nation and put their talents towards that vital Yes vote, it seems the No campaign struggles to get high profile ‘No’ voters to speak up.
More serious issues are touched upon occasionally like – What would the rest of the world think if the UK couldn’t hold it together? Where would Britain keep its nuclear weapons? And would England get a cut of the remaining North Sea oil? What happens to the rest of the UK is certainly a concern, both globally and individually, however to me it seems that our future as an independent country is merely the natural progression towards the dismantling of Britain’s imperial reign and it is simply progressive to self-govern. It is time to join the rest of the world once more as an independent country – it has only been a mere 300 odd years since we gave it up!
Some of the perceptions of Scotland discovered across the pond made for priceless anecdotes of my time there, such as ‘Your English is very good’, ‘Is Scotland a suburb of England?’ and ‘Do you have a Royal family like England does?’.
Although mostly people knew the score and there is already a positive distinction between Scotland the rest of the UK. If on the odd occasion I was asked if I was British I do not shy away from this, I would say yes, I am from Scotland. Cue embarrassed faces and ‘Oh sorry I thought you were British my mistake’ – the term British often used interchangeably with English. So when our new Prince George was born and the media reported on the future King of England I was off the hook having to look too interested in the Royal family! Although I was not mistaken for being ‘British’ often – Scotland has a separate, or should I say independent, identity and culture…didn’t take long for the mention of kilts, haggis and tartan to come into conversation. And whether we care to admit it or not, despite our now modern Scotland I certainly still enjoy all three! If that makes me a nationalist, so be it!
Scotland continues to have a great deal of positive influence in both the States and all over the world, our culture and heritage being celebrated – you only have to look to New York Tartan Week as a quick example! Not to mention hundreds of Highland Games being held throughout America during the summer – of which I attended one through my job and was amazed to find thousands of people sharing my appreciation of Scotland (and Irn Bru).
This complacent, submissive attitude of Scotland has to change, I have no idea how we’ve accepted the impression that we would not be a successful independent nation and it is time to regain our confidence once more, and fly the Saltire with pride.
I have no doubt that Scotland will become independent, the issue will not be forgotten about even in the event of a No vote. Holyrood and Westminster are heading down very different political trajectories which cannot be ignored for very much longer, the question is whether we choose to seize our chance in 2014 or wait until those first feelings of regret sink in. The SNP may have had the power to instigate the referendum, but Scotland and her people have the power to say Yes in 2014 and realise the positive change they want to see and create the nation they want.