take the high woad

alex salmond
Today, September the 18th, 2014, is the day of destiny. No I’m not referring to the opening games of the group stage of the Europa League, I’m talking about the matter of a vote happening among our friends north of the border. No, sorry, not the Canadian border, I’m talking of course about Scotland. Living over here in America as I do now, you could be forgiven for not hearing much about what is actually a pretty massive issue, that of Scotland finally breaking from the UK and gaining full independence from the Union. The people of Scotland are answering a simple question, “Should Scotland be an independent country?”, with a simple answer “Yes” or “No” (though why “Aye” isn’t also an option I don’t know). Despite whichever side of the argument you sit on, this is a pretty proud day for Scotland, and especially for their First Minister, the Scottish National Party leader Alex Salmond (that’s him drawn above). As a Londoner who now lives in America, but who has always had a long affinity for Scotland, I really don’t know what my opinion is. For a long time I might have harboured quite an excitement at the prospect of Scottish independence, but now it is an actual prospect, I find I’m quite on the fence.

Honestly, I don’t know what to think about it. I’ve thought about it for years yet I feel a bit under-informed and uneasy about it now. First and foremost I’m of the mind that, as a non-Scot, it’s None Of My Business, but in fact I’m not so sure it isn’t. I believe Scots should choose their own destiny, no question. However it will probably mean the break-up of the Union, and as a UK citizen that affects me directly, as well as millions of other non-Scottish Britons. Politically speaking, Scotland carries a lot of weight nationally – it’s not really a big Tory-voting area, so the UK Labour Party would stand to lose a lot of its voting power if Scotland no longer sent MPs to Westminster. Hence the big Labour presence in the “Better Together” campaign; if Berkshire was voting for independence you can bet your life that Ed Milliband would be on the “Yes! Freedom for Maidenhead!” trail. But Scottish independence would also technically mean English independence. England, you see, isn’t independent. Nor does it have a devolved parliament like the Scots; it only has the direct British government, because that evolved from the English parliament following the Act of Union in 1707. Ah but no, you say, England along with Wales and Northern Ireland would remain “the United Kingdom of Great Britain”, right? Yes, in the eyes of the world and the EU and all the international treaties…but they wouldn’t be. Not really. The band will have broken up.

It’s hard not to think of the U.K. like a band. You have the big bossy lead singer (England) who often gets mistaken for the whole band by an ignorant foreign music press, you have the quiet mysterious bass player who has an amazing singing voice (Wales), you have the eccentric and beautiful drummer (Northern Ireland is the Keith Moon of the U.K.), and then you have the creative songwriter, the one with all the best ideas, maybe plays rhythm guitar but plays lead better than any of them, and is probably the best drummer too. We won’t mention the drugs. Maybe they had a decent solo career before falling on hard times and being convinced to form a band with their neighbour and set about conquering the world (but you know, literally). Now Scotland wants a solo career. The remaining members of the band keep the record deal and can carry on playing the back catalogue…but they’ll never replace the member they lost, and then the bassist and the drummer will want their own record deals, and before long, England is reduced to playing on Cruise Liners and appearing on Celebrity Big Brother Get Me Out Of Here. Ok maybe the band analogy is going a bit far, but it does feel like that, a little. Hey, in about twenty-five years when they’re all broke they can get back together for a comeback tour.

As Scotland votes though, there are a few things I am thinking about:

  • If Scotland votes “Yes”, the Union is not breaking up any time soon. It just means that it is more likely that it could. England historically though is not good at letting go.
  • After much vexing about the Union Jack (and I do love vexillology), I have decided I don’t care what happens to the flag. In fact, start again, let’s have all new flags. We can have a contest, the one with the most ‘likes’ on Facebook wins.
  • If Scotland leaves the UK, England should try and start a Union with France, just to make Scotland jealous. They can even call the new flag the “Union Jacques”
  • Independence or not, Scotland isn’t actually going anywhere, it’ll still be in the same place. It’s not going to the Moon. We can still visit. Our kids can still get married there without our permission (my mum did that, at 17).
  • UKIP – hahahahahaha!
  • They’ll need their own national football team oh no they already have that. They’ll need to print their own money oh no they already do that. They’ll need their own national newspapers oh no they already have those. They’ll need their own monarch, och nay they actually already have that as well, with The Queen (you might argue that in fact England has their monarch, given that the English royal line died with Elizabeth I, but that would ignore all the German Saxe-Coburg fun and games that came later and they definitely were not Scottish at all).
  • Scotland should adopt the GMT+1 time zone. Here’s a story, when my wife (from America) lived in England she went on a business trip to Aberdeen and I told her, as a joke, to put her watch forward an hour. I bottled it the day before and said I was joking, of course. But still, it was a good one ‘cos it seems so ridiculous, unless you’re from a country that does actually have different time zones, like, er, America. So Scotland tell everyone they are adopting the GMT+1 time zone, but then don’t, just as a joke. It will be hilarious.
  • The Economy. The NHS. Everything. Whatever happens, the rich greedy guys will always try to take away from the poor guys. A change in the makeup of the UK will provide a whopping opportunity for them to dismantle everything that benefits the disenfranchised in the name of “oh but it has to be this way”, both sides of the border.
  • My affinity with Scotland starts with my mum getting married there at 17, my best friend when I was 12 being Glaswegian (he got me into the guitar), Gregory’s Girl being one of my favourite films, and watching a lot of Rab C. Nesbitt. However… I’ve only ever been to Scotland once, and I got lost in Edinburgh. And drank garlic vodka. I’m hardly an expert.
  • England should adopt “I Will Survive by Gloria Gaynor” as their national anthem if Scotland leaves. “Go on now go, walk out the door…”. Scotland on the other hand should adopt the Bay City Rollers “Bye Bye Baby”. If they stay together, let’s change the national anthem to, no not “Let’s Stay Together”, but “Won’t Get Fooled Again”. It has nothing to do with the whole England-Scotland thing it’s just a great song I’d like to hear played at the Olympics.
  • However the vote goes I hope at least one tabloid sub-editor uses the headline “Rubbing Saltire into the Wounds”. We may never get another opportunity. Unless…
  • Scotland could ask Wales and Northern Ireland if they want to start a brand new Union with them. I imagine the idea might go down rather well…

Who knows?! Good luck today Scotland, however you end up voting. It’s your country. Just be careful what you wish for, whichever way you wish.

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8 thoughts on “take the high woad

  1. Linda Daily says:

    Great post,Pete. My oldest son and I have been following this. He is a history prof. and teaching Modern Brit History this term. He likes teaching history in the making. He also studied a semester at Univ. of
    Glasgow and is on the side of the ‘ayes’. It will be interesting to watch!

    • pete scully says:

      Ah that’s right, you told me he teaches history. Someone asked me today what side i stand on. I’m neither aye or nay. I care deeply about it though, and I can’t help thinking, breaking the union up could be a big mistake for both Scotland and the rest of the UK, but this may also be their only shot at claiming full independence. For now…

  2. papict says:

    Great post. I love your band analogy. I was just blogging today about how weird it is to be a Scot looking in from the outside and not being entitled to vote in the referendum. It’s looking like an exceptionally high turn out so however the result unfolds at least we will know it’s democratic.

    Garlic vodka? Really?

    • pete scully says:

      Yes, when you mentioned in a previous comment living above a pub in Edinburgh which did flavoured vodka, it reminded me of the one place i had that stuff. I don’t recall the name, a vodka bar, it was 1999. They had all that, Mars Bar vodka, sherbert vodka etc, and Garlic Vodka. That one was really mean. I actually couldn’t get rid of the garlic taste for two days.
      I think Scots everywhere should be allowed to vote on this. For Scotland it’s a really big deal. Nothing will change for the time being, if it’s a Yes, but still. Been thinking about it all day. Makes me feel kinda sad.

      • papict says:

        Well it’s looking like the status quo is going to prevail. As to the pub, I can no longer remember the name of it but it was on St Leonard’s Street. It would be one of those “small world” moments if it was the same pub.

      • papict says:

        It’s easily done, especially in the multi-level nooks and crannies of the Old Town. The garlic vodka probably didn’t help your sense of direction though. :)

  3. Linda Daily says:

    I’m with you Pete. I don’t like the idea of Scotland not being part of the UK. I have been lucky enough to have visited twice. I think it might be better for all if it remains together. Given the close vote hopefully they will gain some concessions from England either way. Andrew, our eldest, has always had socialist leanings. Comes from us having read ‘Robin Hood’ to him too many times when he was a lad. You’ve been warned!

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