Originally published in Voima, 08/14
On September 18th the Scots will vote to stay or leave the UK. Many outside Scotland are engaged with the debate, and, being Welsh, I’m one of those people from south of the border who are torn between the YES and NO campaigns.
Speaking recently with a friend who lives up in the Scottish Highlands, I became carried along by her zeal for a break from the posh tossers in Westminster, and yet also (to my surprise) found myself reading something written by J.K. Rowling, who has donated a wizard million pounds to the NO campaign and written a letter to the Scots cautioning against making “a historically bad mistake.”[i]
I identify with the Scots. Coming from a country which has similarly suffered from feudal and class control, blighted by the dark satanic mills of heavy industry, and, when the neo-liberals moved into Westminster in the 1980s, was then devastated by unemployment, I totally understand why they are rallying to say ‘ENOUGH!’ to the Etonian muppets in London who are far more interested in greasing the palms of Russian oligarchs and maintaining the medieval privileges of the City of London than they are in the little people of the UK.
It’s hard balancing historical grievances with decisions about the realities of independence. My Highland friend told me about the anger still felt about the Highland Clearances, when landowners forced small communities to emigrate out of traditional ways of living. Growing up in Wales, I too became absorbed in historical aggro; my favourite being the Welsh revolt known as the Rebecca Riots, when rural men wearing dresses and bonnets rebelled against English taxes.
We Celts are a volatile bunch with long memories, and although part of a union, we do harbour grudges and hold on to cultural identities that English people rarely appreciate, and often address with contempt. As the Finns know very well, colonisation leads to identity issues.
You don’t have to be Scottish to appreciate the significance of the hope that the Independence movement has brought to UK politics. While many in England and Wales think “No, don’t leave us!” the thought that people are actively engaged in restructuring the democratic system is vital. However the Scots vote, I agree with Irvine Welsh that the debate about independence is not just about self-rule, but “is about the genuine modernization of these islands’ political systems, conducted through the restitution of participative democracy.”[ii]