With a Song in our Hearts

SfS logoBy Kevin Brown

I am a freelance ‘Yes’ activist, and as well, a Canadian newcomer to Scotland with a fresh, outsider’s perspective. This has granted me, I believe, abilities beyond the ordinary to read the tealeaves and to gaze into the future, even as far as into September.

In my travels I have spoken to many about their referendum voting intentions; while in my active online life I regularly read and ponder the (excellent) news reportage and analysis posted on Bella Caledonia, and similar online news sources.

It appears to me that there are two contending solitudes in this referendum debate, upon the outcome of which the future of this country and its people depends.

The inhabitants of these two solitudes are defined by the sources of their news, which to those steeped in this debate will be not at all surprising. Readers of the corporate tabloid, and other, newspapers (many with their tasteful ‘page 3 girls’) probably also supplement their informational diets with broadcast news. And so by definition they are relentlessly barraged by the cacophonous ‘politics of no’ emanating from Westminster: ‘no’ to a currency union, ‘no’ to Scotland’s EU membership, ‘no’ to Dr. Who, ‘yes’ to border posts and mobile roaming charges… & etc. These voters – and many are voters, make no mistake – are being given every incentive to vote ‘no’ in September, because everything they ‘know’ tells them that this is the rational thing to do. ‘No’ to pensions, they are hearing, ‘no’ to… whatever else… and voters answering this description are many. I know this because I have spent time canvassing.

The second solitude is the one inhabited by people like myself, and probably by you because you are reading this: those who seek out alternative news sources, who can easily construct and understand a rational argument, and who can see through propaganda when it is ladled on thick. But here is the problem: we who inhabit this solitude sometimes seem to communicate mostly with each other, rarely speaking to those outwith the confines of our wee, circumscribed, online world. As the days count down to September 18th, we of this ‘online intelligentsia’ are entertaining each other with our beautifully crafted analyses of every aspect of the debate. But we are outnumbered — very outnumbered, I fear.

If this expression, ‘two solitudes’, has a familiar ring to it, then you may have Canadian connections yourself. In the lead up to the Quebec independence referendum there was much discussion about the ‘two solitudes’ of English versus French Canada, two nations who spoke only among themselves and rarely to each other. And the independentiste Parti Quebecois, lost its referendum bid by less than one per cent of the vote in 1995. Will we, by not paying enough attention to our own other nation, to our fellow Scots inhabiting that other, MSM sodden solitude, replicate the PQ’s defeat here in Scotland? An interesting question.

What is to be done?

On a more cheerful note, much of what needs doing is being done, and done well and very actively. The growing army of  Yes supporters out canvassing door by door and face to face, through many a dreich day and a downpour, are incrementally wearing away the bluster and the absurdities of Better Together. Anecdotally, I spoke to a woman on a train about her voting intentions. Her opening position was that she was inclined to vote ‘no’ because she had recently been to Ireland, and her friends there ‘so wished they could have Sterling back again instead of the Euro’. Three stations later, and after a thorough discussion, she had completely turned around and gladly accepted the ‘Yes’ badge I presented. Scratch many a ‘north Briton’, and you will find a proud Scot just beneath. We must continue this scratching relentlessly, and the more hands on deck to do it, the better.

What else? How else can we win over those many voters who cannot hear themselves think for the braying from Westminster retailed in the ‘newspapers’, with their tragic choruses of ‘no’ to a thousand things, industriously peddled in the expectation that fearful Scots will themselves vote ‘no’ to their innermost hearts desire?

Better Together is betting that Scots can once again be bought and sold for English gold; that if we can be convinced that remaining in the UK will make us £500 a year better off, then fifty-one per cent of us will turn our backs on our national destiny. But there is a critical flaw in this reasoning. It is based on the premise that we are as they are, the lords of creation in London: that we too live exclusively in a world dominated by balance sheets and profit and loss statements. And as George Gershwin famously wrote, ‘it ain’t necessarily so’.

To win in September will be to bring at least some from within this other solitude, those now shackled mentally by corporate media messaging, around to our way of thinking. To affect this we must continue the trench warfare of door to door canvassing; but we must also introduce other incentives into the game to motivate Scots to seize their destiny.

Now for more good news: other rich incentives are ready to hand, in the form of our past, our history, our songs and our national musical culture. We in Scotland have one of the great musical traditions on the planet, with some of the finest singers in the world working in that tradition. By bringing our songs into the referendum equation, we can introduce an emotional dimension into the debate that can help us to win. The strains of our national songs can inspire us to imagine a better future, and for some – maybe our margin of victory? – they can render the crass calculus of Better Together altogether irrelevant.

Listen to this song in Scots, and to this song in Gaelic, and then tell me that you are not stirred, moved – ready to set out bravely once again upon our journey.

We call on Scotland’s singers and musicians to become fully engaged in the referendum debate, and to bring song and musical repertoire into prominent play. Leave it to our politicians, thinkers and journalists to refute in detail the relentless stream of propaganda emanating from the Better Together corporate media machine. By bringing our singers, our songs and our music into the debate, we can engage with voters in an elemental way: at the level of shared memories and the collective unconscious.

Sometimes a great title by itself can drive a creative project. ‘Songs for Scotland’ captures the spirit of ours perfectly (this the brainchild of TV producer Douglas Eadie who produced Transatlantic Sessions).

We have set up some online infrastructure: ‘Songs for Scotland’ is now a Facebook page, a Gmail and a Twitter account. If you are a singer, in an Indie band, a musicologist, or just a lover of Scottish songs, post your support for independence and a favourite song to Songs for Scotland’s Facebook page. If you are one of our true star performers, a Yes canvasser, prime yourself for the day ahead by listening to a posted song or two before you set off into the rainstorm… And be of good heart!

We are at present putting the finishing touches to the Songs for Scotland Project. Watch Bella Caledonia for more on its evolution.

Contact: songsforscotland@gmail.com

‘Like’ us on Facebook at Songs for Scotland

Follow us on Twitter @songs4scotland



Categories: Songs for Scotland

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28 replies

  1. Reblogged this on Bampots Utd.

  2. Why isn’t.there a Bampots for Independence badge. I want one

  3. That’s a good idea !

    Clear throat, tune fiddle.

    And . . .

  4. I want a Bampots badge too, and why dont we have an inspiring song that we can make number one in the charts just before the vote, then the BBC could ban it from the radio.

  5. Proud to be involved, as a musician, with Songs for Scotland. As some might know, I say a lot, or type a lot, on the subject of independence. You might not know I also sing and play, and it’s great to be able to contribute in that way too.

  6. Reblogged this on The Babel Fish and commented:
    I heard about this early on and got involved as a musician, so I’m a big enthusiast. Check it out!

  7. Excellent post, Kevin. I have to confess I am tone-deaf when trying to sing, and my pathetic attempts at learning an instrument have always ended in failure. However, if the blatantly biased outpourings from the unionist media start to get me down I usually return to my CD collection for succour: classical music.
    Whit?! I hear you ask. Scottish classical music?!
    Try Alexander Mackenzie’s symphonic poems, especially his Scottish Rhapsody No.2. and Pibroch Suite. Also his Piano and Violin Concertos.
    How about the symphonic poems of William Wallace? Not you know who, but the Scottish composer from Greenock who was also a surgeon and served with distinction as such on the Western Front in WWI. His composition named after his famous namesake “Sir William Wallace” is twenty minutes of inspiration and thoughtfulness.
    Don’t forget Hamish MacCunn.

    • Dan, thank you for the kind words. I too am a lover of classical music. Since I started this project I have been well immersed in many other forms of Scottish music. And music really can have that effect, of taking us from ‘down in the dumps’ to ‘up in the treetops’ in a big hurry, as you have rightly observed. I note that the official referendum campaign commenced today. As an extremely hard working Yes campaigner put it to me just yesterday, in this final stretch of the referendum we will need to use ‘every string in our fiddle’. I couldn’t have put it better.

      Unfortunately the links in the post are a bit obscure. Check out Dick Gaughan’s ‘Freedom Come All Ye’ (it’s there) and you’ll be ready once again to take on the world.

  8. Reblogged this on Are We Really Better Together? and commented:
    A consideration for all of us who inhabit the online cybernat world where all things appear Yes-tinted. Many, many people do not read these blogs of ours (even mine, the fools) so we need to engage with them to offer them something other than the relentless barrage of No on the TV and in the newspapers. I, along with many others, need to take heed…

  9. Thank you Hugh, for spreading the word. Greatly appreciated!

  10. Welcome “Canuck”.
    Your support is welcome, and even essential.
    Keep posting informative and supportive articles.
    Scotland will be a nation again!

    ps. Canadians use “Canuck” as an affectionate or merely descriptive term for their nationality

  11. “As the days count down to September 18th, we of this ‘online intelligentsia’ are entertaining each other with our beautifully crafted analyses of every aspect of the debate. But we are outnumbered — very outnumbered, I fear.”

    The above statement is my by greatest fear and a pertinent reminder that we – all of us who desire independence – must speak face to face with as many people as we possibly can and convey the necessity to vote yes.

  12. Is this not just a little bit patronising. No voters only hold their views because they have been brained washed by a corporate media where as yes voter’s world is one of debate, independent true voices and real beliefs not the lies the no voters hold tobe true. The no voters although they don’t know it are only awaiting to be told the truth by a freelance yes activist so they can be awakened perhaps for the first time in their tabloid reading, lager swilling, page 3 googling lives and be reborn in the True Church of Yes where The sweet tones of Gaelic harmony singing and proper traditional folk song can be heard softly in the background. I suspect this is not the intention but it does read a little like that a Scottish equivalent of the Eloy Yes and the Morlock No.

    • Tog! Thanks for commenting.

      Yes, Wells’ ‘The Time Machine’. That was a favourite when I was young. These days the book is looking more and more prophetic. There was a good piece in the Grauniad this morning by David Graeber, who wrote, ‘Debt: the First 5000 Years’ (Comment is Free). As the 1 per cent vacuums up all available wealth by the incontrovertible laws of our present economic system, they are ushering in a new age of debt peonage. Morlocks and Eloi? On present trends I would expect the physical differentiation to begin within a couple of generations — if we make it that far. By the look of things right now, we won’t.

      I certainly didn’t intend to patronise Scottish voters as ‘tabloid reading, lager swilling, page 3 googlers’. I most definitely did intend to patronise what passes for media these days (‘MSM’). I am old enough to recall when there was a possibility of finding some actual news in a production by a corporate media outlet; but what we have here in Scotland now is ‘faux’ newspapers. They look like newspapers, and the ink smears onto our fingers, but there the resemblance ends.

      I would also draw your attention to this mornings ‘Bellavision’ episode (BTW this is a great idea, and my hat is off to those behind it). One of the canvassers interviewed points out that many Scots aren’t hooked up to the Internet, and so they can’t go online for information. So, we must continue to aggressively canvass, and we must also find effective arguments to overcome some voters’ fear induced reluctance to vote ‘Aye’. What might those arguments be?

      Chris Hedges is without question the thinker and writer for this age. Here is a passage from a recent column he wrote for Truthdig:

      ‘This ability to connect with the sacred is what Percy Shelley meant when he wrote that poetry “lifts the veil from the hidden beauty of the world and makes familiar things as if they were not familiar.” We are reminded at that moment of the wonder of life and our insignificance in the vastness of the cosmos, reminded that, as Prospero said, “we are such stuff as dreams are made on.” […] This wisdom makes grace possible. Songs, poetry, music, theater, dance, sculpture, art, fiction and ritual move human beings toward the sacred. They clear the way for transformation’.

      Hence the Songs for Scotland Project.

      Hedges continues:

      ‘The prosaic world of facts, data, science, news, technology, business and the military is cut off from the mysteries of creation and existence. We will recover this imagination, this capacity for the sacred, or we will vanish as a species.’

      Bitter Together peddles a daft and distorted version of this ‘prosaic world’. Hedges says nothing of the blatant lies and propaganda with which our MSM drenches us daily (gardy loo!) but he doesn’t need to.

      My father was an English merchant seaman. In 1937 he jumped ship in Spain to fight against Franco by enlisting in the International Brigade. He did this because it was the one and only ethical choice available to him.

      I too have ‘jumped ship’, here in Scotland, where people still generally think I am a tourist. The only ethical choice available to me at this moment is to support the ‘Yes’ campaign with every single ounce of energy and ingenuity that I can summon. I believe that Scotland could be another Iceland, which is recovering nicely from the 2008 crash, the only country that is. They jailed a few bankers over there, and repudiated their debts. Simple and obvious stuff. When we vote ‘Aye’, by the power of our example we may even unleash progressive forces elsewhere in the world. Will Scotland be the snowflake that precipitates the avalanche? Maybe. We live in hope.

      Four months to go until the referendum. To win it, we will need use ‘every single string in our fiddle’; and most of all we’ll have to find innovative ways to summon ‘the better angels of our nature’ — well, at least of the natures of 5o per cent of the electorate plus one voter!

  13. I am a piper and I need only rest my ear near the Great Highland Bass Drone to communicate with our ancient ancestors, and they call for the deviously designed constraints that were slipped around Scotland’s beautiful form to be remove for them to be content again.

  14. The FB page ‘Songs for Scotland’ doesn’t appear to exist. Is the title correct?

    Brilliant idea BTW… Any barbershop harmonies available?

  15. Ah, it’s a ‘concert venue’ – no further content tho….

  16. Och aye, fynesider2! We wouldn’t want to spoil the surprise, now would we? Enjoy the songs that are posted to the page (there are some fine ones! — and the page is becoming popular); and then in the fullness of time, we will reveal more about this ‘concert venue’. We are still putting the finishing touches to things. All in good time.

  17. Actually there are all kinds of Yes worlds online.

  18. @ Colin May 30, 2014 • 14:24

    “and why dont we have an inspiring song that we can make number one in the charts2

    We’ve got one Lady Alba’s “Bad Romance”….needs a wee clean up.

  19. Lady Alba tops my personal chart by a long country mile. Her satire is fun, tuneful, and very, very clever. ‘Bad Romance’ can have the effect of taking the
    plethora of lame attempts such as yesterday’s ‘Alex Salmond is like Kim Jong Il’ sortie, and shows them up for what they are — just plain daft.

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