Dear Scotland

Ritchie Feenie

Ritchie Feenie

By Christopher Silver

When you wake up on Friday, don’t change. A lot will have changed by then, obviously. A line will have been crossed, you’ll find yourself thrown into a new space, perhaps a different mindset. Either way, in a few hours time you will know much more about yourself and a question long asked will have been answered.

Yes or No, all eventualities will bring movement, challenges, complexities and uncertainty. You’ll make a choice and that choice will have to be negotiated before it can be fully understood. Though it will all seem to hinge on the moment and the final brutal number, this is really just part of an age old process of finding a place to stand.

So you will change. Nothing endures but change. Still, I want you to stay the same as you are altered, as you grow. There is so much that I want from you regardless of the outcome.

I want your chancers to be just as fly. I want your working class women to be just as strong. I want your grandparents to keep on about the weather and the nights drawing in. I want your football teams to be just as shit and your wit to remain so dry that it’s delivered more like philosophy than humour. I want you to moan about buses with a lyrical intensity. I want your wet streets and drunken truths. I want your regulars, your tenement stairs, your awkward lovers. Your tunes, your muckle sangs, your islands, your haar and your brilliant autumn days. Your dense arguments, small prides and big passions. I want self-deprecating anecdotes and piss poor service in abundance. I want your gallus weans and genteel relations. And much more than this.

I want everything that is distinct, eccentric and maddening about you to flourish. This is why I will vote Yes. But Yes can only ever be one part of you and I can’t imagine a Scotland without its proud No voters – the truth is, I want your sceptics too.

For years now you’ve been shaped by an enormous debate. Both sides have been asked to do things that, as Scots, you’re trained not to – to stick your necks out, to wear badges of loyalty that do not correspond to historic divisions. You were asked to be brave, but not brave in a hard man way, more a first day at school kind of brave. Stepping out to engage with whoever happened to pass by with a chip on their shoulder and a surprising knowledge of macro-economic affairs.

I want you to remember this time well. It deserves to be remembered so. Not because of the righteousness of either side, but because so many brought so much of themselves to this flyting without precedent. You all came to this debate for the best of reasons. And you can look back on it with pride. You decided questions of vast import and all that got bruised were egos and reputations (some the better for it). Rhetorical blows sufficed.

The world looked on at you fascinated. For the most part, you lived up to Jimmy Reid’s call from a different era: for responsibility, dignity, and maturity. Here was a place where the mightiest of states could be bent to the democratic will. Where the sense of national community was strong and enduring enough for vast differences of vision to be thrown across bar rooms, TV studios, offices and town halls without recrimination.

I have seen you looking your best. At the top of rolling news for days on end, the skyline of your capital city in its late summer glory or the spontaneous crowds in George Square for a backdrop. All the while, more and more distant friends have gifted you their understanding. This was the stuff of transformation. Scotland you mattered. You mattered in a way that you have never mattered in your entire history. From across the planet they came to talk to you and this, more than anything else, is what independence is about. You learned to engage with the world as its equal for the first time. By Friday night the cameras might have packed up: or they might stay for the long haul, but that is your decision and yours alone.

Like thousands of others I have lived this referendum for a year. I wasn’t expecting to, I wasn’t really supposed to, but I embraced it. The daily fascinations, discoveries, and arguments of #indyref have dominated my thought, decimated my income, and broadened my horizons. I have done much that, a year ago, would have seemed improbable, over ambitious and uncharacteristic. Yet I have done far less than vast numbers of my fellow citizens. I am but the least of these and proud to be. I have seen the best and the worst of you, Scotland.

But this did not start and cannot be said to end with Thursday’s question and Friday’s answer. So I want to tell you something personal. This is not your way. You know that we don’t talk in these terms or reveal ourselves as a matter of course. But given that you’re changing anyway, indulge me. I’m 27 years old. Born in 1987. It was the year that Mrs Thatcher’s 3rd term began, and the year that Letter From America got to number 3 in the UK charts. I remember hearing that song as a kid and asking what is was about. It was explained to me as being about the highland clearances and it was easy for my 5-8 year old mind to understand that story, of people being moved off the land en-masse. But then I was told, it’s still happening: and that’s what the song’s really about. That I could not grasp. How could you empty a land of people, if it was already empty? Back then I couldn’t begin to understand the monumental patience that you asked of your people. That their quiet needs and burning desires have so often been made to wait. Yes or No this must surely change too. For too long Scotland has been a place that its people have had to leave, for want of opportunity, for fulfilment, to escape its dour, limiting tendencies or its harsh indifference. All too often this has been the definitive experience of your 307 year old entanglement with a far larger neighbour. If independence achieves nothing else it must be to make you a worthy destination again.

Scotland, when your often tragic history was presented to me, I came to feel something very strongly. It was not and is not nationalism. It certainly does not fill me with pride. Your story as I understand it, has been an often bitter one: complex, contested. A place where so many have been excluded, removed or denied, for accidents of birth, language, postcode, accent. From that early understanding to this day I will always see that story as one that demands some kind of clarity at its end. That to accept that history as inevitability, as a cruel cycle, is not an option. Instead you have led me to believe that politics is about allowing people the space and the individual and collective freedom to be themselves. This was a significant lesson, described in MacDiarmid’s epic thus:

‘And let the lesson be – to be yersel’s,
Ye needna fash gin it’s to be ocht else.
To be yersel’s – and to mak’ that worth bein’,
Nae harder job to mortals has been gi’en.’

This is a hard lesson for you and the great challenge of the 21st century. But we don’t become ourselves alone. Must you always be the exception? I want your distinct voice to show its uniqueness in the crowd, I do not want you to be an obscure bystander. A sub-nation, a half country, an opt out, no more. I want to see a new space for you in the UN General Assembly between Saudi Arabia and Senegal. Remember, if you choose to, you will not be leaving anything, you will be joining the world.

It’s a world that is riven with uncertainty, division and economic madness, certainly. So I implore you to find a way of being yourself that lives up to the wildness of your struggles, to your tears of outrage, to the best of your hopes.

As Pablo Neruda tell us:

Our original guiding stars are struggle and hope. But there is no such thing as a lone struggle, no such thing as a lone hope. In every human being are combined the most distant epochs, passivity, mistakes, sufferings, the pressing urgencies of our own time, the pace of history.

Dear Scotland, on Friday you will still be the same place and you will still be loved. Many of your people will be distraught and concerned. But has this not so often been their condition? Perhaps now is the time to step back into the pace of history because, try as we might, we cannot escape it. Scotland I want you to go out into the global family of nations again, to speak with your own distinct voice, because if we are to make this world liveable in this century, we all need a place to stand.



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28 replies

  1. The closing words from that fantastic speech by Martin Luther King seem appropriate:
    “Free at last, Free at last, Thank God almighty we are free at last.”

  2. Typical emotional clap trap that will destroy Scotland. Whether you like it or not, nations are built on business principles – buy and sell. Scotland will have to buy too much, and doesn’t have enough to sell. Romanticism is nice, when you can afford it.

    • Aye? Go down and have a look inside the 1000’s of boxes leaving the UK’s biggest container port at Felixstowe every day and you’ll find mostly fresh air!

      Coming the other way of course there’re full of stuff people have to borrow money to pay for.

      We’re leaving a sinking ship!

  3. And just a reminder what ”Scottish” Labour leader Joanne Lamont said, love the poverty of aspirations she has for Scotland.

  4. Congrats Scotland: your day is here, make it count! YES!

  5. What a beautiful piece of writing. From the heart.

  6. And here was me and everyone else believing the figures that state that Scotland exports more than it imports(in monetary terms) ! Suppose I should bow down to yet another imperial master .

  7. what’s clap trap is being enslaved to business, to buying and selling, and forgetting why you are doing it in the first place. Christopher’s piece is from the heart. The kleptothieves and fraudster who are at the heart of the British state in the city of London will destroy everything if they are left to their own devices. Scotland needs to be free of that. We will be.

  8. Too many people have been conditioned to think that there is no alternative to corporatisation and the bottom line.
    I feel sorry for the shallow life they inhabit and for missing out on one of the greatest expressions of democracy during this campaign that I have experienced in my 64 years of life.
    There is,absolutely,an alternative which puts people first,should we choose and trading will continue but under different conditions.

  9. To all yes voters-
    How many job loses do you think is acceptable to achieve your dream of independence? 
    How many home repossessions do you think is acceptable to achieve your dream of independence? 
    Both will definitely happen to ordinary working class scots as a direct result of independence! 
    My answer to both questions is No.
    What is yours? 
    Think about it………VOTE NO!

    • The UK state is just a heartbeat away from catastrophic economic failure.
      One point Trillion pounds of money owed to the Chinese state and others.
      The debt is so big that it probably will never be paid back and the current borrowing of around 100 Billion pounds per annum is unsustainable.
      Under these conditions,to all No voters,what is the best option?
      Stay with this this reckless UK ship or get off while our share of this debt is manageable?
      Your choice.

  10. No is the progressive vote that will bring more devolution.
    Independence and seperation is a huge unnecessary gamble with our future our children and our grandchildren’s futures!
    VOTE NO!

  11. To all yes voters-
    How many job loses do you think is acceptable to achieve your dream of independence? 
    How many home repossessions do you think is acceptable to achieve your dream of independence? 
    Both will definitely happen to ordinary working class scots as a direct result of independence! 
    My answer to both questions is None!
    What is yours? 
    Think about it………VOTE NO!

    • Don’t Panic – don’t PANIC.
      The UK is likely to be finished on Friday morning.
      We will be fine – do worry about us. Worry about the rUK.
      End of empire – about time too.

    • with all due respect. It’s a little late in the day to wheeling out this tired nonsense. If it could have worked it would have worked as it got out the gate. It hasn’t worked because it doesn’t work. Seriously now…you have had 3 years to build a case. This all you have been waffling about for 3 years and now you are losing. isn’t it high time you considered that trying to scare Scots into staying British by making them ashamed of being Scots was a mistake?

      The time for debate is over – you had your chance. You only had to to get it right once. You blew it.
      You have no friends here. No one here takes what you say as being truthful. It is nothing more than warmed up scares.

      The poll that matters is the vote. I am voting yes as the price of continued union is unacceptable to me.

    • Sure Scot, you have no vision and you spread only fear! There will be job GAINS as a result of independence. Getting rid of trident (fewest number of jobs per million spent it is possible to imagine, most trident money goes to America for making the warheads) Spending the money instead on drilling oil in the Clyde (banned because of Trident), lots of jobs potential there, a whole west-coast oil industry awaits, Clydeside the new Aberdeen with fabrication yards aplenty.

      Or we could wrest back control of the crown estates offshore wind farm revenues. These currently go straight to London and remove the incentive for Scotland to invest. At least one large offshore project was scrapped due to a political switch to a less windy location off England. Can’t have the Scots taking all that money if they go indy can we? Scotland has leading wave-power technonlogy and an extensive wave-power resource – again the revenues would be confiscated south, where is the incentive to develop?

      An indy Scotland in ten to twenty years will be the Saudi Arabia of energy, both oil and wind/wave/tidal renewables. Best of luck realising those jobs under Westminster control with licence revenues thrown into the black hole of banker debt. Any attempt to gain control of crown estate shoreline commerce revenues will be voted down by labour/tory backbenchers.

      That’s just a taster. How about micro-hydro? At least as much hydro-electricity as already generated, is extractable from smaller lochans and waterfalls around the highlands. With all Scotland’s power utilities now under foreign ownership, thanks to Thatcher, there is little incentive to invest in these smaller schemes. They were all computer lodelled and mapped over a decade ago but nothing is happening. The directors are quite happy just to keep pocketing the profits into their offshore tax-dodging shell companies.

      Miliband and Labour will not save you – they are your imperial masters.

      The vote on Thursday is only the beginning of a long and exciting journey to prosperity for Scotland!

    • Aye, you and your poison again. I kent it by the smell.

    • Sure Scot: Either Labour or the Tories have been in power in my 55 years on this earth. In that time they have tried to detroy Glasgow: the city in which I have lived for more than two decades. From 1.1 million citizens to 550,000. No mining. Almost no heavy engineering. Almost no shipbuilding. All these happened on YOUR watch. I admire your gall in telling people to vote NO because of what MIGHT happen, whilst ignoring the bitter harvest we have reaped from the seeds of destruction sown by our – your – Westminster masters.

    • Is that you, Gordon?

  12. What a load of rubbish on here tonight! We are a great people and deserve our chance of freedom in this world!

    Thanks Mike Small for your informative journalism during this exciting time.

    Go out and vote YES for an Independant Scotland!

  13. Budgeup and Sure Scot – You poor wee souls, it must be awful to be so selfish, miserable and unhappy. Could you not find something better to do with your time, like actually making a difference to the lives of those around you?

  14. Loving the part time economists on here that spout crap about “business principles” this is the same thinking that allowed capitalism to cause so many problems in our worlds.

    Don’t fool yourself into thinking that businesses and markets are logical by definition – this is the biggest swindle in history – there is no autonomous logical market or perfect business which sits separately as an entity in itself – PEOPLE drive the markets, PEOPLE make successful businesses and PEOPLE create successful nations.

    Scotland has demonstrated so often and none more so than right now that it is blessed with amazing people, that is why it will be a successful nation.

  15. How many job loses do you think is acceptable to achieve your dream of independence? 
    How many home repossessions do you think is acceptable to achieve your dream of independence? 
    Both will definitely happen to ordinary working class scots as a direct result of independence! 
    My answer to both questions is None!
    What is yours? 
    Think about it………VOTE NO!

  16. Take a listen to the great Independence song! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AMTTQUVzjHE

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