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Friday, 19 September 2014

Tears dried. Ache remains

So Scotland won’t be “foreign”. How is it possible to be both glad and depressed?

Let’s take “foreign”. The cliché is to look outwards, the honest gaze is inwards. I am a United Kingdom citizen but during the Scottish referendum I, and 50m others, were more precisely English.

How foreign is England? Foreign means strange and unfamiliar, “foreign to” more ominously means “not belonging to or characteristic of”. Only a short step from that to “Please leave by the quickest route”.

England has been disliked for a very long time. Deservedly. Check out India, Kenya and especially the Republic Of Ireland (ie, that larger bit to the south). Even tiny bits of Pennsylvania! Consider too how Australians are delighted to thrash England at sport. Visceral joy.

The Scots have good reasons to dislike England: the battle of Culloden, the Highland Clearances, and (Thank you, Mrs Thatcher.) the Poll Tax. However, the referendum wasn’t based on dislike, Scots are too sensible. In any case, many English also believe Scotland deserves to be a free-standing nation – if that isn’t too patronising.

Had the vote gone the other way, would Scotland have become “foreign”. Given those extra meanings I hope not. Politically separate, yes. Quite, quite, identifiable, yes. Worthy of admiring scrutiny, yes. I’d have wished them luck on their perilous voyage.

Yes, I admitted previously, I’d have voted against independence. Perhaps for purely selfish reasons, as well some iffy economic arguments. But secretly… ah.

One reason I’m not a patriot is because the term is horribly debased. Also, there are aspects of England, apparently immutable, that I detest. I share those detestations with a good many Scots. Hence my relief, tempered with tearful sympathy. No doubt seen as hypocrisy – but then we’re world-masters at that.


  1. Quite a civilized referendum. The last earnest effort to secede from the U.S. resulted in 600,000 battle deaths.

  2. Mike puts it better than anything I could write. I understand the Scots wanting independence. Maybe next time.

  3. Interesting times ahead. When I heard an elderly woman worry for her pension, I worried along. Had the Yes side won, it would have triggered not 18 months of transition but 18 years of chaos. One point that puzzled us.....rather than wanting to keep the queen and her merry band, wouldn't the Scots prefer to wriggle out from under that expense?

  4. The Scots for me are the many individual inhabitants I have met in their own domain whilst I was climbing the 284 Munro peaks scattered over the whole country. Invariably they are courteous, hugely hospitable, and at all levels of society much more articulate than we folk south of the border, and also with a much stronger moral base. I hope I will make future visits there, and if the outcome of the referendum had been different I would be surprised if I found any change in those perceptions.

  5. MikeM: There were some scuffles and some of the more timid No voters were said to have kept their intentions in the dark "just in case people broke our windows". But on the whole it was a civilised affair. Better still it was well-informed.

    You raise a good point. Proving that if you're going to have a civil war early is better than late. Actually ours went on somewhat longer than yours (nine years) and we contrived to kill a fair amount of our citizens; yours. coming later, had the dubious benefits of advanced technology. But at least, when our war was over, we had taken the first serious step in our attititude towards monarchs, demonstrating that they were mere mortals and not imbued with "divine right". Going on to prove the point - to your ancestors' delight - with the appearance of George III.

    Crow: But it will be a longish wait, as Alex Salmond (leader of the Scottish Nationalists and thus the initiator of this referendum) said: it will be a generation before there's another go. However it's just possible that AS, who is now leaving politics, may get many of the things independence would have brought but without the risks. Terrified that he was going to go down as the prime minister who "lost Scotland" our present twit made all sorts of promises about the devolution of power (irritating many of his own party - Tory - supporters) which will have to be kept.

    Stella: I didn't attempt to summarise the pros and cons of Scottish independence it would have taken too much space and would have bored the pants off visitors to Tone Deaf. However, the Queen would have been a minor detail among many. And also two-edged. If you want to find out how people can shilly-shally about getting rid of the minutiae of former colonial rule, look no further than those sturdy republicans down in Oz who have had (I think) several referenda about cutting all ties with GB and still cling to the flag-waving pomp.

    Sir Hugh: Independence may have forced "changed perceptions" on the Scots. Apart from the rather vague benefits of enhanced national identity they might well have had to pay a heavy financial price. Ask the people of Faslane for instance; they would have lost the Trident submarine base, a huge source of local employment. Not as a result of Westminister shenanigans but because Alex Salmond made it one of the "benefits" of separating from the UK. Independence, as politicians on both sides of the divide pointed out, would have taken decades to shake down. In the end it was probably the risks that swung the no vote. The fact is no one knew for sure. No doubt the qualities you list (and which I touched on in the previous post) would have remained but they could well have been severely tested, as were those of the Germans when the glories of their much-welcomed re-unification became a memory and the huge price started to bite. In political terms the no vote was decisive. But had it gone the other way, and ten years gone past, everyone might well have had to ruefully acknowledge that virtually half the country had been against independence and bitterness might have been inevitable. And since by then it would have been easier to blame Westminster for everything, your welcome in Scotland would not necessarily have been assured.

  6. Being a resident of "French Canada," with its history of failed referendums, I watched with interest. As with Quebec, I was glad that Scotland will stay part of the UK for now, but admit that my main reasons here have more to do with the financial security of both parties than anything else. Basically, I detest nationalism of any kind, because it always tends to conceal prejudice, racism, exclusionism, and superiority.

  7. Beth: Scotland has a point. Huge area but less than 5m population (vs. 55m for the rest of the UK). Its education system is superior so is its attitude towards health care. During Mrs T's reign it was forced to endure the dreaded Poll Task almost like a laboratory rat; when she tried to impose Poll Tax on the rest of the country even the echt-Middle Class (ie, Tory) voters such as those in cosy Tunbridge Wells came out on to the streets and the tax was dropped.

    Alas there is already an aftermath. Having begged the Scots to vote no - his voice cracking, tears in his eyes - Cameron is now looking for ways of reneging on all the devolved powers he promised. There's a general election in less than a year and he has to placate the feelings of heartland Tories.