On the eve of this crucial vote what questions are we asking about Scotland, if those in Northern Ireland, England and Wales have a right to ask too? Perhaps a bit of history, and from Edmund Shakespeare’s time, might help. It was in 1607, the year of Shakespeare’s brother’s death, that a Scots King, James I, on the throne of England for only four years, failed in his vision of a ‘Greate Britaigne’, and an attempt to unite Scots and English laws, despite changing the flags. An Act of Union did not take place for nearly 200 years, in 1801, and after both a Civil War and that ‘Glorious Revolution’ that had brought Willian of Orange to the throne. None of those Scots monarchs though were especially laudable, despite the high romance of Bonnie Prince Charlie and the ’45. In the meantime, out of an Elizabethan genius, in a country that never had an Empire, and after the long and gradual loss of France, England sailed out to both explore and conquer the World, with a new mercantile imperialism founded in the City of London that was defined by those East and West India companies. Which built a rather unique Empire too, founded both in the idea of trade and law, with very many flaws, for sure, and yet, especially if we accept the idea of Capitalism at all and that always essentially privatised enterprise, a far better track record than many equivalent powers and Empires. Far more than my homeland of Wales, that truly suffered both from English repression and contempt and never had the Welsh Dragon incorporated into the flag (pause for thought for Dragon In The Post), Scottish genius and enterprise played its role in that too, just as it had an Enlightenment at home. It also involved poverty and cruelty and a Scottish world diaspora, much influenced by the fact or truth of English land ownership in the North.
But what are we really asking now, in a modern world that may need and benefit from kinds of devolution, and those local parliaments that have given cultures greater autonomy and identity, but which is also seeing such calamities of conflict, fear and hatred Worldwide? Do we really need to take that ‘Great’ out of Great Britain and further undermine a United Kingdom, as well as that ‘Mother of Parliaments’ at Westminster, when this highly opportunistic attempt at Independence by the likes of Alex Salmond has been badly thought through, with no plans for an army, nor a currency nor a true discussion of the costs and benefits of the entire enterprise? Not only are companies talking of moving back to that financial hub in London, but if oil prices fall with new technologies, or when those resources decline, the kind of plans Scotland’s ‘Yes Men and Women’ have will see resources drawn down to government both by cuts, that have already happened with the SNP, but raised taxes. It is in fact British money that has underwritten the progressive social policies like free University education. Isn’t it telling too that the likes of UKIP leader Nigel Farage should want an independent Scotland, furthering the kind of dangerous petty atavisms his stamp of politics indulge in? Is it not also extremely arrogant that the SNP should simply have expected to keep the pound, yet not show a similar responsibility to the future of a weakened Union, or all our voices on a highly integrated island? Countries and Kingdoms also need to find an appropriate scale, on this geographic island of ours, to be a power in the World, to find a united direction that supersedes localised interests and to talk with a truly strong or coherent voice. In the end it is not just a question of some ancient sentimentality then but the damage this will do to a rather unusual European centre in the sea, that needs to pull and work together, especially if Great Britain is that island bridge between Europe and America. It is already having echoes in tiny European regions that will not benefit the World or themselves in trying to pull away, but a Yes will lessen all of our identities and voices on a world stage. Whatever this brings up, and promises have already been made from Westminster, do not break the Union Scotland and let a new genius and sense of united confidence stand out instead.