Goamins, big yins! Ah figured sin ah haven’t posted anythin’ in, weel, months, ah shuid post a wee bit mair occassionally.
Now, for the purposes of this post, I shall be conversing in English rather than Scots, to make things a bit easier for all.
I’m a big fan of John Barrowman. I had the pleasure of meeting him once, and he was as lovely as I imagined him to be, accomodating to a fault, warm and inviting, every inch the crowd-pleasing entertainer. In addition, I consider him to be a fine actor with boundless charisma and clear discipline, which shines in his performances. Nothing he says in the video I’m about to post changes any of that: I’m still a big fan of his work, and I still think he’s a good person. But his affiliation to Better Together is something I cannot share, or respect.
So, the video in question:
Many of you will no doubt be wondering at who this “Sall-mond” person is, or what that “puddin’ o’ th’ chieftain race” was a reference to, while appreciating the nice words he has to say about unity and what keeps us together and whatnot. And now, if you’re following twitter, you’ll be seeing a lot of “indyref” and “yesscotland” hashtags, with an influx of comments that might be strange, negative, or even a bit mean.
What I cannot stress enough is that this video comes right in the middle of one of the most important referendums to ever take place in the history of the United Kingdom. It asks, for the first time, whether the people of Scotland want to be an independent country, or whether they should remain in the United Kingdom. The importance of this vote cannot be understated, for it will impact the future not only of Scotland and the United Kingdom, but of Europe, the world itself, in its own, small way. If there’s a Yes vote, then the United Kingdom as we know it will cease to exist. If there’s a No vote, Scotland will be the first formerly-independent nation in history to democratically reject the freedom to determine its own future.
Understand also, please, that this referendum is the culmination of a home-rule movement which has persisted for decades, if not centuries. For much of the UK’s history, Scotland’s culture, heritage, arts and history was suppressed, and that which could not be suppressed was belittled or ridiculed. First Gaelic, then Scots, was systematically marginalized in favour of “proper” English; laws were put into place which outlawed Gaelic traditions and customs; there were even calls for Scotland itself to be formally renamed “North Britain.” I won’t even get into such tragedies as Darien, the Clearances, and Scots sold into slavery. Even today, Scottish history is shockingly under-represented in the Scottish school curriculum outside of the Wars of Independence, the Scottish Enlightenment, and Robert Burns.
Robert Burns is one of the most recognizable, and most important, of all Scotland’s children. You know “Auld Lang Syne,” sang all around the world when New Year comes? He wrote that. That’s how important he is. He’s also important because he embodies the ideals of Scots from all eras: the value of every man, an egalitarian and democratic approach to government, and the support and perpetuation of personal liberty. He was a common man who valued republicanism, socialism, social justice, democracy, and freedom, who had little good to say of the United Kingdom government of his time.
So when Scots-born American citizen who is most familiar to us speaking with an American, not Scottish, accent, does a video in a garish Anderson tartan jacket, makes snide comments about the democratically-elected and generally popular First Minister, and perpetuates the idea that an independent Scotland would cease to be an internationalist, outward and forward-looking nation… it’s going to cause some very strong reactions. That’s especially so when you take one of his most famous phrases, “parcel o’ rogues in a nation,” and apply it to that same democratically-elected government, completely subverting its original intentions: as a criticism of the Scottish nobility who signed the Act of Union. To understand how profound a betrayal that is to Burns and the Scottish people, imagine that he celebrated Independence Day in America with a video saying “Judas sold only one man, Obama three millions.”
This comes in a week, by the way, where the Daily Mail launched a despicable attack on prominent Yes voters on Twitter for “abuse” that amounted to little more than salty language and fiercely-held political viewpoints. Most sinisterly, several of those voters claimed they were stalked and harassed by Mail reporters, and are pursuing legal action. All this is to continue a narrative about Yes advocates being “cybernats,” a term concocted to demonise and dehumanise Yes supporters as threatening, antisocial troublemakers. The emotional reaction some Yes voters have already had might seem to “confirm” this – if you don’t have context.
But please keep in mind that this seemingly-innocuous, harmless video happens to take place during the greatest constitutional debate in the UK’s history. Emotions are extremely high, because one way or another, the UK is going to change. The UK is in dire straits right now, and unless something changes, things are going to get worse. This stuff is important to us. John will continue to entertain and delight us, but at the end of the day, some things are just far too important.
This is about democracy. This is about asserting our distinction from the rest of the UK. This is about choosing for ourselves. This is about freeing ourselves from a government we rejected which is forced on us. This is about choosing whether we want to be a part, or a whole.
If you want to know more, then please, read on, courtesy of Wings Over Scotland:
A’ The Blue Bonnets – Defending An Independent Scotland
(Stuart Crawford and Richard Marsh, October 2012)
A Model Constitution For Scotland
(The Constitutional Commission, 2011)
Disaggregation of HMRC tax receipts in England, Wales, Scotland & N. Ireland
(HMRC, October 2013)
Fairness In The First Year
(University of the West of Scotland, 2013)
Fiscal Sustainability Of An Independent Scotland
(Institute for Fiscal Studies, November 2013)
Foreign policy implications of and for a separate Scotland
(Graham Avery, Honorary Director-General of the European Commission, 2013)
Labour’s Lost Grassroots: The Rise And Fall Of Party Membership
(Bristol University, 2013)
Make Sure You’re In The Know
(UK government, 20 January 2014)
Official Statistics in the context of the referendum on Scottish independence
(UK Statistics Authority, October 2013)
Powers For A Purpose – Strengthening Devolution
(Scottish Labour Devolution Commission, April 2013)
Referendum On The Independence Of Scotland – International Law Aspects
(Profs James Crawford SC and Alan Boyle, 2013)
Reflections on Defending an Independent Scotland: A View from Ireland
(Institute of International and European Affairs, August 2013)
(aka the “White Paper”)
Scotland’s Population 2011
(National Statistics, August 2012)
Scotland as an Independent Small State: Where would it seek shelter?
(Icelandic Review Of Politics And Administration, June 2013)
(The Herald, 18 December 2013)
Scottish Labour: new directions
(Wendy Alexander MSP, 2008)
The Case For Independence
(Business For Scotland)
The Claim Of Scotland
(HJ Paton, 1968)
The Common Weal
(Jimmy Reid Foundation, 2013)
The Option Not On The Table – Attitudes To More Devolution
(ScotCen Social Research, 2013)
The UK’s Public Finances In The Long Run: The IFS Model
(Institute for Fiscal Studies, December 2013)
Trident – Nowhere To Go
(CND/Scottish CND, January 2012)
UK debt and the Scotland independence referendum
(UK government statement, January 2014)
UK government ‘Scotland Analysis’ papers (website)
UK National Asset Register 2007 (most recent edition)
UK Oilfields And Boundaries
(Mahdi Zahraa, Glasgow Caledonian University, 2001)
Views Of Scottish Labour Leadership Candidates On Nuclear Weapons
(Scottish CND, 2011)
We Belong Together: The Case For A United Kingdom
(Alistair Darling, July 2013)