Around about a year ago I read, for the first time ever, ‘Open the Doors’, which was authored by our late Makar, Edwin Morgan for the opening of the Scottish Parliament building that sits at the foot of the Royal Mile in Edinburgh.
I’ve never been hugely into poetry over the course of my (relatively short) adult life. However when Edwin Morgan passed away I felt I should get to know a bit more about him as an individual, as well as Scottish poetry more widely. It was Edwin’s poem about our new national parliament that struck me, and made me realise that I’ve missed out on an entire strand of our national life that I’ve come to admire.
There’s one verse of that poem that illustrates perfectly both my ambition and frustration with our national parliament:
What do the people want of the place? They want it to be filled with thinking persons as open and adventurous as its architecture.
A nest of fearties is what they do not want.
A symposium of procrastinators is what they do not want.
A phalanx of forelock-tuggers is what they do not want.
And perhaps above all the droopy mantra of ‘it wizny me’ is what they do not want.
It seems that we now have a new ‘droopy mantra’ – as Scottish Labour politicians struggle to come to terms with what is actually facing them – and that is, ‘Scotland on pause’. It’s one of those lines that set my teeth on edge. However there is an element of truth in the suggestion that our nation is on pause.
As our people face higher energy bills and are up against a market out of control, with no power to take action; Scotland is on pause. When a billionaire businessman can sit on his yacht holding the livelihoods of thousands of ordinary Scots in the palm of his hand, and we have no power take action; Scotland is on pause. As our neighbours and friends struggle to make ends meet and their income is built on payday loans, with no power to rein them in; Scotland is indeed on pause – however it is those advocating a Yes vote next year who want a Scotland that takes action. A Scotland that is not on pause.
When we put forward that it’s better for decisions about Scotland to be made in Scotland and by the people of Scotland, we are told we are living a pipe dream. When we ask that the right to represent ourselves internationally is given to us, we are told that the world will turn their back on us, companies will move abroad and Scotland will stand in isolation. Even as Scotland sits by – on pause – whilst our welfare state is dismantled before us and food banks feed our people, we’re told to believe that London is the answer and not the problem.
What we see in that parliamentary minority is indeed a ‘droopy mantra’. A convention of individuals who surely knew this time was coming; the time when devolution – as positive a thing as it has been – was never going to be enough to live up to the aspirations and needs that the late Makar laid out on behalf of a nation.
In the final verse of Morgan’s poem, he writes:
When you convene you will be reconvening, with a sense of not wholly the power, not yet wholly the power, but a goodsense of what was once in the honour of your grasp.
All right. Forget, or don’t forget, the past. Trumpets and robes are fine, but in the present and the future you will need something more.
What is it? We, the people, cannot tell you yet, but you will know about it when we do tell you.
We give you our consent to govern, don’t pocket it and ride away.
We give you our deepest dearest wish to govern well, don’t say we have no mandate to be so bold.
We give you this great building, don’t let your work and hope be other than great when you enter and begin.
So now begin. Open the doors and begin.
A Yes vote recognises that we have not yet wholly the power. It gives to our lawmakers that something more that is needed to better our nation. It gives consent to our parliamentarians to govern, and govern boldly in our name with a mandate that can only come from we, the people. It rids us of that droopy mantra that has come to depress our political discourse.
The time has come to open the doors. The time has come to take Scotland off pause. The time has come to begin our independence.