I’m being Inspired by Independence (Word Power Books) edited by Ross Colquhoun and Christopher Silver and in particular the work of Lyndsay Allardyce (great gulls!); Meg Bateman on the land as the feminine principle and learning something more and deeper about our own culture (thank you thank you) and Alan Bissett’s hilarious Instructions on How to be a Scot across the decades.
I’m also loving Alex Boyd re-imagining Faslane without weapons; Ron Butlin ‘Kickstarting History’ and taking the long view; Dhivya Kate Chetty’s beautiful poster; Nick Higgins on film; Kieran Hurley’s imaginary argument; Pat Kane’s futorology, taking us to 2039; James Kelman’s Cartesian musings on first principles and the First Person voice; Lindsay Lochhead and Loki; Karine Polwart on Eagles; Zoe Strachan on parochialism and journeys to Yes; and the always encapsulating articulate David Greig.
It’s got a wonderful third space dynamic energy underpinning it all. Not so much all power to the soviets as more power to your elbows.
What I really love is the generalism, the natural flowing eclecticism,’gathering all the rays of culture into one’ (again). Out of Yes has flourished new publishing houses, collaborations and a chorus of new voices. Opening Up.
I know that this is just the tip of what’s going on.
From the Scottish Poetry Library and it’s wonderful tentacles, to the thriving re-located Glasgow Women’s Library, to new understandings like Robert Crawford’s ‘Scotland’s Books, a history of Scottish Literature’ (pictured above) and fresh collections like Unstated to the new kids like Freight and Cargo. From Kathleen Jamie’s momentous Bannockburn inscription to Gutter to the live scene with Neu Reekie and Rally and Broad to the imminent and amazing Edinburgh Book Fringe, it’s all kicking off.
So we have gathered some more from around, paucheling extracts from hinder and yon. A republic of letters? A bucket of tongues? Here’s our writer’s bloc from round the web: 12 writers on independence.
“Our cultures are rooted in different histories and linguistic influences, and it shows in the way we use words, inflect their meanings and express our keenest hopes for the society we’d like to help create.
That Scottish votes have seldom delivered a matching government is only part of the story. Certainly, the 90s “greed is good” years, when the north in general became the Tory party’s Petri dish, were such a caustic reminder of our inconsequentiality that the SNP began to look like a serious alternative.
People need a measure of governance over the territory they stand upon. Their sense of worth is bound up in their opinions being taken seriously. (That is, ironically, the reason so many English folk would like their say in Scotland’s future within the Union too.) This sense of worth – of basic self-esteem – makes for a confident people. The dreadful riots in England certainly reinforced my caginess of Westminster’s overcentralised and largely PLU [people like us] make-up all over again.
If Scottish self-esteem, a phrase that makes one psychoanalyst I know reach for the term “oxymoron”, is reflected in our statistics for liver disease, drug-addiction, obesity, young male suicide and domestic abuse, we’re not in great shape. And while I do not wish to conflate class with nationality (the working classes of England, Wales and Northern Ireland can hardly feel valued by pay gaps that have widened beyond belief), I believe Scottish priorities for solutions to health, education and social mobility might be different. This is healthy. Tax-raising powers might make it healthier still. The SNP needs to establish that its motivation has more in common with Small Is Beautiful than “Scotland the Brave”if it is to be the credible answer. But if it can – and that’s a big if – the risk of secession will be worth taking.”
From The Observer
“For many Scots, self-determination, rather than nationalism, remains the cause. Now, 35 years later, were I living in Scotland, I’d vote yes to independence, despite the short-term economic problems it would bring, and despite Salmond’s disappointing plan to compete with England and Ireland to offer foreign multinationals the lowest tax rates. Salmond isn’t for ever. In the context of England’s hostility towards Europe, Scottish independence seems, like Ireland’s now, a choice to continue a Europe-wide struggle between social democrats and tax-dodging global capital from within a community of half a billion people. The small country that seems to want to cut itself off, the insular, isolationist, separatist one, is not Scotland, but England. That is why, selfishly, as a resident of England, I think Scotland should vote for independence but hope it doesn’t: I don’t want to hear the door slam north of Berwick and find myself locked in a room with Nigel Farage.
Whatever the result of the Scotland referendum, something’s already changed. There’s nothing like discussion of the reinstatement of old borders, of the transformation of conceptual national-ethnic identities into bureaucratic, juridical ones, to exacerbate the discomfort of those, like me, who are already ambivalent about their national and ethnic identity. It never used to be a problem, in response to the question ‘Where are you from?’ to say that I was born in London but grew up in Scotland. Scots, friends and acquaintances, have been tolerant of my linguistic shifts. As a boy in Dundee I’d unconsciously adopt a Scottish accent at school and the southern English accent of my parents at home. I realised I was doing it when I was round at a friend’s house and called my mother from his phone. My friend, Mark, began literally rolling around the floor. ‘I’m at Mahk’s house! Maaaahk!’ he giggled, imitating my suddenly ‘r’-less enunciation. After Edinburgh University the accent oscillations stopped with the pointer stuck at ‘English’, but if that occasionally annoyed someone, it wasn’t so much because I seemed to have chosen English over Scottish as that I seemed to have chosen a toff’s voice over the voice of the common man. (Actual English toffs unfailingly identify a twang of otherness in my speech.) The then news editor of the Glasgow Herald told me in 1985 that he liked my writing but would never give me a reporter’s job because of my accent. His point was that if he sent me to doorstep the neighbours after a murder they’d be too distracted by my vowels and lack of ‘r’s to spill the beans on the killer. He may have been right. But most of the time, inside the baggy enclosure of permanent Britain, the deviation from certainty about belonging to one nation that was represented by accent was harmless and obscure. In Ukraine and Russia in the 1990s I was as Scottish to the Slavs as I told them I was. Since 1999 I’ve lived in London and been more or less of Scotland: Scottish with an asterisk referring to some small print nobody bothers to read. Now in the harder-edged Britain of 2014 I begin to visualise forms, lists of options to check and a box at the end of each marked: ‘Other – please specify.’ I think of citizenship. I think of passports.”
From A Leopard in the Family – London Review of Books
“The thing is, many Scots, myself included, have no problem distinguishing independence from nationalism, and will probably vote Yes in a referendum, not because of a Bannockburn sentiment, but in the knowledge that any Holyrood government need not necessarily be “nationalist”. Or anything else. We can boot them out. In an independent Scotland we could boot out any government that failed us. Imagine! It is not a contradiction to write an inscription for a monument that valorises Scottish resistance and identity, then vote Yes for independence but still hold the SNP in suspicion, not least because it is seeking to appropriate that Bannockburn spirit of resistance.
Several of the writers in Unstated make the same point. They will vote for an independent Scotland because they cannot see any other way to preserve the vestiges of our collectivism, and our cherished public services. We want to vote for common decency and our own maturity. An awful lot of English and Welsh people feel that way, too. We used to be able to make common cause with them through the labour and even communist movements. But not now. So, more in sorrow than in anger, many Scots will vote Yes.”
From the New Statesman
“Scotland also has its own philosophical, legal, religious, literary and educational traditions, and most of this too is marginalised. Scottish educators have to fight Scottish institutions to find a place for Scottish philosophy, literature and education itself. Many English people sympathise with the plight of Scottish culture; they see cultures and traditions marginalised everywhere, and recognise also the plight faced by people from Yorkshire, Cornwall, Northumbria, Cumbria, Somerset, Lancashire and so on.
The difference is that Scotland is not an English county, it is a British country. It will continue to be a British country whether or not we are governed from London, England. This is because Great Britain is a geographical entity. It is a mistake to attribute particular sensibilities or character traits to the millions of people who live in its countries of Wales, England and Scotland. And then there is the north of Ireland.
People are right to treat nationalism with caution. None more than Scottish people who favour self determination. Any form of nationalism is dangerous, and should be treated with caution. I cannot accept nationalism and I am not a Scottish Nationalist. But once that is said, I favour a ‘yes or no’ decision on independence and I shall vote ‘yes’ to independence.
Countries should determine their own existence and Scotland is a country. The decision is not managerial. It belongs to the people of Scotland. We are the country. There are no countries on Mars. This is because there are no people on Mars. How we move ahead here in Scotland is a process that can happen only when the present chains are disassembled, and discarded, when the majority people seize the right, and burden, of self determination.”
From ‘The Self Determination of Yes’ in Bella Caledonia.
“…But Scottish confidence is not only rational. Put it like this: Ever since the 1707 union with England, when Scotland sold its independence for a share in the British Empire, a tiny blue-and-white cell has survived in the Scottish brain that sends out the message: “Wouldn’t it be grand if only, if somehow…?” For three centuries, inhibitor cells jammed the message: “We’re too wee, too poor, too thick… are you daft?” But now that “cultural cringe” has vanished, almost without a trace. And the blue-and-white cell is free to transmit.
If Scottish “yes” reasoning is not hard to grasp, neither is Scottish “no” reasoning. Some of it is material: People are not convinced that their living standards would survive independence, and would like firmer promises about pensions and interest rates. Some of it is fear for the economic safety of Scotland, turned loose among the giant predators stalking a globalized world.
Some of it is emotional: a feeling that Scottish and English societies are so closely integrated now that separation (a word the S.N.P. never uses) would be absurd, even anachronistic. Few, though, would go as far as one Conservative peer, a former cabinet minister, who said that independence would be a betrayal of the British dead in two world wars. But the British government’s motives for opposing independence are often puzzling.
The English media and many politicians explain the independence movement by claiming that the Scots are obsessed by “anti-English racism.” My own experiences tell me the exact opposite. Scots, these days, have almost forgotten about England, so fascinated are they by their own country. (This is sour news for the English, who can bear being hated but not being overlooked.)”
From ‘Scottish Independence Is Inevitable’ in the New York Times.
“Like many Scots, I grew up saturated in something I assumed to be ‘Britishness’, and I loved it. Steptoe and Son, The Likely Lads, Play For Today, they were my cultural staples, and I was personally liberated by the welfare state, specifically the Butler Education Act. This meant that my college fees would be paid in full by the state, and I would also receive a full grant, which amounted to 2/3rds of my dad’s wages. Now all that has gone, and I personally would never enter the prison of debt, in order to go to University for a degree that has been rendered pretty meaningless. I would choose to invest any resources I had in other directions; like many bright, eager young kids from poorer backgrounds now do, I’d probably buy a rock of cocaine, cut it and sell it. And repeat. It simply makes more economic sense.
But as post (military) imperial, welfare state Britain declined, what I’ve also learned, and, like many Scots, am constantly having reinforced, is that a lot of what I believed to be ‘Britishness’ was really just another term for ‘Englishness’. I watched a Jamie Oliver special just before Christmas, when the Chef was having a desert cook-off with the Italian masters. The terms ‘English’ and ‘British’ were repeatedly used interchangeably on relatively politically correct ‘regions and nations’ conscious Channel Four. Of course, it’s hardly the fault of Oliver or his buddies that asserting their Englishness puts them in a defacto position of marginalizing and oppressing Scots or Welsh or Northern Irish people. Nor is it Scottish people’s culpability for being cast in a recalcitrant and belligerent role if they dare to bring up those continued slights. After all, sticky toffee pudding is an English dish, not a British one, so why not call it so? The accountability for this does not even principally lie with the shifting reality of ‘Britishness’; it can be placed squarely on the shoulders of the UK imperialist state.
This English appropriation of Britishness, what Stuart Hall calls ‘an assumed Englishness, which always negotiates against difference’, is now a powerful hegemonic force, which serves this state. In the past, when that ‘Britishness’ was formed by imperial and industrial expansion, and the esprit de corps engendered by WW1 and WW2 and the creation of a welfare state, it was largely an inclusive concept. Then, this ‘assumed Englishness’ was only a minor irritant to Scots. In the context of these islands now being a ‘sales territory’ in a globalized, monolithic, neo-liberal economic order, it becomes a far more sinister, inherently marginalizing force.
So my main contention; the problem for both Scotland and England is not so much an inherent cultural assumption of the movable feast that is ‘Britishness’, but this within the context of the UK as a political state, formed on imperialist, hegemonic structures. This state has stopped England from pursuing its main mission, namely to build a inclusive, post-imperial, multi-racial society, by forcing it to engage with the totally irrelevant (from an English perspective) distractions of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. From the viewpoint of the Scots, it has foisted thirty-five years of a destructive neo-liberalism upon us, and prevented us from becoming the European social democracy we are politically inclined to be.”
From ‘Irvine Welsh on ‘Scottish Independence and British Unity’ Bella Caledonia
“For a long time, I couldn’t make up my mind. In the “Aye, naw, mibbe” discussion, I was a definite “mibbe”. But neither side seems able definitively to answer my questions about what will happen after the referendum. Will we keep the pound? Will we get devo max? Will we drive Trident from our waters? Will we keep the Windsors?
Given that, the only basis I could find for making a choice is to look at the track record of what the Scottish parliament has done differently from Westminster since we’ve had some power restored to us. And, overwhelmingly, I prefer what we’ve done north of the border – free prescriptions, no student tuition fees, social care for elderly people. So, with a degree of trepidation, I’m going to nail my colours to the mast of aspiration and vote “Yes”.
From the Guardian Review
“A Scottish person today not only has a bigger piece of the cake and a formidable Scottish presence in UK government but an MP who is able to vote on hundreds of matters relating to England that have nothing directly to do with Scotland. No English person could say as much of his or her own powers, and yet it is Scottish nationalism that is increasingly respectable at a time when English nationalism is still thought to equate with Enoch Powell, Oswald Mosley, and the National Front.
Alex Salmond’s Nationalists have no equal in Europe: they lead their own parliament (which has tax-raising powers it hasn’t used and which Gordon Brown proposes to increase). At the same time, the country they lead has all the benefits of being part of the United Kingdom, yet the Nationalists’ central argument, now gliding toward completion, is that Scotland would be a better place if it got rid of its association with England. In order to set about proving this, Salmond and his more or less talented crew, sometimes without quite seeming to know it themselves, make it their business to exploit a fiction of past and present injury and press it with alacrity into the Scottish mind.
In a way it is simply effective politics: the Nationalists want to wield greater power, and to get there they must persuade the people firstly that they are a people, and secondly that they are a people that is getting a bad deal. But the population of Scotland will never get a better deal than the one the Union has afforded them for over three hundred years. The Nationalist genius is to go about forging a connection with deeper historical anxieties. There is a part of the Scottish psyche that will always be keen to upgrade the nation as it appears in its own eyes: a part of the culture that craves nobility and responds to peddled rumors of past glories as if they were not time-drunk myths but latent promises. It is a country where propaganda, in the end, can mean much more to the ravenous soul of the nation than any degree of reality. That is what Scottish history tells us, though not if it can help it.”
From What is Scotland? New York Review of Books
“I fully support the yes campaign: a vote for increased democracy, a vote for the greater representation of a unique populace and a huge chance to break with the moribund, corrupt, militaristic lump that is Westminster today. The democratic dividends for Scotland have been kept well off the agenda by the big-business-led no campaign and its Nicodemite fellow travellers – a few of whom are writers. The no calculation is clear: what kind of future society we want in Scotland is NOT up for discussion; society has vanished and only cynical short-term “economics” and globalised agendas remain. The no “ideology” is numbingly small-minded, ahistorical and most of all, it is cowardly.
After the 1979 fiasco of the home rule referendum, many Scots like myself (I am half-English), felt cheated and disenfranchised. The vote was yes (by about 70,000); the infamous 40% rule was democratically questionable, as it converted abstainers and electoral roll anomalies into no votes. Then came Thatcher, Blair and the Cameronian; decades of rightwing monetarist rule from London.
What then are the implications for Scottish literature today? I am not self-important enough to believe it is part of many voters’ deliberations, but a yes vote would free us as Scottish writers from a hidden war that rages inside our minds; it would grant us the light wings of a new responsibility. A No vote will have sinister and depressing implications. Our literature has been and is still bound up with concepts of independence, cultural assertiveness, language and that quaint old term: freedom.
Think on this: if there was a no vote, has there ever been another European country where a “progressive” – and to use two pompous words – “intelligentsia”, has united in a liberation movement, yet the majority has finally voted against the aspirations of this movement? A no vote will create a profound and strange schism between the voters of Scotland and its literature; a new convulsion. It will be the death knell for the whole Scottish literature “project” – a crushing denial of an identity that writers have been meticulously accumulating, trying to maintain and refine. With a no vote, a savage division will suddenly exist between the values of most of our writing – past and present – and the majority of our people.”
From the Guardian Review.
“The Independence debate allows us, for the first time, to take off our UK goggles and to see the world through different lenses. It’s a bit disorientating at first but you quickly starts to see all sorts of things you maybe never noticed before. Without the distortion of UK goggles, The British Establishment reveals itself not as a natural and unchanging truth but as a system which can change like any other. Immigration reveals itself as not necessarily ‘a problem’ but as a potentially useful means of counterbalancing Scotland’s declining population. The need to ‘punch above our weight’ reveals itself not as a truism but as a little, perhaps, hysterical? Without our UK goggles, social democracy reveals itself not as a pipe dream but as a distinct and perhaps necessary possibility.
Ten years of devolution has meant that in Scotland we’re at least UK bifocal. In England the electorate are not so lucky. I recently spent six months working in London and it astonished me how stunted and depressed the English left has become. Hopelessly adrift, staggering from defeat to defeat, fighting all its battles on the territory reaction. People seem almost unable to imagine it any other way. London is a great city but it’s economic power over these islands is plainly problematic. It bewilders me why the rest of England puts up with the sheer economic and cultural power of London. London skews every aspect of English cultural and economic life. The citizens of Manchester and Newcastle are marginalised in their own polity in a way which would never be tolerated by the citizens of Marseilles or Milan. One would have thought the independence referendum was a chance for everyone in Britain – at least momentarily – to take off the UK Goggles and ask some questions of the status quo. Isn’t it time journalists and commentators in England opened their eyes to the chance? I’m astonished, for example, that The Guardian hasn’t yet covered the inspiring ‘Commonweal’ Project from The Jimmy Reid Foundation. Surely it can’t only be of interest for the left in Scotland. Realism is one thing but to listen to the left in England you’d think the chance to imagine the world as it could be is a gift given to the privileged alone?”
From ‘Why the Debate on Scottish Independence Might Be More Interesting Than You Think?’ Bella Caledonia
“These days, I support the idea of an independent Scotland. It’s with a heavy heart in some ways; I think I’d still sacrifice an independent Scotland for a socialist UK, but… I can’t really see that happening. What I can imagine is England continuing to turn to the right and eventually leaving the EU altogether.
Scotland, though, could have a viable future either as a completely independent country or – more likely – within Europe. The European ideal is taking a battering right now, certainly, and the gloss has come off comparing our prospects to Ireland’s or Iceland’s, but it remains both possible and plausible that Scotland could become a transparent, low-inequality society on the Scandinavian model, with fair, non-regressive taxes, strong unions, a nuclear-free policy, a non-punitive tertiary education system, enlightened social policies in general and long-term support for green energy programmes.
We’d need to make sure our banks were small enough to fail, and there are problems of poverty, ill health and religious tribalism that will take decades to overcome. But with the advantages and attractions that Scotland already has, and, more importantly, taking into account the morale boost, the sheer energisation of a whole people that would come about because we would finally have our destiny at least largely back in our own hands again – I think we could do it.
And that we should.”
From The Observer