Yes to a Richer Future

Illustration by Stewart Bremner
I will vote Yes on 18 September because I am a Scot and want my wonderful multi-ethnic, multilingual mongrel nation to draw on its rampant egalitarian traditions and create a country which the world will regard as a model for progressive social, environmental and political ideals of inclusion, fairness and justice.

That’s all – and within the first decade of independence we will be well on the way to achieving the kind of Scotland we want. “Aye right!” say the naesayers reading this. But so normal and successful will an independent Scotland be that you will become an embarrassed generation of “No deniers”, unable to admit to having voted against the international beacon of progress your nation has become. Instead, your descendants will hear invented tales of their grandparents being among the thousands that life-enhancing day on Calton Hill when visionaries like Margo and Patrick, Alex and Nicola gave us all a glimpse of the benevolent society Scotland has since achieved.

You need not belong to this lost generation of fearties and No deniers, if you join the vast majority of creative Scots and vote positively in September. From the creation of the modern national movement with writers like Hugh MacDiarmid, Eric Linklater, Sorley MacLean and Neil Gunn through to the present day with Liz Lochhead, Janice Galloway, William McIlvanney, James Kelman, Alasdair Gray, James Robertson and countless more, imagination, creativity and artistic brilliance have been at the core of the cause to create a Scotland we are proud to identify with.

One of my favourite people from Scottish history is the inspirational, flamboyant figure of RB Cunninghame Graham who was known as Don Roberto because of his Spanish blood and his gap years as a gaucho in Argentina. He founded the Scottish Labour Party with James Keir Hardie in 1888 and then the National Party of Scotland in 1928. His words are intensely relevant to the present debate: “The enemies of Scottish Nationalism are not the English, for they were ever a great and generous folk, quick to respond when justice calls. Our real enemies are among us, born without imagination.”

One of the problems of Scots not being educated in their own history, art and literature is a debilitating cultural cringe which has developed – the Catalans call the same phenomenon the “slave mentality”. Most people of my generation, for example, were taught to look down on their native languages, be they Scots or Gaelic. MacDiarmid’s great quote “Tae be yersels and tae mak that worth bein/Nae harder job tae mortals has been gien” sums up the dilemma perfectly. It is difficult to be fully and confidently yourself if major cultural institutions like the media or the education system have given little prestige to your culture all your life. Given that, Don Roberto’s description of some Scottish people as “born without imagination” is perhaps harsh. It is though, perfectly apt in describing the career politicians of the Unionist parties, whose main vision has little to do with the welfare of their people, but all to do with an ermine-clad future for themselves as servants of the British state.

A few months ago the House of Lords had what they called a debate on Scottish independence. A clip from it was televised showing Baroness Liddell of Coatdyke obsequiously addressing “the Noble Lord, Lord Lang” and agreeing with his Lordship that Scottish independence would be the end of the world as they knew it – a world of elite privilege and power. Baroness Helen’s contribution was followed by another extremely wealthy scion of the people’s party, Lord Robertson, who suggested that giving political power to the Scottish people would unleash the forces of darkness.

When I hear the increasingly hysterical ranting of Labour placemen, I recall the words of Oliver Brown writing in the Scots Independent on the effects of Winnie Ewing’s breakthrough victory for the SNP in 1967: “A shudder went through the Scottish members of Parliament frantically looking for a spine to run up.”

The anti-Scottish interventions of major Labour figures gars me grue at the scunnersome decline in a pairty my Ayrshire an Fife mining grandfaithers luikit up til aw their days. So like many whose natural political home was the Labour Party, I feel not that I have left the party, but that the party has left me. Only with the radical shake-up of Scottish independence can it return to its core ideals and again become a voice for the Scottish people, rather than the voice of a privileged, self-serving elite. The attitude of genuine socialists to them was summed up perfectly in an interview I did with an ex-miner from Fife, Derrick McGuire. “Talk aboot folk birlin in their graves… Keir Hardie’s should be fitted wi a rev-coonter!”

To me it is significant that many socialists who are no longer dependent on the Labour Party machine for patronage, have come out in favour of independence. More will join them as they hear the positive message of hope and change from people like Dennis Canavan, Jeane Freeman and Alan Grogan of Labour for Independence.

My ideal Scotland is one that is strongly local, proudly national and totally international in outlook – the three are interdependent. In my book The Scottish World, I celebrate the incredible influence we Scots have had in every airt and pairt of the world. Due to the great Scottish tradition of the democratic intellect, the Scottish diaspora was a literate one able to keep records of family history. I have had the privilege of interviewing people like Professor Karol Taylor in Gdansk whose family were merchants to the Polish kings in the 17th century; the grandchildren of Mary Slessor in Calabar; the Jewish children, now elderly ladies, lovingly taught by Jane Haining in Budapest before she was arrested by the Gestapo to die, with her pupils from the Scottish Mission School, in Auschwitz. I have been thrilled to discover that major cultural icons like Grieg in Norway, Kant in Germany, Lermontov in Russia and Faulkner in America were children of the Scottish diaspora and in many cases wrote proudly of their Caledonian connections.

While fascinated by our global reach, I also want our gifted young people to be able to flourish here in Scotland. Too many of us have had to leave Scotland in the past with no choice but to go. I am the father of one daughter, Joanna, who is a lawyer in Brussels; another, Catriona, who works with her Spanish and Portuguese linguistic skills in London; and a son, Euan, who is just back from promoting Russian football in Rio and is on his way back to Moscow. I would love my children to have the choice of living in Scotland or contributing to Scotland in their work abroad. With independence power will be centred in Edinburgh once again and more opportunities created for internationally minded Scots to fulfil themselves here in their homeland.

So, my brither and sister Scots, I appeal to you from whatever social, ethnic or religious background you come from to vote positively for Scotland come September. It is all to do with dignity. You may be comfortable in your dual Scottish and British identity, but for once in your life you have to choose which is most important to you – do you belong to a proud, ancient nation or a quaint and colourful British region? Vote No and you confirm to England and the world your provincial mentality and have to accept the provincial status Scotland will endure from then on. Vote Yes and restore Scotland to the international family of nations she will grace with her presence for evermore.

Comments (18)

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  1. Maggie Craig says:

    Weel said, Billy. I love the quotes from Don Roberto and Oliver Brown, also the comment from Derrick McGuire about Keir Hardie’s grave needing a rev coonter. Aye, what would he have thought of this lot? My father was involved in Labour politics all his life. My only consolation that he died too young was that he didn’t see what Tony Blair et al did to his beloved Labour party.

  2. Nice one Billy. We, who regularly log-on to Bella will acknowledge it and many of us will surely, as I do, wish it could be reprinted for wider reading in the MSM.

    Sadly, this will not happen and I, as a semi-retired journalist, am ashamed of the one-sided coverage the Independence debate is getting by that body.

  3. Beautifully written, and very well said indeed!

  4. David Fullstone says:

    “Too many of us have had to leave Scotland in the past with no choice but to go.” How very true. Past and present facts bear more weight with me than future guesswork and the simple fact is that the South of England keeps all the best jobs and opportunities in the South leaving the North of England and Scotland with just enough to get by. A NO vote can only ensure the existing status quo is maintained. At least a YES vote can give Scotland a chance.

    1. tern says:

      Both Billy and David – how can you possibly write that quote about folks leaving, then vote for the Yes side that wants to take away unrefusable citizenship for the Scots born in exile as those emigrants’ children? They won’t budge from it. Voting No and keeping a united Britain protects the liberty of a whole section of the Scottish nation to live in their homeland. Voting Yes, if the common travel area then breaks down, divides families preventing them from supporting each other against poverty and in time of medical need, and rejects from our country the families of these emigrant Scots who you write about. Abandoning them to the Tories cut off from family support too.

      1. David Fullstone says:

        I was born in Scotland so would be able to move back as would my children. The manifesto appears to be the same as is in place for all countries. The South of England isn’t as blatant as when maggie did her test with Poll tax but the same attitude is still there which is why there is an unbelievable difference in quality of life in the South of England. If bringing some form of balance and removing some of Scotland’s poverty means I’m stuck down here then so be it as Scotland’s future is more important than the needs of all of us who moved South. I’ll just settle for being proud to be Scottish at heart and to coin an analogy – see the wife in this current relationship listen to the social worker and summon up the courage to say no to the beatings. If the no vote goes through well I’ll just listen my English work colleagues laugh even more than they currently do at how crazy we must be to even consider staying. Then you know what will happen it will all go back to the way it normally is where the North of England goes on about how much they dislike the South because they treat them the same as they do Scotland and the South will go back to giving the North abuse for being too thick as they put it to get descent jobs. Hear it all the time but that’s life I suppose if you’re prepared to put up with it.

  5. Bigdavy says:

    Since Winnie’s victory in 1967, we have at various times generated a momentum towards an Independent Scotland. Each time that momentum has receded but each time it has resurged stronger. I’ve got a feeling that this time it’s unstoppable. I am thankful that I have part of the generation which will finally achieve our ambition. Here’s to the best wee country in the world.

  6. Les says:

    Gaun yirsell Billy Kay!

  7. finbar says:

    Geez us a job Jimmy!.

  8. macart763 says:

    Onwards and upwards.

    Good post Billy Kay. 🙂

  9. Great article and one like others have said deserves a much wider audience, more folks need to realize the consequences of a NO vote

  10. David McCann says:

    Well said Billy. I think your book ‘Scottish World’ should be required reading by all who support independence. On second thoughts, it should be read by all those who oppose independence!
    Absolutely fantastic read.

  11. JimnArlene says:

    “A shudder went through the Scottish members of Parliament frantically looking for a spine to run up.” I love that quote. That shudder must still be looking, especially within the unionist ranks.

  12. Alasdair Frew-Bell says:

    an inspirational, excellent thematic distillation of what this all about. the noes simply do not have it.

  13. Pat Cruse says:

    The first paragraph sums it all up for me. A wonderful piece that I wish all naysayers would also read.

  14. Might we add to the pantheon of cultural and political pioneers John Maclean, Ruaraidh Arascain is Mhairr and Wendy Wood? In the steps of these bold, imaginative and sometimes eccentric Scots we stride resolutely forward.

  15. Hello Billy You are spot on. A remember the interview you did in oor house for the BBC. Tell me how do you educate the hard of learning?

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