Ourselves alone

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/9/94/Highland_games_wrestling_2.JPG/320px-Highland_games_wrestling_2.JPGFor as long as a hundred of us remain alive, we shall never consent to submit to the rule of the English. For it is not for riches that we fight, or for honour, but for freedom alone, which no good man loses but with his life.

We can still RISE, NOW, and BE the NATION aGAIN-

The last I imagine belted out raucously by a large group of drunken men, in Brazil, perhaps, if only we had qualified. My eyes get a wee bit moist, though not enough to spill over. This is mine, it speaks to me, for these are my people and my roots, and if it is us against them I am always with Us. Scots.

But then this is mine, too: We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall File:Kelpie 2, Falkirk.jpgfight in the hills; we shall never surrender. I decided to search for “We shall fight them,” and of course this came up first. How could it not? Because we never did consent to submit, we entered a partnership freely, and recently both Prime Minister and Chancellor of the Exchequer were Scots. David Cameron, though English, has Scots antecedents. Tony Blair went to school in Edinburgh. We are stronger, united. This is my country, one country, Chilterns and Grampians, Edinburgh and Manchester.

It is a mean and paltry thing, remembering the one battle that we actually won, seven hundred years ago. Great fun for a day or two, perhaps, but- have we moved on? Just a wee bit? The lives of most Scots would not be greatly different under Edward II of England, or Robert de Bruys, another Norman lord.

Scots consider the Independence referendum with a hard head, and know that even if we could up anchor and sail to the Mediterranean or the Baltic or wherever, it would be a poor bargain. “Better Together”, the campaign to say “No, thanks” surges ahead in the polls. Whether or not we could get back into the EU, that is where we will trade, and despite Cameron’s recent bungling our voice is stronger as a British voice.

I was never more consciousness of foreignness in my country than when cycling south out of Belfast I saw a wayside pulpit reading “No fire escape IN HELL”. The English have a softer Christianity than the Scots, less Reformed. Then again the only bit of Welsh grammar I know is that the imperative is formed by the ending -iwch, the w being a vowel, close to an English oo sound. As Welsh is an official language, signs must be bilingual. On the North Wales coast I saw a sign about dog poo, exhorting owners to “bag it and bin it”, and the translation was “bagiwch a biniwch”.

We transcend our foreignness. I go to a place with a different character when I cross the English border, but it is still my country, and both would be lessened if we called the other foreign. And the Ode to Joy stirs my heart too.

8 thoughts on “Ourselves alone

  1. Excellent, Clare. When I was in school we were taught the Scotland was a separate nation, as was England, but that they were joined together (by force) into a union. True or not, we were told that the Stone of Scone rested under the Queen’s throne as symbol of the union. We were taught that Queen Anne pushed the thing through in 1701, and that the Scots had never lost their sense of identity. SO, we were taught Scottish poems too: “Scots wha hae wi William Wallace bled.” That’s all I remember (oops). Well, it was 10th grade so I was only 15. We learned that the Queen was the only reigning monarch who had two religions. She was Church of England until she crossed the border on the way to Balmoral when she transmogrified into Church of Scotland (Presbyterian, I think, in this country.”


    • Not quite force, and not quite all lovey-dovey, either, but politics. Scotland recovered after the disastrous loss of capital in the Darien colony, England lost a troublesome neighbour to the north. Englishmen in The North Briton complained that the Scots were coming South to rule them. But the Union works, and is good for Scots. Protection for Scottish rights in the Treaty of Union fell in, for example, Greenhalgh v Magistrates of Hamilton, where despite the provision that there would be no appeal to courts in “Westminster Hall”, The House of Lords heard and granted Greenhalgh’s appeal to hold worship in the Church of England manner in a Scottish town.

      Burns was pursuing his own political causes, for his own time:

      By oppression’s woes and pains!
      By your sons in servile chains!
      We will drain our dearest veins,
      But they shall be free!

      Lay the proud usurpers low!
      Tyrants fall in every foe!
      Liberty’s in every blow!—
      Let us do or die!

      Here he is on the American War.


  2. A rather sad post, Clare. I get the feeling from it “why are we at this point?” I follow the referendum in Scotland and see plights for self-determination, or rather, to come ashore rather than swim in a mixed pool where someone else is superior and “we” feel “we are superior”… a mixed bag in Britain, not very different from what Yugoslavia was – one could argue “all is fine” but deep down, it was really not…the mix bag of cultures, histories, ambitions that just wouldn’t close and allow equality in the mix. Cannot say I’m at all informed enough when it comes to Britain… it’ll be interesting in September to see which sentiments or loyalties win in Scotland


    • We are not Croatia, or the Ukraine, or Catalonia. Field Marshall Sir Douglas Haig, commander of British forces in the first world war, was born in Edinburgh to a family which got its wealth from whisky. Catholic Croatia did not fit with Orthodox Serbia, but in 1689 the Scottish Church might have been Episcopalian, like the Church of England, but for two or three principled men in its Episcopal hierarchy.

      I see progress as larger and larger social groups accepting greater and greater diversity. For Scotland that is, joining first the Union then the EU.


      • True, Clare, however on the streets similar seeds to press on…a Cannes award winning movie in 1999 “Beautiful People” by Jasmin Dizdar, set and produced in London carries something very interesting – Britons and three nations that were in Yugoslavia try to come to terms with the fast changing world of the nineties, they gradually realize they share similar life crises and dreams … Tito was a Croat and headed the Yugoslav army, the “union” if you like, religion was not an issue because communism simply did not tolerate the practicing of faith … both Catholic and Orthodox are Christian churches in essence but it was the history, the tradition and the dreams that differed etc…it is interesting though that after so many hundreds of years there are still seeds that led to the referendum plans in Scotland…so one needs to think about why…and regardless of whether the referendum passes or not that seed won’t go away easily…true people are accepting of greater diversity and multiculturalism and the need to live together but one somehow gets the feeling that a prerequisite to live together with others one needs to feel one’s own identity distinctly?


        • Part of it is that the best politicians of other parties go to London, but the Nationalists stay in Edinburgh. Alex Salmond is a great politician, running a minority government then winning a majority in a proportional electoral system.


  3. I still think it’s our only chance on the horizon of shaking up our shockingly archaic, stale and undemocratic political system. The nationalism nonsense is irrelevant. Bye bye first past the post, bye bye inherited monarchy, bye bye crusty upper house of appointed brown-nosers. Hello representation. It would force the rest of the UK to do something similar. … Well, except for the fact that independent Scotland WOULD KEEP THE MONARCHY, choke.


    • It would reduce the tax base for British armed intervention in foreign parts, and leave the English nuclear deterrent in a foreign base. There are advantages in shaking up our military, too. But on representation, I feel England would carry on in the same way, dragging Wales and Northern Ireland with it.

      I liked the idea that if we could persuade the Republic to rejoin, together Irish Scots and Welsh could sit on the English so they did not have it all their own way so much.


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