OUR bodies believe what we tell them. So, too, does Scotland, and for centuries the messages she has received about herself – certainly from our close neighbour – have profoundly affected our national psyche.

What do I mean by psyche? I see it as Scotland’s inner workings in relation to herself. It includes her soul, her spirit, her ego. Where does one end and the other begin? In my opinion, they interweave and, in Scotland’s case, we are left with something that resembles the back of a tapestry. Instead of the glory that is shown outwardly, the back is a tangle of broken, knotted threads.

Who among us truly knows our own history and how we came to be this way? Who among us knows all the words to Auld Lang Syne, the Burns song that the world sings to herald in the start of every new year? Scotland is celebrated more by others than by herself.

This may appear a strange beginning to an essay I have been invited to call “Why should Scotland be independent?”. I refuse to answer that question as I believe there is a missing word. That word is “again”.

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Words are important, because they count. They cannot be withdrawn and, in Scotland’s case, the myths created by words about our nation have been repeated so often that I fear the indoctrination of inadequacy has been absorbed. It is incremental, almost indiscernible. It is also very powerful and potent.

This porousness is not necessarily something of which we are conscious because for Scots living in Scotland it is part of who we are. Where did, for instance, the mantra “Too wee, too poor and too stupid” originate from? I presume it was from someone who is not a Scot, but equally, it might have been created by one of our own.

Despite all the badges and T-shirts denying and disputing it, the irony is we should not be having to. None of the three statements is true and yet how often do we hear this belief repeated when folk are interviewed by television journalists? “I don’t think we could survive on our own,” is an often-heard response. Our souls are more used to being starved and criticised than nurtured, encouraged and affirmed. We feel subjugated to our core, because we are.

Back to my original point – our bodies believe what we tell them. My argument is that until Scotland believes in herself, we will not again be independent. Returning to those three aforementioned apparent inadequacies, where is the evidence to prove them? Rather, there is the opposite, but the vast majority of Scots who live in Scotland are totally oblivious to the truth about their nation’s potential to make it on its own. They have no concept of Scotland without shackles.

I have read The Wee Blue Book, The Wee Black Book, and Scotland The Brief, and the endless, evidenced proofs are mindblowing. I am not going to repeat any of the statistics, facts or figures that these Scottish “bibles” contain. Anyone can read them and others, with a different kind of brain from mine, will be able to retain, repeat and use these glorious facts to answer the Yessay’s question. That is not my mission here.

I am more interested in considering Scotland’s self-esteem. Because of what we have been told all our lives, I see an echo with Hans Christian Andersen’s Ugly Duckling. I am sure readers are familiar with this tale. The “duckling” was told he was ugly by the big ducks who surrounded him when he hatched.

For him, the grown-up ducks were the authority figures. We believe what we are told. In the “duckling’s” case, he was told he was ugly and, because of how he looked, that he did not belong. He went away to be alone from the menacing ducks. He wept into a pond and his tears created ripples in the water. The ripples distorted his image and confirmed to him that he was indeed ugly. He was already convinced of this “truth” because of what he had been told since his birth. But then the swans flew over and, when spotting the desolate “duckling”, told him he was beautiful. He was not an ugly duckling at all. He was a swan.

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Like him, Scotland has been told in so many ugly and obscene ways how deficient she is, and in this way, I see parallels to the “duckling”. The messages are constant, relentless, daily. They are in the headlines, emblazoned in four-inch letters, and permeate our living-rooms through our television screens. They are powerful as well as insidious. They are subtle yet blatant. They do not relate to the truth and yet they have become Scotland’s truth in the most menacing and dangerous way.

IF we are not patronised we are demonised. We are exploited and neglected. We are ignored and taken for granted. We are abused until we are in danger of being lost. Until we grow up, mature and own the skin in which we live, we will be trashed.

But it is tough to believe in yourself when you are the victim of so many broken promises. To value oneself, one needs to experience being valued. We are more familiar, by far, with being treated with disdain and contempt. We wear servitude more comfortably than self-belief. Scotland truly struggles to feel proud of herself and pride in herself.

No wonder Scotland’s collective self-esteem struggles. We are put down, insulted, belittled, humiliated, derided and ridiculed every day in the “Mother of Parliaments”. Our accents give rise to guffaws. There is a licence to mock. We are the butt of jokes that perpetuate the stereotypes.

Our history is taunted. Our culture is ridiculed. No other “democratic” nation has to publicly withstand such derogatory abuse on a daily basis. What other people have racist and despicable language published about them in national newspapers?

There are defamatory things written and said about Scotland and the Scots. Have we become immune? Resigned? Do we believe, as I said at the start, what we are told? Why are we so apparently reluctant to publicly challenge those who slight and attack us? We have a right to question reckless, unethical and dangerous policies, but we will not be heeded or heard, for we are “only” Scottish. And we will remain “only” as long as we are powerless, which is our current status in the Union.

In my opinion, Scotland is caught in a bitter and cruel cycle. Until we unagree, which goes so much deeper than disagreeing, we cannot be independent again. I said earlier that words are important. That was an understatement. They are in fact vital, as they empower. They give voice to, and make us feel, I think, less helpless.

Without them we are disenfranchised, which is one of the most cruel of human conditions. At worst it dehumanises. It causes us to lose part of what is crucial to the human condition. Currently Scotland is shackled to a union that offers very little genuine respect, but more crucially, often no hope.

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Let me return to my main argument – that we believe what we are told, and therefore the power, at so many levels, that words have.

Several years ago, pre-pandemic, when I was marching with many others in Ayr. I was distributing small stones which I had adorned, in a very primitive way, with that all-important word “Yes”. A wee girl accepted one with joy and I asked her what the magic word was.

Clearly there were words, to this campaigner of the future that were more important than “thank you”! “Yes”, she said triumphantly.

I shook my head. “Independence”, she yelled, only to receive the same non-verbal response from me.

Finally, in desperation, she shouted “Freedom”, and raised her small fists to the bluest of skies, that only Scotland can produce. The skies of our Saltire. The skies that do indeed speak of freedom. Her unwavering belief in, and mastery of what Scotland needs, has been indelibly etched in my memory.

Thank you, my small friend, for helping me appreciate which words are most important for our beloved land’s soul. Scotland is all too ready to say “thank you”, and not nearly ready enough to say “no thanks, not in my name”.

Be it a despicable immigration policy, the travesty of Brexit, the immoral weapon of mass destruction that is Trident, the arm sales to war-mongering regimes, the cruel cuts to foreign aid, the poverty levels necessitating banks for food and school uniforms, the injustice of European citizens fearing for their own rights and the rights of their children. Thousands of EU nationals potentially and callously stripped of their access to work, healthcare and homes.

Indeed, as I write this, the Scottish Parliament is being challenged by the Westminster Government in the Supreme Court, as to whether it has overstepped its powers by voting unanimously to incorporate the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child into Scots law.

This reeks of the abuse of power, subservience, permission, all things most hideous, dangerous and alien to a nation needing to believe in herself. Scotland’s politicians have spoken out against these toxic policies but, like so many of the battles we have fought for centuries, it has been to no avail. We are subjected to them by the government of another nation. This is why we should be independent again.

SCOTLAND argues with herself, we argue against ourselves, and we believe what we are told, to the extent that we repeat it to each other, re-tell the lies, and re-indoctrinate the vulnerably susceptible.

Scotland’s body is struggling, but so too is her mind, her brain, her soul, her spirit, and as I said earlier, her psyche. When Scotland believes in herself she behaves differently and it is infectious. It inspires. We become the tapestry.

Throughout the summer of 2014, Scotland sent a message to the world. She became bigger than herself. The world watched and listened. Journalists from afar filled the scaffolding towers outside Holyrood. Millions of us dared to believe in our nation’s ability to self-govern. Scotland’s potential autonomy was in the airwaves. The energy and enthusiasm were palpable. Like Obama before us, the message seemed to be “Yes we can”.

The word “Yes” took on a new significance. Humans, dogs, including Greyfriars Bobby, traffic lights, beaches, even the Edinburgh Castle rock, wore it. More critically, Scotland believed what those three letters meant. Cars hooted to each other in acknowledgement of their Yes stickers. “I spy” took on a whole new dimension.

It was not to be, but the movement that was created by the word Yes has never died. We have not quite retreated. There is a flicker in the seeds lying dormant which just needs to be ignited.

As a result of Scotland’s quest for freedom, Europe understood much more clearly the disaster of Brexit. The 2014 referendum shed light on the one of 2016. Europeans “got” Scotland in a way that had never before been politically appreciated.

The democratic deficit inflicted on our nation, by another nation, was clearly evident and understood, and it was deeply shocking. We were going to be robbed of half-a-century of shared freedoms, histories, cultures and European riches, and there was nothing we could do. This was beyond callous.

When Scotland believes, it is powerful, profound and inspiring. Three particularly public moments of our nation’s self-belief stand out for me.

The election of 2015, so soon after the independence referendum, sent an extraordinary message of intent. All bar three MPs heading to Westminster were from the Scottish National Party. Scotland had spoken.

When Ian Blackford marched all his SNP colleagues out of Westminster, the media was forced to report it, when so often we are sidelined. For once we had not lain down and the resultant thousands who joined the SNP was, I believe, because Scots respond when Scots demand respect. It woke up the vaguely committed. The message was that we were demanding to be treated differently.

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When David Sole led the Scotland rugby team out of the tunnel at Murrayfield in 1990 he walked, instead of the usual run. Scotland took a deep breath into itself. From that moment we were always going to beat the Auld Enemy. That historic victory was all about defiance, refusing to be lesser, and most of all, it was about believing.

When Scotland behaves as if it believes in herself, she wins, she succeeds. What we need to learn most urgently, is how to do that consistently, day in, day out, until we believe what we are told. Then, and only then, will we not be bound, or subject to another, not dependent on another, and free from control. We would be independent again.

Scotland should be independent to prove to herself that she should be independent again.