COME on Scotland!

“...push the boat out, whatever the sea

Who says we cannot guide ourselves

through the boiling reefs, black as they are...”

EDWIN Morgan, the first Poet Laureate of Glasgow, and also of Scotland, bequeathed £1 million to the cause of Scotland’s independence. His poetry is also a precious legacy of self-knowledge: he reminds us of our history, both proud and difficult, and urges us to move into our future with courage, determination, love and empathy for the world around us – especially our fellow mortals – from hyenas, wolves, rhinos and gangsters, to joyful family shoppers in Glasgow’s Christmas streets.

“Yes!” Morgan would tell us now. “Yes, it might be ‘hard to go’, but ‘let’s go!’ – because we can do it, because the adventure of Scotland’s great chance will give us all the hope and motivation we need to make it work.” Morgan believed in Scotland, in our people – and in our future as an independent nation.

The National:

In the first place, independence is our chance to heal some of the wrongs of history – ancient and modern; in the second, remembering hard lessons from that history, independence is the starting gun to Scotland’s future in a world that has drastically changed since September 2014.

We will be joining the battle to save Planet Earth from the lethal effects of corporate greed, corruption, toxic pollution and global warming. To prevent mass extinctions; to answer desperate human migration with compassion and positive pragmatism, Scotland can and will be an inspiration and leader. Our independence will offer the chance of a better future to everyone in the British Isles. The twin disasters of Brexit and Covid have horribly demonstrated that the so-called “United Kingdom” has developed key symptoms of a failing state.

No matter how much anachronistic pomp accompanies the golden coach, how much ermine, how many swords and black tights decorate the premises, Westminster has descended into blatant corruption at the highest levels of government: executive contempt for parliament and the law itself; dislocation from the electorate; expedient and devious power grabs; lethal incompetence; fragmentation of society, racism and dangerous blame culture. All this – and huge investment in propaganda to distract us, the rumbling masses, into acquiescence.

David Edgerton (below), Professor of History at King’s College, London, recently argued that: “England needs to liberate itself from the Anglo-UK state just as much as Scotland [does].” He claimed the break-up of the UK would help England to establish “a new democratic settlement” and “a new political class”.

The National: David Edgerton.

Yes indeed, Scotland’s independence will surely galvanise England into reforming Westminster, still strait-jacketed by outdated conventions and a ridiculous class system that continually – and terrifyingly – processes smoothly polished, plausible fools to positions of power; it can help to bring England a new, meaningful parliament. That change is long overdue.

Meanwhile, in stark contrast to the racism of Brexit and other vicious Westminster policies such as the “hostile environment” and the “rape clause”, the unanimous decision of our Holyrood Parliament to adopt the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child – challenged in the Supreme Court by the UK Government – is proof that the people of Scotland already expect their government to act as if we are “in the early days of a better nation”. If independence is a process, we are already on our way.

“Learn from history – or you will repeat mistakes!” urged an old Unionist. It is, nevertheless, easy to understand the recent appalling attempt by frightened Tories and right-wing “think tanks” to control the teaching of Scotland’s history in our schools – without any help from Mel Gibson, textbooks show that the past 1300 years in Scotland have been dominated by our dangerously acquisitive, fearful and aggressive neighbour. Tories are quite right to fear our young people’s reaction to injustice and oppression – but burning their books won’t preserve a rotten state. Everyone in Scotland has the right to know why we are where we are.

I learned some more about Scotland’s constitutional status in the 1970s when I was handed a government document which explained that a Galloway hill, Mullwharchar, had been chosen as the UK high-level nuclear waste dump – not because the granite there was more suitable than anywhere else, but because the communities nearby were “small, remote and unsophisticated” and “unlikely to protest successfully”.

Mullwharchar was saved only by a strong earthquake that those same 1970s Westminster special advisers had predicted would never happen. Galloway learned exactly what Westminster thought about our hills – and our communities.

Since then there have been many similar examples, each one demonstrating that Scotland is at the mercy of a system which ignores or changes the rules, from planning to the constitution, simply to impose its will. We were subjected to the poll tax while our steel and shipbuilding industries were destroyed. Westminster attempted to circumvent the international London Dumping Convention ban on dumping nuclear waste at sea – by dumping it in Scottish territorial waters instead. Scotland was handed over to Nato as the only live bombing range for war games in Europe.

Forty years ago, however, another powerful constitutional lesson came from the people of Orkney. In the 1970s, they had had to fight against a uranium mine which would have destroyed their West Mainland. The UK Government openly acknowledged the inevitable destruction but – true to form – ordered that the mine should proceed in what they called “the national interest”. Orkney was saved only by an unexpected world glut of uranium.

Three years later, a new threat arrived: an experimental nuclear reprocessing plant at Dounreay. Westminster MPs made requisite gestures of concern but disingenuously urged adherence to the UK planning system. Anticipating that, as before, London would ignore their protests and proceed in the “national interest”, Orkney – with Shetland’s help – made a direct appeal to Norway, the Faroe Islands and Denmark – they used their history to protect their future.

We will never be allowed to know the full extent of the interventions. However, while the UK Government followed the usual course of ignoring local protest, those independent Scandinavian governments repeatedly expressed concern within the EU and in other international forums. Shortly afterwards, despite the UK determination to press on, the reprocessing experiment – dependent on European support – was unexpectedly cancelled.

The lesson for Scotland was, and is, crystal clear: be like Norway – independent since 1905.

As Brexit drives us into a future that the Scottish electorate vehemently rejected, that Orcadian history lesson seems even more striking. I have absolutely no doubt that Scotland is now regarded as the very last colony – to be exploited by a desperate British establishment.

We are, at one and the same time, an inconvenience, with rebellious characters protesting against, for instance, London’s racist immigration policies, and also a vital convenience, not just as a “remote empty space” for nuclear weapon silos and rotting nuclear submarines, but also as the last milch cow.

The Clair oilfield – and our other natural resources – are about to be consumed by the voracious appetite of the otherwise bankrupt, post-Brexit, post-Covid Westminster government, fantasising, still looking around for a servile empire that escaped long ago.

The National: Greta Thunberg

The Greta Thunberg generation demands that climate change, pollution and bio-diversity are made global priorities. Their concerns are not new: 50 years ago, when EF Schumacher published “Small Is Beautiful” – his diatribe against mass consumption and destruction of natural resources – he also pleaded for thrift and conservation.

Scotland’s history shows a traditional understanding of the need to travel lightly on the Earth, taking what we need, respecting nature, leaving it fit to nurture others once we are gone.

The starkest example I know is the story of our black puddings – part of the same 1960s colourful primary school history lessons that provided youngsters with such a vivid grasp of time, causes, events – and justice. Because, we were told, Scotland’s people were too poor to kill their beasts for meat, they bled them instead and mixed the blood with oatmeal and spices. The family was fed and the animals lived on to feed them again.

A very beautiful, poignant version of the same philosophy is found in the gentle song Travellers Trade written by Ian MacGregor, the grandson of a Scottish Traveller and pearl fisherman. He urges us to take only what we need, “with thoughts of fellow man, and all forms of life whose right is tae survive”.

So, while Westminster wallows in arguments about sausages and signs up to more trade deals that are disastrous for Scottish farming, we can adapt, as our ancestors did, to the new circumstances – perhaps, for example, with imaginative diversification from killing young lambs to massive investment in wool production, product innovation and education.

It makes sense. Scientists are advising the world to consume less meat, to produce and discard no more microfibres and plastics to the oceans. Scotland’s hill farmers already offer the sustainable alternative: wool for insulation; for duvets; for carpets and rugs; for blankets. Wool is even now being used as a successful absorbent in major oil spills.

Our Scottish wools are already known throughout the world – Shetland, Soay, North Ronaldsay, Harris, Fair Isle: the re-instatement of beautiful Paisley shawls is another possibility. We have our patterns and brands – our new ideas, with more to follow once we are free to try.

The National: A view of Fair Isle taken from a Loganair plane. Picture: Jamie Simpson/Newsquest

Independence will give us our first chance to know the truth about rest of our economy – currently obscured by Westminster calculations about everything from origin of exports to allocation of taxes and tariffs and liabilities. To those who want our youngsters to believe that we are too wee and too poor to survive on our own resources, I would recite such a long, long list of these precious, sustainable resources, from electricity to food (and water), and remind them that they are shared among only 5.5 million people.

And when we are asked about currency, we should surely answer that whatever currency we choose to use will be backed up by those economic surpluses of food, electricity and sustainable natural resources, including our huge fishing grounds. In the past 120 years, Norway, Finland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are just a few of the many European countries who have become independent, established new currencies and prospered: none of them started off with such natural wealth. And if we are asked about how we should protect our currency, we can refer again to history: Scotland will treat corrupt gamblers and bankers – and their systems – with the same effective resolution that Iceland (population 344,000) showed in 2015.

With independence, another dramatic, positive change will surely be in transport and international trade. Remembering our historic links with Flanders and Baltic ports, Scotland can choose to look, again, directly to Ireland, Scandinavia and Europe – rather than the current bottleneck strangulation (and demoralising disguise of our national exports) via the M6, to the Kent lorry parks, Brexit bureaucracy and Dover.

Just as “people make Glasgow”, so immigrants have made Scotland – over thousands of years. Celts, Picts, Scots, Vikings, British, Flemish, Irish, French, Polish, Italians, Chinese, Indians, Pakistanis: we are indeed all Jock Tamson’s Bairns and we are all – as somebody from Kenmure Street posted – “fae somewhere”.

Google “Bhangra Scottish Dancers” and you can watch a stunning combination of Sikh and Scottish Highland dancers performing together – to the same music! And in my opinion, the most wonderful, powerful moment in the marches for independence has always been when the St George’s Flag comes by, with “English Scots for Yes” emblazoned across.

The National: The Upper Clyde Shipyard shop stewards, Jimmy Reid and Bob Dickie, speaking to reporters at the shipyard in Glasgow, 1971.

OUR people will make independence work for Scotland. Fifty years ago, in his rectorial address to Glasgow University, Jimmy Reid famously promised that “the untapped resources of the North Sea are as nothing compared to the untapped resources of our people”.

His words are echoed in our songs, music and poetry; they reflect our love of Scotland’s land and sea, our hearty irreverence for “highness” and “mightiness” and our readiness to challenge the powerful and corrupt when necessary. Wherever we are “from”, everyone who witnesses Scotland’s reinstatement as one of the oldest independent nations in the world will have the best reason to try.

Like Schumacher and Edwin Morgan, Jimmy Reid also pleaded against the ruthless anonymity of a rat-race society; for recognition and fulfilment for every human being – and reminded us of another Scottish instinct that still, despite those 300 years of contradictory rule, survives. On May 13, in Kenmure Street, Glasgow, ordinary people showed – gloriously – that, in our Scotland:

“...a the bairns of Adam

Can find breid, barley-bree and painted room”

Therefore, since our history and continuing experiences teach us repeatedly that Scotland is a very different nation, we simply cannot afford to be over-ruled by inappropriate policies – designed by Westminster, for the needs of England. We can – and will – do better. It might, sometimes, still seem “hard to go”, but we are, indeed, going to do this – for Scotland, for England, and for the rest of the world:

“Why should we idly waste our time

Repeating our oppressions?

“ ...Tomorrow we

Shall don the Cap of Libertie!”