Friday, 19 September 2014

There's a River Crossed

Inverness Ness Footbridge 15760.JPG

Well, it's happened.

The outcome was exactly as I guessed, though it doesn't bring me any satisfaction. As a Canadian, I'm too familiar with separation referenda. It's difficult to get folk to secede from what they've known, unless they're being rousted out of bed by soldiers, imprisoned, and tortured. (Hello, Ireland!) But it's like the Scots to be game for a go on pure conviction; the fact that the nation was up to it speaks volumes. Too bad I couldn't be there; as I understand it, Canadian residents were invited to vote.

I'm impressed by the lack of newsreader second-guessing, constant updates on "who's winning", exit interviews, and the whole democracy-negating circus we North Americans put up with. Scottish voters were left in peace to make their choice. "Envy" doesn't begin to cover it.

Nor has the Scottish initiative been as cruel and hateful as Québec's was in 1995, an experience that left both sides so traumatised, still twenty years later, that the PQ have never been able to muster the political will to try it again. The SNP have promised they won't hold the nation and Union hostage to endless rematches in the coming years, and I heartily recommend that Yes cleave to this pledge. Trust me, it's brought nothing but damage and stagnation to Québec. (And I say this as a Québec nationalist.)

I was particularly struck, while avidly following the news from home via livestreamed radio, by the Yes movement's welter of voices: Irish; Australian; Canadian; English of many stripes; and a Babel of accents from non-English-speaking countries. One Yes organiser I heard on Radio Scotland was a Pakistani Muslim; another on the Scottish Independence Podcast was American. So proud am I of my father's people, that I've been irritating my Facebook friends with it even more than usual. (By the way, the most in-depth coverage I found consistently came from BBC 4; better than any Scottish station, in fact. Somewhere in there is reason to be thankful this happened in the UK, and not somewhere else.)

Any road. As we launch into the next phase of our history, let's get something straight: the Yes loss is a giant win for the Union, which stood to lose not merely a large part of its people, but the best one. The Scots are a people of the future, who can't be trammelled by broken-down notions of nationhood and justice. This train is steaming forward. It's get on or get left.

Indeed, any who may gloat at the SNP defeat may have cause to wish we'd gone after all by the time we're done. As my father said forty years ago: "The world isn't ready for an independent Scotland." Nor, I suspect, are many within the Union ready for the renewed, activist nation that Scotland has become. Show me another nationalist movement, anywhere, that speaks in so many accents, and I'll recant.

Aye, UKIP. I'm talking to you.

So, best to Scotland for the future, near and far. And all those promises we heard before the referendum, all the things Westminster was going to do, if only Scots voted No? Well, it's happened now, hasn't it?

So it's time for a reckoning. Or raise hell if they don't.

(Photo of Ness Footbridge, in my old hometown of Inverness, courtesy of Hartmut Josi Bennöhr and Wikimedia Commons.)
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