Every dog in the street knows that Scotland is brewing. In the days after the independence referendum it is clear that the appetite for separation from Great Britain has not gone away. While Alex Salmond is warned by the victorious Westminster alliance in Scotland to sit down, accept the will of the people, and shut up, the desire on the ground for pursuing various options leading to independence shows little sign of settling down. The independence movement has not gone away. It is clear, however, that the movement for separation does not all share a singular vision as to how this aspiration should be realised, and why should it? At the core of these differences are competing ideas of how the world works. On the one hand there are those who accept that the referendum was fair, and that it was lost as a result of the fear spread by the pro-Unionist campaigners in the weeks leading up to the vote. Some of these campaigners see an essentially fair world where the vote was lost, but neither the conversation nor the cause defeated. It makes sense that the strategy here is to adapt to the post-eighteenth realities and work towards another referendum in a few decades or adopt a parliamentary strategy to empower the Scottish government to declare independence unilaterally.
Other, more cynical, campaigners, on the other hand, see darker forces at play in the outcome of the referendum. As a guest writer on this page, it is not the place of this author to state definitively that the vote was rigged by MI5, the CIA or any other shadowy operation, but with over eighty-thousand different people from all over Scotland making complaints to the Electoral Commission it must be at least considered that something was fishy. Those who subscribe to the so-called ‘conspiracy theories’ are being written off, quite unfairly, as ‘nutters’ and ‘sore-losers.’ Perhaps some of them are, but these are ordinary people, and there are simply too many of them now to ignore. They, admittedly like this author, are of a more suspicious disposition towards the relationship between Scotland and Westminster. With the manipulative argument of the pro-Westminster campaign that Scotland relies on financial subsidies from England now exposed as a falsehood, many people are of the opinion that Westminster would not grant Scotland independence under any circumstances. This is not the most trusting attitude in the world, and it must be conceded that it is not entirely without reason. Britain has never in the past found it easy to let nations, which it considers its property, to walk away. Countries that have successfully broken away from the control of Westminster have done so only through great national effort and at a high cost.
So many, certainly from discussions over the internet, insist that this is all history, and that the past has nothing to do with the reality that we are all now living in the twenty-first century. Scots who use the stirring language of the Arbroath Declaration are attacked by fellow Scots, only for it to become clear that the criticism was coming from Scots who were unaware that the Declaration of Arbroath was being quoted. Here is a problem. Few Scots know the text of the declaration. Knowing it is certainly not important for survival, but, like a familiar song, it is one of those things with which we ought to be familiar. It is not an expression of our hatred of the ‘English.’ It is an assertion of our freedom from ‘England.’ Still, when it is quoted, it is shot down by Scots, ignorant of the text, as anti-English. It is nothing of the sort. It is part of the fabric of our common heritage, without which we have less reason now to assert our national right to distinguish ourselves from England or France, or even Vietnam. We are Scottish because of these things, no matter how ancient they are. For the most part we were not taught these things. We may have been told about them, but we were never taught them.
Such historical and cultural poverty is part of this discussion too. As Better Together pulled on the heart strings of the union, with David Cameron even learning how to shed crocodile tears, those in favour of separation were persuaded, often by their own side, to drop their emotional arguments for Scotland. No one is arguing that we must abandon reason and leave the union in a state of emotional collapse, but Scotland is more than just a set of reasons. It is not merely where we all happen to live. It is our home. Of course we can be emotional about it. This emotional Scotland we left at our feet as we swam through the rivers of tears wept by a Britishness that no longer exists even in London. We left it down because it has been cheapened. When, in a world of violence and war, do we see American or Chinese emotions of home cheapened. Only a colony loses its emotional attachment to home.
The other side of this desire for independence is one that is not afraid of our old songs, traditions and stories. It does not understand why they must be excluded from the discussion, especially when it is now attempting to disentangle itself from an ideology that is deeply and powerfully emotional. Have we internalised our subject role to the point that only the loves and memories of our masters, the real human beings, have value and credibility? Are our own less real, less credible? What is a source of strength to us is being taken away from us because it is history, it is old and of no more use. Instead of it giving us resilience it makes us ashamed. We want to appear new, chrome and shining, as though we were made only yesterday. If we insist no selling our history we will forget, and become a people without memory. We will not see the past; our past. We will be beguiled into thinking that Westminster’s refusal to release its captives is a thing of the past. Then we will not notice what is right in front of our eyes. Britain is still a violent state. It still holds on to the people and things that it wants. It is not unreasonable to fear that we will be held even against our will. It may not be true, but it is not unreasonable. A unified independence movement needs to appreciate these two worldviews of Scotland.