Monday, July 04, 2005

I'm Jealous Of Independence Day

It's not always easy being a Scot abroad - the worst being when you are mistaken for an Englishman. It's a bit like calling a Georgia man a "Yank".

As a Scotsman living in the U.S. I get the same question every year at this time.

"How do you feel watching us all celebrate our Indpendence Day?"

But few expect the answer.


You see, British history makes the issue a wee bit more complicated than many Americans realise. A substantial portion of the Scottish people regard their own nation as nothing more than one of the last bastions of English colonialism. First in, last out as it were for the English Empire. For several hundred years - since way before your own homeland had even seen a Puritan, let alone a Bill of Rights - the English had a long-term project to conquer and colonise the Scots. They finally succeeded, after success then setback, when the Act of Union which created Great Britain was passed by the Scottish and English parliaments after careful bribery of Scots noblemen with vested interests south of the border.

At the time of the Act of Union in 1707, only around 5,000 Scotsmen had a vote - and they were all rich, many with noble titles and lands in England. That 5,000 were bribed by the English parliament to vote for Union to the tune of what would now be millions. A train of wagons carrying gold made it's way from London to Edinburgh, where the common citizens had to be prevented by soldiers from pitching the whole lot into a lake. Later, Robert Burns was to describe the situation: "We were bought and sold for English gold. Such a parcel of rogues in a nation." Where the 'parcel of rogues' were the bribes Scots elite.

To this day, even with the devolved parliament which the Labour government reluctantly acceeded to in 1997, the Scots are a colony in all but name. Unlike Canada, we are not part of the Commonwealth. England is still in charge of foreign affairs, defense, monetary policy, and some social policy (social security, for example). Rather than a "Prime Minister", Scotland has a "First Minister".

Our flag, the "Lion Rampant" is still illegal. It is still classed as treason to display it and every year Scots go to jail or are heavily fined for displaying it. Instead Scotland is allowed the Saltire, the white cross on a blue field you may be familiar with, which was originally a religious banner not an eblem of nationhood.

We have no national anthem of our own but must instead stand up for "God Save the Queen" which contains lines about hammering rebellious Scots.

The rich oil fields which lie of Scottish coasts were plundered by the English tyrant Thatcher (less Scots voted for her than Kurds for Saddam) to fuel her English tax giveaway and the huge unemployment queues her abysmal policies gave us.

For hundreds of years the Gaelic language was illegal and even now there are now more speakers of it in Canada than there are in Scotland.

Our people were deported wholesale by English landowners and turncoat Scots aristocrats who wanted to line their pockets with the fruits of the people's lands. It was called the Highland Clearances and gave the New World much of it's Scottish influx as the hills were literally emptied. They brought with them their industriousness, wish for equality for all and a fierce hatred of tyranny which became essential parts of the American Dream.

Scots also bled for the English Empire on the field of battle. Throughout the last 300 years, Scots have been 10% of the British population, a third of the army and two thirds of the war casualties. That still holds true in these troubled times.

Yet the Scots gave the West much of the enlightenment which formed the background for the nascent U.S.A. We preferred peaceful politics to armed insurgency and still do. It's taken 300 years but I believe I will live to see Scotland a nation again. A poll by the Scotsman newspaper in 1996 showed that over half of the Scottish populace would prefer an independent Scottish Republic - no Monarch at all. On the Scottish Independence Day, when it finally comes, expect the biggest party the world has ever seen!

So...believe me when I say on your Independence Day - I'm jealous as hell.

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