‘Scotland is not two tribes. Our views on the constitution are sophisticated and nuanced’
The words “momentous” and “historic” are often devalued by overuse. But they are accurate descriptions of the approaching year in Scotland. When our historians look back on the early 21st century, they will see 2014 as a defining moment in the nation’s long and tousie story. The decision on whether Scotland becomes an independent country or sticks with the United Kingdom will be fought on many levels – economic, cultural, political and emotional. It is a national decision, but at the same time, in the heart and mind of every voter, it is an individual decision too. It will require soul-searching, and this too will be both national and individual. As a country we will ask ourselves what kind of Scotland we want to be. It is the same question individuals ask of themselves in moments of introspection. What kind of person am I? What kind of life do I want for myself? And who should I share it with?
As we head into the new year, much of our public discourse will be taken up with the campaigns being waged by the big Yes and No organisations, as well as the political parties lined up alongside them. This newspaper will report this tussle with all the energy, intelligence and insight we can muster. But we will not be constrained by the binary battle between Yes and No. It is wrong to see this as a black and white contest between Nationalists and Unionists, hope and fear, the Saltire and the Union flag. These are not only misleading simplifications, they are false choices. Scotland is not two tribes. We never have been. As a nation our views on the constitution are sophisticated and nuanced. Only a minority are fully paid-up enthusiasts for the status quo or full sovereignty. By far the majority exists in the middle ground, ambitious for a new Scotland with enhanced powers, but wary of leaving the UK. Much of this group resents having to choose between two extreme views, neither of which represents what they believe. Which is why this newspaper will be particularly focused this coming year on how the Yes and No camps trim and tweak their positions in order to come closer to this mainstream majority view – the one side developing the concept known as Indy Lite and the other developing what has been dubbed Devo Max. This is the battleground of the coming nine months. Only when those manoeuvres are complete will voters – and this newspaper – be able to make up their minds based on all the available evidence.
There is one other imperative in the coming debate. The big campaigns have their job to do, and their cases to prosecute. It is perhaps unreasonable to ask them to contemplate what they would do in the event of their position being defeated. But the same stricture does not apply to the rest of us. We may each have our view, however provisional, on our favoured outcome. But unlike the main campaigns we are sentient individuals who are allowed to hold two thoughts in our heads at the same time. We are each allowed to have a Plan B. In fact, the conduct of this debate will be far more edifying if everyone takes a moment to consider how they will act if their favoured position is defeated. Because if it is a Yes vote, the sinews of every Scot will need to be strained to make that bold project a success. And if it is a No, everybody who wants to see Scotland progress will need to unite and pull together to secure new powers for Holyrood, within the UK. Regardless of the outcome of the vote on 18 September, 2014, we will all have a stake in a common cause to make our nation thrive.
Take your partners
WHAT would Jimmy Shand make of it? Our story today about “disco ceilidhs” in Glasgow, using contemporary rock, pop and electronic music in place of traditional country dance tunes, is a perfect demonstration of how a culture endures by evolving. This imaginative initiative is a development of a trend discernible in Scottish music for decades, of appropriating other musical genres to traditional forms. Runrig did it almost 40 years ago with rock music. The late, great Martyn Bennett did it with electronic dance music in the late 1990s. Elsewhere, bands playing traditional Scottish music have accented their dance tunes with reggae, Latin, ska and African inflections, each of the influences bringing out some subtle new shade in the original. It is a small step from that to traditional dances set to contemporary pop hits. In dance, after all, what matters most is the rhythm and the beat.
Purists need fear not. There will always be Scottish country dance music in its traditional form, whether in the formal precision of Jimmy Shand’s Bluebell Polka or the wild Shetland reels of Aly Bain in full flight. Our culture is robust. It can take from other influences with confidence, whether borrowing them for a short time or assimilating them longer term. You need not fret when you take your partners for Born Slippy.