Scottish independence will bring equality and opportunity to the forefront in Scotland, according to Billy Kay
I will vote Yes on 18 September because I am a Scot and want my wonderful multi-ethnic, multilingual mongrel nation to draw on its rampant egalitarian traditions and create a country which the world will regard as a model for progressive social, environmental and political ideals of inclusion, fairness and justice.
That’s all – and within the first decade of independence we will be well on the way to achieving the kind of Scotland we want. “Aye right!” say the naesayers reading this. But so normal and successful will an independent Scotland be that you will become an embarrassed generation of “No deniers”, unable to admit to having voted against the international beacon of progress your nation has become. Instead, your descendants will hear invented tales of their grandparents being among the thousands that life-enhancing day on Calton Hill when visionaries like Margo and Patrick, Alex and Nicola gave us all a glimpse of the benevolent society Scotland has since achieved.
You need not belong to this lost generation of fearties and No deniers, if you join the vast majority of creative Scots and vote positively in September. From the creation of the modern national movement with writers like Hugh MacDiarmid, Eric Linklater, Sorley MacLean and Neil Gunn through to the present day with Liz Lochhead, Janice Galloway, William McIlvanney, James Kelman, Alasdair Gray, James Robertson and countless more, imagination, creativity and artistic brilliance have been at the core of the cause to create a Scotland we are proud to identify with.
One of my favourite people from Scottish history is the inspirational, flamboyant figure of RB Cunninghame Graham who was known as Don Roberto because of his Spanish blood and his gap years as a gaucho in Argentina. He founded the Scottish Labour Party with James Keir Hardie in 1888 and then the National Party of Scotland in 1928. His words are intensely relevant to the present debate: “The enemies of Scottish Nationalism are not the English, for they were ever a great and generous folk, quick to respond when justice calls. Our real enemies are among us, born without imagination.”
One of the problems of Scots not being educated in their own history, art and literature is a debilitating cultural cringe which has developed – the Catalans call the same phenomenon the “slave mentality”. Most people of my generation, for example, were taught to look down on their native languages, be they Scots or Gaelic. MacDiarmid’s great quote “Tae be yersels and tae mak that worth bein/Nae harder job tae mortals has been gien” sums up the dilemma perfectly. It is difficult to be fully and confidently yourself if major cultural institutions like the media or the education system have given little prestige to your culture all your life. Given that, Don Roberto’s description of some Scottish people as “born without imagination” is perhaps harsh. It is though, perfectly apt in describing the career politicians of the Unionist parties, whose main vision has little to do with the welfare of their people, but all to do with an ermine-clad future for themselves as servants of the British state.
A few months ago the House of Lords had what they called a debate on Scottish independence. A clip from it was televised showing Baroness Liddell of Coatdyke obsequiously addressing “the Noble Lord, Lord Lang” and agreeing with his Lordship that Scottish independence would be the end of the world as they knew it – a world of elite privilege and power. Baroness Helen’s contribution was followed by another extremely wealthy scion of the people’s party, Lord Robertson, who suggested that giving political power to the Scottish people would unleash the forces of darkness.
When I hear the increasingly hysterical ranting of Labour placemen, I recall the words of Oliver Brown writing in the Scots Independent on the effects of Winnie Ewing’s breakthrough victory for the SNP in 1967: “A shudder went through the Scottish members of Parliament frantically looking for a spine to run up.”
The anti-Scottish interventions of major Labour figures gars me grue at the scunnersome decline in a pairty my Ayrshire an Fife mining grandfaithers luikit up til aw their days. So like many whose natural political home was the Labour Party, I feel not that I have left the party, but that the party has left me. Only with the radical shake-up of Scottish independence can it return to its core ideals and again become a voice for the Scottish people, rather than the voice of a privileged, self-serving elite. The attitude of genuine socialists to them was summed up perfectly in an interview I did with an ex-miner from Fife, Derrick McGuire. “Talk aboot folk birlin in their graves… Keir Hardie’s should be fitted wi a rev-coonter!”
To me it is significant that many socialists who are no longer dependent on the Labour Party machine for patronage, have come out in favour of independence. More will join them as they hear the positive message of hope and change from people like Dennis Canavan, Jeane Freeman and Alan Grogan of Labour for Independence.
My ideal Scotland is one that is strongly local, proudly national and totally international in outlook – the three are interdependent. In my book The Scottish World, I celebrate the incredible influence we Scots have had in every airt and pairt of the world. Due to the great Scottish tradition of the democratic intellect, the Scottish diaspora was a literate one able to keep records of family history. I have had the privilege of interviewing people like Professor Karol Taylor in Gdansk whose family were merchants to the Polish kings in the 17th century; the grandchildren of Mary Slessor in Calabar; the Jewish children, now elderly ladies, lovingly taught by Jane Haining in Budapest before she was arrested by the Gestapo to die, with her pupils from the Scottish Mission School, in Auschwitz. I have been thrilled to discover that major cultural icons like Grieg in Norway, Kant in Germany, Lermontov in Russia and Faulkner in America were children of the Scottish diaspora and in many cases wrote proudly of their Caledonian connections.
While fascinated by our global reach, I also want our gifted young people to be able to flourish here in Scotland. Too many of us have had to leave Scotland in the past with no choice but to go. I am the father of one daughter, Joanna, who is a lawyer in Brussels; another, Catriona, who works with her Spanish and Portuguese linguistic skills in London; and a son, Euan, who is just back from promoting Russian football in Rio and is on his way back to Moscow. I would love my children to have the choice of living in Scotland or contributing to Scotland in their work abroad. With independence power will be centred in Edinburgh once again and more opportunities created for internationally minded Scots to fulfil themselves here in their homeland.
So, my brither and sister Scots, I appeal to you from whatever social, ethnic or religious background you come from to vote positively for Scotland come September. It is all to do with dignity. You may be comfortable in your dual Scottish and British identity, but for once in your life you have to choose which is most important to you – do you belong to a proud, ancient nation or a quaint and colourful British region? Vote No and you confirm to England and the world your provincial mentality and have to accept the provincial status Scotland will endure from then on. Vote Yes and restore Scotland to the international family of nations she will grace with her presence for evermore.
• Billy Kay is the author of Scots: The Mither Tongue, The Scottish World and co-author of Knee Deep in Claret. www.billykay.co.uk