Monday, 29 June 2009

Will ye no come back again?

Everyone has one or two causes for which they are prepared to appear just a little barmy; I suspect mine is opposing Scottish independence. In this cause I can see myself in years to come, when I've finally given up completely on caring what people think of me, walking up and down Princes Street with a sandwich board, a mad English woman come to defend the Union. Well, not THE Union, actually, but A union, between two countries and, more to the point, between two peoples with a shared history, partners in crime, actually, if you consider the history of the empire, and certainly a shared labour history.

I'm reminded of this by browsing for a holiday that I'm not going to be able to afford time or moneywise and coming upon the Scottish tourist board's Homecoming Scotland 2009 website. To mark the 250th anniversary of Robert Burns' birth, they've come up with a plan to invite the 25 million or so Scottish diaspora to 'come home' and visit Scotland... this year.

The one year I decided to visit Scotland in the summer it was already full-up, and I spent a week in a small room in Glasgow. It was an interesting experience in its own way, but fell disappointingly short of watching sunsets over the Western Isles. I've been back a couple of times since, but only in the cold.

The Homecoming 2009 website promises:
Robert Burns
Great Scottish Minds & Innovations
All rather cliched, though maybe that's what people still want from 'Scotland'. Anyway, this scion of the Scottish diaspora (one of my great-grandmothers was Scottish) is not heading up that way again soon, but if the mood for independence gets stronger who knows?


Michael Follon said...

'...between two countries and, more to the point, between two peoples with a shared history...'

What is the basis of that statement? Compare it to this -

'Equally, the study of English history and the comparative neglect of Scottish history led to the acceptance of the false idea that the two countries share the same historic background. How far this can go was illustrated in 1965, when it was proposed that the seven hundredth anniversary of Simon de Montfort's parliament and the seven hundred and fiftieth anniversary of Magna Carta - both events which took place in what was at the time a foreign country - should be commemorated in Scotland...Scotland's past tends to be viewed through the eyes of English historians, who regard anything not English as quaint, backward or even downright barbarous.'

SOURCE: 'Scotland: The Shaping of a Nation' by Gordon Donaldson, p.117, ISBN 0 7153 6904 0.

Citizen Barnet said...

Thanks, Michael, for your comment. I didn't mean to imply that Scottish history is the same as English history. But English and Scottish histories have clashed, intersected, run parallel and been shared - for the period from 1700 and the British Empire, particularly. British labour history shows many shared experiences.

I have read a little bit about this and mean to read more. In my own lifetime, I know that the labour movement has pulled apart; not just because of devolution (which I support) but because there hasn't been sufficient ideological commitment among English and Scottish socialists to internationalism, in my view. We've been too quick to forget the past (or too lazy to learn it), and too lazy to challenge stereotypes about each other.

In fact, now Scottish socialists such as the Scottish Socialist Party support independence rather uncritically, practically tailing the nationalists. I think this is a bad thing. A friend recently attended an SSP meeting where they debated whether it would be good if the Conservatives won the next election - because it would add impetus to the drive to independence. This to me shows that they have lost their bearings, rather disastrously.

There are lots of reasons for the drifting apart of Scottish and English socialists, one of them is Conservative policies in Scotland, introducing the poll tax there a year before they did in England, for example. At that time, English socialists visited Scotland where their campaign against the poll tax was a great inspiration. Now we live in two different worlds and we are both the poorer for it, I believe.