I have had a decade long love affair with Scotland that is about to come to an end. I have sat on the edge of her entangled politics whilst trying to make one tiny portion of the country better, through my company Thistle & Broom, T&B, to perpetuate her traditional hand skills and unique culture and in providing economic benefit to the talented artisans and craftspeople that make their home within her geopolitical boundaries. My decision comes following the duplicity of an English customer and one of the 80+ year old Fair Isle hand-knitters whose work has only been available through T&B – my disappointment was immense.
My Scots blood is seven generations removed (and like most Americans I am a mutt joined with French, English, Irish, German and Polish heritage). My maternal forebear, carrying the last name of Johnson was a mere scrolling signature of entry into Canada who later migrated to the United States, and who like so many in the 19th century was forced from his Highland lands by greed and famine. I do not self-identify with a specific clan, so I have also never worn a tartan or learned to properly dance a Highland reel (oh, but I do love a man in a kilt). I took my first sips of single malt early in December 2002 when I first stepped upon the sacred ground of ‘home’ and ate haggis six months later on a return to Scottish soil. I once sat with an officer of the Bank of Scotland spouting statistics about loss of jobs, the Diaspora, income disparities between the central belt (running between Edinburgh and Glasgow) and the Highlands, Islands and Borders whereupon he said “why do you know so much about my country?” to which I replied “why do you not?”.
I have ached over nepotism and patronage, smiled sweetly in the face of ridiculous levels of naiveté and been crazy angry over outright lies and swindle perpetuated by people who claimed to support Scotland.
I have been mightily frustrated by the “not-invented-here” mindset, the territorialism of middle level bureaucrats and the mind-numbing aspects of how 1000 years of subjugation can make a population of talented, intelligent people collectively feel like the utterly incompetent bastard cousin (Shaun Moore’s epic Wha’s Like Us? is perfect, do watch the video) – part of the family but looked down upon. What happened to the people who affixed their signatures to the most important piece of diplomatic language ever written, The Declaration of Arbroath?
I have watched as Whitehall consolidated Scottish regiments just as the English banned wearing tartan in 1746, and wept. I have been welcomed into homes across the country, and toasted in pubs where I knew not a soul on entering and left richer with friendships that are as solid as Ben Nevis. I have had a Scottish lover many years my junior who I still cherish and with whom I remain friends. I have enjoyed eating fish and seafood hours out of her clear waters, and drunken my fill from ice cold cascades issued from chasms in solid rock. I have sunk up to my hip in a couple of peat bogs and been grateful for not ever encountering the quick sands found on her Outer Hebrides. I traversed her breadth, and width, logging tens of thousands of miles upon never previously traveled roads and made the last ferries on time in all kinds of weather.
Scotland is a home I didn’t know I had, until after 17 years of subtle messages made it damn clear she was calling me to her. I have invested time, energy and financial resources I was ill equipped to make – and regret not one aspect of having done so. I have learn much – which I now take forward to the benefit of other countries and regions of countries and apply the T&B model. New beginnings. And so, on the eve of the Scottish Referendum where the country I have loved faces new challenges and opportunities herself I have a few things as an outsider that I have refrained from previously expressing.
First, a question to pose – if British Prime Minister David Cameron and President Barack Obama are so certain that Scotland will fail why plead for her to remain part of the union? Why does her independence so threaten the state of the global economy as to expound on this? Why not just let the little country fail? I have a short list of whys and they have nothing to do with altruism toward Scotland’s population and everything to do with greed – Timber, Oil, Natural Gas, Fishing, Wind Power, Tourism, Whisky and Innovation (scroll down, there are astronomical values at stake here). There’s one more thing, when you perpetuate meddling in global affairs using the military for the benefit of “interests abroad” the Trident nuclear missile silos of the United Kingdom are located on the west coast of Scotland at Clyde – the Scots have wanted them gone away for a very long time, and England doesn’t have a place to put the armaments.
At least some of you reading this will understand the history, how Scotland came to be part of the United Kingdom. For those that really don’t understand – allow me.
As for believing a word the English promise the Scots we need only to look to history; earlier today I Tweeted this image, at left, and
Let’s take a lesson from #history on #English ‘promises’ to #Scotland. http://www.thistleandbroom.com/scotland/glen-coe.htm …
For those who appreciate a bit of humour with their hard facts I commend John Oliver (Englishman though he may be) for his explanation of the Scottish Independence vote.
Scotland is where she is today because, very short history lesson, in the 17th century Scots founded the Darien Company to conduct trade – which would have been in competition with England’s East India Company. Aside from the various disasters which befell Darien, from the beginning England was keen to protect its trade monopoly, global expansion and world dominance. With the failure of Darien the bankrupt Scottish aristocracy was offered a bailout – The 1707 Treaty of Union allowed the 1% to maintain their status and lands and essentially sold Scotland cheaply giving over her population and sovereignty to England to the considerable benefit of the latter’s trade, colonialism and war efforts. With that unlikely and largely unwelcome marriage the British monarchy realised 10% of all revenues from Scotland – go back to the Timber, Oil, Natural Gas et al link above and calculate the monies involved on an annual basis to fully comprehend that Scotland has been propping up the UK economy for a great many years (not the other way around as Cameron and company would have the world believe).
Now, least you, dear reader, think that I am a fan of Alex Salmond and the SNP – I am not. I also do not agree with most Scots as they wish (incredibly enough given that the Windsors are not actually the legitimate heirs to the British throne) to have HM Queen Elizabeth continue as their monarch (maybe it’s my being an American?) but it’s particularly frustrating to me given how much land surrounds Balmoral and the other properties owned by the royal family in Scotland and how these would better serve the Scots. Again, an outsiders view.
So, YES (a thousand times yes) I believe that Scotland should be a free and independent nation. I believe that the time of the British Empire is long over yet many upper class English men cling to the vestiges of the historic glory days where trade was really a pretext for pillage and meddling in the sovereignty of other nations (you really must read William Dalrymple to truly understand the history of British classicism, racism, bigotry, entitlement and arrogance that we continue to witness on the global political stage daily). Yes, the ‘natives’ are restless, no doubt that the significant changes (should a Yes vote be realised) will be daunting to overcome (and I have doubts about the managerial, negotiation and diplomatic skills of the SNP), but if you tell people that they will fail there is no greater rallying cry to success (the heist of the Stone of Destiny being a wonderful example, another is Michael Forbes who has tied up Donald Trump for so long). New research shows there is a lot more under the North Sea than the “Better Together” folks would have Scots believe. And yes, it is getting vocal and ugly on the streets of her beautiful cities – this is a divisive, life altering decision for nearly 5 million people.
On the eve of a historic vote for Scottish Independence I am ready to sell Thistle & Broom. To let someone Scottish, I hope, grow the business in ways that truly give Scots the considerable bragging rights they should own because Scotland and her people are truly remarkable. Step out of the shadow and own your destiny Scotland.
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