As a typical ex-Northern Brit, with the blood of Saxon and Norse invaders still traceable and ambling through my ancient veins, I always felt a touch of gratitude to my coalmining grandfather for adding a little extra colour to the mongrel mixture.
He had the sense to court and marry a lass, not from the sooty Northumbrian pit village in which he lived, but instead, he chose his bride from the Henderson clan, just north of the border.
I felt comfortable knowing I was part Scots, because the more I learned about their culture, legends and native resilience, the more determined I became to put boots on the ground and see the lowlands and highlands for myself. I found a glorious country, with a unique history and a fascinating mix of language, pride and sense of self.
So a little while ago, I watched with mounting apprehension the events leading to their secession referendum. The future of their homeland was at stake. A "yes" vote would have created an independent nation, foreign to England, Wales and Ulster and the unique 300-year-old union of the United Kingdom would have become history. It was close. As Canadians enjoying an independent society, we can understand and sympathize with those Scots who wish to free themselves from what they honestly believe is an English yoke. Even though its weight is light, the mere hint of control from elsewhere is anathema to their national pride. They perceive an historic
wrong and this was their opportunity to set it to rights, and to do it at whatever cost.
The separatists ran a canny campaign and played on the traditional Scottish loathing of the Conservative party and the current Tory rule in Westminster. And I’m sure that this scenario reminded many of us of Quebec’s efforts in 1980 and again in 1995 to adopt similar tactics to win independence by referendum. Those were both hard-fought unity battles and as in Scotland, the losers were promised greater autonomy. A key devolution for Quebecers was the vow to recognize their province as a distinct society.
That promise was never kept. This disappointment is one of the reasons their sovereignty cause continues to simmer. But it no longer flourishes like it used to. That’s why some of the leading lights in the movement, still totally disaffected by the status quo, spent time in Scotland watching the campaign in action and admiring the way it was planned and executed. They had a lot to learn from the mistakes
made years ago.
The Scots are expecting the U.K. government to keep its word and deliver, but I doubt if it can, because already there’s a backlash south of the border from groups who believe that too much was promised. So the wrangling begins.
Meanwhile over here, Quebecers enjoy power in more jurisdictions than the Scots ever had. Surprisingly, so do all of Canada’s provinces.
However, the other day we could almost hear a sigh of relief from the British capital on Scotland’s "no" vote. The financial markets remained intact and their Ministry of Defence still retains the multi-billion dollar nuclear submarine base on the Clyde, so important to Britain’s military role in the world. Life over there has settled down again, but the devolution issue is by no means dead. Although Wales and Ireland are now not likely to initiate a campaign to obtain independence, that urge for freedom in all three countries will continue to create a healthy tension in the Kingdom.
But for those of us of Scottish blood or perhaps just affection for their culture, we’ll carry on celebrating with them whenever we get the chance.
Come next January, all across the world, we’ll be raising a glass to the "Immortal Memory" of Robbie Burns and many of us will be garbed in traditional fashion. As usual, I’ll be kilted in the Henderson tartan to honour "me dear auld grandma"…. that little, plump, rosy-cheeked spirit I remember so well, who brought a touch of Scottish class and lots of love to a young Geordie pitman on scruffy Tyneside, when she said "yes" on their big day, way back in 1904.
(Bill Greenwell prospered in the ad agency arena for 40 years in the U.K. and Canada. He retains a passion for medieval history, marine paintings and piscatorial pursuits. His wife Patricia indulges him in these interests, but being a seasoned writer from a similar background, she has always deplored his weakness for alliteration. This has sadly had no effect on his writing style, whatsoever.)