Saturday 24 January 2015

Goodbye to all that

I lost something last summer or, perhaps, it was taken away from me. No doubt, I could continue to have it. I could fight to retain what had always been mine. But somehow I lost the will to keep fighting and found that it had all just slipped away like flowers in a forest somewhere I once knew.

I was the only person from Scotland in my college and so every year I would recite the poem Burns wrote to a haggis. I used to know it by heart and took delight in pronouncing it all in my own Aberdeenshire Doric. Everyone loved it, for one night people from all over Britain and the elsewhere loved Scotland. But somehow I’ve lost my taste for haggis. I doubt very much that I will ever go to another Burns night. The last one I went to was pretty obviously full of nationalists.

When I was a child, I wore tartan fringes on my flares, but no-one apart from soldiers, pipers and obsessives wore tartan at any other time. People wore suits to weddings. Gradually somehow through the years tartan became popular again. At weddings and graduations everyone began to wear kilts. I, too, would wear a tartan skirt, but I find that I’ve put away these things. They may come out of the drawer again, but somehow I doubt it. 

Every summer in the place where I live there’s a day where there are stalls and games and such like. Last year there was a Yes stall and there was a Better Together stall. The Yes people had two enormous poles with two enormous flags, both the Saltire and the Scottish Royal standard. The Better Together stall was not nearly as well organised, but had some Union Jacks and Saltires and a sort of combination of them both. But it didn’t matter. I realised then that the SNP had successfully made the flags of Scotland a part of their campaign. I knew like other No supporters, who had always felt both Scottish and British, that I could try to fight this. I remember some No voters tried to win back the Saltire for our side. But we failed. We failed hopelessly. Whenever I saw a Saltire, I saw a Yes supporter. If someone flew a Saltire from their house, I knew immediately which way they would vote.  Congratulations to the SNP! The Yes campaign was so successful in its use of flags, that they no longer represent people like me. I would not dream of wearing a Saltire in my button hole, I would not dream of waving one again.

I’m sure other No voters feel differently about these things. Some will continue to sing Flower of Scotland at the rugby. Some will continue to talk of the “Old enemy” and have a special passion when playing England at whatever sport. I said goodbye to all that last summer. This song does not represent me. What have I to do with “international” sporting events between parts of what I consider to be a single indivisible nation state? In the end, the referendum changed me. It was made clear to me that only if I voted Yes, was I going to be a part of “Team Scotland”. I voted No and came to accept that that team no longer represented me. Now I only have team GB.
I used to maintain the fiction that the United Kingdom was made up of nations that were just as much nations as France or Germany. The biggest way in which my No vote changed me was that I came to realise that this was simply false. Scotland and England are countries in the sense that Fife is a kingdom or the Black Isle is an island. They are countries in a manner of speaking. But until and unless Scotland becomes an independent nation state, I will not describe or act towards it as if it were. To do so only helps the nationalists.

My country is the UK. That is what I voted for, and the symbolism and the identity I have come from each part equally. I was born here, but the nationalists took away the only Scotland that I had ever known. Let them keep what they have taken. It is no longer mine. It no longer represents me. It’s something I lost somewhere along the way. 

If you like my writing, please follow the link to my book Scarlet on the Horizon. The first five chapters can be read as a preview.