It’s time to be cheerful, and not just because I’m about to see my American other half for a two week visit during which we plan to go to the Highlands and then to London for a few days. It’s time to be cheerful because despite any local difficulties that the independence campaign might have faced recently, we’re on the right side of history. More and more I’m convinced that we are no longer engaged in a debate about whether Scotland could or should become an independent country again, we’re in a debate about the timing. This is a debate about when Scotland retakes its historic place amongst the independent nations of the world, not a debate about if. We’re debating the tense of the verb, not its conditionality, because Scotland’s condition is that of a country which is on the path to statehood.
I’m cheerful because of the response of the usual British nationalist suspects to the author Andrew O’Hagan’s speech to the Edinburgh Book Festival in which he set out his reasons for shifting from support for the United Kingdom to support for Scottish independence. I’m cheerful because that response was lacking in intellectual rigour, lacking in imagination, lacking in humanity. I’m cheerful because their pathetically sneering response was entirely predictable. I’m cheerful because the massed commentariat of the British nationalists had no coherent reply. I’m cheerful because they have no coherent case for Britishness. All they have is a dismissive sneer, a contemptuous snort, and a graph. To be fair to them, graphs are the closest that they have to imaginative literature.
It is very noticeable that the creativity, the imagination, the soul and the spirit of Scotland are almost entirely on the side of independence. Where are the artists, the poets, the novellists, articulating a British Scotland that sings and soars? They don’t exist. The Scottish incarnation of British nationalism has no soul. That’s important, because a nation doesn’t tread the path to independence to the tune of an accountant, and particularly not to that of an accountant whose objectivity is highly suspect.
Nations are sung into being, they are versified and live in the stories that are told on cold and wet nights around the flicker of a fire. The story that the Scottish independence campaign imagines is the story of a nation founded in tolerance, a story that all those who hear can choose to be characters in. That’s the Scotland that we sing about. It’s a Scotland that is limited only by our imaginations.
Nationhood is a creative act of the imagination. A nation exists in the stories its people tell themselves, in the poems that they recite, in the songs that they sing. It is a creation of the imagination. The vision of the Scotland that independence supporters seek is a creative act. If you have no imagination, you have no nation to call into being. British nationalism in Scotland is a desert of dreams and a bonfire of hope. It promises nothing and delivers less. It has no visionaries to lead the way. It has no light in its darkness. British nationalism in Scotland is a journey that aspires to arrive at mediocrity but always ends in despair. It depends for its survival as an ideology on creating nothing but doubt and fear.
I’m cheerful because when they were confronted with an erudite and creative man who spoke about a future Scotland that he called into being by the power of his imagination, British nationalists replied by complaining that he wasn’t being limited by their narrow vision of Scotland. They complained that a creative artist wasn’t being inspired by a British nationalist accountant. How dare anyone dream. How dare someone state that dignity has no price. How dare anyone look at the graph and laugh. But they had no response to the poetry in his soul. All they had was snideness and sneering, the comments section of the Scotsman writ large. That’s not going to inspire generations of a nation. It’s the last resort of those who know that their intellectual cupboard is bare.
I’m cheerful because independence is an act of creation and the creative people in Scotland overwhelmingly support independence. Nations don’t choose a particular path because someone draws a graph about the price of oil or claims about a deficit. They choose a particular path because the poets amongst their people sing of something better. For some years now, Scotland has been singing of a better future, one that Britain can’t offer.
I’m cheerful because the British state is being hollowed out from within by those who claim to love it. One by one the pillars of British rule have been eaten through by the termites of Westminster. They are no longer even pretending that there is a Union worth its name, all there is is a Westminster that’s greedy for power and which refuses to acknowledge that Scotland wants different things. Yet the Union between Scotland and England can only survive as long as both parts want broadly the same future. Brexit has shattered what was left of that tattered delusion. And Westminster responds by trying to silence Scotland. It responds by gloating about how its silences Scotland. The music has stopped. The poets are silent. The stories are not to be told.
There is no dreaming in the Union. There is no one singing the song of a better Britain that Scotland is at the heart of. There is nothing to inspire, no creative act of imagination. There is nothing to unite, nothing to energise, enthuse or rouse the soul, nothing to animate. This is a United Kingdom which is still walking but which is already dead.
Nations become independent because of their story tellers, their makars, their dreamers. They tell a story of a better land and by the act of creating the tale they bring it into being. To become independent is a creative act and Scotland is a nation of poets, of singers, and of story tellers. That’s a reason to be cheerful.
Peter is arriving on Sunday, but I’ve got a few things to do before then. He’ll be here for two weeks and during that time I won’t be blogging. Sam Miller (Macart) will be looking after you in my absence. I know he’ll keep you engaged and informed.
The Wee Ginger Dug has got a new domain name, thanks to Indy Poster Boy, Colin Dunn @Zarkwan. http://www.indyposterboy.scot/ You can now access this blog simply by typing www.weegingerdug.scot into the address bar of your browser, the old address continues to function, the new one redirects to the blog. The advantage of the new address is that it’s a lot easier to remember if you want to include a link to the blog in leaflets, posters, or simply to tell a friend about it. Many thanks to Colin.
Wee Ginger Fundraiser
I’m doing a fundraiser this year to keep this blog going for another twelve month and to allow the dug and me to continue visiting local groups all across Scotland. You can donate via my crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo –
Or you can donate by making a payment directly into a special bank account I’ve set up for the purposes of this fundraiser, or by sending a cheque or postal order. If you’d like to donate by one of these methods, please email me at email@example.com and I will send the necessary information. Please also use this email address if you would like the dug and me to come along to your local group for a talk.