If #WeAreScotland then People Make Scotland
I was thinking about the national question today, as I wander the moors and heaths of this place. With a belly full of mam’s cooking, and a need for solitude from my braying brother, my gobby father, and my chattering mother, I wandered the land.
It sort of descends on you, unbidden, that question when you go into this bit of geography that’s called Scotland. The geography compels the questions. The weird thing is that ’the national question’ is quite irrelevant to me. I’m engaged in it because other people are.
If I can take the Glasgow slogan and apply it to the whole country, then People Make Scotland. That was the essence of the #WeAreScotland hashtag on Twitter the other day, even though the bitter souls of the Scottish cringe tried their best to piss on it.
Other people are interested in this ’Scotland’. This ’Scotland’ has a certain appeal, even to me, at least with how it’s expressed officially. The sectarianism, the racism and bigotry that does exist even here in the beautiful nirvana of our mind. The Orange marches and the fitba-battles, and the frothing resentments about Gaelic says that this ’Scotland’ is not pure and pristine. At least not the way that #WeAreScotland hash-tag would like. But the hash-tag says that the aspiration is there, and it’s louder than the cringe.
There’s an abandoned croft here. Only the pale stone walls remain. The thatched roof has rotted away, or has fallen into the structure. I haven’t gone there to look up close, but have only observed the croft from afar. That’s the Scotland that was, rather than the ’Scotland’ that we obsess about these days. That’s the silent, stony, distant Scotland that speaks without words about the national question.
I don’t know why this croft was abandoned. My mind fills in the blanks with conjecture, and with my own obsessions. ”This was maybe some poor sod that was cleared out of this place back in the day.” It’s easy to forget that the Highland clearences wasn’t done by the English. It was done by Scots. By us. Thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of highlanders were sent packing to Glasgow, to the lowlands, to the colonies.
This croft is a distorted mirror to a castle that is not too far away. That castle is an imposing thing, owned by the people who in my mind’s conjecture would have sent the owners of this croft off somewhere else so they could exploit this land. Those castle Scots did things the these croft Scots. That castle speaks of the national question too. Just like this croft. It speaks about power, about the relationships between people, and about the things we humans do to each other for status and profit.
I don’t care about the geography, or the roots, or the ‘national question’. Not as such. It’s irrelevant to me. Yet I have to confront it again and again and again in places such as these. It’s not which country I belong to that matters, is it? I don’t even care whether Scotland is a substate in a union, or independent.
I care about where the power lies, so that this croft and that castle are equal in the law and in the minds of the people with the hash-tag. That’s not possible in the United Kingdom with its reverence for its Sirs and its MBEs and its Banker Billionaires. This United Kingdom where even the supposed People’s Party of Labour drools over the ermine robes as if it’s something tangible to aspire to, as if it’s evidence of success and respect and stature to envelop oneself into the trappings of aristocracy and class.
If People Make Scotland, then that Scotland includes this croft and whoever owned it, just as much as it includes the owners of the castle. If #WeAreScotland then the owners of this croft was a part of that ‘we’. If People Make Scotland, then lists and roots and origins and status are irrelevant. In that Scotland, there’s the law, and the law is applied equally, without fear of favour. Andrew Wightman wrote a book with the title that ‘The Poor had no Lawyers’. If we are Scotland, then the law is Scotland. If there’s a ‘we’ then that includes everyone. And with that ‘we’, the poor will have lawyers.
I always come back to the same conclusion, whenever I revisit the question and ask if anything has changed. No. We have to get out of the United Kingdom for that ‘we’ to become real. As long as we stay, there will be a divide where the Sirs and the MBEs and the Ladies and the Lords stand above us, and reserve the law for themselves.
Getting out, though, that’s just the first step. Once we do, we have to step in front of the mirror, and take a good long hard look at ourselves and remember, the owners of the castle were Scots, and they — in my conjecture about this croft — threw the owners out of their home for profit. If we are Scotland, then people will make Scotland. If People make Scotland, then this has to be confronted.