In the dark corner of the mind where my light flickers, I live alone. I am unsure of myself and my country. In the 40s and 50s of last century my contemporaries told me my country was dead. Maybe they were right. What we see today is a figment inhabited by ghosts. The machinery is there but there is no one to turn the handles. Here in Argyll hardly anyone bothers to vote. No one cares enough even to complain. That’s true right across the country.
Even our peedie parliament happened as a trick. It was meant to destroy the SNP and we voted for it only because we were asked to. It was never the product of clamour. Now we have the chance to vote for independence. This is another happening, not a demand. I predict that the turnout will be less than 50%. Who cares?
There are those in the chattering classes who care but it’s not the chatterers who make a country. If we truly wanted independence we would talk like a country, not like a suburb. A country has its own foreign policy. It knows how it will react to other countries. No country is truly independent. Yet not one of our many chatterers has even a remote idea how we should react to the Middle East. The SNP is silent on this as on so many other things.
It is silent on the pound sterling. With all our resources we don’t need the pound, yet no one whose voice might count has suggested any of the several alternatives. They seem frightened to express any views on foreign and economic affairs in case they frighten the horses. I’ve tried to frighten the horses all my life, but I grow tired. Frightened horses need thought to control them, yet we have no thought.
The Remaining United Kingdom (RUK) is in control of the media, yet if Scotland were to express a foreign policy it would be publicised and discussed. Of course it would be controversial. Controversy is the soul of national life. The will-we-or-won’t-we approach to such questions is the deference of a people who fear responsibility. They are the majority. The people who pass by on the other side are always in the majority. It’s safer.
I first decided to do nothing in 1956. I wrote a play in which the Highland chief’s daughter asked rhetorically: ‘Is there nothing left that my people think is worth fighting and dying for?’. Offstage, her drunken father answers: ‘Hutchin, foam, foam. We’ll fight and die for Charlie’. Maybe I was right. It’s safer to die for Charlie. Nae blood.
Once I dreamed that I might die belonging to a nation. To be a nation again we must take risks. Responsibility is only an acknowledgement of risk-taking. Taking risks means being wrong sometimes and maybe often. For my part I’d rather be wrong than be ruled by these public school boys in London. They’ve never had a job in their life. They live in the parish of inherited money and we let them rule us. I wonder if we’re yet fit for independence. There is talk of more devolved power, but it’s only talk.
I retreat into the flickering darkness of my small corner. Our shadow foreign secretary should have been saying that firing rockets into a war-torn country will only worsen the plight. This is a humanitarian crisis; not a military one.
But we had no one to say it.
This piece first appeared in a special edition of the Scottish Revue of today’s date.