A sense of history

Walking through Pilrig Park with an American friend on the 5th of November, with fireworks going off all around us, she wanted to know “Why tonight?” In the US, of course, they associate fireworks with 4th July, not late autumn. Shorter nights, but warmer ones.

About four hundred years ago,” I said, and she interrupted me.

“I might have known! Everything’s always ‘about four hundred years ago’ with you guys!”

“No, no,” I said. “Sometimes it’s ‘about seven hundred years ago‘”.

I’ve been watching this amazing timelapse map of Europe, with bonus Asia and Africa. It covers 1000 to 2005 CE – a thousand years of changing countries, alliances, conquests, all in just under 4 and a half minutes.

By contrast, a timelapse of the officially-recognised history of the US starts on 4th March 1789 and takes just a minute:

while a brief and very clear explanation of the current status of the various countries and nations and islands of the British Isles takes a few seconds longer.

I think the very best explanation of the difference between the United Kingdom, Great Britain and England (with the Crown Dependencies, British Overseas Territories, and former British Empire, thrown in for good measure) is C.G.P.Grey’s:

But as we are still a Pythonist country:

I’m mostly not in favour of independence because I think even if the Union was initially a matter of Tudor misconception and then a parcel of rogues, still: we’ve been together as one country for several centuries, and… is there really a good reason to change that?

I’m not convinced by arguments that depend on simple Scottish nationalism: I’m not much of a nationalist.

Neither am I convinced by the Unionist arguments that Scotland isn’t enough a country to manage independence: of course we are and of course we could, if we want to.

I like the idea of getting rid of all nuclear weapons. (Lots of people do.) [Unfortunately, as of October 2012, the SNP voted to stay in NATO which means the nuclear base at Faslane will stay whichever way the independence vote goes. Dammit.]

The current Westminster crew isn’t offering any inducement to stay. The ugly campaign that the Tories are running against disabled people is not something I want Scotland to be mired in. Or to find ourselves caught in George Osborne’s austerity trap.

But I don’t want to lose the NHS or the BBC. And most of the Scottish press isn’t worth buying.

I’d really like to see the back of Tory government. Depending what the polls look like in autumn 2014, a few months before the next UK-wide General Election, I could end up voting Yes just because it seems the only way to be sure of getting rid of the Tory governments the English keep electing.

David Cameron has claimed he wants to save the Union, because “We walk taller, stand prouder, shout louder together.” He said “this prime minister and this party is going to fight for the United Kingdom with everything we’ve got”.

Well, in that case, Dave: dissolve Parliament and call a General Election. Labour gains a majority of over a hundred seats, and all of us “I’m not a Nat, but” voters lose the momentum that Tory policies give to vote for an independent Scotland.

I look at the map of changing Europe. Centuries of history. Poland disappears from the map completely for a while, and then comes back. So too might Scotland. There’s centuries where what is now Germany is a tangle of small nations and principalities: why redivide what has come together?

Unionists give arguments that are mostly about fear: Scotland, they say, won’t manage alone. Labour and the Tories and the LibDems are settling into an unholy alliance in this camp. They’re not convincing.

Scottish Nationalists give arguments that are mostly about, well, nationalism. They don’t connect much with me politically, and their adherents often don’t seem much interested into listening to anyone who isn’t one of them.

Sure, I get all misty-eyed watching this:

but that’s not a valid reason for voting Yes in 2014. Or No, either.

What is, then?

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Filed under Historic Scotland, Scottish Culture, Scottish Politics

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