The Tartan Greece - Stuart Millson considers a future “independent” Scotland
by The Editor
By Stuart Millson - Today, our fellow countrymen North of the Border are facing a great choice which will have a great bearing on what we are all to be: the continuity of the UK, or a Scotland alone – or within Europe, and an England and Wales of county councils – a British Prime Minister no longer at international summits or in G7? (GQ, perhaps, but not G7…) Could it really be the case that Scottish Regiments will one day become the “Scottish Defence Force”, or that James Naughtie might be taken from us on Radio 4, to be made head of a new Scottish Broadcasting Corporation?!
There is a British Transport film, made in 1954, and entitled The Elizabethan which has long been a favourite of steam enthusiasts – or trainspotters, as they might be termed today. The film describes a journey from King’s Cross station, London, to Edinburgh – capital city of Scotland (itself the setting for a nihilistic film of more recent years about drop-outs and druggies, and horribly entitled – Trainspotting). During the course of the journey of The Elizabethan Express (which was then about seven hours in duration), a steam train – with silvery fittings, well-upholstered carriages and crystal-clear windows – makes its noble progress to York, then on past Durham and the Tyne, across the Royal Border Bridge at Berwick-upon-Tweed, and into Edinburgh. Unlike many modern trains, run by the likes of Virgin or “Stagecoach”, The Elizabethan was on time.
A black-and-white film, and every moment of it a precious archival representation of a Britain that has almost gone (save, of course, for the magnificent scenery en route), The Elizabethan also suggests a country of unity: a train manned by a Scottish and an English crew, taking passengers back to friends and family in the North, or arriving in Edinburgh to bring Scots and Englishmen back to the South. The travellers all seem very respectable and contented: suits, ties, ladies in hats, and a time long before mobile phones, so-called “quiet carriages” and railway companies whose livery (in the words of author, Peter Ashley) resemble the artwork of toothpaste tubes. One thing, though, which never happens to The Elizabethan, or indeed to a modern East Coast service (as yet), is a stop at Berwick for a passport check…
This year, Alex Salmond MSP, First Minister of Scotland, and the Harold Wilson-like leader of the Scottish National Party has unveiled his great vision for a supposedly independent Scotland: a technically-advanced, democratic and modern society which (claims Salmond) will be a beacon for “progressive values”. Progressive – a Neil Kinnock sort of a word – can mean virtually anything, but one senses that the SNP would rather like to see Scotland taking its place in the new European order of human rights legislation, liberal ideas (such as European arrest warrants!) and economic management by bankers in Frankfurt.
Mr. Salmond is also very keen on the phrase: “Grown-up relationship” – the idea that by abandoning the Union between England and Scotland (which is viewed by the liberal-left Scottish elite as a relic of imperial antiquity) a new sort of society can be constructed. Yet it is all very odd, this rejection and dismissal of the Union as an outmoded concept – odd, because it comes from a party which, despite its avowed modernism, sees nothing incongruous in evoking Bannockburn and frenzied ranks of kilt-wearing, axe-wielding Caledonian warriors! Clearly, all parties – even the most level-headed, outward-looking and European of them, cannot resist a little atavistic nationalism!
However, the Scotland of “Braveheart” – or the obligatory appearance by Sean Connery at SNP rallies! – is as far as it goes with today’s SNP; for the party is committed, not to a truly independent Scottish nation of heather landscapes and bonny-faced people at Highland gatherings, but a Scotland lined up alongside the Republic of Ireland, Spain, Portugal and Greece – sectors or satellites of the greater European Union. The Union Jack will no longer fly above public buildings in Mr. Salmond’s fiefdom, but how long will it be before the Scottish saltire is replaced by the bland blue and yellow of the EU flag – with Alex himself summoned to account for his debits and credits by Mrs. Merkel and her successors? The reality is this: an Edinburgh Government of the future (though never as impoverished as its counterparts in Athens) will have very little of the sovereignty and independence which the First Minister is promising his fellow countrymen.
But that is not the only factor which should make us suspicious of SNP claims for a “free” Scotland. Deeply ingrained in the SNP psyche is all the contemporary claptrap about multiculturalism, “welcoming” large-scale immigration, and somehow, magically creating an instantly at-ease, mixed society of Sikhs on the Clyde and Muslims by the Forth – ideas which seems so strange in this land of crofters, Norse islanders, Presbyterians and single malts. Indeed, Mr. Salmond often talks of “the new Scots” – reserving a special welcome for people beyond the shores of the British Isles, yet rejecting links with his natural kinsfolk in England and the rest of the Kingdom.
In 1954, when the film The Elizabethan was made, the Queen had occupied the throne of this realm for just one year. In those days, although weary from the experience of World War Two and post-war gloom, the British nation was still recognisably that – British, through and through, with very little cultural change, and immigration hardly registering in our consciousness. The Americans may have controlled us (as we were to find out during the Suez crisis, two years later) but unlike the EU, they did at least allow us to keep our flag and our anthem! And also in the mid-1950s, the Conservative and Unionist Party vote had reached its zenith in Scotland – Scotland then being a largely Tory or at least, conservative country. Scottish Nationalism, or separation as it ought to be called, did not figure a great deal in people’s minds.
Today, our fellow countrymen North of the Border are facing a great choice which will have a great bearing on what we are all to be: the continuity of the UK, or a Scotland alone – or within Europe, and an England and Wales of county councils – a British Prime Minister no longer at international summits or in G7? (GQ, perhaps, but not G7…) Could it really be the case that Scottish Regiments will one day become the “Scottish Defence Force”, or that James Naughtie might be taken from us on Radio 4, to be made head of a new Scottish Broadcasting Corporation?! Quite seriously, one wonders what will happen to the relationship between Scotsmen and the English. It would certainly be a mistake for English Nationalists, in a fit of pique, to turn their backs on the Kingdom, too – thus accelerating the work of the European Union, to transform the continent and its islands into easily-governed fragments cast off from the old, famous and larger nation-states. We might also borrow a question which Charles Moore asked in The Daily Telegraph when Alex Salmond announced his campaign for a referendum on independence. Why? Why this desire to break up all we have known and fought for – why this haste and obsession for unravelling the ties and bonds of the Union?
Let us hope that the people of Scotland in their referendum will take the high-road… and keep the United Kingdom united.