'...as long as but a hundred of us remain alive,
never will we on any conditions be brought under English rule.
It is in truth not for glory, nor riches, nor honours that we are fighting,
but for freedom,
for that alone, which no honest man gives up but with life itself.'
So here we are then, on the 700th anniversary of the Declaration of Arbroath.
One wonders what the barons and Robert the Bruce would have thought about the current state of the English rule Scotland is under.
In what seems like a generation ago (irony applied), in 2014 the citizens of Scotland 'decisively' said no to the question put forward to them of 'Should Scotland be an independent country?' at a ratio of 55 to 45 percent. A few years later in the so-called 'Brexit referendum' Scotland quite emphatically chose to remain a part of the European Union with an over-all 67% choosing so. However, the whole of the UK, bolstered by English votes, chose to--again referred to as 'decisively'-- leave at a percentage of 52 to 48.
A lot of promises were made to Scotland in the weeks before the Independence referendum, including 'The Vow', a last-minute scramble panic over polling by the Prime Minister and other political party leaders of 'a modern form of home rule'. That is, further devolution of powers held by the mostly English controlled UK parliament such as full tax decisions, benefit control, immigration and other sensible rights. The day after, Prime Minister David Cameron took to the podium outside the residence at No 10 and noted it was about time in Parliament for only the English to vote on English laws (yup, acronymed to EVEL). The Smith Commission delivering 'The Vow' decided what that 'modern form of home rule' was: the ability to choose what to tax airports with, the choice of how to disperse benefits, and other bits and bobs such as letting the public sector bid to take over rail franchises.
An even further promise, and in fact the entire basis of the 'No' campaign in the Independence question was that the UK would be 'Better Together' to 'Not Leave, Lead'. A campaign advertisement had an apparent housewife gushing about how she couldn't leave because of the children, along with an admonition to 'eat your cereal': a literal 'Keep Calm and Carry On Swallowing What We Dish Out'. Not too long after the referendum: Brexit. The three countries also part of the UK (I suppose I need to spell it out as Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales) had politely asked for fairness in the vote: if Wales or Scotland voted decisively to remain in the EU, this would count as a veto. This was embraced in the spirit of Better Together and... no, no it wasn't. After the Vote, Northern Ireland and Scotland noted that as the vote was so close, and these two countries had chosen to remain, a 'soft Brexit' should be the sensible way to move forward. This leadership was lauded and... no, no it wasn't.
So here we are. 700 years to the day and the independence movement in Scotland is still vibrant. One would not tell so much by any UK (and even Scottish) reporting, despite the fact that the country is still led by a party with independence at its heart. (Note: there's been some developments lately that indicate it isn't really that much at its heart any longer, but this is a much longer story) Vast rallies called 'All Under One Banner' have been taking place in various Scottish cities over the last 18 months, with a vibrant peaceful attendance very often under-reported and miscounted. The Scottish National Party, a few months after the Referendum --wherein Unionists felt the party was utterly destroyed-- took well over 90% of the UK parliament seats. Later, after Cameron resigned with a little cheerful whistle after the Brexit results, the following election casue a few lossed to the Conservatives in the most part, who had funnelled millions of pounds of 'dark money' into cold-calling campaigns. The following election to pip that cheery --dare i say cheeky? -- boffin Boris Johnson into a terrifying position of power again brought the percentage of SNP MP's to about 90 per cent.
The National Health Service in Scotland is one of the country's few great devolved powers, and although its budget is 'ring-fenced' it is fixed proportionally against the budget given to the rest of the UK's NHS. Even with a year on year slice to its funding it has consistently 'performed' better than the other countries' health services. That is, even when things get tough, there is some resilience. This is something no one in England is quite aware of, because it is not reported. Instead, when a stat for say, ambulance response goes down a quarter of percent it is reported in Scotland and the rest of UK as a damning proof for how awful Scotland is at this. This is despite other nations several percent and even over 10 percent worse at the same service. This is the 'Better Together' we live in.
The commemoration of this 700th anniversary of what is essentially Scotland's national founding document has been cancelled, for of course the same reason everything is cancelled. Cannily, the Scots had been so stereotypically parsimonious, that nothing was really planned: Some flags. A display of the document. A poem, maybe? And one of the AUOB rallies in Arbroath.
We went for a walk today, down to what's called The Shore in Leith, which is an enclosed harbour and nice enough especially as it's empty of, well, everyone right now. Taking a look at a large oil drilling support ship moored further outside the harbour we took a little detour, cutting along a small cobbled path on one side of the Shore.
Chalked along an arch of flagstones was the above 'It is in truth not for glory...' quote.
Scotland is not free. It has been stolen from, plundered, and held under a heavy foot while a hand sprinkles the confetti shreds of eternal empty promises. At some point it will be fought for.
a pretty decent half-hour documentary on the Declaration of Arbroath