Some people have travelled a long way to vote 'Yes' in the coming Scottish Referendum. Emotional and political long haul you could say. For me it was a journey that took place in the Eighties. I'd had enough of Scotland voting Labour resoundingly to only suffer a Conservative UK government. I'm guessing it's a common story and people who will be voting 'Yes' will probably have travelled the same kind of route. Few of us would have started out wanting independence but as time moved on we realised it was fast becoming the best option. Along the way we supported devolution as it gave us the first sense of self determination we'd ever really experienced. My hunch then was that this small taste of democracy would encourage us to want more. George Robertson - once a shadow Scottish Secretary was of the opposite opinion. He was bold enough once to predict that Devolution would 'kill nationalism stone dead.' Predictions are tricky to pull off.
Are you a Nationalist? I often ask myself the question, '"Am I a Nationalist?" Ah... nationalism. That seemingly pivotal word. I found it hard to use myself twenty years ago and often succumb to the fear of its worst interpretation. It's used and misused hugely but never more scathingly than when its held up as the nightmare we must all retreat from. A friend will be with you up to a point - yes, I believe in greater democracy, yes to a fairer, smaller state but why does it just have to be us? Why only us? Why are we being nationalist? Surely to God we want to be Internationalists working out an International solution to all of this? You can probably throw in your own experience of examples here too.
For some nationalism equals imperialism equals a short slide towards the politics of the Third Reich. Good scaremongering but dangerously devoid of truth. Throw it around a bit however and for long enough and it becomes a working narrative that people start to use as serious argument. So let's tackle it head on: The Yes campaign is supported by Scottish Socialists, Greens, the SNP and (whisper it) members of the Labour Party as well as many people like myself who would never even consider joining a political party. All of us are looking to create a better, fairer, progressive country. Surely anyone who supports an Irish Republic, a free Chile, an independent Nicaragua or campaigns for Palestinian sovereignty could have no issue with the same basic rights for people from their own country?
There are many people I know who were genuinely excited by the arrival of the Labour government that came in 1997. However they became less enthusiastic when it instigated five different military campaigns on foreign soil within its first seven years in office. Compare and contrast that to a future independent Scotland with no authority or ability to get involved in external conflict. Would the nationalism that veers towards xenophobia and jingoism be happier in that Scotland or the British State which still clings to its overseas territories in Gibraltar, The Falklands and the British Antarctic Territory. Which of these two states is likely to think it can still throw its weight around; The United Kingdom or a nuclear free, newly established sovereign state?
As I write this another small country in Eastern Europe is being pulled in two directions. There's been murder on the streets of Ukraine and there may be more violence to come. There is almost no meaningful comparison between our situations other than this: As they suffer invasion, potential civil war and huge turmoil we are quietly getting on with discussing our future in a fairly civilised manner. In my more depressed moments I often have to remind myself that we are having this discussion with ourselves without the slightest possible threat of it escalating into anything more than a heated debate. We all count that as a blessing. Everyone will have stories of some kind of abuse they have heard but we all know that in the wide scheme of things we're doing this thing fairly amicably. I have great friends on both sides of this debate and I'm fiercely determined to hold on to all of them. At fifty six years old I feel I'm sure enough of Scottish culture to know that will happen.
For that reason I hope to see Scotland become a country which continues to open its doors to new ideas as well as people from across the world. From that perspective I hope the nationalism we believe in won't allow any ideas ever to to be killed 'stone dead.'