Opinion piece by Fiona Grahame
My father told me of the amazing spirit and resilience of the people of London which he witnessed in WWII. Hundreds of the sleep deprived emerging from stench ridden underground shelters to find whole streets gone and neighbours who didn’t make it now buried within the rubble. London is a fabulous city and a very wealthy one but that wealth rests within the hands of the very few.
The appalling tragedies we have seen in London has yet again shown that incredible community at its best as they respond to the needs of others. A response which will inevitably turn to anger as people start to question how something as catastrophic as the fire in Grenfell Tower could happen in a modern rich western city. With all we know about building materials and fire safety – how could this have happened?
In 2014 we saw another example of the positivity of people during the Scottish Referendum campaign from both sides. Two visions of a future were proposed. To stay within the security of the UK, a UK within the EU, a family of nations with increased powers to our Parliament in Scotland allowing us an increase in decision making. The other option was also positive but seemed more risky. An independent Scotland where we would be completely responsible for our own destiny, choosing the path we wished Scotland to follow.
And now although we chose that first option to stay within the UK we find that it is not the stable union we were promised. It is set on a course to leave the EU. Many MPs in England have voiced antipathy towards Scotland and the amount it receives back from the UK Treasury. The considerable powers promised to Holyrood have not only vanished but those we already have are under threat of being removed. There is no stability.
Where is the Scottish spirit in all of this? And I do not mean the warlike lust where in the past we would blindly follow orders running down a hill attacking all in our way. Or that same aggression that took us into the lands of others and was used to decimate resistance towards a growing British Empire.
I think of the likes of David Livingstone who tramped miles a day in order to be educated and then became the wonderous explorer that he was.(Even though there was often some Portuguese trader sitting in every remote village that he entered.) His traversing of the vast continent of Africa was in every sense of the word epic.
And I think of Catherine Douglas who in her attempt to protect King James I from assassins used her own arm to bar the door only to have it shorn off when the door was forced open.
What spirit the women of Orkney had who had to keep the farm going when their menfolk went off to earn hard cash with the Hudson Bay Company or at the Whaling. And my own grannie who scrimped and saved so the family could own 305 Easter Road despite grandad’s employment with Leith Fire Service being terminated when horse drawn vehicles were replaced with machines.
And yet if I turn on the TV and listen to the Scottish News or the debates in Holyrood I am told we are really rubbish at everything. We are told our education system is poor, our health service is poor and we are such a tiny country that there is no way we can survive because how could we?
But my experience is not borne out by what I hear politicians and TV broadcasters telling me. I see a young people engaged in politics, succeeding at colleges, universities and apprenticeships. I see our universities leading research in the world in everything from harnessing the energy of the seas to space exploration. If we are ill and need medicines we don’t pay for them. Our elderly can get about on a bus without worrying about finding the right change, allowing them to meet up with family and friends, or to just go on a wee jaunt. And if they need personal care – that is free.
I see other small countries, not sinking into oblivion, but becoming more self assured and carving out their own future. Countries like Slovakia, once the poor relation in the old Czechoslovakia, now brimming in self confidence and hopes for the choices it can now make for itself according to its own needs.
Scotland has slunk into a state of despair and fear at what might be. Our self confidence is gone because we choose to believe what we are told rather than what our own experience tells us. We have ceased to question.
But this is not how it needs to be. Our leaders are only there because we choose them to be. I continue to be bemused at those whom we allow to speak for us to then use that power to demean the efforts of the very people that gave them that platform. I can think of no other nation which has elected representatives who proudly talk their country and its people down on a daily basis.
It is the People of Scotland who are sovereign in our nation – not ‘leaders’ of political parties – not tv broadcasters. The Spirit of Scotland has taken a pounding but it is not broken just a wee bit bruised.
These views are entirely my own.