Tuesday 23 June 2015

Scotland’s Creative Voices fight back

Liz Lochhead
When Cameron talks of the importance of the union, I sense he totally misunderstands the Scottish perspective. Since the war the Scottish people have been treated as second rate and we have had to fight for the survival of our heritage, culture, arts, music, history, literature and more. It has been no easy path.

English appointments have been routinely made to head Scottish Arts bodies for the past decades since the 50s, who knew nothing of Scottish history or culture. Ireland had to fight bloody wars for its nation’s independence. Scotland can achieve independence I hope in today's world - by strong political argument, cultural voices and positive campaigns. The SNP was formed in 1939 to fight and argue for a Scottish Assembly (new Parliament). There was also a Scottish Convention set up in the 1980s, led by Jim Ross, and carefully written up against the undemocratic practices of Westminster.

Yes OK we have had the world renowned Edinburgh festival, but it has never been primarily about promoting Scottish culture - it's history always focused on International Arts (apart from the strictly military Tattoo).

In 2012 Scotland’s creative community fought back. Scottish writers such as Ian Rankin, Liz Lochhead and others -  were all signatories on a letter to the then English director Alexander Dixon of Scottish Arts council, complaining over the way the council was being run. As a result Dixon resigned his post.

In 1992, Timothy Clifford, Director of the National Galleries, planned to close the Scottish Portrait gallery. There was such as public outcry, the plan was changed and we now have a newly refurbished portrait gallery.
Ian Rankin
At the Glasgow Commonwealth Games opening ceremony in 2012, I watched all these small and now independent countries enter the stadium and I wondered why Scotland wasn't independent too.  

The Britain of today is no longer about Empire. Since the 1939 – 45 war there has been a drive for small nations to separate from the bigger empires. All the British colonies have been granted their independence and the right to self government. Scotland is alone in still seeking it’s independence and while it has one of the most ancient histories and our education has led the world with Scottish professors teaching around Europe.

All these expressions are civic naitonalism and Scotland has always been outward looking with it's a Bridge of Boats, as historian Tom Devine puts it. 'Narrow minded nasty' nationalism on the other hand is fearful, bigoted, prejudiced and inward looking.

An Independent Scotland would have a bigger voice in Europe.  Tiny countries like Malta and Luxemburg have 5 MEPS and countries the same size as Scotland, Finland and Denmark, have 14 MEPS.  This is not sustainable for Scotland. We need a strong voice in Europe to support our industries and business – our voice on fishing has been lost. 

Irish dancer Michael Flatley, Lord of the Dance, in a recent tv interview spoke of exporting Irish identity worldwide – and of Ireland’s writers, actors and musicians - such as The Chieftains, U2, and it's many wonderful actors and writers.  He said a strong cultural identity is good for countries and for selling that country worldwide.

Young people today will not remember when there was no Scottish parliament and no Celtic Connections folk festival keeping Scottish folk traditions alive. In the 1950s and 1960s the route to success was being an Anglicized Scot or moving to London.