When I visited the Dublin Irish writers museum I picked up a card that listed the best of them.
As I looked at the illustrations list I thought of all the great Irish culture and how much the world has benefitted from these Irish voices.
Which made me think also of Scottish voices – our innovations, our Scots songs, the Scottish Enlightenment. Then there are the wonderful Welsh choirs. I thought of Shakespeare, Chaucer, Turner, Wordsworth too and the great English writers and artists.
I thought of the nations of Scandinavia – Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark – they were also once joined through a royal marriage.
For the past hundred years each nation has been able to offer the world its own unique voice and are stronger for it – while they are still the nations of ‘Scandinavia’. In fact their voices are an even clearer, unique and positive force in the world than ever before.
Finland offers one of the world’s best education system with highly trained teachers. Norway, Iceland and Denmark too offer a more collaborative approach to running society, that favours equality, fairness and hard work at its heart. All Scandinavian countries are flourishing as independent nations. There is no point looking at the US – the story there is so different - a newer place where each state is fairly autonomous and is more comparable to the EU.
Then I look at us here in this disunited kingdom of islands – the routes of division and discord, misunderstandings, wasteful squabbles, power sharing, disharmony, extreme inequality and class divisions. Many of these wounds run deep and will not easily heal, disappear or ever go away. There is really only a simple answer – to look over the North seas to our Scandinavian cousins and learn lessons of how self-determining nations are working in a healthy way both independent and together.
Perhaps we too on these islands, can be a United nations of Britain and I hope Britain does not only mean England? England has historically been reluctant to offer Scotland real federalism. This half way house of 30% tax and limited control of welfare is unworkable and for sure something has to give. This doesn’t compare well to other devolved nations or states in America - such as Quebec, Catalonia – who control their immigration and taxes and broadcasting. Catalonia alone has four tv channels! While Scotland has none1
Knowing that Ireland used the pound sterling for 50 years after its independence, it was demoralising for our supposedly fair and equal union to hear that England would not allow Scotland to use the pound and also knowing that if the Bank of England refused to allow the use the pound, it would also have to refuse other countries access to do business in pounds sterling and was like shooting itself in the foot! Scotland felt bullied and told off like a naughty child told to go to its room to play with only the toys assigned to it..
Why would Scotland be like Greece – rather than Iceland, Norway or Denmark? We have more resources than Greece, better universities and R & D. Fear is not a good way to cement a happy union. Let us try to look forward with positive expectations.
It is strange Gillian Bowditch Sunday Times 5th March, sees Scotland as diminished by wanting what other nations have – I see Scotland instead as empowered and flourishing in the belief we are as confident, capable and able for self-determination as any other peoples!