This blossoming of artists,
musicians, writers since the Scottish parliament opened 1997 (20 years ago) gave
us belief back. I used to hear – ‘oh Scots are a nation of scroungers!’ After
the 1979 Devolution Vote farce for a hoped for Scottish Parliament, many left Scotland and we felt demoralized, it was a sad
time. For centuries Scottish culture has been suppressed and ignored by those
Anglicised Scots – those Scots who view themselves as English first, Scottish second.
In response to Gillian
Bowditch and her Sunday Times article, ‘Narrow
cultural focus will tie us all to a tartan straight jacket’ where she writes on the author Muriel
Spark - Spark wrote of a decidedly small niche of cloistered girls at
Gillespie’s secondary school Edinburgh – how is this so deep or rich, compared
to say Burns or Irvine Welsh?
How can a thousand Scotland’s
bloom when we were taught nothing of our heritage, and culture in
Scottish schools until recently….!
I grew up in Edinburgh and
walked her historic streets and I wondered about her stories. Meanwhile I
learnt of the Tudors, Shakespeare,
Chaucer, Wilfred Owen, and American writer
Hemmingway at school.
In their time Burns, Scott
and James MacPherson were internationally famous.
Burns was greatly influenced
by both Scots ballads and English poets and he knew four languages, he was not
simply a ploughman poet!
The only place I encountered
Burns was at Primary school choirs. Burns wrote of nature, love, radical
politics, hypocrisy, those conflicts between morality and our wilder passions.
Burns crossed many borders and was both national and international.
We are strongly linked to England and Ireland, but that doesn’t mean Scotland should be ruled by London. We never gave up our Kirk, which was far more important than the politicians in 1707. Burns also wrote the proud Scots songs Scots Wa Hae, and Parcel of Rogues.
Scottish historian Tom Devine, in his lecture on the Scottish Enlightenment, spoke of how Scotland has for centuries been an outward-looking, trading nation – many Scots travelled to Poland, Netherlands, France, In fact more outward-looking than an often more insular England. “Scots suffer from “virtual universal historical
illiteracy’, says Devine, “ perhaps that’s why they’ve struggled to engage
with Referendum campaign."
It is only when we understand our roots, that we can also look outward.
Yes the old tartan shortbread, White Heather club idea of ‘Scottishness’ of the 60s was so embarrassingly parochial. Surely we have moved on. Two major Scottish festivals, Celtic Connections and Edinburgh Festival, both embrace their international element. Each August I attend the Edinburgh International Book festival where I see many inspired young Scottish writers of today.
This is also about whether you view empire building or stories of ancient Rome – where you have one group superior to the rest and an exploited underclass. Or you see a more progressive future for Scotland of a more socially integrated, fairer society that is fundamental to the success of our culture, economy and education. A successful small country in a larger European trading block.
|Edinburgh art galleries|
|pipers at Edinburgh castle|
The Scottish nationalist movement is a broad church and not exclusively about the SNP. It was begun by poets such as Hugh MacDiarmid, back in 1939, and the Scottish renaissance of Montrose. MacDiarmid wrote -
We are both national and international and to forget our rich heritage is a dark, ignorant thing…
|skies across from Appelcross|
|near Loch Ardinning and the Campsie's|