Irish Times writer Fintan O’Toole is an excellent, creative thinker and I enjoyed his essays, in the Sunday National. He writes that we must not idealize what independence will mean. Unlike Brexit, we have given Scottish Independence careful consideration, both by past artists and also in recent times.
In the years leading to the historic 2014 vote on Scotland’s indy, one of the most significant changes that occurred was the rise up of renewed, energised and enthusiastic debates on all aspects of our views on how to build a healthier democracy, and with all walks of life here being more engaged. These debates led to creative imaginings of the type of country we might build here. This progress has been totally missed by the London based press. (And as Angus Robertson well points out, little attention is paid by the UK press to the UK regions, nations or to the European press)
The twenty years of the Scottish Parliament has brought renewed confidence in our ability to govern ourselves, even while history tells us Scotland has always had some form of self government. Another big change was with young people. For the first time 16 and 17 year olds were given the vote, which meant political debate was considered in schools. Young people also take their news from diverse sources online. There has also been a reworking and recreating of Scotland’s arts, heritage and history. According to leading historian Tom Devine, until the 1960s Scottish history, particularly from Union to the present day, had been seriously neglected by academic study.
My impression is all these discussions greatly moved Scotland on, with new creative ideas on how to make our own nation. Its been clear for decades now (as the polls point out) that Scotland has been moving in its own and different trajectory to those in England.
Re Brexit – I’m getting worried now for the state of things here UK. Gerry Hassan, who has a new book, Scotland the Brave, thinks we’ve come to the limits of devolution and where do we go now? The new guy Adam Price leading Plaid Cymru in Wales is very interesting too. He’s lived over in the States and believes we might all be stronger here with 4 diverse nations working together, as comparable to the Benelux countries of Netherlands, Luxemburg and Belgium which thrive independently but also co-operatively. Perhaps we need to define better what indy means and that the four British Isles nations would work closely together to build security, trade etc. In todays internet world its such a different business to the days of ship travel! Worryingly UK politics appears in melt down, and with the hoping Brexit is some impossible quick fix.
On our social challenges. My view is we need to close private schools. The trouble is a big shift in culture like that can't really happen over night. After centuries of empire building and a Them versus Us culture, real social change will take some time I believe. We should seriously look at the Finnish education system - which believes in a "co-operative culture" rather than a "survival of the fittest" of creaming off an elite you nourish while the rest are disregarded. Because Scots history tells us we thrive when we are all given a chance, re libraries and education here.
There was an interesting write up in the Sunday Times June 21 (I like to read the right wing press also!) on Dr Geetha Marcus, professor of education Glasgow who advises the Scottish government. She advocates abolishing private schools in favour of a high-quality comprehensives model, and in line with the approach by Finland after the second world war, as required to reduce our nations attainment gap.Marcus argues segregated education is holding Scotland back. She also advises masters degrees for all teachers. Finland with a similar population, is recognised as an education success story since it replaced private and selective schools with ‘common’ schools on the basis that a society divided by class and poverty would weaken the country.There are 30K pupils in 74 independent schools in Scotland, around 4%, which encourages a privileged few.
It is vital we close the attainment gap. This can only be achieved, through a radical shift in attitudes. All children deserve a fair chance in life. We must also have mixed ability groups in primary schools and a Montessori type of education with mentoring.
Worryingly the establishment and media continue to be run by private school elites. They want to protect the status quo and are rigidly against change, but this flies in the face of progress and of a real future of younger generations. So the question is, what do they really stand for? Those in London need to listen to more diverse voices, and not only to an isolated Tory party or a dysfunctional Labour. Huge changes are coming and I certainly don’t see the Brexit party or Lib Dems as an answer.
We need to look for the bigger pictures. Too many are only concerned for the personal and party issues. Why are the unionists running away from discussing Scotland’s pressing issues in a Peoples Assembly/? What are they scared of? Those on all sides of Scottish politics agree we need control of our immigration, drugs policies, and are against any Westminster power grab. We must find consensus – we can have an ever stronger British isles, just not one where all is controlled at Westminster.
I am presently reading Fintan O’Toole’s recent book, Heroic Failure, on the Brexit carry on, and what an excellent story teller he is in this well researched tale of this highly confusing break down. He states that Brexit is really not about the EU, but an existential crisis.
Scotland sits on the edge of Europe and for centuries has been an outward-looking nation. We must embrace this now – and become the welcoming, non-hostile nation, most who live in Scotland wish to be part of.