So we wake up and smell the coffee, the day after the day of the Scottish Referendum result, to pick up the pieces and get on with our lives. Let me share two anecdotes from yesterday. Walking down Raining’s Stairs in Inverness, I passed a man who looked in his early thirties, obviously poor (though by no means a down-and-out) so quite probably long-term unemployed. He was sitting on his own on a wall in a dejected pose reading the “wee blue book” from the Wings Over Scotland organisation, reading over all the things that an independent Scotland might have been.
Then on the train down to Pitlochry, four young women on their way to Edinburgh airport were sitting at the table opposite me. One of them was going to get married and they were heading off for a hen weekend in a resort in the sun. They hit me on the head with one of their champagne corks. Of the four of them, and it is increasingly hard to tell, two were the children of English parents who had settled in the Highlands and the other two were the daughters of wealthy Scots. All had gone to private school. Their accents were almost indistinguishable, long vowels aping those of the south of England, because in Scotland that’s how you try to sound well-educated: by sounding English.
For me, this goes back to the Norman invasion of 1066, and the notion that then infected England of their being two kinds of people: a ruling elite whose blood was better, and a vast underclass of peasants whose duty was to serve them uncomplainingly. Or maybe it goes way back to the two Roman walls two millennia ago, when the barbarians were separated from the enlightened. Either way, let me make it clear again that I have no quibble with the English or time for racism of any kind. My fight, and you may call it your fight too if you wish, is against the way of life that promulgates the notion of their being two kinds of human being, them and us. There is only one kind of human being. Our current society however herds them into two categories: the privileged, cruel, vain and idiotic (moulded into such in the snob factories that we call private schools) and those who are denied means and access to good education and opportunities through no fault whatsoever of their own, but by the sheer accident of which bed they were born in. Those who are subliminally told from birth, by every clue around them, that they are an underclass.
I will fight that division, and the insidious political forces that forge and maintain it for the rest of my life. Because there is another way. In Scandinavian societies you will find the rich and the poor certainly, but in much smaller numbers and marked by much less dramatic distinction between them. The majority of society is ‘flat’, socially coherent, hard-working and reasonably well rewarded. This is achieved through high taxation and consequent quality of social provision in terms of public services.
The irony is that this is not mere do-gooderism, but sound economic sense. High unemployment and social division give rise to crime and a waste of, to use that foul phrase, ‘human resources’. Social division left unchecked, eventually gives rise to riots, as we have seen from Los Angeles to London, and worse. Extreme ideologies will always find their first footing where hopelessness among those who are suffering at the wrong end of the “them and us” philosophy is to be found.
The tragedy of events of the last few weeks in Scotland is that they have shown that people have the potential wisdom to overthrow the current order, but that they are too comfortable and cowardly, too easily intimidated by their financial oppressors and their biased media, to follow through and seize that chance. As ever on planet earth, as I have said many times over the years, it’s not that things are bad that breaks your heart, it’s that they could so very easily be so much better.
Or am I being unfair? Was the No vote a last minute out-pouring of compassion towards the peoples of the remaining parts of the United Kingdom and a desire that their social problems should be solved too, alongside ours? I would be all for that, but Trident, and the £100 billion replacement for Trident stand in the way. The dying militaristic dream of the British Empire (and all the UKIP xenophobia festering with it) must go before there can be any way forward, and time, energy and money directed to more useful things.
But no. Let’s face it. Those of us on social media were able to by-pass the vast wall of prejudiced propaganda deluged on us by our newspapers and television, get hold of the real facts and make up our own minds. But the older generation, denied this possibility through lack of computer awareness, set in their ways, reverted to fear, selfishness and stupidity, and have blighted the immediate future for their own children and grandchildren.
I’m grateful for this campaign for having shown us in a crystal clear light the true enemies of Scotland: Alastair Darling, Gordon Brown, Jim Murphy, Margaret Curran, Johann Lamont, and many others. Those who knowingly told lies in order to strike fear into a populace less knowledgeable than themselves. That will become even clearer over coming days and months. But time is on our side. The old order has been shown to be weak and frightened themselves, rotten at their very foundations. We smell blood. They will get old and die. The writing is on the wall, and the green shoots of new life, no matter how long it takes, regardless of whether we find ourselves in Scotland or Britain, will in the end sweep them all aside.