Hello everyone. It’s been four months since I posted here and apologies for the break.
I thought I’d share my thoughts with you on the Scottish Independence Referendum (hopefully there are still some readers looking in), the decision I’ve made on how to vote and the reasons for that. I’m going to do this in a series of three (or perhaps four!) posts over the next few days leading up to the referendum.
I have to say that when the process started, and despite being an SNP voter, my inclination was to vote no. Like many of my fellow Scots I have a tendency to be conservative (small c) and would choose a ‘safe’ option over a risky one. However I resolved to study the background, evidence and the arguments before making my decision.
First step on that journey was to consider why we have a Scottish Parliament at all? Then it was to study how the SNP achieved a convincing majority in that parliament.
I recall when I was growing up. There were reminders of Britishness everywhere. The word ‘British’ was woven into the fabric of society (remember that word). There was British Rail, British Coal, British Steel, British Gas and British Leyland. Although the name wasn’t mentioned in other institutions’ titles, there were innately British institutions. These were things like the Post Office, the Royal Mail, the National Health Service and The Welfare State.
At school I remember the maps on every classroom wall with half the world identified in pink. Massive diverse countries like Canada, Australia, India and many in Africa defined by their common history of British colonialism. There was a school visit to the Peoples’ Palace in Glasgow where a massive Terracotta fountain has Queen Victoria standing aloft a huge waterfall cascade symbolising the four corners of the Empire. The Empire and the world seemed somehow interchangeable.
I had two stamp albums. One for Britain and the Commonwealth and one for the rest of the world. They were roughly the same thickness.
When even a minor member of royalty visited your town, the schoolchildren would line the streets waving the union flag just for a glimpse of a limousine and a waving hand.
A visit to the circus or the theatre would end with the playing of, and respectful standing to God Save the Queen, as would the day’s viewing on BBC television.
The political landscape was delineated to reflect the mixed economy of nationalised industry and capitalist endeavour of the post war period. Labour stood for the working man, the nationalised industries, the welfare state and the NHS. The Conservatives stood for business big and small, Royalty, Christianity and the remainders of Empire. Neither party made any bones about this and there was a clear and ever present ideology in both. There was really no other significant political movement in the UK. Even in Northern Ireland, the different political parties (other than those on the fringes) could broadly be identified with the two main British ones.
So that was the background of my childhood and young adult life.
Next will be a look at how the old certainties of the UK/Britain described above began to disappear.