Fareweel to a’ our Scottish fame,
Fareweel our ancient glory!
Fareweel ev’n to the Scottish name.
Sae famed in martial story!
Robert Burns was rightly worried when he wrote ‘such a parcel of rogues in a nation’ in 1791. The poem was about the act of union in 1707, but even at the time of writing Scotland was going through an identity crisis, having only preserved the Kirk and law in terms of administrative identity, Scotland lacked any kind of national substance and Burns was well aware of this.
217 years later Scotland finds itself pressed with similar questions of identity and history. Alex Salmond’s relentless pursuit of independence, many believe, could be the last chance for a generation to secure self rule and truly pursue a completely independent Scottish identity.
My view of the SNP before 2007 was that they were a party thinly veiled in fake ambition and misplaced patriotism, lead by a man who, ironically, confirmed our title as “The sick man of Europe”. They lacked backbone when it came to making political decisions and setting political agendas, but if being Scottish has taught me anything it has got to be our incredible will to succeed and survive, unless of course we’re talking football.
Sweeping changes by the SNP to Education, Health and Tax have left people understandingly happy and shown that they do have political clout even amongst the big hitting Labour and Conservative parties who rule from Westminster. However, as we mount ambitious attempts to break away from the UK are we leaving much of our Scottish history, Culture and identity in the past?
In Victorian and Edwardian Scotland, public culture was an object for struggle, often class struggle, in which much of our hard working image was created. We were world famous for ship building, being exceptionally hard working labourers and keeping the wallets shut. We were proud of our clan heritage, military past and distinct dress sense. These stereotypes have evolved over the years, the ship yards have decreased considerably, new business sectors have been created in the central belt, our farms are becoming redundant, credit cards and loans are available from every bank, we are now an integrated society with typically Asian or European names and only where the kilt on special occasions. So, despite claiming back much of our own political identity from Westminster we have seen the traditional Scottish identity all but disappear in favour of importing the common western culture.
The Scottish National Party isn’t to blame for this creeping western imperialism, but they can do something about it.
We need only look at the sharp decrease in Gaelic speakers between the 1991 and 2001 Censuses as an indicator to sneaking cultural suicide. According to a Holyrood report from the 2001 Census the Gaelic language should be completely extinct by 2050. The example set by the Irish and Welsh, who have re-introduced their national language back into primary schools, High Schools, the workplace and even in the streets is exemplary. The Maori population in New Zealand made such an impact with the rejuvenation of their language that most white people speak the basics and all public service writing is bi-lingual. As a figurehead of identity and culture, language could go a long way to realising Alex Salmond’s dream of independence or could we really be saying goodbye to the Scottish name?