From The Province of the Cat #31 – The Bones of Scotland
After today there are only fifteen days to go until Scotland decides her future. On the 18th of this month the forces of progress take on the forces of reaction. There has been no bigger political event in Scotland’s long and often violent history. We have arrived at this crucial constitutional place, as has often been said, “Without so much as a nosebleed”.
Unfortunately blood can be spilled in other ways. It can pour out of your ears from constantly being battered by fear from the unionist harbingers of doom and their compliant media. We have fifteen days to leave fear behind us. We can bleed also from banking corruption and financial fascism which depends on lawlessness and exploitation. We have fifteen days to put that world to sleep. We can bleed to death from being constantly told that there is only one way – the present way – and that we have no answers. We have fifteen days after which we can construct our answers, we can regulate our financial world so that it produces productivity and equality and we can create a society where the expectation of opportunity is viewed by every individual as normal and where fear is banished to history. We can do this. We are Scots, all of us living in this nation. We can embrace progress and defeat reaction by simply saying, on Thursday 18th September, “Yes, Scotland can be an independent country.” After that the hard work begins.
As the novelist Ian Rankin noted in 2011when the UK voted against EU measures to regulate debt in an attempt to drag Southern Europe out of the financial mire, “The UK consists of 90,060 square miles. David Cameron has fought tooth and nail for 1 of them.” The City of London is the corporate tail which wags the political dog. The privately educated elite which both rule and rob us from Westminster cannot contemplate change of any kind. That is why change is coming.
Constitutional change is one thing: re-organising our political structure from one where power resides at the top and wealth is gathered by the few to one where power is spread out along the base and where wealth is generated and shared by all is quite another undertaking. We Scots cannot afford politically, spiritually or economically, to replace the UK state oppression with a Scottish equivalent.
Recently I read a press report of Meygen’s proposals for the beginning of next year to develop and install the first of the seabed generators to harness the tidal stream energy in the Pentland Firth. This requires over £50m of investment and listed were all the financial and development agencies involved and I thought, “Where are the people?” The answer is – they are nowhere. Renewable energy projects of this kind are vitally important to the future welfare of all of the people of Scotland and yet here was an enterprise described in purely financial terms with, no doubt, the desirable result being massive profits for Maygen and, supposedly, for some power provision cartel such as Scottish and Southern Energy. Profit is not benefit. Benefit is when society gains something. Society, which is people living together, will not directly benefit from Meygen’s Pentland Firth project because society has no purchase on it or participation in it. Social benefit, local control, must be the handmaiden to the profits made from such projects as Maygen or the people of Caithness, never mind the rest of Scotland, will get nothing out of it just as we have got nothing, actually, out of Dounreay over five decades or from North Sea oil over four decades. This is not progress. In the future we will have to do things differently. On the 19th of September we must begin to rethink everything.
I was conscious when wandering around Edinburgh during the recent Festival of how the majority of the young Fringe goers I came across managed to be both present and absent at the same time, as they strode purposefully along the streets, from venue to venue, with their headphones firmly clamped onto their heads and their eyes fixed on the smart phone in their hands. Now in the Old Town this is a particularly dangerous activity because it is still at heart a medieval city with a million holes to fall into if you are not careful. These, I realised, are the children of inner space, where every cyber facility has an account number, where experience and information are the result of rent. They were like characters from Dante’s “Devine Comedy”, hurriedly going to where exactly? Because in this particularly modern “Purgatorio” there seemed to be no guide other than Google or Twitter and I certainly am no Virgil. Their Festival quest was one of consumers; their inner space was not in fact their own: it was a commodity sold back to them by a corporation.
This notion was compounded when some days later I heard on the radio a spokesperson for the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations describe their tenants as “customers” – which is, of course, what you are also described when you are a passenger on a train or a bus. Are patients in NHS hospitals “customers” now as well? In Britain the price of a house has become both the Westminster governments obsession and its central free market economic policy. This has already caused the banking collapse of 2008 and it will inevitably guarantee the next one. The difference being that come the next financial collapse it is very difficult to see how there can be any possible bank bailout.
A house, I would argue, is both inner space and personal space – a home – but moreover a house is a social space as well as being a central component of what is referred to as society. That a home can be a commodity and a tenant a customer and that likewise personal “inner space” can be exploited by i-tunes, Apple and co in the never ending intrusion of rentier capitalism seems to me to be the ultimate nadir of privatisation and the crushing alienation of humanity, when an individual cannot even be themselves without somebody or company seeking to exploit them for financial gain.
It is extremely difficult for people to free themselves from this pogrom against essential individuality and real connectivity by simply dumping their gizmos in the nearest skip because there is a deep anxious fear of missing something. The addict alone cannot give up their addiction. What we are seeking to achieve on September 18th is to begin to find an alternative form of governance for the people of our country: we have to detox.
In Britain the ruling coalition presides over a system which is based on the principle that if you have enough money you can do what you want and buy what you like. That is why they are addicted to and dictated by the City of London and the financial rentiers’, who like parasitic wasps, commodify everything, exploit everything and create nothing except misery and debt for many. For them North Sea oil, like renewable energy, is collateral. In order for this corrosive and fatal system to continue everything in Britain, including the constitution, must stay the same. In fifteen days time we have the chance to begin to save ourselves from this disaster. We have to make our resources work for the benefit of all of the people of Scotland and not be dissipated away as chips in the casino of London.
The recent announcement by COSLA that they are seeking to reinvent local government in Scotland by having 100 local authorities instead of the current 32 is a welcome beginning to the revolution required if Scotland is to have authentic local democracy which realises the full meaning of those two words, “local” and “democracy”. What we need is more local representation, not less. What we cannot do, post September 18th, is to enter into the future determined to hang onto the past. In Caithness political passivity has brought us five nuclear reactors on our northern coast with both the environmental and social consequences and a century and a half of Westminster “representation” which embodies everything that is complacent and corrupt. Our people and environment are not commodities to be bought and sold although they are undoubtedly resources and as such must be nourished and nurtured and to do that real political power has to devolved directly down to community level, to ensure that exploitation by a few at the expense of the many does not happen, cannot happen.
I believe, that in our hearts, we Scots – whoever we are – know this and desire it. It is certainly why I will be voting Yes on the 18th.
In July when Grey Coast were rehearsing my play “Three Thousand Trees” the folk singer Alison McMorland came into the rehearsal room to teach the actors how to sing “The Flyting o Life and Daith” by Hamish Henderson. She was a real inspiration and she in turn spoke of how working on the original arrangement of the song with Hamish when she was much younger had truly inspired her. She said, “He was so tall, you know – it was like working with the bones of Scotland!”
As I travelled home that weekend, north from Glasgow to Thurso, I looked out of the train window and I too saw “the bones of Scotland”. As we travel through time to the 18th I give you the poem I wrote for Alison and for all of us.
THE BONES OF SCOTLAND
(For Alison McMorland)
One morning a man walked out of the sea
he lay down & became
the bones of Scotland
the wind which was his voice blew
along the endless shifting strath of dream
& he said
“Yes these are the open hillsides
of your old new land calling you home
these are the hayfields freshly cut
a sea of grass flowing towards you yes
the cream & yes the purple flowered potato drills
yes these are the yellowing barley parks
pulling the Sun out of the ground
yes these are the hazel trees rising with sap
ready for the Travellers to coppice in the Winter
the mountains you say are steep hard & beautiful yes
& yes the firths can be deep & fierce
the rivers broad & yes in spate
but these remember are your bones also
here between hill & island
between the early morning & the end of time
yes you too have walked out of the sea
you also are the voice in the wind
amongst the yellowing iris flags & yes the birches
with the people moving out from their sleep
like birds in the morning air yes
© George Gunn 2014