Just over 3.6 million Scots turned out on 18 September 2014 and voted YES or NO on the question, “Should Scotland become an independent country?”
Only 5.3 million people live in Scotland. Lots are younger than the minimum voting age of 16. Others are not registered to vote. And a handful, well, … To the point, 84.6% of eligible voters gave their answers to THE Question.
Scots care about their land, its people, its past, its heritage, and with a civilized passion. They have proved they can disagree with remarkable enthusiasm and relative civility on the most fundamental political question of all.
The Road Lawyers [TRL] had window seats for lunch at Ondine, an upscale seafood restaurant in Old Town, Edinburgh, on Saturday five days before the Scottish Independence referendum. Draped in orange, the Orders,1 15,000 strong marched by, past our window seat, turning right on “The Royal Mile,” and ending atop Edinburgh’s Abbeymount.
Many waved the blue and white Flag of Scotland — the Cross of St. Andrew — and the Union Jack. “We love Scotland,” “We love the United Kingdom,” “Better Together,” “Best of Both Worlds,” “Proud to be British,” “Proud to be Scottish,” and even “United We Stand, Divided We Fall.”
Their message was clear. The U.K. should be preserved, with Scotland a part of it, as they had known it. As their ancestors had known it, for more than three centuries.
Still, by the time 18 September arrived, TRL had seen hundreds of blue and white YES posters and buttons, plus a large number of free standing Flags of Scotland. Others signified their opposition with red or black “NO” or “NO, Thanks” posters, or by merely flying the familiar Union Jack.2
The debate even made it into the bakeries. In Anstruther in Fife, a purveyor or pastries sold cookies iced in blue and “NO” and the undecided green and “?” The debate was long. In the last days before the Referendum, the locals referred to it as the Never-endum.
In 1707, England and Scotland united to form the Kingdom of Great Britain. Scotland’s effort to emulate England with its own colonies in the New World had been a financial disaster. The English say they came to the rescue of their neighbor to the North. Scots say England took advantage of Scotland’s financial vulnerability.
Surely the statute of limitations has run on questions about the grounds for the Union. England had absorbed Wales in 1536. In 1801, Great Britain united with Ireland to form the United Kingdom, though in 1922 most of Ireland left; hence, the independent Republic of Ireland.
So the matter stood until the 1980s. Many Scots saw Margaret Thatcher’s Tory government as harsh towards their homeland. In the days leading to 18 September, YES and NO Scots told TRL that Thatcher-imposed scars are not forgotten. “Margaret Thatcher is the most hated name in all of Scotland!”
And so the Scottish Independence Referendum Act was passed by the Scottish Parliament on 14 November 2013 and received Royal Assent on 17 December 2013. Her Majesty’s Government in Westminster Hall did nothing to try to stop it.
In those last pre-referendum days, YES was far more prominent [like 20 to 1, or so] than NO in residential windows throughout Edinburgh. The margin seemed greater in Leith, port city to Edinburgh on the Firth of Forth. “We want to be like Canada” was the elaboration commonly heard.
Of course, a good 90 percent of the many windows TRL passed while riding tour buses or walking the streets in Old Town or New Town were mere unadorned panes. And in Fife, home of former Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown, along the North Sea coast.
Not sure whether what was visible confirmed the large “Undecided” vote we kept hearing about, or whether the NO voters were more restrained, or just lying low.
A generation ago nationalism seemed passé, nice but not necessary to the functioning of organized society. Then the Iron Curtain came down. The Soviet Union imploded. The British Empire had already disintegrated, but for ceremony. In time, other strong fisted regimes fell, in the Balkans, the Middle East and more recently in Northern Africa.
People(s) began to seek their roots, and thought it important that they do so and that they be allowed to do so. Tribalism was unleashed anew. Combined with religion and race, it became toxic — everywhere, or so it seemed. The one major cross-current, the European Union, has been stressed by tough economic times.
TRL recalled how Holmes put the point, viz., “I believe in the iniquitous doctrine of my country right or wrong,” writing to a “dear fighting [Irish lady] friend” 3 a hundred years ago, as the forces built towards Irish home rule.
On Tuesday, 16 September 2014, Alex Stevenson posted a question, “How different are Scotland’s values to the rest of the UK’s?” 4 Stevenson’s approach was that, if Scotland could show it really is different from England in ways that count, the case for independence would be stronger.
Of course, there is Haggis, the Scottish “savoury pudding containing sheep’s pluck (heart, liver and lungs), minced with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices and salt, mixed with stock, and traditionally encased in the animal’s stomach, and simmered for approximately three hours.” 5
To suggest that Scottish Haggis is unique is inadequate. TRL learned that in late June 2014, the U.K. government had launched yet another effort to convince the U.S. to lift the ban it imposed on Haggis in 1971 and allow American Scots to enjoy this traditional Scottish experience.6
Haggis aside, Stevenson quoted ostensibly astute observers to the point that general social values on matters like education and welfare and publicly funded universal healthcare are not that different as compared to England. The social welfare state, introduced in the wake of World War II by Clement Atlee and the Labour Party, in its broad strokes remains in effect and seems to enjoy general public support, Maggie Thatcher’s efforts a quarter of a century ago to the contrary notwithstanding.
And so the issues in the independence campaign became practical. How the Scottish economy would fare under independence became hotly disputed. Two big particulars. Currency and North Sea oil.7 And would these really matter? And how so?
Scottish National Party [SNP] leader Alex Salmond said Scotland would continue to use the U.K. pound sterling as it does now. U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron said, no you won’t. Salmond said he’d negotiate the point but, in any event, you couldn’t stop us.
Pro-Independence Scots argued there are abundant untapped North Sea oil resources that an independent Scotland could use to support its economy. Critics said the claims were poppycock.
No way for objective American lawyers like TRL to learn or understand the facts well enough to know on these and lesser points.
There is the matter of discernable class distinctions, but the political boundary between England and Scotland does not seem to coincide there.
A recent inquiry into the pedigrees of families who fought either for or against Robert the Bruce on 24th June 1314 documented the “extraordinary close blood connections they had in common, north and south of the Scottish Border and, as the centuries moved on, how generations continued to inter-marry and reconnect with each other.” 8
Apparently, there is an affluent middle class in and around London, southern and southeastern England, more so than elsewhere within the U.K.
Published reports suggest there’s not much difference at all in class, employment and demographics among the people of Liverpool, Newcastle and Manchester in northern England when compared with their Scottish neighbors a bit further to the North. Almost all of the English Labour MPs elected in 2010 represent districts near or bordering Scotland.
Some make the point that there is no more a set of homogenous Scottish values than there is a set of homogenous English values.
But there is that political boundary between Scotland, where some 5.3 million live, and England proper, where a whopping 56.5 million are said to reside. Wales has about 3.1 million people, and Northern Ireland completes the U.K. with some 1.8 million.
The picture becomes clearer when you look at the U.K. House of Commons, apportioned as per the 2010 general elections. Some 533 MPs hail from England, while only 60 come from Scotland, 40 from Wales and 18 from Northern Ireland.9
Simple math says there is no way Scots could speak with effect on a point of U.K. – wide importance where Scotland’s material interests really did differ from England’s and the others’.
People understand majority rule, but no one wants to be in a powerless minority, forever.
The ostensible political difference between the said-to-be more liberal, pro-social welfare oriented Scotch and the said-to-be more conservative England has been exaggerated by regular reporting that there is but a lone Conservative/Tory MP from Scotland, elected from a south central Scottish district that borders England.
(Though it did produce a nice quip from TRL’s tour bus commentator on 17 September, viz., “There are more pandas in Scotland than Tory MPs, two to one!”)
Of Scotland’s 60 MPs, 40 belong to the Labour Party, including former Prime Minister Brown. Add six members of the SNP and you have a view of Opposition strength in the Scottish delegation. Still, eleven are Liberal Democrats (Gladstone’s descendants?) who UK-wide have joined with the Conservatives to form the government led by Prime Minister David Cameron.10
For five days in Edinburgh and day trip environs leading up to 18 September, TRL wondered how to give friends back home a sense of what had been going on up here. Looking only at population and politics and with broad strokes, imagine that the six New England states declared their independence, and set up a new capitol in Boston.
Disregarding, of course, Daniel Webster’s “Liberty and Union, Now and Forever, One and Inseparable.”
Winters are colder in New England, before you add in the nor’easters those near the sea must contend with. New Englanders say they work harder than folk anywhere else. Many still go down to the sea in ships, though more in fishing vessels these days. They are a hardier people because of the environment in which they live.
Natural resources are scarce and/or exhausted. The economy relies heavily on tourism.
Washington has as poor a track record in responding to unique New England needs, as Westminster/London’s to Scotland’s (though, again, perception or reality?).
The point dates back the artistic effort to do what could never be done politically. The Hudson River School responded with brush and canvas to everything that Jacksonian Democracy stood for and was perceived to be doing to and for the Republic. The Northeast knew it did not have and likely would never have the votes to dig its way out of being a perpetual political minority.
For all its merit and history, New England is a perpetual weak sister, never again to have stand-alone political strength vis a vis the U.S. in the aggregate. And this would be so even if New York joined a hypothetical secession movement. Witness the 2014 U.S. elections. New England could make about as strong a case for independence as the pro/YES Scots made. But this is about as far as TRL as American lawyers, trying to be objective and understand, can go in telling the story of what happened in Scotland leading up to and on 18 September.
In the days before the referendum, both YES and NO campaigns invoked the supposed prestige and support of great Scots of years past. The poet Robert Burns would surely have voted YES, or so we were told. Moral philosopher and economist Adam Smith would surely have voted NO.
With no illusion that it leads to a full understanding of 18 September, this seems a worthwhile way of thinking about The Question.
After all, Scotland is rich in history and legends and great characters that have influenced others at home and worldwide. The evidence is on the streets in dozens of statues, monuments and memorials, and in the cemeteries and museums of Edinburgh. Scotland’s story matters.11
Does there not remain in America a power not only in the brush strokes of the Hudson Valley School, of Winslow Homer, Edward Hopper and Norman Rockwell, but, as well, in the pens of Bryant and Irving, of Emerson and Longfellow and Thoreau, of Melville and Whitman, and of Robert Frost, in the judgments of Holmes and Brandeis, and the scholars of Harvard and Yale, though that power may be hard to quantify?
To be sure, it might be hard to tease a political sentiment out of some of the great Scots of times past. A building at the University of Edinburgh bears the name of James Clerk Maxwell (1831–1879). An imposing monument with Maxwell’s mounted likeness stands in the middle of George Street.
A theoretical physicist, Maxwell did path-breaking work regarding what is now known as the electromagnetic interaction. Though a lover of Scottish poetry and an elder in the Church of Scotland, nothing immediately available on the Internet suggests Maxwell’s politics, if he had firm political views at all.
In September 2014 the walls and halls and archives of the Scottish National Portrait Gallery (SNPG) on Queen Street in Edinburgh spoke volumes, particularly so given the special retrospective, John Ruskin: Artist and Observer.
A large mural processional frieze surrounds the upper level of the four inner walls of the Great Hall just past the entrance to the SNPG.12 The frieze tells Scotland’s story though 155 great Scots, arranged more or less chronologically, from the legends of pre-history up through Victorian era social critic and public intellectual, Thomas Carlyle. There is no commentary, only countenances.
Fortress Scotland bound neither the thinking nor actions nor lives nor power of these and many other great Scots. The mere personae of men and women of Scottish history speak for themselves.
King Duncan I, of the Clan Connachaidh n/k/a Robertson, who ruled from 1034 until 1040, stands on the west wall beside Gruach a/k/a Lady Macbeth and then Macbeth his hen-pecked self, no mention made of the means of succession. Few graduate from high school in the U.S. without exposure to Shakespeare’s tragic tale of witches and ghosts, intrigue and murder and the ambitions of the ultimate dominatrix.
Clan chief Donnchadh Reamhar, his relatives and followers, would go on to support Robert the Bruce at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314 during the Wars of Scottish Independence; herein of the tale of Robert and the Spider that enriched for the school child the lesson of David and Goliath, i.e., much more is generally needed than one lucky shot from a sling.
Mary Queen of Scots may have lost her head, but she won the war. Her son did the impossible, becoming King James I of England while also being James VI of Scotland (yes, that King James), uniting England and Scotland, though the deal would not be sealed for another century.
In the Sixteenth Century, John Knox led the Protestant Reformation in Scotland and is credited with assuring that the Presbyterian Church and Calvinism would become the Church of Scotland, replacing Catholicism. Knox stands on the south wall, among those memorialized in the Hole frieze in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery. He may or may not have spent his last days in “John Knox House” on High Street (the Royal Mile). Statues of Knox dot the City of Edinburgh, prominently in St. Giles Cathedral.
These figures were important. The views of those who lived before the political marriage of 1707 should be taken with several grains of salt.
Two eighteenth-century, secular Scots arguably made more of a difference than did the kings and queens, political and religious leaders, and the literary luminaries that followed. How would they likely have voted on 18 September?
David Hume (1711–1776) set out to do for morality and ethics what Newton had done for the natural sciences. In his pursuits as a writer, economist, historian and philosopher, Hume was an unrepentant empiricist, a positivist.13
Immanuel Kant claimed that Hume’s work woke him from his “dogmatic slumbers.” The Utilitarians relied heavily on Hume, Jeremy Bentham supposedly having said that reading Hume “caused the scales to fall from my eyes.” Charles Darwin drew insights from Hume for his theories of evolution and natural selection.
No one gave Hume a greater nod than another secular Scot, Adam Smith (1723–1790), a friend and colleague, though a decade younger. Smith is best known as the father of free market economic theory, articulated in An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of The Wealth of Nations (1776).
Smith argued that “wealth comes from production,” that “self-interest drives wealth.” Words to be understood as coming from a good moral empiricist. Conversely, “the motivation of the worker is crucial to production,” “to keep the worker interested in his work and motivated to do it well, he must be paid fair wages.” 14
Hume suggests and Smith confirms that the latter took the former’s work in international trade, monetary policy and finance and produced The Wealth of Nations in the same year Hume died and the United States were born.
Statues of Hume and Smith are found on High Street a/k/a “the Royal Mile,” with so many others. Each is an honored Scot, standing side by side on the east wall of Hole’s frieze in the NSPG, with Smith facing and appearing to be speaking to Hume, his mentor.
There can be no doubt that each was rolling over in his grave at the thought of a Scottish declaration of independence. Hume’s scholarly countenance sits about a block from a polling place TRL passed on the streets after dinner on referendum evening. The polls stayed open until 2200 hours.
It is appropriate that the Hume Memorial in Calton Cemetery stands next to a statute of Abraham Lincoln, in memory of Scottish Americans who perished in the Civil War, fighting to save our Union.
Adam Smith’s picture graces the twenty pound (£20) note issued by the Bank of England, accepted currency in Scotland. Robert the Bruce and the Spider are depicted on the twenty pound (£20) note issued by the Glasgow-based Clydesdale Bank.
The Clydesdale Bank posted a pre-18 September notice on its website that it had made contingency plans, in the event of a YES vote, which “include re-registering the Bank as an English company in order to mitigate risks and provide increased certainty for customers during independence negotiations and beyond.” 15 The Royal Bank of Scotland and Lloyds had made like statements.16
Flora MacDonald 17 (1722–1790) became a heroine of the Jacobite Risings in the mid-eighteenth century, focused on restoring the Stuarts to the throne of the United Kingdom.
But Prince Charles Edward was defeated at the Battle of Culloden and was on the run. Flora famously helped Bonnie Prince Charlie escape, dressed as an Irish maidservant.18
The story is told of Flora’s meeting with Dr. Samuel Johnson in 1773 while he and James Boswell were touring in Scotland. Johnson is said to have described her as a woman of “elegant manners and gentle presence.”
In 1774, Flora and Allan MacDonald sailed to the British colony of North Carolina. A few years later, Allan joined the Royal Highland Emigrants and fought for King George in the American Revolution.
Dr. Johnson also said of Flora, “Her name will be mentioned in history, and if courage and fidelity be virtues, mentioned with honour.” She stands on the east wall of Hole’s frieze, the fourth figure to Hume’s left.
James Boswell 19 (1740–1795) was the ninth Laird of Auchinleck. A lawyer by profession, Boswell’s The Life of Samuel Johnson, LL.D. (1791) is and always has been the gold standard for biography. He stands three to the left of James Watt on the east wall of Hole’s frieze.
James Watt 20 (1736–1819), long associated with the University of Glasgow, invented the steam engine and fueled the Industrial Revolution. Watt was much more than an inventor and mechanical engineer. Natural philosophy, chemistry and astronomy were among his many interests. Watt became a friend and associate of Adam Smith.
Three sculptures greet visitors to the SNPG. Robert Burns is front and center, a full length sandstone presentation. Sculpted busts of Walter Scott (1771–1832) and Robert Louis Stevenson (1850–1894) flank Burns.
Scott and Burns stand on the east wall of Hole’s frieze. Rabbie Burns is third to the left of James Watt. Stevenson is on the north wall.
Burns was born in 1759, the Ploughman poet, Robden of Salway Firth, Bard of Ayshire.21 Some of Rabbie Burns’ best known poems include “A Man’s a Man for A’ That,” “Auld Lang Syne,” “The Battle of Sherramuir,” and “Tam O’ Shanter.”
John Steinbeck drew on “To a Mouse” for his OF MICE AND MEN. Bob Dylan said “A Red, Red Rose” had a big effect on his life.
The Burns Encyclopedia offers aid to those of us not fluent in such dialects, “The Best of Robert Burns, translated into the de’il’s tongue!” 22 In time some saw Burns’ poetry to have inspired liberalism and socialism.
In a straw vote run by a Scottish television station in 2009, the public named Burns “The Greatest Scot.” William Wallace came in a close second.
Burns is depicted on the ten pound (£10) note issued by the Clydesdale Bank. Charles Darwin is depicted on the ten pound (£10) note issued by the Bank of England.
Burns’ birthday, 25 January, is the most observed day in Scotland, beating out the formal St. Andrew’s Day. Burns suppers take place on 25 January around the world. First item on the agenda is reciting Burns’ poem “Address to a Haggis,” 23 though this may turn on whether the local government has a U.S. style ban on serving Haggis.
In 1864, well before the American Haggis ban was imposed, President Lincoln was invited to attend a Burns supper, or propose a toast. The President chose to compose a toast.
A bronze sculpture of Burns graces the Literary Walk and Mall in Central Park in New York, courtesy the efforts of eminent Victorian sculptor, Sir John Steell.
A 61.11-meter (that’s 200 feet, 6 inches, for those who refuse to join the civilized and uncivilized rest of the world that uses the metric system) monument stands just south of Princes Street, across from Jenners Department Store in Edinburgh. Walter Scott is the honoree.
Yes, referring to Scott as “Sir Walter” is confusing the familiar with the necessary. (Sir) John Steell did the honors on the Scott sculpture in New York’s Central Park as well, installed across from and facing Rabbie Burns.
From the year following World War I through at least the end of the 1950s, few of us as early as late elementary escaped exposure and no little pleasure from Scott’s tales of chivalry, romance and medieval England. Ivanhoe, the story set in the times of King Richard I and Robin Hood, was a best seller when written in 1820 and still popular with school teachers fifty years ago. Most Baby Boomers remember the lines
Breathes there the man with soul so dead,
Who never to himself hath said,
“This is my own, my native land”?
Some no doubt recall that Edward Everett Hale used it in his short story, “The Man Without a Country,” but few could tell you that the words were Scott’s from his poem, “The Lay of the Last Minstrel” (1805).
Practically unknown here is that Scott also had a career as a lawyer in Edinburgh.24
Sculptures, portraits and drawings all over Edinburgh, the rest of the U.K. and the U.S. keep his memory alive.25
Robert Louis Stevenson26 (1850–1894) excited the imagination of school children with a different kind of story. Best known is Treasure Island, though a case can be made that more of us remember the N. C. Wyeth illustrations that gave life to Stevenson’s famous tale of adventure. Kidnapped followed, as did The Black Arrow and The Master of Ballantrae.
A little older, we were fascinated by The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
As for the issue of the day, decided 18 September, both sides reasonably laid claim to Stevenson’s vote. He is said to have considered himself a socialist in his youth.
In 1877, upon his having become a Tory, Stevenson is said to have remarked, “I submit to this, as I would submit to gout or gray hair, as a concomitant of growing age . . . , but I do not acknowledge that it is necessarily a change for the better — I dare say it is deplorably for the worse.” 27
Beginning in 1888 and until his death in 1894, Stevenson spent most of his time among the South Sea islands, beginning with what is now Hawaii, the Gilbert Islands, Tahiti and the Samoan Islands, among others.
Thomas Babington, Lord Macaulay28 (1800–1859) stands roughly midway between Thomas Carlyle and David Livingstone to his right on the north wall of Cole’s frieze and Robert Louis Stevenson to his left. Macaulay authored a five volume The History of England from the Accession of James the Second (and James VII of Scotland) that ultimately extended through King William III of Orange, 1685 through 1702.
Macaulay’s history focused on the Glorious Revolution of 1688, which deposed James II or James VII, depending on your point of view. On January 9, 1860, Macaulay was buried in Poets’ Corner in Westminster Abbey in London.
The London Missionary Society sent Scottish Congregationalist medical missionary David Livingstone29 (1813–1873) to Africa, where he dropped out of sight for six years until H. M. Stanley found him in 1871 on the shores of Lake Tanganyika. “Dr. Livingstone, I presume.” Livingstone stands next to Thomas Carlyle on the north wall of Hole’s frieze.
It is fitting that Thomas Carlyle30 (1795–1881) is at the end of William Hole’s line of great Scots, standing on the north wall of the Great Hall at SNPG, and for several reasons.
A larger than life figure on a far broader stage than Scotland, Carlyle articulated a “great man” theory of history in On Heroes, Hero-Worship and the Heroic in History (1841) and then proceeded to author the six volume History of Frederick II of Prussia, called Frederick the Great (1858–1865). This Carlyle project validates Hole’s modus operandi.
Unlike Hume and Smith and the Utilitarians who followed, Carlyle clung to a transcendental and non-materialistic view of the world and human endeavor in it, though his mature years corresponded with the Industrial Revolution (as Hume’s and Smith’s did not).
We know that Carlyle was influenced by German idealism and literature in his early years. He developed and maintained a friendship with Americans31 such as Ralph Waldo Emerson. And he lived in London for many years.
Offered burial in Westminster Abbey, Carlyle declined in favor of a return to Ecclefechan, a small village in southern Scotland where he lies next to his parents.
John Ruskin (1819–1900) is not on the Hole frieze. His work was displayed at SNPG more prominently than William Hole’s, albeit only until 28 September 2014. Carlyle and Ruskin met in the 1840s. “[T]hey . . . had much in common. Ruskin, too, was a Scot, although a displaced one.” 32 By the end of 1873, the two has become so close that, in time after the death of his father, Ruskin began to address his elder as “Papa.”
In time, his artistic endeavors evolved and Ruskin became a social, moral and utopian philosopher. His later work was admired by the aging Leo Tolstoy, and by the youthful Mohandas K. Gandhi.
Ruskin argued that “the world of work should be driven by the human needs of the worker, not by economic laws.” 33 He envisioned a “kind of medieval world free of machinery” 34 where men found value and meaning in manual labor. Though opposed to socialism, properly so called, Ruskin sought to “give back to the workman ownership of his productive life.” 35
Ruskin railed against John Stuart Mill and the utilitarians, joining Carlyle in condemnation of those “dismal science” 36 people. Keeping in mind that Adam Smith’s work was done before the Industrial Revolution, and in the day when the craft guilds still flourished, the thinking of Ruskin and Carlyle was not altogether at odds with Smith’s.
Most noteworthy for present purposes was Ruskin’s influence on the British Labour Party. When surveyed in 1906, the first Labour MPs were asked to list the influences on their political beliefs. “Ruskin was the clear favorite.” 37 The Bible was second. Carlyle was fifth.
Ruskin’s Guild of St. George, as he conceived it, would have established in the world he knew a sort of utopian society,38 “a self-governing community, living on British soil but disassociated from British capitalism; an embodiment of the doctrine that ‘there is no wealth but life’.” 39
It is hard to imagine Ruskin (and Carlyle) as other than unrelenting advocates of a United Kingdom, where the ideals expressed in Unto this Last and Fors Clavigera were implemented and prevailed, with little patience for the sort of provincial thinking that drove the YES campaign.
David Hume and Adam Smith differed from the other Great Scots noted above, and a bit from each other. Flora MacDonald fought for the Scots at home but for King George when his American colonies rebelled.
Burns and Scott and Stevenson each wrote with a different pen and spoke with a different voice to a different time and with a different story. Carlyle and Ruskin saw the world quite differently than did Hume and Smith a century before.
All drew on their Scottish roots and heritage. Many spent years in London, with no apparent evidence it was thought a foreign land. Many studied and learned from others of different lands and languages on the Continent.
None of the Great Scots shunned wisdom from beyond the political boundaries of his native land. Each had a broad point of view, at times rich in Scottish experience but never cloistered in that northern land. Each delivered a message to the world at large. TRL is less sure about Burns than the others, though one thing is clear: the Western World has received (but not necessarily read) his poetry.
James Watt’s steam engine ignited the Industrial Revolution. David Livingstone preached and practiced the love of all mankind. And James Clerk Maxwell spoke of and to the Universe itself.
There is no denying the energy and excitement that led to 18 September 2014 in Scotland. While the fight was fought civilly and passionately and peacefully, there is no denying that at its core the YES campaign brought forth the face of tribalism.
The lesson of the Scottish independence referendum is not how such contests should be fought, but that the world would be a better place if we could stop fighting them at all. That’s not likely to happen.
It was a Brit, the late Herbert L. A. Hart, who taught us most persuasively that law and order are social facts the efficacy of which turns, not on some constitution but on their acceptance by a broad enough portion of the people.40
My country right or wrong will always attract the bad and the good. If only the magnetic pull of its polar opposite — one Universe with liberty and justice for all — could provide a countervailing force a bit more often and with a bit more effect.
And afford enough light for more to see more of the time that an empirically based search for a better Universe does not imply, much less require, a lesser reverence for the land where one was born and raised.
Or that one is happier when living only among one’s own.