We’ve just returned from a week in Scotland. Peter spent much of his professional life there, so he knows it well. We’ve also spent many holidays there, but every time we go back, I seem to learn something more. This time seeing Scotland up close as they grapple with the question of independence was particularly stimulating.
The referendum in which Scots will vote on whether to separate from Great Britain and become a totally independent country on its own is taking place in almost exactly three months, and the debate is becoming heated. I was a little surprised at some of the name-calling and accusations that those who don’t want to vote yes to independence are unpatriotic. Some of the debates within families are also becoming quite strained. I hadn’t realized how psychologically complex the issue is for some. It seems to resemble some of the religious debates among various believers all of whom are convinced that only they possess the Truth.
Scotland is an incredibly beautiful country, even when it’s raining, which is often, with a unique, rich, old culture of its own which I enjoy immensely. That is one of the arguments I heard for independence, but not one which I found convincing. Other areas in Great Britain can make similar claims. Yorkshire is as different from London as Scotland is. Or Cornwall, or Wales. It’s the same in the U.S. where the north-east coast has a different culture and different history than Texas, for instance. (Interesting, though, that we did fight the Civil War which was basically over states’ rights before some compromise between the authority of Washington and that of the individual states was finally agreed. Scotland and London have agreed to settle it with a vote.)
My own hope is that Scotland votes to remain within the United Kingdom, and that this results in greater devolution, so that more decisions are the responsibility of local people and not dictated from London.
It’s the kind of challenge that is facing many parts of the world, including the European Union: how to benefit from cooperation without over-riding individual cultures and the great benefits of our diversity.
I wasn’t terribly surprised when President Obama said he hoped Scotland would not become independent. But to my astonishment, I read yesterday that Pope Francis also has expressed his view that Scotland should not vote for independence. If I understood, he thinks it is a world-wide challenge for us all to learn to cooperate and to live together, and to break up a partnership that has worked for centuries is a step backward. The Yes campaign in Scotland apparently took a hit as a result. But whether they become a separate country or not, they are independent in themselves, and the Scottish people will make up their own minds.