Aye, Dugald

 The 7th Dugald far left

The 7th Dugald far left

Scotland will vote in a referendum this week on whether to become an independent country. Australia’s Prime Minister has said that those in favour of independence aren’t friends of freedom or justice, and the US President thinks the United Kingdom should stay united. Even the Pope has weighed in, although he was talking about Catalonia and Spain, which, apparently, is a parable for Scotland and England. I thought it would be good to present an unbiased analysis, from the Clan MacColl. 

I was surprised they were voting actually, because I thought Scotland was already independent. It’s 700 years since Robert the Bruce whupped the English hides at Bannockburn. The number 7 has significance. Bruce had 7000 soldiers to the English 14,000, and 7 is half of 14. We are 14 years into the new century; in 7 more years, it will be 21, an adult. It makes you think. It would do well for voters to reflect on Bannockburn because it turned the tide to Scottish independence. The Scots were not favoured then as they’re not now. Victory was only secured when Bruce split the Earl of Hereford’s nephew’s head with an axe. 

Clearly Bruce was not so nuanced as the campaigners in the current referendum. Rather than splitting heads, the “Yes Scotland” folk are invoking oil and Scandinavia, the North Sea natural resources that will no longer flow through Westminister, and links to ancestral countries. The “Better Together” campaign has run on fear, while stressing the importance of friends. In the ads, fear manifests as a mother at a kitchen table in the few minutes of the day she has to enjoy a cup of tea. Husband Paul is nagging her to make up her mind, but she doesn’t really understand anything, so she’ll vote no. As for friends, to the soundtrack of the “Queen” song You’re My Best Friend, English celebrities I didn’t recognise hold up homemade placards saying we love you.

When I first visited Scotland, I expected to be welcomed home. I knew from my mother, who was enamoured of my father’s French-Scottish ancestry, that the MacColls ran the place. My father was the eighth Dugald in his line. When we learned the Skye Boat Song at school – my favourite – I knew my own ancestors had played a part in this rich history. One of the Dugalds had been in the boat guarding bonnie Prince Charlie as he fled the coming English to the Isle of Skye, my mother said, although if you Google it, Dugald the guard doesn’t come up straight away. The MacColls were poets whose names and verses rolled off their Highland tongues.

Imagine my shock to learn not only that the MacColls weren’t running the place but that no one I met in Scotland was named MacColl. We didn’t even have a Tartan in the coffee table book at the B&B we stayed in. But how beautiful was my country anyway, with its mountains and its lakes and its majesty, how different from England, how much I felt I’d come home after all. It was Sir Walter Scott who wrote, “Breathes there the man with soul so dead, who never to himself hath said, ‘This is my own, my native land.’”

Don’t get me wrong. I can see why England wants Scotland. If Scotland leaves, they can’t really remain the United Kingdom. They’ll have to think of a new name. They could be WENI, for Wales, England and Northern Ireland, or the United Pair, if you don’t count Northern Ireland, but it won’t be the same. It’s not so hard for Scotland. They already have a great name. They’re Scotland.

In the American Revolution – where another country became independent of England – Patrick Henry, at the 1775 Virginia Convention, mobilised the confrères against the encroaching British with his “Give me liberty, or give me death” speech. Next week’s result may not matter so much. At time of writing there’s a sinkhole in Durham 35 metres wide and growing by the second. There are five 7s in 35. The sinkhole is 7 times bigger than it was 7 days ago. You can’t see the bottom. By the time they come to counting in the Scottish referendum, England may no longer be with us.