There’s a wee meme, more a baby memette, in the Unionist media, that Scotland is sleepwalking into independence. And there was us thinking that we were running so fast we were all windswept and interesting. Except Neil Oliver, who’s just windswept. But do a wee check on Google for the words Scotland, independence, and sleepwalking and you’ll pull up Michael White in Monday’s Guardian Scottish independence: Are we sleepwalking to the brink? in which he warns us that we’re sleepwalking towards doom and disaster, Scotland in danger of sleepwalking into independence from the same paper last November, and in the same month Is Scotland sleepwalking into independence from the Telegraph and on and ZZZZzzzzzz walking on.
The doom and disaster towards which we’re sleepwalking is apparently a legacy of lasting bitterness. This is because there are people in Scotland disagreeing with one another. Shocking, isn’t it. I always thought that disagreeing was a defining characteristic of Scottish people, and it generally involves swearie words. Put six members of my family together in one room and you have 36 arguments. Disagreeing is kinda what we do, and we do it quite well with remarkably few incidences of stabbing. Perhaps Michael finds this odd because he has one of those stiff upper lip Great British families where you don’t actually know if relatives are on speaking terms because they don’t talk to one another anyway. We can only speculate. It’s something else we can disagree about.
However, I know for a fact that no one in my family has ever tried to commit grievous bodily harm upon another member since that unfortunate incident with my mother’s cousins, a bottle of Eldorado, the TV scheduling, a walloping over the head with a lawn mower, and a dozen stitches in A&E. And that was so long ago that there were only two black and white channels to argue over. But some people get quite obsessional about the Beechgrove Garden, so you can appreciate why passions ran so high. We’ve all kissed and made up since. Although the patio was concreted over, come to think of it … and no one ever did see that garden gnome again. It had black eyebrows, white hair, and a heart of stone.
We’re having a lawnmower free independence debate though. Haven’t seen much sign of Westminster’s ornamental garden gnome recently either. Aren’t they extending the patio at Westminster when they renovate it at a cost of squillions? Hmmm… Just keep your eye open for Gordie Broon with a lawnmower.
If your only source of information about Scotland was the UK media, you must think that the place is full of undead folk with their eyes shut and deaf to all warnings, doing the zombie walk. It’s almost as if the Guardian and Telegraph political correspondents have confused Braeheid Shopping Centre with the House of Lords. Which is unfair, as there are strict laws preventing the shops in Braeheid from touting decrepit products long past their sell by date.
Scottish voters, at least according to the UK media, are clearly not thinking things through, by which they mean we’ve heard what UK politicians and the UK media have had to say, and we’re not convinced by it, because by and large what they’re saying is childish tripe. It’s our fault for not listening, not their fault for not having a convincing case. How dare we persist in thinking this isn’t about Alicsammin.
But what comes across most strongly in Mikey’s lament is his sense of propietorship. Scottish independence for Michael represents his “losing an essential part of himself”, even if that’s a part that exists only in his imagination. Scotland is the essential part of Michael’s self that allows him to espouse British nationalism without realising he’s a nationalist. We’re the multinational windowdressing in the Westminster shop of horrors. We’re not the ones sleepwalking, but Michael is complaining that we are rousing him from his slumber.
Michael seems to be irked because he’s suddenly got issues with his identity, so this is supposed to be a debate about identity, and Scotland’s not cooperating. We’re not having the debate he wants us to have. Stop with that civic stuff. Scottishness is monodimensional, it’s only Britishness that can act as a container for the kaleidoscope of identities which we all possess. It hasn’t occurred to Michael that you can be a hyphenated Scot without the other side of the hyphen being occupied by British. There are Asian-Scots and Polish-Scots, Franco-Algerian-Scots, and Anglo-Greek-Scots. Me? I’m Scottish all the time and Irish when it suits me.
Scotland did the identity debate a generation ago, when we took a long hard look at what it meant to be Scottish in Britain. Artists and thinkers took apart the tartan bedecked Haste Ye Back souvenirs and the red white and blue Silver Jubilee memorabilia and realised that it is the Britishness that’s the confused and confusing part of the identity question, not the Scottishness. It’s Britishness that obscures and Scottishness that illuminates the answers. But that was a debate that scarcely impinged on the consciousness of people like Guardian politics correspondents. The referendum debate had scarcely impinged on their consciousness either, until the currency fear bomb exploded in George Osborne’s face and the opinion polls went the wrong way.
They’re playing catch up, trying to rush their way through 40-odd years of constitutional, political and cultural debate in the dwindling time between now and 18 September. They’re still stuck on the identity question, Scotland has long since moved on. The Guardian and Telegraph correspondents of this world look around the independence debating house for answers to their own questions, they see only an empty identity entrance hall and think we’re still in bed. We’re in the living room, living and having a ball, and we’re about to open up the patio doors and let in the international air.
The UK media is for the most part missing out on the real debate, so it’s effectively not happening as far as they are concerned. This revolution is not being televised. The real Scottish revolution is happening in countless conversations in the pub, in jokes between friends, in families sitting around the telly, in laughs and shouts and smiling faces, in walks in the park in the rain, in the privacy of our own thoughts and hopes. It’s a very Scottish revolution, and it’s unlike anything that’s ever gone before. This is the revolution of the pie and pint, the revolution of tea and scones. And we’ve got our eye on the jam too.
But Michael, ah Michael. Michael will have had his tea.
Sleepwalking? This country has never been more alive. The crusty crud of Westminster has fallen from our eyes and Scotland is awake to potentials that had previously been closed, shut away in the dark closet of the cringe. Now our eyes gaze upon vistas undreamt, our voices have a range we never knew, and for the first time in our lives we’ve learned how to hope. There’s a pathway through the mountains, and we know how to climb. And it feels so good.
We’re excited at the countless possibilities that are springing up like Scottish bluebells after a long cold winter of the soul. We’re not sleepwalking to independence, we’re casting off our crutches and getting up on our own two feet, we’re running towards the future with hope in our hearts, we’re dancing towards it with our own rhythm, we’re singing dreams into being with our own tunes. We’re following the songlines to a future we seize in our own hands.
It’s good to be alive in the Scottish summer, and it’s even better being awake. Alive and awake in the dreaming time.