A guest post by Bob Hastings
‘Should Scotland be an independent country?’ That’s the question we have to answer on September 18. But there’s one word too many in that question. It should read simply ‘Should Scotland be a country?’
Wait a minute, though, you say, we know that Scotland is a country. It has its own flag and anthem and football team; its own legal and educational systems; it even has two national drinks. It must be a country.
But although most of us are convinced that Scotland is a country, I’m afraid it isn’t. Not if you consider a country to be a sovereign state. Slovakia, Latvia and Luxembourg are countries, but Scotland is a region.
If Scotland were a country, we would have the government we vote for at every election. If Scotland were a country, it would have a seat in the United Nations. If Scotland were a country, we would have 13 MEPs defending our interests in the European Parliament, not 6 lost amongst the 73 representing the UK. And at some point in the future for six months Scotland would have the honour of presiding the Council of the European Union, just like Latvia and Luxembourg will in 2015.
But we have none of those things because despite our heartfelt conviction that Scotland is a country, the political reality is that it is nothing more than a region of the UK. It fails to meet six of the eight accepted criteria used to determine statehood (see http://geography.about.com/od/politicalgeography/a/scotlandnot.htm for details). That’s why we have to scroll all the way down to the United Kingdom before we can click on our nationality on those interminable drop-down menus on the Internet.
I’ve been living in Spain for almost thirty years. When people wonder where I’m from, they often ask me if I’m English. (For most Spaniards, English and British are synonyms.) ‘English?’ I say. ‘No, I’m Scottish.’ For I believe that Scotland is my country. I feel Scottish, not British and certainly not English. The Spaniards accept my correction but often I can tell they feel confused. They know that Scotland exists. They know we have whisky, tartan, Sean Connery and a monster. They know we have a football team that is not nearly as good as theirs. They laugh at the idea that our men wear skirts. But they also know that Scotland isn’t a proper country like Spain or Ireland or Slovakia or Latvia or Luxembourg.
On September 18, we can choose to be a country, an independent sovereign state instead of a dependent region.
If we vote no, we’re admitting to the world that we’re happy to be a region; a region with some cultural and historical trappings that please the tourists, but a region nonetheless. If we vote no, we’re giving up the right to claim that Scotland is a country. No longer will we be able to sing of our desire to rise and be a nation again. And if we vote no, in the future when I’m asked if I’m English, I’ll have to answer, ‘English? No, I’m British.’
If we vote yes, then Scotland will become a country once again. We will have the governments that we vote for. We will live in a sovereign state that is recognised and respected around the world. Scotland will be on those drop-down menus between Saudi Arabia and Senegal. Our heartfelt conviction that Scotland is a country will match the political reality. And the Spanish will no longer be confused when I tell them that I’m not English, I’m Scottish.
So when you enter the polling booth on September 18, ask yourself one question: should Scotland be a country or a region? And if you believe that Scotland is a country, all you can do is vote yes.