Scotland: “Aye” is for independence
“In Scotland, the people are sovereign.” Draft Scottish Independence Bill, Part 2
Many Scots would have rathered we not had visited Edinburgh. No, not out of rudeness but out of pride and patriotic fervor. Our week in Scotland was to be the first week of Scottish independence in centuries. If all had gone according to plan, then 24 April 2016 would have been a day of national exhilaration. Lads and Lasses from around the world would have descended on the ancient city to join the celebration. Clearly there would have been no room at the inn. But room there was as independence there was not.
Castles are built to fight, palaces are built to please. In Scotland the former are more common than the latter. In four days of travel in Scotland we got to see the ruins and remains of contests over land and sovereignty. The most ancient of fortresses have been lost to time and improvement. Those that remain vary in condition from defeated to resilient.
The remnants of Urquhart Castle are straight out of a Grimm fairy tale. It think seeing it on a bonnie day would defeat the effect. Luckily, our visit was on a typical spring day, neither too wet to prevent ogling nor too windy to hold a steady camera. If the walls could have talked, then I think they would have moaned and wailed. There was nothing gentle suggested by the ruins or its perch on Loch Ness. Urquhart was crippled to defeat any hopes of the Jacobite rebellion’s campaign for freedom.
Stirling Castle welcomed us with uncharacteristically inviting March weather, thank you. Atop a volcanic crag, Stirling lords over the countryside. The Battle of Bannockburn was fought under its shadow. I think the Scots view Stirling Castle with a sense of ownership and symbol of independence more so than any other, the evidence is the impeccable condition of the buildings and grounds. Greater still are two monuments without the castle walls, a statue of Robert the Bruce, and a monument to William Wallace. In contrast to Urquhart, I rather think the sun did a great service to the mood. With the sun at 32º, the stones were aglow, a signal of energy and life to future generations and future struggles.
The ancient rocks upon which Edinburgh Castle were laid witnessed many an assault. According to the castle guide, the castle was the most contested in all of Britain. And while ownership changed crowns many a time, the castle itself never succumbed to a siege. The Union of the Crowns by James VI was a bittersweet victory for the Scots. Their king now laid claim to England and Ireland but that necessitated his relocation to London, an unbroken tradition. A century later the powershift to the south was completed as Parliament in Westminster assumed taxing and trade rule for the land north of Hadrian’s Wall.
As a monument to the past, Edinburgh Castle was the glory of the Scottish kings and queen. As a working fortress it defends the sacred royal regalia and the memory that inspires a future. A future that nearly came to be.
“That sovereignty lies with the people will be the fundamental political, constitutional and legal organising principle of an independent Scotland.It is a principle charged with historical resonance, affirming the ancient Scots constitutional tradition that Monarchs and Parliaments are the servants of the people.Sovereignty of the people was clearly set out as early as the Declaration of Arbroath in 1320, refined in the writings of George Buchanan in the late 16th century, declared in Scotland’s first Claim of Right in 1689 and proclaimed again for modern Scotland by the Constitutional Convention in 1989.” (Explanatory Notes, page 27, for the Constitution, Part 2, Section 2)
The countryside of Scotland is a memorial to the struggle for self determination. The geography of Scotland makes it easy to appreciate the zeal of independence. People at the edges of civilization and people of steep country are naturally resistant to conquest. Not that any people wish to yield their sovereignty but some places are just easier to dominate than others. Consult your history lessons for examples.
Thus bold, independent, unconquer’d, and free,
Her bright course of glory for ever shall run:
For brave Caledonia immortal must be;
I’ll prove it from Euclid as clear as the sun:
Rectangle-triangle, the figure we’ll chuse:
The upright is Chance, and old Time is the base;
But brave Caledonia’s the hypothenuse;
Then, ergo, she’ll match them, and match them always.
last verse from, A Ballad for Caledonia, by Robert Burns