I wonder what my mother’s brother, my uncle Jimmy, would think of things now. He went into a POW camp after the 51st. Highland Division was forced to surrender at St. Valery in June 1940. He never came back. Lots of Scottish uncle Jimmys never came back. Their graves are to be found all over Europe – the Europe we are told will reject us if we vote for our independence.
Scots formed a higher proportion of the British army than any other part of the UK in the second world war. They fought for the independence of Belgium, Netherlands, Denmark, France and Italy, while Spain and Portugal remained neutral friends of the Nazis.
Are the grandsons and grand daughters, and great grandchildren of those uncle Jimmys, some who died and some who survived, but all of whom fought, now to be told that if they dare to vote for independence, they shall be a pariah nation? It would seem that those who tell us with glee that we shall have to wait at the back of a long queue for EU membership, count for nothing the Scottish lives given for their independence.
A matter of historical fact: Scots are the only European nation where there has never been state persecution of Jews. There are, however, members of the EU who would sit in judgement upon us who can say no such thing. The Baltic states were complicit in the murder of the Jewish people, and France and Italy had no qualms about sending them to the camps and the gas chambers. Hungary fought on the side of Hitler, as did Romania. The Netherlands proved a rich recruiting ground for the SS. Pre and post-war Poland was far from free of anti-Semitism.
Why, when their recent histories are compared to ours, is it we the Scots who have the mark of Cain on our foreheads? What is so devilishly special that a Scots democratic vote for independence is justification for casting us out of Europe’s institutions? Did our Scottish uncle Jimmys fight and die for others, only to see those others refuse for us what was gained for them?
Why is it we are told, although we have been an integral part of the EU since 1973, with every rule applied and obeyed with thousands of living commercial contracts in being between Scottish companies and those in member states, including England, that we shall have to wait behind countries that have never been in?
My approach, which I would spell out in a speech, say, in Brussels, reminding our European colleagues of our role in them gaining their liberty, and their chequered past compared to ours, may be regarded as impolitic by the Scottish Government. Playing the diplomatic game usually requires soothing words, and Nicola Sturgeon’s letter to the foreign ministers was just that.
But I am reminded of Lyndon Johnston’s instruction to Dean Rusk, Secretary of State, when de Gaulle gave the order to remove all American troops from French soil. “Ask him about the cemeteries Dean.” So Rusk, against his diplomatic instincts, did so. Did de Gaulle mean also the 60,000 buried in France from two world wars? There must come a point when Nicola gets fed up writing nice letters, only to have the NO side, with more than tacit approval from Brussels, tell us we shall be evicted, removed, cast out into the darkness of isolation, damned if we do what they do not want us to do.
It’s about time that instead of being nicey-nicey, we told our fellow “citizens of the EU” and their governments some home truths, and asked them who the hell do they think we are, and who the hell do they think they are to threaten us. Time to tell them that they will be a laughing stock throughout the world if they continue threatening to reject a country that claims its independence via a democratic vote. Isn’t the idea of democracy entwined in the EU Treaties? Do not those treaties threaten to eject countries that do not continue to adhere to democracy? How is it possible then to threaten us for us for adhering to the finest democratic principle of letting the people decide?
As for the United States offering disapproval of Scottish independence, let Obama go and look at the signatories to the American declaration of independence, where he will find Scots, again in disproportion to their numbers. And while he is at it, let him read the life of Lincoln and see how that man, who gave the black people freedom, was heavily influenced by the works of Robert Burns. So great a grip did Burns have on the Lincoln family that, four years after the assassination of her husband, Mrs. Lincoln came to see the cottage where Burns was born.
Of course we are not likely to get Alex Salmond or Nicola Sturgeon taking such a firm approach to those who are poking a stick in the Scots wheel as it turns towards independence. But it is time we Scots took a good look at ourselves; realise that we are not beggars at the gate of Europe; remember that we don’t owe them anything, but that they owe us for what our uncle Jimmys did for them. Next time they threaten to remove us, ask them about the cemeteries Nicola.
It is time we got up off our knees in the supplicant role. The realpolitik fact is that they will play the game of scaremongering this side of the referendum, but will sing to a different tune when we vote yes, and discover, goodness me, it is actually easy, and sensible, to accommodate an independent Scotland.
It would help bring Brussels to its senses this side of 2014, if we now engaged with EFTA as an alternative. Norway and Scotland, both rich in oil and other energy, and fish, would make EFTA the most powerful economic group in Europe.
Published with the kind permission of Holyrood Magazine