I often wonder what my father would have made of the indyref were he alive today. He was a navigator with the RAF during the 2nd World War, and like many other young men and women from these isles, the Commonwealth and our Allies, felt obliged to answer Liberty’s rallying call from an enslaved and terrified Europe, in much the same way as a generation before them had answered it in World War 1.
We are reminded not only of their sacrifice, but the ideals and principles, the freedoms they paid for with their lives, every night at 8pm at The Menin Gate in Belgium. It is a ceremony which has taken place since 1928, even during the Belgium’s occupation during the 2nd World War, where it was performed daily at Brookwood Military cemetery in Surrey. It is an act of gratitude befitting the bravery and commitment of those who delivered the freedom, and the values they sought to uphold.
These values have been ingrained in many of us here in Scotland, who would consider ourselves British. They are cherished not only because we believe in them, but because we appreciate the extraordinary price paid to allow such a legacy to continue. They are part of our British identity. It is something Yes campaigners have not only failed to understand, but have also failed to respect. When Yes campaigners attempt to seduce Unionist voters assuring us we will still be British in the event of a yes vote, they refer to Britain as little more than a chunk of land. This was well highlighted during the debate between John Gow and Alan Bissett in the book “Born Under a Union Flag” where John Gow has to correctly point out to the latter :
“I think the biggest problem you have with British nationality is that you don’t treat it as real. You aren’t alone in this; many nationalists disparage British identity and talk as if the Scots only need to see the light and the road to salvation will be revealed. Why else would you repeat that independence will be fine because we can all say we are geographically British. It’s absurd.”
I don’t know if Nigel Farage would have been my father’s cup of tea, I very much doubt it, but mob rule preventing someone’s right to express their freedom of speech was certainly not one of the values he fought for. And I’m willing to bet he would have looked for stronger condemnation from Scotland’s First Minister than this :
“If there’s been any law-breaking – and that’s yet to be established – then obviously we condemn that, as we always do in Scotland, but you’ve got to get things into context.
“A student demonstration isn’t the Dreyfus trial.”
“Context”. Its easy to see why Alex Salmond is the gift which just keeps on giving. Some of you may recall him using that word as he squirmed uneasily before Andrew Neil on the BBC’s Sunday Politics Show, as the falsehood of his claims on legal advice from the Lord Advocate regarding an Independent Scotland’s status within the European Union were exposed.
Deputy Leader Nicola Sturgeon later admitted that the Scottish government had never sought formal advice, as Salmond claimed, from Scotland’s law officers.
I can imagine my father sitting in front of the TV, in a state fast approaching exasperation, declaring “They must think we are bloody stupid !”
Perhaps Alex should have been a bit more careful about his choice of parallels as well. The Dreyfus trial divided a nation and involved high rank officials suppressing evidence. Funnily enough the Scottish government spent £12 000 on a court battle attempting to prevent the revelation that it had failed to seek the legal advice aforesaid. As I said earlier, a gift which just keeps on giving.
In later life my father was struck down by the debilitating rheumatoid arthritis. Against doctors advice he refused to go into a wheelchair or a home and would shuffle about the adapted downstairs on his crutches, displaying the kind of determination and refusal to acquiesce, he and his peers had shown so many years ago in the face of tyranny.
I can almost imagine the scene were he alive today and some Yes campaigners came a calling. He would insist on answering the door personally, despite the enormity of the challenge. Having lifted himself with the assistance of his electronic chair he would struggle into the hallway and negotiate the challenge of the adapted front door handle where he would politely but firmly offer two words.
I am my father’s son. On the 18th of September , 2014, I will ensure I vote. But it will not be to merely preserve just a chunk of land but a set of values and beliefs which define me, and which have defined those who came before me.