Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Soon I will be dead. But, oh, to be alive at this moment in Scotland

Ian Hamilton QC 
I am 86. Thus I have lived in the United Kingdom for more than a quarter of its existence. My observations on its identity and mine may be of value.

Even in the 1920s and 1930s I always knew I was a Scot. So sure was I of my identity that I never minded being called British or English. If called the latter I just thought they were wrong. During the war we were all called English. As I grew up I discovered that my petit bourgeois contemporaries thought that there was no Scotland. It had been absorbed into its greater neighbour. Looking back this is not surprising. The union gave us the chance to expand into the great free trade area that became the British empire. We seized that chance. Glasgow was the empire's second city. We were the workshop of the world.
Seventy years ago it seemed that the price we had paid for the wealth of empire was the loss of our identity as Scots. To be ignorant of who you are is profoundly disturbing. England suffers from it badly today. The England of the shires, of Puck of Pook's Hill, has gone. England is now London.

 We have been luckier. We are still us. We blame the loss of our industries on successive English governments not on ourselves. We did nothing. We continued to vote unionist. The enterprise that built the great forges has been lacking. I can tell you where it went. It went to schools like Fettes and Loretto where the enterprise was whipped out of them and they were squeezed into the mould of English gentlemen. They live on in their great-grandfather's country estates here in Argyll. The enterprise has gone elsewhere. 

We lost our confidence when we lost our empire. Don't worry. It's coming back. Even Mr Fred Goodwin, is a sign. Better to gamble and topple a great bank than to live in the suburban inanity of Bearsden. The 1878 failure of the City of Glasgow Bank led to the founding of the great law firm of McGrigor Donald and to the Industrial Exhibition of 1888. McGrigors, as it was laterally called, has now joined up with a great London firm. We Scots are true internationalists and there is no border to our abilities. Failure is the manure of success. The loss of empire followed by the loss of our industries has caused us Scots to look round. Even the great landlords are affronted to think their estates end at the salt seashore. The solum of the seabed to beyond the furthest horizon is still held by England. That is where the next great development will come. We have three quarters of the tidal power of Europe. Oil is pocket money compared to the tides.

We have different values, we and London. No clearer example can be found than in our belief that education is everyone's right. 'Til the rocks melt wi the sun' said our first minister on the right to a free university education.
 Even in a nation's history 86 years is a long time. I remember the salient points of the change from British to Scottish. None of them was political. We never got the jail for the Stone. The people cheered us. There was public support for our 'no numeral' campaign when Elizabeth the 'Second' came to the throne. Scotland had had no 'First' Elizabeth. Our coronation souvenirs without the numeral were wildly popular. The newspapers backed us in their news columns but refused to take our paid advertisements. They were feart as they still are. 
 Then one day I went into a pub and found a group gathered round a TV set cheering wildly. Someone had scored a goal against England. The affectionate anti-Englishness of the general public is far more proof of the independent vitality of the Scottish nation than any vote. There is more racial abuse towards us in the English papers than we would ever think of using towards England. It is a much loved foreign country but it is recognised as foreign.
 And now we are to have a referendum. Mr Cameron, the near-illiterate occupier of the post of Disraeli and Gladstone and Churchill, steals a word from Quebec and refers to it as a neverendum. Is there a better definition of democracy than a neverendum? He will face a neverendum at the end of his five years if not sooner. In the long history of Scotland our referendum's only significance is that we feel unhappy and we want change. Whatever the result that feeling will remain.

 Recently I spoke on the same platform with a Tory and a Liberal. They said they would abide by the result of the referendum. I said I wouldn't. I would always listen to any argument for the continuation of the union if one can be found. I have heard none except that change is bad. I asserted a principle. That Scotland is a nation. Nations should govern themselves. Can anything be clearer?
We have different values, we and London. No clearer example can be found than in our belief that education is everyone's right. 'Til the rocks melt wi the sun' said our first minister on the right to a free university education.
 I have lived through the last quarter of a union which brought great benefit to many countries including Scotland. I wish I was in my first year of university instead of being 86. Soon I will die. To die will be an awfully big adventure. But not as big an adventure as being young in our newly awakened Scotland.


  1. Beautifully and enviably written.

  2. Yes OR, He's a good man is Mr Hamilton, and I hope he lives to see his dream come true.

    I see no reason why he should not.
    He's young at heart and this the kind of thing that keeps a man alive!

  3. This is what will win people over from the 'no' side.

    A gentle reasonable argument as opposed to the stridency of statistics and fiscal reports, the notion that we're not against the Union but for Independence and that our hopes and aspirations for our country no longer coincide with Westminster's.

    When ever I say something serious and sensible I feel as if I should counter it with something irreverent.

    Two fish in a tank, first fish says; "do you know how to drive this thing?"

    Two television aerials get married, the service was crap but the reception was fantastic.

    That is all.

  4. Well said. Although it's sad that the delusion of wave energy has no respect for age.
    Oh and I doubt if the thousands of pensioners who were ruined when Fred gambled with their money are glad that Fred gambled with their money. Ditto the thousands who lost their jobs.

  5. What a wonderful sentiment from a wonderful man! WE could with him touring Scotland to talk to the 'don't knows'!

  6. Excellent piece! I'm sure you're all familiar with the song "Oran na Choiche"?

  7. Dear me, I'm sure you've all noticed that it should be "Oran na Cloiche"!!

  8. Och John, of course we did. You can't be thinking we're all stupid, can you?

    Of course I'm familiar with it.. (I'm familiar with anything that will let me).

  9. ... Well both parts of your piece were inserting Pa...

    I agree about Ian's gentle common sense. And I wish he were still a young man that could tour Scotland and tell it as it is, but them, maybe (given his history) he wasn't so "sensible" when he was young.

    Good jokes too. :)

  10. Aye maybe...Monty.

    And maybe he's right about the waves...

    let's hope for Scotland's sake, that he is.

  11. Exactly my sentiment FFS, as I said in my reply to pa!

    He's a huge asset to the country.

  12. Enjoy "The song of the Stone".

    I hope John will tell us what it's all about.


  13. tris,

    it's a mickey take regarding the Stone mentioned, albeit briefly, in the article. I'm sure Mr Hamilton knows where the real Stone is ...!

  14. 'Soon I will be dead'

    Yep! and the sooner the better I says but not till you see the referendum lost. 86 and and a racist still cheering at the telly over a game of Footy lost...........I mean how powerless is that do you know how many scots can play for England or England born Scots who could play for Scotland well do you???.

    Different values to London why?? how many English people live in lONDON these days.

    'The affectionate anti-Englishness'
    or anti-paki or anti-jewish anti- Irish anti-tom cobbely an all

    yeah like when the Nazis pushed people into the ovens affectionately..

    Still i will lift a glass to your death after the lost referendum.

    I always believed you should respect your elders but in your case to give respect would be to sanction hatred not just of a nation but of a people the |English.
    when the truth is there are many fine English peoples just as there some vile Scots such as your self.

  15. What an load of semi coherent blethers, Niko.

    And surely you unionists can disagree with a man, even violently disagree with a man, without wishing him dead.

  16. He aint A MAN just a sniveling little racist runt.

    anyways i didn't wish him dead just agreed with his statement 'Soon I will be dead'

  17. Niko, this is the guy who, with his chums, showed that Scotland was a nation and not a supporter of Westminster like the toadying Labour party who voted for tax exemption for the rich. Tell you what, he knows where the real Stone is!

    God, you must be proud when they do that in your name.

    Go on, sing the song in the Calum Kennedy style, and I'll accompany you on my harmonica and don't forget the "Ho" after Heederum, haadarum". Right, go for it!!!

  18. Yes John, you are a bit what?

  19. Niko..."Yep and the sooner the better".... eh?

    But never mind. We know your mind has been turned by a deep love of London town and an allegiance to the government there and all its doings, under David Cameron and George Osborne.

    You talk about him being racist, and you indicate that there aren't English people in London... Oh dear, double standards there Niko.

    Good luck to you matey.

    I've yet, like Mr Hamilton, to hear one argument from you (or anyone other than a Tory) for this union.

    The future isn't bright, the future is Tory blue...

    Fortunately they can't get their thieving hands on our health service or our roads and sell them off. But we will end up paying for their idiotic policies.

    Nuclear power, nuclear weapons, wars at the behest of the president, privatisation of everything that can be sold off to their mates so they make make an arse of it and charge us twice as much.

    Again, as Mr Hamilton's not the way we do things, the London way.