Tuesday,25 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1215, (25 September - 1 october 2014)
Tuesday,25 September, 2018
Issue 1215, (25 September - 1 october 2014)

Ahram Weekly

Delighted to be united

Is there anything more engaging than a British royal wedding? It is majesty at its finest, with all its pomp and pageantry, deep-rooted in traditions and rituals which have been fervently preserved, while others have been gradually abandoned. Monarchy still dazzles, and though “all politics is local”, when it comes to British affairs, its magnetism that draws world attention, particularly for royal weddings, births, deaths and scandals.

In recent weeks a growing curiosity centered on whether Great Britain will be less great, or the United Kingdom will remain united. After all was this not once the empire on which the sun never set!

Scotland was to vote on a referendum whether to secede from the union and gain its independence or submit to the logic that it would be “Better Together”.

Other countries have split throughout history without much fanfare.  Czechoslovakia was cut in half, so was Korea, Vietnam and Sudan. The Soviet Union was dissolved, India became two countries and so it goes.   Why the panic and hysteria over the secession of Scotland from the UK?    

 But oh for the rumbling and grumbling that took place in London! With his job on the line, how passionately Prime Minister David Cameron implored and entreated to win the hearts and minds of the Scots. How he pleaded and beseeched, “please do not break the union”. Even the Queen herself, who is constitutionally above the political fray, subtly expressed her feelings to her Scottish subjects, hoping that “voters will think very carefully about the future”.

This wooing and cooing to solicit Scots’ approval seemed rather strange as historically there is no love lost between the two breeds. They have been fighting and killing each other, for well over a millennium. The English do not think much of their neighbours to the north, and the Scots resent their longtime rivals to the south. The Scots have been the butt of English jokes and they have suppressed them throughout history, why are they hanging on to them so fiercely now?

The reasons are many, and though Scotland, with a 5 million population is only 1/0 of the population of England, it is a major limb that if amputated would leave Great Britain feeble and flaccid, limping and hobbling. How will it leave Scotland?  With 16 and 17 year-olds now allowed to vote, the excitement of building their own nation, independent of the motherland is enticing and alluring. Those young ‘Bravehearts’ children of William Wallace, are ardent and impetuous!

The pursuit of freedom is both noble and admirable.  Self-rule is everyone’s dream. One would have to be very unsympathetic not to identify with that burning desire.  Scotland could flourish on its own without London’s interference. On the other hand, how can the devotion and loyalty to family be ignored?  A strong personal attachment distilled through the ages will forever unite the two people in human memories.   

 An unprecedented number of Scots, over 3.7 million turned out to vote. Wiser heads prevailed and the Scots voted to maintain their 307 year-old union with England. A sigh of relief reverberated across the kingdom!

Forever eclipsed by its larger neighbour, not much is known about Scotland, apart from its famous whisky, its delicious salmon and its ‘kilts’ and its bagpipes.  That should be enough for any nation but Scotland has considerably more to offer, politically, culturally and intellectually.

You could say Scotland is the older sister as it became a unified state in 843, while England was formed in 927.   Violent struggles for the Scottish throne began in the late 900s, and continued for the next 800 years.

Scotland covers the northern third of the island of Great Britain, and is comprised of 790 islands. Edinburgh, the capital, is the second largest city and was the hub of the Scottish Enlightenment of the 18th century, which transformed Scotland into one of the commercial, intellectual and industrial powerhouses of Europe.

Glasgow, the largest city, is considered one of the world’s leading industrial cities, and contains the largest oil reserves in the European Union. Aberdeen, the third largest is called ‘Europe’s oil capital’. Extensive North Sea oil and gas reserves are found in Scottish waters.  The Brits’ nuclear arsenal is housed in Scotland. The largest hydro-electronic plant in Great Britain is found in Scotland. Scots are great shipbuilders and are credited for the majestic ocean-liners the ‘Queen Mary’, ‘Elizabeth I and II’ among others.

Apart from their breweries and distilleries, the Scots possess a fierce physical and intellectual energy.  Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone, and many notable inventions were the creations of Scotsmen such as the ATM machines, the Fax Machine, the micro-wave, refrigerators, the first TV and the first coloured TV.  Archeologists suggest that the first toilets were probably built in Orkney, Scotland in 3000 BC. The first flushing toilet was created by Alexander Cumming in 1775, and who can ignore the legend of the Loch Ness monster?

Among its many writers are, Robert Louis Stevenson, Arthur Conan Doyle, J.M. Barrie, Sir Walter Scott, Lord Byron, Kenneth Graham, Robert Burns, and of late, J.K. Rowling, of the Harry Potter fame, who though born in England makes her home in Edinburgh.

It is little wonder that despite their endless historic wars, Scotland responded to the British plea, “Stay with us!”  The virtues of brotherhood cannot be overlooked, besides, who can resist those incomparable royals?

“Sir, it is not so much to be lamented that Old England is lost, as that the Scotch have found it”
Samuel Johnson (1709-1794)

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