Tag Archives: Scottish independence

Jack was Up Late Last Night: everything you wanted to know about Scottish politics but were afraid to ask….

In honor of the election held in the United Kingdom yesterday, Jack brings you this historic guest post…..

Scotland-independenceThere was an election yesterday in the UK (The United Kingdom – not the University of Kentucky) and many of our American friends have been asking me about it.

Although some eight parties ran, the UK parliamentary voting system pretty much ensures that elections are a ‘two horse race’. Either the Conservative Party or the Labour Party gets a majority; think Republicans and Democrats. All the seats are up for grabs; it’s as if we vote for all the state governors and the president at the same time, for a term of five years.

Scotland has 59 seats out of about 650 and historically most have gone to the Labour Party. In the early hours of this morning, however, everything changed. The Scottish National Party went from 6 seats to 56, while the Labour and Conservative parties ended up with one each, along with one for the small Liberal Democrat Party. Poor lonely souls; ♪ three is the loneliest number. ♪

Now remember, the United Kingdom is three small countries (Wales, Scotland and N. Ireland) joined at the hip to one big country: England. And England/Wales voted Conservative; if you think Scotland has it bad, Wales is actually counted as part of England even though it’s a separate country. Don’t ask; it’s confusing to those who live there too.

That forces two distinct and diametrically opposed political cultures to try and work together, the right wing Conservatives in England with most of the power plus the ability to always out-vote the Scottish members, while Scotland’s left-leaning SNP have little power at all–except the ability to call for a vote on Scottish Independence.

It’s obvious to everyone where a relationship that fraught that will lead…..

 

Last September there was a narrowly-defeated vote on Independence for Scotland. Pundits claim, and word of mouth also suggests, that the biggest reason for Scottish voters deciding to stay in the UK was a last minute promise by the party with the most Scottish seats then (Labour) of much more power for the Scottish Parliament. Which they pretty much ignored after Scotland voted to stay.

Yesterday, Scottish voters held Labour accountable for that; one pundit called it an “electoral firing squad.” So the result of yesterday’s election will, in my opinion and that of many political commentators, inevitably lead to another vote on Independence within five years. This makes me happy. And while I’ve never been a gambler, I’d put money on it passing this time!

 

 

 

 

 

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When a Bird Marries a Fish

When people from different countries (or religions) marry one another, interesting things can happen over the course of their union. This post may be misunderstood as a comparison by some, but any fish who has married a bird will understand.

I was in Scotland when 9/11 happened – specifically, driving home from teaching a very successful workshop on using storytelling with abused children. It had been glorious and I was high on life–until I turned on the car radio and the world flipped upside down. Scotland is five hours ahead of the US, noon here is 5 pm in most of the UK. The fourth plane had just gone down.

A pit opened in my stomach.

In the days that followed, the usual anti-American sentiment one finds in the UK intensified, oddly enough. It was a bad time to be American in places other than the US.

But for two different reasons. The first was that people who heard your accent would turn to you in the grocery and say things like, “Well, since you’re here, I guess Cupar will be bombed next, ya bloody Yank.” (Cupar is a market town of about 8,000 people.) The second was that a sad, terrible, terrifying thing had just reinvented the future of your homeland, and you weren’t there to be a part of it.

For reasons I don’t fully understand even now, I didn’t watch the news coverage for four days, and by then they were playing the last cell phone calls of people who had realized they couldn’t get out of the Towers. One was a sweet 20-something who called her husband and told him she was sorry she wouldn’t be seeing him any more, but she wanted him to know how happy she’d been, being married to him. “Bye now,” she said at the end.

And I sat up in bed in the middle of the night, about a week after 9/11, and started crying my eyes out, thinking about that poor girl all alone, reaching out to someone she wanted to know she loved, and then dying, for nothing she’d done. Poor Jack woke up and put his arms around me until I fell asleep, still sobbing.

It is hard to be away from your country when something intense is happening. It doesn’t matter what it is: a chance to change, a good thing, a bad thing, an uncertain thing. What matters is that you are not there. You have made a home somewhere else, with someone else, and you have traded in one set of influences for another.

Jack had to watch the Scottish vote from afar. And if he wakes up crying in the night, I’ll be there. It will not be the same as being in his homeland, but it will be home. Because we made our homes with each other.

It is not always easy. When Jack ran for town council here, a handful of ignoramuses made rude comments about his accent and equated ‘foreign’ with ‘godless.’ Sure, I’d like to see Coalfields Appalachia come into its own by shaking off such stereotyped behavior, but what seared my soul with blue-white heat lightning was their disparaging of a good man. My husband. Jack.

I still hate them. That’s part of the package. We protect each other. We defend each other. Our homes are each other. The voice from the tower says, never mind the madness; it’s just you and me.

To watch your own country struggle is hard. To be somewhere else while watching it is harder. But Jack and I pledged to each other, and this is a union that will not dissolve.

 

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The Scottish Independence Vote is TOMORROW!

Scotland photroJack’s weekly guest blog could have no other subject at this moment.

Thursday September 18th 2014 has been a long time coming, but now it’s almost here. That’s when Scots go to the polls and check the box for “Yes” or “No.” “Yes” means Scotland becomes an independent country in 2016 (two years to get everything sorted). “No” means Scotland remains a part of the United Kingdom of Northern Ireland, England, Scotland, and Wales.

It’s a big day when everyone resident in Scotland gets to vote on whether to become an Independent country again after 307 years. Not through terrorism or threats or bombs or any other kind of armed struggle, but a generally polite and well informed discussion. In fact a number of our American friends have commented on how civilized the debate has been compared to political discourse here in the US.

Britain Scotland If you’re watching the coverage via BBC or other British channels, you’re probably not getting a full picture. Of course, the same would be said of taking news from Twitter and Facebook (as if anyone uses that as a sole source!) Most of the anti-independence rhetoric has come from newspapers and TV stations that take their cue from the UK government, while the pro-independence movement has overwhelming control of the internet and social media and by far the most ‘feet on the ground’.

Some of my favorite online moments have come from pro-independence musicians hitting the streets to support flash mobs. This one of Dougie MacLean is particularly moving. And for pure fun, not much beats this man welcoming the MPs come up from Westminster to march in support of “Better Together.” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0bGuCGdLxW0

If you want an accurate picture, you have to look at both citizen and establishment journalism. Two years ago the polls were showing a 20+% lead for ‘No’ whereas now with just a day to go it’s narrowed to 50/50 and no-one’s certain which way it will go now.

Because I’m not resident and I won’t have a vote, I like to think I can view the campaign neutrally. But there’s a coaster sitting on the table beside me that reads “You can take the boy out of Dunfermline, but you can’t take Dunfermline out of the boy” and that’s true. Despite being an American Citizen now I can’t forget where I come from and have to admit that I’m not the least bit neutral. I want an independent Scotland, in charge of its own resources, doing what’s best for its citizens, not having to live by rules made in a city of 12 million to govern a country  of 6 million living in a predominantly rural area.

This isn’t about kilts or plaid or bagpipes or even ‘Braveheart’ and the other media images of “Scottish identity.” It’s simply about bringing democracy home again.

 

scotland yes

A Scotland soccer fan waves a Scottish saltire flag with Big Ben seen behind in Trafalgar Square in central London

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Let the Music Flow

We always enjoy emceeing the Sycamore Shoals Celtic Festival, but this year the job had two big bonuses.

First, a combination of thoughtful performer choices, near-perfect weather, and on-the-day professionalism has made this year musically superior to others. Sigean, Maidens IV, Night Crossing, and the debut of the charismatic and very silly Kryss Dula and Taylor Morefield, along with whistle player Martha Egan, the Irish Skye Dancers and Sandra Parker on Celtic harp, has given the year a more acoustic and genteel flavor.

I wouldn’t say gentle, because there’s been plenty of hard-driving fiddle and a high energy bodhran or two, but the overall ethos has been people drawn together by the quality of the music rather than showmanship. This year has also lacked who’s-on-first band crap. That’s been very pleasant.

During his set Kryss spoke to the festival’s theme, Scottish Independence (election Sept. 18) and talked about the “civility of political discourse” he’d been watching when reporters asked people on the street whether they’d be voting for or against–and why. “We should have that kind of unscripted, friendly dialogue in America,” he says. “We’re all one people. We should talk to each other.”

It was that kind of call for community all day at the festival, and it was really answered. Audiences sang in harmony, clapped to rhythms, and helped get the tent sides back up quickly when a peal of thunder threatened our little corner of paradise with rain in the sound equipment.

A day of dwelling in harmony, indeed.

And then, last night at the concert, as the sun went down and we watched a thunderstorm pass us by the west, a bright yellow full moon began to rise above those storm clouds. Full moons have traditionally been thought to excite, but people listening to Night Crossing’s lovely vocals and smooth blend of whistle, fiddle, bodhran and guitar were wandering out of the tent with little smiles on their faces, some clutching a partner’s hand, to watch as peeking became rising became shining. Mare’s tail clouds wisped over its bright-pale surface as Denise, their lead vocalist, sang a haunting Irish lament.

In short, it was pretty near perfect.

moonriseSouls that need soothing enjoy music. Souls that are celebrating enjoy music. And a warm night with just enough breeze to make it comfortable, listening to performers who are contributing together to a successful community event–well, throw a beautiful moonrise on top of that, and we all went home happy.

If you missed yesterday but live near Elizabethton, Tennessee, you can still make today’s musical moments. The festival runs 10:30-5. And if you can’t make it here, don’t forget that Big Stone Celtic is Friday night Sept. 26 and all day Saturday Sept. 27.

And as I look forward to these days, I will treasure yesterday, Sept. 6, like a shining moon on a calming sea.

 

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Filed under Big Stone Gap, blue funks, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, small town USA, Wendy Welch

So Happy Together

Don’t forget the Author Humiliation contest ends Sunday, June 29. Send entries to jbeck69087@aol.com. Scroll back to Monday’s blog for the rules, and have fun!

I have arrived in Scotland, with many thanks to Kelly and Rachel Saderholm, the mother-daughter team minding our bookshop while Jack and I are making holiday.

First thing Jack and I did was make a bee-line for Jean and Davy’s place. Jean and Davy served as second parents to me during the seven years (and a day) we lived in Scotland, and I was so delighted to see her again.Digital Camera Jean is the woman who advised me, “Be yourself in Scotland. People here will be seeing ‘an American.’ Just be Wendy, and let them figure it out.”

Time has taken its payments; Jean is moving with difficulty and the aid of wheeled things. Her husband Davy has left behind this mortal coil in all but body; an artist whose paintings were exhibited internationally, Davy’s mind is now living in some of the abstract worlds he brought to canvas.

As Jean and I joked, talking to him now isn’t that different than talking to him then.

Skipping the part where one pontificates or waxes philosphical on the ravages of time, or the lasting bonds of friendship – it was just ever so lovely to see Jean again. I look forward to the rest of our holiday, but when your best day is the first, because it mattered most, well, icing on the cake is very sweet.Digital Camera

 

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