On three recent and consecutive days I have had reason to ponder the events commemorated by each of these days. The days in mind are the 25-27 January. In the first of three short articles, I will write about the event commemorated by 25 January.
For persons of Scottish descent, 25 January is very special. It celebrates the birth in Dumfries, Scotland, in 1759, of the man whom many consider to be the nation’s premier poet, Robert Burns. The celebration of this event include various happenings, for example, the traditional ritual feast where that peculiar Scottish delicacy, the haggis, is piped in, addressed, sacrificed and served, as part of the “Burns Night” festivities.
To the Scots, Robert Burns is not just a poet, or a myth. He is many things – “Oor Rabbie, your Rabbie, a’body’s Rabbie”. Whatever your viewpoint, Robert Burns may be respectable or bawdy; a sentimentalist or a revolutionary; a patriot or a pietist.
Liz Lochhead, the national poet (or makar) of Scotland and to whom I am indebted for the finer details of this article, considered that “Burns did – with great conviction – inhabit many apparently contradictory personae”. In the year which will see the people of Scotland vote in a referendum for the country’s independence from the UK, it is, therefore, interesting to speculate as to which way, if he were alive today, Burns would vote?
Despite thinking that such a question is a bit daft, it is the gut feeling of Liz Lochhead that Robert Burns would vote a resounding “Yes” to it. Burns was “a libertarian, a democrat, a lover of freedom and autonomy, a revolutionary and a romantic”. Such a person would, of course vote for independence. Come to think of it, I see something of myself in this description; perhaps that is why, if I was able to vote in the 2014 referendum, I would also vote “Yes”!
It seems to me that a “Yes” vote indicates many things about the people of Scotland: an identification with roots not shared by the rest of the UK; a powerful impetus towards cultural and political autonomy; a mature desire to come of age as a nation; to take responsibility for themselves and assume a more personal, nuanced and focused role in the world.
I am a Scot by birth, but not now resident in Scotland (a blessing to the people of Northampton, England). Consequently, I am not permitted to vote in the referendum. However, it is my gut feeling that, if independence from the UK for the Scottish people does not take place in 2014, the matter will not go away. The question, and the process to which it leads, is inexorable.