Contemporary Scottish Friction


Cal Flyn in The New Inquiry:

Next year the people of Scotland will go to the polls to decide whether their country will stay in the United Kingdom or strike out on its own as an independent country. The crowd were gathered on Edinburgh’s Calton Hill to mark one year to go until the referendum, held on the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn – the legendary Scottish victory led by Robert the Bruce.

Although the referendum itself could go either way (latest polls gives 47 percent for the no’s, 38 percent yes and 15 percent “don’t know”) what is clear is the resurgence in national self-confidence it has brought. With discussions of Scottish culture and identity at the top of the agenda, it has brought clarity and purpose to many young Scots.

And it is outside politics, in the arts, where this transformation has been most marked. In the bookshops and in the bars, there has been a surge of enthusiasm for Scottish writing – poetry, prose and polemic alike – quietly consumed, circulated online, or called to crowds atop stages and soapboxes.

No longer is Scottish literature the preserve of the tartan-clad elderly, the public-spirited librarian, the council-funded initiative, nor the staid set-texts of Scottish school curricula, but a thriving literary scene. These writers are modern, relevant, speaking to their neighbors and friends. Voices of a generation, all of them, and excited to find themselves living through a monumental cultural event. For what is independence but the escape of a culture from the dominance of another?

Back on Calton Hill, the novelist Alan Bissett took the stage. “I don’t know how tae tell you this, Scotland, but I’ve changed ma mind. I had a visitor tae the door last night fae Better Together [the unionist campaign], and what can I say? He brought me round. With… logic.”

Laughter from the crowd. Someone catcalled from the back. Better Together, lapdogs of the English, are always good for a laugh.

More here.