On Thursday, the Scots have a chance to send proud Elizabeth's army homeward, tae think again. As disorganized as this bloodless revolution brewing in Scotland is, and as thick as my Scottish ancestor's blood runs through my veins, I hope the Scottish vote yes to independence, yes for the future of their own people.
If you ever want to see a real Scottish man cry, show them a youtube clip of Amy MacDonald singing "O Flower of Scotland," joined by the Tartan Army before a rugby or football match. This anthem refers to the victory of the Scots, led by Robert the Bruce, over England's Edward II at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314.
My own grandmother never spoke with me about why her father, William Knox, and his family of weavers and shawl pattern designers immigrated from Paisley, Scotland to Massachusetts. Last month, I spent ten days in Scotland trying to answer this question, and perhaps find a piece of myself in the process.
Treaty of Union in 1707. The union between Scotland and England was supposed to bring peace and prosperity to a nation plagued by nationalist bloodshed, poverty, and mass exodus. Instead, the Knoxes were weavers who existed in an era where their heritage and traditions were outlawed when the clan system and the tartan were banned, and their tax money was sent back to Westminster instead of Edinburgh. But for some reason, my family gave up on Scotland and began immigrating to Massachusetts in the late 1800s.
During my trip, I went camping through the remote Highlands, where I lived out my dream of seeing the neolithic monuments of the Orkney Islands, Cape Wrath, Inverness, and the Island of Skye. Along the way, I spent countless hours listening to the BBC, the only radio station available -- when I could get the signal at all.
At the time, talk of Scottish independence was only just starting to rise, and according to the infinite wisdom of the BBC's biased voices, Scotland had everything it needed and this independence stuff was the talk of nonsense from nationalist extremists.
Much of the discussion revolved around the fate of the Scottish banking system, which at the moment uses the British pound for currency. This week the Telegraph reported that investors have pulled an estimated 17 billion pounds from UK banks in anticipation of Scotland's expected declaration of independence on Thursday. If the Scots stop using the pound, the banking system could be thrown into disarray when the pound loses value while the sustainability of an independent Scottish currency remains unknown.
Apparently, the commentators at the BBC had not driven the roads I was on which were badly in need of paving, and they were not in touch with the many hard working people I met who were getting by day to day working multiple low paying jobs -- if they could find work at all. With the ink still drying on the banking industry's multibillion dollar settlements with the U.S. Department of Justice and almost no one in jail for conspiring to commit the fraud that caused an international banking crisis, no one was asking whether the same fraudsters should be trusted with Scotland's future. In my opinion, the BBC seemed more interested in self-serving fear mongering than any sort of meaningful analysis of what the impending referendum meant for the Scottish people who have to live under Westminster rules.
Two people who know best what it means to be Scottish are Roddy Boyd, who runs a Facebook page called "Oor Wee Toon" dedicated to the history of Paisley (who helped me with my genealogy research), and Jackie MacWilliams, a Glasgow mother of two [grown] sons who was kind enough to let me stay in her spare bedroom for two nights while I poked around in Paisley on the last day of my trip.
Last month, Jackie and her Irish husband Matty were on the fence about Scottish independence, and so I called her on Skype today to find out if there had been any change of circumstances. Jackie told me that both she and Matty would be voting for yes to Scottish independence, for the reasons best stated by Tommy Sheridan in this video.
"Anne you should see it here" Jackie said. "There are mass rallies in the squares in Glasgow crying out for freedom. You won't find that out from the BBC how close we are to it."
When I spoke to Roddy later on he told me his views were also aligned with those of the independence advocacy group Wings Over Scotland.
We very rarely get the Government we vote for and are consistently cheated and lied to by Westminster. We are a rich, intelligent and industrious nation who always have to play second fiddle to the wants of South East England, and there is no reason why we should have to.
I also asked Roddy whether he thought my relatives would be voting for freedom on Thursday, to which he replied "I'm pretty sure your folks would have been up for Independance, the weavers were a fiesty lot and fought for what they wanted!"
Roddy is probably right, and I bet my ancestors would have loved to have lived to cast their votes on Thursday because not much has changed in Paisley since they left except their homes and community have been torn down, abandoned, and left in disrepair.
By the time I arrived in Paisley, all that was left of my family was an unmarked grave in the most prestigious area of the cemetery. Although my great great great grandfather Alexander originally purchased the family plot for his parents, eventually there were 8 bodies in a grave intended for two, and the day of my visit was the anniversary of Alexander's death. Atop the grave was a feather that seemed to be waiting for me, telling me to write something.
What I want to tell my brothers and sisters in Scotland is that as an American, none of my father's ancestors from England who came to America as pilgrims then became Minute Men who fought in the American Revolution to free us from British tyranny have ever looked back on history and wanted to trade in the dollar for the pound.
There are worse problems facing Scotland right now if it doesn't free itself, and having the value of an independent Scottish currency dip below the current value of a pound to equal the dollar is not one of them. But the Scots don't have to shed blood to be free like we did, all they have to do is vote in their own favor on Thursday. Hopefully, I will live to see the folks in Northern Ireland follow Scotland's lead in my lifetime as well.
As Jackie put it best,
"Even if the oil in the North Sea dries up, even if I have to pay my dues by way of higher mortgage rates and grocery prices, I'm willing to do that if it means I can wake up Friday morning in a free country and sing 'O Flower of Scotland' with pride."