What little authority I might have to weigh in on the wisdom or folly of Scottish Independence is debatable. But I did live in Scotland for a year in 1977-78. I went to the Festival, studied at University of Edinburgh, traveled the Highlands and islands in search of stone circles, and taught for a while in Shetland.
I drank with my colleagues and friends and heard many a tale of how, over many centuries, like other colonists, rebels and indigenous folk, the Scots suffered greatly at the hands of the English.
But I want to share a tiny moment that has as much or more bearing on today than the bloody swords of yesteryear.
In 1977 I arrived my cheap London hotel near Kings Cross, a naive young midwestern student, too jet-lagged to be excited. The terrific bargain hotel proved to be thrice the cost as promised, and the lift was broken, so I lugged my heavy case up the stairs.
As I checked out the bath-down-the-hall, I saw a purple sticker on the toilet tank. I peeled it off and stuck in my journal, puzzled. I had never considered Scotland as separate from the UK before, and the recent construction of North Sea oil platforms had barely reached my embryonic consciousness.
Little did I know that I would find strong opinions and a very fierce, proud and distinct culture north of the Borders. That Shetlanders didn’t consider themselves Scots, much less British. That, for good or ill, memory of ancient battles lives on in the blood. That although the United Kingdom appears united, the stories of Bannockburn, Culloden, the Clearances and other atrocities leave a mark, and, now that Scotland’s economy is strong, England may have some karma coming due.