A cura di Alessia Canuto
What one desire, if any, would I like to have come true during my Erasmus semester in Edinburgh? Certainly, wishing everyone a fresh start at university and a healthy school year. That’s probably the greatest for making some positive change after the Covid pandemic. But what about the fervent desire for Scottish independence? In Scotland, the nationalism and loyalty of Scottish people to their country are evident and unmistakable, even though I have only been living here for a month and am unable to cast a vote in favour of it.
Before the 1707 Acts of Union combined Scotland with England and Wales to form the Kingdom of Great Britain, Scotland was historically an autonomous nation. It has traditionally occupied a more left-leaning position on the political spectrum than England, and Scottish Independence supporters emphasise the advantage of being free from Conservative governments in Westminster. The fact that an English parliament may effectively override the Scottish parliament on any issue, and that the Westminster could dissolve the Scottish parliament at any time is absurd. What is even more bizarre, it’s that Scotland and the EU do not have a treaty, and they cannot until the nation gains independence, even though 62% of Scottish voters chose to stay in the EU during the country’s referendum on EU independence. It is extremely difficult for any Scottish Political Party to serve in a UK Government to represent Scotland’s needs, regardless of which opposition party the Scots choose to support in a UK General Election. Political and social beliefs are diametrically opposed in Scotland and England. Why should both nations suffer and make political compromises to appease all parties? Respecting one another and following their own paths is crucial, as they will become better neighbours and friends than they ever would have in a forced political union.
A governing power can typically alter the language of a minority community in one of two ways. The first occurred in places like Catalonia and Ireland, for instance, where the ruling class forcefully outlawed the use of the regional tongue and dispatched actual military forces to rename locations and force everyone to speak the language that the ruling class desired. This has typically been a poor and ill-advised tactic. Such a direct approach makes it clear that minority languages are a cause worth fighting for and can bring people together. This typically leads to open conflict and clandestine communication networks to protect the language. Though undoubtedly accidental, what England did to Scotland ultimately proved to be a much more effective colonisation strategy. The English did not regulate the Scottish people’s speech; rather, they merely permitted English to be perceived as the language of distinction and extended an invitation to anyone desiring to improve themselves to learn this superior, distinguished language. Despite taking much longer than a verbal military assault, this tactic works to instil a sense of inferiority in a whole nation. If you can’t even talk properly, how good and decent of a person can you truly be?
Independence wishes go hand in hand with the importance of Scottish traditions and peculiarities. The Haggis, Scotland’s national food, is a symbol for Scottish fortitude, a dish that is said to have given rise to hardy generations of people. The national poet, Robert Burns, immortalised it in the poem “Address to a Haggis” written in 1787. Some people assert that the dish dates to the time of the ancient Scottish cattle drovers, when the women would prepare a “ready supper” for the men to eat during the arduous drive through the glens, when the men left the Highlands to drive their cattle to market in Edinburgh. Some have theorised that a Viking longboat brought the first haggis to Scotland. Another idea connects the dish to its prehistoric roots as a method of storing and preparing offal that would otherwise spoil after a hunt. Regardless of its past, the haggis has become as much of a Scottish icon as the cherished whiskey, and much of this notoriety is directly attributable to Burns.
Fair fa’ your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain o the puddin’-race!
Aboon them a’ ye tak your place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye worthy o’ a grace
As lang’s my arm.
The groaning trencher there ye fill,
Your hurdies like a distant hill,
Your pin wad help to mend a mill
In time o need,
While thro your pores the dews distil
Like amber bead.
His knife see rustic Labour dight,
An cut you up wi ready slight,
Trenching your gushing entrails bright,
Like onie ditch;
And then, O what a glorious sight,
Then, horn for horn, they stretch an strive:
Deil tak the hindmost, on they drive,
Till a’ their weel-swall’d kytes belyve
Are bent like drums;
The auld Guidman, maist like to rive,
Is there that owre his French ragout,
Or olio that wad staw a sow,
Or fricassee wad mak her spew
Wi perfect scunner,
Looks down wi sneering, scornfu view
On sic a dinner?
Poor devil! see him owre his trash,
As feckless as a wither’d rash,
His spindle shank a guid whip-lash,
His nieve a nit;
Thro bloody flood or field to dash,
O how unfit!
But mark the Rustic, haggis-fed,
The trembling earth resounds his tread,
Clap in his walie nieve a blade,
He’ll make it whissle;
An legs an arms, an heads will sned,
Like taps o thrissle.
Ye Pow’rs, wha mak mankind your care,
And dish them out their bill o fare,
Auld Scotland wants nae skinking ware
That jaups in luggies:
But, if ye wish her gratefu prayer,
Gie her a Haggis
The poet has overly glorified the Haggis as a delicacy fit for Scottish warriors. Robert Burns considered it to be more than just a traditional Scottish dish; it also served as a representation of his nationalistic pride as the Scots were asked to pursue their own break from England, in the wake of the French Revolution and the American War of Independence. Poets like him showed their countrymen how to be proud of their heritage and how to get along to maintain their history in support of such a significant division aimed at independence. The only wish I have for this semester is independence, and that’s all. There’s no doubt, is there?