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Scotland Travel Blog September 14

"Road to Independence"

Unless you’ve been living in the Amazon rainforest for the last 3 years with a previously undiscovered tribe of natives, you will be aware that September 2014 was probably the most important month in the history of Scotland, or at least it could have been if we hadn’t bottled it. I am, of course, referring to the Referendum on Scottish Independence which took place on the 18th September.

If you live outside of the UK, you’ll probably have seen a much more evenly balanced representation of the debate than was experienced here. Despite virtually every form of mainstream media siding with the UK Government, the Independence campaign managed a quite remarkable increase in support from ~25% to 45% of the Scottish electorate within a space of 30 months. Indeed, just 2 weeks before the vote, the polls put support for Independence at 51%. This poll gave the leaders in London a fright and they recruited all their friends in big business to issue dire warnings of a bleak future for Scotland if we voted for Independence. These scare stories, combined with lies about pensioners losing their benefits and vague promises of Scotland receiving “more powers” if it voted NO, were enough to make the majority Vote NO.

One of the sad aspects of the whole process was the mis-representation of the Independence movement as being something anti-English and generally xenophobic. Nothing could be further from the truth. The campaign was about Scotland stepping out from under the covers of the UK and wanting to be an equal member of a larger International community with self-representation of its interests. Anyone who thinks it was motivated by Anti-English sentiment is simply missing the whole spirit and point of what was trying to be achieved.

Obviously, we are very disappointed that Scotland missed this great opportunity as the prospects for the tourism industry were huge. We were dealing with a journalist who was instructed by his Paris office that he could stay for up to 2 weeks covering the reaction in Scotland it was a YES vote, but if it was a No vote he had to go home the next day. And that just about sums it up. Instead of being somewhere dynamic and interesting that the world was looking at with intrigue, we decided that we were too scared to step into the big world outside.

In anticipation of a different result, we had actually gone through Arbroath abbey this month to research some new tour routes with an Independence theme. If you are not already aware, Arbroath abbey was the place where Scotland first made its official declaration of Independence in 1320. This Declaration was actually a petition to Pope John XXII to request that he formally acknowledge that Scotland was not a dominion of England and that no English king had any right of claim over Scotland as the people were sovereign. As you might expect, the document is written in Latin, but when translated into English it contains some very stirring lines. The most famous extract being….
..for, as long as but a hundred of us remain alive, never will we on any conditions be brought under English rule. It is in truth not for glory, nor riches, nor honours that we are fighting, but for freedom – for that alone, which no honest man gives up but with life itself.

Arbroath Abbey
Arbroath Abbey
Copy of Declaration of Arbroath
Copy of Declaration of Arbroath

Those words now seem a bit hollow, but instead of crushing the Independence Movement in Scotland, the result of the referendum has actually galvanised more people into becoming active. Membership of the main Pro-Independence political party has increased from around 25,000 to 80,000 in the 2 weeks since the Referendum. This not only makes the Scottish National Party the largest party in Scotland by an emphatic margin, it also makes them the 3rd largest party in all of the UK. In addition to this, the 2 other pro-Independence parties have increased their memberships too, with the Scottish Greens going from 2000 to 6000 members!

The Referendum campaign in Scotland has put fire back in the bellies of the people. The YES campaign generated so much positivity, energy and desire for change that it couldn’t be stopped. Instead of feeling like the end of the Independence process, it now feels like we are reborn with added vigour. And this time we have a much larger and much more politically active movement that genuinely crosses all generations, age groups and social classes.


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