The Destruction of the Metropole

It is an odd situation that Scotland finds herself in at the moment.  A bit like a teenager, yearning for the freedom which is only a few years away but seems like a lifetime is to be lived until the magic date which will denote the beginning of our independence.  And like a teenager we must make good use of the intervening period to ensure that our freedom once obtained is not shackled by repeating mistakes that many have made before and lived to regret as the first flush of their youth evaporated.

In the 1950s and 1960s a wave of liberation swept through Empire.  Great hopes were held for the third world and grand schemes were developed.  By the 1980s, riddled with debt, systematically stripped of resources and a pawn in the Cold War, its people were hungry, impoverished and disease ridden as the newly rich implemented the tricks of the Bwanta – syphoning off the nation’s riches, using ethnic and cultural differences to justify exploitation and conflict, all the while squandering the capital of the nation to build luxurious and impressive symbols of the nation in its capital.  Welcome to the new boss, same as the old.

The antisyzygy of the Caledonian position is not difficult to see as the former coloniser contemplates becoming the post-colonial.  Our liminal state within the United Kingdom and our centrality as a constituent of the British Empire is about to be transformed as we build a new nation in its place.  We should heed the experiences of the third world and the lessons it teaches us in nation building and developing an identity in our own right.  The sale of sovereignty in 1707 by the clan chiefs, the murder of our people and the theft of our land, sea and oil should not be forgotten and that which is outstanding should be returned, but at the same time we cannot develop national cohesiveness on the basis of that which we are not; we must develop a positive national identity and build a new nation founded on inclusion and integration with respect for all the peoples within.

It is in the emergence of the interstices—the overlap and displacement of domains of difference—that the inter-subjective and collective experiences of nation-ness, community interest, or cultural value are negotiated

Homi Bhabha

Although small and fairly ethnically homogeneous, Scotland is a diverse nation.  Comprising both mainland and island; lowlanders and Gaels; settled communities and travelers; white and Black indigenous communities, and old and new citizens, we have cultural faultlines which run through our nation.  On our islands, where people live geographically cut-off from mainland Scotland, the margin is the centre, our cities become resource banks for those citizens to draw from and deposit to.  We must ensure that our cities are accessible and inclusive to those who select to base themselves at the margins, valuing their contributions and supporting their ambitions.  The relationship between the Lowlands and the Highlands with its Gaelic culture, language and ethos must be reciprocal, eschewing both hegemonic cultural domination and a romanticisation of the noble savage.  The travelling communities of Scotland: flitting ere like the Borealis race, must be given space to develop, all the while making sure that no fingers are pointed.  Our established minority communities must be allowed to find their own distinctive cultural fusion, while our new citizens bring a diversity, richness and new ideas from lands beyond our ken and the relationship between the two supported as the generations of international diaspora meet.

The temptation to build an Athens, a replacement metropole to manage the periphery, must be resisted.  In 2004, as Our Majesty, by the Grace of God, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and of Her other Realms and Territories, gave her royal seal of approval to the parish council that we had been allowed by the benevolent occupier, thousands gathered in the shadow of a folly which stands monument to the wasted lives and squandered resources that result from imperial ambitions.

We believe that sovereignty rests in the people and vow to fight for the right to govern ourselves for the benefit of all those living in Scotland today, tomorrow and in future times

Declaration of Calton Hill

Nations are not born fully formed, but continually reshaped and moulded.  As we grow in national confidence and stature, grasping our way towards new responsibilities and challenges; finding our way in the world and our relationship to it, we must also consider our own internal growth and development, ensuring balance and respect as we go about the business of daily life.  We must not build a new metropole, but embrace our liminality weaving the strands of our identity together like a tartan where each of the colours is distinct but the real beauty is in the interlocking.

First published on Bella Caledonia – 2nd February 2012

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