Scotland Please? – Let No Finally Mean No!

So there you have it again – a big fat ‘No’ to Scottish independence. So please SNP, and all you other Republicans please accept the fact that the old animosities have actually moved on since the 17th Century and get over your impulsive need to ruffle everyone’s feathers every generation or so. Isn’t it finally time to just let it go for the good of the whole because all that these votes ultimately achieve is resentment, not only between Scotland and the other members of the Union but also within Scotland, where divisions between friends and within families will now fester long after this latest dalliance with self rule is long forgotten.

Despite everything that has been said and printed and tweeted, the leaders of the ‘Yes’ campaign (most of whom seemed so mesmerised by a chance to carve their names into history that they wouldn’t let something as inconvenient as the truth spoil their 15 minutes of fame), always knew Scotland would have a hard time of it if they won. Whether that was because they would be left out in the cold and bidding to get back into Europe or because they would soon end up running around like headless chickens desperately trying to organise the logistical nightmare of introducing a new currency.

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Photo by kay 222

The ‘Yes’ campaign never missed a chance to brag about Scotland’s fractionally higher GDP at the moment, but even a dyed in the wool nationalist like Alex Salmond must have had his secret doubts, because he knew that this was nothing more than over optimistic ‘spin’. The simple fact is that once you strip the oil from your calculations, as it will be, when it dries up in approx 25 – 40 years time, then Scotland’s true GDP would look much closer to somewhere like Greece or even Albania and certainly a long way short of the rest of the UK. Then what would happen? Ask for another referendum to be allowed back into the United Kingdom? Well I am sorry it just doesn’t work like that Scotland, because despite being allowed the best of both world for far too long within the Union, the other members would more likely just slam the door in your face and tell you to maybe go try Iceland?!

This Vote has cost everyone in the UK, not just Scotland, somewhere in excess of £15 Million, money which would have been much better spent on other essential services. Put this together with the relative cost of the last referendum and that’s a cool £30 Million gone up in smoke. This despite, many people on the ‘Yes’ campaign having now declared that the ‘Referendum’ will effectively become a ‘Neverendum’. This is presumably just in case someone in Whitehall tries to say ‘No’ to something the ever restive Scots (and it seems to take very little to make them feel wronged and restive nowadays, like a child who has been raised without the parents using the word No!) Well fine – go ahead have yourself a Referendum once a year if you really want to, but you – as in the people of Scotland must pay for it. Then let’s see just how keen your politicians, or rather the people, who hold the politicians and their parliament accountable are, when other essential services are cut only in Scotland just to foot the bill, rather than as usual the rest of the UK having to pay most of it. This way if any future politicians should want to try and immortalise themselves, in the same self serving way that the outgoing First Minister Alex Salmond has done in both referenda, you can tell them to do it with their own money not the money of hard working tax payers.

Of course, as we have seen with the pledges squeezed out of Westminster last week, what is actually happening every time there is a vote on Independence, is that the Scots get even more concessions to the point that the people of Wales, Northern Ireland and England, who all pay the same level of tax, all end up losing just to keep people North of the border with a better standard of living. Indeed, one of the countless numbers doing the rounds last week was that every single person in Scotland gets somewhere in the order of £1,600 a head more in services, subsidies and hand outs than the rest of us… why? And now they expect even more, although less than 36% of the eligible population actually voted for Independence. To me that is quite wrong – as a tax payer I expect an equitable return for my hard earned cash not this creeping sense that the rest of the Union is actually getting less than the Scots simply because we are not making enough noise.

Finally, the spectre of nationalistic agitation was never far away from this vote. Although no politician would be stupid enough to use it as a platform, the rhetoric, language and cultural imagery of the strife of the poor Scots was always in the subtext. That may be fine for old dyed in the wool anti-unionists, who possess a knee jerk hatred of anything English, but now the ‘Yes’ campaign is turning all of its focus and energies onto the young. Impressionistic 16 and 17 years olds, who were incidentally, only allowed to vote for the first time at the referendum because the SNP believed the kids would carry the ‘Yes’ vote over the victory line. However, all that is likely to be achieved by targeting this group, is to cloak bigotry and hatred with an air of respectability because it’s about ‘politics’, but if you look close enough it’s mostly about perpetuating old hatreds that should really have been buried centuries ago.

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Photo by Betsy Weber

Scotland the time to change the same old overplayed record is long overdue. Yes things may not have always been fair or equitable in the Union but you have actually been part of it and enjoyed it’s protection and prosperity for more than 300 years now. The last great battle between England and Scotland took place more than 250 years ago, almost 20 years before the American War of Independence, although the way history is regurgitated at the service of the anti-unionists you could almost believe it was only a few decades ago.

I am not denying that Scotland has a rich, varied and yes sometimes violent history, with characters such as William Wallace, Bonnie Prince Charlie and Robert the Bruce who still permeate the fabric of society. But this is the 21st Century – not the 13th, so perhaps these characters who are constantly invoked at the service of the Nationalist cause can finally be retired, so they and their images and stories can do what they have always done best for Scotland: help sell whiskey and bring in thousands of curious tourists, who are only too eager to spend their holiday pounds to explore that proud history or just to enjoy the beauty of the highlands and the lowlands.


The Alchemist in All of Us

After a seven week odyssey through Europe I am home at last to my own house, my own bed and my favourite stretch of perfect beach, which is currently being caressed by a warm turquoise sea. Of course this being reliably – unreliable Turkey I still arrived to a power-cut and an unnecessary deactivation of my internet account, but a candle lit cold beer and a very pleased to see my Kitten, quickly lanced any frustration. Then just for a moment Paulo Coelho’s seminal work The Alchemist popped into my head. Spoiler alert! For those who want to try this book stop reading now and skip to the third paragraph!

In The Alchemist the protagonist goes on a very long journey throughout Europe and the Africa of the middle ages, searching for adventure and some meaning only to discover that he was too blind to see that it had always existed all along in the very town from where he began his journey years earlier.

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Photo by Steve Koukoulas

Sometimes you just need to leave a place, a situation, a problem behind in order to look at it later with fresh, un-blinkered eyes to see it for what it really was. Although I left with frustrations in my personal life the main driver for my departure was a gradual falling out with Turkey and all of the inherent problems and daily challenges that living here entails. Looking back it was like a car-crash in slow motion that began towards the end of last year, after a very close friend took responsibility for a dozen, un-house-trained street dogs (an impulsive, yet unnecessary act – as the animals could have been reasonably well cared for elsewhere). Although I did my best to help with the all consuming chaos this caused, it eventually became the catalyst that wrecked her long standing relationship. Some health and legal problems arrived with the New Year, while others soon followed on the back of the turmoil triggered by Turkey’s Spring Elections, until everything was ultimately eclipsed by the untimely death of my oldest friend in May.

So I set out in July, with a suitcase full of frustrations, perceived betrayals and residual grief on a quest to find a new temporary base, should I ever need one. I was looking for a place where I could eventually move permanently, if I failed to stifle my growing feelings of detachment from the place I called home, or if things took a turn for the worst in this polarized country, whose political leaders, despite Turkey being secular, continue their slow tango towards more religious influence coming to bear upon the state, its laws and institutions. And yet, I stupidly forgot the first law of emotional escape: you can never totally leave behind your anger, your frustrations, or things like grief or relationship break-ups because the demons, we all carry within our overactive imaginations, relish nothing more than a long journey into the unknown to magnify those issues or beat you up over the problems or situations you thought you had left behind.

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Photo by This Year’s Love

Depending on our individual stories, you don’t need to run away to escape the all consuming flux or funk in your brain because, whether it is slow or quick to clear, clear it will. Until one day you wake up and realise that things seem OK, indeed are OK now… at least for today. I have also found that the interactions of others, friends, family and indeed strangers often helps towards this resolution or ‘closure,’ if closure is needed. So try not to travel alone for too long, if you are in a fragile frame of mind. But if you do at least be open to the friendship of strangers or fellow travellers, when they reach out to you. Because if you do take that chance, you may well be rewarded by some cathartic relief, especially if you are brave enough to trade difficult stories because you believe you are unlikely to ever see these people again, who knows. Although there have also been countless lifelong friendships and indeed romantic entanglements born in just this way, over a beer, a sunset margarita or simply sitting on a bench waiting for a long delayed train to arrive. So yes by all means protect yourself, your heart and your soul but never, ever, close yourself off completely.

So now I am back, perhaps still tired in body but thankfully rested in mind and soul. I was also amazed to discover that it is not only my mind that is lighter, but also my body – a full 10 kilo’s lighter than when I first set off! And so yes my insights may not be as powerful as those within The Alchemist, as this is just a modest blog not a blockbuster, but do try and remember what I said for next time you have a difficulty you want to escape from, or are grieving – perhaps with yet another broken heart. As for me, right now: It is time to relax and chill out with a good swim and more importantly, it is also time for me to simply enjoy the summer sunshine, perhaps for the very first time this year?!