Views from visitors

My friend Kakha in the Pot Still
My friend Kakha in the Pot Still, a photo by viralbus on Flickr.
In the past months, foreign visits have taken up a lot of my spare time. A couple of weeks ago, my old friend Kakha from Tbilisi (the capital of Georgia) visited us for a few days, and now my mother has arrived from Denmark. Both have been political activists in the past, so it's always refreshing to hear their views on the independence debate.

Georgia declared independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, and the following year its autonomous region Abkhazia declared independence from Georgia. Later South Ossetia decided to do the same, which led to the Russo-Georgian war in 2008. In other words, Georgia has both positive and negative experiences with independence movements.

It was therefore necessary for me to persuade Kakha that Scotland is similar to Georgia, not to Abkhazia or South Ossetia. However, both Scotland and Georgia experienced many centuries as independent countries before they became part of a political union with a big neighbour, they maintained a distinct identity within that union, and their right to self-determination was never seriously in doubt, so it wasn't hard to convince him.

Once that had been settled, Kakha spent the remainder of his visit asking how anybody in their right mind could vote No to independence. He simply couldn't understand how people who consider themselves Scottish could even contemplate voting against independence. I tried to explain the Scottish cringe and all that, but he didn't get it. The only explanation that he could see any merit in was when I suggested that some people overestimate Scotland's influence within the UK. Most other potential reasons were dismissed with words too strong for this blog, especially when I dared to quote the "we're too poor" line. "But you've got whisky and oil!!!" cried Kakha.

My mum is less agitated about the independence issue than Kakha, but she keeps repeating that she doesn't get why people don't understand that Westminster wouldn't be bullying and scaremongering if they didn't have a lot to lose from Scottish independence, and that Scottish independence must consequently be a good idea.

In their own ways, Kakha and my mum both demonstrate that The Herald's foreign editor was spot-on when he summarised typical foreign views of the independence referendum:

[E]ven in countries all too familiar with the risks and costs that political separation brings, the anecdotal evidence suggests people still think it a cause we Scots should embrace. Viewed through the prism of such people and their experiences, the ludicrous scaremongering that has been a hallmark of the debate within the UK can be seen for the nonsense that it is. If such people are not afraid, why should we Scots be?

12 thoughts on “Views from visitors”

  1. States historically are interested in their own rulers rather than their ordinary people, and for example send us into wars. There is no logical need at all for every identifiable country and homeland to have its own state. It just traditionally in pre-democratic times was the reversal of conquest to have your own state. When asked democratically whether you want it, you should ask practically whether the offer is going to undo or worsen what is wrong with ordinary people’s position.
    in answer to my question at a Yes public meeting in Edinburgh 4 days ago, where the question could not just be ignored as every written enquiry I have made on it has been – Alex Neil, for the Scottish government, confirmed their policy on citizenship by descent, for Scots born in exile whose parents/grandparents moved away, won’t be of an entitlement like UK citizenship is. They will hold onto a power for the state to say no to any of these applications. His excuse was that it screens out undesirables and serious criminals. We did not get follow-up questions in that meeting, to ask him how can we know they won’t discriminate against the unemployed and the poor? On this policy voting Yes is voting to continue the clearances. This is what gives anyone who calls themself Scottish a moral duty to vote against the present offer of our own state, and not contemplate voting to divide families and close our country to its own children of the emigration that itself was supposed to be a Yes argument!!

    1. We have discussed this before. You’re looking for some guarantees that nobody can give you at the moment. All that exists at the moment is the White Paper, which is basically the Scottish Government’s negotiation position. I think you need to be more concrete. Who exactly is it that you want to get Scottish citizenship after independence (I don’t mean I want names, but what type of relationship to Scotland are we talking about?), and why are you worried they wouldn’t get it?

      1. It’s news that since we discussed it before, I got to question Alex Neil at a public meeting and have the concern confirmed by his answer. He explicitly said applications would be subject to character issues, it’s not a free-for-all, that ch and grandch of emigrants will get citizenship by descent. Their relationship to Scotland is of being Scotttish from Scottish families and chancing to be exiles at time of birth.

        1. I can only repeat what I’ve said before. The White Paper is a proposal, and in many regards it’s somewhat vague. Nobody can predict exactly what the laws passed by the Parliament of an independent Scotland will be, but practically everybody in the Yes campaign agree that Scotland should be an open and welcoming country. I’m not sure exactly why you’re so worried. Unless we’re talking about marginal cases such as convicted criminals born outwith Scotland, I don’t see what the problem is.

          1. It’s that if they won’t be pinned down committally to say it’s only convicted criminals – and even then that should depend on standards in other country’s justice systems – then it isn’t. If they reserve any power even in theory to discriminate against the poor or the politically undesired radicals or the former kids with troubled educations, then you can be sure they will do that.

  2. Very interesting..it annoys me that other countries have fought tooth and nail to gain their independence and all we Scots have to do is put an X in a box to say yes..and not even a big stick being used for persuasion.

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