This is one of a large number of Scottish related articles by Guest Writers which have been added to Rampant Scotland. The pages were previously part of the "Scottish Radiance" Web site and there are many more articles in this series being added over a period of months.
By Rose-Marie Kaye
Background to the author: Rose-Marie was born in London, England. At the age of seven, she visited the States for the first time, and was haunted for the next sixteen years by an unceasing call to return. In time, circumstances collided with wishful thinking, and she came back to these shores as a student to earn her Master's degree at Northwestern University. She now lives with her husband and son in Chicago, her spiritual home. As happy as she is here, however, it has become her dearest wish to rent a cottage in scenic Scotland for the summer months as an annual writing retreat. Perhaps, some day, circumstances will once again collide with wishful thinking....
The closer you live to Buckingham Palace, the fuzzier the borders between England and the rest of the British Isles seem to be. For example, I was born and raised in London, and I have always thought of Scotland as…well…as England, only further north.
In fact, I privately thought of England, the United Kingdom, and Great Britain as entirely interchangeable names, even though I knew it wasn’t politically correct. Oh, of course I was aware that there was a fight for independence and self-determination among our Celtic neighbours, but surely the prime movers in each case were nothing more than incendiary fringe elements. Somehow I maintained the syrupy belief that we were all, basically, one big chummy family.
Then, one fine day, Princess Anne skipped across the border to marry, because the Church of England wouldn’t perform her second marriage. Suddenly the difference between England and Scotland became a matter of supreme importance to me. (And it’s not because I was squeamish about the Princess’s marital status, trust me.)
At first, I was appalled that the same rules and standards didn’t apply across the British Isles, and this lack of uniformity bothered the heck out of me. After the first rush of dismay had abated, it occurred to me that Scotland was probably glad to have its own church, to have some degree of independence in religious matters.
But even though I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, a question still nagged. Then it came to me. If the differences between Scotland and England ran to something as fundamental as the church, in a nation where supposedly there’s no separation between Church and State, then doesn’t a different church imply a different state? In other words, if Scotland has an independent church, then shouldn’t Scotland be an independent state? And with that shift in perspective, my life changed.
I take that back. My life didn’t change—but I did. From my roost in the United States, where I’ve been living for over a decade now, I started to see Scotland in a whole new light. No longer just another face of England, she began to take on an identity of her own; moody, charismatic, romantic.
OK, so maybe not every Scot runs around wearing a kilt and tossing the caber. Maybe Scotland, like the rest of us, faces her own share of very real, very painful problems, like poverty and an unsteady economy.
But, oh, the passion! Who can resist the character of a people that can create stirring music on the bagpipes to touch a pleasure centre deep in your solar plexus, and draw forth a bubbling laughter for life? Who can resist a people that can produce resplendent tartans to splash colour on an overcast landscape? And when the lowering clouds part to let the sun stream through and kiss the earth in a moment of crystal beauty, who can resist the magic of a people inspired to bottle that liquid gold as the water of life, to warm the blood when the clouds return?
I wish I’d visited Scotland when I lived in the UK, but I never got around to it, thinking she would always be there. And so she is…only now I’m here, in the States. Perhaps I had to leave to see that, while England has many fine qualities, Scotland isn’t the same thing at all. The Scots are very much a breed of their own who, to my mind, have every right to stand up and be counted separately. And so they will.
In the final analysis, here is a people with the passion to hang onto its heritage by the fingernails in its fight for independence. Here is a people with the nobility and resolve to stick to diplomacy and government, perhaps the slowest, most frustrating means possible, to achieve self-determination. And who can resist that? Not me.
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