I used to read a lot, I particularly liked military history at first, then worked through different aspects of history. I’d question how much I absorb, sometimes I flew through books.
Some basic concepts that stick are the rises and falls of empires and countries.
Empires, how did supranational empire survive so long, then fail? Austria-Hungary, the old German Reich, the Russian Empire, the Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch..
What is there to learn from those and the past of the British Empire that just has a few outposts left on the world map.
I guess in my lifetime I can only vaguely recall territory being handed back by Britain and with Hong Kong being the most obvious.
Ties still bind, in shared languages, cultures and shared history across the countries that were part of bigger empires.
Not all of that is good stuff, not all bad. I’ll be simplistic as there’s real horrors of slavery, religious oppression, death camps and mass murder amongst all those pages I’ve read.
I used to believe that Britain was created, not ideally and not easily but that Scots drove on the English colonies to a wider imperial scheme through their work, brains and ultimately sacrifice.
We hear in the indyref debate, but ‘we fought together, we created that empire, we did this, we did that’.
I’ll admit that my younger self would have seen that argument and agreed with it.
I don’t now. I see it as yesterday. I see that there’s a mixed balance sheet, being on the right side and standing together against the Nazis balanced by the horrific loss of the Great War and the folly of entering it.
Standing against Napoleon in Europe and being part of every cycle of allies against him. At the same time getting on with grabbing land to turn the world pink.
The good and bad of Britain’s past mingle together. Thing to be proud of and not.
A journey of over 300 years, hard for Scotland in the Jacobite era and the clearances. Perhaps opportunity and progress and the light of Edinburgh’s Enlightenment and Glasgow’s Victorian industrial might.
Scots have left their mark across the world in that time and certainly Canada, Australia and America were made better by Scots immigrants.
The recent years of Union saw the world change with global companies, products, different to my childhood, the changes, the progress. It’s a world away from my childhood and I wonder how I explain it to my children and how relevant it might be for them.
I’m still haunted seeing Paisley High Street dead now. I remember it busy, lively, full even. The sense of space and what is was for is still there.
I remember the old businesses in town, where people’s relatives worked. Linwood when it was Linwood, I suppose even some of the Mills.
I saw the housing go up after businesses left, the decline of the scheme that I grew up in at the same time.
I moved on, I left Paisley and came back seven years ago. It was sad I didn’t realise how bad things had became and even the lack of vision on the local council to make things better.
The eighties and nineties did for Paisley, things changed so much, retail, shopping, how folk got about and I realised how many commuted as I do into Glasgow and how easy it was as a dormitory town.
Progress and technology move on, globalisation sees big companies take over our little companies and eventually spirit the money and talent away leaving a site to be redeveloped.
Firms grow, merge, then reach a point where they get taken over and eventually close after a few years with a different name or logo above the door.
I’m not sure that’s the world I want or want to see continue. I want to see localism, community and people together in Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland making it work.
We can’t be the cheapest economy and drive down wages, rights and benefits, but we need the right mix and blend of employment, enterprise and opportunity to have prosperity and the ability to look after our own and those that need it most.
I don’t know the answers but the history is there and the lessons can be learned.
I have been across the UK on holidays or for work. I like going to Wales, I like Oxford and Manchester as cities, I can’t fully take in London for size, scale and sheer busyness.
I marvel at how nice some places out of Scotland are. I wonder how hard past recessions hit and how they have their mix of local and bigger businesses. It’s happenstance? Or did the axe not fall so firmly?
Is it all my island? Do I see myself as British?
Is my island stretching down to Kent or Dorset or the Welsh Coast. I’m not sure I think they’re our neighbours. I think Scots are in ways different, in thought and culture.
I think we can share our use of the English language and can share our history of that 300 years and be friendly neighbours to the English, Welsh and Irish. I think even some would wish Scotland well on that journey.
I thought long and hard about devolution, I thought the debacle of building the parliament in Edinburgh showed up Scotland, but I’m recent years I’ve had faith in Salmond as first minister, I don’t agree with everything done by his government, but I can’t see Westminster looking after my interests after Blair, Brown and Cameron’s governments.
Better Together isn’t for me. I want Scottish Independence and the opportunity to create our own society and nation. For all us Scots living here and for those that have joined us and lived here.
After independence I hope that passports, citizenship whatever the right terms and concept can be given to all those Scots born that want it and through sensible immigration and time bars to those that want to come here and join us in being Scottish.
I think YES is the right thing to do.