Scotland’s 'Yes’ Campaign Revels in Bigotry and Isolationism

My father found refuge in Glasgow as a young boy, but he would have detested the campaign for Scottish independence, built upon spite and narrow mindedness.

Azriel Bermant
Azriel Bermant
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Campaigners wave Scottish Saltires at a 'Yes' campaign rally in Glasgow, Scotland. September 17, 2014.
Campaigners wave Scottish Saltires at a 'Yes' campaign rally in Glasgow, Scotland. September 17, 2014. Credit: Reuters
Azriel Bermant
Azriel Bermant

As I have followed developments in recent months leading up to today's referendum on Scottish independence, my thoughts have been tinged with sadness. I keep wondering what my father Chaim would have made of the referendum. Except I know the answer. If my father was still alive today, he would have argued passionately for Scotland to remain in the United Kingdom.

My father started life in Breslev, in what was then Poland, before moving with his family to Latvia when he was four. He moved to Glasgow with his family as an eight year-old boy. He left Scotland in his mid 20s, but remained proud of his Scottish roots, retaining an affection for the Scotland that he knew as a child; his humor was uniquely Scottish and Jewish. His love of whisky was no doubt partly a reflection of his fondness for all things Scottish. This affection for Scotland was expressed in much of his writing.

However, his Scottish background was only one part of his identity. My father was proud to be a Scottish Jew, but he was also British. What has made Scotland special is that it has been a vital contributory factor to a greater whole. My father loved British pageantry and its traditions, and was moved by the ceremony marking Britain's handover of Hong Kong to China in 1997. If the ‘yes’ vote is triumphant in the referendum, will Britain hold another ceremony in the coming months to mark the handover of Scotland to the Scots? One shudders at the thought.

I have no doubt that my father would have detested the campaign for Scottish independence. The leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP) and Scotland’s First Minister, Alex Salmond, is a very clever and charismatic politician, yet his case for independence has been built upon spite and narrow mindedness. While the campaign against independence deserves to be criticized for its complacency and negativity, when there was an early opportunity to build a powerful and positive case for Scotland remaining in Britain, the 'Yes' campaign has built itself up by reveling in bigotry and isolationism. Why should Scotland be a member of the European Union if it cannot abide being part a United Kingdom that has served it so well all these years?

Britain’s successes over the past three centuries have been predicated upon the fusion of the best and brightest talent from England, Wales, Ireland and Scotland. Let us hope that the British success story can renew itself after 18 September 2014, and that Scotland remains a vital part of it.

Dr Azriel Bermant is a Research Associate at the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) in Tel Aviv. He is writing a book on Margaret Thatcher and the Middle East. For details about the Chaim Bermant Prize for Journalism please see here.

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