THE FOURTH WORLD - NATIONS WITHOUT A STATE
Making History in Scotland
Dawn 28 May 2007
politics come from a simple belief: that my country, Scotland, should have
equal status with the nearly 200 other independent countries around the
On Scotland and the
"English Question" - Alex Salmond, Leader of Scottish National Party, 20
This is a historic week for Scotland. The country's new first minister met
Queen Elizabeth — Queen of England and Queen of Scots — at Holyrood Palace on
Thursday. This was the first time Her Majesty has met the leader of a Scottish
government who is committed to Scotland rejoining the community of nations as an
equal and independent partner.
The meeting was also the culmination of a month of firsts for Scotland. On May
3, the Scottish National Party (SNP) — a democratic party, committed to
independence, that I have proudly supported all of my adult life — won the
largest number of seats in the Scottish Parliament. And last week the Scottish
Parliament elected the SNP leader, Alex Salmond, to the country's top job.
The American media have described this election as good news for the SNP and
very bad news for the British government of Tony Blair and his successor, Gordon
Brown. What was not covered was the momentous significance for Scotland.
This marks the first time in 50 years that the Labour Party has lost an election
in Scotland. Fifty years is a long time — in politics, it is a virtual eternity.
Scare tactics often work in elections, and with the Labour Party contemplating
defeat, it was willing to throw all the negativity it could into this campaign.
People in Scotland heard it all: Labour conjured up descriptions of plague and
pestilence if Scots voted for the SNP and a new and different government. And
I'll tell you this: it didn't work. In fact, it backfired badly on Labour. Scots
voted for optimism. They voted for change. They voted for progress. And that is
why they voted for the SNP.
Polls show that the SNP is the most trusted party in Scotland. And by a margin
of five to one, people think that Alex Salmond cares more than Tony Blair does
about making Scotland successful. As for the SNP's position that it makes good
democratic sense to ask Scots to decide their own constitutional future in a
democratic referendum, a whopping 80 per cent of the Scottish public agrees.
My politics come from a simple belief: that my country, Scotland, should have
equal status with the nearly 200 other independent countries around the world.
Independence is a concept that Americans inherently understand. After all, the
sentiments for freedom in the Declaration of Independence echo those from the
Declaration of Arbroath that Scots penned in the 14th century. (We said nothing
about the pursuit of happiness, however, a fantastically American addition.)
The debate on an independence referendum is one for another day, and I firmly
believe the answer will be yes. This month's election was about a new
government. Alex Salmond will be a new kind of first minister for Scotland, a
man who answers not to a party in London but to the people of Scotland.
The Scottish public first became aware of Salmond 20 years ago, when, as a young
member of the British Parliament at Westminster, he interrupted the chancellor's
budget — the most televised day in British politics — to protest the
government's unfair, regressive tax policies. The House of Commons proceedings
ground to a halt as the speaker ejected Salmond. He exited to the waiting
cameras outside and the commentators asking who was this young guy with the
nerve to interrupt the British chancellor of the exchequer.