The following article by George Gunn from the Province of the Cat was first posted by bella caledonia. It links King Charles receiving the ‘Honours Scotland’ with the seizure of the land under feudalism. This continues to this day, albeit it as aggressive capitalist expropriation. However it acknowledges its feudal forebears in the pomp and ceremony of the ceremony at St. Giles on July 5th.
THE REAL HOUNOURS OF SCOTLAND
Dunbeath Estate in Caithness, some 28,500 acres, is currently on the market for offers over £25 million. The Dunbeath nursery school, within Dunbeath primary school, is being threatened with closure as Highland Council seek to save money. Between these two events falls the reality of the modern Highlands and the frustration of modern Scotland.
The movement from suggestion to presence is the story of the contemporary Scottish reality, or identity, or nation, on its way to completion. There are many obstacles in the way to this completion, this presence in the world. For example, to be forced into a political Union and held there against the wishes of the people is not freedom it is slavery. In the 18th century, the Speaker of the House of Commons stated that England has “catch’d Scotland and we will bind her fast”. We are catch’d and it will take a wheen of resolve and action for us to be uncatch’d.
In the 20th century, on page 993 of the Daily Record’s Modern English Illustrated Dictionary (that same Daily Record which describes itself as Scotland’s national daily). Under a list of countries “How acquired by England”, you will find: Wales by conquest – 1282, Ireland by conquest – 1173, Scotland by union – 1603.
The English aristocrats, and their Scottish vassal lords, stole our freedom from us by using swords, spears, arrows, muskets and cannons, and when that failed they used blackmail and dishonesty.
On this Wednesday (5th of July) King Charles the Third will receive the “Honours of Scotland” in St Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh and parade down the “Royal Mile” which is the High Street and the people of Scotland are invited to issue up cries of joy and weep tears of gratitude; what BBC Radio 3, who will be broadcasting the music, calls a “festival of celebration and thanksgiving.”
Allan Armstrong of the Radical Independence Campaign, who are backing Our Republic. in their organising a demonstration against this pantomime, takes a different view,
“We have to pay for all this pomp and ceremony and have our streets and lives disrupted yet again. We are still not citizens but live under a constitutional monarchy where sovereignty lies with the Crown-in-Westminster… The ceremony at St. Giles reinforces state-backed sectarianism, with its recognition of the privileged position of the Church of Scotland. And we have seen another deeply anti-democratic Crown institution, the Supreme Court deny our right to have IndyRef2, voted for by the Scottish people in the 2021 Holyrood election. But the (UK) government has gone further and is now rolling back the powers of Scottish parliament voted for by 74% in 1998.”
The painter, poet, and writer John Berger (1926 – 2017) once wrote that “Much of what happens to us in life is nameless because our vocabulary is too poor.” Events such as an unpopular king receiving “honours” from a politically thwarted nation, denied a meaningful democracy, requires us to enrich our vocabulary and to make what happens to us not nameless, but named. The Edinburgh event is a sham, a manifestation of ceremony over substance to disguise a dysfunctional state and a crumbling economy and an ever widening gap between the rich and the poor. The real “Honours of Scotland” , our real jewels, are our children, our culture, our society and our economic potential, so far unrealised.
Despite the anachronistic attempt through the royal circus to convince us we have an unchanging tradition the reality is that the world is changing politically and in Europe we see it close at hand with the rise of the right, as George Kerevan has pointed out (The National, July 3rd). Scotland simply cannot afford to be shackled to the isolationist and increasingly reactionary UK any longer. Our children will not forgive us if we continue in this vein. Kerevan writes,
“Unfortunately for the intense navel contemplating that constitutes British liberal political dialogue, Europe has moved on. Everywhere the political right is on the rise – a nasty, illiberal, bellicose, economically autarkic, racist, anti-immigrant, xenophobic, antisemitic, protectionist right. And there are no US liberals – no Franklin Roosevelt or John F. Kennedy – riding to the rescue.”
Scotland does not need “rescuing”. What she needs is a working democracy and that is something we do not have. What we do have is a Scotland rich in natural resources. In Caithness we produce far more renewable energy than we ever could possible use, so it is sold off to the south of Scotland and to England and we have to buy it back at ridiculous prices. In the Pentland Firth alone we have the potential to harness the tidal stream energy, which you can set your clock by, and which many other countries would give their eye-teeth for. But as energy is a reserved matter the UK government continually under invest in MayGen, the company who have installed the turbines south of Stroma. Of the massive wind farm of our east coast – and others elsewhere in Scotland – we easily produce the 6 gigawatts Scotland requires. We currently produce 35 terawatts – one terawatt is 1,000 gigawatts or 1 billion kilowatts. You can do the arithmetic yourself but the financial result for Scotland is next to nothing. The wind turbines off shore are not owned by Scots but by French, Danish, German and Irish companies. These resources are being stolen from us.
As the sale of Dunbeath estate with its castle and other assets illuminates, our land will go to the highest bidder, starting at £25 million. Any bids? If so Savills, the selling agent, would be glad to hear from you. On their glossy website they highlight some of the “assets” on offer: Walked-up grouse moor and deer forest; driven pheasant shoot; 12.5 miles of double bank fishing. They go on to say, “In all weathers Dunbeath is a paradise of moorland, riverside and coastline; a place to relish the absolute personal remoteness…” The only reference to the invisible local population is as “employees”.
What all this highlights is that there is no such thing as land reform in Scotland, there is only a cosmetic exercise designed to appear to implement “reform”, but in reality all it does is stabilise the status quo. Things appear to be reformed but nothing changes. Landownership is poverty for the many and riches for the few. At the weekend of the very same week as the Dunbeath estate went on the market Scotland’s largest private landowner and wealthiest man Anders Holch Povlsen (worth £8.5 billion) threw a multi-million pound birthday bash at his Highland castle. This even included flying in superstar Lionel Richie via Inverness Airport, to perform. The ASOS boss put on the glitzy party at his £15 million Aldourie Castle on the banks of Loch Ness. The 300 guests who attended were also treated to a fly past by a Spitfire. Povlsen owns 221,000 acres of our country. Royalty makes this theft respectable. What Scotland needs is not land reform but a land revolution.
As the Scottish philosopher John Macmurray wrote in “Reason & Emotion” (1935), “We ourselves are events in history. Things do not merely happen to us, they happen through us.” In other words we must stop being passive receivers and become historic activators.
The media constantly refers to the King’s visit to Edinburgh as his Scottish “coronation”. It is not. To be a coronation Charles the Third would have to take the Oath of the Monarchs of Scotland in order to become King of Scots, not of Scotland. There is also the small business of the Claim of Right which states that sovereignty rests with the people, not the monarch. Unlike in Westminster where sovereignty is the Crown-in-Parliament. A completely different thing. One is power from the bottom up the other is power from the top down. Charles Saxe Coburg Gotha is so vain he would never accept the Claim of Right.
In the Savills ad for the sale of the Dunbeath estate they have the effrontery to quote from Dunbeath’s most famous literary figure, the novelist Neil Gunn. It is a passage from his 1941 essay ‘My Bit of Britain’. It would have been more informative if they used this quote from his essay “Scotland a Nation”, which appeared in Left Review in 1936. Gunn writes,
“”Scotland (was) not a primitive society as that phrase is usually understood. It had, for example a highly developed literature – an art-poetry as well as a folk-poetry. It had different orders of poets. When this Gaelic polity was converted to Christianity, it sent its scholars over Europe… Out of it came a social consciousness that can be traced in all distinctly Scottish institutions to this day. For instance, in this Gaelic commonwealth the land was communally held and the responsibility of rulers and officials was downwards to the people: in direct contrast to the feudal system where the responsibility of the rulers was upwards to the king. The feudal system came in with English influence an vitiated the native system; yet the native system was so inbred that as late a late as 1886 the crofters, fighting on the old idea that the land belonged to the people of the clan, by a remarkable agitation forced the Westminster government to pass the Act conceding security of tenure and the fixing of an economic rent by an imperial tribunal.”
Our historical surrender of this “social consciousness” and “Gaelic commonwealth” can be seen most vividly in the mess that is Scottish local government and most especially in the Highland Council which is possibly one of the worst local authorities in the country. Its sheer size renders it impossible to manage just as the devolution settlement renders real Scottish development impossible. All that happens is a continual holding operation and short term fixes. Money is cut from Inverness by Edinburgh and from Edinburgh by London. At the bottom of this pyramid of unnecessary scarcity is the threatened closure of the Dunbeath nursery. The Highland Council think by closing this nursery they will save money. They will not. It will cost them money as even more young people leave the far north and we face increased depopulation. It is so short sighted it is cruel.
When King Charles comes to Caithness he is forever both a tourist and a relic from a by-gone and alien age. If you want to protest about this madness then come to Edinburgh on Wednesday and join Our Republic (Scotland) in expressing our right to be citizens not subjects and that we demand democracy not monarchy.
Details can be obtained here https://edinburghric.org/events/
Let us show the King and the world that it is in her people where the real honours of Scotland reside.