09.18.2014 01:11 PM

In Tuesday’s Sun: to Scotland, with affection and concern

Dear Scotland:
To establish my bona fides, let me say that the most beautiful place on Earth is Oban, on your Western coast.  I travelled there with a girl some years ago and promptly forgot about the girl, and thereupon became fully preoccupied with moving to Scotland, hanging out in a pub and writing poetry. I didn’t do any of that, but Oban still calls me.
My bona fides thus established, let me say that I hope you did not vote to separate.  Without you, Scotland, the United Kingdom will be neither: not united, and not a kingdom.  It will be something else entirely.
What, then? What will Scotland become? What will happen to its people, and the people to the South, with whom you have been brothers and sisters for 300 years?
As a Canadian who loves Scotland in his bones, I can only tell you about our own experience with nationalism.  Sadly, we Canadians have had too much of it.  We defeated it in 1980, and in 1995, but it will come back again, like a persistent stain in the living room rug.  It always does.
On that last occasion, in 1995, I was a Chief of Staff in the federal government.  I worked in Hull, Quebec, but lived in Ottawa, Ontario.  I and other political staff had been ordered to stay out of the referendum battle then underway, so – reluctantly – we did.
In the referendum’s dying days, a cabinet minister summoned all of his deputy ministers to a room. I was invited. It looked entirely possible that the separatists were going to win, and that Canada would break up, and the minister was deeply troubled.  
I did not take notes. But I recall, as if it were today, that the minister wanted to know what would happen if the Quebec nationalists won.  One of his deputies, a good man, stood up. He peered down at his notes.
He had been talking to many of his equivalents in Quebec’s government, he said.  He had some things to report.
“In the event of a yes,” he said, “they intend to deposit truckloads of gravel at roads leading into Quebec, to establish de facto border crossings.  They also plan to padlock all federal buildings in Quebec, and say that their taxes paid for those buildings.”
He continued: “There are a large number of francophones in the Armed Forces.  They believe those men and women will pledge allegiance to a separate Quebec.  Finally, they intend to immediately go to the Supreme Court of Canada, to seek a declaration that Canada no longer exists, and create constitutional paralysis.”
“Chaos,” said the Minister.  A few of the deputies were crying, by now.
“Yes, Minister, chaos,” said the deputy, looking up from his notes.  “They win, ultimately, by creating enough chaos – economic, constitutional, legal, social – that we will be persuaded to focus on our own many problems, and let them go.”
As a strategy, it wasn’t a bad one.  After a decade or two of economic calamity, it would have probably worked, too.
Here is the message one Canadian, with a deep affection for Oban, has to pass along, Scotland: when you let loose the dogs of anarchy, there is no telling who they will bite. There is no way to predict the way things will go.
Take a look around the world, if a single Canadian example doesn’t suffice.  Virtually every war or armed conflict does not have its origin in religion.  The origins of most wars can be traced to the desire of one group of people to live separately from another – or one group of people seeking to impose their will on a separate group of people.
Scotland, if it is separation you seek, you will have it.
But, by God, you shall have chaos without end, too.


  1. Arnold Murphy says:

    I too hope Scotland stays, and contributes through their dissent to a better Empire. We cannot ignore the fact of the Empire or Common Wealth being a strength that lends both credibility and resilience to every member therein. That strength being tested from time to time, our resolve, our bond is often necessary to prove the worth of it. And Scotland too should take heart, with stability comes endurance and with endurance we can overcome many obstacles including the current ravages of fascism that have sparked this flame of separation. What better way to celebrate a vote to stay, than to next bring that fight to the rest of the commonwealth and show these fascists the door. I agree with Warren 100% about the chaos, knowing from sources other than he of the threats of the separatists during the 1995 referendum, my hope is for any change to come peacefully, to preserve Scotland as a bastion for the people of Scotland and to remind the rest of the Commonwealth of that duty in each.

  2. davie says:

    Oh, I don’t know…seems to me that more often than not this is the argument of most people who are in power or control: Your choice is either order, with us in charge, or chaos.

  3. smelter rat says:

    Oban will still be there tomorrow, one way or the other.

  4. Elisabeth Lindsay says:

    OMG…..can`t believe I am agreeing with smelter rat. :)T

  5. Al in Cranbrook says:

    Great Britain remains great!

    Right on!

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