From Alba to Albion, with Love

My mother often reminds me that the word ‘wake’ is misapplied to the reception after the funeral. The time and place for eulogy, for stories and songs and for the affirmation of kinship in the face of loss. The ‘wake’ itself is more properly the vigil, anxious or resigned, the mourning for, or rage against, the dying of the light. A ‘wake’ is also the divided churn of waters following the passage of a ship. All these meanings may be applied to the wake of the UK General Election of 2015.

Like a drifting spar from broken rigging for drowning souls to cling to, a hashtag has sprung up on Twitter: #takeuswithyouscotland

It’s a situation that no Scot should take pleasure in and though that great ship of state has sailed, there may be other forms of first aid: do we not have lifeboats? So many of our kith and kin, friends and acquaintances, south of Hadrian’s Wall and east of Offa’s Dyke, have lamented being unable to vote SNP, led so ably by our First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon (excepting the huge error that is the Named Person policy – see @no2NPcampaign for details).

Given that this canny lady has emphasised not independence but ‘Devo Max’ over the course of this electoral campaign, it seems obvious that people want more say in local, regional and national affairs, when offered the chance. Although I wish for future self-determination for my country, I do not accept the view that this present result gives a clear mandate for ‘independence nothing less’. There is a great deal more, in terms of options.

Instead of attempting to shift the border south, I put forward an easier conceptual adjustment. What if the SNP fields candidates, for local council and by-elections, in England? In a town like Corby, where kids grow up with Scottish accents from the legacy of their steelworker parents who emigrated en masse, this would cause no great alarm. London is already (apparently) run by Scots and many other places may welcome a clear anti-austerity stance articulated in accents of workers’ solidarity.

What this move must not be is any form of (even reverse) colonialism. SNP Councillors and MPs for seats furth of Scotland would only make sense for two reasons: their clear allegiance to their party’s economic policy; and their commitment to valuing the concerns and the culture of their constituents. Though my father’s folk were all Scots and Irish, and my maternal grandmother Highland, my roots from my Cockney grandfather’s mother are East Anglian, that line is as deep as England. His father was German and probably Jewish, we have a great cultural richness to celebrate in this proud land.

England, as a dear and departed Jamaican English friend would tell me, is not only a place for City gents in bowler hats. It is the land of the Diggers and the Levellers, the Todpuddle Martyrs, Merrie England and Blake’s Albion. It is also the land of the aspirations of the Windrush generation, of all the South Asian medics and merchants, of the Chinese who fled communism but retained their deep commitment to community, of students from Palestine to Pittsburgh, of teachers from Buenos Aires to the Bering Straits, of the various nationalities who were captured during WW2 and decided to stay.

People in England voting Tory have said that their reasons were:

1) the moral bankruptcy of the other options [I know but at least a Tory is what it says on the tin!]

2) the candidate’s acquaintance with and concern for local people

So, when not campaigning against cuts and against military aggression, an SNP candidate in England might not find himself or herself organising Highland Games and Burn’s Nights but rather appreciating the jingle of Morris bells and the soft thud of leather on willow, spending time aboard canal boats, steam trains, at festivals and small markets and affirming these lively and lovely forms of rural life that are a gift, a valuable legacy also to the kind of inner-city kids I’ve witnessed unable to tell a sheep from a cow and wondering vociferously why someone hasn’t picked up the cow pats from ‘the floor’.

Besides Mebyon Kernow, there are already various political parties in England who agitate for self-determination for their county or region. The SNP in England would provide the know-how of an already established form of devolution and would be the party leading the way in pushing for a devolved English parliament, perhaps in historic York. Coventry is apparently nearer the geographical centre of England but Cornwall has a Celtic not Anglo-Saxon identity and if England starts east of the Tamar then the centre may be north of the Wash. So Sheffield is another possibility, Royal Leicester being probably too far south and in danger of gravitational attraction from the metropolis.

More astute political minds may decide that the time is ripe for a party to put the words ‘English’ and ‘national’ together. If this combination can really evoke a progressive, multicultural party respectful of all good faiths and philosophies, then let it be so. However other, less inclusive, images may come to mind.

Counter-intuitive though it may be, SNP candidates in England may make sense in these interesting political times. People who have claims on us, claims of blood and long-standing affection, are drowning in these troubled waters, in the wake of the UK General Election of 2015.

Should auld acquaintance be forgot?


‘England Flag Against Blue Sky’ by Kelly Martin, in Public Domain: