Singing Through The Mist
Watched over by a statue of Adam Smith, the Scottish pioneer of modern economics, the square in front of St Giles Cathedral on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile rang out this afternoon to the strains of a would-be national anthem.
But it was not ‘The Flower of Scotland’ accompanied by the otherwise ubiquitous bagpipes that serenaded the international crowd: instead it was a full-throated version of ‘Els Segadors’ (‘The Reapers’), the anthem of the autonomous Spanish region of Catalonia.
Catalans are in Edinburgh in full force, firstly praising the UK Prime Minister, David Cameron, for granting the Scots a vote on independence in the first place; and then giving their whole-hearted support to the YES campaign.
While Scotland’s First Minister, Alex Salmond – last night in confident but inclusive mood – would probably want to re-pen some of the lyrics of ‘Els Segadors’ (“Catalonia triumphant shall again be rich and bountiful; drive away these people who are so conceited and so contemptuous”), he is surely welcoming the support.
But this sentiment of independence is giving cause for concern in Brussels.
Some believe that whichever side is declared the winner in the Scottish ballot in the early hours of tomorrow morning, a genie is now out of the bottle. The EU and some national governments fear the Scottish experience could lead to strong pushes for independence in places like the Spanish regions, Belgium and northern Italy. And some analysts believe a YES victory in Scotland could then lead to the rest of the UK exiting the EU once and for all (the so-called ‘Brexit’).
While the corridors of Brussels have for many months whiffed of the scent of frustration with the UK and its growing agitation against EU rules and regulations, many political leaders and officials agree that a ‘Brexit’ would not be good for the EU as a whole. The new President-designate of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, has already made positive noises about the UK’s continuing membership of the EU – and ‘rewarded’ Britain with a more finance-orientated Commission portfolio than had first been mooted. And all this, despite a shaky Juncker-Cameron relationship.
So as a murky day dawned over the Scottish capital, all but obscuring the view of the city’s castle and putting a bit of a dampener on what had been almost a party atmosphere in recent hours as the YES and NO campaigns rose to their final flourishes, much was riding on how the people of Scotland answered that one, all-important question: “Should Scotland be an independent country?”
A bit of Scotch mist wasn’t going to stop them making their mark.
Journalists from around the world are in Scotland in huge numbers – surely into the thousands. Many were on the last train from Perth to Edinburgh last night after the final YES campaign rally, struggling with the pronunciation of some of the more typically Scottish place names along the route – but at the same time marvelling at a highly efficient wifi system on board the local train (rarely in evidence on similar trains in Scotland’s neighbour just 100 miles (160km) to the south, it must be said).
Many of the journalists are now working on their copy and reports in what would become the parliament of an independent Scotland – the current Scottish Parliament (designed, incidentally, by a Catalan architect). Above them rise the mighty hills of Holyrood Park and its main peak, Arthur’s Seat. I looked down from there this afternoon at the Scottish capital with its other six hills clamouring to emerge through the mist. Walkers, journalists and tourists were all in evidence, some even unfurling a Saltire Scottish flag to decorate the backdrop being used by the television news broadcasters in their iconic Edinburgh shots.
No doubt my fellow walkers were, like me, contemplating what sort of Scotland would finally emerge from the damp, enveloping haar, once the voting is over. Edinburgh Castle, the city’s proud sentinel, sits atop an extinct volcano – so no chance of an eruption there. But when it comes to Scotland’s political future as it emerges at dawn tomorrow, it may be a very different story.
All will be revealed in a matter of hours.
(More blogs to come. You can follow me on twitter: @BXLSeanK)
Correction: I apologise for my spelling error in Blog #1, in which I gave the ‘Scots’ an extra t to cross.