The first independence referendum


bi Bob Fairnie

On the eve o the battle o Bannockburn in 1314, Robert the Bruce, King o Scots, speirt his men gin they shuid staund an fecht for independence or no.  A 14t century verbal referendum reportit an screivit aroond 1375 bi John Barbour wi some o the mair obscure auld words an spellins owerset intae a mair modren form.  Ye micht weel wunner whit wey sic a report wad be screivit in Scots but the fack is, aroond 1300 maist o the lawlan nobles o Scotland gied up thair Norman French in favour o the language o the fowk that wis cried Inglis at the time.

It wisnae till a century efter thon, aroond 1400, that the English King Henry IV alang wi aw his nobles gied up thair Norman French tae tak up speikin English.  It wis some time efter this kythed that the Scottish nobles, screivin tae thair relations in England, fund oot that the English spoken in England wisnae the same as the Inglis spoken in Scotland, sae they stertit tae cry thair ain leid Scots efter the kintrae it wis spoken in.

Lordings, we aucht tae praise an love
Almichty God that sits above
That sends us sae fair beginnin.
It is a gret discomfortin
Till oor faes, that in thae weys,
Sae soon haes been rebuttit twice,
For whan they o thair host sall hear
An ken siccarly in whit mainner
Thair vanguard, that wis sae stout,
An syne thon ither jolly rout
That I trow o the best men war
That they micht get amang thaim thare,
War rebuttit sae suddenly,
I trow an kens it aw clearly
That mony a hert sall waverand be
That seemit airlier o gret courage,
An frae the hert be discomfortit
The body is nocht worth a mite,
Tharfor I trow that guid endin
Sall follae frae oor beginnin.
But I say nocht this you till
For that ye shuid follae ma will
To fecht, but in you aw sall be,
For gyff ye thinks it richt that we
Fecht we sall, an gyff ye will
We leave, yer likin tae fulfill,
I sall consent in ilka wey
Tae dae richt as ye will devise,
Tharfor speak yer mind plainly.’
An wi ae vyce than did they cry,
‘Guid king, athoot ony mair delay
The morn as suin as ye see day
Ordane us aw intae the battle,
For fear o daith we sall nocht fail
Nor nae pain sall refusit be
Till we hae made oor country free.

Thae forbeirs o oors, votin in the first independence referendum, wis weel awaur o aw the risks an dangers they war like tae face an war weel awaur o hou puir thair ain kintrae wis in compare wi England.  They kent braw weel that the English airmy wis faur gretter nor thair ain but that day they haed gien the English twa bluidy nebs areddies an thon gied thaim a psychological heeze. Naebody telt thaim that if they won the neist day, it wad cost thaim nae want o siller nor did thon maitter a docken for they aw pit mair nor siller on the line thon day – it wis thair verra ain lives they pit.

A! Fredome is a noble thing!

Six year efter the battle, the Scots estaiblishment sent a letter, noo kent as the Declaration o Arbroath, tae the Pope.  In it they telt hou thair kintrae wis aye bein sair fashed bi thair suddron neibour an they speirt his Holiness tae see if he cuid get the English telt.  The follaein walin fae the Declaration, owerset intae Scots fae the oreiginal Latin, spelt oot yince an for aw that the maitter o siller didnae come intae the equation at aw.  In years tae come similar consaits wad fund thirsels bein pitten intae the constitutions o ither freedom lovin nations. In particlar, the USA for yin.

“For sae lang as a hunner o us remains alive, we will never unner ony conditions be thirled tae the Lordship o the English.  For we fecht no for glory nor riches nor honours, but for freedom alane, whilk nae guid man gies up excepp wi his life.”

Bob Fairnie –  Wi muckle thanks tae John Barbour.