By Alex Robertson
Someone raised the subject of Scottish values at dinner the other evening, which prompted a chorus of responses round the table, varying from a list of supposed values, and including, to be fair, some doubters who wondered if Scots did indeed have values which were different or even distinct from people of other nations. That discussion left me uneasy and dissatisfied with the answers I had heard. So I started to think about it, as you do.
I have my own list, of course, which includes: Honesty, Straightforwardness, Persistence (of the Robert Bruce variety), all featured. But then I realised that no list can adequately portray the distinctiveness which I do believe makes the Scots somehow different. The trap I had fallen into was to mistake features for values. So I dug a bit deeper.
Instead of describing what I think is best about Scots, I tried to think of what Scots would protect, defend and even die for, what did they really value. That was easier. The trouble then was that I thought of too many.
Too many to be of any particular merit in trying to personify Scots as distinct from other people. So I had to try harder, and think of things which had stood the Scots well in all the time their independence was denied them. My list shortened: seeking the Truth, Education, Inventive curiosity, a tendency to didacticism, Courageous endurance and persistence, and a nurturing of identity as a nation, topped my list.
But I think it is important to try to get a good grip on the things, the values, which mean a lot to us. It is important because the argument is being put about that there is a British persona, fitting all the nations that make up the Union. That may be so, but there are still some values which have served us well as a nation, which we all feel in us, and which we want to preserve. And where better to do that than in our own sovereign country.
Whatever independence means, to me it means two things: first it means standing on our own two feet and ridding ourselves of the cursed dependency which is a millstone round our collective necks, and second, it means having the right to choose, to decide for ourselves in all aspects concerning our future, whether it is who to partner with for defence purposes, which treaties to honour and which to drop, and how to raise and spend our money as a country.
And if you agree with these two objectives, then it is important to decide by which guiding lights you will steer a course. Take education. The SNP government has got it absolutely right in saying that education for all, free at point of use, is a basic value of Scots. It is the ladder to enlightenment and advancement, as much in medical science as in engineering or the law or any other of the activities we engage in to prosper and flourish. It has served us well indeed.
Healthcare is another core treasure, as is infrastructure: roads and railways and airways. You need only look back at the Roman times to see how it is that Rome prospered. They built the roads along which trade flowed, and they encouraged education to liberate the poor and the downtrodden. The Lad o’ pairts is as much a part of our story as military history or wealth creation.
We, as Scots have so much to be proud of and to treasure, and it well worth consideration by us all to be clear that we know our strengths and what marks us out. If you seek evidence, just look at how the long earned reputation for Scottish banking, prudent and canny, was lost sight of in the Blair/Brown Binge years, and look too where it got us.
So I encourage you all to have the debate, as a family, in the pub, or even at work in the downtime. Who knows, you might get a surprise or two, and you might just learn what makes us Scots tick.