Why I’ll be voting Yes – by the Dowager Duchess of Hamilton

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1912

The Dowager Duchess of Hamilton has pledged to campaign for a Yes vote in the independence referendum, declaring: “It’s what Scotland needs and it”s what my husband would have wanted.”
 
The duchess, who prefers to be known plainly as Kay, knows that some people will be surprised that a member of one of Scotland’s leading aristocratic families supports Yes, but says a desire for an independent Scotland transcends any position or political allegiance.

The Dowager Duchess of Hamilton has pledged to campaign for a Yes vote in the independence referendum, declaring: “It’s what Scotland needs and it”s what my husband would have wanted.”
 
The duchess, who prefers to be known plainly as Kay, knows that some people will be surprised that a member of one of Scotland’s leading aristocratic families supports Yes, but says a desire for an independent Scotland transcends any position or political allegiance.

She said: “After all, I have experienced life at both ends of the spectrum – as a child and young woman growing up in a small tenement flat in a poorer area of Aberdeen, to being the wife and best friend of Scotland”s premier peer.
 
“I know, as my husband did, that Scotland can become a better, fairer and more compassionate nation as an independent country, in charge of our own affairs and making our decisions.”
 
The dowager duchess has already spoken from the platform at a Yes Scotland public meeting in East Lothian, and is ready to campaign for Yes all the way to September 18.
 
Kay Carmichael, a former hospice nurse, married the 15th Duke of Hamilton and 12th Duke of Brandon in 1998, living as a happy and devoted couple until his death in 2010.
 
Sitting in the lounge of her comfortable but modest home in the picturesque village of Dirleton, about 20 miles east of Edinburgh, which she shares with her two beloved Staffordshire terriers, Maisie and Tara, Kay spoke passionately about the “golden opportunity” that the forthcoming referendum presented to the people of Scotland.
 
She said: “I do believe that people in Scotland have a very sharp sense of what is right and wrong, what is just and unjust and that we are, at heart, a caring and compassionate nation.
 
“From that perspective, we have different priorities and we need the power of independence to be able to fully meet those priorities and, at the same time, to blossom and flourish as nation in charge of our own destiny.”
 
Kay was raised by strict but loving Episcopalian parents in a two-room tenement in the Torry area of Aberdeen. Her father, a weighing scales engineer, instilled a keen work ethic within his daughter, and after leaving school she reluctantly followed the path expected of many young women at the time into office secretarial work. But her ambition was to enter nursing – a profession in which she excelled and loved.
 
However, it was another passion – as a campaigner against animal cruelty in general but the rescue of abused Staffordshire Bull Terriers in particular – that brought her in contact with the duke, Angus Douglas-Hamilton. For it turned out that he, too, had a love of “Staffies”, and one of Kay”s rescued and rehabilitated dogs ended up with the duke.
 
When they eventually met to discuss the dog’s care, the couple struck an instant rapport which led to romance and eventually marriage.
 
Kay said: “I have to confess that before I met Angus I probably had him marked down like most other people – as upper-class, privileged and typically aristocratic. He did, of course, have a privileged upbringing and he was educated at Eton and Baliol, Oxford, but as soon as we got talking I realised what a caring and compassionate man he was, and just how much we had in common.
 
“It may surprise people to know that in stark contrast to other members of the family, and especially his younger brother, Lord James Douglas-Hamilton, who became a Tory Minister in the Scottish Office and later a Conservative MSP, Angus was a life-long socialist and Labour supporter.
 
“We both had supported Tony Blair when he became Prime Minister after the damaging years of Margaret Thatcher. But when Blair and Bush took us into the illegal war in Iraq neither Angus nor I could support Labour any longer.
 
“Since then we have seen how successive Westminster governments have behaved, and let down both the UK and Scotland to the point where we have the scandal of people being forced to rely on food banks, of terrible levels of child poverty and inequality – and yet Scotland, economically, is one of the wealthiest countries in the world.”
 
Kay said it was one of her late husband’s proudest moments when in 1999 he, as Scotland”s premier peer and Hereditary Keeper of the Palace of Holyroodhouse, had the honour of carrying the Crown of Scotland and leading the Queen into the chamber at the reconvening ceremony of the Scottish Parliament.
 
She added: “The Scottish Parliament has been good for Scotland and has brought in some policies that I approve of thoroughly – free personal care for older people, no tuition fees for our students in higher education, and free prescriptions for example.
 
“These are the kind of measures that match a fairer, more caring nation like Scotland. Now I think we need to complete this journey that started in 1999 with Angus carrying the Crown on a cushion into the new parliament.
 
“But both of us came to realise that we cannot fulfill our potential and reach our goals so long as Scotland remains under the control of Westminster. We need to stand up for ourselves and be responsible for our own future.
 
“I also firmly believe that if Scotland gains her independence it will be good for our neighbours in these islands too, because everybody knows that the power, influence and financial clout held by the City of London is too great and is largely to blame for much of the unfairness and inequality that we experience today.
 
“Down through the ages, Scotland has always set an example to the rest of the world in terms of invention, ingenuity and ambition, as well as canniness and frankness. By gaining our independence, Scotland can again set an example to other parts of the UK which suffer because there is too much focus on the City of London.
 
“I know there are some people will say, “It’s ok for her to talk, she’s well off and doesn’t need to worry.” And, of course, it’s true that I am comfortable. But I come from a very humble background and I have not lost the sense of fairness and compassion that I learned as a child.
 
“Angus came from a different background, of course. But he, too, had a deep and genuine sense of fairness and compassion. I don’t know where that came from – perhaps from his paternal grandmother, Duchess Nina – but I think it helps to underline that we Scots do often have a different outlook on the world and on life.
 
“If there is a No vote I fear there would be an awful lot of people who will wake up on September 19 and feel they have squandered a golden opportunity. So I sincerely hope people find the courage to make the right decision.
 
“I pray there is a Yes vote on September 18. And I know that if Angus were still here, he would too.”

Yes Scotland Operations Manager Sarah-Jane Walls welcomed the support of the Duchess Kay.

She said: “The Yes movement is growing on a daily basis and attracting people from all walks of life and backgrounds. That’s because the message is clear – Scotland’s future in Scotland’s hands makes perfect sense.”