The Closing Scene?

Today is the seventh and final post in guest week, where each day a writer gives us their distinct take on the Referendum. John set the scene, Eleanor took us behind the scenes, James showed us a new scene, Scott showed us some scenes of a political nature, Lily wished on thistledown and Dave penned the penultimate piece. Now it falls to Rhona (me Ma!) to give us the closing scene. It’s a privilege to have my Mum write this piece as she is a very talented, senstive and creative writer who encouraged my first steps into the world of letters. I continue to be inspired by this fantastic lady. Rhona blogs at http://ramblinrho.wordpress.com/

It seems I am to have the last word. Except of course I don’t.

I am indeed the last of this current round of guest bloggers on LAHHATA. But after I’ve said my bit, it will be business as usual. James will be back with his unique blend of verbal dexterity, political passion, and poetic insight, and I will have rambled back into my own blogsphere.

Still, if Dave’s post was the “penultimate” in the series, I guess I’m..well..ultimate. No pressure there then.

From ultimate we get ultimatum. (Forgive me, but I do love a verbal segue.) And I wonder if some have seen this referendum as a kind of ultimatum. As residents of Scotland we are being asked one question and one question only; and we are allowed one answer and one answer only. No ifs, no ands, no buts. No ‘havering’ allowed.

It’s no wonder the pressure, and the panic, have increased in the last few weeks. This is it. Something definite. Something final. Something ultimate. Yes or No. The last word.

Except it’s not.

On the 18th of September our nation will speak. It will be momentous. But on the 18th all we will say are two words. Let me say that again. On the 18th two words will be spoken. Not one. Whoever “wins” has no right to silence the “losers”. Scotland will speak two words and one will be spoken slightly louder than the other. That’s why the real conversation starts on the 19th.

It’s going to be an interesting, and difficult, conversation. As a big picture thinker and someone who is inspired by vision and ideals and concepts – while being sometimes bored and frustrated by details and technicalities and administration – I confess I may find the lead-up and possible initial euphoria much more exciting than the longer term aftermath. The amount of sheer work involved in either taking Scotland into independence or working out some kind of Devomax is intimidating.

Perhaps, after all, it’s easier to just leave things as they are and keep a nice steady grumble of complaint going instead? Easier. Safer. Steadier.

But the status quo is not on the table. Not any more. There’s nothing easy about this referendum. To be frank, very few interesting things in life are easy. That doesn’t mean they aren’t worth doing. So I am grateful that not everyone is like me and there are many who will relish working out the details. I have been delighted, for example, by the general feeling among my colleagues that we are all committed to making either decision work for the people of Scotland.

One way or the other we’re all going to have to roll up our sleeves and get involved. In reconciliation, in conversation, in action. “We” being all those who have chosen to – and are able to – live here at this momentous moment in our history. I truly think this is an exciting time to live in Scotland. This diverse, collective “we” has the opportunity to demonstrate on 18th September and beyond that we love this country enough to care what happens next. Yes or No.

As it happens, our heritage gives us a bit of a linguistic head start in the upcoming conversation. If the referendum question had been written in Scottish Gaelic, none of us could have answered “yes” or “no”, for the simple reason there are no words which directly translate as yes or no in Scottish Gaelic. Apart from a fascinating linguistic insight into a culture, this has political consequences. To answer a question in Gaelic you generally have to reaffirm the verb in the question.

“Are you coming?”
“I am” or “I am coming”

“Would you like a dram?” “I would not”. (This is a fictional example, remember)
The phrase chosen by the makers of some Gaelic “Yes” badges is “Bu choir”. This translates as “we shall”.

I find that enormously enabling. We are not ultimately answering a question that someone else has posed. We are making a statement of intent. We shall do something. So my question is, ‘What shall you do; what shall we do on the 19th of September and beyond?” Where can we take this exciting conversation, this imaginative flight, this step into the unknown, this programme of hard graft, these difficult decisions, this new horizon?

I’ve yet to find if there are any Gaelic “No” badges and if so, how they are expressed. Perhaps they are less flexible – as negatives often are – but they are still necessarily more complex than a simple “no”. Even if they translate as “we shall not”, it opens up more development. We shall not…what? We shall not leap without looking? We shall not accept easy answers? We shall not stop wanting the best for Scotland?

The other thing I like about “Bu choir” is it is collective. Although each of us will stand on our own in the polling booth and make our own individual mark, we do not vote alone. That’s the point of democracy.

So mine is not the last word. Nor is yours. But together we can, as it were, “all hold hands and talk about” it.

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