What does it mean to be European?
It's January 1st 2021. Last year at 11pm UTC on January 31 2020 the UK left the EU. Now the transition period is over.
Currently I live in France but like many folk in France who exercised our right to live and work in the EU there are now many requirements for the right to residence to pass. I'm landlocked.
What made me want to live in France in the first place? I'm a Scot who lived and worked in Aberdeen. Aberdeen is a city in the North East of Scotland. It's cosmopolitan but very anglocentric, although we do have a range of cuisine. Well pre-covid we did.
I learned French at school, Deutsch tends to be more popular due to language similarities with Doric. My attraction to France and living in France is a love/frustration relationship. Philosophically as an educated Scot there is a Romanticism with France and the enlightenment. French philosophy embraced the Scottish interpretation of what was rediscovered. The enlightenment. As we face Brexit, the difference between the Scots and the English has never been in such stark harsh light.
This new enlightenment feels a tiny bit like being freed from the cave in Plato's allegory of the cave. The 2014 referendum woke up alot of Scots to pay attention to politics and think about what they wanted a nation to be. I see the difference with my own family, my father has always been a staunch SNP supported who believes in an Independent Scotland. My uncle never has. My uncle now is retired in Wales and still watches the mainstream media there. My father gets his news from a number of sources and can see the difference. My father, like many Scots now is outside the cave. We are now more conscious of the outside world. We can look at our current news and the state of the world. We have more sources of information that shines a light on what reality is. We have the example of history and are starting to look at it with a more detailed eye. From both the Past and the Future we can get an idea of what we face to grab our Independence.
I like alot of "No to Yessers" voted no in this referendum to stay in Europe. Even if we had to repeat the time again, I suspect with the same inputs I would vote the same. As the EU at the time were clear about the difficulties with rejoining. There was not the appetite for accommodation from the EU's side. With the remain vote in 2016 it's clear now.
Now I feel that with the EU and Nicola Sturgeon trying to appeal to the international stage there may be some leeway for Scotland joining the EU. Perhaps it may even be easier. Sturgeon's strategy reminds me of when you have a difficult friend that you need to persuade to do a difficult thing. She is going through all the distasteful alternatives, for example, asking for the section 30. Yes, it's pointless, this is not for us, it's sure as hell not for Westminster. It's for the EU and the international stage. She wants to make the case to them so we do get recognised as an international state. Let's look to Kosovo. It's not internationally recognised yet. But I suspect that for Serbia to join the EU that's going to be a factor. Serbia will have to agree to recognise Kosovo. We don't have that situation here. We do have the benefit of having been a sovereign nation in the past. We do have at the moment a separate legal system and a devolved parliament. We have an indicative vote from 2016 from every council ward in Scotland that the majority do not want to leave the EU. Although 4 years is a long time. So I do understand why Sturgeon is waiting for a new mandate from this years elections in May.
She did what she stated she would do. Wait to see the final terms of the deal. It's a doozy, but it's not a bad thing the appearance of competency to the outside world. Compared to how Westminster appears, the Scottish parliament is a functioning social democracy that represents it's people and its hamstrung under a hostile master. Lets go back to the difficult friend, you try every other argument or way of purpose until your friend sees there is no other option.
Of course this depends on just how deep and chained up in the cave your friend is. Brexit has shown that while some people regret their vote to leave, others are still entrenched in their own reality. But again, Sturgeon isn't trying to appeal to those who will break the law in a "limited and specific way". I'm not sure the legal strategy, the mandate will be enough to gain Independence sadly. Brexit has shown the fantasy of Great Britain for the tawdry piece of brass that it is. People cling to it though. Westminster will not give it up without a fight. It will ignore the international community. Ukraine has shown that America (even under Biden) and the EU are pretty toothless. They will murmur words of support. But that won't free us.
It's hard to watch with patience, like many Scots who chose to live in the EU, chances are yet again we face the consequences of a vote that we will not get to vote on. Yes we live in Europe, but we have families and friends in Scotland. Sometimes we want to come back and leave again. Now it will be harder.
I chose to live in France for many reasons, but one of the main reasons was linked with what created the EU in the first place. The Second World War. My maternal grandfather was captured at St Valerie being the rear guard for the evacuation of Dunqirke. He like many of the territorial army in the Highland division was sacrificed and left behind. Somehow during the march to a prison camp he rolled into a field in Northern France and ended up staying there for a year or two. He helped the resistance as a courier getting people out of occupied France. He learned it as a matter of survival and remained friends with those he rescued. My mother learned French because of that. It's also where my complex emotions about French and my family come from.
But living in France and seeing the election with Macron did show me that you can fight of populism. France like many countries in Europe is in danger from populist rhetoric, but it's media and population are educated. They have a more sophisticated view on politics, much like Scotland now has. France also benefits from having 2 rounds in it's election. Scotland has always been more European in it's outlook. English politics has always sought to control it's borders. It's the main reason why it kept invading Scotland, sought to support John Baliol as a king. It's the reason for the rough wooing, and ultimately the seduction of a Scottish King to come down and be a king of England, rather than a king of Scots. The Borders on an island is the reason for Brexit. Well that and the myth of British Exceptionalism. We are as Scots as much to blame for this myth. We enabled Westminster and the society of elites to keep it going. Scots helped with the slave trade and the enforcement of empire. But as others have said, I think it's time to let the English look after themselves.
It's time for Scotland to state that at it's heart we are a European democracy and we will rejoin Europe. To mean what it means to be European is to be part of a democracy that seeks to be open and co-operate with other democracies. It means to be larger than ourselves and become part of a collective. It means to not narrow our horizons because of ancient paranoia about our borders and Europe.