In which Ruth ponders what Scotland means to her

Last week the people of Scotland turned out in droves to vote for or against independence. For weeks and months before social media was buzzing with comments, threats, fears and hopes. Deliberately, I chose not to voice my opinion. Some of my little flock were expressing concerns about what the aftermath would be like and I figured that ministering to them would be easier if I was neutral. That didn’t mean that I didn’t feel strongly about the vote, however.

I was brought up in a fiercely Scottish household. By that, I don’t mean that we were all SNP voters. I just mean that we were really proud to be Scottish, we love our country and its contribution to the world stage. If asked for my nationality, I always put down Scottish rather than British if I could – and objected if I couldn’t!  When I travel abroad to Englandshire or further afield there is always a surge of passion in my heart as I cross the border back home. I love my capital city of Edinburgh, and in IonaCrosssmall doses I adore the countryside which I think is uniquely beautiful. I am a socialist at heart and am troubled about the gap between rich and poor in my country and the world. Having been homeless and poor, I know what it feels like, and I care deeply that there are still people in my land who have to rely on handouts for their daily bread. I see on a daily basis what changes in benefits are doing to disabled people and my heart aches for them.

Having said all that, I am not a politically active person and I know I should probably do much more than I already do. In the campaign leading up to the Referendum I tried to follow the arguments for and against. My initial assumption was that I would vote Yes, but I was prepared to think it out more carefully. However, I have a deep distrust of politicians and the press and found it all horribly confusing. Who to believe? Experts contradicted each other on a daily basis and I really didn’t know who was telling the truth.  I admit to being shocked by some of the things friends were saying on Facebook – on both sides of the debate – and also sympathised with others who obviously held passionate beliefs. In the last few days I actually felt ill with worry about how it was all going to pan out, and how we’d recover after. I didn’t sleep well and realised that this really did matter to me and my future.

In the end I made my vote with my heart. I voted Yes. I voted Yes in the hope of a better future for my children. It was a risk, perhaps, as all my questions weren’t answered about what that future might bring but it was a risk I was prepared to take. I didn’t believe everything I was told by either side but in the end thought that for those with nothing there was a better hope with the Yes crowd. Who knows if that was right or wrong, but my passionate Scottish heart wanted to believe that there was a better way forward for my country. And I really didn’t vote for myself because I don’t believe I had very much to lose. A couple of wee pensions and that’s it really but there are so many people who had far more to lose than me. And I’d happily pay more tax if I thought it was going to those who needed it most: the poor, the hungry, the marginalised, the homeless, the disabled.

On the 18th September I went to my polling station in the high flats near my rectory and cast my vote. There was a lovely feeling of excitement and anticipation and the whole station cheered a young 16 year old who was casting his first vote. I chatted to the Polling clerk who told me he was a Baptist and it was all in God’s hands now. I disagreed with him, but know he meant well!  And I went home to wait. Would I stay up to hear the results or go to bed? I’ve never stayed up before at an election but this felt so much more important. In the end, I went to bed for a few hours sleep and then got up about 3.30am when the results started to come in. In a few hours it was all over and the majority of those who voted had elected to stay within Britain. What I didn’t expect was how upset I would feel. I hadn’t realised how many hopes and dreams had been making up my thoughts and prayers in the days leading up to it and now they were all to come to nothing. I heard a quote which kept going round my head: I feel as if my lover is leaving and there’s nothing I can do to make him stay. Interestingly, it could have been said by either side.

Then there was gloating and reasoning and riots and resignations and it felt out of control for a while. It was a horrible feeling and it still leaves a sour taste in my mouth. My church leaders plead for us to work for reconciliation and pray for healing. Lord knows I’m trying but its the feelings of social justice which really concern me now. These same concerns are real, I know, for those who voted No, many of whom are my friends. Because in the end we all wanted the best for Scotland.

Yesterday at church I looked at my little flock and wondered how they were feeling. I don’t know how many of them voted but I do know from conversations and social media that some of them were hurting too. I felt particularly close to them yesterday. But that doesn’t mean that I loved the others less. Today we all pray for a better future. Today I feel that I might have to become a little more pro-active in making that happen.

It’s time

A few weeks ago a member of my little flock said to me:

“But why do they want marriage? They have civil partnerships. Is that not enough?”

“Where did you get married?” I asked.

“We got married in St ********”

“Why did you choose to get married there?”

“Because we were members there. That’s the church we went to… Oh.   I see.”

And that is why we are holding an evening to discuss such matters on Wednesday 17 July at 7.30pm at Christ Church. One of the things we might do is watch the new video by the Equality Network which was launched last night.  You can link there or here below.

You will see lots of famous Scottish faces. And you might see some not-so-famous too. You may even see some clergy and that was what made my heart soar. Clergy with dog collars saying “It’s Time.” Not clergy ranting and pointing at some verses in Leviticus. Clergy with a positive message instead of an exclusive one.

And haven’t they got good teeth?

Scottish Pride

I was reading the Big Issue in the loo today and came across an article entitled What is the Ultimate Scottish Icon?  What makes a national icon? Is it a flag, a person, a place or an idea? And what elevates it to iconic status?

Miss Scotland chose Bannockburn because she visited it and ‘had great fun trying out the weapons and learning about the history of Scotland’. Hmm.

Dougie Payne (?) of Travis chose Teenage Fanclub (?) (I really should get out more!)

Edwin Moore (Historian) chose Patrick Ferguson, that well known figure from the Enlightenment.

Vicky Lee, from STV’s Five Thirty Show, chose Billy Connolly because he makes her cry with laughter.

Jon Lawler (The Fratellis?) chose A Roll and pie (that’s a Scotch pie, presumably deep fried, on a roll. Tasty.

Irvine Welsh chose Sean Connery (be still my beating heart!)

Lorraine Kelly chose Irn Bru (preferably with a roll and sliced sausage for a hangover)

Boyd Tunnock (you can guess) chose Baxter’s Beetroot because no one else gives you that amount of vegetable at that quality. Quite.

So what or who is yours?

The Saltire?  The ‘See You Jimmy’ hat?  Nothing religious in the list so maybe we need something of a Scottish God in there.

Singing the bard

Today is Burn’s day and I have been listening to one of my favourite CDs – Eddi Reader Sings the Songs of Robert Burns. I’ve always liked her voice and when I first heard a track from this record on the radio I knew that I had to have it. It’s one of those records that you want to give to everyone you know and then pray that they love it as much as you do.

There is one track on the CD which is not written by Burns. It is Wild Mountainside by John Richard Douglas who plays for a band called The Trashcan Sinatras. It is a homecoming song and quite beautiful. It reminds me of certain parish trips down south and the nonsense we used to have in the bus as we reached the border of Scotland on the way home. Oh how we laughed.

This week in Scottish history

December 18 1661 – Many Scottish historical records were lost when the ship Elizabeth of Burntisland sank off the English coast. The records had been taken to London by Oliver Cromwell and were being returned to Edinburgh.

December 18 1780 – Society of Antiquaries founded.

December 18 1870 – Birth of Hector Munro. He wrote short stories under the pseudonym “Saki”.

December 18 1969 – Death penalty for murder was formally abolished in Britain.

December 19 1904 – The “Scotsman” newspaper moves to new offices at North Bridge in Edinburgh, remaining there until 1999.

December 20 1560 – First General Assembly of the Church of Scotland.

December 21 1846 – Robert Liston, who was born in Linlithgow in 1794, performed the first operation in a British hospital using anaesthetic(ether).

December 21 1988 – Pan Am 747 blew up and crashed at Lockerbie, Dumfries, killing 243 passengers, 16 crew and 11 Lockerbie residents.

December 22 1715 – James Stuart, the Old Pretender, arrived at Peterhead. He stayed for only a few weeks.

December 22 1965 – Maximum speed limit of 70mph was imposed on all roads unless a lower limit was in place.

December 22 2000 – Pop mega-star Madonna married movie-producer Guy Ritchie at Skibo Castle, putting Dornoch into the media spotlight.

December 24 1165 – King William I (Lion) crowned at Scone.

December 24 1650 – Edinburgh castle surrendered to Oliver Cromwell.

December 24 1856 – Writer and geologist Hugh Miller died.

December 24 2004 – Priest in Charge Ruth Innes fell backwards off the altar step at St Peter’s Linlithgow just before the service was to begin and hit her head off a pillar, requiring 8 staples without the help of any anaesthetic. What an old pro!