Mike Fenwick: From 1707 to 2017 - how do you want history to remember us?

CommonSpace columnist Mike Fenwick says Nicola Sturgeon has given the power back to the people to make their own choice

FROM 1707 to 2017, two key elements of Scotland's story can be told in two parts. Now, it is up to the people to decide the rest.

Part one

In 1707, the population of Scotland numbered one million.

It was early in that year, 16 January 1707, when 175 individuals - not the one million - gathered together to cast their votes on the ratification of the Treaty of Union.

History records that of those 175, 106 voted Aye and 69 voted No. The Treaty of Union was duly ratified, and laid the foundation for over 300 years of Scotland's history.

What lay behind that vote? Was it idealism or self interest? 

Rabbie Burns offered one answer: "We're bought and sold for English Gold, Such a Parcel of Rogues in a Nation."

Part two

In 2017, the population of Scotland exceeds five million.

It is early in this year, 13 March 2017, that one individual, the first minister of Scotland, speaks. Central to her speech is whether the Treaty of Union should now end.

She ends her speech with these words: "That should not be the decision of just one politician – not even the first minister. It will be decided by the people of Scotland. It will be Scotland’s choice."

What will lie behind the decision by the people of Scotland? What will cause them to vote Aye or No? Idealism or self-interest?

Read more – Fund the answers for #ScotRef: Common Weal launches fundraiser for White Paper project

What currency will we have? Will I still receive my UK state pension? What about the deficit? Matters of self-interest, such as these and more, should and must arise.

For me, however, something else is involved, and it is not idealism, it is something perhaps described as something more fundamental, something which accepts, in full, that an independent Scotland will face challenges, and will need to find and deploy solutions to those challenges, and that it may take time.

What might that something be? For me, and I do not think I am alone, it is that I understand, better than I have throughout my entire life, how we came to be the country and people that we are. 

It comes from understanding the true motivations for the votes of those 175, which laid the foundation of where we are today.

It comes from understanding that too many lives are governed by undiluted power, by the influence of those with the control of money - a trend that dates back to 1707.

Read more – Forces of independence "never been stronger" according to key social survey

It comes from understanding that the next foundation stone to be laid for Scotland's future will be determined by the people of Scotland, from the youngest to the oldest, from the poorest to the richest, from those born here to those who have chosen to live here.

The votes we cast will tell us, and perhaps the wider world, who we are as citizens and as human beings, and the form of society we wish to co-exist in.

The votes we cast will tell us not where we have been, but where we intend to go in our future.

The remainder of this portion of Scotland's history has not yet been written. What would you like it to say?

Picture: CommonSpace

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