Sectarianism is a reflection of the historical, social, and political tensions of Scotland, dating back – of course – to the Reformation. Even then however, from the mid-sixteenth century, the struggle between Catholicism and the various Protestantisms of the Reformation period was always, in essence – as it was in England and on the continent, a power struggle. With the Peace of Westphalia – ending the Wars of Religion in 1648 – where states recognised the principle of cuius regio eius religio, which granted the monarch the right to determine the religion of the state.
Given the lies and the deliberate distortion of the narrative by the BBC and the rest of the British media throughout the Troubles; making the IRA, Sinn Féin (painted in the British press as the “political-wing” of the IRA), and the wider Irish Republican movement out to be the aggressors, it is understandable that the independence movement in Scotland would not want to be linked to this story. This is why the false narrative of Ulsterisation worked.
With both a pro-independence majority in Edinburgh and an SNP majority in London, we have come to see that British democracy is calibrated in such a way as to stifle the democratic will of Scotland. The same is true for Wales and Northern Ireland. In fact, the constitution of the United Kingdom – while unwritten – makes it impossible for us to assert our will without the fundamentally undemocratic permission of the English state-dominated British government.
Other than being the place of sacrifice and memory it is, Bannockburn is our place – here and now we have made it our Scotland in miniature; a snow globe of the country we have together imagined and hold as precious as a newborn baby in our arms. Together we brought this miracle of Scotland into the world and nothing – nothing – will prise it from us now. We are standing in the birthplace of what will become in our days the world’s newest state. You did this!
Tartan Day, much like Paddy’s Day in the States, isn’t about Scotland. It is a saccharine projection of dim-witted American expectations of Scotland and half remembered traditions of the old country. More, than this: It is about whipping up sales in the international centre of the religion of capitalism. Tartan – or “plaid” as our Merican cousins prefer to call it – is about money; it’s about playing on the emotions of American’s who have been convinced their great granny came over from Brigadoon or, more likely, Balamory. Tartan Day is about giving them what they want.
We are not permitted the language of genocide – legally and technically precise as it is – because it makes certain people uncomfortable. That’s the seat of all the anger and vitriol right there: That Britain did this to Gaelic Scotland is discomforting, it tears from Britishness the fraudulence of benign and beneficial patronage and lays bare its naked and vicious and murderous ethno-nationalist imperialism. One simply cannot have the comfort of being “British and Scottish” and accept as historical fact that Britain did this and still does this.
It is an important image. This is a social history that must be remembered and taught. These “beaming boys” and what they evoke and represent are integral to our national story. My gripe, if that is what it is, is not with David Peat and his photographic journalism of this Glasgow in the late 1960s.
There is no avoiding the association of tartan and the bagpipes with battlefields spanning the whole width of the world. Scots regiments marched on and subdued Egypt, Afghanistan, and India. Scottish graves litter the fields of Flanders and the Somme. Scotland has made its mark on the world and left behind it a horrendous trail of misery, suffering, and blood.