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Freedom for Galloway

Independent Dumfries And Galloway Sign

Commentary by Jamie Blackett

Do you know the Mull of Galloway? The chances are that you don’t; even people who live in Galloway have probably never been there, unless they have a passion for sea birds, or lighthouses. I can recommend it for these two things, plus the seascape, but mainly as a way of exploring one’s inner sense of Britishness.

There, standing on the southern-most tip of Scotland, gazing across an empty Irish Sea, once the nexus of trade in these islands for early Britons, you get the sense that, having travelled miles to be somewhere really isolated, you have actually located the centre point of the United Kingdom.

You look down the West Coast of Cumbria and think that you see Snowdonia in the distance. The Isle of Man is in sharp relief in the foreground and over your right shoulder you see Ulster, and suddenly you get it. All those fragments of history about long lost Gaels and Celts start to make sense and their swirling migrations and invasions become real and the fake history peddled by separatists, of a pure Scottish volk, living in a homogeneous nation with a shared heritage, seems all the more absurd.

Here in Galloway, the only Scottish history that is shared with someone from Glasgow or Inverness is of the war-torn centuries between 1235, when the brutal ‘pacification’ of Galloway eradicated its culture along with most of its menfolk and subsumed this formerly autonomous principality into the Scottish state, and 1707 when access to the UK’s internal market relieved it of grinding poverty and set off a boom still reflected in the Georgian architecture of its mansions and market towns.

Those four and a half centuries, when Scotland was what the historian Niall Ferguson memorably described as a ‘failed state’, saw the region fought over by Norman hoodlums, like Robert the Bruce, and brutally treated by a centralising, authoritarian Scottish state. The barbarism of the persecution of the Covenanters, and the Wigtown martyrs in particular, was its grisly low point.

So much for the history; but now, when we contemplate another paradigm shift in our governance, what should Galloway do? The democratic will of the Gallovidians was clearly expressed in 2014 when nearly two thirds of us voted to stay in the United Kingdom.

It is evident daily that we are being dragged down by a First Minister in Holyrood who seems hell-bent on destroying our main industry, tourism, by closing the border to pander to Anglophobic forces in her cult. What on earth gives anyone the idea that we would wish to be dragged out of the UK against our will and revert to being an unloved province of an unlovely authoritarian regime, if Scotland – that is to say mainly Glasgow and Dundee – voted for independence?

If those medieval warlords of South West Scotland, Wallace, Bruce et al were alive today – and their descendants are still landowners in these parts – there is little doubt that they would not be campaigning to replace Queen Elizabeth II with Queen Nicola I. I suspect instead, they would be fighting to give Galloway independence from Scotland and striving to remain in a federal United Kingdom to maintain close links with the biggest customers for our beef.

In the age of the internet and Bitcoin, we are, in any case, heading in a post-national direction. It may be that increasingly we will think about our government in the same way that we think about our electricity provider.

Devolution was ostensibly about decentralising and returning power to the people. But it seems to have got hanked up in Holyrood, where the political class no more reflects the views of people in Galloway than the one in Westminster – probably rather less so.

If small really is beautiful, we should look to our cousins in the Isle of Man for inspiration. You never hear a Manxman complaining about his lot (I should know, I shared the turret of a tank with one for a year). There is no reason why a portion of the Barnett Formula could not be paid to a small regional executive in Dumfries to keep public services going. We could be British, Gallovidian and yes, at Calcutta Cup matches, Scottish.

It couldn’t be any worse than the state we are in.

Jamie Blackett farms in Galloway and is the author of Red Rag to a Bull, Rural Life in an Urban Age (Quiller).

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Written by Jamie Blackett

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