I imagine many people will have suspected that I support an independent Scotland. Through my books, magazines and television appearances I have tried to portray my own unbridled passion for this small country, and in particular its wild land areas, the mountains, moors, remote glens and coastlines that form the deep-rooted foundation of our own Scots character.
On one level my enthusiasm for an independent Scotland has been created by this landscape, and an acute awareness that Scotland is only connected to the rest of the UK by an ancient geological accident. Scotland is different and probably has more in common with Scandinavia than with England, physically, culturally and emotionally. But more importantly Scotland, historically, has been an independent and proud nation. The vast majority of Scots themselves had no say in the matter of the political union in 1707.
My experiences in landscape conservation and land use over many years has taught me that the best people to look after the land are the people who are connected to it.
For an example of this we can look to America, where the hurricanes Katrina and Rita caused such damage in the southern states in 2005. Folklorist Carl Lindahl’s has recorded how local knowledge was disregarded in favour of federal and national agencies with disastrous consequences. He described how individuals, intricately connected with the land, were most able to cope with the crisis because they had their own experiences and an awareness of the lore of the area, which enabled them to make appropriate decisions about the best course of action to take. Hundreds of lives were subsequently saved by local people who understood the landscape and recognised the opportunities for improvement.
I think there is a real parallel here for the people of Scotland making their own decisions for what’s best for Scotland. A London-based government is remote from the needs and aspirations of most Scots, and I think history has proved that time and time again. The poll tax and Trident are only two examples and if it wasn’t for the fact we now have a Scottish parliament and an SNP Government we would be facing the dismantling of our National Health Service and robbing our young people of a free university education.
On another level I ask myself if the union with England has worked to our mutual benefit, and it’s here that I’m not quite as confident. In my lifetime we’ve lost our ship-building industry, our steel works and coal mining and while we’ve witnessed the growth of the North Sea oil industry I’ve yet to be convinced that Scotland has gained significantly from it. But we do have an opportunity to show the world that as a small nation on the very edge of Europe we have the
resources to be a major provider of clean, renewable energy.
The seas that surround us can provide more than fish, they provide the resources that can help us create wave and tidal energy and offshore wind is much more dependable, and less controversial, than onshore wind. Even at this stage in the growth of this new industry there are encouraging signs, and in a world that has to control its carbon emissions an independent Scotland could be a world leader.
At 62, I'm probably at an age where I can recognize that the world is changing fast, and Scotland has to change with it. The pillars of establishment are crumbling around our ears and we need a fresh beginning, a new start. An Independent Scotland can provide that.
-Cameron McNeish, Mountaineer, Broadcaster and Author