An independent message from America

By Fiona MacGregor

The hugely successful comic writer Mark Millar, recently blogged about his "almost unquantifiable excitement" over the prospect of an independent Scotland. "This is how Americans must have felt in 1776", wrote the award-winning Scot whose work with Marvel and Holywood has ensured he is more than familiar with cultural identity on the other side of the Atlantic.

Today is American Independence Day, when more than 300 million Americans will celebrate the signing of that famous document which marked the country's right to run its own government and recognised the "unalienable rights" of its people to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It is a day when Scotland too can celebrate what it means to be independent.

The American declaration itself was principally the composition of Thomas Jefferson, whose Scots ancestors are believed to date back to Robert the Bruce, and who is recognised to have drawn on the Declaration of Arbroath when penning the American document. Academics have estimated that nearly half of the original signatories to the declaration had Scottish roots including James Wilson, a Fife-born, farmer's son. Wilson, whose education at St Andrews and later the universities of Edinburgh and Glasgow ensured he was well versed in the ideas developing around the Scottish Enlightenment, was one of just six people to sign both the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution.

And if Scots and Scottish concepts of self-determination, fairness and responsibility, were instrumental in the founding of American concepts of independence, what better time to be consider what independence will mean for this country say Americans who have settled here such as Professor Joe Goldblatt of Queen Margaret University. He believes the people of Scotland in 2012 can only benefit from the inspiration offered by the independent-minded Founding Fathers of the United States.

"It's not coincidental it was absolutely strategic that a significant number of people who signed the Declaration of Independence were of Scottish ancestry," says Prof Goldblatt.

"Many Scots had been forced to leave Scotland for economic and social reasons. They came to America and realised the opportunites available there and it was a natural and normal progression to relieve the spirit of (the declaration of) Arbroath and develop, with Mr Jefferson and Mr Franklin and others, the American Declaration of Independence."

He adds that it wasn't just the Declaration of Independence, but also the words of that nation's constitution which hold an important message for the people of Scotland ahead of the referendum in 2014.

"The celebrations which are held on this day every year not only commemorate the spirit of independence, but they also celebrate the opening lines of the constition: 'We the people....'," he says.

"The consitution was concerned with creating a just society. In beginning with these words, it means that it is the people - not the political leaders - who must come together as a unified, committed nation state for progress to continue. And that is the threshhold on which we stand in Scotland in 2012. It's time, as is being evidenced by what's happening in the Yes campaign, for 'we the people' to come together and create the opportunities and rights that according to the American Declaration of Independence are unquestionable."

And the professor points to the exciting and positive future that independence will bring Scotland. "After the declaration was signed, many of those patriots went on to develop successful businesses and create their own traditions (celebrating America's links with Scotland). As Scotland goes forward as an independent nation just imagine the new enterprises adn tradtions we will see established."

As members of Scotland's American-born community enjoy the Independence Day of their birth-country this July 4th, Prof Goldblatt and others are looking forward to the time when they can also celebrate the day on which their adopted homeland, Scotland, becomes an independent nation. The excitement and celebrations in America today provide inspiration for everyone in this country.



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