Onwards and Upwards

Onwards and Upwards

So that’s it then.  Over.  The summer, I mean. Whatever became of the sunshine greater forces than us can only know.  Sean Batty, for one.  Perhaps Cat Cubie.  Must ask should I bump into either of them anytime soon.


September is most certainly upon us, and with it all that autumn brings.  Harvest time, birds flying back to warmer climes, that is if they haven’t had the innate sense to do so long before now, schoolchildren skipping merrily on their way to class, universities welcoming their new intake,  oh, and of course, the return of Parliamentarians to their respective debating chambers.  In Edinburgh, London, and Brussels, action will be fully resumed, speeches made, the rigmarole of political life where it matters, in those said chambers, well underway.


By the time this is in print Scotland’s Government will have announced its legislative programme for 2012-13, UK PM David Cameron will have reshuffled his Cabinet, and MEPs will be preparing for full plenary in Strasbourg.


The summer has been awash with the usual funny, odd, and downright bizarre stories, peaking in late August when the county of Essex, that hotbed of fake tans and cosmetic dentistry, went into lockdown following a sighting of a ‘lioness,’ which turned out, in fact, to be a domestic cat.  Simple mistake to make.  I recall one New Year the headline on BBC News being that a house-fire was extinguished when one of the occupants wrenched the voluminous knickers from his Aunt’s washing line to use as a fire blanket, remarkably saving the house from complete devastation.  Sadly, we will have to wait till Christmas before such tales light up our lives, or as in the latter case, their kitchen, once more.


A particularly sad point this last month, certainly for me, was the passing of the great Neil Armstrong.  A man on a mission which perhaps summed up more than any other the dominance of the USA in the twentieth century, Apollo 11, his historic words on being the first person to set foot on a land other than planet Earth will be forever remembered as one of the greatest quotes of humankind.  His tacit avoidance of public adulation for his own and his co-astronauts incredible achievements was, ironically, one of the last demonstrations of such a life of humility, by a man born of an age when ‘fame’ was not a purpose in itself, and yet whose televised landing on the moon, more than any other single event in history, became the most important global TV event of all time, making it the universal medium of information dispersal until the invention of the internet.


The forthcoming political season, of course, not only touches upon our own shores.  In the USA we shall see the proverbial buns being thrown by both Democrats and Republicans in the race to see who will take the helm in the Oval Office, with the gloves already off.  Polls are pitting President Obama and Mitt Romney as the closest rival contenders at this stage in the campaign for many a year, and the fight to November promises to be a bloody battle, one which no doubt will depart from niceties as the days and hours tick down.  Good may come of it yet, however, as a result of the yawning chasm between the electorate each is targeting.  With Obama reaching out in particular to women and Latino voters, and Romney targeting small business owners and the middle class, this may be a fingernail-crunching election with a huge turnout, which can only be a good thing for wider public engagement in politics.


With the independence referendum on the very near horizon domestically, if Scottish voters have until now not been paying attention to who runs any of their neighbouring western allies, including the USA, then I suggest they do so pronto.  This will matter post-independence.  The present Scottish Government have made leaps and bounds in reaching out beyond our shores to liaise and engage with an international audience, much more so than the first two insular devolved administrations.  The public, as we know, are keen to soak up as much information as to what an independent Scotland will look like, sound like; what its purpose will be.  As Westminster continues to recede from our conscious, so the public’s outlook should extend outwith these islands and to our global allies.


On a practical level, we need to engage and extend the hand of friendship to those who share, and complement, our skills-base, our twenty-first century industries, and with whom we can do business.  Other questions will also have to be asked of ourselves however.  What kind of country do you want Scotland to be?  With whom do we share our core values?  Our fundamental principles?  Our outlook on the world? An independent Scotland by its very nature will be confident.  It will be bold.  But it will also, strategically, particularly for the US, be one of the most important countries in Europe by virtue of our geographical location if nothing else.   So as we watch the Presidential election unfold from the safety of our living-rooms, as we did when Mr Armstrong from Ohio first put his foot on an alien land, we should remember that whoever is victor will play a crucial role in the transition of Scotland from a country stifled by its outmoded relationship with the UK, to one that re-takes its places amongst the independent, western, modern nations of this world.

That, I am sure you will agree, is something worth looking forward to this autumn, isn’t it?