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Saturday, 22 August 2009

Scottish Independence?

Those watching the events of the last few days, in which a principled, upright and devout lawyer stood up to his community to do the right thing, might think they were watching a Scottish version of To Kill A Mockingbird, or even, a play by Ibsen. More Ibsen than Lee, methinks, if only because such moral decisions always have deeper roots and more ambiguous, even tragic results, than intended. It is not enough to be moral, you might say - you must also be wise. A few refreshing things have emerged from this incident of the convicted mass murderer's release - a chance to see Scotland act as a government on the world stage, and a chance to hear Christianity openly discussed as a tool for making decisions. These good things have been offset, though, by the damage done.

As others have already observed, mercy needn't be excessive to be true, and there is nothing in the Bible, or Sermon on the Mount, about releasing murderers from jail (other than Barabbas). Indeed, the early (and very first) Christians often went to their deaths as martyrs, happily, and did not expect or even want early release. Since Marcus Aurelius, that emperor and Stoic himself may have martyred Christians, and often wrote of bearing up to terrible punishment, we can see a long classical history of not, in fact, releasing people as they are dying. Ethically and religiously, it may have been smarter and kinder to keep the man under guard, but also of course in good care and close to his family. Still, the decision was taken to snub Obama and do it anyway.

The bird has flown, the horse out of the stables, etc. What now? Brown's government looks like hypocrites, snarling at Libya and Scotland, but unable to articulate a coherent position, since they want to deal with the North African nation, and also want to punish the SNP, so can't appear too clear in their views. I had hoped for Scottish independence, personally, at some stage, soon. I'm two quarters Scots, by birth (my grandfather was a Hume, my grandmother a Fraser). Scotland has the history, philosophy, geography and the literature to rival Ireland as one of the great nations of these isles, and could go it alone, within the EU. Its chances - the SNP's chances - have been delivered a bad blow, I think, in the short term. They have looked amateurish and small on the world stage, or rather, idealistic but naive. They don't appear to be a government able to handle the nuanced diplomacy such moments require. On the other hand, the SNP has - at least - not retreated into the sort of deadly equivocation we too often get from the Brown brigade.
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