This week, as befitting a newspaper that lays much importance on neighbourhood-specific events, we focus on a very vital development, which of course is the impending historical referendum in Scotland.
Scotland is to England what Anna Nagar is to Chennai — outsiders think they are part of the same entity, but the inside joke is that they are vastly varied beings with markedly different cultures, ethos and sensibilities, and seemingly existing in another space continuum.
Scotland, needless to say, is famous for whiskey, hoary castles, bagpiper — a musical instrument that has to be the most unique in the world because the expert and the novice sound the same when playing it — and the kilt, a dress traditionally worn by normal men in Scotland, and by transvestites elsewhere.
The Scottish referendum, slated for September 18, has the world looking at it with nervous interest as it has the potential to have long-standing impact, especially from the all-important geo-political perspective, among the entire cross-section of people who are bored stiff reading unending reports about Syria, Iraq and Gaza.
Here’s a short but handy primer on the turn of events:
1) What is this referendum about?
It pertains to the independence of Scotland. On whether it wants to remain with England or should it formally secede and, if it can help it, relocate to somewhere where the weather is actually fit for human living. For the record, Scotland has strictly two weather conditions only: 1) Raining. 2) About to rain.
2) But wait. Isn’t Scotland already a separate country, having its own parliament and all?
To answer this, we have to delve a bit into history. Scotland, originally called Caledonia by Romans (because spelling was not the strongest suit of the Roman army), has had a chequered past. Its wars of independence against the English are the stuff of legend among the seven people who have bothered to read Scottish history.
The war led by the indefatigable William Wallace in the late thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries is still noted for the military manoeuvres, because Wallace, despite living in a primitive century, had the tactical nous, not to speak of the mental fortitude, to use futuristic, state-of-the-art computer graphics teams from Hollywood. The film Braveheart, which reprised the valorous story of Wallace, was so moving and real that the Oscar jury, using its discretionary power, granted autonomous status to Scotland.
But before that, in 1707, the Acts of Union joined Scotland and England under Queen Anne for a franchise model of governance. Scotland agreed, based on the advice of McKinsey, to carry out its entire business under the brand name United Kingdom. England, for its part, accepted to name its London police force Scotland Yard, which over time grew up to become the second most efficient investigative team after Tamil Nadu Police* (*Source: Vijayakanth movies).
But you asked about Scottish Parliament, no? We will answer that in the next question.
3) Okay, tell us about Scottish Parliament
Well, the Scots — just to be on the safe side — elect two sets of MPs, one they send to their own Parliament and the other to England’s Parliament. Seriously, this is the existing arrangement.
The MPs in Scotland spend their time playing backgammon and watching porn. At any rate, that is what we think they must be doing because they practically have nothing else to do, as Scottish MPs sent to Westminster (England) get to decide on matters like defence, foreign policy, tax rate, corporate regulation, energy needs etc. Scottish MPs see less work than an average pre-KG student but certainly more than the country’s VP.
4) You really mean Scottish Parliament has no real say in its country’s affairs?
If Scottish authorities had any sense they would be letting their Parliament building for rent to, we don’t know, Free Masons for their weekly Lodge meetings or Tupperware dealers conference. Or invite A R Rahman to set up his music studio there. He likes working at nights, and it’s always dark in Scotland.
5) Does Scotland have a Constitution?
Yeah. It is a simple, single-page book swearing sincere allegiance to the British monarchy, and pledging solemn promise to the Scottish public that no matter what, Glasgow Rangers and Celtics will only be the title contenders in their football league.
6) What is the mood now in Scotland?
The mood, not surprisingly, is one of excited anticipation over what has undoubtedly been interesting development — Kate Middleton and Prince William expecting their second baby. Otherwise, the independence movement is still to gather steam. But Scottish people are basically dispassionate to the point of being inert. Sustained exposure to British food does that. But back in England, they are all in a tizzy that Scotland may secede. But in the tension of the moment they went ahead in their Parliament and discussed — why not? — Kashmir.
7) Finally, what are the larger implications of the referendum?
The referendum has key takeaways for Flanders province in Belgium, Catalonia in Spain which also harbour aspirations of becoming independent.
And if I were in the Indian government, I would already begin negotiations with Anna Nagar residents.