A few years ago we pitched our gear into the back seat of a Bo Peep blue rental car in Newcastle and hit the high road for Scotland.
The last town on the English side of the border, along our route, was a bland little agricultural village named Wark. Honest.
We crossed the border. The very first town on our route, a charming village with an old, old kirk and ancient walls of stone and tilty cottages with thatchen roofs was named . . . Wark. Honest.
A short walk back toward the border stood the remains of the castle of Wark. (Not to be confused with Warkworth castle 40 or so kilometers northeast.) In the days of border wars and black helmets a noble scoundrel who occupied the Wark castle was known to have a keen sense of which monarch -- England's or Scotland's -- had the stronger army and greater support abroad. It was that monarch to whom the sire of Castle Wark swore his loyalty, an oath worth exactly nothing since he hopscotched his fifedom and fealty back and forth across the border according to how the winds of power blew. Thus the two villages Wark, one on each side of the border.
I invoke all of this to substantiate my right to speak out on the matter of a referendum on Scottish independence, which boils on the political stove in the United Kingdom at the moment. In further support thereof, I am a member in good standing of the Clan Sutherland Society through marriage to a rabid Scot whose forebears lived in the shadow of Dunrobin, the Sutherland castle overlooking the sea outside Golspie, near Dornoch. Need I sing a rousing chorus of Loch Lomond to further bolster my claim? Nae.
So hear this, David Cameron: Back off! You're perilously close to igniting another Hanoverian v. Jacobin conflict and, by the Mighty, we Scots will win this one.
Never mind that the issue of Scotland's independence has been around since almost forever. The point is that now the Scottish National Party has sufficient clout to demand a referendum on the question. All of Scotland seems to support the idea of a referendum.
David Cameron, the Tory British P.M., and his Labour lapdog, Ed Miliband, oppose the idea, insisting that the U.K. can only remain strong by remaining united. Since the Scottish government claims an electoral mandate to hold a referendum, Cameron says he'll let them have one, but only on his timetable, and only if its outcome is binding rather than advisory.
He said, "I sometimes think it's not a referendum (the Scottish National Party) want, but a never-endum."
Angus Robertson, an SNP member of the British parliament, retorted, "The Scottish Government was elected with an overwhelming mandate to deliver an independence referendum in the second half of the parliamentary term. The Conservative Party has less Members of parliament (in Scotland) than there are giant pandas in Edinburgh Zoo."
The core issue is a constitutional one. The Scots say they have the legal right to call a referendum on their own terms and timetable. The Brits say the Scots can't act without permission of the national government in London.
Although I know haggis about the Brits' constitution -- haven't read a word of it! -- I'm with the Scots on this one. Alex Salmond, the SNP first minister, insists there is a strong legal case for Scotland being able to hold a referendum without asking London first, and hasn't relaxed his view that the vote should be held in the autumn of 2014. He said Cameron "suddenly this week decided to start pulling strings and setting conditions."
What Scot worthy of the kilt would stand by and let a Brit pull his strings? To the bridge, I say, with dirk and broadsword!