St Andrew’s Day – Our national day takes on an added significance this year

St Andrew’s Day – Our national day takes on an added significance this year

St Andrew’s Day – Our national day takes on an added significance this year

In an exclusive article for Endeavour Public Affairs to mark St Andrew’s Day on the 30th of November, Johann Lamont MSP writes that this year’s St Andrew’s Day takes on an added significance being the last before the independence referendum.

Johann Lamont is a Member of the Scottish Parliament for Glasgow Pollock and is Leader of the Scottish Labour Party.

To follow Johann Lamont on Twitter – @JohannLamont

As someone who frequently travels across the country, I see the many different faces of Scotland.

I was born in Glasgow, a city which has changed dramatically in my lifetime and I am proud that my children are growing up in a modern, outward looking city.  The Commonwealth Games is a testament to that change.

But my own parents were from a very different background, brought up in crofting families on the island of Tiree.  It meant I was able to see a very different side to Scotland when I returned there every childhood summer to see the rest of my family.  That link with Hebridean culture is still very important to me, it’s helped shape me and my politics and I still travel to the islands once a year.

And even now, as the leader of a political party, speaking to people all over Scotland, trying to get them to unite behind our vision and values, I am all too aware of the diverse country we live in.

This year, the Scottish Parliament has held two by-elections.  In Aberdeen, we campaigned in a city which is booming because of the North Sea oil and gas reserves and dealing with the challenges that come from a fast growing economy that sometimes goes at a pace too fast for many that live there.  When there is money coming into the city, prices go up but not everyone’s wages are rising at the same time.  So in an area with plenty, I also saw food banks despite the great wealth in Aberdeen. A micro-economy so different from everywhere else, competing with Dundee and the central belt, but also Texas and the world’s other oil capitals.

Yet we have also visited the villages of West Fife for the Dunfermline by election, an area still rebuilding after the loss of old industries.  Many of the old mining villages house communities still scarred by the reliance on jobs that were suddenly no longer there.   Fife is another area of Scotland which is slowly transforming, it has had to.  But tackling the cycle of long term unemployment is still a real challenge and inequality is still embedded in these parts of Scotland.

Two areas with two different economies, facing very different challenges and problems, and separated by a car journey of just a few hours.

Scotland is constantly changing, our culture enriched by those from different cultures who come to live and work here, a process which will continue as our bonds with our neighbours in Europe deepen.

And our young people, exposed to so much more information and technology than their parents, no longer seeing boundaries and borders where we once did, and as a result enjoying a completely new sense of distance and locality. Scotland’s geography must seem so different through their eyes.

Yes, Scotland is a small country of just five million proud inhabitants but it still manages to host many different cultures, accents, economies, politics and ambitions.

I believe that rich, diverse culture is something to be proud of.

But St Andrew’s day is an opportunity to come together and unite behind what we have in common and celebrate our shared culture, rather than distinguish ourselves by our differences.

The rivalries between the east coast and the west coast, the central belt and the Highlands, Dundee and Aberdeen, they are all part of Scotland’s nature.  But our common history, shared experiences and hopes for our country transcend these small differences.

We know our national day may take on an added significance this year with the referendum on Scottish independence looming next year.

By St Andrew’s day next year, the talking and campaigning will be done, and the people of Scotland will have chosen to stay within the United Kingdom or go our own way.

In the meantime, it seems certain we are in for a long and hard-fought battle which could well set friend against friend, divide families and cause many heated debates among those so sure of their beliefs.

The campaign has already shown moments of ill-temper because people on all sides believe passionately that their course is the best one for their family, friends and neighbours.

But I hope that by St Andrew’s day 2014, those wounds have long healed.  Whatever the result, we have to unite behind it and then work together to create a better Scotland, whether we are part of the United Kingdom or separate.

That unity on November 30th – that acknowledgement we are all proud Scots no matter our accent, our beliefs or our politics – should be uppermost in our minds over the coming months.  While we may disagree on much, we must also recognise we agree on much more.  And only by coming together will we deliver real change for the better in Scotland.

History shows us that real change can only come about when we build consensus for a better way.  Whatever happens, the real work begins after the referendum so we cannot allow divisions to fester and grievance to grow.

We all want the best for our country and that shared ambition is one we will celebrate on our national day this year, and for many after it.

Published: Friday 29 November 2013

© Copyright of Endeavour Public Affairs 2013

Photograph: © Copyright of Scottish Labour Party

The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone.

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