The move for Scottish independence always seemed retrograde. Whatever did the Scots need a state for? For a long time they have been a very recognizable and successful nation thanks to being in the state of the English, Welsh and northern Irish. In an era when we are supposed to celebrate diversity, the Scottish National Party and its leader Alex Salmond sounded small-minded, provincial. A deputy of Salmond’s by the name of Jim Sillars suddenly blurted out that in the event of victory the SNP would nationalize banks and oil companies. Property holders had a whiff of 1917.
When it seemed that the Scots might really vote for statehood, I retrieved from my memory the account of the departure from Britain in 416 (I haven’t checked this date) of the Roman legions under Honorius. Some native British apparently watched them leave, and realized that now they were on the own and wouldn’t survive. It felt as if the Dark Ages were again descending on a country where barbarians could do as they pleased.
“Good news! Salmond has resigned,” a smiling stranger said to me Friday afternoon in the street with tremendous pleasure. Coming to the house, an Arab friend from Lebanon is outraged that the tennis player Andy Murray lobbied for Salmond. “Nobody’s going to cheer him again, are they?” he asked, before we got on to the crimes of ISIS and the horrors of sectarianism. It’s been that kind of a moment.