October 14, 2012 by Nash Riggins
Mr Cameron confirmed that the impending festivities are to include a monumental upgrade to the Imperial War Museum, funds to help school children visit historic sites of the Great War and numerous acts of remembrance that will take place on key anniversaries throughout the war – beginning with the commemoration of Britain’s initial involvement on 4 August.
To this day, Europe has never known a more brutal conflict. Domestically, the war ravaged all sides of the ideological and sociological spectrum – leading the people of Great Britain to unite under a banner of fierce nationalism. Over 743,000 British citizens lost their lives in this ‘War to End all Wars’, and the Prime Minister has accordingly pledged to make its commemoration a personal priority.
If anything, this long-term series of celebrations will undeniably seek to once more instil an ever-segmenting union with a strong sense of its long-lost cross-border identity – and the timing of this unprecedented display of all things British could not have been more perfect for David Cameron.
To the North, the summer of 2014 will also be playing host to a much more divisive display of nationalism: the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn. The historic battle was a monumental victory for the Scottish forces of Robert the Bruce in the First War for Scottish Independence, and Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond plans to celebrate accordingly.
Earlier this year, Mr Salmond launched the countdown to the battle’s 700th anniversary by announcing plans for a £9m renovation of the historic battle site, to be completed in time for the Scottish victory’s 24 June anniversary. No doubt the summer of 2014 will be consequently packed with nationalistic activities and educational events geared at highlighting Scotland’s unique cultural distinctions – which will be followed almost immediately by the biggest legislative push for Scottish independence in living memory.
Although Alex Salmond has flatly denied any link whatsoever between the battle’s anniversary and his independence referendum – it seems utterly naive to assume there isn’t one. True enough, Scotland will also be hosting both the Ryder Cup and the Commonwealth Games in 2014 – and sporting events are indeed a fantastic way to indoctrinate children with a fierce sense of national pride; however, an epic celebration of the anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn and its picture-perfect exemplification of the Scottish independence movement will undeniably prove a much clearer declaration of intent to David Cameron’s government at Westminster – assuming that things go Mr Salmond’s way.
Although the referendum for Scottish independence has yet to be allocated a specific date, many are speculating that it will take place in October or November of 2014. The issue for the UK’s vying leaders and their displays of national identity will then become as follows: with which anniversary will eligible Scottish voters identify most? And which will be freshest in their minds when they reach the ballot box the following autumn?
Lavish funding aside, Mr Cameron’s celebration of British collectivism unquestionably trumps the Battle of Bannockburn with regards to the latter; after all, the First World War lasted over 4 years – whereas the Battle of Bannockburn was a mere 2-day affair. As a result, Alex Salmond should brace himself for several years’ worth of British celebrations – which will taste quite bitter the following spring should his referendum prove unsuccessful. Consequently, Mr Salmond would do well to push for a referendum date in October rather than November – as Westminster will doubtlessly place a hefty amount of emphasis on 2014’s Remembrance Day so as to remind the nation of its collective sacrifices rather than its cultural divisiveness.
Unfortunately for Alex Salmond and the Yes Campaign, his 700th anniversary will also undoubtedly receive much more apathy from the public than will the Great War’s centenary – after all, many voters in Scotland will have known a relative touched by the latter, whereas personal connection to the Battle of Bannockburn will be limited to half-hearted re-enactments and solemn rededications of Robert the Bruce statues.
That being said, both leaders have failed to take into consideration the sole underlying issue between these two less-than-subtle attempts to secure their own selfish political goals: how stupid do they think voters are?
The celebrations of both anniversaries are historically significant, and should undeniably be commemorated accordingly – yet any voter who is drastically swayed by these shameless attempts at indoctrination doesn’t deserve the right to vote in the referendum at all. The decision surrounding Scotland’s independence should not be based in sappy, ideological rhetoric – it should be based firmly upon the socio-economic platforms of these two vying powers.
Can an independent Scotland maintain tax revenue that will account for all of its public works? How will independence affect foreign investment in Scotland? What about its GDP and immigration policy? How will independence affect Scotland’s role on the international stage? These are the sort of issues that Scottish voters should be pondering on their way to the ballot box – not whether they’re feeling more Scottish than British, or vice-versa, the day of.
Last week, David Cameron asserted that taking part in commemorations such as that of the Great War and the Battle of Bannockburn “captures our national spirit in every corner of the country,” and “says something about who we are as a people”. Mr Cameron is absolutely correct – so what will this battle of anniversaries say about the Scottish people? Are Scottish voters the type of people that can be morally manipulated by the cultural propaganda of Alex Salmond and David Cameron? Only time will tell. In the meantime, Scotland’s leaders would do well to veer from their current tactics of persuasion by providing their people with fair and justifiable arguments that can help Scotland make a viable, well-informed decision on its future.