Mary Todd Lincoln once said:
“Beautiful, glorious Scotland, has spoilt me for every other country!”
In a world that’s forever changing and innovating, it’s difficult to find a place where you can achieve a calm silence. If you take a walk along the winding paths at Glen Etive or stand by the banks of Loch Linnhe at dusk, you’ll find those sincere moments of calm.
Scotland welcomes tourism to its major cities, like Glasgow, Aberdeen, and the capital city, Edinburgh. More often than not, these tourists ensure a visit to the Scottish Highlands is at the top of their ‘to-do’ list.
The Scottish Highlands create a peaceful paradise, with mythical attributes and legendary history. Stepping into this rural world is like taking a secret passageway that juxtaposes itself from city life. The Highlands are wild yet beautiful; empty yet majestic. The mountains, lochs, and landscapes evoke feelings of belonging, and we all need a bit of that every now and then.
I think there are few places left in the world that elicit pride in the people that live there, but Scotland is one of the exceptions. Maybe it’s the people, maybe it’s the landscape, or maybe it’s just the abundance of whisky, but when you visit Scotland, something in your mind changes. And that changes everything.
Scotland is forward-thinking.
It was once assumed that Scotland was a country of small-minded attitudes, devoid of any innovation or excitement. Perhaps this inaccurate stereotype was due to Scotland having a population of only 6 million, or maybe there was an ignorance to Scotland’s own achievements, since so many of them fall under ‘Britain’s’.
Throughout my travels to the USA, I’ve had numerous conversations with my American friends. Most of them are from California, so the majority of them have a progressive mindset. That’s not to say that debates surrounding free healthcare, free tuition, and the absurdity of ‘the right to bear arms’ haven’t been prevalent.
I make no apologies for coming across like a leftist hippy during these debates. The word ‘socialism’ seems to carry a bit more negative weight across the pond. I often wonder why this is. Is it ‘branded’ differently over there? Perhaps I need to do more research on that. But my fundamental political expectation has always been to place human value and quality of life over excessive capitalism and profit.
“As long as greed is stronger than compassion, there will always be suffering.” — Rusty Eric
My friends in the USA are the polar opposite of confederate flag-wavers. They don’t support Trump, they don’t protest empathy, and they don’t plague my social media with gun-toting cartoons. My friends are the type that care about their homeless ‘neighbours’, support Black Lives Matter, and fight for awareness of climate change. It’s not about good people and bad people, it’s about culture.
“Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive.” — Sir Walter Scott
Back here in Scotland, our leftist government has developed a culture that values people. It’s a tough fight to have, especially in today’s political climate. No government is perfect, but few countries support a progressive mindset like Scotland does. People are sick of struggle and seek change. When this movement of mindset occurs, it often goes one of two ways:
- People become so exasperated by the status quo. Distrust ensues. Radical change starts to sound appealing. Political disasters occur, like Donald Trump and Brexit.
- People become so exasperated by the status quo. The fight for progression ensues. People put human values before corporate greed. Political blessings occur, like free healthcare and awareness of the environment.
Up until just a couple of years ago, Scotland’s three leading political parties were all fronted by women, two of them gay. No one in Scotland batted an eyelid because we’d already raised our bar on political expectations; full gender equality was already gaining the praise it deserved. Can we say the same for our counterparts across the pond in the world’s most powerful country?
“You are allowed to be both a masterpiece and a work in progress simultaneously.” — Sophia Bush
That’s not to say sexism doesn’t still exist in Scotland. It does, but it’s becoming less prevalent in the political landscape; the pursuit of abolishing a one-sided bias is near.
With voter registration at an all-time high, a push toward renewable energy, and a will to keep education free, Scotland has become one of the benchmarks for change across the entire world.
It’s our Scottish nature to talk ourselves down. We often assume that we’re a bit shite. Frustrated at our football team, tired of our miserable weather, and sick of our public transport costing a small fortune.
Don’t be so despairing. Look at what our society is offering, then watch those without free healthcare, free prescriptions, and free tuition. And notice how important a part Scotland is playing in an international revamp. The USA might be the world’s most powerful country, but power doesn’t always equal progress.
Scotland is progressive.
This headline might be a little controversial after Scotland’s failed independence attempt in 2014. How can a progressive country underestimate itself?
I was taking press photographs outside the Scottish Parliament building in Edinburgh on the day of the Scottish Referendum vote. It was a historical day. I don’t want to spend too much time chatting about Scotland’s independence vote — I think that’s an article for another time — but I think it’s worth mentioning how lucky we were to hold such a vote legally. These two photos I took (below) actually became more popular after the Referendum due to the way the vote was broken down. The older generation voted a majority ‘no’, whereas the younger generation voted a majority ‘yes’, and so the story was told in these two photos.
There are a few things that weren’t clear enough for the pro-independence voters to pass the Referendum. The economy, EU security, and what it meant for our currency were a few things debated in the campaign. Truths were twisted, and lies were spun. I guess that’s the way with any political campaign nowadays. It’s not always about what’s truly right for the people, it’s often about power, money, and greed. Self gain over country growth. Politics can suck, sure. But over the last five years, since the vote for independence, it seems those in favour of independence are the ones reigning triumphant.
Scotland really is at the forefront of tackling some of the world’s biggest issues:
- Climate change: Since the mid-2000s, Scotland has been on the frontline for national response to climate change. In 2009, the Scottish Government unanimously passed the Climate Change (Scotland) Act, where emission reduction targets have been established. Scotland’s electricity system is now largely decarbonised. Progress is being made to restore peatlands for biodiversity and to help create ecosystems.
- Education: Scotland has more universities in the top 200 per head of population than in any other country, except Switzerland.
- Healthcare: Scotland is the first country in the world to provide free sanitary products in schools, colleges, and universities. It doesn’t cost you to visit the doctor, and your prescriptions are free.
Since the vote for Brexit, which Scotland strongly opposed, a new spotlight has been shone on Scotland. With new consensus, new facts and figures, and a renewed push for change, the question stands: Will Scotland become an independent country sooner rather than later?
“Be happy while you’re living, for you’re a long time deid.” — Old Scots proverb
Time will tell, but the murmurs are becoming louder, and the Union Jack is becoming a symbol of oppression. In a world that is slowly moving toward a more empathetic and humane attitude, you need to wonder if governments (like Britain’s Westminster) can continue their pursuit of imposing something on a country that didn’t vote for it. Will they be the cause of their own downfall?
Scotland is a world leader.
Gone are the days of assuming Scotland was a country being held up by its neighbouring England. Brimming with innovation, Scotland is confidently a progressive nation. The biggest challenge facing the world at the moment is climate change, and Scotland is on track to meet the most ambitious climate change targets in the world.
“We look to Scotland for all our ideas of civilization.” — Voltaire
Scotland plays host to some of the world’s most stunning landscapes. Whether you choose to explore the wild, yet beautiful Highlands or seek Nessie along the banks of Loch Ness, there’s a home for you here. In a country steeped in history, where you can hunt for fairies, believe in angels, and experience the greatest Hogmanay party on Earth, Scotland really is a country not to be underestimated.
How did Scotland become a world leader? Well, in the words of J.M. Barrie: “Those who bring sunshine to the lives of others cannot keep it from themselves”.
Read more at: www.laurenmacneish.com