Sunday, 23 June 2013


[This article was commissioned for and published in today's Scotland on Sunday newspaper] 

I don’t know how anyone familiar with Robert Burns’ life and work can argue he would vote NO in the Referendum so I suppose it is a tribute to his continuing potency that they even try.

There can be no doubt Burns was a man exercised by injustice and oppression as well as a love of his country. As an internationalist he engaged fully in the world around him. So Scotland’s current dilemma, where our social democratic values are repeatedly thwarted by Governments we did not elected would undoubtedly have compelled him to put pen to paper.

He reminds us in his poem ‘A parcel of rogues in a nation’ why the 1707 Act of Union was signed – to bail out a financial elite who had squandered the nations assets on reckless and greedy misadventure – and why it was so unpopular with the masses who suffered such appalling economic, social and political ills as a consequence. Enraged at the ‘treachery’ of the Act and furious, not with ‘the English’, but with the emergent mercantile classes in Scotland who drew up its provisions he condemned them as ‘…a coward few….hireling traitors….bought and sold for English gold’.

And as a supporter of the United Scotsmen as well as the French and American revolutions Burns’ democratic sensibilities – dangerous to openly advocate and inspired by Thomas Muir and Thomas Paine - ooze out of every poem he wrote. Every audacious word decries those complacent, reactionary, Scots who took privileges for granted and treated their fellow countrymen and women with complete contempt and meted out severe punishment to any who challenged their authority, as Muir found to his cost.

There can be no doubt Robert Burns supported the Scottish Independence cause and as an activist in his own time no doubt he would also be a prominent participant in the Yes campaign today. 

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