I had the immense privilege of attending a discussion around the play “Union” at the Royal Lyceum Theatre’s Henry Irving Room this afternoon.
I say privilege on more than one level because it was actually sold out and only my relationship with the theatre gave me the opportunity to buy a house ticket. So thank you very much Lucy Vaughan for looking after me.
The line up was a titanic collection of historical forensic investigators; Tim Barrow, Union’s author, Mark Thomson, its director and Owen Dudley Edwards; Irish (turned Scots) historian, critic and, as it turns out, astounding raconteur.
I’m not going to review Union here as that’s not my place as a trustee of the Lyceum, but I am going to urge you, if you have any interest in the independence debate to see it because it adds an important layer of “poetic” texture to the debate and is an astonishing piece of work.
This is something that, to my mind, has been in short supply in the Independence debate so far, and something I have bemoaned on my professional blog .
But that was not the case today.
First off, Dudley Edwards’ referencing of the seminal work by Stephen Maxwell; Evidence Risk and The Wicked Issues – Arguing for Independence, was, for me, exciting, as it’s the writing that has most inspired me in this often tawdry mud-slinging debate. It’s an important, intelligent, largely objective (despite his political background) read that is required if you want to have a view on this critically important era in our nationhood.
Mark Thomson made a brilliantly observed point that history, per se, is ‘bevelled’ before we even start deciphering it, because the voice of the common man has (until recently, thanks to the internet) been lost as a result of illiteracy and poverty. History has largely been written from the point of view of the wealthy classes and that’s why it’s so important that Alan Ramsay (poet and apprentice wigmaker) is such a key character in Union.
But the message I want to share with you and invite discussion is Dudley Edwards’ answer to my question…
“If this play rose above the factual and reached a poetic truth (Mark Thomson) how can the current tit for tat Independence debate do the same?”
Dudley Edwards’ response was to say that, fundamentally, an ideological core has to emerge and hasn’t yet, but he suggested one that I felt touched an interesting and raw nerve.
Independence, as the quote in this title references, could be wrapped up in a singular thought.
Warfare or Welfare?
Alex Salmond paints a picture of a Social Democratic state (more European than British) that eschews the fundamentally conservative politics of Southern England and that shares wealth and opportunity without resorting to outright socialism. I like that.
He demonises Trident (the symbol of warfare and a hill of financial pain). I like that.
He advocates our green economic potential through renewable energy R&D at the core of our economy. I buy that.
And he seeks a nation where we look after the less fortunate. A nation of welfare. A nation that creates opportunity for all (free University education, although I fear he has undermined vocational FE in this crusade). So, I support that too.
No one, but no one, has captured that essence as well as Owen Dudley Edwards.
So, thank you sir. You are a scholar and a gentleman.