The 2011 Scottish Census was released today. The Western Isles population increased by ~1500, a 5.6% rise. The Highland population increased by ~23,000, an 11% rise. Compare this to the 4.6% rise recorded for Scotland as a whole, and you get a crude indication that the image of a dying periphery isn’t as accurate as the naysayers would hope.
This story won second prize in the Northwards Now New Gaelic Fiction Competition. It has to be read carefully or the joke won’t be got!
“Tha an riaghaltas agaibh seasmhach. Gu dearbh fhèin, tha sinn deiseil airson buille sam bith a bheir Nàduir oirnn. Tha an t-àrm a’ gluasad. Tha sinn a’ dol gur cumail sàbhailt’. Tha sinne a’ dol gur dìon.”
Cha robh guth aig a’ Mhìnisteir uasal air cò bu choireach gun robh an là seo air tighinn. Faclan snog, cofhurtail, a’ suaineadh a-mach às an rèidio, a’ snàigeadh a-steach tro mo chluasan, ‘s a’ faighinn smachd air m’inntinn. Briathran breugach brèagha. Thug mi breab dhan rèidio. Bha mi seachd searbh sgìth dha bhi ag èisdeachd ri srannalaich a’ Mhìnisteir. Cha robh a gheusan ‘s a gheallaidhean a’ dol a thràghadh an tuil.
Dh’èirich mi, a’ casadaich ‘s a’ cofhurtaich, is plaide thana mam ghuailnean. Bha an saoghal a’ fàs teth ach bha mise fuar fuar. Cho fuar ris a’ phuinnsean, ri cridhe a’ Mhìnisteir. B’esan an aon chleasaiche a bha air fhàgail.An robh e a’ magadh oirnn, e fhèin sàsaichte le fhion ‘s le annlan? Chuir mi às a’ choinneal. Cha b’e solas iùil a bh’innte. Bha an dorchadas a’ sgaoileadh, cho farsaing ris a’ chuain. Bha an rèidio sàmhach san oiseann.
Nuair a dh’innis iad dhuinn gun robh an là seo a’ tighinn ‘s ann a dh’fheuch mi ri mi-fhìn fhalach ann an toll. Bha cabhaig orm. Chladhaich mi domhainn i. “Dùinibh an doras!” bhiodh an rèidio a’ sgiamhail, “Na tigibh a-mach! Dèan nead dhuibh pèin!” ‘s mar sin air adhart, gach comhairle a’ cur eagal às ùr orm. Ann an ciaradh balbh an t-saoghail an robh mi air fois fhaighinn mu dheireadh thall? Aig a’ cheann thall? Thug mi sùil air an dorchadas. Chaith mi smugaid. Bha mi seachd searbh sgìth a’ feitheamh. A’ feitheamh ri fairge, ri facal, ris an naidheachd dheireannach.
Ach, ged a ghlas mi mi fhìn ann am priosan, cha do chaith mi na h-iuchraichean air falbh. Dè feum a bh’ann feitheamh? Bha mi airson bàs an t-saoghail fhaicinn – air an dòigh sin, dhèanainn ciall dhan chùis. Cha robhas a’ dol gam thiodhlacadh mar ghealtaire aig aigeann a’ chuain ùr. Bha mi gus a bhith seasmhach, làidir, nam dhuine ceart. Bha mi gus an doras fhosgladh dhan tuil. Bha mi gus mo shùilean fhosgladh. Bha mi gus an rèidio a shadadh air falbh.
Good news everyone! I got second place in the Trinity College, Cambridge essay competition. =] I wrote an essay arguing that post-1707, the effective northern border of the United Kingdom was the Highland Line. Because of the trouble and disorder caused by this lack of control over half of Scotland, Scotland did not benefit economically or socially from union in the first 40 years. Only after 1745, when the union government consolidated control over the highlands, could Scotland truly benefit, look to the colonies, and enter her Age of Improvement. Thus came the Enlightenment and the birth of modernity and industry. But this came at a price: the destruction of the Gaels’ social structure, way of life, language and culture, in order to keep order and prevent any more attacks on the Hannoverian status quo. My argument then was that in order for Scotland and Britain itself to become the dominant economic and military power on the face of the earth, Gaidhlig had to be destroyed and Gaeldom as an entity distinct from Protestant Britain had to be eliminated. For imperialism to appear, first the government had to secure Britain as an island. We can thus see that the British Empire (which historians agree was an endeavour dominated by lowland Scots and educated Englishment) was born in the murder of the first aboriginal people - the Gaels of north-West Scotland…
One day the British would do away with every indigenous Tasmanian - they got plenty of practice with the slaughter and clearance of the glens.
[I may well post this essay but its very long and far less overtly-political - I had to tone it down and focus on the economics cos, well, its Cambridge…]