COSCA’s February Guest Blog is out – A bit early!
The following commentary was first published on the Scottish website The Drum. The author, Noel Young, is a friend of COSCA and works the streets of Boston looking for great Scottish, Irish and other Celtic angles to bring to press. Noel has kindly offered the following thoughts as COSCA’s February Guest Blog:
Can Scotland Conquer The Cringe At Last?
You don’t have to be long in the US to realize what a hold Ireland has on the American consciousness. From long-time emotional Kennedy links to the influential American Ireland fund, to the modern giants now settled in Dublin like Facebook and Google, the Irish have the game sewn up.
Much more so than Scotland. We are not even at the races. So why should that be? Scotland and Ireland are similar nations, many roots in common, a similar sense of humour. This week I finally decided that one reason for the difference is that Ireland is seen as a nation and Scotland is not.
And that is the question the referendum may sort out once and for all.
I work with a good number of Irish journalists , here in Boston and also in Dublin. Of late, politely, many ask me , “ So what’s that’s this about independence?”
Unsaid: How are you going to vote? I don’t have to ask how they would vote.
Just as politely I share my view. “I am British. I grew up with Nazi bombers flying over my head in Dundee on their way to Clydebank. Then there are today’s issues. What about the pound? What about the aircraft carriers we build? What about the EU? I usually add the question ”What – if anything – do we have to gain by splitting?”
An article in the New York Times this weekend , by Fintan O’Toole of the Irish Times, wonders if the Irish paid too dearly for the austerity package that got them back into Europe’s good books.
But O’Toole also says, “If you were to walk round the rebuilt Dublin docklands with their shiny European head quarter offices for Google, Twitter, Facebook and Yahoo! and their slick cafes and hotels , you might include that if this is what an Irish crisis looks like, an Irish boom might be something to behold.”
The reason for the high-tech media rush to Ireland is of course the 12.5 per cent corporate tax rate that an independent Ireland offers compared to the UK rate of 22 per cent. The key word there is “independent.”
I was in the room when Alex Salmond addressed students at Harvard some years ago . A questioner asked him what the “Scottish cringe “ was all about, Scotland’s fabled loss of confidence in itself between the two world wars. Salmond pointed to the 1914-18 war memorial in the village of Fyvie in his constituency in Aberdeenshire, a monument to the devastating losses of the Great War.
“The village lost 67 men from that parish on the battlefields of Europe – a figure that represented a devastating blow to such a small community.” One fifth of the village’s able-bodied men.
The same was true across Scotland. The local lads marched off to war together. Thousands never came back. Their communities were blighted and for many years the country’s confidence was shattered.
We have to believe that almost 100 years later the wounds that created the Scottish cringe have finally healed; that the confidence that took Thomas Lipton, John Muir, Alexander Graham Bell, and Andrew Carnegie to America is back in full force; that Scotland is now truly a country with the requisite amount of chutzpah.
We have to believe that the eventual vote on the referendum – whichever way it goes – will be based on confidence – not fear.
It hasn’t been easy for Ireland. The celtic Tiger certainly stumbled badly during their financial crisis. But today the tiger is certainly back up and in business, particularly the media business.
The Irish don’t separate figures for media/high tech US jobs and other US jobs. But the total figure of late is 100,000 .Names apart from the ones we have mentioned: Amazon, Cisco, Dell, Intel, Paypal, Dropbox, Microsoft, Intel.
Scotland on the other hand is a media wilderness, largely ignored by the American giants who are setting the world pace in communication. Facebook may have gone to Dublin but there will be new Facebooks ahead. And a reinvigorated Scotland that has got its mojo back could be the launch pad for a new media revolution. After all, we did invent television.
It would be great to see the Scottish lion roar again.