Siol nan Gaidheal
The Gaelic Soul of Alba
It was not only by the threat of British military intervention that Scotland was subdued. It was by means of the destruction, after great effort, of our Gaelic civilisation. This destruction brought upon us the loss almost of nationality itself. For the last 300 years or more Scotland has been a nation in little more than name.
England wanted us for her own economic ends, as well as to satisfy her love of conquest. She found, however, that Scotland was not an easy country to conquer, nor to use for the purposes for which conquests are made. We had a native culture. We had a social system of our own. We had an economic organisation. We had a code of laws that fitted us.
These were so perfect in their beauty, their honesty, their recognition of right and justice, and in their strength, that other peoples coming to our land made no attempt to replace what they saw. These immigrants accepted Celtic civilisation, forgot their own, and eagerly became absorbed into the indigenous population.
The history of England, unlike the history of Scotland, was one in which each new invasion altered the social polity of the people. Foreigners to England were not absorbed as in Scotland. England was affected by every fresh incursion, and English civilisation to-day is the reflection of such changes.
Scotland was known to the merchants of Europe, who brought with them not only commerce but art and culture. Scotland took from them what was of advantage, and our civilisation went on growing in strength and harmony. It grew more and more to fit the native people of our land, and it became an expression of them. It could never have been destroyed except by deliberate uprooting aided by military violence.
The Celtic social and economic system was democratic. It was simple and harmonious. The people had security in their rights, and just law. And, suited to them, their economic life progressed smoothly. Our people had leisure for the things in which they took delight. They had the leisure for the cultivation of the mind, by the study of art, literature, and the traditions. They developed character and bodily strength by acquiring skill in military exercise and in the national games.
The pertinacity of Scottish civilisation was due to our value in upholding the traditions of our forefathers, in maintaining a culture customed by our own hand. Siol nan Gaidheal exists to ensure that our culture, customs and traditions endure and flourish.
Gaelic civilisation was quite different from the Saxon model. The people of the whole nation were united, not by material forces, but by spiritual ones. Their unity was not one of military solidarity. It came from sharing the same traditions. It came from honouring the same heroes, from inheriting the same literature, from willing obedience to the same law, the law which was their own law and reverenced by them.
They never exalted a central authority. Economically they were divided up into a number of larger and smaller units. Spiritually and socially they were one people.
Each community was independent and complete within its own boundaries. The land belonged to the people. It was held for the people by the Chief of the Clan. He was their trustee. He secured his position by the will of the people only. His successor was elected by the people.
The privileges and duties of the Chiefs, doctors, lawyers, bards, were the same throughout the country. The schools were linked together in a national system. The bards and historians travelled from one community to the other. Schools for the study of law, medicine, history, military skill, belonged to the whole nation, and were frequented by those who were chosen by each community to be their scholars.
The love of learning and of military skill was the tradition of the whole people. They honoured not kings nor chiefs as kings and chiefs, but their heroes and their great men. Their men of high learning ranked with the kings and sat beside them in equality at the high table.
It was customary for all the people to assemble together on fixed occasions to hear the law expounded and the old heroic tales recited. The people themselves contributed. They competed with each other in the games. These assemblies were the expression of our Scottish/Gaelic civilisation and one of the means by which it was preserved.
Therefore Scotland was a country made up of a large number of economically independent units. But in things of the mind and spirit the nation was one.
English civilisation, while it may suit the English people, could only be alien to us. It is English civilisation, fashioned out of their history. For us it is a misfit, it is a garment, not something within us. We are mean, clumsy, and ungraceful, wearing it. It exposes all our defects while giving us no scope to display our good qualities. The Gaelic soul of the Scottish people still lives. In itself it is indestructible. But its qualities are hidden, besmirched by that which has been imposed upon us.
Our internal life too has become the expression of the misfit of English civilisation. With all their natural intelligence, the horizon of many of our people has become bounded by the daily newspaper, the pub, the incessant drivel of television soap operas and not to mention the cringe factor - having our entire national aspirations tied to what has been loosely called the national game. English civilisation made us into the stage Scotchman, hardly a fitting caricature.
They destroyed our language, all but destroyed it, and in giving us their own cursed us so that we have become its slaves. Its words seem with us almost an end in themselves, and not as they should be, the medium for expressing our thoughts.
There are many ways to combat this threat to our culture and our traditions. We can replace Englishness and everything akin to it by filling our minds with Gaelic ideas, and our lives with Gaelic customs, until there is no room for any other. The Gaelic nature of our people is there, all be it hidden and subconscious, but ALL Scots are aware of our particular distinctiveness as a people. The spark that makes us definitively Scottish is, and always has been, Gaelic in essence and in nature. The future of that distinct consciousness as Gaels, lies with us. With us rests the praise or the blame of the real freedom we make. It is up to us to take our country back from the brink of that black, stench-ridden hole that is Britishness. It has no place in our hearts and no future for our people.
For this freedom, it is not to the political leaders our people should look, but to themselves. Siol nan Gaidheal offers the people a vehicle to achieve that freedom but the strength of the nation will be the strength of the spirit of the whole people. By promoting and encouraging our people to take an interest in THEIR history and THEIR culture, Siol nan Gaidheal will awaken the true Gaelic soul of our nation and the task of revitalising our country will become self-perpetuating.
One of the biggest tasks will be to restore Gaelic to its rightful place as the language of Scotland. How can we express our most subtle thoughts and finest feelings in a foreign tongue? Gaelic will scarcely be our language in this generation, not even in the next. But until we have it again on our tongues and in our minds we are not free, and we will produce no immortal literature.
We are a small nation. In an independent Scotland our military strength, in proportion to the mighty armaments of modern nations can never be considerable. Our strength as a nation will depend upon our cultural, political and economic freedom, and upon our moral and intellectual force. In these we can be a shining light in the world.
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