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Dunsmore: The Scottish Referendum

Full disclosure. My mother was born in Glasgow. She emigrated to Canada with her mother shortly after World War I. Her father was one of many Scottish soldiers killed in the war, and whose name is on an honor roll in Edinburgh Castle. I was raised among numerous Scots relatives, including my great grandparents, who spoke with thick brogues and told stories, not all of them fondly, of life in what they called, the old country. Without doubt, my curiosity about that old country was a factor in my choosing to become a foreign correspondent.

I have often visited Scotland, especially during the years I was based in London. One summer, my wife Whitney and I went up to spend a week to see the brooding beauty of the Highlands. I wanted to see Glen Coe, which according to 17th century Scottish history was the site of an infamous massacre in which the Campbells, working secretly with the English, murdered nearly 80 MacDonalds.

As we were driving in the mountains looking for the exact place, we came across a lovely, old lady, who had set up an easel next to her car, and was doing a sketch of the valley below. She was warm and chatty, and it was mentioned that I had a family connection to Glen Coe. Smiling at me she said, “So, you’re a MacDonald laddie.” My wife chimed in, “No he’s a Campbell.” In an instant, every trace of friendliness drained from the woman’s face. Her eyes narrowed as she glared at me. And then she spat at my feet.

Later, in Inverness we learned details of an even greater Campbell sin. In 1746, Scotland’s Bonnie Prince Charlie was leading an uprising against the Royal troops of King George II. The Prince was heavily backed by French King Louis XV. That was evidently reason enough for the mainly Protestant Campbell militia to fight on the side of the English in the Battle of Culloden - where the last major attempt to restore a Scottish Catholic monarch to the British throne was defeated.

Who knows how relevant any of this is to today’s independence vote. I do know the Scots have very long memories. And for three centuries lots of them have resented being seen as subordinates to the English in the United Kingdom.

The latest polls indicate the vote will be close. At the last minute, the Conservative Party led British Government promised virtual total autonomy for Scotland, if the no vote won. And that might make a difference.

But I have a sense that a majority will vote “yes.” They will do so in spite of many potentially negative consequences - not just for Scotland and all of Britain - but even for the future of a united Europe.

So if I’m wrong and they vote “no” - I will be relieved.

Barrie Dunsmore is a veteran diplomatic and foreign correspondent for ABC News, now living in Charlotte.
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