Yes Scotland?: The Political Ecologies of the Borders in Walter Scott's Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border and Lay of the Last Minstrel, and in Contemporary Scottish Poetry
- Scottish Literary Review
- Association for Scottish Literary Studies
- Volume 11, Number 2, Autumn/Winter 2019
- pp. 81-99
- Additional Information
Sir Walter Scott's Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border and Lay of the Last Minstrel respond to threats of French invasion of Britain and to the resurgence of domestic Jacobite sympathies at the turn of the nineteenth century by arguing for Scotland's continued allegiance to the United Kingdom. Scott's poetry draws on the landscapes and ecologies of the Scottish Borders, framing their ruggedness, steadfastness, and vigor both as uniquely Scottish and as Scotland's distinct contribution to the Union. Today, in the face of the first credible agitation for Scottish independence since Scott's day, Borders poets are again broaching political questions by writing about their wild spaces and places. Writers like Valerie Gillies, Gavin Bowd, Tom Bryan, and Pippa Little favor Scottish self-determination, but they also work to distinguish independence from nationalism. These poets suggest that an intimacy with local landscapes might counter appeals to a Scottish 'ethnic identity' and might prompt instead a usefully global gaze. They find in the Borders biosphere a restless energy and a spirit of resistance – in other words, a pull towards independence – but their investments in the region's waterways, forests, and geological phenomena also draw them beyond their nation's bounds. Issues like pollution, climate change, and declining biodiversity, after all, have both regional effects and planetary ramifications. Ultimately, while Scott wrote about the Borders to promote cultural nationalism but to critique desires for Scottish independence, Gillies, Bowd, Bryan, and Little, I argue, invert his logic entirely.