2014 and a struggle for independence, not Tibet but Scotland.
London: - Anyone who has been reading the news in Europe will have read about Scotland's hopefully move to become a country in it's own right away from the United Kingdom.
So it is unsurprising that during this attempt at removing another country's control over it, Scotland has decided to discuss Tibet and on the 4th of February a debate was launched to educate and air Scottish views on self-immolations in Tibet.
Scotland's own struggle for independence is a far more democratic process than that of Tibet's constant and bloody struggle. A referendum on whether Scotland should be an independent country will take place in September 2014, following an agreement between the Scottish Government and the United Kingdom Government. While historically the English and Scottish relationship used to be violent during it over 300 years union the move for independence is motivated more by economics and arguably politics rather than Scotland rising up against the yoke of English rule. For Tibetan a referendum is a dream too far.
The debate was brought to the parliament by Maureen Watt who spoke at length not only detailing the when and the who about self-immolations but crucially for Western media and politics the harsh and horrific backlash that Tibetans have suffered in the aftermath of the immolations. She also went into the why, why Tibetans are taking to this extreme form of protest.
She does not fall into the usual rut of Western politicians by simple saying that Tibetans are doing it because they want independence from China but rather the opposite saying, "only 4% of any self-immolation protests have involved a demand for independence, what is driving people to do this?". By discussing not only cultural crackdowns but mass migration by China into Tibet, environmental ravagement and destruction of Tibetan religious and public buildings to make way for Chinese infrastructure she has made a huge step forward into the education of Scotland and the West about Tibet's plight. For that she must be applauded.
Following speakers supported the clearly nervous Maureen Watt but praised her bravery. Jamie McGregor made a deliberate effort to use the words of someone from a United Kingdoms's political office, to reiterate that while the UK's heads of state and political leaders may now shy away from the Tibetan issue for fear of enraging China, the economic dependence that the West now has on China means that only lower officials now use such strong words.
Words like that of Hugo Swire a UK Foreign Office minister who in December 2012 called for China to; "ensure unrestricted access to the Tibetan Autonomous Region and other Tibetan areas of China for diplomats, international media and other concerned parties". While these words following the immolations went unheeded Mr. McGregor believes that such a show of opening up would act as a balm to help reduce those feeling that immolation is the only answer.
While many have shied away from using self-immolations to push the Tibetan issue into the spot light, however, this being Scotland's first ever debate on Tibet clearly shows that the self-immolators who have taken the ultimate sacrifice have not died in vein. Whilst the Scottish Parliament in Holyrood was far from full it's debate still carries huge influence in my opinion as it is a show of support.
Support that despite being a Western nation, that has just signed a new economic agreement with China, they are not ashamed to stand with Tibet. The statement that Scotland should be willing to receive Tibet's political leaders in the future, opening the door for the Kalon Tripa to create links with Scotland, holds great hope. It remains to be seen if other countries will see and heed Scotland's sterling example for the future of Tibet.