From Bowie to Bjork, Musicians Debate Scottish Independence

Marc Hogan

By Marc Hogan

Lead News Writer
on 09.17.14 in News

On September 18, voters in Scotland will decide whether their country will remain part of the United Kingdom. Polls show the vote coming down to the wire, and pundits are divided, too. With the final verdict of the Scottish people on the way soon, views from the music community have been similarly mixed, though more recently leaning toward independence.

David Bowie was among the first to weigh in, saying at this February’s Brit Awards, in a statement delivered by model Kate Moss, “Scotland, stay with us.” More recently Paul McCartney said in a statement, “Let’s stay together,” joining Mick Jagger and other U.K. celebrities in signing a letter backing a continued union. On the other hand, Stuart Murdoch from one of Scotland’s most beloved bands, Belle and Sebastian, recently told The Guardian that he had changed his mind and now supports independence.

“I used to be a real non-nationalist,” Murdoch, who recently made his film debut with God Help the Girl, is quoted as saying. “I don’t like nationalism as a thing in itself. And I was pretty much pro-union, because I don’t like the idea of leaving people in the north of England to have a right-leaning government forever more, which is what would possibly happen.”

Murdoch continued, however: “I must admit in the past year, since there has been this live debate, I have come off the fence and swung the other way. I just think it’s time that Scotland became an independent country, for political reasons. We might actually show England the way.”

Among other Scottish bands, a recent pro-independence event featured Franz Ferdinand, Frightened Rabbit and Mogwai. Orange Juice‘s Edwyn Collins has also shown his support for a “Yes” vote. Meanwhile, CHVRCHES told the BBC this summer they had strong views but preferred to keep them private.

Artists from Iceland, which became independent in 1918, have also weighed in on the “yes” side. Björk, as The Guardian notes, has posted the lyrics to her 2007 Volta song “Declare Independence” on Facebook; “Scotland! Scotland! Scotland!” the post begins. Sigur Rós, at a recent Glasgow gig, also signaled support for Scottish independence.

The issue is a complicated one, and it’s ultimately up to the Scottish people. Pundits as politically distant as The New York Times‘ left-leaning Paul Krugman and The Economist‘s unnamed, Tory-ish writers agree that Scotland should vote against independence; they argue, in part, that Scottish nationalists’ plans to keep using the British pound despite no longer sharing a government could lead to economic disaster. Then again, liberal-leaning economist Joseph Stiglitz, like Krugman a Nobel Prize winner, writes in the Scottish Sunday Herald that a shared currency will work just fine.

And this week, the “yes” vote supporters added Stephen Colbert. It’s only a matter of time before the world will see if Scotland got the “famous Colbert bump.” Or, in this case, let’s call it the Björk bump.