Poetic pledge in Scotland
Scotland’s national poet published a song in 1794 entitled ‘O My Luve is like a red, red rose’. It was, according to Burns, based on a traditional Scottish song, and in time it was set to a number of different tunes – most recently perhaps in versions sung by Carly Simon and Eva Cassidy. The third stanza of the song as written by Burns runs as follows:
Till a’ the seas gang dry, my dear,
And the rocks melt wi’ the sun:
I will luve thee still, my dear,
While the sands o’ life shall run.
Now the song has been given new life by Scottish First Minister, Alex Salmond, who in his speech at the SNP conference used it to make his point about tuition fees:
‘The rocks will melt with the sun before I allow tuition fees to be imposed on Scottish students – upfront or back-door.’
If the First Minister is to stay true to the poetic ideals of his source, and if this is part of a declaration of love for higher education, he (or any competing party seeking government) will need to be clear about how Scotland can maintain a world class higher education system on declining resources and increasing demand. Pledging not to introduce fees is the easy bit; saying how the sector will be resourced is, in the end, the more meaningful declaration of love that needs to be spoken.