From Germany to Scotland – Cycling for Independence

On 1st July Eva Gerber will set off on a bicycle trip in support of Scottish independence, departing from Veitshöchheim, near Würzburg in southern Germany, and heading towards Scotland. On arrival she plans to pass through Glasgow, Stirling and wherever else she is invited thereafter. UMS' Berlin-based blogger Samhuinn Watt caught up with her for a chat about what she has planned and why the cause of Scottish independence is so important to her:

 

SW:     Hi Eva. Maybe for starters you can tell us a little about who you are and what you have planned?

 

EG:      Hi. My name's Eva, I'm 54 years old, I really love cycling. I've been following these issues since I was a teenager and went for a language exchange in Brighton, southern England. There, even at 16 or 17 years of age, it was already very clear, seen from my viewpoint as an outsider from Germany, that there was something very strange about the way the Brits there regarded the Scots. During the classes we were treated with a great deal of respect, tolerance and appreciation, but at the same time it seemed to me, both from what I heard and sensed, that exactly those things were missing when the Brits spoke about the Scots. I was only 17 at the time but I still remember thinking, strange, just very strange, this attitude towards an entire section of the population. And I found it disturbing, I found it really disturbing.

            Anyway, then there was a long period of time when I wasn't in Scotland - I was actually only there for the first time in 2012 - but I'd always been drawn to the culture, as well as the natural landscape, and at some point I decided that I would like to live there. However, when I then heard that, post-Brexit, even as a European citizen I would have to ask the permission of the UK government in London if I wanted to live and work in Scotland, well, my blood really began to boil. I can remember quite clearly how I felt my temperature rise and then thought to myself, waaaahh, fucking Britain! That was my first impulse anyway.

            But then an idea began to form in my mind, also encouraged by friends who regularly participate in sporting activities with political goals. One thing led to another, and eventually I was just like, you know what, I'm going to cycle to Scotland and send out a message that Scotland should continue to be part of the EU, also to send a signal to the people of Scotland that, in my opinion, they really belong in the EU. For me as a German, Scottish culture is an important constituent part of European identity, which is why it's so important for me as a German European to send out this signal. It relates also to the fact that Germany has so much power and influence within Europe – when admittedly not always for the best, I'm certainly not in agreement with everything that our government does – but they're decidedly pro-European and do what they can to uphold the spirit of the European Union. That's what it's about for me and that's why I'm undertaking this challenge.

            I must say I'm really looking forward to it too. I mean, I know I'm somewhat lacking in stamina and will need to take a lot of breaks, but I'll just allow myself to take it at my own pace. I will not hustle.

 

SW:     And when is the journey due to take place?

 

EG:      Starting on the 1st July. I reckon by then the weather should be more or less stable, and anyway rain doesn't bother me. I actually find it good that it's raining a lot, at least by German standards, at the moment.

 

SW:     What kind of reactions do you get from other Germans when you talk about your support for Scottish independence? Do they understand your reasons?

 

EG:      There are really a lot of quite varied reactions. Some people are very pro-English, really  massively so, others very much pro-Scottish. It's something I've noticed, even if I certainly don't belong to that section of the society, that sometimes even extremely conservative Germans come down on the pro-Scottish side of the argument. They point out that the Brits, who once helped we Germans make the transition from Nazism to democracy, seem now to have very much lost sight of their own democratic values. They were part of the Allied forces that came here to Germany along with the Americans, but one gets the feeling at times that even now, three generations later, the Americans and Brits are still behaving as if the war had only just finished. I mean this in the political sense, nothing to do with how individuals relate to one another, I mean of course I have American and English friends, that's not the issue here. It has to do with how our nations relate to one another in the political sphere.

 

SW:     So in that sense, do you also think that the British government have failed Scotland in the provision of democratic rights?

 

EG:      Yes for sure. That becomes clear when you come across things like the video clip I saw from, who was it now? Yes, actually an English comedian, Oliver John or something?

 

SW:     Ah yeah, John Oliver.

 

EG:      John Oliver, yes. I like him, or some of his stuff anyway, and he was willing to say quite clearly to his compatriots that they can't reasonably expect the Scots to be happy about or accepting of 312 years of maltreatment. And he, he showed this clip. Man, it was so embarrassing! In front of running cameras in Westminster, a Scottish politician asked David Cameron why 68% of oil revenue flows into the British coffers and so little remains in Scotland. And Cameron, cameras and all, just brazenly starts laughing, and the guy asks him, "Why are you laughing?" (Aping Cameron's condescending tone) "If you ask stupid questions, you get stupid answers." Whaaaaaat! That's not an answer, you know, and that's the kind of thing that you shouldn't have to put up with, I mean, what's that all about? That was so, eeeuuugh. And he (John Oliver) said that as an Englishman himself, he really can't get behind that kind of attitude and behaviour towards others.

 

SW:     What kind of general reaction do you get from Scots when you tell them what you're doing? Are they surprised that you're willing to do this in support of Scottish independence? Or do you find them supportive on the whole?

 

EG:      You mean in my social circle?

 

SW:     Yeah, sure.

 

EG:      Honestly, they're not really surprised. It seems like they accept it as something that might be expected of me. Within my family for example – my children are politically active just like I am – they're tendentially all pro-European. They value the ability to travel freely, to live and work wherever they want and all the other things that have become normal to us. They also see how the AfD in Germany, much like the Brexit Party in the UK, seem to be well-funded, but where we don't really know who the people funding them are, so there's a lack of transparency there. They end up asking, who on Earth are these people? Where does that power they have come from? Where does this flow of cash come from? It's similar with both parties, AfD and Brexit.

 

SW:     So what are you hoping to achieve with this action, the cycle trip?

 

EG:      First off, I'm looking forward to getting to know people in real life rather than online, as I normally do a lot of my work over the internet, but meeting people face to face is an entirely different experience. On the way I also want to conduct interviews, just like you're doing now with me, where I'll ask people about their opinions, who they voted for and why, and what their hopes and wishes for the future of the European Union are. Also to speak to Germans, not just Scots, so generally with Europeans in Europe.

            I'll travel through Germany, then through Holland and over to Newcastle in northern England, then on to Scotland.

 

SW:     Got it, so taking the ferry over to Newcastle then?

 

EG:      Yup

 

SW:     And if any of our readers or viewers would like to support you on your way, how can they go about it?

 

EG:      Ah, I've set up a Gofundme site, maybe I can send you the link afterwards?

 

SW:     Yup, sure.

 

EG:      And anyone who would like to help me cover my costs can donate there.

(https://www.gofundme.com/independent-scotlandfrom-germany-to-scotland)

 

SW:     Got it. Do you have any concluding words to finish us off with?

 

EG:      Concluding words... hmm, no, not really. I guess what's important to me is that I am part of the environment around me and help to shape it, and when I see something there that I don't like, I get active.

 

SW:     Good stuff. OK, then thanks for now. Best of luck and see you soon.

 

EG:      Yup, see you soon Sam, bye

 

You can keep up to date with Eva's preparations and progress here:

https://www.facebook.com/Independent-Scotland-From-Germany-to-Scotland-by-Bike-294067501539117/

And you can help her on her way by donating to her funding page, here:

https://www.gofundme.com/independent-scotlandfrom-germany-to-scotland