Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Interview with Rev. Ricky Yates, Church of England Chaplain of St. Clements’s Anglican Parish

Pearl of Tyburn:  We now have Rev. Ricky Yates coming to us from Prague, Czech Republic. Good evening!

Ricky Yates:  Good evening Pearl!

P.T.:  First, could you tell me a little bit about your background and work?

R.Y.:  I'm British man, born 20 days after H M the Queen came to the throne, so like Her Majesty, I celebrated my Diamond Jubilee in 2012 :) I've been an ordained Anglican priest for nearly 25 years & since September 2008, I've been the resident Anglican Chaplain in Prague.

P.T.:  Do you belong to any political party?

R.Y.:  I used to be a paid up member of the Liberal Democrats, but I have no party affiliation at present. I'm also not currently registered to vote in the UK.

P.T.:  Do you consider yourself more predominately English or British?

R.Y.:  Interesting question! I'm English in that I was born in England of English parents. But particularly here in the Czech Republic, I usually say I'm British, not least because I travel on a British passport & my Czech residency documentation says 'United Kingdom' (in Czech of course), as being my nationality.

P.T.:  So what is your reaction to the prospect of breaking up the union through Scottish independence?

R.Y.:  I think it would be very foolish. I strongly believe in the devolution of powers to Scotland & Wales, but I don't see any reason for complete separation. The SNP might argue otherwise, but the fact is that England subsidies both Scotland and Wales and there would be understandable calls for that financial support to cease should Scotland become independent.

P.T.:  What do you think of the concept of federalization?

R.Y.:  It depends what you mean by federalization. But if you mean each constituent country of the UK being self-governing but with defense, foreign affairs etc being the responsibility of a UK wide federal government, as in the USA or Australia, then I would be in favour of that. At the moment, you have laws for England & sometimes Wales, being voted on by Scottish MPs when English MPs cannot vote on laws relating to Scotland.

P.T.:  Do you consider yourself “European” and how do you feel about the European Union and the future of Scotland/Britain within in, depending upon the outcome of the referendum?

R.Y.:  I certainly regard myself as European - after all, my wife is German & we live in the Czech Republic. Whilst the EU isn't perfect, it has maintained peace post WW2, greatly assisted trade & economic development & made travel so much easier.

The UK would be shooting itself in the foot if it were to leave the EU. And I'm one of about two million British citizens who live in other EU member states & our situation would become very uncertain.

P.T.:  What do you think the difference would be (if any) for an independent Scotland in the EU as opposed to being within the UK?

R.Y.:  There is no guarantee that an independent Scotland would be part of the EU. This is one of the strong arguments against independence. For example, the Spanish would oppose an independent Scotland being allowed to join as it would set a precedent for Catalonia.

P.T.:  Ah. I wonder if Italy feels the same way about Venice, and France about Brittany....

R.Y.:  Exactly! The Spanish have been the most vocal on this matter but there would be similar concerns in Italy & France.

P.T.: How has living in the Czech Republic affected your views on unions and separation?

R.Y.:  What I did want to say is that I live in part of a country that also divided in two on 01/01/1993 when Czechoslovakia divided into the Czech Republic & Slovakia. I've heard from many Czechs & Slovaks as to how much they regret that break up. Relatively few Czechs live in Slovakia whereas many Slovaks live and work in the Czech Republic & in many ways, find themselves at a disadvantage because they are now 'foreigners' in what was previously their own country.

A similar situation would arise if Scotland became independent. Relatively few English people live in Scotland, but many more Scots live & work in England & might be left feeling like Slovaks do here in the Czech Republic.

P.T.:  Do you think there is ever a chance of Czechoslovakia being reunified?

R.Y.:  No - It would be very difficult to put the two countries back together & the same would apply to England and Scotland. Back to one of my very early points. The Czechs, in some measure, financially supported the Slovaks before the Velvet Divorce. That financial support went with the division into two. Slovakia is about the same size as the CR but with less that half the population. It is mainly rural & mountainous. I hope the parallels are clear.

P.T.:  What do you think about the monarchy and how it applies to the national identity and the union? Can you tell me about your experience with Prince Charles and The Duchess of Cornwall?

R.Y.:  My own opinion is that having a constitutional monarchy has served the UK very well, certainly for the past 150 years, & I see no reason to change it. HM the Queen is very strong about being the Queen of the United Kingdom. She is a strong unifying factor. As I'm sure you're aware, Prince Charles is a far less popular character, though attitudes towards him & the Duchess have improved markedly in recent years.

My own experience with meeting C & C and having to preach with them in my congregation was a little nerve racking but equally quite enjoyable. They were in Prague on a Sunday at the time and wanted to be at worship on a Sunday. Prince Charles also wanted it to be seen that he was at worship! You can read more about it here:

P.T.:  This is just out of curiosity, but did you just wake one Sunday and someone told you: "Guess what? The prince is coming to church!" Or was this prepared?

R.Y.:  I knew more than two months in advance. See http://rickyyates.com/a-forthcoming-royal-visit/ & my subsequent posts.

P.T.:  Well, I'm sure that saved you a panic attack, lol!

R.Y.:  Indeed!

P.T.:  What do you think of Alex Salmond vs. Alasdair Darling?

R.Y.:  I have to say that, being a little removed from the UK now, I haven't closely followed the debate between these two gentlemen. But I have to confess I am not a fan of Alex Salmond. I have always felt that he's rather full of himself - rather self-important & if I'm honest, not a good advert for Scotland.

P.T.:  What do you think of the way BT is running there campaign?

R.Y.: Their campaign has at times, been a little negative in its approach by only emphasizing the dangers of voting for independence rather that stressing the benefits of the existing union.

P.T.:  What do you think that Alex Salmond and the other high-ranking SNP members hope to gain for themselves in this push for independence? 

R.Y.:  I always think Alex Salmond is far too full of his own self-importance. He obviously wants to gain both power & kudos for himself. Many of those with him, I guess, are drawn by power & greater recognition. Or am I being cynical? :)

P.T.:  Delightfully so!

R.Y.:  LOL!

P.T.:  Among average Scots, do you think that post-imperial regret may have to do with the rise in Nationalism?

R.Y.:  No - it's more to do with the economic downturn & increasing disenchantment with the main political parties.

P.T.:  What do you think about the way that the referendum question is phrased, putting “Yes” for independence and “No” for the Union?

R.Y.:  What ever way the question was phrased, was always going to cause controversy. Hopefully, there has been enough publicity to ensure that only a few idiots will misunderstand & vote the opposite way to their intentions.

P.T.:  Or more or less be encouraged to think "positively" and hence, "YES"!

R.Y.:  No doubt, that's what the SNP hope!

P.T.:  Do you think it would work much?

R.Y.:  No - for the reason I gave a moment ago. By September, the publicity surrounding the referendum should have made it abundantly clear what voting 'Yes' or 'No' will mean.

P.T.:  On another subject, many nationalists claim the British government has abused the land pretty consistently through history, from the clearances to dumping nuclear waste in Scotland. What is your response to this?

R.Y.:  The clearances in the 18th and 19th centuries were usually carried out by wealthy Scots to the detriment of poorer Scots! In so many aspects of life, it is so easy to find a scapegoat, someone else to blame. Blaming a nameless group of people down in London makes an easy scapegoat.

With regard to nuclear waste - all governments look to remote places to store it. Whilst I believe there is some in Scotland, a lot is stored in NW England in Cumbria. In general, they have a somewhat idealistic view of history with very little grip on reality. That may be a little harsh, so I await any brickbats that come in my direction :)

P.T.:  Hey, it happens…;-)

What do you think about Celtic culture and its preservation (linguistically and otherwise) in contrast to nationalism?

R.Y.:  Independence doesn't necessarily help with the preservation of culture & language. The Irish Republic has been independent for nearly 100 years but despite Irish Gaelic being the country's official language, it still is only spoken fluently by between 5 & 10% of the population.

On the other hand, Wales has remained within the UK & with active government support, has seen the number of fluent Welsh speakers rise from 20 to 25% in the past twenty years or so. I think you can very easily preserve different cultures without the need for more small independent nations.

P.T.:  What was your personal experience in Wales and with the Welsh language?
And what practical ways do you think could be made to preserve that sort of culture within the union?

R.Y.:  I spent three years studying for my first degree at a small University College located in a predominantly Welsh-speaking town, even allowing for the College being an anglicising influence :) I enjoyed hearing Welsh being spoken and made some effort to at least understand the basics of the language, particularly how to pronounce it!

All children in Wales are taught Welsh until they are 16, there is a Welsh medium TV channel, both of which are financed by UK government money. The Welsh culture has been preserved within the UK, together with the delegation of powers to the Welsh Assembly just as the current Scottish parliament has it's local law making powers.

P.T.:  As an Englishman, what’s your opinion on David Cameron and his encouraging English people to call their Scottish friends and relatives to urge them to stay in the Union?

R.Y.:  I think he has every right to do so. Why should the Prime Minister of the UK be silent on the issue? He values the union & wants to see it preserved. And he's entitled to say what he has said.

P.T.:  To wrap things up, could you tell me a little big about what you see for yourself in the future, and your interests/hobbies?

R.Y.:  I hope to retire from full time ministry in less than three years time - Easter 2017. I then hope to spend more time writing & possibly undertake another long-distance pilgrimage either to Santiago de Compostela walking from Prague or Prague to Jerusalem!

P.T.:  Well, good luck with all these future endeavors, and thank you for taking the time out for the interview.

R.Y.: My pleasure.

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