In her wedding dress, no less
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When Ruth Strain (née Cheadle), ’08, arrived early to her wedding venue in Edinburgh on Sept. 8 to snap a few photos, she was not expecting to appear in most major news sources as a symbol of support for Scottish independence.
The United Kingdom is abuzz with Thursday’s coming vote to decide if Scotland will form its own independent state. While Strain feels that the media has misconstrued her position, she and her now-husband James Strain hope that those who are able will vote on Thursday and remain engaged in the political process, regardless of the outcome.
Last Monday a pro-independence rally was taking place in front of St. Giles Cathedral, directly across the street from Parliament Square of Edinburgh, where the Strains were to be married.
Ruth Strain’s friends Lynn Marie Martens, ‘08, and Lucy Allen encouraged her to pick up a baby blue “Yes” sign and pose as if she were saying “yes” to her soon-to-be husband.
“Suddenly all of these other, rather large cameras started pointing towards me,” Strain recalled in an exclusive interview with the Horizon. The surrounding crowd caught on and began to cheer for the bride being photographed with a pro-independence sign in-hand.
She said, “Shortly thereafter I was approached by someone working for the BBC, asking me if I wanted to be on TV in a minute.” Caught off guard, she declined, only to be approached by a representative for the First Minister of Scotland. The representative asked her if she wanted to meet the politician.
“I tried to politely decline and also say that I didn’t have a particular political affiliation, and it wasn’t my intention to say anything particular, but the media understandably construed it as such,” she said.
“I think I’m actually leaning toward the no side of things,” she stated. “I’m keeping an open mind about it, but that’s sort of the ironic thing about the picture.”
While Ruth Strain is not able to vote on Thursday, her husband James Strain is, and he is planning to participate.
“Like Ruth, I’m biased towards the no,” he stated.
James Strain commented on the couple’s hope for Thursday’s big decision to make a lasting impact, regardless of the outcome. “Hopefully the biggest thing to come of it is people in the UK will be more involved in the democratic process again,” he said.
In the UK’s last general election, only 40% of voters turned up according to Strain, meaning that over half stayed home.
According to the Independent, Scotland functions under a devolve parliament, meaning that they’re allowed partial control over matters such as healthcare, police and a jurisdiction equivalent to state governments or local councils. In 1998 and again in 2012, the UK Parliament devolved some of its power to Scotland.
This time, Westminster is offering Scotland “devo-max” if they choose to stay, which would allow Scots control over everything but defense and foreign affairs.
“Independence would be a much bigger thing [than devo-max], because Scotland would have to establish itself on the world’s stage,” said James Strain. Currency, for example, is one of the largest factors still unclear to voters.
“Personally, I’m leaning towards no. I do think that the idea of independence could be good, but I’m not a hundred percent sure if people who are pushing independence really have all of the details,” said James Strain.
The streets of Edinburgh are lively with talk about the possibility of an independent Scotland.
“It’s definitely escalating here now,” says Ruth Strain. “ This is the last week of campaigning before the election this Thursday. Everyone is out wearing t-shirts saying ‘yes’ or ‘no thanks.’”
“At the local farmer’s market, a customer and a farmer were arguing over their views on the referendum, because they were both wearing opposing ‘yes’ and ‘no’ t-shirts,” added James Strain.
All politics aside, however, the Strains had a lovely wedding day and are happy to be married.
“We’re pretty darn excited about it!” she said.
Ruth Strain studied abroad in Oxford during her time as a Westmont student, and upon graduating in 2008, continued on to earn her Masters Degree at the same institution. She began her PhD in Old Norse poetry at University College London in 2010, around the same time she met James Strain.
The two were engaged in March and decided that they wanted a small gathering of friends and family.
The perfect ending to their unforgettable wedding day? Driving off into the sunset in James Strain’s DeLorean, blasting “The Power of Love.”
Photo by Lynne Marie Martens ('08)