While the big ship goes down, the small ship may stay afloat in turbulent seas.
A small ship can avoid icebergs and navigate the most turbulent seas, survive the worst storms. If its captain and crew are competent, disciplined, have clarity of objectives, trust each other and above all, understand the sea - an elemental environment without malice and without pity – the vessel will successfully hold its course.
The small ship seems vulnerable because of its size, yet its size is its strength, as seafarers have known from coracle to sailing ship. And in flexible co-operation with other small ships, sometimes in convoy, it has even greater strength yet sacrifices no autonomy.
The big ship offers an illusion of security, of power and control, yet its turning circle is so long and so slow that it cannot easily change course, cannot easily avoid the icebergs.
The diversions and entertainments offered by the large vessel lull the passengers into a false sense of security, help them to forget they are on the high seas: they are easily convinced that the captain and officers know what they are doing. The crew - closer to reality – know better, but dare not question their direction and judgement.
The passengers, having paid for the voyage, have surrendered their control for the duration: the last real decision they made was to board the ship. The only real decision they may have left is when to abandon ship and take to the boats, and even that decision may be taken away from them.
A fire in the hold of a small ship may be easily doused: a fire in the hold of a large ship may reach the proportions of a conflagration before it is detected, and then it may be too late. When crisis strikes a small ship, the crew and captain are united against the threat. When crisis strikes a large ship, panic and disorder may reign supreme, and the powerful may act to save themselves, not the passengers.
The real owners of a small ship are usually on board. The real owners of a large ship are usually safely on land, often in a different country to that of most of the passengers, subject to different laws, or no laws at all.
They are insured – they are immune - they can find more passengers and more ships to profit from. This ship and passengers are expendable, but if salvageable, can be exploited yet again.
Reflect on the metaphor – limited as all metaphors and analogies are – in relation to Scotland’s independence of the United Kingdom, its freedom to determine its own course in turbulent seas.