This is a reflection on Scotland’s bid for independence, and it comes from a British person who has lived in Scotland for 20 years.I think Britain would be stronger if it retains all its constituents, including Scotland.
I feel the English have never hated the Scots during my lifetime. However, some Englishmen I have met here have become annoyed with the nationalistic campaign pursued by the Scottish National Party (SNP) since anti-English rhetoric seems to have become one of the core pillars of the Scot’s nationalistic paradigm. I feel this is because in Scotland there exists a tendency to blame the “English” or “London” or “Westminster” for myriad issues. This is an attitude that underpins an unfortunate tendency of many Scots who like to make easy scapegoats of England or the English. On the other hand, there is an element of disinterest among the England-based British people about the upcoming referendum on Scotland’s independence, scheduled to take place in September of this year. It is as if it does not really matter to their lives if the Scottish part of Britain becomes independent.
You’ll notice I often use the word “British”. This is because the amalgamation of various cultures has formed the British culture and identity; and of this, the Scottish culture and identity are undoubtedly an integral part. In other words, Scotland is a part of Britain and Britain is a part of Scotland.
I feel that the nationalistic ideas of the SNP are somewhat outdated in the modern world in which we live today. It reminds me of the British Nationalist Party (BNP) and their somewhat racist and degenerative ideas, and perhaps this is why nationalism is tolerated and encouraged in Scotland but banned in England.
I would like to think of the UK or Britain as a multicultural, integrated and progressive society where we are judged by our character, our work ethic, our humanity and fair and equal treatment for all. Unfortunately, there is a belief among some Scots that ‘if you are English, you are bad’. This attitude is sometimes manifested through verbal, physical and emotional abuse, coupled with giving Scottish nationals preference over English nationals in the job sector. A perhaps accepted behaviour in Scottish society is to use racist language against the “English people”; and anti-English sentiment is quite openly displayed. I remember reading articles about people being stabbed and beaten to death in Stirling purely for being English. I personally have faced numerous instances of abuse here because of English accent. It is almost as if there is an untold social code here – a person with an English accent is unacceptable. That’s not to say all Scots are abusive to the English, that is certainly not true. But I feel there is a large acceptance of such behaviour nevertheless.
This discrimination is palpable across the system – universities, workplace, social gathering etc. I remember going to a nurse’s appointment for an immunisation shot and being asked in a hostile and aggressive fashion, “Why can’t you get this immunisation done in England?” I was in my early 20s then, and had lived in Scotland for about 15 years. But I still retained my English accent, which is what outed me no doubt! Needless to say this racism and hostility are unnecessary and primordial. I have personally witnessed or been the target of numerous racist comments and outright hostility from Scottish people directed towards the English. On the other hand, the comments I have heard in England about Scottish independence generally revolve around decided indifference: “They can do what they like” or “If they want to leave us they can f*** off”.
I think this is what the SNP misses. Yes, the highland clearances happened and the Scots were once independent, but today we are in the here and now, together. We are not living 300 years ago. If we started to look for the various parts of Britain and its territories that were once independent, there would be no end to it. Most counties were at war with one another at one point. So should I now shout for the independence of Yorkshire and Cornwall as well?
I went to school in Scotland for many years and I don’t remember the nationalistic fervour running as high as it does now. Nowadays, local Scottish newpapers run features on schools running Scottish theme days in the run up to the independence vote. This is all fine and good, but the fact that even children are not being spared SNP’s facile nationalistic campaign makes me feel they are dead serious about their independence. So I believe Scotland will definitely become independent at one point.
Unfortunately, Scotland’s economy is not very robust, and most Scottish people know that. Even before going into the numbers and arguments, people “feel” it. Businesses are not investing; investment funds are moving money out; people worry about the drop in real estate markets; and those valuable first generation, hard working and motivated immigrants from all over the world are now thinking it is time to move to another country. The state pays for too much, and there is an overall lack of privatisation and competition. Who is going to look after all the elderly ethnic Scots after independence, I wonder.
I think the SNP, particularly its chief, Alex Salmond, fails to see that they are in fact immigrants themselves. For Salmond this may be a fascinating opportunity to get his name in the history books, but he doesn’t really seem to have any answers to the important questions.
I remember talking to a Scottish guy about independence and referring to the English he said, “It won’t happen because too many of “them” live here now”. This again is a classic attempt to make the English scapegoats for any number of problems the Scots face. I believe even if Scotland becomes independent this attitude won’t go away; in fact it will be the perfect fit for every economic problem they might face in future. They’ll say, “The English stole our money!” or something similar. Until this portion of Scottish society “pull their finger out” and make Scotland work, Scotland will continue to face its problem irrespective of independence. Screaming for “Freedom!!!!!” seldom puts bread on the table!
I have lived and loved the highlands life and the city life of Scotland. They are both wildly different, but that’s a whole different story! Long live the Scots and, if they do become independent, the best of British luck to them.
*The author, who lives and writes from Scotland, chose to use a pseudonym.