As I do my daily trawl across the internet picking up bits of information here, news there and ideas all over the place I come back to Newsnet Scotland and follow the blog threads. It fascinates me why Newsnet is seen as a source of extreme ‘cybernatery’ by sites such as ‘Better Nation’, BBC Scotland and the Hootsmon go with out saying, but considering the nature of the blogosphere it is interesting the disdain shown towards Newsnet Scotland by some other Scottish Blogs.
Yet the reality is there are no slavering, rabid English hating bloggers on the site. Further most folk regularly state the difference between their views of Westminster as opposed to England and the English. Many have spouses and chunks of their family who are English born and bred. So the antipathy that folk like Maddox of the Scotsman try to stir in his attempts to out do Cochrane at the Telegraph are hollow when it comes to relations between the people of these islands. This is opposed to our genuine desire to be governed by our own Scottish Parliament, in a way that best fits how the Scottish electorate in general view our nation of Scotland.
What is lost in these attempts to polarise the debate into yet another Scotland v England bout is the reality of the people who have migrated to Scotland from England, settled in Scotland and a life which they find agreeable. It is not just our migrant near neighbours who find Scotland a good place to live as a study carried out by the Commission for Racial Equality shows. The comparison is stark between the study’s findings in the English conurbations versus those in Scotland and says something about our ability to walk our talk of ‘We’re aa Jock Tamson’s bairns’.
In the English conurbations the Carribean and SE Asians born in the UK tended to describe themselves as British Blacks or British Asians. The term ‘English’ is reserved for the white population and is looked upon by these British Blacks and British Asians in a pejorative sense related to isolationist tendencies, superiority, inflexibility and an underlying racial intolerance of anybody who is not ‘one of them’. This was as true in Manchester as in London or Birmingham this sense the non white British felt of ‘English’ intolerance.
The groups interviewed in Edinburgh and Glasgow were very comfortable describing themselves as Scottish Asian or Scottish Black. They do not, according to the study, have the same sense of underlying racial tension their counterparts in Birmingham expressed. They describe their experience as ‘being made welcome’, included, supported, as being Scots who are Asians. One interviewee said he had been born and brought up in Zambia and came to Scotland for University. He has stayed and married, has a UK passport but when people ask him what he is, he says Scottish because this is where he is happy and lives.
There could be many reasons why the native Scots are by and large friendly towards folk from ‘ither pairts’ amongst them the sense of colonisation Carol Craig discussed in her book ‘The Scottish Crisis of Confidence’. An instinctive empathy with the ‘dispossessed’ which lies deep in the Scottish sense of being in the aftermath of the Scottish equivalent of the ‘enclosures’ which threw so many off the land across Scotland.
The influx of Gael speakers to Glasgow to fuel its industry and growth in the face of popular propaganda of the day that they were dirty, poor and stupid must have created tensions as native Glaswegians felt the competition for jobs. A few decades later the Irish influx and the clear problems this created in Glasgow as the East and West End became polarised on religious grounds which resonate to this day. In Edinburgh it was the influx of Eastern European Jewry escaping pogroms in their homelands in the late 1800’s, in 1940 it was Poles and Norwegians escaping Hitler, later it was Italian POWs who chose to stay and make a life here. Yet Scotland has this track record for taking folk in and holding them close, far removed from the hostile attacks on Scots rabid ‘anti-Englishness’ which still gains expression in the London based media and political sphere.
It is mentioned frequently on Newsnet by posters of the close links between the English and Scots. The reality that many English ‘immigrants’ now stand amongst the SNP’s membership and voters because they see how unhealthy, vacuous and insular the Westminster Parliament of the Union has become, how detached it is from serving the people it claims to represent and how it is no longer fit for purpose. These concerns are increasingly, I would argue, fuelling the growing support for independence across all Scottish voters - a desire for a better Scotland, an independent nation once more, with a people at ease with themselves and their place in the world, no matter where they come from – Ceud Mille Failte.
Since 1979 I have travelled from staunch unionist via federalist to the point I am now at, pro-independence. At no point have I ever felt hatred for the English as a people, I lived in the SW of England for 27 years, my wife is from Yorkshire, my kids are Cornish by birth. I am driven by a realisation the only way the UK can live together is if the tattered remnants of Empire are finally expunged and the currently dispossessed English electorate get their country and parliament back. This can only occur with the end of the Union because nothing else will bring Westminster, its political establishment and hangers on to its senses. No more fudges, no more wait and see if Westminster will get it right this time (experience says this will never happen), let’s just go.
We will be doing all who live on these islands a great big favour by saying ‘Yes’ to independence when the referendum comes.