Not hating – what really drives the indy movement

The Scottish independence campaign is frequently accused of being motivated by anti-English racism. It’s possibly the most frequently made accusation against independence supporters. As a campaigner for independence, I’ve been called an anti-English racist myself, despite the fact that my late husband was English and I gave up everything to care for him when he was dying of a terminal illness, despite having close family who are English, people who I love deeply. Naturally, I find such an accusation deeply insulting. Indeed, defamatory.

It is unarguable that there is a long history of antagonism between Scotland and England. It was born out of many long centuries of wars, of attempted conquest, of England’s attempts to secure its northern border and Scotland’s willingness to invade and pillage northern England when it had the chance. It arose from the assimilating tendencies of the Scottish ruling classes who sought to impose English culture on Scotland and the wilful refusal of the majority of Scots to assimilate.

But that’s ancient history. These days the antagonism mostly surfaces in the willingness of Scottish football fans to support anyone but England in international contests, and the occasional bit of name calling. Anti-English racism might have been a factor in the armed rebellions in the 18th century, but this is the 21st century. Scotland isn’t campaigning for the restoration of an absolute monarchy, and its politics are not motivated by the hatred of any ethnic groups. For the most part, Scottish people do not hate the English, or indeed anyone else. English people are our friends, our family, our neighbours, our workmates.

It is also unarguable that there is a strain of anti-Scottish racism in England. This receives far less attention from opponents of independence, for obvious reasons. However the difference is that instances of anti-English racism in Scotland make the newspapers, the Scottish Government is called upon to condemn and to disassociate itself from the perpetrators, and BBC Scotland makes a special programme about how it represents a dark cancer that lurks at the very heart of the Scottish psyche. And in case anyone thinks that last comment was ridiculous hyperbole, that’s exactly what the BBC did during the first independence referendum campaign after its star presenter Andrew Marr made an off the cuff remark at a book event at the Edinburgh Festival about how “everyone knows” that anti-English racism motivates the independence movement.

Meanwhile instances of anti-Scottish racism in England and in the English press are merely banter and we are told that only humourless dour Scots with a chip on both shoulders would dream of complaining about it. I lived in England for many years. I was told on a regular basis that wanting home rule for Scotland meant that I was ungrateful and a racist. Of course, by pointing this out, I am clearly a humourless jock with a chip on both shoulders. During my time in London, I was called a porridge muncher, a sweaty sock, a tight-fisted jock, and could feed myself for months if I actually had a deep fried mars bar for every time I had to listen to comments about deep fried mars bars. Although admittedly I wouldn’t live very long as my arteries seized up with all the cholesterol. Worse than that was the occasion when I was sworn at and spat on by a drunk man on the Tube who heard my accent and took umbrage at newspaper reports of Scotland fans during the World Cup who were wearing Brazil shirts.

Yet English people in general are not defined by a hatred or a disdain for Scotland. The truth is that most people in England don’t know much about Scotland, and that harder truth for opponents of Scottish independence is that they don’t really care. The problem that Scotland has had for many decades is that the important decisions about Scotland have been made by a government in Westminster which is overwhelmingly composed of people who don’t know much about Scotland, and who only care about this country as a place to park the UK’s nukes and as a source of oil and gas. The desire for Scottish independence is motivated by wanting what is best for Scotland, and by the belief that a country is best governed by those who care enough about it to live in it and to understand it. No one can seriously claim that Boris Johnson knows and understands Scotland.

Scottish independence is driven by the democratic deficit. It’s driven by the fact that Scotland in the UK doesn’t get the governments it votes for, and those governments impose policies on Scotland that Scotland doesn’t want and which damage Scotland’s interests. That was bad enough when it was merely a government that Scotland didn’t elect. But Brexit is forever and the damage it causes will last for many decades. None of this has anything to do with hating English people or anyone else.

In 2014, a majority of people born in Scotland voted for independence. According to a major survey carried out by Edinburgh University following the independence vote, 52.7% of native born Scots voted in favour of independence in 2014. However of Scottish residents born elsewhere in the UK, overwhelmingly in England, a massive 72.1% voted against independence. These votes were sufficient to swing the overall result to No. This survey was widely reported in the press when it was published in March 2015. For example, there’s this article in the Daily Record, not exactly a bastion of Scottish nationalism :

The proof that the campaign for independence is not motivated by anti-English racism lies in the fact that despite a majority of native born Scots voting in favour of independence in 2014, this is not an issue in the independence campaign. You will not hear any mainstream independence campaigner or mainstream pro-independence party making the fact that native born Scots voted in favour of independence in 2014 a key part of this renewed campaign. However if the Scottish independence movement really was motivated by anti-English racism, then you might think it would be yelling to the rooftops about how we wiz robbed by English people living in Scotland.

Instead, it’s not an issue, and no one in the mainstream of the independence movement believes it should be. In fact, the mainstream independence movement is proud that it’s not an issue, because we don’t want a Scotland that is defined by a narrow ethnic nationalism. We seek a Scotland that is inclusive, welcoming, and tolerant. English people, or people from other countries, choosing to make their lives in Scotland and throwing their lot in with Scotland’s story is something to be proud of.

The Scottish independence movement promotes a civic nationalism. Scottishness is not defined by where you came from. It’s not just defined by who your parents were or where you were born. More importantly it is defined by where you live, where you love, and where you choose to build your life. People who come to live in Scotland, to give Scotland the benefit of their experiences and skills, enrich us all. New Scots are Scottish too, and those of us who are Scottish by accident of birth are proud to welcome them into our family.

This conception of who is Scottish is very different from the prevalent view of Britishness amongst the Brexit supporters who now dominate British politics. Brexit trumps all other considerations. They’d prefer to see Scottish independence rather than make any accommodations to Scotland. That fact alone tells us that the union is dead. Brexit is right wing English nationalism writ large, and Brexit is based upon and fosters a form of nationalism which is suspicious of immigration, is inward looking, and is characterised by a strong streak of xenophobia and exceptionalism. Can you imagine the outcry from Brexit supporters if it had been discovered that the votes of EU residents living in the UK had been sufficient to swing the result of the EU referendum to remain? In fact, EU citizens were not allowed to vote. Absolutely no one in Scotland would think to propose that the franchise for an independence referendum should be restricted solely to people born in Scotland.

That neatly illustrates the difference between a right wing populist movement which campaigns against immigration, and the Scottish independence movement. The stark reality facing Scotland in a Brexit Britain is that the Scottish independence represents our best chance of escape from ethnic nationalism.

The plan for this article and several others dealing with key points in the independence debate is to collate them and publish them in book form when we have a date for the independence vote. Some of these articles have already been published on this blog and others have yet to be written. The idea is that when we know when Scotland will be voting, I will do a crowd-funder specifically for the purpose of raising money to get the book printed, and then it can be distributed to Yes groups and campaigners and given away for free.

There’s already a Wee Blue Book, let’s have a Wee Ginger Book too. This isn’t meant as competition for the Wee Blue Book – which is a fantastic initiative with proven success – but rather it is to be complementary to it. Different writing styles and different books can appeal to different readerships and different demographics. The more information we can get out there, the more people we can persuade to Yes. If you have any suggestions for topics for articles to include in this book, let me know and I will write something up – if I haven’t done so already.

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31 comments on “Not hating – what really drives the indy movement

  1. James Kydd says:

    Unfortunately, it’s not true to say ‘no one’ would advocate only native Scots having a vote. The saving grace is that those people are widely ridiculed, if not ignored

  2. […] Wee Ginger Dug Not hating – what really drives the indy movement The Scottish independence campaign is frequently accused of being motivated by […]

  3. Millsy says:

    Excellent , Paul !

    Sadly , given the media we have to endure in Scotland , this tolerant view of Scottish Independence will never be widely publicised as it is not in keeping with the blatantly anti-Scottish propaganda spewed at us 24/7 !
    Even our ‘own’ BBC Scotland ( and this will shock you ! ) appears to be infested with this anti-Scottish agenda .

  4. Steve says:

    I am English by accident of birth (my mam was in Tyneside: what could I do?) I am Scottish by choice (lived here more than half my life, married a native and have three Scottish-born children.) I am European for preference (for all the very obvious reasons. I am British and ashamed of it (I mean, Boris as PM? Really?…)

  5. Steve says:

    I am English by accident of birth (my mam was in Tyneside: what could I do?) I am Scottish by choice (lived here more than half my life, married a native and have three Scottish-born children.) I am European for preference (for all the very obvious reasons. I am British and ashamed of it (I mean, Boris as PM? Really?…) Oh… And I’m aggressively indy….

  6. Bob Lamont says:

    Superbly stuff and as always cogently put, bravo…
    Now off tae hubby and tak a break, your country needs you, Kitchener aside, two weeks hence is fine, enjoy… 😉

  7. Simon Taylor says:

    So here’s the elephant in the room Paul.
    I am not one for ” blood and soil ” nationalism.
    But how do you rationalise the fact that a majority of those born in Scotland voted Yes in ’14 while around 75% of Anglo Scots i.e. those living in Scotland but from England, voted No.
    This is a real issue because,like it or not, feeling or being Scottish will influence to some extent the vote at the next referendum. Conversely how do you address the fact that many English folk who move here will always regard themselves as British and English ?
    They will vote No.
    I’m not being anti English however that signficant demographic do not and never will regard themselves as Scottish. What is the answer ?

    • weegingerdug says:

      I don’t have a problem with English people in Scotland continuing to regard themselves as English. The important thing is that they also feel welcomed in Scotland. It’s not true to say that this demographic will never vote yes. Even in 2014, without Brexit being an issue and with the constant messaging that independence meant being thrown out of the EU, 28% of them voted yes. I suspect the proportion will be higher now.

      The way to approach this issue is to have zero tolerance for any anti-English racism we may encounter within the indy movement, and to call it out and condemn it. We should also encourage and support the work of groups like English Scots for Yes, who can make a specific appeal to this demographic. And finally we should work our socks off to ensure that the overall yes vote amongst all demographic groups in the Scottish population is as high as possible.

      • Liz g says:

        Also if I understand it correctly….
        There are enough people born in Scotland to out vote the “Scots by Choice” .
        If anyone is worried about people born else where swinging the next vote….. The answer is to get more people registered and get their arse out to vote. Not to try to pick and choose who can vote!!!

        • Rhona Frisby says:

          I agree Liz g all the no voters I know are Scottish. One friend decided to wait until she was in the booth to decide where she would put her x.

    • Angry Weegie says:

      There’s no way I would exclude those who have chosen to make their life in Scotland. You would no doubt be quite happy to accept the contribution to Scotland of who have chosen to stay. In any case, there are more Scottish born Unionists who voted no. What do we do about them? How do you stop them from voting? Disenfranchise them? Send them to England?

      Perhaps there is one group that we could agree on. Those with second homes in Scotland who have registered to vote at both their home address and their holiday address. I personally know of one example in 2014 and I’m sure there were more. Better together were suggesting that No voters who had English relatives could register them in Scotland. Is there any way to stop this?

      • benmadigan says:

        Interesting point Angry Weegie – Scotland faces the same issue as Ireland.
        What happens to rabid Orange Order /Loyalist/Unionist types in case of independence or re-unification?

        Our future constitutions may say something along the lines of “everyone is equal, particularly in the eyes of the law” . . .

        but they are not going to easily accept no longer having any “British” privileges and protection

        • brianmlucey says:

          They will, in Ireland, mutter and mumble and some will shine and others will engage in criminality. The criminal assets bureau will descend on the godfathers like the wrath of their Calvinist god and the great hard chaws will find how hard it is to leave Portlaois Jail. The rest will, over time, morph into a gradually assimilated working class, with actual jobs, of a quaint but interesting minority

  8. Mark Russell says:

    It’s always a delight to read your posts, Paul – they are incisive, thoughtful and frequently side-splitingly funny. A triumph of contemporary Scottish writing and journalism. What you write about the indy movement is always encapsulated in your presentation – and I truly hope your vision for a new enlightened Scottish society is realised within our lifetime. It would be a shining example for others to follow. I like the notion that being Scottish is an attitude of mind – something anyone can aspire to. I can think of many born south of Carlisle who’d make an amazing contribution to the party – just as others from far flung places are doing too.

  9. Douglas Deans says:

    Thanks Paul,

    The misunderstanding of Scotland is huge. I grew up in England where I learned that, for a quiet life, it was best for a kid not to roll their Rs, I can still just about pass for ’norf’ London. When I was sent to Scotland during my time in the armed forces my colleagues had genuine concern for my well-being and how I would cope with being so far away from London (in Glasgow) and living in such a backward land. The fact that the transfer was my request made no difference (it was meant kindly, I’m surprised that I didn’t get food parcels). England is still the only place in the Anglophone or Westernised world that I would think twice about wearing a Scotland jersey. Elsewhere it’s an icebreaker, in some parts of England it seems to be a challenge.

    Maybe so element of misunderstanding is inevitable due to relative size and cultural projection; the Isles of Scotland know more about Scotland as a whole than vice versa, Scotland knows more about English culture and England knows more about American culture?

    There are exceptions, many English have an enthusiasm for Scotland that rivals even the Dutch and Germans.

    I long for the day when England as a whole finally frees itself of the British delusion and starts enjoying the company of other countries as equals.

    They are just as trapped by Britishness as we are.

  10. Lynn Fraser says:

    Bust the subsidised Scot myth in your wee finger book.

  11. Don McKillop says:

    There is only one matter stopping the dissolution of the Union and it is not the English Scots, nor is it the Rule Britannia Scots. We may even dismiss as irrelevant mainland European Scots as the major problem, however none of these would be of any concern if Scotland had its own fourth estate. A truly Scottish media would be truthfully expounding the positives of being governed in Scotland and analysing the negativity of remaining in the Union and being governed from London.

  12. Robert Harrison says:

    Youve seen the same level of abuse as i have in England just because i will never trust the people of England 100% and critise them to the extreme does not mean i hate them like you seem to think this is the level of abuse you do not just sit back and take from anyone as nationalty has nothing to do with beating 7 bells out of cowardly mouthy little bullies because they take the rascism route then dismiss it as a joke.

    • weegingerdug says:

      Robert, when you say that you will “never trust the people of England” because a minority of them have abused you, that’s you tarring all English people with the same racist brush.

  13. douglas clark says:

    Perhaps EU citizens, non – UK, who, as I understand it voted overwhelmingly for remain may well have changed their minds collectively speaking? If anyone was sold a pup, it is them. “Remain in the UK and your rights will be protected” ring any bells? What a con that was!

  14. Steviesparkie says:

    Well said Paul. Bravo 😊

  15. bringiton says:

    I am getting very tired of being “accused” as being a nationalist by supporters of the British state here in Scotland.
    I,along with most of my fellow self determinists,are above all democrats.
    It is the lack of democracy in Scotland that drives us,not our love of bagpipes,kilts and shortbread,lovely though these things are.
    Many of the supporters of the British state know this and because they have no logical argument to support the status quo,beyond mindless Better Together platitudes,resort to name calling and other forms of denigration.
    It’s about democracy,stupid.

  16. Robert Millar says:

    Hi Paul. If this article is for the book with a view to influencing undecideds you may wish to give some further thought to your line on “Scottishness” and immigration. I get that these are your views but I suspect that they will jar with many in your target audience – to say nothing of lifelong independence supporters like myself. I would hope that people who move to Scotland within the rules and regulations in force at the time – an important caveat – to live and/or work are made to feel welcome and encouraged to play a full part in their communities and society more generally. At the very least they should not be made to feel unwelcome. That is rather different from expecting the natives to be “honoured” or gratified by their very presence. I do not know anyone who would expect such attitudes should they or their families choose to migrate to another part of the world. Nor do I know anyone who would think of themselves as a national of a country just because they chose to move there to live and/or work. No problem with anyone who does but I suspect they are the exceptions.

  17. cirsium says:

    The figures from the University of Edinburgh study on the Scottish referendum were
    1. voters born outside UK 57.1 % No; 42.5% Yes
    2. voters born in rUK 72.1% No; 27.9% Yes
    3. voters born in Scotland 47.3% No; 52.7% Yes

    • Bob Lamont says:

      Please post the link to the study, I have no doubt that the population numerics were available also to place these three snippets of data in context..
      Puzzled why academia would select analysis on self-identified place of birth yet chose rUK and Non-UK as groupings neatly skipping the EU subset, which would only make sense from a later Brexit perspective..
      Not that this informs voting intent now of course, 5 years and almost 3 PMs on, Parliament and parties imploding, and memories of what they said they would do a mist floating off Islay…

    • Cubby says:

      The University of Edinburgh also said that the oil in Scottish waters would run out in 5 years time. 5 years ago.

  18. David Agnew says:

    Scottish Indy isn’t about being anti-English. Its about ending a political and economic union with England. But what is happening in England right now is very dangerous. There is a horrible and nasty element that seem determined to push a very blood and soil nationalism on the rest of the us. Its vicious. It is racist. It is isolationist. It is 100% British. Thanks to the no vote, Scotland has a ringside seat to watch something they said couldn’t happen here, happening here.

    The real anti-English element in Scotland however, is ironically from unionists themselves. They fear the English. Terrified of what they’ll do if we were independent. They English would erect a wall. The English would bomb our ports and air ports. The English wouldn’t buy Scottish produce. Stop using Scottish water, power, gas and oil. The English are the bogey men of union. Unionists aren’t just purveyors of the Scottish cringe, they are also cynically using fear of English nationalism to keep Scotland afraid and under Westminster’s thumb.

    You just watch these “proud to be Scottish but” types crank up the fear of old “Perfidious Albion”

  19. Cubby says:

    Funny how the regular poster on here Terry Callachan has nothing to say on this subject matter.

  20. A. Bruce says:

    I am a born Scot who would love to come home but can’t as this would mean that I would have to leave my wife of 44 years, as she would not get permission from the wastemonster govt. to live there. It also means that I can’t vote in Scotland; our only hope is that Scotland gets independence and stays in the EU.

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