Don’t Know 2

1510490790_e48a9ccbfbWe asked people who Don’t Know how to vote next year to share our concerns in 500 words. All this week we’ll be publishing their entries. By Simon Proctor.

So here’s the thing, I love Scotland. I love the people, the culture, the countryside and the cities. I came here 20 years ago this year to study and decided to stay. And I’m firmly behind the idea of Scotland cutting ties with the insanity that is London.

But, I am that most maligned of nationalities, an Englishman from the Essex no less. And frankly the rhetoric scares me, the concept of nationalism angers me and I can’t see how I can vote for it.

The thing is there is a vein of hatred woven into the spirit of Scotland that scares me and I am worried that the next year is only going to make it worse.
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17 replies

  1. I’m Danish and lived in Denmark until I moved to Scotland in 2002. I also hate ethnic nationalism with a passion.

    However, I’m a member of the SNP (our local branch convenor is an Englishman, by the way) and I’m also a Yes Scotland activist.

    The reason that there isn’t any contradictions in this is that the SNP and the vast majority of Scottish nationalists aren’t nationalists in the most frequent sense of the word. “We aren’t nationalists,”, as Angus Robertson felt it necessary to explain to a German newspaper.

    We are civic nationalists (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liberal_nationalism), which is the form of nationalism where the state derives political legitimacy from the active participation of its citizenry, to the degree that it represents the “general will”.

  2. Is this through personal experience or purely a fear of what you think may happen? Surely it can’t have been such a serious concern when you chose to stay? Are you equating ‘Nationalism’ here to what we are seeing in the BNP/UKIP?
    I see it as unfortunate terminology. That vein of hatred is, it would seem, woven into the human psyche and is not our preserve, however, the critical awareness of it is the best defence against its excess. We will not be rid of it by propping up a system that continues to use it as a tool.

  3. I am a Scot and I have lived and worked for the past 45 years in a number of former British colonies. I have seen them morph from anger, resentment and hatred of the colonial power and the perceived representatives of that power, such as myself, to small independent countries that have gradually gained maturity and now count the former colonial power and its citizens amongst their closest friends. Once you remove the reason for the anger and resentment by taking control of your own affairs I see no reason why Scotland should be any different

  4. I wouldn’t necessarily agree that there is “hatred” woven into the spirit of Scotland. However it would be wrong to suggest there is not resentment and grievance. It would also be wrong to suggest that this resentment and grievance has not always hit it’s intended target: Westminster.

    The oft hysterical colonial narratives of some being a case in point. The shameful days of “Settler Watch” in the North East of Scotland and the attacks on football fans during the world cup for another.

    Though it behoves me to say that much of this “hatred” is pretty statistically insignificant. It pales in comparison to sectarianism for instance (which is in itself another vastly exaggerated issue).

    Though I do not think it would be too wide of the mark to suggest that it is the current system that fosters such resentment and grievance. If we look to Ireland we can see that Dublin loves the English but dislikes the British and if look at Belfast we can see the reverse.

    Which suggests that on some level it is the constitutional settlement that belies these problems rather than some deep seated base “hatred” of the English. Indeed Hatred of the English (such as it is) is rooted in narratives of subjugation and colonisation. Playing up to notions of a stolen country that should really be consigned to history as we look forwards not back.

    In the event of a Yes vote why would Scots have cause to “hate” the English? In taking charge of our own affairs how could anyone justify continuing such a narrative? Scotland is not Zimbabwe with it’s continued narrative of blaming British colonialism for all it’s woes and it is unlikely to become it.

    I would suggest that the quickest solution to anti-English sentiment, such as it is, in Scotland is a Yes vote.

  5. I would say to Simon: if it’s the concept of nationalism that scares you, then have a wee listen to the words of people like Patrick Harvie, Dennis Canavan and Colin Fox. None of these folk identify themselves as nationalists, yet they all support Scottish independence, because they recognise (as I think you do) that Scotland is a distinct entity with its own culture and its own needs, and so the best people to make decisions about Scotland are the people who live here, like you and me.

    As for the vein of hatred getting worse – if it does heat up between now and the referendum, it’ll be mainly because of the horrible sort of rhetoric we hear from the likes of Margaret “my son would be a foreigner” Curran. I hope not, but if it happens, it will happen regardless of the result at the end of it. The important thing is what happens afterwards. With a No vote, we consign ourselves to being ruled by Westminster, but we also cling to our ability to place all the blame for our shortcomings on Westminster. With a Yes vote, we make our own mistakes, meaning the only people we’ll have to blame for things going wrong is ourselves!

    Imagine what the country will be like after a Yes vote – full of ideas and hope for the future, as people start to realise the possibilities we’ve opened up for ourselves. Then imagine what we’ll be like the day after a No vote, having just agreed to go along with the bedroom tax, austerity cuts and a referendum to pull us out of the EU looming on the horizon. Surely only one of those scenarios sounds like a hotbed of festering hatred?

    Go on my son, you know it makes sense.

    *Insert tedious “The Only Way Is YESsex” pun here*

  6. Thanks for your candour Essexman. Vote instead for the concept of Independence, as the word nationalism has been turned into a weapon to make us feel afraid of ourselves. If you really do see a vein of hatred toward English people woven into the Spirit of Scotland then how have you fallen in love with this country?

    Is it possible instead, that the hatred you discern in Scotland is a hatred of being talked down to, patronised, lied to, ignored, and demonised (as racist, simply for wanting to look after our own affairs, or as a vile cybernat, simply for disagreeing with someone on the internet)

    Protect the country that you have grown to love, and that you may even call Home, by putting the power to make decisions about it, in the hands of those who live there. Protect the free education for your children, the free care for our elderly, the Scottish NHS we have built over the years, and celebrated recently in Danny Boyle’s Olympic ceremony.

    Protect the Right to Roam, our legal and education systems and our remaining industries. The only way to avoid all of these things being slowly but surely eroded and dismantled is to vote Yes. It’s not about nationalism, it’s about normalism – to be like all the other independent nations in this world.

    Help build a better country Essexman, as it is your country too.

  7. It might help if you listen to this Englishman who came to Scotland and found he rather liked it.

    I always like to quote that great father of Scottish independence, Robert Cunningham Graham who said”
    ’The enemies of Scottish Nationalism are not the English, for they were ever a great and generous folk, quick to respond when justice calls. Our real enemies are among us, born without imagination’

  8. I didn’t explain myself well, I was at work and tossed out a few random thoughts. When I said vein of hatred I didn’t just mean against the English. The petty tribalism that I see perpetuated in the Celtic vs Rangers battles and the football matches that precede them scare me.

    A young boy I know was terrified to be near the Rangers stadium when there was a match on in case they realised he was a Celtic fan. Which spoke to the irrationality of the thing. Add to this the Orange marches that I have witnessed, hatred defended as “culture”.

    I do love Scotland I would not still be here 20 years later if I did not. It I find that aspect of it terrifying and I fear that the referendum may bring it to the surface.

    My fears may be groundless, I hope they are, and I am likely to vote for independence when the time comes, assuming we have the issues explained better over the next few months.

    • As an Aberdonian, I simply shake my head at the sectarian stuff. It seems totally alien here, where the question “what school did you go to?” is simply someone asking where you were educated, rather than to try and discern your religion. And the only reason someone will get any grief for being a Celtic fan here is because it means they’re snubbing their home team just to be a glory-hunting bastard!

      Conversely, when I lived in Glasgow for a while, I spent the last year or so opening my curtains every morning to “FUCK THE POPE”, “BNP”, “UVF” and “RFC” sprayed on the windows of the disused building across from me. And don’t get me started on my lovely Saturday lie-ins being interrupted by marching idiots with drums and whistles in the summer…

      Voting No for fears of the hatred that runs there would not only condemn the rest of Scotland just because of idiots in one area of the country celebrating a battle they don’t even really understand and that no one else cares about – it would also be letting them win! Let’s head towards the 21st century and maybe we can finally drag those idiots along with us.

    • I used to live ten minutes’ walk from Ibrox, so I completely understand your fears.

      However, I don’t think independence will make sectarianism worse, I think it’ll reduce the problem. I think there’s a reason why the Orange Order is strongly against independence — it’s because they know Britishness is such a big part of their identity that it’ll be very hard for them not to change in an independent Scotland. Also, a lot of the really bad expressions of sectarianism are really just symptoms of poverty, so the Common Weal and a’ that should alleviate the problems, too.

      Of course nobody knows the future, but it seems logical that when you’ve been unable to solve a problem for decades, the best chance of finding a solution is to change the over-all framework rather than keeping everything the same, just a bit worse.

  9. Interesting, I understand your point of view, my mother (not Scottish) doesn’t like the same aspects of Scotland as you. But she will vote yes. Plus we are not some backwater country and can deal with these issues appropriately.

  10. The Orange marches to which you refer, Scimon, are by an organisation which is firmly opposed to independence. You can hardly blame supporters of independence for what their opponents do! As for anti-Engish sentiment, when I moved back to Scotland, after many years in England, I had a young family who were culturally English in many ways. My younger son, in particular, was given a hard time at secondary school, by one boy in particular, because of his English accent. In the end, I decided to go round and talk to this boy’s father. He listened to my complaint, and then explained that, since his wife left him, he had been having trouble with the boy. But the really surprising thing for me was the accent in which he said this. The boy who had been giving my son a hard time over his English accent had an English father! Apparently, the boy blamed his dad for his (Scottish) mother leaving, so he had decided to take it out on my son who sounded a bit like his dad. Nowadays, regardless of his accent, my son is an active campaigner for a YES vote for independence. I have no idea what became of that other crazy mixed up kid.

  11. Hi
    It must be remembered that a yes vote is not a vote for the SNP. There will be elections in 2016 & a democratically elected party will be voted in. This dose not happen for Scotland in the UK general elections. We really just have to go on what the UK as a whole votes for & put up with it. A yes vote is really a vote for more accurate democracy in Scotland. I think its the way forward.

  12. The vein of hatred towards the English and England is a response to the kind of mockery that’s made of us when we are in England. I was visiting a friend in Bristol, and we went out to a pub together. We bumped into some of his English friends there, and the “jokes” they made about Scots and Scotland were sheer mockery. I was angry.

  13. I an English, and have lived in Scotland since 1989. I have never had an experience here that makes me feel ‘maligned’. My children consider themselves to be Scots, as do I. I feel totally integrated into Scottish life. Perhaps if I had not assimilated myself so easily, I might have felt excluded, but the author’s point is utterly beyond my experience and understanding.

    I’ll be voting ‘Yes’ do that my children and their children can live in country free of any colonial hangover, that can stand, as they will be able to do, as on its own feet and look the world in the eye. No more ‘subsidy junkie’ sneers, no more foreign adventuring at the cost of thousands of lives, no more ‘too poor, too wee, too stupid’.

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