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What connects Alasdair Gray, Dirty Dancing and Gary Tank Commander?


Satsumas or wee oranges?


Bear with me. The veteran Scottish writer and painter has been in the headlines after complaining about the high number of non-Scots in top arts jobs particularly — if I understand him correctly – folk who intend to come and go without getting Scotland under their fingernails. All hell’s been let loose online and in the twittersphere and one of Alasdair’s “colonists” Vicky Featherstone has written of feeling bullied after taking over as first Director of the National Theatre of Scotland because of her English origins. It’s all got very personal, very fast. Alastair’s not daft – he would have known that “naming names” prompts a defensive response. And the terms employed in the book chapter from which the newspaper article came are indeed loaded. Settler has the ugly connection of “white settler” – colonist has the unattractive overtone of colonialism.

So this is not to further analyse Alasdair’s piece – but to pick up on a very important subject that lies at its heart, sadly lost now in all the furore.

Do Scots believe they look and sound like winners, or leaders or folk able to apply for, win and shine in top jobs? My experience is that an overweaning concern about “sounding common”, not being able to speak “properly” in public, using bad grammar and “not knowing the right name for things” are the nameable aspects of a deep problem that stops many Scots taking the next steps in their lives and careers. It’s not necessary for anyone to be actively discouraged. The knowledge you’ve never seen someone with a working class accent or the Scots cadence of Easter Road or Govan reading the news tells you all you need to know. Having to explain references that are commonplace in your own background does the same. As Prof Tom Devine puts it – and I paraphrase – Scottish history is exotic for many young Scots. How can the norm be the exception? Quite easily.

Encountering folk who sound like you in every walk of life is the empowering fundamental upon which all subsequent tolerance and interest is built. So young Scots must see and hear the full panoply of their own accents, thoughts and references growing up – it’s the real and familiar bedrock upon which and through other cultures can be loved and investigated. As a young broadcaster born in Wolverhampton and brought up in Belfast I consciously used the everyday Scots of my Highland mum and dad on air and insisted on using first names of all interviewees (even members of the House of Lords) to achieve the level playing field that allows everyone to express ideas, not simply assert or hide behind status. A visibly and audibly level playing field in public life is vitally important to achieve equality of aspiration in any nation.

Ok – where does Gary Tank Commander come in? Well what are these?

Are they clementines, tangerines or satsumas? Naw they are all “wee oranges.”

Now this either prompts a laugh or you don’t get it. The writer Des Dillon is a great observer of the way Scots speak – and Scots generally don’t see a value in learning the tiny differences between exotic objects and are more interested in the infectious use of metaphor – thus, you may be thinking, see this argument – see mince.

But can a leader, a top person, a manager really be someone who (defiantly) calls mandarins wee oranges? Can you confidently say “aye” in a Scottish court without being done for contempt (it did happen in 1993.) Can Scots bring their “whole selves” confidently into the limelight in the powerful positions of their own country — and particularly into the highly contested domains of arts and the environment where “proper sounding” people abound? Of course you could say there are working class Scots in leadership roles and no-one is automatically born to occupy a top job – whatever accent or background they have. Perhaps that’s why Bradley Wiggins was a shoe-in for Sports Personality of the Year. He is that very rare thing. A working class lad made good without corners visibly knocked off in a sporting world usually dominated by those with parental cash, time and backing.

That’s where Dirty Dancing comes in. I’m not ashamed to admit (well I am a bit) this is my favourite film and not because of the late Patrick Swayze. The best line in the film was the exchange between the cringingly named “Baby” and her dad when she confessed to having a fling with Pat. You lied too – she says. You told me everyone has the same chance in life, everyone deserves to be treated equally. But you didn’t mean everyone. You just meant people like you.

And that of course is the moment kids really grow up. When they realise adults say a lot of things they don’t actually mean. Life should be fair – but in practice it isn’t. Boundaries and limits are quickly learned, acquired behaviour helps to firm up that “place in life” and self or peer-group policing then takes over. Thus girls can do whatever they want at school – as long as they all wear pink anoraks to school. Kids from backstreets can all be Bradley Wiggins – except they generally can’t without feeling isolated and weird. Scots can mumble away about the small beer things that make up their lives, culture and spoken tradition and still get top jobs. Except they don’t. Especially, ironically, in those walks of life that have most to do with the essentials of culture and nature.

If this was easy to measure or remedy Scots would have cracked inferiorisation – a problem observed and analysed across the world where less dominant communities have been stopped from asserting or developing their own values. So of course it’s impossible to say what proportion of top appointees “should” be Scots, impossible to say which individual non-Scots have sufficiently understood the Scottish zeitgeist to become “honorary Scots” and which individuals are stubbornly “rolling out the barrel” in defiance of all local Scottish tradition. Impossible to prescribe — and undesirable. Change takes time, patience, encouragement, small step promotion, risk and – above all — balance. The last thing that would be “natural for a trading nation like Scotland, is an unwelcoming reception for anyone who wants to come, visit, live here or come and then leave. The last thing that would ever be appropriate in this “mongrel nation” would be a state-prescribed mono-culture of (inevitably) synthetic Scottishness — since any essence is by definition impossible to describe or prescribe.

But the question still remains. Do Scots run Scotland? It’s a subjective argument and a cultural one. That doesn’t make it any less important or real. Just much, much more sensitive.

Before devolution, the average Scot stood on the sidelines and watched for decades – maybe centuries — as a different class with different habits, accents, vocabulary, cultural preferences, reading material, university backgrounds and presumptions about life got almost all Scotland’s top jobs. Those “leadership voices” were just as often educated Scots – indeed thanks to a law passed by the old Scottish Parliament, the eldest sons of clan chiefs had to be educated in English not Gaelic. A product of internal Scottish “control anxiety” not an edict from down south.

Until Scots believe in their heart of hearts that they are leadership material – just as they are – the sensitivity surrounding Scots and Scottishness in top places will endure. The terrible shame of the last few days is that the piece by Alasdair Gray hasn’t served to open up debate but make it too angry and hurt to even air. Ochone.

Nonetheless, there is a bit of craic in this podcast

The bit discussing Alasdair Gray starts 22 minutes in.



Comments (44)

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  1. Keith says:

    I’d love to know how many Scots and non-Scots work at SNH

  2. Nice one Lesley. On the same theme I went to see the Hobbit this week and the thing that had the most impact on me was the use of actors and accents for the different groups. All the dwarves had mainly Scottish with one Ulster and some northern English accents. The high heid yins and the likes of the Elves all had southern English’ received pronounciation’. So even a NZ director cannot resist the stereotyping.
    I’ve always believed the only way to move on from this and the standard cringe problem is independence. For example the Irish don’t have this problem IMHO. Having worked with them I always thought they were happy to keep their accent irrespective of even education and I’m sure that in negotiations they exploit the English belief that anyone with an Irish accent is a ‘thick Mick’

    1. Colm says:

      The vision of Ireland as this big classless place is a myth. Irish society was and continues in its own way extremely stratified with career progression subject to extremely restrictive institutional and political patronage.

      You could argue that independence itself contributed to the establishement of this system with Church and State conspiring to protect its own interests in the immediate aftermath of the Treaty and beyond. I’d argue that Scottish society is actually far more class conscious in terms of culture and politics.

  3. Well written piece Lesley.
    It is a thorny subject, who runs and controls the upper posts of Scottish cultural expression in Scotland. Like in any country, theoretically, it should be the Scottish actors, poets, dramatists and writers et al with a mix of talents from any other country. Conversely, are the top heights of English culture dominated by Scots? have they ever been? If they were, there would be an outcry for certain.
    When Blair’s team of Scots politicians were packed with Scots there was a deep simmering resentment in the corridors of power and in the press that verged on racism against Gordon Brown’s premiership and after he failed to show bottle and go for a general election when he should have, the sharks of London’s media circus circled him relentlessly until they feasted their killer teeth. He was a Jock too far for the London elites (but no one cried fowl! It was done so subtley – and I am no fan of Gordon Brown’s!).
    Over our history (at least from 1707) Scots themselves have led the process of Anglicisation (ridding themselves of Scotticisms etc and apeing the London English elites) and the London-centric domination of politics and the arts grew apace. It does seem that we cannot even talk about this subject without it descending into personality slights, insults and accusations of racism. The so-called Scottish cringe, of being made to feel inferior in their own country, told their very own language – Scots – is a bad regional inferior dialect of English – is all down to one culture assuming the dominant role of being superior to the indigenous culture of the Scots. As we are now in the process of re-forging our nation towards Independence it is high time we shed this notion of ‘inferiority’ and dump the ‘cringe’ in the trashbin of history. A cultural catharsis is at work and it is the latent and emergent ideas within our culture that will shape Scotland’s future, if we have the guts, intellect and vision to sieze the future. As an all-inclusive open society we must embrace all who will put their shoulder to the wheel and re-shape Scottish culture with a Scottish and international voice, wherever their talents were spawned: here or doon sooth. We hae plenty hame grown talent who can shine and should embrace those who join us.

    1. thom Cross says:

      Great piece from PH that urgently deserves more exposure.
      The persistent imposition of British rajist bureaucrats is/has been a political attempt at displacing, making impotent Scottish cultural autonomy. Indeed the on-going failure to build native capacity within our cultural agencies is/has been a strategic policy of Londonist political unionism: so deadly to our attempts at creating a genuine popular sovereignty.

  4. bellacaledonia says:

    This is a fantastic lucid piece. Such was the hysterical reaction to anyone questioning if Scots were under represented on boards of national arts bodies no one had chance to comment calmly and thoughtfully on whether it could be due native inferiorism rather than discrimination. You’ve raised the possibility here with a canny nuanced subtlety some of wish we could muster when the shells start to explode!


  5. piobaireachd says:

    Excellent piece. I remember a similar “concern” in the state forestry sector, of all places, a few years back. The position hasn’t changed much and is reflected in organisations like SNH, the RSPB, etc.When I joined the Forestry Commission, in the early 80s, the vast majority of forest managers were local men, as were the workers. The Tories implemented a new forestry act with the intention of selling off state assets (and paying off workers in fragile rural areas who were no longer required to manage those assets). When the abovementioned post-war generation of local foresters retired, they were replaced by men, mainly from England. These men were viewed, by their political masters, as being less concerned about implementing the redundancy programme. This opened the way for a wholesale ditching of the Commission’s social policy; that of employing local men, in order to support local communities. Within 5 years there was devastation. Performing arts are not the only culture which suffers from local disempowerment.

    1. wanvote says:

      Maybe the introduction of a social policy – like you mentioned in your last paragraph – could be a non-controversial way of addressing local disempowerment – that of employing local people, in order to support local communities. I have no idea if the “cultural Institutions” have a written social policy or not but it would seem acceptable if they had one that covered choosing the “correct” person as head honcho.

  6. annie says:

    You say ‘satsumas’
    I say ‘wee oranges’
    You say ‘you fool’
    I say ‘ya bawbag’
    satsumas! wee oranges!
    fool!, bawbags!

  7. Paul Cochrane says:

    Ah puir wahnt tae be a leedur but ma boss says a cannae cos ah’ve goat a mind o ma ain!

  8. FourFolksAche, very interesting about the Hobbit. I posted this exact thing 2 years back… http://michaelgreenwell.wordpress.com/2010/11/22/strange-ideas-about-united-one/

  9. John Pilger
    “You see, without real dissent – that is, dissent that makes us sceptical of what governments say, dissent that exposes cultural conformity – we lose freedom: not all at once, but bit by bit, so that we barely notice it slipping away.”

  10. Du should try getting ANY sort of professional job wi a Shetlan Scots accent. If I hed a penny fur every bit o abuse I’m taen fur’t I widna need ta wirk! Mostly fae Scots I might add. Inferiorism sure enoch

  11. Well put, Lesley. It’s such a fraught subject. I speak as one who was born in England of an English mother and a Scots father, and lived there for the first four years of my life, and was very much seen as “English” when I first went to school and until I fully discovered, only in my twenties, my Scottish identity. The fact is that in the arts, the environment, and very much so in landowning and the control it exerts, there is a dominance of either English folks or of Scots who have been to Anglicised public schools (following in the historical footsteps that you suggest). There are also quite a few Americans.

    Does this matter? Yes, but as I see it, not because of where they come from. As I see it, it matters for cultural reasons. For nearly 9 years now I’ve lived in Govan. It saddens me to see young people who would flourish elsewhere literally self-harming with knives (I have one young woman in particular in mind) because she feels so ashamed of being from Govan. What makes her like this, I ask my self? It’s not the English, or the Americans,who feature strongly in the arts world that interests her. But it is about cultural differences. It is about generations of what Frantz Fanon (in The Wretched of the Earth) called “inferiorisation”, and what Paulo Frieire (in Pedagogy of the Oppressed) called “cultural invasion”. It is about ways of speaking – RP (received pronunciation) says it all. It is, in a word, not about nationality, but about social class, and carrying the values or shibboleths of a particular social class that makes one acceptable, that lets one in beneath the radar.

    I see it all the time in my own work. I get traction in places that most people from Govan could never hope to have any traction because I know how to “speak” – and that is not just about words or accent. It is, to borrow from Stevenson, an “accent o’ the mind” or at least, in my case, the ability to convey acceptable such accents. I was speaking about land reform in England recently, and there was a shrewed woman in the audience who didn’t like what I was saying, and she looked at me and said, “You come over with that soft west coast accent, but….” I forget what the “but” was, but basically, she was saying there was a knife within the cloak that knew how to cut at her privilege. But the wee lass from Govan can’t do that, and ends up feeling that she’s just no good for anything, except maybe to be a cleaner (is what she told me, when she’d actually be capable of a PhD).

    The issue is not Englishness. My heart goes out to people in places like Leeds, where I spent a weekend at an event a while back, and they suffer the same problems but its even harder for them to name because their colonisation is not coming from over a border, it is coming from the social class system within. It’s about whether you went to a “good school” or “a comprehensive”, and all the ways in which that shows in your “habitus and hexis” as Bourdieu (who is de rigour for stating the obvious in universities) likes to call it. You bearing. Your sense of presence. What you surround yourself with. That kind of thing that is the give-away of class.

    Take all of that, and we then hit up against the population asymmetry. It’s true that many Scots make it when they get out of their claustrophobic environment, as it can be, and go to England. But Scots only represent 10% of the English population. The English represent 90% relative to the Scots. That means there’s a few smart Scots seeking jobs in England, but a helluva lot of smart English folk – and of a certain set of social mores that has to do with social class, and often valuing the social class system – that look towards the “good” jobs in Scotland. Ergo, we have the issue that Alasdair Gray names. We have our culture, and the resources that we put into it, too often being run by people who are not from the place. And if it was a bit of that it would not be a problem. But it’s a lot more than a bit of that. It can be something that smothers remaining confidence, and leaves people feeling the objects rather than the subjects of their own arts and environment. And I’m not saying that out of any personal sense of grievance at lack of opportunity. I grew up in a middle class (medical) family in a crofting community. I can walk in both worlds, and do. My concern is for the one-legged people – the mass of fellow Scots, or working class English, who can only walk in their own cultural milieu and because the issue cannot be talked about, remain hobbled.

    What is the solution? It is not to develop an anti-English or anti-American stance in these things. That would hobble our own deepest sacred values of hospitality for the short term, and fostership for the long term. The solution, I believe, is to build an awareness in the arts and environment of the need for cultural awareness. This is what drives a lot of the Gaelic thing. It is not so much, in my view, about language per se, but language serves as a cultural filter.

    It would be very wrong to have the English arts dominated by Scots, and I felt quite uncomfortable when Blair’s cabinet had so many Scots in it. There is a question of proportionality here. Maybe a need for affirmative action, and the arguments for and against that would be the same as those about affirmative action in race-related issues elsewhere in the world. But I stress – this is not about race. It is about culture and more than that, about social class. And why does social class matter? Why, when Andy Wightman and I managed to gatecrash a meeting of more than 400 members of the Scottish Landowners Federation at the time of the run-up to the Land Reform Act did it seem to matter that there was an overwhelming preponderance of braying Etonian accents (many from people of our “noble” Scots families)? It matters because class is about power. Class is asymmetrical. In class, some are born to lead whereas others are deemed born to be lead. These are issues as much for England, maybe even moreso, than for Scotland.

    Some of us were raised middle class. I look at people of my level of native intelligence here in Govan – some much sharper than me – and privately I shake my head, and think, “They haven’t got a hope.” Not everybody, by any means. But some of them will have a gift – for example, the ability to make things of beauty – but there is just so much difference culturally that in their lifetimes, they’re not going to make it – by which I mean finding a fair share of recognition and means to make a wholesome livelihood. Why is this? Because they’ve had so little in so many ways. Poverty is brutal. What is needed is a huge shift of arts resources into such communities, and in a wide way that is about cultural affirmation and deepening, including personal psychological growth to put right the damage done and perpetuated intergenerationally. There are English people working with poverty here in Glasgow – Bob Holman is a famous example, Gehan Macleod (nee Ibrahim) at the GalGael Trust is another – who have led things and totally belong, because they see behind these issues of class, and use their gifts to stand in solidarity with those who have so little. Give us more such English people. But take away this poison of any sense of social class superiority. Take it away, also, where it appears in Scottish nationalism. There is only one question that counts. Where do you stand? Are you with those who are on the make? Or are you where the suffering is? As a Latin American poet said. “Solidarity is the tenderness of the people.”

    I’m sorry to have gone on. Alasdair Gray has had the courage to raise a deep issue. I hope that those he has hurt might sit with it, and work it through, and come to see that there is potentially healing for us all in this, because we are all in it together, and what matters, as Freire and the liberation theologians have said, is that we deepen towards our full humanisation.

    1. I’ve only been reading BellaC on a regular basis for a few months, but this is the best ‘comment’ I’ve seen. Great stuff.

      1. some great comments on a great article.

    2. James Coleman says:

      @Alastair McIntosh December 20, 2012 at 08:56
      An excellent post. It really is criminal how much talent in the world is wasted as a result of poverty.

    3. Great post.

      She could et a PhD. Don’t think it would change the world that much for her. It won’t. Postcodes and the language people speak matter far more than anything else in Scotland. Scotland itself has to change, if that wee lassie is to stand a chance. Scotland has to rid itself of the bigotry that is classism.

      Do you see that happening? I don’t. That means sharing the good jobs with the Govanites. That’s less good jobs for the PostCode Jims and Jans. It’s the Scottish Whack-A-Mole game. lf one gets out the hole.. run, whack it back down as hard as you can. The capable poor and working class are not and will not be tolerated. We all know it. Not all of us are willing to admit it.

      It is difficult to break the sexist glass ceiling. We all know that. Try being female, bright, capable, intelligent and from a family who live in the schemes, who like living in their schemes, like their neighbours and cherish their many many years there, in their home, their community. Or perhaps a similar wee lassie from some of the poorer coastal villages around Scotland. You can get your education in Scotland. That’s not the hard part if you are poor (yes, I know the poor are thoroughly disadvantaged in that), the hard part is realising that education is not, will never be enough, because it isn’t you with the problem. It’s institutional and you are not in that institution. Do what generations have done. Get your education. That’s good if you can. If you want more, want to be taken seriously, then pack your backs and leave these islands, or take elocution lesson and learn to lie about your background and become a Postcode Jim or Jan. These are the only ways you will find the success you desire and live your ambitions to the full until enough people admitting there is a problem and are willing to rip the institutions in Scotland apart and rebuild them.

    4. Mike Vickers says:

      Alastair McIntosh’s contribution takes the discussion out of the England v Scotland diatribe to the much more relevant The Educated and The Not Educated. The Educated are more likely to travel than than the Not Educated. The Educated Scots go to England: the Educated English Come to Scotland.
      In this respect the children of Govan are likely to fare no worse than those of Birkenhead – both live in derelict shipyard areas; neither live in ‘middle class’ districts and where they would be conditioned to ‘get educated’. Until there is more attempt at balanced education across the UK – not just Scotland the situation is unlikely to change.
      It is depressing that the Scotsman religiously publishes the league table of School success across Scotland and in consequence illustrates the high level of attainment in Newton Mearns and the low level of attainment in Govan. I have not looked at this year’s results but last year’s the best % increase in Attainment was in the poorer areas of Glasgow but no Headlines here!
      And as Lesley Riddoch preaches – education should start at two or three.
      When anyone complains are the price of Fundamental Research, the stock defence is that it improves our Knowledge and anyway something practical always comes out of it. How more so for Education.
      And of course Education goes with Jobs
      Who reading these comments did not go to a middleclass academy?
      Finally a plug for Melvyn Bragg’s ‘In Our Time’ on Radio 4 on Thursday mornings – this should be compulsory listening for all fifth and sixth formers – all programmes for the last 10 years and Scotland is included also with David Hume and The Enlightenment in Scotland and more.

  12. bellacaledonia says:

    Thank you Alasdair. I urge anyone who hasn’t read Unstated to read Christopher Whyte’s essay on shaming, sexuality, and creativity. It’s moving and profound and offers some potential balm to the wounds opened up by Gray’s writing. He writes: “Perhaps what I am hoping for, not just on a symbolic level, is that those living in an independent Scotland can prove willing to face their dark side, which would mean an honest settling of accounts with the past.” And later: “Moving out of victimhood means we no longer concentrate on what the rest of the world, on what outsiders (who may well be identified in our own midst) are said to have taken from us or perpetrated.”

    Kevin MacNeil’s essay is also superb: The Edicts of Jock Tamson: Not parity of contempt but parity of compassion.

    John Aberdein’s is also worth the cover price alone. This is insightful creative inspiring stuff. We need to draw from it as well and not be sidetracked solely by the colonisation debate. But it is possible that this unearthing is the start of a process of healing and dialogue if we can be brave and open and not hide away from the issues.


  13. andywightman says:

    Alastair – thank you for your contribution. Please let’s have more of your valuable praxis. Two minor points for the record. First, I did not gatecrash a meeting of the Scottish Landowners’ Federation as far as I can remember. You were on your own in that adventure! Second, your reference to “anglicised public schools” Public schools as private institutions are an English concept and so cannot be anglicised. I think you mean private schools in Scotland? They are not public schools. Public schools in Scotland are public. See, for example http://www.edinphoto.org.uk/0_B/0_buildings_-_broughton_primary_school_005979.htm
    The term was coined in England by the aristocracy who decided that their children would be better educated outside of the home (where Governesses typically provided their education) in “public schools” where they could mix with other members of what they regarded as “the public”. The term was given statutory effect in the Public Schools Act of 1868 http://goo.gl/jm6IE

    1. Andy … 2 meetings confused here. I wasn’t meaning the one that you so amusingly describe in The Poor Have No Lawyers where, having been invited to attend as a landowner’s “factor”, I got ejected through the door and into the wheelchair of the passing Duke of Buccleuch. (The full text of that splendid invitation letter is given in pp. 85 – 85 of the said book – as you say, it would merit a PhD). The meeting I refer to was the one we both managed to get in to organised by Turcan Connell – but I would agree that “gatecrashed” is not quite the right word. We did manage to get invitations. But once in, I think we were seen as gatecrashers. I certainly was by Lady Balfour when it came to our theological dispute during question time!

      I take your point on how we refer to public/private schools. The difficulty here is when writing, as I often do, for a non-Scottish readership, for whom a “public” school is a private school. The sad thing for the English is that the very term “public school” shows how an institution intended for the public good (often in contrast with religious schools) was hijacked by the upper classes. There is a gaunt Victorian building over towards Ibrox that says in stone above the doorway, “Govan Public School”. I wonder if we could market it to the foxhunting classes?

      In Scotland, where I write about private schools being “anglicised”, I do so (as detailed in Soil and Soul) in the context of Acts that started with and followed on from the Statutes of Iona (1609), which explicitly, as Lesley Riddoch touches on, required the eldest sons and, later, all children of the Highland clan chiefs to be educated in the English language, as part of James VI’s campaign to destroy Gaelic culture which he considered to be “utterly barbarous”.

      Lastly, I see another comment that talks about needing to build a Scottish future irrespective of social class. Yes, if the privileged classes use their privilege to serve those who are less privileged, but not otherwise. Such would only be to the comfort of the likes of Donald Trump.

  14. Dougie says:

    I have found working all over UK we are pretty similar, yes there is a “elite” but the Edinburgh,and Glasgow School tie is as strong a network as its English counterpart. 60 percent of Lawyers have attended one Glasgow School. There has to be a way of giving children and indeed Adults Ambition, self belief that children from a private Educational background have in abundance…is it self belief,or the stability of having. No financial worries? One reason why the yes vote won’t win is the lack of belief we have in ourselves. We should be rushing to change the status quo to make Scotland a place of opportunity and possibility for all regardless of class or indeed Nationality

    1. andywightman says:

      Where do you get your statistic of 60% of lawyers attending one Glasgow school?

  15. I dont see any scouse or cockney accents reading the news in England. I do worry about the notion that ‘arts’ appointments should be based on nationality rather than on experience – they are arts jobs not scots jobs

    1. bellacaledonia says:

      They are arts jobs and we need lots of diversity and perspectives. We don’t have those things. There is no equivalent to that described by Alasdair of the new head of the equivalent of Creative Scotland arriving and announcing ‘he knew nothing of English culture but was willing to learn’. Wouldn’t happen. Ever. Would be deemed (rightly) to be embarrassing and stupid as an appointment. Here it’s routine.

    2. Juteman says:

      Would a Native American organisation in the US have a Swede as it’s head?

      1. That would be a turnip for the books.

      2. Juteman says:

        Yeah, it’s a maize.

  16. Juteman says:

    Nothing startling to say.
    Simply, great article, great comments.

  17. JON BURKE says:

    Ms Featherstone can do a fine line in bullying herself and knows well how to put people in their subservient place.

  18. dpb says:

    In the US, we are feeling colonized by Craig Ferguson.

  19. Mike Vickers says:

    Where does Robbie Burns come in – ‘Auld Lang Syne’ the closing song at the the ‘Last Night of the Proms’
    And in central Africa ‘Dr Livingston I presume’ though I note that Wiki quotes that he was born David Livingstone

  20. Clydebuilt says:

    Non Scots at the head of Scottish Sport.

    Stewart Regan Chief Executive of SFA.
    Neil Doncaster chief executive of the SPL

    Mark Dodson CEO. OF SRU

    Nigel Holl Chief Executive Scottish Athletics

    Sport Scotland ?

    In rugby and football our teams are not doing well.
    Andy Robinson(departed manager) was granted a long extension to his contract BEFORE a recent major tournament. Scot Jhonson has been apointed as interim head coach who according to Kevin Ferrie the Herald 21/12/12 has an abysmal record. Kevin writes the great and good of Scottish rugby wanted Sean Lineen. Linen was The Glasgow warriors coach who was sacked after the warriors most successful season ever.

    In football George Burley a previous manager was given a very hard time by the scottish media print and BBC. George had been manager of the year in England. Our press made life very hard for George
    Once the press had got rid of George they told us how happy the players were with the new manager Craig Leveine. eventually Levein’s record became worse than george burley’s . Only after our hopes were all but dashed for qualifying for Brazil did The press finally push out Levein.

    Would the Better together camp be best pleased if Scotland qualified for Brazil in 2014 , and our Rugby boys were winning. Just a thought.

  21. Clydebuilt says:

    Apologies for the spelling……too close to Christmas!

  22. I was contacted last week by the journalist Dani Garavelli writing freelance for Scotland on Sunday. She had picked up on this discussion and wanted to probe further. I have to say that I was impressed by her line of questioning, though her piece as it appears in SoS today is clearly pushing a point of view consistent with that currently advanced by Scotsman publications. It is at http://www.scotsman.com/news/arts/dani-garavelli-proud-of-scotland-s-melting-pot-1-2704736 .

    I find it interesting that she remarks that “Settler Watch” type activity was at its high point in the 1990s. I myself received (and still have on file) a letter in October 1992 from the now-disbanded organisation, Siol nan Gaidheal. Sent from the “National Security Department” of their “Specified Aliens Section” it warned me against the work I was then involved with through the Isle of Eigg Trust, working in ways that were inclusive of both indigenous islanders and English incomers such as the great Maggie Fyffe. It said: “Be careful, Mr McIntosh, that your accessible, inclusive, participative, tear-stained ‘idealism’ doesn’t trip you up.”

    Only last week I was remarking to my wife that my sense of things both from going back to Lewis regularly and weekly subscribing to the Stornoway Gazette and the West Highland Free Press is that there is a lot less tension these days in rural areas between English incomers and the indigenous populations. I said to her that I think it is because the incomers have worked to develop more of a culture of understanding themselves and the differences that they can represent. One of the main differences, as I have often heard my English mother say, is that “If you don’t push, you won’t get anywhere,” while in West Highland culture, you don’t push yourself forward, but wait to be invited, and usually, persuaded. However, understanding these things is not rocket science, but it does take a willingness to understand, and I think there has been a cultural shift where, in response to the unease of the 1990s, there has been more effort to address cultural issues on both sides, and a consequent melding of the sides which is particularly apparent amongst the young. I spent a week leading a study tour on Eigg in May this year, and it was wonderful to see examples of the young not only coming back made possible by access to building plots, but with their partners from goodness-knows-where but all clearly united by the “demanding common task” (as George Macleod called it) of making community work.

    My worry these days is less about community cohesion in rural areas, but in urban deprived areas. Verene (my wife) went to a local hairdresser the other day. “What do you think are the main issues in Govan just now?” she asked, to which the hairdresser replied that it was east Europeans. I was in a local office on Thursday, and was following through where things are at with a woman in the community here who has been speaking of suicide because the implications of the “bedroom tax” kicking in in April mean she’s had a letter from the Glasgow Council saying she has to move elsewhere, or lose 25% of her benefits for “under-occupancy by two bedrooms or more” (it is 14% for one bedroom’s under-occupancy). While finding out what was going on with her, I was told another story of a guy who had refitted his kitchen, and made a beautiful garden, but is not being forced out and his house given to a Polish family with children.

    I have every sympathy with the Polish family with children, but at the same time, what I’m seeing here is poor being set against poor. This was what fed what happened in Nazi Germany as unemployment reached I think it was around 30%. In the postcode area where I live here in the Drumoyne area of Govan – which is one of the better areas, 33% of the total population are classed as “income deprived” (Google “Scottish Neighbourhood Statistics” and enter your own postcode).

    I hear these stories from people who are hurting in our society right now, and I just shake my head. My “accessible tear-stained idealism” cuts in all directions, and what can one say? The bottom line is poverty, and it is poverty that is more and more going to be driving ethnic tensions in Scotland as this bedroom tax kicks in, and people are forced to move away from the social linkages and sense of “home” that they have established, and become frightened.

    I was doing something for the BBC a few weeks ago and wanting to mention the bedroom tax. My editor pleaded with me not to. It was “too political”. It wasn’t central to what I wanted to say and he was new on the job, so I didn’t push it, but I marked the nervousness, and it bothered me.

    Why am I writing this? Because we need to be aware of the wider pressures driven by poverty that, if we do not watch out, could pour toxin into our society, and indeed, are already doing so. The issue goes far beyond the arts, but into what drives prejudice. The answer is not to deny that there are problems. That’s only the prerogative of those who hide from the kind of raw experience I’ve just described. The difficulty is how to discuss the problems with those who are hurting without our sugar turning to salt in the wound. It is how to discuss with people at the other end of the social spectrum whose hackles raise if their sense of entitlement is challenged. In particular, as benefits cuts bite, safety nets need to be put in place with this bedroom tax. Clause 67 of the relevant circular seems to be a way round this if the politicians are listening – see http://www.dwp.gov.uk/docs/a4-2012.pdf .

    Lastly … in our house last night we had a party where fully half of those present were people whose skin colours were non-white, and people literally came from all over. I don’t want to see this kind of beautiful multiculturalism – and something, by the way, that London now excels at as we saw in the Olympics opening ceremony – damaged by the poor being so squeezed, that they turn on other victims. Our solidarity must be where the suffering is, and if the meek are to inherit the Earth, we must help them to get ready.

    I apologise – I have crossed various wires in this post – but the issues are a tangled skein, and I treat posts such as this as being off-the-cuff rather than polished statements of opinion.

  23. ich bin ein burdiehouser says:

    Anyway – James Kelman is using Norway as an example today, Tam Dean Burn has tweeted “it needs more research” – well my brief googling has uncovered ……..since the late 19th century, the National Theatre of Norway has always had a Norwegian Artistic Director.
    Probably cause they ken whit that Ibsen gadge is spraffin aboot.

  24. Alastair McIntosh is serially hitting nail-heads in this thread – the implication that poverty can be used to pit the ‘poor’ against one another may be viewed by some as cynical (not saying that you said that Alistair) but we have to remember that we’re dealing with a generation of politicos (esp the New Labour ‘pragmatists’ who insisted that every apparatchik always had a copy of ‘The Prince’ within reach) who will do anything – anything at all – to get or keep power. Showing preferential treatment to one impoverished minority at the expense of another is nothing new, and they do it because it’s effective.
    Recently, at an SSP public meeting in Ardrossan, exp MSP Campbell Martin spoke about a discussion with a senior local authority figure (who was not named) – the official, referring to the impending cuts, used the word ‘armageddon’. Poverty is undoubtedly one of the most effective weapons in the State’s armoury, and we should be in no doubt that it will be used. By the end of this winter we’ll have a clearer ides of just how far they’ll go, when folk start to get eviction notices – be prepared for a repeat of the Poll-Tax scenario, when people defended one another against Sheriff Officers.

  25. Thanks ianbrotherhood, and all … it’s a funny thing but writing these posts leaves me shitting myself … a real sense of transgression from saying things where there’s a huge social filter against saying … so it’s very nice to get positive feedback. I don’t think I’d last long in politics, but let us work towards a politics that feels for the other, that seeks to discern a way forward rather than always being adversarial. There are even Tory politicians in Scotland for whom I’ve got respect. We need to be writing to them saying, “You know, you’d better do something: this Bedroom Tax is going to bring disrepute on The Party.”

    A couple of points of clarification – I see that Dani Garaveli’s article ended up on her Scotsman blog, and not in the paper.

    In my post immediately above, where I refer to “the other end of the social spectrum” I mean, of course, the privileged end, and not the underprivileged end. And were I said “is not being forced out of his house” it should have read “is now being forced out of his house.” I’d dropped Mike Small an email asking him to tweak those during moderation, but it looks like he’s maybe doing more sensible things with his time this Christmas eve than I am write now (and there goes another Freudian).

    Happy Christmas everybody.

  26. Alistair,
    I agree that you probably wouldn’t last long in ‘politics’ – the obscene soap-opera it’s become would, I fear, quickly ‘put you in your place’ (if it could even find a place for you). But, what is ‘politics’ when you strip away the celebrities, the vested interests, the careerism, the Punch & Judy spectacle of PMQ/FMQ etc? – the real ‘business of the city’ is happening here, on this and other blogs. (eg NNS’s brilliant piece on BBC Scotland, headlining today – where, right across the MSM in Scotland, has anything similar appeared? I would love to know who wrote that – anyone know, or care to step forward? Whoever you are – respect…)
    Like Andy Wightman, I look forward to seeing more of your ‘praxis’ in 2013 (I had no idea what that meant, had to look it up) – but I do know what you mean about the sense of ‘transgression’, especially when you’re using your real name. That ‘huge social filter’ you refer to is developing bloody great holes, and more folk are coming forward, participating in these discussions. I’m not that big on New Year predictions, but here’s one I’d put, ooooh, a tenner on – by the end of 2013, the politicians who really do matter and care (and they do exist, albeit endangered and rarely seen) will be participating in these discussions: here; on NNS; Wings; LPW etc. They’ll have to come into these fora as equals with the rest of us, take the brickbats as well as the moderation and occasional plaudit – this is what real democracy looks like, and this is what real politics could and should be about. If they can rekindle the nobler motivations which brought them into politics in the first place, and if they seriously want to be part of the new Scotland? They will want to do so. And if they do? I’m sure they will all be made very welcome.
    Alistair, orraverybestest to you and yours, and thanks again to BellaC and the regular posters for providing a really stimulating, hopeful and positive forum – Mike and Kevin deserve great credit for what they’ve done here. (Shouldn’t we have some kind of get-together where we can give these guys a round of applause and buy them a pint?) In any event, more power to ye’s all. Bring on 2013.

    1. Here I reveal my true depth of ignorance. The vast black holes of the largely self-taught! NNS – googles National Numeracy Strategy. MSM – Mission led Ministry. I don’t think so! So can you provide a link? Great stuff … thanks. Over and out for Christmas. A.

  27. NNS – newsnetscotland.com
    Wings – wingsoverscotland at wingsland.podgamer.com
    LPW – lallandspeatworrier.blogspot.com
    MSM abb. for ‘mainstream media’


  28. RevStu says:

    I still can’t believe there (apparently) hasn’t been a SINGLE Scottish director of the Edinburgh Festival.

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