Johnny Foreigners

Calm down dear, nobody’s going to be foreign.

I’ve been struck over the years, but especially recently, that the No campaign’s “Solidarity” argument is as psychologically revealing as it is weak. There seem to be three strands to it: first, the heartstrings (“I care as much about poverty in Southend as Scotland”); second, the disloyalty (“we can’t abandon the UK to perennial Tory rule”); and third, (“we achieve more as the UK, it represents us fine, our interests are basically the same anyway”).

Even worse, I’ve seen a couple of more extreme manifestations of it in recent weeks which have spurred me to my laptop to try to put this feeling into words, and untangle it from inside my head – the idea that independence will make us and those remaining in the UK “foreign” to one another.

I want to face this mindset down hard and publicly, because it is at best wrong and at worst cynically divisive.

I’ve always struggled to understand any aspect of this attitude, and I’ve only recently started to realise why. Simply, I don’t limit the boundaries of my, or Scotland’s, interests or ambition (in any sense) to the boundaries of the UK. Why would I? We, as Scots, have links of kith and kin, love and affection, to individuals at home and across the globe.

For my part, I grew up in Saudi Arabia, studied in Leeds, Heidelberg, Warsaw and Nottingham, worked in Glasgow, New York, Spain, India, Belgium and London, and have immediate family in Kuwait and San Francisco who I FaceTime every day, crossing 11 time zones at the click of a mouse to sing Ba Ba black sheep with my wee (American/Orcadian/Glaswegian) niece. Perhaps I’m an extreme case, but there’s not a family in Scotland that doesn’t have links and memories spanning all across the world. How many families grew up sending a Broons Annual or the Sunday Post to Corby, London, Auckland or Vancouver?

Whatever constitutional future we choose, all the memories, links, bonds and ties we have, we keep. We’ll always have Paris (or Brighton), that holiday in Nepal (or Northallerton). My second cousin is going to remain Canadian, and just as accessible. Your English uncle will be the same; your French sister-in-law still French, and your Scottish siblings who live in Ulan Bator will still not be foreigners to you. On the page it even seems beyond daft that I have to spell it out, but the No side has made it so.

So hey, No side! Gonnae just stop? And you accuse us of the politics of division, sheesh.

So to come back to the various manifestations of the No argument. The first argument – heartstrings – is especially iniquitous. I care about poverty everywhere. I’ve spent years working against it at home and abroad through trade, effective EU budgets, useful international development policies and the science and energies of the future economy. The idea that poverty in parts of England necessitates us sharing a government is not an argument for the UK, it is a damning indictment of it. Where I was born, Balornock in Glasgow, has a lower life expectancy than the Gaza Strip. Don’t tell me we’re all in it together. The UK may well do OK, for some. I want to be part of a country that does better for everyone.

The second No shows contempt for UK democracy; and it’s wrong; it doesn’t even stand arithmetic analysis. I’ll be the first to agree the Westminster voting system is archaic and decaying and reform seems a distant hope, but it is not that reform is impossible if the good people of the UK wish it. But here’s the thing, most don’t. The North East of England had a chance to vote for an Assembly. Didn’t. Remember the AV Referendum? No, me neither. Independence offer us the chance to do things differently, to put people back in charge of their lives and their communities, and I just don’t see Westminster as capable of delivering that sort of radicalism. Largely because the majority of the good people of England don’t see the need, and that is their right, same as the political complexion of their future governments will be their choice. They should be allowed to choose the colour of their future governments in the manner that they think suits them best.

The third No is based on two presumptions; that the UK is a force for good, and that our interests are the same. It doesn’t stack up. See picture above.

We live in a multilateral and interdependent world where a prosperous future relies on cooperation and solidarity with other nations. Some nations have realised this long since and have been working towards a better future, others still believe in superpowers and supremacy. In this regard the UK suffers delusions of independence. A permanent seat at the UN Security Council proves nothing than the urgent need to reform the UN to suit our times. Smaller countries do multilateralism better, largely because they lack the delusion that they can get away without it. Scotland’s international interests no longer closely match those of the UK – if they ever did, but we’ve only recently started flexing those recently reacquired policy muscles. I don’t believe in fabricating differences where none exist, and where the interests of an independent Scotland and the UK coincide then I’ll be the first to work with friends and allies. But for the best part of 300 years, we have not been asked what Scotland’s priorities are, we’ve been told. Yes, of course, we were part of the decision making, but hardly as an equal partner. Only recently, with the re-establishment of our national parliament, have we had the capacity to decide our own priorities and forge a modern, international view for Scotland.

And at policy fork after fork, Scotland has taken a different path from the UK, one which better suits our different needs and wants. Prescription charges, tuition fees, freezing council tax, protecting the NHS, improving justice, eschewing xenophobia, offering an international hand of friendship – we’ve chosen a different future already, and the more we walk that different path, the more we seek a different future, and the more we’ll build Scotland in our image.

Independence isn’t about being separate or foreign, get with the times. It’s about joining and taking part. Taking the tools to do what we need to do to build a state that works for the many not the few, that we can be proud of and one that engages with our interconnected world on terms that suit us. And puts the people of Scotland back in charge of their own lives, their own communities and, as a result of that, gives us our own voice in the world. In that order. And all the personal ties we have, we keep. That sounds good to me.

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  1. Peter Swain says:

    Well said, Alyn ! My wife and I were born in England, but are happily settled in Scotland, and active members of the SNP and of the YES Scotland campaign. We don’t think of friends and relatives in England and in Wales as “foreign”, and will not do so after independence.

  2. Said so well I agree with the whole sentiment,just need to get the nae chancers to read and open their minds and hearts to it.

  3. Piobaire says:

    Increasing numbers of Scots are seeing the absurdity of the foreigner tag. I’ve lived in Denmark, Sweden, Germany, Canada, Ireland, France and England. I have friends and / or family in all of them. None are foreigners, simply friends, family and fellow world citizens.

  4. Alasdair Frew-Bell says:

    By foreign they usually mean different, not like us not one of us. They would be happier if we were more like them rather than be ourselves. Farrage and co and his many clones among the ScotBrits know nothing nor care anything about our country and its cultural patrimony. When we put our case for sovereignty based on our unique differences such differences are dismissed as local and parochial compared to the glories of……(fill in the blank) Just about everything anglo scotches anything we might have the nerve to proffer. The Union made us, we had zilch to offer before it dont ya know, and we ought to be obsequiously grateful.
    Of course why they would wish to be saddled with such a load of surely ingrates rather than encouraging them to piss off via a vote for independence is something of a mystery. We’ve obviously got stuff they want, just cant think what that might be at the moment.
    Anyway Scotland and Scots reconnecting with the world is for me what independence is really about. Enough of the self-marginalizing “Wee Jock” mindset, time to get sophisticated, worldly wise and free.

  5. Cat MacKenzie Hyde says:

    I agree whole heartedly…and thanks to my (late) grandparents sending the Sunday Post and Inverness courier home to Oz for my family every month…not to mention our much anticipated Broons and Oor Wullie every xmas….My cousins who all live in housing estates outside of Edinburgh, are all voting NO, because they dont want to lose their welfare benefits…REALLY??? thats not an excuse in my book…get off your arse and work for your beloved Scotland. I am so Pro Scotland, they get wild with me, they tell me I shouldnt have an opinon as Im not even Scottish (WTF) so I was born in Australia to Scottish parents…I grew up in Inverness and Sydney, had the best of both worlds and 2 cultures. I am as Scottish as Sir William Wallace. Im sick of NO voters not coming up with a genuine excuse as to why their better off…and welfare payments and council housing shouldnt come into it. Im proud that my Scotland is wanting to make the change, and I for one cant wait to hear the votes called, and Scotland shall be independent 🙂

    1. I am disturbed by all the rhetoric going around ‘Welfare’. This is being used by the Westminster government and a compliant media to persecute the most vulnerable members of our society. It is completely comical and utterly deluded that your cousins believe a ‘No’ vote will secure their benefits. Everything in terms of benefits, healthcare, human/workers rights and legal protections are being systematically destroyed at present by the coalition. Labour are committed to following the same path of ideological tyranny.

      Is this the kind of society we want to live in?

      Your argument that ‘welfare’ (and lets call it what it actually is : Social Security) shouldn’t come into the independence debate is deeply troubling to me. A fair and just Social Security system should be one of the keystones of the campaign and any forthcoming Scottish Constitution. As well as protecting the Scottish NHS and the legal system.

      People are being driven to total poverty and suicide because of the actions of this government. Using the tory-like “get on yer bike” rhetoric is deeply offensive. Especially seeing that most people currently receiving benefits actually DO work.

      What is being done to the poor and especially the disabled at the moment is truly hateful and evil. Everyone else, except the rich, are also having their rights taken away, piece by piece and yet no one seems to notice.

      The UK establishment is built on a pernicious class system that keeps us well and truly divided and conquered. The relentless negativity of the status-quo makes me sad, and most of all angry.

      I am English and have been living here since 2006. What I find refreshing about living here is that by-and-large, people have a much different outlook politically and culturally to the kind of divisive nonsense that is prevalent in England. The trouble here is that the media is mostly controlled by London and absolutely does not have the interests of Scotland at heart. They want to keep their rotten, morally bankrupt system going at all costs.

      This is because of three main things;

      Oil Revenue


      UK’s – “seat at the top table” at the UN

      They have much more to lose and of course, they will fight dirty. Scotland has nothing to lose from Independence and everything to gain and Westminster know this all too well. They are terrified.

      1. Oh I so agree, what more can I say 🙂

      2. douglas clark says:

        Excellent comment!

        Fascinating to see the other side of their arguement put so eloquently.

        I too find myself deeply offended by the ATOS culture that rewards claim rejection as an achievement. It is not a concept I could ever be comfortable with.

        Naw, you’re right, it is evil.

    2. Dave Coull says:

      It’s a fact that cultural differences exist. This fact exists regardless of whether Scotland is independent or not. I lived in England for many years. My children were born in England and grew up attending English schools and speaking with English accents. If I had stayed there much longer, I would probably have ended up staying permanently. The attitudes of my children, and more so of my grandchildren, would have been shaped by those around them.

      Cat MacKenzie Hyde, you were born in Australia of Scottish parents, but, let’s face it, you seem to have absorbed some attitudes – your dismissive attitude towards your Scottish cousins, for example – which can seem more Australian than Scottish. And I simply do not believe your cousins are all diehard NO voters. Extensive research by the YES campaign has shown that a huge percentage of the folk who get counted as “NO” by the so-called “opinion polls” are far from being totally committed to voting “no”. Most of them are open to persuasion. But the worst possible way of going about persuading them is to tell them that they are not as patriotic as you. .

      1. I think everyone involved has a good argument, although the facebook barney’s I have with my cousins are quite full on, to the point where we aren’t speaking. (They’re my grandads sisters offspring) they always tell me I’m a foreigner, therefore I shouldn’t have a say in ‘their’ country’s future Ha, bloody wallies! My parents are moving back to Scotland in time for the vote, my auntie is a diehard SNP member, and as for me, I’m only as Australian as my poxy Steve Irwin accent 🙂

  6. “Independence isn’t about being separate or foreign, get with the times. It’s about joining and taking part.” That’s really good, will have to remember that one!

  7. stubetsolais says:

    I don’t just like it, I love it. What couldn’t we have done if we had remained an independent nation over these last 300 years!!

  8. David McCann says:

    Bravo Alyn. I have relatives all over the world. They are not foreigners now, and certainly wont be, post independence.

  9. Tony says:

    Well, I tend to agree with most of what’s commented on here. I have “mixed” parentage English father, Scottish mother. While being brought up the only internal ‘conflict’ we ever had was over football – Mum and I supporting Scotland, Dad and my brothers supporting England. After September 18th will dad become a ‘foreigner’ to me? Erm … NO.

    The No-Better Together campaign have NO positive case to make. All they have in their arsenal are Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt. The triple curse of FUD!

    Independence is the natural situation for a country, why the No-Better Together crew think that Scotland is uniquely incapable of managing like the other 196 countries in the world is a mystery that they should be continuously challenged to answer.

    Our time is coming back – Soar Alba

    1. douglas clark says:

      Ré para 3.

      Exactly. And we are doing it in a democratic way. Who else has used that method? Canada, Australia, etc.

      There is the intresting case of New Zealand, who, apparently have never been officially declared an independent nation, though they clearly are. Sometimes you just drift into it…..

      What is interesting about the ‘League of Empire Loyalists’ is that they represent about three people on this planet, none of whom are credible.

      I give you UKIP’s representatives, Sam the Cam’s husband and the banana man, whose name I have forgotten

  10. Michael Foley says:

    Excellent, and Alyn’s mention of Westminster’s and the people’s inability to reform the electoral form further demonstrates the divisive – not unitary – style of UK politics. We are still in an age where in most cases, government is one party, calling the shots. Independence gives us the opportunity not just to be an active team player as a nation on the international stage, but bang our own politicans’ heads together and work together in coalitions, making laws that benefit as many people as possible.

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