Beyond Cringe

MG_4187Homepage620x330V2Is Liz Lochhead a racist? In his column in The Times today, former deputy editor at Scotland on Sunday Kenny Farquharson thinks so, comparing her to Nigel Farage (‘There’s a blind spot in our multiculturalism’). It’s an ignorant tirade which merits a response. In an interview by Colin Begg in Gutter magazine – which runs to 6000 words – Lochhead explores the current Scottish literary and cultural landscape.

Farquharson writes: “How disappointing that Liz Lochhead … should this week lament that it is a “great pity there’s a shortage of Scottish people working in the National Theatre of Scotland”. In an interview with a literary magazine she goes on: “It’s just a shame, you know. I’ve nothing against any of the people that do work there. I just wish there were more Scots, more people with a Scottish theatrical culture.”

This simple, uncontroversial view in which she articulates that Scottish theatre has a particular cultural background and is a ‘distinct thing’ in itself worthy of being recognised, somehow allows Farquharson to then make a giant and hysterical leap.

He writes:

“We’re a’ Jock Tamson’s bairns. Except, perhaps, if you’re English. Our liberal, inclusive, self-congratulatory multiculturalism has a blind spot, and it’s the English. My test for this is simple: we’ll know Scotland is finally relaxed about the English when there’s a St George’s Day parade down Sauchiehall Street, followed by an afternoon of morris dancing in George Square, with no heckling and no arrests. What’s the chances?”

This is an extraordinary thing to say. It’s a virulent response to a well-respected cultural voice simply stating that Scottish cultural traditions exist and people who are aware of, immersed in and expert in these traditions are best suited to lead and guide key institutions. In any country in the world this would be uncontroversial. In this country to state these simple facts creates a vicious backlash.

CM1jfliWUAAZqYuHe goes on: “The idea that the English in Scotland — there are about 450,000 of them, many more than any other minority — might want to celebrate their own culture in an overt manner is barely conceivable to the average Scot. While other immigrants are allowed, encouraged even, to display their cultural antecedents, the English are expected to assimilate or, failing that, keep their heads down. They are certainly expected to keep their voices down.”

The irony won’t be lost on many. Keep their voices down? This, in a column smearing the Makar with outrageous allegations? Perhaps the reason nobody wants to organise ‘Morris Dancing in George Square’ (how patronising is that?) is because English identity doesn’t need to be asserted, not because there’d be riots in the streets by rabid Scots?

He continues: “I have no hesitation in pointing out the similarities between her rhetoric and that of Nigel Farage. The parallel will appal her. Good, I hope it does.”

I doubt Kenny has read the interview, but he didn’t have to in order to exercise his misplaced grievances.

The Gutter’s editor Henry Bell has this to say: “As an English person working in Scottish theatre and an editor of Gutter magazine I can’t think of even a hint of a moment when Liz Lochhead has exhibited anti-Englishness or any other xenophobia. And not that it’s relevant, but when it comes to Scottish theatre being a distinct tradition that doesn’t always get its dues, I agree with Liz.”

It’s deeply embarrassing for Kenny Farquharson and the Times to publish this.

It’s an obsession based on a caricature and it shows an inability to actually engage in cultural debate.  Henry Bell again: “There’s subtleties to Liz’s opinions that survive better in Gutter than in the Herald, the Times, or on Twitter, but I think it’s impossible to unfankle identity, tradition, culture and nationality in Scotland and in theatre. It’s necessarily messy. Liz is not saying anything she hasn’t said before she’s just carrying on the long discussion about what we want the national theatre to be. And there’s twice as many opinions on that as there are people that go to the theatre.”

Robert Sommyne reflects on his blog about some of the recent history of this debate:

“In his book Independence: An Argument for Home Rule & Many Others (Alasdair) Gray with finesse further examines, within the historical context, the importance of a nation’s ability to own and develop its culture at all levels. Deep within his analysis are the much neglected areas of class, history and region. Gray expounds on how Scottish official culture has been imposed via middle class respectability since before the Second World War. This meant that culture in its literary and theatrical forms were rarely explored through a distinct perspective of ordinary Scots in all their variety at a national level or local outlook. It seems to me that the Scottish theatrical culture Lochhead describes that is “gutsy, upfront, borderline” with a “rough and ready relationship with variety”; is a tradition rooted in working class attitudes to artistic expression and regional variety. This is indeed too little seen despite the good will of many…An additional observation is the way in which Scottish representation is seen as a form of racism. Whenever Scots feel the need to redress clear historic biases based on nation and class they are called chippy, narrow or racist. They are Robert Mugabes of the arts world no doubt. What makes it harder for Scots with the concerns of Gray and Lochhead to speak up is that they are speaking for a majority unheard in their own country.”

This isn’t cringe this is cultural self-loathing. It’s a misplaced paranoia which is almost comic given the extent to which Anglo-British culture dominates much of our lives. It’s great to experience the vibrant internationalism of Edinburgh just now – and the coming Mela Festival too. To argue that Scotland merits its place in the global cultural throng doesn’t make you a racist.





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  1. Bill McLean says:

    What a sad and sorry individual Mr Farquharson is – and I’ve thought so for many years. This latest exercise in his “self-loathing” is nothing more than him assuring his future efforts for the Times and confirms, of course, that he has deep seated feeling of being a worthless Scot! Poor soul.

  2. ronald alexander mcdonald says:

    I think the main problem here is the exposure of the MSM’s corruption. This really came to a head during the referendum campaign and has been further accented by Jeremy Corbyn’s campain.

    More and more people realise that the press and not in the truth business and therefore finding it harder to influence political opinion. The piece that you have highlighted is systematic of the consequences. We’re left with the equivalent of a screaming child with an attention deficit demanding attention when nobody is listening.

  3. Bloo says:

    I can’t help thinking that the farq believes that it’s his job to be a *-stirrer. How else could anyone cope with such constant and relentless negativity? To be fair, he has made not being able to say a good word about anything profitable so I suppose he will be pleased someone is paying him for what in any other medium would be dismissed as bile.

  4. Jackie M says:

    This response doesn’t begin to address the issue raised in Farquarsons article. Instead of indulging in endless deflection and self justification why not actually address what is being pointed out. Did the majority of English born in Scotland vote No because of a loyalty to Britain/ England? or did they vote No because of latent anti English xenophobia in Scotland and a fear of it? And do Gray, Lochead et al, contribute to this sense of not belonging to the place they live, work and marry into? Perhaps they are the people to ask rather then patronising dismissals by die hard nationalists (remember this was the site that wanted a social audit of English – No anti englishness here, move along.)

    As one of the 477 000 born south of the border (family from Durham), but who has grown up in Scotland I can only give my own experience and that of other English living here. And that is unfortunately a defining aspect of Scottish culture is anti Englishness, sometimes quite viciously so. The issue with Gray/ Lochead wasn’t that they pointed a desire for more Scots in Scots arts although this assumes the culture to be frozen and exclusive (this is in itself racist as it excludes new comers) But that they also employ negative terms like settler, a nasty anti english term if ever their was one. They also, seem only to take issue with English in positions of power or joining the Scot cultural melting pot. A cursory glance at the arts scene in Scotland, university departments and other bodies will find Americans, Indians, Jamaicans, plenty of Irish and Canadians, French, German, Chinese and so on. Why single out the English in this manner.

    All arts bodies in countries around the world are pretty multicultural. It is a fluid industry in this sense. Seems only Scotland has an issue.

    It’s a shame because there is an equal and opposite reaction in England now against Scots. Those of us who quite like both England and Scotland shake our heads in dismay.

    1. Scotsfox says:

      Did Liz even mention the English? Did she not say she wanted to see more Scots not less of anyone else? Why jump to the conclusion that this represents anti-Englishness?

    2. Ray Bell says:

      “All arts bodies in countries around the world are pretty multicultural. It is a fluid industry in this sense. Seems only Scotland has an issue.”

      Actually I see a surprising uniformity in who runs the arts bodies in Scotland. It’s as much a class issue as anything else. The accents are similar and the outlooks are similar. For that reason I wouldn’t call it “multicultural”, because the backgrounds are similar i.e. upper middle class. The Scottish upper & upper middle class is pretty anglicised anyway. I could say the same about the likes of St Andrews University.

      Also, while I’m sure there are one or two Jamaicans around, I don’t see a gamut of them running various bodies. While I think it’s unfair that many ordinary English people get it in the neck in Scotland when they’ve done nothing wrong, it has to be admitted that England does have hegemony over Scotland. Or at least upper class Home Counties England does. Most of our television comes from there (and America), most of our newspapers, most of the MPs in Westminster etc. I actually think that our current relationship with England is part of the reason there is so much anglophobia in Scotland. (And by the way, some of the worst anglophobes I’ve met were unionists, which is not what you’d expect.)

      1. James says:

        Gray singled out the English and it is pretty much implied and so ingrained most don’t even notice, the prejudice inherent. I note no one addressed the issue (why do the English born feel silenced and excluded?) but just more whatabootery. In agreement that it is class, but Scots are as much a part of this as the English. How many privately educated and middle class dominate in UK and Scotland in the media and culture are Scots upper reaches/ middle classes/ elite? From Marr, Macwhirtter, Riddoch, Ewan Macgregor, AL Kennedy, James Roberston went to Glen Almond and Edinburgh university FFS to David Greig putting on Lanark as a play (Another Edinburgh public school boy) why doesn’t Lochead mention them?

        Nah only the English imperialists. Yawn.

      2. James says:

        If it’s about class I’m with Lochead fully that things defo need more inclusion, but she’s not really interested in class but nationalism. And that nationalism defines itself against the English, whatever their background. Claiming otherwise is absurd denial.

      3. James says:

        I mean, think about it. If David Greig for example, east coast privately educated, can associate with Lanark (working class urban dystopia) why can’t someone from Salford or Liverpool? What is wrong with Scottish culture that it can’t both express difference and similarity over the tweed?

        Why is the criteria Scots for Scots arts and not working class for working class arts? why do the cultural nationalists only focus on geography?

        1. Ray Bell says:

          Liverpool and the area around it have a highly distinctive culture that barely extends a dozeniles away.

          Someone running the arts in St Helens would look like a fool if they called it Liverpool. Ditto someone in Salford calling it Manchester, or Gateshead calling it Newcastle. Local sensitivities are very important in pernickety things like this. There are ways and means to learn about them in any given location.

    3. tickle says:

      //As one of the 477 000 born south of the border (family from Durham), but who has grown up in Scotland I can only give my own experience and that of other English living here//


      You can only give your own experience.

      You can’t pretend you have access to the inner worlds of 476999 people just cos you happened to be born in the same arbitrarily defined geographical region as they were.

      I was born in London and I feel I speak for all English born people when I say I haven’t encountered more than a handful of instances of even mild anti-Englishness. 😀

    4. arthurfaeleith says:

      “Did the majority of English born in Scotland vote No because of a loyalty to Britain/ England? or did they vote No because of latent anti English xenophobia in Scotland and a fear of it?”

      Or did they vote no because of their own latent anti Scottish xenophobia? Or is it only ok to smear Scots as xenophobic? What a nasty, snide thing to say.

      1. G says:

        They hate Scotland so much they decided to live there?

    5. Stuart says:

      Mmm, spoken like a true colonist

  5. James Coleman says:

    Farquharson is just another MSM puppet left dangling helplessly as a result of the SNP’s domination of Scotland’s politics. No-one in Scotland has listened to his opinion for a long long time and he has become a member of a badly disaffected cringing minority whose only aim is to produce “SNP Bad” copy because the English newspapers they work for like it and think it might generate a few extra advertising clicks…it doesn’t. No-one reads them in Scotland. He is no better than the POUTERS, an anti-Independence sect whose hatred of everything Scottish is an obsession.

    And I can do no better than to quote again Alisdair Gray’s para

    “An additional observation is the way in which Scottish representation is seen as a form of racism. Whenever Scots feel the need to redress clear historic biases based on nation and class they are called chippy, narrow or racist. They are Robert Mugabes of the arts world”.

    I know this to be true because yesterday when on Twitter I wrote that Scots Cultural Committees should be filled with Scots as they would be best able to do the job I was immediately assailed by what can only be described as the English Culture Protection Mafia and called racist et al names by its members. And note that my definition of Scots includes immigrants who have lived in Scotland a long time and have become integrated into Scottish culture. Difficult to define but easy to discern when face to face with people.

    1. Desdemona says:

      As was stated by Jackie why is it just the English? To be consistent doesn’t this cultural purity also mean that all the other people in positions in the Scottish cultural framework also should be excluded? If an English person can’t understand and embrace what is unique about Scottish culture then how can an American? or an African? or an Argentinian? or and Irish person? If someone from a mill town in Lancashire has no cultural connection and understanding of Paisley then who does?

      If Lochead and Gray and all the other cultural nationalists feel oppressed and want to play it this (only Scots for Scotland) way, then fine, but be consistent and exclude everyone who isn’t Scottish. Not just the English. And be prepared when the rest of the world returns the favour in kind.

      One thing I’ve never understood is how Kelman and Gray and lochead and the cultural nationalist claim that Scottish culture is so unique and separate from English culture that only Scots can be entrusted to manage and understand it, why do they also complain endlessly when their work is ignored by the London literati? Why are their books and poems and plays on shelves in bookstores all over England if it is so alien to English culture?

      1. Ray Bell says:

        One word: hegemony.

      2. arthurfaeleith says:

        Liz didn’t say less English – she said more Scots. Why do you assume she means less English? Is that not a xenophobic assumption that all Scots are anti-English?

  6. Sara Mac says:

    I agree with Liz Lochhead and i am English – does that make me a racist?

    1. Desdemona says:


      1. Sara Mac says:

        Well, that’s a first.

      2. Susan Smith says:

        I’m another one, then. And happy to be so.

  7. Ray Bell says:

    As long as we are in the UK, Scots are a minority, and therefore Scottish culture is a minority culture. This is purely down to numbers, since there are ten times as many people in the entire UK as in Scotland (excluding Scots in rUK). It’s not just Gaelic culture which is minority, it’s the entire thing.

    I tend to agree with Angus Calder that if people born elsewhere self-identity as Scottish and come to live here, then we should treat them as such, but it is a gradual process to become immersed in Scottish culture, it doesn’t happen overnight.

    However, I was listening to the other day to Pauline Prior-Pitt, who I believe holds some kind of writer-in-residence position in North Uist. I am not going to call her a bad or a good poet – that’s a different matter – but it was a bit painful hearing her refer to “makah” (i.e. machair), by which I can gather she has made little or no effort to pick up Gaidhlig. I noticed that she is not rooted in the local tradition at all, and does not seem to have tried to pick it up much. (North Uist was traditionally reknowned for its rich oral heritage) Her poetry was a lot about empty houses, and she called them “abandoned”, and talked about people leaving the island as if it were voluntary. Not a mention of the severe clearances on the island.

    1. James says:

      And what exactly will be in your Scottish cricket test? Be able to sing all the words to Caledonia?

      1. Ray Bell says:

        My aunt and uncle moved to a place in Valencia. Not only did they learn Spanish/Castillian fluently but the local form of Catalan too.

        For people running arts in any location they should gain some knowledge of the local landscape – physical and otherwise.

    2. James says:

      At which the response must be, who are you, or Lochead or anyone to define what Scottish culture is?

      Scottish culture is thriving, to deny so is frankly a to denigrate the culture that is here right now. We are not oppressed! Stop picking on the English !

      1. Ray Bell says:

        a) You have not read my comment properly b) Scottish culture is not “thriving”. It is funded at a much lower level than Scandinavia or the ROI. The RoI has FIVE TV channels – we just have BBC Alba with a similar population. The decline in Scotland’s languages has been thoroughly studied and has snowballed since broadcasting started.

        The UK however prefers to spend its money on bombing Middle Easterners and Trident than libraries and the like.

    3. baronesssamedi says:

      There are some pretty plum jobs here, attracting people from all over UK. But if we were not in the UK, would that actually stop them applying and being recruited as at present?

      1. Nobody wants to exclude anyone, it is about creating more positive cultural confidence not banning or excluding anyone.

  8. muttley79 says:

    Kenny Farquharson is a tame British establishment pet Jock. To be accepted by the said establishment you usually have to indulge in cringing self loathing about being Scottish, and at the same time be unrelenting in your hatred for the very idea of Scottish self government (it is usually the latter which is the one characteristic that is compulsory) . It is a condition that has afflicted many Scottish people in the last few hundred years, as they seek advancement through careers linked to the British state, whether it be in journalism, politics etc. It should be so obvious by now that it does not need stating, but alas…

  9. Richard Baldwin says:

    I saw Liz’s Fringe show on Tuesday. She declared her admiration for Joyce Grenfell & was slightly heckled by some old buffer for her choice of an Englishwoman. She patiently pointed out that she has nothing against the English & that, indeed, more than half of her friends and loved ones are English.

  10. John S Warren says:

    The test is not the ethnic origin of the people involved, but their knowledge of Scottish literary culture. So let me ask a simple question. Who is the most significant 16th century Scottish playwright; you can forget The Edinburgh Festival favourite; Lindsay: someone far more important. I couldn’t make it easier.

    The problem is simply expressed. Scottish literary and creative culture, and especially our influential tradition, is not well understood, even in Scotland. Why is that? Who is responsible? Do the Scottish cultural institutions have a responsibility; and if they do, how well informed are they about the Great Tradition? It really isn’t very difficult, but it requires a sliver more than total ignorance; answers please, on a postcard …. ….

    A simple question; so answer it.

    1. JBS says:

      Okay, I’m going to stick my neck out and say: George Buchanan.

      Am I right? Do I get a prize? Do I get a job?

      1. John S Warren says:

        No prizes, but a correct answer. I waited 16 hours for that answer, and it should have been blatantly obvious. QED.

        It is not enough for a job either, but at least it is a start. If you wish now to explain why George Buchanan is important as a playwright that would be encouraging. Unfortunately I doubt if it would cut much ice with our cultural institutions in Scotland; they have notably demonstrated very little interest in (or knowledge of) this seminal creative writer in the Scottish tradition – which returns to my point: this is a matter of knowledge and culture.

        Buchanan still produces strong opinions, both for and against; but if you wish to understand our cultural and intellectual history, he is simply not to be avoided, still less simply forgotten.

        1. JBS says:

          Dammit, I was getting all excited for a minute there.

          Well, here goes again. George Buchanan is significant as a playwright chiefly because of his influence on 17th-century French neoclassical drama (Racine, Corneille).

          Now come on, fess up. You sure you don’t have a £60k p.a. sinecure in the Arts in Scotland in your gift?

    2. Helen says:

      The emptiness of the argument from the Lochhead camp lies in the fact that English who have had positions in Scottish theatre have actually done a very good job of representing Scottish cultural tradition in it’s entirety and it’s plurality, including the minor streams that most Scot Nationalists ignore and dismiss because it doesn’t fit their narrow, often west coast central belt political agenda and narrative. In fact there is a strong argument to say that someone a little removed from the maelstrom has greater judgement understanding and perspective.

      Take James Robertson’s ‘As the land lay still’ a fine book that purports to be a definitively ‘Scottish book’ about the last 50 years of the Scottish experience. Yet the book contains no character or reference what so ever to the North East of Scotland (except for an ex Imperialist guy from Aberdeenshire). How is it possible to write about Scotland over the last 50 years and ignore the oil boom and the effect on the area itself beyond arguments about who the oil belongs to? The reason he does so (deliberate or sub consciously) is that to include the NE involves an inconvenient truth – the masses of working class English who migrated from the north East of England. ‘The settlers’ as they are derided as. Just like other more virulent nationalism like Slavic or Serbian type it seeks exclude and reduce complexity. Just as Nigel Fargage does.

      And here we come to the crux of the matter. John S Warren, sees culture as something that happened in the 16th century. static and exclusive, while others are more open and can accept both the traditions and the fact that those traditions will change be influenced and indeed be lost. Culture is not a museum piece but organic. Every culture faces this and to claim some special victimisation over say the dying oral cultures and theatre and language of say Kent or Norfolk (just as unique to the wider British cultures despite not having ‘national status’ and also subject to the vagaries of time as Scottish culture) is pointless. And it’s a reductive argument. The same can be said for internally within Scotland and all the other aspects of identity – Class, location, period. Glaswegian culture and theatrical traditions is not the same as that of the Borders.

      And no one answered this question about class or urban/ rural and other aspects of identity – gender, sexuality, race. Does someone from say Grimsby (ancient east coast fishing community have less of an understanding or the cultural traditions of Fraserburgh or Eyemouth as say an art school luurvie like Lochhead? No is the answer. Why is culture tied to ‘the nation’?

      Unfortunately for the Scottish cultural nationalists, however much they would like it can’t change the fact that Scottish culture doesn’t stop at the tweed but is fluid and borrows and gives to other parallel traditions across the Atlantic Archipelligo and beyond to Europe (especially France). The notion that Scottish theatre owes nothing to Marlow and Shakespeare or that English theatre owes nothing to Lindsay or Buchan, indeed more contemporary plays like Black watch (commissioned by an English women) or that English and European Literature would be what it is without Scott or that an Irish person has no understanding of the ‘Scottish tradition’ despite Joyce is to fundamentally misunderstand liberal culture and the purpose of culture. Culture has links and parallels. It doesn’t and has never existed in a narrow tartan box.

      But then this isn’t about culture at all. It is about politics, the destroyer of culture. Lochhead is a clever women and knew exactly what she was doing by saying ‘more Scots in Scottish theatre’. What she wants to do is make culture exclusive and ‘nationalist’ for the aims of independence. This in Scottish terms means othering the English, of denying any cross over and link. It assumes there are parameters around culture that only certain people understand ‘true Scots’ and moreover that only certain people are allowed to understand. It’s our culture not yours. It’s different.

      And in that she joins a long line of cultural nationalists and their unpleasant narrow primordial conceits concerning culture that are the very underpinnings of fascism. Nations are modern creations, culture is a long tradition that transcends nation and is not constrained by elites nor drawn by borders.

      1. JBS says:

        “Lochhead is a clever women and knew exactly what she was doing by saying ‘more Scots in Scottish theatre’. What she wants to do is make culture exclusive and ‘nationalist’ for the aims of independence. This in Scottish terms means othering the English, of denying any cross over and link. It assumes there are parameters around culture that only certain people understand ‘true Scots’ and moreover that only certain people are allowed to understand. It’s our culture not yours.”

        Oh, Lord. What was that I was saying about individuals casting about for anything they can use as a stick to beat the people of Scotland with?

        Just wow.

      2. John S Warren says:

        The proposition that a reference to George Buchanan means that I see “culture as something that happened in the 16th century. static and exclusive” is not only a non-sequitur, but is based on no evidence whatsoever; it does not even attempt to assemble and argument, but presents nothing substantive that rises above a “rant”. For the avoidance of doubt, I have written nothing to lend credence to the argument, but suggested only that knowledge of Buchanan’s influence is important in the Scottish tradition. This is not even controversial.

        Buchanan’s influence on play-writing was profound in Europe (even on Shakespeare); indeed he established a kind of theatre that addressed great moral, theological issues through the model of Greek tragedy, which he applied in a new way to something scholars have described as the first Renaissance biblical drama, in for example ‘Jepthes sive votum tragoedia’ (1554).

        Biblical tragedy of this remarkable kind was not something Shakespeare could even attempt in the next generation; it was illegal in England. When I refer to Buchanan as an important playwright I am referring to someone who is very important to the Scottish tradition. It is, frankly fatuous to suggest this means that I am claiming that anything written after Buchanan is irrelevant. Buchanan is a necessary condition adequately to understand the Scottish tradition of literary creativity; not a definition of Scottish creativity. All of this is quite obvious; but it does perhaps emphasise that some knowledge or interest in the Scottish tradition is important, at least in Scotland.

        I can say with confidence that most Scots are more respectful of the English tradition, and better informed about it; but as shown rather crudely in this thread, the courtesy is not always returned.

        1. The grange. says:

          And an English person can’t understand this also? What is your point?

        2. The grange. says:

          ‘I can say with confidence that most Scots are more respectful of the English tradition, and better informed about it; but as shown rather crudely in this thread, the courtesy is not always returned.’

          Is that so? What arogance and conceit. Which English tradition are you talking about exactly. The very fact that you seem to think it is a homogeneous whole suggests you know very little of both English and Scottish traditions.

          Seems to me it’s the cultural nationalist who are always trying to pigeon hole everything.

          1. JBS says:

            The grange:

            How is Mariana? Are you still moated?

          2. John S Warren says:

            Perhaps if you had read my first contribution, you would have seen that I began with a simple proposition: “The test is not the ethnic origin of the people involved, but their knowledge of Scottish literary culture”. There is nothing ambiguous about that statement, so please do not distort it.

            I expect people who are going to run our artistic and cultural institutions to be well informed about the tradition which they are trying to exploit and develop. In England, for example a basic understanding of Shakespeare may be taken for granted in both theatre and broadcasting. An understanding of Buchanan (merely as an illustrative example ) cannot be taken for granted in Scotland, sadly even among Scots. The test is not Scottish identity, but as I am now forced to repeat for the umpteenth time, it is knowledge; and an informed understanding of the culture.

            Please do not claim that we can take this understanding for granted among applicants for relevant posts, because it simply isn’t true; ignorance, unfortunately is both bliss, and everywhere.

          3. Hen bob. says:

            To be fair I think John is arguing against Lochhead and her ‘Scots for Scotland’ position. He’s saying there ought to be an understanding of the Scottish tradition.

            But whenever you hear this kind of thing, always from the same mouths, it seriously undermines any notion that Scottish is somehow squeaky clean and inclusive. Not so civic and open after all.

          4. Hen bob. says:

            Scottish nationalism I meant to say.

          5. Hen bob. says:

            And does people really need to understand the depth of the culture anyway? surely interesting culture is bastardised culture that escapes such prescription? Why can’t traditions be broken? After all, that’s precisely how culture develops and survives? Isn’t this why ‘Scottish’ culture is so dare I say it po faced?

            I mean did Marquez really have to fully know all the influences and nuances of Argentinian literature to pilfer Borges? Did Borges in turn have to know the nuances of European literature from Joyce back to Cervantes? Where would Shakespeare be without Greek tragedy?

            Watched a program about Reggae in the UK (actually England) the other night and it documented this tension. The purists saying reggae is our culture and this is where it came from and how it should be done and the younger generation who mixed it up with white kids and ended up with an entirely new sound -led to Skinheads, Two Tone, Madness, UB40, Aswad, who all saw themselves as part of the same thing as the dub beat rockers like the Clash.

            Personally I prefer mongrels. Hate this nationalist cultural purity that seems to assume the nation is the main source of tradition.

            Give me Jimmy Cliff over Runrig any day.

          6. John S Warren says:

            Traditions are broken all the time. Traditions may be subject to evolutionary change. Sometimes they are lost altogether. I am tempted to say “so what”? All this is true but it is a curious proposition not only to accept change, but to propose the total destruction of the past; a peculiarly brutal fundamentalism; but something it often seems Scotland is trying to achieve, but without understanding what it is doing, or why. Education itself depends on a usable past, and a past worth using.

            Art is not fashion; the “new” is not a guarantee of anything at all. The past in art is replaced, but not necessarily by something better; just something different. The Russians would not however turn their back on Pushkin and forget him; or the Poles, forget Chopin. In Scotland everyone knows Burns and Scott; but what about Dunbar and Henryson: or Galt and Thomson? Scotland is spendthrift with its cultural traditions; and I am not convinced it is particularly good at identifying or exploiting what is best.

            Often, the new, the radical, the revolutionary is profoundly dependent on the past. Schoenberg’s twelve-tone revolution was not born ‘ex-nihilo’: if you think so, I suggest you listen to his early ‘Verklarte Nacht’ (1899): squeezing the last ounce of emotion from late-Romanticism, just before he rejects Romanticism altogether.

            You even mention Shakespeare and Greek Tragedy (but I am not sure I understand the point); but it was Buchanan a generation before Shakespeare who developed a form of drama that examined and tested great moral dilemmas using non-Christian Greek drama (an uncomfortable fact that discomfited contemporary intellectuals) to interrogate and explore Biblical texts; a much more radical drama than anything Shakespeare (an obedient Tudor apologist) dared to attempt. This is important in Scotland because the Reformation, and later (especially) Presbyterianism effectively crushed not only serious drama, but all drama in Scotland; and extinguished knowledge of the radical, new contribution to the art of the man who was in every sense the Scottish Reformation’s greatest poet and intellectual.

            The past is a teacher; there is much less that is really “new” than we often imagine.

  11. Drew Macleod. says:

    If he thinks St George and Morris Dancing is “englishness” we know who the racist is! This is an outrageous piece.

  12. Fay Kennedy. says:

    Am not privy to this discussion because I’ve lived in Australia for fifty years. But have been frequently teased about my accent and as recently as a week ago. Being a nippy Glasgow lass I let them know their ignorance of all things Scottish that I’m familiar with which usually works. I smile of course. And yes the dominant artistic culture even in the Antipodes is English, American, and mostly middle class. The indigenous peoples here are defined in very narrow terms also. Since discovering writers like Liz Lochhead, Alisdair Gray, James Kelman, Tom Leonard I’ve been able to reconnect with pride to my heritage and understand much better my own story and those I grew up with. So all credit to them and all the others who want to honour and promote Scottish artistic and cultural traditions along with encouraging
    new work to the people of Scotland.

  13. Sophia says:

    For goodness sake, it isn’t racist to expect anyone who is employed to run a theatre in Scotland to be knowledgeable about the country and its people. That is all Liz Lochead was saying. Some English people have a much larger knowledge base on the subject than indigenous Scots, because they have lived here or studied the subject. Liz was objecting to posts being filled by folk with no particular interest or expertise on Scotland. Most of these people are
    English, logically enough as England is our nearest neighbour and has a massive population of arts- based workers who can’t get jobs in their own country!

    1. Helen says:

      And a good point was made earlier. The hypocrisy is astonishing. Fine Liz, if you think only Scots can understand Scottish culture then please can you stop publishing and presenting your work outside of Scotland. It’s not about you it’s about us, the English and not wanting our culture influenced by the Scots who can’t possibly understand it. Only English culture for English people. That also goes for Alistair Gray, and triple for all the other ‘cultural Yes people’ who make a living from England, from Franz Ferdinand and all the other Yes musos, to Brian Cox, to Elaine C Smith, to Martin Compston, to Frankie Boyle and multiple Scots running English arts bodies. Please stick to your side and we English shall stick to ours. Again it’s not you it’s us. We don’t want you. Please have some consistency.

      1. Ray Bell says:

        “That also goes for Alistair Gray, and triple for all the other ‘cultural Yes people’ who make a living from England, from Franz Ferdinand and all the other Yes musos, to Brian Cox, to Elaine C Smith, to Martin Compston, to Frankie Boyle and multiple Scots running English arts bodies.”

        Regarding some of these examples – Franz Ferdinand and Brian Cox make a considerable amount of their earnings outside the UK. It isn’t just “England” – Brian Cox has made money from Hollywood films. Franz Ferdinand love playing in continental Europe (one trip there inspired their name).

        Sean Connery, who you don’t mention, probably made the vast majority of his money from non-UK sources (i.e. not Scotland, not England, not Wales, not NI) since he was a Hollywood actor. He has made a fair wad, not just out of the USA, but Japan as well.

        As for the “multiple Scots running English arts bodies”, the same rules apply to them. How much do they know about the culture of the area round about where they work? There are one or two cultural oddities which Scots run across in England (I know since I’ve experienced them myself), let alone different regions of England… and as for Cornwall, I don’t consider that a proper part of England for a dozen reasons, but many Scots would.

      2. James Coleman says:

        “multiple Scots running English arts bodies.”

        Eh?! Please name a few and what they are ‘running’.

  14. Fearchar says:

    According to the book “Bully in Sight” by the late Tim Fields, playing the victim is the final stage in the process of unmasking a bully. Is that not what is going on here – the bullying of the Scottish theatrical world?

  15. The grange. says:

    The problem is that Lochhead didn’t say that Scottish theatre needs more people who understand Scottish theatrical tradition – a reasonable assertion. She said more ‘Scots in Scottish theatre’, which is code for less English.

    This assumes that that only Scots are equipped to understand and be aware of those traditions, which is a worrying ethnic assertion. The connection is not automatically ethnic/ nationalist.

    e.g) An Indian women from say Mumbai moves to London, immerses herself in Shakespeare and has an abiding love for the theatre in general. She proves her worth directing in other theatres elsewhere, Canada, Scotland, then applies for a job at the Royal Shakespeare Company. They tell her no she isn’t wanted due to not being English, as only an English person can understand Shakespeare fully.

    That’s basically what Lochhead is saying.
    Is this ok?

    1. Why is it ‘code for less English’?

      1. The grange. says:

        Because of the history and the previous debates. And the universal nature of nationalism that needs an other to distinguish itself from.

        1. Ray Bell says:

          And the trouble with the metroprovincial is that s/he does not tolerate the other except as something exotic or tokenistic, and to be assimilated.

  16. Duncan McMillan says:

    If a country relies on others to portray it through art, you get the crap that bbc produces that is suppose to represent Scots.

    Currently the crop of crap produced by bbc in Scotland is so embarrassing, I assume it to be intentional, part of the unionist state undermining our confidence.

    What we’ve have here is a respected Scottish art’s figure making a serious point backed up by evidence. In response we have a unionist propaganda tool seeking to undermine her. This is the same tool that presents lies and falsehoods about Scotland, her people, her industry, her arts and her government on a daily basis, so should we be be surprised?

    As for kenny farquharson, as an example, what happens to him and his ilk come independence? The times and other English based rags will have no need for them. They will find out how disposable they are. History will not be king to them!

    1. DialMforMurdo says:

      I suspect in a post Independent Scotland, the embittered nawbags will need somewhere to vent their spleen and ill conceived prejudices, perhaps they can crowdfund a new outlet, let’s call it The Daily Cringe, staffed by Farquharson, McColm, Warner, Cochrane, et al.

    2. Ray Bell says:

      “Currently the crop of crap produced by bbc in Scotland is so embarrassing, I assume it to be intentional, part of the unionist state undermining our confidence.”

      The complete inability to do regional accents from different parts of Scotland seems to be a problem!

  17. James Coleman says:

    I would make one simple statement. Why is it NORMAL for USA, France, Ireland, Danemark, Sweden et al, et al, to have their cultural and educational affairs run by locals but in Scotland that would be RACIST?

    And an even simpler question. Why has the Edinburgh Festival NEVER been run by Scots apart from its inception? Seems odd to me.

  18. Craig P says:

    ‘There are twice as many opinions on Scottish theatre as people who go to Scottish theatre.’

    I like that quote. Outside of am dram I haven’t been to the theatre for over a decade. Not sure that having Scots running it would make it any more appealing.

  19. Ian Tully says:

    One has to ask what the National Theatre of Scotland is for? Is it like Scottish Ballet, the SNO and other arts bodies simply there to give Scotland a local presence of an international arts scene, with nothing particularly Scottish about it in terms of membership or repertoire, or has it another role?
    Liz Lochhead among others thinks that in some way it should be about who we are in Scotland and how we respond to our past and present, a role that theatre has long played. She is making the point that if you are not part of Scottish society, no matter what your origins, you can hardly fulfil that role to the full. There is no more admired figure in the history of modern Scottish theatre than Englishman John McGrath.
    No one comments on the very English nature of much of what the Royal National Theatre in London performs or that all its directors have been English, as have all but one of the directors of the Royal Shakespeare Company.
    As 887 by Robert Lepage at the Edinburgh Festival demonstrated you can touch on our own situation by reference to the parallel histories of other countries, but first you have to know what our situation is. We can have plays on the Asian, Irish, Italian or Polish experience of Scotland, they are long overdue. Liz Lochhead is an internationalist not a Little Scotlander.
    Where I would part with her is on the theatrical music hall tradition in Scottish theatre being the way forward. It is tired and dated and is certainly not part of the experience of young people today. It reduced “Caledonia” to a farce rather than a play with humour. It gets in the way of the kind of more serious and thoughtful theatre Greg Burke and David Greig are capable of producing.

    1. John S Warren says:

      Regarding the “music hall” tradition; would you make the the same criticism of “pantomime”? Pantomime in Scotland has survived on the work of actors often from ‘music hall’. Perhaps it is the vigorous, earthy simplicity of Pantomime that resonates in Scotland, but it has survived the contempt of High Culture. Do I see elements of Pantomime in such productions as ‘Still Game’? Pantomime has its origins in commedia dell’arte (which should satisfy the culturally cringeworthy). I remember Rikki Fulton appeared in a striking production of Moliere’s ‘Le Misanthrope’ (1666); and if I remember it had been translated into Scots with some success (I stand to be corrected on the last point). Moliere, of course has long been claimed to use Italian, comedy dell’arte sources; see for example Claude Bourqui ‘Les Sources de Moliere’ (1999).

      1. JBS says:

        John S Warren:

        Hmm. Sure you’re not thinking of “Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme”, which was translated into Scots as “A Wee Touch o’ Class”?

        I keep thinking that it must be possible to check all this stuff on Wikipedia…

        1. John S Warren says:

          No, I stand to be corrected; but while Fulton may well have adapted ‘Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme’ I think he also appeared in ‘Le Misanthrope’. Perhaps Fulton found in Moliere a rich seam of comedy that was close in feel and sensibility to the Scottish pantomimic, comedic tradition.

          On Wikipaedia; it is a useful tool for those in a hurry but I think it is dangerous to consider it in any way “authoritative”. I am not sure it even claims to be authoritative, even temporarily and between updatings.

          1. John S Warren says:

            Come to think of it; I think I attended Fulton’s ‘Le Misanthrope’: King’s Theatre, Glasgow (197?).

          2. JBS says:

            John S Warren:

            Well, I dare say you’re right. I wish my memory was better. For instance, I remember going to see Russell Hunter in a one-man play about John Knox in Edinburgh in the 1970s, but I can’t remember the exact year.

            “Perhaps Fulton found in Moliere a rich seam of comedy…”

            Yes, I think you’re right about that, too.

  20. Ian Tully says:

    I don’t regard Pantomime as theatre for grown-ups, and some of what we are offered are Christmas is pretty cringe worthy too, even for the kids.
    Commedia dell’arte may have ancient origins but it is crude slap-stick humour. How much our theatre owes to it rather than Joan Littlewood’s Theatre workshop is debatable. I’ve enjoyed Liz Lochhead’s translations of Moliere, and last year there was an excellent touring production of “Two Gentlemen of Verona” which drew on the Commedia tradition, that does not mean I want every major production to incorporate it, while acknowledging that today we wish to enjoy a more physical theatre as offering something different to film. It is certainly not bringing in “working-class” audiences, who are used to much more sophisticated fare from TV and film. Like the old slap-stick movies they are largely a middle-class, even academic, taste today.
    If we are going to have “state of the nation” issues aired on stage they need to be, at least sometimes, in productions as thoughtful as the novels of James Robertson rather than those of Tom Sharp.

    1. John S Warren says:

      What would make ‘pantomime’ a “theatre for grown-ups”? Imagination, creativity, artistry (what you call “thoughtful productions”). I would also say ‘evolution’, for something more universal about the nature of what is spontaneously funny, but not expressed in words (or words alone) is buried there in the original. It may not look like pantomime, I merely say that it could owe something to the method or tradition. The more acute the artistry, the more this elusive comedic quality is revealed.

      If productions remain too constrained within the conventions of a given period then they will, of course appear more remote, and finally will appear merely archaic. What makes it “cringeworthy”, whether for children or grown-ups is not the principle, but the failure of imagination or creativity to achieve something worthwhile: it is just bad art. Failure is part of the risk in any creative endeavour.

      1. Ian Tully says:

        No argument with you there, I’ve seen productions where it was very much the physical expression that held the audience as the language was unknown to them. I do think, however, of the row over the NTS / Kings Theatre Edinburgh production of “Caledonia” by Alistair Beaton. I had read the first act in the programme / script before we went in and could hardly believe the parody it had been reduced to – in the Music Hall tradition.
        I saw “Union” by Tim Barrow and this time it was the playwright who was producing the parodic versions of drunken Scots and tea drinking Englishmen (who in reality put away just as much). It was hardly a step-up from the likes of “The Rising” by Hector McMillan way back in the 1970s, great theatre for a 14 year old, ( the Corries on stage) but I don’t think I’d want to march down Dundee’s Law today.
        I want subtlety, complexity, plays that go beyond treating Unionists as a “parcel of rogues” and Nationalists as the “true believers”, drama that acknowledges the sufferings of the Covenanters as well as the Jacobites as Scott did, and takes in the inter-relatedness of the Four Kingdoms, (what does it mean to be an English-born Scot returned to the ancestral home, or the lads and lassies forced to take the London road for the bigger opportunities since before 1603?) as well as the wider context of Europe and the Americas in which for almost four centuries Scotland has played such an astounding part. I want plays as big as Arthur Miller’s, Robert Bolt’s or any of those great Irish writers who so often seem to be our substitutes; we’ve got the past and present for it.

  21. Stuart says:

    It would help the position of scots culture if lowland Scots and Gaelic were the logia Franca of the education system and therefore the state apparatus, this of-course would be a longer process, but would negate the fear of acculturalization, but for some strange reason despite having autonomy over education we seem to treat our linguistic culture as an cultural phenomenon of the past to be preserved for weekend night classes at community collages instead of a everyday living reality, anyone come to Scotland to work in the cultural field would be more than welcome given that adaption would be a non issue just as it is if you went for a job in France or the Netherlands Catalonia, I think it would be a good direction for Liz, the education ministry , the independence movement, as well as unionists with there naw campaign to concentrate on a cultural independence based on tangible aspects of our duel cultural heritage, at the moment there i’sent even a Gaelic to Scots dictionary. You got to start somewhere.

  22. Stuart says:

    Sorry for any typos in that last comment. But you’ll get my drift.

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