2007 - 2021

Yes Alba vs. ‘Yes Alba’

‘All Under One Banner have stolen the name of a Gaelic-language independence group for their own, nothing-to-do-with-Gaelic, group.’

With that tweet, I started a thread on Twitter. And things descended from there.

Background

In the run-up to the 2014 Independence Referendum, several young Gaels came together to create Yes Alba, a Gaelic-language grassroots group campaigning for independence. It aimed to create a network of Gaelic speakers across Scotland for this purpose.

Yes Alba was successful. It amassed over 30,000 likes as a Facebook page. It successfully crowdfunded. We had Gaelic t-shirts, Bu Chòir badges, leaflets. We campaigned for a better Scotland, and a better place for Gaelic in that Scotland.

I was surprised this week, then, when I read in the National (‘Yes Alba: Top indy activists and SNP MP elected to lead new organisation’, Dec 3rd) that a brand-new grassroots group had come out of AllUnderOneBanner, Yes Alba!

This new group is not a Gaelic organisation. It is not a continuation, or reinvention, of the real Yes Alba. None of the founders of the original Yes Alba are involved in it.

So I tweeted my thread out on Friday, suggesting two scenarios: one, this was a misunderstanding, AUOB hadn’t heard of Yes Alba; or two, that AUOB knew of Yes Alba, but had no problem stealing the name for their English-language group.

I stated I hoped it was the former, but either way, that AUOB and this new group could quickly rectify the situation by renaming their group. It’s a simple issue, with such a simple solution.

Or so I thought. Things descended from there.

It wasn’t a mistake, but we didn’t steal

On Saturday night, AUOB doubled-down on Twitter, refusing to admit any wrongdoing, trying to portray this theft as a positive, all while reinforcing tired old imperial and colonial tropes.

I had spoken to a representative from AUOB privately about this new group’s upcoming meeting to discuss the name, and stated I was willing to give them the benefit of the doubt and hear what came of their upcoming meeting.

But AUOB came out swinging, even saying it would be a good thing if this new organisation went by Yes Alba. Shouldn’t we as Gaels be thankful that a national organisation would use Gaelic in their name? There are ‘great opportunities’ in them doing so, they assured us.

Are you kidding me?

Even leaving aside the fact that Yes Alba, the real, Gàidhlig Yes Alba, counts over 30,000 followers, multitudes more than this new group, we don’t need your help making Yes Alba successful. Gaels did that themselves.

AUOB went on to complain about ‘belligerence’ and ‘creating discord on public forums’, and stated that ‘some language used in the thread wasn’t very well thought out’. Tone-policing aside, they’re literally taking the name of another organisation: that’s not well-thought out language.

I don’t think my thread was impolite. AUOB seem most upset that I claim they stole the name. They admit they knew Yes Alba existed, and that they messaged them, receiving no response. They then decided to take the name anyway. Decide for yourselves if that’s theft or not.

Their message to Yes Alba, which I included in my thread, makes no mention of wanting to discuss the name. It says they want to talk about independence, and links to their upcoming event. BBC Alba has 18k likes on Facebook. If I message them today, and don’t hear back by this time next month, am I good to take their name?

Several other straw-man arguments have emerged from AUOB and friends. ‘Gaels don’t own Gaelic’ …and you do? ‘Did AUOB know about Yes Alba?’ We’ve shown they did. ‘Yes Alba haven’t been active on social media since X’, a) they have, and b) doesn’t mean you get to take their name. ‘Can both not exist?’ No. ‘It’s a temporary name, and the group hasn’t launched.’ Then now is the perfect time to change it. These and more I, and numerous others, have addressed and dismantled. All distract from the very simple solution: change the name.

Why does this matter?

Let me be clear. It’s no Gael’s job to explain why you don’t get to take their stuff.

From the thread: ‘If you’re not a minority-language speaker, I don’t know how effectively I can get across to you the harm it does when folk […] just take the things you’ve built for themselves. For not-Yes Alba, it’s a name for their new group. For actual Yes Alba, it’s a space wherein Gaels could discuss IndyRef in their own language, a community of folk coming together in resistance. That space is now muddled and confused.’

It’s not even that this point has been lost in all the noise. It’s that AUOB has actively hit out against our rights. We’ve been told to watch our tone. We’ve been told we don’t own our words. We’ve been told it would be a good thing if an English-speaking organisation decided to give us the prestige of using a Gaelic word in their name. These are all imperialist, colonial tropes.

How an organisation opposing Westminster’s oppression, imperialism, and colonialism can say these things is beyond me. It should concern anyone wanting to build a better Scotland.

What now?

AUOB deny wrongdoing, while at the same time saying it wouldn’t be bad if they did steal the name. And this new group’s reaction is silence.

Maybe this group will meet next week and decide they want to be called Yes Alba. We’ll be ready if they try it. And maybe this committee will meet next week and decide on a name other than Yes Alba. I hope so, not least so we can all stop having to have this argument. I can’t believe the work I and numerous others have had to put in over the weekend for such a simple problem with such a simple solution.

But even if this new group decides against stealing Yes Alba’s name, both they and AUOB have shown themselves up this weekend, in their attitudes to Gaelic and to Gaels. The doubling-down, denials, and unwillingness to take any responsibility for the harm being done to Gaels’ place in the independence movement has brought us here.

The ball was in their court to show that Gaels mattered to them, and to their vision of a better Scotland.

And things descended from there.

 

Comments (59)

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  1. Anndrais mac Chaluim says:

    It seems to me to be a clear case of cultural appropriation for branding purposes. The Gaels are right to be angry; twofold, in fact, given the contempt with which their protest has been received.

    1. Time, the Deer says:

      Andrew you choose to represent your name in Gaelic, despite not speaking the language yourself, and spent a great deal of time and effort over the last few days hijacking every thread under the ‘What’s Gaelic for Omerta?’ article arguing the ridiculous premise that there was nothing exceptional about Gaelic in the context of ‘modern Scotland’s many languages’. You now accusing AUOB of cultural appropriation and contempt is the absolute definition of irony.

      The Gaelic for self awareness is ‘fèin-mhothachadh’. ‘S e do bheatha, a charaid, ‘s e do bheatha.

  2. Anndrais mac Chaluim says:

    Moreover, I appear to have been blocked, without explanation, from posting further on the comments thread below the ‘What both sides of the SNP’s Indy schism get wrong’ article. This has happened before. What’s going on within the Independence movement? Has it always treated people with such disdain?

    1. Axel P Kulit says:

      It looks to me like a case of ego over effectiveness. In another thread you mentioned socialists who become parasitic on capitalism and consciously or not act to preserve their role as fighters against capitalism without ever doing anything effective. I suspect this too is what is happening.

      It’s also not being willing to admit you are wrong and wriggling.

      1. Anndrais mac Chaluim says:

        Don’t get me wrong, Axel. I don’t mind being censored. It happens a lot in my stravaigin, and often for good reason; usually for some infringement of editorial policy, which is fair enough. I also don’t mind being blocked as a result of a technical blip in the platform’s functioning. But a wee e-mail to explain and set me right would just be common courtesy. I appreciate that Bella has been plagued by editorial infringements of late, such as the trading of gratuitous insults and the employment of fallacious ad hominem argument; but if I’ve infringed the policy in any way, it would be nice to know how.

        I believe Yes Alba’s complaint against AUOB concerns similar discourtesy.

    2. Time, the Deer says:

      I’ve had pub regulars like you Andrew – at first everyone’s polite and gives them a chance, but they continue to be belligerent, know-it-all pains-in-the-arse until the pub starts emptying when they come in every night and they’re so bad for business you have to bar them. I know we’re all fighting boredom at the moment, but seriously man, get a hobby.

    3. John Mooney says:

      Andrew you really are the pub bore,kindly foxtrot oscar and YES, you really deserve to be treated with disdain as you carry on your sad onanist journey.

      1. Axel P Kulit says:

        I find his commentary valuable even though I don’t often agree,

    4. I don’t see any comments in moderation. You are certainly not blocked from commenting, as we can see from your numerous … er … comments (?)

      1. Foghorn Leghorn says:

        Yep, I did find it hard to believe that censorship was the cause. Presumably, the occasions when my posts to some particular threads don’t appear when submitted are due to some technical blip. No matter. Thanks for letting me know, though I suspect that some will be disappointed that I haven’t in fact been thrown out of the pub for being nuthin’ but a loud-mouthed… I say, a loud-mouthed schnook.

        1. Gremlins maybe? I dont know what happened.

          There’s a profanity filter which stops comments going live. I am sometimes also away from the computer, though this is admittedly rare.

  3. Andy Fulton. says:

    Makes you wonder if some yoons have infiltrated and gravitated to positions of power and are starting a schism for the sake of their real allegiances.
    Seems clear cut with clear cut solution. It’s never too late to say you’re sorry and show contrition. Large egos often cause even larger problems.

    1. Axel P Kulit says:

      Infiltration os a real possibility. Remember the scandal over undercover cops in other organisations?

  4. MBC says:

    That’s very disappointing, hope there can be a name change. The newly elected inaugural committee has not even met yet. The person from AOUB who replied on the thread wasn’t speaking on behalf of it.

  5. Josef says:

    I don’t know about trademark law in Scotland. But just try setting up a group, and soliciting donations, under the name Greenpeace, or Sierra Club, or Amnesty International, or Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and see how long it takes before the solicitor arrives.

    You’ll find that, while Greenpeace don’t own the words “green” or “peace”, when you put them together they do.

  6. Jane says:

    We do know all of this though. It isn’t new. It is what the Scottish Government has long done to the Gaels, especially the Native Gaels. I see no difference in how I am treated as a Native Gael by Scotland#s powerbrokers, to the way that Westminster treats Scotland in turn. It is exactly the same: a microcosmic version of the colonial macrocosm.

    “We’ve been told it would be a good thing if an English-speaking organisation decided to give us the prestige of using a Gaelic word in their name. These are all imperialist, colonial tropes.” Yep. HIE have been doing this for some time now up North. Gaelic is a commodity for tourism and export revenue, and those who speak it had better not get in the way. Our role is to be exploited by those who know better than we do.

    Deagh luck le seo. s e mì rùn nan Gall a th’ann, ach ‘s fheàrr fios a bhith againn air sin na bhith den bheachd gu bheil iad dha rìribh airson a’ chànan a cumail beò. ‘S e facsimile a thathas ag iarraidh. I’ve never been closer to not voting for the SNP, indeed actively campaigning against them, than I have been over the last few weeks, and for sure MacNeil had better look both to his Westminster (and indeed Holyrood) laurels.

    1. MBC says:

      The SNP have got nothing to do with this group. Why are you blaming them for this? And what has the Scottish Government done to offend Gaelic speakers in its short 20 year history?

  7. seonaidh says:

    Am not sure if it really is ‘cutural appropriation’ as Gàidhlig is everyone’s be they native, learner or immigrant. It would be great to see Alba used more often even by those with little or no Gaelic.

    Stealing another group’s name if an obvious non-starter though. Maybe this is where the arrogance and prejudice appears – ‘they’re just a minority and should be thankful for the attention?’.

    Sad that an reionisation that managed to mobilise the biggest ever demonstrations Scotland has seen, for the cause of independence, has become such an arrogant and divisive force over the past few months.

    1. seonaidh says:

      sad that an ‘organisation’….

      Typos na croiche!

      1. Jane says:

        The upside of this is that we could all end up fighting on the same side for once. 😉

    2. Anndrais mac Chaluim says:

      I don’t think it’s the use of the Gaelic language that’s caused the offence, seonaidh. As you say, the language is part of the commons and doesn’t belong exclusively to its speakers; any of us can use it. The complaint’s about the appropriation of another group’s name for the purpose of political branding and the dismissive disdain with which that other group found itself treated when it asked for this abuse to be rectified.

      AUOB’s problem, I suspect, is that it might already have invested significant capital in this branding, investment which it can ill-afford to lose by now having to change it.

  8. BSA says:

    Depressing and unnecessary dispute, especially at this time. The Pretenders to the name should just piss off.

  9. Stuart James Murray says:

    If the word Scotland isnt as good as Alba, you have to ask why? Its a reminder that the response of many Americans to questioning names such as “Apaches” for sports teams actually goes back further in Scotland than they do in North America, as the complaints of Gaels were being mocked as early as the late Medieval period.

    1. Axel P Kulit says:

      I understand that as early as 1400 Scotland was seen as Teutons (lowlanders) and Highlanders with Lowlanders considering the Highlanders as little more than barbarians.

      It is not clear to me how much these attitudes have changed, if at all.

      1. Foghorn Leghorn says:

        You could make a decent case for saying that the Gàidhealtachd was the last area of the northern half of the British Isles to be absorbed into a modern ‘Scotland’, and was so absorbed through the cultural appropriation of the language, history, and customs of its people to a ‘Scottish’ heritage industry by the antiquarianism of the likes of Sir Walter Scott.

        The hegemony of this industry, which laid a cornerstone of the ethnic nationalism that arose among us in the 20th century, has been baneful with regard to our ongoing historical development towards the realisation of our global humanity; escaping antique Scotland would be the work of a genuine independence movement.

        ‘Not traditions – precedents!’

        1. Calum H. says:

          I don’t think you could make a good case for that at all, FL. If so, I’d love to hear it.

          It seems to me that your argument first assumes that the Unionist propaganda of centuries past – that all things seen as distinctly Scottish were actually ‘Highland’ – to be true.

          It’s not true in the least.

          Perhaps you can point to some element of ‘language, history, culture’ that is seen as part of Scottish identity which doesn’t actually belong there, doesn’t have provenance there, and involves “cultural appropriation” from the Gàidhealtachd?

          One example will do.

          1. Foghorn Leghorn says:

            Okay:

            There are two claims in operation here

            1. That the Gàidhealtachd was the last area of the northern half of the British Isles to be absorbed into a modern ‘Scotland’

            2. That it was so absorbed through the cultural appropriation of the language, history, and customs of its people

            The first claim could be justified by an appeal to the relative independence that the Gàidhealtachd continued to enjoy of the Scottish kingdom long after that of all other areas had been brought under its effective jurisdiction. Indeed, it could be argued that this independence wasn’t really broken until the aftermath of the civil war between the Hanoverians and the Jacobites, which consolidated the revolution of 1688.

            The second claim could be justified by an appeal to the work of the Tory establishment in Edinburgh to recreate ‘Scotland’ as a distinct cultural entity within the Union after more than a century of whiggish emphasis on its complete abolition in the new progressive and enlightened entity of ‘Great Britain’. Rather than continuing the Enlightenment project to extirpate scotticism, the Romantics appropriated it to their own cultural reconstructions of antique Scottish life, with the invention of folklores, tartans, chivalric clans, bucolic Hielan hames and landscapes, and national patriotism, which was even more corrosive to what remained of Gaelic culture than the brutal proscription of its forms had been. Thus the Gàidhealtachd was assimilated to the modern Scottish nation.

            But, of course, both these constitutive narratives could be challenged. I suspect that the truth of the matter is undecidable for hermeneutical reasons. But that’s another story.

          2. Calum H says:

            Thanks for replying FG. I can’t seem to reply directly to your response so hopefully you’ll see this.

            There’s no doubt that the more geographically remote parts of Scotland enjoyed more independence from the Scottish crown, and for longer, but it’s an error to equate those areas of geographical remoteness – and thus greater independence – with ‘the Gàidhealtachd’.

            The Gàidhealtachd was never a clearly defined and static geographical area. Not being an ‘area’, it cannot then be a ‘last area’ in any historical process. Starting from around the 11th century, the Gàidhealtachd could be said to be almost the entire territory of Scotland. It then very slowly shrank over the centuries like a puddle evaporating in the sun. For most of this time, much of it was not particularly remote and was as much a part of the realm as any other area of Scotland. In the period you mention, the late 1600’s, large swathes of Lowland Scotland, including areas in the south west Lowlands, still had large Gaelic speaking communities which would go on to survive for another century, and were thus part of the Gàidhealtachd throughout this time.

            So what can we say about the ‘independence’ of this Gàidhealtachd within Scotland? Nothing, because there is nothing homogenous about it and it is not confined to a clear geographical area. We can only speak of specific Scottish regions.

            Regarding your second point, that “rather than continuing … to extirpate scotticism, the Romantics appropriated it to their own cultural reconstructions of antique Scottish life”. I would basically agree. Where I would disagree is that their “cultural reconstructions” involved “cultural appropriation” specifically from the Gàidhealtachd. As you correctly said, it was reconstructions of “antique Scottish life”, and nothing that served as the original material – the grain of truth – for their colourful pastiche was ever exclusively Highland nor confined to the ever shrinking Gàidhealtachd. Having romanticised the Highlands, they were then very fond of tacking the word ‘Highland’ on in front of almost everything – ‘dress’, ‘tartan’, ‘pipes’, ‘dancing’, ‘games’ etc, but that didn’t mean it was true, or that these things really were Highland, or exclusively so.

            The raw elements of culture that they mythologised were never confined to Highland life. All were or had until recently been found throughout Scotland. So how could they be “appropriating” specifically from the Gàidhealtachd, as you define it? I asked for an example of one element of culture that was specifically “appropriated” from the Gàidhealtachd. You referred in passing to the old classics of Clans and Tartans. But there is abundant evidence that both were to be found in Lowland Scotland as far as the Border long before the Romanticists got their hands on them, well into the period you pointed to, the 17th century, and even beyond. You will find that any original elements upon which the popular romanticised perception of ‘Highland’ culture is based, in fact turn out to be aspects of Scottish culture – appropriated, reworked and assigned exclusively and quite incorrectly to ‘the Highlands’.

          3. Foghorn Leghorn says:

            I stand corrected: Gàidhealtachd does indeed refer to the language rather than the geography.

            So, let me refine my claim in the light of your criticism:

            You could make a decent case for saying that the Gàidhealtachd was the last language community in the northern half of the British Isles to be absorbed into the modern cultural entity called ‘Scotland’, and was so absorbed through the appropriation of the language, history, and customs of its people to a ‘Scottish’ heritage industry by the antiquarianism of the likes of Sir Walter Scott.

            So what can we say about the ‘independence’ of this Gàidhealtachd prior to the invention of modern ‘Scotland’ in 19th century Britain? Not much, except that it was its own thing, something that had been persecuted almost out of existence by the whiggish enthusiasm for Britishness until it was taken up by the Edinburgh Tories and appropriated into a very British ‘Scotland’.

            I take your point that the Gàidhealtachd had been under pressure long before the disaster than overcame it following the failed counter-revolution in 1745; the rise and evolution of premodern Anglo-French/feudal ‘Scotland’ from the 12th century onward drove it increasingly back into the more remote areas of northern Britain whence it had come, where it did succeed in remaining its own thing until it was absorbed by the process I described into modern Scotland.

            Of course, the Gàidhealtachd continues to survive as its own thing among its activists, who work to reclaim it from its cultural appropriated forms, as one of the many language communities that comprise postmodern ‘Scotland’. And all power to it, and all power to those who work to revive its authenticity after centuries of caricature and distortion.

            As I’ve said elsewhere (and been roundly abused for so saying), Gaelic is one of contemporary Scotland’s many languages, and its speakers are entitled to the same consideration and respect that the speakers of Scotland’s other languages enjoy,

          4. Calum H says:

            Hi FL

            As you first claim now stands I could almost get on board with it. Almost. The last Scottish communities to be “absorbed into the modern cultural entity called ‘Scotland’ were Gaelic speaking – but they definitely were not synonymous with ‘the Gàidhealtachd.’

            If we take a snapshot of the ever reducing Gàidhealtachd in Scott’s day, or a century or even two centuries earlier could we say that it was ever, at any point, “it’s own thing”, or that all parts enjoyed equal “independence” of some kind or another, whether political or cultural? No, not really. Parts of the Gàidhealtachd were quite firmly in the ‘mainstream’ Scottish orbit, others were not.

            And you could certainly argue that parts of the eastern and southern Gàidhealtachd were comfortably part of the Scottish realm even as the Clans of the Borders (and the evidence shows that is what they called themselves and how they were commonly referred to in official records) remained beyond central Scottish control in the 16th and 17th century and their culture was seen as barbarous and abhorrent to those who would rule them, and who hated and literally cursed them for it (See Gavin Dunbar’s spectacular hate filled curse). The solution to this Border problem was mass imprisonment, execution, proscription, and transportation. So, just as generalisations cannot be made about the homogeneity of the Gàidhealtachd, they cannot be made about the rest of Scotland either, not even below the Forth/Clyde line.

            As for your second point, that the Gàidhealtachd “was so absorbed through the appropriation of the language, history, and customs of its people to a ‘Scottish’ heritage industry by the antiquarianism of the likes of Sir Walter Scott”, I cannot agree, because you have not shown how the “Scottish heritage industry” is made up of elements originally belonging exclusively to the Gàidhealtachd – to “it’s people”.

            For instance, the evidence shows that long before Scott’s day, up to it and in some cases beyond it, ordinary Scots south of the Forth and the Clyde described their kin systems as ‘Clans’, wore tartan, went about in plaids, played shinty, played bagpipes, brewed whisky, spoke Gaelic, and so on – basically all of the elements of the later greatly exaggerated, colourized and codified “Scottish heritage industry” were present throughout Scotland as aspects of a genuine Scottish culture.

            So what elements of culture was it that that Scott and his ilk plundered for their pastiche that belonged exclusively to the Gàidhealtachd (as you define it)?

            How can you “appropriate” from the Gàidhealtachd that which rightly belongs to all Scotland?

            I would agree that Scott and others bastardised rural Scottish culture and then often slapped a false ‘Highland’ label on it, but that is an affront to Scotland, not just the Gàidhealtachd.

          5. Foghorn Leghorn says:

            If, as we agree, the Gàidhealtachd is a language community rather than a geographical community, then it will always be its own thing (‘the Gàidhealtachd’) rather than an attribute of something else (‘Scotland’).

            If, as you say, the language community that is ‘the Gàidhealtachd’ is plural rather than singular in its composition, then, yes, its relationship to ‘Scotland’ – in all of its successive iterations – will be more nuanced than I’ve suggested.

            But ‘Scotland’ was, through all of its successive iterations from the 12th century onwards, singular in its compositions insofar as it was, as a cultural entity, the hegemony by which the nominal rulers would tighten their grip on the territories over which they nominally ruled. Thus the Anglo-French monarchs extended the hegemony of its ‘Scotland’ over Galloway and, later, the Borders, but never quite the Highlands and Islands, and thus the British monarchy extended that of its ‘Scotland’ over the last. The modern ‘Scotland’ of the Edinburgh Tories, with its romanticising of Gaelic culture as part of its amalgam, is part of the history of this age-old power politics.

            It’s this romanticising of Gaelic culture that I mean when I refer to its ‘appropriation’ into the British narrative that comprises modern ‘Scotland’; the idea that Scotland, as one of the nations of the UK, is a single cultural entity, defined by a single common heritage that, as you point out, is in fact the bastard child of Scott and his ilk.

            I’d like to see us go beyond this narrative to assert ‘Scotland’ instead as a plural cultural entity, united not by any single common heritage, but only by a common multicultural/multiethnic citizenship; a ‘Scotland’ in which the all of the several language communities to which its citizenry belongs – the surviving Gàidhealtachd being one of them – enjoy equal respect, and in which none is privileged or disadvantaged. I think that would be a better narrative, for human purposes, than the one that informs old-time ethnic nationalism.

          6. Calum H says:

            As a language community the Gàidhealtachd through history was only ever “it’s own thing” in terms of Gaelic being spoken there – and even then there were tensions and differences, the Gaelic of areas like Ayrshire, Galloway and Arran, for instance, being seen as slightly ‘barbarous’ by Gaelic speakers from further north and west due to it’s greater similarity to Irish Gaelic.

            But in every other way – culturally, religiously, politically – the Gàidhealtachd was never “it’s own thing” but was made up of very different, often conflicting, regions. It was as complex and nuanced as every other part of Scotland was.

            The Gàidhealtachd is, in my opinion, an intrinsic aspect of Scotland – the foundational aspect. Scotland was once the Gàidhealtachd and the Gàidhealtachd was once Scotland. The Gaels created the Kingdom of Scotland. It bears their name. We bear their name. It’s was the rulers of this Gàidhealtachd who invited in the influences which transformed it from the 11th century onwards. It was the children of these Gaels who intermarried with foreign dynasties and created the burghs which seeded another language throughout the land. What “Anglo-French” monarchs are you speaking of? Scotland was not invaded by any foreign dynasty. Gaels intermarried, sought outside influence and support, and transformed their Gàidhealtachd, transformed Scotland. There was no “other” Scotland which “did this” to the Gàidhealtachd. There were no foreign kings coming to extend their rule over all Scotland, except those of England which Scotland successfully resisted.

            Scottish monarchs certainly extended their rule over the Highlands – just not all of it, all of the time. It was not some unified block, a last bastion against an external “Scottish” incursion – which is itself a romantic notion.

            At the time of the Statutes of Iona, for instance, which brought crown authority forcefully to the Western Highlands and Islands, the “Pacification of the Borders” was not yet complete.

            The Romanticising of the Highlands is not “cultural appropriation”. It is not a taking of something away for use by a “foreign”‘ people. If anything, it is a collecting of mythologised elements of a real preexisting culture which spanned Scotland and assigning them all narrowly to ‘the Highlands’, thus withholding them from the Scots in general, except in pastiche form in which they are allowed to participate as long as they swear allegiance to myth of the Highland Cult first, and acknowledge that this tinsel festooned culture is not really “theirs” – or as you might put it, that it was “appropriated from the Gàidhealtachd”. This falsehood was damaging to all of Scotland: the Highlands, which had this gaudy fantasy dumped upon it and the Lowlands which had its historical cultural reality taken from it.

            My own view of Gaelic is, as I stated, that it is the foundational aspect of Scotland and, as such, has primacy and unparalleled importance within Scotland and to the Scots as a nation and so rightfully has a place enshrined in law as a national, “indigenous” language.

          7. Foghorn Leghorn says:

            ‘Scotland was once the Gàidhealtachd and the Gàidhealtachd was once Scotland.’

            Aye, but that was a long, long time ago in a historical place that is far, far removed from today’s Scotland, which, as a cultural entity, has evolved through several iterations since then. I still don’t see how Gaelic can justifiably claim to be any more or less foundational to postmodern pluralistic Scotland than Punjabi is.

          8. Calum H says:

            A long time ago? Not really. Gaelic did not finally disappear from Lowland Scotland south of the Forth Clyde line until the very late 18th century, possibly as late as the early 19th. In parts of the north eastern Lowlands, probably later.

            You don’t think Gaelic has any special foundational place in Scotland? Really? That’s astounding.

            A foundation is what something is built upon. It doesn’t matter how high and how long you build, the foundation is still there and cannot be replaced.

            The Kingdom of Scotland was created by Gaels and named after Gaels. That is its foundation. Gaelic is the oldest living language still spoken in Scotland. Therefore Gaelic is ‘foundational’ to Scotland. Whatever other ‘bricks’ were added to it since – such as Punjabi within the last few decades – they can never be foundational, as that foundation was laid down over a thousand years ago.

            Try arguing that English is ‘foundational’ in the Punjab, simply because it arrived there in the last couple of centuries.

          9. Foghorn Leghorn says:

            It has been a long, long time since ‘Scotland’ and ‘the Gàidhealtachd were identical; that is, since ‘Scotland was… the Gàidhealtachd and the Gàidhealtachd was… Scotland’.

            A foundation is indeed what something is built on. So, the question is: on what is today’s Scotland – the cultural entity – built?

            On the Gàidhealtachd? Yes, partly; which is why I maintain that it Gaelic should enjoy the same respect and consideration as all the other language communities on whose cultures postmodern Scotland is also built.

            But, still, today’s Scotland is built on an ever-mutating plurality of cultures, and not just those of the so-called ‘indigenous’ peoples or (heaven forbid!) races, none of which has any justifiable claim to being privileged over any other. Today’s Scotland has multiple heritages, multiple lines of descent, along only one of which lies the Gàidhealtachd.

          10. Calum H says:

            Wow. OK. Thankfully, the Scottish Government doesn’t quite share your view which is why we are least have the Gaelic Language Act and Gaelic’s recognition in law as an “indigenous language” of Scotland, as well as signs which include Gaelic at the border which announce that visitors have arrived at the borders of the ancient Gàidhealtachd.

            Well, we are drifting far from our original discussion. So I think I’ll leave it there. Thanks for the good natured debate

          11. Foghorn Leghorn says:

            Yes, it’s been a pleasure; a proper discussion that’s helped me clarify my thoughts.

          12. Foghorn Leghorn says:

            Though I do wonder how the Scottish government squares those examples of discrimination with it espoused civic nationalism.

          13. Calum H says:

            In much the same way as almost every other country in the world does does, I’d imagine. They recognises the value of their indigenous cultures and languages.

            They don’t see a contradiction. I’m afraid I don’t either.

          14. Foghorn Leghorn says:

            It’s the contradiction between, on the one hand, a state’s effective expression of ethnic nationalism, which privileges the life-forms of its so-called ‘indigenous’ citizens (‘natives’) over those of its so-called ‘adventitious’ citizens (‘incomers’), thus creating two unequal classes of citizen, and, on the other hand, its formal espousal of civic nationalism, which extends no such privilege but is premised on absolute equality.

          15. Calum H says:

            Again, I don’t see a contradiction. We’re talking about language, and an endangered language at that, not human rights, or the rights of a citizen. It’s why Scotland is not at the forefront of the effort to save the Javan Rhinoceros, for example. Scotland is not it’s natural habitat and there is nothing we can do about its preservation on the ground here. However we do make efforts to preserve our own endangered species, in their own Scottish habitats. That is our responsibility as custodians of this particular land.

            Is that unfair to those around the world who have made Scotland their home, and who may be very attached to the indigenous wildlife of their country of origin? Hardly.

            You see the point I’m making I’m sure.

          16. Foghorn Leghorn says:

            I see the point you’re making exactly.

            What I was talking about was a language community, whose members share equal citizenship with those of other language communities that exist within the political jurisdiction of ‘Scotland’.

            What I’m wondering is why members of one language community should be privileged over the members of other language communities by having their language promoted more energetically and resourcefully by a state (or quasi-state, I suppose we should say at this moment in time) in which, at the same time, they’re all proclaimed to be equal citizens.

            For example, why does Gaelic feature in the Scottish government’s corporate branding while Romani doesn’t?

            How can the Scottish government elevate Gaelic to the status of a prestige language within its jurisdiction while, at the same time, the ruling party markets itself to ‘new Scots’ by espousing civic nationalism, which by its nature proscribes such inequalities?

            I suspect it’s because there’s still a residue of ethnic nationalism within our government and society that views ‘Scotland’ as comprising an indigenous culture that ‘hosts’ a variety of adventitious ‘guest’ cultures.

            The sooner we can go beyond that abhorrent idea and become truly a cosmopolitan Scotland, the better.

          17. Calum H says:

            I:d say that this has nothing to do with equal citizenship, or the rights of a citizen, which are a given.

            The preservation and promotion of the Gaelic Language in no way infringes on the rights and citizenship of anyone.

            Should the English language sign at the border be followed by renderings in every single language spoken by every citizen of Scotland, so that there is “equality”? This is the kind of absurdity such reasoning leads to. Or perhaps to avoid that the sign should only be in English as that’s the dominant … oh dear, perhaps not. Or maybe there should just be a picture of the outline of Scotland, to avoid all offence – except to the blind.

            The reasons for the promotion of Gaelic in Scotland are:

            1. This is it’s place of origin (Scottish Gaelic diverged from Irish Gaelic long ago. They are not the same language).

            2. It is endangered. Without state support and intervention the language will not survive.

            3. It can only survive by means of its remaining communities being supported and strengthened and its expansion outwards from a hugely (and artificially) reduced Gàidhealtachd being encouraged.

            “You spoke of “civic nationalism, which by its nature proscribes such inequalities”. I disagree with that assumption, just as I disagree with the implications of “inequalities”.

            There is no abandonment of civic nationalism in the protection and promotion of indigenous languages. Should we let all endangered indigenous languages go to the wall, all around the world? Should we let them be swamped and obliterated forever by the hegemony of dominant languages like English? I doubt very much that you would argue for that.

            The understanding that there are indigenous cultures and languages which deserve protection, especially when endangered, is not in opposition to civic nationalism.

            Your version of a ‘truly cosmopolitan Scotland’ is abhorrent to me, as I believe it would be to the citizens of almost every country around the world if they were required to adopt it.

            For the same reason, I will not be putting my Christmas dinner in the blender and whizzing it up into some homogenous slop. Nor do I imagine you will be.

            Why not?

          18. Calum H says:

            As an afterthought, I recalled former President of Ireland Mary Robinson’s lecture at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig in which she said “In committing ourselves to Europe, we found that our Irish identity was, if anything, enhanced. The experience of interaction with other European States on a basis of equality helped our national self-confidence and heightened our awareness of the value of our distinctive contribution to European culture and civilisation.”

            Each nation has a distinctive contribution, a unique contribution, to make to the word. It cannot be replicated by any other nation.

            When we obliterate what makes each nation unique, we destroy the capacity for that unique contribution.

          19. Foghorn Leghorn says:

            Regarding placenames, here’s an idea! Why don’t we let local communities name themselves and their landmarks democratically, and announce themselves accordingly to the world? A nation of plurilingual rather than multilingual roadsigns; a kind of metaphor for ‘Scotland’ generally.

            I’m not precious about so-called ‘indigenous’ languages or their preservation. Language evolves; some species of language disappear as a consequence of changes in their cultural environment, some survive those historical changes. If a language community wishes to preserve its linguistic heritage, then good luck to it. I still don’t see why some language communities should be more supported in this by an ethnically impartial nation-state than others.

            The cosmopolitanism to which the Scottish government (when it’s appealing to the ‘new Scots’ vote rather than to that of ‘oor ain folk’) says it aspires, and to which I believe our society should be aspiring, isn’t likeable to some homogeneous slop. This is the myth of ‘mongrelisation’ with which the demagogues stir up fear and hatred against the ‘others’ among us. Cosmopolitanism is the idea that all human beings are, or could or should be, free and equal members of a single community in which all their differences can be accommodated short of conflict, neither blended into a homogenous slop nor assimilated into some supposedly indigenous host.

            Scotland should aspire to be a dynamic world culture rather than a preserved indigenous one.

            ‘Not traditions – precedents!’ as I keep saying.

  10. Morag Burton says:

    I’m so disappointed in the attitude shown by AUOB. Politics is a sordid business right enough. They are losing support over this already and they haven’t even properly begun!

    1. Good news. I’m told by Neil Mackay, the national organiser of @AUOBALBA that the National committee of the new membership org meets this evening for the first time and “the name change is high up on the agenda.”

  11. John O'Dowd says:

    I am really disappointed at AOUB and the ersatz ‘Yes Alba’ response to a reasonable request from a spokesman for the real Yes Alba. I would have expected a more mature and reflective response to having been caught in theft.

    As Robbie points out, it reflects an ancient – and often unconscious – attitude to Gaeldom in Scotland that is wholly unacceptable.

    The new independent Alba will need to come to terms with some unfortunate aspects of our own history in relation to Scottish Gaeldom – and indeed wider Gaeldom – which I suspect have the same roots.

    It would be good if the grown-ups in AOUB/Ersatz Yes Alba would exert some leadership and step down with as much grace as is now available to them.

    Math dhut, Robbie. Tha thu gu tur ceart anns a ’chùis seo.

  12. Tom says:

    It’s easy.

    Leave the name as AUOB. I know we’ve all got used to thinking of AUOB as a name for folk on the march, but only because we’re used to thinking of it that way. But the name could equally as well apply to a bunch of people in a pub planning a Yes campaign.

    Better still, call it ‘All of Us First’ which I think belongs (formally or not) to Common Weal. There is cross-Board representation between Bella and Common Weal, so the use/ownership of the phrase should be easy enough to sort out.

    ‘All of Us First’ and ‘AUOB’ both have the advantage of not being about independence in the narrow sense, but about our ambition for how we get there, and what happens afterwards. The names are visionary and fresh, and a look forward not back, unlike ‘Yes Alba’ which is a hark back to 2014.

    And our Gaelic-speaking friends are already using Yes Alba, which is surely the clincher.

    1. Wul says:

      “Leave the name as AUOB.”

      Nah…I’d prefer they didn’t. I always get it mixed up with BYOB (Bring Your Own Bottle)

      1. Foghorn Leghorn says:

        Twenty years ago, when I worked for the British Red Cross, which liked its acronyms, I spent a whole morning in a Scottish Management Team meeting, deliberating on what the newly amalgamated Fife, Lothian, and Borders branch should be called, while avoiding the obvious ‘FLAB’.

        For those of us who favoured the retention of the commune as the fundamental unit of governance (the local Red Cross volunteer centres and organising committees based on towns and villages), ‘FLAB’ seemed an apt denomination for a larger, less agile unit of power and decision-making.

  13. SleepingDog says:

    Surely the first thing you do when considering a new name for a public organization is to do a web search for prior uses? Aside from the ethical objection quite rightly raised, you would want to avoid confusion, get the chance at a domain name, appear top in web searches yourself, obtain a hashtag… Beyond boorish behaviour, this name-duplication strikes me as (digitally) illiterate incompetence, something which will almost certainly guarantee a movement’s failure these days.

  14. Gashty McGonnard says:

    Stealing an existing group’s name is wrong and stupid. Obvs.

    I have to say, though, that a lot of the noises coming from Gaelic activists here on Bella recently seem ill-considered and certain to be counterproductive for the health and support of the language.

    Phrases like cultural genocide and cultural appropriation are maybe valid analyses of the *historical* decline of Gaelic. The Statutes of Iona, the proscriptions after Culloden, the Clearances and the beatings for speaking Gaelic in school all look like an attempt to kill a culture. The adoption of pipes and kilts by the British military, the culture of Balmoral and shortbread tins and a lot of the Noble Savage romantic literature about Highlanders were all attempts at manufacturing a sedate and homogenous Scottish province of empire, by appropriating and sanitising a few Gaelic tropes.

    Even so, the idea that the remaining native speakers, or the inhabitants of the Western Isles, or whatever way you draw the line, have exclusive rights to control use of Gaelic words in an English or Scots-speaking milieu is perverse. Everybody in Scotland is anglified or de-gaelified to some degree. The remaining Gàidhealtachd areas or families don’t live in bubbles or fenced-off reservations. There’s no way to separate out a demographic called ‘the Gaels’ in real life today. We all live in a plural, mixed up country. A person in Airdrie or Govan who wants to learn a few words of Gaelic has to be given the chance to express that not-quite-dead-yet aspect of their identity – even if we wince when they shout ‘slanj’. The alternative is an insular and dwindling community of ‘pure’ Gaels that might get some grants and some proected-minority kudos but will be extinct in two generations.

    We’re just beginning, maybe, to envisage what post-colonial Scottish culture will be like and what place Gaelic will have in it. It’s self-sabotage for activists to ‘protect’ the language from anyone who has a friendly attitude, even if they sometimes get it badly wrong.

  15. Calum H. says:

    I think representatives of both organizations have managed to shoot themselves in the foot and show themselves up during this debacle. I suspect that Yes Alba – quite remarkably given the circumstances of having had their name taken – has managed to make even more of an ars@ of itself than AUOB. But more on that In a moment.

    I’m not going to any lengths to defend AUOB’s taking the name, although it appears it originally was done without malice and in the belief that the original Yes Alba was no longer operational.

    Perhaps they should have relinquished the name as soon as approached – and that is all this issue is and should really be about, one organisation, taking the name of another organisation they believed was defunct.

    But no. Yes Alba appear to have made it so much more, and from the very outset. Robbie, your initial comment was belligerent, IMO, and unsurprisingly didn’t get the best of reactions. You basically said, to paraphrase “You’ve stolen, and it’s either a) a stupid error or b) you’re a bunch of tw@ts”

    Oh, thieves, stupid or tw@ts? Nice. Which to choose, which to choose? Talk about coming out swinging. That certainly gets things off on the right foot. I wonder why those basically accused of being stupid, thieving tw@ts didn’t immediately respond graciously?

    Taking offence is clearly what AUOB did, but perhaps not without cause.

    The rhetoric then immediately deployed against AUOB was also troubling and shot through with elitism and exclusivity and echoing the kind of Victorian era Unionist propaganda and racial myths – unsurprisingly also trotted out in this thread regarding supposed Teutonic Lowlanders and Celtic Highlanders – that has been utterly discredited and has no place in modern Scotland. It would be racism if it were not so absurd and utterly without foundation.

    While alienating and insulting the majority of Scots with this type of tripe, including those of AUOB, they were – as well as “othered” – then also quickly cast as imperialist and colonialist, simply by virtue of not all speaking Gaelic, and not immediately doing what a few Gaelic speakers – who were apparently speaking for all Gaels (except Angus MacNeil and a others) – told them to do.

    Lots more I would like to say, and a lot more I would take issue with in the article but what I’ve said already will no doubt be deeply unwelcome, so I’ll leave it there.

    Hopefully both organizations will have time for some self reflection after this, as neither came off well.

  16. Margherita Muller says:

    The original group will have time stamps – it is theft, no doubts on my part.

  17. Peter Colledge says:

    I suppose there are many strands to the independence issue. Is this new organisation composed of Scots? We know that language and culture can be politicised; Scotland (Alba) has largely forsworn this, thankfully, but we can see how destructive such politicisation has been to Ireland. Where are manners in all of this? The new group don’t seem to have any. I hope this issue can be put to bed soon.

  18. Steaphan says:

    Why isn’t Yes Alba already copyrighted like a brand name would be? In any case, the “appropriation” argument aside, it would be a clear case of unofficial breach of copyright. The Gaelic group had appropriated the English word “yes” though so not sure if the appropriation thing is a goer.

    1. Foghorn Leghorn says:

      Copyright doesn’t protect names. Such items can easily be duplicated by coincidence and are therefore not considered unique or substantial enough to be awarded copyright protection in their own right. You can only seek to protect a name by applying to register it as a trademark.
      Yes Alba probably didn’t even consider registering its name as a trademark.

      But I don’t think Yes Alba’s complaining about something akin to a breach of copyright; I think it’s complaining about the discourtesy of the appropriation in the first place and the disdain, bordering on contempt, with which their complaint was subsequently received.

      Ain’t it wonderful how we Scots can so quickly turn a squabble into a grievance. Frae family feuds ti ecclesiastical schisms… wha’s like us, eh?

  19. Calum H says:

    Perhaps the AUOB group should take the name Bu Chòir Alba. Then when the original Yes Alba group complain about this – as seems highly likely – then AUOB can offer to swap the name for Yes Alba. Sorted.

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