Education, education, education
It is impossible for the privately educated Englishman, and some state school educated ones too, to accept Scots wholeheartedly as one of themselves for to do so jeopardises their status as Englishmen. The reverse is true for Scotland. We allowed anybody to vote for or against our sovereignty, even Englishmen as the quip goes, and look where it got us – still enduring England’s rule, or at least the alien governments England elects.
In his eagerness to be accepted, the naïve Scottish unionist loses touch with his roots. Today’s Scot has arrived at an identity by virtue of estrangement from his country’s heritage and customs. The only traces he has left is his local accent and a few dialect words, and for some his football or rugby club. For him voting English Labour or Tory comes easily. In the battle for power the unionist is a collaborator out of necessity.
That thought crossed my mind when the final analysis of the 2014 Referendum illuminated how many of the elderly voted to retain London rule. They believed the lies plied to them if they voted for independence and duly let slip their grasp on the nation’s future. Years of ‘British is Best’ propaganda had bored into their skulls.
You hope it has dawned on civil rights losers voters that for all their high-mindedness they were comprehensively duped. It stands as the greatest error they will have made in their life.
The Dark Side
Aging unionists thought that by banishing appeals to self-determination they could hold fast to a social fabric called Britishness only to discover too late it was the darker side of Englishness. They’ll pass on uncertain of installing a bulwark against social chaos, and drift off to another place riddled with doubts. Their vision of their world was a delusion. The dark forces they thought they were resisting were the very ones they supported.
The No’s ought to have known better.
In an Englishman’s world a Scot welcomed as trusted friend is forever ‘Jock’, a mnemonic demotion to an amorphous group that talk ‘funny’ and are pathologically parsimonious with money – thanks to the myth generated by the fabulously successful faux Scot persona of the entertainer Harry Lauder. This perception of a dour and mean spirited race living off oats reduces Scots to a Hindu-like lower caste.
Now, before I inadvertently rile English readers I should add a couple of caveats to my hypothesis. I realise it can be fanciful to assume English give a damn about Scotland. They do not have to care. Scotland does not rule England, nor can it impose on England taxes or sanctions or an alien media as England can and does on Scotland. Scotland has no veto on English extremism beyond the power of a people’s mandate expressed in a plebiscite, that’s why unionists do all they can to suppress this mechanism.
The man and woman in the street, from Exeter to Newcastle, from Torquay to the Solway coast, are too busy getting on with their lives to think of Scotland’s archaic political situation. Daily they struggle with neo-liberal austerity, more accurately described as de-growth, a barely hidden attempt to halt the distribution of wealth to the majority. For the most part they are unaware of meritorious Scots in fine art, music, literature, and the sciences beyond a handful of television celebrities, actors and one tennis player.
Push them for an opinion on Scotland and replies range from ‘the individual’s right to chose’ to ‘damn whinging Scots’. Push English a bit further and you discover how much of their insidious class system still exists and how it infects their lives and Scottish society profoundly.
The thorny problem
What I am wrestling with here is something quite separate from being stuck in a social ghetto not of one’s making. I am discussing the wish to be accepted as a respected member of one’s own country, not to be patronised when in it or out of it, one’s culture rejected, one’s accomplishments and intelligence deemed of a lower order.
British, the all-purpose compensation. British, some think, makes us of equal status to any resident of the United Kingdom. Without realising it we’ve lowered our professional position or rank. In that lies the seeds of ‘The Cringe’, the feeling of inferiority.
This inferiorisation infects our every perception of ourselves. It infects our attitude to our institutions. We question if they can be as good, as respected as English institutions are internationally. We accept subconsciously they cannot be, otherwise why does the media promote English institutions consistently over ours?
An example: having a pocket version of London’s V&A museum in Dundee has been praised. That’s all very well, but it isn’t there to represent Scotland’s culture, or guarantee staff posts to residents of Scotland. It doesn’t actually advance the cause of self-governance one inch. What it does is advance the name of the V&A.
Unconsciously or otherwise we accept English as white supremacist, much as an African-American might his white counterpart. We exercise an undemocratic discrimination of our nation’s inhabitants, we judge them not up to some standard or other that we hold important. We are our worst enemy.
Optimism is everything
It is quite remarkable to listen to a Scot schooled in the positive attributes of Scottish culture and customs and achievements. There is genuine confidence in their utterances.
So much of how we think of ourselves rests with our education. No surprise that Scotland’s opponents of democracy have launched a campaign to vilify it.
To begin with, the Scottish system refuses to employ untrained, unqualified amateur teachers. For good, sound reasons our higher education system will not entertain paltry two-year ‘honours’ courses but they are common in England.
The right to self-determination
The history of the Scot in the artificial construct called the United Kingdom is unique for this: that the question of our humanity and our rights have been a burning question for several generations.
Out of that dispute the venom of the epithet ‘sweaty’ is derived. (‘Sweaty sock’ – Jock.) The only category it can refer to is hard working Scots who do manual labour for a living, a category once exclusively kept for Irish ‘navvies’. In any event, the inclusion of a once proud nation within the confines of another nation’s power is why its effects are so frequently disastrous.
The power and the glory
English power and culture is an inescapable fabric of Scotland’s life. For Scots to have an ‘attitude’ towards England’s suffocating political priorities should not come as a surprise to English.
And yet when we do discuss acquiring better democratic tools to run our own country while still keeping links with England in trade and culture and customs, English are taken aback at the passion, the ferocity Scots employ to be heard. English feel insulted that we should reject the tremendous ill effects their presence has had, and still has, on our hopes and aspirations.
A confidence trick
The original confidence trickster given the phrase ‘con man’ was Samuel Thompson, (1821–1856) a swindler who dressed in best attire, three piece suits, silver topped cane, top hat, spats and silk handkerchief. He hung around New York’s posh streets and approached likely ‘marks’ asking “Have you confidence enough in me, sir, to lend me your watch for a day?” or by the same nuanced question “borrow some money?”
He exploited his victim’s sense of themselves. He knew well-heeled people place trust without guarantee in those who appear to be like them, who make them feel comfortable. In many respects that is English neo-colonialism; we should place our confidence in England to do the right thing.
Unfortunately, we expect England to do the wrong thing. “Scotland’s flag, the saltire, has grown to mean re-establishing genuine self-governance for all, whether Scot or not, while England’s flag of St George has been hijacked by the extreme Right to represent racism and xenophobia.”
Those words are not mine. They are the words of an Englishman. The wisest know better than a lot of Scots. Scots and English should also know this, that it is possible to be enamoured of English heritage and customs while hostile to its colonial mentality. The two are not mutually exclusive.
Good cop, bad cop
The celebrated English poet John Donne wrote: “No man is an Island, entire of itself. Every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main: if a clod be washed away by the sea Europe is the less…” (Devotions upon Emergent Occasions.)
Let us tell England in no uncertain terms no country is an island. Scotland will free itself from Englandshire’s grip to take its rightful place in the world’s affairs once more.