Regular readers – over 60,000 a month – will know this site is co-publishing key extracts from Professor Alfred Baird’s book on Scotland’s overdue independence: ‘Doun-Hauden: The Socio-Political Determinants of Scottish Independence. No sooner had the chapter on demographics been published an hour when up popped a Mr Vince Littler to accuse the good professor of closet racism. Being an arrogant Englishman, he did it in the nicest possible way. He used grammatical sentences and good manners to convey tolerance, although what he had to say was anything but tolerant. For a start, he forgot Scotland is not his country.
I had a similar attack almost on the same day. A pious critic attempted to place guilt on my head for daring to suggest Scots should decide who votes in any franchise. “I am so disappointed in you”, he opened his ‘respectful’ tirade, adding that I wish to see thousands of people who live here excluded from any new referendum on independence.
This was an outrageous twisting of my viewpoint, one I have seen used on others, moreover, someone claiming all-comers are fit to vote – a recipe for another referendum disaster – the least eligible to vote, the damned Scotsman himself. And since when was mere residency the qualification to vote on anything? I waited for the inevitable ‘blood and soil’ reprimand, and along it came. My attitude is, we begin with Scots, then we calculate who should be allowed to vote in an independence referendum.
Without knowing, he was advocating we indulge in a splurge of voters. Here a year on a university grant, you can vote. Passing through for a conference, you can vote. You’re great, great, great granny was Scots who emigrated to America? You can vote too.
I won’t forget the moment I saw the eminent Irish economist on a television programme, David McWilliams, answer an English critic of Irish politics sitting opposite him, the chairman turning to McWilliams with an “And what have you to say to that, Mr McWilliams?” His reply was a revelation. It wiped out my ingrained caution in an instant. “You are asking me to reply to an arrogant Englishman?” he said, a look of tired resignation betraying he had heard the colonial’s garbage for the umteenth time. McWillams uttered “arrogant Englishman” without a moment’s hesitation or regret.
The entitled Englishman lurks everywhere. Many hang around social sites, ready to pounce with an ‘how dare you’, and a school satchel full of newspaper cuttings to post, none of which they wrote. Of course, from experience, the wary will be alarmed that in writing this paragraph I and David McWilliams, will be seen as ‘hating the English’, the simple-minded – easy to remember slogan – calculated to close down serious discourse.
Professor Baird has answered his antagonist, Vince Littler. As he points out, in no other country would there be a debate about allowing incomers hoping to settle, or short-termers, the chance to vote. It would be taken for granted the indigenous population vote on matters affecting their lives and destiny. For anybody else – view it as a privilege.
Professor Alfred Baird’s Reply to Vince Littler
Mr Vince Littler is wrong to claim that I suggested only those born in Scotland should have a vote in a referendum on independence. My view and the view in most countries today is that parental descent is also an important aspect and, indeed, the ECHR mentions national self-determination as also applying to first generations of diaspora.
As the writer James Kelman said: ‘If you want to know your identity, look at who your relatives are’. The way people vote on the matter of national independence is in large part based on their national identity, which is determined by our culture and language; this is what gives any defined ‘people’ their national consciousness, without which there can be no desire for independence. In this regard, post indyref14 research suggested that: ‘the application of the marker of residence… is popularly considered to be a relatively weak marker that may be put forward as the basis for a Scottish identity’ .
This highlights the very significant risk in using a residence-based local government franchise for any national referendum, a risk which, as we now know, cost Scots their independence in 2014, and stands to do so again in any second attempt based on the same franchise approach.
Mr. Littler confuses the right of a person to vote in a national referendum (in a country other than his own), with being made to feel welcome by that country’s people.
As someone who has worked and lived for a period of time in a number of countries, and where I have been made most welcome, I have to say that it never once crossed my mind that I must crave a vote on the matter of the self-determination or national sovereignty of my host people and nation. Their self-determination and/or national sovereignty is very much a matter for them, and rightly so, and why would I wish to interfere in that?
Like many other Scots I am becoming less interested in relying on a referendum in order to secure Scottish independence. In part this is because the local government franchise employed is clearly incompetent and inevitably means the self-determination process of the Scottish people is subject to extensive external interference; the UN suggests this should be avoided. But it is also because: ‘As a matter of law, a referendum is not a required part of the process of becoming independent’ (McCorkindale and McHarg 2020).
The fact of the Treaty of Union and Scots already being a sovereign people represent additional important factors that remain to be properly addressed by Scotland’s national political representatives.
Mr. Littler believes that the words referred to in Alexander Gray’s fine poem ‘Scotland’ are directed at him? This is a rather big assumption, or perhaps rather more a fanciful notion. Gray’s words clearly depict a country (Scotland) where life for most Scottish folk was harsh, reflecting a period of mass unemployment, poverty and outmigration.
Despite this hardship and ‘toil’ and ‘sweat’, the Scottish people ‘love’ their (Scot)-land, and they are called upon to develop themselves and their nation, in particular through ‘schooling’. There seems little doubt here that Gray identifies Scotland as his land (‘my country’), and hence by implication it is not the land of other ‘peoples’/usurpers.
It is also a land from which he and others have been produced (‘the land that begat me’), which clearly derives from his innate and deep connection with that land, giving him in turn his national identity and hence national consciousness – the poem is entitled ‘Scotland’, efter aw.
The reference to ‘those who toil here’ relates to the vast majority of Scots who had to eke out a living from an impoverished (exploited), land ‘stony and bare’, again during a period of mass unemployment, poor housing, widespread poverty, deprivation, lack of opportunity and the hopelessness which ultimately forced millions of Scots to emigrate and leave the country that ‘begat’ them.
And here it is, the ‘sweat in their faces’ that Gray refers to, which relates to the toiling impoverished Scottish masses; these words are hardly directed at the privileged middle-class colonialist who may expect to find ample opportunity and reward coming to a land seeking what Albert Memmi refers to as ‘an easy life’ and a ‘change of environment’.
And, finally, the words ‘flesh of my flesh’, and ‘bone of my bone’, cannot be anything other than a reference to Gray’s fellow and yes, ethnic Scots, toiling and sweating in their wretchedness and impoverishment (and oppression), and making of it whatever they could – with the prompting that ‘schooling’ and hence education might provide the main opportunity to lift them up.
Albert Memmi referred to ‘colonialist arrogance’, and in that regard Mr. Littler’s remarks provide a useful illustration; in this he is seeking to claim an imaginary moral high ground, which cannot exist for the colonialist given the nature of the relationship (with the colonized), and in which he entirely misinterprets a rather solemn Scottish ‘native’ poem, itself describing colonial oppression and the wretchedness of the people of ‘Scotland’, in what appears to be a conspired and fruitless attempt to obscure what is primarily and perhaps inevitably a colonialist perspective.
Might I suggest Mr. Littler read my recent paper number 4 (,Colonialism,), in the series published on Grouse Beater, from my book ‘Doun-Hauden: The Socio-Political Determinants of Scottish Independence’, which might enhance his appreciation that ‘privilege is at the heart of the colonial relationship’.
Article 1 on Culture can be found here: https://wp.me/p4fd9j-q2T
Article 2 on Language can be found here: https://wp.me/p4fd9j-q4U
Article 3 on Demographics can be found here: https://wp.me/p4fd9j-q6v