The Arrogant Englishman

American Arrogance: MURICA

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:

Article 2 on Language can be found here:

Article 3 on Demographics can be found here:


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7 Responses to The Arrogant Englishman

  1. peakcrew says:

    I am one of the English-born people who live in Scotland and regard it as the country in which I belong in and to. I am a staunch supporter of independence, and was before I ever moved up here. Nonetheless, the way the last referendum was set up baffled both my wife (a national of another European country that obtained independence during the latter part of the 20th Century) and me. We had been living in Scotland for about six months to the day when the Referendum took place, yet we had a vote! Of course, we used the vote for “YES!”, but neither of us thought then – nor think now – that we *should* have had that vote. Even now, with eight years in Scotland, it would be inappropriate for the franchise to be extended to us – ten years should be the very minimum. Don’t let anyone, Scottish, English, or any other nationality, tell you otherwise.

  2. Grouse Beater says:

    Much obliged, Peakview, for your honesty. If only you were the rule and not the exception.

  3. lorncal says:

    “… 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?… ”

    That sums up the non-arrogant approach to other people’s independence, Alf. Personally, I have to say that, as a (for the moment) British citizen, I would not have the slightest notion of ever denying England its independence if it ever came to that. That would be entirely for the English people to decide. I can’t even get my head round the level of arrogance and entitlement you would require to believe you had first dibs on the autonomy of others.

    For me, the problem with changing the vote now would be the precedent set in 2014, which is why I, personally, have been an advocate of an election vote, then resiling the Treaty in international law. This will have to be done in any case, however we get independence (if the Scottish MPs and Lords don’t stupidly renegotiate it as a domestic Act in English law). It is legal, legitimate, constitutional to resile the Treaty, and, does full glare of international scrutiny, would also bring with it added bonuses, such as international recognition; also, same of our central bank and currency; and our right to borrow from international sources.

    The late Professor David Walker and Professor Ian Campbell both warned about the pitfalls for us in renegotiating the Treaty with Westminster. No, it has to be scrapped – resiled – and this must be done in international law as it is an international treaty subject ONLY to international law – which Westminster knows full well, but ignores in its own and England’s interests. We would be able to resile it on the breaches by Westminster alone. The Scottish government, having been voted into power, and having independence as its core policy, could do this tomorrow if it chose. Why doesn’t it? Because it has no intention of bringing in independence, would be my best guess. It is, essentially, the SNP leadership, and the leadership’s coterie of sycophants and pseudo ‘wokerati’ who are now the block on independence. Basically, they have abandoned any pretence of obeying their duty of care to the Scottish people who elected them into office.

  4. alfbaird says:

    Thank you again Grouse Beater, and Lorncal, and peakcrew for an honorable perspective.

    I was rather intrigued by this – Albert Memmi wrote of: ‘… the colonialist delusion’ (and that) ‘The racism of the colonized…is social and historical. By their privileged economic position, by belonging to the political system of oppression, or by participating in an effectively negative complex toward the colonized, they are colonizers. All they need do is set foot on the colonized’s land.’ The Irish knew this well, as did the Indians, Kenyans……. whilst the Scots remain confused, but not all of us!

    Memmi’s ‘Portrait of the Colonizer and the Colonized’ offer a fascinating insight into Scotland’s dilemma, whilst Fanon’s perspectives fit Scotland like a very tight suffocating glove. Mony mair Scots raither suin hiv tae ken at independence is decolonisation, tho A’ expeck ma scrieve aye flees ower the heids o thon daeless SNP heid bummers!

  5. Molly's Mum says:

    Any of us who desire independence and still believe a referendum is the way to gain it are sadly deluded. Why? Because unfortunately we are now fighting on two fronts and before we could even think of grappling with the arrogant English Government (for that is what they are) we would have to defeat the frauds currently ruining our own at Holyrood.

    We actually have three battles to win – drag the FM away from whatever project she is working on currently which isn’t independence (after we’ve found her other half & the Post Office book with the £600k) ; obtain grudging permission from the biggest liar & crook in Christendom (Bravo Dawn Butler) & then win the damn thing, already knowing that by using the same franchise we will most likely lose (SNP 1 & 2 anyone?)

    The ToU hasn’t just been broken, it has been smashed to smithereens over the last three centuries, glued back together and put through the crusher again. While Mike Russell (who I used to admire greatly) was writing his 11 point program for stalling independence, WM was putting the finishing touches to it’s 1001 ways to shaft Scotland IM Bill. The SNP’s reaction to which was………. you guessed it………. We won’t stand for this.

    I’m not going to even ask the SNP about the referendum anymore – Scotland doesn’t want one. We want our country back & we’re not going to ask nicely. Just legally.

  6. Muscleguy says:

    Lorncal is right. The Treaty of Union is our great opportunity. Almost all countries who became independent from colonisers/dominators did so outside of the coloniser/dominator’s legal system. UKGov itself argued in the case of Kosovo that the laws of the enclosing state cannot bind the sovereignty of the enclosed state. We can cite this in court when it comes to it. Good for Kosovo but not good for us?

    The breaches of the Treaty began on a few years after it was signed. The academics have listed these. Again we point these out. The Chinese have a thing, a big thing, about Unfair British Treaties. They will perk up and take notice if we do this. We share a patron saint with Russia, don’t undervalue this. Then there’s our Auld Alliance Friends the French and the Irish. The Scandis want us in the Scandi Council.

    Once we do this the recognitions will come thick and fast. Forget the Americans they are always slow to these parties. Though they know it so maybe. It is also completely legal. Treaties are between sovereign states. Scotgov is clearly the successor of the parliament which signed the Treaty. The things is WM may not be since it is not the English parliament, so their standing to object could be in question.

    Norway had a referendum because Denmark let them. They got 90%. Before Quebec it was pretty much the isolated example. Ukraine suspended Union Law (USSR) subject to a referendum. Which we could do citing their precedence. We TAKE the right to hold a referendum, Union law forbidding it in abeyance subject to the outcome.

    After the May and Johnson govts behaviour over Brexit, resiling from things signed in full knowledge their standing in international affairs is at a historically low ebb. The time to strike is NOW.

    But Sturgeon cannot or will not see this.

  7. Muscleguy says:

    Also the moment we look like we are going to go these sorts of routes, a legalistic form of UDI the Civil Servants in Whitehall will besiege No10 and No11 with horror. British civil servants have a horror of chaos, of disorder. Also the idea of us controlling the whole thing will give them the cold shivers. The first hint of it, and we should assume they know our thinking and they will beg us to accept a S30. We should then play hardball to keep the question the same as in 2014 telling them no deal, we continue our process.

    No more cap in hand, please sir can we have a referendum? No, oh sorry for asking sir. Which is what Sturgeon has done. We TAKE our sovereignty and exercise it.

    BTW the Treaty means Spain can’t veto. Because it’s international law legal.

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