Are you oppressed? Have you known the jackboot of oppression? Have the national symbols of your nation been destroyed or vanquished by an arrogant larger aggressor? Do foreign troops or para-military forces, with a St Georges Cross on their Billy Clubs, patrol the streets enforcing an unpopular curfew every night, raiding your home for seditious Gaelic literature? Is all this being perpetrated on you and your nation in an attempt to erase your national identity and control your behaviour in a “big brother” concerted effort at state control?
Visual representation of ‘the inglish’, taken from the nightmares of a Scottish nationalist.
Your answer should be no to the above, as you live in Scotland, part of the United Kingdom. Still one of the most prosperous, politically free states in the world. If you had to think about it for a few seconds, you should make a cup of tea, pour in a nice sense of perspective, sit down and have a think. If you answered yes to the question “Are you oppressed?” then you may be one of the more zealous Scottish nationalists that have been increasingly coming out of the woodwork over the past few years.
Scotland has always maintained its own separate identity within the United Kingdom, much as England, Wales and Northern Ireland have managed to do so as well. Even during times of existential threat such as World War Two, the nations were never totally subsumed within the larger British state. This in effect has become part of the notion of modern Britishness. A hands-off attitude with a high degree of tolerance. The fact that you can still consider yourself Scottish and the fact that there was a debate about the issue, then a referendum, on generous terms to the Scottish nationalists, should speak volumes in itself.
Scotland has always had a separate legal and educational system. With regard to certain areas of education, such as medicine and law, some would argue a superior system. Uniquely Scottish literature can still be bought. I once saw a copy of the Bible in the Scots language at a major book retailer. The Bank of Scotland issue Gaelic language cheque books, if required.
The Scottish Parliament has competencies over most aspects of Scottish life such as health provision, educational policy, agriculture and fisheries policy, transport, tourism and the police force. These responsibilities will increase even further soon, with the Parliament about to be endowed with significant tax-raising powers.
The Scottish Stuart dynasty no longer reigns, being supplanted by the House of Hanover and then Windsor but their motto, Nemo me impune lacessit (No one provokes/attacks me with impunity) is still used by the Royal Regiment of Scotland and is found at the entrance to Edinburgh Castle as well as some coinage. Scotlands heraldic animal, the chained unicorn can be seen festooned on buildings, along with its partner the lion rampant. The current Royal Coat of Arms bears the English lion and Scottish unicorn very prominently. Scotland even has its own version of the post laureate, the Makar.
On my last trip to Edinburgh, it didn’t feel like I was in a country that had been oppressed by a larger “foreign” power to the south. They couldn’t have been moving very fast in the last three hundred years. They haven’t even noticed there’s a parliament here!!
If it was just flimsy symbolism, designed to appease Scottish sensibility, I could sort of understand the nationalist demand for a separate nation, but it isn’t. Scotland has an exceptionally powerful devolved Parliament. But because Scotland is still a nation despite having endured over 300 years of supposedly unsuccessful union, the nationalists are forced to revise history to paint a picture of an oppressed nation that was “bought for English gold”, by an aggressive and overbearing England. Something that’s a better fit for their divisive narrative.
The idea that Scotland is merely part of the English “inner empire” and was one of the first areas colonised by the English is ridiculous. William Wallace was a member of the lesser nobility and despite what Mel Gibson has told you, he wasn’t a noble warrior peasant. The wars of Scottish Independence could be characterised as a civil war between families from French Normandy, rather than a genuine yearning for “independence” as we have come to know it in the late 20th and early 21st century. At the time the majority of people’s allegiances would still have been largely familial and feudal rather than nationalistic. I expect the soldiers at Stirling Bridge in 1297 and Bannockburn in 1314 didn’t know that they were fighting for their “freedom” and would later be dragged onto the nationalistic bandwagon some seven centuries later. This is typified by recent news that the Guardians of Scotland Trust are hoping to erect a huge statue of William Wallace and Andrew De Moray (that surname, it…almost sounds French) with swords aloft. Although just an artwork at the moment a representative said: “We are working in partnership with various organisations and companies”. I wonder if any of them are affiliated with the Scottish Government and I can almost guarantee you that if it’s built, it will symbolically and defiantly be facing the Anglo-Scottish border.
The signing of the Act of Union has to be seen in the context of an economic collapse in Scotland exacerbated by the disastrous Darien Scheme and a serious famine before this. It’s also important to remember that the idea of union was not new and was mooted by James the I of England and VI of Scotland. Plus, the general historical trend over the last few centuries has been for states to get larger, either through conquest or in Scotland’s case, political union to form the United Kingdom. Only since the end of the post-war consensus, the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the resulting lack of ideological struggle which kept many nationalistic issues in a state of suspended animation has this trend started to reverse itself. The flames of nationalistic division have been further stoked by the ubiquitous rise of social media in the last decade enabling people to share lies, damned lies and dubious statistics at a moment’s notice.
In more modern times England is still seen as more socially regressive, uncaring and racist nation. A land apart from modern, enlightened Scotland. Despite the fact that most social attitude surveys actually show a high degree of convergence of opinion between the citizens from all parts of the United Kingdom on diverse issues from welfare, immigration and trident.
Unfortunately, the notion that the Scotland is an entirely different nation that owes all its issues to the Union has been speeding up in recent years. As a consequence, this has given rise to a pervasive culture of victimhood and historical ignorance. In the recent hashtag #GrowingUpScottish, where those involved gave a one line answer to their experiences of growing up in Scotland, the only answer one participant could think of was “Being dumped on politically all your life”. In a similar vein, someone stated that it was “no wanting to be part of this shambles on a union”. Another declared that the essence of growing up Scottish was “just bein an all round legend cos William Wallace didny smash king Edward fur nuhin no??”. I’m guessing they couldn’t have even made it to the end of Braveheart. Finally, the most telling one of all is, “when you’ve hated the English since you were wee and you still really dinnae ken why”. In its own flippant way, this embodies the essence of nationalism. Hatred without really knowing why anymore.
Facebook users aren’t any better with historical accuracy. One stated that “Scotland has never started a war just defended our country from invaders”. This obviously doesn’t include the invasion of Ireland in 1315 by Edward Bruce or the frequent and bloody incursions into England. As well as the aggressively participatory role that many Scots had in the British empire. Endeavours in which many Scots and the nation grew wealthy on.
Indeed one twitter user defined growing up Scottish as “Developing a natural hatred of the tories” and another blamed her spelling mistake on the the tories and that fact that they “Took PE and milk aff us too so sorry if my spelling is shite..” not their lack of doing a quick spellcheck.
It should be noted that many of these twitter comments seem to be coming from people in their early 20s. This suggests that, either they were a highly engaged and politicised foetus or that they seem to be getting these messages from someplace else. I’m in my early 30s and have no memory of the politics of the 1980s and I consider my generation’s version of the economic slump of the 1980s to be the Great Recession of 2007 which happened under the aegis of a strong SNP government in Holyrood and a Labour one in Westminster. I don’t particularly hold a seething hatred for either party, preferring to see a longer historical trend to events and seeing them in the full context of increasing globalisation.
Politically, this falsified revisionist history and victimhood mentality has turned into an almost generational hatred of the Conservatives and now the Labour and Liberal Democrat party because they had the audacity to be a partner on a multi-party pro-Union campaign. I’m not quite sure how it came to be perceived that by exercising my democratic right to vote for a party other than the SNP, I am committing a treasonous act in Scotland. Unfortunately, because a vote for a unionist party is split multiple ways the political dominance of the nationalists and their resulting falsification of the historical narrative is likely to continue.
I wonder who many of the nationalists would blame for Scotland’s political, economic and social ills if it was independent? Historically, I expect the English and the Union would have been used as scapegoats by the nationalists for centuries. If not, it would be the European Union or globalisation or the Illuminati or shape shifting bipedal lizards from Zeta Reticuli. It certainly wouldn’t be the responsibility of the residents of the nation themselves or the policy makers of an independent Scotland.
The nationalists have never quite made me understand what exactly they are trying to “Saor Alba” and by extension myself from. I’am currently a citizen of the United Kingdom. I have freedom of religion and expression. I have never felt oppressed (and neither have they). I have a health care service that is free at the point of delivery. The United Kingdom still has a military that is capable of rescuing British citizens from trouble spots when necessary and an extensive embassy and consular service that assisted over 17,000 Britons in 2015. We have almost total political and cultural freedom to express ourselves. The pro-independence National hasn’t been banned from newsagents.
It’s quite okay to be British and Scottish. If you want, you can be only Scottish within the United Kingdom but recognise the many economic, cultural and security benefits. I don’t always agree with the policy of the government but I don’t plan on seceding to form the “Republic of Dave” (Kingdom if I’m feeling monarchical that day) every time I disagree with the government.
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