When is a Scotsman not a Scotsman?
Or for that matter when is a Scotswoman not a Scotswoman?
This question has reared its head on quite a few occasions recently.
In her blog for the Daily Record on July 3rd, Joan McAlpine, MSP, questioned the right of Alistair Darling, the former Scottish Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Labour MP fronting the Better Together pro Union campaign, to speak for the Scottish people
“Quite why he thinks he has the right to come to Scotland and lecture us about how to run our affairs is breathtaking in its arrogance.”
However, unless we are misinformed, he lives in Scotland and is the sitting Westminster MP for Edinburgh South West
If it is even an issue, surely that well and truly establishes his Scottish credentials.
To be honest, it seems strange and perhaps a little worrying to challenge the right of a Scotsman to speak for the Scottish people – especially one who lives in Scotland and who will in fact actually vote in the referendum.
So what constitutes someone who is Scottish?
There are in fact some 800,000 Scots who live in other parts of the UK, many living away for work reasons, and who without a doubt consider themselves as Scots and who often come home to visit and catch up with friends and family. The fact that they happen to live elsewhere in the UK does not negate their Scottish roots. Indeed, in conversation with these “expats”, we know that many want to eventually retire back to Scotland after completing the hurly burly of a working life down South – unless independence complicates the picture and destroys long laid plans.
Many Scottish contractors also work part of their time down South – some for a sizeable percentage of the year – because that is where their contracts are based. They consequently lead the life of nomads, returning to Scotland only at weekends.
Most Scots MPs will do the same.
Are they any less Scottish?
Recently the Tory run United and Cecil club ran a fundraiser for the Conservative Friends of the Union and came under fire because they were Essex based and therefore, in the opinion of critics, not entitled to raise funds for a Scottish campaign. This ignored the fact that this event was largely supported by Scots, although not necessarily those living in Scotland. In fact many wealthy and patriotic Scots live down South – Scots who are incredibly concerned about the possibility of independence and Scots who are prepared, and well able, to help fund a campaign for the Union. It would be small minded and exclusionist not to accept their support as they are also Scots living within this United Kingdom of ours.
Does the fact that they live for the time being in other parts of the UK make them any less Scottish?
And what about those who live in Scotland but were not in fact born here?
I don’t know if any of you have seen the movie “Local Hero” set in a Highland village. In it much mention is made, in the early stages, of the Reverend MacDonald. Instantly the image of an archetypal Scottish minister is created. We expect to see a minister in the Scots Presbyterian image but when we finally meet him the joke is on us. Our own stereotypes are laughingly exposed because the Reverend MacDonald is unexpectedly revealed to be of African ancestry.
Does this make him any less Scottish?
We live in a multicultural society where many who live in Scotland are not Scottish or even British by birth and yet they have chosen here as their home. They have accepted a stake in this country. Indeed many of them have chosen to become citizens of the UK.
Does that make them any less Scottish?
It is a difficult question to answer and one which everyone has an opinion on.
We are of the opinion that the separation of Scotland from the rest of the United Kingdom is in fact an issue for the whole United Kingdom to debate, have an opinion on and get involved in as they chose.
We especially believe that none who regard themselves as Scottish, whether by birth, residency, descent or choice should be barred from getting involved in this critical issue, regardless of where they live in the United Kingdom.
But worryingly this is not the only issue.
The identity of Scots living in Scotland is also being questioned.
This is no modern phenomenon.
We often forget, in the romance of events like the Jacobite rebellion, that much of what is now touted as the Scots versus the English was in fact the Highland Scots versus the Lowland Scots and the rest of the UK.
It did not make those Lowland Scots any less Scottish!!
Those that cling to the dream of Scotland being an independent Sovereign State will always level the accusation against those of us comfortable with our British identity that we are not true Scots!!!
But in fact we are – passionately!!!
And that has nothing to do with what we chose to wear beneath our kilts!!!