Friday, 5 September 2014

Being Scottish right now and living in England.

I love England. I live there and I am, on the whole, tolerated in a friendly way by my English wife and my fellow citizens in the fine town of Totnes in Devon. I have lived in England for 51 of my 69 years. I don’t think I’ll move away from where I live now.  It is my home.  I am enriched by institutions such as pubs, cricket, the Kinks, Banksy, (not banks) Bakewell Tarts and many other distinctly English things. Further I have become increasingly English in my habits.  For instance I now happily eat my lunch and not my dinner, and  I now sit down to my dinner and not my tea.

Where I live now - The Butterwalk, High Street, Totnes

Being Scottish and enthusiastically supporting the referendum campaign for a YES to Scottish independence while being permanently domiciled in England is a quandary for me. If I am so hopeful for an independent Scotland, why do I live in England?  Why don’t I return to Scotland and live there? Why indeed did I leave Scotland for England on two occasions?  

On the first occasion I was a boy and my parents gave me no choice and of course being me, and I think being Scottish, I am still harbouring the feelings of injustice of my original abduction from my native community. I think my Leaving Dundee blog is in a sense a therapy for this. 

On the second occasion I chose to move my family from Scotland to England.  Why?   James Boswell reported Dr Samuel Johnson as saying  "The noblest prospect which a Scotchman ever sees, is the high road that leads to England.”  In a development of this idea, James Barrie would later say of the Scot who had left  his native soil to live elsewhere,  "There are few more impressive sights in the world than a Scotsman on the make”.  There may be some truth in these observations,  but  -  though I may be in denial  -   neither depicts me. My guess is each person’s reason for leaving Scotland is different and more complex than these enjoyable witticisms would suggest.  My reasons for moving to England - permanently as it now turns out - were complex,  and remain under active review.  I will let you know when answers that will do for the moment come to me.

Still I want to be thought of as Scottish.  One way or another I spend up to two months a year living in Scotland.  I need  "a somewhere“  and even "an idea”  to which I feel attached that tells me where I come from and in large part who I am.  I identify with many of the ways Scotland expresses itself,  particularly through its arts,  its literature,  its striving,  sometimes victorious sporting heroes and teams and, for me, most importantly that powerful essence of egalitarianism which imbues Scottish cultural activity. 

I don’t want to be called a ‘Brit’,  whatever that means.  In a different way I don’t want people to assume I am English because I speak the English language and my country happens to be attached to a predominant entity called England.  Worst of all for me is to be spoken to as if I am English with the expectation that I will respond to things as an English person.  I don’t want to have male Englishness projected upon me.  I don’t have the stereotypic  English gentleman’s "stiff upper lip" when I face injustice.  I want to cry out about it,  weep openly about it and take action against it.  I challenge the laird and his power and his claim to own land that belongs to everyone.  I’m Scottish.

In the same way I'd prefer my life not to be shaped by the narrow,  selfish power and wealth seeking needs of the politicians at Westminster,  of the money speculators in the City of London and of the narcissistic media which feeds off them. In the Scottish referendum the people of Scotland as a nation have an opportunity to break free from these chains and start anew.

I am aware that an increasing number of my friends in England are looking at Scotland with interest particularly as they watch the NHS speedily become a money making private enterprise which leaves shareholding speculators feeling better but does nothing to help sick folk. The same process is speedily advancing in all other previously called public services. They admire the Scottish government’s determination to fight this trend. They look at what is happening outside of London in their own regions and can only vent frustration that the Labour party not only ignited the trend towards privatised public services but now seems unwilling to acknowledge its error and fight against the process of privatisation.  Little wonder that they look to Scotland with envious eyes.  A number of my English friends have said should the Scottish people vote for independence they would like to move to Scotland !

Whar  Eh come fae -  High Street, Lochee, Dundee, 1950s

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