Oh to be in Scotland

November 4, 2013
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“It’s shite being Scottish.” So eloquently phrased by Mark Renton in Irvine Welsh’s Trainspotting, but is this actually the case

National identity no matter where you are from is a fine line. Somewhere, closer to pride than we dare admit, lies the unwanted path of jingoism. Therein lies anger, hatred and racism; but a sense of esteem of what we call home and the achievements of those inhabitants is important, not to be shied away from but, if done appropriately, celebrated.

A country that brought the world the pedal bicycle, the steam engine, the telephone, the postage stamp to name a few, but what does it mean to be Scottish in the world nowadays?

There are more people descended from Scots than people of the Jewish faith in the world, there are more Scots around the world than there are in Scotland. Impressive; but who are we?

Known all over the world but often mistaken. English haters? Hardened people? Miserly? Drunks? Confused by some with the Irish (though some historians would suggest we as a people originate from the same place), the sons and daughters of Alba have an identity to be proud of.

The Scottish flag

Celts have a tendency to be proud, fiercely perhaps, but proud nonetheless of heritage. All over the world Irish, Scots and Welsh sing and tell tales of the love they have for their countries and their ancestors before them and it opens doors to us all over the world. This can all be said too of the English, but there does not seem to be the same acceptance or ability to feel this way with fear of insulting part of a multicultural society.

Several years ago when I was living in England, there was some outrage in the town that on Saint George’s Day local government officials had ordered the removal of Saint George’s flag bunting in an attempt to try and snuff out any racially  motivated offence before it could happen. This is a crying shame. It seems the English, who have easily as much right to be proud of the makeup that makes them English, are not fully comfortable feeling this way in what seems like an overly extended apology for some historical incidents which have caused great shame and embarrassment. Scotland, Ireland and Wales are equally multicultural, all these countries have shadows in their pasts they would most like to forget if it were possible, but yet all are still able to (if they wish as, lest we forget a sense of pride in one’s Nation is not for all) gather and rejoice in being what they are and what shaped them as a people.

So what does being Scottish mean to me? The place, to me, is the most beautiful place in the world. Where in a single day, you can experience all four seasons. White sand beaches, heather covered lowlands, rugged mountains and cairns, an independent history but also a fully paid up member of the Union. A people who have spread all over the world, explored, discovered, bonded and made new roots. People who include the first British King, the father of modern economics, the inventors of golf, the invention of the first hypodermic needle, the first James Bond and the new Doctor Who, the list goes on. A place and people of such beauty it inspired the births of Peter Pan, Sherlock Holmes and brought the terrifying Jekyll and Hyde to our bookshelves. Yet I don’t live there. I don’t need to.

I am Scottish and proud to be. This is not all that I am, but makes me partially who I am. I need not wear a badge or sign, the proof is in my accent, the sense of home that it will always have. I am a Scot yet also a Brit and a European. Being Scottish is just an ingredient to who I am, like being Welsh, Irish or English, but it does not fully define us and we should not let it, otherwise we run the risk of alienation, anger and confusion and thus that sense of awkwardness felt by some English by feeling English.

We cannot choose where we are born, but we can choose to embrace what it means. I accept the good and the bad that comes with being Scots, but to what extent would I hold this? I like being a Scot and a Brit, and frankly if someone doesn’t like this then that’s up to them, its all an individual decision. Making others believe by whatever means is not sharing a feeling but oppression. We choose how we would like to be thought of; nobody can force that decision on us. Wherever a person is from, there is nothing wrong with feeling pride in your home, all we ask is that people be intelligent enough to appreciate that it’s not for everyone, but we all have the right to choose.

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