Sunday, 17 February 2008


This article caught my eye, but I was originally wary about blogging on this sensitive issue - I suppose I still am...

However, I will try my best to articulate my views on this and do my best to avoid any ambiguous remarks that could be misinterpreted, and sweeping generalisations.

I am sensing a developing theme here, but I will once again return to my childhood. Growing up in the Scottish Borders, and so close to the border with England, brought with it a distinctive experience. As I said in my previous post, our family would make frequent trips up north to England, to visit the relatively larger town of Berwick. Quite a large number of people who I went to school with had one Scottish and one English parent, and liked the fact and would comment on how they would split their allegiances come the inevitable sporting clashes. It was never something that caused animosity. Why would it in an area where it was common to have a parent from both nations? Indeed, some people reveled in the fact that it made them more 'interesting'. That's not to say that friendly rivalry didn't exist - between neighbours, friends and even members of the same family in the run up to a football match or game of rugby. But in the Borders, there was friendly sporting rivalry between towns, so it didn't seem unusual for national games either.

Of course there are individuals in Scotland who hold prejudices about people from other countries; this kind of prejudice exists all over the world and I suspect that we are no better or worse than most places in this regard. As England is Scotland's immediate and larger neighbour, I suspect a large proportion of this kind of prejudice is directed at England. Friendly sporting rivalry is one thing, but such prejudice is unacceptable. We are all human beings, living on the same planet. We have many differences, but we all share one thing - our humanity. To dislike somebody based on the colour of their skin, their nationality, or for their accent is such a strange concept and one that is so damaging the world over.

We cannot deny that anti-Englishness exists in Scotland. It's only natural to try and cover up something that you are ashamed of, and I believe that's why so many people are inclined to assert that it doesn't exist. However, to deny it, in my opinion, is to tolerate the continuation of such prejudice.

Anti-Englishness was not something I was aware of until I went to university in Edinburgh. I was shocked to hear about the experiences of some of my English friends. A good friend of mine from London has Indian parents, and she had experienced racism in London based on the colour of her skin. During her four years in Edinburgh, she didn't experience (to the best of her knowledge) any racism based on the colour of her skin, but she did experience prejudice because of her English accent. It wasn't something she expected at all, but she wasn't alone in that regard. I was incredibly ashamed that people who came to live and study in this country were being made unwelcome by the disgraceful views and behaviour of a vocal minority.

And I do believe it is a minority of people in this county who hold such unpleasant views, and I also believe that such prejudice will lessen over time as our country grows in confidence. Although, this issue is entirely separate to the constitutional debate about Scotland's future, I do think that the prospect of an evolving relationship between Scotland and England is putting the spotlight on these issues more than ever before.

Tackling such prejudice is not easy, and it must NOT be bound up with the constitutional future of the UK. People in Scotland who support independence are not motivated by the idea of separation from England, they are motivated by independence for Scotland. When I have spoken to people in Scotland, England and elsewhere in the world, I have been so proud of the fact that the constitutional debate in Scotland has been driven by peaceful tolerant civic nationalism - a positive belief in equality for our nation and the benefits of independence.

To try and link the two issues would be highly irresponsible. It won't stop some people, like George Foulkes or others with a political interest in painting progress in Scotland as fuel for resentment between Scotland and England, but I do hope they will be widely condemned for it.


Rubina said...

Do you view yourself more and first as either Scottish, British, a European or a bit of all ?


Julie Hepburn said...

Hi Rubina

Identity is a complicated thing...

First and foremost, I think of myself as a human being, or in other words, as a global citizen.

But an important part of my identity is feeling Scottish, and I do feel European too.

I don't feel British at all. Being aware of the fact that I live in the British state doesn't mean that it is part of my identity.

That's not to say that I don't have a shared identity with people in the other nations of the UK - but feeling an affinity with people in Wales or England, for example, doesn't equate to me feeling British.