Oh my goodness. Last night my lovely friend started a hashtag on Twitter. You might have seen it – its #OrdinaryScots4Indy. It was in response to recent articles in the Economist and their ridiculous pictures of roaring men in blue paint wearing “see you jimmy” hats. It was an attempt to highlight that there are many, many people supporting independence who are not blue, not wearing tartan bonnets and not roaring so loudly you can see their fillings. There were all types of people tweeting their stories and I tweeted mine.
“I’m a 53 yr old English working mum of five, I was a member of WFI Nat exec for 4 years and I support Indy Scotland. #OrdinaryScots4Indy”
Immediately I was called “Traitor”. Not the worst thing I have been called on Twitter and the user was perfectly polite and not in the slightest bit abusive so I humoured myself with a silly conversation about identity. Then today, another conversation about how being English means that I shouldn’t meddle in Scottish affairs and that I can under no circumstances, ever call myself Scottish. Again, a perfectly polite exchange which I had a bit of fun with. They were circular conversations but lighthearted enough and I enjoyed wasting my time with them.
However, both conversations hide a somewhat unpalatable truth which is largely ignored by the mainstream media. Despite the persistent suggestions of anti English sentiments within the SNP specifically, or the wider independence campaign the only time I have been told I am not welcome in the debate, told that I should go back to England and stop meddling in Scottish business, told that I won’t ever belong here in Scotland, it has been by people who support Scotland remaining part of the UK. This experience is common amongst those of us born outside Scotland who speak up for Independence.
That’s right, people who want Scotland to remain part of the UK, want us all to be one nation, who think we are all “better together” tell me that I have no right to be heard, no right to speak about Independence and no business sticking my nose in because, despite having lived here for 20 years, I am English, will always BE English and will never, ever, ever, be Scottish.
Many people wanting to keep Scotland in this union – which is so clearly not a union of equals – seem to think that the “nationality” of those supporting an Independent Scotland is of paramount importance. “You’re English” they type. I can almost hear them shouting at their laptops. They demand that I should stand up for the union and tell me my Englishness trumps everything else. Many seem to truly believe that English people should absolutely NOT be allowed a say in the debate.
And it’s not only English people. We are seeing unionists call for EU citizens to be denied a vote in a second referendum and again and again we are seeing Union supporters say that only Scots born citizens wherever they live should have a vote. These insular attitudes must be resisted at all costs. Their view of identity is so polarised, they believe that people born elsewhere – particularly those people from England who support Scotland leaving the UK – are “vile/traitors/deluded/attention-seeking” and should know their place.
Identity, is a strange thing. I am indeed English. I have said before that I’m proud of who I am – a Lancashire lass – a plain talking, no nonsense, ordinary northern lass. But I have lived in Scotland for 20 years and my identity has grown and changed as my life has grown and changed. The children I brought with me and those who were born here are truly Scots, educated here, working here, making their own way here. I am no longer homesick for the dark satanic mills of the place I was born because it is no longer my home. My home is here, in the glens and mountains of the Highlands, the beaches and harbours of the Moray Firth, the rugged coastline and flow country of Caithness. I have already written about how I no longer feel I belong in Lancashire. The current political debate has only underlined that. The chaotic, angry, insular Brexit voices, the anti immigrant Tory and UKIP rhetoric, the harsh, cruel policies enacted by a government that I did not vote for, that my country, Scotland did not vote for, leaves me sad and longing to come home.
The important thing to remember is, these often angry people demanding that I acknowledge the overriding nature of my Englishness , don’t get to decide who I am.
I will indeed, always be English, that’s where I was born, that’s where I went to school and its where fundamental parts of my character were formed. I like that. It is part of me always- but it is not all of me. I am also Scottish. My home, my life, my heart is here. Scotland is MY country, I belong to it, it belongs to me; like it belongs to the Polish, Lithuanian, German, French people who also call this place home; like it belongs to the refugee Doctors that are being supported to qualify to practice here by the inimitable Maggie Lennon and her wonderful team (with a little help from the Scottish Government); like it belongs to those from outside the EU who have found themselves here and who have all become #OrdinaryScots4Indy.
So I do indeed “know my place”. It is here, right at the centre of the campaign for an Independent Scotland. Working hard to make Scotland a better, fairer place for everyone who lives here – wherever you are from. Standing against the divisive unionist voices who would shut me up and deny others the right to vote. My voice and hundreds of others who also belong here will drown out this nonsense and with a bit of luck, we will have that open inclusive Independent Scotland sooner rather than later.