What’s wrong with Scottish nationalism?


I don’t understand it, I just don’t. Is it the Scottish cringe? Some historical embarrassment the nation suffered under the Saltire. Okay, bagpipes can be a bit grating, if played poorly. And haggis, well perhaps an acquired taste. But why so much collective unease about Scottish nationalism?

I’m an American, and we’re a proud patriotic lot. Perhaps to most nations a bit too extreme.
Although I wasn’t exactly brought up in a household draped in the red, white and blue, and I don’t get goose pimples when the American national anthem is played, I was always proud to be American. Yes, we were responsible for some heinous atrocities around the world, but that never made me cringe when I saw an American flag flapping. (although perhaps it should have)

So over the course of these last two years, I have been more than a bit taken aback by Scots who seem to collectively recoil when a Saltire comes into view. Why is this? I’ve now lived here (on & off) over the course of 15 years, and am still mystified by much of my adopted land. But little perplexes me as much as this wide spread unease with Scottishness.

Sure during the independence referendum, the Better Together camp tried to imply that waving the Scottish flag was akin to nazism, fascism, kitten killers. Take your pick. I just assumed this was done as an attack on the idea of Scottish independence. But I noticed it wasn’t just NO voters who shuddered at the sight of a kilt, or thought an admiration for William Wallace meant one must be soft in the head. It was far more pervasive. People who I perceived as being open minded and progressive also seemed to find Scottish pride an embarrassment.

Why is this? I don’t see British nationalism as something many shy away from. Talking about a fondness of Winston Churchill or even a grudging respect for the slightly more controversial Oliver Cromwell, doesn’t seem to illicit gasps and rolled eyes from your neighbours. But publicly visit the William Wallace monument in London or speak proudly of the Battle of Bannockburn, and you’re a crazed zealot who probably eats small children for breakfast, while listening to The Flower of Scotland.

It’s bizarre. There’s no reason for Scotland to be the only country on earth where being proud of your heritage is considered a public disgrace. Why should anyone be made to feel self conscious flying their nation’s flag. The Saltire is beautiful and it symbolises a pretty damn awesome country. One which I’m hugely proud to call my home.

So get out there Scots- English born Scots, Asian born Scots, Italian born Scots, and some of us American born Scots. Sing Caledonia at the top of your lungs. Drape yourself in that marvellous blue and white saltire. Wear a kilt (sans pants if you dare), learn to play the bag pipes and celebrate St. Andrews day with pride. This is Scotland! This country is amazing. Be proud, loud and Scottish! You rock!


6 thoughts on “What’s wrong with Scottish nationalism?

  1. Maybe it is down to the fact that for hundreds of years Scotland has had to ride on the English coattails to have any kind of success in this world.

    you are English but with a horrible accent!



  2. James William says:

    It’s a straw man argument really. Unionists (Scottish and otherwise) will try to paint all Scottish independence supporters as people who wave a saltire at every opportunity (I don’t own a flag), watch Braveheart daily (I never liked it), only listen to Scottish music (I’m a Bowie, Doors, VU and Morrissey fan), listen to Scottish films and tv (I prefer American), eat shortbread and haggis (I’ve never tried haggis), drink whiskey (never liked it), wear kilts (only once) and all the other stereotypes people pull out when they either know very little about a group of people or wish to paint a certain picture. There’s nothing wrong with all these stereotypically Scottish things but it’s telling how often they are trotted out whenever Scotland becomes a media issue for those outside Scotland.

    They’ll also assume you must be anti-English because somehow wanting your own nation to be an independent country must be an attack on England (despite us being in a union with another two nations who never pull the anti-Welsh or anti-Northern Irish inference). This to me is a somewhat of a Freudian slip as they are showing that they think of the UK as nothing more than England and assorted bits.

    I contributed to a politics forum once just before the referendum and my first post was simply “I think I’ll probably vote Yes” on a topic about the upcoming referendum and the first reply was from a UKIP voter from Hampshire who simply posted “oh no, not another anti-English racist” as if there could be no other explanation for my post and decision. A quick check of this poster’s posts showed him to be anti-ethnic, anti-gay and anti-women. Meanwhile the SNP party and supporters are full of and welcoming to all three.

    There is no reasoning with people like this who are so lacking in self-awareness and assume that everyone else must share their very narrow mindset.

    Then there are the other folk who think that all nationalism is equivalent to the nazis, completely ignoring all the other national or nationalist parties around the world and also the fact that nationalism for existing states (patriotism in America) is not really any different from nationalism. It’s extolling the virtues of a country, just in their case it’s one that already has sovereignty.

    These “all nationalism is the same” people call themselves internationalists but when it comes down to it they want UK sovereignty and government, so they are really unionists misleading themselves and aiming for some sort of higher moral ground that doesn’t exist in the real world. They would have no interest in dissolving borders (as if that would happen) and living in a one world state governed from Beijing, Moscow or Washington but they’ll oppose Scottish independence for this stated reason as though it makes the world a far more divided and dangerous place for there to be 208 countries instead of 207 (or whatever it is precisely). As if UK governance has somehow resulted in a land of milk and honey and absolutely no abuses of power or illegal wars. I’d happily bet that many of these things wouldn’t have been backed in an independent Scotland.

    So, the problem with Scottish nationalism is that it encounters opposition from people who don’t understand Scottish nationalism to begin with, or are so opposed to the notion that they’ll happily misrepresent the sizeable numbers who voted for it as though this mass of people is a dangerous fringe minority.


  3. Gill Lange says:

    It’s the conundrum of being progressive, keeping our cultural identity and avoiding stereotypical imagery which can be used disparagingly against us.
    I love how we Scots buy our own crass souvenirs to celebrate our individuality i.e see you jimmy hats!


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