Saturday, 24 January 2015

Goodbye to all that



I lost something last summer or, perhaps, it was taken away from me. No doubt, I could continue to have it. I could fight to retain what had always been mine. But somehow I lost the will to keep fighting and found that it had all just slipped away like flowers in a forest somewhere I once knew.

I was the only person from Scotland in my college and so every year I would recite the poem Burns wrote to a haggis. I used to know it by heart and took delight in pronouncing it all in my own Aberdeenshire Doric. Everyone loved it, for one night people from all over Britain and the elsewhere loved Scotland. But somehow I’ve lost my taste for haggis. I doubt very much that I will ever go to another Burns night. The last one I went to was pretty obviously full of nationalists.

When I was a child, I wore tartan fringes on my flares, but no-one apart from soldiers, pipers and obsessives wore tartan at any other time. People wore suits to weddings. Gradually somehow through the years tartan became popular again. At weddings and graduations everyone began to wear kilts. I, too, would wear a tartan skirt, but I find that I’ve put away these things. They may come out of the drawer again, but somehow I doubt it. 

Every summer in the place where I live there’s a day where there are stalls and games and such like. Last year there was a Yes stall and there was a Better Together stall. The Yes people had two enormous poles with two enormous flags, both the Saltire and the Scottish Royal standard. The Better Together stall was not nearly as well organised, but had some Union Jacks and Saltires and a sort of combination of them both. But it didn’t matter. I realised then that the SNP had successfully made the flags of Scotland a part of their campaign. I knew like other No supporters, who had always felt both Scottish and British, that I could try to fight this. I remember some No voters tried to win back the Saltire for our side. But we failed. We failed hopelessly. Whenever I saw a Saltire, I saw a Yes supporter. If someone flew a Saltire from their house, I knew immediately which way they would vote.  Congratulations to the SNP! The Yes campaign was so successful in its use of flags, that they no longer represent people like me. I would not dream of wearing a Saltire in my button hole, I would not dream of waving one again.

I’m sure other No voters feel differently about these things. Some will continue to sing Flower of Scotland at the rugby. Some will continue to talk of the “Old enemy” and have a special passion when playing England at whatever sport. I said goodbye to all that last summer. This song does not represent me. What have I to do with “international” sporting events between parts of what I consider to be a single indivisible nation state? In the end, the referendum changed me. It was made clear to me that only if I voted Yes, was I going to be a part of “Team Scotland”. I voted No and came to accept that that team no longer represented me. Now I only have team GB.
I used to maintain the fiction that the United Kingdom was made up of nations that were just as much nations as France or Germany. The biggest way in which my No vote changed me was that I came to realise that this was simply false. Scotland and England are countries in the sense that Fife is a kingdom or the Black Isle is an island. They are countries in a manner of speaking. But until and unless Scotland becomes an independent nation state, I will not describe or act towards it as if it were. To do so only helps the nationalists.


My country is the UK. That is what I voted for, and the symbolism and the identity I have come from each part equally. I was born here, but the nationalists took away the only Scotland that I had ever known. Let them keep what they have taken. It is no longer mine. It no longer represents me. It’s something I lost somewhere along the way. 


If you like my writing, please follow the link to my book Scarlet on the Horizon. The first five chapters can be read as a preview.

13 comments:

  1. Effie, you've written what I'm thinking. I might be a little more inclined to fight back and reclaim some of the loss but that still lies in the future. You might be interested in this link.
    http://www.vanguardbears.co.uk/article.php?i=29&a=voting-no-saved-the-nation

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    1. We all have to react in different ways. Todays blog was my way of fighting, but there are different ways of fighting too. I'd love it if we could reclaim some of what we've lost. Thanks for your link. Keep up the good work

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  2. Seek small victories and consolations. The poet whose night they have tried to appropriate wrote:

    Be Britain still to Britain true,
    Amang ourselves united;
    For never but by British hands
    Maun British wrangs be righted!
    (Does Haughty Gaul Invasion Threat)

    And did you notice that in your own area, while Alex Salmond demanded that the saltire (that appropriation again) be flown from council buildings for Burns Night, Aberdeenshire Council sensibly declined his less-than-humble request?

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    1. I've always thought Burns could be read in different ways. What I wrote today isn't against him, though I think he was at best Scotland's 2nd best poet. What I'm trying to do is attack the Scottish nationalists at the heart of their message. They think they are patriotic, but they are damaging our country almost beyond repair. They think they love Scotland, but they are turning half of the country away from the thing they profess to hold dear. Perhaps a small victory will come from a blog like this. Probably not, but it's the only way I have of fighting back.

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  3. We took nothing from you. You simply stopped deluding yourself. You had a decision to make, you made it, and you've finally faced up to it. Well done.

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    1. Thank you Stuart. I think it was always clear what my decision was. The problem we've got as a country is that about half think like I do and about half like you do. Not a good position for either of us

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  4. Well, no. Most of your fellows haven't faced the reality like you have. Far less than half of the population are prepared to admit that as far as nationality goes, they're British NOT Scottish.

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  5. It's uncanny, Effie, but you have summed up pretty much how I feel exactly. I was never a great fan of Flower of Scotland anyway but I know now I will never sing it voluntarily. The Scotland I was born and raised in has all but disappeared. Somewhere in the past 30 or so years the predominating narrative of this country has become one of a downtrodden people, tricked and duped out of their nationhood by the treacherous English, potential stifled and prevented from achieving all they could in this world if only they were freed from these shackles. The modern nationalist view of Scotland subverts our past to drive this narrative and stoke the flames of grievance and resentment. It is a horrible cocktail for any new nation to be conceived on but that is what the nationalists hope for Scotland. It is almost as if there are now two Scotlands in which the inhabitants live similar but separate lives and never the twain shall meet. Looking back, the turning point for me was really 2007 and the refusal of both Scotland and England to acknowledge the 300th anniversary of the Union. This was preceded by decades of ridiculing the idea of Britishness and what its values were. To suggest that there was/is such a thing as Britishness was to invite opprobrium and accusations of racism. To turn this around seven years later in 2014 and defend something which has been diligently ignored by all major political parties was always going to be a tall order. The BT campaign really began from a standing start while the wreckers and separationists had already begun years before. And after the referendum which we won? Well in true British fashion we have been non triumphalist to the point of self deprecation and effacement. You would think we had lost to listen to Mr Murphy and the rest of the WM politicians as they line up to give the nationalists all they could only dream of a few years ago (and it is still not enough). Scottish Labour is about to score the biggest own goal in its history as it tries to be more nationalist than the nationalists. Disappointingly, Murphy has already presented his claim by invoking his Irish, Catholic, immigrant, (and by extension Republican) credentials as he distances himself from the concept of the Union when it comes with the suffix ist. As a unionist (that is someone who is a citizen of and believes in the union of kingdoms known as the United Kingdom) I am used to having my views ignored or trampled on in order to appease a fashionable minority view or introduce damaging but politically correct legislation. This is really the latest staging post in the history of a people who, having dragged themselves into a beneficial union in which Scotland especially flourished, have since 1950 been determined to legislate themselves into oblivion. So what should we do. I am British and Scottish. My identity as a person has been invested in and tied up in that grand concept. I will not be letting it go in order to gain some nebulous short term pragmatic political gain. No matter what happens to Scotland, no matter if the UK splits up I will always be British. It is a word that may disappear from our nation's statutes and even its history books if the nationalists get their way. But I know what it meant and what it means and I will always be true to it. That is my act of defiance and as long as there is just one of us living in this state the nationalists will never win.
    By the way, Effie, keep the great writing up.
    Gordon

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  6. Thanks for a great comment Gordon. I really enjoyed reading it. I too remain defiant. This blog is my way of fighting back. You should take up writing yourself!
    Best wishes,
    Effie

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  7. One of the things I object to about nationalism is that it forces people to make what I see as false choices. If you don't support independence you can't be a real Scot, so we will take your birthright and your flag away from you.

    I am reclaiming my flag because I want to make it clear it's just as much mine as it is of anyone who might have voted Yes. I am now using the Saltire as my avatar where I can, just to make the point. I should add it here as well.

    Fair enough if you think the trappings of Scottishness are no longer relevant. People have different thoughts and beliefs and there's no right or wrong about it. But I urge you not to think they stole your Scottishness. They can only steal what you let them have. In that case they have won the argument.

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  8. There are different ways of responding to what happened last year. Yours is perfectly correct. This blog has had an enormous response, because I believe many people also see the validity of my response. I'm attacking nationalism from within and trying to undermine it's foundation. Sometimes an indirect argument is the most powerful way of getting past defences.

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  9. What a super piece. Well written. But sad. Everyone should experience pride in their roots, but I believe it's a leap from that to nationalism - a movement which invariably ends in tears because it's fundamentally devisive. I am an Englishman but, like most people, a hybrid. I was brought up to be proud of my Britishness, including my Scottish roots. Bruce was a good guy. I celebrated Burns night with mixed friends and my Scottish wife. I could say more. I hope you recapture your flag. The English flag went AWOL for awhile; though I think we have it back, I do fear this might partly be a reaction to the way the flag of St Andrew has been misused. The solution to our problems - including the fact that Westminster is out of touch - is to work together, not turn the clock back and become tribal; though I fear that's what's happening to my country at the moment.

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    1. Thanks Mike. For now my focus is on finding what we have in common with my fellow UK citizens. I'm not that interested in what makes us different. I'm Scottish, I love Scotland, but I hope in time we can move beyond this. Nearly every European country is made up of places that once were independent, but most people treat this as a matter of ancient history. We should do so too. We need a common British identity to unite the whole of our country. I think we used to have one, but it got lost somewhere along the way. We need to get it back.

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