Scotland: My creeping unease in the country I call home

Earlier this week I read a post at Is There A Plan B. it was called this time it’s personal and talked about her feelings about the independence referendum.

Written by another Englishwoman living in Scotland, she is wondering if she’s entitled have a say and if the nub of the issue isn’t a blanket rejection of England and the English… And therefore her too.

What she wrote rang a bell so emphatically I couldn’t hear anything else for a while. I commented that I had felt a creeping unease about the whole thing for some time. It’s a feeling I’ve been ignoring for a while.

But now this isn’t going away any time soon, I need to work out how I feel about it. And why.

Scotland I love, I was at school and university here and never really left. But it wasn’t apathy, I went away and chose to come back again, more than once. And even the other place I would think of as home is only the nearest county over the Border.

I have always felt at home here, well, almost always. There were the times when someone would say “oh, you’re English” with that combination of disdain and pity.

And the time that a class of six year olds – my son among them – yelled “and sent them homeward tae think again” complete with aggressive fists raised. Young warriors ready for the fight.

And then more recently this creeping unease. What’s that coming from?

Am I simply unsettled by change, by the unknown? Ordinary human people like us, apparently, like the status quo and get all restless and ratty when it’s at risk. So maybe.

Am I so wedded to the United Kingdom that the thought of its fracture is heartbreaking? No, I’ve prodded that notion and I’m certain there’s no particular sentiment here, no tribal loyalty.

Do I think that Scotland can’t cut it on its own? Excellent question. Other similar countries survive, don’t they? OK it’ll need to be very different and the road from here to there will be extraordinarily steep and twisted. Perhaps not a journey to relish.

Something else? There has been a huge amount of talk of what England is doing, what they want. As if the English want to tell the Scots what to do in a high-handed, arrogant way. Speaking as one of the English, it’s not the case. But the feeling that I somehow must defend my other home nation is growing, but I won’t, why should I?

Change is coming. inevitably. Even if the SNP lose, the landscape will be scarred by the fight. The sides are mustering for a terrific battle and there will be casualties. My hope – or one of them – is that there will be kindness and understanding amid the mayhem. Once it’s over, whatever happens we will have to live side by side and get on with it.

!function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);;js.src=”//”;fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document,”script”,”twitter-wjs”);

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...


  1. Debbie says

    Very well put, Ellen. I fear we are in for a lot of sabre-rattling on both extremes of the debate and those of us caught in the middle, Scots as well as English, will be caught in the cross-fire (v bad mixed metaphor there as there is no cross-fire with sabres). I don't have any massive attachment to England as a whole (like you, only to the nearest county across the border. But on the other side in my case.) I'm not convinced by the case for independence either. But I fear the nation will be so incensed by the arrogant conduct of the Tories throughout the process, we'll vote to go it alone in a fit of pique, rather than for the right reasons.
    I'm in for an interesting run-up to the vote anyway – interminable political stories to sub AND sharing bed and board with a committed Nat! xxx

  2. Cuptie says

    I'm inclined to vote yes, for positive reasons, and I'm creepingly uneasy too.
    It's a vast question, doubts are inevitable if you're a thoughtful person, and the petty nastiness from silly people on both fringes of the debate makes me uncomfortable.
    Judging anyone by their birthplace is beneath contempt, and the same goes for witless generalisations about nations.
    There is real bitterness in this country, sad to say. We have Margaret Thatcher, in large part, to thank for that.
    Salmond is using it while pretending not to, and Cameron and Osborne are feeding their own trolls down south. Politics as usual, I'm afraid.
    I can only apologise on behalf of the maladjusted Scots who see fit to insult the lovely English folk who live here and enrich our country in countless ways.
    I feel sorry for them. They do it because they are unhappy and in pain.
    Let's hope we can keep the debate civilised, in spite of them. We've got another three years of this to come.

  3. Linda says

    Good column Ellen. I don't want independence and I'm getting worried about the anti-Scottish feeling building in England already – with three years of this to come I dread to think what the relationship between the two countries will be like by then.
    I hadn't even thought about how the English would be treated here in Scotland and I'd hate to think that we're going to turn into a nation of English haters. Looks like having an SNP government is turning back the clock to less civilised times.

  4. says

    Debbie, I agree, there is very a much a feel of leaping into the unknown for the hell of it.

    Jacqui, You didn't see through my disguise then?

    Cuptie, You have no need to apologise – there are pillocks in every nation! You raise the issue of Thatcher, now that's interesting. There is bitterness against her but I wonder if that hasn't grown over the years, out of proportion to what happened.

    Linda, Thanks. I agree there is now an anti-Scottish feeling in England. And, sadly, it's a recent phenomena, in my experience, started about the time the SNP gained power.

  5. says

    It's hardly for the hell of it and having lived in England I can assure you any anti-Scottish feelings have nothing to do with the SNP gaining power anymore than anti-Welsh feelings or anti-Scouse feeling (lived in Manchester) – it's not how the majority behave.

    As the BBC producer friend of the OH's just said this morning – it's the first time in his many years working on the news desk that Scottish politics has been at the forefront of anything. It's the first time it's been mentioned in meetings. It's the first time it has occurred to anyone to ask him what he thinks about it.

    However, it's been at the forefront up here for many years and for the first time in my adult life we're not irrelevant. It would be nice for Scotland never to be irrelevant again.

    Tory ideology supports fiscal autonomy, non-dependence and self-reliance. Labour championed Devolution even beyond what we have now and the Lib/Dems have long sought votes for 16/17yos. Yet these very parties are apparently 100% united against Scotland having any of these things.

    I despair.

    As I said over at Harriet's it is SO not about Scotland/England, it's just about Scotland – about us striving to stand (or fall) on our own two feet.

  6. Anonymous says

    Well put Ellen. Your disquiet is mine but from just over the Border, and from a purely personal view. Born in Cumbria, of 1 3/4 Scottish parents, educated in Scotland, living back in Cumbria. Back in the early 60s,while in London for a few years, my mongrel accent was taken variously for Canadian, Irish, Scottish, and I found it difficult to call myself English – my experience of many of those I met was that they knew little about the geography of anywhere north of Birmingham. I settled for being a northener, or from the Border area.
    There is much of the Scot in me, and I don't think I'm keen on being 'divorced' by or from Scotland. Passports to visit my daughters and their families? I do hope not.

  7. says

    We need this honest discussion in the next few years. I don't think this debate is about England vs Scotland either. If it is I want no part of it. It needs to be about what makes the best situation for all who live in Scotland,whoever they are.Lest understand what makes this a country to be proud of.

  8. says

    NikkiiH, Thanks for your comment. I'm really interested in what you say about feeling that Scotland was irrelevant. It's not a feeling I have ever been aware of. Do you think that's a strong motivator in the independence debate? I suppose much of the stuff of politics is how ideology works in real life against all other considerations. Like you, I really want proper grown-up debate about the nuts and bolts of it all, where possible away from passionate emotions.

    M, I wonder what John Barr would have made of it all.

    Audrey, I couldn't agree more – we urgently need to cut away the unnecessary stuff in order to discuss what's best for all of us.

  9. Cuptie says

    Hi Ellen. I do think you can trace a lot of it to Thatcher, since the Tories had 15 to 20 MPs up here before her and no MPs after her.
    Whether it's right that there's still so much bitterness about her is another question. It's not a very useful emotion. I haven't noticed it getting much better or worse in recent years.
    Out of proportion? I honestly don't know. Do I believe she was a nasty piece of work who seriously damaged this country? Yes, I do.
    She also got to run Scotland without a mandate. And even with devolution, Cameron, Clegg and Osborne are doing the same now. The big levers of power are still in their hands.
    That's the most important issue for me. I agree with Nikki. I want a representative government for Scotland, one that's close to the people.
    And I want us to take responsibility for ourselves.

  10. says

    Sounds like you are caught between a rock and a hard place or divided loyalties especially as you have roots in both countries. I have to admit though that I don't understand why the English government feel an entitlement over Scotland – yes, I know its to do with history but its also a thoroughly unmodern approach. Scotland should have a voice of its own.

  11. says

    Sticking my oar in even though it is none of my business as a Londoner.

    I think a big part of the problem is that some people in Scotland seem to find it difficult to distinguish between the way the English government behave and 'The English' and that is what makes people feel uncomfortable. Many English people are suffering under this government too 😉 Personally, I can see why this discussion needs to be had, and can totally see why Scotland wants to go it alone. I like a lot of the social policies in Scotland, if you can improve the weather a bit, I might even move there myself.

    This is just an anecdote: a friend of Rory's was visiting from Edinburgh and after a bit of a drink ended up ranting at my Dad about how 'the English' view Scottish people as a bunch of ignorant pissheads. He was quite taken aback when my Dad said he was from Glasgow but had lived in the south for 30 years and could hand on heart say that he had never come across that. TBH, I think in London in particular there are so many different kinds of people that people tend not to harbour thoughts about Scottish and Irish people much at all. I accept that might just be the circles I mix in though.

    On an entirely selfish level, I have heard that we will never get rid of the Tories without the Scottish vote, so on that level I'd like to keep things as they are 😉

  12. says

    PS I meant to clarify that 'some people in Scotland' includes many of my relatives who are very anti-English so I know what you mean about the unease.

  13. Anonymous says

    Am bored of it, it will never happen. I remember Renton:
    “It's SHITE being Scottish! We're the lowest of the low, the scum of the f*****g earth, the most wretched, miserable, servile, pathetic trash that was ever shat into civilization. Some people hate the English, I don't. They're just wankers. We, on the other hand, are colonized by wankers. We can't even find a decent culture to be colonized by. We are ruled by effete arseholes. It's a shite state of affairs to be in, Tommy! And all the fresh air in the world won't make any f*****g difference!”

  14. says

    As an Englishman who chose to move to Scotland a few years ago, I'm really optimistic about a Yes vote.
    Can't say I feel uneasy about it at all. Maybe I just like change. Maybe I want to live in a foreign country (from London) without having to move again. Norway does sound nice. Maybe it is because I'm a northerner not from London.

    It works both ways, when I explained I was moving to Scotland, I was living in SE England and one guy said “how can you move there, you'll be beaten up for being English?” Well, that never happened. The only time I've felt worried in Scotland was when asked if I was Celtic or Rangers!

    btw, jo: the Tories ruling forever thing has been debunked, only once ever has the number of Labour MPs in Scotland changed which side was able to run the country (1974)

  15. says

    Thanks for the mention – and I'm glad to have inspired, even if I think you put it all rather better than I did!

    You have got me wondering if it's just about resistance to change for me though. I'm particularly poor at change generally (although weirdly not when it came to moving 350 miles!) so maybe that's it. As I mentioned over at mine though this is very much a feeling at the moment and I do intend to get my head around all the ins and outs before casting my vote.

    I do take Nikkii's point about being an irrelevance though – not that I've felt that as such, but I have become very conscious since moving here how London-centric the media are generally, and it does feel good, even for me, to be centre stage in the national debate at the moment. Of course, given though how irrelevant the UK as a whole really is on the international stage these days I can't see an independent Scotland being a big player either.

  16. says

    Jo, I think you've hit one of the nails on the head. A great many people in all parts of the UK scratch their heads and wonder what the government in Westminster has to do with them.

    Anon, shhh. Sit down and have a cup of tea.

    Paul, Thanks for your comment. That is one way of putting it – moving abroad without even selling your house!

    Planb, I'm still wondering if it's the change thing, given that I'm quite happy with things as they are. I'm really interested in hearing all the discussions over the next few months.
    The Scotland as an irrelevance thing is interesting and I feel another post coming on. Some of it, perhaps, is to do with the fact that there is (or at least until fairly recently) a strong Scottish media dealing with Scottish things properly and relieving the 'English' media of any obligation to cover the issues. Also perhaps all media is 'centric' to where the journalists are. For example Scottish media has a strong central belt bias.
    And, I agree, an independent Scotland will be just as relevent, or otherwise, on the world stage as any other country of a similar population.

  17. says

    I just re-read my post though and realised I made an error. It is of course, the British government, there is no such thing as an English government!

  18. says

    Aah. As someone who's obsessed with anything remotely scottish, this subject isn't going to go away for anytime yet. Yes, all I hear about on STV and read about in the press is the referendum.

    I've yet to move to Scotland (but now that they've set a date I'd better get a move on) but because it's hard to find let alone an office job (yawn!!) I plan to move by autumn 2014. But, because I avidly watch the Scottish news, I know my feelings (ie where I stand) at this present time.

    Do I want Scotland to become independent? No. I know that Salmond is passionate about this but I do have a few reservations, ie how they're going to strengthen relationships with the rest of the UK, the state of the Scottish economy, etc. it's not the living in another country that I'm scared about, after all, my dad/grandad (proud englishmen) keep saying that Scotland are welcome to it!

    But what about Devo max? Personally, I think that it's the most viable option. It'd be interesting as to how they'll set up their own taxes – after all, moving north of the border is definitely more attractive than living in Commuter land, after all we're still paying for our prescription charges!!!

    When it gets down to the nitty gritty, it's the same old argument. And, one thing will always remain, regardless of the outcome….

  19. says

    What a great post. I really don't want the referendum to take place. I am proud to be Scottish and proud to be British and hope to keep it that way. I do not think we would benefit as an independent county.

  20. says

    Thanks for linking up with the Love Politics Blogs Showcase. My feeling is that Scotland is capable of being independant but that doesn't mean it wouldn't be a real shame for all of us if that was what happened. I'd prefer to see discussion about the practicalities of devolution to make sure no one feels disadvantaged by the set up so we can all continue to work together. Being English though, I do understand that it has to be a matter for Scots to decide for themselves.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *