Rejoinder from Alf Baird
Mr Vince Littler is wrong to claim that I suggested only those born in Scotland should have a vote in a referendum on independence. My view and the view in most countries today is that parental descent is also an important aspect and, indeed, the ECHR mentions national self-determination as also applying to first generations of diaspora.
As the writer James Kelman said: ‘If you want to know your identity, look at who your relatives are’. The way people vote on the matter of national independence is in large part based on their national identity, which is determined by our culture and language; this is what gives any defined ‘people’ their national consciousness, without which there can be no desire for independence. In this regard, post indyref14 research suggested that: ‘the application of the marker of residence… is popularly considered to be a relatively weak marker that may be put forward as the basis for a Scottish identity’ (Bond 2015). This highlights the very significant risk in using a residence-based local government franchise for any national referendum, a risk which, as we now know, cost Scots their independence in 2014, and stands to do so again in any second attempt based on the same franchise approach.
Mr. Littler appears to confuse the right of a person to vote in a national referendum (in a country other than his own) with being made to feel welcome by that country’s people. As someone who has worked and lived for a period of time in a number of countries, and where I have been made most welcome, I have to say that it never once crossed my mind that I must crave a vote on the matter of the self-determination or national sovereignty of my host people and nation. Their self-determination and/or national sovereignty is very much a matter for them, and rightly so, and why would I wish to interfere in that?
Like many other Scots I am becoming less interested in relying on a referendum in order to secure Scottish independence. In part this is because the local government franchise employed is clearly incompetent and inevitably means the self-determination process of the Scottish people is subject to extensive external interference; the UN suggests this should be avoided. But it is also because: ‘As a matter of law, a referendum is not a required part of the process of becoming independent’ (McCorkindale and McHarg 2020).The fact of the Treaty of Union and Scots already being a sovereign people represent additional important factors that remain to be properly addressed by Scotland’s national political representatives.
Mr. Littler believes that the words referred to in Alexander Gray’s fine poem ‘Scotland’ are directed at him? This is a rather big assumption, or perhaps rather more a fanciful notion. Gray’s words clearly depict a country (Scotland) where life for most Scottish folk was harsh, reflecting a period of mass unemployment, poverty and outmigration. Despite this hardship and ‘toil’ and ‘sweat’, the Scottish people ‘love’their (Scot)land, and they are called upon to develop themselves and their nation, in particular through ‘schooling’. There seems little doubt here that Gray identifies Scotland as his land (‘my country’) and hence by implication it is not the land of other ‘peoples’/usurpers. It is also a land from which he and others have been produced (‘the land that begat me’)which clearly derives from his innate and deep connection with that land, giving him in turn his national identity and hence national consciousness – the poem is entitled ‘Scotland’, efter aw. The reference to ‘those who toil here’relates to the vast majority of Scots who had to eke out a living from an impoverished (exploited) land ‘stony and bare’, again during a period of mass unemployment, poor housing, widespread poverty, deprivation, lack of opportunityand the hopelessness which ultimately forced millions of Scots to emigrate and leave the country that ‘begat’ them. And here it is, the ‘sweat in their faces’ that Gray refers to,which relates to the toiling impoverished Scottish masses; these words are hardly directed at the privileged middle-class colonialist who may expect to find ample opportunity and reward coming to a land seeking what Albert Memmi refers to as ‘an easy life’ and a ‘change of environment’. And, finally, the words ‘flesh of my flesh’, and ‘bone of my bone’, cannot be anything other than a reference to Gray’s fellow and yes, ethnic Scots, toiling and sweating in their wretchedness and impoverishment (and oppression), and making of it whatever they could – with the prompting that ‘schooling’ and hence education might provide the main opportunity to lift them up.
Albert Memmi referred to ‘colonialist arrogance’ and in thatregard Mr. Littler’s remarks provide a useful illustration; in this he is seeking to claim an imaginary moral high ground,which cannot exist for the colonialist given the nature of the relationship (with the colonized), and in which he entirelymisinterprets a rather solemn Scottish ‘native’ poem, itselfdescribing colonial oppression and the wretchedness of the people of ‘Scotland’, in what appears to be a conspired and fruitless attempt to obscure what is primarily and perhaps inevitably a colonialist perspective.
Might I suggest Mr. Littler read my recent paper number 4 (Colonialism) in the series developed from my book ‘Doun-Hauden: The Socio-Political Determinants of Scottish Independence’, which might enhance his appreciation that ‘privilege is at the heart of the colonial relationship’.DETERMINANTS OF INDEPENDENCE COLONIALISM – YOURS FOR SCOTLAND (wordpress.com)
I much appreciate Alf finding time to send this response to Vince Littler’s article but this is a very important topic and I felt it best to seek out Alf’s views rather than interpret them myself. Alf will be back again with his latest paper in his series on Sunday. This time the topic is Nationalism.
I am, as always
Yours for Scotland
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Is called Doun Hauden and is available from Amazon UK.