A GUEST ARTICLE FROM REGULAR CONTRIBUTOR PETE YOUNG FROM SCOTNEWS WHICH IS BASED IN DENMARK.
The train leaves at 7.26am from Copenhagen. Thanks to the Great Belt tunnel and bridge you now travel direct to Hamburg. There’s no need to disembark anymore, the ferries between Sjaelland and Fyn stopped sailing years ago.
The Danish IC train continues across the middle island, over another bridge to Jutland, and down through historic Schleswig-Holstein.
I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve crossed the border to Germany. Until the Great Belt connection opened, it was mostly via Gedser-Travemunde which, on arrival, gave you views of the DDR’s Baltic coast. Sinister watchtowers stretched as far as the eye could see. That was the land of Stasi informers, show trials, the smearing and demonisation of anyone who didn’t toe the party line.
However, the most popular maritime crossing to Germany is Rødby-Puttgarten. Rødby was once a ‘boat train’ port. These days, far cleaner hybrid ferries whisk you over in about 40min. But most passenger ferry routes will probably close within a decade. That’s because the latest transport infrastructure project is already underway.
Tunnel construction has begun on the southern Danish island of Lolland. An undersea connection that may, one day, become the backdrop to some Nordic crime drama, will emerge on the German island of Fehmarn. When it’s complete it will enable even faster rail transport between Scandinavia and central Europe. Night trains are already being revived as EU states co-operate on clean, fast city centre to city centre rail – green, sustainable transport.
After several decades, the prosperous independent country I arrived in has seen huge changes to its transport infrastructure. It’s testament to what a small indy nation can achieve when it retains all of its revenues.
With England voting to leave the EU it seemed inevitable that we Scots would abandon the Treaty of Union. Who didn’t imagine back in 2016 we’d all be citizens of an indy Scotland in Europe by 2022? Alas, the vehicle to independence lost its way as Nicola lost her nerve.
So, having been recently granted Danish citizenship, I decided to apply for a Danish passport. I’m simply too ashamed and angry to be a subject of the ‘British’ state anymore.
When you reach a certain age, travelling 1st Class on the ‘Danske Statsbaner’ isn’t much more expensive. You’ll notice the seats are bigger and further apart. There’s complimentary coffee, tea, and biscuits. It’s ‘hygge på skinner’ as the Danes might say, ‘cosyness by rail’. You need to have your passport on cross border trips even though no one ever wants to check it. All that No Borders propaganda by astroturfer Malcolm Offord during indyref, is actual reality on a trip between Denmark, Germany and France. To all intents and purposes, there are no borders for the European traveller. Ironic then, that voting No in 2014 has created nothing but barriers for we Scots to the rest of Europe. Still, Offord got his seat in the Lords for his services to the Union of Unequals.
Speaking of passports, a new agreement among the Nordic nations makes it far easier to hold dual citizenship. The new dual citizenship agreement is for the Nordics only. Although Germany has a Baltic coast, ferry connections to Scandinavia, and a land border with Denmark, it is not included and never asked to be. The issue is no doubt one of size. At 80 million plus, Germany just doesn’t fit with Nordic populations.
But imagine for a minute it had been Germany and not England that exited the EU. There may have been a stream of Germans crossing the northern borders before the deal was done. In countries of 5-6 million an influx of between 500,000 – 1,000,000 ‘incomers’, could create a huge change in population demographics.
In that hypothetical situation, should those incomers been granted full voting rights? ‘Of course not! That’s a preposterous idea,’ you may say. You might point out that dishing out franchise rights willy-nilly could lead to the country suddenly having a huge foreign minority with substantial political clout at the ballot box. Political parties based south of the border may even use money and influence to promote themselves throughout Denmark. That’s just not on, not here at least.
Hypothetical obviously, but were that unlikely scenario to occur would we accuse Danes of ethnic nationalism if they denied recent southern incomers voting rights? Would we wag a self-righteous finger in their direction, while shouting, ‘Why aren’t you Danes more civic?’ Or ask ‘Why don’t they just accept that if you live in Denmark you automatically become a Dane?’ We might even feel inclined to portray them as rabid, ethnic nationalists who are anti-German.
Of course, in the real world, most rational thinking Danes have an entirely normal attitude to their far larger southern neighbour. And the feeling is reciprocal. Both countries are popular holiday destinations and weekend getways for each other’s nationals. Old animosities have gone. The WWII occupation of Denmark by the Nazis is viewed as an aberration.
The simple fact is, a large country like Germany would fit no better in the Nordic Council than England would work in a British Federation. However, a future Celtic Council, modelled on its Nordic equivalent, could be a goer. Ireland, Scotland and Wales have much in common. Population size, Celtic heritage, and not least, centuries of being dominated by London.
In the decades that I’ve lived as an immigrant, I’ve never once voted in a national election or referendum because I’ve never been included in the electoral franchise for either. It’s never bothered me. I could vote on what affected me locally and in EU elections, so certainly not disenfranchised. Only on issues pertaining to the constitution and national government have I been excluded, until now. The simple reality is, I wasn’t born in this country. Yes, I now have full citizenship rights, but no matter how long I live here I will never be a Dane, it’s physically impossible. My roots are elsewhere, and my heart is still Scottish. To pretend otherwise would be disingenuous. We are who we are. Fortunately, Danes do not demand you deny your heritage or renounce your other citizenship in order to receive theirs.
The nonsense some Scots gush about incomers suddenly becoming Scottish by merely moving here appears to be based on a kind of national insecurity, a cultural cringe, or perhaps fear of asserting our own distinct Scottish identity.
For most people, it takes time to settle in another country, and the majority arrive for purely personal reasons. Integration is a longer process. Polling recent arrivals to gauge their attitude to indy seems rather distasteful and a tad exploitative. Incomers have little interest in our constitutional struggle. And why should they, it’s not their fight. In fact, many of our newly arrived cousins from England may be directly opposed to we Scots running our own country.
Of course, if you’ve lived the greater part of your life in another nation you may come to adopt that nation’s customs, language, identify with its heritage, and even with the national aspirations of its people. This is a beautiful experience that can enrich our lives. But it takes time. The next logical step would be to apply for citizenship.
One day that will be possible in Scotland. But this is far different from a student studying for six months, a second home owner, or a Brexit refugee who at heart still views Scotland as greater England and is opposed to ending the Union.
If there is to be a future indyref, the 2014 franchise must be re-considered to take into account the massive influx from our far more populous southern neighbour, post-Brexit.
In all the years I’ve lived as an immigrant, it never once occurred to me to demand full franchise rights of my hosts merely because I moved here. That would have, at best, been impolite – and at worst, entitled and arrogant on my part. I moved to their country, I had no right to demand anything of Danes at all. I’ve always found displays of British entitlement abroad toe-curling. Danes voted to reject the Euro and refused to ratify EU treaties that conflicted with the nation’s constitution. Who was I to tell them otherwise?
‘That’s all very well but we’re not independent,’ I can hear someone saying, stating the blindingly obvious. We may not have full autonomy, but we are still a nation. We never stopped being a nation. If we believe that anyone who lands in Scotland is to be automatically granted full voting rights, including on matters concerning our historic struggle for independence, we perhaps don’t believe we are a nation at all.
It is also the height of folly to imagine all of the post-Brexit incomers moved here to support our cause. To be honest, if our future Yes vote franchise is to be determined on polling the attitudes of incomers, to see if they’ll vote for our national cause, we might as well pack it in. The plain truth is, many of our southern neighbours still view Scotland as they view Wales, and as they once viewed Ireland. It’s not their fault. They have been conditioned to think this way since birth. For many, Englishness is synonymous with Britishness. Scotland, to them, is no more than a glorified English region with people who speak funny. This attitude won’t change in the short term.
In the absence of citizenship, full voting rights on constitutional issues should be based on long-term permanent residency – not a recent move or a transient stay.
When our nation finally gets around to issuing passports and granting citizenship we’ll presumably have our own criteria with reference to residency, knowledge of Scottish culture, and so on. In fact, we could even go as far as the Icelanders who insist that, as a new citizen, you take an Icelandic name. With its tiny population, Iceland tries to protect its culture and heritage. Of course, we Scots might not want to go down the road of insisting. But we could offer future new citizens the opportunity to adopt a Gaelic middle name on citizenship. Not coercion, just a choice. A way of connecting their future with our past. I imagine some new Scots might just adopt a Gaelic name with pride.
If you’re heading to Paris, the second and final change comes in Frankfurt. From there a French TGV whooshes you to the magnifcent Gare de l’Est arriving just before 9pm.
As mentioned, Malcolm Offord’s ‘No Borders’ propaganda is reality in a Europe of self-governing, independent states. Passports are rarely viewed on these trips. Only one country seems obsessed with closing borders, and it’s not Scotland.
In ‘The Scottish World’, author Billy Kay mentions Scottish nationality:
“In 1513, dual nationality was granted to Scots living in France and in 1558 this was reciprocated for the French living in Scotland. France was also a haven for Scots students, with a Collège des Écossais established in Paris in 1326 by Bishop Moray…”.
You know, visiting my son in Paris feels like coming home, in more ways than one.
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