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What’s wrong with foreigners?

Posted on October 21, 2012 by

Do Ed Miliband, Tony Benn and George Galloway and now Sir Menzies Campbell (who appeared on today’s edition of The Sunday Politics Scotland) have some sort of problem with foreigners? It sounds like they do. For instance, read these words from Tony Benn, the great elder statesman of the Labour Party, this summer:

If Scotland wants to be independent they have the absolute right to do so. But I think nationalism is a mistake. And I am half Scots and feel it would divide me in half with a knife. The thought that my mother would suddenly be a foreigner would upset me very much.”

When asked about Benn’s views in a recent Holyrood magazine interview, Labour leader Ed Miliband had this to say:

I am not the only person with family ties abroad and family is family, whatever the accent or postcode. But the Scottish people with family in England, or vice versa, will be living in a foreign country if Alex Salmond gets his way, that’s just a fact. We live in an increasingly interconnected world; we shouldn’t be building artificial barriers, we should be working out how to work more closely together.

And on an episode of Scotland Tonight a few months ago, where Galloway discussed the issue of Scottish independence with YesScotland chair Dennis Canavan, the Respect MP talked passionately of solidarity between working-class people, which Scottish independence would, he claimed, damage. He felt just the same solidarity, he suggested, with bus drivers in Glasgow, Bradford and Belfast.

To which the most obvious immediate response is “What about bus drivers in Dublin, Oslo, Marseilles, Toronto or Lagos?” Does George Galloway not have the same sense of solidarity with them? Clearly not, if he feels that Scottish independence is somehow contrary to his solidarity with bus drivers either side of the border. If Scottish bus drivers somehow becoming citizens of a different country to bus drivers in his own Bradford constituency has any relevance to his ability to be in solidarity with them, you have to wonder about the nature of his socialism and his solidarity.

(On the programme Galloway oddly drew a distinction on the grounds of speaking English. Presumably that means he cares about the working class of the USA and most of Canada but not Quebec, and about bus drivers in Cork but not in La Bouteille.)

The same is true of the faintly sinister undertones in the above quotes from Benn and Miliband: namely that they regard family members becoming “foreigners” as something qualitatively worse than them not being foreigners. One of two things, then, is true: first, that they would find it hard to be as close to a “foreigner” as they would a fellow citizen, or they would reserve such a distinction only to Scottish people. Either way, there’s more than a whiff of the language of xenophobia.

Do I believe that Tony Benn, Ed Miliband, George Galloway or Menzies Campbell are racist? Of course not. Given they are socialists and humanitarians (of varying shades), and that three of the four are either Scottish or have strong Scottish connections, I’m sure that their concerns about Scots and English becoming foreigners to each other is not borne out of a distrust of foreigners but from a misguided adherence to the traditional kneejerk opposition to independence. But the thing is, it certainly sounds like racism. And that’s what makes their words all the more curious.

I have family in Spain and Canada, for example. Are they “foreign” to me? Well, I suppose in a purely abstract, technical and administrative sense, yes they are. But it’s not a word I’d really use to describe them, because they’re… well, family. I might be a long way from them, but our distance is geographical, not national. I can visit them (logistically speaking) very easily. And even if I couldn’t, they’d still be family.

How about people in other neighbouring countries? Do I regard the people of the Republic of Ireland as foreign? Again, on a very technical level, yes I suppose they are. They live in a different sovereign country from me, they hold a different passport to mine, and are subject to different laws and a different government to me.

But do I think any worse of them as a result? If I describe them as “foreigners” do I do so in a derogatory or pejorative way? Is it a problem to me that they are in a different country? Am I less able as an individual to be friends or business partners with them? No, of course not – there are cultural, linguistic, economic and historic links between Scotland and Ireland as long as the longest arm in the world, and the UK and Ireland are great allies bilaterally, in the European Union, and in many other arenas.

Take another example: Norway. Just over the water from Scotland, with strong historical ties, but a different language. Are they foreigners? Well, yes. But they’re lovely people and great neighbours, so why does it matter?

How about the people of the USA, then, or Brazil, or Nigeria, or Burundi, or Laos, or Malta, or… well, I’m not going to name all the countries in the world. Look them up for yourself. They’re all foreigners. Is that a problem to me? No! All the people of the world are human beings like me, and I have loads in common with them, even though I might occasionally distrust their governments, pity or envy their personal circumstances, or disagree with them on an individual level about the nicest beer or best film. We probably have a huge amount more in common as human beings in our daily travails than what divides us. Recognising and acting on that commonality is when the world is at its best, and when nations end up being friends rather than enemies.

And so why are Benn, Miliband and Galloway in that case implying a distrust of the concept of foreignness? Why is there a pejorative inference in their use of the word “foreign”? If they worry about the people of Scotland becoming foreigners, what does that tell us about how they regard the Irish? The Americans? Australians? The French, or Germans or Spanish or… there I go again, just naming countries at random.

Let’s accept that the people of Scotland and the rest of the UK will, technically, be foreigners to each other upon independence. We may have different tax systems, different governments, different welfare policies or foreign policies. But does that give us grounds to think any less of each other? No. Will we still be able to travel to, trade with and live or work in each others’ countries? Yes. Will family across the border still be family? Yes. Is this an unusual arrangement? Absolutely not.

There are about two hundred sovereign countries in the world (don’t worry, I’ll not start naming them again). All of them are populated by foreigners. The setup is not new. New countries become independent all the time. Scotland joining that list will be nothing particularly exceptional.

Let’s go back to Ed Miliband’s quote near the top of this article, and in particular the last sentence of it:

“We live in an increasingly interconnected world; we shouldn’t be building artificial barriers, we should be working out how to work more closely together.”

If Ed Miliband thinks that Scottish independence is an artificial barrier to that interconnected world where we all need to work more closely together, then by logical extension he believes that any independence is an artificial barrier, including that of the UK. But I don’t see Miliband campaigning for a merged Europe or a world government. And rightly so, because that interconnected world works well when countries come together as mutually supportive, respectful partners, and don’t fear each other because they’re “foreign”.

If certain Unionists in the UK can think of the other six billion people on Earth as foreigners without thinking less of them, why can’t they do that about the five million people of Scotland, or the 60 million of England, Wales and Northern Ireland? Why is it okay for everyone to be foreign except the British?


The original version of this piece appeared on Lost Horizons last month.

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84 to “What’s wrong with foreigners?”

  1. James Morton says:

    It’s a crap argument that a 10 year old could wreck in minutes. I have family that live as far afield as new zealand, austrailia and England. I also have friends who are from England as well as America. I don’t think any less of them because they are not Scottish or living in Scotland.
    Its the whole seperation angle. Think of your family, think of the children! Scotland being independent won’t stop them being family or friends. The have absolutely nothing positive to say at all do they?

  2. McHaggis says:

    I sometimes wish this blog was available at every station (like Metro)… Independence would be all but guaranteed.

    It sweeps away all the dross from the unionists, turns it on its head and fires it right back at them with knobs on.

    The only problem is getting these positive messages ‘out there’… Against the Daily Record, Scotsman, Herald and BBC it really is a big ask. 

  3. Steven of Songnam says:

    Apart from the utter hypocrisy of opposing the very idea of nations becoming independent (I don’t remember the UK worrying too much about recognizing Kosovo or South Sudan in recent history, so the ‘inter-connectedness of the world’ can’t be too important to them, eh?), again we’re hearing that it is always better to sacrifice independence to be a part of something much bigger – which I would indeed understand if it were coming from European federalists, but you’re right, it ain’t.
    And the whole ‘oooooooh but the English would becoming foreigners!’ line must be targeted at the anti-immigration market, who already associate ‘someone from another country’ with ‘almost certainly a terrorist here to steal our jobs’. Rather than how I see it, which is ‘fellow human born in another place’, which is so much less insane, if i do say so myself. It also ignores – may even in cases be completely oblivious to – the fact that many, even most, Scots would answer ‘Scotland’ when asked what country they are from. England is another country to me. Don’t anyone think for an instant that I love my little Brummie cousin any less for it.
    So we’re all foreigner-hating North Britons to them, except when it suits them to warn us that we’d become secluded and isolated just like North Korea. But then, what else would you expect from hypocrites?

  4. zedeeyen says:

    It’s the great irony of the independence debate in Scotland; the side that relies almost exclusively on emotive, negative nationalism – appeals to history, to patriotism, to tradition, to blood and soil, to fear of the other, and who attempt at every turn to sow division, mistrust and jealousy – are the unionists.

  5. Mike McQuaid says:

    I’m a Scot who spent a two years living with England and have travelled extensively with work to lots of different countries. Where I differ from most seems to be that I already consider England to be a foreign country. The differences between Edinburgh and London and no less than Edinburgh and Oslo or Edinburgh and Dublin.

    For me independence is about recognising that we are already separate countries with different cultures and values and have been for some time (and perhaps have always been). 

  6. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

    I’ve been in England a lot longer than that and it’s still a foreign country to me. Not, as the piece says, in any pejorative way – it’s lovely here, and the people are splendid, otherwise I wouldn’t have stayed so long – but simply as a fact. My country is Scotland, not the UK. I’ve been made very welcome here, but I’ll always be a visitor.

  7. Bill C says:

    Simon destroys the ‘foreigner’ myth very effectively. However, McHaggis illustrates equally effectively the major problem that the YES camp have. This is someting I and others have been banging on about for some time.  How do we get articles like Simon’s out to the public? We are up against a propaganda machine which is basically state sponsored. If we lose this argument, it will not because we have lost the debate it will because we have failed to get the truth and strength of our argument across to enough people. Scotland has many friends who are not short of a bob or two. Would it be possible to persuade enough of them to invest in a daily newspaper which is dedicated to independence? If the YES campaign had its own daily newspaper, achieving independence would surely be a much easier task?

  8. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

    You know the answer to that, Bill. Click the retweet button. Click the Facebook “Like” button. Share and disseminate. Readership of this site is soaring. We have the ability to reach more people than the papers do, but we need you to help.

  9. zedeeyen says:


    I totally agree with you. I’m a Scot living in England. Not only do I consider myself foreign but I’m fairly sure my English friends and colleagues do too – at least as foreign as someone from the Republic of Ireland, for example, though perhaps not as foreign as someone from France, or Brazil, or China. 

    In fact, my wife is Russian and my kids are both English, and I consider them foreign too, as I did with my English granny.

    It’s never even occurred to me to feel upset at any of this. 

  10. Steven of Songnam says:

    Sharing articles is certainly more effective than the ‘Union Bears’ stickers I keep seeing on the Glasgow subway. The thing looks quite angry.

  11. Peter A Bell says:

    A timely piece in light of the nonsense being spewed by Euan McColm in today’s SoS –

  12. muttley79 says:

    @Rev Stu
    I think this is basically British nationalism that you can identify in Benn’s, Miliband’s and Galloway’s quotes.  It is the elephant in the room of unionism.  It can also be seen when they call Britain a ‘country’, it is not, it is a state.  Their language gives it away.  In terms of Benn’s quotes he says that his mother would be a foreigner if Scotland votes Yes, without being flippant is mother is dead, even if she was still alive she would still be his mother….It also illustrates the permeation of British nationalism into Labour’s highest levels, which did not happen recently.  I think what we are seeing is the realisation from unionists that the Union will never be the same again, regardless of a No vote. 
    As the campaign for independence develops I think we will see the growing use of British nationalism by the unionists.  They are deploying it now because they know this is the greatest threat to the Union since 1921.  If they could they would not use it at all.  Unfortunately for them, it appears to be, as others have mentioned, a kind linked to implying that foreigners are somehow bad because they come from different parts of the world from us.  In other words a accident of birth.  It ties in with the British Empire as well in a way, the “we once rule these foreigners” line.  It has very nasty implications behind it.  I don’t think the Europeans, among others, are going to appreciate some of the rhetoric of British nationalism at all.

  13. Cuphook says:

    I’ve been pointing out the stupidity of this argument for a while. The whole idea that you should love your granny less because she comes from another country is something that I’m happy enough to let the Unionists repeat as I’m sure most Scots have friends or family abroad and don’t find the idea of them being foreign repulsive.

    Yet again the Unionists are clinging to a 19th century concept of nationalism.

  14. YesYesYes says:

    Good to see this post re-stating the points that we’ve addressed before on this site. We need to relentlessly expose Scottish Labour’s phoney ‘internationalism’ and its transparent British nationalism, both here and elsewhere.

  15. RTG says:

    Re. the Britishness issue: Was is Stephen Noon who suggested framing the independence argument in terms of “Stronger together as equals”?

  16. Bill C says:

    You will know better than me Rev how well this site is doing, suffice to say, from my point of view, it is without parallel.  However, with all due respect, it is not enough. What is needed is a tabloid size quality newspaper which folk can pick up on their way to work and which reports the news from an independence perspective. WoS is the berries for nationalist political anoraks like me, but for normal ordinary folk we need a nationalist newspaper.

    p.s. I am not insinuating for one moment that readers of WoS are not normal folk, it’s just that my wife thinks that I am obsessed with independence and that I AM not normal!

  17. ronald alexander mcdonald says:

    Yet more desperate crap from the Unionists.

  18. Silverytay says:

    The majority of my relatives are English , but the rest of them reads like the u.n .
    Australian , Canadian , South African , Polish , Chinese and Vietnamese and I would not be surprised if I have missed some out . When we vote for Independence they will still be my relatives and I will still love them all to bits regardless of what the unionists say .
    When my nephews fly up from Devon they use their passports and if I fly to london I use my passport and Independence will not change anything . 
    BILL C  you are not alone , my wife despairs off me as I am always on W.O.S or newsnet . 

  19. muttley79 says:

    I meant to add that you can see traces of British nationalism in Scottish Labour’s thinking as well.  They often reveal it unintentionally.  Lamont gave a speech to the Scottish Parliament, when there was a vote and debate on independence.  She said something like there was no coercion involved in the signing of the Treaty of Union!  This despite the fact that there was an English army just across the border!  Lamont also said that there was not much opposition to it!  The establishment of the British state cannot be seen to have been dubious, so facts go out of the window.  I think you can see it on YouTube, it is almost like the Iraqi Minister of Information, during the Iraq war, in its inadvertent,  deluded comedy effect.

  20. Clachangowk says:

    Over the years I have worked in Scotland, England, Germany, Austria, The Netherlands and Russia.

    For the 9 years I worked in The Netherlands I commuted from Belgium where I lived and and paid income tax.

    I now receive State pensions pro-rata depending on my length of contributions from Germany, Belgium , Austria and the UK.

    My wife is Russian My children live and work in Austria in one case and the other in New York. London is more “foreign” to me than many other European capitals but I do not hold that against it though I am not impressed by its politicians and bankers

    I think it can be understood when I shake my head in sheer disbelief at the  parochialism of the Unionist argument and the false arguments that they are at such pains to create.

     Most of them it seems to me should get out and about a bit more

  21. Silverytay says:

    Sorry my previous post should read , Independence will not change anything apart from my passport will read Scottish and my nephews passports can read what it wants as what the r.u.k calls itself will have nothing to do with me .

  22. scottish_skier says:

    So let me get this straight… Ed and co consider my wife ‘foreign’, my kid half ‘foreign’ and a large part of my extended family and friends ‘foreigners’? I guess no solidarity with my pensioner mother in law who lives in Le Havre then? 

    Does all sound rather xenophobic and insular to me this whole British Nationalism thing. 

  23. Anthony McGregor says:

    Excellent article. Thanks.

    I was born in England, but at 21 decided to move to Scotland. Here I have been, and made my home for almost the last 20 years now. 
    I consider myself by choice to be Scottish, and when asked where do I come from, the answer is always Scotland. 

    I have had people criticise me because of this, saying “oh you were born down south, therefore you are a southerner”. 
    In reply I give this. “I have lived here for almost 20 years, does that make me less of a Scot than someone born here for example 16 years ago? ”

    For some reason I never get a response to that one.

  24. Erchie says:

    I see people pointing to responses to McOlm’s article “oh look at the emotional Nats”
    never seeing the emotional BRITISH nationalist Rhetoric they are using

  25. Peter A Bell says:

    They also see emotionality where none exists. My own response was an explicit rejection of emotive arguments founded in the primitive identity politics of people like Euan McColm.

  26. EdinScot says:

    Add to the mix one Mr ‘saviour of the world’  Brown who came out with ‘British jobs for British workers’ and even advocated British Ceremonies for his new immigration policy.
    Scratch beneath the surface of the British  nationalists and there’s a huge festering sore when it comes to ‘their’ brand of nationalism.  Has nobody ever told them that variety is the spice of life!

  27. JimPicti says:

    My wife is Chinese..  speaks a different language to me, eats some strange things lol  she has her own wee cultural differences , my stepson is chinese he can also speak that different language, but wi a Scottish accent. her family all live in the peoples republic of China, I’ve been there meet many of her family & friends. I was made welcome & looked after by FAMILY & FRIENDS not forieners, IS China different from Scotland .. eh aye, but its still people going about their daily business you know working paying bills… surviving.  all this nonsense that family in England would be forien is just that nonsense. It seems the unionists can only scaremounger.


  28. Dual_Intention says:

    I’m a blg fan of Tony Benn but I did find the comment a bit strange.

    Maybe what he’s getting at is the sense that should something happen in the wider world which sees Scotland and the rUK diametrically opposed to each other then it might drive a wedge between families which would never have been there had we remained in the Union.

    Who knows? Strange, a bit odd and unbecoming of Tony. I’ll never forget him the day he chastised the BBC news reporter and continually plugged away at mentioning the Gaza appeal as often as he could because the BBC alongside SKY news refused to have anything to do with the humanitarian appeal. Vintage stuff.

     As for Galloway and Milliband, well, who really cares about the babblings of career opportunists. Much as I find Galloway entertaining-ish, I’d always check my wallet after I’d spoken to him.

  29. Brian Ritchie says:

    Anthony McGregor 
    Same here – I was born in England, still have a Yorkshire accent after 23 years (no doubt a few Scotticisms have crept in).  My nationality is Scottish and I will be voting YES.  I like to consider myself an example of the inclusiveness of the YES campaign and whenever I mention my background in forums the britnats almost invariably respond by silence. 🙂  Good article by the way, really exposes the false premises at the heart of such statements.

  30. Dcanmore says:

    Sounds like it’s these so-called ‘Internationalists’ that want to throw up borders in people’s minds. My brother lives in Canada and has dual citizenship, his wife is from Mauritius with French as first language, one son born in England, the other in Canada. Two of my closest friends are from Yorkshire and the United States. Are these people foreigners or foreign to me? NO! Like JimPicti posted, they are friends and family … and damn those who try to make me think otherwise!

    VOTE YES 2014! 

  31. scottish_skier says:

    Maybe what he’s getting at is the sense that should something happen in the wider world which sees Scotland and the rUK diametrically opposed to each other then it might drive a wedge between families which would never have been there had we remained in the Union.

    Maybe there is something to this. Unionists keep talking about ‘border posts’ and stuff like that but I’ve never heard this from supporters of independence. Could this be hints that Britain is becoming increasingly insular and nationalistic (not in the civic sense, but in the more unsavoury style)? I know that a lot of right-wingers (Tories, UKIP) want to distance themselves from Europeans for example, with a crackdown on freedom of movement. Then there is labour now flying the jack and talking about ‘British jobs for British workers’; something we’re more used to hearing from the BNP.

    Putting that aside, only comparable example would be Ireland when it left the union. There was a huge wedge created there, but that was because Britain shot at them when they decided they wanted independence, then carved of a bit to hold onto. And that was after 30,000 Irish gave their lives for Britain in WWI, so I can appreciate a certain hostility. Even so, no border controls between the republic and the UK today and friends and family ties remain strong as ever.

    Personally, I don’t see any issues here.

  32. Arbroath 1320 says:

    Where were these individuals with their “fears” about foreigners when Czechoslovakia split into the Czech and Slovak republics?
    Where were these individuals  with their “fears” about foreigners when Kosovo claimed its independence from Serbia?
    Where were these individuals  with their “fears” about foreigners when South Sudan claimed its Independence from Sudan?
    Oh that’s right……..nowhere.
    Well perhaps they should all just stick a sock in it.
    stick their fingers in their ears.
    sing their song la la la la la.
    and return to burying their heads in the sand!

  33. velofello says:

    The policies of the Tories, Liberals and Labour feel foreign to my values. i’m comfortable with the policies of the SNP, indeed I feel at home with them.

  34. tartanfever says:

    Lived in England for nearly half my life, 20 years. Never really had any problems personally, the odd good natured jibe now and again – you know, being called ‘jock’ and all that, but always in a friendly way with pals and work colleagues. 
    I lived around Bristol and Bath and I will say the the worst comments I heard more often than not, that did border on racism, were actually towards the Welsh, however, I never had any problems.
    The comment that I would hear most often, and I mean at least once a week, would be someone moaning on, and I mean seriously moaning on, at why the bridge tolls on new Severn crossing were on the Welsh side, going into Wales. ‘Why would anyone want to pay to go into that dump ?’ was always the argument I heard. I was always quite staggered by how many would nod their heads in agreement to this.


  35. Martin says:

    Not that it makes much difference, there is passport control between the ROI and the UK if one travels by sea or air –

    Border controls between England and Scotland are not out of the question given the differing demographic imperatives between the two countries.  Political pressure in England would need a border check if there was a more relaxed immigration regime in Scotland.  It’s a persistent myth that there would be some sort of “inheriting” of the Common Travel Area by Scotland.  I think it is the shock of having to present passports at Waverley or when driving that the subject of this post largely speaks of.

    Also the policy of Scotland, an SNP Scotland anyway, would be to revive the Auld Alliance against England (economically if not militarily) as can be seen from the sniping at the current conference.  Couple that with the party’s claims to parts of Northumberland then you have a combustible situation akin to the break up of Yugoslavia.   

  36. Mike says:

    Having been forced to leave my home country(N.Ireland, U.K) 6 years ago to find a decent job. I ended up in a foreign country, the Republic of Ireland, (1 hour down the road). Every time I cross the border I’m not aware I’ve done so. So for Ben and whoever else to suggest that this type of scenario – which would mirror the set up in scotland if they gain independence – is some kind of hurdle and that suddenly my daughter born in the Republic is a foreigner to her grandparents and cousins in the North is ridiculous. If anything I believe the contrary would be true, it would present more opportunities than hurdles. I’m only grateful that I was afforded the opportunity to leave the U.k and find prosperity somewhere else, hopefully the Scottish people will vote to do the same.

  37. YesYesYes says:

    What has been happening in Scotland since the SNP victory in 2011, and as the reality that there is going to be a referendum on independence slowly sinks in to unionists’ minds, is that we are seeing why the debate on independence is so necessary. And the purpose of the referendum was always as much about the debate, and having a debate that was dedicated exclusively to the issue of independence, as it was about the vote itself. This debate allows us to address issues more comprehensively and more analytically, than would be possible in any British general election campaign, where Scottish issues are inevitably crowded out by overbearing ‘British’ issues.
    Much of the conventional wisdom of unionism that has gone unchallenged for so long is now being consistently questioned and brought out into the public domain, and this has been facilitated by the growth and increasing popularity of social media, in ways that weren’t possible previously. This issue of Scottish Labour’s phoney ‘internationalism’ and its barely-concealed British nationalism are good example of this.
    For far too long, generations of Scottish Labour parvenus have dined out (far too cheaply) on their pseudo-socialist and pseudo-internationalist ‘credentials’, as they adopt their haughty, dismissive attitude to the ‘narrow’, ‘insular’ nationalism of others from the heights of their shakily-constructed lofty perches. Now, at long last, Scottish Labour is being found out, they are being seen for what they really are, and it’s this referendum debate that is doing it.

  38. Alex Grant says:

    Strange how Cameron managed, on the Queen’s visit to Ireland recently, to emphasize the friendship between the countries??

  39. maxstafford says:

    Frankly, I can’t wait to come from a ‘foreign’ country because the one I’m in is rapidly morphing into a regressive, fascist toilet!

  40. Ayemachrihanish says:

    Some years ago my nephew who worked in London was posted to Australia to work for a year. He and his wife enjoyed the  lifestyle and decided to stay. Within 5 years they had 2 children and Australian Citizenship – and all Australian Passports. Seamlessly, and pathetically in the eyes of  Ed Miliband, Tony Benn, George Galloway and Sir Menzies Campbell  they became foreigners – and therefore somehow separatists and different. 

  41. Luis says:

    Let me say, fantastic piece of argument, Stu. I am an immigrant in Ireland (it would be a long history how I ended up in this blog, let’s say that I always sympathized with the cause of Scottish Independence and this page had the best coverage of the decadence of the extinct Rangers FC), and I always loved the Scottish culture, nature, and mainly, the music. I would love to do what I am doing now in Ireland, but in Scotland: studying, working (or trying to), marry my european girlfriend and live happily as an honest taxpayer. But, unhappily, the three right wing parties that dominate the british politics use the immigrants as scapegoats for their incompetence. Their, let’s be honest and give it the name it deserves, hatred for people not white and english is disgusting, and I really dream of an independent Scotland and think that every immigrant should support and fight for an independent and leftist Scotland where they wouldn’t be treated as criminals. I hope that SNP has a commitment about that, at least Sinn Fein here has.

  42. scottish_skier says:

    Certainly, I’ve heard the ‘We are all the same’ argument against Scottish political independence many times. The fact that ‘same’ does not extend beyond the channel has always been something that worried me. Implies that Britain is full of special/superior people or something.

    Working in oil and gas, I have a lot of good friends and colleagues from across the globle, many of whom live and work in the UK. The Tory crack-down on ‘foreigners’ coming to work in the UK is harming my business and also making my colleagues increasingly feel uncomfortable; like they are not wanted or something.

    These are very highly educated engineers with PhDs etc too; an asset to Scotland, bringing in business and paying a lot of tax, never mind being excellent for going on business trips to their home nations/areas. I feel embarrassed when they talk to me about the increasing hoops we have to jump through to allow them to work here, never mind the fact they are treated as terrorist suspects when passing through Heathrow. My Iranian PhD student was asked the colour of her underwear FGS.

    Thankfully, they are sympathetic and understand why Scotland wants independence. 

  43. maxstafford says:

    It’s that growing air of unjustified superiority and indeed casual racism/xenophobia that makes me feel increasingly uncomfortable with the UK. The constant looking down the nose at Johnny Foreigner has grated with me from an early age and I was thrilled as I grew up to read that Scotland had indeed thriving direct foreign trade with Scandinavia, the Low Countries and the Baltic. It made me sad to think that our only connection to that colourful outside world was through the dreariness of London and its stifling institutions. Don’t get me wrong; England is still a wonderful place, particularly where I live in the north and I have many great friends. But it isn’t my own country, much as I love it and I would be thrilled to return to a Scotland that once again found its own distinct way of engaging with the rest of the world and doing so directly, as it did before 1707. I fail to understand why the Britnat mindset is so keen to see the entire world as a threat to be guarded against rather than engaged with. It’s a baffling and somewhat depressing school of thought. 

  44. Alan says:

    Don’t start me on London… A very foreign place…

  45. Anthony McGregor says:

    It almost appears that “Westminster” is planning on building a new Berlin Wall, which many of us were glad to see fall back in ’89.

    This seems to me to be the only reason the comments certain “MP’s, MSP’s and others” would begin to make sense, unless I am being more stupid than usual.

  46. wullie says:

    If you are not English you are Jonny foreigner it has always been thus. ??? Its what the unionists always hoped for everyone would dissolve into an English person  poor old ming he will only have reached the status of second class Englishman after 2014 he will be looked down apon as second class jonny foreigner scotchman.

  47. Tearlach says:

    O/T but Fraser Nelson at the Spectator has posted a very complacent piece – from a Westminster view – about the SNP conference, and is now complaining that the “Cypernats” are ignoring him.

    Come on over and enjoy the fun.    

  48. Peter A Bell says:

    If Fraser Nelson wants to be a figure of fun who are we to deny him?

  49. Peter A Bell says:

    They certainly want to give the impression of independence creating barriers. But, as we have seen here, none of these barriers actually exist other than in the minds of British nationalists.

  50. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

    “Political pressure in England would need a border check if there was a more relaxed immigration regime in Scotland. “

    See, here’s the thing about that argument: if Scotland is more welcoming to immigrants, is healthier economically, has a more generous welfare system, free healthcare and education, and a foreign policy that makes it not a target for terrorists… who the hell’s going to want to move from there to England?

  51. Steven of Songnam says:

    “I am half Scots…”
    Um, shouldn’t that be half Scottish, friend? At least, I’ve never heard anyone say that they are ‘Scots’.
    “It would divide me in half with a knife…”
    He’s really playing up the poor-me angle, isn’t he? Most folks in Scotland aren’t going to vote one way or the other based on how it makes a politician feel. They’re really playing for this emotional angle, with the nasty implication that if you vote for independence you’re doing something morally reprehensible. And on a related note, I don’t particularly like the divorce metaphor, as countries are not people. But if we do accept the metaphor, this is essentially the message the unionists are pushing:
    “I know you aren’t sure if you want to stay married to me any more, but if you divorce me you are doing something vile, you will be ostracized from the community, and without me to guide most of your decisions and your pocket money, your life will fall apart and I will never do anything to help you ever again.”
    Which is horrible. If you can’t stay together, then that’s just the way things are. But if you are trying to persuade someone to stay with you, wouldn’t you maybe show them how much you love them or, I dunno, bribe them rather than stealing from them? Which isn’t exactly the best thing either, but the scaremongering and veiled threats just strike me as stupid.
    I’m hearing Weaker Apart. Not a note of Better Together yet. Harrumph.

  52. Bill C says:

    ‘Jenkins is now heading up a wide coalition of interests and – as we report today – claims that he will soon be able to unveil significant support from within the Labour Party. All sides in the debate are a long way in front of most of the population, whose attention is only now beginning to turn to the issue.’

    Taken from an interview with Blair Jenkins in todays Scotland on Sunday. Could a split be developing within Scottish Labour? Anybody heard anything?

  53. albaman says:

    A bit o/t Rev,
    I have just watched Alex Salmond on the Andrew Marr show, and it is the FIRST
    time I have heard any “YES” pampianer, politician or otherwise mention the fact that
    there was 2 Acts of Union, I do feel that that point is important because a great
    percentage of “Joe Public” will be unaware or have forgotten their schooling on that
    era of Scottish history  
    (one day i will find out how to align the posting, mind you it
    makes it distinctive!!.)   

  54. muttley79 says:

    @Bill C
    I think it is the Labour for Independence group that Blair Jenkins is mentioning.  They were formed a few months ago.  Allan Grogan spoke at the independence march last month.  They have a Facebook page as well.  I don’t think there will be a split in the Scottish Labour Party but who knows.

  55. megabreath says:

    I disagree greatly with the term “foreign” and its one I never use.My wife is from Buenos Aires and we have friends in Spain,France,Columbia,India and London among others.They represent a number of different languages and cultures but none of these are “foreign” to me nor are they “foreigners”.they are all different to be sure and this is to be celebrated, but not one of them would accept that this difference is a barrier that should be subsumed by a greater “union” political or otherwise.None of our friends in Argentina would consider renouncing their political independence because this might be a barrier to solidarity with friends in Brazil/Venezuela etc.I have to say our Argentine friends dont understand the British Union at all-for them it doesnt make sense for Scotland to be ruled by England.That is how they see it.In fact,for them,Scotland is already not part of the UK.Their word for the UK is Inglaterra.Scotland is a different country.

  56. Celyn says:

    “If Ed Miliband thinks that Scottish independence is an artificial barrier to that interconnected world where we all need to work more closely together, then by logical extension he believes that any independence is an artificial barrier, including that of the UK.”

    But it was one of his early jobs, wasn’t it, to help Labour improve their image in Scotland? You know, before he was ever elected to anything at all.

    Miliband only thinks of Scotland as a problem, or a set of votes to be won, or more likely, votes that he thinks are his by right and must be kept.

    A bit like “his” constituency of Doncaster North, where he was given a safe seat, but, although elected, managed to put that safe majority down.   Both times.  By just over 12% last time.  Not impressive.  But then, he probably feels that Doncaster is “foreign” to him, and perhaps the electorate reciprocate.

    As for George Galloway, the only thing he has solidarity with is himself.


  57. Andrew says:

    And I am half Scots and feel it would divide me in half with a knife. The thought that my mother would suddenly be a foreigner would upset me very much.”
    This makes no sense at all. How on earth can a Scotsman like Benn be a foreigner to his Scottish mother? Unless of course his Scottish half is somehow negated by his evidently superior English half.

  58. Bill C says:

    @ muttley 79

    Yeah thanks for that mutt. I know that Allan Grogan spoke at the March in Edinburgh and that they are going to have a conference next month.  It was just the way it was reported as though something else was happening. Eddie Barnes says that they are reporting on it elsewhere in SoS but I can’t see it.
    Cheers for getting back to me.

  59. Jeannie says:

    I honestly find the whole argument of independence causing us to become foreigners utterly ridiculous.  I have relatives and friends in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, France and England. Some of them are in receipt of British pensions from when they worked over here.  They have no problem obtaining them.  I can visit and communicate with any of them at any time of the day or night that I want to…by phone, text, e-mail, MSN, Skype,Facebook, etc. and even via this blog if we of a mind to do so. My sons can play on-line games with their cousins on the other side of the world.  My friend’s son recently became a father in Japan ….she texted me straight away and sent a picture.  I, myself, was born and brought up in Scotland, but moved to Germany, then to the USA, worked in the Republic of Ireland for a couple of years and then came back.  I never experienced a problem at any point. To listen to some of the unionists, you’d think we were back in Victorian Times when you had to physically travel to another country to keep in touch.  Are unionists not familiar with modern technology?
    My family and friends in other countries are not foreign to me.  Their children were born abroad and so are citizens of those countries – but they are not foreign to me either.  My friends in England will still be my friends whether we are independent or not.  I really don’t see what difference it makes.
    So what if we are asked to show a passport?  It’s not the end of the world.  My husband is regularly asked to show his passport flying from Glasgow to London as it is, due to anti-terrorism security measures. 
    I’m afraid as a Better Together argument, it just doesn’t hold water with me.

  60. velofello says:

    I know my age only because I was told my age.  I am a Scot, born here and raised by of Scots. i only know this because i was told so as a child.
    As an adult i do embrace the values and attitudes of the Scottish people at large and as expressed by the SNP, and despair of the North British Scots.

  61. Bill C says:

    An old of mine served in the British Army in Kenya and various other colonial type postings,  he was not a Scottish nationalist, in fact he detested all politicians. However the point of the tale is that his experience of defending the Empire had taught him that “the English are the most nationalistsic race on earth”. His opinion was obviously formed by the colonial, officer types he had to endure. Today such sentiment would be entirely wrong, I think most English folk are more worried about what Cameron has in store for them than whose lands they can conquer!  I have many English friends up here in the North East and I am proud to call them friends, they are the salt of the earth. However, I can’t help but feel that there still elements within the British establishment (Scots  born included) who retain the ‘Johnny foreigner’ mentality.  For me it is a huge plus that independence will surely rid us of the “Lord Snooty’s” within Westminster. Scotland might be going independent but that means, at long last, we can  be all inclusive and truly internationalist. 

  62. redcliffe62 says:

    We just had an election in the ACT in Oz which was fought on a false fear campaign from the Tories in Oz, stating rates bills would triple. It was nonsense, but they got their best vote ever.
    People vote with their pocket and not their heart, and fear works.

    This vote will be one with a constant attack on the MSM to confirm economic facts as to why and how people will supposedly be better off financially in the Union when they are cutting scotland’s grant year on year in treal terms.
    Questions asked now should be, if Scotand was independent what would our equivalent block grant be under independence?
    Would all the additional oil money for the next 30 years be enough for an oil fund, or like in Oz should people be given cheques to spend on goods (Scottish goods even?)  to stimulate the economy. It contributed to keeping Oz out of recession in 2008, one of the few OECD countries to do so. I like the idea of an oil cheque to stimulate the economy from additional monies Scotand would have. Saying the money is for Scottish families and not for nuclear weapons. Hard to argue with…
    Proving people will be FAR better off is what is needed, so that battle needs to be proved despite the failure for official figures to be scrutinised easily. 

    If GERS incorporates all the nuclear costs in Scotland to Scotland in their figures for examples, then get the government to issue a recorrected statement which allows for their schoolboy accounting error. Add how much VAT and export monies from companies based in London would end up in Scotland, all the supermarket generated money where people spend their pounds would contribute to where the money was spent and so on.

    An advert showing Soames in the House of Lords saying England needs Scotland financially, “the goose that lays the golden egg etc” would also be a powerful visual statement. 
    Maybe along lines of, “Although only 4% of those elected or more often unelected in Westminster are representing Scotland, with most representing their seat in the southern shires of England in the House of Lords for example, they do occasionally make sense….” 

    The recent poll shows if people think their will be five more years of Tories or longer from 2015 they will not be prepared to put up with it. Even if they were to lose they would win at some stage, and Labour are virtually the same now so it is all an issue whereby many areas will be privatised and after shareholders take their wedge then costs will no doubt rise as per usual.
    Stating utilities will be reprivatised so that essentials like water and electricity can never again be allowed to be out of control in pricing for rich friends of Westminster to make money would also be a vote winner.  
    Finally the campaign needs to emphasise that “We love the English, Welsh and Northern Irish people, we just hate your politicians, probably even more than you do! ” in advertising in the rest of UK to get the locals onside.

  63. KOF says:

    Steven of Songnam says:
    October 21, 2012 at 9:57 pm

    “I am half Scots…” Um, shouldn’t that be half Scottish, friend? At least, I’ve never heard anyone say that they are ‘Scots’.

    The clues in the name. Scotland, the land of the Scots. We are Scots, not Scot-tish. Ain’t nothing “ish” about us, we should remember that. 

    (Sorry. I really dislike the “Scot***h word.)

  64. Cranachan says:

    This was written by Ed Milliband’s father (Ralph) just after the evacuation at Dunkirk:

    ‘The Englishman is a rabid nationalist. They are perhaps the most nationalist people in the world… When you hear the English talk of this war you sometimes almost want them to lose it to show them how things are. They have the greatest contempt for the continent in general and for the French in particular. ….  ‘England first’ – this slogan is taken for granted by the English people as a whole. To lose their empire would be the worst possible humiliation.’

    Seems to me that little has changed, and if Scotland becomes independent then it will never be forgiven. 

  65. Barney Thomson says:

    So Tony, let me get this right.

    I am a Scot living in Berkshire so all my neighbours are foreigners. Apparently so is my brother who lives in Aberdeenshire and aw his bairns (mibbe no the wan that bides in Woking????). My wife is Italian, another fecken foreigner, and that makes my children half foreigners. My grand-dochters’s faither is fae Cymru so she is 3/4 foreign. Feck me, that maks me the only non-foreigner eh ken. Eh’ve sharpened the knife, Tony, how many pieces should eh cut awbiddy else intae?

    Muttley79 @ 3.23p.m. – wasn’t the Iraqi geezer called Comical Alistair or something. Such a Darling!  

  66. BillyBigBaws says:

    The British version of internationalism socialism extends to every corner of the … UK.

  67. Kenny Campbell says:

    Englishness can and is often interchanged with Britishness. the fact of being Scottish just allows you to hide under the edge of the umbrella, when the oil runs out we’ll be dropped like an old dog.

  68. Macart says:

    What’s wrong with foreigners?

    Nithin’, nut a bliddy thing. Being regarded as a ‘foreigner’ is a most particular reserve of the British politico. The hypocrisy of the political class knows no bounds in Britain as the Rev has excellently outlined above. The world is full of Johnny Foreigners and not to be trusted dontcha know. Blithely they are quite capable of skipping over the blatant hypocrisy of the current Westminster/Holyrood – UK/EU situation. Yet the first, the very feckin’ first threat issued on almost any UK debate forum when Scots independence is mentioned….. Why do you want to become a foreign country? 

    Must admit to becoming fairly sick to death of going on to a thread these days and for the thousandth time repeating the same set of answers to mind numbingly dumb questions and comments. The whole Johnny foreigner bullshit is a prime example of casual racism at its worst and most insidious, yet to define your own future, have pride in your country of birth and take a more socially tolerant path apparently paints us as nazi xenophobes. You really couldn’t make it up, its so twisted a logic only the UK state could come up with it.

  69. bobby mcpherson says:

    If It looks like racism, smells like racism then it probably is. The artificial barriers that Miliband is on about isnae Scottish Independence its his, and Benn’s and Galloways concept of foreigness that stems from british nationalism wrapped up in their union jack and is what is at the heart of all their racist foreign policies

  70. Doug Daniel says:

    I wonder if there’s an element of fear that Scotland will stop acting as a playground for the rich, and that middle class English people will find it more difficult to retire to the Highlands and islands, buy a hotel and spend the latter half of their lives looking at the quaint scenery, living out their own little episodes of The Good Life?

    “What’s wrong with you? Why are you breaking up with us? Don’t you like us any more? Don’t you want to be our little friend? What have we done wrong?”

    You keep voting for Tories and wannabe Tories, that’s what you’ve done wrong.

  71. Doug Daniel says:

    Incidentally, this is just one of the many examples of how utterly ignorant many people are about the world around them. All the questions about border controls, shared cultures, shared currency, shared head of state, defence of a small country blah blah blah – all of them display the total ignorance many people in the UK have towards our closest neighbour, because all of them can be answered by looking at how the relationship between the UK and Ireland has evolved since their independence.

    Really, any time someone asks you how something would work, the default position should always be “look at Ireland.” 

  72. Alasdair Frew-Bell says:

    Foreign is an attitude of mind. Things are “foreign” when we are unwilling to open up to difference and accept it. The people quoted have a fear for the future; their careers probably. Will they be foreigners living in England? Or will they make the effort to become English? An independent Scotland/Alba will become less like its neighbour as our much neglected cultural sphere is developed and promoted. For three hundred years we have been a cultural province of the English speaking world with a weak national voice. As an independent state that voice will strengthen as we recover our confidence and pride in our distinct heritage.  The great project of national renewal has begun. The unionists have had their day. They are the ideological “foreigners” now. 

  73. scottish_skier says:

    OMG Call Kaye was terrible this morning.

    Had these ‘genuine’ independence supporters who’d changed their mind because the ‘SNP leadership have dumped their principles on NATO’.

    “Aye, ah used tae support independence cause ah want nuclear weapons oot ae Scotland. But now am gonnae vote for the union instead.”

    Who do the BBC think actually believes such crap.


  74. Willie Zwigerland says:

    Doug Daniel,
    Look at Ireland? You mean post independence Scotland will descend into a bloody civil war? No thanks!

  75. maxstafford says:

    People who believe everything they’re told by their masters.

  76. Luigi says:

    Was Tony Benn involved in the suppression of the McCrone Report in 1974? I recall him being interviewed in a documentary about “Scotland’s oil” a few years back.

  77. Andrew says:

    He was secretary of state for industry in 1974, and in ’75 for energy. I’m sure he would have been heavily involved in the treachery.

  78. Siôn Eurfyl Jones says:

    There is something intrinsically racist in the idea that Foreign is somehow bad.  Many of the shopkeepers , doctors, and neighbours the people you mentioned encounter every day will be ‘foreign’. Does that frighten these fine gentlemen?   Ed made much of his immigrant roots at conference – and presumably he has relatives who live in other countries.  Does he feel any less fraternal towards them?  I am frankly shocked by Tony Benn’s attitude, a it lacks any vestige of the intellectual rigour which he normally brings to any analysis. In this case it is just woolly emotional twaddle.

    For me, working alongside people from foreign lands has been a privilege and an interesting education, not a threat, so I can’t understand the pejorative sense that some very eminent people appear to assign to the description ‘Foreign’. 


  79. John Lyons says:

    This is the postive case for the union. “Seperate and you’ll all become foreigners!”

    Oh well, that’s my mind changed. I’ll be votng NO now….

  80. Thanks for all the positive and thoughtful comments folks. It was a pleasure to post here on WoS.

  81. Craig P says:

    This article gets to the heart of the matter. Independence is not about the economy (well, not any more), or NATO, or social democracy. It is about national identity. It is the reason my wife would vote no, as I suspect would many others who would otherwise prosper under an independent Scotland. They watch the BBC and the news from London and the jubilee and the royal wedding and the Olympic flag waving and the Great British Bake Off and it all gets absorbed rather than rejected.  If you grew up thinking that, say, Oasis and Glastonbury and Eastenders and Richard Attenborough was somehow part of your culture, independence feels like being made ‘foreign’ to part of your own identity. Which is a very low level but very powerful subconcious reaction that we need an answer for.

    I suspect Scots who feel more British than Scottish are in an ever increasing minority, however they are over represented in the middle and ruling classes. And I have a feeling it will be essential to carry the middle to win independence.

  82. MajorBloodnok says:

    My take on the ‘British’ attitude to foreigners is about classification.

    I think that there is something in the (particularly English) conservative (small ‘c’) mind that has difficulty engaging with people as individuals, which, in my opinion, stems from the ingrained class system that is far stronger south of the border (and is seeing a resurgence).  One doesn’t want to get too close to the wrong sort of people.

    Basically, in order to avoiding having to deal with the diversity of humanity and having to understand the aims and motivations of others and, God forbid, even empathise with them, you can simply classify them and then you know automaticially how to treat them.

    This kind of thinking permeated the Thatcher years where the rich were given tax cuts to incentivise them, whereas the working classes were incentivised by having wages their frozen and benefits cut.  Not one of us, different, you see.

    I can remember a long time ago (early 80s) talking to a Buckinghamshire friend and when I said that Scotland would one day be independent, she was horrified and said “But then, then, you’d be foreign” as though this was an unspeakable condition not to be wished on one’s worst enemy.

    So, to be foreign is part of a simple classification system, that we would be different, other, not British, not civilised, perhaps sub-human, there would be no requirement to understand us as such, and therefore we would not need to be treated in the same way as other British.

    There are many benefits to being an island race, but appreciating foreigners is not one of them.

  83. BillyBigBaws says:

    Just remembered. A few years back Galloway was arguing with a Scottish nationalist on his phone-in show, and suddenly, apropos of nothing, in the middle of a rant about about the evils of nationalism, he announced: “Robert the Bruce means nothing to me! He was a French speaker!”

    It struck me as funny at the time, just an odd thing for an international socialist to say – especially one who spends so much time abroad. But he now makes great play of the fact that Scots and English people share a language, implying that this means we should also go on sharing a government. He just has some funny ideas all round.

    I also remember him insisting on Talk Sport that Scotland doesn’t have a culture – not so much saying that it has a typical shared British one, but that it really has none, none at all. Which would make us utterly unique if it was true.

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