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Wings Over Scotland

Where the heart is

Posted on July 14, 2012 by

I was going to blog about Rangers today, but it can wait. I’ve been a professional journalist for over 20 years now, but I almost never write about my personal life. You can search those decades with a fine tooth comb for a mention of who I’m going out with and come up empty. When people ask “Are you really a Reverend?” I’ll go so far as to answer “Yes”, but when they then invariably enquire as to which church I always reply “The United Episcopalian Brotherhood Of Mind Your Own Damn Business”.

I have no objections at all to others baring their souls for the world to see if that’s how they want to go about their affairs, but I like to keep my private life private and that’s not about to change now, except for this picture and the paragraph after it.

It’s of my lovely Auntie Isobel, a saintly woman at whom life threw just about every crappy card in the deck but who always came back smiling and laughing, barely even acknowledging her own troubles as she devoted herself to caring for others. I hadn’t seen her in many years, and now I never will again after I helped my cousins and uncles and my dad, whose little sister she was, carry her coffin from a tiny village church to a quiet leafy graveyard and lower it gently into the ground of Argyll.

Rest in peace, Auntie Isobel. I think, and I hope, you’d forgive me for mentioning you on a politics blog – I have no idea who you voted for – because coming home to say goodbye to you showed me why it is that I do it.

I’ve lived a very significant minority of my life in England now, and a majority of my adult life. And the longer you’re away, the easier it is to fall for the myth of “Britain” as a country. I like to think I’ve been pretty steadfast in that regard, but sometimes I do lapse into a sort of utilitarian view of independence, seeing it as an entirely political construct chiefly designed to extricate Scotland from Tory (and neo-Tory) rule.

But there’s something much more fundamental to it than that. The UK is four very distinct countries, jammed together into one awkward unit for reasons nobody can really remember any more and which make no sense if you look at them from a modern perspective. You only really notice it when you travel between them, and as a Scottish person living in England close to the Welsh border I’m probably better placed than most. (Sadly I’ve never been to Northern Ireland, but I’d imagine it’s even more pronounced there, being separated by a sea and having its only land border with a foreign nation that until relatively recently could be considered hostile.)

The first difference I encountered on this particular trip was one I’d never observed before, and which may have been an isolated meteorological freak occurrence, but it was startling all the same.  I came up on a Cross-Country train (in a seat designed by some sort of osteopathic sadist), which meant starting off on the west coast before veering across England and crossing the border at Berwick. We first caught sight of the North Sea at Alnmouth, where it had the same murky, muddy brown colour I’m familiar with from visits to the Weston-super-Mare seaside.

The line then cuts inland for a couple of miles before returning to the coast, and the waters off Scotland weren’t recognisable as part of the same entity. In place of Alnmouth’s opaque, filthy-looking brown breakers was a twinkling, bleakly beautiful ocean the colour and texture of dark grey slate, mirroring the oppressive clouds of the early-evening sky that were still coughing down rain in bad-tempered fits and starts. It was as if the sea too observed borders, and did things differently in Scotland.

Whether it’s to do with currents or weather or the town’s bay, or whether it was just a weird one-off that happened last Tuesday I have no idea, but it set a tone that would persist all week. Scotland’s architecture is different, its climate is different and its landscape is different. We drove to the funeral by a route that hugged the shores of Loch Lomond, Loch Long and Loch Fyne for much of its duration, and even though it rained most of the way it did nothing to reduce the stunning majesty of the scenery, too long unseen. (Indeed, the all-summer downpour doubtless contributed to the astonishing rich green lushness of the mountainsides.)

I tweeted a challenge to my Twitter followers to suggest journeys of comparable loveliness, and got many replies, because the truth is we’re spoiled for choice. I had to come back on Friday, for very good and happy reasons, but as I looked out of the train window heading south after such a short time back, my spirits grew more and more sullen and resentful the further I got into dull, flat England. Don’t get me wrong here, readers – it’s absolutely not an ugly country by any means, and has many pockets of great beauty (plenty of them in the pretty, pastoral lands around Bath), but fair as these green foreign hills may be, they are not the hills of home.

And it’s not only on the surface. Scottish culture is different too, in even the simplest and most mundane of ways. I’ve travelled far and wide across England, and in even its furthest corners its High Streets are dismayingly homogenous places, all filled with the same shops selling the same things. Even in Wales, to which I go fairly regularly, the insides of shops look the same in Cardiff and Neath and Newport as they do in Coventry and Portsmouth and Newcastle. (The Welsh, of course, primarily choosing to differentiate themselves through language.)

I re-crossed the UK’s northern internal border, though, with a huge holdall crammed with goodies that you just can’t get down here, at least nowhere I know of: Oddfellows and Aromatics, Lee’s Macaroon bars, a bottle of east-coast chippy sauce, Highlander crisps and lots more. I swore out loud when I realised I’d forgotten to pick up some Caboc cheese, and I simply didn’t have room for a box of Greggs’ strawberry tarts.

(Why those aren’t sold in English branches I haven’t the faintest idea. Since when did the English not like strawberries, for God’s sake? Weirdly, even some English-made foods are only sold outside England, such as Walkers pickled-onion flavour crisps.)

I particularly love that Scotland simply shrugs off all the mockery that surrounds haggis, and gets on with enjoying it without either embarrassment or turning it into a stereotyped pantomime for foreigners. Bathgate’s butcher shop matter-of-factly sells square sausage with haggis running through the middle of it, and in a pub near Cumbernauld – about as far from the tourist trail as you could get – I and my oldest friend tucked happily into haggis “bonbons” with mustard mayonnaise. (Although I quickly abandoned such metrosexual affectations and spattered them with HP sauce.)

I also gathered more reinforcement for a phenomenon I’ve been noticing for many years now. I make no scientific claims for it, for it’s based purely on my personal anecdotal experience, and I also attach no political significance to it for the same reasons. I offer it solely as an honest observation, which may or may not coincide with your own.

So far as I’ve seen with my own eyes, it seems to me that a majority of people in England who are of non-white ethnic origin speak with the accent of that place of origin, even if the person themselves was born and bred here and is as English as any pasty Essex Anglo-Saxon. In Scotland, though, to an extent so great that I’ve been actively noticing it for at least half a decade now, people who are immigrants, or the children or grandchildren of immigrants, overwhelmingly speak with Scottish accents.

As I say, I have no empirical evidence with which to support this observation. It may be unconsciously selective on my part. And once again, I make no claim that it proves anything about anything. I mention it only because it always makes my heart glow. The phrase “New Scots” is a well-intentioned and rather sweet one, but I prefer a simpler version – such people are Scots. They say you can’t choose your family but you choose your friends, and nothing makes me prouder of my country than that those from far-off lands should choose to come here and become, wholeheartedly, one of us, and to bring up their offspring in the same way.

(I think it may partly be because they shame my own integration skills. So long in England, I’ve shortened my vowels and slowed my speech to be understood, and I adopt many of their ways to fit in and avoid causing offence, but I’ve never for a second dreamed of considering myself a naturalised Englishman, perhaps because no matter how long I’m here I always feel it’s a temporary secondment, pending return whenever Scotland finally reasserts her sovereignty.)

But anyway. My point, such as it is, is that going home reminded me on an emotional level of what this blog has always asserted on a purely pragmatic one: Scotland and England (and Wales and probably Northern Ireland) are different countries. We’re alike in some ways, as many groups of adjacent nations are, but France and Belgium and Holland and Luxembourg (say) don’t feel the need to amalgamate their governments because of events that happened 300 years ago and no longer have any relevance.

So far as I know, the citizens of Bruges and Rotterdam do not feel they’d be better off or more secure if the vastly more numerous inhabitants of France dictated who ruled their respective homelands. The Union has existed for over three centuries without any other nations that we’re aware of feeling the need to copy it – rather, the opposite has occurred, with more and more peoples deciding that they’re best placed to determine their own interests in their own right. If the Union ever served a useful purpose, those days are long past – which is, of course, why its supporters have so much trouble making the “positive case” for it.

I want Scotland to be independent with my head, for the reasons exhaustively detailed on this blog for the last seven months. But I realised this week that its reluctance to stand up and take its place among the nations of the world gnaws at my heart and my soul too. Scotland is vastly more different to England than Newcastle is different to Birmingham or Norwich or Southampton, and it makes no sense on any level for it to continue to hobble along in the ill-fitting, badly-repaired shoes of Britain.

So if this rambling old post has a purpose, it’s to answer a question I’m often asked by surly Unionists. Why do I campaign for Scottish independence when I don’t live there? It’s simple: because I want to go home.

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    1. 06 03 19 13:06

      This Land Is Ours | A Wilderness of Peace

    42 to “Where the heart is”

    1. stx says:

      I’ve lived outside of Scotland for 12 years now, and I’ve always maintained to others that going back was never an option. You can’t go home again, I’ve said, it’s not the same. I think I’m on a similar wavelength in that I want it to be somewhere I could go back to but there’s a Grant Morrison(IIRC) statement that says you need you to wake up in the city that never sleeps to understand sleeping in the city that never wakes up and I feel there’s an insularity that holds some folk back.

      Sorry for your loss.

    2. Tony Little says:

      “I want Scotland to be independent with my head, for the reasons exhaustively detailed on this blog for the last seven months. But I realised this week that its reluctance to stand up and take its place among the nations of the world gnaws at my heart and my soul too.”
      Beautifully put and describes my greatest fear.  That too many Scots will allow themselves to be frightened into saying NO.    As I think I may have said on other threads, I am living in the Balkans.  I keep looking back home with a mixture of hope and frustration at the way that we (Scots) have allowed ourselves to be railroaded into believing the big lie, “too wee, too stupid, too poor”.
      Will we learn the truth in time?  I hope so as my own aspirations to return home will turn on this decision in 2014.  A NO vote will condemn me to remaining here and making the best of it.  A YES vote for a new Scotland, with aspirations to eliminate the bile and hate and money-obsessed English neo-capitalism will fix the deal.
      I know that sounds selfish, but I am of an age when this really will be the last chance in my lifetime for a grasp at the big prize.  I want to retire to a free Scotland.
      The Scotland I dream of will not privatise our health service, will keep the education of our young free, will have respect for all, stay out of illegal wars, create an economy based on enterprise and exploiting ALL our resources and skills of all our people – irrespective of background, have a reasonable tax system, and narrow the gap between haves and have-nots. 
      Thank you, Rev Stu for sharing a small part of your life.  My thoughts are with you.

    3. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

      “You can’t go home again, I’ve said, it’s not the same.”

      I don’t think that’s reasonable as a blanket assertion. I’m not looking to relive my youth, or move back to the same house or the same street or the same town I lived in before. But I think saying “You can never return to the country you once lived in after you’ve left” is an irrational statement. Does it apply to people in other countries? England? Germany? The USA? If you were born in Florida and spend some time in New Zealand are you then barred from living in San Francisco or New York? Is there a size threshold at which the rule applies? Is it geographic or population-based? Etc.

      I love Grant Morrison but he talks a lot of bollocks at times. Buggered if I’m throwing out MY copy of “Kill Your Boyfriend”.

    4. Bill Fraser says:

      Wonderful post Rev, but I have one critically important question.

      Where did you get the oddfellows?

      And I ain’t kidding !!!!!

    5. Juteman says:

      I’m in my 5th decade, and have been around the world a few times. The economic reason for independence is relatively new in my psyche. I’m simply a Scot. I’ve always been an old romantic at heart, and music from home could always bring a tear to my eye when living away.
      Being Scottish starts in the heart, and once it is there, it never leaves. 

    6. Alex Grant says:

      Straight from the heart Stu! As someone who has spent more time in England (working) than Scotland – I left when I was 22 and returned at 60 and I am now 63- I have been through all your emotions. And I feel passionate about being home. What amazes me is I have never met an English person who even begins to comprehend how we feel. And I fear for the many people who are too feart to believe in themselves. And if they fail to reject the country that wants to keep Trident and privatise the NHS God knows what I’ll do. What will coming home be worth if that happens?

    7. fitheach says:

      “people who are immigrants, or the children or grandchildren of immigrants, overwhelmingly speak with Scottish accents.”

      Well known and understood; it is the Reverend MacPherson Effect.

      I can’t entirely agree that these are “four very distinct countries”. People in Cumbria or north west Wales will share a lot in common with Highlanders for example. Equally those people will share something with the populations of Donegal, Nova Scotia or Norway. You don’t have to have a political union to share something with other peoples.

      My issue is that Scotland, and probably N. Ireland and Wales too, is sharing the bed with an elephant with ten times our population. The elephant concentrates on itself because everything else seems so insignificant and we continually have to make sure we aren’t squashed in the night. Our needs or aspirations and that of our large friend are not often the same.

      When I was in primary school I used to finish writing my address as: The Highlands, Scotland, Europe, The World. I didn’t realise it then but the last three parts encapsulated my political beliefs for my future adult life and I hope for the majority of my fellow Scots too.

      My condolences for your loss.

    8. jimmyarab says:

      Condolences on news of your auntie passing away.
      My elderly relatives are sadly passing away at an alarming rate at the moment.
      I’m keen on independence but I think you have a rose tinted view of independence. All of the Scottish political  parties are keen to stay in the EU so we won’t have independent control over the majority of our policies. Including foreign wars. Baroness Ashton will run our overseas affairs and has been keen to get involved in the illegal attacks on Libya etc. An expansion in EU meddling overseas is underway with billions being invested in foreign EU ’embassies’ while poverty stalks at home in Europe. I notice that the First Minister is softening his stance on Nato. This was always on the cards.
      Our SNP MEP (Alan Smyth ?) was in the news recently saying that the euro will be stronger in the future after the latest eurozone country crashed. What planet is he on ?
      Our energy policy in an independent country seems to rely on windmills. The most useless and inefficient system of power generation ever invented. The UK’s 3,600 windmills regularly produce next to nothing in output so will have to be supported with 100% conventional power station support running in parallel. Expensive madness.
      The nanny state under an SNP administration will accelerate. Minimum pricing on alcohol and demonising of smokers is just for starters.
      Our justice system will be attacked, with corroboration scrapped and secret family courts allowed to flourish with no accountability.
      Our police service is being turned into a single force to comply with the EU regional policies plan  for essential services. The Fire service will be next.
      Our children will be brainwashed to be politically correct non thinkers who will spout nonsense about global warming unless they want to lose marks in their exams ( I’ve read the rubbish they’re being taught – it’s scary)
      Having said all of this I’m still keen on independence but I won’t be voting SNP in an independent country. There will hopefully be a new party formed that want an independent Scotland outwith the EU and with a total ban on windmills or wave generators and all other such nonsense.

    9. James Sneddon says:

      “You can’t go home again, I’ve said, it’s not the same.”

      Sounds profound but means nothing  it’s like saying you can’t pass the same water twice!  Home is in the head and heart.  I moved back to Scotland after 20 years in London.  I missed the people, the weather, the talk , got sick of being surrounded by f**king moaners and serfs in thrall to the city cons and their serf mentality to the beast that is the City.
      All they do is fecking moan and do nothing about it (the ideal tory cannon fodder at election time) and everyone blame every one else a la Daily Mail style.  
      My sincerest condolences on your loss Rev.

    10. Seasick Dave says:

      Nice article Stu.

      I’ve travelled around the world a bit on a bicycle; here, there and everywhere.

      Work has taken me around the world and other places as well.

      I like to take the serendipitous approach when travelling and enjoy the unexpected twists and turns of travel.

      Everywhere I go I keep my eye out for places I would like to live; whether it be in city, town, village or in the boonies.

      To be sure there are many places that have taken my fancy and have me fantasising about living out my days under azure skies in some foreign nirvana.

      When all is said and done though, nothing beats your homeland. I would miss the ever changing skies, the couthy humour and the all round sense of decency that I find in Scotland.

      My bangers and mash eating, soft southern sissy of a wife used to declare that there was no difference between Scotland and England and that we were all the same people. Now, having lived the last twenty years of her life here I can assure you that her views have changed completely.

      I don’t think that she would ever move back down south and sure, there are some aspects of Scottish life that require major reshaping (for want of a better word), there is much to recommend our North Atlantic existence.

      I do worry that too many of our people have been conditioned to think of Westminster as the be all and end all but when I look at the chronic effect it has had on all of our lives I live in hope that the scales are going to fall from the doubters eyes in time for the only question that will really matter for generations to come.


    11. douglas clark says:

      Dear Seasick Dave,
      “Work has taken me around the world and other places as well.”
      Now that is amazing 🙂

      Agree completely with what you have to say, btw

    12. Seasick Dave says:


      It was an old saying of my granny; he’s been all around the world and other places for by!

    13. YesYesYes says:

      @James Sneddon,
      “Sounds profound but means nothing it’s like saying you can’t pass the same water twice!”
      Although Heraclitus did (wisely) say that you can’t step in the same river twice. Given the interesting issues that Stuart addresses in this post, Heraclitus’s aphorism might have made an excellent alternative title for Stuart’s post here, perhaps with a metaphysically challenging question mark at the end, just to keep the sceptics happy.

    14. Barney Thomson says:

      RevStu –
      Firstly, condolences on the loss of your Auntie Isobel.  This struck a chord with me as I am not long returned to Berkshire from the funeral of my mother-in-law, Benny, a wonderful Scottish lady whose family hailed originally from Italy. (I, too, travelled Cross-Country but via the Clyde Valley whose beauty rivals Argyll in a gentler way).
      This is a masterpiece of a post and I thank you for it. I have lived in England for two-thirds of my life and it made me sit back and think about how I may have adapted and compromised over those 40+ years to life in the “Home Counties.”  The conclusion I have reached is “not that much at all”. In my time here, disparagement of my Scottish origins has been rare and my friends and neighbours, who include representatives of all the nations of the UK, the new and old Commonwealth and lands with no historical connection with the UK, know and respect that I am a Scot and shall always remain so. The ordinary punters, even in this heartland of unthinking Toryism, are still the offspring of Jock Tamson or his equivalent.
      Although, as I say, the post is excellent, may I presume to pick a few nits with your examples of differences–
      –          I appreciate what you are getting at by the water being cleaner and the land more beautiful when the border is crossed on the way North and that this is a subjective response. I feel it too but taking an objective approach there are many stunning areas of England (North Yorks, Durham, Derbyshire, the Cotswolds, etc.). I would recommend some more insular Scots that I know to visit and experience them.
      –          “I’ve travelled far and wide across England, and in even its furthest corners its High Streets are dismayingly homogenous places, all filled with the same shops selling the same things”. Can’t agree. Get off the High Streets. Go to the villages and the farm shops where you’ll find fresh produce, great cheeses, local beers and ciders, even MacSweens haggis and Dornoch black pudding as I did yesterday just 7 miles from home. If you are really desperate, Lorne Sausage is easy to make yourself but you should ignore most recipes and use 50% rusks and 50% fine oatmeal.(My daughter told me today she got a hot Scots mutton pie in a Marks and Spencer mini-store in Reading)
      –          My personal experience of the non-white English is different from yours. Second and third generations talk wif de accent wot their white mates do. Innit? Have you ever had a curry in Bradford? I can’t understand a word those Tyke waiters are saying.
      –          Your comment about compromising our Scots accents to be more easily understood made me think if I’d ever done that myself and I have to admit that I have done so. In business meetings, presentations, management situations and anywhere a point has to be put across clearly it is essential. If I lived in the USA, or indeed France or Italy, I would do the same out of courtesy to the listener. I see nothing wrong with that. (Now that I have retired and nobody listens to me anyway, I find myself reverting more to my native Dundee dialect and recalling quite a bit of the Gaelic my grandfather used. My own grand-daughter now says oidhche mhath when she leaves and loves a brah peh)
      Of course the four nations of the UK are different (I have experience of Wales and Northern Ireland as well) and each has its own pride in the history that has shaped it and the contributions it has made to human progress but there are many similarities as well. These are the similarities that “ordinary” people have whatever country they come from. As a Scot, I am accepted by my English neighbours into their society just as my late mother-in-law, as an Italian, was by her Scots neighbours.
      Where there are differences the people have the right to express those differences as they see fit. I hope and believe that Scotland will do this by taking control of its own destiny by voting for full independence as an individual nation state and remaining good friends with our neighbours. How the other nations take the privileged psychopaths who now seem to be in charge out of the equation is their business.
      Sorry to rant on for so long but your post made me think more than is good for me. Thank you again.

    15. charlie says:

      I miss my Auntie Margaret, I understand I hope.
      England is a beautiful country even here in the Black Country. Wales also. Scotland also but it’s no Connemara, however walking by the Embra Castle my mate fron Motherwell said this is fantastic but to me it’s just home even if I’ve not been back for a while now, and even if I never get back Embra will be what I’ll be rambling about when I’m senile, either that, or trying to persuade the natives what a nice part of the world they live in

      Senility already kickin in


    16. redcliffe62 says:

      Do you think Unionists get that feeling of excitement, a feeling of belonging, as they drive north and cross the border at Gretna, or do they see it like crossing a county boundary?

      I know we used to look for the “Scotland” sign from the car which meant we were “home”. 

      It is sad that we often from abroad only go home for funerals, It is best to visit people whilst we all still have time to do so. 


    17. Hugh Jordan says:

      Although you are right about the importance of the language here in Wales, geography is also important – particularly away from the south-Wales coastal belt.

      I can stand on a hill not three miles from my home and look down on the Shropshire / Cheshire Plain and understand why invaders found our ancestors so hard to conquer.

      And when I am travelling homewards from a trip away, my heart lifts at my first sight of our hills in the distance.

    18. Tom K. says:

      I’m real mongrel – born (and living) in the West Midlands, with two Scottish, one Ukrainian/Polish, and one Italian grandparent.
      But the place I would like to call home is Scotland.  I’ve only been once, for an extended holiday, but that’s what resonates with me.

    19. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

      “You don’t have to have a political union to share something with other peoples.”

      Absolutely. I said as much in the bit about France and Belgium etc.

      “The nanny state under an SNP administration will accelerate.”

      Independence has nothing to do with which parties form our administrations, of course. (Except in so far as it greatly reduces the prospects of the Tories being one of them, anyway.)

      ” I feel it too but taking an objective approach there are many stunning areas of England”

      I did say that, and noted that there is much beauty down here, not least in my own neck of the woods. I didn’t say Scotland’s landscape was better, just observed that it was different.

      “My personal experience of the non-white English is different from yours. Second and third generations talk wif de accent wot their white mates do. Innit? Have you ever had a curry in Bradford?”

      I have not, although I really want to go to Bradford some time, assuming the National Media Museum is still there. But fair enough on the accents – I did very carefully note that I was recounting only my own experience, not asserting the phenomenon to be a nationwide one.

    20. Morag says:

      Dear RevStu, you have absolutely no idea how much that article resonated with me.  You have encapsulated something very close to my life story, only far more eloquently than I could

      Once, when I recommended one of your blog articles in an online conversation where some people were being sceptical about independence, someone said, do you realise the guy who writes that blog lives in England and has spent most of his adult life living and working in England?  I said, yeah, me too, and your point is?

      I moved to England at the age of 28, because I secured a university appointment in my chosen field, one which doesn’t have a huge choice of job opportunities.  I thought I might stay a few years.  I stayed in that job over six years, and when I moved it was to go even further south.  Sussex-by-the-Sea, in fact.  I stayed there over 18 years.

      England is a very nice place indeed, and I still cherish the many friends I made there.  I had a comfortable little house and we usually had summer every year.  Sussex is lovely, and I used to cycle to the South Downs on sunny days.

      But it was never home in that way, and I was never English.  My parents (latterly my widowed mother) were in Scotland, and that was “home”.  English friends used to laugh at my two different usages of the word “home”, sometimes in the one sentence.  I used to “go home” in that sense quite often.  I took the train, occasionally the bus, I drove, and latterly (living close to Gatwick airport) I flew.  When in the car I would let loose a wild whoop of joy as I passed the “Welcome to Scotland” sign.  I gloried in going into shops and interacting with people who spoke my own language, and even if only for a moment, pretending that I lived here.  When my mother would tell people I lived in Sussex, I would tell her to shut up.  (I remember the bags of plain loaves and other stuff I would take back to stock up my freezer in Sussex, and one conversation on a south-bound train where another regular traveller wondered just what an inventory of that train would reveal in the way of square sliced sausage, Irn Bru, pies, plain loaves, tablet and so on.)

      Then in 2006 circumstances changed, and I decided to look for a new job.  I immediately landed a suitable one near Edinburgh.  I actually moved home just a couple of months shy of the 25th anniversary of my move to England.

      It was a very weird experience, packing stuff and the cat and a few pot plants in my car, strapping the bike to the back, posting the keys of the house I’d lived in for 18 years through the letter-box to await the new owners taking possession, and turning to face the sunset.  (OK, a sizeable furniture lorry had driven off the previous day.)  I’d spent the entire organising-the-move months inwardly singing “The Scottish Soldier”, I’m afraid.

      Suddenly I was back in the bedroom I’d vacated 25 years before, just turning the car in the opposite direction to go to Edinburgh instead of Glasgow.  It was completely bizarre, but it absolutely gives the lie to the assertion that you can’t go home again.  Most of the neighbours were still the same people, and I’d never lost touch, always spending Christmas and New Year there, as well as a week in the spring to beat my mother’s garden into submission.  One of them turned out at midnight when I arrived, to get the bike off the back of my car so I could get it in the garage.  I was back in the community as if I’d never left.

      Of course that wasn’t going to last, although it lasted for six months, over Christmas and New Year, while I was house-hunting.  I scouted around for somewhere nearer to work, and picked a village off the Ordnance Survey map, because it was in the right place.  I drove there with slight trepidation, wondering what it would be like.  I got out of the car and felt the roots start to go down.  I walked down the main street thinking, I’m going to be part of this, I’m going to know these people, they are going to greet me by name and smile when I go into these shops.  I came upon a cul-de-sac with only ten houses which simply cried out to me, I want to live here.

      I moved only two days before the groundbreaking election in May 2007.  (I only found out later the day my furniture arrived from Sussex was actually the 300th anniversary of the Union!)

      Well, here I am, over five years on, sitting in my conservatory in one of these ten houses.  And the sun has just come out.  If I walk up to these shops, I will meet friends and they will greet me and talk to me, and these are my people in a way that the good friends I made in my time in England aren’t, not the same way.  I’m part of this village life in a way I never was part of the village in Sussex, nice though it was.  I’ve gone through my mother’s funeral in the church here (she moved with me, as she was 90 by the time I came home), and been supported by the community.

      I go round the village canvassing and leafletting at election times, and the feeling that I’m doing this in my own village is a million times better than simply going to help in other people’s villages in Peterhead, or Dumfries, or wherever I could find someone to feed me in previous years.

      I drive to work every day along the side of the Pentlands, and home again, and the views are out of this world.  Maybe not Argyll, but don’t knock it.  Sometimes I could just lie down and hug the very earth under my feet, I love it so much.

      Yes, you can go home.

    21. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

      Bill: I got the Oddfellows and Aromatics in a wee sweetshop on George St in Bathgate. Everyone else, thanks for your condolences and for sharing your own stories.

    22. KOF says:

      “…and it makes no sense on any level for it to continue to hobble along in the ill-fitting, badly-repaired shoes of Britain.”

      Yeah, my b-union’s killing me too! 🙂 

    23. Morag says:

      But the place I would like to call home is Scotland.  I’ve only been once, for an extended holiday, but that’s what resonates with me.

      I wonder, what is it that makes some people devoted to the part of the planet where they were brought up, and others happy to move, not jut physically but emotionally?  I was chatting to neighbours (in the village street, like I said….) and someone mentioned a museum tour they’d just taken in Edinburgh.  The guide was mentioned, and the fact that she’s French, but has been living here for many years.  The comment was, apparently she came for a visit 20 years ago and never wanted to go home.

      I commented that I couldn’t really understand that.  Home’s home.  But obviously some people do want to change.  I’m not starry-eyed enough to imagine that Scotland is such an exceptional place that everyone must automatically want to be Scots.  I’m sure every country is exceptional to its own people.

      I’ve sometimes thought, I want to be a citizen of an independent country so much maybe I should look at moving to Norway, or Ireland.  But then that cheesy song starts playing itself again (Andy Stewart version), and I know it wouldn’t work, because Scotland is my place.

      I still fancy a couple of weeks in Corfu or somewhere next month though….

    24. Morag says:

      The comment about the accents of the ethnic immigrants was interesting.  I’ve thought the same thing.  I’ve even laughed at jokes about it (where an Indian mother is described in romantic and exotic terms, then when she opens her mouth to scold her child what comes out is a rant in broad Glasgow).
      But when I mentioned it in a similar discussion elsewhere I was told I was wrong and anyway it was a racist thing to say, so I backed off.  Interesting that someone else thinks they’ve noticed it though.

    25. Cruachan says:

      I am sorry for your loss.

      My dear old Dad died last year. He was a citizen of the World and a true internationalist and a great traveller.  He didn’t really share my passion for the cause of Scottish Independence, but he knew where he came from and knew what a special place Scotland is. 

      I lived “temporarily” in England for the last 35 years, but I am now home, working in Scotland.  England is a fine place with many, many fine people (and with a strong progressive history which it needs to rediscover), but I have always known that it is here in Scotland where I wish to be.

      The fact that we have the opportunity to become a sovereign nation once again and to finally fulfil our potential, and to rejoin the World with our own voice, is truly a great moment in all our lives.  The future is ours. Let’s say Yes.



    26. Erchie says:

      Not the child of immigrants, but the grandson

      I used to do a class in a school in a predominantly Asian

      Sometimes the kids, in for languages of their parent’s homeland, would talk amongst themselves in Urdu or Pashtun

      Then they’d ask us what we were doing, in a purely glasgow idiom

      I always liked that

    27. redcliffe62 says:

      I rather liked the shopkeeper in Still Game; that encapsulated Glasgow as I would like it to be perfectly.

    28. Doug Daniel says:

      Nice article, Stu, and sorry for your loss.
      It got me thinking about that argument most favoured by a certain unionist cheerleader that we all know, where independence is reduced to little more than “drawing new lines on a map”, even though it would appear even the seas recognise this line already exists. Apart from the fact no new borders would be drawn, I can’t for the life of me understand what is so wrong about Scotland and rUK being officially foreign to each other.
      The mere mention of the word “border” has people panicking, as if it suddenly turns Scotland and England into mortal enemies, and makes it impossible to flit between the two. I think it says more about the insular nature of British nationalism than it does about independence, because it implies that there is something inherently wrong with foreign countries, an idea which is of course a pretty standard feature of Britishness, where people talk of “The French” and “The Germans” in blatantly sneering tones, and the idea of “Johnny Foreigner” is still present, even if folk perhaps don’t use the term so much.
      I suppose it’s partly in response to the fact that we’re on an island, which has always encouraged people in parts of England especially to think of Britain as being slightly apart from – and by extension superior to – the rest of Europe. But it’s not a line of thinking I share, nor have any time for. I get a bit of a thrill when I cross a border into a new country. Rather than creating new animosity between two nations that already harbour grudges with each other (despite efforts on all sides to deny the existence of said grudges), I see it as an opportunity to increase the richness of our cultures. There are indeed some very distinct differences between Scotland and rUK, and political union does nothing but cause harm to these distinctions, even though they are (largely) differences that should be celebrated and cherished.
      The world is a better place for having lots of distinct nations working together, rather than a few large landmasses and artificial unions fighting for power. Independence for Scotland is merely an extension of a global trend. I wonder why unionists can’t see that? I feel most of the history of the union has been about trying to force Scotland and England into being one country, but it was never going to work with two countries with such stark histories, histories that could never be wiped out. It makes me wonder if unionism is quite simply a case of not thinking Scotland is a distinct country in its own right, because the idea of a country running its own affairs is such a basic, fundamentally sound principle, and the only other explanation is that we are indeed “too wee, too poor, too stupid”.

    29. Gaavster says:

      @Doug D – you reminded me of one of the other ‘subtle’ differences about those of us that inhabit these islands…

      The English/British <sic> have a name for all of us, most derogatory as it goes –

      Irish – Paddy’s/Micks
      Welsh – Taffs
      Scottish – Jocks/Sweaties

      Going further from these shores –

      French – Frogs
      Germans – Krauts
      Spanish – Spics
      Italians – Eyeties
      Americans – Yanks

      Why do we all (collectively) have no name for the British/English?

      Similarly, we tend to refer to the French as French, the Germans as Germans, the Spanish as Spanish….

      As I said, just another wee, not so subtle, difference between our cultures……

    30. YesYesYes says:

      You’re bang on the money here. Of course, it isn’t just names that the English have for ‘foreigners’, they attach ‘national’ characteristics to them which are invariably derogatory.
      For example, going through your list, we could supplement the names with the following national ‘characteristics’:
      Irish – thick, slow on the uptake, drunks, speak with/in a funny accent/language
      Welsh – propensity for copulating with sheep, speak with/in a funny accent/language
      Scottish – tight with money, drunks, aggressive, speak with/in a funny accent/language
      French – smelly, unreliable, speak a funny language
      Germans – boring, methodical, speak a not so funny language
      Spanish – women have unsightly body hair, hot-headed, speak a funny language
      Italians – cowards, untrustworthy, speak a funny language
      Americans – loud, brash, lack a sense of irony, bastardise ‘our’ language.
      These stereotypes are often deployed behind the veneer of humour – it’s just a birrava larf innit? And if you don’t happen to share these views of ‘foreigners’ well, that just means that you don’t have a sense of humour. It’s your fault, innit? I’m sure that some smart alec will, at some point, tell us about the process of ‘othering’ and how we  attach meanings to the differences that we encounter in our daily lives. And it’s true that we do this. But England does seem to be unique in attaching all these negative stereotypes to so many different nationalities.
      Is this a legacy of empire, the revenge of a people who once ruled the world? Perhaps. It seems to have become more widely deployed in the twentieth century. That century was notable, not only for the return of many former colonial people to the ‘mother’ country after decolonisation, with all its consequences. But it was also notable for its two ‘total’ wars – ‘total’ in the sense that all of the ‘nation’s’ resources were deployed to fight those wars, military, industrial, financial and, of course, human resources. This created a ‘national’ solidarity, a deep sense of ‘them’ and ‘us’, as well as a huge appetite for a peace dividend in 1945 as reward for all the huge sacrifices that were made (in WWII in particular). And so we got a ‘national’ health service and national welfare state as compensation. These, too, conduced, to ‘national’ solidarity and a feeling of British ‘uniqueness’.
      Less well advertised, is the fact that over the last 60 years, the English/British have been fighting wars on virtually every continent in the world, north America being one notable exception. In typical self-referential fashion, though, the British themselves refer to the last 60 years as a ‘post-war’ period, or as ‘peacetime’. This is in spite of the fact that it would have to be a very patient person who tried to calculate the number of dead and injured ‘foreigners’ who were the victims of all these British wars over the last 60 years. But hey, they’re not British, they’re ‘foreign’, so who gives a fuck?
      If you think about it, this feeds neatly in to the ‘controversial’ thread of a few weeks ago when Stuart posted a photograph of a funeral cortege of British soldiers. You can’t help feeling that if all these wars that the British have been waging over the last 60 years had been fought on British soil rather than ‘foreign’ soil, the British would soon lose their appetite for war. They’d also lose their superiority complex and they might start to respect rather than ridicule the people of other countries. But I don’t think anyone on this side of the border is holding their breath for any of those things to happen. Just one more reason to vote Yes in 2014.        

    31. Dodgardiner says:

      Just on the name thing I remember a mate when I was in the Royal Engineers who particularly hated being called Jock by any random English person so would call them EB in response.  On being asked what EB stood for he would reply English Bastard. He was not and is not a racist but despised the lazy dismissive pigeon-holing by people who did not know him. 

    32. Willie Zwigerland says:

      “England does seem to be unique in attaching all these negative stereotypes to so many different nationalities.”
      Having had the opportunity to live in a number of countries, I wouldn’t say that negative sterotypes of differing nationalities is a uniquely English trait. And the suggestion that there are no epitaphs used against the English by the Scottish is plainly ridiculous.

    33. YesYesYes says:

      @Wiliie Zwigerland,
      The key phrase being “to so many different nationalities”. It’s this latter that makes England unique. I’d also stated earlier that all of us, in all countries, “attach meanings to the differences that we encounter in our daily lives”.
      No one is suggesting that Scots don’t use “epitaphs” (sic), I presume that you mean epithets here. Rather, the issue being addressed is that there are none that are widely used by Scots to culturally stereotype the English as a means of suggesting English inferiority/Scottish superiority. But since you’re so confident that this is not the case, perhaps you could tell us what these Scottish epithets (plural) are. I’ll make it easy for you, just one will do.

    34. Gaavster says:

      @Willie Z – in my defence I used the word ‘collectively’, as collectively, or as a nation or culture if you prefer, we don’t have a broad brush approach to stereotyping our European and British neighbours.

      The English/British <sic> do 

    35. Sam says:

      Gaavster – That’s balls.  Everyone has a broad-brush approach to stereotyping their neighbours, right down to a neighbours living in nearby cities.  You might not, but that just marks you as an exception.  It’s human nature surely? Might be too late to respond to this.

      Nevermind though – love the site because it’s well written and argued.  Disagree that the union serves no useful purpose.  But concede that Westminster politics seem worth breaking away from based on the last few decades.

      Back to my quiet reading.

    36. Gaavster says:


      Everyone is entitled to their opinion regarding the union…. that’s why we are having the debate

      Pray tell us what derogatory names we have for our southern neighbours though and similarly the names we have for those further afield?

      Similarly, you wont hear people from Glasgow collectively using a derogatory term for inhabitants of Edinburgh or Dundee, or have I missed something in my 40 odd years that makes me the exception?


    37. Sam says:

      My tone was a bit combative, apologies for that.  I think, as you are, that I’m just applying my experience of nationalism and the use of national stereotypes/pejorative names to the debate.  To clarify, I’m Welsh rather than Scottish.  And in my experience we behave just as the English do in this regard.  There’s plenty of inter-city stereotyping, to quite a depressing level.  Not to mention the North-South divide within Wales itself.
      Some of my family are Irish and it seems to be the case there too.  I admit that I don’t know whether the same is true of Scotland.  Clearly I have made an unreasonable assumption.
      Based on my years of experience it does seem that we’re universally good at sort of hateful stereotyping you refer to though – that it isn’t uniquely English? That’s all really.

    38. James 2612 says:

      I was on a Norwegian cruise when this thread was posted, and WiFi access was costly, so I did not do much online reading. Thank you for drawing my attention to it by a link posted today.
      I was recently asked to speak at an independance meeting in my village, and I highlighted the last two lines of this quotation from Burns:
      It’s no in titles nor in rank; 
      It’s no in wealth like Lon’on bank, 
      To purchase peace and rest: 
      It’s no in makin’ muckle, mair; 
      It’s no in books, it’s no in lear, 
      To make us truly blest: 
      If happiness hae not her seat 
      An’ centre in the breast, 
      We may be wise, or rich, or great, 
      But never can be blest; 
      Nae treasures, nor pleasures 
      Could make us happy lang; 
      The heart aye’s the part aye 
      That makes us right or wrang. 
      (Winnie Ewing talked about those last two lines in a conversation with Alec Doughlas-Home.)
      The whole verse seemed to tell me why I have longed for Scottish Independence for so many years. The morning after YES vote, I will wake up happy even if I don’t like some of the decisions/consequences which follow. If the vote is NO, I certainly will not be happy; but I suspect that there will be few NO voters who will be either!!

    39. Jr Ewen says:

      I  live in Glasgow and want to go home to Shetland. after a year of going to interviews and not succeeding I have to stay here and wait for the opertunity. I cycle and hillwalk, I think Scotland is the most amazing place I’ve ever been. It’s landscape people and culture is everything to me.

    40. Scarlett says:

      I moved away from Scotland when I was 10 and lived in England (mostly) for 20 years. On returning, the  plane touched down at Glasgow airport, a staff member said “If you are a visitor welcome to Scotland and if you’ve been away welcome home” I started to cry. In my defense I was pregnant at the time but I dont think I’d realised how I really felt.

    41. Indigo says:

      Thank you to Horacesaysyes for the link to this post, it’s beautiful

      When I lived in England I felt a physical need to be back, it made no sense, but the connection to the landscape of my country, in fact of my region, was intense and I was restless until I eventually returned.

      I’m frequently frustrated living here, frequently disappointed by the negativity, the lack of ambition, the lack of self belief and the low self esteem of our nation which has played such a pivotal role in creating the modern world.

      Scotland has a self esteem crisis, no doubt supported by decades of anti scottish propaganda. Now is our opportunity to hold our head high, if we as a nation do not embrace this opportunity for self determination then, frankly, our nation is no more.

      We must say yes.

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