Damaging chauvinism from Scotland’s senior writer

In what is not only disappointing but damaging to the cause of Scottish independence which he passionately espouses, Scotland’s senior writer, Alasdair Gray, has delivered himself of a bilious judgment on ‘colonists’ and ‘settlers’. The only thing missing from what was in essence, a racist outburst, was the extension of the phrase to the ‘white settlers’ variation, also in the currency of nationalism.

Gray’s excursion accompanies the departure from her leadership of the Scottish National Theatre of Vicky Featherstone who, today [17th December], has talked to The Herald of substantial experiences of bullying during her term of office.

Ms Featherstone said that she became aware that those who did not like her programming for the company chose to assign their problems to her being English, rather than engage in reasoned argument on the detail of the programmes.

The pressure of this dismissal of her work on the basis of her nationality led her, she says, to question her ability to do her job.

The behaviour the theatre director encountered is not acceptable in any enlightened society.

We have absolutely no doubt that this attitude and this conduct are repellent to many Scottish nationalists.

However, the problem is one that the SNP has encouraged, both in the culture it has established and in silly stunts in the Scottish Parliament, as when the immature Joan McAlpine MSP, the First Minister’s muse, copied shortly afterwards by Argyll’s MSP, Michael Russell, applied the description ‘anti-Scottish’ to arguments and positions they did not like.

This was clearly a scripted propagandist exercise but one which was swiftly abandoned in the wake of the weight of an angry and sure-footed public response.

Anyway, in discussing English immigration to Scotland, Mr Gray focused on some senior figures in the world of Scottish arts organisations, remarking that such ‘colonists’ came north to further their careers, with no intention of staying.

He is quoted as having said: ‘I think Scottish folk in other professions will know settlers and colonists with similar attitudes’.

It does not seem to have occurred to Mr Gray that the English could say the same about the Scots.

In recent times, the UK governments and political parties have been led and heavily staffed by Scots – Tony Blair [God help us, but born in Edinburgh], Gordon Brown; Helen Liddell, John Reid, Brian Wilson, Gavin Strang, George Robertson, Alistair Darling, Robin Cook, Donald Dewar, Derry Irvine, Charles Kennedy, Malcolm Bruce, Douglas Alexander, Lord Mackay of Clashfern, Malcolm Rifkind, Ming Campbell, David Steel, Michael Forsyth, Jo Grimond… not to mention the Lord of Misrule, Alastair Campbell. They were everywhere.

And there will be a myriad of unsung Scots, as mediocre as anyone else, who have gone south – and east, west and north – for work and for betterment; and who did so thinking only of their eventual return.

Like all  nations, Scotland celebrates its hot Scot emigrants who have made their mark outside Scotland, in all fields; and it sings the songs of those who longed to come home and could not.

Why should the English be any different, have a lesser right to make their way in the world or feel any lesser a sense of ultimate belonging in their homeland? ‘There is some corner of a foreign field…’?

Alasdair Gray’s position is philosophically, politically and morally indefensible. Were it to run the rule, any race would become genetically, intellectually and creatively enfeebled.

In his flurry against those he targeted, Mr Gray allowed for the fact that they had been invited here and appointed by Scots ‘without confidence in their own land and people’.

He is not open to the difficult possibility that, in some cases at least, these he sees as inadequates may still have been better than any homebred with availability.

Just as Scots leave Scotland to seek experience, authority and fortune elsewhere, others come here for the same reason.

Emigrants make strategic choices, Many then choose to settle in the countries they have selected as the place of their personal challenge. There is very real value in such conscious choices. They indicate awareness of the enduring value of the place; and they testify to active informed choice in a massive cultural compliment rather than an accident of birth.

History shows that many who have chosen to live and work in Scotland have been of great benefit to this country – as have Scots who chose to live and work elsewhere have been to their adopted nations. You have only to think of the Scots Indians who emigrated only to work in the fur trade. Colonists or what – but who could not celebrate what they went on to do and the depth of commitment they displayed to the people they chose to stay with.

We are prepared to dismiss Mr Gray’s outburst as the product of a bad day, possibly provoked by some specific irritation.  But let us have no more of this chauvinist nastiness and let no one who comes across it let it pass without overt dismissal.

We do not believe for one moment that Scotland, in the union or alone, wants to be this kind of place.

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36 Responses to Damaging chauvinism from Scotland’s senior writer

  1. He actually was meaning that some come to Scotland to settle, make a life and stay, whilst others come for a time but have no intention of long term contribution. He did not deny that Scots did the same. He is correct. Unfortunately, the usual negative spin taken.
    No outburst either, the phrase “settlers and colonists” comes from an essay part of a book about Independence.

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    • Mr Gray’s words were quite unequivocal and are resistant to the sort of spin you are trying to foist upon them.
      Don’t forget that this is one of Scotland’s most senior published writers – a man whose business is words, who does not choose them casually, who is manifestly in charge of them and who is perfectly clear about what he wants to say.
      Our own interpretation gave him more credible wriggle room – that he was simply in a strop on a bad day.

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      • Have you actually read all of it newsroom – I would suggest that you do, rather than the tripe published in the MSM about it
        I would suggest that you also have a go at reading Gray’s earlier works on Scottish indepndence – you may actually get some enlightenment
        *****warning*** reading the whole of the relevant works may actually involve in depth reading, rather than picking up on tosh soundbites from the MSM and spouting them forth on here without having any clue on context

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  2. Mr Gray should be alert to the risk of his anglophobia tainting his future book sales.
    This anglophobia constantly creeps into Scottish nationalist discourse we should “all” be aware of the xenophobia that comes with the territory. During the course of my NTA work I have been called a blow in/a settler/a plastic jock and worse.But lets face it face it, Scotland was created by immigrants.

    I would be interested to see the SNP’s post-indy immigration policy ??? prior to any vote on independence…but as with many other things I doubt they have thought of it yet…!

    I for one will not give up my UK passport if Scotland becomes a separate entity within the UK…another question in the SNP void awaiting an answer.

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    • Karl

      As to that “..UK passport..”, erm..depends if Cameron has a referendum on continuing membership of EU!So may need some adjustments.And Indy will change status of that UK too….so just wait and see.

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    • “I for one will not give up my UK passport if Scotland becomes a separate entity within the UK…another question in the SNP void awaiting an answer”
      Your UK passport, one day seen as a relic from the past, a collectable maybe? Sentimentality, desperately unable to let go and embrace change?
      “This anglophobia constantly creeps into Scottish nationalist discourse we should “all” be aware of the xenophobia that comes with the territory”
      Whilst I despise narrow minded jibes directed at individuals/groups simply because of where they come from, let us not overlook the fact that there are individuals in other countries, thankfully well and truly in the minority, who use offensive language, derogitory terms when referring to Scots, every country possesses bigots not neccessarily affiliated to nationalist political leanings, more to do with the unacceptance of difference.
      To imply that this is some sort of cancer only within Scotland to me suggests you are attempting some political point scoring given your additional comments in questioning our Scottish government’s immigration policy.
      I am fairly confident you and every other resident of Scotland will know fine and well that this policy will most certainly be as, if not more, welcoming and tolerant of all nationalities who contribute to our society than our right of center UK Concervative government.
      To imply it will be anything other than fair and non-discriminatory serves only to mislead.

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    • KArl – you seem to be 100% positive that the SNP will be lected Scotland’s first independent government.
      Immigration like many things including tax, defense, diplomacy, alliances are isssues for the government of the day – whoever they may be.
      Or do you think come independence that all the currently unionist parties will be in a huff and not wantto play anymore?

      Unless of course you like some others on here are really seers and can predict such things – if so can you provide next 3 weeks winning lottery numbers please?

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  3. Dear oh dear but this piece has all rhe hallmarks of making out the Scots to be racists againt their poor helpless English cousins.

    What a load of twaddle in support of the better together cause. However as our unionist friends in Belfast have recently shown, they know a thing or two on how to promote support for queen and country.

    No place for that mindset here and we should be mindful of editorial comment that seeks to sow the seeds of bitterness.

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  4. I have been on the receiving end of racist comments on several occasions and in different Scottish locations during my 30 years living in Scotland and I believe that it is on the increase. During the last election local SNP thugs were heard to be having a go at the labour candidate, but I have not had any reports of labour supporters (or any others) behaving similarly towards SNP candidates.

    Having said that, I have many wonderful friends who happen to be Scottish.

    Of course there are good and bad in every community and the referendum debate is causing emotions to run high. However, I do wonder at Mike Russell’s comments when, in response to a question about the status of English nationals post independence, his reply included the option for the English to apply for Scottish citizenship otherwise they would be treated the same as any other EU national. It’s still very unclear as to what that may mean should I decline the offer of applying for Scottish citizenship.

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    • Perhaps if Lowry was in the Central belt he would see the thuggery of the Labour Party. Not nice.
      I have been the victim of racist and sectarian abuse many times but have just shrugged my shoulders and got on with life. When I was young in the Fifties, my family moved from Dunoon to Yorkshire. Even the teachers in my primary school thought it was OK to insult a “Jock”. Moving back to Dunoon some years later with a Yorkshire accent I had to go through it again, mostly, I should add, it was much more light-hearted. The worst abuse though was in the South East of England where I was refused service in some pubs because I was “Scotch”. In other places people just looked down their noses at me and wondered why I was not drinking cheap wine in a doorway. They seemed to equate being Scots with being a dosser and this attitude was not restricted to just one or two people. There are, as you say, good and bad everywhere but I have yet to see any real racist abuse against anybody in Scotland although I am sure it exists. Sectarian abuse, yes, and plenty of it.

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      • “They seemed to equate being Scots with being a dosser” …
        Aye, Rab C Nesbit is a perfect role model. One of the more “real” characters to educate the English with. Aye…Right

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      • Do you think that by treating the English/Welsh/Irish as any other EU citizen, post independence, will help the situation?

        How will those of us who do not wish to become Scottish citizens be treated differently to those who do?

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        • I have Welsh parents, was born in Birmingham…married an Irish West Coast girl and we moved to North Wales… where we had a son…who’s first language is welsh…

          I now live on Tiree and have a Tirisdeach partner we have two Gaelic speaking sons…
          (Yes I can converse with my kids LOL)

          I am a product of the UK and its multicultural geographical links between this group of island geographical regions, British by birth…and proud to be British…I am anti EU…and anti break up of the union that allows cultural / regional diversity to thrive…

          I will be keeping my UK passport come what may and will expect equality with folks who would prefer a Scottish Passport…..

          Nationalism is always a catalyst for the idiots to craw from under their stones, folk who cannot see how important cultural diversity is…thankfully these are the types of people who live narrow minded and blinkered lives and actually, self ostracise themselves from worthwhile participation in a society that we usually call civilisation….

          In a politically correct world gone mad we cannot vent our opinions while sailing close to the “oh I upset you” line…Mr Gray seems to have got himself stuck in Irons…and somebody needs to throw him a line (maybe the British Navy LOL)…this will be an ongoing … touchy subject until after the Union opt out referendum…and no doubt beyond.

          But the heart and core of the matter is really ” do you need independence to be a true Scot” ? maybe this would be a better Q to ask on the Ballot paper ?

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          • Cultural diversity thankfully exists and flourishes perfectly well here in Scotland as it does in the other countries within the UK. Suggesting that it will diminish as a result of a ‘Yes’ vote for an independent Scotland genuinely puzzles me.

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        • You’ll have to ask the governement of the day then won’t you?

          Wonder who will get elected as the government in our first INDEPENDENT general election

          After independence the government of the day will decide on immigration issues

          In a similar vein, can you enlighten us on hoe future rUK governments will treat EU citizens in teh future – we have to knoe you see as no doubt we’ll be EU citizens who may want to visit/work/live in rUK for a time?

          You are like anyone else living in Scotland at the time, more than welcome to have Scoittish nationality/citizenship.
          LIEK MANY OTHER PEOPLE, DUAL NATIONALITY IS AVAILABLE TOO – YOU DO NOT HAVE GIVE UP YOUR RUK NATIONALITY DOH!

          WELL THATS THE WAY IT WORKS FOR OTHER COUNTRIES AAROUND THE WORLD – I KNOW MANY FOLKS WITH DULA NATIONALITY – BUT THEN AGAIN, THEY AREN’T DOOR FACED LEMON-SOOKERS LOOKING FOR AN AXE TO GRIND

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          • My comment was in response to the comment by Andy above when he said: “I have yet to see any real racist abuse against anybody in Scotland”. He must be walking around with his eyes shut or only sees what he wants to see.

            Many of us have suffered racial abuse on many occassions across Scotland. Apart from many more Scots being drunks and bigots, we are not much difference from any other country.

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  5. TS Lowry in his comment that he has in 30 years experienced ( in his opinion) met severwl racist comments is quite reassuring.

    Taking several as meaning maybe 3 to 4 then this suggests that our good friend encounters in his own words an adverse incident once every 7 to 9 years.

    Not exactly rampant intimidation as TS would have us believe, and it begs the question as to how this justifies TS’s view that thuggery is on the increase. Seems that TS has a grudge, has never integrated with his fellow man and considers himself different from his neighbours.

    Hallmarks of an Alf Garnet by the sounds of his post, if I may say so.

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  6. Alasdair Gray – An old man’s rant – I think not – his essay is extremely well composed. But jinks magraw there’s real bile in his uttering.
    In the United Kingdom, several statutes criminalize hate speech against several categories of persons. The statutes forbid communication which is hateful, threatening, abusive, or insulting and which targets a person (or any national) on account of skin colour, race, disability, nationality (including citizenship), ethnic or national origin, religion, or sexual orientation. The penalties for hate speech include fines, imprisonment, or both. Alasdair Gray – he should be brought to book.

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    • WELL THEN SON, HAVE YOU THOUGHT OF REPORTING HIM TO THE RELEVANT AUTHORITIES

      TIME TO PUT UP OR SHUTUP SON – OR ARE YOU ALL TALK AND NO TROUSERS?

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      • They would do well to read what Alasdair Gray actually wrote* rather than rely upon Jenny Hjul’s selective quotes, misrepresentation and smear by association.
        If Ms Hjul had any journalistic integrity she would have qualified her comments about press reports about racist incidents against English people by pointing out not just the error in reasoning that they contained, but that supported by later published evidence they were disputed and unfounded ( this was reported in The Times the day before her article appeared).
        But your point is well made HB, there has been damage done to business’s and reputations but in this instance Ms Hjul’s scribblings in the national press are more to blame than a nuanced essay by an acclaimed author in a previously obscure anthology. Interestingly the editor of the collected works, Scott Hames anticipated the likes of Hjul and others when he said “The Unstated collection assumes in advance ‘that the views of individual writers [will] be managed, “storied”, inflated and filtered in various distorting ways’ during the independence debate, on both sides of the argument. Some things are inevitable.”

        * for those who might care to read Settlers and Colonists for themselves it’s now here (and free)
        http://www.word-power.co.uk/viewPlatform.php?id=610

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      • The “torygraph” – oh dear, that bastion of liberal thinking, next it will be the daily heil will be creating a stink

        If you’re doing business with someone who takes th etorygraph seriously then hell mend you

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  7. I fear Alastair’s thinking is too deep for many of the posters on here, whose views on the current political situation are somewhat simplistic.

    If you disagree, why not go and read the original essay then post again.

    Se barail an duine ghlic is tinne theìd air an fhìrinn.

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    • Both are terms of discrimination. It is the felt need to discriminate pejoratively that is disquieting.
      And everything that Alasdair Gray said was not confined to his essay. He repeated the terms in a fairly revelatory way – reported above – in his response to the widespread upset.

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  8. Dear oh!, dear oh!, dear lassies and lads. What a stramash… and all this vitriol well before any potential separation. Such singular unity of vision. Still, better out sooner rather than post-vote and the historically obligatory rammy when it’ll be time to head for the hills — whirligigs permitting.

    Perhaps it’d be best if the sagacious spurtle wordsmith confined his spurious opinions, in the time honoured manner, within the bounds of literary fiction where he could be substantially subversive without raising a media eyebrow. Certainly he’d be wise to refrain from the aural mediums where he does indeed portray himself as a disingenuous, bumbling, barely articulate, grumpy, old g… buffoon. He of the thrifty, scintillatingly spluttered, syntax of skean dhu lexicography… E-V–ENT-U—-AL-L—EH. Come back Sshhaun, it may well not be too late… but don’t hold your breath and only bring dollars.

    So called “independence” will indeed be the saviour of Scotia-LAND as it reverts to a cherished wilderness once the stooshie has subsided. Dunnie yooz derr cam lookin’ fur mi noo…yuh hear?

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