Size Matters

fork 1I have a son called Cameron.

Its a good solid Scottish name, I think it means beautiful one, or crooked nose, or something somewhere in between, I forget.

But regardless of the etymology I like it.

Cameron has a Scottish name, a Scottish dad and his very own hand made kilt but the reality is he is about as Scottish as Mel Gibson.

He’s also four years old, so minor things like nationality don’t really trouble him just now. Ice cream, Paw Patrol, getting something his younger sister doesn’t have and staying awake after nine o clock in the evening are his primary concerns.

Nationality is something he can neither spell nor say and is very very far from his mind.

But this will change at some point.

I travel a lot and meet all sorts of people. Generally after shaking hands and exchanging banal pleasantries the subject of nationality crops up. In most cases its pretty obvious, accents normally give everyone away. Its hard not to spot an Italian, German, Englishman or Frenchman.

Eastern Europe is a little bit more tricky. I have been known to call a Latvian Russian or a Croat a Serb but this is forgivable.

Well it is, once.

If you travel enough eventually you learn to spot the differences.

I used to find it hard to understand why someone from abroad couldn’t tell the difference between a Glasgow, Yorkshire, Manchester or even a Scouser accent. I knew they were different, don’t ask me what any of them are actually saying but at least I can roughly point out where they come from based on the tone of the unintelligible barrage as soon as they open their mouths.

But this was before I tried to see (hear) the difference between the Bavarians and the folks who come from Hamburg. There is a difference, it just takes some tuning of the ear to hear it. To your average German its like each are speaking different languages, to me they were all just foreigners speaking a funny, bad guy off of the war movies, language.

Only now am I sort of able to recognise someone from Hamburg or someone from Munich or understand the difference between an Austrian accent and a Berlin one. But this has taken me fourteen years of living in the Germanic part of the world to be able to do so.

Cameron doesn’t have a Scottish accent. He also isn’t really Scottish, but if he isn’t Scottish then what is he?

He has a British Passport and an American one.

If we followed the rules of national football he would be eligible to play for Scotland (me & my dad), England (my mum), USA (his mum), Taiwan (his mums parents) and Switzerland (where he lives) so this doesn’t really help him much.

I am sure at some point he will decide on a country and stick with that. Like him choosing the football team he will eventually support.

His choices right now are American or British. I say British here because being  Scottish is more a state of mind than anything else. If you hold a British passport then you could equally claim to be Scottish as much as anyone else holding a similar passport.

There is no Scottishness test as far as I am aware, you just say it and I guess you are it. I could say I was Welsh should I wish. Not sure why anyone would actually do that but I could if I was, say, mad.

What he will not do is claim to be a citizen of the world.

I have actually met some people who genuinely described themselves as this.

‘Where do you come from?’ says me

‘Nowhere, everywhere, I am a citizen of the world’ says he

‘Right’ says me. I then wander off muttering ‘wanker’ under my breath.

No, my son will be guided in such matters and he will need to choose properly.

Come September the 19th he might not be able to say, British and be done with it. He might actually have to say Scottish, British or American.

In fact come to think of it so might I.

I consider myself very Scottish. I live very unhealthily, I like whisky, I own a kilt, my dads Scottish, I support Scotland, I was born in Scotland, I spent all my childhood in Scotland and automatically say slainte whenever I toast someone with a dram. Surely this makes me Scottish?

I left home aged 16 and have been kind of travelling ever since so my accent has eroded but still. Just because I don’t pay tax there anymore doesn’t make me less Scottish…

It seems like the polls are narrowing in the run up to the referendum. The bookies still have the No campaign ahead but the momentum is definitely with the Yes campaign. Everywhere I look there are crowds of people saying, shouting, singing and graffiting Yes.

The Yes campaign are noisy to say the least but then changing the status quo was never going to happen quietly.

About a year ago, I wrote a blog bemoaning the fact there was little information about the issues at hand, the general thrust of my blog was it was generally too quiet. We needed debate, loud debate, front and center. This is such a monumental decision we could not go into it blind.

Seems I got my wish.

There is misinformation all over the place but at least people are talking about it. With such a volume of political dialogue going on I wonder what on earth people will talk about afterwards.

But this is good. This is how it should be and given the emotive nature of the decision the discussions appear to be relatively good natured. There have been some instances of eejits from both sides taking things too far but on a whole most people seem to be accepting, regardless of the result, everyone will need to get on with each other again come September 19th.

So for what its worth. From a half English expat who still considers himself Scottish, here is my last opinion on the whole affair before everyone goes to the polls.

I would be voting No on September 18th. Not because I think Scotland couldn’t manage its own affairs because it clearly could. Not even because I think Scotland wouldn’t be better off, financially, as an independent nation. It probably would. And this certainly isn’t because I am afraid of the unknown or any less patriotic than a Yes voter.

I also don’t believe the sky will fall down whether the vote goes No, or Yes. The scaremongering on both sides is just false and frankly silly.

I would be voting No simply because I believe there is a strength in Great Britain. This strength does not come individually from London or Manchester or Glasgow or even Inverness. It’s the sum of the parts which gives us the strength. As a combined nation we have managed to punch well above our weight for longer than we really should have.

Scotland by itself will be a small, maybe even prosperous, nation. I do not however accept the notion that small always equals good. I don’t accept the studies which look at Switzerland or Norway or another small, wealthy, happy country and claim this is because they are a small nimble country and then simply apply this principle to Scotland. There are plenty of miserable, poor small countries in the world as well.

Small doesn’t always mean prosperity. Its what you do, not your size which matters, or so I have been told.

Switzerland is prosperous, not because its small but because it hasn’t joined the EU, kept itself out of every major conflict there has been, kept its mouth shut when everyone around it was shouting and made sure it stayed friendly with everyone, even the bad guys. How would this sit in the minds of the average Scot?

What about Nato? Scotland would join Nato that’s clear, but Scotland would go from being a major pillar of Nato to a dependent nation of Nato.

We will provide troops and money relative to our size and capability but the whole point of Nato is that the big nations look after the small nations to eliminate the need for nuclear or military proliferation. However unlikely the situation, if push comes to shove, Scotland would be asking for help from South of the border because we would not be capable of defending ourselves.

Great Britain is part of the G8. A yes vote will effectively be voting ourselves off of this top table. I don’t know if this is good, or bad but I for one would prefer to have a voice rather than no voice at all.

An independent Scotland will be a small nation on the fringes of Europe. A bit like Iceland perhaps. Just with less volcanoes.  Now I have never been to Iceland and don’t know any Icelanders so I cant say if they are happy, sad, wealthy or otherwise. I do know though that Iceland is not foremost in anyone’s mind when world issues are being discussed or decided. I know Norway, Sweden or any number of smaller nations are also in the same boat. They don’t really have a say.

Not a proper one anyway.

Scotland as part of the United Kingdom has a voice and is listened to. Scotland as an independent nation will not, no matter how hard we shout.

Governments change, policies change, in fact everything changes given a long enough timeline. This vote is not about now. It’s about forever.

The bedroom tax will disappear, as will Cameron, Clegg and Salmond. Representation in Westminster will be there and then not be there, that’s the nature of democracy. Crossrail will get completed, the trams in Edinburgh will keep running (maybe) and North Sea oil will run out eventually. All of this I can guarantee.

Today Scotland has a voice and is a major player on the world stage because its part of Great Britain. It has a strength it really shouldn’t have on account of being part of the UK. This is something we will lose immediately. We will not be capable of intervening in world issues or anything for that matter. Even if its something we should be intervening in.

We will become a small inward looking nation because we will not have the voice to influence anything outside of our own borders. Now this might not be a bad thing for most of the population of Scotland, we might want to be a quiet nation who keeps its mouth shut and lives carefully and, potentially, prosperously on the fringes of Europe.

This might not matter to people who only think in terms of down the bottom of their street or doesn’t care what’s occurring in Iraq, Syria, Gaza but I’m not sure this is a fair representation of the Scottish people.

Scottish people as I know them want to stand up, are proud and want to shout about it. Normally very loudly. We want to be involved, we want to make a difference. I just don’t think anyone will be listening after a yes vote and we will certainly not have the capability to do anything about it even if they were.

We will have become an impotent nation in world stage terms.

Scottish people are not Norwegian and I for one don’t want to be Norwegian. They might be rich, good looking and have an average live expectancy of 150 but even still I don’t want to be Norwegian. I am proud of the heritage I have, and this is a heritage achieved as part of the United Kingdom. We simply wouldn’t have achieved anywhere near as much thus far had we been an independent nation for the last 300 years.

And I am convinced we will be doing a disservice to future generations by not allowing them to achieve as much in the future.

Anyway as I have said, this is just the opinion of a half English expat who doesn’t even get a vote. I will, along with everyone else in Scotland, be putting in an all nighter as the results come in.

September 19th is going to be ugly whichever way it goes.

And regardless of the result, I will still consider myself Scottish. I don’t care about the colour of the passport I carry and should Cameron have any sort of ability with a football he wont either.

Because the referendum might be important, the future of the United Kingdom might be hanging in the balance, a whole nation might be holding its breath but lets not get too carried away.

Football, after all, is much more important than all of that nonsense.

Choose wisely Agnieska

braveI consider myself Scottish and that’s because I am Scottish.

I was born there and so was my dad which in most person’s books, including my own, is the measure of nationality.

I can thus justifiably wear the kilt, enjoy haggis, drink more than is considered sensible, eat seriously unhealthy food and take the average European life expectancy, subtract ten years, before applying it to myself.

Yes I’m a proper Scotsman and think everyone would agree with this.

My mother is English though.

Proper English that is. Not a soft southern Oxbridge version, no the Barnsley, pit-mining, mushy pea eating Yorkshire English.

And this has always presented me with a small problem. Scotsmen are supposed to dislike the English, it’s in our DNA. So logically if I am to be a true Scotsman I should dislike my mum.

But of course I don’t dislike my mum, that would be stupid. Disliking her would have meant I would have missed out on all sorts of good stuff growing up, not least Yorkshire puddings and Rhubarb crumble. I like my mum a lot and so I also like the English.

There I have said it.

I also like Germans, Swedish, Italians and the Spanish. The French are another matter altogether but I don’t need to explain why.

Most of the time my collaboration with our southern girly soft neighbours isn’t a problem. I can keep it firmly in the closet. Football matches can sometimes presents a small issue though i.e. what do I do when 40,000 men are urging me to ‘stand up if you hate the English’?  I normally just stay seated and hope it quickly moves on to singing about the referee’s mothers penchant for goat sex.

If me admitting to having a fondness for the auld enemy wasn’t enough how about the fact that I am happy to support England during any major football tournament where Scotland isn’t present. Which as we know is all of them.

I also vote conservative.

Still consider me Scottish?

As a side note on my father’s side my grandmother comes from Bettyhill along the northern coast of Scotland. Her side of the family are dark skinned, Latino types. My father is, my sister is and I am to a slightly lessor degree.

Apart from being a very pretty village in the middle of nowhere legend has it that Bettyhill is also where some of the survivors of the Spanish armada made it ashore back in 1588. I therefore like to believe in some tight trousered romantic fantasy with my very distant ancestors being Spanish conquistadores. In this fantasy my great, great, great, great, great, great granddad rode his horse bolt upright. He wore a colourful feathered hat and had a beef burrito shoved down his painfully tight trousers as he galloped through South America slaughtering natives and stealing their gold.

But regardless of my ancestry, in terms of next year’s referendum on independence I am not considered Scottish.

I don’t live there so am not eligible to vote no matter how much tartan I wear or shortbread I eat. I sort of understand this. I have just outlined the case for me being Scottish but this is only my definition. It’s how I feel but where do you draw the line? If it was everyone who thinks of themselves as Scottish got the vote, there would be a lot of rotund Americans queuing up at the polling stations along with myself.

So I get it.

The whole UK is a country of mongrels anyway if you go far enough back.

I can’t vote but if I was Agnieska from Poland enjoying her gap year working in a bar in Edinburgh how would I vote?

What’s out there to help me decide on what is probably one of the most important votes in the countries history?

And this is the whole point of the blog, there is nothing or at least nothing I have seen.

Well that’s not true, I will rephrase that, there is nothing of any substance to befit such an important decision. All I see is scaremongering on both sides.

Hastily thrown together you tube quality videos either backed by doom and gloom music (the no campaign) or stirring Braveheart type music (the yes campaign). Each are very high on rhetoric and imagery but anorexically thin when it comes to real hard facts. It seems as if both sides have decided the electorate are not capable of understanding the fiscal, administrative or other dull real world implications of such a divorce.

This is either horribly patronising or more worrying, both parties actually don’t know the real implications.

On the flip side of the discussion are my good buddies the English. Given the breakup of the United Kingdom has as much implications on them as it has on the Scottish surely they should have a say in it and a vote?

The counter argument here is that if one side of a marriage wants a divorce then it really doesn’t matter if the other doesn’t does it?

I don’t think this argument is true though. Given the amount of Scottish living in England and non-Scottish in Scotland surely it should be the decision of the majority of the whole country. Country in this case being the United Kingdom?

Anyhow regardless of the defined electorate the debate needs to start. Now and properly. We need to have a sober, factual debate. We need the soap boxes to be dusted off and we need independently funded and conducted research. We need decisions to be made and explained on fiscal policy, currency, interest rates, infrastructure, country/offshore boundaries, trident and a long list of other dull but very important things.

Without it the decision will be taken on a whipped up to a frenzy fear of the unknown or worse still some stupid romantic notion of a Scotland which hasn’t existed since Mel Gibson or a short gay Italian was running around the hills in a dress and make up.

For what it’s worth, my opinion is that I don’t want to have to apply for a Scottish passport and I’m not sure even if I would get one.

I also don’t understand how independence can be truly had if the currency is pegged to another country’s. I don’t know how defence would work. I don’t know how realistically we can rid our country of those nasty nuclear subs without giving England a serious headache. Do we really want to piss off England for that matter? Probably not. I don’t know how much the infrastructure of running a country would cost and I am not even sure if the offshore boundaries have been agreed. Who really owns the North Sea and its oil? What about the Queen? And the list goes on.

I sincerely hope before next September the list of unknown elements is reduced to a very small list. If not the arguments will be based on nothing more than the unfounded opinions of a few politicians. And I for one don’t want the future of my country (yes I still consider it my country) to be decided on the emotionally charged rhetoric from a cohort of individuals who have not really excelled in the trustworthy stakes in recent times. This applies to all colours of the political spectrum.

Get rid of the music, the bagpipes, the 1966/football based silly vitriol. Get rid of the comparisons with Norway, the voice overs by Sean Connery and the shots of Andy Murray holding a trophy above his head.

Get rid of it all and get a proper debate going. Get lots of them going. Truly understand the real implications and then and only then can Agnieska take an informed decision.

But not me – cos I’m not Scottish enough.