BY DOMINIC WIGHTMAN
David Sole’s Scotland’s 1990 Calcutta Cup defeat of the Auld Enemy before a partisan crowd at Murrayfield Park in Edinburgh was agonising for all Englishmen to watch. Since then, there have been skirmishes won (and a few lost) but none hurt the English so much as that gut-buster of a defeat.
I was studying A-Level History at the time and struggled to keep up with the images snatched from history of Will Carling’s head stuck onto the body of King Edward II – the luckless English monarch who was overcome by Robert the Bruce at Bannockburn in 1314. The atrocities of the Duke of Cumberland, known simply as Butcher in Scotland, who routed the Scots at Culloden in 1746, were also brought up by emotional Scots during whisky-fuelled revelries that day.
A new fervour of Scottish nationalism (back then there was little talk of independence) seemed to be in the Edinburgh air and, even when the English overcame the Scottish repeatedly in consequent matches, Scotland’s rugby fans still rubbed in the 1990 defeat for many years after.
When it comes down to it, the English know little of Scottish history. Most would never have heard of Culloden. Perhaps not surprising as Scotland’s population is only five and a half million – not a lot when one considers that London’s population swells to over 10 million by day and Britain’s population is over 64 million and growing.
Nicola Sturgeon, by arbiter of population, is no more than half a Sadiq Khan at best – a Mayor of Scotland – and, by arbiter of economic output, worth perhaps a Sadiq Khan finger or nose.
To the Scottish Nationalists history is everything. They rely upon snatching at snippets from history to inspire their saltire-draped rallies. Meanwhile, to the English, history is important but on a more external and global scale – at Trafalgar, Waterloo, Agincourt and in the routing of the Spanish Armada.
Do Londoners know much about the history of Birmingham or Leeds? Most English have certainly never heard of Owain Glyndwr or Iolo Morganwg. Regional history is not something most English feel inclined to snatch at too often.
I was born in England. I feel English and identify as an Englishman when I am abroad. I also happily call myself a Brit. I don’t mind being called a Limey by my American cousins – nor a Pom by my Australian cousins (who, let’s be blunt, will always try and distract from their own heritage).
Yet go back just a few generations on my family tree and I’m the great grandson of a Scottish knight of the realm from Barrhead, a Scottish Lady, a legionnaire from Alsace and a mixt bunch of English men and women of varied descent themselves.
In other words, let’s face it – like practically all Brits outside of some quaint six-fingered villages in Suffolk and Cornwall – I’m a mongrel.
Or, put another way, I have more Scottish blood in me than many SNP politicians; some who bleed far more English blood than me. The Scottish rugby team nowadays is about as Scottish as Cumbria. Its football team as Scottish as London Scottish Rugby Club on the Kew Foot Road. England is awash with Scots while a fair few English can be found living and working in Scotland.
With blood as the arbiter, Sturgeon and her SNP are a small minority of Scots. The history they snatch at to empower themselves to whip up their Buckie-imbibing hordes is the history made by the blood of many to whom now, for purposes of referenda, they would opportunistically attach the label foreign.
At the last referendum in 2014 there were 1.6M votes for independence and 2M for staying in the UK. Yet there are large numbers of Scottish people residing in other parts of the United Kingdom and in Ireland, particularly in Ulster where they form the Ulster-Scots community, who didn’t get a say. Of the present generation of Scots, some 800,000-people who were born in Scotland now reside in either England, Wales or Northern Ireland.
To me as a part-Scotsman, the whole Scottish Independence movement is built on a quicksand of false premise and pick-and-choose history. Independence is merely an invisible cloak – the Scottish National Party’s way of distracting the inhabitants of Scotland away from its failing hospitals and schools while seizing and attempting to increase its mayoral power.
Look at the Scottish nation, for want of a better word. Scots are mongrels too – they’re a mix of Picts, Gaels and Cumbrian Britons not to mention Anglo Saxons, the Norse, French and other immigrants over the years.
There are people of Scottish descent in many countries other than Scotland. Emigration, influenced by factors such as the Highland and Lowland Clearances, Scottish participation in the British Empire, and recent industrial decline and unemployment, resulted in Scottish people being found across the world. Large populations of Scottish people settled the new-world lands of North and South America, Australia and New Zealand. There is a significant Scottish presence in Canada, which has the highest level per-capita of Scots descendants in the world and second largest population of descended Scots ancestry after the United States. They took with them their Scottish languages and culture. I myself played rugby sevens at a Scottish Highland Games festival in Illinois not so long ago – there were Magregors and Macdonalds there wearing kilts, scoffing haggis and tossing cabers who declared themselves Scottish first, Brits second and, in spite of all holding US Passports, Americans third.
The truth is we’re all Brits. British is merely the collective epithet for mongrel in these islands and in many lands abroad. And neither the cricket loyalty test nor the Murrayfield test of pain will determine our nationality.
We may argue like big brothers and little sisters every now and again but at the end of the day you can’t take the Scot out of my Englishness just as you can’t take my Englishness out of a Scot or Welshman or Irishman. After enough beers are sunk or enough fists thrown, we can come to love our respective parts. When we shelve our English big brother arrogance and they stop yelling – we’ve more in common with the Scots than not (even if we’d not be seen dead in a kilt).
Scottish Independence is a divisive ploy by the Scottish National Party – disgracefully more interested in imposing socialism on the land of Adam Smith than in Scottish Independence for the good of Scots. They lost in 2014 55% to 45% and, if just the 800,000 Scottish “expats” elsewhere in the UK had been given a vote, they would have not got near to 30% of the vote.
Sturgeon and her whining for independence is nothing more than a misdirection by an incompetent, Bolshevik party desperate to cover up the facts. That its economy is down the tubes and services in Scotland are falling apart because of dire, often ideological mismanagement. That talk of independence puts off so-called foreign investors. And that Scottishness was never the exclusivity of its manifold Irish-descendant activists (I see many third generation descendants of Irish navvies – not too many descendants of Scottish crofters, lowland farmers or Scots-tweeded gentry – in SNP ranks).
The SNP’s invisible cloak is now failing. The SNP ferments uncertainty which blocks Scotland’s progress – uncertainty characteristic of the fraudulent nationalist quicksand on which the SNP is founded. Scottishness cannot be that easily prized away from Scots outside Scotland. Why should Brits in Spain be allowed to vote in the Euro Referendum and yet Scots in England get no say in Scottish independence?
It is time the SNP faced some decent, Scottish opposition which stuck it one right between the posts.