COLM CURRIE considers a key aspect of the Better Together rhetoric
There are a lot of double standards about independence and the debate surrounding it. Some will argue against voting for independence on the basis that they don’t like Alex Salmond or the SNP, but they’ll vote against it despite liking David Cameron and the Conservatives even less. People don’t want to lose established British institutions such as the BBC and the NHS, and would rather keep them than build new organisations, and take the opportunity to learn from the mistakes made by those which have gone before. Another argument which I’ve heard from a lot of “Better Together” advocates is that people are proud of both their Scottishness and their Britishness, and they don’t want to lose one of these identities as the result of a referendum.
Why should they have to lose their British identity if Scotland votes “yes” in 2014? If they can feel Scottish and feel pride in that identity while Scotland remains in the UK, then surely they could continue to feel joy at their Britishness were Scotland to go it alone. Scotland is part of Britain just as it is part of Europe and part of the world; independence wouldn’t change that, just how the country is governed. Scots would still be British, and would continue to have a right to feel proud of that, even if the meaning of the term “British” were altered slightly.
I have rarely felt proud to be British, and will always call myself Scottish first. When I fill in an online form, even if “United Kingdom” is listed right at the top for ease, I’ll scroll most of the way down, just in case there’s a separate “Scotland” option, although there rarely is. When I’m abroad, I’m the first to correct anyone who assumes I’m English or asks if I am, not least because of the much warmer reception I usually get. I do, however, understand that some Scots feel strongly about their British identity; I just don’t agree that they wouldn’t be able to hold onto that in an independent Scotland.
I’ve known my dad all my life, and I don’t recall him ever expressing pride in being British or even referring to himself as British until quite recently, when he was talking about the Olympics. I didn’t watch much of the Olympics, mainly because I’m not interested in most of the sports featured therein, but I did catch Andy Murray’s final tennis match against Roger Federer, and I was very pleased to see him win the gold medal. Murray seems to have won the hearts of those down south this year, perhaps because he is less vocal on the Scottish/British issue than he used to be, and was happy to be photographed draped in a Union Flag after his victory. Normally I wouldn’t have liked to see such a thing, and might have fired off a series of angry Tweets about it, but in that moment I was just happy for him, and had a rare flicker of, not pride, but perhaps ambivalence, towards Britain.
Perhaps the outpouring of British national feeling we witnessed this summer will be the last with the Union as it currently is; perhaps not. If it does prove to be the case, however, I see no reason for those Scots who enjoy being British to continue to refer to themselves as such, nor express their pride in their identity. I may ask them to keep the noise down a wee bit, though.