Take Down The Union Jack.

“Take down the Union Jack, it clashes with the sunset
And ask our Scottish neighbours if independence looks any good?
‘Cos they just might understand how to take an abstract notion
Of personal identity and turn it into nationhood.”

From “Take Down The Union Jack” by Billy Bragg.

So, one of my friends has challenged fellow bloggers to do a post to celebrate St Andrew’s Day.  She asked those who are Scottish or have lived here for some time to reflect upon it.

The fact is I was born in Northern Ireland.  I lived there only for a few weeks and from the age of 4 I have lived in various parts of East Scotland.  Practically all of my defining memories are of times spent in Scotland and my identity feels Scottish, even though I write “British” on official forms. 

My first football kit was the Scottish strip for the Argentina 1978 World Cup.  My daughter turns 5 tomorrow, loves playing football and was born in Scotland and is about to receive her first Scottish kit as a present.  It feels like the passing of a baton in an attempt to discourage all the rubbish that goes with team colours at such a young age. 

I saw Billy Bragg play a gig in Glasgow last year.  He had recently written a book exploring the notion of patriotism, national identity, Britishness and multiculturalism in the light of the BNP securing presence in a by-election in his former home of Barking, Essex.  I wondered how the songs and stories of Englishness would be received by a Scottish audience where there can be such ugly hostility and dislike for the English in certain circles?

One of the thing that stuck with me was when he explained that if Scotland did vote for independence, then by default England would also be devolved.  Now, that opens up a whole other bunch of issues and politics.  He then went on to applaud some of the things that the Scottish Government has committed to and some of the potential we could offer as a nation.

I was chatting at length about these ideas with a couple of guys on a surfing road trip a few weekends ago.  So many of us are bored and disillusioned with politics and feel torn between voting with our conscience (politically and environmentally) and voting tactically in the next general election in 2010.  We discussed the prospects Scotland offers for a new social and ideological order.  A future of co-operatives, self sustainability, harnessing of renewable energy initiatives, an end to nuclear power stations beyond their current lifespan. We explored the frustration caused by us taxpayers having to bail out the disastrous state of Royal Bank of Scotland and the Lloyds Banking Group takeover of Bank of Scotland.  We talked about the difference between a sense of belonging and hope for the future contrasted with the often narrow dogma of Nationalism.  We talked about inclusion and exclusion in society, immigration and community.  We talked about the systems established in Scandinavia, the rate of tax and the quality of education, healthcare and work/life balance… It was one of those conversations where lots of views were opined and your mind was stretched to grasp new ideas and concepts…I love those discussions – especially as we looked out the minibus windows toward silhouetted glens with the stars coming out and the sky reflected perfectly in the lochs…

So what do I love about Scotland? – The manageable size of the cities; the fact you can get from one city to another or to the countryside quickly; the scenery; the accents; the proximity to the sea; the buzz; the seasons; decent tap water; the fact that Irn-Bru outsells Coca-Cola; the pride of wearing a kilt which has family history from my mother’s side; the sense of identity; the prospects of a renewables revolution…

What do I dislike? – the bigotry; the anti-English attitudes deeply held rather than a culture of respect; too much rain at times; the fact that global warming has all but destroyed the Scotish ski-season in the space of 25 years; cycling home from work on cold, windy and wet nights; the fact that we only ever top the league tables for things like heart disease, obesity and abortion rates…

What is our soundtrack? – please spare me the bagpipes or “Flower of Scotland” – give me some Belle & Sebastian, Teenage Fanclub, Aereogramme, Biffy Clyro, calamateur, The Delgados, Mogwai, Jesus & Mary Chain or Cocteau Twins any day…

Where is it best captured on film?  Save me “Braveheart” and watch “So I Married An Axe Murderer“, “Gregory’s Girl“, “Highlander” or “Restless Natives” instead.

As regards haggis, Douglas Coupland recently made me question my love of vegetarian haggis by asking why they try to make vegetables have the consistency or illusion of sheeps’ innards?

Oh and I wish I had a proper appreciation of whisky…

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5 Responses to “Take Down The Union Jack.”


  1. 1 exactscience November 30, 2009 at 6:22 pm

    I used to be, when I thought the Facebook groups I was a member of said something about me in an albeit coy way, a member of group called there is nothing Pro-Scottish about being Anti-English.

    I am a “true” Scot only in the arbitrary way that I was born, in the capital no less, but it is my love of Scottish things, writers, poets, musicians and inventors that makes me Scottish.

    Great post.

  2. 2 thestatethatiamin November 30, 2009 at 9:46 pm

    Hey S – long time no hear. Good to have you back!

    Deep peace.

    B.

  3. 3 brunettekoala December 1, 2009 at 12:23 am

    At least we win medals in cycling (yay for Chris Hoy). Great post, thanks for contributing!!

    PS Happy Birthday to Miss S – she told me on Friday that I had to come to her birthday party because if I didn’t she’d cry. So hope I don’t get runover by a bus tomorrow afternoon in case that turns out to be true!

  4. 4 theWeir December 3, 2009 at 8:08 pm

    happy to help you with the appreciation of whisky….

    (oh, yeah, and I love Scotland too, and the aroma of possibility all around)


  1. 1 St Andrew’s Day Blog Carnival « Learning from Sophie Trackback on November 30, 2009 at 10:40 am

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