Friday, 22 January 2010

Is Scotland Worth Coming Home to?

Last night I went to a debate, a Question Time styled debate organised by the Equality and Human Rights Commission on the question "Is Scotland Worth Coming Home To?".

'Twas most interesting hearing the views of the audience and the panel and it mainly centred on the question of Scottish identity - what is it, what does it mean to be Scottish. There was also a good discussion about racism.

There were 2 really interesting bits in what was a great event. One was watching the community worker next to me practically climbing the wall in frustration when the question of Independence came up. 4 of the 5 panel were either relaxed about it or in favour of it - in fact one of them said that 25 years ago he would have been vehemently opposed to it but he'd now "matured". I liked that :-)

That's not what frustrated him. Comedienne Janey Godley who just happened to be the landlady of my old local when I lived in the Calton in the 80s, was the only one who had her doubts and compared the idea of Scotland becoming Independent with "handing the chip pan over to my wee brother". I was quite surprised (and impressed) with the aforementioned community worker's anger given that he's mainly voted Labour in his life. His explanation? "This pathetic idea that England is oor big sister that we need to look after us and we couldnae manage by ourselves does my heid in"! Quite!

The other interesting bit for me was when a woman who is a community activist with one of the BME groups said that the Gathering of the Clans organised as part of Homecoming Scotland made her feel angry, rejected and excluded. She said the sight of all these white men in kilts "offended" her. I instinctively felt offended by her comments but I felt (seeing as my nickname is Pollyanna) it was important to examine why she felt like that and why I felt offended.

However, on closer examination yesterday and today, I'm still quite offended by it.

We have to be really careful that in our attempts to (rightly) strive for a genuinely multicultural Scotland, we don't accept every culture but that which celebrates Scotland's history. The best way to create a truly multicultural society is to accept and celebrate all of the constituent cultures. All of them. And just because one is dominant (and that of the "host" country is obviously going to be dominant) doesn't make it any less valid. I really was quite stunned by her implications but thankfully although people politely nodded, I didn't get the feeling anyone actually agreed with her.

The other interesting bit for me was hearing many of the audience get stuck into politicians in general because it's, apparently, absolutely acceptable in our open minded society to hate ALL politicans and tar them all with the same brush. But, about half way into the event I made a contribution and obviously I said I was an SNP MSP. When the event finished at least half a dozen people came up and said how pleased they were that I'd come along. Go figure as they say!

All in all it was a really good event and next one that comes up I'm going to publicise on here because it's definitely worth going along to. The panel was great, the audience contributions were thoughtful and they fed and watered us very well - not that that matters you understand!

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