Proud Scots, Wherever They’re From

An interesting article by Katrina Bennhold ( 8 April 2014), from the other side of the pond, in the International edition of the New York Times. Please find it copied below.

EDINBURGH — Humza Yousaf says “aye” instead of “yes.” He wears a kilt on special occasions and is designing his own tartan: the Yousaf tartan, which will live alongside its MacDonald and MacDuff counterparts for all the Yousafs who will come after him — many, he hopes.

“I’m as Glaswegian as they come,” he says in a proud, earthy lilt.

A representative for Glasgow in the Scottish Parliament and external affairs minister, Mr. Yousaf is a member of the Scottish National Party and campaigning for Scottish independence from Britain ahead of a referendum in September.

Scotland is a good fit for this descendant of Punjabi and Kenyan immigrants: A melting pot long before America was on the scene, owing to successive waves of invaders and migrants from Vikings to Saracens, it is also home to a growing community of more recent arrivals. Mr. Yousaf’s father, who came to Glasgow in 1964, became the first non-white member of the national party there.

The Scottish brand of nationalism, on ample display ahead of the independence vote, looks very different from the far-right varieties blossoming across Europe — including in neighboring England, where the anti-immigration U.K. Independence Party, or UKIP, has been gaining ground. Rather than exclusiveness, nationalists in Scotland pride themselves on American-style hyphenated identities.

“This is civic nationalism, not ethnic nationalism,” says Maciej Wiczynski, a hospital worker and one of over 1,000 volunteers in the Polish-for-Yes campaign.

Mr. Wiczynski arrived in Scotland only six years ago, but, like any registered resident of Scotland, he gets to vote in September.

Mr. Yousaf sums it up: “It doesn’t matter where you come from, what matters is where we’re going as a nation. You can be Pakistani-Scottish, Polish-Scottish, even English-Scottish.”

Surveys have consistently given unionists a lead, but that lead appears to be narrowing. And there is some evidence that minority groups are more enthusiastic about independence: A poll by Scotland’s leading Asian radio station, Awaz FM, found in February that nearly two in three listeners were in favor.

Whoever wins, the referendum campaign seems to be strengthening the allegiance minority groups feel toward Scotland. There are Asian Scots and recent East European immigrants campaigning on both sides.

“This is not our host country, it’s our home country. There is a big difference,” said Jan Krawiec, a 38-year-old father of two, who plans to vote no because he worries about the economic impact of independence. But he “feels Scottish” nonetheless.

Aisha Khan, a 33-year-old nurse, was long skeptical of independence but is considering a yes vote, not least because the tone on immigration has hardened under a conservative-led coalition in Westminster that is trying to lure back voters tempted by UKIP. She finds the debate about whether Britain should leave the European Union “alienating.”

“I’d rather live in an independent Scotland that’s part of the E.U. than in a Britain that is not,” Ms. Khan said. She is proud that UKIP has failed to gain traction in Scotland.

Mr. Wiczynski tells of Polish friends in London who have been made to feel unwelcome by talk of “welfare tourism.”

Mr. Yousaf was astonished to hear relatives in East London complain that they regularly face questions over whether they are Pakistani or British, Muslim or British. “I have never been asked to choose between my identities here,” he said.

There is racism in Scotland, too, he said. But Scots are less hostile to immigration than other Britons, perhaps because a stagnating population means they need it more. In England and Wales, 75 percent of people want fewer migrants, compared with 58 percent in Scotland, a report by the Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford suggests.

That’s good enough for Mr. Wiczynski. He has been in Britain long enough to apply for British citizenship, but he won’t bother. “I’m going to wait for my opportunity to have a Scottish passport,” he says.

1 Comment

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One response to “Proud Scots, Wherever They’re From

  1. I am of the opinion that if someone chooses to live in Scotland and want to consider themselves Scottish then they are. I could not care less about race or creed; we are all human beings and fellow Scots. It delights me that this site exists and hope many Scots Asians come here and realise that a YES vote will result in a fairer society.

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