Siol nan Gaidheal


CITIZENSHIP IN THE NEW SCOTLAND

Citizenship is an idea quite distinct from Nationality, although reflecting some of the same considerations and themes. Citizenship is also a quite different concept from Ethnicity or Culture, though the core element of the citizenship of any country will usually be composed of a recognisable group who could be perceived as broadly sharing the pattern of Ethno-Linguistic attributes of that people.

In what we hope will be this newly Independent Scotland, there is the exciting prospect of holding citizenship in a new country which is at the same time one of the world's oldest continuing nations.

Siol nan Gaidheal is in general agreement with SNP policy on this matter, but would like to take this opportunity to enlarge on some practical aspects of the whole notion as seen from a Cultural Nationalist's perspective.

At the outset, let us be clear that what we propose is a policy which will seek to explicitly include perhaps more groups as of right, than some others have indicated would be included within the edifice of Scottish Citizenship. Those who have not had the chance to engage directly with Siol nan Gaidheal might have expected otherwise, but our ideas do not seek to exclude any on the basis of an ethnic origin other than what might be immediately recognised by its evident components as "Scottish".

The New Scotland is an ideal at this point in time and it would be good to set our sights high in the matter of a morally sound set of principles in this, as in other areas, before politicians and media pundits have their inevitable opportunity to "dumb down" such idealism. Further to this, it would be helpful to spell out exactly what our intentions are, in this potentially controversial policy area.

The New Scotland is not the same place or country which joined the union with England in 1707. Since that time, the ethnic and cultural core of the population has undergone change and development, some positive and some less so. There have been traumatic upheavals in patterns of settlement and in way of life. The Highlands are largely emptied and the Lowlands have endured industrialisation and de-industrialisation. The Highlanders who moved to the Lowlands at the beginning of this process have added to an ethnic broth without challenging its essential integrity as "Celtic", loosely speaking and aware of all the difficulties of using this epithet. The Irish who arrived early in this process likewise. Since then, there has been the addition to our stock of about 5 generations of Italians, Poles and Lithuanians. About 3 generations ago we were joined by people arriving from Pakistan, India and by Sikhs (to whom we would wish to give separate acknowledgement, in keeping with our own aspirations for Scotland). These groups have come to join us and have provided a stimulus which has been only and entirely positive and enriching for our culture, whilst gifted individuals from these groups have proven inspirational in every area of endeavour.

These people who were so motivated to come and join us in Scotland have always been very susceptible to the message of Independence, perhaps due to their backgrounds in countries which have, at one time or another, suffered similar eclipse. At any rate, they have been to the fore in all parts of the Independence movement.

Siol nan Gaidheal reckons that a hand reached out to these groups in explicit welcome along with an invitation to participate more fully in the project of liberation, upon which we are embarked, could yield a huge and very purposeful response. For, what is this New Scotland if it is not a human project, pure and simple?

Those who have arrived from England have not had an identifiable arrival time but rather have trickled in over the whole period of the union (and before) and some will no doubt come after. They have played a huge part in the creation of what Scotland now is and (apart from a few individuals who have come as the direct result of the enduring hegemony of England in this unbalanced relationship) they are individuals who have legitimately exercised choice in where they live and we welcome them, recognising the huge compliment implicit in the decision to reside amongst us.

All of these must surely qualify per se for Citizenship in the Scotland we desire. It would be a person of the smallest mind, the poorest intellect and the meanest spirit who would ever question such a patent truth.

One additional group of people are in a situation which demands separate and conscious recognition as pertaining in every way to Scotland and to this New Scotland which we have pinned all our hopes upon.

During the last 300 years many of the original pre-industrial population of our country had reason to leave and seek new lives overseas. Following upon that progress which these first emigrants enjoyed, it has become an "article of faith" that many ambitious Scots go abroad in order to seek opportunity. Bear in mind that the earliest departures largely had no choice. Culloden, The Clearances, Industrialisation and its attendant evils, and then fluctuations in the labour market with periodic mass unemployment, have all taken their toll. All this notwithstanding, these emigrants, whether under duress or by choice have gone out and made a mark on the modern world far out of proportion to their number. Perhaps only the Jews, with a similar situation of diaspora (and armed with a similar apparent genius), have achieved a comparable impression. These scattered expatriots, who remain Scots in their hearts and minds, must be included within the concept of, and within the practical arrangements for, Citizenship of Scotland.

Whilst the governments of the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the rest of the most favoured destinations, may not give recognition to any Citizenship other than that which ties their Citizens to their own countries, in legality and in loyalty; nonetheless, we should allow for our new Passport Agency to issue Scottish Passports to all those whose loyalty and affection for "The Old Country" has never faded, sometimes over many generations. Now as that old homeland stands poised on the brink of the possibility that, for the first time in an age, it may reciprocate that loyalty and affection, we must not fail to fulfil the hopes and dreams of the exiled children of Scotland.

Only thus, may the circle of destiny be completed and closure achieved.

Siol nan Gaidheal 2001.


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