Siol nan Gaidheal
National Tartan Day

In all of America’s celebrations of ethnicity and contribution to American life, National Tartan Day has become one of the most recent and increasingly popular additions to the American calendar. Instituted as an official event two years ago, Tartan Day is held every year on 6 April to mark the anniversary of the Declaration of Arbroath, the great inspirational document held dear by Scottish Nationalists and Ultra-Nationalists everywhere, and upon which the American Declaration of Independence itself was based. Scotland’s history in America and its contribution to American life, whilst not nowadays as significant as that of Ireland’s or Italy’s is one of which the Scottish and Scottish-American population can be quite rightly proud. Both Scots and the so-called Scots/Irish played an enormous role in 18th century American politics and life. However, the necessary celebrations of this contribution have been somewhat marred, indeed tarnished by English and Scottish Unionist interference in the celebrations with attempts to downplay Scotland’s status in favour of an all-encompassing celebration of Britishness and all its associated inadequacies.

Scotland and Scottishness has already been celebrated in many American states for some years. Throughout America and Canada there are over 300 St. Andrew’s Societies, Caledonian Clubs and other Scottish Societies, many established in the 18th century to help struggling Scots in the New World.

Scotland’s history has always been a very volatile one due to the many centuries of worry and tension between itself and England. Between the two Jacobite uprisings of 1715 and 1745, more than 1,400 defeated Jacobite rebels were banished from their homelands and sent to America for their so-called crimes by the English crown and its minions.

In fact the Scottish emigrants of the 18th century were an educated group due to the great emphasis placed on education in Scottish society, more so than England, an emphasis that continues to this present day. These Scots were of great importance to the developing world. Scots immigrants in America quickly established universities and colleges and other great academic establishments such as Princeton University in 1746.

Central to life at the start of the mass immigration was the Scot’s Kirk, which embodied the values of the Presbyterian religion. Today the Presbyterian Church has over 3 million members and is one of the biggest mainstream Protestant churches in America. The Scot’s vast experience of working in the harsh weather and conditions of rural Scotland, combined with the hard-working Presbyterian upbringing, made them exceptionally valuable to America in its formative years. Scottish values of common sense, prudence and realism were introduced originally in America through John Witherspoon, an educator, political revolutionary and Presbyterian minister who implemented these values through his presidency at Princeton. Thirteen of his graduates went on to become presidents of universities in 8 different states. One of his students, James Madison became President of the United States and 6 were members of the Continental congress. Another 9 were appointed to Cabinet positions, 12 were chosen as governors of states and at least 60 became senators or representatives in Congress. Many of his students left New Jersey to fill academic positions on the frontier of emerging America, carrying and teaching the values of the Scots’ philosophy with them, creating the foundations of American philosophy.

During the mid-17th century, Scottish medical establishments were well known as being first-rate in the fields of education and science. Many Americans travelled to Scotland to get a good education in medicine and most of the 350 to 400 medical degree holders in 1775 were educated in Scotland.

And of course, the political history of America has been borne greatly out of the part played by Scots. More than 100 governors of pre-revolutionary colonies and post-revolutionary states were of Scottish birth or descent. Of the fifty-six signatories of the Declaration of Independence, nine were directly or indirectly descended from Scots, with the first President of the United States, George Washington being sworn in by the St. Andrew’s society of New York, and nine out of thirteen governors of the newly-created United States were directly or indirectly Scots

It is behind this great contributory backdrop that the American Government passed a resolution unanimously to make 6 th April Tartan Day.

However, it has come to light that British Embassy officials, in their discomfort over the impending feelings of Scottish pride, patriotism and nationalism in Scotland and perhaps, America have attempted to reign in the unruly Scots by interfering to stop the new Tartan Day celebrations from becoming a nationalist propaganda coup. It transpired that the British Ambassador to the United States and other British diplomats were involved in the most scurrilous politically-motivated attempts to give the event an unwanted unionist tone, leaving organisers of Tartan Day 2000 furious. In fact it was well known that the Embassy were collaborating behind the scenes with the Scottish Executive to limit, and even ban, the number of Scottish National Party members going to the event, with invitations deliberately being sent out late. With a prominent list of celebrities attending such as Sir Sean Connery, Donald Trump, Charlton Heston, Robert Redford and Rod Stewart, organisers were left furious that invitations only went out 6 weeks before the event. The celebrations – originally billed as a Scottish version of the St. Patrick’s Day festivities – were widely known to have been interfered with by the Labour Party behind the scenes so as to not turn the festivities into something beneficial for the SNP and Scottish nationalist aspirations everywhere.

To top all this off, in what was seen as an unashamed act of symbolism, the Union Flag was displayed prominently on the embassy card, just to let all the guests know Scotland’s place. One Tartan Day source even commented: “A lot of actions have been geared to preserving the Union as opposed to promoting Scotland”. One reception hall was decorated with a row of Saltires, only for them all to be changed to the Union Flag at the last minute – throwing aside Scottish pride and patriotism for political point scoring. With frustration building before the event, the organising committee thankfully resisted a request to allow Donald Dewar to chair a meeting of the American-Scottish Foundation - a politician who is unashamedly out to crush all feelings of Scottish pride and nationalism everywhere by his and his fellow unionist cohorts’ attempts to denigrate our economy, size and constitutional history as an independent nation. One spokesman for Dewar had the brass neck to say: “All the embassy has done is try and upgrade the event and turn it into something that will benefit both the UK and Scotland”, as if the Tartan Day events were designed to boost the profile and economy of England as well, or indeed Wales and “Northern Ireland” for that matter. Although the nationalism felt by the Scottish-American community could not possibly be equated with the Irish-American community, one could not imagine David Trimble, the First Minister of “Northern Ireland” being accepted as a valid speaker at a St. Patrick’s Day Rally and attempting to convince Irish-Americans that two separate entities – the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland were, at the end of the day, the best situation for all concerned.

In fact, the British Embassy clearly refused to issue invitations to MSPs according to protocol, insisting on issuing the invitations through Donald Dewar, rather than through the office of David Steel, the Presiding Officer, leading to an ongoing row between the Tartan Day officials and the embassy for four weeks. The invitations only came through after the Presiding Officer spoke to the embassy in the fortnight before the event.

This blatant dumbing down of Scotland’s role in the creation of the United States of America must be condemned for the insult that it is. A week for celebrating Scotland and Scottishness was turned in to a charade with unionist politicians squabbling and scheming behind the scenes to keep proud Scots in check. One hopes that through this many Scottish-Americans will see through the English imperialist and Scottish unionist quislings for the spineless saboteurs and wreckers that they are. Pride and nationalist feelings in our country is and must be promoted fervently to end once and for all the continued destruction of our language and culture which began in earnest after Culloden and was the principle reason for the mass Scots immigration there in the first place. Saor Alba and God bless America.

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