Siol nan Gaidheal
Women's Movement
Warriors and Nurturers
Women of Scotland Now and After Independence

This article starts within the broad philosophy of Siol nan Gaidheal regarding raising the level of cultural consciousness, within national life and the creation of a Scottish Resistance, and in an exploratory fashion considers aspects of these activities as they relate to women’s lives.

As Scotland fights to reclaim nation status it is increasingly evident that we need people of conviction proud of their nationhood and determined never again to allow its subjection.

Women may well hold one key to this since many play an important part as transmitters of knowledge, tradition, language and values to the next generation. Their role therefore needs to be properly considered and enhanced.

It is through child rearing practices and investments that children can be allowed and encouraged to grow into adults who value their culture and creatively add to it.

The means to do this would have to be made available. Financial resources, education and a major shift in social and cultural values are prerequisites to a healthy nation where each person, woman or man, child and baby is valued and protected. These are the areas for discussion in this article.

In the main it is women who are responsible for child rearing and looking after others but every argument in this article is equally applicable to men who raise children or care for others.

Valuing our land and people is crucial. Sad, it is, that many Scots have only faltering, even faulty knowledge of their roots and hold their country in such low esteem that they sit by in ambivalence and passivity while the nation is perilously close to being permanently bereft of its past and future.

The question is, what will keep the Scots Scottish and break our silence in the world? A world growing ever more culturally uniform and sterile. Why has it taken so long for the Scots to claim what is rightfully theirs? Has the subjection of women in Scottish society been a factor in the painfully slow realisation among Scots of the nature of their cultural downgrading if not their oppression?

Consciousness of Women's issues and consciousness of the nationalist issue must lead on to a greater understanding of different aspects of oppression. Sensitivity to one oppression may open the door to sensitivity to other forms of the same. One cannot be a free woman, even with equality, in an oppressed country anymore than one can be a free man in an oppressed country. Patriot women must be doubly strong however to tackle oppressive perceptions of their worth and, alongside male fellow-patriots, break the chains of foreign or internally-sponsored domination in Scotland.

Abhorrent is the thought that the kind of conservative and unimaginative Scot presently at Westminster and those Scots who administer our country within a quasi-colonial apparatus will in all probability become the mainstay of the current structure of devolved tokenist government in Scotland. The prospect of a continued status quo in terms of political philosophy and ideas is one which we should be appalled by.

The call of Scotland goes out to those people whose national consciousness is borne of a profound sense of self respect, whose sense of social responsibility and moral courage marks them out, and who must lead our nation from the depths of its inertia and complacency.

To effect a cultural, social and economic about-turn which will turn the shame and disgrace at the state of our nation into a model of the finest social developments in any country requires a veritable volcano of creative energy which rests in the hands of women and men of integrity and vision.

The unequivocal belief in this article even within its claim for women, is that women and men in Scotland must stand side by side in the fight for independence and later stand free and equal in responsibility and the exercising of authority.

People in Scotland must feel capable of effecting change. Our freedom is not anyone else’s to give or take. We do not need to ask the English or anyone else. We set up our own structures of government and take our freedom. The mechanics for this have been clearly set out in the wake of the limited autonomy afforded to us by the current Anglo-British government.

Through and beyond this transitional period of partial legislative autonomy we insist that our identity as Scots be respected -- we must and will not afford tolerance to those who will silence our voice and originality. At present, no Scot can truly speak with a Scottish voice without being accused of "parochialism" and/or "regressive" introspection. The next step might be, by the same warped logic, to try to prevent women from being what they intrinsically and therefore inescapably are; women. Those who seek thus to impose their own culture on us or foist unwanted "chameleon" identities on us cannot be allowed to claim moral or intellectual superiority on the issue of our fundamental being. We will not take any lessons from anyone, however appointed, on who we are.

The transmission from one generation to the next of a Scottish identity requires energy and above all knowledge, and since much that is transmitted is by women whose activities are structurally and historically undervalued, it may be that Scottish culture is doubly devalued in very important areas.

If one looks at non-indigenous ethnic groups within our society, it appears that they invest considerable importance in the transmission of their culture to the next generation. The Scots have often failed to guard that which is precious and have demonstrably failed in many cases to realise that their heritage and culture has been endangered by the union with the identity-levelling juggernaut that is England. Loss of nationhood means that we live and develop subordinately in the world.

As both Nationalists and feminists it is all too easy for many patriot women to recognise the similarities between the various bitter struggles with the little men who run Scotland on behalf of their English masters. The following extract from "Womenzone" painfully parallels the experience of many nationalists and patriots in Scotland in the face of bureaucratic control and manipulation by those in power.

"At this stage I was still unable to accept that in Scotland’s capital city with Regional and District women’s committees, there was not the possibility that someone, somewhere, could be convinced that a Women’s Resource Centre was not a worthy and even a viable concept. (I don't blame the Women’s Committees themselves for they seem to me to be tokenist structures - without money and therefore without power, which remains firmly in the hands of those who have no intention of addressing a feminist agenda). A small group of us set up "WOMENZONE TRUST" and worked on for three years preparing detailed proposals and seeking support for a Women’s Resource Centre. The support never came and in October 1989 we finally decided to wind up the Trust, throw off our burden, and try to forget the dream. "WOMENZONE" was a hard experience for me. It cost me a lot-not just financially or even in terms of health. Its greatest cost to me was in terms of the pain that comes from realising that there is no justice, there are no rules of fair play, and that the oppressive power of the patriarchy always does seem to win - at the expense of women. For me that cost was the loss of long-term friendships But it was a learning experience too - for now I know in my heart as well as my head why and how women are, and I fear will remain, the oppressed majority within our Scottish Culture". (Hunter,Ros. 1990)

Given the self-evident worth of both the Independence struggle and the feminist struggle in Scotland it is vital that the two be inextricably linked in the fight for the freedom of the Scottish people.

Let us not smooth over the particular plight of women, if anyone has any doubts about the dire situation faced by some in Scotland as a result of their gender they need only read the considerable body of literature both personal and officially commissioned which draws attention to the sometimes abject and always unacceptable conditions of inferiority which women suffer in status, conditions and portrayal.

The important step now is that women and men together recognize and work for the right of women to share in the government of Scotland to help develop a more socially responsible society. Women require different conditions to take their place in government, not least in relation to child-care and education.

Many Scottish children are reared in cultural deserts, i.e. poverty stricken homes, depersonalising schools and social environments which initiate development along the narrow competitive lines of so-called modern "child-skills".

Where are identity and the nation in this? English children are generally confident in their upbringing, their nation has a say in the world, its culture and history all pervasive, their psyches are correspondingly undented.

Scottish schools on the other hand lay very little emphasis on the imparting and nurturing of contextual identities. The identity of young Scots in relation to their local, regional, national, European and World situation is rarely, if ever, studied far less celebrated. The unquestioned assumptions about Britishness stare young people in the face like the drab grey paint of their classroom walls. Britishness is a non-identity which is allowed to go unquestioned. A negation of self which eats at our collective self-confidence.

Scottish children are thus in many ways at a distinct disadvantage culturally. Few Scots have knowledge of their history and literature and Scotland has no international political status. The psyche of our people is stunted by their subordinate status and the low opinion this generates.

Influences within our society from the ‘heuchter cheuchter’ comment to the cultural stance of those who declare the Scottish working man to be "the same" as the English working man, or the ingrained belief that the English are somehow superior in voice and manner do much to affect pride in ourselves and our distinct identity.

Paul H. Scott has written that Scottish history and literature are seen as "unimportant optional extras within the English tradition", and that pupils in Scottish schools have a somewhat "distorted view of their own country...They are encouraged by it to believe that everything of importance happened outside Scotland and that their own country is inferior and of little account in the world. This is destructive of self-confidence".Glasgow Herald 12/10/91

Nurturing our people is thus of paramount importance. Given that the nature of creativity seems to involve personality development and substantial knowledge, then we have no time to lose in fostering children’s development along lines which take full and appropriate account of the wellspring of our cultural heritage. Uniformity of the dumbed-down Anglo-American variety is a sinister prospect which cannot be allowed to take hold of our children's conscience.

Our children from birth need to be nourished by their heritage, music and language, history and literature. Women have a dynamic role in this respect. In pre-school groups introduction to people playing the pipes, the clarsach, the accordion, the fiddle or other instruments would act as a springboard for more practical and sustained exposure to our musical heritage in later years.

Stories from Scotland’s wealth of traditional lore, material and spiritual, its myths, and its history, heroic, tragic, mundane or shameful must be told in such a way that the cynicism of the modern world does not prevent relating the past to its ongoing consequences in the present. The concept of nationhood is a tangible manifestation of continuity and the permanence of fundamental community solidarities. We have to learn, man, woman and child that the development of Scotland requires the full, active and energetic commitment of each of us. We cannot be ignorant of our culture and then muddle on vaguely in the pretence that we are a genuine nation still.

In a country whose original social structures were essentially clannic and which developed along lines of kin-based togetherness, it is damning that Scotland still has many children living in poverty and many women unable to raise their children comfortably through lack of support. It is therefore suggested that all children in the new Scotland would have an allowance as of right for their upbringing. This would be awarded to the parent, whether mother or father, who has the greatest input in the child’s care. Based merely on statistical evidence, this would benefit women first and foremost, irrespective of working status. It would help in the first instance those women who wished to rear their children at home on a permanent basis.

Working women would however probably use the allowance for good alternative child care. This would have the effect of stimulating the development of child care facilities which are scandalously under-developed in our country.

The intention of an allowance would be, (1) to eradicate child poverty, (2) to provide care of the child by parent or others, (3) to allow a parent to be with the child during the vital early years, free of the worry of having to work, (4) to indirectly make money available for the development of alternative child care/education in the early years, (5) to invest a value in and raise the status of child rearing (6) allow those women who wished to pursue their professional careers to do so in the knowledge that their children are receiving the best alternative child care provision. Such measures would be part of the demand/control that children are reared free of abuse, emotional, physical or economic.

Women in Scotland require a revolution in social values, and must be ready to seize the opportunity of drafting a new social order at the stroke of independence. A Parliament designed for people, not one designed for men, or for women, but for people. The chance to govern must be for all the people of Scotland. The work of government must be arranged so that all citizens of Scotland, male or female, disabled or elderly can contribute in government.

Women have striven for decades for equal opportunities with men, to alert all to the nature of the exploitation of women and to put women on the agenda of governments and political parties. That equality may not yet exist in absolute terms although the opportunity is there, that women remain exploited, as are some men, that men still rule often in shamefully oligarchical ways, that governments and political parties make tokenist gestures towards women... all of this is not the fault of these women. It is however becoming increasingly evident that as ever, a cultural revolution is necessary to remove the deadening hand of self-interest and immobility. Just as in the broader nationalist struggle, aping the dominant culture, trying to ingratiate oneself into the cultural mores of the colonial power, striving to become one of them is a cowardly, hypocritical and ultimately self-destructive endeavour, so then confrontation, competition and striving to be superwoman in the masculine mode prove to be counter-productive in improving the lot of women generally.

The way forward may lie with recognition of the work of women so that it is equal in reward and status to the work of men. This recognition must, crucially, be afforded to women who wish to be freed of the daily caring for others, whatever their working status; housewife, system analyst or diplomat. Women’s health and personal development may be impaired or even endangered by overwork. Let us not act out the spurious role of superwomen — it only distorts our worth. Let us rather define our roles as warriors and nurturers in whatever combination suits us and at whatever time of our lives it suits us. Let men also be valued as nurturers.

Equally, in order that women can govern equally with men, a form of government would have to be devised to accommodate the reality of women’s lives.

Many writers like Marion Hersh and Lesley Orr MacDonald have identified the different organisational and campaigning styles of women as distinct from men (A Woman’s Claim of Right in Scotland, 1991).

Given this it becomes clear that a Westminster style parliament, a quota system and positive discrimination in favour of women may be either insulting or ineffective. Innovative ideas on the matter of government are needed. One such idea would be for two chambers of government functioning simultaneously, one chamber being of MP’s representing constituencies, the other being MP’s taking part in debates and with voting rights but drawn from areas other than constituencies, and requiring a lesser commitment in time.

If we are to achieve the proper vindication of women’s right to govern alongside men, then this is a crucial area for discussion. Some women may wish to opt for constituency membership, others for a more flexible commitment in another area.

The governance of Scotland must reflect the talents and contributions of all the people of Scotland. Perhaps top government posts shared by two people could open up opportunities to a great number of people, in innovative and exciting ways, allowing more flexible, responsive and altruistic directions for our nation.

Independence is essential to our survival as a unique culture. The blossoming of Scottish culture apace with the modern world will to a very large extent depend on our creative ability. This creative energy should, given the appropriate conditions of nurturing, support and infrastructure afforded by a new model of government, achieve what we all want for our country and its people, irrespective of gender empowerment.

This paper has briefly touched on areas of concern relating to women and their role in the educational and cultural development of children, the need to enhance the status and investment in such a role, and the need for the governing of Scotland to be suitable for women to take part in as the equals of their male counterparts.


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