I had no idea how important my national heritage was to me until I moved away from it. More importantly, I didn’t know how much it defined me in the eyes of other people.
I moved from Scotland to England almost a year ago, having got my degree in Aberdeen and then realised that any job in my field (especially at Entry Level) would mean moving Down South. It wasn’t so much a culture shock as a slow awakening.
At first, I didn’t mind so much when people copied my accent or mistook me for Irish (because regional representation down here is so poor that they literally can’t tell the difference). I didn’t mind the odd ‘deep fried Mars Bar’ joke or shoehorned references to haggis. I didn’t even mind people calling me a ‘Jock’. But then I saw English people pretending to be Scottish in front of an audience- weird caricatures with funny accents and an obsession with freedom. And I started to wonder if this was really how they saw me, my friends and my family.
My accent became something I thought about more and more. I noticed that I was self-policing the way I spoke, slowing down and speaking ‘properly’ in order to be understood and (hopefully) free of ridicule. The people around me weren’t to blame for this, it stems from something I’ve done my whole life in order to fit in and be understood. At school, you’d be told off for speaking in a way that wasn’t considered ‘proper’ (i.e English) even if you’d use a bit of Scots at home, so when I speak to someone I don’t really know I subconsciously do everything I can to supress my accent.
We’re taught that the English way of doing things is the ‘proper’ way and anything else is wrong. I think that’s why there’s such a discord between the ‘Scottish’ identity and the ‘British’ identity, which more often than not just means ‘English’. I grew up learning about not just my heritage, but that of my English cousins. I learned their way of doing things only to move down and see it was less than reciprocated. We learn about English history, the political landscape and their culture because we have to, because it affects our daily lives whether we vote for it or not. People down here don’t learn about Scottish culture, history or our political landscape because it doesn’t impact them. They don’t have to care.
Nothing has summed this up more to me since moving than debate surrounding Scottish Independence, which I was under the impression was over, but people in England are still talking about. There’s a real feeling in England that it was essentially the ‘Scottish Brexit’, but from my experience, that couldn’t be further from the truth. People down here challenge me (without knowing which way I voted) to explain how an independent Scotland would have any money. It’s saddening to hear that this is the only way they view it, that to them the whole thing comes down to money. In Scotland the debate was so much more than that and, more importantly, I was never met with the vitriol of people who’ve confronted me about it here. Every Scot I spoke to during the Independence Referendum was genuinely trying to work out what would be best for the people of Scotland and the values she holds dear. I did not vote for Independence, but I understood those who did. It was, mostly, a healthy and healing conversation that had little to do with funds.
Above all, what it came down to was Scottish people just want to be heard, to feel like our voices matter in the wider political landscape of our country. Policies that are important to us are constantly held back because the UK Parliament has opposing views to the typically more liberal ones held by the SNP. Scottish and English values are wildly different. We typically favour LGBT rights, fairer immigration policies and accessible higher education. We want stricter animal cruelty laws, a place in the EU and an end to the nuclear base near Glasgow. In short, we are the anti-Tories and it’s annoying that we can’t make decisions for our people because others, hundreds of miles away who would be unaffected by any change, say no.
It’s frustrating to be unheard by people who are too busy mocking your accent to listen to what you have to say.
*This rant was brought to you by being harassed by a guy in a pub about how I should make my accent easier to understand because England send so much money to us, that it’s really the least I can do.