being British? always a second class citizen

The most important reason for a ‘Yes’ vote in the upcoming Scottish independence referendum is the potential for a new nation that is a beacon of a fairer, greener and more inclusive society.  This would ultimately be to the good of the whole of the UK.

However, I’ve also noted a general lack of comprehension by many south of the border who struggle to understand the desire for Scottish Independence.

This was voiced a few days ago in a Facebook thread and this was my response as a Welshman living north of the border.:

As a Welshman I have always had a romantic nationalist edge, but also felt a strong British patriotism.

However events over the years, and not least the referendum campaign have hardened this.  Again and again Westminster politicians tell us that Scotland is better with England, as if Wales and Northern Ireland did not exist.

I have heard this language all my life: in the 50th anniversary celebrations of the second World War, in numerous debates in immigration, in company registration (registered in Cardiff, a company in England and Wales, but subject to *English* law), … and has been noted several times the Bank of England.

The difference in this campaign is that this is when politicians are supposed to be being careful of their language.  We even had the government lawyer explaining that the separated rUK and Scotland would not be equally parts of a previous single nation when looking towards external international bodies, not based on measures such as the population (reasonable), but because really and legally Scotland was never a partner country in a union, but was always amalgamated unto England.

There have been hundreds of years to sort out these things, but it has not happened yet, what chance for the next 100 years?

As a  child I was pedalled a lie.

There never was, and never will be a Britain.

As a Welshman, I am as British as Indians were in the ‘British Empire’.

Within the UK I always have been, and always will be, a second class citizen.

In contrast to this Scotland (despite sectarian tensions that erupt occasionally in Celtic-Rangers crowds) accepts incomers as was amply demonstrated in the difference between the spitting bigotry of the Westminster leaders’ debates at the last General Election compared with the far more civilised, cultured,and above all inclusive Scottish leaders’ debate, with all parties, including the Scottish Conservative leader, praising the richness through diversity and immigration.

Whether it is a ‘Yes’ or a ‘No’, the shape of the UK will change fundamentally tomorrow.

If it is ‘No’, I hope the UK will eventually wake up to the fact that it is a nation of nations.

If it is ‘Yes’, then I know, that even as a Welshman far from my birthplace, I will be in a country where I can feel at home.

2 thoughts on “being British? always a second class citizen

  1. I do try to understand how you feel Alan. I am married to a Scotsman, who is very quick to tell everyone he meets so, as he is proud of his nationality. However, even though I come from generations of Londoners I always think of myself as British more than English. In fact I often keep quiet about being English as we seem to be internationally reviled!

  2. Firstly a pedantic point that will probably make you cross: England once upon a time conquered Wales, and made it part of “England”. Thus in the Treaty of Union in 1707, Scotland and England were united into 1 king-dom. Amongst the Acts of Union was Article 19, which provided for continuation of the separate Scottish legal system.

    So although it sounds politically incorrect to talk about England and Scotland, and not about Wales, it is legally the correct term, I think (although I’m not a lawyer!). There are definitely two legal systems, English Law and Scots Law, and there has not been a Welsh legal system in the same way. By contrast, technically Northern Ireland is a state that exercised its right to leave Ireland and rejoin the United Kingdom of Great Britain, making it the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The Bank of England was once a private bank, but eventually became so powerful that the state (UK&NI) co-opted it as a central bank. The Bank of Scotland is just another private bank. Feel free to set up a Bank of Wales; the last one was bought by the Bank of Scotland.

    I don’t mean to defend what clearly feels unfair, but to give it a historical perspective.

    I do think that the Scottish referendum has stirred everyone’s notions of identity and cultural groups – there are many groups who feel removed from Westminster and who have found a narrative in the independence debate. Wales, Cornwall, the North of England, particularly where they are rural and left-leaning in contrast to England’s largely town-and-city and right-wing tendency, have all felt that stimulus.

    I have always been pro-devolution; I think different regions have different needs, and enforcing uniformity is both unnecessary and depressive. But I would not prefer dis-unity as an answer. I don’t think a separate Wales, Scotland, NI, Cornwall and North England would be better off independent. I do think we would all be better off if devolution was pushed forward, giving Wales a parliament and creating Assemblies for the North and Cornwall. Perhaps it should be up to the Welsh whether to have the hassle of a separate legal system to maintain.

    Feeling like someone far away is in control is paralysing – you either give up or get out. If all the same decisions are made by someone closer to you, in your area, you at least feel like you have a say, which is empowering, motivating, rather than the opposite.

    How about tax powers for a new Welsh Parliament?

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