Monday, 21 April 2014

Two is better than one

We've all done it. Filled in a form or a survey which asks about our background. Depending on who is asking and what the information is for, questions about gender, age, racial background, income etc are common. Having agreed to the principle of the questionnaire, I have no problem answering as accurately as I can.

Only occasionally does the question of national identity come up. Not citizenship, as in what country/ies issued your passport, but do you consider yourself British, Welsh, English etc. The most recent of these was for the BBC. When I tried to tick both the Scottish and British boxes, the system refused to accept it. According to the Beeb, I could be Scottish or British, but not both.

The hell I can't . . . I wrote an email to the department responsible for the survey pointing out that many of us consider ourselves equally Scottish and British (I would add on equally European, but that is the topic of another post) and that to insist that we fit ourselves into one or other category was tantamount to taking sides in the referendum. To my surprise, I received a reply half justifying the either / or category and half accepting my point and saying that it would be passed on to Higher Authorities. I have not yet checked whether that an subsequent surveys have been amended to allow us to check two, three or more nationalities as we will. (After all, with an English father and an accent that drifts from Edinburgh into Cockney when I am in London, there is no reason for me to deny my English roots.)

We Scots (English, Welsh, Cornish, Northern Irish, whatever) are lucky in that we have two nationalities. We are like children in a sweet shop offered jelly babies and chocolate, dowager duchesses who can have their cake and eat it, cinema-goers in times gone by who saw both an A and B feature, like... well, you get the point; we have two identities for the price of one.

But what has being British ever done for me? SNP apparatchiks and Little Scotlanders ask. Apart from rescuing us from bankruptcy in the early eighteenth century? Aye, apart from that. Providing us with three centuries of economic and social well-being. Apart from rescuing us from bankruptcy and providing us with three centuries of well-being? Giving us a commercial empire across the world? Apart from all that say the sour-minded SNP, determined to be downbeat and anti-British? How about citizenship from Cornwall to Carlisle, Cardiff to Carmarthen? The BBC? The greatest union of democratic nations the world has ever known? And so much more.

Like the famous scene in The Life of Brian, where the rebels ask what the Romans have done for them, Little Scotlanders are never satisfied. Great Scots, on the other hand, know that to admit being Scottish and deny being British is to be stubborn, obtuse and plain stupid, not to mention narrow-minded and ungrateful. Fortunately, most Scots are not Little Scotlanders; we recognise that unity is better than division, that we not only can but should celebrate both our Scottish- and Britishness. We are lucky; two identities are better than one.

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