Friday, 27 June 2014


The people who live here.

It's the phrase used to define who will vote in September's referendum in Scotland. And it signals how different the independence debate is in Scotland than in, say, Kurdistan.

In most "nationalist" debates the heart of the debate is ethnic, defining your nation by virtue of your parentage. JK Rowling got this wrong, in her £1m No statement in which she says that people might judge her 'insufficiently Scottish' (to which the National Collective's Mairi McFadyen wrote such a brilliant reply ).

In Scotland it's not about being Scottish, or not being Scottish enough. It's about a group of people, living in a nation, choosing how they should be governed.

I am Scottish. But like millions of Scots I don't live there, an emigrant looking for opportunities and a lifestyle that Scotland did not appear, in 1975, to provide. I'm ethnically and culturally Scottish, but it's right that I should not have the vote in a country that I chose to leave 39 years ago.

The evolution in the nationalist debate has not apparently registered with the No campaign. The No discourse is still shouting about nationalists closing the borders and hating the English. This is childish. The people who live in Scotland could define themselves as Scottish, English,  Catalan, Pakistani, Brazilian, Kurdish or any one of the hundreds of homes, or ethnicities, that make up Scotland's diverse populace. All of these people can vote.

The policies promoted by the Yes campaign underline this. Yes to immigration (what a difference from Westminster's xenophobia,) Yes to continuing in the EU (UKIP England says No), and Yes to a Nordic alliance, linking Scotland to its historic kin in Scandinavia. The movement to independence is the opposite of isolationist; anyone who thinks for a moment about how a new small country will organize itself will realise that it must make international alliances. The independence White Paper emphasises this, saying that Scotland wants to join and work with international institutions;  "Scotland will be an active member of global institutions and will be party to fair and reciprocal agreements which respect human rights..."

The debate in Scotland is not ethnic, and it is not  isolationist. It's geographic, placing a brilliant new country into a world map. A new country, where the people who live here - wherever they may call home - are sovereign.

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