Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Patriotism Could Play Large Role in Scottish Referendum Both Sides Focusing Carefully on Politics

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Patriotism Could Play Large Role in Scottish Referendum Both Sides Focusing Carefully on Politics

Article excerpt

EDINBURGH, Scotland - Scottish Nationalist leader Alex Salmond chooses his words carefully. It is not the Scottish or the Scots who will decide their country's fate Thursday, but "the people of Scotland," a geographically defined group Mr. Salmond has invoked in almost every speech, interview and sound bite of this long referendum campaign.

It is done deliberately to avoid references to heritage, origin or ethnicity. Scotland's population of just over 5 million includes 400,000 English-born residents.

There is also a large community of immigrants from Poland and many from elsewhere in the European Union. Tens of thousands more "people of Scotland" come originally from China, India or Pakistan. Many of them will be voting in the referendum.

Then there are the 800,000 Scots living south of the border. Like the millions more of Scottish descent around the world, they may care passionately about the question of Scotland's independence. But as Mr. Salmond's well-worn phrase makes clear, living outside the country means they have no say in its future.

A similar pragmatism means that for the most part even staunch supporters of independence have avoided the classic trappings of nationalism.

Edinburgh's ancient Royal Mile may be lined with stores peddling tartan, whisky and kilts, but few of the stereotypes that earn Scotland a fortune in tourist and export revenues have invaded the campaign. The fiercest arguments, from both sides, have been about politics, not identity.

As Jim Murphy, a member of Parliament from the Labour Party, told a cheering crowd of "no" voters in Glasgow over the weekend, "What's not on the ballot on Thursday is patriotism."

And yet, in these final, frenetic days of the campaign, it is.

"We're all proud Scots standing here," said Pauline McNeill, former Labour member of the Scottish Parliament, as she introduced Mr. Murphy.

"We all love Scotland," said the next speaker, Labour peer John Reid. "We will vote to maintain the pride we have in our culture and values."

Until the 1970s, Scottish "culture and values" were not so different from those in England. Alan Little, a Scottish correspondent covering the referendum for the BBC, describes Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom as having "shared bonds and shared experience."

The first of these was the British Empire, in which Scottish administrators played a prominent role. Then in the 1940s, it was the creation of the welfare state. And for decades, hundreds of thousands of Scots were employed in exactly the same state-run heavy industries as their counterparts in England.

It was the unraveling of these institutions in the second half of the 20th century that led Scotland to reassert a separate identity.

It was not, at first, a political identity. Music, writing and a more rigorous examination of Scotland's history by Scots themselves contributed to what Scottish historian Sir Tom Devine - a "yes" supporter - has described as "an enormous increase in a sense of Scottishness. …

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