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More on the Scottish question.

Posted by Tania Kindersley
Tania Kindersley
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on Thursday, 13 February 2014
As the argument about independence really gears up, and Scotland is suddenly front-page news, people are still not talking about it in the shop.

What they are talking about is poor, drowned Somerset. This is a rural community. You can see the men who work the land in the Co-op, with their muddy boots and their earth-covered overalls, and the distant look in their eyes that comes from worrying about cows and weather. Perhaps people here may more easily imagine what those fellow farmers in the south are going through, with their stranded herds. This is a place where people know about mud fever and foot rot.

But still, apparently that is not what the village is supposed to be talking about. A fairly well-known Scottish woman was on the radio at the weekend. She was asked about the floods. She said, not quite joking, with an odd, hard note in her voice: ‘Oh, we don’t talk about what is going on in Somerset.’ I think, the moment it came out of her mouth, she realised it was rather a brutal thing to say, so she laughed, to take the sting out of it. The only problem was that it wasn’t very funny.

This time, we have been lucky enough to miss the worst of the weather.  Just a little bit of snow and sleet, but nothing to frighten the horses.  Literally and metaphorically.This time, we have been lucky enough to miss the worst of the weather. Just a little bit of snow and sleet, but nothing to frighten the horses. Literally and metaphorically.

It also illustrated the perils of the universal we. This is one of my particular bugbears, especially when people use it to mean all Britons, or all women. Don’t speak for me, I think crossly. In this case, I think the woman was referring to all Scots. Unless my little part of the north-east is a complete freak, she was empirically incorrect. It was such a strange thing to assume, as if everyone in Scotland is so blinkered and parochial that they would remain blind to a natural disaster happening in the same landmass.

There is an ugly strain of this kind of assumption in the independence movement. The die-in-a-ditch crowd seem to be working off the negative, not the positive. It is not so much that they think Scotland so glorious that she must stand alone, it is that they seem willing to do anything to get perfidious Albion off their backs. This then falls into the inaccurate cliché of bitter Scots, with their long memories, and their refusal to forget Butcher Cumberland. Then the English themselves get chippy, and start banging on about how dour Andy Murray is. And the two old neighbours get very cross and scratchy and nobody can say anything right and the whole thing falls into a mess of resentment and misunderstanding.

It may be that during sporting events many Scots feel very Scottish indeed, but in testing times, many of them can also feel British. I have English, Welsh, Irish and Scottish blood, in true mongrel fashion, and I feel connected to all those places. The kind lady in the shop shakes her head sorrowfully, as we talk of the rising tides and devastating storms in the West Country. ‘Those poor, poor people,’ she says. I have absolutely no proof for it, but I like to think that she is more representative than the cross person on the radio.

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