The lead up to the Scottish referendum on Independence was an intense time to be living in Scotland, everyone was vibrant and animated and politics was the only thing anyone wanted to talk about for once. The average man on the street could remember and quote policy and economic data. Everyone was engaged, and it was fantastic.
One of the main concerns voiced during the campaign was “Isn’t this just scotland being racist against the English?” the answer to that is no, categorically no, and I can honestly say that is something that I have never experienced in Scotland, except for some mild stereotyping around the vote “oh you must be voting no because you’re English.” (I actually voted yes). Racism as a whole is fairly uncommon in Scotland, especially in the bigger cities which have a more metropolitan population, and Scotland is a fairly liberal country and generally finds any form of inequality abhorrent. The rest of the UK however has a real problem.
I’m going to talk about racism in general but really I’m talking about all forms of bigotry (misogyny, misandry, ageism, classism etc…)
The UK has two main problems with racism:
the unchecked growth of the uneducated neo-nazi fascism shown by the existence and popularity of groups like the EDL, the SDL (like I said, rare but not non-existent in Scotland), the Orange Order, UKIP, and the BNP.
The grasping of liberalism which makes people afraid to appear racist or secular.
I know these reasons seem to be at odds but lets look at them in more detail.
You only have to look at the resent violence in Glasgow to see how bad the first point is
The groups that perpetrated the violence were part of the No campaign (although a part that the core tried to distance themselves from) and this was a form of celebration.
Let me just restate that, this was a form of CELEBRATION for these groups, and the worst thing is that these aren’t isolated events.
A somewhat more dangerous movement is the political authority that people like this are granted within groups like UKIP and the BNP.
The BNP are a racist organisation, that we have known for a long time and their mild popularity was worrying but not major. However, a few years ago UKIP seemed to be a normal party, a group that wanted less control from europe over British matters (funny that Farage came out on the side of the no campaign but oh well). However, over the last few years the links with the BNP and openly racist comments from the party leader have piled up, and for some unfathomable reason they have become MORE popular.
and the reason is number 2
Happily in the the UK we do seem to think liberalism is a good thing, but the way we do it is wrong on a fundamental level. We believe that everyone has the right to an opinion, good, but we also seem to believe that no-one can challenge those opinions, which is wrong, anyone has the right to challenge any publicly expressed opinion.
Here in the UK we also have an ingrained form of racism, called national pride, the belief that because we were born here, we have more right to express views on our country than those that moved here. I was actually on the wrong end of this during the referendum, English people telling me that I shouldn’t be entitled to vote (despite scottish people saying that I was entitled) and also that I wasn’t allowed to voice my opinion because “It’s for the people of Scotland”.
I actually had this last opinion myself throughout most of the campaign until some scottish friends actually persuaded me that I had a responsibility to do both, because I live here and it would affect me as much as anyone else.
Unfortunately we also seem to have convinced ourselves that the people that run our country are better than us, that we don’t have a choice in how our country is run. Even though we complain bitterly at how awful our government is, we don’t try to make a difference because of the thought that our voice won’t count, shown by the decline in voter turnout at elections. How many times have you heard the phrase “oh I didn’t vote, how can my one vote possibly make a difference?”, a lot of difference, thats how much.
Vote. Campaign. Shout. Scream. Write a letter. You can make a difference.
And remember, everyone is equal, no matter what Race, Creed or Religion.