The Meandering Social Worker

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Archive for the tag “independence”

Scottish Independence, English identity and World reputations

I originally blogged back in February about the Scottish Independence vote – it was hardly making the news back then, today it’s all over the front pages as Alex Salmond has pushed the Yes campaign up the polls.  Way more issues have come to the fore in recent days, most notably some disagreements with Alex Salmond’s assumptions and beliefs.  He says he can use Sterling, UK Parliament says he cannot.  He says there’s tons of oil revenues for them to benefit from.  Oil companies and organisations say there isn’t.  He says Scotland will continue to be part of Europe.  Europe says they will have to apply as a newly independent country and meet all the joining criteria (including adopting the Euro as currency).  Banks and big businesses have started to say they will pull their big offices out of Scotland if it gains independence – even the Royal Bank of Scotland.  The Financial Times has also stepped off the fence in favour of the No vote.  The Queen is keeping schtum but clearly there will be ramifications for the Royal family if Scotland gains independence.  And so it goes on.

Alex Salmond has conducted an emotional campaign reminiscent of cries of Scotland the Brave.  The Yes campaign has clearly failed in its application of logic and in the dying days before the vote is ramping up the emotionalism.  The question for Scottish voters is which politician or group of politicians do you believe – Westminster or Salmond.  Personally I don’t trust the lot of them.  I wish them luck in fielding the conflicting information and coming up with the right decision.

In the meantime, below is my original post on the impact of Scottish separation on individual identity.

The Meandering Social Worker

UK GB diagram by CGP GreyShould Scotland vote to secure Independence from Great Britain and the United Kingdom in September 2014?

UK Prime Minister David Cameron thinks not. As reported by MSN news: In a speech at the Olympic Park in London, Mr Cameron will summon up the spirit of patriotism of the 2012 Games as he argues that the whole country will lose if Scotland votes to leave the UK ….. Independence would be bad for Scotland but would also leave the United Kingdom “deeply diminished” and would “rip the rug from under our own reputation” in the world, Mr Cameron will say … At a location carefully chosen to symbolise the successes of the whole United Kingdom working together as “Team GB”, Mr Cameron will say that the Olympic medals were won under the banner of a Union flag that was not only red and white but also blue. And he will say:…

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Scottish Independence, English identity and World reputations

UK GB diagram by CGP GreyShould Scotland vote to secure Independence from Great Britain and the United Kingdom in September 2014?

UK Prime Minister David Cameron thinks not. As reported by MSN news: In a speech at the Olympic Park in London, Mr Cameron will summon up the spirit of patriotism of the 2012 Games as he argues that the whole country will lose if Scotland votes to leave the UK ….. Independence would be bad for Scotland but would also leave the United Kingdom “deeply diminished” and would “rip the rug from under our own reputation” in the world, Mr Cameron will say … At a location carefully chosen to symbolise the successes of the whole United Kingdom working together as “Team GB”, Mr Cameron will say that the Olympic medals were won under the banner of a Union flag that was not only red and white but also blue. And he will say: “It’s Team GB I want to talk about today – our United Kingdom.” … He will stress that the decision on independence is “squarely and solely for those in Scotland to make”, saying: “It is their choice, their vote”. But he will add: “My argument today is that though only four million people can vote in this referendum, all 63 million of us are profoundly affected. “There are 63 million of us who could wake up on September 19 in a different country, with a different future ahead of it.”

The British Government has been strangely silent on the subject of the Scottish Independence vote. I’m glad Mr Cameron is at last speaking out and I agree largely with the sentiments he is expressing here.

But what has Scottish independence got to do with social work you might wonder?

In particular, picking up on the last part of the quote, the identity of 63 million individuals may be affected overnight. In fact, it may be even more that figure, as others from places within the Commonwealth Realm, Crown Dependencies and the British Overseas Territories may also feel they have a legitimate opinion on the matter (see CGP Grey’s video graphic for more about the differences between the British Isles, Great Britain and the United Kingdom etc).

The English have long been poor at having their own identity, images of dancing Morris Men and maypoles not having quite the same lure as the deeply patriotic celebrations of the Irish and Scots, the English preferring instead to consider themselves ‘British’ first. But things are changing. Anyone interested in football and rugby at least will already have noticed some of these changes. The Union Jack, once the dominant flag at English football matches has been increasingly replaced by the flag of St George in recent years. And maybe that’s a good thing. (See below for a little more information and a link to the history of the Union Jack.)

I will be sad if Scotland votes for independence in September. As David Cameron states, it will affect the identity of 63 million people, although some may feel it more than others. For myself, with an English mother and a Welsh father, as a child growing up I always identified as British, and I was proud of my Celtic heritage. Over the years I became aware of anti English sentiments among some quarters in Wales, and being of ‘mixed heritage’ (part Welsh) doesn’t make me any more welcome. With the setting up of the Welsh Parliament, or National Assembly for Wales, I have found myself increasingly replying that I am English first, British second (and European third). My Celtic heritage is being denied. My identity is changing. It has felt like a loss.

Which brings me back to the relevance of social work. Our identities change throughout our lives: from child to teenager to young adult, middle aged and older adult; from single to in a relationship, partnership or married, to divorced or widowed; to become parents or not, or step-parents; moving through education, work and retirement. These are all identity changes that affect people from all cultures in some way or another, developing over time as we are aware of growing older, plan getting married or having children, move through being a pre-schooler to student to graduate to worker. Together they form a raft of changes, that make us a part of the society we live in, and they are happening also to the people around us. They are changes that are expected. Sometimes we face them with trepidation or excitement, such as the first day in a new school or at work, a wedding or the birth of a baby, others we barely notice with the passage of time, until suddenly we realise we are not as young or fit as we were.

We may know of people, including ourselves, who have changed their religious beliefs and identity. But, with the exception of a few people who emigrate and take on the citizenship and identity of another country, it’s not often we experience changes in our national, cultural or ethnic identity. British history is riddled with such changes, as we have ‘conquered’ and ‘granted independence’ to what seems like half the world in the last several hundred years (again covered in the video link below). But that is not so close to home as the Scottish Independence issue.

All the opportunities to work with people from different cultures and backgrounds, races or religions, to ourselves, all the training in understanding diversity, cannot give us the experience of what it feels like to struggle with your own ethnic identity. So, whether you consider yourself English, Scottish, Welsh, Irish, British or European, even regardless of whether you are white or BME, now is a great time to ask the question: how does it feel to have someone else in control of my racial and ethnic identity? Four million Scottish people have that call over 63 million people in Great Britain and the United Kingdom. Maybe answering that question will add a chink of understanding and empathy to the subject of diversity.

As an aside, the quotes from David Cameron indicate a confusion in the terms GB and UK – “It’s Team GB I want to talk about today – our United Kingdom.”

UK or GB who knows the difference?

Well one man does, thankfully. But perhaps not David Cameron. In trying to draw on solidarity from the Olympic Games, in his speech he will mix the terms: “It’s Team GB I want to talk about today – our United Kingdom.”

In his rapid-fire video graphic on YouTube CGP Grey explains the difference (apologies: all attempts to embed the video here failed, please follow the link to YouTube instead – the image at the top of this blog comes from this video).

The Union Jack

The “Union Jack” as it is commonly known.

The history of the Union Jack can be found on Wikipedia, however summarised it is the “Cross of Saint Andrew counterchanged with the Cross of Saint Patrick, over all the Cross of Saint George”, in other words, a composite of the flags of Scotland, England and Ireland. The origins of the flag date back to 1603, developing through various political changes into the version shown here that was adopted in 1801. As Wales was already part of England when the form of the flag began in 1603 the Welsh flag is not included. Discussions have begun in some quarters as to changing the Union Jack should Scotland vote for independence.

Other countries still sufficiently identify with their history linked to the United Kingdom to include the current Union Jack within their own flags: Australia, Hawaii, Niue, New Zealand, Tuvalu, Fiji, Cook Islands, Bermuda, British Columbia, British Indian Ocean Territory and various States within the US and provinces with Canada.

Mongolia: extreme cold forces families from traditional living to urban slums – IFRC

Outside of the city of Ulaanbaatar the Mongolian nomadic peoples live a lifestyle that has all but died out elsewhere in the world.  Their childlike curiosity and interest in visitors does not inspire jealousy or envy.  Their lives are hard, unimaginably hard, and you can see this etched on their faces.  Yet their lives have a simple quality: work to provide for their livestock and their families with little concern for what is not necessary.  Community spirit is alive in individual family groups of between two and five gers (their tented homes) working in conjunction with their neighbours to make the best use of the sparse grazing land.  Consumerism is not a good idea when you pack up all your personal belongings, furniture and heavy felt tent to “move house” every two or three months.  Just enough vehicles for you and your neighbours in your area to share makes more sense than having more than you need or can afford.  There is little in the way of “keeping up with the Joneses” here.  The few luxuries in recent years are solar or wind generated power to run a few lights and the satellite TV.  This is a form of living easily seen as “poverty”, but being forced to abandon your way of life to live in the slums of Ulaanbaatar, a sprawling city that contains easily a third of the entire population of the whole country, leads to a far greater poverty: poverty not only of low income, but now a social poverty borne of a loss of livelihood, independence, self-sufficiency, pride, family and community connections, and a whole way of life.

Mongolia: extreme cold forces families from traditional living to urban slums – IFRC.

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