Generation X

There was an eccentric bloke at the Glasgow Herald many years ago who confused me by changing his style every time I saw him. Collar and tie one day then tee shirt to work; one day pony tail, next day not. One of the hacks summed him up: “He opens the wardrobe in the morning, looks along the hangers and selects a persona for the day.”


He came to mind when I heard a Yes voter say the referendum isn’t about identity, a view supported by the No side who complain about a false choice between Scottish and British.


What do they mean? I get the bit about inclusion…that your place of birth, antecedents, colour, culture and beliefs are no exclusion. I live in Kelvinbridge  which is one of the most multi cultural places I’ve known. The connections of people I meet, excluding other Brits…. NO! Sorry…NOT excluding other Brits. That’s not what I meant. I’ll rephrase. Counting all nationalities, with English, Welsh and Irish folk – North and South – included, there is a constantly changing United Nations of North Africa, West Africa, South Africa, Kosovo, the sub continent (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh), Germany, France, Iceland, Canada, Spain, Korea, Iran, Iraq and Govan. That’s before we count the Polish contingent and the annual influx of foreign students.


Not only do I not exclude them from my view of my country, I wholeheartedly embrace them being here. Immigrants, asylum seeks, refugees – welcome. Few things make me as proud as knowing that when persecution gets intolerable, a beaten-down and crushed human thinks of my country as a refuge. If they are here and their heart is here, then they are Scots like me.


That means they have invested in this place, brought their skills, humanity and commitment and put them at the service of all. They are doing their bit. Just like me.

So I don’t worry that in being Scottish I am somehow against others. I don’t resent anyone from England. Well, not because they’re English! I am English on my mother’s side and a childhood spent partly in the Newcastle area has ingrained in me a love of the working class warmth and camaraderie of the North. And oh those accents.


But I’m a Scot. Whatever my feelings towards others, I’m not confused about my identity. I am Scottish. Yes, I know I’m a British subject with a passport but I can’t avoid that. It was inherited.  As many have said before, whatever it says on my UK records, I am a Scot where it matters – in my heart.


And that’s where it ties in to the immigrant community because that is their option too, to regard themselves as Scots and their home as Scotland. As my mother came here with her accent, her Methodism, her different ways and Yorkshire puddings (family tradition), so new arrivals bring their distinct self-image and traditions too.

It just isn’t an issue, having a multiple identity as countless Irish folk in Scotland can testify. You can have both if that’s your choice – Pakistani and Scottish.


But the question in the referendum does require a choice. It is in essence asking who you are because it is inherent in the preference of status you choose for your country. When presented with the option, it is the clearest expression of nationality to choose statehood. To deliberately decline to do so is to downgrade your nationality.


The question asks, assuming you see yourself as a Scot, if you want your country to have the full range of government powers to run its own affairs and acquire the internationally acknowledged status of independence. In other words, do you aspire to be like every other member in the United Nations where all nationalities take their place as normal sovereign countries? Or, do you prefer to think of your country as Britain in which Scotland plays a subsidiary part as a regionally-administered  province subject to policies largely decided for the needs of a  majority based elsewhere? (By a parliamentary system in which Scotland now has 4 per cent representation)


A No vote accepts Scotland has subservient status in a larger entity and while there may be advantages to that arrangement, in order to receive those benefits, it is necessary to concede secondary status to your own country. By doing so, you acknowledge the superior status of Britain over Scotland. By voting No you make Britain, not Scotland, your country of choice.


No other people do this. It would be unthinkable for, let’s say, an Australian to spend more than a nano second on it. A politician in Canberra suggesting Australia couldn’t handle its own affairs and should let London decide monetary policy, defence and foreign affairs would be a laughing stock. Would a Frenchman or German put European government ahead of their own? I am a European first and a Frenchman second would be ridiculed even in pro Europe France.


Your double identity may be confirmed by a No vote but for the first time in our lifetimes and in the existence of the Union we will have been confronted with the choice and you will have chosen the UK over Scotland. In a No voter’s mind, the UK is the preferred country. Of course you retain a Scottish identity but only within the context of the UK.


It surely means your belief in Scotland and the Scots is compromised. Your Scottishness is expressed in limited terms. You are saying you are Scottish but only up to the point where you have to choose between Scotland and Britain. Then you opt for the UK.


So in terms of identity, that decision makes you a Brit first and a Scot second. How could it be otherwise? Asked to endorse the globally accepted credentials of nationhood, you will have declined, downgrading your country – Scotland – to provincial status.


In Scotland we have muddled along seemingly forever fudging the issue of who we are and what our country is. We say to ourselves we are Scottish and British – best of both worlds – and we’ve got away with it, although I suspect it has engendered in us a dispiriting inferiority complex or at least a cringe-worthy confusion alien to every other nationality.


In a year’s time that fudge, that awkward compromise, won’t do. We are the generation who get to choose. We are Generation X. And choose we must. There is no hiding place.


The national pride, the easily summoned passion for the icons and history, your genuine love of Scotland, won’t be enough. This is the moment of truth for every Scot. How much do you believe in Scotland, even at cost to yourself? If the answer is: Not enough to accord it the rightful status of every other country, then vote No. Vote for Britain. But remember that the next time a blue jersey or a pipe band or a nostalgic journey home or a Hebridean ferry stirs that familiar deep feeling in your heart.


You, alone among the Scots over 300 years, had the chance in your hands to do for Scotland what generations in the past gave their lives for and you said No….

34 thoughts on “Generation X

  1. All power to your elbow. An important addition to the debate. And two blogs! We are spoiled! Twitter next…?

  2. Wee lump in the throat here! … Bravo!
    This is my one and last chance to do this as I wont be around for too much longer.

  3. Magnificent, Derek
    We’re putting together a YES newspaper. Could we use this?
    Dave McEwan Hill

  4. Well said and thank you Derek.

    I plan to circulate this as widely as possible.

  5. your last sentence summons it all up for me Mr Batemen – for it to pass us by would be one of the saddest days in our history – Saor Alba

  6. I used to travel a lot to Hong Kong in the early 1990s. I always recorded Scottish as my nationality (because it is) on my entry card when arriving at the old Kai Tak airport terminal. On many occasion I then had to stand and watch the border guard draw a line through “Scottish” and write “UK” or “British” instead. It would have been nice not to have my identity / nationality scored out. We have a chance to end all that.

    • Every year I get a company details return to sign, pre-filled by my accountant. Every year I score out the bit where he has filled in my nationality as British and replace it with Scottish. I’d like to be able to stop having to do that. Another reason to vote yES.

  7. There will be many who wish or think that they don’t need to make a choice about there identity, it will be history itself that’s judges them.

  8. Wonderful to have you back Mr Bateman!

    Superb piece.

    I have waited all my life for this chance.

    We will not lose this time.


  9. Wow. How thought provoking are you Derek.

  10. Beautifully expressed. Declaring yourself as a Scot is to embrace a set of egalitarian values. Your place of birth or skin colour is irrelevant.

  11. Oh wow. Can we put the last wee bit on some canvassing cards for the No persuasion?

  12. A superb piece. Bang on the money. Deserves to be widely shared.

  13. I know I should not admit to this, but if Scotland does vote No next year, it would break my heart.

  14. That is bloody good stuff Mr Bateman, powerful indeed. I’m showing this around!

  15. “So in terms of identity, that decision makes you a Brit first and a Scot second. How could it be otherwise? Asked to endorse the globally accepted credentials of nationhood, you will have declined, downgrading your country – Scotland – to provincial status.”

    Spot on. I’m going to use this at every opportunity.

  16. Think you should have been asked to be involved with the writing of November’s white paper

  17. Excellent material, beautifully written.

    I will be using this as a battering ram against the wall of negativity I’m having to face.

    Thank you, Derek.

  18. Left tears in my eyes….thank you.

  19. My grown up daughter (not political) asked yesterday should we be independent? what if we find we cant handle independence? can we go back? how can we a small country support ourselves? and so on, all the reasonable questions a wanna be yes voter would/should ask,

    and as I was about to launch into my well prepared (wife would say rant) she stepped up and said leave this to me, and she for the next twenty minutes proceeded to dismantle the Better together arguments and put a solid case for independence.

    To say I was astonished (not by her leaning for independence) but by the strength of her argument and the depth and passion of her commitment would be an understatement, her passionate engagement with our daughter made me fell very proud of her indeed,
    please don’t think this is a misogynistic statement as it is not, I all my live have found my marvelous wife would tolerate things for my sake,
    when I played in a brass band she went to as many competitions as she could in spite of not liking the music very much,

    she is, I hope and pray typical of women throughout Scotland who are waking up to the deep divides the Westminster governments are creating in our beloved country,

    In spite of a great deal of pain in her joints through arthritis she fully intends to be on Calton Hill tomorrow (yes campaign have kindly laid on a shuttle bus for the less able)

    I am immensely proud of my wife

  20. Hi Derek,

    Regarding the first part of your piece in which you mention the presence of “asylum seekers” in Glasgow. It is one of the things that makes me sad to be British, the way we treat genuine asylum seekers so harshly. In the past Britain had a reputation as a welcoming refuge for those oppressed, politically, religiously and more recently those targeted because of their sexual orientation. This “open” attitude has all but disappeared under the pressure to reduce unwanted economic migration. Economic migration is a completely different thing from those seeking asylum here, but the two have become interchangeable in the public, and seemingly the government’s minds.

    I hope an Independent Scotland will act as a safe haven for those in foreign lands finding themselves genuinely under threat in their own society. I consider it our duty.



  21. Heartfelt and expressed beautifully, this should be mandatory reading for everyone in Scotland, thanks again for what has rapidly joined the ranks of the must read, first read, blogs.

  22. What a beautiful piece. Quite brought a lump to my throat and a tear to the eye! More, please.

  23. Hi Derek,

    Well said. When you left the BBC I wrote to them for the first time ever to say how sorry I was to hear that you had left and to comment on their coverage of the referendum. I did not even receive an acknowledgement of my email.
    I am glad to see that you are still writing powerful stuff. I honestly thought your weekend programmes were the best on the radio (all stations included). They were always lively and interesting. I admired your skill in interviewing people. You always got to the heart of the matter in a gentle, jovial manner. You were never aggressive, but always got answers.
    If you are interested in writing for an independent, non-political website, dealing with the Independence Referendum, I would love to hear from you.
    You can contact me on my business email – The website is not connected with my business.

  24. You’ve nailed it.
    Choose Brit or Scot, as simple as that.
    No hiding place next year.

  25. Great piece, mind if I print some copies?

  26. Another great article. I was bereft when you left the BBC but felt sure you would do something like this.
    You’re bigger than the pathetic bunch you left behind. Imagine my joy when I found your blog. Many many more please.

  27. You know, I have noticed in various vox pops and video clips that people who describe themselves as ‘proud Scots’ are inevitably intending no voters, and I’ve often wondered why this is, because you are right; voting no says a Scottish identity is secondary to a British one: it can’t be anything else. Perhaps it’s just the cringe and fear at work.

  28. An insiders expose of the incestuous relationship between Labour in Scotland, and the BBC would go down a treat, but check your car break pipes if you do
    Gangsters don’t mess about..

  29. I have been reading up on my local history in Glen Urquhart and it is mind boggling to see the back flips and turnarounds committed by the chieften classes. This tendency of Scots to disown their background goes back a long way. I used to encounter it on frequent visits to London when I had to engage with aristocracy and politicos. My mid-Scotland accent seemed always to be a matter of amusements to the Old Etonians who simply saw Scotland as a place to go in the Autumn to bag a few grouse, salmon or stags. I recall one of them even commented on how difficult and pesky he found the crofters on his estate on Lewis. Tine for radical action.

  30. Dear Derek Bateman Broadcaster2,

    You should make the 2 superscript, because this is broadcasting squared in comparison to your previous job, at so many levels.

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