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Last Updated: Wednesday, 15 March 2006, 12:49 GMT
Putting Scotland in perspective
Sarah Hepburn
In this week's reader's article, Sarah Hepburn took issue with the attitude of some Scots to ex-pats.


Having recently left Scotland as an expatriate, I find myself considering the identity of Scotland and Scots.

Clutching a British passport at the airport, both my parents being Scottish, and having lived in Scotland all my life so far (in various cities), I am, on paper at least, Scottish.

Sarah will not miss Union Street, Aberdeen, after midnight
Sarah will not miss Union Street, Aberdeen, after midnight

However, others have claimed that my ability to find flaws in Scotland means otherwise.

Recently I was in a taxi rank in my home town of Aberdeen, discussing with my friends how dirty the streets were (strewn with chip wrappers and chewing gum) and how waiting for a couple of hours for a taxi is dismal.

A "lugging-in" stranger informed me that if I found Aberdeen so disgusting then I'm not Aberdonian and should leave the Granite City.

My reply began "funnily enough, sir!"

Once settled in the Middle East, I know I will miss the amazing Scottish scenery of snowy mountains and reflective lochs.

Flower of Scotland

I will not miss the sight of Union Street circa 3am at weekends - pavements littered with half-eaten kebabs and drunks who are swept out of the pubs/clubs at closing time.

I will miss attending "Scottish" events such as ceilidhs and Burns suppers.

I will not miss a nation (including the rest of Britain) that is so eager to accommodate other people's cultural beliefs that we end up disregarding our own and were told we couldn't wish our colleagues "Merry Christmas" (a bland "Seasons Greetings" for 2005).

We respect other people's cultures when we visit other countries so, in return, why can't we continue with our cultures in our home country, reasonably requesting our visitors to respect this?

Despite hating Irn Bru, refusing to eat deep-fried Mars bars, and not knowing all the words to Flower Of Scotland, I am Scottish.

Beautiful Scotland

Having a national identity does not mean that we should blindly follow a "faith" and all that it entails, disregarding all common sense.

I believe Scotland is a wonderful nation that I'm proud to be part of, sometimes because of its imperfections, and sometimes despite them.

Many have been slandered for 'abandoning' Scotland. Why?

Don't see us as the "baddies"!

See us as people getting out there and introducing a better international image of a beautiful Scotland that has been the birth place of many wonderful things, and eradicating images of bad diets, money pinchers and alcoholics.

We may have left, but we still think it's a Bonnie Scotland.

The following represents the balance of opinions we received.

Visit Rome; you'll find beggars. Visit Paris; you'll encounter bad manners. Visit London; you'll truly discover pollution. That's planet Earth for ye. Now visit Edinburgh and marvel - look at what you can with pride, there's a great deal more than many other great cities.
Calum, Edinburgh

Nice article from Sarah, but I find it ironic that whereas, I desperately wanted to leave Scotland, now that I have, I need a daily fix from the newspapers - vive l'internet! I will be forever Scottish and I would love to see my kids represent Scotland one day, but I don't miss the cold dark days of summer and I certainly do not miss racism and the west coast bigotry.
Garry, New York

I have to wonder why Sarah started thinking about whether she is truly Scottish or not. As someone who is English by birth but thinking of moving permanently to Scotland, I don't see myself as belonging to my country, but rather that the country I choose to live in belonging to me. I know in every town and city there are similar problems (albeit on different scales) with drunks and litter, but at the end of it all, we choose where we want to live and that is our home. I am looking forward to the Scottish life, I expect there will be many similarities to this English life I currently lead, but at least when I want to I can go and enjoy all those wonderful vistas the country has to offer. I think that will feel like home in no time. Will I be Scottish? No. But I will feel proud to make Scotland my home.
Janice, Kirkham

Typical ex-pat attitude and she is barely out the place. Every city in the world has it problems but if they only amount to litter and shortage of taxis then I would count myself lucky!
Scott, Edinburgh

I moved from Central London to the west coast of Scotland 9 months ago. Comments regarding city centres I agree with to an extent, however Scotland is so much more than neds, religious biggotry and football. I see it as the lesser of two evils. the west coast of Scotland is tolerable, scenic and very very friendly. Its a common sight to see two strangers stop in my town and say good morning and talk about the weather, in London you get strange looks..
Kim, Saltcoats

My experience is that living abroad certainly sharpens your appreciation for what is good and bad about Scotland, not least because it gives you a basis on which to compare. I should state that I do love Irn Bru, though I'm hazy on the words to Flower of Scotland. I also believe that many ex-pats become much more Scottish when abroad than they ever were in Scotland!
Ian, Grenoble

Aberdeen isn't perfect by any means, but compared with other cities (in the UK countries at least) it's relatively clean, law-abiding, neighbourly and prosperous. It has fine architecture, a mild climate, summer nights when it doesn't really get dark, and easy access to beautiful natural surroundings. For Sarah Hepburn's sake, I hope she finds something just as good where she's going, although I fear she may be in for a disappointment.
Colin Wilson, Aberdeen

I wish the writer well in her new life abroad, but I couldn't say that I've ever been gripped by the prospect of leaving my dear nation. I think there's a part of me that is going to remain here at all costs, as so many of us were shipped to foreign climes against our will over the centuries! And remember this: Scotland's culture has never been attacked more than by our own intolerance to one another, or by our nearest neighbours, than it ever will be by our foreign guests.
William McCarron, Glasgow

Scotland's eagerness to accommodate other people's beliefs is a symptom of the open-mindedness, courteousness and affability of the Scots. After ten years abroad, these are the qualities that I appreciate the most when making return visits home.
Anne, Luxembourg

I live in Glasgow and I can undertsand everyone's issues with neds, litter etc. However if everyone had your attitude then Scotland would continue to decline. It is up to the new generation to improve Scotland by paying taxes and providing the intelect to allow it to develop into a great nation again. I cannot understand these Scots who are proud to be Scottish but don't want to live there. I have lived in Australia and Denmark and yes the weather is better and the steets cleaner but where else do you have so much beautiful landscape on your doorstep.
David, Glasgow

Sorry to see you go Sarah! Like many Scots you have chosen to leave and find a better life and we can't blame you for that. With 20% of Scotland's population living in poverty whilst at the same time having massive oil wealth it is little wonder that people decide to leave. We are a rich nation without our riches! Scotland needs to have aspiration and confidence, be more welcoming and more outgoing in its attitude. How is that going to happen though when we are constantly told by the Labour, Liberal and Tory parties that Scotland can't or should'nt even want to look after itself. According to them we should live off handouts from London and be grateful for it. Sorry I reject that failure mentality and have nothing but a positive outlook for our country. When, not if, we become independent I'm sure Scotland would replicate the trends in Ireland where the likes of Sarah have returned confident in their country and wanting to make a difference. A positive attitude is free but not easy in Scotland.
Donald, Inverness

After almost two years in Japan I will be returning to Scotland in June. I am looking forward to seeing my family but the prospect of having to deal with the neds and bams in the cities gets me down. If it wasnt for this nasty element that is a blight on Scotland, I could happily locate myself in Scotland. Unfortunately having been the victim of four burglaries and a mugging at knifepoint in the space of two years in Glasgow hardly endears me to singing its praises here. Unless the government tackles these neds and bams, Scotland will never regain its previous appeal.
Ewan MacRae, Ashikaga

I enjoyed Sarah's article but had to scratch my head with some things. Has she never been outside of Scotland before? Go to any country when the pubs/bars close and you get the same thing. Here in Halifax, NS it's called pizza corner and it's something we have come to embrace. I was born in Scotland and moved to Canada when I was 7 and spent a year in Scotland in 2000. I feel deep pride when I hear people talk about Scotland and try hard to dispel some of the myths about it. Hearing Sarah talk with an air of exclusion about other cultures is very disheartening, especially since I've grown up in a country that embraces multiculturalism. It's attitudes like hers that will keep Scotland in the dark.
Pauline Thomas, Nova Scotia

> I am Australian and lived in Scotland with my wonderful Scottish husband for three years before I recently brought him back to Australia where we have settled permanently. We both love Scotland, and can't wait for our first return holiday next Christmas, but we have now made Australia our home. Whenever I was introduced to anyone in Scotland, invariably they expressed shock and surprise that I, as an Aussie, should choose to live in "a dump like Scotland". I always found this strange as Scotland is indeed a beautiful country with a fine standard of living and a great deal going for it, including the most welcoming and friendly people in the world. Too many Scots are too negative about their country and perhaps it is only by going out and experiencing more of the world, that they will come to appreciate what they have.
Kerrianne McLaughlin, Gold Coast

I lived five years in Aberdeen and still long to be back. Though Indian by birth, American by established nationality, and Indo-British through education, I think of myself as emotionally and even culturally an Aberdonian. Cultural identity, I think, is a habit and an emotion more than a place of birth or residence or accent. People look quizzical when I say I am Aberdonian, but I am, and will someday live there again.
ME, New Jersey/i>

You can't have a finger in both pies Sarah. Good on you for being Scottish, but either stay there, live there and love Scotland for what it is...or just get on with it!
Caroline, London

Whilst I agree with certain comments made by Sarah, such as "reasonably requesting our visitors to respect (our cultural beliefs)" it is both naive and misguided to expect this, because many don't. This is one reason why Scottish people are so patriotic; if we have the flaws of our country pointed out once too often it is only natural that our loyalties to Scotland are voiced. Go into any city in Britain, or indeed many cities all over the world, and there will be kebab papers, chip papers, drunks and chewing gum. What does Sarah expect? A view of a snowy mountain and reflective loch from every window? Sarah, you are a fair-weather Scot, and one who doesn't even know the words to her own national anthem at that.
Ann Cowie, Aberdeen

I heartily agree with Sarah's comments. I am also an ex-pat since 40 years, but I'm still Scottish and proud to be that! The scenery in Scotland is just as alluring and beautiful as that in Switzerland - combine that with the well-known friendliness of the Scottish people to visitors, and you have an unbeatable combination! But as Sarah says, we could improve in some aspects - including cleanliness of our city streets.
Robert Jonsen, Brugg

It wasn't until I was living in London, enjoying some nationalistic banter with English friends, that I realised how woeful my knowledge of Scottish history was. I left school in 1991 and I was never taught anything about Scottish history! I read up pretty quickly after that so I could hold my own in the future.
Brian Sutherland, Aberdeen

Could I ask who told Sarah that she couldn't wish her colleagues a "Merry Christmas"? I'm not convinced that 'visitors' don't respect our cultures, and have never felt pressurised into abandoning my 'cultures'. Has Sarah been reading a few too many tabloids before leaving?
Karen, Glasgow

For those with the motivation, the world is a small place and it would curtail the potential of individuals if everyone thought they had to live permanently in their home country. Immigration and emigration has shaped Scotland and the UK over the centuries and hopefully will continue to do so. We all have our pet hates regarding wherever we call "home", hopefully they are not reasons for leaving in themselves but are merely observations. Good luck to the writer in her new life.
Colin McGowan, London

I heartily endorse Sarah's comments. I am an ex-pat, living in PA, I left Scotland in 1981, aged 30. I have never looked back. I love Scotland deeply, and will always be a Scot, at heart, while at the same time, I embrace this country and all its diversity. All too often, I read about the problems there and wish things were better but not enough to want to return. As Robert Ruark put it, in his Old Man and the Boy..."I figger I didn't leave nuthin' there that I gotta go find". Nevertheless, I am a Scot, a fierce royalist and always will be.
Joe Fitzpatrick, PA, USA

As an ex-pat myself I will always be Scottish to the core but I don't believe this lady is Scottish. How can she hate Irn Bru?
Mark Clark, Gillingham

I think her comments are spot on. I often think of the city centres I have travelled to in my life. Sydney, Rome, Paris, etc, all have their problems, but at least you can go to them at night, how many tourists do you see wandering Glasgow at night? You don't, it's too full of neds and undesirables hanging around bus stops in their multitudes, making you feel uncomfortable. Anti-social behaviour really needs to be clamped down on in the major towns and cities of this great nation. If I had never been to Scotland before and I stayed in Glasgow for a week I doubt I'd venture very far outside my hotel room!
John M, Glasgow

As is often said, the true patriot is the one who honestly declares what he or she sees as reality rather than what one wishes were reality, so good on you Sarah. The 'love it or leave it' argument of the 'lugger in' won't bring any benefits for Scotland that's for sure!
Edwin Moore, Glasgow

Having moved from Scotland almost two years ago to Huntington Beach, California, I have to agree with Sarah's point about not missing people throwing up next to me on the bus ride home from the local nightclub. Where I disagree is that you cannot possibly claim to be Scottish if you don't like Irn Bru, or do not know the words of "Flower of Scotland". By claiming to be born in Scotland as a qualification for being Scottish yet not liking Irn Bru is an oxymoron. What I would do for a sip of the Bru, life just does not seem complete anymore
Simmy, California

Okay, Scotland may have its fair share of alcoholics, neds, litter and bad diets. But things could be worse, you could live in a place devoid of life, character and personalities. A place where you fear hammering a nail into the wall to hang your Scottish Calendar in case someone reports you for breaking the quiet laws. A place where you are not allowed to wash your car or cut the grass on a Sunday. A place where the only time anyone kicks back and enjoys themselves is when an organised event allows them to. A place where life is all about a rules and nothing else.
Angus Wardlaw, Nürnberg

I enjoyed Sarah's article. I am also an Aberdonian but my career has taken me to other places. I like Aberdeen but I think the people need to get out more! One of my pet hates is anti-English sentiment. England is also a beautiful country and English people love Scotland. I don't believe they would have dumped us Scots if oil had been discovered in the Bristol Channel rather than the North Sea. My other pet hate is that half the city seems dependent on the "cooncil" while the other half pay exorbitant council tax - more than twice what it is down here. This is terribly unfair and needs to be sorted before the oil runs out, otherwise the wage-earners will simply leave.
Simon, Bristol

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