by Jen Turner
When the referendum on Scottish independence is held in the autumn of 2014, only residents of Scotland will be eligible to vote. A recent BBC article found that as a result, almost 400,000 people living north of the border but born in other parts of the UK will get to take part. However, the 800,000 Scots living in England, Northern Ireland and Wales will not. So, although, Scottish-ness may involve using certain words, liking tartan and eating Haggis, crucially in the political sense, it all boils down to where you live.
In protest at being disenfranchised, James Wallace, a 23-year-old fellow Dumfries native turned London resident, has launched a petition demanding that expat Scots in other parts of the UK be allowed to participate in the referendum. Scots ministers say this simply would not be practical. How, would an electoral register of everyone who considered themselves Scottish be compiled? Who, after all, is Scottish? You could include all those born in Scotland, or perhaps consider ancestry. Indeed, it may be that a penchant for Irn Bru and Billy Connolly is enough to earn nationality. With such a variety of attachments, “it would be absurd to allow anyone who claimed to be Scottish a vote,” says James Mitchell, professor of politics at the University of Strathclyde.
A recent report by The Scottish Government found estimated 1.3 million Scottish-born individuals living outside Scotland, and between 19% – 26% of graduates from Scottish institutions found their first job after graduation outside Scotland. However, no matter their location or the movements across the globe that may occur, a symbolic attachment to Scotland itself remains. Scholars trying to understand the Scots identity have focused on its symbolism. McCrone and Bechhofer (2010)explain how in Scotland, allegiance is bound with cultural markers of birth, ancestry and accent, which people use n different ways. What is clear is that, predicated on a series of national symbols and other attachments, Scottishness as an identity, travels well.
This is a concept considered by Harald Bauder in an early view article of Area, which calls for a reconsideration of the relationship between nationality, mobility and the Nation-State. Bauder critics the border of a nation, and contests the ability of this territory-based model to incorporate the material practices of human mobility. In the case of the Scottish referendum, migration outside of the national boundary is considered a detachment to the nation itself. Bauder’s crucial intervention suggests that identity constructions which have occurred through mobility should not be deemed inferior. In light of this, “once mobility is no longer scripted as ‘aberrant’, identities will arise from a dialectical process involving the collective social and political practices of mobile (and immobile) people who recognise that they constitute political communities” (2012: 6). Perhaps in this way, there may be steps towards addressing the conundrum of the referendum.
Harald Bauder, 2012, Nation, ‘migration’ and critical practice, Area, DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-4762.2012.01129.x
David McCrone & Frank Bechhofer, 2010, Claiming national identity, Ethnic and Racial Studies 33 921-948
Jon Kelly, The formula for Scottishness, BBC News, 26 October 2012
The Scottish Government, Engaging the Scottish Diaspora: Rationale, Benefits and Challenges, The Scottish Government 5 October 2009