- Posted August 10, 2014 by
Plymouth, Devon, England, United Kingdom
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Interview: The Expat Scotsman Part One
Joe from Plymouth, 59, The Dolphin Hotel, Plymouth, Devon.
Joe is an expat Scotsman and a former police officer who has lived in Plymouth for over three decades. We met at the Dolphin Hotel on the Barbican to discuss his impressions of being a Scotsman deep in heart of England. This is part one of our interview.
Bo Brennan: As a Scotsman, who has lived in England for many years, what do you think about the Scottish Referendum?
Joe from Plymouth: I understand the desire for it, among certain people. I, myself, am totally, totally opposed to it. It will be a disaster for Scotland and, more generally, for the UK, but I understand what lies behind it. For many, many years Scotland has been a nation of what you might call 90-minute patriots. (Ed’s note: In the States, we might call this a “fair weather fan”). When it comes to football or rugby or anything like that, they become patriots and they love nothing better than beating England or seeing someone else beat England. I’m as guilty as anyone else. I’m getting better—I don’t mind England beating Papua New Guinea at table tennis now. I totally loathe the England football team and I totally loathe the England rugby team, but I support the English cricket team. That’s a typical Scots’ reaction.
BB: So, any particular reason?
JFP: That’s the way I was brought up, and that’s the way everyone in Scotland was brought up. Being in England for 34 years as not mellowed me towards the English football team. I think a lot of it comes from the media. I was alive in 1966 when England won the World Cup and we’ve been hearing about ever since. Since 1966 it’s been ‘Is this going to be our year?’ and ‘Is it going to be a repeat of 1966?’ and, after a while, it becomes really, really wearing. It has not helped that the Scottish football team is generally pretty shit.
BB: Yeah, I didn’t see them in the World Cup this year.
JFP: Yeah, definitely didn’t see them in the World Cup this year. So, I can understand why the question is being asked. I have little or no time for Alex Salmond (Ed’s note: First Minister of Scotland). He’s what we call in Scotland a chancer. So a bit like a con man, a bit like a snake oil salesman…and Salmond has been promising a referendum for ages and eventually he was backed into a corner and was asked ‘when to get the ballots ready?’ and he said ‘I know, 2014, the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn’ which is one of the few battles that the Scots actually beat the English. Also, he was hoping to benefit from the Commonwealth Games, which are in Glasgow. He’s looking at it politically. Scotland has always been a more left-leaning country, except in modern times. Up until 1975 the Conservatives had more seats in Scotland than Labour, and now you have one out of seventy-one. That’s an improvement on ten years ago when you had zero. It’s like a Democrat is some parts of Texas. (Laughs)
BB: (Laughs) Yeah, I know that one.
JFP: So, he’s seeing this politically…it’s his best hope of getting a ‘yes’ vote in 2014. However, I’m not convinced, and the opinion polls aren’t convinced, that there’s an appetite for independence. I think the majority of Scots would like more devolution (Ed’s note: Devolution is the gradual ceding of central governmental powers to lower level--state, regional or local-- of government. It’s a form of decentralization of power.) Which the three Westminster political parties are now offering them. All three of the main parties, Tories, Liberals and Labour, have agreed that should there be a ‘no’ in the referendum, that they will enable further devolution of powers for Scotland.
BB: What about the impact of this on UK politics, generally speaking?
JFP: In my opinion, I think overall for UK politics, and overall in UK society, there’s far too great a concentration on the southeast of London. All power drains to the southeast of London. For me, a better system would be something along the lines of the German federal system, where you have loads more devolution. The federal government is at the top taking armed forces, taking foreign policy, exchequer policy, etc. That to me would be the ideal solution. I suspect that’s what the majority of Scottish would like. There is, however, a substantial minority who are swayed by Alexander Salmond, for whatever reason. Whether it’s the appeal to the heartstrings. We’ve always hated the English, we’d do better without them, or the appeal that they’ve stolen all of our oil, we would be much richer without them. Which I think is an absolute fallacy. We want to do something to counter that corrosive influence, the corrosive drain that the southeast of London has on the country as a whole.
BB: What do you mean the drain? Is it the money, the power?
JFP: It’s money, power, influence. If you’re not in London, you’ve not really made it. I was part of an investigation unit and we were based in London. I covered Scotland and the north of England and I was still based in London. People came to London if they wanted to find something out, if they wanted to propose something. Everything is very, very London-centric. That was true of the police and it was true of just about every other institution you can think of. You don’t have a protest march in Plymouth, you have a protest march in London. That’s where you get media attention. It’s where the financing is. It’s slightly different in the States, I suppose. You’ve got the whole east coast, west coast divide.
BB: Yeah, the political capital is Washington and the economic capital is New York…
JFP: And the tech capital is Silicon Valley. Here, it’s a much smaller country and everything funnels towards London. That’s another reason for proposing independence, it lets us get out of the clutches of London.