Goodbye Scotland – sometimes you’re too hard to love

The declaration: I am half-Scottish, by virtue my father being born-and-bred here, and my grandfather having lived in Scotland his whole life and having served the people of Scotland both as a soldier and an MP. I have lived here for more of my life than I haven’t, and proudly identify as both British and Scottish. So now you know.

Goodbye Scotland, you’ve made leaving fucking easy.

I really love Scotland as a country: the mountains, the food, the people, the buildings, I’m even learning to love whiskey. I feel a great affinity with Scotland, and it’s the country where I became a man, fell in love, had my heart broken, and discovered binge drinking. However, the referendum has reminded of exactly what’s wrong with the country: its endless defensiveness.

I got on with my job at the Grange today, commentating on yet another humiliating defeat for Scotland’s cricketers. For a side who were being royally thrashed, with little vigour or fight, everyone around me was desperate to defend them, without any care for the facts, figures, and attitudes displayed before them. It was not the plucky young Scotland side they portrayed it as; this was a mediocre group of professionals being taught a lesson by a New Zealand second eleven.

A little earlier in the day, a couple of journalists had staggered in late, having been stuck in traffic, and one proclaimed to the rest of the shed, “We come from civilisation!” rather amusingly. I riposted: “Do you mean Glasgow?”, engaging in the usual Edinburgh-Glasgow rivalry, rather enjoying a fiesty presence in an often empty press box.

“I mean Scotland,” he spat down at me, caring nothing for who I was or for that matter, was.

It reminded of the number of occasions in my life when people had assumed things about me on account of my accent, and how those occasions had become more frequent as the date of Bannockburn drew closer. “What do you know about Scotland?” “Why do you care about Scotland?” “What part of England are you from?” Invariably my answers to these questions have become more and more sarcastic, to the point of rudeness, but I won’t apologise for it. If Scotland finds themselves independent, they will require more friends than enemies, and as the latest polls in England demonstrated, once they’re out, they’re on their own.

Scotland’s attractiveness is one of the few things that make independence viable: its natural and human resources draw people to it, tempt people to appropriate its ways and culture. We should be looking to welcome those who wish to march under our flag, be it a Union or a Saltire, not reject them for fear. 

I shan’t live in Scotland, independent or not, for much longer, or perhaps ever more, and I was sad about that 12 months ago, but christ, you’re making it easier to go.

The HMO cap is the result of years of systematic hatred toward St Andrews students

On January 1st this year many of the right-wing papers ran headlines to the effect “Watch out, immigrants about” as legislation came into being allowing Romanians and Bulgarians to work legally in the UK. Two years ago, local press in St Andrews ran pieces about the use of a cap on Houses of Multiple Occupancy licenses to limit the number of students living in central St Andrews, who were driving rents and housing prices up. Both fear stoked by the Daily Mail, and that presented by the St Andrews Preservation Trust are born of the same feeling: good old-fashioned xenophobia.

Students on the whole wish to live at the epicentre of the action, where they can get a foot-long, a pint, and a library book all in the space of 5 minutes, lest they miss any more of the Jeremy Kyle show than they absolutely have to. The fact that this means living in the centre of one of Scotland’s more historic and idyllic towns is a great bonus, and something which most students cherish. Furthermore, St Andrews attracts the very best students from all over the world, often with high levels of disposal income, meaning that the average rent of central properties is high because there are, remarkably, those out there willing to pay the extortionate prices. It is simple supply and demand.

Students are not the only ones for whom the centre of town is the promised land though; proximity to the golf course is incredibly desirable for any golf shop, hotel or similar business dependent on the golf industry which fuels part of St Andrews’ economy. The larger part of the economy however, is propped up by the student pound.

Why are we so desperate to live in town when a mere ten minute walk can get you far better value for money? Simply put, we do not feel wanted. It is pretty rare for students living outside of the centre to have a relationship (much less good one) with their neighbours, for the simple reason that the perceived feeling of “townsfolk” toward students, thanks to various edicts from clueless councillors and ludicrous public bodies, is one of animosity. We don’t want to live on Pipeland Road, because you don’t want us there.

So we are driven to South Street, Market Street, and North Street, to find a flat where the people next door are happy to have us round for drinks at Christmas, or smile at us when we pass in the mornings. When we get there, we find that we have to pay £500 per month for a drafty, poorly-kept cupboard above a chip shop, because there is so little supply compared to the endless demand of thousands of students looking to escape the cold shoulder of the “Badlands”.

I am happy to admit that some students can be a pain; the University and the Union have a number of protocols in place to ensure that troublesome students are dealt with quickly and fiercely. (The only such recourse available to students with misbehaving neighbours is the police.) However, the majority of us would just quite like somewhere pleasant to live in a town we truly love.

Some residents might as well put signs up saying “No dogs, no students”. There is no effort or desire to integrate students into St Andrews, not even give them the chance to live where they want to live. There is fault on both sides, but at present those who wish to eradicate students from St Andrews need to accept that we aren’t going anywhere, and that they need to give us a chance.

Anger over Duggan comes from misunderstanding, not miscarriage

Mark Duggan“Fuck the police!”

“We will fight on.”

“No justice, no peace!”

When the jury on the inquest into Mark Duggan’s death came to the conclusion that he was lawfully killed, it sparked fury in the public gallery, and in the overflow court where supporters of the Duggan family and others were watching proceedings on a widescreen television. When they emerged to the gathered press outside, the solicitor for the family, Martha Willis Stewart, claimed that “the jury found that he had no gun in his hand and yet he was gunned down…For us that is an unlawful killing.” Carole Duggan, Mark’s aunt, incited the crowd with a clenched fist raised in protest shouting in unison with supporters “no justice, no peace”; it was a rallying cry.

Carole Duggan salutes her family's supporters

Carole Duggan salutes her family’s supporters after

It is perfectly understandable, even after the passage of some time, that those close to Duggan would still be affected by the raw emotion of losing someone they love; to hear that his death was within the law must be seen as an insult to his memory. In light of what happened in the wake of Duggan’s death, we are right to be wary of another similar reaction.

The Met are also clearly aware. The carefully planned police reaction has been a masterpiece of public relations. The family have been praised as noble, restrained, and brave in every statement by anyone with a police badge on their uniform. However, the issues and battlegrounds over Duggan’s death, and the wider issue of policing, have been marked clearly. It is us vs them.

It is easy to understand why people, young and old, in the north London black community might feel marginalised by the police, and implicitly, the criminal justice system. However, in the case of this enquiry, the sense of disadvantage is misplaced. The inquiry was exhaustive, and returned a thorough and balanced conclusion which admitted that errors were made, but that the killing itself was within the protocol laid down by law and the police themselves. If an issue is to be taken, it should be with the working practices of armed response units, not with the outcome of this case. The sense of loss, anger, and injustice is born far more out of misunderstanding than miscarriage.

This is in fact often an overbearing principle that is missed by those thinking about the actions of police within black communities, or within areas where violent and gang-related crime is rife. BBC News vox popped young black men on the streets of Tottenham who claimed that they were stopped and searched purely because they were just that: young, black, and male. While racial profiling is deplorable, if you are a policeman walking through areas, such as there are in London especially, where the majority of the population are black, then the simple law of averages dictates that most people you stop and search will be black. I’m not saying that racial profiling doesn’t happen, but that both sides are so sensitive to each other’s prejudices, for whatever reason, that even actions which may be perfectly innocent may be tarred with the same brush. It is the same reason that a policeman would happily walk past a loitering group of white 16-year-olds on the Kings Road, but might be substantially more wary of a group of 16-year-olds loitering in a high-crime area of north London.

While the magnifying glass of the Duggan case highlights a number of issues, the receptive audience to Carole Duggan’s “no justice, no peace” speaks volumes towards the fact that the feelings that sparked the summer riots still remain. There are clearly major issues with poor community policing in London, and poor relationships between the police and the public; however, it goes both ways. Both sides must make an effort to come towards each other, and to rebuild relationships. One might hope, in the light of the tragedy of Mark Duggan, that adversity might drive both sides together.