Nativism has no place in civic nationalism

Jock Tamson's Bairns

We’re aw Jock Tamson’s Bairns

Following a recent interview by the leader of the Labour branch office in Scotland, Richard ‘Dick’ Leonard, where he said he would oppose any movement towards a second referendum on Scottish Independence, there’s been some angry furore on the Yes social media circles.

Some of it raises quite reasonable and valid questions. Who is Dick Leonard to oppose a second Indyref, when the Scottish electorate put a pro-Indy majority in Holyrood at the last election? Why is Scottish Labour (which isn’t even a registered party), with only 7 MPs, standing in the way of 35 out of the 59 Scottish MPs in Westminster? There are also those simply asking: who the fuck is Dick Leonard? Believe me, I wish I was as blissfully ignorant, too. Just know that he’s a fully animated bobble-head doll with a *SNP BAD* voice message played on repeat. Oh, and that he’s the type of Labour “Socialist” who shafted the pay for women in Glasgow’s city council.

What concerns me, however, aren’t the above questions, but those who have chosen to focus on the fact that Dick Leonard was born in Yorkshire, and therefore has no right oppose Scottish independence. I wholeheartedly reject this, because I believe that anyone who lives & works in Scotland should have a say in our collective future. What kind of hypocrite would I be, were I to believe otherwise? After all, fate decreed that I was born elsewhere, but Scotland is my home, and I have a right to express any opinions about it – and everyone else has the right to reject any such opinions, without resorting to nativist arguments about my place of birth. Same should apply to Dick Leonard.

The poison we must suck out of the pro-Indy movement

I’ve picked three tweets that were born out of the this Dick Leonard miasma. None of these accounts is a bot / troll with a few dozen followers, but all have above a thousand people following them.

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What these three Tweets share in common, is the priority of nativism in order to establish a voting franchise. Much of the poison feeding into this idea seems to come from the fact that non-Native voters in 2014 opted for ‘No’, contributing to the loss of the first Indyref.

That is one way of looking at it. You can pick apart any demographic and try to ascribe different levels of guilt. If you’re going to pick up on foreigners, you might just be a xenophobe. I mean, if you want to get down to the numbers, a BBC study shows that 56.8% of people born outside of UK voted No. The exact same percentage of women also voted No. So why are you a xenophobe and not a misogynist? Well, my guess is that these people will probably be a bit (or a lot) of both.

If you want to be even more ridiculous, you can look at the religious breakdown. 60% of no voters were Protestant. Will we be burning them at the stake, now? It’s so stupid that I can’t even go on with these examples, even though there are many to choose from.

Nativism makes sense in very specific contexts – it justifies, for example, the fact that the vast majority of countries require their heads of state to have been born there, so that, theoretically, an agent of a different country doesn’t take over (Didn’t turn out so well with the Russian puppet in the White House, though, did it? And funnily enough the same guy behind the racist campaign chasing after Obama’s birth certificate).

But nativism is nasty. It’s often used against me by Unionists, who tell me that I have no right, as an immigrant, to hold an opinion on Scottish independence. Some tell me that I should be grateful for being in the UK. That I’m a guest. My answer remains the same, to all of these: fuck off. I’ve paid my due taxes from my work – I’m not your guest, I’m contributing to the financing of British society, you dumb numpties.

Such bigotry should hold no sway over the arguments made by pro-Indy folk. Not least because, given the Brexit clusterbourach, it’s very likely that the non-Native demographic will shift massively towards a Yes vote come the next Indyref. It is our job to win over 2014’s No voters, not antagonise and hold a grudge for the way they might’ve voted before.

I want an Indy Scotland built on hope and compassion, not grievances

During the Brexit referendum, Westminster excluded EU citizens from the voting franchise. Had we been included, the vote would’ve been a crushing victory for Remain instead. But that was a morally objectionable choice by David Cameron’s Government – like all choices of that clown’s tenure as PM, to be frank.

Scotland shouldn’t resort to dirty tricks to return to independence. We can expect those from Westminster and their propaganda mouthpieces, like the appalling bias demonstrated by the BBC in the run up to 2014. But rather than getting down in the dirt and ending up covered in the same shite, we should fight for independence while holding the moral high ground, making loud and clear that Scots, English, Europeans or people from anywhere else in the world, if they’re living in Scotland, they are Scottish.

We’re aw Jock Tamson’s Bairns. Harbouring grievances based on our differences would be the end of us.

The Clearances – why Scotland welcomes immigrants

 

The Emigrants

“The Emigrants”, Helmsdale (credit: Mary and Angus Hogg)

 

It was in the summer of 2016, when me and my partner went on our first car trip around the Scottish Highlands, that I first encountered the term “Clearances”. In fact, we did not encounter the term per se, but upon reaching Ullapool on one of the legs of this trip, we were asking ourselves: “How come the Highlands are so empty?”. As we settled into our B&B for the night, I googled that same question, and so I stumbled into a very grim and depressing period of Scottish history which had remained totally unbeknownst to me.

I love the rugged emptiness of the Highlands, their feeling of remoteness; it’s part of what makes them so beautiful. But since that first trip, I’ve done a lot of reading on the Clearances, and that sense of beauty will forever be entwined with sorrow. My heart despairs whenever I think of the suffering and hardship suffered by those who were ripped off their land and scattered along the coasts of Scotland, told to survive on impossibly small pieces of land, which inevitably resulted in thousands upon thousands of people risking their lives in the hopes of finding a better future elsewhere. Fortunately, many did, but many died on the way, or even before they could pay for the expensive transportation out of Scotland.

The horror of the Clearances shall not be forgotten

Despite the many attempts by certain people to erase the human horror of the Clearances, or portray those found dispossessed and forced into exile as “mere economic migrants” (Looking at you, Neil Oliver, and that utter mess of a documentary that you put together for the BBC. Perhaps you should leave history to actual historians, and focus on your archaeology, a very noble but very different science, next time?), the memory of the Clearances has never gone away.

How many Scots today have family around all four corners of the world? How many of those families are descended from Highland & Lowland exiles, those people who, as the historian James Hunter puts it in the title of his book on this subject, were simply set adrift upon the world? Many others, who might not remember the Clearances, will have family abroad descended from emigrants in the 20th century, many of them leaving in equally desperate circumstances, after the calamitous effects of two World Wars.

This reality, I think, explains why immigration is much less of a toxic debate in Scotland than elsewhere in the UK. Because many Scots will hopefully remember the hardship faced by those forced into exile, but also recognise the wonderful contribution those people have made around the world, and hope that immigrants coming into Scotland bring those same benefits into this wee part of the world.

 

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“The Last of the Clan” (1865), by Thomas Faed

The Clearances are a uniquely horrible period

Let me make it clear that I don’t think there are many similarities between the reality that forced Scottish people into exile during the Clearances, and today’s reality of economic migrants like myself. Refugees from war-torn countries certainly have much more in common with those dispossessed Scots, but I’m lucky enough to never have experienced the utter desperation that leads to forced displacement. I’m privileged to have saved up money and prepare in advance before I moved to Scotland, I am privileged that it only took me a 3-hour flight to get here, and I am privileged that I had a safety net back in Portugal if everything fell apart with the move. Refugees today, and Scots fleeing the country back in the 18th, 19th and even 20th centuries, enjoy none of these privileges.

We look at places like Badbea, in Caithness, and how people cleared from the straths and glens were literally forced to live on a cliff-edge, stuck between a wall meant to keep in the sheep and a deadly precipice, and we get just a tiny glimpse that there was no choice when it came to emigrating for many of these people. All hope had been lost, their entire way of life shattered in order to feed the greed and vain desires of an aristocracy that couldn’t spare a moment’s thought for the victims of their calamitous pursuits. This was ethnic cleansing, pure and simple, a continued part of the British state’s attempt to destroy Scotland’s identity and culture. A project that went into full force right after the Battle of Culloden, and, we could argue, one that hasn’t fully stopped since then.

And today, although there are now memorials to many of these exiles, such as the one in Helmsdale, the statue to one of the architects and main actors of the Clearances still stands in Sutherland, overlooking the deserted landscape he created. (I’m not one for tearing down statues, but I’d rip that cunt right off that place and put one up to the victims of this horror instead, the ones whose strength and courage deserves to be immortalised and celebrated).

 

The consequences of this on Scottish attitudes today

I don’t want to keep going on about the historical side of the Clearances, as there are many brilliant books out there for you to read. James Hunter, who I mentioned above, depicts these horrors in his brilliant Set Adrift Upon the World: The Sutherland Clearances, so far my favourite book on the subject, although focused on the Sutherland region alone, so you may want to look out for others if you want a broader picture. Consider the Lilies is a novel recommended to me many times, and I finally bought it this week, so I can’t wait to read it. And there’s also the very recent The Scottish Clearances by T. M. Devine, recipient of much praise.

My point is that the waves of forced emigration have ensured a sense of empathy in Scotland about the plight faced by emigrants in today’s world, even if the circumstances may be very different. There is also a sense of the great things that these exiled Scots went on to achieve, and perhaps a hope that by welcoming immigrants into Scotland today, these New Scots will too go on to enrich and improve our country.

May we never forget the plight faced by those people, cleared from the Highlands, Islands and the Lowlands, and may we rejoice in the legacy they have left around the world. Equally, may we never forget the humanity and sacrifice of those migrants leaving their native countries behind and coming to Scotland in the hopes of having a better life.

I am such one of these New Scots, and I hope to prove myself worthy, in time, of the love and hospitality that I’ve been greeted with since the moment I set foot upon this land of ours.

Fiona Bruce on Question Time – a verdict

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Fiona Bruce, new host of BBC’s Question Time

When Fiona Bruce was first announced as the new host of the BBC’s Question Time programme, I was somewhat happy. I knew the corporation would never have gone with anyone too risky – this is a show tailored to draw and amplify the imaginary anxieties of Little Britain – and although I would have much preferred Victoria Derbyshire, as I have witnessed her properly questioning politicians in her morning programme, I was okay with Fiona Bruce.

Many a gammon immediately let out their oink oinks at the idea of a woman, and I have no patience for those insecure men who find a threat in a woman more intelligent than them – which is often the case for every women these men encounter. Some furore was also made of the fact that she was too posh, too Antiques Road Show – but for a show previously presented by David Dimbleby, one can only go down in the overall level of poshness. Unless they went with Jacob Rees-Mogg, which, in these mad time of Brexitlandia, I wouldn’t consider it an impossible consideration for the BBC’s execs.

As such, I tried to watch last night’s programme, especially because the panel counted with the rare participation of an SNP MP (the lovely Kirsty Blackman, in this case, one of the few voices of reason on that show). But I stopped after 29 minutes, because this was around the time that I lost the little bit of hope I had saved for Fiona Bruce as a professional journalist.

Around the 28 minute mark, Daily Mail’s sweet princess and Brexitannia rising star, Isabel Euphemia Oakeshott, came out with a lie that should have been immediately questioned by Fiona Bruce. This was the lie that freedom of movement had been a disaster for the UK. See the clip:

 

The implication of this assertion is that immigration has somehow ravaged the United Kingdom, brought on immense social and economic damage, and made the lives of everyone here worse – for what else could a disaster mean?

My hopes for a change in tone for #BBCQT have died

Such is the scale of the accusation, that any trainee journalist would immediately know that it was his or her duty to offer a contradictory, or to give the person making the ludicrous claim a chance for clarification. But Fiona Bruce, even though she is such an experienced professional, did none of this. Isabel Oakeshott spewed her bile on national television – to the roaring applause of her English audience – and by the hostess failing to do her journalistic duty, it gave the lie an illusion of substance.

Now, to be fair, would have David Dimbleby done any different? I would like to think so, but I doubt it. The problem may go deeper than the individuals here – there is much to be question about the BBC’s Question Time, from its production team’s possible associations with the Far Right, to the BBC’s own editorial guidelines which often make a mockery of reasonable discourse (like the idea that they have to have a climate change scientist debating a climate change denier almost all the time, creating a false perception of it being a 50/50 debate).

I wish Fiona Bruce all the best, and hope that this was only a journalistic faux pas. But, as an immigrant in the UK, I had long stopped watching BBC’s Question Time due to its constant dog-whistling of xenophobia towards migrants. I have no interest in intellectual sadism – I’d rather turn off the TV than go to bed irritated with the lies often spouted by the programme’s audience and panel members. I hoped that a change in host would change the tone of the show, but last night revealed to me that such hopes should be left for fools.

There is nothing much to be gained from Question Time, beyond disappointment and irritation, and the confirmation that Great Britain has now fully metamorphosed into the amalgamation of all the phobias and ignorance contained at the heart of Little England.

 

Nicola Sturgeon on immigration: defending the unpopular truth

Nicola Sturgeon drawing

On the morning of the Brexit referendum result, there were immediate political reactions. David Cameron resigned, even though he said he wouldn’t when asked what would happen if Brexit won, and Jeremy Corbyn called for Article 50 “to be invoked immediately”, because that’s how sensible a leader he is (read this bit sarcastically, please).

Unlike those two, Nicola Sturgeon had a different message on that morning. She made it her top priority to offer some solace to EU nationals living in the UK and Scotland in particular, to reassure us that we were still valued, and to repeat that Scotland had rejected the Brexit rhetoric and remained an open and welcoming nation for all who chose to call her home.

Of course, these were just words, but for any EU national waking up to the realisation that the UK had, somehow, rejected us as a valuable part of society, these words were more than welcoming. They gave us a pause to gather ourselves, and be firm in the conviction that not everyone was a xenophobe – there are people who see immigrants as the three-dimensional human beings that they are, and it’s very crucial that some of those people are our elected leaders themselves.

Labour and Conservatives play with immigrants’ lives

The only minority that the Conservative Party will ever truly care about are its millionaire donors and their big business friends. I have come to expect no sympathy or respect from them in this country, and I wouldn’t want it – the Tories have destroyed the lives of thousands of people with disabilities, forced people to become homeless, and implemented profoundly homophobic laws only a few decades ago.

But I always expected Labour to be better than this – to be fair, it isn’t a high bar to surpass, after all. Especially with someone like Corbyn, I expected their supposedly Socialist values to extend beyond the people native to these islands, for Socialist solidarity should know no bounds.

Alas, Labour too left me only disappointed, as they increasingly tried to appease the xenophobic sentiments present in some of their demographic by playing with their antagonism towards immigration – something perfectly encapsulated in their “Controls on immigration” mug. (You can read my thoughts on Corbyn’s betrayal of the Left in another recent post on this blog – click here)

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No, you’re not the only one cringing at this…

Scotland is not perfect, but she’s so much better than her neighbours

Scotland has a very particular relationship with bigotry, reflected in its problems with sectarianism, whose tendrils spread to things as supposedly benign as football. However, there have been significant improvements in the last two decades, not only regarding sectarian hatred, but also the rights of LGBTQ+ individuals, racism, and the treatment of immigrants who have made Scotland their home.

I have only read and heard about the old Scotland – which I know still exists, if you know where to look. But I have lived in this open Scotland, where we have a Parliament in Holyrood with lots of women and openly LGBTQ+ politicians, some of them leading their respective parties.

I have also witnessed the Scottish Government’s repeated support of immigrants living in this country, claiming that immigration is positive for the country, and not the other way around. And that is not an easy message to put out there – you just have to see how the pro-immigration video below, put out by the Scottish Government in the summer, accrued more dislikes than likes on YouTube.

It takes a great amount of courage for a politician to say the uncomfortable truths, rather than the things voters want to hear. Labour, Tories and Lib Dems have shown themselves for what they are and done very little to make a positive case for immigrants, the majority of which contribute massively to the UK’s economy. Only parties like the SNP, Plaid Cymru and the Greens have done something in that regard, and EU citizens in the UK should be well aware of that.

Time and time again, when I tweet about immigration, I receive much more support from fellow Indy supporters than the hatred spread by trolls. The events and marches I have attended have been filled with flags from all nationalities – no one needs to be born in Scotland to have the same love for it running in their veins. I know this all too well, how this wee country and its people resonate with my heart more than any other place on earth.

Fighting the bigoted media

Glorified toilet paper like the Daily Mail and other rags have poisoned this country’s discourse on immigration. They ensured that immigrants, refugees, asylum seekers, benefit scroungers, homeless people, prostitutes and drug dealers all got blended into this immigration concoction, the source of all problems in the UK, rather than the actual truth: the inept management of this country by New Labour and Austerity-Max Tories.

However, times like these also allow for more assertive shows of courage in the face of adversity, and that was the case with The National newspaper last edition of 2018: a magnificent pro-immigration front page. Such shows of empathy for immigrants are so rare in our public discourse that this made me very emotional when I first saw it.

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31st of December 2018’s edition of The National – Scotland’s only daily pro-indy newspaper

It’s not just trash like the Daily Mail that is to blame for all the negative rhetoric surrounding immigration – look no further than the BBC to see how they have different words for the same things. A foreigner here is always and always an immigrant, whereas a Brit abroad is always an expat – a euphemism that somehow tries to expunge British citizens from the stereotypes manufactured for and applied to everyone else.

Immigrants are as good and bad as everyone else

If we are able to bring the immigration debate to basic facts, than there are only a couple of points to be made that bear any relevance. The first is that, as studies show, immigration is financially positive to the UK, contributing more than it costs. Secondly, immigrants are not more or less prone to criminality or any other vices – they are people, just like everyone else, who took the very big decision of moving to a different country for a myriad of reasons. Some of us may indeed be rotten, but don’t judge such a diverse group of people on a few bad a apples.

There’s so much to be gained from immigration, not only from EU, but from everywhere else. And in Scotland, skin colour, ethnicity, religion or nationality should have no bearing on one’s Scottishness. As I never tire of repeating, we’re all Jock Tamson’s Bairns. And if you treat immigrants with the dignity and respect we deserve, you will be pressed to find more loyal citizens and neighbours than us.

Some people are also seemingly unaware of the anxiety clouding the lives of all EU citizens living in the UK (as well as UK citizens abroad), as my recent phone in to BBC Radio Scotland made clear:

Thank you, Nicola Sturgeon, the SNP, and the other few politicians and parties standing by what is right. I will gladly return your support when the time comes for #IndyRef 2.

How a Portuguese laddie became a new Scot

Yesterday, the Tory government published its white paper on EU migration post-Brexit. As a result, I spent my day arguing positively for immigration on social media, sharing fact-based articles showing that EU migration has had a very positive impact on the UK’s economy in the last decade. However, one tweet in particular was particularly popular, in which I specifically mentioned my personal experience with Scottish attitudes towards immigration.

Twitter is meant to be short and brief, leaving little room for telling long, nuanced stories. But the story behind this tweet is one I find worth telling, and I think it reflects incredibly well on the fact that there’s a bright, open future ahead of Scotland. I hope you find what follows to be worthwhile.

Where I come from

I was born in 1991, in Faro, the largest city of the Algarve – Portugal’s southernmost region. Like many people my age, I faced the blunt of the 2008 financial crisis when I went to university the following year, and when the Portuguese right-wing government adopted increasingly destructive austerity measures, little hope was left for middle-aged people, let alone us young ones trying to make a life of our own. I was determined that I would emigrate after I finished my Master’s Degree in Medieval History of the Islamic Mediterranean, especially because in 2012 I had started dating the most wonderful man in the world. He was studying to become a dentist, and he too had no real prospects of staying in Portugal.

In 2014 I finished my Master’s and he finished his Dentistry Degree, and so we moved from Lisbon back to the Algarve, to live with my mother. She owned a wee restaurant in Tavira, and my partner got an offer of work at a local practice, so we packed our bags and in early 2015 started saving up money to go abroad.

It wasn’t easy. Working with my mother, despite the love between us, was incredibly stressful. I was earning about €100 (around £75) a week, because I didn’t want to take wages from her as she was struggling at the time; I chose to rely exclusively on tips. My partner was working 5 days a week, full-time, as a dentist, and earning about €600 (£450) A MONTH. Yes, you read that right. That is the Portuguese reality, with a minimum monthly wage at the time of €550, a lot of people survived however they had to.

The upside of staying with my mother was that we didn’t pay a rent. We helped out with bills and food, but could put the rest apart and save up for the big move. Emigration was the light at the end of a dark, hopeless tunnel.

Where life took us

At my mother’s restaurant, 95% of our customers were tourists visiting the Algarve, or people born in another country who now resided there. And from those, about 60% were from the UK & Ireland, with the rest coming mainly from the Netherlands, Germany and Scandinavian countries. Given that my mother speaks very basic English, she was quite happy to have me as a Front of House waiter – I can hold a conversation in a few languages besides Portuguese and English, including Dutch. And I will tell you why that is relevant.

From a very young age, I had thought about moving abroad (the reasons for that merit its own blog post, but let’s just say that I never felt like I fitted in Portugal). I always thought it was either going to be the UK or a Scandinavian country (Yes, I hate hot weather). But my partner wasn’t so keen about the idea of a cold country, and so we compromised on somewhere a bit less extreme – the Netherlands. We started teaching ourselves Dutch with apps like Duolingo, my partner prepared the paperwork to register on their General Dental Council equivalent, and we started preparing mentally for the move, reading about the country and all of that.

Now, on one particular evening, we had a couple of customers who had flown in from Amsterdam. I proudly practised my Dutch, and they were interested in knowing why the hell had a Portuguese waiter learned to speak Dutch. I told them I intended to move there. I will never forget their response. They exchanged a quick glance, and then the lady said to me, in English: “We have a small country. Not everyone has to go there, you know. The sky is blue everywhere.”

Yes, she sounded that much like a cunt. I was lost for words, telling my partner what had happened, and for the rest of the evening I was ruminating on how horrible she’d been. (She’d also left me a €1 tip on a €60 bill, to top it all off)

Because life finds a way of spicing things up, and as I grew increasingly depressed about the idea of the Netherlands, we had a table of three magnificent Scottish folks later that week. They were our only clients that night – a middle-aged couple with a female friend of theirs. Since it was a small and very intimate restaurant, they warmly started making conversation with me, which I was always happy to do with our customers. It started being about food and how they liked their steaks cooked, and me telling them about how we typically cooked them in Portugal, developing to them asking more and more questions about myself, why I spoke English fluently, my degree, and all of that. My mother was in the kitchen, cooking, but my partner was behind the bar that evening, and he joined in too. One of the ladies had a niece who was a dentist in Scotland, and as we became more familiar with each other, they started asking my partner a lot of questions about being a dentist in Portugal, including wages and work conditions, and were quite shocked to hear the truth.

That’s when they started telling us how Scotland needed young folk like us, how I would love Edinburgh and maybe even go to Uni there, and how my partner could lead a much more dignified life with wages that reflected the skill required for his work. I cannot tell you how lovely they were. The warmest, friendliest group of people, who were genuinely interested in hearing our stories and wanting us to have a better future. Before they left, they actually made a reservation for the night prior to leaving Portugal, so I got the name of one of them: Mrs. Pamela Speirs, from Glasgow. (I haven’t spoken to her since, but I would love her to know the impact she’s had on our life, so if you have any idea who this might be, do tell).

When we got home that evening, me and my partner looked at each other, and we didn’t need to say much. The Netherlands’ plan had died – Scotland it would be.

Now, this didn’t all happen in a vacuum. As I said before, we worked with a lot of UK & Ireland folk, and I had already began forming a few impressions. While our English & Welsh clientele tended to be more reserved, less generous in tipping, Scottish and Irish customers were the absolute opposite. They were always incredibly polite, very appreciative of my dedication to good service, complimentary about my mother’s food, and deeply generous when it came to tipping. (As with any generalisation, there were exceptions to all have this, I’m just outlining my overall impressions)

After that night with the Speirs and their friend, I started telling Scottish folks who came to the restaurant that I was planning to move to Scotland, and not once did I hear a negative comment. To the contrary. Mrs. Speirs’ attitude seemed to be replicated, as if all the Scots had been passed the same memo – telling me how Scotland needed young folk like me and my partner, that I would love the country. Some joked that I should take a picture of the sun with me, however, lest I forget what it looks like amidst the constant dreich weather. They talked to me about their own sons and daughters, nieces and nephews and how they were all doing so well back home, and how they already had so many foreign friends who had moved there and were happy.

A few more months of work until we felt like we had a financially robust safety net for the move, and on the 10th of November 2015, we took a plane from Faro and landed in Edinburgh.

What these three years have meant

Some of you might say that I couldn’t have chosen a worse time to come, due to the Brexit shitestorm. But I disagree . As the Brexit campaign exposed the terrible winds of xenophobia taking over England & Wales, it also showed how Scotland was a very different country. Of course, I am a white European, so I am still very much a privileged immigrant – Black and Asian people may have different experiences to tell from mine, especially since Scotland is a very white country.

But the thing is that I felt like the vast majority of Scottish folks didn’t swallow the anti-immigration rhetoric coming from down south, and that was confirmed with the overwhelming vote for Remain. While some of my friends in England despaired at the result (I admit that, in the morning of the referendum result, I felt genuine grief for how small and self-centred the UK had just become), I was energised by Scotland’s adamant rejection of that kind of nationalism that wants to put up impassable border and scapegoats the “other” for faults that aren’t theirs.

AUOB March Edinburgh

Taking part at the AUOB Independence March in Edinburgh, October 2018

In these three years, I have joined the Scottish National Party (and recently Plaid Cymru, the biggest Welsh pro-indy party), I have marched amongst my new Scottish brothers and sisters, I have voted in Holyrood & council elections. I have worked, I have lived, I have adopted two beautiful cats, and with every day, Scotland has seeped deeper into my bones. I have travelled widely across “this wee country of oors“, as I like to call it, met many a different folk, visited countless historical sites via my Historic Scotland membership.

Staple Scottish foods have become part of my diet, and I’ve fused many elements of my Portuguese roots with my newfound Scottish ones – I assure you that my Cranachan recipe with a hint of Port wine is to die for.

None of this would have happened if I didn’t feel like I had the Scottish people behind my back in these troubled times. Xenophobia is sweeping all over the West, but somehow Scotland has shone a light against that darkness. Our nationalism, if it can even be called that, comes from a place of acceptance, of a want for justice, of seeking a better future for the young folk that can do better without the cruelty of countless Tory governments we never voted for.

Of course, Scotland is not a place of exception. It has plenty of numpties and bawbags walking around, it has profound issues with alcohol and drugs, sectarianism, obesity, and I wish it were less white and more diverse, but that’s just a reflection of its history. And I love Scotland with all of these things to – for it wouldn’t be this beacon of light without the dark side, and I hope that I can contribute to strike another match, to make it all a bit better.

I can’t vote in UK-wide elections, but I can’t separate myself from this sense of belonging to Scotland any more – I always talk about our country, our people, our voice. Sure, I open my mouth with my Portuguese accent and it is clear that I wasn’t born here – and I don’t mind that people ask and are interested about where I come from. I’m always happy to tell all the good things about Portugal, about the food and the wonderful places to visit, and all of that. But it doesn’t feel like I’m talking about home, like it feels when I talk about Scotland.

At the risk of sounding really corny, and bear in mind that this comes from an atheist with no time for superstitious silliness, I do think that I was born with a Scottish soul. Its flame just brightens up at the sound of the bagpipes (or the Proclaimers, for that matter), its spirit is lifted when I smell the freshness of our cold winter mornings, and it is fuelled by the affection and love of the many folks I have crossed paths with here. Nowhere else on earth do I feel the peace I do when walking around the Trossachs, or setting my sights on the majesty of the Highlands, or when I’m walking around the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh, my favourite museum in the world after London’s Tate Modern. I love the historical atmosphere of Edinburgh, as I love the working class spirit of Glasgow, and how genuine Glaswegians can be, especially compared with some Edinburgh folk who come off as slightly more… stiffer (they’re sweethearts once you get to crack their shell).

And there’s still so much about Scotland that I don’t know, and I look forward to it all – as long as the nasty Government from Westminster doesn’t try to get rid of me post-Brexit. Regardless, I’ll be fighting the good fight for this country to be independent, a sovereign nation within the European Union, which is a true equal union, not this little, narcissistic, inward-looking United Kingdom that is becoming increasingly less United with each day its glaring injustices are exposed.

What matters is that we’re all human beings, all one clan. We’re all Jock Tamson’s Bairns.

Me (left) and my partner Roger basking in the elusive Scottish sun