After spending nearly a week in Scotland (with one more week to go), mostly in Edinburgh but also in Glasgow and in various parts of the Highlands, I am surprised to conclude that most of the Scottish folk I have met are in many ways comparable to the American social conservative; perhaps not in the bible-thumping sort of way, but in just about all other respects.
The Scottish appear to be a traditional people. They become visibly irritated if you call them English. The best way to get on the good side of the Scottish is to make fun of the English. On the flip side, if you really know what you’re doing, you’ll intentionally call a Scotsman “English”, and continue to berate their country to achieve maximum asshole American points.
Then there is the issue of Scottish independence from England, a growing movement that now garners 31% support in Scottish Parliament. This is surprising to me; of all the Scottish folk I’ve met, most of them being between 20 and 30 years old, I didn’t meet a single one who did not support Scottish independence. One Scottish girl (who incidentally hates bagpipes) told me that an independent Scotland would be the 4th richest nation in the world, due in large part to their thriving oil and tourist industries. A Scottish guy, a Highlander, aggressively voiced his support of independence to me at 3 AM after the bars closed up, as he smoked a cigarette and complained intermittently about his jacket not being warm enough. I asked him where he was from, and he said “Two lochs away.”
I said, “Do you mean lakes?”
He gaped at me and said, “What are you, fucking English?”
I told him I was American, and he said, “Thank God.”
The issue of immigration came up on some occasions as well. A different Scottish girl, this one a 24 year old dental assistant, described her annoyance with immigrants to Scotland. Her first complaint was that they were taking Scottish jobs. Then she launched into a litany of other perceived offenses, claiming that many of the Indian immigrants who run electronics shops are dishonest. She told a story about a woman who gave a 50 pound note to the clerk to pay for an item – the clerk then refused to give her change, claiming she hadn’t given him a 50 pound note. On a different occasion, an Indian clerk tried to increase the price of a 15 pound carton of cigarettes to 25 pounds. She also warned me of clubs to stay away from (those are where the immigrants go). Her older sister claimed to be an anarchist and stated that she “hates feminism”, much to the delight of me and my traveling partner.
Can you fathom young 20-something year old Americans uttering anything resembling the things I’ve heard from young Scottish folk? How many young Americans advocate independence of their state from the federal government, for example? How many young Americans denounce immigration? How many young Americans will openly criticize the cultures of its immigrant populations?
Are Americans simply more enlightened? That would be a convenient belief. Or have we been so sufficiently co-opted by the American Progressive movement that any kind of objective thought, and open expression of it, can be too quickly pigeon-holed as “racist”, or “misogynist”, or “intolerant”?
On a side note, I also learned that Scotland has so many redheads because the Scottish used to have incestuous relationships throughout history, especially in the many small villages (even first-cousin relationships isn’t unheard of in some villages today), causing the birth defect that is ginger-ism in higher-than-normal numbers.