Sunday, 25 January 2009

A Wall of Fire Around

In 2009, Scotland is staging a year-long homecoming, aimed at the vast global Scots diaspora, to bring in an extra forty million pounds. But marketing is in practice aimed almost exclusively at America, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. There, large numbers of Scots-descended people have ties to Caledonian Clubs and such like, very often with Nationalist tendencies. Only people who move in those politicised circles are really being told. An advertisement is to be shown on PBS, hardly a major network. And an advertising partnership with National Geographic will reach America, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. But nowhere else.

The UK and Europe are supposedly also “key markets”, but no one knows how those markets are being tapped. In correspondence with me, “Brunei, China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, South Africa and the Middle East” have been identified. Apart from South Africa, none of those places has a significant Scots-descended population. Do several have any at all?

The Scots-Irish in America are being targeted. Their ancestors sided with the Revolution, almost without exception. But those who had gone directly from Scotland to America largely founded Canada instead. These two sides of the family will certainly have plenty to discuss at their homecoming. Of which they, at least, have been informed.

The enormous number of Scots-descended West Indians has not been made aware of this homecoming. Non-white people who merely like whisky in “Brunei, China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, South Africa and the Middle East” are one thing. But non-white people who might be family are clearly quite another.

The Unionist Scots-Irish of Northern Ireland are being neglected. And there are five million Scots-born people in England, as many as the entire population of Scotland. Never mind all of us Scots-descended people here. At least half the Scots diaspora lives in England. If this homecoming were what it claims to be, then there would be adverts all over the national media. But you have probably never even heard of it until now.

An advert is allegedly to be shown in London and Ulster between Burns Night and March. But that is after the main event, today’s 250th anniversary of Burns’s birth. And why only in London, anyway? The “major advertising campaign” said to be “kicking off” in London and the North of England is nowhere to be seen. I only know about the homecoming by chance, from a close relative living in Scotland. We are being completely ignored. That is rather hurtful.

Meanwhile, pre-Union Scotland was part of the wider Dutch, German, Scandinavian and Baltic world. She was a member of the Hanseatic League. There was nearly Union with the Netherlands, not with England. There is still a Scotophile subculture in Northern, Central and Eastern Europe. But this opportunity to engage with it has not been taken.

And Jacobite émigrés controlled much of French and Spanish banking, maintained a network of merchants in every port circling Europe, founded the Russian Navy of Peter the Great, dominated the Swedish East India and Madagascar Companies, and did much else besides, including in North America and the West Indies. By no means all of them were Scots. But there was proportionately far more Jacobitism in Scotland than in England. And the Jacobite diaspora is currently an academic growth area. So another opportunity has been missed.

Perhaps the Jacobites’ descendants, the Hanseatic Scots’ descendants, the Scots-descended West Indians, and we Scots-descended people in England should meet up? We are all Scotland’s disowned children together.

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