Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Strange Nature of Scottish Nationalism

Liechtenstein's few travelling football fans (if they have any) must have been pretty shocked on Tuesday night when the Scottish fans packing out Hampden Park in Glasgow began booing the tiny monarcy's national anthem. What could have gone through the Alpine-dwellers' minds, one wonders: had Scotland fought a bloody war with the miniscule state that history had entirely forgotten? When Scots refer to the "Auld Enemy", are they actually speaking about Liechtenstein?

In fact, the lads from the Lilliputian land were on the wrong end of a misunderstanding. Unfortunately, Liechtenstein's national anthem has the same tune as "God Save the Queen", and once the first strains of a musical piece more readily associated with the actual "Auld Enemy" began to reverberate around Hampden, the inevitable ensued. Although comic, the incident does highlight the strange nature of Scottish nationalism, and how a nation which has played such a vital role in Britain's rise as an imperial power can still have such a pathological hatred of their, in fact, fellow statesmen, if not fellow countrymen.

The apparent contradictions in Scottish nationalism mount the deeper you get - like Ireland, Scotland plays host to a large number of Loyal Orange Lodges, and has close ties with the Unionist community in Northern Ireland. Yet it is also a nation slowly pushing towards independence, led by the Scottish National Party (SNP) under its leader, Alex Salmond. This same Mr. Salmond can demand Scottish independence as the panacea for the ills of his nation, and those of the wider UK, yet can also decry the British government's decision to merge its Scottish regiments, rather than retaining each as an independent entity.

Looking at the mess we here in Ireland have made of our independence, one does wonder whether any small nation can survive, distinct and apart, under the weight of economic pressures and globalised culture today. If the Scot's ever do get to go it alone, it is well worth them remembering that fiscal responsibility (admittedly, a stereotypically Scottish attribute) is key - after all, the Union with England came about following a disastrous investment in a colonial adventure gone bad.

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