Imperialism, not nationalism, at issue
Bravo to Bill Jamieson (Perspective, 20 December) for defending Alasdair Gray on the importance of being Scots. Like Bill, I spent many years away from Scotland as a student, university lecturer and MEP.
Although I visited Scotland regularly it was not until I returned to live here in 1999 that I begun to understand the difference in Scottish society. This is a difference based on history, including, yes, the history of being conquered and repressed by England.
Also differences in values, laws, education and culture which make Scotland the unique place it is today.
I was, therefore, surprised to discover that many of our major cultural bodies were run by people not from Scotland. Indeed, in Joyce McMillan’s very good interview with Vicky Featherstone, the outgoing director of the National Theatre of Scotland, she wonders why Scottish boards seem to appoint people from England even though she herself is English.
To prove the point, her own board has just appointed as her successor an Englishman whose main theatrical experience is in directing Alan Ayckbourn plays in Scarborough.
I am a socialist and an internationalist, but I am also a Scot who believes in Scotland deciding its own affairs and, indeed, shaping a different kind of society based on our shared values. Cultural life and, therefore, cultural institutions are an important part of this process and having people appointed at the top who understand these values is crucial, as the recent debacle at Creative Scotland demonstrated.
The Edinburgh Festival board is currently in the midst of appointing a new director; it has never had a Scots director in its 65-year history. The current director has shown remarkably little interest in Scots culture and seems to enjoy reminding Scotland of its place in the Union.
Would it be too much to hope that in 2014, the year of the referendum, we could have a Scots director (and maybe a woman?) for our major cultural institution?
Thank goodness for the common sense and lucidity of Bill Jamieson’s article.
The predictable waves of po-faced sanctimony rolling over the land in the wake of Vicky Featherstone’s and Alasdair Gray’s contributions to the “anti-English” debate have threatened to swamp us. The letter from Iain W Forde (Letters, same day) is also to be commended.
As for Allan Massie’s bizarre claim (Perspective, 19 December) that “cultural nationalism is always dotty, and often nasty”, that is not the problem – cultural imperialism is. Every Wagner is more than compensated for by a Sibelius, Smetana, WB Yeats, Violet Jacob, Elgar, Chopin or Vaughan Williams. The list is endless of those who were intensely patriotic and nationalistic and whose works are especially revered for that reason. Even those towering geniuses of universal humanity, Shakespeare and Burns, are fiercely claimed by the English and Scots as their own.
It is inevitable, with a referendum looming, that pro-Scots will be labelled anti-English. Fasten your seatbelts, folks.
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Thursday 23 May 2013
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