Scottish Indepencence and the Diaspora
24/04/2012 1 Comment
Ever since Alex Salmond announced his plans for an independence referendum for Scotland in January, discussions have been, one might say, vibrant. Commentators have looked at the impact Scottish independence would have on the state of union, and politicians from a variety of political parties are united for once in their joint attack of the plans. Ed Miliband spoke of divisive nationalism, David Trimble stressed the importance of dual identities and a sense of Britishness, while the Home Secretary Theresa May claimed that an independent Scotland would be at risk from terrorism. Or maybe the only people who really want Scottish independence are actually the English? What, however, of the Scots abroad? What is their view on the proposed referendum and Scottish independence?
In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, expatriate Irish provided substantial funds for the Irish national cause, but Scots failed to do this to the same extent when it came to the question of Home Rule for Scotland. While John Redmond toured Australasia in the early 1880s on behalf of the Irish National League, for instance, no such activities were undertaken by Scots involved in similar Scottish bodies. What this highlights is that the Scottish Diaspora was fundamentally different from that of the Irish: the former was essentially cultural rather than political. In the case of New Zealand’s Scottish community, for example, cases of directed national rhetoric advocating Home Rule are few and far between. One such example, however, deserves consideration, being suggestive of the kinds of national ideas and arguments that found their way to Scots abroad.
Richard McCallum’s name, stated the New Zealand Truth in 1927, ‘implies something of a fine old “Hieland” strain’. And indeed, though born in Blenheim, Marlborough, in the South Island of New Zealand in 1863, McCallum developed a keen interest in things Scottish. Perhaps it was his father, Archibald McCallum, one of the pioneer settlers in the Wairau who hailed from Glasgow, who had instilled in his son a sense of Scottishness. McCallum junior thus composed a series of articles for the Marlborough Daily Times to explain what is meant by Home Rule for Scotland, and to assess ‘whether Scotland and her people would be benefited or injured by the concession of a National Parliament’. The premise of McCallum’s articles was that Scotland ‘has an existence as a nation . . . her national life and patriotic feelings of her inhabitants are as alive and intense to-day’ as they were before the Union. Commenting on the strength of Scottish nationality, citing Robert Burns and Sir Walter Scott in support, McCallum’s position was clear: Scotland had not been well treated in the Union, which thus should be revoked. ‘Surely’, his final article concluded, ‘enough has been said to convince the average colonist, blest with the right to manage his own affairs of every description, that Scotland would be practically benefi ted and relieved’ if it had its own Parliament again. Importantly, for McCallum and many of his compatriot propagators of Home Rule in Scotland itself, émigré Scots were important, first, as moral champions of the cause, and secondly, as potential suppliers of funds in support of the Home Rule campaign.
Do you consider yourself part of the Scottish Diaspora? Or perhaps you are a member of a Scottish society overseas? What are your thoughts?
[The above text is a slightly amended extract from chapter 7, '"Far Distant from their Native Land": Locating New Zealand in the Scottish Diaspora' from Scottish Ethnicity and the Making of New Zealand Society, 1850-1930.