Sunday, 10 October 2010
*)I should make it clear that whenI mention "race" I am not referring to the topic of "Anyone But England", i.e. some spurious and pathetic tribal rivalry on the football terrace. I mean visibly defineable characteristics which might induce prejudicial reactions from the locally prevalent majority. ('differance')
Living in Scotland is in many ways like living in a post-war society (dilapidation, social deprivation, poor housing, visible poverty, widespread health problems due to various forms of malnutrition etc.) But what makes living there very strange, unreal and out of touch with present times, is the almost exclusive white make-up of the population. Why is it that a whole part of Britain is ethnically/racially un-mixed?
"It is well known that black and ethnic minority communities in Scotland are faced with various problems such as: under representation, institutional racism, lack of coordination, lack of resources and disadvantages at various levels (health, housing, employment and education). This is coupled by a lack of understanding about the diversity of the black and ethnic minority communities in Scotland and lack of effective consultation and research work."
This is a quote from a Scottish Government publication.
I lived in Scotland for exactly one year. Time enough to be an observer. The government has obviously got the right (-on) intentions. No shortage, in fact a barrage, of well-meaning bumf, just like on every other issue (alcoholism, obesity, anti-smoking) so on race. But where are the people they are actually talking about? Where are blacks, the people from the Indian sub-continent? Where is anybody who's not white? Simple answer: Not there.
98.19% of Scotland is white. The biggest ethnic group are Pakistanis (0.63%) Blacks constitute a whopping 0.16% of the Scottish population. When you live there, you do not come across non-white people in your daily life. There was one black cashier at M&S, I remember that, in no other shop did I ever see a non-white person working (or shopping, for that matter.) I had some insight into the creative industry - to the best of my knowledge, there was no non-white person working in advertising or PR in Edinburgh (The capital, as well as the capital of the creative industry.) Of the 47 members of the SNP in Holyrood not a single one is from a non-white background.
Despite the constant barrage of well-intended (and taxpayer-funded) government declaration on racial equality, I cannot see this happening very easily. Otherness of any kind is met with total disapproval in Scottish society. It can only be remedied by total and complete adoption of anything Scottish. Neutrality is not allowed. Scottish supremacy would have to be reiterated at any opportunity, not as a one-off lipservice, but for ever, at all times. Scottish speech patterns and habits would have to be religiously adhered to. Any outsider is pressurised into that sort of behaviour. The issue of skin-colour would, however, remain and woud, in my experience, be insurmountable. In a middle-class environment it might just about be conceivable - at the price of being totally ignored, blanked and unintegrated. What would happen if a black person moved to one of the estates which are exclusively white-Scottish, and where national "pride" is the only currency, is open to debate.
Based on my observations and insights in Scotland, I can unfortunately not come up with an encouraging and workable model for racial integration. Even constant government reminders (in the form of adverts, admonition, factsheets, flyers etc.) will not break through the passive stone-walling of a society where any outsider is still met with suspicion and potential aggression.