The Scottish and English Divide: a single male Scot 'tells all'

Posted on April 16, 2009 by peacefulyorkshire

yahooavatar15On occasion us 3 American ladies at She’s Not From Yorkshire post interviews with random Brits. This week, Owen, a single (take note, single ladies, take note!) Scot gives us his opinions on the fabled  Scottish and English Divide– and  everything else from visiting England’s chippies to the Simpson’s…

Tell our lovely readers a little bit about yourself.

I am male, Scottish, and born and largely bred in Scotland -  I have recently started regularly visiting various English towns (several in the picturesque north-east) but also mainly London and the Midlands. Thus I may not be wholly typical of most Scots/English! I am a newly thirty-something, newly-turned homeowner (just pre-crunch), who is trying to find some drive to finally de-clutter all previously acquired possessions and rediscover youthful ambition in order to decide where I want to go in life – or to just confirm that I am happy plodding along in my new little house!

And your work?

I have a good job,  if a little lacking in prospects, but also outside interests which compete for my attention and I probably should organise both better!!

What is the main difference between the English and Scottish in attitudes (if there are any) from your point of view?

I believe stereotypes have some use and do exist to an extent though I realise the dangers of generalising too much!  I would say the English can be a bit “chipper” – if that’s correct, more up-beat, possibly more confident without a bevvy in them first – though that is not possibly wholly true.  The Scots can be very proud (as can the English) and certain sections can be noisy and boorish in equal measure!

How so?

The Scots are always the underdogs which possibly seems to cause them to give up in sporting events and on balance England has often been seen as superior in many things e.g. football, rugby and cricket.

I’ve heard that opinion from my English boyfriend, too.

But, that said, Scotland has given the world numerous inventions and can stand as proudly as England (perhaps more so – my history could do with brushing up!) in terms of the number of pioneering people and inventions originating somehow from Scotland.

Yes. Like the Alexander Graham Bell chap.

It might be worth noting that several pioneering Scots (e.g. John Muir) made their fortune in the Americas – either through voluntary emigration or perhaps earlier through forced emigration by clearances. It is not as black and white as English land-owners and red-haired bearded randy drunken Scotch Picts, however!  Several land-owners may well have been Scottish – there are also some divides between English north and south and Scots lowlanders and highlanders. Several, perhaps slightly anglicised, land-owners (possibly simply through having business interests in London rather than any particular English favouritism) may have been hard on their more native Scottish tenants.  Thus it is as always a complex picture.

Do you feel out of place when you are “Down South?

I don’t feel hugely out of place when south of the border – oddly I am possibly more British than Scottish (although I feel one ounce of guilt with that lack of Scottish-ness balanced by one ounce of it being perfectly reasonable to be British and a mistrust of blind nationalism.)

I am aware of being a Jock – however I have been called Scottish in England (not sure it matters so much in London – except for Scottish bank notes)  But significantly (and possibly due to a slight twang in my accent from my years in the Midlands) I have been called English when in Wick! (Wick can be a wild place on a Saturday night). I have however been considered to have a broad Scottish accent by a posh Liverpudlian girl so it all gets a bit confusing.

Give us an example.

I don’t really notice being a Jock in London – though I do notice it a bit more in other parts of England.  I was at a fish and chip shop in the Midlands last year and when asked about salt and vinegar I was taken by surprise (as if they don’t have salt and vinegar in England) and stammered out “aye, a wee bit” – since I was speaking to a more working class fish shop operative (ok they may have been a middle class student I suppose but it was the outskirts of this small town away from the college. Upon returning to my guests house I was given my order which was identified by “a wee bit” !

How about that Scottish money people always moan about accepting  in England?

On balance though I only really notice people occasionally pretending to complain about Scottish money… generally less so now.  Ironically that has only been an issue in London when I’ve dealt with foreign bar staff.  Doubly ironic given that the Prime Minister and Chancellor are both Sots – the point I always have ready to fire at them if they complain.

Why do you think that the English and Scots don’t get along?

There is a some degree of rivalry and mutual resentment/mistrust – most commonly however which appears thankfully only as light-hearted rivalry. I don’t think they seriously hate each other – not when considered intelligently – more likely there are isolated cases of racism towards other nationalities like ones I have sadly witnessed where I live in Glasgow. There is friendly rivalry although there are instances of more serious stuff but I think that is people’s nasty behaviour coming out with the Scottish-English thing rather than being inherently anti-English.

But how about you personally?

I can’t claim to be immune from a borderline racist slur (if just thought) but this is just a way of making the pain or frustration inflicted by the other person’s behaviour or bad driving seem less…

That said, any deep-seated subconscious resentment (which is hard to shake off over many generations) can be traced back to the Highland Clearances and attempts by the centres of power in the south to subjugate or whatever the heathen people of the north.

The subsiding of any justified bitterness has of course been hindered by things such as the Poll Tax experiments, perceptions of Scotland’s supposed oil being raided – (more likely by Norwegian, American and other companies than England!) – and last but not least the Scots’ ability to wallow in sentimental self-pity! Look at the portrayal of the Scots in the Simpsons – it’s not that far off!

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(If you have missed previous interviews in our interview series, you can click here .)

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What Others Are Saying

  1. colin whelbourn December 2, 2010 at 3:55 pm

    regarding scottish banknotes in England :- Every scottish bank as it”s own banknote and viewed
    with superstition because of forgeries not because not anti scottish.

  2. ♥ Angel ♥ Dazzle Me July 29, 2010 at 10:25 am

    Hey Andy! :) Don’t get discouraged… Trust that moving to another country is a headache- I have panic attacks when I think about all I need to do to make the move… :/ Sounds like you had a rough childhood… Sorry to hear that. :( We all go through trying times in our life- the darkest part of night always comes before the light. The best year of my life was subsequently followed by the worse… To me sounds like a bit of depression which makes it hard to see the light and only the bad things are thought of… A horrid self perpetuating cycle… I feel like I have ruined a lot of things as well, but you can always turn things around- even though it is not always easy. I see it everyday. Never give up. Hang in there. :)

  3. Andy July 23, 2010 at 4:28 am

    I think it is hardest for people like me who never chose to live in Scotland, who were brought up to Scotland as kids, involuntarily.

    I was brought up to Scotland when I barely three but still have a strong Southern English accent to this day and have suffered because of that, my whole life for it. I think my life has been completely ruined through Scottish racism and even now I am still too poor to escape this country.

    I hope Scotland does get Independent so that perhaps naive English parents will be less likely to bring their children up to Scotland to suffer a miserable childhood like I did.

    I think the only way I will escape Scotland is to kill myself, I am beginning to give up on a future and hope.

  4. Steve Shawcross September 29, 2009 at 8:58 pm

    Julie has a good point there.

    Many Scots have a “Braveheart” mentality these days I find, arguably spurned on by the success of the SNP. This dislike of the English has always been there (especially in places such as Glasgow, but they hate everyone there!)– however I think it’s got worse in recent years.

    I accept the English haven’t always been nice to the Scots, but I don’t it gives the Scots any right to react in kind. With PC being what it is, English being rude to the Scots is ‘disallowed’, whereas the reverse is not– almost encouraged (the same can be said of the Welsh and the English).

    I’ve heard a few Scots trot out that old chestnut: “I don’t hate the English/some of my best friends are English, but…”, before blustering something that would not endear you to English and sounds a lot like hatred to any sane person.

    Leaving aside debates of devolution/Scottish independence, it would be much better if the Scots and the English could learn to get on, since we do largely live on the same landmass!

  5. Julie September 27, 2009 at 10:28 pm

    I wouldn’t say it was lighthearted, actually. Being English, I have, unfortunately been subjected to many racist incidents over the years because I live in Edinburgh. These included people shouting anti-English songs in a pub I was in, and being shouted at because of “my annoying English accent” when I was shopping in a supermarket with my toddler son. To the credit of the store security guard, the guy was thrown out of the store as soon as I mentioned it, but the damage was done. I went home feeling mortified & humiliated.

  6. Michelloui April 21, 2009 at 11:55 am

    Interesting post! I get the Sassenach pov in my living room everytime England play Scotland in rugby!! But yes, it is definitely light hearted.

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