Just When You Thought Nobody Was Watching: Does the Scottish Diaspora have an image problem in Scotland?

A few editions back, Planet COSCA.Scot included a swell little article on the December party at Holyrood Palace hosted by the Standing Council of Scottish Chiefs aiming to connect with and energize the Chiefly heirs so they will be ready to assume all of those important tasks that their fathers and mothers, the hereditary leaders of many clans and families, perform year to year. We published Sir Malcolm MacGregor’s guest blog post about the event on the COSCA.Scot website. The post and the article were almost universally positively received because the Diaspora knows how important the ancient relationship between Chief and clan is and most folks are well aware that we are working hard to rebuild a twisted and broken tradition. Today we are seeking to build a relationship that truly works in the interests of contemporary Scotland and her millions of ancestral emigrant families wherever they are found.

Yet in a particularly angry and bitter reminder of the fact that not everyone is looking through the same lens and seeing the same uplifting picture, a couple of Scottish bloggers have given us a very generous heads up that we may have some work to do vis a vis the Scottish Ancestral Diaspora’s image in Scotland. As an example, a recent post by ‘phoenix45.org’, entitled “Scottish Feudal Council Meets In Holyrood”, paints what can only be described as a really poorly informed caricature of what the Standing Council of Scottish Chiefs is about today and what the actual – not imagined – Scottish clan and family tradition has represented throughout the broad span of history.

Ironic as it is, here we find a politically active otherwise tolerably well informed group of Scots making up personal constructs about how things went down in Scottish history and how they are today and acting on those fantasies in much the same way that those very same blokes accuse we Scottish Americans of performing at our beloved Scottish festivals and games. Over at www.phoenix45 they failed to adhere to Mark Twain’s sage advice of ‘write about what you know’ and they look a bit silly now because of it. They write as if they are outsiders looking in to the world of Scottish ancestral heritage. That in itself is a great tragedy because most are likely the current expression of their own deeply Scottish heritage – whether they like it or not. Scotland has so much going for it today but a nation that is afraid of its own history cannot be expected to reach great heights.

The truth is that today’s Standing Council of Scottish Chiefs is made of up a collection of men and women – together with their own families – many of whom admirably recognize and accept the very ancient hereditary bond between chief and clan, family head and family, and who are willing and able to try to discharge at least some of the responsibilities that we and history heap upon them. While the SCSC includes some of the wealthiest and most influential men and women in the UK, it also includes a gardener, a viking researcher, a tour guide, inn keepers, an educator and many others who, in the midst of their very normal lives, agree to fill the shoes of family leader for ancestral tribes that now criss cross the globe. They do what they can according to their abilities and many of those with big time financial ability have given wonderful service for their clans and families in some cases in silent reparation for past transgressions. There are those, especially in the maligned ‘heirs’ group, who want to do more.

As we embrace the Chiefs, the Scottish Ancestral Diaspora also embraces all Scots who share our heritage, willingly or not. We prefer to fill our gap of understanding by getting to know each other better. The Scottish American Diaspora is simply not one huge monolithic hoard of big talkin’ cowboys with flashy suits and horns on Cadillacs. There are 49 other states in America and Scottish folks are always surprised by the diversity in our Scottish American ethnicity.

Some of us are on this side of the political spectrum and some of us sit on the opposite side of the stadium. Many folks these days don’t even show up at the game of homegrown American politics. There is, however, a keen and growing interest in what is happening in contemporary Scotland among the ancestral Scottish Diaspora. Views about contemporary Scottish politics are all over the board within the community and admittedly, many Scottish Americans suffer from a frustrating inability to get much news from Scotland easily. COSCA is doing our best to bridge the media ocean between our two countries. We understand that the BBC does not speak for all of Scotland and we are eager to embrace strong alternative news resources in order to hear the full width and breadth of Scottish contemporary ideas and events.

We invite everyone in Scotland to get to know their distant cousins better. Give us a go with an open mind. If you still think the Scottish Parliament should quickly throw up an atmospheric Diaspora shield across all of Scotland, at least we can say we tried. But we still won’t go away. We love you.

3 responses to “Just When You Thought Nobody Was Watching: Does the Scottish Diaspora have an image problem in Scotland?”

  1. Tom Urquhart says:

    I am a Scot, living in Scotland and I too sometimes wonder where some of my fellow Scots are coming from. I like so many others here, have a family that due to various reason (the usual ones) have been spread all over the world. Am I to ignore their existence and their loyalty to their former Homeland – I think not.
    Part of the USA diaspora also contains the family of our present Chief and his family. The Chiefs father was a great Historian, his knowledge of American History was great – his knowledge of Scottish History put most of us Home Scots to shame.
    He started work that saw a lot of beneficial work being done in his ancestral Homeland, work that is being carried forward today by his son.
    Should we refuse their help? Of course not, without it, there would be a great loss both in knowledge, friendship and of course I have to say in money as well.
    Through our Clan Association I have managed to meet many of my fellow Clansfolk – some of them relatives, who otherwise I probably never have known.
    The enthusiasm of the diaspora is something that has to be acknowledged and cherished. I for one am filled with pride when I think of the many millions of us who are spread throughout the world. I do know this is also appreciated by the Scottish Government. It would be rather daft Politicians who ignored the SERIOUS amount of money that the diaspora inject into our Treasury every year. I know for fact they appreciate your efforts greatly.
    So, more power to your elbow COSCA – keep up the good work, it honestly is appreciated by the people who really matter…
    Tom Urquhart Seanachaidh. Clan Urquhart.

  2. Cindy James says:

    It matters not what others think of our Scot-American family. We know who we are. Our large families were born into Scottish Presbyterian churches, raised on Gaelic music, told that we are grandchildren of loving and strong clan families. We were raised on the idea that families and honor come before anything. We speak with Scots and Gaelic words and phrases and honor Scottish tradition. Many of my families were forced to leave their homeland and now we are their diaspora in Ohio, North Carolina and Pennsylvania USA. With all the immigration occurring in Scotland over the last one-hundred years, are we really any less “pure”? Is being Scottish only a border definition or a cultural one? My 1st, 2nd and 3rd great-grandparent’s names are Cameron of Lochiel, McKee, Wood, Witherspoon, Gaddis, Akens, Ace, Pollack, Sutherland and Graham – good Scottish names. I have cousins who remain in Scotland who still keep in touch. We are Scottish-American and we love Scotland. There are thousands like us here and in Canada and Australia. To ignore Scottish diaspora would be foolhearty. What a financial support base for Scotland we all could be!

  3. Geordie Manuel says:

    I notice that Phoenix45 hasn’t had a post on his FB page since December of last year. In any event people who don’t care where they came from probably haven’t a clue where they are going. New Scotland, my part of the diaspora, has a larger percentage of native Gaelic speakers than Scotland. Scottish dances and dialects from our province in Canada have had to repatriated to the “homeland” as they were lost back in Scotland. The question should not be whether the Scots have a problem with the Diaspora but whether the Diaspora should have a problem with the Scots.

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