Today’s exploding levels of human mobility and migration have brought the term ‘diaspora’ into the lexicon of nations all across the globe including of course our own Scottish diaspora. It was the nation of Israel that really put the idea of a national diaspora on the map and until relatively recently, has dominated the field of national diaspora relationships since the Jewish exile to Babylon in 586 B.C..
Of course it is key to remember that each nation’s diaspora is an animal unto itself, existing within its own unique history, present and relationship with the Homeland and with various host countries. The history of the Jewish state and the approach of Jews to their nation does much to explain why Israel has worked so early and so hard and spent so many resources to create and nourish a longterm relationship with the Jewish diaspora.
Not every nation has displayed the inherent understanding of the nature and value of its diaspora as Israel has. It might be argued that Scotland is one nation that does share relevant similarities with Israel concerning diaspora matters. To be sure, both nations possess an ancient but functioning cultural and community structure that in some ways supersedes political loyalty to the Homeland nation itself and inserts bonds with other Jewish/Scottish people above actual national patriotism. In Israel that super-bond is religion. In Scotland it is the ancient clan and family system.
Again, while it might be argued that modern Scotland has largely abandoned the bonds of the clan tradition, the Scottish diaspora most decidedly has not and the clan and family tradition fuels an extraordinary diaspora loyalty and affection towards Scots in Scotland and Scottish heritage assets. It is in part this dusty stubborn old relationship that is almost completely external to modern Scottish nationhood that keeps Scotland alive in the hearts of so many Scots. It is to the bond of long time Jewish ancestral emigrants with their ancestral homeland of Israel based on the transnational Jewish religion.
Comparative study of Jewish and Scots diasporas is quite a bit beyond the scope of this blog. But having seen as much as we have seen, we have developed a keen interest in the nuts and bolts of Jewish diaspora strategy. The Israeli diaspora strategy is broad and complex and includes many really creative and bold programs to boost diaspora engagement. A few in particular caught our eye.
Taglit – Birthright Israel has been called one of the most successful diaspora projects in the world and was created out the need to continue and preserve Jewish culture and heritage. Taglit – Birthright brings Jewish young people, aged 18 – 26 to Israel for 10 days. Research has shown that 10 days in Israel is more effective at instilling Jewish pride and heritage than 5 years in a Jewish school. The scope of the program is grand and it has brought tens of thousands of young people to Israel to participate in programs and itineraries designed by the best and brightest Israeli educators, academics and tourism professionals. Not only has the program found phenomenal success in creating legions of young ambassadors for Jewish culture and heritage, it has also been a significant boost to Israeli tourism sector.
Diaspora Bonds are debt instruments issued by a country to raise financing from its diaspora. Again, Israel – and India – have maximized a tool that has created a stable and cheap source of external finance for the homeland while allowing members of the diaspora to deepen its relationship with its homeland. In Scotland’s case, it might be interesting to explore whether a similar tool might be crafted to help Scotland’s somewhat struggling historic heritage protection organizations.
The point of this sort of exploration is to identify promising tools that Scotland and its diaspora might use together to fulfill some of the needs of both. The experience of other nations with broad based and comprehensive diaspora strategies is encouraging and the unique nature of Scotland’s diaspora points to great opportunities for success. The absolute first principle, however, must be a more broadly welcoming posture by Scotland toward its ancestral diaspora. While the nuts and bolts of what works for each diaspora and homeland differ, the once constant in those nations that have found success has been a genuine realization by the homeland of the value of a loyal and affectionate global diaspora family.
Much of the information that I have drawn upon here has been sourced in a rockin’ little resource called The Global Diaspora Strategies Toolkit. It is available for free download at DiasporaMatters.com. If the subject of a fresh Scottish diaspora strategy is even a little bit interesting to you, check it out. Crafting a new Scottish diaspora policy will not be a thing finished in a week or a month or even perhaps a year. So do what you can to keep up with the dialogue – it is, after all, all about you.