Nationalist undercurrent to Alex Salmond’s jamboree
The marketing of Homecoming Scotland 2009 reaches out to far-flung nationalists while ignoring the millions of Scots settled in England
In 2009, Scotland is to stage a year-long homecoming. Edinburgh will host the largest ever Highland games at 'The Gathering' in July, there's a lantern procession through the streets of Dumfries on Burns Night - it's the 250th anniversary of his birth on January 25 - and a calendar full of pipe bands, 'whisky-related events' and golf.
With five times as many people with Scottish roots living outside Scotland as the five million who live in it, the idea is to coax home this vast global diaspora and bring in the tourist dollars. They're after £40m.
But in practice, the marketing for Homecoming Scotland 2009 has largely been aimed only at America, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, where there's an advertising partnership with National Geographic.
In these English-speaking countries, large numbers of Scots-descended people have ties to Caledonian Clubs and such like, very often with nationalist tendencies. As the word is being put out through their newsletters, email newsgroups and so on, only people who move in those politicised circles are being told about Alex Salmond's jamboree.
There is a website, with a helpful Gaelic translation, but no one who has not already heard of the homecoming would ever find it. Indeed, that seems to be the idea. The several European flags at the top of it, including the Union Flag, link only to versions of the main Visit Scotland site in the corresponding languages.
When I asked about the online campaign, Leon Thompson, the Homecoming's Corporate Affairs Manager, told me that they were promoting "the message" in "Brunei, China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, South Africa and the Middle East."
Do white activists on guilt trips not like the idea of having black relatives?
I wasn't sure why. Apart from South Africa, none of those countries has any significant Scots-descended population. How many MacGregors are there in Hanoi? On the other hand, nobody has promoted this homecoming to the enormous number of Scots-descended West Indians. Thompson merely said that "the online campaign is reaching out right across the globe", which tends to be what happens with the World Wide Web.
Obviously, non-white people from Brunei and Korea who merely like whisky are one thing, but non-white people who might be family are clearly quite another. Do white activists on guilt trips simply not like the idea of having black relatives?
There are five million Scots-born people in England, as many as the entire population of Scotland. But they, along with the Unionist Scots-Irish of Northern Ireland, have also been neglected. If this homecoming were what it claims to be, then there would be adverts all over the national media. But the publicity team are waiting until after Burns Night to show their Caledonia advert in Ulster and London.
I'm half-Scottish, live in County Durham and only know about the homecoming by chance, from a close relative living north of the border. Scotland's disowned children are being completely ignored. That is rather hurtful. ·
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