The Scotsman, Dave Maddox and reality: is there any connection?

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By Dave Taylor

Obviously Maddox and the Scotsman are connected.  They pay his salary, and he writes ‘news’ pieces which slavishly follow its political stance.  Any connection with reality, however, is less clear.

Some of you may have seen his article published in the Scotsman on 2 January 2012, in which he informs us in dramatic terms:

 

By Dave Taylor

Obviously Maddox and the Scotsman are connected.  They pay his salary, and he writes ‘news’ pieces which slavishly follow its political stance.  Any connection with reality, however, is less clear.

Some of you may have seen his article published in the Scotsman on 2 January 2012, in which he informs us in dramatic terms:

“A declining proportion of people north of the Border class themselves as Scots, with fewer than four-fifths expected to say they are ‘Scottish’ by the time an independence referendum takes place.

Over the past decade there has been a drop to 81.5 per cent from 88.1 per cent in those who describe themselves as white Scottish in ethnic or cultural background, responses to the Scottish Household Survey show.

At the same time there has been a rise of one-third in the number of people who describe themselves as white ‘other British’ or white ‘English’ – a group that now accounts for 11.7 per cent of those living in Scotland.”

He then goes on to suggest that these “non-Scots” will affect the referendum result.

Now any decent journalist, and I have no criticism of Maddox’s skill in the use of language, can spin a story in any direction they like, so I did a little bit of digging to discover the underlying reality.

His numbers are correct.  They come from the Scottish Household Survey report published on 17 August 2011.  The figures relate to 2009/10, which Maddox doesn’t mention – clearly his definition of “news” and mine are somewhat different.

Also he fails to report what the question asked in the survey actually was.  I can enlighten him on this.  It was “How would you describe your cultural or ethnic background?”  The possible categories were:

  • White: Scottish, English, Welsh, Northern Irish, Other British, Irish, Other European, Other White
  • Any Mixed Background
  • Asian, Asian Scottish, Asian British
  • Black, Black Scottish, Black British
  • Other Ethnic Background

The distortions that Maddox introduces in his article are clear.  He implies that ethnic background will determine a person’s view on Scotland’s future and that the fact a person has chosen to live in this country doesn’t matter.  

On that basis, my son, now an American citizen, would be so Scottish that he would be desperately seeking to reverse American Independence and renew its colonial status.

Maddox also ignores the fact that a non-Scottish person’s children, grandchildren or spouse may very well describe their cultural or ethnic background as Scottish.  A first generation migrant in Scotland is unlikely to describe their background as “Scottish”, but their children who are born and brought up in Scotland are quite likely to do so.  

Maddox ignores the Asian and Black communities entirely, and implicitly suggests that supporting independence is a matter only for white people with Scottish ancestry.  Of course, I’m not suggesting that Maddox is a racist.  Simply pointing out that he wants to portray independence supporters in that way.

Strangely, he specifically includes “white English” in his comment.  While that was certainly an option for those surveyed to select, it wasn’t actually reported by the SHS – they combined all the “other British” into a single grouping when reporting them as 11.7% of the Scottish population.

Naturally, he gives no source for his assertion that “fewer than four-fifths expected to say they are “Scottish” by the time an independence referendum takes place.”  What difference would that make anyway?  Newsnet has already described the welcome growth in the Scottish population due to inward immigration from other parts of the UK and further afield [notwithstanding the recent correction of the net positive numbers – 30,000 instead of 100,000].

Some of those coming to Scotland from elsewhere in the UK will have had a Scottish “background”.  Most probably won’t.  What does it matter?  

Our vision for Scotland is inclusive.  It doesn’t matter where you came from.  If your future is here, then you are one of us.  That’s the reality Maddox seeks to deny.