Tartan blood and Scottish independence – BBC News

<figure class=”media-landscape” no-caption full-width lead”> Image copyright Sandy Bell’s

The Scottish Government has published a bill outlining provisional plans for another referendum on Scottish independence, plans which some believe coincide with a renewed sense of Scotland’s separate identity.

There are pubs where they play music and then there are pubs where music takes a more prominent role. Sometimes, however, there are pubs where drinking seems almost a sideline to the main business of musical appreciation.

Walking into Sandy Bell’s in Edinburgh, you feel it sits very firmly in the latter category. Long a focus for the Scottish traditional music scene, recent years have seen more performances, bigger audiences and some very talented players. And as far as many are concerned, that tells you something about Scotland today.

“There’s more pride in Scotland generally,” says Archie, a smiling accordion player from Skye. “You’ll get pubs that used to be trendy pubs, with CDs playing, and now they have folk music sessions.”

<figure class=”media-landscape” no-caption full-width”> Image copyright Sandy Bell’s

For Sam, who plays violin, it’s a particular source of pride that so many visitors from abroad now seem captivated by the melodies of her native land.

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“You’ve got tourists from Canada, Australia, America, Japan, China. I’ve always liked this sort of music. It does make me feel like I’m celebrating being Scottish.”

In a week when Scotland’s First Minister unveiled plans for a possible second referendum on independence, the strength of nationalist sentiment has usually been gauged by polls.

And much to the frustration of Ms Sturgeon’s Scottish National Party, support for independence has barely budged from the 45% who voted for it in the previous referendum of 2014.

<figure class=”media-landscape” has-caption full-width”> Image copyright Reuters

Image caption Henry McLeish: “We’re more internationalist, we’re more open to immigration”

Yet many believe that Scots now have a far stronger sense of their country’s distinct identity, a sentiment that polls seem to miss.

Among them is Henry McLeish, the Labour First Minister of Scotland from 2001-02, who extols what he believes are Scotland’s particular qualities.

“We’re more internationalist, we’re more open to immigration,” he says.

It is the Brexit vote and its aftermath that has done more than anything else to shift his opinion. The majority of Scots voted to remain in the European Union, in contrast to the UK vote to leave.

“I was a diehard unionist. Politics has changed, I’ve had my Britishness squeezed out of me. It’s more in sorrow than in anger that I am ready to say that I could support an independent Scotland.”

<figure class=”media-landscape” has-caption full-width”> Image copyright Toby Williams

Image caption Michelle Ferguson: “I now feel that if I had to fill in a form, I would have to say I am Scottish”

Michelle Ferguson is not sorry about her increasingly strong sense of being Scottish, but it has come as something of a surprise.

Once an employee of a large multinational, she used to live in London and described herself as British. But Michelle has now become managing director of a social enterprise, St Andrews First Aid Supplies and Training, which ploughs all its profits back into the local community.

The experience seems to have changed her sense of identity, as much as her attitude to business.

“Here in Scotland, people really want to make a difference, it’s not all about the big bucks,” she says. “I now feel that if I had to fill in a form I would have to say I am Scottish.”

Michelle does not want to say whether she voted for Scottish independence, nor whether she would do so in the event of another referendum. And the fact is that whatever resurgence of Scottish pride there may be, the Scottish National Party has so far failed to capitalise on it.

But then the Party has always been keen to emphasise the alleged economic benefits of independence, rather than playing the identity game and appealing to voters’ “tartan blood”.

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Image caption Ben Macpherson: “Scotland is an increasingly more confident country than when I was a child.”

“A vote for independence should not just be about how we feel, although that is important,” says Ben Macpherson, an SNP Member of the Scottish Parliament, representing Edinburgh North and Leith.

Yet pushed on the issue, Macpherson agrees with the suggestion of growing national self-awareness, and hints that it might help his cause.

“Scotland is an increasingly more confident country than when I was a child. More and more, Scotland is starting to understand that Scotland is ready to govern itself.”

Read more: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-37732013

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