British vs. English/Scottish/etc. Identity

I was surprised to find out that Tony Blair is Scottish, not English. Nothing about Blair strikes me as being particularly Scottish, in particular his accent. So what makes him Scottish? Does he live in Scotland? Does his family live in Scotland? If he spends the rest of his life in England and his children essentially live in England, will they still be considered Scottish?

Do Scots hold their heads higher at the thought that the British government is headed by a fellow Scot? I know Texans are very proud to be able to claim the U.S. president as their own (well, the ones who agree with him anyway).

Is English vs. Scottish identity even relevant any more? Is everyone becoming British? Or is it perhaps that for a certain class of people, like Blair, British identity overshadows the other identities?

As Jonathan Miller might put it, Blair isn’t Scottish so much as Scottish.

The case for saying that he is Scottish is that his father was Scottish, he himself was born in Edinburgh and he attended school in Edinburgh. The case against is that he spent much of the rest of his childhood in England, the school he went to in Edinburgh, Fettes, ‘the Scottish Eton’, has all the wrong social connotations for most Scots and he has had no obvious connection with Scotland since he left it.

Now, in fairness to him, he has rarely tried to claim that he is Scottish. But that may be mainly because his immediate predecessor as Labour leader (John Smith)and his heir apparent (Gordon Brown) were/are both obviously Scottish in a way that he is not. So there’s not much political mileage for him in pretending otherwise.

Nobody generally thinks of Blair as Scottish. Most people probably don’t even know that he his background is north of the border. You’re spot on with the class issue - that he’s a middle-class privately-educated lawyer is far more important than his birthplace.

And on a more general level, no, people are not ‘becoming British’. Both Scottish and Welsh identities are as strong as ever, with nationalist parties in both nations having a real presence. Of course, things get more complicated with ethnic minorities, with young black people in particular more often opting to self-identify as simply ‘British’.

Eek, NO! :eek:

I’m English but consider all terms such as British, English, European, Scottish, American et al meaningless. We are all human beings (most of us anyway!)

My parents would say they are “proud to be English”. Some people living in cornwall, England say “we’re Cornish not English”.

The English are, of course, superior to the Scottish and vice versa, depending on where you were born and the rubbish your family/friends/society indoctrinated you with.

Right wing tabloid newspapers might refer to Blair/Brown as a Scottish mafia intent on destroying England.

The English (and all other nationalities, of course) will often despise and look down on people in regions of the country that they never visit. Thus people living in the South of England will often make pathetic commnets about people living in the north of england: brummies, scousers, mancs, geordies

Of course, these groups themselves love to look down on other groups/regions and feel “proud” of their own little part of the country.

Patriotism: The belief in a countries specialness because you happened to have been born there.

Ethnically, the British were the Brythonic Celts living in the area south of the Cheviots and east of Cornwall/Devon, most of whom were evicted or absorbed by the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes in the period 450-700 AD except in Wales and Cumbria. In that sense, it’s equivalent to Welsh today.

However, the modern usage is a resident of the island of Great Britain, including the English, Cornish, Welsh, and Scots.

‘The rule is: if we’ve done anything good, it’s “another triumph for Great Britain” and if we haven’t, it’s “England loses again”.’

The English, the English, the English are best / I wouldn’t give tuppence for all of the rest.

…plus half of Northern Ireland

When travelling it can be useful to stress that you are Welsh or Scottish to distance yourself from ‘English’ policy in the same way a Canadian makes clear they aren’t American. (This is possible as many countries/languages use ‘England’ as a cover all term and don’t understand what makes up the UK.)

The ‘British’ idea is a strange one - for me 9 times out of 10 I’m say I’m British, which I am - half Welsh, half English (unless I’m In Ireland when I magically become just Welsh :wink: ) . For previous generations, including my father who was punished at school for speaking Welsh, they were British first and foremost with ‘regional’ loyalties coming second. But then there were often confilcts/wars to bind them together against a common enemy. The strength of nationalist feelings in the Celtic nations has been growing noticably over the past twenty years or so and despite what their passport says a Scot is a Scot and a Welshman welsh. Regional accents are no longer seen as a handicap tp getting on in life freeing you to be true to your roots. These days, as Gorillaman said, you are most likely to see ‘Britsh’ when refering to the children of immigrant parents, so you might hear “…the British Asian boxer…” “young Black Britons …” etc. although I’m not sure if this is more common in England.

I’ve spent a lot of time in Germany, where “english” and “british” are interchangable.

I tended not to notice, but my welsh friends certainly did.

My girlfriend is welsh and is proud of it, but it’s only a factor during the Six Nations rugby tournament.

One effect of the increasing levels of national identification by the welsh and scottish is that the english are forced to become more aware of themselves as a separate nation.

The flag of St George is much more prevalent these days that 10 years ago, particularly during sporting events.

If it ever came to pass that scotland and wales abandoned the english language, that would create a much more powerful sense of english identity. As it is, with everyone in the british isles speaking english, it’s not suprising that the rest of the world confuse “england” with “britain”.

e-logic illustrates the point beautifully -

  • the friends perceived it as an insult / slight / show of ignorance or laziness. He, being English, didn’t - though I’m pretty sure he’d have noticed if he’d been mislabelled, as a Scot say ! (Thank you for letting me use you as an example - & can I say you have a great taste in grilfriends ;)).

(Mind you in his defence I was surprised a Colombian friend got so upset about most of the world using ‘American’ to mean people from the US.)

Interesting point about the English feeling a lack of identity tho’, with so many people crowded into such a small space there isn’t the sense of solidarity you get with smaller nations; the Southerners hate the Northerners, the Scouses hate the Mancunians, the Yorshire folk don’t like the Lancashire folk, everyone knows Brummies sound stupid etc. etc.