The Scots, it seems, have a problem of bigotry...
JOHN MACLEOD: The ugly truth about the Scots and our shameful anti-English bigotry
By John Macleod, SCOTTISH DAILY MAIL
14th January 2009
The romantic, Hollywood version of Scotland could not be any further from the truth
Early on Friday morning, Lucy Newman - a 22-year old beauty therapist - was wending her way down Union Street in central Aberdeen, heading with a friend to catch a bus home.
Chatting, they passed two men; and Lucy was suddenly startled by a roar - 'Get back to ******* England - English *******.'
She whipped round to stare, and it was then he hit her - not a slap, but a full-blown, hate-fuelled haymaker of a punch that sent her sprawling on the road.
The thug walked calmly away. Lucy was taken to hospital with two black eyes, a broken cheekbone and nerves severed behind her eye. She was so battered and bloody her mother, dashing in horror to Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, found her unrecognisable: doctors think she may need facial reconstructive surgery.
Lucy Newman, who was punched in the face by a stranger during an alleged anti-English attack, may need reconstructive surgery
Lucy Newman was not drunk. She was not provocative. She had not engaged anyone in argument. She was just walking - and, for an overheard snatch of conversation in the wrong voice, was almost casually smashed to the ground.
Ironically, she isn't even very English. Born in Cheltenham, Lucy's parents came to live in Scotland when she was four and - save in relaxed, convivial circumstances - she has largely lost her original accent.
Yet, supposing she had been striding through the city centre in twin-set and pearls, braying away in the loud majesty of Margaret Thatcher about - oh, Aga recipes. Supposing she had been a tall fair young man in Barbour jacket and green wellies, his tones no less Anglo-Saxon.
No one deserves to be sworn at, or insulted on the street, and nothing save desperate self-defence can justify such assault.
Sadly, the odds of Lucy Newman's attacker ever being identified far less convicted, are remote. And - worse - this is no isolated incident. Indeed, Aberdeen - restless, bustling, oil-rich, with thousands of men from all over Scotland milling about on their way to or from the North Sea - has rather a reputation for this sort of thing.
Reports of racist incidents in the city are rising at a rate of about 5 per cent a year - mostly abuse of Africans, Asians and Eastern Europeans. But in rural Aberdeenshire there is, according to a grim official, significant 'anti-English feeling'.
Last year there were 429 racially aggravated incidents in the Granite City - 25 of them against English people. There were only 122 in the wider county, but 29 victims were English.
2006 - with the World Cup and all its attendant, boorish emotion - was an especially bad year. Early in July a 29-year-old man was beaten up by a gang for the enormous crime of wearing an England polo-shirt.
Not a fortnight earlier a retired, disabled postman was hauled from his car and hammered; he, too, had sported an England top. So, too did seven-year old Hugo Clapshaw, out with his Dad in an Edinburgh park. A young man ran up, whacked him on the head and hit and taunted his father, sneering that the child should be wearing a Scotland shirt.
It's easy to shudder and to turn the page, to distance ourselves from such goings-on, to take consolation in our own disinterest in the vulgarities of Association football and refusal ever to resort to physical violence.
But there is much wider, softer, even smiling anti-English prejudice about in the new Scotland and, indeed as great, shared national experiences like the Second World War recede further from public consciousness the phenomenon is growing.
It is occasionally fuelled by irresponsible politicians. The Scottish National Party has happily moved on from the Dark Ages of the 1980s, when no blistering conference speech was complete without a jibe at the enormities of an 'English Tory government'.
But there is little doubt that the antics of that ocean-going balloon, Jack McConnell, in 2006 did significant damage. The First Minister noisily refused to support England in the World Cup when a smarter man would have refused to make any comment whatsoever on a matter of such ineffable unimportance. This fed into an unfortunate narrative eagerly reported by the London press.
Andy Murray's Wimbledon outing was clouded by fatuous 'anybody but England' comments on his website. Some Glasgow bars advertised a free drink for every goal Beckham and chums managed to concede in a match.
Scottish sports shops quickly ran out of Trinidad and Tobago strips (an early English opponent) and one shop near Dundee even offered a free golf ball to any customer who appeared in one.
Sixty chartered surveyors from England promptly cancelled a two-day Scottish conference after McConnell's whining and in yet another outbreak of hooliganism three bedroom windows were smashed at a Coatbridge house because the occupier had the temerity to display the England flag.
Now one could hedge and qualify. Drunken weekend assaults on entire strangers are tragically common and, considering that around 10 per cent of our population is English-born, the proportion of reported attacks is actually very low.
But then I remember a colleague who, accompanying his expectant wife for an antenatal scan, was genuinely disturbed when the midwive said coolly, 'Poor wee thing - and her Daddy's English too.'
Or, indeed, how I felt myself when a ghastly man in tartan trews wagged a finger in my face at the Scottish Press Awards and chuckled, 'Watch the whisky! We've all heard about Highlanders.'
Or, much more gravely, the Edinburgh schoolboy who was quietly murdered, in a most respectable suburb, around a decade ago by young louts who heard his middle-class tones and assumed he was English. He was not, in fact, English, but he is no less dead.
This, truly, is Scotland's shame - a prejudice much more widespread, insidious and dangerous than our averred Protestant bigotry - and, ironically, it seems to have grown steadily worse under devolution, when we have less grounds for resentment than ever.
It is facile, besides, to blame it on recent political history, such as the long Conservative government of Thatcher and Major whose touch on Scottish affairs was at times woeful, or the supposed colonial arrogance of many English incomers.
But the real problem is the infantile Scottish male culture, fueled by an irresponsible booze and leisure industry and which somehow mirrors our weird immaturity as a country.
Our little land itself seems stuck in a resentful adolescence. There is in fact no good reason why we could not take charge of our own affairs. Scotland is one of the richest nations in the world, replete with natural resources, some significant industries and a great deal of human talent.
But it is much more fun to stay in the Union, whine and moan, and blame the English for everything. And, just to complicate matters still further, the very emblems of that Union - for which a strong case can yet be made - are themselves increasingly distrusted by other neuroses.
In 2003 Glasgow City Council declared neither the Union Flag nor the National Anthem would feature in the new-style citizenship ceremonies as, bleated one of the city fathers, these are 'symbols of sectarianism'.
Against such witlessness, it is difficult to credit Margo MacDonald's hopeful assertion that our country will only, truly grow up when England lift the World Cup and we say, 'So what?'
And our best analysis avails nothing for a young woman near Inverbervie who, last weekend, was maimed for life – and all for a few vowels.