Local papers often give away more about the nature of their area than they intend.
The freebie that we get through the door every Friday is the Dumfries Courier. If you want a laugh, the “Court File” section is always the most entertaining.
This week, for example, there’s a wee piece about a banned driver who passed a police car on the wrong side of the road, mounted a pavement, crossed a playing field and demolished a post and wire fence. I mean, of all the places to lose control of a car – right in front of the police!
However, the best entry by far was this – and I quote it word for word:
Sixty-year-old Thomas Gemmill made one big blunder when he decided to racially abuse a man by calling him an English name.
For the Sheriff at Dumfries was told the other man, who had lived in England for a number of years, was in fact Scottish.
And Gemmill, of Goldie Crescent, Dumfries, was told by the Sheriff: “Racially aggravated behaviour will not be tolerated. Particularly when you get it wrong.”
(For readers not from Scotland - the Sheriff is the local Magistrate or Judge, not a policeman with a six-shooter)
Now Gemmill was fined £250 (about $400 US), so I guess that if the guy he insulted had actually been English, then he wouldn’t have been fined as much.
As an Englishman who’s lived in Scotland for 17 years, I have often damn near sprayed a mouthful of coffee over my partner when I’ve heard Scots saying how tolerant and non-racist they are. They always seem to miss out the next part of that sentence which is “unless, of course you’re English”
In fact, the most commonly associated word with “English”, up here north of the border, is “Bastard” as in either “Bastard English” (referring to the nation), or “English Bastard” (referring to the individual). Though some Scottish friends have assured me that this is an affectionate term…
To be fair, most Scots don’t tend to be personal in their racism – they dislike the English, but as an individual, I’m ok – what they really hate is a London-centric bias by the government and media where Scotland is often viewed as an insignificant rural province. This, however, was quite unlike my experience in Wales where I was bullied as a child because I was English, making it very personal.
For the most part, I’ve not had much of a problem, mainly because I avoid drinking in certain pubs where an English accent would be a liability. What’s worse in these circumstances is that I have a Southern English accent (inherited from my parents as I have spent more of my life away from the South than in it), which is considered to be the voice of the oppressors.
However, while my day-to-day life is not blighted by overt racism, when the local Sheriff betrays his prejudices like that it can leave me feeling just a little disconcerted.