(Dis)United Kingdom

Daffodil by Dave Morris

Daffodil, (CC BY 2.0) Dave Morris, found on flickr.com

So Happy Saint David’s Day, or as they say here in Wales, Hapus Dydd Dewi Sant, though I’ve also seen a Gwyl in there, and I may have the order wrong. I’m mostly relying on Twitter for these things; my children, who are being educated in the English system but are of course learning Welsh as a subject, are not really better placed to correct me yet.

We’re figuring it out.

The move from Scotland, which as I’m fond of saying is distinct because of its institutions, to Wales, which is instead distinct due primarily to its language, is full of opportunities to learn. In fact, Wales has always been about learning for me: I remember doing a class project in Grade 3 about Wales, drawing the flag (ineptly), making a map full of mountains and castles, and drawing Sir Percival in his red-gold armour. In truth, I’m all about Wales.

Our first St David’s Day in Cardiff was grey, windy, and wet. Really, it felt like we hadn’t left Edinburgh at all. These things should unite us, but every St David’s Day, I can’t help but remember an object lesson of disunity.

In 2013, I was in Glasgow, doing field work for my PhD, and I had to get from one site to another rather quickly, so I took a taxi. We pull up outside Location #2 on a gloriously sunny March day (yes, in Glasgow), and I ask the driver for a receipt.

“What’s the day?” he says to himself as he fills it out. “First of March.”

“Yeah,” I say (in my Boy Scouty Canadian accent). “Happy St David’s Day!”

He snorts. “If you’re Welsh.”

Future of UK and Scotland blog: Muslims Debate the IndyRef

I don’t know if this counts as journalism or as “impact-oriented” academic writing (read: popular, or as it’s known in the UK, “completely un-REFable”), but at any rate, I contributed a blog post to an indyref site run by colleagues here at the University of Edinburgh. This is loosely out of the political science department, but it’s big-tent and it comes with support from the ESRC. They’re doing as comprehensive a job as they can of covering discussions leading up to the big referendum on 18 September.

The centre I’m with got wind of a debate targeting Muslim students in Scotland, and we thought this was fascinating enough for our own work but might also plug nicely into theirs. So they’ve posted my reflections, and you can find them here.

More may follow: I was back in Glasgow two days after the discussion in question for a BBC-sponsored discussion of identity and the referendum, and if there’s more to be said on it, I will let you know.

The independence debate began with a recitation from the Qur’an and ended with the chair exhorting the audience to “think of the umma” when deciding how they would vote on 18 September. In almost every other respect, the debate at Strathclyde University on Sunday 9 March was just like any other around Scotland.

Read more here…