Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Birthrights and Resident Evil

I always think that football brings out the real Scotland. There is nothing like it for stirring the passions and disarming our usually cautious approach to debate. The result is that we get to hear what people are really thinking and feeling. And, though the footballing public might not be representative of all of Scotland, it is a large part of it.

So what are we to make of the great Nacho Novo debate? Leaving aside whether he is good enough to be selected, the question is whether Novo, a Spaniard by birth, should be allowed to play for Scotland once he has qualified for his UK Passport through residency.

Unfortunately, many Scots seem to think that you can only be a Scot by an accident of birth or through a bloodline traced back to the same. I have always found that a strange point of view but it seems I am in the minority.

Why should someone who was born in Dundee but who sits on their backside all their life have greater rights to Scottishness than someone who was born in Dublin (or Derby or Dortmund or Dubrovnik) but who contributes positively to our society by working or volunteering or both. Indeed, shouldn't these incomers be afforded greater rights to Scottishness on the basis that they have actually chosen to make Scotland their home?

And to illustrate the absurdity of the debate, we now see English born Terry Butcher, effectively Scotland's Assistant National Coach, saying that obvious non-nationals representing a country would be 'absurd'. Pot and black kettles I hear you say.

For me Nationality is about how an individual defines themselves and should not be seen as a label to categorise a set of people who happen to have been born in close proximity to each other. I have known many people, friends and colleagues, born in England but who see themselves as Scottish because Scotland is the place they have chosen to live.

Our Scotland is as much the people who are here now as the the people, and their descendants, who were once born here. Surely, if we want to field a football team that is truly representative of our country, it also has to represent the tens of thousands of people who, like Novo, have chosen Scotland as their home.

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