WITH the prospect of a second Scottish independence referendum taking place in the near future, it is a good time to gain a better understanding of the Yes movement, and those within it. However, instead of having only Scottish voices dominate the coverage, it’s time to listen to the perspectives of those Yes supporters who are not Scottish-born, but who bring greater diversity and meaning to the Yes movement.

Scotland’s biggest migrant group, by some way, are the English-born. ­Perhaps not typically viewed as a ­“migrant group”, they are, by ­definition, internal migrants to ­Scotland. While the majority of ­English individuals in Scotland do not support independence, 32% do, according to a 2020 Sunday Times Panelbase poll. This is more than 100,000 people.

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However, in the academic sphere, the focus has been on ­Scottish-born supporters, despite groups such as English Scots for Yes (ESFY) ­regularly attending marches. Upon noticing this gap in academic ­literature, I ­decided to conduct my own research into English Yes supporters for my undergraduate dissertation, to find out not only why they supported Yes, but what it was like to support Yes as an English individual.

Due to Covid-19, I relied upon ­existing online sources to provide data to analyse. These included: two press releases containing ­written ­transcripts from 18 Dumfries and ­Galloway ESFY members, two ­English Yes supporters’ blog posts and six YouTube videos from ­Phantom ­Power’s Journey To Yes series. In ­total, 26 English Yes supporters were included in my qualitative analysis, in which I searched for common themes across their discussions.

While the English ­individuals ­supported Yes for various ­reasons, two of the most frequently ­discussed were Brexit and the SNP ­Government. ­Either they wished to remain in the EU and saw an ­independent Scotland as fulfilling this, or Brexit had emphasised Scotland’s “democratic deficit”, in which Scottish votes have little impact on major political or constitutional outcomes in UK elections and referenda. The SNP’s policies were viewed as more caring and progressive and the Scottish Government was seen as more competent than Westminster. These factors shifted some from No to Yes, and for others, was enough to justify a full move from England to Scotland.

As many will remember, in 2014, the Yes movement was ­sometimes ­associated with labels of ­anti-Englishness; the most prominent being Jeremy Paxman’s claim that the Yes movement was fuelled by anti-English hatred. Indeed, across academia, ­research often found that English migrants experienced anti-Englishness when living in Scotland. However, none of the 26 English Yes supporters in my sample discussed any anti-Englishness.

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Of course, as some did not ­mention the anti-English topic, this absence does not necessarily equate to an actual absence of anti-English ­experience. Nevertheless, they were very keen to describe their positive experiences within both the Yes movement and Scotland generally, and felt the movement to be an inclusive and tolerant space. These individuals may well be a specific sample, and there is no doubt that ­anti-Englishness will ­exist in Scotland, but these English Yes supporters’ positive experiences do deserve acknowledgement. They highlight that the Yes movement may offer a tolerant space for ­English ­individuals, and hopefully, other ­migrant groups as well.

The last part of my project was ­concerned with how the English-born made sense of their ­identity. Typically, they labelled themselves English and/or Scottish. For some, these identifications could meaningfully interlink, evident in the “English Scot” label. This identification better illustrated the different layers of their lived experiences and highlighted that Scottishness and Englishness are not opposing identifications; they can interlink for these migrants.

ACROSS previous academic research, it was rare for English migrants to claim Scottish identity, and while some in my sample did claim it, others did not. However, what the majority did do was reveal a sense of attachment and belonging to Scotland in their subtle language.

When the English Yes supporters discussed the Yes movement, they ­often used language such as “we”, “us”, “our country” or “us as a ­nation”. This type of language can be referred to as “banal ­nationalism”, a term coined by sociologist Michael Billig (1995) to explain the mundane ways that we are reminded of – and show our attachment and ­belonging to – the nation. It appeared significant as surely these English-born individuals had not always felt an attachment to Scotland, as a Scottish-born person might?

Perhaps because of their contribution to Scotland through Yes support, as English individuals who feel welcomed within it, they have begun to feel a sense of belonging and attachment to Scotland. The Yes movement may then increase or validate a sense of Scottishness.

The Yes movement is diverse. Yet the perspectives and experiences of those non-Scottish born Yes ­supporters, who will have ­uniquely different experiences, deserves ­greater attention, as they may feel just as Scottish as the rest of “us”.