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'Settlers & Colonists'

If one piece of writing crystallised many of the most contentious debates in the 2014 referendum debate, this was it...

Sunday, October 8, 2023
40 mins+

Alasdair Gray's 'Settlers and Colonists' essay challenged the mainstream narrative of Scottish history and culture. Gray argued that Scotland had been colonised by the English, and that this had had a negative impact on Scottish artists and their ability to represent their own nation.

'This saga revealed far more about the cultural, political and media environment in Scotland than about Gray himself. The pitch and profile of this controversy had everything to do with the independence debate, and its weekly churn of smear and counter-claim.'

This, by Scott Hames, is the definitive timeline:

Microsoft Word - Settlers&Colonists_STORRE.doc (stir.ac.uk)

'The truth is that Scotland within its own borders cannot be classified as either a colonised victim or a coloniser, to try to characterise it as either betrays a misunderstanding of historical facts, or an over-simplification of the same. Gray does neither, but at the same time his presentation of Scotland’s involvement in the British Empire – ‘For over two and a half centuries colonists and settlers from Scotland – and Ireland – helped the London government to establish and administer a British Empire’ – is border-line romantic and far too simplistic, and paired with an equally simplistic description of the terms settler and colonist, it opens up his essay for criticism that takes away from the actual point with the essay, i.e. that ‘only one question should be asked by that referendum: Do we who live in Scotland want an independent government?’.'

Alasdair Gray and the Settlers « Indigeneity, Language and Authenticity (wordpress.com)

'In the original work, published at the end of 2012, Gray argued that the settlers and colonists phenomenon was not confined to the arts and could be found in other walks of Scottish life. A new version of the essay, which was criticised by politicians and others for its unhelpful language, has now been written by Gray with that suggestion deleted.'

Alasdair Gray rewrites English ‘colonists’ essay | The Scotsman

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