SNP's tartan embrace of the 'sooth mooths'

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The Independent Online
(First Edition)

AMID THE Gaelic slogans and the Western Isles accents, Dot Jessiman's Cockney drawl sounded out of place at the Scottish National Party conference in Inverness last week. But voices from south of the border are now being heard in a party dedicated to breaking the Union with England.

Mrs Jessiman, 59, an East Ender who moved from her bricklayer's cottage in the capital to a croft in Aberdeenshire 19 years ago, was one of several 'sooth mooths' at the SNP's 60th anniversary gathering in the Highlands. She was joined by delegates from Lancashire, Newcastle and Manchester who have settled in Scotland and have been welcomed into the SNP in recent years as the party has striven to re-assure 'foreigners' that they will qualify for Scots citizenship in an independent state.

Mrs Jessiman, a founder member of the New Scots for Independence group, recruits for the party in the Banff and Buchan constituency held by Alex Salmond, the SNP leader. She said: 'When Alex asked me to work for him he told me the sort of people who would be put off (by an English recruitment officer) should not be in the party anyway, and that there was a place for the English in the SNP. I admit I was surprised.'

Attitudes among SNP leaders and party activists have not always been so enlightened. When English 'white settlers' began moving to Scotland in large numbers 20 years ago, nationalists feared that they would 'dilute' Scotland's political culture, setting back the campaign for national sovereignty.

The arrival of wealthy English incomers, in particular in rural areas, provoked some SNP members to complain of re-colonisation. One who resigned, Iain Sutherland, set up Scottish Watch, an extreme nationalist pressure group which aims to 'cleanse Scotland of English white-settler exploitation'. The group has lobbied Scottish employers to replace English staff with Scots.

SNP activists dismiss Mr Sutherland and other ethnic malcontents as cranks. They insist that English incomers have given a fillip to the nationalist cause because they have made a positive choice in favour of Scotland. Mr Salmond said: 'Immigrants tend to contribute more than most to the new society in which they find themselves.

'We are proud to be part of what Willie McIlvanney called our 'mongrel nation'. In fact, our biggest problem is not immigration, but emigration. Every year we lose talented Scots and we welcome any talented replacements from wherever they come.'

Mrs Jessiman added: 'Scots are proud of who they are and no amount of immigration either from England or anywhere else will change their character.'