Americans conduct odd love affair with Scottish nationalism

January 8, 1999

The Scottish National Party should be cautious in its bid for support in the United States, where views of Scottishness can be "ambiguous and murky", a Staffordshire University research fellow warned the RGS-IBG conference.

Euan Hague, who studied the Scottish-American community over four years at Syracuse University, this week told the RGS-IBG that in 1998, the US senate had designated April 6 as "National Tartan Day". The date commemorates the Declaration of Arbroath in 1320, seen as the defining moment in the Scottish nation's identity.

Over the past 30 years, the number of Scottish Highland games in the US has risen from about a dozen to 200. Dr Hague said he had found SNP brochures at such events. These "played on American ideals of signing the Declaration of Independence".

But Dr Hague said he had detected contradictions between the SNP's views of democracy and egalitarianism and some Americans interested in Scotland.

"On the periphery, there are some unpleasant connotations," he said. The language of many games was "patriarchal", referring to fraternity and founding fathers and some American-Scottish organisations discouraged women and non-white members. There was also evidence of white supremacists who believed the Celts were one of the world's "pure" races.

Some of the interest in rediscovering roots had been a reaction against the rise of the civil rights and women's movement, Dr Hague said, and Scotland's image in the US was often a romanticisation of the past.

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