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Postcards from Scotland

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Carol Craig is the Centre's Chief Executive. She is author of The Scots' Crisis of Confidence, Creating Confidence: A Handbook for Professionals Working with Young People, The Tears that Made the Clyde: Well-being in Glasgow and The Great Takeover: How materialism, the media and markets now dominate our lives. She is Commissioning editor for the Postcards from Scotland series. Carol blogs on confidence, well-being, inequality, every day life and some of the great challenges of our time. The views she expresses are her own unless she specifically states that they reflect the Centre's thinking.

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Posted 10/11/2005

Iíve been so busy recently with our office move and talking at conferences that Iíve hardly had time to think about blogging let alone write one. Iíve been speaking at workshops or conferences recently in Cumbernauld, Perth, Dumfries, Edinburgh and Glasgow. The type of people at the events have also varied considerably Ė housing, education, health, the arts and social services. One of the questions Iím regularly asked when I give a talk is if Scottish culture isnít bound to change as a result of migration both from other parts of the UK and more foreign lands. My answer is always an emphatic Ďnoí. Sure we have taken to curry and pizza and foreign food has changed the traditional Scottish diet but outside that arena people coming into Scotland from elsewhere donít change Scotland. We change them. An American, for example, learns within a couple of weeks that it doesnít pay to say positive things about yourself and they stop doing it. I know this because Iím constantly in conversation with Ďnew Scotsí Ė people who have settled here permanently from abroad or who are just passing through. And they repeatedly tell me how they know they need to adjust their behaviour to be accepted and Ďfit iní. For some this is onerous and somewhat resented. Others find it an acceptable price for the positives they find in Scotland such as the strong feeling of community and the patriotism. This is commonly a feeling that English people have about living in Scotland. But what I find interesting about this outsidersí perspective of Scotland is that it confirms completely my thesis that one of the big issues, even in modern Scotland, is individuality. We make it very difficult for people to be themselves. This was corroborated dramatically by one of the people listening to one of my talks where I was asked the question about immigrants changing Scotland. The person in question was a young African American. As I was leaving the hall she came forward to tell me how much she enjoyed my talk and agreed with my analysis. "I so much recognise the picture of Scotland that you paint. I couldnít quite have put my finger on it and expressed it like you but it accords with how I feel." She then told me that "Scotland had changed her personality". When I asked to her to explain what she meant she said that she now deliberately tried to speak quietly in public. She didnít like telling people here that she had quickly risen through the ranks of the organisation she was now heading up. "In the US" she said, "I just tell people in a matter of fact way that I had moved from being a temporary secretary to the Chief Executive but here Iím careful of telling people this in case they think Iím boasting." I then asked her how sheíd sum up the personality change sheíd experience since coming here. Quick as a flash she said: "Iím losing a sense of my self as a person. Iím afraid to be me." And then she added: "Iím losing my confidence".

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