AN email arrives this week from a reader who says that I am "frequently annoying". It follows the email last week that said, simply: "you're s***". I get nice emails from readers, too, but the gist of some of the ruder ones is that I’m anti-Scotland, anti-Scottish, and generally down on my own people. The emails say, essentially, that I’m prejudiced.

But am I? What we know is that prejudice starts really early on in life and the influences in my childhood were mixed to say the least. My Aberdeen schools encouraged English over Doric, and Shakespeare over Burns, but my father was a republican who refused to stand for God Save the Queen, and the chances are that all of it, in some way, helped to form the bias and preferences I've been left with as an adult. I’m prejudiced, just like you.

However, the way the prejudice works is complicated. I’ve definitely got an instinctive preference for a lot of British culture and iconography (which probably came from school) but I’ve also got an instinctive dislike for anything too nationalistic like flags or anthems (which probably came from my dad). Basically, I’m prejudiced against overt displays of Scottishness (or Britishness), although play me The Northern Lights of Old Aberdeen and you’ll get me going like anyone else. It’s complicated.

I suppose the point is that it’s perfectly possible that, as a Scot, I can be prejudiced about certain aspects of Scottish culture – and I am – but the question is whether we’re prepared to admit it. Those emails accusing me of being anti-Scottish often arrive when I raise the idea that some Scottish nationalists may be motivated (in part at least) by anti-Englishness. A lot of people get angry at the idea and deny anti-Englishness has anything to do with it. But then that’s the problem isn’t it? Prejudice often involves a refusal to admit you’re prejudiced.

The debate around Black Lives Matter – and Keir Starmer’s response to it – is a good example. The Labour leader said the other day that he would undergo unconscious bias training on race. “There’s always the risk of unconscious bias,” he said, “and just saying, ‘oh well it probably applies to other people, not me’ is not the right thing to do.” However, as soon as he’d said it, there was much scoffing at the idea, as if prejudice doesn’t come into it, and awareness of bias is just lefty nonsense, and prejudice isn’t something we need to address.

The same sort of thing is going on in other areas. I’ve been watching old episodes of Monty Python’s Flying Circus recently and they’re still utterly brilliant and iconoclastic, but I did wonder about the fact that the female characters are mostly secretaries or harridans or silent bits of titillation. The same with men dressing as women: Eric Idle as a woman is still one of the funniest things in comedy, but did it underline and reinforce a prejudice that women are either sexy or ridiculous?

As for issues of sexuality and gender, I recommend the recent Netflix documentary Disclosure. Campaigners who oppose laws that would allow people to change their legal gender by self-identifying as male or female often deny they’re prejudiced. But all I’d say to those people is: watch Disclosure. Almost every reference to trans people in popular culture has been negative, or ludicrous, or sinister, and you have to ask: when so much TV and film has portrayed trans people as criminals, does it contribute to the prejudice that trans people are in some way a threat?

I think the answer to that has to be yes because that’s how prejudice works: we see attitudes and prejudices and bits of them stick to us, and we notice some of it and we don’t notice the rest. My teachers told me to stand up for God Save the Queen; I was told I should say “pardon?” instead of “fit?”; I watched Eric Idle pretending to be a lady. And all of it left me with prejudices about Scotland, and women, and a lot of other things too. I admit it.

But beyond admitting it, I need to learn not to be so touchy about prejudice as well. We all do. And some people also need to accept that prejudice doesn’t just work from right to left and that you can be just as prejudiced about Tories, and men, and the English, as you can about lefties, and women, and the Scottish. The point is that, as Keir Starmer said, we tend to think prejudice is the other guy’s problem; they have prejudices; we have opinions. But that’s not the way it works. I’m prejudiced. You’re prejudiced. We’re all prejudiced.

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