It’s hard to imagine what it must it have been like for Trump’s ancestors, travelling over the Atlantic Ocean in search of a new life; leaving behind tranquil island life cut off from the rest of the world. Whilst being cut off from the news sounds appealing, in truth, the Isle of Lewis in the 1930’s was far from idyllic and was still suffering from the economic effects of World War One. Donald Trump’s mother, Mary MacLeod was part of a wave of immigrants who left the Western Islands after the collapse of the fishing industry.
Setting foot in America and starting anew, her story is that of the American Dream; gaining employment, falling in love and living a full life after escaping trials of the past. For Mary Ann, an economic immigrant, the cinematic end to her tale is her own son becoming leader of the land that she travelled to. You have to wonder what would the woman from Lewis who spoke Gaidhlig and travel home regularly, make of her boy, Donald now?
There’s no fake fake birth certificate to argue over here. Trump has Scottish blood flowing through his veins and for reasons, sentimental or otherwise, he’s made himself financially as well as genetically linked to Scotland via his businesses here. In those early days of parliamentary hearings about wind farms and protesting locals, we got a taste of the kind of man he would be as a leader. Brash, rude and unpopular.
Usually if a person of note is connected to Scotland, we like to shout about it, and rightly so. Who wouldn’t want to have connections to this beautiful, romantic, if somewhat windy land? For us, it’s being able to drop in conversation: 'You know this person? Their gran went to school in Alloa.’
Our Celtic cousins in Ireland usually get first dibs when it comes to claiming the heritage of a US president. Among others, they’ve got Kennedy, Roosevelt and even Obama who was pictured with a pint of Guinness while on a state visit to Ireland.
It may be fashionable to be part of the Irish diaspora, but Scotland has had its fair share of time in the White House too. President William McKinley can trace his bloodline to MacDuff, Thane of Fife. The mother of President James Knox Polk was a descendant of minister, theologian, and writer John Knox. President Thomas Jefferson's Scottish ancestry came from his mother and it’s believed he was heavily influenced by his tutor, Scottish clergyman Rev. William Douglas. It’s no coincidence that the Declaration of Independence of bears similarities to the Declaration of Arbroath.
You can bet if Trump wasn’t Trump, we’d milk his lineage for all it was worth. Public buildings named in his honor would sprout like corn and there would be a wave of babies being named Donald. Why did it have to be him?
While he undeniably has Caledonian heritage, President Trump is not Scottish. He does not hold any traits or instill any values of what it means to be a Scot.
What does it mean to be Scottish? This complex question that has become even more difficult following the Scottish Independence Referendum of 2014 which challenged the nation to define itself. Although the nerves around that question are still raw and many believe the question should be asked again, there are still qualities and values that unite us.
I wouldn’t dare define what the definitive Scottish qualities are, but the nearest that someone has come in recent times is, I think, one of our greatest exports Alan Cumming. He recently received a Scottish BAFTA for his outstanding contribution to film and television.
In his acceptance speech, he spoke about feeling Scottish, characterising Scots as possessing “openness, authenticity, a sense of justice and fairness, compassion and mischief.” This speaks to my own understanding of what coming from this nation means and what I hope the rest of the world sees in us, none of which can be seen in The President.
To be Scottish goes beyond being born here. We’re a welcoming country, and if you want to live, work and make a life for yourself here, I believe you can call yourself a Scot. Your attitude and the way you treat others is more important than the country of your birth. To put it in common Scottish parlance; We’re a’ Jock Tamson’s bairns.