THE idea that a specific group or nation has different values to another group or nation makes for an uncomfortable discussion.

The notion comes with more than a hint of exceptionalism. The discussion is an especially hard one to have on these British isles of ours. To say Scotland has "different" values to England is either heavy with anglophobia, or weighted with inferiority.

We don’t shy away from assigning differing values to other nations, though. France and its muscular secularism; America and its love of the gun; Australia and its scorn for social class. Each example, however, is a stereotype. Not all French are secularist; many Americans hate guns; there are plenty of Australian snobs.

Over the last week, two events on the streets of Glasgow almost demanded that we discuss whether Scotland really does have values which differ significantly to the rest of the UK: the protest against immigration deportations in Pollokshields, and the disgraceful scenes of Rangers fans rampaging through the city.

Let’s deal with Rangers first. It’s easier to address values we don’t like. What happened – the thuggery, violence, sectarianism, destruction – has been condemned across society. It’s indefensible. It disgraced the country. But it happened, and it’s happened before. There may only be a few thousands of these people in Scotland, but whether we like it or not, they’re what the world saw at the weekend. They project an image of Scotland. We cannot escape that in the eyes of others we’re blighted by sectarianism, and the hooliganism and intimidation that always accompany it. To those watching from outside Scotland, what happened in George Square represents (infuriatingly) "Scottish values", just as much as the football hooliganism of the 1980s blighted the reputation of England as a whole on the world’s stage.

Read more: Dark forces of sectarianism have come to exploit independence and the Union

The horrible irony is that we here, inside our own country, know that the vast majority of us reject such behaviour – that only a handful of the population behave like this. Yet to an outsider, we’re all tarnished with it. Just as all Americans are seen,wrongly, as "gun nuts", we here in Scotland are being labelled, wrongly, in the eyes of other countries, as a nation where bigotry prospers. Scotland’s shame, indeed.

We may define ourselves in opposition to events like these; however, if we mean that, then we must prove it. To validate that "value" – the idea that sectarianism has no home here – we have to stamp out the little fires of sectarian hatred still burning around this country. Jail is a good fire extinguisher for sectarian thugs. Crippling fines a good fire retardant for those in authority who fail in their duty to society.

Mounted police look on as Rangers fans gather in Glasgow city centre on Saturday

Mounted police look on as Rangers fans gather in Glasgow city centre on Saturday

The events in Pollokshields also tell a different story of Scotland, in comparison to the rest of the UK. With sectarianism, we share baggage with Ulster; in our broad attitudes to immigration, though, we seem quite alone. Nowhere else in Britain would have been the site of such resistance to the Home Office’s "hostile environment" policy. When one thousand people on the south side of Glasgow compelled Border Force officers to back down and prompted police to release two of their neighbours set for deportation, a clear dividing line was established between "Scottish" and "British" values.

What happened last week in Pollokshields was not a one-off. This country has a proud pedigree of showing respect and care for refugees, as long opposition to dawn raids and Dungavel detention centre proves.

And here we get to the heart of this apparently differing value between Scotland and the rest of the UK. Scotland is unique among most nations, it’s fair to say, on the issue of immigration. Brexit at its heart was an anti-immigration vote. Brexit didn’t appeal in Scotland. We didn’t vote to close our borders against outsiders. Northern Ireland, which also voted to stay in Europe, was voting for peace and stability rather than expressing a pro-immigration position. A Pollokshields-style event is as unlikely in Ulster as it is in England. In UK terms, Scotland resembles those Democratic "sanctuary cities" during the Trump presidency.

None of this is to say that there aren’t voters concerned about immigration in Scotland, or who’d like tighter restrictions. But immigration is – at least for the time being – a much less pressing political issue here than it is in England. Perhaps that’s a legacy of decades-long dislike of the Tory Party, associated as it is with hardline anti-immigration policies. That antipathy may also account for Scotland’s much more vocal opposition to austerity.

Clearly, though, we also enjoy the luxury of opposition without responsibility. It’s much easier to hate a policy when you don’t have to pass laws on it. Many Scots long opposed to British immigration policies, who also support the idea of an independent Scotland, have expressed worry at times that if we ever do split with the UK, we might find our own liberal attitudes to immigration evaporating in some quarters.

Immigration feels destined to become part of the constitutional debate. Only the foolish couldn’t envisage Project Fear II identifying this social difference and exploiting the spectre of mass immigration.

Read more: After the death of Mercy, Scots Government should break Westminster immigration

Scotland is also at odds with Europe on immigration. France drifts ever closer to the embrace of the far right and the lure of Marine Le Pen. The EU’s Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier, positioning himself for a run at the French presidency, said he wanted to suspend immigration to France, including family reunions. Germany without Angela Merkel may become a cold place for refugees. Italy has set a hard face against those seeking sanctuary.

For the time being – in limbo as Scotland is, a nation without the powers of a nation – we can see that we’re "different", although that difference offers both blessings and curses. Sectarianism, whether we like it or not, shows a Scottish face to the world. Kindness to the desperate and the downtrodden, to refugees needing support and friendship, also shows a Scottish face to the world.

Perhaps, there’s some comfort in that strange mix. Like all nations, we aren’t special or superior. We are in parts bad. We are in parts good. We are, like most nations on Earth, a shade of moral grey.

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