The language of identity and nation resonates here as much as in the rest of working-class Britain, but the conversation is entirely different.
Where England has veered right and English nationalism tends to be of the nostalgic kind, laced with anti-immigrant rhetoric, Scotland has veered left and embraced a civic-style nationalism, welcoming anyone who wants to live and work in the country.
There is enough immigration in Paisley to support a Polish section in the public library and at least one Polish grocery store. The manager, Marcin Sutkowski, plans to vote for Scottish independence — not least because he fears for his right to stay after Britain has left the European Union. “We are scared of Brexit,” he said, referring to the withdrawal. “Scottish people respect us.”
Mr. Sutkowski, 28, talked about Polish immigrants in England and how the mood had changed since the vote to leave the European Union. Racist slurs have become more common. Poles now often find themselves accused of stealing jobs and benefits.
At a local pub, a group of middle-aged Paisley “buddies,” as residents call themselves, placed the blame for the lack of decent work and strained public services not on immigrants but on “Westminster” — shorthand for the unpopular Conservative government in London — and spent the next half-hour discussing currency options for an independent Scotland.
“The euro is hopeless — just look at Greece,” one man scoffed.
“Aye, but we can’t keep the pound if England is outside of Europe, can we?” his friend replied.
“Scotland needs its own money,” a third concluded, prompting more earnest chat about who should be featured on the notes. (William Wallace, Scotland’s most celebrated freedom fighter, who was born just outside Paisley and hanged, drawn and quartered by King Edward I of England in 1305, is a clear favorite; followed by Mary Stuart, beheaded by Queen Elizabeth three centuries later.)
On the second floor of Paisley Museum, Dan Coughlan, the curator for textiles, is more skeptical about secession. Leafing through an 18th-century pattern book, Mr. Coughlan told the story of how Paisley had benefited from the 1707 union with England, which gave its weavers and cotton mills access to foreign markets, ideas and technology and made it one of the most productive towns in the British Empire.
“Paisley was at the frontier of globalization before the term ‘globalization’ was coined,” Mr. Coughlan said. He backed independence in 2014. But now that Britain is leaving the European Union, he is not so sure.
“Who knows whether the European Union will still be there in a few years’ time?” he said. “Scotland could be on its own, outside the U.K. and Europe.”
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