As you can tell from the title of this blog, I ‘am no fan of Scottish nationalism, or indeed any form of nationalism. I consider it to be a divisive and dangerous ideology where failure or malaise in your nation can be blamed on the “other”, be they across the border, across the world or across the street.
Indeed, if you type the word “nationalism” into thesaurus.com it will return the synonyms: fanaticism, jingoism, narrowness, zealotry and ethnocentricity. None of them really have positive connotations do they?
In Scotland the situation is nowhere near as bellicose as in the Balkans, Spain or Sri Lanka. No one has been killed or seriously injured for their beliefs and apart from a few heated moments, the independence referendum was largely carried out peacefully and with respect by both sides. Both the “Better Together” and “Yes” campaign were quick to condemn any outburst of violence from their respective side in the debate.
I feel that there has been a shift though. From the nationalist point of view, even though they lost the referendum it could be accurately construed as giving them a strategic victory. The referendum gave them an opportunity to discuss an independent Scotland to the entire nation, not just the faithful. Individuals who were traditionally apolitical or apathetic to politics in general were engaged with the debate to varying degrees, perhaps for the first time. The issues involved were not ones based on ideology but something more fundamental, your sense of what nation you felt that you belonged to.
More worryingly, nationalist ideology is now part of Scotland’s political culture and its tendrils are seeping into other areas of society. A good friend of mine who has lived in Scotland since 2005 and is employed at the front of house for a large government agency was told this year to “f#₡k off back home”. He said that other foreign born and English employees have had similar experiences of abuse, all in the last two years. Although anecdotal, I expect that this is not an isolated case. He also informed me that this particular establishment has a British Flag flying over it and that a fairly substantial number of people have complained about the “butchers rag”.
Social media is a good barometer of the views of the some of the more fanatical Scottish nationalists (although thankfully, the majority of nationalists are not like this and neither is the SNP). The level of anti-state, anti-English and anti-establishment ideology is almost overwhelming. It would probably be quicker to ask these people what they do believe in and what they are against rather than what they are for. The only thing they view in a positive light is an independent Scotland which must be secured at any cost, either to themselves or their fellow citizens regardless of the economic, social or cultural consequences of this.
A few of their more idiotic posts quickly descend into the void like abyss of insanity in something more akin to be spoken by Alex Jones, the American talk radio host and conspiracy theorist. “FREEDOM FOR SCOTLAND AND FREEDOM FOR THE CONFEDERACY” one individual declared. Allegations that the UK Government are using vaccinations to implant tracking devices, some of them on the nano-scale, can also be found. A stark monochrome poster with “HM Government: If we don’t like you, we kill you” emblazoned on the front, with images of Robin Cook, Princess Diana, Jill Dando, David Kelly, Airey Neave and John Smith can also be discovered. This ignores the fact that their tragic deaths were either accidental, health related, suicide, terrorism or in the case of Jill Dando, murder. Another post defiantly declares that Westminster is “satanic and follow[s] the Zionist agenda”.
Entrepreneur and founder of Ultimo Michelle Mone and author J.K. Rowling are the objects of particular fanatical nationalist ire, with a substantial dose of blatant and naked misogyny thrown in for good measure. In particular since Michelle Mone accepted a peerage and a seat in the House of Lords she has been labelled a “Skanky tory” and ominously that “She will get hers When we go Independent she will be tried for Treason!!”.
Anyone who voted to stay as part of the United Kingdom is dismissed as a “Nawbag”, of being “Traitors to Scotland”, a “weak Scottish quisling” and of being “blinkered and brainwashed”. The British flag is seen as “revolsive” (revolting?) and represents “Fear, Oppression, War, Inequality, Dictatorship, Racial Hatred and Debt”. The saltire, of course, represents all that is pure, just and fair in this world.
This ignores all the millions of Scots that have benefited greatly from Act of Union and the British Empire. This also does not fit into the nationalist narrative of a small downtrodden nation that was “bought for English gold” and has been subjugated and oppressed ever since. For them the 2014 referendum was a chance to reverse what they viewed as a grave historical injustice, a chance to undo something that they consider to be a wholly artificial construct of the early Georgian era.
Ultimately the people of Scotland did not choose the path of narrow nationalism and from the economic data that is available as well as the drastic decrease of oil prices; we have just narrowly avoided the nationalist bullet.
Former SNP Head of the Policy, Alex Bell has recently stated that the economic and political plans for an independent Scotland were deeply flawed and based on “wishful thinking” and that either massive cuts to public spending and/or tax rises would have been inevitable. The fact that the SNP campaigned, in part, on an anti-austerity ticket despite knowing the stark economic facts at the time of the referendum belies an unwillingness to examine the economic consequences of independence seriously.
With the Scottish Parliamentary elections over six months away, many polls are predicting another SNP government. However, with a number of their MPs being investigated for financial discrepancies and major issues in the NHS and Police Scotland, the SNP and their main cause has lost a bit of its lustre in the last few months. With many of their supporters not wishing to see an independent Scotland cede power to Brussels, after they have wrestled it away from London, the EU referendum could give them another headache.
Even though the “Better Together” campaign triumphed, the SNP will not stop with their demands for a second referendum. Even in defeat, former First Minster Alex Salmond claims that an independent Scotland is now “inevitable”. The cause of Scottish nationalism still poses a significant threat to the union, Britain and the economic wellbeing of Scotland. This can still be countered but only if ideologically opposed, pro-union, parties, people and politicians can put aside some of their differences and make a positive case for the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.