Childhood should be a time of innocence. Nothing more. A time free from politics, economics and debate over social issues. Older teenagers ought to be more engaged but should have other things on their mind.
Unfortunately, childhood is no longer the age of innocence that it used to be, particularly for the nationalist movement in Scotland, where it is being turned into yet another front in an ideological conflict that only they are interested in fighting anymore.
In an insidious phenomenon, nationalists are politicising childhood and children in increasingly subtle (possibly unintentional?) and pervasive ways.
In what other country do political parties put a stall in the street and start to hand out balloons to children. Surely, as a political activist, your job is to bring your ideology and policies to the man and woman in the street. Then argue and debate politely in an attempt to get the opposite person to vote for your political party or reconsider their position. It’s difficult and disheartening work, but that’s the nature of the game. Why are balloons even part of your political repertoire?
I will readily admit that not all of this has been caused by the SNP nor are they entirely to blame. The culture of using children in politics is no new phenomenon. Holding babies is part of the theatre of politics (along with the obligatory purchase of food from a ‘working class’ establishment, which is then relentlessly mocked by the media). I get the idea behind it. Children are the future of the nation that you are hoping to lead. However, in most circumstances, they are the inactive participant in a photoshoot, really. As it should be.
However, like me, when you see a woman with an old-fashioned pram with a yellow SNP rosette attached to the hood, essentially using a newborn child as an unwitting vehicle for a political party, you can’t tell me that this is a positive development for Scottish society.
SNP politicians are certainly not above this either. Joan McAlpine, the SNP member for South Scotland was pictured with three young ‘Yeslings’ each with ‘Y’ ‘E’ ‘S’ on their respective sweaters on Glasgow Green in September 2016. Her opinion on young ‘Quislings’ who voted ‘No’ in 2014, is unknown.
She isn’t the only example either. Another SNP MP, this time Corri Wilson tweeted a picture with ‘Our youngest Activist’ in 2016 as well. I’m not sure how much of a political activist you can be when you’re still in primary one and can’t read, but the SNP like to start them young.
The official SNP twitter account has the same level of slightly sinister output and mild indoctrination. Click the link. Some of those children aren’t just holding the saltire, some of them are holding the party political symbol of the SNP.
Now imagine this image with the children holding the British, U.S. or German flag. You’d think it was a rally. But in Scotland, this is just another aspect of joyous ‘civic nationalism’ now.
All of these children look to be between five to eight years old. Now, please don’t tell me that they have an intellectual grasp of the myriad complexities concerning Scottish Independence. They don’t. They lack the cognitive ability at that age and should be utterly disinterested. Most five-year-olds know about 2000 words. Impressive, but not quite broad enough to discuss fiscal policy with.
Anyway, when I was their age I was more concerned with getting a copy of Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (still one of the finest 2d platform games of all time) and basking in the afterglow from seeing Jurassic Park, rather than being concerned over the breakup of the former Yugoslavia, the signature of the Maastricht Treaty or ‘Black Wednesday’.
Bear in mind the language that is used in all these cases is loaded: ‘Activist’, ‘Yeslings’, some of the tweets even has #bothvotesSNP in them.
Also in 2016, the SNP produced a ‘SCHOOL ELECTION campaign pack’. I assume it is to be used in mock elections that most schools take part in as part of their modern studies curriculum. This might seem fairly innocuous but when it states that the child participating in the mock campaign will:
‘Find out more about our record in government and our vision for the future with lots of hints and tips to help you along the way on your campaign journey.’
The opening introduction then goes onto to say that:
‘This pack was created to ensure you have all the information you need to represent the SNP and run a successful campaign. A short history of the SNP will give you a grasp of our remarkable journey to becoming the majority government of Scotland today. Our record in government will further demonstrate that the SNP is the best choice for Scotland’s future.
Our fundamental belief that Scotland should be an independent country where the people of Scotland have the power to decide their own future has never altered.
Our vision for the future and people of Scotland is based on this principle. When creating your manifesto for the campaign, you should make sure your policies meet the aims of the SNP’s vision for Scotland; a better, smarter, healthier, fairer, greener, wealthier Scotland.’
The pack ends with the contact details for the dystopic and fairly alarming job title of ‘SNPs School Engagement Officer’ which sounds like a more bland and mundane political commissar.
No doubt the usual familiar platitudes of ‘It’s just an educational resource’ will be thrown at what I have written. However, this is the government of Scotland and has been for over a decade. Try googling ‘School election pack’ for any other party. You won’t find anything.
Even in the traditional media, The National, ‘The Newspaper that supports an independent Scotland’ had an image of a small child handing out copies of the newspaper in Fort William on their Facebook page, who apparently ‘wouldn’t take no for an answer’. The child’s desire to assist would be earnest enough, but I’m not aware of any of the ‘yoon’ media using children to hand out newspapers either and I’m pretty sure that she could have taken ‘No’ for an answer if her parents weren’t using her as an ideological pawn in their own game.
But please bear in mind that this is the same newspaper that printed a letter from the most articulate, nationalistic ten-year-old boy in existence, or alternatively, one of his parents wrote it for him and submitted it under his name. Either conclusion is just as disturbing.
When you see eight-year-old children wearing the SNP badge on their coats (obviously put there by the parents), you start to see the genesis of an extraordinarily unhealthy future and a deeply troubled culture. Children should be left to form their own opinions, in their own time. Although we all absorb influences from parents, peer groups and the media, such mild indoctrination and politicisation as increasingly practised by the SNP, will not result in a well-engaged electorate in about ten years time.
It’s just another assault on the private sphere that should be totally removed from politics.
Picture if you will, an image of Labour or the Conservatives using the same tactics. Can you imagine the backlash? It would be monumental.
I expect many SNP supporters will probably say it’s harmless and that the ‘weans’ want to join in. I would retort that they should be left to being ‘weans’ and shouldn’t be involved in politics. In essence, they should be told that they are not allowed to join in. That politics is an ‘adult’ pursuit. I see no issue with this.
Nor should you be trying to enforce your own views upon your offspring as blatantly as many Scottish nationalists now are. They would then tell me that ‘It’s their future as well’. They would be quite correct, it’s their future. That’s why it’s important not to politicise them. Unless you want an uninformed electorate who only votes for one party over their lifetime…
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