Poor Iain Gray’s parting shot was odd. Mr Gray warned his future replacement: “You will be attacked, you will be smeared, you will be lied about, you will be threatened. The ‘cyber Nats’ and the bedsit bloggers will call you traitor, quisling, lapdog, liar and worse. They will question your appearance, your integrity and your sexuality. They will drag your family and your faith into the lies and the vitriol. If you are a woman it will be worse.”
Presumably the the reference to being a woman was about Red Wendy’s doomed days as leader, and notions of traitor, quisling, lapdog are routine – but sexuality? It’s all dire desperate stuff, but does he have a point?
Despite the fact that in Stirling only a few days ago his own Douglas Alexander had offered a belated mea culpa for the decade or so of negativity his party has fed into the national debate, Gray decided to turn on ‘cyber nats’. The outburst evoked a folk-memory of David Steel who’s wife Judy blamed Spitting Image for his demise as he was lodged in the public consciousness as firmly as his puppet snuggled inside David Owen’s top pocket. The problem for David and Ian was always elsewhere.
But there’s a truth here. The stance that takes anything British as uniformly and totally bad, and anything Scottish as uniformly and unquestioningly good is a useless place to start. Unquestioning fealty to Alex and the SNP is also a ridiculous and untenable position. There’s a reason for this positioning (not least the generations of inculcated Scottish cringe, the deep-seated cultural self-hatred and the long-standing media bias) but we need to change the tune. Here’s four suggestions:
Look at some good things about Britain, we might want to hang in to some of them, imitate them or keep them in mind. I have in mind the idea of the NHS and of the welfare state, British institutions we should have been proud of. Unfortunately now the best way to keep alive these ideas is to revive their ideal under a sovereign country. Fish and Chips are also worth preserving, but I think we can cling to these under the encompassing ‘social union’ – sub-group ‘cuisine’.
Develop a non-party base for ideas. One of the reasons for the poor quality of debate is that groups are locked into tribal division by party. Bella supports the idea of expanding the idea of independence and making it a reality. We think the Scottish Independence Convention and other forums are going to be essential in building a mass movement for independence based in civil society and drawing in groups who want to jostle for the vision of a better society than the crumbling unsustainable economic shambles around us.
Challenge the SNP – a culture of self-criticism is going to be more dynamic and forward thinking. The SNP have got things wrong and the idea that replacing the ‘one party state’ of Labour with a one party domination by the SNP isn’t appealing.
Develop a more nuanced understanding of identity. Cybernats v Cyberbrits is a pretty boring game. And there’s a yawning difference between a nationalist who will accept Trident on the Clyde, the Queen at Balmoral and wants all trappings of the State just moved North a bit and those of us who want to transform society.
The idea of a cyber-anything is quaint. Everyone’s online. Let’s redefine ourselves and create a better quality of debate and a movement that’s deeper wider and more dynamic.
Are you a republican or a nationalist? DigiGael? An iScot? FutureCelt?
Online communities have their nutters but the Cyberbrits are responsible for some real howlers. Michael Moore’s testimony that we’re skint and beholden is risible. As Nicola Sturgeon wrote at the weekend: “The truth is the opposite. What Scottish Secretary Michael Moore neglected to tell people when he recently recyc led this attack previously used by Labour’s Jim Murphy was that the UK ran a deficit of more than £715 billion over the same period.
In other words, Scotland is in a far, far stronger position than the rest of the UK – actually in surplus relative to the UK as a whole to the tune of £19bn – and by the Unionist parties own risible logic, Britain could not possibly afford to be independent.”
The truth is that nether ‘side’ has readjusted to the new realities. Independistas are still imagining and role-playing a world where we are the excluded minority. The Unionists are panicking and flailing about to find a new voice (and no Tory Hoose or Open Unionism don’t count).
The challenge for the nationalist movement is to develop a less defensive posture. Everyone’s desperately re-branding from the Toxic Tories to Losing Labour. Moving from Cybernats to iRep could be a good way of re-imagining how the movement’s expressed online.