21st August 2017
The rank hypocrisy of a political party led by a woman who dresses up in khaki and likes to pose on top of tanks, and whose own party has just unleashed the most remarkable and damaging onslaught of Anglo-British nationalism lecturing anyone is amusing. Less so perhaps that the same party has just allowed Alastair Majury to rejoin his party after being exposed as a serial abuser of social media (‘Tory councillors return to fold after ‘offensive tweets”). In messages posted under the ‘Mulder1981’ Twitter handle, the Majury likened Scottish nationalists to Nazis, dismisses homelessness and food support charity Start- Up Stirling, attacks benefit claimants and says the SNP were too busy talking about gay marriage. In 2013, Davies posted a series of tweets captioning a picture of black people waiting to board a cargo plane. One such tweet read: “In the interests of security keep your loin cloths with you at all times. Spears go in the overhead locker.”
So far so Spanner.
It perhaps shouldn’t come as any great surprise from a party that has driven and popularised racism for decades and gorged themselves on nationalist grievance to push through the Brexit campaign.
But for Conservative and Unionists this is simply to be ignored.
“But even the relatively benign variety is still nationalism, and that remains problematic even when shorn of racial or other sorts of prejudice. As Michael Ignatieff also noted, all forms of nationalism “vest political sovereignty in the ‘the people’”, a belief that it is the nation “which provides them with their primary form of belonging”. That view is obviously contestable, for it’s not clear why nationhood should be more important than other aspects of human identity like class or religion.”
To which you could answer simply that is because “people live in places” and want to elect their own governments.
In this sense the Yes movement is more of a democracy movement than a nationalist one.
Nobody believes Scots are better than anyone else – just that we are as good as anyone else.
These very simple modest claims: that we should be able to elect our own governments, and that we are as good as anyone else, causes apoplexy in Unionists.
For the Unionist British Nationalism doesn’t and cannot exist and the effort to smear, denigrate or ridicule Scottish nationalists is more than a pastime, its an obsession. It does however result in them looking more and more desperate. For Torrance and Davidson’s account of Scottish nationalism has to do two things simultaneously. Never mind Andrew O’Hagan. First it has to shy away from the reality that the Yes movement encompasses such bloodthirsty right-wing nationalists as Tommy Sheppard and Lesley Riddoch, James Kelman and Val McDermid, AL Kennedy and Alan Warner. They have to convince us that Janice Galloway and Kathleen Jamie are wrapped in the Saltire and daubed in wode and that Humza Yousaf is a secret agent for Siol nan Gaidheal. Second it has to both avert its gaze from the terms of the popular vote in 2014 which was deliberately (and proudly) based on residency rather than ethnicity, and also ignore the huge Remain vote that Scotland gave in the Brexit referendum.
In addition they have to ignore the rampant – and often violent elements of extreme British Nationalism that support their cause. This is difficult to sustain as the empire state of mind bubbles over and froths up as the remnants of a failed economy and a society distorted by inequality simmer in bitterness.
Further they have to ignore history.
They have to forget the Committee of 100, Burns, the 1820 Uprising or Thomas Muir.
In short after the Brexit campaign, and witnessing English political culture dissolve into an exhibition of self-parody, the jibes about ‘Nationalism’ offered up by Conservatives are just a bloody cheek.
Ruth Davidson writes in the Telegraph: “Every now and then, someone in politics commits such an outrageous act of self-deception, the casual reader has to double-take to ensure they’ve fully understood. Not just spin or nuance, chutzpah or guile, but a proper, all-out piece of perfidy of the black-is-white variety that would make even Pinnochio blush.”
For Davidson, as part of a government who issued the Hate Van and now we’re told by the Observer (‘Home Office used charity data map to deport rough sleepers’) secretly acquired sensitive data, showing the nationality of people sleeping rough on the streets, in order to remove them from Britain, to write with such contempt is beyond blinkered and hypocritical, it is astonishing and embarrassing.
Torrance tries to attach the SNP to Serbia and the Balkan conflicts, and assigns the notion of ‘civic nationalism’ to Michael Igantieff’s 1993 book “Blood and Belonging: Journeys into the New Nationalism”.
A more credible analysis comes from Tom Nairn, reviewing Stephen Maxwell’s ‘The Case for Left-Wing Nationalism’ he writes:
“Yes” is about the conditions required for such advance, which can’t be ‘cultural’ or emerge from civil society alone. Scots invented ‘civil society’ in the 19th century as an alternative to the loss of statehood, but in the 21st century it’s no longer sufficient. The prolonged recession between 2008 and the present has underlined the need for more political diversity, for new ways to tackle a ‘cosmopolitan’ capitalism no longer able to guarantee reasonable development and prosperity. Of course independence ‘by itself’ won’t generate miracles; but the point is, surely, that no society is any longer ‘on its own’, and will only be able to contribute to a broader ‘Common Weal’ with the means to act, experiment, and be different. Independence was never a sufficient condition of societal success; but does it not remain a necessary condition of tolerable change and bearable identity?
The remarkable feature of the democracy movement in Scotland has been its peacefulness, calm and patience. One of the – often derided – features of the Yes movement was the spontaneous outburst of cultural activity. One of the defining features of the movement has been the huge growth of poetry in spoken and written form. This phenomena is difficult to explain alongside the picture of brute nationalism painted by Davidson and Torrance this week.
Here’s a poem made up of responses to Kathleen Jamie a few days before the vote. She emailed a dozen friends and asked for a snap response to the question “Where are we at?” Their replies make up the poem:
We are rolling our tongues around a 3 letter word.
We are finding our voice.
We’re resisting the big-bank, multinational-dictated slippage to the Right …
Only bruising, no blood.
It’s about money.
It’s not about money.
It isn’t all about money.
It’s about fear, faith, strength.
It can’t come fast enough.
We’re exploring a different way of organising a country.
This won’t go back in the box.
We’re questioning everything.
we’re resisting all sorts of intimidation from the British establishment
England has been a good neighbour, but …
It’s the choice between a maimed culture and a whole country.
Unionism has no new songs.
What a great time to be alive in Scotland!
We’re one-thirds way round a big blind bend.
‘Unionism has no new songs’. The pity for those who want to smear a movement which asked ‘what kind of country do you want to live in?’ is that they end up reflecting back on themselves.
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