Torrance Response

Bella agreed to a right to reply for David Torrance to Alan Bissett’s article ‘Ethnic Cleanse’.

It seems my use of the word ‘ethnic’ in the context of a column exploring the balance between civic and non-civic Nationalism in Scotland has caused controversy. I’m not going to pretend this wasn’t my intention; indeed a columnist’s role (without meaning to sound pompous) is to stir up debate. On this level my column in Monday’s Herald has succeeded.

My basic contention was that far from being wholly civic, as the SNP and broader Yes campaign repeatedly asserts, modern Scottish Nationalism also includes ethnic elements. My critics appear to assume this was a criticism, but as I argued towards the end of the column all Nationalisms – including the British variety – includes ethnic and civic elements.

Some accused me of conflating ‘ethic’ with ‘culture’, so it’s worth checking the definition of ‘ethnicity’ provided by the online Oxford Dictionaries. It is:

‘The fact or state of belonging to a social group that has a common national or cultural tradition.’

Now I would take a ‘common national’ tradition to include anything historical and ‘cultural’ to cover, well, anything cultural. Therefore in my column I gave lots of examples of historical and cultural motifs in the pro-independence campaign. As the above definition shows, ‘ethnicity’ and ‘culture’ cannot easily be separated as some have claimed.

And for those upset about my use of the word ‘ethnic’ I would refer them to the most recent Scottish census from 2011 (under the devolved control of the Scottish Government) which in one section invited respondents to choose their ‘ethnicity’, options including ‘Scottish’ and ‘other British’ (interestingly, there was no option that simply said ‘British’).

Therefore I was using terminology deployed by the Scottish Government itself, and did so to describe things as they are: the forthcoming ‘Homecoming’ event, which invites Americans with Scottish ancestry to return home, and also plans to mark the 700th anniversary of Bannockburn, are both examples of ‘ethnic’ Nationalism. Similarly, in his recent Budget the Chancellor George Osborne announced plans to restore English cathedrals and mark the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta, again examples of ethnic (English) Nationalism.

Some critics have implied I was arguing that the pro-independence movement was somehow racist or sectarian, but this conveniently ignored a paragraph near the start of my column which described the clear success of the SNP in attracting Catholic and Asian votes, while also mentioning the recent support of the Polish actor Tomek Borkowy. These developments I described as ‘undoubtedly positive’.

And it has been, but that doesn’t mean ethnic Nationalism has somehow completely disappeared. Again, I gave lots of examples of this in my column while also quoting academic research by Andrew Mycock (it’s worth reading his article here). One of his points I didn’t mention in my column was that while his 2012 survey found that many Scots shared a vision of Scotland as multicultural, diverse, inclusive and tolerant, a majority also believed place of birth (be it parental or personal origin) was important in terms of defining ‘Scottishness’, which as Mycock concluded ‘suggests ethnicity remains an important factor in how Scottish nationalism and nationhood are popularly understood’.

Although the column wasn’t actually about the writer Alan Bissett, the two paragraphs in which he is mentioned have also attracted lots of critical comment, not least from Alan himself. In the piece I said he had a ‘black and white view of history’ and belonged to ‘the “Scotland was colonised” wing of the Yes campaign’.

I stand by both statements. Weirdly, in his defence Alan invites me to read something he hasn’t yet finished writing (Jock: Scotland on Trial), but given I lack the ability to travel forward in time I have to rely on a lecture he gave in Ullapool a year or so ago at one of Gerry Hassan’s engaging Changin Scotland events. During this Alan unequivocally framed his survey of several centuries of Scottish history in terms of Scotland having been ‘colonised’ by England. For what it’s worth, also in attendance was a prominent Yes campaigner who told me, with considerable understatement, that Alan’s simplistic view of history was ‘unhelpful’.

Alan said some nice things about me so I’ll return the compliment: he’s engaging, intelligent and as I said in the piece, undoubtedly talented, but as an artist he has to live with criticism (as do I as a journalist), and all I did was briefly critique the excerpt of the play staged at the SNP conference (which, importantly, many of those criticising my column did not see). I bear him no ill will, indeed I included his ‘Vote Scotland’ YouTube video in a recent collection of ‘Great’ Scottish speeches that I edited.

The excerpt from The Pure, the Dead and the Brilliant was billed as ‘satire’ but in that respect I thought it was pretty limited. Sure, it got a good reception in the hall, but it’s probably wise not to mistake the enthusiasm of an SNP conference (indeed any party conference) with the views of the wider electorate. And yes, the journalists present felt intimidated by delegates’ reaction to the line ‘we own the media’; I’ll happily admit to that, it was just a little ironic at the gathering of a party whose leadership isn’t noted for its criticism of, for example, Rupert Murdoch.

Alan also refers to my and others’ (who can speak for themselves) ‘rush to brand’ him ‘anti-English’, which if you read the column I did not do, although he’s certainly guilty – along with many others – of a similarly black-and-white view of ‘English’ politics. He also says it ‘should surprise no-one that all of them [his critics] are Unionists’ (a silly catch-all comment) while saying ‘I am their latest target’ is verging on paranoia. Bissett then makes references to the ‘right-wing consensus down South’ and an ‘increasingly brutal British state’, which rather underlines my point about his caricaturing of ‘down South’ (or Britain).

Wings Over Scotland has claimed I am part of a ‘vile’ and ‘co-ordinated’ attack on Alan, which is really the stuff of conspiracy theories. I wrote a column over the weekend (which I mentioned to no one in advance), to which others subsequently responded in print and online. Journalists have many talents, but ‘co-ordinated’ attacks aren’t generally among them. Meanwhile I’m looking forward to seeing an entire performance of Alan’s new play at the Edinburgh Fringe this August; I’m sure it’ll attract a lot of attention.

Comments (60)

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  1. Keef says:

    Bollocks.

  2. Gavin P says:

    Fair play for wanting to reply.

  3. markspalding says:

    A very reasonable response- especially considering the context.

  4. Robert Louis says:

    Mr. Torrance,

    If you just keep on digging, you’ll reach rock bottom soon enough.

  5. james s says:

    Fair enough reply David but when I read your article I was left with little doubt about your intentions when describing Alan as an “ethnic nationalist”. Echoed sadly by your colleagues in the media.

  6. Rachel Holmes says:

    All well and good. But ethnic is not a useful word in what is a debate about democracy, who decides how Scotland’s resources are used, the morality of Trident and many other things. I’ve yet to hear my English husband or media types talk of the Tory party and its ‘ethnic’ background. Why this term seems only to be used in this debate for those who want Scotland to be a normal democracy beats me. As a member of the snp I’ve had this card put to me often. Anti English, racist, nationalism evil force etc etc. You’ll forgive the likes of me getting fed up with this ethnic stuff yet again. Perhaps an essay on any positive reasons for staying ruled by a parliament where our voice is less than 10% of the whole would be more helpful to the debate.

    1. rabthecab says:

      Funny you should say that Rachel; Every single time I ask a Unionist on Twitter to convince me why it would be better to stay in the UK I get sworn at & insulted.

      Thus far no one has given me a positive answer!

    2. macfergus says:

      Brilliant riposte Rachel. I read your comment late last night and wanted to reply, only the second time i’ve done so on any political website having discovered them late last year. For me you have hit the nail right on the head. By linking the word ‘ethnic’ to the debate on Scottish independence, Torrance in conjunction with his fellow right-wing British nationalist commentators in the media once again tries to insinuate and associate what we are trying to achieve for Scotland with ethnic cleansing and violence. By mentioning the word ‘ethnic’ in relation to Scottish independence he hopes that we will mentally link them to episodes in recent European history such as the ethnic cleansing in the Balkans and other equally odious examples of that type. Its disgusting, its dangerous, and its the politics of the gutter. He knows it, and he knows that we can see right through it. Thanks to websites like this one, trouble makers like Torrance are being challenged on an hour by hour basis. The days are long gone when people like him could spout their bile from columns in newspapers and go virtually unchallenged. Like his appologist friends they never offer a cogent argument in favour of the union. They don’t and can’t because there isn’t one that can stand scrutiny. All they can do now do is try to scare people and create tensions where non exist, in a pathetic attempt to justify the unjustifiable union. When the political history books come to be written about these momentous times, they will not be kind to Torrance and his ilk.

      1. Craig McLaren says:

        Well said Macfergus (and Rachael). We’re winning the arguments and they certainly don’t like it up them. Their impotent doom-laden shecht wilnae stick thanks to the online community.

        Scotland can and will be like every other country in the world and there’s nothing Mr Torrance or his pals can do about it.

      2. Turra Loon says:

        I could not have put it better myself. Well said.

  7. Am Buaireadair says:

    Well, I’ve read both Torrance’s original article and this response to Bissett and for the life of me I still can’t understand what was “ethnic” about Bissett’s play. Correct me if I’m wrong but this seems to be the “critique” Torrance describes:

    “Bissett was given a prominent slot before Mr Salmond’s keynote address at the Aberdeen spring conference on Saturday. This was a preview of Bissett’s forthcoming Fringe play The Pure, The Dead and the Brilliant, which, he hopes, will become “the statement about independence” during the August festival. If I were the SNP I’d be rather concerned about that for, although talented, Bissett is on the “Scotland was colonised” wing of the Yes campaign and his black-and-white view of Scottish history has found pungent expression in the play. Delegates, intriguingly, gave it a standing ovation.”

    There is… no critique in that. At all. The only analysis given by Torrance was that the play shows Bissett’s “black and white view of Scottish history”, yet gives no evidence for this.

    This all seems very wooly. If we’re going to be using that definition of ethnicity i.e. ‘The fact or state of belonging to a social group that has a common national or cultural tradition.’ rather than the commonly accepted definition meaning something related to blood and national purity then by god I am an ethnic nationalist and see no problem in it.

    Considering the commonly accepted definition is pretty vile and needlessly damaging to us Torrance would do well to choose a different expression like “cultural nationalism”. That’s not his aim though; Torrance is a Unionist polemicist who gets his jollies from sh*t stirring stuff about the Yes Campaign.

  8. I think people got wound up by the use of Ethnic, because it reminds of Ethnic Cleansing and despite the dictionary definition, suggests exclusivity and ‘blood’ more than it does ‘culture’ to most.

  9. “Therefore I was using terminology deployed by the Scottish Government itself, and did so to describe things as they are: the forthcoming ‘Homecoming’ event, which invites Americans with Scottish ancestry to return home, and also plans to mark the 700th anniversary of Bannockburn, are both examples of ‘ethnic’ Nationalism. Similarly, in his recent Budget the Chancellor George Osborne announced plans to restore English cathedrals and mark the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta, again examples of ethnic (English) Nationalism.”

    Thats not Nationalism (on either side of the border), it is advertising to promote tourism and that is helping the economy.

    1. G H Graham says:

      I traveled across the USA last year over a 7 month period presenting my art work at over 25 fine art festivals and Scottish/Celtic themed festivals & games in 11 states. Consequently I met thousands of people delighted to see the images but also revel in their connection to Scotland either because they had already visited, planned to visit or had a stronger connection through ancestry or marriage for example. Some had emigrated to North America.

      There was indeed a strong ethnic connection then, not always directly through blood, often just by being attracted to the idea that individuals had of Scotland. Sure some of it is imaginary or wishful but so what. Invariably it was always positive no matter the reason or motive.

      Some declared their intention to visit in 2014 for all the obvious nationally important reasons. But to label them simplistically as “nationalists” is just that; simplistic. And too often, British media equates Scottish Nationalism with bigotry, fascism or political narcissism. This is a conveniently lazy attribute to label thousands of people with who have never displayed any of these negative signs or behaviours.

      Ironically, most I met were deeply American at heart but felt a tremendously strong affinity for their connection to the auld country. To accuse these people of having an anti-English agenda or a sense of being a victim is puerile nonsense. And the same applies to us living in Scotland.

      Sure, there are fringes of extremists in our society, any society, all societies. But instead, the vast majority in my experience are awakening to an opportunity they are beginning to understand. The party which has enabled this to happen has the word National in it. Attempts to stretch that name to mean Nationalism of the type that led to a Nazi controlled German state are predictable but wholly wrong.

      The Scottish Government has correctly identified a diaspora which is keen to celebrate our shared history & culture which brings a hugely positive economic impact to our country. That is something we should all celebrate because it brings people together from different countries, cultures & societies & binds them through shared humanity.

      That, to me is what ethnic nationalism is about; a positive sharing of distinct customs, norms & values that can be readily identified by a geographical & social boundary called Scotland.

  10. JPJ2 says:

    I am afraid both David Torrance and fellow journalist Alex Massie are unionists masquerading as “Don’t knows”.

    Pretty pointless, and fooling very few.

  11. James says:

    Unsure how Torrance can say AB is caricaturing down South by speaking of an “increasing right wing consensus”. Surely the surge in support for parties such as UKIP and the proposed privatisation of the NHS, successful privatisation of the Royal Mail and slashing of welfare proves this statement.

  12. Jon says:

    “Similarly, in his recent Budget the Chancellor George Osborne announced plans to restore English cathedrals and mark the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta, again examples of ethnic (English) Nationalism.”

    Interesting. Where can I read your equivalent article insinuating that English people celebrating the anniversary of the Magna Carta is more-or-less equivalent to racism?

  13. stringlug says:

    Hunter Thompson tells the tale of a local election early in the career of Lyndon B Johnson in which the bold LBJ told his agent to spread rumours that his opponent, a local pig farmer, was having unnatural congress with his livestock. But you can’t say that, the agent replied, it’s not true. I know that, said the future president, but let’s make him deny it.
    It’s one of the oldest tricks in the long and sordid history of politics. Well done Mr Torrance.

  14. Robert Graham says:

    oh well i gave up after the first paragraph i really couldn’t be bothered going through this convoluted excuse for his article we know what he meant along with his fellow bitter together apologists i mean own up it was an attack on alan bissett so dont bother trying to kid us, and for gods sake try plain english its easier to follow

  15. Dan Huil says:

    Mr Torrance’s article here is certainly more moderate than his article in Monday’s Herald.
    Today he defends the use of the word “ethnic” and “ethnicity” [and I agree, mostly, with the arguments he puts forward in their defence today] whereas in Monday’s article he used the word “ethnic” in a derogatory sense, thus:

    “This year’s Homecoming will again invite “blood Scots” to return to the mother country and, strikingly, the First Minister’s Holyrood office is dominated by a painting featuring a massive Saltire. Talk of Scottish “values” is generally more inclusive but it still hints at an ethnic set of cultural (even moral) values that, of course, differ (usually in unspecified ways) from the “English” variety. This is a clever repackaging of cruder anti-Englishness and one Unionist parties such as Labour have been willing since the 1980s to buy into.”

    I am glad Mr Torrance has, today at least, toned down his injudicious rhetoric. How long his new-found moderation will continue is anyone’s [of any ethnicity] guess.

  16. Alex Buchan says:

    This is a reasoned response that fills in some of the context to the Herald article. I also think there is a place for discussing the issues he raises about the kind of arguments used by supporters of Scottish independence. However, distinctions like ethnic versus civic nationalism are not neutral academic debating points, as he seems to want to argue, but are part of a long tradition of demonising supporters of Scottish independence. David Torrance’s main argument in his last line is that Scottish nationalism regards itself as superior, and the thrust of his argument is that it is not superior to British nationalism. British nationalism is clearly associated with the BNP and the EDL and UKIP. So in essence he is saying that Scottish nationalism should not be seen as superior to these. Regardless of all of the qualifications he is highlighting now about his reference to the positive aspects of the campaign for Scottish independence, in the end he is saying that Scottish nationalism is no better than British nationalism.

  17. Chris Law says:

    Dear David Torrance,

    I read both Alan Bissetts article today and of course your article previously and I also took the time to read your reply this afternoon over some lunch.

    Firstly , when I read the initial article I was disappointed to speak plainly. It read to me as being mischievous and an effort to cause controversy where little was necessary. If there isn’t enough joie de vivre in Scotlands story and I can appreciate the thirst for something a bit more juicy to bite into. However, creating a story for the plain and utterly confusing reader is both trite and dare I say immature.

    Alan, like I and many others work hard, unpaid and with passion to write and support an environment that by all accounts has been the most democratic cause for Independence in history and without as much as a punch thrown. Given the backdrop of impending doom and disaster the likes that haven’t been seen the Darien disaster, I don’t doubt that you may not be too pleased that the very movement for independence is not the same colour as your own palette from which you choose your colours. Moreover, it shows what you are not prepared to even begin to challenge and whilst its important to look at both sides of the debate, so far I have not seen by your very absence in your work, the slightest exploration or the whiff of criticism of the deluge of bile, negativity and British nationalist tripe daily served and of cause for any journalist to more than quench their thirst with. In the last week any number of topics could have been chosen. Food banks reach giving out to a million in the last year, all sorts of spurious allegations of the west would be unsafe to the third world would suffer as a result of Scotlands becoming independent and yet and yet!. Doesn’t that make you salivate to write a column about, which is real and tangible? No, not a peep. Zilch, zero, nada

    That aside, I am not writing here, either to attack your defence nor indeed defend Alan’s reply to your article. I am writing to ask why you thought it both necessary and indeed worth the controversy that has now ensued? What lies beneath that you suspect and what is it that you are trying to tease out and to what effect? How can your article ‘seem’ to have caused controversy when that was what was your intention all along. As a writer in the public domain, do you not follow a code of ethical journalism?. Debate is good and crucial to any living breathing democracy, but your positioning of the argument was crass and certainly not balanced as you would like to now assert. I don’t write unqualified either, as both a student of both Scottish History and Social anthropology in my earlier life, ‘ethnicity’ takes on several meanings and in different contexts and referring to the dictionary is really first years stuff at University I’m sure you will agree.

    As I’ve said before and I’ll say it again, what makes this movement both encompassing and also interesting, is that its a movement for all Jock Tamsens Bairns and not one that ought to inspire the mischief you set out to achieve. If that’s boring or a little bit uncontroversial, then lend an ear as I am more than happy to point to larger than life stories looming every day.

    all the best
    Chris Law

  18. The curious case of a certain better together BBC pundit’s shift to ethnic nationalism was a well drafted article. It highlighted the dangers of derogatory labels applied to people of South Asian origin. Alas, such terms are endemic in British Nationalism.

    I’m glad that David Torrance is highlighting the dangers of ethnic nationalism. Where would such a thing end if it were to find its way into government? Where governments see “foreigners” or “aliens” for populist gain or parts in a bureaucratic process. Where could this end – forcibly removing school kids overseas?

  19. LMS says:

    David,did I miss your published article witten soley to stir debate by highlighting the extent of Chancellor George Osbornes public declaration of his own “English Ethnic Nationalism” as quoted by you in this article?….you surely wrote one as a fair counter balance to the article on Alan Bisset?
    Who are you trying to kid?

  20. Alex Buchan says:

    I’ve just read Andrew Mycock’s report on the polling they did, and, as a result, I have a better insight into what David Torrance’s logic was in writing his article, and clearly, Davis is right, that there are issues that need to be addressed. But to read the menace of ethnic nationalism into support for the Gaelic language, as Mycock does, shows that Mycock is also coming to the discussion with certain assumptions, i.e. that my educational experience, where I was made to feel stupid if I spoke Scots cannot be seen as an example of ethnic nationalism, but the Scottish government’s support of Gaelic can. It is not possible to have the kind of neutral examination of policy as, either ethnic nationalist or not, because the supposedly neutral standpoint is not, in fact, neutral but is the standpoint of the dominant culture. There is a discussion to be had, for instance, over what is included in the history syllabus, but that conversation is not aided by ethnic nationalism witch hunting, which only disguises the fact that all these things are contested. Such a debate cannot be left solely to the likes of Mycock, arbitrarily dictating what is and what is not an example of ethnic nationalism.

    1. Jon says:

      “my educational experience, where I was made to feel stupid if I spoke Scots cannot be seen as an example of ethnic nationalism, but the Scottish government’s support of Gaelic can. It is not possible to have the kind of neutral examination of policy as, either ethnic nationalist or not, because the supposedly neutral standpoint is not, in fact, neutral but is the standpoint of the dominant culture”

      Congratulations, Alex. You now belong to the “Scotland was colonised” wing of the Yes campaign, all all your opinions can therefore be comfortably dismissed.

  21. Rick Warden says:

    Read!

  22. Famous15 says:

    The snide joining of the name Murdoch to the leadership is worthy of the Daily Mail. Strangely Murdoch’s journalistic record beats that of the current “Scottish” Press Corp. Being the nephew of an ANZAC casualty,his exposure of the Australian MOD corruption in relation to Galipoli has greater merit than current journalists examination of our own,dear MOD.

  23. Dennis Smith says:

    The definition that David Torrance quotes from the online Oxford Dictionaries shows why ‘ethnicity’ is such a dangerous and confusing term. Historically ethnicity was regularly associated with race. Now, in our PC era, it is associated with nationality and culture (which is odd in itself: surely there are many people whose ethnicity is different from their nationality). Such a slippery term is best avoided completely but obviously this won’t happen any time soon.

    ‘Ethnic’ is particularly fraught when connected to nationalism since there is a well-established distinction between ethnic and civic nationalism. So calling someone an ethnic nationalist can easily be taken to imply that their nationalism is *not* civic and therefore not inclusive. (People can to some extent change their civic affiliations and their culture but they can’t change their race.) Meanwhile old and discredited ideas about race lurk unspoken in the background.

  24. A rather embarrassing response to being caught out Mr Torrance.
    The days of London apologists being able to cast any smear ,sneer ,or jeer have long gone .
    I am sure however that at your next appearance on British Television as a “neutral” observer you can bemoan how us bad cybernats abused and monstered you.
    The internet catches and fillets you all one by one, there is a place for you ,indeed The Scotsman or as we call it The North Britisher seems to be a marriage in heaven for you.
    There you can call your fellow Scots anything you like ,and you will never have to justify anything.

    You can even have pictures of our Saltire as a Swastika ,you may call the FM a dictator ,Hitler ,Stalin anything you like, if anyone complains call them a bully, and a cybernat.
    When the history of this Referendum is being taught in Scottish schools it is good to know the victors always write history not the losers.
    I am so glad I am firmly on the winning side , how you feeling?

  25. polwarthian says:

    WTF is the reference about Murdoch? Can’t help trying to smear can you David? If there was no huge bias against independence in the media then you wouldn’t have to feel “intimidated” at the bias being called out. Why not work on creating less bias, and end the smearing of individuals and maybe you’ll feel more comfortable around the people you’re smearing?

  26. Martin says:

    Weasel words dripping with arrogance. Was your intention to reinforce the criticisms levelled against you?

  27. Peter A Bell says:

    Mealy-mouthed rationalisation.

  28. Flower of Scotland says:

    Who do you think you are kidding Mr Torrance !! ( sung of coarse to the Dads Army tune!)

  29. After read this, can I gently suggest to David that his interests might best be served by giving serious consideration to Denis Healy’s First Law of Holes.

    When you’re in one, stop digging.

  30. Colin says:

    Wings Over Scotland has claimed I am part of a ‘vile’ and ‘co-ordinated’ attack on Alan,

    I would say you are part of a vile and co-ordinated attack on the whole of the Scottish people. You have been and you will be until the 19th, what Scotland needs is the truth not the fictional scare stories journalists like yourself peddle.
    You should be ashamed of yourself and your profession, but you won’t be.

  31. Donald Kerr says:

    The first paragraph says it all. To “stir up debate” is fine but fiction does the opposite of helping and, in this context, can be dangerous.

  32. Carnyx says:

    “Now I would take a ‘common national’ tradition to include anything historical and ‘cultural’ to cover, well, anything cultural.”

    You are playing word games by focusing on the meaning of “ethnic” alone, when the term “ethnic nationalism” refers to exclusive forms of nationalism based on a claimed distinctive group defined through race, religion or language, it does not refer to “anything cultural” because not all cultural products or artifacts are exclusive, I can enjoy Turkish cuisine without being Turkish, or Black Metal without being Norwegian. You are seemingly confused by an old fashioned and rigidly structuralist understanding of culture on one hand and the looseness of the term “ethnic” on the other (in the original Greek it means “nation” so in modern Greece you have the “Ethniki Trapeza” National Bank) but in English it has come to be used to mean something similar to “volk”. Whatever, etymology is not the same thing as meaning in common usage, for example “antisemitism” doesn’t mean “a dislike of Semites” but a specific “dislike of Jews”, and thus “ethnic nationalism” isn’t a nationalism that features some cultural aspects but rather a form of nationalism that excludes on the basis of race, language or religion and looking at definitions of “ethnic” alone doesn’t change that. As such celebrating or restoring English Cathedrals is not an example of English ethnic nationalism at all, but acknowledging the cultural and architectural heritage of everyone living in or visiting England, in the same way I can marvel at Chartres without being either French or Catholic.

    I find it very hard to believe, despite your confusion, that you were not aware of the negative implications of terming someone an “ethnic nationalist”, as such I find your response disingenuous.

  33. Douglas says:

    Well done, David Torrance, it´s always refreshing to hear of a journalist who opens a dictionary now and again.

    But what of the much discussed “quality of the debate”? No, not in terms of civility, I am referring to the intellectual quality of the debate, which has reached a new low with a man paid for what he thinks about Scottish politics basing an argument on semantics and referring to the Oxford English definition..There is a whole library of literature on nationalism, scholars spend their entire lives devoted to the subject.But this is from the long wikipedia entry on nationalism, and serves to make the point well enough:

    “Civic nationalism (also known as liberal nationalism) defines the nation as an association of people who identify themselves as belonging to the nation, who have equal and shared political rights, and allegiance to similar political procedures.[36] According to the principles of civic nationalism, the nation is not based on common ethnic ancestry, but is a political entity whose core identity is not ethnicity. This civic concept of nationalism is exemplified by Ernest Renan in his lecture in 1882 “What is a Nation?”, where he defined the nation as a “daily referendum” (frequently translated ‘daily plebiscite”) dependent on the will of its people to continue living together”.[36]

    Civic nationalism is a kind of non-xenophobic nationalism that is claimed to be compatible with liberal values of freedom, tolerance, equality, and individual rights.[37][38][39] Ernest Renan[40] and John Stuart Mill[41] are often thought to be early liberal nationalists. Liberal nationalists often defend the value of national identity by saying that individuals need a national identity in order to lead meaningful, autonomous lives,[42][43] and that liberal democratic polities need national identity in order to function properly.[44][45]

    Civic nationalism lies within the traditions of rationalism and liberalism, but as a form of nationalism it is contrasted with ethnic nationalism. Membership of the civic nation is considered voluntary, as in Ernest Renan’s “daily referendum” formulation in What is a Nation?. Civic-national ideals influenced the development of representative democracy in countries such as the United States and France (see the United States Declaration of Independence of 1776, and the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen of 1789).”

  34. Iain says:

    ‘Journalists have many talents’. Heavy irony here, but unfortunately many seem to believe it, without the evidence being apparent to the rest of us.

  35. Big Jock says:

    Is a journalists job to stir up debate? No its to report news.A columnist is normally the person who gives personal opinion rather than presenting the facts.So we have established that Torrance is a columnist rather than a serious journalist.Everyone has opinions.I have mine.When I engage with people its never just to stir up debate .That would be known as a mischief maker.Anyone can stir up debate by saying something controversial.We all know people such as these drop a bomb and run types! This is the crudest and most facile form of writing.It cheapens the debate ,insults the reader because that is the aim and shows the writer has no personal belief in what they state.The case rests Torrance should apply for a job as an opinion writer in the Daily Mail that’s where they pay people to rant scurrilous nonsense.

  36. Dinna_Fash says:

    Can’t wait for the Macmillan, Smart & Martin Responses.
    I’m sure they’ll want to have their sa6 and set the records straight.
    Looking forward to hearing from them soon…

  37. MolliBlum says:

    Good try, David. But I’m afraid that article really was indefensible.

  38. Big Jock says:

    Macmillan is so eaten by his belief that Scotland is full of bigots.That he is unreachable.In fact he has become a bigot himself.He doesn’t want Scots to run Scotland.Well if that isn’t insanity I don’t know what is.The UK run Scotland better because they are less bigoted…er that will be the glorious protestant monarchy.

  39. Pleased to see Bella Caledonia giving David a “right of reply”; did Alan ask for the same from the Herald?

    1. bellacaledonia says:

      I doint know, I did wonder about this afterwards, if the boot had been on the other foot ie had a nationalist outlet smeared a unionist playwright/writer would they have been offered a right to reply?

  40. So, by his own admission, David Torrance has maligned Alan Bissett with the intention of provoking controversy.

  41. James Coleman says:

    “talk of Scottish “values” is generally more inclusive but it still hints at an ethnic set of cultural (even moral) values that, of course, differ (usually in unspecified ways) from the “English” variety. This is a clever repackaging of cruder anti-Englishness.”

    There you have it from Torrance’s own pen. Scottish ethnic nationalism is “clever repackaging of cruder anti-Englishness.

    The rest of his article is just puerile self justifying noise

  42. Mr Torrance back pedals but the odour of a deliberate political distraction sticks to him.

    To argue a grass roots movement is “ethnic” in essence is to argue it is unhealthy. There’s no other meaning to be interpreted in today’s political climate from concentrating an essay on “ethnicity,” as if Serbia or Kosovo.

    My first reaction was at how disappointing is the man’s intellect, his lack of sensitivity, the second his naivety, the third that he apologises for his pomposity and then goes on to patronise his critics.

    Anybody who begins with the line: I delberately set out to provoke and am happy I got that response, is really saying no more than, “I see I have hit a nerve.”

    The reading of that is the writer feels superior to his target.

    He insults and then expresses surprise he got a reaction. We should learn to accept insult.

    Is there any chance the debate can be lifted to higher levels of discussion?

  43. Were we colonised? We were certainly conquered. What other word can we used to convey English interference in our international trade, threatening to block our cross border trade, stationing an army at the border and ships in the Forth, and paying a bribe, all to ensure that that self-serving members of Parliament voted the “right way”.

    There may be a difference from what we expect of colonisation. There was not an English army stationed here, and the highest people in power were not English, but collaborator Scots. In contrast with what we usually think of colonisation, it was not the ambitious English how came here to rule us, but the ambitious Scots who went to London, to join the London rule, and the Westminster violations of the Treaty and Act of Union.

    1. hektorsmum says:

      Indeed William, those even presently residing at Westminster could give the Russian’s lessons. I came to the conclusion many many years ago that our masters learned all they could from the Romans and have continued relentlessly to put their methods into practice, hence they have used divide and rule to perfection. Their most successful have been those Scots who yearned for approval from the establishment. Labour are those, but then we have those Lib Dems now also joining in and always the Tories. Successful in selling their country and it’s resources down the river for £300 a day and an ermine cloak.
      David Torrance is merely a schill for these self same people.

  44. Clootie says:

    Torrance intended the slur. He is a major part of the unionist campaign and it is no coincidence that his comments timing aligned perfectly with the general BT attack suggesting a dark side to the independence debate.

    I prefer Cochrane to Torrance and least he is open and honest about his stance.

  45. Ken says:

    David Torrance lets the cat out of the bag straight away. He used the term to “cause controversy”. Not to add to the debate, or improve it, but to be noticed. Childish, but also very dangerous. Grow up son, it’s not about you.

    This sort of snide nonsense is far too prevalent from the unionist side. Reminiscent of Paddy Ashdown on QT about his experiences in Bosnia. Not that he was making comparisons you understand. George Robertson’s recent nonsensical contribution was just as unworthy, as was Galloway’s utterances regarding the Catholic community. And now we have this, from someone who is supposed to be a respected journalist.

    The unionists’ inept and impotent attempts to light an ethnic/nationalist/religious fire under this debate should shame them all. Sadly, shame is beyond them. They are losing the arguments, so resort to stirring up trouble. Divide and rule, the British state’s weapon of choice when all else fails.

    I say unionists, as no matter how hard David Torrance may try to hide behind a mask of impartiality, his output places him unmistakably in that camp.

  46. The length of his ‘Right of Reply’ is proportional to his sensitivity. He was employed by the Scottish Tory “.. a year and a half working as Parliamentary Aide to the Shadow Scottish Secretary David Mundell at the House of Commons.” As for his “Scottish politics is a small world in which each party has a relatively small membership base” (quoted from elsewhere) *Sighs* ‘Too wee?

  47. Do you have any video of that? I’d care to find out some additional information.

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