Monday, April 10, 2017

What nationalism has done to Scotland

I love Scotland both as the home of many of my ancestors and as a wonderful country.

Both my parents had a substantial proportion of Scottish ancestry. It is impossible to be certain whether my surname originates from Cumberland (as this part of Cumbria would have been known at the time) or from Lanarkshire in Scotland, but I do know for certain that I have both English and Scottish ancestors, the latter including the chiefs of Clan MacAuley of Ardincaple in Scotland. I am equally proud of my English and Scottish ancestors and I self-identify as British, rather than wishing to choose one or the other.

So I was rather shocked when I saw that journalist Stephen Daisley had written an article about Scotland which begins with the Jack Nicholson quote from Easy Rider:

"You know, this used to be a hell of a good country. I can’t understand what’s gone wrong with it."

My instinct is to say that Scotland still is a hell of a good country. And I am convinced that it is. But the point of Daisley's article -  that an aggressive brand of nationalism has filled the politics of Scotland with anger - is difficult to argue convincingly against.

The article, "Bile, Anger and the growing divisiveness of a nation's politics" continues with a reference to a complaint which Anas Sarwar, a Scottish Labour MSP, had to make to the police after being sent a picture of a gallows which he took to be a threat of what would happen to people like him after Independence.

Daisley also responds to a widely and rightly pilloried line in a Herald article by David Pratt which said of Scotland:

"We are a nation, too, that carries less of the colonial baggage so associated with a British imperialism of the past."

As he rightly points out, Pratt was rewriting history in the most extreme way. At the height of the Empire a third of Britain's colonial governors were Scots, and Scotland was fully involved in Imperialism and Colonialism at all levels, not just providing foot-soldiers. But this awkward political fact does not help the nationalists present themselves as victims.

Not all nationalists fall into the trap of continually denouncing those who do not share their views, and as Daisley also says, some unionists do. He is right to warn against this.

I hope it is a while before Nicola Sturgeon gets to rerun the independence referendum which, let us not forget, the nationalists lost by a clear majority and which polls tell us most Scots do not wish to revisit. The poison injected into Scottish politics by the last one is far from having dispersed.

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