If you are looking for the kind of insidious, nasty nationalism Johann ascribes to the Scots, try Simon Heffer in the Daily Mail. I hesitate to put up a link as there is something repellent about it but he contrives to make a case for all the myths about Scotland that have shored up the London elite’s scorn since the Thatcher years.
You know, subsidised by English taxpayers – happily for them, not the Welsh nor the Irish – being ungrateful feckless junkies living in a dump with workshy unhealthy shirkers who are so stupid they want to leave the mothership until their oil runs out and then they’ll be back with the begging bowl. Nice, eh? To say this is wrong on so many levels, even hardened Unionists would agree. The subsidy part is disproved systematically by the official figures. The irony here is that the subsidy junkie myth originated in the late 80’s when Scotland’s oil was flowing at its fullest, gushing cash into the London coffers and paying Mrs Thatcher’s unemployment bill. Self- awareness isn’t a strength of the British elite.
The piece is not so much journalism as an incitement to hate. I try to test this sometimes by substituting, so that Scot is removed and replaced with Black, Jew or Woman. It can be revealing as to the author’s real intent. I’m not sure that legally you can be racist towards Scots if you are English and vice versa although it is an aggravating factor in a case of criminal violence. At any rate, this article smelled like anti Scottish racism to me, designed to be gratuitously and viciously offensive.
Similarly, Andrew Gilligan, for whom many of us in the BBC were ready to go to the barricades years ago, works very hard in the Telegraph – headline: Hatred at the heart of Scotland’s struggle to be free – to link the Yes Campaign to European neo-fascists and anglophobia, picking up on the somewhat discredited Vicky Featherstone claims that her professional problems were down to discrimination and then applying the same tag to Alasdair Gray’s call for arts administrators to understand the Scottish tradition before taking influential appointments. (Jonathan Mills, anyone?)
Even the Observer had Catherine Bennett saying she was in favour of independence but warning Scots not to descend into tartan, Bannockburn and anglophobia.
Is there a common trend here?
Well, there is one I can detect. It is an irresistible temptation to English-based writers to think the independence movement is all about them. In trying to write for a largely English audience they frame the discussion around themselves, rather than the Scots. So independence is a rejection of the English. It is a snub, a slight against well-intentioned Unionists who have agreed to share their wealth and allow Scots into the upper reaches of their society. It seems to be the only way they can interpret what is happening. We are essentially irrational quasi racists. So that explains it then. Is it asking too much that our neighbours give us credit for independent thought, for having a separate history and cultural tradition, distinctive politics, and ambition? Why on earth is self-determination – part of the preamble to the United Nations charter – only comprehensible if it’s seen as rejection of someone else? Rather stunted, petty nationalistic thinking, wouldn’t you say?
Which brings up another point, best represented by Heffer. (I know you can dismiss his rantings as bigotry best ignored but if you add the circulations of the Mail, the Telegraph and Observer you have a few million readers.) It is this. He writes with such sadistic relish in trashing the Scots – and it is all Scots by the way, not just Nats…no escape here for Unionists – that he reveals what I think is a deeper truth. I think Heffer and his tribe actually enjoy the idea of subsidising the Scots. They derive real satisfaction from feeling they lord it over us and brush crumbs from their table. A characteristic of the self-selecting British elite is an effortless assumption of superiority and an epic sense of entitlement, so that even when Britain is mired in one of the world’s worst debt crises – public and private – even when it is deeply uncompetitive, hopelessly unequal, dependent on one main income source, with a medieval parliament, they still believe – utterly – that they know best. Anything else is to be disparaged and derided and if you can add in a dash of ethnic inferiority you further bolster their self-esteem as the Chosen Ones.
Here’s a thought. Why do Scottish Unionists never stand up and condemn this kind of anti-Scottish and indeed, anti-Union, ranting? Douglas Alexander is in the papers warning of the dangers of nationalism. I know. He means Scottish nationalism but is it acceptable for those like Douglas who present themselves as thinkers and leaders to stay silent when those who pretend to be on his side damage his cause and insult his constituents with their British nationalism? Wouldn’t it do him a lot of good in the eyes of all Scots to condemn anyone who writes off his nation and accuses a movement which contains a fair number of his own natural supporters of being racists? Where are you, Douglas? Do you agree with Heffer and Gilligan?
One of the unreported moments from our day on the hill was the speaker who said explicitly that anyone of any nationality was one of us, a fellow Scot, that all were welcome. It got one of the biggest cheers of the day.
Here’s a challenge, Douglas. Could you stand up at the Labour conference and say the same. Could you say people of all backgrounds are welcome in our country – Britain – as equals with equal rights? Would delegates cheer as they did on the hill or would you be met by silence, then whispering from the advisers and hysterical, racist headlines followed by demotion?
The rise of UKIP and a glance at the rapidly developing anti immigrant agenda of the Coalition and Labour points an accusing finger at the real petty nationalists and quasi racists in modern Britain.