Some commentators such as Alex Massie, David Aaronovitch and Daniel Hannan have drawn comparisons between the belief that Scotland should leave the United Kingdom and that Britain should leave the European Union. Aaronovitch claimed Farage and Salmond both want you to believe in ‘outtopia’, and Massie said arguments are often parallel, those wanting out shout about democracy while those wanting to stay in shout Armageddon after you leave.
Whatever you think of the UK Union and European Union, whether in in (almost all of Labour and the Lib Dems, lots of Tories too), in out, (UKIP, Hannan), out in (the SNP), or out out (a rarity which proves some things really are beyond left and right – Jim Sillars and Douglas Carswell) it seems a fair point that Scottish separatism is treated with greater respect than UK separatism. UKIP and the SNP are not the entirety of the out forces in their particular field, but taken as broad representatives the SNP have been given an easier ride. If you don’t believe that, take a look at the media hate campaign which UKIP encountered before the European elections. Why is this?
There are two reasons, as far as I can see, and both relate to power and your view of power. Scottish nationalism can lend itself to a view of the powerful against the powerless. It presents the poor Scottish as oppressed by the bigger bully that is England. Jim Sillars infers this when he repeated his tireless line ‘the greatest myth we have had bestowed upon us is the myth of our own inadequacy’. (Here’s a secret, Yes talk about Scotland’s inadequacy more than No). Lesley Riddoch added to this with her ridiculous piece in the Scotsman about how the Commonwealth Games were Scotland coming to believe in itself. At this stage, I must ask what planet these people are on.
Take a look around you: there has been a Scot in cabinet every year since 1990; two of the last three Prime Ministers and Chancellors were Scottish; and even when the Tories came in in 2010 there were two Scots in cabinet. A casual follower of politics on the BBC will travel no length before encountering a Scot: Andrew Neil, Kirsty Wark, Jim Naughtie. The Premier League has been won by two Scots as managers, and never by an Englishman, no matter how much Kevin Keegan would have loved it. The British Medical Association is known as the Scottish Mafia because of its plethora of Scots near the top.
The notion that the Union is oppressing Scots is ridiculous, but this portrayal gives the SNP an edge over UKIP. They are believed to be against the wealth of London and the Tories, whereas UKIP are seen as up against a low skilled Romanian migrant at worst and a Brussels regulator at best.
The second is their contrasting plans for ‘outtopia’. UKIP has tacked away from its right wing roots of late, pandering to old Labour votes, but before this its endgame after Brexit seemed to be a libertarian society, ‘keeping the flame of Thatcherism alive’. The SNP’s endgame, despite corporation tax cuts, was a ‘fairer, more socially just Scotland’, and other vague nebulous things.
There are still massive problems with this as a nationalist concept. What if you disagree? How many times have the SNP looked for reasons to tell someone their opinion is irrelevant – and even in the first debate Salmond tried to question the Scottishness of Darling. There is an authoritarian strand in Salmond and the SNP which loathes all other opinion. He said in that debate a ‘majority’ voted for him in 2011. This is not true, a plurality did. 55 per cent of people voted for other parties. He does not speak for Scotland. What of the rare brand of Scottish Tories, 416,000 of them? Can they express their view in an independent Scotland? Can the growing number of people who voted UKIP?
If you think this is a sensationalist portrayal of Salmond and the SNP, look to the criminally underreported documentary on Channel Four which shows they have been intimidating businesses. Businesses have said they fear ‘retribution’ further down the line. Business may well fancy its chances better in the Union, but Salmond and the SNP cannot handle this proposition. They have a narrative of their Scotland, anyone who does not subscribe this is regarded as somehow not properly Scottish. If this is no xenophobic nationalism what is?
Jessica Elgot asked in the Huffington Post ‘Could Scottish independence be the first nationalist movement that ethnic minorities don’t feel threatened by?’ This misses the point. Scottish Nationalism since the 1970s has been the fusion of nationalism with ‘social justice’, so of course minorities do not matter to it. The divisive nature comes when people dispute the ends and means. When people disagree about the ends and means of the SNP they are told their opinion cannot be heard.
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