I was drawn to this topic, a sensitive one to be sure in contemporary Scotland, by a social media post sharply critical of a letter published in the die-hard SNP supporting paper “The National”. The social media post highlighted the xenophobic and anti-English sentiments in this letter as symptomatic of a narrow prejudice at the heart of Scottish nationalism, and by extension most or all nationalist movements. The offending letter is reproduced in full below:
So now we have a part-time deputy leader. Angus is out of the country four days a week, he is an MP, he is the leader of London SNP MPs and now he is deputy leader with an important role to play in our independence campaign. This part-time attitude to our independence must stop. Angus also had an important role to play in indyref1 and we lost. We have the same old people in the same old positions making the same old mistakes.
I am also very concerned about the inclusive policy adopted by the party. The most important vote any Scot can have is the vote for their country’s independence. This precious vote of ours has been given away to any Tom, Dick or Harry who happens to be in the country at the time.
The English girl passing her time in Scotland till her visa to Australia came through voted No in indyref1 because she didn’t want Scotland to be independent and two weeks later she emigrated to Australia, an independent country. Since the EU referendum I have been angry at the number of EU people who voted against independence. When they were given the honour of a vote in Scotland’s bid for independence they voted against me and my grandchildren having the same citizens rights as they take for granted in their own countries.
We now have retired English people buying homes in the Borders. We have a housing boom in the Highlands as ex-pats buy cheap homes and in my area of Fife we have building firms building homes for English in-comers.
I am a Scot born in Scotland and I have lived here for 75 years and I am reduced to hoping and praying that all these fly-by-nights, who are in the country two minutes, will give me the right to my country’s independence. Scotland’s vital independence has been reduced to a cheap lottery where anyone can claim a ticket and take part. They don’t have to buy a ticket because that would mean putting a value on our independence vote. Our precious independent vote has been given away to the lowest bidder.
So in thrall has my party become to their inclusive mantra that I don’t believe they have any idea of the offence they have given.
Those who are born and living in Scotland and those who have lived here for 20 years, is the value I would put on the right to take part in our referendum, and that is 50 years less than my generation has given to Scotland.
Can we wonder why my generation does not trust their pensions and assets accrued over a lifetime to a government that can give away our right to decide our country’s future so easily and so cheaply?
I found to my surprise that I was more sympathetic to the difficulty of the author than I might have expected. That is not to say that I share any anti-English sentiment. I do not and the reasons for this are outlined in my talk at Winchester titled “Who are the British?” in which I touched on our common history and future, shared identity and heritage.
Rather I sympathise with the larger truth the writer was encountering. That is the conflict between state endowed citizenship and full membership of a nation. The state employs crude rules to assess who does and who does not qualify for a magic ticket called citizenship. This ticket entitles the holder to a claim on his neighbour’s wealth and income via the welfare state and to a say in his neighbour’s future via democracy, which let us always recall is simply majority (or mob) rule. It even allows the holder via that same democracy to take away or add to the rights of his neighbour, add or remove legal protections enjoyed by his neighbour. In the case highlighted in the letter it allows the holder to help decide the future nature of government, even in a case where the individual has no intention of being subjected to that government.
I read another account of this same problem recently. It considered the hypothetical case of a Turk immigrating to Holland and becoming a citizen. He or she will immediately wield the full powers of citizenship, no more or less than a son of an ancient Dutch family, whose ancestors won the land back from the North Sea and fought and bled to keep it from being the dominion of a Spanish king. Furthermore that clog-wearing Dutchman may be fully part of the culture of the nation, embrace its reformed Christianity, cherish its democratic ideals, respect its limits on power and value its pluralism. The incomer may embrace none of these attributes, may be entirely alien to the culture, may even be hostile to it and wish to undermine it and change it out of all recognition. The state cares not for such subtleties, for how can it? It cannot consider the fullness of a nation any more than it can acknowledge the richness of a family. Rather it imposes crude measures for even cruder reasons.
And what might those reasons be?
To have a workforce capable of satisfying promises made to the previous generation now retiring.
To have a substitute for falling birth-rates in a country of high tax and high living costs where families are becoming less affordable.
To provide voters for political hucksters and opportunists with an eye to power at all costs
….among a myriad of short term fixes to problems often of the state’s own manufacture.
In Scotland, we have a strange brand of National Socialism, which calls itself “Civic Nationalism”. This grew up in the age of unchallenged left wing dogma and rampant warriors for social justice. To talk about race or ethnicity, or culture or history was the greatest of crimes. Nationhood was to be merely (or as we will see mostly) defined by geography - no other social science was relevant. Where you are located is all, make it across the line on the map with the right paperwork, or appropriate excuse and you are in brother. No further questions asked, or indeed permitted.
Or so it is claimed. The reality is, as always, more complicated and more threatening. For even the SNP realised that geography is not enough. But as good Social Justice Warriors they saw ethnicity, history, culture and faith as "divisive". Rather, they have implicitly introduced another requirement: adherence to the basic tenets of the PARTY. Thus the "others" that are now demonised are the "Tories" (which has echoes of the American Revolution which was built on Scottish Enlightenment ideas). I initially thought “Tories” was merely a euphemism for “English” – a means of hiding a common prejudice. That is wrong however, for although the less educated and more bitter supporters of “Civic Nationalism” do exhibit this trait it is not the party line. The “Tories” are Scots who have become "traitors", "quislings", "uncle tams", "Yoons". They are thus no longer true Scots by the SNP's definition. Though they are the majority, they are nonetheless foreigners in their own land.
Thus eschewing the traditional idea of nation as an extension of family, the SNP/Scottish Left also turn away from the tolerance and pluralism inherent in that view, the acceptance of diverse opinions as all part of the mix. They will tolerate any variety, except a variety of ideas. But that approach, though toxic and inherently totalitarian, nonetheless ignores all the really important issues surrounding what makes a nation a nation; and what defines a people. It draws no distinction between being kind to the stranger in your midst and allowing that stranger to become a full participant in the life of the nation. It repeats the error made by the left all across the western world; It belittles the very idea of nationhood.
We have recently lived through a prime example of this lack of regard for nationhood. Tony Blair’s Labour government sought to change our society by means of mass immigration, without asking the people of course, it was belatedly reported in the Telegraph:
The huge increases in migrants over the last decade were partly due to a politically motivated attempt by ministers to radically change the country and "rub the Right's nose in diversity", according to Andrew Neather, a former adviser to Tony Blair, Jack Straw and David Blunkett.
So we have political manipulation, resulting in the initiation of huge changes in the nation that are neither discussed nor approved by those who will be affected. Worse still, it seems to be built on two equally shaky foundations:
- The politically correct notion that the race/culture of our island (and indeed the whole of Western Society) is defective and must be changed so that we can learn tolerance; and that to question or even highlight this assumption makes a critic a right-wing racist xenophobe.
- The new religion of the political left - multiculturalism, equality of all, absolute majority rule, identity politics subdividing every country into competing interests – will create from any human grouping a nation as secure as one based on the ties of extended family, shared culture and values, law and history, and built gradually over time.
Should anyone consider this summary too strong, please view the German Green Party’s Dr. v. Berg statement, in their parliament, that it is a good thing that Germans will soon be a minority in a new "super-cultural" society which will displace any uniquely German culture.
The absurdity of this position in Britain and Scotland was recently and spectacularly highlighted by the doyen of the metrosexual media – The Huffington Post:
Scottish independence is now the last redoubt behind which everyone across the UK who believes in human solidarity, internationalism, and a multicultural society must gather to stem the rising tide of Brexit poison that threatens to drown us all.
You really could not make it up: nationalism is now the last best hope for internationalism!
This foolishness shows a wider problem, the political left (and in the UK all significant parties are of the political left) have ceased to be relevant. Events are now being driven by forces they cannot control and do not understand. These are effects largely caused by their amateur tinkering with the nature of the nation, and the idea of a people (and equally amateurish tinkering with the economy). That tinkering goes back 100 years to the aftermath of the first world war and the Wilsonian dreaming of a new order in which all nations are equal (and the USA is more equal than others), This involved an attack on both European culture and British culture which somewhere along the line became ingrained in the left. Add the ill-starred influences of Gramsci and Lukacs; the Frankfurt School, the communist manifesto and political correctness and you have a political culture where the nation must die, indeed is perceived to be already out of date, anachronistic, backward. It must be replaced by the super-state and eventually by the world state. Hence the SNP and mainstream left’s buy-in to the European project and abandonment of the idea of Great Britain (as a viable and powerful independent Nation).
But no-one asked the people – and in return the people are now asking questions that the political elite cannot answer.
I contend that we must find our own answers, rooted in an understanding of both who we are as a people and the nature of mankind. The absolute values of right v wrong, truth v deception, peace v strife and love v hate must be reasserted. These are, first and foremost, matters for the individual, as we daily have proof that the state cannot discern right from wrong, only operates with lies, finds its strength in war and is incapable of love. We must each make those choices and re-establish what we mean by a nation once again. It is more than a welfare system, a tax and spend overlordship and an NHS. It is shared values that do not prevent dissent, it is mutual care that is not dependent on the theft of taxation, it is shared faith that does not prevent frank examination of that faith, it is a loose extension of the family to the kindred both those related by blood and those welcomed from other nations.
Our political leadership has sought to destroy the family, the church, the nation; all things which bind us together. We must refuse to follow them to perdition and instead rebuild what they have wasted.