Redcoats and Red Herrings

More on the driving forces behind Scottish Nationalism. A follow-up to "Nationhood versus Nationalism"

A telling exchange in Holyrood

SNP Deputy Leader of Perth and Kinross Council, Councillor Dave Doogan (who was, until recently, employed by the Deputy First Minister, John Swinney), told Perth councillors the following:

Let us not reflect on concerns that we have been under the heel of foreign influence and power for 300 years. The island of Britain is no longer subject to the actions of quislings who may seek to see smaller cultures extinguished on an island of coffins by redcoats.

Scottish Conservative MSP Murdo Fraser raised concerns over this statement in Holyrood. Nicola Sturgeon responded:

I condemn any comments or any language, no matter who it’s from, that is any way shape or form, racist or anti-English, or in any way seeks to divide people on the basis of their ethnicity. That’s not what my party, or the movement I am part of, is for, or represents.

The exchange can be seen here:



Looking at the underlying infrastructure of ideas

Now, those in Scotland who have not examined this issue in detail, such as Tom Martin in the Express, were happy with this position; concluding that the First Minister had condemned the “redcoat” statement. But did she? If you believe the councillor's outburst to be anti-English, then the FM’s statement is a refutation. But note, she did not address the comments directly; she gave a general statement against racism and anti-English prejudice: hardly radical as no mainstream political leader anywhere in the world advocates either. Did the remarks by Cllr Doogan really amount to racism, however?

His comments are certainly disjointed and far from clear. They mix references to the Jacobite risings of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries with allusions to the Second World War and some history of internal repression within the British Isles that I cannot locate in any history text. What did it all mean? The key term, I suggest, is “Quisling”, which refers to the 1940s politician who led the Norwegian collaborationist government under German control from 1942 until 1945. The word "Quisling" has since become a synonym for "collaborator" or "traitor". This term refers not to the English but to the majority of Scots who consider themselves both British and Scottish and who do not support the current SNP plans for independence within Europe.

As an aside, I must point out the incoherence of a party with an official policy of ruling a partially independent nation and sharing sovereignty with a German-led pan-European Union choosing the word “Quisling” to slander their opponents. This is, admittedly, difficult to understand. But historical rigour has never been a defining characteristic of Alex Salmond’s SNP. Whatever their reasoning, this word signifies that the real hatred is not for the English, but for Scots who will not yield to the SNP view of what Scotland is, and should become.

Many others have made the mistake of believing there is nothing more to the SNP than anti-English animosity. Amongst these is Eurosceptic Tory John Redwood who recorded in his diary:

I attended a very interesting private meeting recently on the Scottish Question. A couple of learned Scots told us that Scottish nationalism was  defined by dislike of the English in general, and the dislike of English Tories in particular. Scottish nationalists do not like London making decisions for them. They like it even less if it is English Tories calling the shots there, instead of Scottish Labour MPs.

This is the commonly held view: it is also wrong.  As we covered in Nationhood Versus Nationalism, Scottish Nationalism is NOT really nationalism at all. It is not rooted in the idea of the nation, rather the SNP brand of so-called 'civic-nationalism':

....will tolerate any variety, except a variety of ideas. 

Who are the Scots?

The SNP policy defines Scottishness in non-racial, non-hereditary terms and instead requires a certain geographical location and personal adherence to a set of cultural and political ideas. The definition of a Scot was once the very opposite. 'Scot' means wanderer and the declaration of Arbroath records the path of this wandering. It is worth quoting the relevant section at length for it demonstrates that the origin of the nation is nothing to do with Scotland and everything to do with the Scots.

..we know and from the chronicles and books of the ancients we find that among other famous nations our own, the Scots, has been graced with widespread renown. It journeyed from Greater Scythia by way of the Tyrrhenian Sea [Mediterranean Sea] and the Pillars of Hercules [Strait of Gibraltar], and dwelt for a long course of time in Spain among the most savage peoples, but nowhere could it be subdued by any people, however barbarous. Thence it came, twelve hundred years after the people of Israel crossed the Red Sea, to its home in the west where it still lives today..... In their kingdom there have reigned one hundred and thirteen kings of their own royal stock, the line unbroken by a single foreigner.

In contrast to this concept of lineage, heritage and a kingly line, the current SNP policy was defined for me by Nicola Sturgeon herself when I met her recently at an event in Pitlochry:

I don’t care where you come from, or what colour your skin is; if you live in Scotland, and are committed to Scotland, you are Scottish.

This is the very reverse of the nationalism of old which saw the Scots maintain their coherence as a nation as they wandered around the fringes of Europe. Blood, once the core of the concept of the nation, is nowhere to be seen; it is expunged from the definition. Geography is central rather than, as before, being incidental to national identity. The final element, "committed to Scotland", is a coded term: it implies committed to (or at least accepting of) the sort of Scotland that the Party wishes to bring about—a practical utopia.

Beware of Red Herrings not Red Coats

The red herring here is the attack on the SNP based on the assumption that they are a nationalist party; they are not. Whilst they wrap themselves in nationalist trimmings, wave flags with gusto and mobilise nationalist feelings in their support, the party is not really nationalist at all. This gives rise to a strange dichotomy. The SNP exploits anti-English sentiment where it exists. It also exploits anti-British sentiment where that exists, such as in elements of the West of Scotland Roman Catholic population, who are of Irish descent. And these notions bleed back into the party, especially in the lower ranks such as councillors and activist. Yet the party as a whole, at the highest levels, opposes nationalism based on ethnicity. The use of these factors signifies not nationalistic belief and prejudice, but instead Machiavellianism. 

What then is happening? I believe it is this: the SNP is a national socialist party, but on the Scottish, not German, model. The Scottish brand of national socialism is high on socialism and uses nationalism as a USP, a Unique Selling Proposition. Therefore to understand the SNP it is necessary to understand Socialism. The 'national' part is incidental to the core of the party (whilst being central to much of their support).

What is Socialism?

The article on political correctness by Angelo M. Codevilla is offers an excellent summary of modern socialism. Unless noted otherwise the quotes which follow are from this article:

The notion of political correctness came into use among Communists in the 1930s as a semi-humorous reminder that the Party’s interest is to be treated as a reality that ranks above reality itself. Because all progressives, Communists included, claim to be about creating new human realities, they are perpetually at war against nature’s laws and limits. But since reality does not yield, progressives end up pretending that they themselves embody those new realities. 

But having brought about the opposite of the prosperity, health, wisdom, or happiness that their ideology advertised, they have been unable to force folks to ignore the gap between political correctness and reality.

What better way to distract people from unfortunate political realities than to embrace a superficial, flag-waving nationalism, especially one that builds upon a rich culture and history such as that of the Scots. We see this played out in Scotland daily, as, with every new educational, health sector or economic failure, the SNP refocus on their core constitutional fight - Independence!

And it also fits well with the basic progressive narrative. This is to point to some structural weakness in the existing society which, once corrected, will allow a blooming of the nation or group. For the Communists, it was the capitalist exploiter of the worker; for the Zionist, it was the lack of a land for the Jewish people; for the Italian Fascist, it was “the debacle of individualism”. Different groups, different structural problems, but same promise: to bring in utopia by removing the structural problem. And the SNP’s structural problem—rule from London, in a union with a larger, more populous, and hence dominant neighbour.

The strange case of independence within Europe

Now some of you may be thinking, 'If local rule is better than distant rule, please explain “Independence within Europe”'. Full disclosure here: I find it difficult to find a rationale for this. It came from the 1980’s, and owes much to Jim Sillars’ influence in the party. It was seen as a tactical response to the "separatist" tag, offering a method of retaining links with the rest of the UK (we are all still in the EU, right?) whilst moving power from a political elite in London to a political élite in Edinburgh.

In short, it de-clawed the main arguments against a national border at Gretna. Post-Brexit, however, this policy looks ridiculous. Arguments for trade face the fact that trade with England is far more important. Cultural arguments fall on the same hurdle, and claims of democratic deficit are risible in the context of a German dominated and undemocratic EU. It is a vestigial policy that merely mocks its creators. And yet, unbelievably, this is the ground on which Nicola Sturgeon has decided to fight to rally support for a second independence referendum. It smacks of desperation.

I have also considered the option that "independence within Europe" is part of the German living-space concept. That is to say, a large European Union is necessary if Scotland is to be protected behind tariff barriers and sheltered from international trade. This might be seen as necessary by socialists as, otherwise, the need to be competitive would prevent socialism taking hold, force a slashing of government, and usher in a low-tax, free-market policy.

That such a policy works, has been demonstrated by Hong Kong when governed by laissez-faire Scot, Sir John Cowperthwaite, whose policies saw average incomes in the colony rise from a quarter of UK levels to exceed UK incomes. But although this may play some role in the inertia gripping the SNP, I think the core problem is instead lack of sufficiently talented leadership. Nicola Sturgeon is able to follow policies set by others but lacks the intellect and strength of character to respond to events when they require fresh ideas. Thus, what was a brilliant political calculation by Jim Sillars in the 1980s, is an inept error in the hands of Nicola Sturgeon a generation later.

What is Progressivism?

The key to understanding what progressive parties in power do is the insight, emphasized by “elite theorists” like Vilfredo Pareto and Gaetano Mosca, that any organization’s practical objectives turn out to be what serves the interests and proclivities of its leaders.

What serves progressive revolutionaries’ interests is not in doubt. Although each of progressivism’s branches differs in how it defines society’s “structural” fault, in its own name for the human reality that it seeks to overcome, and in the means by which to achieve its ends, progressives from the 19th century to our time are well-nigh identical in their personal predilections—in what and whom they hate even more than in what they love. They see the culture of what Marxists call “bourgeois morality” as the negation of their identity and authority. That identity, their identity, is to be promoted, endlessly, by endless warfare against that culture.

That is why the cultural campaigns of otherwise dissimilar progressives have been so similar. Leninist Russia no less than various Western democrats have tried to eradicate religion, to make it difficult for men, women, and children to exist as families, and to demand that their subjects join them in celebrating the new order that reflects their identity. Note well: cultural warfare’s substantive goal is less important than the affirmation of the warriors’ own identity. This is what explains the animus with which progressives have waged their culture wars.

And so it is in Scotland, including in the second part of Nicola Sturgeon's response to Murdo Fraser, in which she signals the progressive virtues of diversity, tolerance and freedom of movement (mass immigration). It is also clearly visible in the attack on the family via the pernicious “Named Person” provision of the Children and Young Peoples Act and the other GIRFEC legislation. And always, there is the promotion of “equality” and “fairness”, causing cultural disruption of the traditional family via schools and government policy innovations. All of this promotes cultural Marxism, and none of it protects the nation in any way. Rather the nation is the sacrificial lamb on the altar of political correctness. This is made possible by flag waving and overt nationalism simply because an anti-nationalist movement is not expected in such a strange form.

How did we get here?

Why does this work? Logically, one would think, the inconsistencies in this so-called Scottish Nationalism would doom it to failure. After all, it is actually international socialism; it has no regard for the nationhood of the people who call themselves Scots; it has adopted an illogical policy of becoming a vassal state of Germany and calling it freedom and it ignores political, economic and cultural reality on a daily basis. Yet it has been wildly popular, at least in terms of electoral seats. Why is this so? I would suggest it is the result of two coincident events:

  1. The failure of the post war settlement, the welfarism on which western socialism has built its power saying with confidence “there will be no losers in our glorious new society”. This failure has led to a loss of confidence in the traditional political order and the opening up of opportunities for new parties.
  2. The failure of the Scots cognitive elite to be ahead of the game. Lacking an original, or even a counter-fashionable, political analysis, Scottish thought has been reduced to being a late adopter of yesterday's worn-out ideas. Thus, those who should lead debate can offer no effective counter to the mixture of failed socialist utopianism and flag-waving photo-opportunities that is modern Scottish Nationalism.

How do we resist?

And what is the alternative? It is to rediscover the concept of the individual (so hated by Mussolini), and to put aside the collectivist ideas of socialism, communism and fascism. It is, in short, to return to the old ideas of what was once termed liberalism or freedom. We must understand what the state is and what it is not. It is not God and it is not benign; it is, or at least can be, dangerous and we must protect the individual from it. As the last knight of Liberalism, Ludwig von Mises said in Omnipotent Government:

The state is a human institution, not a superhuman being. He who says “state” means coercion and compulsion. He who says: there should be a law concerning this matter, means: the armed men of the government should force people to do what they do not want to do, or not to do what they like. He who says: this law should be better enforced, means: the police should force people to obey this law. He who says: the state is God, deifies arms and prisons. The worship of the state is the worship of force. There is no more dangerous menace to civilization than a government of incompetent, corrupt, or vile men. The worst evils which mankind ever had to endure were inflicted by bad governments. The state can be and has often been in the course of history the main source of mischief and disaster. 

The claim that the SNP is racist or anti-English, is a red herring. Although a sizeable proportion of their support and some of their councillors are just that, it is not the essence of the party, or of their ideas or drives. They are part of the internationalist left, waging a cultural war for control against tradition, against the family and against everything that binds us together as a people.

The reason why so many see the echo of big brother in their conduct and policies, is that they arise from the same source as Soviet Communism, French Jacobins, Italian Fascism. The danger they pose is a piecemeal breakup of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, one of the few last bastions of such liberty-defending institutions as the common law, trial by jury and respect for individual liberty.

For 100 years and more liberty has been in retreat; collectivism has gained strength and the will to resist the advance of the state—or of the international superstate—has been ebbing. 2016 saw a reversal in this trend in the UK with the Brexit vote and in the US with the election of Donald Trump. Will Scotland be the next battleground? If it is, we must fight on the right basis. Not on faux claims of racism but on the real issues: that the SNP is anti-Scots and anti-freedom. And as such it will lead our people into slavery, not liberty.

We need not fear redcoats, but red herrings are different. They are a clear and present danger.