Oh here we bloody go again. Now you might have thought that the Scottish independence movement was motivated by the democratic deficit in this country, which leads us to have Tory governments we didn’t vote for, and which takes us out of the European Union even though we voted to remain by a considerably larger margin than we voted to stay a part of the UK. Perhaps you’d like to get rid of the affront to democracy that is the House of Lords and have governments that are responsible to the electorate and which the electorate can get rid of.
Or you might have thought that people in Scotland want independence because of an idea that’s more innovative than any jam, the notion that a country is best governed by people who actually live in it and who are elected by people who live in it and who are answerable to them and to no one else.
Or you could have formed the notion that Scotland needs independence because of the chronic mismanagement of our economy by a Westminster parliament which has taken a resource rich, highly developed, peaceful, democratic society and lumbered it with eye watering national debt and a budget deficit that’s supposedly the largest in Europe. It could be that you believe that if Scotland is ever going to tackle the problems that this country has with structural inequalities, with land rights, with deprivation, with poor health, with unemployment, and with chronic underinvestment in our infrastructure that we need to take all the levers of macroeconomic control into our own hands and do the job ourselves. Because it’s patently obvious that the denizens of the Westminster parliament have displayed a neglect and an incompetence that borders on the criminal.
Or it could be that you want independence because it’s the only way in which Scotland can rid itself of the obscenity of nuclear warheads parked just a few miles down the road from the country’s largest conurbation. There is no way that Westminster is ever going to give up the nuclear viagra that allows the Prime Minister to pretend that the UK is still a global power when it is in fact a middle sized European country which of late has made itself into the laughing stock of the world. The only way to get rid of Trident is to get rid of the politicians whose self-esteem and egos depend on it.
Or maybe you want independence so that we can have a referendum on becoming a republic and getting rid of the anachronistic fancy dress show that is the Royal family. Perhaps every time Nicolas Witchell comes on the telly and oozes sycophancy all over your living room you find it hard to suppress the urge to throw a shoe at the screen.
Any one of those would be a pretty damned good reason for independence, and the above isn’t even an exhaustive list. But none of them matter, because according to sections of the Unionist media and prominent apologists for the British state, there’s only one motivation for the campaign for Scottish independence. You guessed it. We all hate the English. Scottish independence isn’t about Scotland at all. Oh no. It’s really all about hating the English. It said so in the Express, so it must be true.
The myth that the drive for Scottish independence is motivated by anti-English racism is perpetuated by people who would, quite rightly, complain and threaten to sue for defamation if it were alleged that their support for the Union was motivated by fascism or sectarianism. Yet it cannot be denied that there is a large and loud fringe of Unionism which is indeed motivated by fascism, racism, or sectarianism. There is a nasty strain of Unionism which is violent. Representatives of fascist, anti-migrant, racist and homophobic groups are far more likely to wave a red white and blue fleg than to campaign for independence with a saltire.
It’s worthy of note that the only people who have ever been convicted of violent offences or online abuse in connection with the Scottish independence movement have been Unionists. Yet if anyone were to allege that certain prominent supporters of the Union were motivated by the same negative and atavistic drives as these extremists, they’d be landed with a writ for defamation before you could say small island of lawyers. Because of course, sensible and mainstream people are not motivated by the same violent and racist drives that motivate a nasty fringe and it’s wrong to suggest that they might be. But that doesn’t stop Unionists alleging or insinuating the same about mainstream independence supporters.
What they’re doing is scientifically illiterate. You cannot cherry pick your data in order to characterise a broad political movement which enjoys the support of around half the population by the behaviour of a tiny and unrepresentative minority. But that’s exactly what certain Unionists do with the independence movement. It doesn’t matter whether we distance ourselves from a minority fringe. It makes no difference how many times we disavow the antics of the Scottish Resistance. Mainstream Unionism will always insist that the mainstream independence movement is defined by the actions of a handful of zoomers on Twitter or the publicity seeking of an unrepresentative few. And if they can’t find genuine examples of frothing mouthed zoomery, they’ll misrepresent a few Tweets in order to pretend that they’ve got a case.
The latest outburst of anti-English accusations in the Express tell us that the recent spat over billboards was pointless. All of us are going to be characterised by it anyway and it makes no difference whether those who disagree with the tactic disavow it. It ought to be obvious by now that a key Unionist tactic is to demonise in an attempt to prevent undecideds from engaging with the arguments. It behoves all of us in the independence movement not to give our opponents ammunition.
But the tactic of alleging that the mainstream independence movement is defined by anti-English racism is self-defeating. Because it’s not true, and it’s evidently untrue. When prominent Unionists and Unionist media outlets make public statements that the Scottish independence movement is defined by anti-English racism, they’re only persuading themselves. They’re only persuading those who already have that belief, and that’s a tiny minority. Scottish residents who do have direct experience of independence supporters, and that’s a large majority, will only be struck by the gulf between the claims of anti-English racism, and their lived experience of a movement which is open, accepting, and tolerant, a movement which is the opposite of the xenophobia and insularity of the post-Brexit British state. And all that will happen is that their faith in the pronouncements of the Unionist media will be undermined.
The only people who are likely to be persuaded that the Scottish independence movement is motivated by anti-English racism are those who have no first hand experience of it. That’s people outwith Scotland. When Unionist apologists make the false claim that Scotland is a sink of anti-English racism, that it’s only seeking independence because so many of us hate the English, all they’re doing is undermining support in the rest of the UK for maintaining the Union. They only harm their own cause. Let them keep on doing it.
Audio version of this blog post, courtesy of Sarah Mackie @lumi_1984 https://soundcloud.com/occamshaver/wee-ginger-dug-31st-oct-2016
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