At the All Under One Banner marches and rallies there are many people with whom to disagree. Disgreeing with people is part and parcel of any grassroots movement. There are plenty of people who disagree with Tommy Sheridan, both with his politics and with his person. There are plenty of people who disagree with the more business friendly wing of the SNP and its overly cautious approach. There are plenty of people who disagree with the virtue signallers on the Scottish left who seem to spend more time on social media slagging off other parts of the independence movement than they do attacking the British state that is the root cause of so many of Scotland’s problems.
But what the vast majority of these diverse and often contentious voices within the independence movement have in common, even as they argue amongst themselves, is that they recognise and celebrate the diversity of experiences and backgrounds of the people who make up modern Scotland.
The vast majority of the independence movement doesn’t just accept the Scottishness of people born elsewhere who come to Scotland and who choose to make their lives here, we actively encourage and praise it. We do so because it proves that Scottishness isn’t narrow, inward-looking, and limited. It proves that Scotland and her people are outward looking and engaged with the world. It proves that we are not afraid of change and not threatened by difference. That’s what makes the Scottish independence movement a qualitatively different thing from the narrow British nationalism that drives Brexit.
So I want to say here and now, that anyone who campaigns for a Scotland that’s based on ethnicity is not campaigning for a Scotland that I want to live in. As a Scot of Irish descent, I know what it feels like to be called not properly Scottish, to have other Scots insist that I’m not Scottish enough. As a gay Scot of an older generation I know what it feels like to be rejected by my compatriots and to have to seek to build a life outside of Scotland. I don’t want the mistakes of the Scotland of the past to visit the Scotland of the future. This country and movement that I love are inclusive, not exclusive. They are welcoming, they don’t slam the door in anyone’s face.
Representing the true spirit of Scottish hospitality means extending a welcome even to those who have been your enemies in the past. It means that banners which read “Tory scum out” only serve to alienate people who might be persuadable to the cause of independence. They’re self-defeating as well as so very 1980s. The independence campaign shouldn’t be stuck in a time warp, let’s leave that sort of thing to the British nationalists who have the copyright on it.
The issue here, for the sake of clarity, isn’t with the anti-Conservative sentiment, that’s shared widely. It’s with the use of the word “scum”. If you’re going to be insulting at least try to be inventive and amusing about it fur feck’s sake. It’s the word scum that gets plastered all over Scotland’s overwhelmingly anti-independence press, and it’s that which exercises the holier than thou tendency which is disproportionately represented on Scottish social media, not the positive message of inclusivity preached by the vast majority there.
So to Sìol nan Gaidheal and their schtoopit banner I’d just like to say – Falbhaibh is gabhaibh ur gnùisean airson càca. Because that would be a whole lot more useful to the cause. That means “Away youse and take yer faces fur a shite,” in case you were wondering. Actually a banner that reads May, Davidson, agus Mundell, falbhaibh is gabhaibh ur gnùisean airson càca would be infinitely better than “Tory scum”, and no one would object to it. [phonetically – very roughly fa.luh.viv iss ga.viv oor groon.shin er.son caach.ka]
But more importantly and more seriously, let us never forget that when Scotland is independent it will be a democracy. That means it’s going to contain people who espouse centre right politics, and I say this as someone who identifies with the political left. We’re not going to attract those on the centre right of Scottish politics to our side, as we must if we are to achieve a majority, if we alienate them before we can even start to speak to them. Let’s leave the numpty banners to the zoomers and green crayon gang of Scotland in Union please.
Equally this is why we should have no time or sympathy for groups and organisations which divide the people of Scotland into those whom they deem to be properly Scottish and those who are not. People who support an ethnic vision of Scottishness are not fighting for a Scotland that most of us would be welcome in. We already have xenophobia and fear of the foreign in the British Brexit state, we don’t need any more of that sort of nonsense, we need to escape from it. The reason so many of us support independence is precisely because independence represents an escape to a more tolerant, accepting, and saner country. You don’t build a better country by repeating the mistakes of those you seek to escape from.
Those who refer to English people who live in Scotland as settlers, and who refuse to acknowledge that by coming here and throwing their lot in with Scotland English Scots have as much right to determine the future of this country as anyone else, do not represent this independence movement and have no place of honour or respect within it. They represent the frightened and frightening xenophobia that this independence movement is seeking an escape from. You don’t build a refuge from the madness of the likes of Ukip by indulging in a similar madness of your own.
Thankfully those who espouse a narrowly ethnic driven vision of Scotland are a tiny minority. They do not represent the mainstream of our movement, and our movement must disavow them. They harm us all, because they allow opponents of independence to paint our beautiful tolerant and open movement as “anti-English”. We should not march behind their banners. We should not allow our open tolerant and inclusive movement to become a platform for their negativity and exclusivity. Give them a wide berth and mock them. They do not speak for us. They do not represent us.
If you think that the campaign for Scottish independence is about ethnic nationalism, if you think that it’s just for people who are “ethnically” Scots, then you’re doing Scottish independence all wrong. If you think that the cause of independence is only for those who are born Scottish, then you’re not doing independence any favours, you’re playing into the hands of the British state. You’re only giving opponents of independence the ammunition that they need in order to paint our entire movement as something that any decent person should shun. It means that you’re a useful idiot. Don’t be an idiot. Be a real patriot. Real patriots recognise that the wider the support base is for independence, the stronger the cause for independence becomes.
Being a real patriot means that you don’t limit your patriotism to those who have inherited it. It means that you believe so much in your country that you want to share it. Being a real patriot means that you believe that your country is not weakened by diversity but is strengthened by it. Being a real patriot means that you’re not threatened by those who choose to come to live in Scotland and to build their lives here. It means that you are honoured by their presence. Being a real patriot means that you recognise that people who come to live in Scotland from England, from Pakistan, from Syria, from Poland, from Angola, from Denmark, from anywhere else in the world, bring to us their experiences, their cultures, their cuisines, their perspectives, and by doing so they enrich us all. They make Scotland a richer place, a more interesting place, and by accepting them as our own we demonstrate that Scotland is a bigger country. It’s bigger in spirit. It’s bigger in heart.
Independence is about real patriotism, and that’s the patriotism of sharing, of acceptance, of tolerance and understanding. Let us never forget that that’s the Scotland we’re striving for.
Mapa Gàidhlig na h-Alba / Gaelic Map of Scotland
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