The recent reports about the conviction of a right wing extremist in Edinburgh for making a bomb made for, ahem, interesting reading. Nazi thug Peter Morgan was sentenced to 12 years for making a bomb. Most of the reports in the press pictured him holding up a saltire together with a sign reading “White Pride”. Most of the reports mentioned that he had connections to the Scottish Defence League. Some of the reports, including those on the STV news site and the Edinburgh Evening News, found time and space to mention that Morgan considered himself a left leaning person and that he had told police officers that he had voted SNP in the past.
Any reasonable person who is not particularly well informed about the positions of far right grupiscules in Scotland, which is most of us, would read these reports and be left with the impression that Morgan might well have been a Scottish nationalist. The reports themselves didn’t lie. They were not “fake news”. They were accurate insofar as the facts that they did report are true and correct. They just succeeded in giving a misleading impression by not mentioning some other important facts, facts which reveal the truth about Morgan, a truth that’s uncomfortable for opponents of independence.
What was omitted from just about every report was that Morgan was well known amongst pro-independence campaigners as being one of those far right British nationalists who protested against pro-independence marches and rallies, where he was more typically to be found waving a Union fleg and hurling abuse at pro-indy campaigners. What none of the reports mentioned was that the Scottish Defence League has close connections to the far more numerous and better known English Defence League, and that both organisations share many members with the British National Party and its successors. The Scottish Defence League is most decidedly not a pro-independence organisation. There are plenty of other photos of Morgan circulating on social media which show him clutching a British flag, but it’s the one with the saltire and the racist sign that the newspapers chose to go with.
The reports in the press also forgot to mention that Morgan has a history of previous arrests for assaults on independence supporters. There are reports on social media that in September 2012 Morgan was arrested for assaulting an independence supporter at a pro-independence event in Edinburgh.
In other words, despite all the implications to the contrary in the British nationalist press, Morgan is a right wing extremist opponent of Scottish independence, and yet another exponent of far right British nationalism. More alarmingly, he’s a far right extremist British nationalist with a history of violence against independence supporters who has just been convicted and sentenced to 12 years in prison for making a bomb. This nasty little man isn’t the responsibility of the independence movement or Scottish nationalism, he’s very much a creature of Britishness. Morgan is an extreme symptom of the sickness of British nationalism in Scotland, a sickness which most commonly manifests itself in sectarianism and in the casual contempt which permits opponents of independence feel free to characterise independence supporters as anti-English racists.
You can be certain that if Morgan had indeed been a supporter of Scottish independence, that this fact would have been the most important piece of information in the news reports. It would have been the headline. It would have been followed up by anguished editorials in the anti-independence press about the cancer that lurks at the heart of the Scottish independence movement, and there would be repeated calls on Nicola Sturgeon to do something about it. It would have been headline news in all the papers and the leading story in the broadcast news. Yet following Morgan’s conviction and sentencing there was a blink and you’d miss it mention on the BBC. There was no explicit identification of him as a British nationalist, as an opponent of independence, or as a supporter of the British state. Yet he is all these things.
There are no demands from the media for the mainstream British nationalist parties to condemn Morgan following his conviction. He is a convicted terrorist who has nothing to do with those parties, and they feel no need to condemn him or disassociate themselves from him. There is no need for them to distance themselves from a convicted terrorist. His politics of hate, of violence, and racism are not the politics of the mainstream parties. However that’s not what would have happened if the situation had been reversed, and Morgan had been an independence supporting terrorist. The media howls of outrage would be sustained. The actions and beliefs of this far right wing bomb maker would have been explicitly linked to the independence movement as a whole and to the Scottish Government.
What’s really distasteful about the media’s reporting of Morgan’s conviction is the attempt that it has made to disguise his true allegiences and to imply to the unwary that he wasn’t really a British nationalist extremist, that his terrorist politics are Scottish rather than British. What’s really distasteful is that yet again it illustrates the double standards of the Scottish media. Earlier this week Wings Over Scotland noted that the catastrophic collapse in newspaper sales in Scotland was far worse than the drop off in sales in other countries. This is most likely not unconnected to the fact that the Scottish media pursues a highly partisan agenda which is not shared by at least half of the population of Scotland.
British nationalism in Scotland has a problem with extremism and intolerance. We see it in sectarian parades. We see it in the succession of Conservative politicians who have been exposed as having racist, xenophobic, sectarian, or homophobic views. We see it in the far right Holocaust denier who protests against independence rallies. Now we see it in people who have been convicted of terrorist offences. As long as the anti-independence media continues to dissemble, hide, and disguise the sickness that lurks at the heart of British nationalism in Scotland, that sickness will never be tackled, it will never be cured.
Even worse, British nationalism in Scotland and its apologists still pretend to themselves that their opposition to Scottish independence means that they’re not nationalists at all. As long as they continue to delude themselves in this manner, the evil of far right extremist British nationalism will never be dealt with and removed from our society. The first step to dealing with a problem is to admit that you have a problem. It’s high time that supporters of the British state in Scotland own up to British nationalism’s problem with extremism.
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