“Now is the time to look outwards, paint with broad strokes and set up an international commission, led by and for Scottish people, that seeks to learn from the few examples where at times in modern history the cause of social justice has beaten divisive nationalism.”
So said Labour leadership contender Lisa Nandy on Monday. Now if anyone has any idea what she meant, please let the rest of us know because we’re genuinely struggling. What Lisa tweeted is one of those sentences where you understand each of the words individually, but when you put them all together they make absolutely no sense at all. Perhaps Lisa is indulging in some Dadaist art project cunningly disguised as a Labour leadership campaign? Or maybe it’s one of those motivational posters, only written by someone out of their tree on meth.
If we were perplexed and faintly amused at the start of the week, by the end of the week Lisa had managed to make many in Scotland livid. During an interview with Andrew Neil as a part of her leadership bid, she said that the UK needs to learn from Catalonia in how to handle separatist movements. Her exact words were, “We should look outwards to other countries where they’ve had to deal with divisive nationalism … in places like like Catalonia”. No, really. She said that. Blinding people with rubber bullets, bashing grandmothers over the head with police truncheons, imprisoning peaceful independence campaigners and pro-independence politicians. Lisa wants “us” to learn from that.
This gobsmackingly crass remark can only mean one of two things. Either Lisa is an idiot who doesn’t understand what has gone on in Catalonia, or she does understand it and she’s quite happy to inflict violence and legal sanctions on Scotland’s independence movement too, a movement which has been entirely peaceful, law abiding, and concerned to operate within the parameters of the UK constitution. So which is it?
In Catalonia one of the major pro-independence parties, the ERC whose leader Oriol Junqueras languishes in a Spanish prison, is considerably more socialist than Labour’s ally the PSOE. But it’s the ERC which practises “divisive nationalism” according to Lisa. And notice that in her remarks Lisa said “we”, because those of us in Scotland are not “we”, but “they”. And then she preaches about divisive nationalism. She is of course entirely blind to the divisive nationalism of the British variety, because that’s a nationalism that’s better than all other nationalisms by virtue of not being nationalist at all.
What’s really astonishing here is that in England, Labour supporters loved Lisa Nandy’s interview with Andrew Neil. It’s only in Scotland that there is any outrage with her crass suggestion that the UK ought to adopt the tactics of Madrid in suppressing the independence movement in Scotland. There’s been not a peep from the supposedly progressive English left which constantly preaches the need for solidarity at us. Because it seems that the Labour party’s idea of solidarity is that Scotland must display solidarity with the Labour party, but the Labour party doesn’t need to bother displaying solidarity with Scotland.
Together with Jess Phillips, what we’re seeing here in the Labour party is a meeting of closed minds on the subject of Scotland with the Tories. Conservative or Labour, both are equally British nationalist, and both will happily traduce and arrogantly ignore the democratic will of the people of Scotland as expressed through the ballot box. Nowhere in any of these pronouncements from British nationalist politicians have we seen the slightest justification of why they believe that they have the right to ignore the democratic will of the people of Scotland, and to continue to ignore it for as long as it suits them. Nowhere do we see any attempt from them to answer the question for Scotland that their own stance raises, nor indeed any acknowledgement that any question might arise. But here in Scotland we cans see the question all too clearly. If the British state can ignore the democratic will of the people of Scotland, if it can ignore in perpetuity the outcome of elections in Scotland, then what does it serve Scotland to remain a part of the British state. If the UK will not take the votes and views of Scotland into account, then it’s not a union, it’s simply Greater England.
Meanwhile over in the Guardian, we see the Labour supporting Metrocommentariat’s contempt for Scotland in its full and unedifying display. Martin Kettle, whose articles about Scotland really ought to come with a health warning, has opined that Boris Johnson’s arrogant dismissal of the First Minister’s request for a Section 30 order as being more sensitive than the response of others within the Tory party. That’s a bit like describing a guy who hits you over the head with a baseball bat while calling you a bastard “more sensitive” than a guy who hits you over the head with a baseball bat then kicks you in the crotch and calls you the c-word.
Johnson’s reply to Nicola Sturgeon dripped with arrogant contempt. There was no attempt in his brief letter to give any serious reasoning for his refusal, merely the cheap trick of quoting the rhetorical comments of the SNP leadership in 2014 which were aimed at encouraging people to participate in a historic vote. That’s a spurious reason. Johnson knows it’s a spurious reason. Martin Kettle calls it “useful”, but doesn’t himself give any substantive reason why the UK Government can continue to ignore mandates given to the victorious party in Scottish elections without calling the issue of democracy in Scotland into question.
But it gets worse. Martin tells us that the Conservatives are not disposed to recognise a mandate for another referendum which is obtained at the Holyrood elections in 2021. This seems to be just fine with Martin. Anything to keep those uppity Jocks in their place eh. He is clearly aligned with Lisa Nandy and Jess Phillips in that respect. The attitude we’ve seen from leading figures in the Labour party and their cheerleaders in the London press explains why the Labour party is dead in Scotland and is going to stay dead. Labour and the Tories both display the twin cheek of the twin cheeks of the same arrogant, entitled, and antidemocratic British nationalist arsery.
But yeah, faced with this casual dismissal of Scottish democracy by British nationalism, Lisa Nandy was almost right. It only takes a few small tweaks for what she said to make perfect sense. We, the people of Scotland, should look outwards, paint with broad strokes and set up an international commission, led by and for Scottish people, that seeks to learn from the many examples where at times in modern history the cause of social justice has beaten divisive and arrogant British nationalism.
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