Yesterday was the first session of First Minister’s Questions following the return of Holyrood after its summer break. Anyone who had hoped that the Scottish Conservative contingent would return from the break and behave in a more constructive aand grown up manner was quickly disabused of that notion. The session began with the First Minister attacking Douglas Ross for his infantile politics, which was fair enough since Douglas spends all his time in Holyrood looking for a dummy to spit out. He’d save himself, and the rest of us, a whole lot of bother if he looked at the Scottish Tory MSPs sitting behind him, there’s plenty of dummies to choose from there.
The exchange was prompted by a question about the proposal for vaccine passports. The First Minister pointed out that it was for Parliament to decide on the details. That wasn’t good enough for Douglas, whose lips were already pursed in readiness to launch the dummy. Nicola Sturgeon not unreasonably noted that if she had presented the vaccine passport scheme as a fait accompli, Douglas would be the first to complain that MSPs and the Scottish Parliament were being taken for granted. This is what prompted the retort about Douglas Ross’s infantile politics of petty point scoring from the First Minister. By this time Douglas’s dummy was in mid trajectory.
Sadly it was not long at all before more Scottish Tory infantilism was on disgusting display. Since the Scottish Conservatives treat the chamber of Holyrood in much the same way that certain Rangers fans treat the streets in the centre of Glasgow, as a venue in which to display their tribalism, entitlement, prejudice, and British nationalist contempt, it was perhaps appropriate that the next Scottish Tory dummy spitting was provoked by a question about the appalling display of naked anti-Irish racism from a group of Rangers fans in Glasgow last weekend, who paraded through the city centre chanting an offensive song making fun of the Irish famine and telling Scots of Irish Catholic descent to “go home”, saying that they had brought “trouble and shame” on Scotland. The only “trouble and shame on display here was that being created by racist and bigoted Rangers fans. Some arrests have already been made, more are expected.
I’m a Scot of Irish Catholic descent. My family have lived in Scotland since before WW1, yet for some racist British nationalists I can never be properly Scottish. British nationalism in Scotland still refuses to acknowledge or tackle its long history of anti-Irish racism. The Scottish Conservatives in particular have never acknowledged, far less come to terms with or made amends for, their long standing and intimate association with the Orange Order, an organisation which without the protection afforded to it by the Scottish Conservative Unionist and British nationalist establishment, would long since have been categorised as a hate group.
Prompted by the weekend’s scenes, the Labour MSP Pauline McNeill asked the First Minister about the Scottish Government’s efforts to tackle racism. Her question was an example of how Holyrood is supposed to work, an opposition MSP can still oppose the government yet be willing to work together on matters of common concern, such as efforts to root out racism. It was an example that the Scottish Tories would do well to learn from.
The First Minister replied that she was determined to ensure that Scotland was a welcoming home for everyone, no matter what their background or origins. Then the Scottish Tory MSP Tess White interjected, “Except if you’re English.” If you’d asked the Scottish Tories to demonstrate the infantile politics that the First Minister had called out just a few minutes previously, you could not come up with a more perfect example. Tess White’s comment was not only infantile, it was tribalist, petty, and fundamentally wrong, founded in nothing more than the Scottish Conservative projection of their own prejudiced style of politics onto everyone else. It was the politics of British nationalist social media zooming, without substance, merit or truth.
Tess White was attempting to dismiss the very real anti-Irish racism of British nationalism in Scotland and claim that the real problem is the fictitious anti-English racism which Tories believe drives the demand for Scottish independence because they are incapable of understanding any issue except through the lens of their own prejudice. It’s a classic example of psychological projection. In one short statement Tess White demonstrated everything that’s wrong with the Scottish Conservatives.
Naturally Tess White was supported by the staunch mob on social media, with their British flag and God Save the Queen bedecked accounts in order to show how much they hate nationalism. None of them however are ever able to present any concrete example of this supposed anti-English racism from the SNP beyond idiotic claims like the assertion that when independence supporters complain about Westminster that’s “really” code for “the English”.
She was also supported by the media branch of British nationalist zoomer accounts on social media, the equally infantile GBeebies channel and its frothing viewer. Tom Harwood, who delivers British nationalist hot takes from his bedroom in his mother’s house, took to Twitter (where else) to support Tess White, saying: “It’s not inaccurate to say that significant sections of the pro-partition movement in Scotland are deeply xenophobic against the English.”
Well it is inaccurate Tom. The mainstream independence movement does not tolerate or excuse racism in the same way that apologists for British nationalism tolerate the naked racism displayed by those Rangers fans or the blatant anti-immigration scare mongering that drove the Brexit campaign.
It’s also inaccurate because there is no “pro-partition” movement seeking Scottish independence. Partition is what British nationalists advocate when they fear that they are losing control. The border between Scotland and England is one of the oldest in Europe. No one in the independence movement proposes changing its course.
The real pro-partition advocates in Scotland are those British nationalists like George Galloway who advocate that if Scotland votes for independence in a future referendum then any district with a No majority should be hived off and remain a part of the UK. Partition advocates are also those British nationalist who propose that in the event of Scottish independence the British military installations at Faslane and Coulport should be retained by the UK as sovereign base areas similar to those the UK retained in Cyprus.
Tess White has apologised for her outburst. Even the Scottish Tories now acknowledge that the SNP is not driven by anti-English racism. It’s about time that they cracked down on their supporters on social media who are determined to drive a wedge between Scots with an Irish or English heritage and everyone else.
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