How ‘inclusive’ really is Scottish nationalism?

Even at its highest and most aspirant, nationalism demands self-interest over mutual interest between nations.

Even at its highest and most aspirant, nationalism demands self-interest over mutual interest between nations

Einstein was a little harsh when he said that “Nationalism is an infantile disease. It is the measles of mankind”. But given his circumstances, it was understandable.

Nationalism is a particular expression of “we” that can give us safety in a world of nebulous identities, an expression of commonality and it is potent.

Scottish Nationalism is of that brand which is curated not from a dominance challenged, but casts itself as the defender of the oppressed. Like in Catalonia or Quebec it is defined by notions of insurgency against the dominant order to provide dignity to those marginalised by over central states, often governed by aloof politicians.

It is important to understand this, because it’s not of that sort of nationalism which fears the immigrant, nor covets ethno-centric unity. It’s ‘other’ is not a weak phantasm created to bully a fearful, economically shattered class into a connivance of oppressing scapegoats. Pretending otherwise will do Unionists no good.

The argument put to the people of Scotland by the SNP is that they should embrace a civic nationalism imbued with all these qualities, where all are welcome and participation in the national society is to be rooted in qualities of shared humanity; a commitment to social democracy, ethnic inclusion, sexual and gender minority.

This is championed as the best avenue to achieve progressive aims by writers such as Ian McWhirter and Lesley Riddoch, who promote a move towards the Nordic model, embracing a pluralistic localism.

This is a persuasive and aspirational facet of an ideology which speaks easily to the tribal in a nation such as Scotland.

However, that is just what it aspires to be – a ‘tribe’. And I find this such a paltry ambition for the Scottish people.

The problem, even with nationalism so cushy as this, is that the ‘we’ still necessitates a ‘they’. Nationalism must always have an ‘other’ in order to exist. And indeed the entire language of the nationalist project is geared towards this end; ‘Westminster Rule’, ‘London’ ad nauseum.

Of course there are legitimate criticisms of Westminster politics, but what is being said is that there is something Unscottish there.

It simply doesn’t hold to scrutiny.

This Westminster that has had a Scot occupy every major office of State since the 90s? Which created the NHS, implemented a minimum wage and Equal Marriage? Scottish Social Attitudes survey shows clearly that Scots and English are very close on most big political issues. Even our mistakes are together – a majority of Scots supported the Iraq War in 2003.

This debate must in part ask the question ‘what is the purpose of the nation state?’ Most of the arguments put forward so far are about short-term gain, as if this were a general election campaign, but it is not. Nations last for decades and centuries, they outlast this or that Tory Government and the political opinions of populaces change.

Further complicating this question in a world of ever rising globalisation is the extent to which countries can ever be truly ‘sovereign’ in the way quacked on about by euro-sceptics or Scottish nationalists. Big business can flit across borders, for a tax rate here or lower wages there.

In such a situation, how can it make sense to divide and not combine our political powers of regulation in everyone’s interests? It is antithetical to any notion of Solidarity to say to the left voting NE and Wales who were also ravaged by Thatcher’s excessive monetarism that we shall hide behind Hadrian’s, cut tax powers to lure business away from you to us and leave you to probable Tory dominance.

Most of all, however, when a Scottish MP and former chancellor of the exchequer is being heckled live on TV as to whether he has a residency in Scotland, when the first minister’s closest advisers Joan MacAlpine questions the Scottishness of unionists, and when the only substantive economic proposal put forward for an Independent Scotland is to begin a corporation tax war with England, it’s time to be suspicious about how inclusive nationalism can ever be.

Even at its highest and most aspirant, nationalism demands self-interest over mutual interest between nations – it is forever and irrevocably rooted in parochialism.

I hope the Scottish people heed its most successful author when she writes the words for Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore, “We are only as strong as we are united, as weak as we are divided”.

John McKee is an activist for the No campaign and LGBT rights

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21 Responses to “How ‘inclusive’ really is Scottish nationalism?”

  1. Kevin Breslin

    Anything said about a Scottish nation here could equally transfer to a British nation, so to me believing this can be an absolute solution to class struggle is wrong. If there is partition in Britian, does it end the British class struggle? Actually, if you look at the partition in Ireland you would think not, but the struggle still survives on an all-Ireland basis, many Irish socialists from across the island come over to Britian. James Connoly of the cause of Labour is the cause of Ireland, highlighted brilliantly that you don’t demand a new nation like a customer, you work for it. Why stop at Britian, why not Ireland, why not Iceland, why not France?

    Einstine while calling himself an internationalist is a bit of a hypocrite because he was a Zionist, he needed a home for the Jews, even if it doesn’t resemble the Israeli state of today. Unless we are prepared to be nomads, we will always have the infantile desire for a home or nation I.e. From the Latin Place of Birth. I don’t believe borders will stop interaction in open border Europe.

    People make nations, nations don’t make people. The pro-unity left speaks of a solidarity with England and Wales, but ultimately it’s the same land and same people overall, regardless of a border, just as Ireland would be with Northern Ireland and the a Republic of Ireland.

  2. dougthedug

    In such a situation, how can it make sense to divide and not combine our political powers of regulation in everyone’s interests?

    So you’re for a United States of Europe as a road towards One World Government?

    If nationalism is wrong then all nationalisms are wrong including British nationalism.

    But your leader Miliband is a British nationalist.

    But he said he did not back an “inexorable” process of political union and Labour would “guarantee” an in-out referendum if the UK was being asked to transfer more powers to Brussels.

  3. littleoddsandpieces

    Scottish nationalism is not what independence is about.

    It is protecting the Scots from a future Tory government, when Tories are not voted into power in Scotland, bar one, so never forming a government in Scotland, yet Tory policies are forced onto a suffering nation that the population has not voted for.

    The Pension Bills from 2010 and most recent May 2014 will abandon housewives, widows and divorcees and poorest workers to nil state pension for life in old age.

    And massively reduce state pension for many women and a lot of men, when this is their sole income in old age.

    With independence, the Scots can end austerity, welfare and pension reform that is a cause of starvation rising in England and Wales by 70 per cent since 2010.

    The welfare state is all but abolished in England and Wales, yet the poorest have such suicide causing taxes as Bedroom Tax imposed upon them.

    Labour cannot always protect the Scots from the Tories forever into the future.

  4. MK

    “This Westminster that has had a Scot occupy every major office of State since the 90s?”

    They may have been Scottish, but they did not work in the interests of Scotland. And which major office of state is occupied by a Scot right now?

    “Which created the NHS”

    …and is currently privatising the English NHS, with funding effects for the Scottish one.

    “implemented a minimum wage”

    …at such a low level that it is impossible to live comfortably off it.

    “and Equal Marriage?”

    Fair enough, but you only note the positive things – not the bedroom tax, not the benefit cap, not the DRIP mass surveillance bill, not the top rate tax cut, not the VAT hike… The list goes on and on and on.

    “Scottish Social Attitudes survey shows clearly that Scots and English are very close on most big political issues.”

    Again, it is not Scot vs English but Scotland vs. Westminster. Westminster politicians often do not reflect the views of English people either.

    This article, like so many attacking Scottish nationalism, is so quite on the subject of British nationalism. It brings up mutual interests. Well, do not the British and French have mutual interests? It is purely a sign of self-interest that Britain and France are not one nation? How is Scotland and England/Wales/NI any different?

  5. John Mitchell

    The stupidest question of the entire debate was on Alistair Darling’s address. It is unfortunate but it seems that there are some in Scotland (as in other countries) that have a view that isn’t fazed by actively promoting or fostering exclusion. This isn’t necessarily promoted by the nationalists themselves publicly, but some supporters of independence (a minority), do subscribe to a hard-edged nationalist viewpoint, of that I have no doubt.

    That’s why I would agree with the latest findings within a newspaper poll where two thirds of respondents think that this referendum process overall has been “bad for Scotland.”

  6. Gary Scott

    Isn’t this really a re run of July 30th article? Interesting to note is that the YES campaigns inclusiveness has Scottish Asians for Independence Scottish Poles, English Scots, etc. Those who start their opining, I’m a proud Scot, tend to be anything but. There’s only one reason that its about where you live and that’s because it dictates whether you have a vote. Many Scottish politicians coming out for NO don’t actually have a vote. No one cares about how many Scots were in cabinet jobs since nineteen canteen. What we care about is whether the union is working or is it better to go it alone. Remember this is not a country, its a political union, just the same as the EU. The NO campaign wants to make this about Braveheart watching English-hating idiots dreaming of Bannockburn. Most Scots have extended family in England or have lived and worked there for some time at least. The referendum isn’t about how the voters feel about England its about how voters feel the Westminster system of government serves them.

  7. Julia
    That about covers it. Labour would once have praised the contents of above.

  8. Guest

    You are lying as usual. You are trying to separate from Britain, denying we have mutual interests.

    And because for one thing, Scotland is a region of the UK. Moreover, running away is never the answer.

  9. Guest

    No? So it’s about hyper-nationalism and borders then? It’s about screwing the British, and working for a hostile neighbour, and ignoring the Scottish right.

    Your constant spam about those links, to an extremist organisation, is typical.

    You won’t have the cash in your state, after you’ve purged the British, to pay for all that. And you want to make Labour your enemy, so…

  10. Guest

    “No one cares”

    Rather, it’s to your partisan interest to ignore democracy when it does not suit you, a lovely warning sign for what you intend for Scotland.

    Britain is the country. England and Scotland are regions. The Acts of Union are very clear, and your blatant and repeated basic dishonesty over this is another warning sign.

    This is very much about your narrow-minded separatism and about how you are trying to put up a Border with England, Trying to lie does not make it otherwise.

  11. Guest

    Europe does not have entirely open borders, it has two separate open border schemes, Schengen and the CTA. New members must join Schengen. Hence, there will be an external Schengen border if you get your way.

    And no, you are trying to divide. You are demanding there be a difference, that you are separate from the British. You are trying to lie about your base objective!

  12. Guest

    It would support, from the cover, major press controls?

    Revisionism from the start!

  13. Kevin Breslin

    I have no wish list, I’d imagine Scotland won’t become independent, and won’t become less “nationalist” as a result. If people on the left want to talk about dividing a country, then they should look at why the South of England and safe Tory seats still vote for right wingers and improve the quality of the left to get the left leaning non-voters out to vote.

  14. Kevin Breslin

    Scotland is not part of Schengen, but the Common Travel Area. If England and Wales and Northern Ireland wanted to get rid of CTA while keeping it with the Republic of Ireland who fought for independence as opposed to a peaceful referendum, then it would be a case of the No camp kicking the ball away after losing. I don’t see Scotland being forced to join Schengen, nor Schengen itself being the source of unwelcome immigration as opposed to offshore piracy, which poses a bigger criminal problem.

  15. Iain Macwhirter

    There is no hypocrisy quite so noxious as that of Westminster tribalists
    accusing Scots of being “tribal” because they are seeking
    greater control of their own affairs. Anyone who has read my stuff knows that I am a
    supporter of federalism – an option that has been denied to
    Scottish voters in this referendum as the result of a diktat from

  16. Guest

    No, Britain is a CTA member. You want to leave.

    You don’t see the law being applied? I see. Well, I do.

  17. Guest

    That’s an argument for voting reform, not separatism.

    And you go again with your myth of the right wing country, when the problem is right wing parties…the left have been left behind by Labour.

    Labour got 43.2% as late as 1997, and it bled votes because it moved right. It’s not not leftist at all, which is the problem. Under PR, parties would be far closer to their electorate, and we’d have a party of the left to vote for!

  18. Kevin Breslin

    In England, Labour got 26% of the vote, the Liberal democrats 24% but this was in PRSTV. If the European elections are anything to go by a left wing coalition which might even need the Liberal democrats could be struggling around the 34% mark in England and Wales, ironically relying on nationalists like Plaid Cymru and the SDLP to hold off a right wing block UKIP, Conservatives and the Democratic Unionists. So there’s strategic regions why Labour under threat by UKIP in the North, and struggling to make headway in the South, outside of London of course.

  19. Kevin Breslin

    In who’s interest would it serve? Why would England, Wales and Northern Ireland keep Scotland out of the Common Travel zone, yet maintain one with the independent Republic of Ireland? The most ardent Unionist in Northern Ireland would not want passports and border controls with the Republic of Ireland, and the people of the Republic have no desire to see the English stopped at airports, nor Vice versa, so why would Scotland be singled out?

    The European Union has no problem with the British or Irish opt outs, they will accept a Scottish opt out. Iceland a country not in the EU has no problem with Schengen, and Cyprus a country with De facto partition outside the European Union in Northern Cyprus is given leeway on this issue. No voice in Europe or an overseas territory of Europe is demanding Scotland join Schengen or leave the Common Travel Zone. However even if they did, it might force the rest of a Britain and Ireland to join them.

  20. Kevin Breslin

    I will also add, Norway and Denmark while part of Schengen maintain passport unions similar to the Common Travel Zone with Svalbard and the Faroe Islands. Scotland could be both a member of Schengen and the Common Travel Zone but ultimately, that would be between Edinburgh, Dublin, London and Brussels to work out. Frontext and Europol policing borders and/or the new British-Irish arrangements.

  21. John McKee

    To be clear, accusing you and nationalists of having an ideology that promotes the tribal is not the same thing accusing “Scots” of being tribal, and in rather spectacular irony you make my point by deliberately conflating your view with being “Scots”. Its exactly the same sordid trick we like to cringe at when US politicians conflate “America”.with whatever concept they want shielded from criticism.

    And you’ll notice I attack euro-sceptics, I’m no Westminster tribalist. If self governance is the goal, why leave a union which has devolved ever more power to Scotland in order to enter into one which has an explicit centralising agenda? I like the EU because I’m a consistent federalist, prepared to cede sovereignty for shared prosperity, what makes no sense is protesting you’re a federalist whilst fighting to make a federal UK forever an impossibility.

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