SNP: Lib Dems should apologise for stating the bleeding obvious

Full marks to Danny Alexander for making a factual statement which, too often, people like to hide away from in politics these days:

“Nationalism is about building up barriers between people, liberalism is about breaking those barriers down.”

Apparently, Alex Salmond is now demanding an apology from Danny, and from Jamie Stone for saying the SNP are xenophobic.

Why should they? There are clear ideological differences between the SNP and the Lib Dems – Danny’s quote above sums it up perfectly.

The bottom line is, nationalism is an extremely ugly thing, whether it is Cornish Nationalists “confiscating” English Heritage signs or Scottish Nationalists chucking faeces through English people’s letterboxes. Alex Salmond may like to pretend that nationalism has an “acceptable” face, but it’s fundamental features are a belief that your ‘people’ are both superior to another group and permanent victims at the same time.

Salmond launched his 2005 General Election campaign by swinging a claymore around his head outside the statue of Mel Gibson William Wallace in Stirling. That single image is more significant than a thousand assurances that the SNP regards anyone who happens to live in Scotland as “Scottish”.

32 thoughts on “SNP: Lib Dems should apologise for stating the bleeding obvious

  1. Come off it. If the SNP was a party of xenophobes, do you really think it would have such an open citizenship policy; be committed to a bill of rights banning discrimination or grounds of race, gender or sexual orientation; or have been described in the past by the Late Cardinal Winning as being ‘mature, respectful and international in outlook’?

    You say that ‘Salmond may like to pretend that nationalism has an “acceptable” face, but it’s fundamental features are a belief that your ‘people’ are both superior to another group and permanent victims at the same time’. This is nonsense on stilts – the SNP’s nationalism is about the pursuit of self-determination for all those who have chosen to make their lives in Scotland, regardless as to where they have come from. That inclusivity can’t even remotely be described as supremacist or as seeking victimhood. But if you genuinely object to the premise that the nation state is a natural unit of government, I hope you will be consistent enough to condemn the British nationalism of the Lib Dems in similarly vitriolic terms.

    Face facts – Jamie Stone has screwed up, and Danny Alexander did himself no favours by sitting gormlessly and mutely through the incident itself, before making a few ignorant generalisations in the name of a ‘wider debate’ on yesterday’s Politics Show. Will Nicol Stephen be mature enough to apologise, or will he try to brazen it out, forever marking out his party as the dirtiest and most deceitful in Scottish Politics?

  2. It’s what has become known as ‘dog whistle’ politics. Waving a claymore around his head whilst mouthing pieties about having an open concept of citizenship is all about plausible deniability. Scratch beneath the surface, and the SNP is all ‘It’s Scotland’s Oil’ and ‘Remember Culloden’.

  3. That must be some dog whistle for the SNP be a bunch of xenophobes and still fool a Cardinal. At least no-one in the SNP has ever called someone an ‘English Prat’ in public, unlike Lib Dem Minister Ross Finnie back in 2002 at a CBI dinner. And ‘Plausible deniability’ – would that be a bit like pretending to be liberal and democratic, while siding with the BNP – those well known bastions of tolerance and inclusivity – on Burnley Council?

    http://www.burnleytoday.co.uk/ViewArticle2.aspx?SectionID=131&ArticleID=1957030

    It is Scotland’s oil, 95% of it anyway, but with your ‘remember Cullodden’ remark (??!) you’re just showing up your lack of knowledge about Scottish politics. At least have the grace to admit that the Lib Dems have fouled up badly – the longer this goes on, the sillier the Lib Dems are going to look.

  4. Face it Richard, nationalist politics means always blaming someone else for your problems. If Scotland ever did go independent, I can guarantee that 50, 100 years later, the SNP’s political descendants will still be blaming the English for every single screw up.

    It should therefore be a surprise to no-one that the SNP and its supporters are howling about this. It distracts people from the real issues.

    Oh, and as an aside, you haven’t yet debunked the simple logic of Danny Alexander’s statement: Nationalism is about building up barriers between people, liberalism is about breaking those barriers down.

  5. I can assure you, I’d far rather be debating the economy and the state of our public services than the incoherent dribblings of Jamie Stone. What I’m more concerned about is that Nicol Stephen, a man whom we are invited to believe might be our next First Minister, doesn’t have the courage to issue the simple, straightforward apology that would make this go away.

    SNP figures have made stupid remarks at conferences before. The difference is, they’ve been slapped down immediately, not given tacit endorsement by the party leadership. This shouldn’t be about party politics – its about the sort of standard of political debate we want to have. What should be making you cringe is how Nicol Stephen can call for an end to name-calling, yet barely 5 minutes after his speech one of his MSPs is making asinine remarks like this on national TV!

    This could have been all over on Sunday, but it’s now becoming a test of Stephen’s leadership – if he’s not prepared to slap down an inconsequential little nobody like Stone who makes such gratuitously offensive and downright ignorant remarks, how can anyone see him as having the qualities needed for the top job?

    Seriously, you would do yourself far more credit by simply admitting that Stone was out of order, instead of trying to kick up dust and making silly assertions about an SNP which exists nowhere except in the deepest recesses of your imagination.

  6. Just saw your remark at the end there about ‘debunking’ Danny Alexander’s statement. We are part of a single market of 350m people, where the free movement of people and goods is enshrined by treaty. All the SNP wants is to transfer the powers which Westminster currently has over Scotland to the Scottish Parliament, and removing that particular barrier to our engagement with the wider world. The only people talking about borders, barriers and bogeymen are British nationalists (as distinct from the BNP) who lack the ability to make a positive and modern case for Britain.

  7. Richard, you are still blathering on about this 24 hours after Jamie Stone has already issued an apology. So much for wanting to move on.

    The problem is, which you are opting to skim over, is that he has already apologised and yet you STILL want to keep raking over it.

    Once again, instead of playing silly games, I want to hear you explain how nationalism and xenophobia are not inextricably linked. It’s two sides of the same coin.

  8. “The only people talking about borders, barriers and bogeymen are British nationalists (as distinct from the BNP) who lack the ability to make a positive and modern case for Britain.”

    You’re seriously claiming that the BNP are morally superior to what you call ‘British nationalists’? Wow. QED, I think.

  9. ‘If I caused any offence then I’m sorry’, is hardly an unreserved apology. And if he’s admitted being in the wrong, then why the aggressive posts backing up the xenophobia claims? Or have I just been reading your posts incorrectly and really, you agree that Stone was wrong all along?

    For the avoidance of doubt, I made no claim of superiority for the BNP, as I suspect you know perfectly well. I was drawing a distinction between decent British nationalists, like most Lib Dems, and the real xenophobes of the anti-immigrant BNP. And that’s your problem – if it’s defensible to slag of the inclusive civic nationalism of the SNP as ‘xenophobic’, what do you leave in your locker to describe the racists of the BNP?

    Nationalism is about the pursuit of self-determination. Xenophobia is about hatred of ‘foreigners’. The two are very different concepts, although nationalism can be a force for good or a force for bad. It varies from movement to movement, but to say the SNP are nationalists and are therefore xenophobes is as stupid as saying there was equivalence between John Smith and Joseph Stalin because both were socialists. Or that because my dog has 4 legs and my cat has 4 legs, that somehow my dog is the same as my cat.

    Anyway, if you want to taint yourself with uncritical support for Stone’s remarks, that’s up to you – I’ve given you plenty of opportunities to distance yourself from them. Perhaps on reflection, you might begin to appreciate that the mindless loyalism of ‘my party right or wrong’ is as big a turn-off for voters as the intemperate outbursts and name-calling to which your party claims to be so agin.

  10. No, self determination is about the pursuit of self determination. I believe in the self determination of Londoners, North Westerners and Midlanders without needing recourse to wrap myself in a flag. Nationalism is about believing you are morally superior to the Great Other, which in the SNP’s case invariably means the English.

    That’s the point. You can pretend otherwise until you are saltire-blue in the face, but it will remain the case.

  11. Hmm… circular and ad hominem arguments are always good. With that kind of moral and intellectual force behind the Lib Dem cause, I’m sure you’ll get the results you so richly deserve come May.

  12. As an aside, there is a thesis to be written on the ‘apology’ in modern political discourse. Even the most cringe-inducing act of contrition tends to get swatted aside as your political opponent demands ever greater acts of humiliation.

    My advice to anyone in politics who is asked to apologise is: don’t do it. It means you end up dancing to your opponents’ tune.

  13. Richard, it is not ad hominem for people to define “nationalism” in terms that are generally understood – it is just inconvenient for you. The two things do not equate.

  14. It is ad hominem to promote an argument which appeals to prejudice rather than intellect or reason. I’d say that your remarks about me somehow wrapping myself in a flag (evidence?), or despite all the evidence to the contrary, your false claim that the SNP consider Scots to be superior to the English, to fall squarely into that category.

    You clearly prefer, at least on this issue, resorting to the declamatory and ill-informed generalisation instead of engaging in a reasoned debate. And while your ‘never admit culpability, never apologise’ stance might be wise in the aftermath of a car accident, its pretty poor stuff here.

    You’re now in the ridiculous position of implying that while Stone has issued an apology of sorts, he was wrong to do so and not only that, he was also right to make the assertions that he did. I’m not going to waste any more time trying to reason with you – I’ve said my piece and I’ll leave it to others to make up their own minds on this issue.

  15. Richard, you really don’t need to make these contortions. It isn’t ad hominem to simply define nationalism and I can’t let you get away with claiming there are nice fluffy versions that I just don’t understand. Your clear anger at frustration with me making this simple point, I’m afraid, speaks volumes.

    If you despise nationalistic chauvanism so much, as you espouse, then don’t promote a nationalist party. If you consider self-determination to be the defining issue, then support a party that campaigns on self-determination but doesn’t go for all the claymore-wielding nonsense of the SNP. It really isn’t difficult.

    If its any consolation, I treat English Nationalists with the same contempt (see my blog archive) and while I might consider the Union to be administratively more convenient, I’m sublimely unexcited by British nationalism as well.

  16. I’ve read this blog for some time and never felt the need to comment before. But really!

    Show some awareness of the types of nationalism that exist! James, you’re blurring the divide between civic and ethnic nationalism, two quite distinct branches.

    Ethnic nationalism is about building barriers between people, but civic nationalism isn’t. Indeed civic nationalism shared many elements of liberalism in the nineteenth century before the ethnic version of the twentieth century made nationalism a bad name.

  17. It is a bit disappointing to read james Graham’s arguments. I work at the EU in Brussels whose motto is Unity in Diversity. Here you would never hear anyone complaining about people prmoting Polish, Irish, Estonians, Dutch, Slovak or any other nationalism. People are right to want the best for the countries. Scotland has a tradition of inclusive civic nationalism that is proud of Scotland and what we can achieve together but never whilst thinking that we are better than anyone else. I think non-Scots find it mystifying that we do not blow our own trumpet more often. It seems to me that the Liberals ludicrous and insulting remarks about the SNP have more to do with deflecting a pretty poor record in government. The fact that Scottish Executive Ministers get barred from the room when they are in Brussels and sent to listening rooms when decisions are being made next door should concern them more. As Alex Salmond pointed out Scotland is only small to those who think small.

  18. Well said Guy. James you really are trying to hard to apologise for Jamie Stone’s unfortunate and ridiculous statement on the BBC. Did you catch Brian Taylor’s reaction when he said it? Brian isn’t exactly a bastion of nationalist interviewers, and even he thought the statement was incredulous with Danny Alexander sitting there gormless and preying the questioning didn’t turn to him.
    Tell me, was it wrong of Lord Paddy Pantsdown to campaign for Kosovo’s self determination? Should the Baltic States plead for re-entry to the Russian Union? You’re not very coherent in your understanding of ‘nationalism’ in all its forms, but then I wouldn’t expect much more from an illiberal democrat who doesn’t want the Scottish people to even have a referendum to express their settled will on the matter.

  19. You can all come here and denounce me as much as you like but my rebuttal is quite simple:

    Alex Salmond. 2005 General Election Campaign Launch. Stirling. Claymore.

    Dress it up as “civic nationalism” as much as you like, but that is your party leader’s idea of what nationalism really means.

  20. I think you know you have backed the wrong horse here Mr Graham. I mean really. Politicians, like other people, often get their pictures taken beside an arrange of different artefacts, historic and otherwise. David Cameron and huskies, Gordon Brown and the English FA, the Liberals and the Cheeky girls.

    The SNP is highly thought of throughout the world for the way in which it has built a mature, thoughtful and forward looking case for independence. That is why the SNP has been invited to assist with peace-building efforts in the Caucasus and elsewhere. And in Scotland Alex Salmond has done more than any other leader of a political party to reach out to all of Scotland’s communities.

    The Liberals are displaying the kind of petty, backward looking arguments that impoverish the political debate.

  21. The SNP have a policy on shitting through people’s letterboxes – i had no idea, thanks for pointing this out.

    As for the ‘ugly’ act of taking down signs in Cornwall, do you think it’s right to deny a person’s right to consider themselves’ Cornish rather than English/British? That’s not very liberal of you.

    I know you’re not interested in nationalism (except for British nationalism perhaps), but it’s a against someone’s human rights to deny them their nationality. That’s blatantly what English Heritage are doing by erecting signs over Cornwall proclaiming that the Cornish are English.

  22. I class myself politically as a green liberal democrat and I’ve lived in Germany for most of my adult life. In this exchange I would like to thank Richard Thomson for the comments, and wish you all the best in your efforts, at least from the standpoint of what I have read here. If I were to move to Scotland I would seek you out, hopefully as someone to give me a fair, non-partisan view of what is going on. Name noted :)

  23. Stephen:

    “I think you know you have backed the wrong horse here Mr Graham. I mean really. Politicians, like other people, often get their pictures taken beside an arrange of different artefacts, historic and otherwise. David Cameron and huskies, Gordon Brown and the English FA, the Liberals and the Cheeky girls.”

    I think in that one paragraph, you perfectly sum up my point. The fact that you equate this with Lembit Opik posing with his girlfriend (I’ll pass over the freudian analysis) suggests that you never took all that stuff about civic nationalism seriously in the first place.

    But to reiterate: Alex Salmond wasn’t merely standing around, he was waving a claymore about ON THE DAY HE WAS LAUNCHING HIS GENERAL ELECTION CAMPAIGN. This wasn’t an example of a photographer happening to catch a politician at an unguarded moment, it was a carefully staged photo-op. And I think we both respect Salmond’s skills as a politician too much to suggest that he didn’t know perfectly well what he was doing, or what message he was (nudge, nudge, wink, wink) attempting to convey.

    Rhys: You are clearly a nationalist caricature – thanks for helping my case. But to deal with your substantive point, Mebyon Kernow have no MPs and just a handful of councillors. There is no mass movement for Cornish Nationalism, just a lot of indifferent people and a handful of vandals. Clearly, your definition of nationalism is that a hardcore minority should be allowed to enforce their ethnic identity on everyone else. If only you were the only one.

  24. “Alex Salmond. 2005 General Election Campaign Launch. Stirling. Claymore.

    Dress it up as “civic nationalism” as much as you like, but that is your party leader’s idea of what nationalism really means.”

    As a party member, I have pointed out this distinction between civic and ethnic nationalism on numerous occasions at Lib Dem conferences.

    I’m continually struck by the ahistorical perspective that many (not all) party members have when it comes to nationalism.

  25. Just a little humour there though I see that is a sensitive point for you.

    Shame that you didn’t tackle my other points.

    Also I think the photo opp to which you refer was one taken at a commemoration marking the signing of the Declaration of Arbroath and Alex seems to have been handed a sword by Robert the Bruce. People mark events of historic significance the world over and they deserve applause for taking the time to mark their historic heritage. Maybe as well as tackling the points raised you could also get your facts right?

  26. Stephen – I’m sure the SNP are highly regarded by other nationalists. The Lib Dems are liked by other similarly minded Liberals, Labour is liked by other similarly minded socialist parties and the Tories… well. It isn’t significant, especially since the SNP aren’t directing their dog whistles at Croats.

    There are lots of ways in which you can commemorate historical occasions. Waving swords around on the day of your campaign launch though is about making a political statement, as you well know. Wearing a bowler hat and orange sash and marching around Catholic neighbourhoods is also called commemorating history. I’m afraid you cannot divorce history from politics, particularly when playing the nationalist card, in the neat and tidy way that you would have us to believe.

  27. “Salmond launched his 2005 General Election campaign by swinging a claymore around his head outside the statue of Mel Gibson. William Wallace in Stirling. That single image is more significant than a thousand assurances that the SNP regards anyone who happens to live in Scotland as “Scottish”.”

    And that single image you have just painted is a complete fiction. Therefore why should I trust your other arguments?

    “Scottish Nationalists chucking faeces through English people’s letterboxes.”

    You have evidence of SNP members doing this? Or is it as fictional as your comment above?

    “…it’s fundamental features are a belief that your ‘people’ are both superior to another group”

    Where does the SNP do this? I take it Canadian independence must also be predicated on this philosophy. You will point out who they believed themselves superior to?

    “…and permanent victims at the same time’.”

    Really? Examples? Who was Canada the victim of?

    “…your ‘remember Cullodden’ remark (??!) you’re just showing up your lack of knowledge about Scottish politics.”

    And history. And remembrance of Culloden:

    http://www.gsi.org.uk/centhist.htm

    “When representing Inverness as its Liberal Member…Fraser Mackintosh did more in Parliament to help the ordinary Highland people than any other of his time. He urged the Society to popularise Gaelic literature and the history of the Highlands; to look after Culloden battlefield; to erect monuments and memorial tablets to our distinguished Highlanders, and invest money made by Highlanders in the Highlands.”

    I wonder what Danny would think of this slight of his predecessor?

    “I believe in the self determination of Londoners, North Westerners and Midlanders without needing recourse to wrap myself in a flag.”

    Whoops! Look who’s wrapping themselves in the flag.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RInRyJBBP7s

    And whoops again. What’s this http://reflectingbritain.org.uk/

    In the very own side bar of this blog?

    But then, since when has the Liberal Democrat party practiced what it preaches?

  28. the true face of the lib dems a party that deals with the BNP somthing the Snp would never do

    31st January 2007

    At a full meeting of Burnley Council on 13 December 2006, a position on a local regeneration board came up for renewal. When it came to the vote, there was a choice of only two candidates: a BNP Councillor, or a Labour Councillor. The casting vote rested with a Liberal Democrat Councillor, and he backed… the BNP Councillor!
    Indeed in a letter to the local paper, the Burnley Express, the Liberal Democrat Councillor (John Jones of Linby Street, Burnley) declared that, in his view, he backed the “better candidate”, going on to say: ” BNP Councillor Wilkinson is quite passionate about her ward members… As the spokesman for her party she speaks up regularly for what she feels is right. To my mind, she is actively doing her job for the people who voted for her.”
    The BNP were delighted as their website shows.
    One wonders whether this disgraceful incident will feature on any Liberal Democrat Focus leaflets in the May 2007 Council elections?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>