Tag Archives: nationalism

Fork an Iguana for Queen and Country!

Respect is due to Hot Ginger And Dynamite’s post rant about St George’s Day.

For the record, I’d love it to be a bank holiday as we don’t have nearly enough of them compared to the continentals. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to start waving a bloody flag all of a sudden, just as I don’t wear stupid bloody leprechaun hats on Paddy’s Day.

If you want to read lots of bleating and moaning about how people are being prevented from celebrating their patron saints day, go here.

He forgot the woad…

Either I’m psychic or Alex Salmond reads this blog and just does things to wind me up. Six weeks after being castigated for stating that Salmond launched his 2005 General Election campaign by standing in front of that ridiculous statue of Mel Gibson in Stirling on 6 April to mark the Declaration of Arbroath. I suggested this was dog whistle politics. It turns out I had misremembered this, and was instead standing next to an actor dressed as Robert the Bruce.

Well, two years later, he’s ditched the claymore, but he did indeed choose to mark the Declaration of Arbroath by standing in front of Hollywood’s most famous anti-semite (can’t find any useable photos online, but they’re all up on PA Photos if you have access).

No doubt my dear SNP friends will be quick to claim that this is irrelevant, that the SNP are civic nationalists not ethnic nationalists, and that I’m spreading lies again, but let’s be clear. By explicitly posing outside of this statue he isn’t merely associating himself with William Wallace and all the blood and tears that is associated with him – he’s associating himself with the film version of his story which was a pack of lies. Presumably we are to believe that the Queen is Wallace’s distant ancestor, and that’s why he is happy for her to remain the Head of State of an independent Scotland?

Oh, and lest I forget, Mel Gibson is an adherent of exactly the kind of ‘muscular christianity’ that Brian Souter is such a fan of. Are we starting to see a pattern here?

Crowns of Thorns

Geoffrey Wheatcroft’s article yesterday about what to do about a problem like Scotland, got Lib Dem bloggers in a lather for wrongly accrediting the West Dunfermline By-election victory to the SNP, but what they should have noticed is that the rest of the article is even more nonsense.

His proposed ‘solution’ is a Union of Crowns – both Scotland and England would have their own sovereign and distinct parliaments, but would be united as a dual monarchic union. He cites the example of Austria-Hungary.

There are two main problems with this idea: one anecdotal, the other rather more fundamental. Firstly, it is an inconvenient fact to this argument that Austria-Hungary was a dismal failure. It lasted 50 years, ended up splitting during one of the biggest bloodbaths the world has ever known, and if the Austrians and Hungarians I’ve spoken to about it are anything to go by, continues to poison relations between the countries to this day. It was the last hurrah of an already defunct empire. What’s more, with England 10 times larger than Scotland, it isn’t even a particularly useful comparison.

The other, more fundamental problem is where this leaves that other constituent parts of the United Kingdom, which Wheatcroft does not even name check in his article. Does Wales suddenly become part of England? I’m sure they’ll love that. And what about Northern Ireland?

The latter is an issue that I feel the SNP need to address as well. Most Northern Irish protestants are Ulster Scots and have more in cultural ties with Scotland than England. Indeed, the Unionists that I’ve known have generally been not so much pro-Union as anti-Ireland. Several have told me that they not only support Scottish Independence, but would want Northern Ireland to have some form of political union with the Scots under such a circumstance as well.

I can’t help but think that Scottish Independence is going to cause Northern Ireland some difficulty down the line. Will they be content with remaining in the UK, or will a movement for Ulster-Scots unity emerge? Or will they simply feel abandoned? Scottish Independence would potentially upset the delicate balance laid out in the Belfast Agreement. Presumably Scotland would remain in the Council of the Isles, but I would be amazed if it didn’t raise the question of whether it should have a wider role. This is a can of worms Northern Ireland could do without.

Scottish Nationalists like to wrap themselves in history, but I can’t help but feel that their self-obsessed crusade for independence means turning their back on a lot of history which is little too complicated and doesn’t fit neatly into an England versus Scotland narrative. I can’t see a United Kingdom really working without Scotland, but it does rather leave Wales and Northern Ireland in the soup.

UPDATE: Peter Pigeon has more on this and Wheatcroft gets a kicking in the Guardian letters column, including from Neil Ascherson, whose article Wheatcroft uses as the basis for his.

Poo to nationalism

A couple of weeks ago, I was castigated for saying that nationalism was an ugly thing, citing the example of “Scottish Nationalists chucking faeces through English people’s letterboxes“. I later apologised for capitalising the en in Nationalist (I never meant to imply I thought it was SNP policy), but insisted (and insist) that it is the sort of nasty thing that nationalism leads people to conclude it is acceptable to do.

Via the English Democrats, I now learn of a Scottish website encouraging Scots to do exactly this to their English neighbours as the ‘ultimate revenge’. Only it is plastic. And meant as a ‘practical joke’. Ho ho ho.

Of course, the English Democrats have gone off on one, suggesting it is possibly an offence. I’m in the very uncomfortable position of actually agreeing with them for once.

So, all my SNP friends who have declined to condemn their party for accepting half-a-million poonds from Scotland’s most famous homophobe and then failing to vote for legislation designed to outlaw discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation, will you condemn this?

Just add your denunciation in the comments box below.

UPDATE: postapoo has gone down, but their jape has resulted in the first bit of publicity for the English Democrats in years. Sky News. Metro.

“Thanks – you’ve been a great audience. I’ll be here all week. Try the veal.”

Once again my allergic reaction to nationalism has resulted in my blog coming out in a nasty rash. The nats are swarming, clogging up my comments and while, to tell the truth, they aren’t causing me too much discomfort, they are certainly causing me some embarrassment. So I thought it was time I stopped dabbing on a few bits of creme here and there and try to get to the root of the problem (and if that isn’t a contorted metaphor, I don’t know what is).

So, first of all, a mea culpa (yes, I am capable of them from time to time). I shouldn’t have capitalised the Ens in “Scottish nationalist” and “Cornish nationalist” in my post on nationalism yesterday. It’s clearly caused some confusion, so let’s clear that up straight away. It wasn’t my intention to suggest that the SNP resort to such practices, merely that such practices do exist and are documented. Nor are members of other political parties immune to stupid nationalistic behaviour.

Secondly, the SNP launched their 2005 election campaign in Dundee, not Stirling, and the memorable claymore wielding incident took place beside a rather anonymous actor playing Robert the Bruce, rather than a statue of a famous anti-semite playing William Wallace. Other than that, though, the incident is true. It took place on 6 April, which was both the anniversary of the Declaration of Arbroath and the day in which the SNP launched their campaign. My point that it was a deliberate press stunt designed to send a specific message, along with a specific subtext, remains (frustratingly, I can’t find an online photo of this incident, but there is a lovely one of Salmond gazing adoringly at his mighty weapon available on Empics if you have access, ref EMP.2319661). I will be interesting to see what he does to mark 6 April 2007.

What Scots need to appreciate is that it isn’t Scottish nationalism I have a problem with, it’s nationalism. Various commentators have sought to distinguish between civic nationalism and ethnic nationalism, and I assure you I do understand the difference. My position is however that all too often the former strays into the territory of the latter.

Nationalism is a bit like the mogwai in 80s classic Gremlins. It comes in two types: cute and cuddly civic nationalism, and the nasty, violent, murderous ethnic version. To prevent the one from transforming into the other, you have to rigidly obey certain specific rules. There are no grey areas here; you can’t feed Gizmo at 00.01 and expect everything to be fine. Break the rules and, after a gestation period, all hell breaks loose.

That is why I am so intolerant of that claymore incident. It simply isn’t good enough to employ that sort of violent, backward-looking, ethno-centric imagery when launching an election campaign. The fact that so many Scots Nats commenting here simply do not see it as a problem, speaks volumes to me. This is tantamount to watching the mogwai being chucked into a swimming pool with a shrug of the shoulders.

I’ve spent much of the past two years working in SE Europe and with SE Europeans. I’ve seen what happens when people allow their sense of proportion slip when it comes to nationalism and it ain’t pretty.

People here have rightly alluded to incidents by other party politicians. I should disabuse new readers who may be under the impression that I’m some kind of blind party loyalist. I absolutely condemn the Lib Dems in Burnley for flirting with the BNP. Ross Finnie was incredibly foolish to call Digby Jones an ‘English Prat’. I also don’t agree with the Scot Lib Dem line on independence (personally I think they should neutralise the SNP by pledging to introduce a general system of citizens initiative and referendum) or, for example, local income tax (a policy which the SNP foolishly share).

All I’m really looking for is an acknowledgement that when dealing with issues over national identity, you have to be doubly careful about not pandering to racists and ethno-centrists. But all I’ve had over the past 24 hours is, at best, shrill displacement activity.

The bottom line is this: English Nationalists, still small in number, are on the march, and while they too like to call themselves civic nationalists, they’re obsessions are invariably national anthems, flags, immigration, Witangemots and Perfidious Alba. It’s on the rise partly because certain politicians in England are indulging them, while others are resisting the very real need for greater decentralisation and self-determination. The question I would ask the SNP is this: is your sense of civic nationalism so robust that it won’t begin to crack if a nasty strain of English Nationalism starts to cause a stink south of the border? I have my doubts.

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”.

Rising Tide of Nationalism? Blame the secularists

The Guardian’s ongoing war against rationality continues. After a columnist equated secularism with totalitarianism last week, this week, we are being blamed for the rising tide of nationalism:

There is a danger that the rising tide of secularism, and of narrow English and Scottish nationalism, itself often strongly secular in spirit, combined with its counterpart, the growth of various forms of fundamentalism, will erode the open, hospitable and capacious concept of Britishness in which minorities of various kinds have felt welcome.

There was a time when a “liberal” Christian would pride himself on his secularism, but clearly we have moved on (you can sense the bile rising in his gullet as he was forced to type the hated word). But is secularism truly at the heart of nationalism? Leaving aside the rest of the world for a second, if that is the case, why do nationalists concentrate so much of their energies on evoking religious purges and culls from history as justification? I’m not aware of nationalists in Northern Ireland being any less religious than unionists, but perhaps I’ve missed something (I’m sure Ian Bradley is comforted to have a liberal man of the cloth of the stature of the Rev Ian Paisley on his team). Why do Scottish and English nationalists wrap themselves in the crosses of Saints Andrew and George if they are so driven by secularist concerns? And why are the faith-friendly Cameroonies flirting with nationalism and silly notions like English Votes on English Matters (and, for that matter, religious Lib Dems such as Simon Hughes), while most people in politics associated with metropolitan liberal secularism are so sceptical?

Last time I looked, we had a Church of England, a Church in Wales, a Church of Ireland and Church of Scotland, but no “British” church. Only the former is “established” in the constitutional sense of the word. If religion, and specifically Anglicanism/protestantism, is such a unifier, why don’t they practice what they preach?

Religious anti-secularists are getting increasingly divorced from reality as they continue to make their outlandish claims in an attempt to prove that simply wanting to keep public life and private faith seperate is somehow sinister. The paranoid part of my brain suspects we are looking at some kind of wedge strategy at work.