A reply to ‘In Defence of Nationalism’

In response to David Kelly: http://www.bbench.co.uk/#!In-Defence-of-Nationalism/crhk/5592b6f30cf2585ebcda1bb2


To begin, I must confess confusion at David Kelly’s anecdotal encounter with a bigoted senior citizen while out campaigning. In my original article, ‘Let’s be free of flags; they only divide us’, I made it fairly clear that I was repelled by all forms of sectarianism.


Kelly will also note also that in my original article I do not make a single reference to national socialist ideology. Kelly says he is thankful that I ‘spared us any clichéd Hitler references’, although I never once even considered putting any in. Comparing the SNP to the Nazis is quite obviously a non-sequiter (see also: Godwin’s Law). I am no fan of Nicola Sturgeon’s party, but I was still repelled by historian David Starkey’s suggestion just a few weeks ago that they were somehow comparable to the fascist movements of the twentieth century. Furthermore, I referenced sectarian conflicts, mainly the Troubles that dogged Northern Ireland for so long, only as cautionary tales. Finally, I can’t stand John Lennon. At least we’re agreed on that.


As for the contentious ‘n-word’, I do not say that Scotland is incapable of running its own affairs. In fact, I seem to remember some Better Together supporters also conceding this point. The crux of last year’s debate was not whether Scottish independence was conceivable, but whether it was desirable. I have a slightly sentimental attachment to the idea of the ‘United Kingdom’ and see no reason to be ashamed of being British, but I still would have dropped this in a flash if I’d thought a Yes vote would’ve been a step forward for my country. At the time of writing, I remain unconvinced.


I do understand and respect the concept of ‘civic nationalism’. Many of my friends were enthusiastic Yes voters and they walked to the polling stations last year with pride, while boding no ill-feeling towards the English (or the Welsh or Northern Irish, because let’s not forget them either). My concern with nationalism or ‘civic nationalism’ is that it can all too easily degenerate into parochialism. Changing your relationship with another country or national institution, such as the EU, will not be a panacea to all your problems. It is a dubious idea and it needs to be carefully considered. (I am not a Kipper, either, if you care to know). Although in fairness, the ‘ugly sister’ line was a bit crude. I hope you can forgive a newbie to the writer’s world.  


As for the SNP, I still believe the party harbours some authoritarian characteristics, especially when it comes to their signature issue. I remember Alex Salmond saying three days after the ‘No’ vote that he could essentially ignore the result. Ever since then, there have been regular murmurings  about second referendum, which is apparently just around the corner. Indeed, even last week, the SNP’s Westminster leader said there could be another one before 2020. What then, of the SNP’s promise that the referendum was a ‘once in a lifetime’ event? It strikes me that there is something fundamentally undemocratic about repeated referendums.


The SNP must rid itself of the conceited idea that only it stands for Scotland and the concepts of democracy and self-governance. I must also add that I am no imperialist, but do think some nationalist leaders, such as Gandhi, are overrated. Since we mentioned Hitler, Gandhi fawned over the Nazi leader while concluding that the German Jews might as well commit collective suicide - contemptible, I think. See George Orwell’s excellent ‘Reflections on Gandhi’, for more on this.


But to return to the SNP, and for a start I would appreciate it if Nicola Sturgeon would stop reiterating that ‘the people of Scotland will not tolerate this or that…’ Since when did Sturgeon feel she had the right to speak for all Scots?


Last of all, I must point out that Kelly did neglect my original argument about flags. Does he not agree that the Saltire belongs to all Scots, whether they support independence or seek a continued union, and should never be opportunistically claimed as an emblem of an internal political movement? Use the SNP ‘noose’ if you wish, but please leave the glorious white and blue alone.



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