Monday, 27 April 2009

Nationalism and the North - 2

I forgot to say that I also like and agree with the sentiments and opinions expressed in this passage from Tom Gallagher's HP post:
‘We have strong community relations in Scotland…’

This is moonshine and it is a perhaps a welcome sign of hubris that the SNP is ready to peddle such dope. Move away from the patriotic hype and a discerning visitor soon finds a small country with a great deal of anger that is directed into religious and quasi-religious rivalry (Orange versus Green nowhere stronger outside Ulster) and of course towards the English and some of the hated overlord’s symbols. To acknowledge this local dystopia involves spurning the Braveheart fantasy which is something that the SNP will never do so. Instead, it blithely paves the way for new inter-communal stand-offs by promoting a range of policies, beginning with state-funded Islamic schools, which are likely to increasingly isolate a currently quite-well-integrated Muslim community, from the rest of society.

‘…we are all working to build unity…’

This is the default position of all restrictive political movements which rely on suffocating conformity in order to prevail. Until recently the SNP was a byword for infighting and intrigue and unity of a sorts has descended as the opportunity to smash a feeble opposition and establish a dominance undreamt of a short time before, suddenly presents itself.

‘…we are all working to build unity…’

are revealing words. They indicate how impatient Alex Salmond, and those whom he has gathered around him are, with forms of pluralism involving searching debate and honest differences of opinion.

‘…the very last thing we need is people with no knowledge of Scotland spreading nastiness and smears’

These words encapsulate the self-righteous provincialism of the SNP. Mere foreigners, unless they drink from the fountain of nationalist purity, will never understand a country whose magnificent and complex history does not yield its secrets easily to outsiders. This kind of clap-trap has been pushed by ruling nationalists from Mussolini to Enver Hoxha and Kim Il-sung. In fact the Quilliam staffers almost certainly know far more about the consequences of crudely promoting religious precepts in ethnically-mixed parts of inner city Scotland than do SNP politicians who often just bother with these areas at election time.
It's the dimension of narrowness and intolerance described so well here within the context of Scottish Nationalism and militant Islamism that many well-meaning Nordic observers miss when they visit Scotland and believe that they're seeing a potential candidate for the Nordic community of nations.

See also: Nationalism and the North


Eric Dickens said...

If you extrapolate, and whizz over to Estonia, I wonder how the spectrum or continuum of one-heart nationalist purity, right the way over to parallel communities (the two state solution for the Estonian- and Russian-speakers with breakaway Narva) reflects what is thought in Scotland.

Estonia is, of course an independent nation, while Scotland is part of the UK. But there too, there is that tension between the assimilationists and the live-and-let-live camp.

As I have only been to Scotland literally once in my life (and this, thanks to the Estonians!) it is fascinating to see how the façade of Scottish unity is undermined by the half-hidden spats between religious, ethnic and other communities. Below all those kilts of the Gay Gordons, something else, something less pleasant, clearly lurks. But even I knew that there is quite a difference between Highlanders and Lallands types.

Are the Scandinavians so blinded by wish-fulfilment and gullibility not to want to understand local problems and differences of opinion in Scotland?

Strangely enough, on that one visit to Edinburgh (perhaps not the right city to assess Scottitude), I didn't feel that city, despite its grand vistas and fine architecture, exhibited anything very different from England. But we Estonian conference-goers (I was one of only two Brits among them) had flown in from Tallinn via Maastricht and Brussels, so maybe we picked up the Britishness of Edinburgh, rather than its Scottish nature.

All smaller nations use an element of myth for cultural and historical consolidation. And leaders must tackle serious economic and community stability, before small countries can go it alone. Despite all odds against, the Balts have their independence. Can Scotland learn something from the Balts?

David McDuff said...

>>Can Scotland learn something from the Balts? <<

Not with the SNP in charge - that's for sure.

Harry D. Watson said...

I'm just back from a few days in the wilds of Argyll, staying with a newly-discovered distant cousin. At the age of 62 it was my first time in that part of the world, and there are still swathes of the Scottish mainland where I have never ventured, not to mention almost all of the islands.

My Argyll hostess and I share common ancestors in Melrose in the Scottish Borders, just a few miles south of Edinburgh. I only visited there a few years ago after some family-history research revealed my connection with the place. My hostess, despite living and working all over the world - from Tanzania to Saudi Arabia to China - has never been to Melrose. Like me, she and her husband were brought up in Fife, and your orientation was towards Edinburgh, Dundee and Aberdeen.

I mention all this just to demonstrate how parochial Scots can be when it comes to their own country. Add in the Highlands/Lowlands divide, and the sectarian religious divide in the industrial west of the country, and we are certainly not a united little country all singing from the same hymnbook, however much the Nationalists try to force us into a kilts and pipes and whisky and haggis straitjacket of conformity. The Homecoming and Gathering of the Clans nonsense planned for later this year has been treated with derision by home-based Scots, to the despair of the unholy alliance of SNP politicians and posh, public-school educated clan chiefs who need more footfall in their crumbling piles to save them having to go out and work for a living.

The SNP sucks up to all the little independent sovereign states of northern Europe like Norway and Denmark and Ireland, hoping that some of that stardust will rub off on them and no-one will notice that Scotland is not actually an independent country itself. It reminds me of the hoary old definition of a drummer - 'a guy who hangs out with musicians'.

Of course, Scotland has a rich history of involvement with northern Europe through trade and through providing mercenary soldiers and recruiting officers for the various wars, but I don't know if history alone provides us with the credentials for joining their club.


David McDuff said...

David Starkey certainly upset a few people with his recent remark about feeble little countries, but in a way, when one looks at the example set by the SNP, one can see what he means. The hope, of course, is that the Nationalists only represent a small part of Scotland - and, as you very rightly say, there are many internal differences and variations. I persist in believing that Scotland stands its best chance of economic survival and cultural development as part of the Union, and not as an independent state.