Alex Massie

The Scottish Nationalist Pathology

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Commenting on this post, "Robert the Bruce 2.0" complains:

Scotland has its own Government, Parliament, Courts, Legal System, Royal Household, Great Offices of State, Flag, Banner, Badge, Anthem, Language, Lingo, Sense of Identity, Country and Football Team. It is a Nation that is more than capable of standing on its own feet. Yet now, under Devolution and ' Devolution 2.0' it is treated as a semi-autonomous and semi-detached region of the UK. In a constitutional settlement that is patronising and insulting. If independence is good enough for the Irish, the Israelis and the Icelandic it should be good enough for Scotland too. Unless, of course, the people of Scotland consider themselves too lazy, too ineffectual and too feckless to take responsibility for their own futures.

The first is that it's a view that is more prevalent within the SNP - or, to be fair, the wider "nationalist" community - than the party leadership would care to admit. That is, this belief that the only thing preventing* the realisation of the Caledonian Dream is the poor, useless people of Scotland who "consider themselves too lazy, too ineffectual and too feckless" to ever vote the right way.

But the reason the SNP has never won a majority (of seats let alone votes) owes little to the fecklessness of the people and rather more to the party's inability to make a sufficiently persuasive case. Ah, our cybernatting friends will tell us, that's because of the Biased BBC and the rest of the Unionist Media, conspiring to hoodwink the Plain People of Scotland and frustrating the path to righteousness and Manifest Destiny! If only - only!  - we had a better people they would see the light and the Promised Land. And those media organisations are either in thrall to Britannia or Big Corporations who care nothing for Scotland! Occam's Razor, you see, may never be deployed. There's always someone else to blame.

Since the people remain blind it follows that they are useless and easily duped. Furthermore, mere disagreement cannot exist or be based upon an honest - if misguided! - difference of opinion, it must instead be an act of Bad Faith or even treachery. Genuine Scots know the score; Westminster's useful fools do not. Just as  - to point out another piece of witlessness - "Real Scots" are supposed to read the Daily Record, so real Scots are supposed to support the SNP. This McPalinism deserves to be treated with some hefty measure of contempt.

As nationalist movements go, the SNP is remarkably, admirably, free of blood and soil nonsense. That should neither be forgotten nor ignored. At its best the SNP offers a civic, inclusive, even rationalist nationalism that is so responsible it can seem so boring that these virtues are overlooked. Nevertheless, there are plenty of nutters out there who do their party or cause no end of harm...

I don't mean to pick on "Robert the Bruce 2.0**" save to observe that his views are hardly rare within the nationalist community. It's not strictly accurate to say these people hate the English (thought doubtless some do). No, they hate other Scots who have the gall to disagree with them. (Sure, I sometimes despair that so many of my compatriots vote for Labour but I don't hate them for doing so, far less think them traitors or any less Scottish for doing so.)

This is a pathology, of course, that you will find in most political "movements" and a very good reason to be suspicious of movements themselves. As a general rule, they lead to a closing of the mind and a meanness of spirit.

And, for the record, I think - and have argued here often - that there should be a referendum on independence. I've also voted SNP in the past and have no ideological or intellectual objections to independence per se. Of course independence is "good enough" for the "Scottish people" but so too, evidently, is remaining part of the United Kingdom and thinking so makes no-one any less good or any less Scottish. The corollary: of course, after a potentially difficult transition period, Scotland is capable of "standing on its own two feet" and to pretend otherwise is odd and reflects poorly upon Unionists who should use better arguments to make their case.

*The biggest problem the nationalists face: custom. The second biggest? A lack of widely-perceived grievance against the UK. Or perhaps that should be the other way round. 

**He's probably a lovely chap...

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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