Claire Heuchan was wrong about nationalism but don’t abuse her
Claire Heuchan wrote a terrible article in the Guardian making a ham-fisted comparison between what drives Scottish independence and racism.
The article was rambling, incoherent and offered no evidence to back up her views. Her key point was that independence is driven by the same base instinct that is behind racism. She describes this as an US versus THEM attitude.
Sadiq Khan was not wrong to compare Scottish nationalism to racism or religious intolerance – at least, not entirely. Someone has to say it: the parallels are clear. There is an obvious overlap between nationalism and racism: both mentalities are defined by a politics of us and them. Equating racism with Scottish nationalism is a massive false equivalence, yet both perspectives are reliant on a clear distinction being made between those who belong and those who are rejected on the basis of difference.
To some extent there is some truth to the US versus THEM aspect of Scottish nationalism, in so far as there is an US versus THEM aspect to human experience. To some degree or another, most people feel a natural kinship for the members of the clubs they join, their colleagues, their family, the people who live in their neighbourhood and their compatriots. Scottish nationalists are no different in that respect to any other group of people on the planet. We want Scotland to be a real country and the border of a state needs to end somewhere and it’s normal, even beneficial, for those within a state to have a mild affinity with one another.
This bond that happens within groups is what enables people all over the world to come together and achieve things. It’s a capacity that is threaded into our DNA.
Having an US and a THEM attitude though is not what defines being a racist. If it was we would all be racist, including Claire, as she just wrote a whole article unfairly demonising one particular group. What would be racist is excluding people from being one of the US on account of their race. If you want to broaden her point to all prejudice, it would be terrible if Scottish nationalists started making discriminatory rules about who could potentially be a Scottish nationalist. It would be bad if we had an ethnic attitude about who could be Scottish. It would be disgusting if we didn’t extend the warmness we have for our compatriots to those who live elsewhere.
In her article Claire wrote that the THEM for those who support independence is the English. Yet this ignores the fact that 9 percent of the Scottish population is English and many of them now support independence.
The bulk of Scottish nationalists believe that everyone is welcome to live in Scotland regardless of their race, creed or colour. I challenge anyone to find a widely held vision of independence where this is not the case.
If we have a THEM we feel a strong antipathy to it is the UK establishment and the political system. The bulk of us are outward looking. A key element of our plan is to stay in the EU and Yes voters are demonstrably more likely to be pro immigration than those who voted No (see evidence below, something neither Claire nor for that matter Sadiq Khan, offered to back up their views).
Panelbase poll showing Yes voters are relatively more pro immigration than those who voted No
Claire’s argument wasn’t a great argument as far as I am concerned. Not least because by singling out one group she was committing the same crime she thought she was criticising. She was once a Better Together activist, who appeared in a Better Together video, who has a history in the Labour party, so she has her own version of US v THEM.
However, she is entitled to make that argument without people personally abusing and threatening her. Which is what the Guardian are currently reporting has happened.
In many ways this abuse is sadly inevitable in the modern world. Well over one million people support Scottish independence. All of them have access to instant ways of contacting people. That a small minority of them are racists, misogynists, homophobes and other dregs of society is a statistical certainty.
Still it goes without saying that abuse is unacceptable and anyone perpetrating it should be ashamed of themselves. It is totally counterproductive to the aims of the movement.
The fact is that those within the independence movement need to behave impeccably because cases of abuse committed by independence supporters are treated differently than those committed by our opponents. This is simply because all of the big national publications have a open pro union bias. The media, by openly supporting the union, admit they have their own US versus THEM slant.
While abuse is perpetrated by a vile minority on both sides of the debate, very few examples of nationalists receiving abuse will ever become a major news story.
Yet there are countless examples of reports about the horrible cybernats. As we have written before, often this abuse is low level and blown out of all proportion by a sensationalist click bait hungry media.
Yet that is the situation we are in. So, if you are a supporter of independence, and for some reason you are one of the abusive minority who finds it hard to conduct themselves in a civilised manner, at least force yourself to not be an idiot for the good of the movement. For while it is preposterous to compare the independence movement to a group of racists based on the actions of a few, the media will pounce on any opportunity to show us all in a bad light.
When you see an article unfairly demonising the movement, if you can’t do what the majority of us did, and calmly argue as to why it was wrong. Then it’s probably best you don’t do anything at all.
We have written more about Scottish nationalism here.