Not in my tribe!

Maybe it’s because the SNP have taken the momentum out of the drive for indyref2 that tribalism within various independence supporting factions has recently increased.

It certainly seems to happen more when we lose sight of the main goal. The last time it flared up was during the great second vote debate that preceded the Scottish Parliamentary Election.

I didn’t get involved in the recent stooshie over the Wing’s defamation case. Not because I don’t have an opinion on the matter but because the level of hysteria devoted to it far exceeded what was proportional.

The fact that a mass movement contains groups that disagree is hardly surprising but the level of anger we can sometimes generate over relatively trivial matters can be frightening at times. It’s beyond that me some can, from the evidence of that tweet know with such conviction that Stuart Campbell is a homophobe. It is just as bemusing to me that so many can think Common Space is a hive of closet unionists just because they are an open platform that publishes a wide variety of views.

As Gerry Hassan opined on the matter before he sadly contradicted himself by firing into one side of the debate,  we need to get things into perspective.

there is the threat of North Korea and its kleptocratic notionally Communist regime and its nuclear and aggressive ambitions which have so far found the international community wanting. And on a less dramatic scale, but no less important for the UK and Europe, there are the perils of Brexit, as Britain sleepwalks its way out of the EU without an agreed plan or national consensus.

Despite the above the Scottish debate seems, for many, to swing along in isolation and even in places in blithe ignorance of bigger issues at play across the planet.

The defamation case at the centre of the Wings/Commonspace rammy doesn’t seem worthy of the amount of anger that was consumed by it.

Still, the fact the independence movement is divided on many issues is to me a healthy thing. It’s a nation we want to build not a soft play centre. I just wish these debates could be carried out with a bit more respect for the views of others. While people on each side thinks that the other is bad for the movement, I suspect that the tribal intolerance on public display is potentially more damaging.

This week the movement has put all that aside and has come together on one issue.

People who were recently on the cusp of coming to blows over clashing interpretations of a tweet have been united in condemnation of the treatment of Michelle Thomson. Although, I can’t help feeling that tribalism is leading us to be a bit too forgiving in this particular respect.

There is undoubtedly some truth to the claim she has been hard done by. Certainly, the way the criminal aspect of the case has been reported and used for political gain by some parties does leave a lot to be desired.

However, am I alone in the independence movement in thinking that maybe Michelle Thomson is not the best person to hold the position of SNP business spokesperson? There may not be a legal case against her but some of the transactions she was involved in don’t represent the type of society I hope an independent Scotland will usher in.

Distress buying of property from sometimes vulnerable people is a morally dubious activity in itself as far as I am concerned.

However, the fact that those properties were sold again on the same day they were purchased, not to third parties but to relations and business partners, makes me happy someone else is doing her old job.

As reported in a no doubt completely biased unionist rag.

One of the deals saw a 77-year-old skin cancer sufferer accept a £64,000 offer for her home made by Frank Gilbride, a business partner of Ms Thomson, in the autumn of 2010.

On the same day she bought the property from Mr Gilbride for £95,000 but allegedly received a “cashback” from him of £28,181.80.

The Sunday Times alleged that her lawyer did not inform the mortgage lender that the property had been bought and sold in a “back-to-back” transaction or that she had got it at a discount thanks to the cashback.

The Registers of Scotland yesterday confirmed a Michelle Thomson bought a flat in Edinburgh’s Stenhouse Drive for £85,600 on August 11, 2010. The same day she sold it to Peter Thomson for £115,000.

Less than a month later, on September 10, 2010, a Michelle Thomson bought a home in Glasgow’s Parkburn Road for £40,000. She sold it the same day to Peter Thomson for £65,000.

The reason properties are normally sold back to back like this is to obtain a mortgage to cover the whole cost of the purchase without the buyer having to provide a deposit.

To take the last example above, the bank thinks the property is being bought for £65,000 but it is actually being purchased for £40,000. The £65,000 sale is completely artificial in order to get enough money from the bank to cover the £40,000 purchase without a deposit and most likely to generate a little extra spending money on top.

While this may well have all been completely legal it’s legal in the same way as tax avoidance is legal.

Which is to say that it’s morally dubious, exploitative and against the spirit of the law. It’s the kind of behaviour that most independence supporters think is rife in the unequal UK. It is the type of business practice that we hope we can crack down on in the new fairer society we wish to create once we escape the shackles of Tory led Westminster.

Can you imagine the field day we would be having if similar reports had emerged about Ruth Davidson?

Don’t get me wrong, I think Michelle Thomson has done a lot of good work for the independence movement, especially in her previous role at Business for Scotland.

The independence movement contains all sorts of people and Michelle Thomson is as entitled to continue to be a part of it as anyone. Yet, I’m glad she is no longer the SNP business spokesperson. For my vision of that future Scotland contains a hope that our business leaders will work within the spirit as well as the letter of the law.

As I intimated before, it’s not the differences of opinion that damage the movement, it is the way those differences are expressed and fueled by tribalism. However, tribalism doesn’t always end in messy conflict. Sometimes it causes us to look the other way when we observe one of our own acting in a way we would criticise the other side for. Maybe doing that could be even more damaging to the cause than the ugly internal squabbling that rears its head from time to time.

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Bobby Hainey

Joint founder of Autonomyscotland. In my spare time I enjoy Road Cycling, Munro bagging and beer.

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6 Comments on "Not in my tribe!"

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Gordon Cowan
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Tax evasion ISN’T legal. Tax *avoidance* is legal.

autonomyscotland
Admin

Good point. I’ll fix it.

Ian Clark
Guest
“While this may well have all been completely legal it’s legal in the same way as tax evasion is legal.” Tax evasion is not legal. You may be thinking about tax avoidance, some examples of which would fit your description as being “morally dubious, exploitative and against the spirit of the law.” This factual inaccuracy will perhaps be corrected. The internal divisions in our movement may not be so easily fixed. Unfortunately I don’t think what we are seeing is trivial. Nor in this case do I think it’s merely the way differences are expressed. It looks more like manouevring… Read more »
autonomyscotland
Admin

Thanks for the comment and correction. I like Haidt. Helps me understand how normal people can believe things I think are bonkers. Also, helps me to realise most people ultimately want similar things but have different moral ways of getting there.

Jake
Guest

So do you regard pawn brokerage, equity release or even we buy any car as morally unjustified?

autonomyscotland
Admin

If the pawn broker was buying your watch for 200 pounds, but telling the bank it cost 300 I would.

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