Ruth shows her patriotism by demonising half her country

Ruth Davidson gave a speech in London about the dangers of Scottish Nationalism. In it she paints a picture of a country that I don’t recognise. A place where the majority of the country, those who want to remain in the UK, are somehow left voiceless and helpless.

The truth is that the nationalist politics identified by Orwell – the attempt to classify and label human beings into groups marked ‘good’ and ‘bad’ – has become a key part of our political practice in Scotland.

And it has to be said that this has been pursued quite deliberately, so that many people who do not subscribe to the loudly advanced, so-called ‘good’ side of the argument feel voiceless and helpless.

Because in Scotland, political nationalism has introduced the idea that only one side of the constitutional divide can be the authentic voice of ‘the people of Scotland’.

That only it has the right to be heard. That other voices are, by their nature, illegitimate and phoney.

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Quite how the process of marginalisation is taking place in a country where only one national newspaper actually supports independence she doesn’t make clear. She offers only scant anecdotal evidence to back up her assertion.

I mean I have no doubt that some independence supporters do feel that the voices of unionists are illegitimate and phoney. However, if she is going to try to suggest it is somehow a mainstream opinion among independence supporters maybe she should back it up with some actual proper evidence.

Here is some evidence to the contrary. Support for independence is rising despite a decline in Scottish nationalism.

According to the Scottish Social Attitudes Survey, the percentage of people who define themselves as Scottish and not British has been steadily declining. Most Scottish people identify as at least partly British so the rise in support for Scottish independence and the SNP must be attributed to factors other than nationalism.

Decline in Nationalism, Rise of Support for Independence

It is probably justified to think of Davidson as a phoney though. For Davidson knows what she is saying is false and is only saying it to appeal to a certain set of voters. She goes on to insinuate that the rise in nationalism she has imagined has bullied and hectored people into supporting the SNP.

 The implication hangs in the air – those who are not orthodox, or do not follow the right way, are foreign, we are alien, we are other.

This technique has, for a long time, been effective. If people feel bullied and hectored into supporting SNP, I don’t blame them.

This is insulting to just under half of the Scottish population.

Ruth Davidson thinks people who support the SNP are incapable of forming a political opinion by themselves and that they are sheepishly forced to support the party in order to avoid persecution. Which when you think about it is a pretty hypocritical statement. She on the one hand is accusing independence supporters of thinking of unionists as inferior while at the same time accusing the same independence supporters of being mindless automatons who are ruining her otherwise amazing country. Neither of her accusations is backed by evidence.

It is strange for someone who holds such a dim view of her own compatriots to proceed to advocate patriotism as a solution to her made up nationalism problem. Yet the idea that our nationalism is bad while her nationalism is patriotism is just part of Ruth’s underhanded game.

To be patriotically British does not mean that we must oppose others. Indeed, patriotism celebrates difference and messiness. We can be proudly Scottish, Welsh, Bajan or Pakistani, at the same time as enjoying our Britishness. Patriotism does not force us to rank these identities in order, as if one or other has a higher claim.

Now before I go on any further I would like to proclaim I respect the opinion of most people who want to keep the UK together.

People on the other side of the constitutional debate make up half of my family and acquaintances. I talk to them about politics all the time. I understand that people who support the union are able to come to that decision rationally.

That is why it is so disappointing to see politicians like Ruth Davidson make lazy arguments that demonise my side of the debate.

The argument that we should be patriotic and not nationalistic is a reasonable one if we accept the most common definition of what those words mean.

Patriotism is proud of a country’s virtues and eager to correct its deficiencies; it also acknowledges the legitimate patriotism of other countries, with their own specific virtues. The pride of nationalism, however, trumpets its country’s virtues and denies its deficiencies, while it is contemptuous toward the virtues of other countries.

Sydney J. Harris.

Yet if this is what Ruth is getting at then the bulk of Scottish independence supporters don’t fit into Ruth’s description of a nationalist. There are three reasons that Ruth is wrong.

  • The first is that Scotland is not a nation state and the difference between nationalism and patriotism only really makes sense in the context of a nation state. In practical terms Scotland is a region of the UK and in that sense all Scottish independence supporters want if for Scotland to be a normal country. Scottish independence supporters don’t think Scotland is exceptional which is a hallmark of what Davidson thinks of as nationalism. Scottish independence supporters want Scotland to be the same as other countries not better than them.
  • The second is many Scottish independence supporters, including myself, also identify as British and therefore a desire for Scotland to be independent is also a realisation of the deficiencies of their other nation. Many feel a level of patriotism for the UK but also feel that it would be better for the people who live here if the relationship between the home nations changed. It is this ability to criticise the nation they feel part of that is a hallmark of the patriotism Davidson is advocating.
  • The third point is that the bulk of Scottish independence supporters want Scotland to be an inclusive country that is part of the EU and retains free movement of people. This is not the nasty inward looking exceptionalism that Davidson is portraying.

The Patriot

Now contrast that to the ideology that drove Brexit and which the UK government and Ruth Davidson’s own party is currently beholden to.

A Brexit campaign which was, unlike the Scottish independence campaign, genuinely nasty. A campaign that saw posters threaten us with images of throngs of brown people coming over to swamp us. A campaign that coincided with a rise of hate crimes and that facilitated the murder of a politician at the hands of an emboldened right-wing nut job.

We are part of a UK that is being guided by a dark form of nationalism. Not the Scottish type that wants Scotland to be a normal inclusive EU nation. The UK is an already sovereign country that has a significant population who think that country is exceptional.

A nation that can’t see its failings and blames its neighbours for its own self inflicted decline. A UK that is about to turn its back on the world’s most successful supranational organisation in the deluded belief that we are somehow special enough to get the benefits of being a member without the responsibilities.

It is this Brexit UK that Davidson warned us about and fought so hard to prevent that now, at the drop of a hat she has become a cheerleader for.

This Brexit that she told us would be an absolute disaster is, in her eyes much more palatable than her country becoming a normal nation within the EU.

In that respect Ruth Davidson is not a patriot but is nationalism personified. She displays a blind loyalty to a country that is embarking on a project that Ruth Davidson herself told us would be catastrophic. She is unable to countenance any other options to the point where her only policy is to subvert the democratic will of the Scottish Parliament to hold an independence referendum.

All I hear coming out of Davidson’s mouth lately is tinged with nationalist sentiment. Even her local election leaflets ignored local policy in favour of keeping the UK state intact.

She has been peddling this one and only line for months now. Which perhaps explains the nationalistic, racist, misogynistic and sectarian views of many of her new Tory Councilors. Views that are far more in tune with the values of a Brexit UK than those held by most independence supporters.

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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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