I have often blogged on the sad but true reality that Scotland is a sick wee backwater country with people full of narrow-minded prejudice and bigotry. It is, admittedly, a negative view but is necessary to share because a problem ignored is a problem that grows and festers.
For decades, Scotland has been divided by Irish politics and this division fell pretty much exactly into faultlines of centuries-old antiqity between Protestantism and Romanism. Going back even further you could factor in the religious divide between the indigenous Celtic and Culdee Church and the early Roman Rite Church. So religion has certainly played a part in dividing folks who live here but also politics has played an increasingly prominent role in keeping us polarised. Given that much of our political differences stem from and are aligned with our religious differences, we have often seen volatile times in our wee country.
Some might argue that much of this antipathy and hostility is really only seen and expressed in the West of Central Scotland and there is a valid case there. The reality that has to be faced is that these divisions, while they are not necessarily manifest to a great extent outwith West Central Scotland, nonetheless impose their mark upon the whole of Scotland, particularly in the eyes of a watching world.
In recent times a resurgent SNP has enjoyed unprecedented success at the ballot box, capitalising upon the spectacular failures of a Labour Party which less than twenty years ago swept all before it and which has had a vice-like grip on Scottish politics for decades. Initially this was good news for Scotland because the early years of SNP governance at Holyrood saw a marked improvement on the basic business of running things as opposed to the previous Labour administration.
But then the brown stuff hit the fan. The SNP used their newfound dominance to promote the case for independence and, although the bid to break away from the UK was defeated, the deep divisions the IndyRef created have caused chasms to open up between an extremely-polarised people. Some of those divisions mirror the older ones but aggressive secularisation in Scotland has meant that those from a traditional Protestant background have abandoned both their faith and its broadly-linked inherent adherence to Unionism to buy into nationalism and republicanism. New fault lines thus sit upon and alongside the established ones, causing even more unrest and uncertainty.
So we are a divided country and in many ways a broken people, unable and unwilling to be reconciled with those diamterically opposed to us in ideology. Against this backdrop, it is hard to create a vibrant future for Scotland, regardless of who wins at the ballot box.
The SNP’s present term at Holyrood has seen a diminishment in terms of power, with no clear majority but also more importantly a distinct lack of focus in terms of where to go next. Sturgeon’s obsession with independence has seen her and her party take their eye off the ball in terms of the everyday business of governance, producing a marked slide in proficiency and efficiency. The nationalists are also acutely aware that their window of opportunity to take Scotland into a state of independence is closing fast. Success relies on whipping up enough fervour in a post-Brexit universe and this is an increasigly forlorn hope. Diehards such as Sturgeon may be happy returning Scotland to mediaeval levels of civilsation and technology just to get their coveted “FREEDOM!!” but most Scots would rather stay in a world of running water and electricty.
In short, Scotland isn’t working.
Scotland is populated by many small-minded, vindictive people who seek identity and definition by “independence” from the hated English. Sadly, being British is seen as distinct and separate from – rather than an extension of – being Scottish. This is the cultural barrier Unionists must overcome in order to convert nationalists and produce an insurmountable majority in favour of the UK. Britain as (an)other place and identity is the conditioning that supporters of the Union must eradicate with compelling arguments for a Scotland and its people at the heart of the Union. Those arguments are potent but not very well promulgated by Unionists and also they are often drowned out by the screeching cacophony of nationalist spin merchants.
Scotland has become a small place. By this I mean small in spirit, mind and vision. Our diminutive First Minister, with her biting rhetoric of grieavance-based politics and barely-concealed hatred for all things English/British, coupled with that familiar scowl, has become a totemic figure of a Scotland which has begun the 21st century by leaping back in time to a mindset where our English neighbours are a hated enemy rather than our kith and kin which, after millenia of tribal movements and inter-marrying, they clearly are.
The propaganda of England as enemy is sadly swallowed without discernment quite readily here in Scotland. In a sense you have to admire how nationalists can carry off the deception that all cultures, creeds and races are welcome in Scotland in the face of abundant evidence that English culture and English people are excluded from this utopia. You could just as easily put the word “Unionist” in place of English here.
A frightening trend is the politicisation of our civic services, leading to situations where those who are known to support the Union are targeted and victimised by nationalist activists. This is wickedness of a loathsome degree and it is amazing to think that Scotland is, in the 21st century, one of the most likely places on earth where you can be persecuted for your beliefs and values.
Let no-one assume that this sorry state of affairs has been accidental. The nationalists have adopted and are carrying out a well-used strategy which, as Peter Beresford Ellis so powerfully illustrates in his epic work Erin’s Royal Blood, was used to devastating effect upon our Gaelic kin in Ireland. That strategy was to spread the myth that the Irish were a poor, downtrodden peasant race and people who had to rise up against their English masters. The truth, as Beresford Ellis amply demonstrated, was that this bogtrotters identity was a myth perpetuated to control the Irish peoples. The reality is that the Irish – like the Scots – are a noble race of kings.
We are being sold the same bill of goods here in Scotland, with the myth of us being a downtrodden wee country that needs to throw off the shackles of our brutal neighbours. A true reading of Scottish history will provide superabounding evience of a country and people that pioneered, colonised and conquered the world. Michael Fry’s The Scottish Empire and Tom Devine’s Scotland’s Empire are works that dismantle the nationalist propaganda of a puny Scotland lucky to survive against gargantuan odds. The truth is, Scotland for many years was Chief of the Nations but for nationalists the embarrassing part of this is that it was done at the heart of the British Empire, which as Fry and Devine prove beyond any shadow of doubt, was inherently Scot-centric and driven.
What doesn’t help, however, is the trend towards Scot-bashing which is a method deployed by certain pro-Union newspapers. It is one thing to deride the swivel-eyed loons of the SNP but quite another to mistakenly corral all Scots into the same pen. This is a crass blunder more likely to swell anti-English sentiment than disperse it.
It all comes down to the same thing that I repeatedly blog and speak about i.e. the need for we Unionists to make a compelling case for the Union. And again I reiterate that this argument must be neither political or economic. The Union certainly transcends politics and the economic argument is only easily won when communicating with people prepared to listen and who have even minimum intelligence. Even the no-brainer reasons economically will fail to pierce the rigid fundamentalist thinking of hardcore nats. Effie Deans has done an admirable job of highlighting this hardwired nationalism in the core group.
Arguing for the Union must also be about much more than seeking to share our jingoistic delight at Rule, Britannia and Land of Hope and Glory. Astonishing though it is (!) there are some who do not share our love of such anthems or the imperial sentiments they portray. Yet there are abundant arguments that can be made to convince even ardent nationalists that the status and wellbeing of Scotland are far better enhanced and served within the Union. Not least of which is the irrefutable fact that Britain is not something Scotland is a part of but that Britain IS Scotland and Scotland IS Britain. Just as marriage is a one-flesh union, so the Act of Union made one nation of both England and Scotland.
Scotland isn’t working. But that need not be the case. And Scotland IS a pariochally-minded, introspective wee backwater. But it doesn’t have to be. Scotland can once again be a place of glory and optimism, of enterprise and vision – a place to dream big and see your dreams come true. We can once again be a large-hearted, outward-looking people who see the world as ours to enjoy and conquer – not with aggressive colonisation but with friendship and service, with invention and achievement.
Scotland is the Land of Destiny – but it will not be by means of a mean-spirited, inward-looking approach to the world, based upon an irrational and self-destructive hatred of our English neighbours. That is the road to ruin and destruction. Scotland’s destiny is at the heart of the United Kingdom – leading the way and pioneering into the future.
The SNP’s concept of Scotland reminds me of someone who has been promoted to a big job but doesn’t have the self-belief or self-esteem to see them capable of doing it. Why not believe in a Scotland that can be prominent and dominant in the United Kingdom rather than a Scotland with self-esteem issues and that has to skulk away from this responsibility of leadership?
Scotland’s destiny is what it has always been – to be Chief of the Nations. The nationalists want Scotland to be the downtrodden victim of their fevered imagination. They want us cowering in flagrant shame, not towering in gallant fame. They want us to swallow the lie of Scotland the Slave, not proclaim the bold truth of SCOTLAND THE BRAVE.