By Jason Michael
Scottish unionists make a great deal about the narrowness and xenophobia of nationalists. Apparently we are filled with hatred for our English families, friends, and neighbours. When we look closely we see where the real racists are.
Are we forever being told that we are nationalists? We are nationalists. We are civic nationalists. We believe in a Scotland that exists and works for every man, woman, and child who lives in our country; a small nation that puts the needs of people first. This isn’t what “nationalist” means when it is used against us by the supporters of the Union. There’s no mistaking what they are getting at when they tell us that we are divisive and xenophobic nationalists with their references to the First Minister as “Führer Sturgeon” and memes of Alex Salmond with a painted on Hitler moustache.
Our unionist friends are an army of Captain Mainwarings incapable of imagining a conflict outside the parameters of England’s defiant and heroic struggle against Nazi Germany. They will defend their island, to borrow from their war god Churchill, whatever the cost may be – using tired old tropes from a time gone by, from a war they can’t remember; the last and only time little England fought a righteous war. Every crusade they have must be re-imagined as a return to that war they would have lost without more powerful intervention, and so – to them – we must be the Nazis of old.
Being called a racist by them gets tiring. Their oft repeated lie gets boring. It is no longer offensive. Their support of the Westminster Brexiteers put paid to that. Neither through the last independence campaign nor after two and a half years of activism since then have I seen anything in the Yes movement but the struggle for a free and inclusive Scotland. All the bile and hatred that I have witnessed has come from a certain element within the unionist camp that describes itself as “patriotic.” Over the past few days I have immersed myself in the Twitter feed of Scotland’s unionists to see just how racism functions are a unifying force within their ranks, and what I found was frightening.
Jill Stevenson, a retired history lecturer from Edinburgh University, and familiar to most “Cyber Nats” as History Woman or @2351onthelist, is something of a central mouthpiece of the unionist Scotland in Union group. She and a number of others are interesting in that they present themselves as the educated and cultured vanguard of acceptable unionism. Stevenson and Aberdeenshire’s Effie Deans are the outriders of unionism, taking the fight against “narrow nationalists” right into the twittersphere of the independence supporters. She is followed by over three thousand and only follows a few hundred. I wanted to know who she was following.
Both Jill and Effie have some cheek to be calling anyone “narrow.” They keep their tweets clean and are careful with what they like and retweet. On the surface it is hard to pin them down. “Retweets are not endorsements” after all. Yet it is impossible not to see an endorsement of the accounts one chooses to follow and have on the feed. Scroll down the list of accounts History Woman follows and you will come across quite an array of overt ultra-right wing, racist, and Islamophobic filth. It’s not even your average common or garden racist nobodies. She is a follower of none other than “James Bond” – @bluehand007 – the founder of Britain’s openly racist Blue Hand organisation, an account that has also attracted endorsements from Tommy Robinson, UKIP’s David Coburn, and UK Union Voice.
Effie Deans, perhaps the most polished of the unionist twitterers, is by far the most influential – having almost ten thousand followers. She is followed by such lights of unionism as the Unionist Party of Scotland, Scotland in Union, Alastair Carmichael, Duncan Hothersall, and indeed History Woman. Deans follows “British Sauce” – @BritishSos, a Glasgow account that frequently retweets updates from such users as “Stop #WhiteGenocide” – @badgoyNSF. With the white genocide and the reference to “goy” – meaning, non-Jew – we can only assume that NSF stands for the National Socialist (Nazi) Front. In fact the real nasty racist and xenophobic material of British ethnic nationalism is never too far from the outriders of Scottish unionism.
Scottish nationalists are nationalists. We are civic nationalists, and we are working towards a more equitable Scotland, a tolerant and welcoming Scotland. This nationalism is not confused with the patriotic ethnic – blood and soil – nationalism of the extreme right. It has no connection with it. Yet when we look more closely at the nationalism of the pro-British unionists in Scotland we see that there exists a close relationship between dangerous and violent racist and white supremacist organisations and the social media pages of those leading the charge for the Union here in Scotland. It can only be concluded then that racism plays an important part in shaping the opinions of the rank and file of Scottish unionism. In calling us nationalists they are merely attempting to divert attention from their real agenda.