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By Jason Michael
When the unionists say that the nationalists are peddling grievance and hatred what we have is nothing more than projection. The unionists are projecting onto the independence movement the worst expressions of their own bloodied nationalism.
Characters like the children’s author J. K. Rowling and the BBC’s Andrew Neil used their influence in the media during and after the last independence referendum to manufacture a certain narrative of what has been happening in Scotland. According to them the politics of Scottish independence was dynamised by the grievance culture of Scottish nationalism and our apparent Anglophobia, assertions which were never borne out by the facts. It did not matter that this construct was not true, all that mattered was that it equipped the unionist media monopoly with an easy to understand and ready to deploy anti-nationalist toolkit of stock phrases and coded vocabulary.
Scottish nationalism does indeed have a list of historical and present grievances, and there is a discernible level of anger running through our national aspiration for self-determination. But this is not to say that these things define Scotland’s growing independence movement. We resent our political underrepresentation, the theft of our resources, and the fact that we have weapons of mass destruction so close to our largest population centre. These are grievances, and they are perfectly legitimate grievances because they are based on actual injustices. The same can be said for the lack of power we have over the austerity agenda imposed on us by Westminster. When the UN states uncategorically that the UK government’s policies towards the disabled and the poor are blatant human rights violations, then we know these grievances are justified.
Butterfly Rebellion (@Butterfly_Reb) April 10, 2017
Of all the charges laid against us in this narrative, Anglophobia is the most tiresome. It has been a quite some time, as Ms Rowling can testify, since the last Sassanach burning in Scotland. In every society there will always be a level of distrust for Auslanders, and in Scotland – with the particular facts of our historical relationship with England – that distrust for English people may be more pronounced, but it is far from the norm and never socially acceptable. Yet even this accusation has to be weighed against the routine description of us by members of the English culturati as one of “England’s fringe nations” – Adam Boulton – and a nation of “tenement Scots” – John Cleese. Yeah, we don’t like that.
There is, however, a real and potent politics of grievance and hatred in the United Kingdom – and one that is not legitimate and fast becoming the norm. With the Scottish council elections coming up we are getting a taste of this grievance and hatred in Scotland. Councils are the hub of local politics, but the election bumph being put through our doors by the unionist parties is singularly concerned with the national debate. Why would the Tories, the Liberal Democrats, or Labour give a rat’s arse about footpaths or potholes when they can use this platform as another chance to let us know they are fighting against independence? It has become fanatical.
On social media too there is a difference between the unionist and nationalist discourses. Where the independence movement has a deep and more than justified grievance over welfare reform and the introduction of the rape clause, unionists are stuck in an endless loop of denying the inevitability of independence and making sickening personal attacks on the First Minister. The unionist narrative quite ignores its own unjustifiable grievances and hatred. It also ignores the not insignificant overlap of this and the grievance culture and hatred of Brexit politics south of the border.
Xenophobic, bigoted, and openly racist militant Brexiteer politicking over England and Wales and the increasingly entrenched fanaticism of Scottish unionism are two sides of the one coin – populist, right-wing British nationalism. Here we have a real politics of grievance and hatred. Scottish unionism’s obsession with independence and its vitriolic attacks on nationalists are mirrored perfectly in the Brexiteer Westminster agenda and its nasty street politics. This was evident in the united effort of the unionist parties in Holyrood to block EU citizens from voting in the coming independence referendum. It is the same xenophobia being applied in the same misguided effort to “save the United Kingdom.”
We can’t expect Rowling and Neil to see this and call it out. They are, after all, partisan activists on the side of Britain. They may, and many in similar positions may also, have their reservations about how this patriotism is being expressed, but their ultimate aims are no different from those of Britain First, UKIP, and the rightist elements of the Conservative Party – putting the idea of Britain and the politics of its Union before all other concerns, even those of justice and peace. This, we must be sure, is the real grievance culture in British politics and the root of the tidal wave of hatred we are now witnessing.
Andrew Neil v the SNP’s Angus Robertson