By Jason Michael

When we describe ourselves as ‘nationalists’ and when unionists describe us as ‘nationalists’ two fundamentally different things are being said. We must not allow the British establishment media to define our identity for us.

Every productive dialogue requires at the very least that the parties to the discussion share a common set of definitions. When discussing something as complex as nationalism – a “multidimensional concept reflected in the communal identification with one’s nation” – it is an exercise in futility if one or both dialogue partners insists on a single and narrow definition at variance with that of their interlocutor. When this occurs in any debate the conversation ceases. It cannot continue without degenerating into absurdity, because neither speaker is talking about the same thing.

Yet in the current Scottish debate this very confusion of meaning invariably derails the conversation; as the defining of nationalism as a [racially] supremacist and exceptionalist ethno-nationalist ideology has become a priority – as a tactic – of Scottish unionism. Of course this a definition of nationalism – one of many definitions of nationalism – and no doubt there are Scottish nationalists, as there are British nationalists, of this hue. But this is, as all the sociological evidence shows, quite far from the typical nationalism of the independence movement in Scotland.

As a tactic, then, the imposition of such a definition amounts to the construction of a straw man argument. Regardless of this, it is employed by unionists in the debate because – rather than being simple wilful ignorance – it is a useful propagandistic tool. It allows people to “joke” about the Scottish National Party’s plan to build a “master race.” I challenged one unionist on Twitter over his use of this terminology, saying: “I don’t think equating any of this with the Nazis is good for the debate.” The response was predictable. He “didn’t mention them.” He didn’t have to.

Unionist dog whistle politics and the use of ‘coded language’

Considering the level of documented British nationalist violence in Scotland, throughout England, and even in Madrid’s Plaza Mayor, this is a stupid and irresponsible comparison to make. With so many British “patriotic” thugs now primed by the London Brexiteer Government and the right-wing tabloid media, equating Scottish nationalists with the Nazis – the great nemesis of British nationalist mythology – is putting people’s safety and lives at risk. Not to worry, it’s only a joke.

The unionists’ strategic use of negative and narrow definitions also aims to foist an understanding of exceptionalism – the belief that the nation is in some way extraordinary – on Scottish nationalists’ hope for a “better Scotland.” Again, this is a deliberate misunderstanding of the prevailing view the majority of independentistas have of our country. It is certainly not the case that we see our country as better than any other, or that we see other people – the English for example – as inferior. This is repugnant, but it is useful to the unionist cause to have those consuming the British media accept this distorted narrative.

When we say, as nationalists, that we want a better country we are acknowledging – to quote the character Mark Renton – the “shite state of affairs” in which we find ourselves under London rule. It is not the case that by virtue of being Scottish we will be better at government than Westminster, but we do want better government than it has ever given us. Better in this instance is not an assessment of our ability but the recognition that there are objectively better policies than austerity and welfare sanctions, than a social cleansing two-child policy, and now the rape clause. We want better than this. We deserve better than this, and we cannot get better than this under British rule. It is this that makes us nationalists. This is nationalism on our terms.


Nationalism: Crash Course World History

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One thought on “Unionism’s Straw Man Scottish Nationalism

  1. Unionism uses the bogeyman, spin and the odd Brucie catchphrase and we are required to take the time to explain what we want and what are about. Our line takes a bit longer and requires media exposure to reach folk and they have the MSM championing their cause. In our favour though is the view widely held in Scotland that british nationalism is right wing and arrogant (exceptionalism). The desire amongst both tory and labour to court fascists and bigots (as well as their anti EU and anti Indy voter) in order to boost their vote won’t be hidden for long.


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