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By Jason Michael

THE INDEPENDENCE MOVEMENT in Scotland is a diverse movement. It incorporates all those people and ideas in favour of ending our country’s union with England and making it an independent state. There are nationalists, socialists, and those who describe themselves as “small ‘c’ conservatives,” all working together for independence – and, in the main, this is a good thing. Where it is possible we must build alliances with those who seek the same goal, but sometimes this is not possible – some groups and the ideas they spread are simply beyond the pale. Some ideas and ideologies are simply so dangerous to people, society, and democracy that keeping them excluded is of more importance than the political end we hope to achieve.

On Saturday a small number of people belonging to the far-right Scottish nationalist group Siol nan Gaidheal attended the annual Bannockburn memorial rally, causing uproar by walking for a brief time with a banner reading “Tory Scum Out.” Almost all of the discussion of this on social media has focused on the use of the word “scum” to describe Conservatives. But this furore, surely, has missed the more important problem; that this group was allowed to attend the march at all. Personally, I am not in favour of calling people “scum,” but, while I can appreciate others’ concerns that this was a family friendly event, there are few better ways to describe people who support a Tory class war that has violated the human rights of the disabled, reduced the poor to actual starvation, and has given us something as repugnant as the rape clause.

Dangerous political parties and groups are not dangerous on account of the slogans they plaster over posters and banners. We can often agree with some of their slogans and beliefs. Adolf Hitler was a dog lover. This gives many of us something in common with him, but just because we have this or a number of things in common doesn’t mean that we support what he and his party stood for. These groups are dangerous – very dangerous – because of their ideologies and pernicious ideas.

While many independence supporters self-identify politically as nationalists, we must recognise that there are many forms of nationalism, and some of them are so toxic – so racist and fascistic – that we must stand against them with every bit as much energy as we stand against unionism and loyalism. In the case of Siol nan Gaidheal we are talking about ethno- or “blood and soil” nationalism, the very form of nationalism that underpinned the genocide of the Holocaust, the Armenian genocide, the Nakba, and littered the Balkans with mass graves. Allowing this poisonous ideology to share platforms and marches with us, to take root in our movement, will result in its spread and the creation of an ugly movement which good people cannot support.

Siol nan Gaidheal is a smart operator. Like all true ideological racism has done until recently, it obfuscates itself behind carefully worded language replete with coded references for the initiated and dog whistles for the like-minded. A careful reading of its website leaves the reader under no illusions – this is a true, dyed in the wool, hate group. Let us consider how this group defines its nationalism:

The Nationalist recognises the obvious yet very often occulted fact that to defend the unique and the particular is to strengthen the universal. Conversely the sniping and terminally tiresome voices of globalism and consumerist “multiculturalism” are the sirens of uniformity and abject submission to the mindless and rootless market.

It sees multiculturalism – the civil and peaceful coexistence of people from many cultural and racial backgrounds – as the great enemy of what it perceives to be the unique; its imagined ethnically and racially pure Scotland. Note too that the author has felt the need to put multiculturalism in quotation marks. Why? There’s nothing new about this term, requiring it to be emphasised. The author isn’t quoting someone else. These quotation marks do not need to be here unless the author is trying to do something else. “Multiculturalism,” as a word, has become a rallying call for the far-right all across Europe. This author is quite deliberately putting up a flag.

Every bit as important is the note of fear the author hopes to strike. The purpose of globalism – another far-right flag – and multiculturalism, according to the author, is to reduce us to “abject submission.” This is exactly the same as the “international Jewish conspiracy” rhetoric of the Nazis before and during the Holocaust. If you doubt this, just replace “international” with “globalism” and “Jewish” with “multiculturalism” – foreigners from around the world are conspiring to destroy our ethnic and racial uniqueness. In the same paragraph the definition continues:

Diversity is non-negotiable to the Nationalist, it is the defining constant of our humanity as individuals, as societies and as a species. There can be no tolerance afforded to those who would bulldoze the myriad ethno-national phenotypes and practices of our kaleidoscopic world into the amorphous and terrifyingly inhuman hell of McWorldmart.com.

“Diversity,” surely this is a good thing? Multiculturalism is all about diversity. But this is not what is actually being said. For Siol nan Gaidheal diversity is about the “kaleidoscopic world” where every race and ethnic group has its little patch of the world. Black people, Jews, Gypsies, “the English” are alright, this says, so long as they get back to where they came from – and stay there. Most worrying of all, this author says exactly what Hitler said of Nazism in Mein Kampf:

The future of [this] movement is determined by the devotion, and even intolerance, with which its members fight for their cause. They must feel convinced that their cause alone is just, and they must carry it through to success.

Many reading this piece will no doubt be concerned that intolerance of Siol nan Gaidheal is itself intolerance, and the last thing we want to be is intolerant. We are an “inclusive” movement after all. But this paradox has been dealt with before, by the Austrian-born philosopher Karl Popper. After the horrors of the Holocaust and the defeat of Nazism in Europe Popper reasoned – rightly – that it is not intolerance to refuse to tolerate the intolerant. When Hitler said that intolerance was part of the Nazi movement he meant it, and when he came to power he showed he meant it by shutting dissenters – people like you and me – up in concentration camps. Soon after he came to power his intolerance meant that our intolerance was silenced in dismal places like Dachau. History has taught us in the cruellest way imaginable that we have to take such threats seriously. Those who advance the vicious ideas of racial and ethnic purity and intolerance of dissent – no matter their views on Scottish independence – must be cast out of our movement.

As individuals and as a movement we have a duty to speak up about this. We have a responsibility and a moral obligation to demand that the organisers of pro-independence marches and rallies tell Siol nan Gaidheal and other racist and ethno-nationalist groups that they are not welcome to participate. If the organisers do not do this then we are obliged not to attend. If these groups come along after being told not to attend then we have to distance ourselves from them and remind them that they have no place in our movement and no place in the Scotland we want to build. This is our movement and no one will be responsible for it but us.

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9 thoughts on “No Place for Siol nan Gaidheal

  1. It is easy to mark Siol nan Gaidheal as an out-group. It is easy to justify intolerance of their ideology. It is easy to rationalise excluding them from the Yes movement.In matters of politics, I have learned to be wary of easy choices. In matters of ethics and morality, I find even more cause to be mistrustful of anything presented as an easy answer.
    I have not made a study of Siol nan Gaidheal. I know enough about their ideology to be certain that I have no interest in knowing more. As someone who self-identifies politically as a civic nationalist, I find ethno-nationalism totally alien and profoundly objectionable. Racism is, quite apart from any other consideration, intellectually offensive. The ‘blood and soil’ nationalism espoused by Siol nan Gaidheal is, from my personal perspective, an affront to science and logic. It is an ugly ideology. It is ugly because it is facile. It is ugly because it arrives at significant conclusions about the character of individuals and groups on the basis of ‘evidence’ which is wholly inadequate and/or totally misleading.
    You cannot know a person by the colour of their skin, or by any other aspect of their physical being bestowed by nature. You cannot know a person by their ancestry or their geographic origins. You can only know anything meaningful about a person from the conscious, considered choices that they make.
    To my mind, the stuff peddled by Siol nan Gaidheal is rather too ludicrous to be considered dangerous. It would be easy to dismiss. So I don’t dismiss it from anything other than my own mind. Because I’ve learned to be wary of things that seem easy.
    It is easy to condemn Siol nan Gaidheal. So easy that we might do so without thinking. We might just go along with the condemnation and the intolerance and the exclusion without questioning the process and without considering the implications. It is seldom a good idea to do anything thoughtlessly. It is always a good idea to consider the implications of any action. It is only sensible to examine what is actually going on with an apparently easy process. It’s good to question everything. The more obvious and easy it seems – or is made to seem – the more is likely to be revealed by questioning.
    Why exclude Siol nan Gaidheal from the Yes movement? It can hardly be because they support the cause of restoring Scotland’s status as an independent nation. That, after all, is the primary aim of the Yes movement. What is proposed is that Siol nan Gaidheal be excluded on account of their motives for supporting independence. Which necessarily implies that their motives have been scrutinised and judged to be unacceptable. By whom? Who, in the Yes movement has the authority to conduct such scrutiny? Who has the right to pass judgement?
    Who decides which groups and individuals are to be subjected to such scrutiny? Who decides which individuals and groups are exempt from any examination of their motives?
    What criteria are applied in assessing whether an individual or group is fit to be part of the Yes movement? Who selects these criteria? Who ensures that the criteria are fairly applied? Who oversees the process by which individuals and groups are approved or rejected?
    How does one apply for accreditation as an approved part of the Yes movement? To whom must one apply? Who has to apply? If not everybody, who decides which individuals and groups need not apply?
    What seemed like an easy choice to exclude Siol nan Gaidheal from the Yes movement turns out to be rather more fraught when one takes the trouble to ask the awkward questions. It turns out to be more problematic than we’ve been led to suppose because asking those awkward questions brings the realisation that excluding Siol nan Gaidheal has implications, not only for them, but for the Yes movement. The process of excluding any individual or group necessarily and unavoidably says something about the character and nature of the entity which is doing the excluding.
    The Yes movement that I have known and cherished is open and inclusive. It is totally open and inclusive. It is open and inclusive, not because those who are part of the Yes movement choose that it should be so, but because it is incapable of being anything else. By it’s very nature, the Yes movement cannot be other than open and inclusive. It is devoid of the capacity to be exclusive. It lacks the structures, the hierarchies, the regulations and the apparatus required in order to formally include or exclude anyone.
    It is this that has made the Yes movement special – perhaps unique. Excluding Siol nan Gaidheal destroys this essential quality. Instituting a process by which any group or individual may be excluded necessarily transforms the Yes movement into an organisation. I would strongly urge that those who suppose casting out Siol nan Gaidheal is an easy choice think long and hard about the unintended consequences.

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  2. Already SNG are trying to peddle lines to fool the mug punter: “…we were the ones who campaigned against the disposal of nuclear waste in Scotland…if it wasn’t for us Scotland would be a nuclear dump…” – but like much of SNG their logic and timelines are shaky – the surviving members of the original SNG are now in their 60s and 70s and nothing to do with the people now claiming the SNG name. Riding the coat-tails of somebody else’s good deeds and trying to pass them off as your own, only serves to highlight what turds modern SNG have rapidly become.

    And sure, some people claiming to be SNG were around at the last referendum – but if you bothered to talk to them, you would have discovered they were romanticists and fantasists with a knowledge of Scottish history that was more Braveheart and Outlander than factual – and they could have safely been consigned to the category “mostly harmless”.

    But that’s not the case anymore. Rapidly they have become ignorant and arrogant. Reasoning with them does not work. Many in the Independence movement have already explained to them why banners with the word “scum” simply turns people off – the very people you need to win over. They are not interested in listening though.

    Many in SNG are simply thick – very, very thick. And that is why they are already the British State’s new useful idiots.

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  3. The argument isn’t about whether Siol nan Gaidheal are a bunch of thickos or even how old or evil they may be, it’s about whether our movement should welcome all perspectives and be open and inclusive. That’s the important bit, it’s not whether we have extremists in our midst because we undoubtedly do. They’re everywhere.

    I haven’t been to college and studied who said what about who. I can’t quote learned people to back stuff up, nor do I profess to have the capacity to write articles telling folk what I think they should think. I haven’t had the opportunity to debate with like minded individuals whether it’s ok to be intolerant of the intolerant or not. I’m not even sure if being prejudice toward people who are prejudice is, at the end of the day, just intellectualised prejudice and therefore acceptable. I don’t really care. What I do know from experience is that as soon as you censor what’s being said, or who should be allowed to have an opinion, or what it is (no matter how extreme or distasteful) then you push it underground. It becomes hidden and as a consequence you deny people the privilege of testing it out, of learning. The issues become taboo and therefore unacceptable for discussion. The consequence is that prejudice finds its own level and grows like a virus without challenge within safe groups of like minded people. Shielded from argument in a self reinforcing environment where nobody actually learns anything. Except of course the certainty that their twisted point of view must be correct.

    Let’s continue to be inclusive like Peter says and resist the intellectual righteousness that comes with “knowing better”. No movement, no matter how people friendly can hope to educate established groups who are so set in their ways, that they can neither change nor learn. They do have family, relatives and friends however who can learn. Lets concentrate on them, by giving them the time, the space and the respect. Let’s teach them.

    Wouldnt it be great if in our new country we could develop a culture where people that have doubts will feel secure enough to express their point of view, even though they know it may not be popular, doesn’t sit right or they know is just wrong. They would hopefully be secure in the knowledge that they would be treated with respect and be enabled to learn instead of being shot down in flames by those who ‘know better’.

    Ah well, you never know?

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  4. What seems to have been left out of this debate so far – is the recognition that the Yes side are now within just 2 or 3 percentage points of a majority. They’ve got there with an inclusive message.

    Then all of a sudden a loony right group (that almost nobody had heard of) appears on the scene with a message absolutely directly designed to alienate 24% of Scottish voters (and potentially a lot more).

    How convenient for Unionists and Westminster.

    Go figure.

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  5. Information for most, thoughts for some, Siol nan Gaidheal was formed in 1978 on the first purpose of defending nationalism and the direction of nationalism towards independence and away from the 79′ group, former SLP and Jim Sillars who’s party failed in Scotland before him and his cronies who joined the SNP after that and started to form the 79′ group and recruit from within the SNP to shape their policies towards and beyond Labour in Scotland, their views and speeches at first were listed to, then penny’s started to drop and the realisation set in Mr Sillars and friends were trying to deform nationalism as in an organisation open to all views in the cause and independence was that cause, after Independence everyone was welcome to go their own way and vote for who they wished, as for non inclusion of other races, creeds and colours this is nonsense, as far as we were concerned if you lived in Scotland, wanted to be Scottish and especially if you worked for it, you would be more than welcome, this was the case, no other case, stated by all seven people at the very first meeting, there after things were said that not have been said by some, mostly to Labour lefties and supporters of the 79′ group who then included Margo McDonald and others, most left the SNP or were kicked same for SNG supporters whom I was one, the views you describe were not the founding members views, that’s why most of us abandoned SNG, the views you expound are from a different organisation formed on our back.
    Reason for this my post is that I am sick of listening to old crap and romours of people who were not there and did not see, hear, or take part in meetings and organisation.

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    1. Thanks for that John. As you know, I was not working from rumours, but from the material on the SnG website – the site representing the views and opinions of the organisation you say was formed on the back of the original. I am more than happy to revisit this topic and have a more in-depth discussion with you on the matter.

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  6. Further to my comment;
    Siol nan Gaidheal the meaning of those words, well we start from the premise…. Words mean what I want them to mean and not what you think them to mean.
    My thoughts and others agreed, blood, mind, thoughts, life and country.
    Live and love Scotland, then you agree with the founders, not with the rubbish that followed.

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