It comes as no surprise, then, when she speaks of “our national life,” that there is precisely no mention of Scotland or Wales in her proposal. This is also why she has the boldness to claim that the people of Britain are “looking to the Conservative Party to deliver.” No one in Scotland and Wales is looking to the Conservative Party to deliver anything. She is not talking about Scotland and Wales. This proposal she has made is in England’s national interest and this is why it is so concerned – with a characteristic lack of concern – with Northern Ireland.
It is no accident that from 1999, with the opening of the Scottish parliament, there has been a marked increase in the popular cultural use of the symbols of Britain and Britishness. Before then, with the exception of a minority of nationalists and republicans, the union flag flying over council offices and other public buildings in Scotland hardly raised an eyebrow. The flag of the UK was a simple and largely inoffensive statement of political settlement and reality. It was rare, if ever, it was featured in popular entertainment.
Yet the poppy, from the joke it was – no matter how ordinary innocent people feel about wearing it, has been “hijacked,” or so we are told. It has now become the totem of hyper-aggressive, right-wing racist British nationalism. On the football field it has become the weapon of choice to be deployed against non-British outsiders; Irish Catholics and Argentinians – very much victims of British imperial and colonial violence – who play for English clubs. On the lapels of knuckle-dragging thugs it has become a compliment to the Nazi swastika tattooed on their necks.
Antisemitism – the hatred of Jews – is real. It is a real form of racism. As, arguably, Europe’s oldest racism, antisemitism is pervasive throughout western society. As it affects all of society it is unarguably true that there are anti-Semites and people who, for whatever reason, pass on anti-Semitic ideas, conspiracies, and opinions within the SNP and the wider independence movement – as these entities reflect broader society. But Fiona Robertson is right, we need a better definition than is to be found in the dictionary. How then do we define this particular racism?
There are perfectly good reasons we do not tolerate the killing of animals for fun. There are good reasons we do not put up with needless animal cruelty – ordinarily. But above a certain wealth threshold the rules change. Rich people can do things for “unique” pleasure that are forbidden to the rest of us, and the state – in the pocket of the rich and ruled by the rich – makes blood sports perfectly legal – for the rich. People like Larysa and Jason sicken me. They are disgusting. But they are only symptoms of the real problem; a country that allows them to do these horrible things.
Steve Bannon is a Nazi. Let’s not beat about the bush or be overly cautious about saying this; he is a Nazi. The moment we say this there will always be some quasi-intellectual objection to the use of this descriptor, invariably demanding that we do not use “Nazi” as a lazy catch-all term for people on the right with whom we disagree. The objection will also come with the insistence that Nazis must be accompanied by jack boots, repression, and death camps, and the criticism that its use disrespects the victims of the “real Nazis.” Let’s put that to bed right now.
It is a source of immense frustration to me that the grassroots of the independence movement have been completely left to their own devices since 2014, rather than being kept under some form of structured leadership or guidance by the pro-independence political parties. Naturally there are those who would not like this. There are those who see party-political involvement as a threat to movement autonomy, sure. Others imagine it would leave the SNP open to attack for every infraction committed by some over-enthusiastic bampot, sure.
Openness and transparency do not undermine unity. They strengthen it. Lovers, brothers, sisters, and friends can tell one another uncomfortable truths. They can exchange cross words. They can even – and often do – have open pitched battled. But real and authentic relationships are not destroyed by such openness. They are strengthened. Silence, avoidance of the hard truths, disequilibria of power, and abuse foster environments which are highly toxic and inimical to true unity.