The bottom line, then, is that we do not fit this definition of an indigenous people — and for good reason; it was not written with us in mind. Scotland is a developed European nation, and Scots are the dominant ethnic or people group in Scotland. In the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples the UN uses ‘indigenous people’ to mean a people or ethnic group subject to colonisation or settler-colonisation in a situation in which they are dominated by the coloniser group in their own territory.
The question and our efforts to answer it reveal something unsettling; that civilisation and culture provide only the most fragile layer of defence against the encroachment of terrible darkness. This thin veil of security and freedom and rights is held in place by the flimsiest of pegs — intellectual and political freedom, respect and civility, and tolerance and the rule of law. When any one or a number of these pegs are compromised, weakened, or removed the structural integrity of the whole system that guarantees our safety and security is damaged...
And it is this disproportionate response — typical of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank — that has people around the world up in arms. This war will only result in Palestinian cassualties, and many of these will be children and unarmed civilians — young and old. The propaganda from the Israeli government will be, as it has always been, that Hamas is ‘hiding behind human shields,’ but the sorry reality is that in such an overcrowded urban environment non-combatants have nowhere else to go.
There is a nagging suspicion in my mind that the impetus to abandon our grievances came from these nefarious sources. I can’t prove it – no one can, but I am suspicious. Scotland has some pretty fantastic grievances, some pretty emotive and powerful grievances. It just strikes me that not to deploy them in an independence debate – that had absolutely everything to do with history – was such a monstrous tactical blunder that it couldn’t have originated with a real independence supporter.
We may pretend that this could never happen here, but mass murder was thought out of the question in Srebrenica. The reality is that this can happen here, and it will happen here if we do not find a way of stopping the temperature rising. Already we have reached boiling point. All that is holding the old order in place is the democratic habit of a few generations, but this is eroding. It seems perfectly clear to me that we have reached a critical moment.
Israel’s goal is the total destruction or at least the absolute subjugation of Palestine to make way for the completion of the Zionist project, the creation of a hegemonic colonial-settler Jewish ethno-state. Criticism of this genocidal programme and the provisional Apartheid state it has constructed has been muted by the shadow of the Holocaust. Apparently the nations of the world are somehow guilty of a crime so monstrous against Israel that they are simply now no longer able to point out the moral enormities of Israel.
So long as “our language” – as the BBC in Scotland was once proud to describe it – was seen as a quaint fossil of a defeated nation; a Scotland wholly absorbed into Great Britain qua Greater England, it was ignored or treated with a benign touristic or voyeuristic passing interest. Now that Scotland is well on its way to independence, that patronising benevolence has been replaced by an open hostility fast approaching that displayed by the British nationalists in the north of Ireland towards Gaeilge.
We are not permitted the language of genocide – legally and technically precise as it is – because it makes certain people uncomfortable. That’s the seat of all the anger and vitriol right there: That Britain did this to Gaelic Scotland is discomforting, it tears from Britishness the fraudulence of benign and beneficial patronage and lays bare its naked and vicious and murderous ethno-nationalist imperialism. One simply cannot have the comfort of being “British and Scottish” and accept as historical fact that Britain did this and still does this.