Beware the CyberNats – they point to a very dark place.
“In extreme situations nationalism appears to neutralise that part of the mind which is able to fathom complex equations. Instead, action is motivated by a single Leninist principle: “Those who are not for us are against us”
Mr Glenny was writing about The Balkans where nationalism was the driver of that most bloody of wars as Yugoslavia collapsed into lethal chaos in the early 1990s. But his words will also ring a bell with observers of present-day Scotland where sufficient numbers have given up trying to fathom anything and have descended into crude nationalistic abuse of those who are not “for” them. I use the word “sufficient” advisedly – it is not the majority who are standing screaming abuse on these particular soapboxes but those who spew their bile especially on social media. The so-called “CyberNats”.
I am neither famous enough nor controversial enough to get much abuse on Twitter. Some of my 2600 followers often disagree with me, but politely! But if I make any mildly critical remark of the Scottish National Party or the fanaticism of some of their supporters then the Twitter feed becomes X-rated! All that is of little consequence – I block abusers (including one deeply unpleasant SNP Member of the Scottish Parliament!) and that is that. But what is of consequence is the distorting effect that the “Those who are not for us are against us” mind-set in Scotland has had on British politics. I was told in all seriousness that the Scottish Labour Party should have supported the “Yes” vote in the Independence Referendum and it was because they didn't that Scotland turned against Labour. I would like to address that view here.
On the night of Labour’s General Election defeat Ed Milliband said this:
“...in Scotland we have seen a surge of nationalism overwhelm our party,"
He was right - that is exactly what happened. History tells us that nationalism can force out tyrants and replace dictatorships with democrats – or it can have the reverse effect. (In the Balkans it did both simultaneously depending where you were). In Scotland there were no tyrants to be deposed and no dictators to be sent packing. What there was was firstly a concern about the established British political order and its power and secondly a view that to secede from the Union was the solution. But the truth was that Scotland was not being governed by the people-oppressing English at all and arguably never had been since the Act of Union in 1707! (The Jacobites thought differently, but they were as much opposed by fellow Scots as by the English)
The rebellion of 2015 North of the Border was a mass protest by half of those who voted and the electoral system meant that this 50% got a wholly disproportionate 95% of the seats. This was the “surge of nationalism” Milliband referred to. The momentum towards secession, briefly halted by the referendum defeat, was given a possibly unstoppable push.
The minds that were and are able to “fathom complex equations” want nothing to do with Scottish independence and the break-up of the United Kingdom. To be proud to be British (I am) is in no way incompatible with a pride in being Scottish (which I would be, if I was!). My Britishness incorporates the heartfelt conviction that Scotland is an indissoluble part of it. Having lived in Scotland permanently for three years, owned a house there for twenty and visited the country frequently I relate to it as being part of me. The idea that I would be visiting a foreign country if Scotland became independent is deeply repellent.
So let me say to the CyberNats who occasionally abuse me (including that MSP!) you have fallen into the trap of flaying your arms in a random way and catching innocent people in your trauma. You don't have to be Scottish to love Scotland and you don't have to be a Nationalist to protect your country. The modern world encourages breakaway as the last resort to combat evil or repression – but by no stretch of the imagination can that be said to apply to Scotland. After 300 years of Britishness which has been a great success story - and in which the Scots fully played their part - please don't go into denial because a new paradigm (a Federal Britain for example) is too difficult to fathom. Better Together!