Are you a nationalist? I bet you are. It doesn’t matter which side of the referendum you’re on, you either put your faith in Scotland or in Britain. You’re a nationalist.
There are people who simply refuse to acknowledge any national identity and have no time for any borders or governments and reject all talk of sovereignty at any level. It’s the John Lennon concept of Imagine there’s no countries etc…
But everybody else is essentially nationalistic. You will of course get denial from an Australian or a Frenchman for example because they don’t like the idea but watch them react when Advance Australia Fair or the Marseillaise starts up.
Most nationalities don’t think they’re nationalists because the question simply doesn’t arise. It would be the stupid question to ask a Kiwi if he feels like a New Zealander. It is so obvious that there is no response apart from pity for the questioner.
Not in Scotland. We have to agonise over the meaning and the detail and reject categories. Blood nationalist? Ethnic? Civic? For God’s sake, grow up and accept that if you feel you belong in a country and owe some loyalty, it means you are essentially a nationalist. Get used to it.
This is another of these debilitating hangovers from Union which taught me the kings and queens of England and forgot to say there were Scottish kings too. We were supposed to lap up the Proms with a field of Union flags – I did, I love the music – and gorge on stories of Empire – I did, I love them – but somewhere our own national story mostly fell between the cobblestones somewhere around Buckingham Palace. It was grand to be British and proudly nationalistic – but Scottish? That was for the dreamers and the nutters. And that abasement of their own country – Scotland – still afflicts many today.
Now I don’t for a minute think that Yes voters who say they are supporters but not nationalists are being disingenuous or intellectually dishonest. I just think they don’t like the idea of nationalism because they connect it with sectarianism and strife. They have been conditioned to think this way by the same British nationalists who trumpet the UK’s superior approach to international affairs, while berating anyone else who tries to clamber aboard. We learned how the Republicans were Irish nationalists and how ethnic nationalism caused horror in the Balkans. You may remember the Nazis too – a reference still used by Unionists about the Scots.
But they never question their own British Unionism as a strident form of nationalism.
I think for many in Yes, their vision of a country with its own distinctive political culture based on community, commonwealth and equality is nationalism. Anything that unites people in a shared national cause and expresses a collective national will is nationalism…by definition.
I get tired of the denials on both sides. What else can a campaign for (and against) a country’s status be but a type of nationalism? People share a dream, an aspiration which makes them part of a nationalist cause. It doesn’t mean they make the mistakes of history and Scotland has been very careful indeed in this regard. But to brand nationalism responsible for past wars is to ignore wars started for resources like oil, religion, territory.
I’m proud of being a Scottish nationalist. It is a statement of belonging and of belief and it doesn’t fall into the trap I outlined in a past series under the title Generation X in which Unionists are obliged to fudge – as Ming Campbell did recently in the Guardian when he gave an elegant exposition of Unionist belief. It is, put simply: I am a proud Scot who believes his country is better run as part of a bigger state and it is to that state that I gave my loyalty. You can be both Scot and Brit but the British side always trumps your Scottishness. It must do because you want it to be your state/country/identity, and it overtakes your Scottishness. Therefore Britain is your country and Scottishness within that wider British identity is part of your identity. I put it more bluntly – you are British first and Scottish second. We have dodged along with this duality for 300 years but in September that wont do anymore. This is decision time. Either Scotland gets your vote to be your state or you vote No to let Britain do that job.
But if so, do us all a favour and stop pretending to be both things at once. One is not equal with the other in this vote. That’s your choice. Which is it? Anything else is intellectually evasive. If you’re British, be proud and vote No…don’t come out of the polling booth pledging allegiance to Scotland. You will have failed the test and put Scotland second on your list of constitutional priorities. And make no mistake, the world will see it that way…the people who said No to their own independence…. Truly, a people who deem themselves unworthy of statehood, confirmed as dependents, reliant on ‘benefactors’ and cowed in the face of a campaign of fear which belittled them….Braveheart No More, will read the healdines. Scots leave their fighting spirit in the film studio as they opt for UK safety net…Bagpipes and kilts are mere fashion accessories not the accoutrements of a new nation…etc etc
I suspect that if the worst does happen, it will only be on September 19 that some Scots will learn painfully just how nationalistic they really are and have been all along.by