Normalism v Nationalism
Posted on September 15th, 2016
by Dan Iron
As a supporter of independence for Scotland, I'm always a bit perturbed when we are described as Nationalists. I think to myself, "am I a Nationalist?" I have never thought of myself as one.
One form of Nationalism is thinking that your own country is somehow special, summed up in the phrase, "my country, right or wrong". I do not think Scotland is a special country and I would never describe myself as a "Proud Scot". Scotland has done some great things in the past and some things which are not so great. The people who think that Scotland cannot become an independent country are the ones who think Scotland is special.
Another form of Nationalism is creating a country out of a territory which has never been a nation . An example of this is Italian Nationalism in the 19th Century or, more recently, Quebec Nationalism.
A slightly different form of Nationalism is re-creating a country - recovering the national status of a territory which is currently a province of a larger country. An example of this is Breton Nationalism.
None of this applies to Scotland. Scotland is a country and has been a country for a long time, whether you take the formation of Scotland as 843 with Kenneth MacAlpin as King, or 1018 when the Lothians were joined to Scotland, or 1320 with our explicit declaration of independence, or 1472 when Orkney and Shetland became part of Scotland. Scotland's borders have been unchanged since 1482 after the final capture of Berwick-upon-Tweed by England. By retaining our own systems of law, education and church at the time of the Union in 1707 we expressed our intention to remain a country. There are many countries around the world who would envy our long history and stable borders.
So what is the correct expression for a country taking responsibility for its own governance, like normal countries do? Ah yes, normal. The ideology which underpins our position as Scottish Independentistas is simply that - Normalism. The belief that your country is best served by effectively outsourcing its governance to a body outside your own country is not normal. This is not a nationalistic point - Scots are not inherently better than other nationalities in running a country. But would it not be best to have your country run by people who have a direct and personal interest in the success of the enterprise? Would you not want them to have “skin in the game"? To outsource the governance of Scotland to Westminster is simply irrational. To hand responsibility to the bunch of incompetents currently in the UK Cabinet is the height of folly.
So that is the term that defines us best - Normalism. This expression avoids any false dichotomy between so called hard Nationalists and those who want independence to create a more socially just society. We can be favour of independence because that's normal, not nationalistic. And we can all be in favour of a more just society - I haven't yet met any independence supporter who wants a less just society.
This approach not only helps to define our position - it also helps to define our opponents’ position. For those who do not think Scotland is a country, to those who believe that their country is the United Kingdom, we simply have to respectfully agree to differ. There is nothing to be gained by conversing with them. We’d be wasting our time.
To those who believe that Scotland is a country but that it should not be independent we should ask them why. Why can Scotland not be normal? What is the difference between Scotland and all the other countries in the world? It puts the onus on them to justify their position, rather than on us to justify ours.
This leaves those who are open to the possibility of Scotland being independent but who are not convinced of the economic case, or those who worry about their own jobs or livelihood. This is where we have to do a lot more work to convince them. We simply have to make a better case than we made last time and I believe that we can make that better case. This will be the subject of a future blog.
So when the day comes when the Saltire is unfurled at the United Nations my heart won't be surging with patriotic fervour. I'll just have the quiet satisfaction that Scotland will have achieved its destiny by becoming a normal country.
Just a normal country.