Spot The Difference
Posted on February 28th, 2017
by Rab Bruce’s Spider
The Scottish Labour Party conference contained the usual stuff you’d expect. There was hardly a mention of the Tories, but constant bashing of the SNP; there were the traditional promises of Federalism and some other incoherent nonsense from Kezia Dugdale; and Jeremy Corbyn confirmed for everyone to see that he is either totally ignorant of the rules covering adoption of the Euro, or he’s an outright liar.
But, of course, the main event was Sadiq Khan’s comparison of nationalism to racism, which attracted a lot of hostile reaction, along with many people citing examples to prove him wrong.
You’d have thought that would be an end to the nonsense but the unionist media, growing increasingly bereft of actual arguments, seems determined to repeat the Racist claims in order to demonise the Yes movement in general and, because they seem incapable of differentiating, the SNP in particular. Accordingly, an opinion piece in The Guardian penned by one Claire Heuchan, pointed out that Sadiq Khan was correct because there are parallels between Scottish Nationalism and Racism. If you want to read her article (which isn’t recommended), you will find it at:
Her arguments are rather strange but seem to rely on three main points. First, that there are racists in Scotland; second, that the Nationalist argument depends on comparing Scotland to England; third, that Nationalists deny Scotland’s role in imperialism and the slave trade.
Where to start with that lot? OK, let’s begin with the racists point. Yes, there are racists in Scotland. There are racists in every country. That doesn’t make everyone a racist. You can see examples of racist comments on social media where, oddly, it is generally those who espouse hardline Unionist views who make these remarks. Of course, anecdotal evidence isn’t all that strong, so it would be better to look at recent crime statistics where we see that crimes involving racist elements have fallen in Scotland while they have increased in England.
Oh dear! I’ve just proved her second point, haven’t I? Comparing ourselves favourably with England is racist, isn’t it?
Well, no, I don’t think it is. Countries are compared against one another on a variety of issues all the time. That’s not racist, it is a valid comparison in order to identify where a country’s policies might be in need of review because it is not doing as well as other countries. Racism is where a particular country’s actions or policies are derided simply because they are the policies and actions of a foreign country. For example, saying you would not like to live in North Korea because you fundamentally disagree with their autocratic version of communism is not at all the same thing as saying you would not like to live in North Korea because you hate North Koreans. One of those is a racist statement and, if you can’t tell which it is, I’d suggest it is you who has the problem.
It is certainly true that many Scots take the moral high ground when comparing Scotland to England, but that’s not difficult given the heartless news coming out of England on all sorts of issues like homelessness, disabilities, expulsion of non-British citizens, poverty levels, crises in the NHS, education and Prison service, etc. We compare Scotland’s performance favourably not because we feel superior to the English, but because we feel our policies are superior to those being adopted by the Westminster Government. Indeed, there are many people who were born and raised in England who have moved to Scotland and fully support independence. If Scottish Nationalism was a racist movement, do you seriously think that would happen?
This is where the claim of racism is most easily refuted. The Yes movement is famously inclusive. It operates on the principle that anyone who is prepared to live in Scotland and contribute to society is Scottish, no matter where they come from. You only need to look at who was allowed to vote in the Scottish IndieRef and compare it with who was allowed to vote in the EURef to see which system was the most inclusive and which excluded people based on their place of birth.
The important point here is that Scots do not feel inherently superior to the English, or to anyone else for that matter. We (and I include everyone in the Yes movement) believe that the sort of society we want to live in will be fairer than the sort of society Westminster is creating. That is not racism, that is a nation holding a different set of political aims and values. As individuals, we are not any better or worse than individuals from other nations, we just want the chance to be like other nations and control our own destiny. If that is racism, then every citizen of every independent nation must also be regarded as a racist. Surely everyone can see that is stretching the definition too far?
As for denying our role in the past, that’s an odd claim. Many people may be only vaguely aware of Scotland’s past but those of us who do know our history never deny what happened. To put things in perspective, though, many industrialists became wealthy by exploiting the poor of Britain, just as many became wealthy exploiting the slave trade. Yes, Scots participated in that, and nobody can deny it. But it is in the past. Living in the past is what many Tories seem to want to do, but surely the best answer to overcoming the wrongs of the past is to ensure that we do not repeat them. By creating an inclusive society, where all are welcome no matter their background, we can help atone for the deeds of people who do not match up to our 21st Century standards because, funnily enough, they didn’t live in the 21st Century.
It really shouldn’t be necessary to write articles like this but it is becoming increasingly clear that the Yes movement is going to be the subject of a great deal of this sort of contrived accusation, so we need to have our arguments ready. Above all, we need to ensure we do not give the Unionist media any opportunity to point to individual acts or comments which they can construe as racist. Let’s behave like proper human beings. If that means taking the moral high ground and comparing ourselves to those who would divide society into the deserving and the non-deserving, then so be it.