Part Time Prime Minister Boris Johnson has decided on just the thing that’s needed in this time of crisis. He’s going to repaint his official plane red white and blue, so that everyone can see it coming and go, “Oh, there’s that arsehole coming.”
This has been a week during which everything that the British Government has had a hand in has turned to crap, but there’s always time for a spot of British boosterism. The only thing about British nationalism that is truly exceptional is its sense of its own exceptionalism. Johnson still insists that the British Government response to the current crisis has been world beating, but they only world beating thing about it is how abysmal it has been.
The Scottish Conservatives have had a risible week in Holyrood as branch office manager Surname Surname attempted to score some points against the Scottish Government. This crisis has revealed the nasty reality of the Scottish Conservatives even for those who couldn’t see it before. They exist purely in order to make Scotland doubt itself. Their entire purpose is to make people in Scotland believe that they’re not good enough, that nothing Scotland does is acceptable. Surname Surname does whatever his political bosses in London tell him to do, and if that means he has to contradict himself from one week to the next he shamelessly and brazenly carries on regardless. The man whose boss was described by Donald Trump as one of the few Western politicians he holds in high regard had the audacity to compare the Scottish Finance Secretary Kate Forbes to Trump. The branch office manager of a party whose most prominent member has just gone quiet after making an insulting tweet about a respected professor and advisor to the Scottish Government thinks that he has the moral authority to complain about other people’s use of social media. But then British nationalists are always quick to take offence, but at the same time utterly shameless.
It has not been a good week for British nationalism. Its ugly colours have been on display in the centre of Glasgow, and today on Saturday holocaust denier and the man who was too obnoxious even for UKIP, Alastair MacConnachie, turned up in his manky shirt in Edinburgh to ‘defend’ the statue of that beneficiary of the slave trade Henry Dundas. Dundas is credited, or rather discredited, with having delayed the abolition of the slave trade by some 15 years because he was profiting from it. The fact that this is what Alistair wants to defend and not the right of people of colour to live without being the victims of racism tells you all you need to know about the priorities of the shouty flag waving end of the British nationalist spectrum disorder.
Today in Glasgow more violence is breaking out in the centre of the city as the police struggle to contain a group of British nationalist fascist thugs who have turned up to attack peaceful protesters in the Square who are defending equality. There are plenty in the Scottish media who would like to draw a moral equivalence between the two groups, in a desperate attempt to deflect attention from British nationalism’s problems with violence, racism, sectarianism, and bigotry. There is no moral equivalence between a peaceful protest and thugs who are only there in order to assault them. There is no moral equivalence between anti-racism and racism.
If you are at a protest protesting a protest against racism, you are part of the problem. You can pretend it’s about statues, but if statues are more important to you than human dignity, you are part of the problem. If you are protesting because others have told you to check your privilege, you are part of the problem.
The British nationalist fascists who lash out violently against peaceful protesters are all too often working class marginalised people themselves. They are suffering the consequences of austerity, of a society which prioritises the needs of the wealthy, which rewards the failures of the rich and powerful, and who have decided that black people, Scottish Catholics, Irish people, independence supporters, or gay people are the ones responsible for their problems. They resent what they see as the loss of their status and privilege and lash out at other groups at the bottom of the pile instead of directing their anger where it belongs, at those in power. Racism is not patriotism. Sectarianism is not justice. Bigotry is not culture. Hatred is not history. When you believe that orange is the new black, the only people who benefit are the powerful, the well-connected, the influential, and the wealthy. You are in fact an instrument in your own oppression.
There are serious questions to be asked of the establishment in Scotland, an establishment which has allowed British nationalist violence to go unchallenged for generations. An establishment which has been complicit in racism, anti-Irish racism, and sectarianism and which has benefited from it will not be able to root out the problem unless it first confronts its own role in perpetuating it. For too long in Scotland we have trivialised this issue, treated it as a problem for football fans, as a conflict between two opposing groups where the role of the British establishment is to keep the sides apart. The British establishment is at the root of the problem.
There are serious questions to be asked of Police Scotland who according to reports appear to have kettled the peaceful protesters in George Square, but don’t seem to have kettled the violent thugs who seek to attack them. It seems that the police are far more organised and assertive in their dealings with an anti-fascist protest than they are with the actual fascists who cause the violence.
There are serious questions to be asked of the media in Scotland which persists in treating these regular outbreaks of British nationalist violence as ‘clashes between protesters’. The Scottish media must call out British nationalist thugs for what they are, but they are too afraid of tainting opposition to independence with the realities of British nationalism and prefer to seek refuge in false moral equivalences and in attacking the online behaviour of independence supporters who use foul language. The British nationalist fists keep flying, the British nationalist kicks keep coming and the media bewails Scotland’s shame when the shame is the property of a segment of British nationalism that has been allowed to run riot – literally.
There are serious questions to be asked of Scotland’s political parties, which have campaigned for over a decade to demonise and abuse that half of the population which supports constitutional change. Those British nationalist thugs on the streets of Glasgow might not be supported by mainstream parties, those parties might raise their hands in horror, but the thugs have been emboldened and agitated by the rhetoric of division that comes from the mainstream British nationalist parties – particularly the Conservatives. Both Labour and the Conservatives have been tolerant of extreme British nationalists in their midst. It’s long past time that anyone with links to British nationalist supremacist organisations was purged from mainstream political parties.
This weekend we will doubtless see newspaper columns about Scotland’s shame. This is not Scotland’s shame, this is a shame which has been visited upon Scotland by British nationalism. It’s long past time that we recognised that the real problems of violence, extremism, fascism, racism, and bigotry in Scottish politics and public life are problems with British nationalism. Enough of the false moral equivalence. It serves only to perpetuate the problem.
And finally, an appropriate new song from Scottish sing songwriter resident in Barcelona, Louis Rive …
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