Saturday 6 October 2012

How the SNP uses Anglophobia to split the union

Imagine if the English national anthem were about Flodden, the battle which took place in 1513, when James IV's army invaded England, while Henry VIII was away fighting in France. It could go something like this:

Oh flower of England,
When will we see
your like again,
that fought and died for
your field at fair Flodden
and stood against him
proud James' army
and sent him homeward
in his own coffin.

Can you imagine how the SNP would react if such a song were sung at rugby matches? Can you imagine how they would cry about bias if the anniversary of Flodden were to be used for political purposes 400 years later? Yet they wish to do exactly this with regard to the anniversary of a battle which took place in 1314.

Any Scot, who is not in self denial, knows that there is widespread anti-Englishness in our country. If someone were to go into a Scottish pub, when England were playing football, wearing an England shirt, he would at the very least receive unpleasant comments, assuming he could hear them over and above the abuse directed at the television screen.

Ordinary kind, decent Scots, including nearly all of us at one time or another, unthinkingly say things things about England and the English that we simply would not dream of saying about any other country or people. At times this is just banter and is the sort of humour that everyone enjoys including the English, who equally crack jokes about the French, while remaining very Francophile. But we Scots know of many instances when anti-English comments are not just banter, when such comments and actions really have the power to wound and hurt, when someone is made to feel unwelcome and insulted because of his accent and the place he comes from.

The one thing that this is not, of course, is racism. White English people are the same race as white Scottish people. The experience of racism, which black and Asian people feel in both England and Scotland is qualitatively different from Anglophobia and far more severe. Few Scots would be unwilling to be friends with, or fall in love with, someone from England. English people are not discriminated against in employment. But many English people do find the common, everyday instances of anti-Englishness, which occur in Scotland, unpleasant and distasteful. Even if these experiences should not be confused with racism, they make the English person feel as if he does not belong.

Let's look at an English person in Scotland. Can someone born in England, of English parents and with an English accent, can such a person be a Scot? I would contend that the vast majority of Scots make it quite clear that such a person can not be a Scot, no matter how long he has lived here. What counts as being a Scot is that you are born and bred here and that your accent fits. The key criteria looks very much like family lineage and this is confirmed when we come to that piece of Scottish national dress called  the kilt.

Until recently almost no one in Scotland wore a kilt apart from soldiers and deer stalkers, but now at weddings they are becoming universal. Many Scots don't have a particularly Scottish name. Such Scots might pick a kilt they like and wear it with pride, but there's always someone who wants to ask what clan are you from, and are you entitled to wear that kilt. It's as if, unless you can trace your lineage to Culloden, you're not quite entitled to be a Scot at all. But if someone with a name like Walker or Robinson is not entitled, how is someone with a name like Khan or a name like Kowalski going to gain his entitlement?

To their credit the SNP maintain that they are civic nationalists and not ethnic nationalists. Therefore if asked can someone born in Pakistan, India or Jamaica be a Scot, they would answer yes. But does anyone really believe this? If the English can't be Scots how can the Poles or the Pakistanis? The SNP's civic nationalism is founded on their ethnic nationalism and would collapse without the ethnic nationalism. But this is really the case with all nationalisms. Why do many people in Quebec want independence? Because they speak French, have French names and are descended from people who came from France. Quebec nationalism is almost exclusively felt by these people. Those people living in Quebec who speak English or who are descended from places other than France do not want independence. They want to be Canadians. Quebec nationalists are also civic nationalists, but the foundation of their nationalism like all nationalisms including Scottish nationalism is ethnic nationalism. It is based on membership of a clan, opposed to those who do not belong to the clan.
Of course anti-Englishness is not exclusive to nationalists. Many unionists, unconscious of the contradiction, will express anti-English sentiments such as the commonly expressed idea that when I go on holiday the French or Germans or Italians don't much like the British, but when I point out that I'm Scottish, they are much more pleasant. Anyone who thinks like this, who is willing to drop their Britishness when it is convenient, should be voting for Alex Salmond. The strength of the union is that we are all in it together, that no matter where we come from we're all fundamentally the same. We're all British. Without that feeling, the union begins to creak and will inevitably fall apart. When Scots express Anglophobia they are saying that those people are not the same as me, they are foreigners.  Furthermore this gives rise to ever increasing levels of anti-Scottish sentiments among the English, and so in turn with the Welsh and the Northern Irish. It is for this reason that Mr Salmond seeks to subtly stir up anti-Englishness by continually complaining about rule from London, code for England, saying such people have no right to have a say about what goes on in Scotland. He is saying that such people are not us, they are foreign. When every country in the union hates those who live in every other country, there will no longer be a union, there will just be a small island full of enmity. And that will be a fine legacy for Mr Salmond.

The great thing about Britain is that it enables us to be both Scottish and British. Britishness is inclusive and it is something anyone can feel no matter where their parents came from. It is for this reason that people in Scotland, who were not born and bred here, overwhelmingly support the union. They know that in an independent Scotland, they will not be Scots, not really and neither will they be British. Civic nationalism will allow them to remain, will give them a passport, but the ethnic nationalism which underpins that civic nationalism, will mean that incomers will forever feel like foreigners in their own country. They will live here, but without an identity. They will not really be Scots, they will not quite be entitled. They'll not get to wear the kilt as they have no clan.

Anglophobia is not a nationalist ideology, but it is the foundation of nationalism. Why else choose an anti-English song as an anthem? Why else go on and on about how the English did this and that to us, about how the English oppressed us, how the English say British when we win, Scottish when we lose? Why the chip on our shoulder about the English going on about 1966 when we go on about 1314? In the end the reason that nationalists want to reject Britain is because they can't bear to be associated with the English. The reason they hate the Union Jack is because it contains the cross of Saint George.

Naturally nationalists frequently claim never to have met an SNP member, who is anti-English, but this is like claiming never to have met anti-Englishness in Scotland. A case of self-denial.  The virulence and hatred of the cybernats, resembles very closely that Anglophobia, which many English people, to our shame, meet in Scotland, for it springs from the same source. Scots who are willing to abuse someone because of his accent or his parentage, are just as liable to abuse someone who is opposed to the one thing the cybernat wants above all others an independent Scotland free from England, a Scotland where the English have been sent homeward to think again.
Without anti-Englishness, Scottish nationalism would wither. We Scottish unionists should therefore think carefully when we express anti-English sentiments, as really we are undermining the union and helping to develop the narrow ethnic nationalism, which Mr Salmond needs to win his cause.