Saturday, 6 October 2012

The two kinds of Scottish nationalist

There are two kinds of Scottish nationalist, each desiring the same thing, independence for Scotland, but each desiring it for different reasons and with different motivations. The first kind can be described as the intellectual wing of Scottish nationalism. It is represented by many of the best thinkers in the SNP, certain bloggers and twitter commentators. Such people are intellectually attracted to the idea of Scottish independence and generally put forward intelligent, rational and reasonable arguments. It is possible to discuss matters with them and to remain on friendly terms even while disagreeing. Such people are obviously highly educated, likely to be  professionals, the sort of people who can often be found cheering on Scotland at Murrayfield. For this reason, following Alex Massie  they could be called the Murrayfield wing of Scottish nationalism.

While remaining a unionist, I can often see that these people are arguing well and putting forward attractive, persuasive points. They are worthy opponents and in the unlikely event that the Scottish people should choose independence,  I would much not mind being ruled by these people. 

The problem, of course, is that while intellectual nationalism is part of Scottish nationalism and makes up the gentle civic nationalist side of the coin, which is supposed to make an independent Scotland so appealing to waverers, the other side of the coin is what can be called the Hampden wing of Scottish nationalism. The Hampden wing are not so highly educated, not as prosperous, are not much interested in intellectual arguments. They are not Scottish nationalists, because they have been persuaded by reason, rather they follow the heart and desperately want independence for emotional reasons.

Anyone who is online at the moment commenting on independence, frequently meets this Hampden wing and it would appear to outnumber the intellectual wing in the same way that the popularity of football dwarfs the popularity of rugby. 

When commenting on Scottish independence, there are two kinds of reply that I receive from nationalists. There are those who disagree, but put forward arguments that show they have understood the point I am making, and make their points with humour, insight and politeness. On the other hand, there are those who fail to grasp the point at all, latch on to a word or phrase they don’t like and then show no insight in attempting to respond. The better the argument that I make, the more likely it is that such people will be rude and insulting. 

The reason for this is obvious. These people have their heart set on independence for emotional reasons, they then see that independence threatened by someone putting forward arguments, which they can see are potentially powerful and which, if believed might make the attainment of their heart's desire less likely. Being unable to respond intellectually to the threat they respond in the only way they know how, emotionally and with violent language. Thus is the cybernat born.

There is a continuum of identities in Scotland. Some people feel all Scottish, some people feel all British. Most feel something in between. Most unionists feel just as Scottish as British, though some  are more inclined to the British side, harking back to the time when Walter Scott could describe Rob Roy as a North Briton.

What is clear however, is that the more someone feels exclusively Scottish the more likely he is to support Scottish nationalism. It is self-evident that nationalist supporters are the ones most likely to say I’m not British, they are the ones who are most likely to reject the Union Jack. On the other hand, the more a Scot feels British, the less likely he is to want to break up the union. 

Now some nationalists who feel exclusively Scottish do so for intellectual reasons. These are the civic nationalists, the ones who have worked out interesting, intellectual reasons for why Scotland should be independent. They are welcoming, friendly, inclusive a credit to their country. Unfortunately, this Murrayfield wing is dwarfed by the Hampden wing.

A Glasgow university study in 2005 on Islamophobia and Anglophobia found “Level of education has the clearest impact on minority phobias: the more highly educated are less phobic, and those with lower education levels are more phobic” and “Having a strong Scottish identity has hardly any impact on Islamophobia, but a significant impact on Anglophobia.”

This means that having a strong and exclusive Scottish identity correlates with low levels of educational attainment and high levels of Anglophobia. This explains moreover, why support for the SNP is concentrated in deprived areas. As the recent Mori poll cited “The most solid support for independence continues to be among  ... those who live in Scotland’s most deprived areas (45% of those in the most deprived neighbourhoods compared to 26% of those in the most affluent areas)”

It hardly needs to be said that a low level of educational attainment correlates with poverty both material and intellectual. 

The Murrayfield wing of the SNP of course are not Anglophobic, they are nationalists for intellectual reasons, with which I, as a unionist disagree. But these civic nationalists depend for their success on the Hampden wing of Scottish nationalism, the unreasoning, emotional nationalists. It is to these people that Mr Salmond frequently appeals, when he goes into Braveheart mode. It is these people who make up the core support of the SNP, who have exclusive Scottish identities. Why do they have such identities? The answer is obvious. Because they suffer from Anglophobia. It is these unreasoning, emotional, angry people we meet whenever we come across the phenomenon of the cybernat. These are the people, who have almost only one desire in their lives, for Scotland to be independent, who take any attempt to deprive them of their desire personally and attack the person striving to take away their dream like a swan protecting its cygnet. Can you imagine living in a country ruled by such people? You don’t have to imagine. It could be yours in two years time.


  1. You have a fine conceit of your own intellectual abilities, don't you?

    Let me see if I've understood what you're saying; don't vote for independence because we'll end up with football-supporting neds running the country. We should stay with the UK so our Eton & Oxford-educated betters can take care of us. The union protects us from ourselves, is that about right?

  2. Thank you for your comment Holebender. I think your summary adequately shows your point of view. Naturally I would put it somewhat differently. I have had praise from some and contempt from others, generally according to their political prejudices. I find it best to be as little bothered by the one as the other. You can call that conceit if you will. But it's only another way to say that you disagree.

  3. Effie, I understand the points you've made and to a degree, agree with you. As an independence supporter, I'd like to think I'm a member of this Murrayfield wing (although you're no more likely to find me at that stadium than at Hampden).
    I do have to admit that this Hampden wing does exist within the independence movement. Although I would argue that it appears to me that there are far more unionists firmly in the seating area there than Bravehearts. Unfortunately, it is so infrequent that I encounter any unionists that could even remotely be classed as intellectuals. Spouting BBC/media "factoids" doesn't qualify - Johann et al are prime examples of this.

    I appreciate that the point of your post was to comment on the two realms of the pro independence side as you sees it but as you yourself appear to be capable of coherent thought, you must admit that this exists on both sides.

  4. Hi Gavin. What you say is perfectly true. I fully admit that there are people on the unionist side who behave disgracefully. I think we should all be able to argue against each other's viewpoints and make points forcefully, but we must avoid attacking people personally. Political debate can be heated and there's nothing wrong with that. We should be passionate about the issues. But we're all Scots and want what we think is best for our country.