Thursday 26 December 2019

Each of us is a British ambassador

Every now and again on Twitter a Scottish nationalist contacts me with pictures of a demonstration that took place in Glasgow sometime soon after the Scottish independence referendum in 2014. The pictures involve some Glaswegians behaving badly. They carry Union Flags and are clearly involved in some sort of disorder. Some of them are making far right gestures. I always point out that such pictures suggest West of Scotland sectarianism rather than anything to do with the rest of Scotland. Where I live in Aberdeenshire, no-one knows or cares whether someone else is a Catholic or Protestant. The idea of voting because of religion strikes the vast majority of Scots as something out of the Middle Ages. Nevertheless it is important to realise that years after this misbehaviour in Glasgow, Scottish nationalists feel they can use it to help their cause. Those foolish people misbehaving in Glasgow might have been waving Union flags, but they were harming the UK and helping those who want to destroy it by means of Scottish independence.

The Pro UK side of the argument has an advantage. We don’t have the equivalent of Cybernats, neither online nor on the streets. I can’t remember a huge Pro UK mob picketing an SNP conference or the BBC. Nicola Sturgeon has never been chased by a mob in Edinburgh, nor was Alex Salmond. It was Jim Murphy who was confronted by a foul mouthed mob while he tried to put forward reasoned argument. When someone from the SNP speaks in public they are allowed to do so in peace. No large Pro UK crowd will even turn up let alone attempt to shout them down.

Online the situation is if anything worse. Pro UK people regularly are attacked by foul mouthed nationalists for simply expressing an opinion that they disagree with. What is frightening is that on occasions these mobs can be overwhelming. Suddenly you find your timeline filled with hundreds, sometimes thousands of Scottish nationalists saying the most insulting things imaginable. These people have succeeded in driving some Pro UK people from Twitter.

At some points it gets so bad that I take the rather drastic step of blocking Scottish nationalists en masse. I simply go down my timeline and block everyone whose picture suggests they support the SNP. It's a pity, but it works and enables me to use Twitter in peace.

There is no equivalent to this on the Pro UK side. There are some Pro UK people who say stupid things, but they are isolated individuals.

The important point to realise is that the Scottish nationalist extremists who become mobs on the street or mobs online damage the SNP. The sort of people who vandalised Pro UK signs in the street in 2014 didn’t help the cause of Scottish independence they harmed it. An angry mob whether online or on the street is not a vote winner. It’s a vote loser.

For the most part Pro UK people I come across behave well. We all sometimes say or write stupid things. We all sometimes lose our tempers. But try to always remember that by expressing support for the UK you represent our country. By behaving well you make it more likely that moderate Scottish voters will continue to support the UK and reject Scottish independence.

I have a general policy of not debating to any great extent with obviously committed Scottish nationalists. I will make one or two comments and then leave it. There is no point having long debates with people who won’t change their minds. I will try to be polite, but if I get any sort of insult, I will politely but immediately block them. I consider words like “yoon” and “British nationalist” to be insults. There is no point replying with an insult. Instead simply block and the problem is solved.

I use polemic in my writing and I try to point out what I think is the hidden truth involving Scottish nationalism. My style of writing is always to try look at issues in an unusual way. Sometimes in the hundreds of thousands of words I have written I may misjudge something. That is the nature of writing articles that try to be original. But I don’t make lurid and obviously false claims about our opponents. If I did it would help their cause and damage mine.

Sometimes I see Pro UK people who use sectarian language or who describe the SNP as Nazis. These people are helping the SNP and making Scottish independence more likely. It’s ludicrously false to describe Nicola Sturgeon as a Nazi. I try to follow back everyone on Twitter. It's only polite.  But I tend to simply ignore people who make our side look bad. Having a profile picture of Sturgeon mocked up to look like Hitler is the equivalent of Scottish nationalists burning the Union Flag. Likewise ranting and swearing about the SNP might give you a moment’s pleasure, but it hurts the Pro UK cause. The same goes for any sort of sectarianism.

Sectarianism is deeply unpopular in most of Scotland. The vast majority of us have no time whatsoever for either side of this divide. If you are motivated by sectarianism you would be far better keeping silent. Most Scots whether we support independence or oppose it want nothing to do with sectarianism. It horrified me when the Orange Order decided to march prior to the vote in 2014. It cost the Pro UK side votes.

Our task is always to reach out to moderate people and the undecided. The best way to do this is to make clear, rational arguments and to do so in as polite a way as possible. Treat our opponents with respect. We are all Scots. Disagree forcefully with them by all means, but don’t attack them personally. It is to our good fortune that a large number of pro-independence people behave badly. Let them do so, but don’t join in. If we can show that the Pro UK side of the argument is the more reasonable because we behave better, we will have a far better chance to defeat the SNP in any future election.