How Scottish is the SNP?

by The Editor

Stuart Millson opines on the traitorous Scottish National Party. Mr. Millson has long been a vital presence on the Right with many publications in various journals.

As the referendum on Scottish separation draws closer, Stuart Millson asks what spirit truly guides the Scottish Nationalists.

The Scottish Borders form one of the most magnificent regions of our country. (I use the term, “our country” – as I hope and trust that whatever the outcome of September’s referendum on Scottish secession from the Union, the Borders will forever be part of the British imagination, if no longer official UK territory.) In the July of 1333, the bloody battle of Halidon Hill took place in this countryside – Scottish and English blood soaking the soil of that peaceful, beautifully-desolate borderland. Five-hundred years later, and Englishmen and Scots found themselves working in unison: building the British Empire, piloting ships to Nova Scotia or New Caledonia, marching through the Crimea, India and Afghanistan. In ancient times, English and Scottish armies killed each other: in modern times we created one of the most unified nations and powerful empires on earth.

During the Crimean War, that famously British phrase “the thin red line” entered everyday parlance – the line being the ranks of the 93rd Highland Regiment, as viewed from a nearby ridge, by The Times war correspondent, William Russell. One British officer, perilously surrounded by sabre-wielding Russian cavalrymen, was saved by the brave heart and selfless intervention of a Sergeant John Grieve from Musselburgh, who served in the Royal Scots Greys. Grieve rushed to his officer’s rescue, brought his sword down on one of the attacking Russians, beheading him in the process, and earning the VC for his valiant conduct. Countless other examples of Scotland rallying to the Union Jack can be found in the history of the Great War, and during the Second, and in the 1982 battles for the Falkland Islands: Scottish regiments fighting alongside their English counterparts as one.

Such shared experiences of war, and the fact that England is now home to many thousands of Scots (with many English also living in Scotland) all bear witness to the 300-year history of the Union – a once solid, unquestioned and successful amalgamation of geographically-linked countries, but which now faces a major challenge from a separatist, secessionist movement within Scotland, known as the Scottish National Party. In these times of a resurgent Caledonian spirit, Scotland’s First Minister and SNP leader, Alex Salmond, seems to be the very embodiment of Scottishness, and has often been depicted by newspaper cartoonists as a fearsome Loch Ness monster, rising from the peaty lochs of the North, to terrify (what Salmond describes as) “the English Tory Government at Westminster”.

Yet despite the mantra of “Scottish independence”, “Scots determining their own future” and so on, there is at the heart of the SNP a technocratic political-correctness, an obsession with “Scotland as a progressive nation” (Mr. Salmond’s words), and a belief in modern notions of globalisation, multiculturalism and welcoming new intakes of people from beyond Britain’s borders – “the new Scots” as they are described by the Scottish Nationalist hierarchy. The SNP was also very pro-European in tone; and just prior to the Euro-crisis which engulfed Greece, Italy and Cyprus – and which prompted the European Union to engage in an unprecedented interference in the affairs of those countries – Scottish Nationalism proclaimed itself as wishing to be very much a part of the EU behemoth: “a smaller nation within Europe”. Since then, Alex Salmond has adjusted the tone of SNP policy, insisting that he wishes to remain in the sterling zone, and taking great care to avoid anything that resembles over-enthusiasm for a political integration project that is now treated with profound suspicion by the electorates of so many EU countries.

But despite speeches about sterling, with a backdrop of Stirling Castle to make us all think that Scotland will remain rooted and noble, there can be little doubt that if separation comes, the new Edinburgh Government may well be sucked into the managerial processing machine that is the EU – another regional sector in the vast European empire. The irony is that the rump United Kingdom, of England, Wales and Northern Ireland, will also slip further into the Euro-abyss: the UK remnants having been seriously wounded and undermined by the tragic loss of their natural brother-nation, Scotland. How long will it be before the “newly-independent” Scotland sees regular visits by the commissioners of Brussels or the officials of the EU Central Bank; and even further restrictions on its fisheries industry, leading eventually to the birth of the country’s own version of UKIP?

There are clear signs, though, that despite the head of steam created by Alex Salmond (aided by guest appearances by Sean Connery in Highland dress), a great number of Scots – of all ages – see their country as a British nation: the Scotland of the clans and crofts having much more of a reality and relevance within a structure of an ancient British nation, than within the distant hallways and office-blocks of the multicultural EU republic. Recently, Channel 4 News – a broadcaster not renowned for a natural love of the concept of the United Kingdom– broadcast a week of programmes from Scotland, in which everyday voters were asked for their view on the forthcoming referendum. It was encouraging indeed to see the leader of one local council appear before the cameras in a Union Jack tie, and to hear several younger people express their belief that we are “better together”. But it was also disheartening, and not a little disturbing, to see how deeply-rooted an anti-Englishness has become in the pro-SNP camp. One interviewee, an industrial worker who had lost his job in the old Scottish industries, blamed (using that Salmond phrase) – “an English Tory Government” for his and his fellow workers’ loss, without pausing to think about the similar industrial losses that have befallen England itself. (Readers will recall that it was Portsmouth which recently lost its shipbuilding capacity – with the Clyde, thanks to the British Government, preserving its docks and associated industries.) All in all, it is difficult to see how an independent Scotland of the past could have stopped the decline in industrial manufacturing – and even more difficult to envisage a future sovereign state reversing the process.  

The “independence” debate has many such interesting dimensions, and Channel 4 explored some more of these when its presenter spoke to some of the “new Scots”, those who have yet to develop either a Scottish of British psyche – and it is, as yet, still unclear as to how they will vote in September’s referendum. However, it is worth pointing out that while most of these new citizens have the right to cast their vote on the survival of the 300-year-old Union, Scots living in England have no vote on the future of their country. So far, the Scottish Nationalists have had very little to say about this anomaly – or perhaps, more accurately, the official disenfranchisement of thousands of Scotsmen and women.

Although Channel 4 asked many pertinent questions, Mr. Salmond and his associates were spared the question that goes right to the heart of the matter: why do you even want to separate in the first place – why this desire to break away, especially when your present level of political autonomy (and advantage) is considered? After all, the Scotland of today is virtually an independent nation; with its own Scottish banknotes, Parliament, Government and First Minister, and a definite sense of being in charge of its own affairs. With strong financial links to the rest of the Kingdom, Scottish prescriptions, healthcare, education and pensions have a reassuring level of guarantee. Compared to England, which has no assembly of its own, Scotland and Wales are far less in need of special treatment than those of us who live to the east of Offa’s Dyke and south of Hadrian’s Wall. I sometimes wonder how Scots in general, and their First Minister in particular, would react if the nationalist, breakaway party had come from England: no doubt, the Holyrood politicians and Scottish broadcasters on Radio 4 would be falling over themselves to condemn the “small-minded” and “xenophobic” English.

To the radical Scots Nat, or “Cybernat” as the SNP-supporting online stormtroopers style themselves, such questions and nuances are of no consequence… Recently, I crossed swords with a Cybernat in the twitter-sphere, pointing out to this essentially good-natured zealot (with a flair for Billy Connolly-like humour) that Scots should be happy that they have much more sovereignty and say about how they are governed than the English. “Aye” came the reply: “But we’re greedy b****rds!”

Not all Scots share our friend’s greed. In April, it was reported that the inhabitants of Orkney and Shetland demanded that if Scotland left the United Kingdom, their islands must have a second referendum on re-joining the rest of the country – a situation reminiscent of the post-war Ealing film, Passport to Pimlico. In this world of fantasy and speculation, one might even begin to consider what might come to pass if, say, the loyalists of Glasgow voted to remain in the Kingdom, but the citizens of Aberdeen voted to leave. Could we see the eventual partition of Scotland: a Southern Scottish UK, and a Republic of Scotland in the North? And what of the resentment from unionists if Alex Salmond wins in September: will the new Scotland resemble something of a one-party state, with the old UK parties – the Tories, Labour and the Lib Dems, redundant, stranded and irrelevant in the new SNP-dominated political waters? Will the flying of the old Union Jack be officially discouraged – with Scotland, 25 years into the future, becoming a republic?

As an Englishman, and a Southern Englishman at that, I am far away from the debate now raging in Scotland. But Scotland to me is not a foreign country, whose people are in any way separate from me, or completely different from the English: rather, it is another part of home – home being the British Isles and the United Kingdom. I do not want to show a passport at the Royal Border Bridge at Berwick-upon-Tweed when I visit my friends in their countryside of moors and peel towers, nor do I want Scotland to become a standardised, cosmopolitan and rather bloodless place, under the one-party rule of one political elite. If Westminster is unloved by Scots, how long will it be before the SNP domination at Holyrood becomes equally distant and disliked; matched only by the disquiet that will surely come when the Scottish capital is brought into line by the European Commission.

The September referendum is a chance for the people of Scotland to show how Scottish or British (or both) they are. Yet another questions still niggles at the back of the mind… how truly Scottish is the SNP?

Stuart Millson is a freelance writer and commentator

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