The Guardian and Claire Heuchan: my response: logic versus divisiveness

This is in response to the divisive Claire Heuchan, and her recent opinion piece in the Guardian newspapers website. Included is excerpts from what she wrote, which I have put in quotations; with what would be my own response beneath it.

The absurdity

Sadiq Khan was not wrong to compare Scottish nationalism to racism or religious intolerance – at least, not entirely. Someone has to say it: the parallels are clear. There is an obvious overlap between nationalism and racism: both mentalities are defined by a politics of us and them. Equating racism with Scottish nationalism is a massive false equivalence, yet both perspectives are reliant on a clear distinction being made between those who belong and those who are rejected on the basis of difference” She begins.

Me: Yes, Blood and soil nationalism by its very nature does often times go hand in hand with racism, but Scotland’s nationalist government, and many of its followers, myself included, would be considered civically nationalist I.E; those of a more inclusive and liberal political persuasion, and who believe in the type of nationalism that values freedom and equality, whilst rejecting xenophobia and racism; civic nationalism, that is the difference. Being proud of your country, heritage, culture and history, does not make you racists, nor does pointing out that a Scotsman is not an Englishman. If Japan and Mexico formed a political union, would that mean that Japanese people were suddenly Mexican, or that Mexicans were all suddenly Japanese?

Khan claimed that nationalism is effectively the same as “trying to divide us on the basis of background, race or religion”. Predictably, SNP politicians and supporters alike were outraged. How dare anyone question their vision of a progressive Scotland? But in their rush to condemn a Londoner – the mayor of all Londoners, no less – for his, in Nicola Sturgeon’s words, “spectacularly ill-judged” comments, nationalists missed an opportunity to recognize a degree of truth in Khan’s comments

The SNP is fond of talking about “a fairer Scotland”, playing on the popular notion that Scotland is by nature more egalitarian than England. But this raises one unavoidable question: fairer than what? England, of course

Me: So promoting the tolerant aspects of our society is now suddenly a bad thing? When England consistently elects isolationist, xenophobic political parties (the Tory’s and Ukip) is it any wonder that they are perceived as being less egalitarian than Scotland; a country whose political parties are almost all headed by women, one of which is a lesbian, and who have just now backed LGBT issues being included in the curriculum of sex education?

In order to valourise Scotland, to present it as some sort of progressive utopia, nationalists must emphasise the difference between Scotland and our southern neighbour. The mythos of Scotland as a friendly, compassionate country is maintained with fervour – like any other fairytale, it needs heroes and villains. And Scottish exceptionalism – the idea of Scotland as a land of tolerance – is a fairytale. It is what allows Scotland to hold England accountable for all the wrongs of imperial expansion while denying this country’s own colonial legacy-”

Me: Again, what is wrong with promoting ourselves as a friendly nation? Why, there have been plenty of examples were we have been voted as such, Glasgow especially. Though there is really no point in trying to counter that piece of nonsense as it includes so much mental gymnastics, and omittance to comprehend, that anyone spouting it is already beyond the threshold of mental competence. Now, on to the bit about Scotland’s colonial past; Sure, for the most part, our upper echelon were willing partners in the expansionism of the British empire, and yes, some Scots owned slaves, yet let’s take this excerpt from Blackhistorymonth.org.uk:

These industries, which saw Glasgow and much of the country flourish, were built on the back of slavery. However, Scotland also punched above its weight in the abolition movement. The MP for Hull, William Wilberforce, and his great influence, abolitionist Thomas Clarkson, are heralded as the heroes who outlawed slavery.

But Scots too played a huge role in winning the slaves their freedom. In 1792, the year that produced the most petitions for abolition, there were 561 from Britain – a third of which came from Scotland.

Mr Whyte said: “We can be ashamed of our past but also proud of it. There were many ordinary Scots who gave a lot of time, effort and sacrifice in the cause of seeking freedom.”

The owning of personal slaves was banned in Scotland in 1778-229 years before abolition of the trade. This followed the case of James Knight, a slave who won his freedom when the Court of Session in Edinburgh ruled Scotland could not support slavery. This important precedent didn’t mean all slaves were freed, but did mean no person in Scotland could beheld by law as a slave, which wasn’t the case in England. Slave sales were banned in Scotland although at times Scots had profited from bringing slaves in to the country.

Me: The above does not excuse slavery in any way, yet why try and tear down a city’s image because the inhabitants of which now promote friendliness, and just happen to live in a city that was enriched by an atrocious set of circumstances out with their control? It is akin to calling someone a Nazi; you immediately lose all credibility.

“-Before hosting the Commonwealth Games in 2014, “people make Glasgow” was announced as the city’s new slogan – a celebration of Glasgow’s reputation for friendliness. Yet there is a rift between Glasgow’s public image and history that remains unaddressed: the people who made Glasgow were 18th-century merchants who grew rich on the back of the slave trade. The wealth that built Glasgow came from the enslavement of black people. These atrocities are buried so that the legend of “a fairer Scotland” can survive

Me: You are taking the slogan literally, simply to twist it to fit into your grasping, struggling rhetoric. People make Glasgow does not, in anyway, include those 18th century slave owners of which, only some actually built upon the already existing city; it means the city’s population today, which is famously friendly; whites, Middle Eastern, Asian, English, Polish, and , you guessed it, black people, all living together in relative harmony. These atrocities are Buried, you continue; seriously though? The English fucking slaughtered hundreds of thousands of Scots, yet we are in a political union with them. The world moves on, people and places change, I honestly don’t know if any of my ancestors owned slaves, but I don’t! Would the fact that some in Scotland profited off of the slave trade have any effect on Scotland today, or its outlook? Does it mean that no country on earth that was involved in the slave trade, including many countries in Africa, be allowed to become a fairer and better society as a result? That’s exactly what you are saying, because that is the only argument against civic Scottish nationalism that you can make, because you know full well that what you are saying isn’t actually the case, and that Scotland is a pretty nice place to live, so you cast up slavery, knowing full well that any connection to such, immediately puts any decent observer on the opposite side to that which you seek to bring down. Again, it is nothing more than an evocative way of calling someone a Nazi because their politics are different to your own. It simply stems from a lack of any serious argumentative points or reasonable accusations with which to make your point, a point which should ideally be backed by facts and logic, rather than a smoke screen of distractionary and inflammatory imagery.

Scottish nationalism in its present state rests on a fundamental contradiction: seeking separation from the United Kingdom, and unity within the European Union. If the first minister is to call a second referendum, as Theresa May reportedly fears, she must address why Scotland aims to build new political ties while actively dismantling our longest and most stable relationship with another country. There is a hermetic streak to Scottish nationalism, small and inward-looking despite the SNP’s talk of a global Scotland, that persists beyond reason-”

Me: We seek independence, not just because we are different to the English, but because we have no voice. Because we are not equals. Because we are constantly misrepresented. Because we have rules and laws enforced upon us that we did not choose, and of which were thrust upon us by officials that we did not elect. In the E.U things may be the same, things might be different, yet we will have control over the running of all aspects of our country; and sure, some E.U laws will apply, yet Scots law will be the law of the land, and that is a better prospect than being considered a leech or a drain on England. Small and inward? That is Blood and soil nationalism you’re referring to, not civic nationalism; again, there is a big difference, of which you are deliberately choosing not to recognize.

“-This showed this weekend: a disproportionate amount of nationalist outrage towards Khan came from white SNP supporters. There was a lot of “How dare you call us racist?” and very little reflection on the possibility that Scottish nationalism could actually contain racism. As is often the case, talking about racism became more controversial than racism in itself. Indeed, many nationalists are so deeply invested in the narrative of Scottish exceptionalism that they are unwilling to have a frank conversation about racism in Scottish society

Me: The outrage toward khan came from him likening all Scottish nationalists to racists. I’ am a Scottish nationalist, yet am not racist, so you know; how dare you call me such, seems like an adequate response. Anyway; Yes, Scotland has racists, and yes, a few of them will be SNP voters; no one’s denying that; but the vast majority of those nationalists that turn out for marches and events are not racist in the slightest, which is why Scotland is considered more egalitarian than England; more progressive. Take the EDL for instance; huge membership in England. The SDL on the other hand, well, just google them. Yet google any independence gathering or march or get together, and then count how many black and brown faces you see proudly waving the Saltire among their white counterparts, for there were many for independence groups operating during the lead up to the big day; Women for independence; English for independence; and yes, even Asians for independence. But let’s continue shall we; deeply invested in Scottish exeptionalism, she says? Well, what’s wrong with pointing out that Scotland is more progressive than England? It’s the truth, and if an English person doesn’t like it, then stop voting tory. And in regards to talking frankly about racism; what need is there? Every country has racists of all races. It can never be stamped out, but that doesn’t mean that it gets to negatively effect an inherently non-racists movement, simply because you don’t understand the definition of the very thing your attempting to attack. Oh, and just for the record, hate crimes have increased considerably in England, whilst having dropped considerably in Scotland….just saying.

Making racism invisible does not help those of us who experience it. If you argue there is no racism at all, it shuts down the need to talk about it. But if we don’t talk about racism then the status quo – in which white graduates are more than twice as likely to be hired as black, Asian and minority ethnic graduates in Britain – goes unchallenged

Me: Now you’re just being an idiot, and are clearly trying to use figures concerning all of Britain, in an effort to paint Scottish civic nationalism as inherently racist. The study or poll, or whatever it is your referencing or basing your claim on, is obviously going to skew things, for remember; England has roughly 50,000,000 people, whereas Scotland has roughly 5,300,000 people. Grasping desperately at nonexistent issues is again, your only tactic. Scotland has racists, and again, no one is denying that, but you just won’t drop it as a point, because then, you have nothing left to make such baseless accusations and generalizations.

White SNP supporters and allies have never been subject to racism. Khan, a second-generation Pakistani immigrant, has. And so there is a certain irony to white people with progressive politics rubbishing what an Asian man has to say about racism. Khan knows first-hand how racism works. In the run-up to the mayoral election, his opponent Zac Goldsmith and then-prime minister David Cameron both suggested that London would be unsafe in his hands, playing on Islamophobia in an effort to discredit him

Me: What! Are you fucking serious? Zac Goldsmith and David Cameron are English! Sadiq khan experienced racism in England! Not Scotland; so what does it have to do with anything, other than Scotland and England are historically white nations; just as the countries that compromise the continent of Africa are historically black. Does being a white Scottish man make me racist just on account of fucking existing?

Khan judged it appropriate to draw a comparison between nationalism and prejudice in order to highlight the risk carried by the politics of division. For that I will not condemn him, just as I will not condemn those people of colour who criticise him. Yet, as a black Scottish woman, I, too, fear the politics of division. Zeal for national identity invariably raises questions of who belongs and who is an outsider – even “civic-minded” Scottish nationalism needs a “them” to create a cohesive idea of “us””

Me: Scotland and England are not the same, and that is genetics and culture speaking, not me. We are US, and the English are THEM; that is absolutely true. But what of the English and other minorities in Scotland who are just as patriotic and enthusiastic toward Scottish independence as any Scottish person themselves are? Is an Asian or a black person now not Scottish, simply to reinforce your SJW bullshit? Because that is all this is, just another arsehole casting up the race card at the merest provocation; just sitting at their laptop waiting for someone of one color to disagree with one of a different hue, and BOOM, out you come screaming victim.

But do you know what; do you know what I think? When you continuously make things about race, then you turn people against you, you desensitize them to actual hate crimes; they switch off; roll their eyes and stop listening. You calling Scottish nationalism racist only distracts from real racism. By God, this is Scotland, not fucking 1850’s Alabama. Listen, you’re not battling the KKK here; you’re not being chased down the street by mobs of torch brandishing hill-folk; so get the fuck over yourself, and maybe try not to look for oppression for the sake of feeling self-important! And also, maybe try not attaching your own prejudice onto that of an equally misinformed dickhead, and paint one half of an entire country as racist; for it is exactly that type of broad generalizing that one would consider a major component of those so inclined as you would like to paint Scotland’s nationalists as.

Conclusion

Scotland for the most part is a welcoming and easy going country, with a deservedly warm reputation. You will experience racism in every country on earth, but that does not mean that every person on this earth whom you meet, is themselves, racist. The independence movement is inclusive, for if you support Scottish independence, then you are as Scottish as any of the people standing shoulder to shoulder with you.

“Soar Alba” ” مفت سکاٹ لینڈ” “Бесплатные Шотландии” “무료 스코틀랜드” “tlhab Scotland” “Free Scotland”

Cinead MacAlpin.

Advertisements