Sunday 8 April 2012

I am a Nat so...

Whatever else may be said of Scotland on Sunday Deputy Editor, Kenny Farquharson, it is unlikely that he will ever be accused of underthinking things.

At first glance, his somewhat rambling piece in today's edition (It’s the ‘I’m not a Nat but . . .’ voters who could tip independence scales) seems to make a bit of a laborious traipse of coming to the rather obvious and superficial conclusion that the outcome of the referendum on Scotland's constitutional future will be decided, not by committed nationalists nor fervent unionists, but by the large swathe of the voting population which falls into neither of these dichotomous camps.

But the journey is not entirely wasted. As he meanders towards this trivial observation Mr Farquharson does have a couple of things to say which provoke a response. For example, his passing comments on James Kelman's recent contribution to the independence debate display a not entirely impartial reading of the writer's comments. While Kelman's criticism of the SNP's attitude to the monarchy is certainly outspoken, it would surely be overstating things to characterise it as a "vicious attack". But that's jist oor Kenny. And he is closer to the mark when he talks of Kelman's "withering condemnation of nationalism". Although he might have noted that this is a regrettably sweeping generalisation which curiously refers to "any form" of nationalism without acknowledging the hugely significant differences between, for example, ethnic and civic nationalism.

But his reading of Kelman's intervention aside, there were a couple of points in Mr Farquharson's piece which caused me to touch the brake pedal. The first was this paragraph,
There seems to be little appreciation in the anti-indy camp that this contest is all about Scotland. It is not about Scots v Brits, it is all about Scots. More specifically, it is about what kind of Scots we want to be. The anti-indy parties shy away from this approach because they think it is a battle they cannot win. The reductive phrase they have for this is that “you can’t out-nat the Nats”. Frankly, this is one of the most depressing phrases in Scottish political discourse. It fails to appreciate that the anti-indy argument can be couched successfully in terms of Scottish values; that people can be asked “what kind of Scot do you want to be?” and they can answer “the kind that prizes co-operation, solidarity, diversity and common endeavour with our nearest neighbours over the idea of going it alone”. Just as you don’t have to be a Nationalist to vote for independence, you don’t have to be a Unionist to vote against it.

One might wish that professional journalists would leave Twitterisms such as "indy" where they belong. But that's maybe just me. Moving on...

The suggestion of a lack of awareness or understanding in the anti-independence camp (See how I did that?) is hardly controversial. Practically the first phrase that occurs as one seeks to describe the anti-independence campaign is "out of touch". But what of the two claims which follow? Bear with me as I take them out of sequence and deal first with the assertion that "it is about what kind of Scots we want to be". Is it?

I am a "Nat" so I feel I can speak to this point. And, for me at least, the debate is not at all about what kind of "Scots" we want to be. The suggestion appears to be that there is, at least in the perception of some, a "right kind" of Scot. And, by implication, a "wrong kind". This seems to flirt with a form of national or (heaven forfend!) ethnic elitism that is as much anathema to me as it would surely be to James Kelman.

It is not about what kind of Scots we want to be, but what kind of Scotland we wish to create. And that is a Scotland which will embrace all kinds of Scots.

In the light of this, does the claim that "it is not about Scots v Brits" display any better understanding than can be found in the anti-independence camp? Surely the point is that ever more people in Scotland are looking at the increasingly divergent politics of Scotland and Britain/England and growing more and more dubious about the possibility of creating the kind of Scotland they want within the union.

We want a Scotland that "prizes co-operation, solidarity, diversity and common endeavour". But while Kenny Farquharson maintains that these values mitigate against independence the truth is that the independence movement is driven by utter and widespread despair of such values ever finding adequate expression within the union.

And where does Mr Farquharson look for a force that might overcome this despair? In a truly Olympian triumph of hope over experience he turns to the British Labour Party and Ed Miliband. In what appears to be his own personal reprise of the denial and delusion that has suffused Labour in Scotland since 2007, he imagines the answer to be a return to the old and comprehensively discredited mantra that urged us to vote Labour to "keep the Tories out". Aye right, Kenny!

Quite apart from the wholly unrealistic prospect of Labour's redemption, at least in the foreseeable future, the Scotland to which we aspire is not one defined merely by an absence of Tories. It is not a Scotland free from anything so much as a Scotland free for something. Free for a purpose. Our own purpose.

I am a "Nat". So I know.

1 comment:

  1. I am not a nat,very good many are not.But I would say seeking independence you do not have to be a nationalist,just a freedom seeker.