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Wednesday, 8 May 2013

It is wrong to pull debate to the ultra-right

In the course of the independence discussion over the past few weeks, Ian Smart’s equating racism and anti-englishness with the Yes campaign has to be a new low.
Ian Smart's outburst on twitter seemed to be that of a blogger trying to seem relevant in order to stay in the limelight; relevance could only be the recent English Council election victories of the anti-immigration UKIP party – a party with little or no support in Scotland.
Smart admitted he thought carefully about his use of his racist language in the midst of a discussion about independence and when on television last night (Scotland Tonight 7/5/13) refused to apologise for his use of the pejorative at best, term “Paki.”  He made no mention of the fact he thought that 100 years of Tory rule was better than some kind of resultant racist lashing out after a yes vote next year.
Quite rightly, on the same programme, Woman for Independence campaigner, Natalie McGarry outlined the strange interventions of Lord McConnell in this discussion. The focus of the discussion seemed to be being pulled by the likes of Lord McConnell and Smart, dangerously towards a spurious link between  anti-englishness and general racism with the Yes campaign. It would be wrong for me to say these are not a problem in Scotland, they clearly are – but only from the Yes campaign side?
And then there are the strange allegiances of the Scottish Labour Party that are coming to light.  Scottish MP Jim Murphy, the Shadow Secretary of State for Defence, and prominent No campaigner through the “Better Together” political coalition that includes the Labour Party, Liberal Democrats and Tories, along with 10 other Labour MP’s, shares a place on the “Advisory Council” on the right wing think-tank, the Henry Jackson Society, with Tories and Liberal Democrats.  The Associate Director of the Henry Jackson Society is a media pundit called Douglas Murray, a man who has voiced his dislike of the Scottish Parliament, and who has recently been defending UKIP’s immigration stance. 
Murray has said, “We long ago reached the point where the only thing white Britons can do is to remain silent about the change in their country. Ignored for a generation, they are expected to get on, silently but happily, with abolishing themselves, accepting the knocks and respecting the loss of their country. ‘Get over it. It’s nothing new. You’re terrible. You’re nothing’.” 
Is this representative of those in the Think Tank? Is this really the territory the Labour Party should be trying to occupy?  Is this the territory both Lord McConnell and Ian Smart tried to pull the Scottish Independence discussion towards on Monday night?
Smart has been throwing the term, “ethnic nationalism” around cyberspace.  This “Britnat” seems to feel the only dangerous and degrading ethnic nationalism is that of the hate filled “cybernat.”
As a northern Irish immigrant to Scotland, one with a community and family background in Northern Irish unionism, but as someone who is a pro-independence republican, I would refute that.   The “ethnic nationalism” of the ‘pro-Orangeman’ who spat at my feet and sang the sash in my face while I was recently campaigning for YES on the main street of a middle class village, and being  told on the same day, in the same place, in the politest terms by blue haired pearl necked sisters, to “go back to where you came from,” are two examples of my twenty year, mostly positive, experience of living in Scotland.
Are Murray and Smart right – should we on one hand worry about “ethnic scots and Britons” being swamped by outsiders such as me from Ireland and Aamer Anwar?  Anwar also experienced this hatred from “ethnic nationalists.”  In a tweet today, in a conversation about racism and anti-englishness in the independence campaign he said,  “When I’ve been abused, spat at, kicked, hit, teeth smashed out, sworn at; you are right, I did not ask for #indyref opinion.”
There have been calls for the discussion around independence to raise its game.  I would agree.  Those in the no camp, in particular the Labour Party hacks who have decided to equate “ethnic nationalism” with the Yes campaign, need to think again, look within and pull back from the discourse those, like Murray and UKIP would like us to follow. 
Scottish politics has not, thus far, swung towards the scapegoating UKIP and BNP politics of hatred.  We should be asking why Murray, Smart and even McConnell and Murphy seem to wish it to do so?

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