Arc of Prosperity

Scottish Independence within the EU – with a Scandinavian Slant

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Darling, I am NOT an ethnic nationalist!

Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling
Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling by Downing Street, on Flickr.
Like many other people I feel offended by the infamous Alistair Darling interview:

NS: Salmond has successfully redefined the SNP as [representing] a civic nationalism . . .

Darling: Which it isn’t . . .

NS: But that’s what he says it is. Why do you say it isn’t? What is it? Blood and soil nationalism?

Darling: At heart . . . [inaudible mumble] If you ask any nationalist, ‘Are there any circumstances in which you would not vote to be independent?’ they would say the answer has got to be no. It is about how people define themselves through their national identity.

It’s clear the inaudible mumble wasn’t a clear No, so he clearly agreed with the interviewer’s Blut und Boden provocation.

This is outrageous! I’ve been fighting ethnic nationalism all my life, I’m an internationalist. I’m even an Esperantist, for crying out loud!

I’m also a proud member of the Scottish National Party. The party that calls itself “National”, not “Nationalist”. As I’ve argued before, we independence campaigners should really have been called sovereigntists (or independentistas as suggested by Wee Ginger Dug), not nationalists, but that’s just a name. A rose by any other name would smell as sweet, as Shakespeare wrote.

In Scotland the word “nationalist” has come to mean “a member of the SNP” or even “a Yes campaigner”. I don’t have a problem with this, and I’m happy to call myself a nationalist in a Scottish context. However, outwith Scotland the word has the wrong connotations. This was why Angus Robertson, leader of the SNP group in Westminster, felt compelled to say the following in an interview with an Austrian newspaper:

Wir Schotten sind offene, freundliche Menschen, wir sind Weltbürger — von daher ärgert mich die deutsche Übersetzung meiner Partei: Wir sind keine Nationalisten. [We Scots are open, friendly people, we are citizens of the world — because of this the German translation of my party annoys me: We are not nationalists.]

I agree with Angus Robertson. In some contexts it’s useful to talk about civic nationalism (which Wikipedia defines as “a kind of nationalism identified by political philosophers who believe in a non-xenophobic form of nationalism compatible with values of freedom, tolerance, equality, and individual rights”), and I’m very happy to identify myself as a civic nationalist. However, if you’re talking to somebody who doesn’t really know about civic nationalism and assumes nationalism means ethnic nationalism, it’s better to say you’re not a nationalist.

Finally, I feel I should answer Darling’s question (‘Are there any circumstances in which you would not vote to be independent?’). Yes, generally speaking — I think there are countries that would benefit from forming a union with a neighbouring country. However, the United Kingdom has so many flaws that I find it hard to think of anything the No campaign could say that would make me vote against independence. The union might have served a purpose during the age of imperialism, but these days it’s better to be an independent country. Even if there was no oil left and Scotland couldn’t remain the EU, I believe an independent Scotland would be much better at responding to the needs of its citizens than a corrupt and remote government in Westminster.

My national identity is complex. I guess you could try to define me as Scottish-Danish-German-Esperantist-European with a few sprinkles of Georgian and Basque, but it’s really a bit complicated. It’s not how I define myself, and it’s not the reason I’m voting Yes.

Alistair Darling should feel ashamed of himself. There are plenty of neo-fascist movements appearing all over Europe at moment that he could spend his time fighting. Ethnic nationalism is a horrible ideology, and applying that term to an anti-xenophobic party that welcomes foreigners like me with open arms is insulting, demeaning, harmful and evil. We are not amused.

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