Daily Archives: April 11, 2015

Good democratic arguments are hidden in phrases that look like Scottish bigotry – so do it right or not at all

“Journalists ‘abused over nationality’ at SNP rally” http://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/top-stories/journalists-abused-over-nationality-at-snp-rally-1-3743120

Some people are bigots or racists. Some people are advocates of new forms of democracy. Somewhere in between are people who use phrases that they think refer to democracy but just come across as bitter, bigoted or racist.

This is a roundabout way to describe people who complain that too much of Scottish politics is dominated by non-Scots or by London. Nationality is a red-herring and anyone who suggests that non-Scots are inferior to Scots is a fool. A lazy reference to the ‘London elite’ is also a problem, since it is too close to arguments (perhaps more pronounced in the US) which use such phrases as euphemisms for Jewish.

Yet, for some people, struggling to get out of these phrases are two worthwhile arguments.

First, people may be trying to argue that reporters, mainly based in London, don’t spend enough time paying attention to Scottish politics to know what is going on. They see Scottish politics through a particular lens, built on examining the ‘high politics’ of the UK’s capital city and political centre. Only more local journalists, who have done their time in Scotland, will understand its nuances. This is not just a Scottish/ English point: you will find many of the same arguments about regions in England not covered well by politicians and journalists who make whistle stop tours without getting a sense of the place they are in.

Second, people may be trying to argue that ‘London’ politicians do not represent them because they exist in a ‘Westminster bubble’. Again, a lot of this argument resonates across the UK, summed up in broad ‘political class’ arguments that politicians are corrupt, in politics for themselves, and have no experience of the real world. In Scotland, you might build on that argument by talking about the need for political reform when you pursue constitutional change.

The problem is, unless you make this argument carefully and get it right, without just saying ‘you’re not Scottish’ or ‘fuck off London’, people won’t be able to tell if you are a righteous democratic reformer or a shameful bigot.  It’s best to do it right or not at all.

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