During the independence debate, I found it strange how Scottish nationalism was portrayed in the left-wing press. It was as if it were a force that was unimpeachable; the good guys railing against the bad. The unionist debate was always put forward in a way that was meant to emphasise what they saw as the positive reasons for the continuing existence of Scotland in the United Kingdom (keeping the Tories from eternal power) and downplaying the positive reasons for independence – namely, self-determination as an inalienable right.
The problem came down to the Left having conflicts of interest internally in regards to nationalism as a repressive force v self-determination of peoples. So that’s why Kosovo gaining independence is good, but English nationalism is bad. One is seen as repressed people’s gaining a voice; the other, a malevolent force seeking power over smaller nations and minority interests. In some instances, this is understandable – sometimes groups of people are repressed and persecuted, and them seeking to self-govern is not only a positive but a necessity. Kosovo is a good instance of this, as it happens.
However, the Scots are not repressed or under-represented, either in a basic democratic way or at an executive level. Of the twenty-one prime ministers Britain has had over the last century, five were born in Scotland. There has been a Scot in one of the two main positions within the Treasury consistently for the past seventeen years. None of these are in any way negative things, incidentally. In fact, incidental is the exact right term to use here; the fact that they were Scottish has no content, other than to further inform you that the Scots have not been shut out of the corridors of power.
Thus I believe the idea of Scottish nationalism being somehow squeaky clean while English nationalism is racist and awful to be a false premise. Not because English nationalism is a good thing, but because nationalism, in regards to any nation, is always suspect in my opinion.
Nationalism is rarely, if ever, a benign force. It is malevolent by nature, seeking to right wrongs, supposed or otherwise. Sometimes there are wrongs that need to be righted, and nationalism as a temporary uniting force becomes needed. The problem then comes once self-determination has been achieved, as history demonstrates. Nationalism has a tendency to hang around and then turn on those not considered part of the group that fought for its newly gained independence. The cycle of abuse continues. The dominated become the dominators.
I want to add here that this is not an argument against Scottish independence per se; if the Scots want their own country and democratically choose such a path, then fair enough. But in the meantime I’m tired of nationalism of any stripe being given a pass by those who should be a lot more vigilant towards such things.