Scottish nationalism

Philip Ferguson plf13 at
Wed Jan 24 18:25:19 MST 2001

I thought Anthony's comments (on Digest 3139) were spot on.

>From my seat - admittedly far removed from Scotland and the rest of the
>British Isles - Scottish nationalism seems like a dead end reaction to the
>collapse of the Soviet Stalinist version of socialism. I.e if bigger isn't
>better, maybe smaller is better.
>To me it seems that Scotland has been losing - rather than increasing - the
>classic attributes of a nation since around the time of 1600.
>The Scottish variant of Gaelic is not the language of the common people,
>English is (even if it is not spoken with 'received pronunciation').
>Scottish economy is not seperate and independent from British economy. I
>guess Presbyterianism is the dominant variant of Protestantism still in
>Scotland, but that is a small twig to hang a nation on. Are the traditional
>clans of 400 years ago thriving?
>Do the people of Scotland have a seperate historical identity that truly
>sets them apart from Great Britain? Or is Scottish nationalism simply a
>regionalistic protest against the economic debvastation of old line
>industries imposed on Great Britain in the last decades of the twentiteth
>I think the question is relevant not just to Scotland, but to other parts
>of the world where nationalisms of a similar sort arose in the 80's and 90's.

A good indication of the severe problems with Scottish nationalism,
including in the form of its most left-wing practictioners, is the post by
Donald.  Much of this is a fairly crude attack on the English working class
which, in fact, is really little different from the Scottish working class.

Donald says this:

>Now the Scottish Nationalists, like the Irish and Welsh do not believe they
>are superior to anyone else. Unlike the British Nationalists they do not
>wish to rule anyone else.

But who are the British nationalists?  Scotland is not ruled by 'Britain'
anymore than England is.  Britain is an imperialist power which has robbed
and plundered the world.  Scotland, like England, has been part of that the
entire time the British Empire existed, and continues to be.

>Lenin described the differences of the Nationalism
>of the Oppressed from the Nationalism of the Oppressor.

Yes indeed he did.  And I can't help thinking that Lenin would be rather
amused at the notion that the Scottish are 'oppressed' like the
Palestinians, the Kurds, the Irish, people of colour in the imperialist
countries etc.

On the other hand, he might be just plain pissed off and see it as a
chauvinist insult to people who really are nationally and/or racially

>The British left
>have little to say about their own British nationalism and the imperialism
>of their own working class. Just look at the reputation of their soccer

Is Donald seriously suggesting that Scottish workers do not share the same
national chauvinist attitudes as many English workers.  I don't recall
Scottish workers being any more in favour of black migrant workers than
white English workers.

And when it comes to the chauvinist views of soccer fans, well you'd be
hard-pressed to show that English fans were any more chauvinist than
Glasgow Rangers fans.  Scottish soccer is awash with national chauvinism
and religious bigotry/sectarianism, primarily directed at the Irish and at

>Chauvinism and imperialism is not just confined to sport and their
>sports commentators. The English WC have still to purge themselves of their
>imperialist past, where they had a few gains at the expense of others in the
>Evil Empire.

Er, the spoils of imperialism weren't just doled out in England.  They were
doled out in *Britain*, including Scotland.  If workers in Britain
benefited from imperialism, Scottish workers benefited every bit as much as
English workers.  Needless to say, where the British Evil Empire was doing
its work, there were to be found plenty of Scottish regiments,
administrators and plunderers.

And wasn't it a Scottish king, James, who went down to London in 1603 and
became king of England too, as James 1, and started the Stuart dynasty atop
the british throne.  I can hardly imagine the English ruling class inviting
the leader of an *actually* oppressed nation - as opposed to a *pretend*
oppressed nation - to come and rule them.

Unlike ireland, whose growth (as Engels noted) was stunted and even thrown
back by British rule, Scottish capitalism benefited from the British Empire
and Scotland was a willing participant in, and beenficiary of, that Empire.
I don't think it's any surprise that the first great British figure of
political economy was Scottish - Adam Smith.  Such a figure could not have
been Irish, because Irish capitalism was held back massively by British
(primarily Scottish-English) rule.

>Every nation has right to its own natural resources, unless of course they
>are ruled by Brits. Scotland, apart from Nigeria, is the only nation to have
>discovered oil and have been poorer for it. North Sea oil is in Norwegian
>and Scottish waters. Does England want Norwegian as well as Arab oil? The
>money has been squandered to pay off  SE England's overheated and bloated,
>congested, constipated, over centralised and subsidised, economy.

This constant reference to 'Brits' is simply plundered from Irish
republicanism.  It seems that 'radical' Scottish nationalists think that if
they nick a term from a genuine oppressed people and liberation struggle,
it somehow gives their own cause more legitimacy.

Considering the leading role Scotland played in the oppression of Ireland,
not to mention the rest of the British Empire, this is a bit rich.

It also reminds me of people in southern US states attacking 'Yankees', as
if Texas is oppressed by Massachussets.

>The Labour Movement in Scotland was founded on Home Rule all Round as one of
>its main planks. The radical, republican founders of the SLP, such as RB
>Cunninghame Graham and Doctor Clarke. left to found the Scottish Party in

And don't forget that most heroic of leaders of the heroic and bonny
struggle for Scottish 'liberation', Bonnie Prince Charlie.

>Scottish Industry did not just run down in Thatcher's rule, but has been
>part of a longer trend. As a branch economy Scottish factories closed to
>save English factories, often moving South, with no solidarity action from
>the English WC and Tame Unions.

This process goes both ways.  I was a production worker in a Hitachi
factory in outer west London in 1983-5.  The factory closed and moved to
Wales and I was made redundant (with zero redundancy pay).  This hardly
proves that Wales oppresses England and that factories were deliberately
moved from England to create jobs in Wales.

In any case, Scotland is about as much a 'branch economy' as England is.
They are both component parts of the British national economy.  The English
working class was as decimated by the closure of industries as Scotland
was.  The notion that Scottish factories were closed so English factories
could stay open bears no relation to reality.

Also, further in relation to Donald's repeated attacks on the tame unions
and imperialist working class in England showing no solidarity etc - this
brings to mind the several hundred thousand Scottish plebs who happily
hopped over to Ireland to benefit from the Ulster Plantation and grabbed
the land that the native Irish had just been bloodily driven off in the
seventeenth century.  Clearly, chauvinism and participating in colonial
oppression and theft is not restricted to the plebs south of the Hadrian's

The working class in England and in Scotland are, neither one, any more
progressive or reactionary than the other.  Both are parts of the working
class of an imperialist power, with all the negatives and positives that

The attempts by Scottish nationalists to prettify the colonial/imperial
rcord of Scotland and make out it is all the English (or the 'Brits') is a
lousy and dishonest attempt to rewrite history.

>As for Irrelevancy? Who has ever heard of
>the British Nationalist "left" in any meaningful sense?

When the women's liberation movement was at its height, along came "men's
liberation" - the ultimate in me-tooism.  It even nicked a whole bunch of
categories from the women's liberation movement and tried to make it look
as if men were 'oppressed' and discriminated against.  Scottish nationalism
seems to be one of the new forms of me-tooism.

Its real significance, however, is that it's a form of regionalism that
makes as much sense as Yorkshire 'nationalism' or California 'nationalism'.
Indeed, Yorkshire could probably make out a better case for being oppressed
as part of Britain than what Scotland can.

Philip Ferguson

"Don't Dream It - Extreme It" (Lana Coc Kroft)

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