The ugly face of British Nationalism

Yesterday, I received a number of messages drawing my attention to Lord Frost’s rant in the Telegraph and asking if I would be commenting on it. I was already aware of the article. It was difficult to avoid given the unfavourable attention it was getting from the independence movement. Given that Yes activists make up the bulk of my numerous followers, friends and contacts on social media, I was bound to see a lot of comments on my various timelines.

To be honest, I didn’t pay much attention. I didn’t read the article. I still haven’t read it. I didn’t even have to read Laura Webster’s report in The National (Lord Frost brands Scottish independence ‘morally wrong’, calls for devolution to ‘evolve back’ [£]) to know what Lord Frost had to say. It could be argued that I knew what he was going to say ten years before he said it. The following is from an article originally published in June 2012, in which I speculated on the likely implications of a No vote in the 2014 referendum.

The British political parties will see an opportunity to play to some of the baser prejudices of “Middle England”, with proposals to restrict “Scottish” influence at Westminster. In many cases there will be a veiled but nonetheless discernible ethnic flavour to much of this.

The Barnett Formula will be scrapped in favour of a block grant fully under the control of the UK Chancellor. The Scottish Government will be put in a budgetary stranglehold that will totally cripple its capacity to pursue progressive policies distinct from those being imposed on the rest of the UK. With the power of the administration thus undermined, the UK Government will increasingly find excuses to intervene, urged on by the British parties in Scotland. Devolution will be rolled back with a new Scotland Act.

Efforts will be made to “adjust” the electoral system in Scotland so as to ensure that Holyrood is permanently dominated by British political parties. There will be calls from some quarters for the SNP to be banned.

The Scotland Office will be given a much bigger role with scrutiny and oversight powers giving it effective control over much of the work of the Scottish Parliament – even to the extent of significantly expanded veto powers for the Secretary of State.

Not hitting the bullseye with every shot. I am not claiming to be a clairvoyant. But I reckon I might give Nostradamus a run for his money. It’s not the detail that matters but the overall tone of my warning. It’s the sense of the thing that I got right. I don’t think anybody could sensibly claim that I failed to capture the essence of Lord Frost’s ‘thinking’ a decade before he deposited his ideas for dealing with the ‘Scottish problem’ on the pages of The Telegraph. Which is precisely the toilet where such ideas belong.

Maybe I’m some kind of genius of prognostication. Perhaps I have the power of prediction. It could be that I am an extraordinarily brilliant political analyst. Or it could be that I was just willing to see the rather obvious portents and was ready to write about them. It really didn’t take a genius to see what was coming if we failed to seize the opportunity offered in 2014. But we weren’t supposed to speak of such things. We were only supposed to offer shining visions of what independent Scotland could be like. Dystopian imaginings of Scotland’s future as the annexed territory of England-as-Britain were very much frowned upon.

Lord Frost’s article held little interest for me because from the perspective of a political realist it’s all old news. If his diatribe is notable at all it is only for being a more explicit expression of what the British state has always intended for Scotland. In a very real sense, Lord Frost is doing no more than summing up what the Union is all about. He is merely being frank about the Union’s purpose. He is being honest. And that is what we should find highly suspicious, if not profoundly ominous. Why is this minor figure in the dire panoply of the British political elite being permitted ─ or prompted ─ to spill the beans on the British Nationalist agenda in this way? We should not suppose this to be an impromptu outburst from some nonentity just looking to get his name in the papers. Frost may rank low in the hierarchy of the British establishment, but his role in the Brexit fiasco shows him to be a loyal and obedient servant of the British ruling elites. He takes instructions and he follows them. He has been told to fly a big British Nationalist kite.

Frost’s article is best regarded as preparing the ground for what is to follow. He is the fanatic who makes the mere extremist seem reasonable by comparison. When Truss (or whoever) announces their plans to deal with the ‘Scottish problem’ they will fall short of Frost’s ideas just enough that the British media can present them as ‘moderate’. We are supposed to be relieved that things are not as bad as expected. British Nationalists will be able to complain that Truss (or whoever) is being too reasonable. We’re supposed to think ourselves fortunate. We’ve dodged a bullet. We shouldn’t complain about being hit by a train.

Considerably more interesting than Lord Frost’s bombast is Nicola Sturgeon’s reaction.

The First Minister says: “Make no mistake, the Tories are coming for devolution.” Well, DUH! This is no surprise to some of us, First Minister. Some of us recognised this fact many years ago. As I wrote in July 2019,

Please don’t say you weren’t warned. Some of us have been warning about this since before the 2014 referendum. We recognised that the fate of Scotland’s Parliament was sealed in 2007 when, despite all the precautions to ensure that it would never happen, the British parties lost control of Holyrood. When, in 2011, the Scottish electorate broke the system that was supposed to keep the Scottish Parliament on a tight British leash, its fate was confirmed beyond any hope of reprieve.

The redcoats are coming! They’re wearing grey suits!

Given that it didn’t take a genius to see what was coming, we are entitled to asked why nothing was done to prevent it. Perhaps if Nicola Sturgeon had spoken out earlier about what was in store for Scotland, we would not now be mere months away from the kind of action Lord Frost describes. Had Sturgeon acted seven years ago on the basis of what she must have been aware was intended then Scotland surely would not be in the predicament we now find ourselves ─ with our democracy and our identity as a nation in real and imminent jeopardy.

Why, even now with the beast of British nationalism already at Scotland’s throat, is our First Minister showing no sign of being ready or willing to respond appropriately to the threat? Why is she still clinging to the hope that Scotland’s independence might be restored by a process that is crucially dependent on the consent and cooperation of the British state? Why does she still appear to imagine there might be a route to independence which avoids confrontation with the British state?

Why is she only now, and in such mild terms, acknowledging the ugly face of British Nationalism?

Lord Frost isn’t the new face of British Nationalism. He just reveals the ugliness that was always there. The ugliness that was always there to be seen by those willing to look. Why has the SNP/1scottish Government so signally failed to throw a light on the ugliness of British Nationalism so that everyone in Scotland might see?

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10 thoughts on “The ugly face of British Nationalism

  1. You were, and are, right.

    The Scottish people have been, and are being, conditioned whilst the British ‘solution’ to the Scottish ‘question’ has been, and is being, normalised.

    The First Minister has been, and is being, deified by her blindly loyal brigade of supporters whilst the British deficate upon the Scottish people.

    The leaders of the party of Independence, and their mouthpieces in The National, urge us to be cautious, to keep the heid, to keep the faith and to adhere to somebody’s idea of ‘campaign conduct code’.

    They fiddle while we get fiddled.

    Our political representatives might claim to be on their holidays. For me, during Scotland’s emergency, they are merely absent without leave.

    Liked by 9 people

  2. The only reason for delay in the face of a clear and present danger is a desire for the continuation of the SNP in perpetuity. Once all the sceptics and naysayers have been converted to progressive politics, like the arrival of Christmas Day, we’ll all wake up independent, without a cross word ever being uttered and there’ll be presents too.

    There’s one important difference compared to 10 years ago. Middle England is getting squeezed and this is only the beginning. Already there is criticism that the energy crisis is caused by a failure to issue more exploration licences in the North Sea and a rejection of nuclear power. When Liz Truss’ popularity starts to wane, somebody will decide that the uppity Scots will need to be put in their place and taught a lesson. Nobody in the current political class has the power to stop it and many might be tempted by it. However it’s Truss’ successor we should be worried about.

    Liked by 5 people

  3. We are now constantly living with threats from the Imperial power because we have dared raise our voices. Postcolonial theory tells us that the national party leaders become petrified and motionless, much as we see. However, the people at last begin to better understand their ‘condition’, and the relationship between colonizer and colonized. As Albert Memmi wrote:

    “every colonial nation carries the seeds of fascist temptation in its bosom. What is fascism, if not a regime of oppression for the benefit of a few? The entire administrative and political machinery of a colony has no other goal.”

    Liked by 6 people

  4. No particular reasons Peter , but I got out the habit of reading your work for a while there – maybe simply down to time constraints , I work full-time and ( despite appearances ! ) have other interests …mostly music . Glad I’ve got back to reading your blog ; it’s consistently excellent n * on the money *

    Liked by 3 people

  5. I cannot disagree with a single word – great article. There is currently no effective government in the UK. As the lead independence party, is/are the SNP going to do anything with this valuable opportunity? If not prepared to do anything, perhaps say something meaningful with a show of anger and emotion? Anything is better than the dull flat waffle which is trying to put us in a stupor for the past 8 years.

    Liked by 3 people

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