I wonder if it would have made any difference. If Nicola Sturgeon was able to go back in time and give the party a different name, what would change? The word ‘National’ in Scottish National Party is only problematic because of the negative associations attached to it by the SNP’s opponents. Changing the party’s name would do nothing to alter the behaviour of those who seek to damage its reputation and undermine its legitimacy. They would simply find a way to hang negative associations on the new name.
The only way one might hope to foil malicious propagandists would be to devise a name that is totally bland and meaningless. But, supposing such a perfectly vapid title could be contrived, wouldn’t it simply give the party’s enemies a blank sheet on which to inscribe their calumnies?
It’s not just the name. Everything any SNP politician or spokesperson says is liable to be misrepresented by the British parties and the British media. How often have you seen comments on social media complaining that so-and-so has said something which ‘gives our opponents ammunition’. The problem with that is that it’s pretty much impossible to say anything that doesn’t lend itself to malevolent misrepresentation by persons who are sufficiently unprincipled and proficient in the ‘black arts’.
Arguably, the most pernicious form of censorship is self-censorship. By which I mean, not the obvious need to frame statements with care to ensure that they convey the intended message, but that insidious pressure which can allow a third party to insinuate themselves into the process of formulating statements. There is a huge difference between thinking before you speak and pandering to opponents by censoring what you say.
I understand what Nicola Sturgeon is saying. I also understand that what she says will be twisted and spun by the British parties and their accomplices in the media. Some will doubtless attempt to portray the First Minister’s remarks as acknowledging that the word ‘National’ really does denote the things that the SNP’s opponents say it does. Which rather proves my point about it not being safe to say anything. It’s not even safe to say nothing!
Where Ms Sturgeon and I differ is in the way we perceive the issue of the ‘National’ bit of the SNP’s name. While she regards the word itself as the problem, I maintain that the problem lies in the misrepresentation of the word and the inadequacy of efforts to counter this misrepresentation.
I have no objects at all to being labelled a ‘nationalist’. I am untroubled by the label because I refuse to accept any definition of it other than my own. I decide what my politics are. Nobody else has the authority or the ability to tell me what I think. I’m not about to attempt to set out my entire political philosophy here. Suffice it to say that those who use the term ‘nationalist’ as an insult aren’t referring to my politics at all, but to something concocted from their own prejudices.
Similarly, I find no problem with the word ‘National’ on my SNP membership card. On the contrary, I take some pride in being associated with a political party that is ‘National’ in the sense of seeking to represent the whole nation of Scotland rather than some particular sector, interest or ideology. I am proud to be part of a movement which aspires to serve all of Scotland’s people, without qualification.
Instead of fretting about the party’s name and what others make of it, let’s work harder to inform people what we mean when we talk about the Scottish National Party.Views: 3552
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