Is the Scottish National Anthem a symbol of fascism and intolerance?
What about the Scottish National Health Service? Is it a racist organisation?
Are the Scottish National Sheepdog trials reserved for dugs who bark in a Scottish accent?
All of the above questions are ridiculous. Nobody is suggesting any of the entities listed are far-right, racist, intolerant or in any way fascist just because they have the word ‘National’ in their official name.
There is though one organisation for which having the word ‘National’ in its name creates problems. I am of course referring to the Scottish National Party – the SNP. The issue was raised at the Edinburgh Book Festival when Nicola Sturgeon told an audience she’d rather the SNP had been named differently.
The First Minister was answering a question from Turkish author Elif Shafak who expressed concerns about ‘Nationalism’ based on her own experiences. The short exchange can be seen below.
The answer to Elif Shafak’s question and her concerns is mature and considered. Nicola Sturgeon is frank and open about the problems her party faces as a result of the very many malicious mischaracterisations of its name by Unionists and their media allies. Her honesty was picked up by BBC Scotland correspondent Nick Eardley who produced the following item for Reporting Scotland.
Before we examine Eardley’s news report, I want to draw attention to a short segment from that report. I’ve isolated the clip below.
The footage has been carefully manipulated by Reporting Scotland. The camera cuts away to Nicola Sturgeon at the moment Elif Shafak describes nationalism as ugly. But this wasn’t the original clip. Below is the original BBC footage of Elif Shafak asking the question.
The footage doesn’t cut away to Nicola Sturgeon at the point suggested by Reporting Scotland. The cut-away happens a few moments later. There’s no doubt that someone at BBC Scotland deliberately edited the footage to cut to Nicola Sturgeon at the moment Elif Shafak says “I’ve seen how ugly it can get”. The viewer is being led.
But let’s take a look at Nick Eardley’s report in the round.
The first thing we see in the item is a crowd of colourful and happy Yes supporters waving flags. These people are described by Eardley as ‘Nationalists’. The question has to be asked why?
Not everyone who voted Yes in the 2014 independence referendum accepts the label ‘Nationalist’ precisely because of the negative connotations attached to the word. Indeed many people don’t even consider voting Yes to have been anything to do with nationalism at all. Yet here we have a BBC Scotland reporter asserting that they are indeed all nationalists.
The second point to note is how Eardley paraphrases Nicola Sturgeon’s comments to Elif Shafak:
“Nationalists, Nicola Sturgeon says, who prided themselves in being inclusive. Fundamentally different, she believes, from other nationalist movements.”
The Yes movement was not a nationalist movement. Nicola Sturgeon didn’t refer to those who were part of it as ‘Nationalists’, she said those of us who support Scottish independence couldn’t be further removed from what Elif Shafak recognised as ‘Nationalism’. Eardley’s use of the “she believes” qualifier is typical of BBC Scotland reporters who portray demonstrable fact as somehow questionable argument. Again the viewer is being invited to conclude that there are genuine doubts relating to the Yes movement’s inclusiveness and tolerance.
The viewer is then presented with images of these so-called “other nationalist movements” which included the recent violent clashes in Charlottesville in the USA which left one person dead and a pro-Erdogan rally in Turkey which has been embroiled in a near civil war following a failed coup attempt.
But the so-called ‘other nationalist movements’ aren’t nationalist movements at all. The violence in Charlottesville was caused by far-right White Supremacists. The term ‘White Nationalists’ was apparently what they tried to dub themselves.
Indeed there was significant anger in Scotland when the BBC used the term ‘nationalists’ to describe these American Nazis. Below is a news bulletin broadcast by Radio Scotland the day after violence erupted in the American town.
The use of the situation in Turkey is rather bizarre. The criticisms of Erdogan centre on the erosion of human rights by his increasingly authoritarian regime and not on any apparent ‘nationalism’. Indeed Erdogan’s government is known more for its conservative Islamic roots than any perceived nationalism.
By presenting a White Supremacist riot and the situation with Turkey as examples of ‘Nationalism’ Eardley invites the same lazy and erroneous comparisons with Scotland’s independence movement that Nicola Sturgeon flagged up.
The Reporting Scotland item was superficial and shallow. The malicious ‘ugly’ edit and the subtle misrepresentation of what Nicola Sturgeon actually said fed the Unionist inspired myth that Scotland’s independence movement is ‘Nationalist’ in the darkest meaning of the word.
British Unionist politicians have repeatedly mis-named the Scottish National Party as the Scottish Nationalist Party in a blatant attempt at demonising the civic nationalism that lies at the SNP heart.
The irony of course is that it is British Nationalism that comes closest to the ugly nationalism feared by Elif Shafak. Far-right, racist and bigoted groups are more likely to be found within the ranks of the pro-Union camp than the Yes movement.
Had Nick Eardley wanted to show examples of ugly nationalism he should have shown clips of the fascist, Nazi saluting thugs who stormed George Square on September 19th 2014.
It hasn’t taken Nick Eardley long to succumb to the malaise that lies at the heart of BBC Scotland’s News and Current Affairs department. The former Scotsman reporter has adapted quickly and readily produces ‘news’ reports that fit neatly into the out-of-date pre-devolution template so cherished by his bosses. Witness his recent interview with Michelle Thomson and his failure to report on her criticisms of BBC Scotland. That’s the kind of comment the template requires to be filtered out.
BBC Scotland is part of the UK’s national broadcasting machine. As such it promotes British Nationalism. It helps contort the peaceful and inclusive Yes movement into a caricature that sees it compared with American Nazis. I find that ugly.
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