I was recently struck by how much Scotland has changed in the last decade. I had this revelation while watching the train from Kilmarnock to Dumfries approach me. As it moved near the platform, I realised I was about to board a giant blue saltire.
I appreciate that I’m travelling with ScotRail, but isn’t this a bit much? I would be horrified and slightly embarrassed to see a train covered with the British flag.
This is the more insidious face of Scottish nationalism at the moment. Something very slow and deliberate, but that reinforces the sense of difference with the rest of the United Kingdom, particularly England.
Wherever you live you will probably see saltires on poles, windows, cars, wheelie bins and clothing. Graffiti with a nationalist bent can now be witnessed along train lines and roads. There’s a particularity prominent ‘END LONDON RULE’ scrawled on an underpass between Gretna Green and Carlisle. I have seen a ‘RED TORIES OUT’ in New Cumnock.
I have been present at meetings where some of the representatives, elected officials and ordinary board members have had small saltire badges and the SNP logo pinned on to their clothes. These are just regular meetings where the minutiae of community affairs such as pot holes, proposed asset transfers and Christmas lights were discussed.
Nicola Sturgeon was the only First Minister that did not display the British flag when she met “foreign” leader, Prime Minister Theresa May in Edinburgh. The Twitter profile for the former Transport Minister (Now Cabinet Secretary for Finance and the Constitution), Derek Mackay had him looking into the middle distance with a nine-foot saltire behind him. We get it, you’re an SNP minister, you’re a Scottish nationalist. You need to maintain group cohesion and demonstrate your in-group/out-group credentials, but can’t you just give it a rest sometimes?
After the 2014 Scottish referendum, the SNP held a conference/event hybrid with over 12,000 supporters in attendance, with saltires aplenty and the majority of the participants waving giant yellow SNP foam fingers.
Guest appearances by the Red Hot Chilli Pipers and a rapper called Stanley Odd, waxing lyrical about “When I say bed tax, you say nae chance!” and that “British values need a respirator!” The highlight of his repertoire was the rap, “Son, I voted Yes”.
The SNP have tapped into this new wave of nationalism and extroverted politics very well and they have been ably assisted by social media. It is noisily exuberant, grievance based and constantly based on the “other”, be they political or national.
The First Minister’s standard response is to blame “Tory austerity” regardless of what was asked. I haven’t had the benefit of a long political career but is this the only issue that is causing Scotland ills?
Individually these isolated events would be barely perceptible. Just political “static”. Taken in their entirety the cacophony of nationalism is getting increasing more belligerent in its pursuit of difference with the rest of the UK.
David Bone lives in Girvan, Ayrshire. He works in the third sector