General Election: Nicola Sturgeon talks of ‘inclusion’ but demonises a million Scots – Brian Wilson

Nicola Sturgeon meets people among the crowd in Glasgow's George Square for a pro-independence rally (Picture: John Devlin)
Nicola Sturgeon meets people among the crowd in Glasgow's George Square for a pro-independence rally (Picture: John Devlin)
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Nicola Sturgeon’s demeanour at a recent pro-independence rally in Glasgow may not have made passers-by with the ‘wrong’ accent feel particularly welcome, writes Brian Wilson.

Scotland is “open, welcoming, diverse and inclusive” and “no Tory is every going to be allowed to change that”.

Thus spake Nicola Sturgeon to a forest of flag-wavers in Glasgow’s George Square. It is such pernicious hokum on so many grounds as to demand challenge.

As has been widely commented upon, her demeanour scarcely matched the sentiments. I doubt if passers-by with the wrong accent would have felt particularly welcome or included.

Neither would kids from ethnic minorities who, in a new survey, spoke of the racism they suffer on a daily basis in Scottish schools. Neither would the victims of sectarian attacks, still the most common form of prejudice-induced violence in open, welcoming, etc, etc.

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On immigration, there is no evidence that Scots are much differently disposed than UK voters as a whole. It is a complex subject which does not boil down to exaggerated claims of superior attitudes – a form of racism in itself.

Whether Scotland is better or worse than other parts of the UK or Europe in these respects is debatable. But responsible debate should be about how to address them – and Ms Sturgeon is seriously handicapped by the starting-point of her own rhetoric.

Vile campaign

To emphasise the absurdity of her rant, the SNP leader of South Lanarkshire Council was happily tweeting from amongst the Saltires such delights as: “Ram yer Union up yer hoop”, presumably an anatomical reference.

Lest anyone missed his open, welcoming, diverse and inclusive point, the leader of one of Scotland’s largest local authorities disseminated an image of dog faeces with a Union flag stuck in it and the caption: “The perfect answer to our Unionist friends”.

If Ms Sturgeon meant a word of what she said, Mr Ross would have been gone by Monday. Just as Ian Blackford would have been disowned for the vile campaign against Charles Kennedy in 2015 and many other examples. They never are because George Square would be half-empty without them.

Sad souls who disseminate such trash exist in all nations and parties. They are attracted by any form of fundamentalism which offers the opportunity to demonise an enemy, real or imagined.

But I do blame Ms Sturgeon for fostering this self-delusory image of Scotland which gives succour to the worst elements of her own followers and delays any prospect of facing up to Scotland as it is, warts and all.

For the purpose of her George Square performance, “the Tories” were cast in the role of “other”, threatening to “take away” our “open, welcoming, diverse and inclusive” national characteristics by unspecified means.

Jock Tamson’s Bairns a mixed bunch

I find this kind of talk quite disturbing. Surely it is possible to attack policies without blackguarding a substantial part of the Scottish population with motives which few, on a personal basis, might subscribe to?

I know plenty “open, welcoming, diverse and inclusive” Tories, just as I have come across plenty nasty pieces of Nationalist work. And, of course, vice versa. Jock Tamson’s Bairns are, as anyone with sense would expect, as mixed a lot as anyone else.

Ascribing generalised characteristics to a nation in order to vilify those who allegedly seek to undermine them is dangerous territory. Yet it is the bread and butter of Nationalist rhetoric.

Even on Brexit, the fabled “people of Scotland” are far from monolithic. More than a million voted to leave the EU. I was not one of them but it does not stop me respecting their existence. Polls suggest that they included a third of SNP voters – a higher proportion than of any other party.

More Scots voted to leave the EU in 2016 than for the SNP in 2017. Are they all part of the conspiracy to rob Scotland of its uniquely “open, welcoming, diverse and inclusive” status? Or is it only “Tories”?

When the major devolved functions – NHS, schools, cash-starved council services – are faring poorly under politicians who have had over a decade to make their mark, the attractions of scapegoating are obvious.

It should be equally obvious that they are dangerous.

The claim to being “open, welcoming, diverse and inclusive” must be earned, not asserted.