But then former Labour MP George Galloway – infamous for telling Saddam Hussein in 1994, when the then Iraqi dictator’s brutality was clear, that he saluted “your courage, your strength, your indefatigability” – decided to wade in.
“Well Humza you’re not more Scottish than me. You’re not a Celt like me. You’re not working-class like me. You didn’t go to a state school like me. You’re not more socialist than me. So stop pretending. You’re a poseur,” he wrote.
Referring to Galloway’s bid for election to the Scottish Parliament and his Celebrity Big Brother appearance in which he pretended to be cat, Yousaf replied that he suspected “the voters of Scotland will show you the cat flap again come 6th May. When you are shown the door, please take your race-baiting ‘You're not a Celt like me’ mince with you.”
It was a restrained response with a touch of wit – one wonders how many times Yousaf has been in similar situations – to Galloway’s disgraceful comments and his appalling attempt to reduce democratic debate to an identitarian struggle, a charge more usually levelled at nationalists, than unionists.
And, amid accusations of racism, it was this idea with which Galloway, a unionist, sought to defend himself, tweeting inelegantly that “being called a racist by the SNP is like being told to sit up straight by the Hunchback of Notre Dame”. He also said “as the father of five mixed-race children I treat Humza’s accusation that I’m a racist with contempt”.
One fundamental problem with Galloway’s tweet is that it suggests a person’s background, upbringing and ideas about ethnicity somehow define them. They do not. Instead, to quote Martin Luther King, it is “the content of their character” that matters.
The current SNP leadership has publicly disassociated itself from ethnicity-based nationalism, with Nicola Sturgeon saying in 2017 that “if Scotland is your home and you live here and you feel you have a stake in the country, you are Scottish”.
This liberal concept of nationality is extremely important in a democracy and we hope that anyone, unionist or nationalist, who seeks to unleash identitarian forces in Scotland fails spectacularly.