Anti-English sentiment is racist and must not be tolerated within the movement for Scottish independence, writes Steve Cardownie.
“We should not enter this campaign thinking of people as No voters or Yes voters, Remainers or Leavers, but as fellow citizens who all want the best for ourselves, our families and for Scotland’s future.
“We must acknowledge the ties of family and friendship across the UK and step up to the challenge of answering people’s questions.”
So said Nicola Sturgeon as she addressed the SNP spring conference in Edinburgh last weekend.
All the more relevant given that two individuals stood outside the conference centre, displaying a banner which read England Get Out Of Scotland and which was roundly condemned by delegates inside the hall as “racist”.
Math Campbell-Sturgess, the national convener of English Scots for Independence said: “It is very important to note this couple of protesters are outside the SNP conference because they are simply not welcome inside, whereas our group has an official presence within the conference’s Exhibition Hall and have been made very welcome by all.”
There are some who would argue that by even referring to this banner the protesters are being afforded the oxygen of publicity but it is vitally important for the independence movement that it meets this threat head-on and challenges its legitimacy.
I use the word “threat” deliberately as slogans such as the one above can only undermine the campaign for a Yes vote in a future referendum and can only further the unionist cause by providing ammunition to those who would falsely portray the independence movement as inherently racist and anti-English, which it most certainly is not!
It is bad enough that Ruth Davidson, the Scottish Conservatives leader, has implored the current Prime Minister (and the next) to turn down any request by the Scottish Parliament for a Section 30 Order allowing it to conduct another referendum on independence without so-called “supporters” playing into the unionists’ hands before the campaign has even got under way.
Last Saturday’s YouGov poll found that 49 per cent of Scots are in favour of independence and although a Panelbase poll showed a 53-47 per cent against, this was turned on its head with a 52-48 per cent split in favour if the UK pulled out of the European Union without a deal, a significant increase in support of independence than was indicated in opinion polls conducted prior to the referendum of 2014 and which offers the promise of a much firmer base on which to build any future campaign.
Given the current scenario therefore, there is no doubt that opponents of independence will redouble their efforts to thwart the aspirations of those that want to live in an independent Scotland. To boost their campaign by indulging in racist anti-English sentiment is nothing short of criminal, not just because of the unproductive outcome it is destined to produce but that it totally misrepresents the inclusive nature of the Yes movement.
The setting up of a Citizens Assembly is a clear indication of the path the SNP intends to tread on the road to independence.
Once more to quote the SNP leader: “Independence is about the future of everyone who lives here!”