SNP 'Progressivism' is a dangerous, intolerant ideology that mirrors Donald Trump's contempt for political opponents – Nina Welsch

According to the current SNP orthodoxy, Scotland is a nation of outward-looking, braw wee people who are also so hate-ridden that we require Draconian laws to keep us in check

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I heard it said by a high-profile British journalist who spends a great deal of time in America that US citizens no longer have different political opinions from each other, they have different facts. This vast polarisation is due to the legacy of Trumpism, and his classless, dangerous way of branding any media that draw attention to his lies as “corrupt” and insinuating any member of the public who opposes him is an enemy of the cause of Making America Great Again.

Amidst the hysteria in light of Donald Trump’s shock election, a new radical leftism gained traction, one that regrettably mirrored Trumpism in its tactics; a “you’re either with us or against us” authoritarianism that called itself ‘Progressivism’ with a capital P.

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The problem with the word ‘Progressivism’ is that to the untrained ear, it sounds like an inherently positive thing, and by definition more or less is. I myself (and I daresay most Scots) am progressive insofar I want a fairer society that prioritises the vulnerable and marginalised and am happy to embrace change with (cautious) optimism.

Donald Trump is fond of attacking political opponents, including those within his own party (Picture: Scott Olson/Getty Images)Donald Trump is fond of attacking political opponents, including those within his own party (Picture: Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Donald Trump is fond of attacking political opponents, including those within his own party (Picture: Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Highly illiberal

Modern political ‘Progressivism’ though is different – it does not seek to find answers democratically or even engage with material reality but holds subjective beliefs that are treated as self-evident truths. Because of this misguided certainty, its proponents are willing to go highly illiberal lengths to enforce them.

Much of the deeply flawed legislation the SNP has tried to enforce in recent years – the Gender Recognition Reform (GRR) Bill, the Hate Crime Bill and the forthcoming Misogyny Bill – have been rooted in ideas within critical theory that spawned this new Progressivism. I know this because I studied said theory at university and understand first-hand how cultish the mindset of those that preach it can be.

This gist of it is this: the world is divided into binary oppressor and oppressed – good and evil effectively: men and women, white and non-white, straight and gay (or ‘queer’) and – most contentiously – cis and trans (‘cis’ is based on the unscientific, quasi-religious idea that all humans are ‘assigned a gender at birth’ rather than have their sex observed). The perceived oppressed’s ‘lived experience’ is as good as fact.

Trump’s unsubtle vitriol

The perceived oppressor is always speaking from a place of privilege, ergo their view is tainted and worth less. When the First Minister, who speaks openly about his vision for a ‘Progressive’ Scotland, used the word ‘cis’ in a radio interview this week, he was deliberately invoking ideological language to disingenuously set up an oppressor-oppressed binary that is not based in fact. Or to put it another way, we have a First Minister not with different opinions from the public at large, but different facts.

While Trump was unsubtle in his vitriol against those who criticised his ideological vision, I’ve observed that ‘Progressive’ politicians are opting for a more sensible-sounding phrase. They accuse dissenters of stoking a “culture war”. Patrick Harvie did so in response to backlash against the Hate Crime Bill a few weeks ago and only this Wednesday, Humza Yousaf wrote a much-derided thread on Twitter/X about criticisms of the Misogyny Bill, accusing critics of “wanting to turn every issue into a culture war”.

Culture war stoked by Progressives

Let’s look at some of the unfalsifiable ideological beliefs modern Progressivism espouses that have trickled into legislation: the undefinable concept of gender identity overrides the importance of biological sex; to have white skin makes you an oppressor by default; that words are equivalent to violence in the harm they cause.

These are opinions, not material facts that should be influencing law, and for politicians to accuse those who point this out as “stoking a culture war” is, to use another phrase Progressives often use wrongly, gaslighting. If there is indeed a culture war in Scotland, it was stoked by those who tried to impose illiberal, embarrassingly inept legislation on its people and expected us not to respond.

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I don’t recall Nicola Sturgeon crying “culture war” but she too, indulged in very similar Trumpian smearing of those who criticised her (unimplementable) GRR bill, infamously saying they were “deeply misogynist, often homophobic, possibly some of them racist as well”. Given polls indicated around two-thirds of the Scottish public opposed the bill, make of that what you will.

A war on liberalism

What’s puzzling about Sturgeon-Yousaf nationalism is that we are supposedly a country of outward-looking, braw wee people cowed by bigoted Westminster overlords and yet so hate-ridden we require Draconian laws to keep us in check. A potentially great country ruined by its own people who refuse to comply with a hollow vision of superiority, uncannily similar to a certain American ex-president.

When I associate the likes of Sturgeon and Yousaf with Trump, I’m obviously not saying they’ve committed indiscretions and wrongdoings on his scale. I’m drawing a comparison of the way they express open disdain towards those who offer evidence that contradicts their ideological vision of what the country should be. This is dangerous. Just because policy is wrapped in the language of nice-sounding words like ‘progressivism’, ‘inclusion’ and ‘anti-hate’ doesn’t mean the product is a good one. It just means its advocates are more likely to avoid scrutiny and authoritarian implications will be overlooked.

The new Progressivism and its supporters may claim they are fighting ‘hate’ and bigotry but the people they are really unwittingly stoking a ‘war’ on are not genuine far-right reactionaries, who will only gain more followers from those disillusioned and shunned by the exclusionary political culture which audaciously brands itself as all-inclusive. It’s a war on moderates and traditional liberalism and subsequently a war on civility, tolerance and democracy. If that’s what a Progressive Scotland means, count me out.

Nina Welsch is a freelance writer



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