Readers' Letters: It’s wrong to claim nationalism is always bad

It suits the agenda of many who support the union – Richard Allison's letter yesterday was a typical example – to portray “nationalism” as universally bad. Current events in Eastern Europe demonstrate a much more nuanced concept at play.
A Ukrainian serviceman stands guard at a checkpoint on the outskirts of Barvinkove, eastern Ukraine (Picture: Ronaldo Scheimdt / AFP/ Getty)A Ukrainian serviceman stands guard at a checkpoint on the outskirts of Barvinkove, eastern Ukraine (Picture: Ronaldo Scheimdt / AFP/ Getty)
A Ukrainian serviceman stands guard at a checkpoint on the outskirts of Barvinkove, eastern Ukraine (Picture: Ronaldo Scheimdt / AFP/ Getty)

On the one side, there is the premeditated aggression of an expansionist Russia – undoubtedly imperial nationalism of the worst kind. But on the other side, what of the resistance by Ukraine, as it seeks to maintain its territorial integrity and defend its people?

I struggle to see how any right-thinking person could speak out against the patriotic nationalism expressed by the defensive military actions taken by Ukraine and its people – actions supported by the overwhelming majority of the international community – as it fights tooth-and-nail for its right to continue to exist.

Or am I on the wrong side of history?

David Patrick, Edinburgh

Whose rights?

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One of the characters in C J Sansom's book Dominion, who just happens to be Scottish, has some telling lines: “Whenever a party tells you national identity matters more than anything else in politics, that nationalism can sort out all the other problems, then watch out, because you’re on a road that can end with fascism.”

The recent scenes with the protesters in Perth were reminiscent of 1930s Germany. Such nationalism needs a hate figure and our SNP political figures have chosen “Tories” and “Westminster”. For the sake of Scotland, our politicians need to act responsibly and not incite the growing number of extremists with deliberately provocative rhetoric.

The response on behalf of Police Scotland was, to say the least, less than comforting, A spokesperson for the force said: “An appropriate policing plan was in place to maintain public safety and minimise disruption.

“Police Scotland is a rights-based organisation that puts our values of integrity, fairness, respect and a commitment to upholding human rights at the heart of everything we do.

“We have a duty under the European Convention on Human Rights to protect the rights of people who wish to peacefully protest or counter protest balanced against the rights of the wider community.”

Whose human rights were they protecting? Those who suffered loudmouthed verbal vitriol, were spat at and who had eggs thrown at them while attempting to participate in a lawful and peaceable activity ?

Fraser MacGregor, Edinburgh

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Lead with law

"Police Scotland is a rights-based organisation that puts our values of integrity, fairness, respect and a commitment to upholding human rights at the heart of everything we do."

Is it? How lovely. I note the complete absence of any commitment to upholding the law from this statement, issued by Police Scotland after what David Linden MSP described as “morons” behaviour in Perth. It is little wonder morale in Police Scotland is so low with esoteric nonsense like this being spouted by their leaders. The oath sworn by every Scottish police officer concludes with “according to law” and that is what should be at the heart of everything they do.

Hamish Hossick, Broughty Ferry, Dundee

Peaceful demo

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I agree with Jill Stephenson that it is good that the First Minister has condemned abuse by demonstrators in Perth, and I agree that the demonstrators may or may not be SNP members (Letters 18 August). The BBC’s website report shows demonstrators carrying Socialist Worker placards, and the banner saying “Tory Scum Out” does not advance debate.

But I don’t agree with her description of the demonstration outside BBC Scotland in September 2014. I haven’t found any evidence that this demonstration was “with Alex Salmond’s encouragement”. I listened to the BBC’s Nick Robinson ask Alex Salmond two questions at a press conference on 11 September 2014, and I heard Alex Salmond’s answers. However, on the same day’s News at Six Nick Robinson said: “He didn’t answer.” It was this incorrect statement which led to a peaceful protest at BBC Scotland. The BBC said at the time: “A large crowd gathered outside BBC Scotland’s Glasgow HQ to protest about coverage of the referendum. Police said up to 1,000 people took part.” Nick Robinson has since expressed regret for the way he reported this press conference.

E Campbell, Newton Mearns. East Renfrewshire

Call for decency

Why should we be surprised at the hatred being shown by Scottish nationalists in Perth with their “Tory scum” banner? Nationalism ultimately prioritises one group over others; one is superior, the others are inferior and the link between them is hate. The Nazis hated the Jews and Slavs; nationalist have shown that they hate the English and anyone opposed to breaking up Britain. Remember the incidents at the border on the A1 during Covid when nationalists harassed and intimated English people travelling into Scotland? Remember Nigel Farage being forced to flee under police protection in Edinburgh before the Brexit referendum? Remember the BBC's Nick Robinson being hounded by nationalists carrying professionally produced banners saying “Sack Nick Liar Robinson”, and then posting horrible tweets when Nick was diagnosed with cancer?

The SNP have tried to defuse nationalism's toxic brand by claiming it’s different from the others – it's “civic nationalism”. There's nothing civic about baying mobs, as former Labour leader Jim Murphy found during his pro-Union 100 town and village tour of Scotland before the Scottish referendum, when he was forced, at one point, to flee a violent crowd. Decent Scots should consider joining the Labour, Liberal or Conservative parties now to stop this behaviour, which is driving Scotland into the gutter.

William Loneskie, Oxton, Berwickshire

Party warfare

In a democracy it is impossible to stop small fringe elements such as The Scottish Resistance, Siol nan Gaidheal, Socialist Workers and some Alba supporters who appeared to cause the hostile abuse at Perth Concert Hall, but they are no help to the self-government cause when they become the story.

Ironically, the former Tory councillor John McLellan says he was told to get out of the country by someone with an English Estuary accent. Labour’s Angela Rayner called the Tories “Scum” and Tory Iain Duncan Smith was physically assaulted at the Tory Conference in October last year after violent demonstrations in Manchester, so Scottish politics is not unique.

Inside the Perth hall, STV reporter Colin Mackay was roundly booed by a hostile baying right wing mob of Tories when he asked difficult questions to the two would-be Prime Ministers.

Nicola Sturgeon has rightly condemned the actions of the idiots, but here is a question for Bruce Halliday (Letters, 18 August) – when have you ever heard a Tory leader challenged on or condemning the online abuse and death threats issued by Unionists?

Mary Thomas, Edinburgh

Patriot games?

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SNP politicians should be part of the next Scottish team at the Commonwealth Games. The mental gymnastics they have displayed in trying to cartwheel themselves away from their even more bitter nationalistic progeny in Perth has been breathtaking. 10/10.

David Bone, Girvan, South Ayrshire

Cycle path

Cyclists, south of the Border, could be forced to have registration numbers, insurance and observe speed limits and there would be a new offence of death by dangerous cycling (your report, 17 August). This would be welcomed by the public, especially by those injured by cyclists riding on the pavement. Number plates and/or numbers on a hi-viz jacket would ensure that rogue cyclists could be reported to the police.

Unfortunately, Scotland, as usual, has to be different, since a Transport Scotland spokesman said that transport is devolved and “We have no plans to introduce registration plates for cyclists”. Of course, those with a vested interest such as Charity Cycling UK and transport groups, all paid for by the taxpayers, say that the plans are “impractical” and “strange”. E-scooters are about to be made legal on roads south of the Border and they will need number plates, insurance and hopefully have to pay to use the roads so if controls can be imposed on them then controls can easily be set up for cyclists.

Clark Cross, Linlithgow, West Lothian

Not so native

I did a double-take when I saw your article, “Gaelic bred: how a native tongue is embracing Scots wildlife incomers” (17 August). So, Gaelic is a native tongue? When did that happen? The only “native tongue” I can think of in Scotland is the one of which we have a written record in “Y Gododdin”. That tongue was a type of Old Welsh called Cumbric which is no longer spoken. It was gradually replaced in the south-east of Scotland by Old English from around 500AD and, in the west of Scotland, Gaelic appeared about a century later.

It seems that Gaelic has to make up lots of words for things like “ambulance” and “police” at great expense and no benefit to anyone, on emergency vehicles which operate in places like the Lothians and Borders, the Orkneys and the Shetlands, none of which are noted for having any Gaelic-speaking history. This results in made up words for the red-necked wallaby (uallabaidh ruadh-mhuinealach, apparently). Someone is taking the puish-mhuinealach.

Andrew H N Gray, Edinburgh

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