Ruth Davidson: SNP guilty of "Orwellian" nationalism

Have your say

Ruth Davidson has accused the SNP of pursuing “Orwellian” Nationalism in an unprecedented attack on the party as it marks the 10th anniversary of seizing power in Scotland.

The Scottish Conservative leader used a lecture in London to highlight the differences between patriotism and nationalism, describing the latter as “identity politics”.

Ruth Davidson says pro-union Scots are treated like "aliens"

Ruth Davidson says pro-union Scots are treated like "aliens"

She said the SNP has divided Scotland by creating a gulf between pro-UK voters - who are viewed as “foreigners” by Nationalists - and “authentic” Scots who support independence.

Ms Davidson made the high-profile intervention as she became the first Conservative politician to deliver the annual speech to the George Orwell Foundation last night.

She used the UK-wide platform to warn that many Scots who did not back the Nationalists have been made to feel like outsiders and that others felt “hectored and bullied” into voting for the SNP.

But the claims were angrily dismissed by both the SNP and Labour last night who accused the Tory leader of hypocrisy and branded her an “embarrassment”.

• READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon urged to set out Scots currency plan

Ms Davidson said: “The implication hangs in the air: those who are not orthodox, do not follow the right way, are foreign, we are alien, we are other.”

Today marks ten years since Alex Salmond became the first SNP first minister of Scotland.

Since then the constitutional has come to dominate the nation’s political debate and council elections earlier this month revealed voters are increasingly split by their stance independence.

This is credited with helping a Tory revival that has pushed Labour into third place, with Ms Davidson successfully casting her party as the one that will best defend the union.

Ms Davidson pointed to key characteristics of obsession, instability, and indifference to reality identified by Orwell - author of works including 1984 and Animal Farm - in his 1945 essay Notes on Nationalism.

“For many of us in Scotland it all sounds very familiar,” Ms Davidson said.

Orwell’s observation about the Nationalist obsession with the “superiority of its own power unit” was highlighted by the Tory leader, who said it “all rings very true” to Scots today.

She said: “In Scotland, political nationalism has introduced the idea that only one side of the constitutional divide can be the authentic voice of ‘the people of Scotland’. That only it has the right to be heard. That other voices are, by their nature, illegitimate and phoney.”

All parties have been guilty of attempting claim a monopoly on the national mood at some time, Ms Davidson conceded.

But she added: “I would suggest that the modern SNP has made this technique its own.”

Ms Davidson insisted that Tory supporters in Scotland - with the party gaining more than half a million votes in last year’s Holyrood election - are increasingly vilified by senior SNP figures.

Economy Secretary Keith Brown was singled out for comments he made during a Brexit debate at the SNP conference in March, when he told delegates: “This debate comes down to Scotland versus the Tories and Scotland is going to win.”

Ms Davidson said: “I’m Scottish. In fact I’ve never lived or worked outside of the nation of my birth. I cede to no man in backing blue with either oval or round ball.

“But apparently, I have to choose between being Scottish or Conservative. Because, according to Mr Brown, I can’t be both. And for me – so goes it for half a million more.”

• READ MORE: Video: Theresa May confronted by voter over benefit cuts

The result, according to Ms Davidson, is that many Scots have been “bullied and hectored” into voting SNP over the past we decade.

But the claims were rejected by SNP candidate for Edinburgh North and Leith Deidre Brock, who accused Ms Davidson of employing the “doublethink” techniques used by the totalitarian regime in Orwell’s novel 1984.

Ms Brock said: “It is Orwellian to lecture others on nationalism when she’s the one who drapes herself in a flag and drives around in a tank.

“Her claim to the moral high ground is totally undermined given that the SNP’s vision of an independent Scotland is inclusive, outward-looking and internationalist, while Ms Davidson supports a Brexit Britain turning its back on its nearest neighbours and trying to make enemies of our European allies.

“Meanwhile, she has allowed her party to become Scotland’s UKIP – up and down the country the Tories have chosen a ragtag band of extreme right-wingers, many with offensive views, to run local services, and she has had to suspend three for disgraceful anti-Muslim outbursts.

“Ruth Davidson should get her own house in order before seeking to deliver grandiose lectures to others.”​

Scottish Labour General Election campaign manager James Kelly branded Ms Davidson an “embarrassment”.

He said: “This is the leader who turned our political debate into a shouting match about flags rather than the issues people care about.

“At every turn Ruth Davidson has put the narrow British nationalism of the Tories ahead of what’s best for the people of this country.

“Davidson and Nicola Sturgeon are both blinded by flags and it is working families who lose out. There is an alternative to the extreme nationalism of the Tories and the independence obsession of the SNP.

“It’s a Labour government fighting for better wages jobs and public services, not fighting for a economically catastrophic hard Brexit or a second independence referendum Scotland doesn’t want.”