I have to admit I have had a sneaky liking for George Galloway. I know he is ridiculous in many ways but I like him. Watching George on Question Time recently, I knew he would be entertaining and sometimes disrespectful. It’s a nice change from the grey men of politics we usually see. I like the idea that politicians like George have the bottle to say and do pretty much what they want and sod the rest of you. Not always pleasant and often enough to make your toes curl with embarrassment, George is, at least, a character and we could do with a few more like him in politics. As I read the article he wrote for the Daily Record, I began to wonder what country George was looking at when he talked about seeing people who have “what can only be described as a virulent hatred of English people and a belief they are the source of Scotland’s troubles – and getting shot of them is the solution.”
As we watch the launch of the Yes campaign, it is important that the peddling of the view of Scotland as a land of bigots and racists by some Unionist politicians and media personalities is challenged, loudly and often. I feel aggrieved when I read that Scots hate English people and the assertions that George Galloway and others make that somehow abusive comments made in response to articles online or in the press reflect the wider Scottish Nationalist agenda could not be further from the truth.
Politicians need to get a grip on reality. They must stop the points scoring and get down to what matters to the man and woman on the street. If George and others looked around and talked to real people rather than relying on internet responses to provocative articles, then they would find that people are living with the independence debate in their daily lives with little or no fuss. There is no “virulent hatred” running through the offices and workshops of our small country. No calls for rivers of English blood from croft houses in Sutherland or tenement buildings in Glasgow or fishing villages on the coast of the Solway Firth. Many people aren’t talking about independence at all and where people are talking about it, they are talking about it as part of their daily lives, talking about it with their friends, colleagues and family. Amongst those friends, colleagues and family, there are English people and the discussions are generally NOT about hanging and flogging them – thank goodness.
In the same way as George Galloway suggested that internet posts are representative of the whole of the nationalist supporting public, we also await the suggestion that football is a stark demonstration of racism in Scottish society. As soon as the European Cup starts this summer, the fact that Scots would support anyone rather than the England team will be trotted out as an indication that Scots are racist almost to a man. If you follow football to any degree you would know that Man City fans would sooner almost anyone won other than Man United; that Hearts fans would support anyone rather than Hibs; that Arsenal fans would prefer anyone won than cheer for Tottenham. Given the England-centric nature of the football coverage on television, it’s hardly surprising that footie mad Scots roll their eyes and cheer for the Czech Republic
Scottish Nationalism is an inclusive political movement.
The persistent drive to insist that Scottish Nationalism is at its heart, fascist or racist, is point scoring and scaremongering by politicians with their own agendas. And you can bet that agenda is not about making life better for those who truly do suffer at the hands of racist abusers. For it would be naïve to suggest that racism doesn’t exist in Scotland today or that it won’t exist in Scotland tomorrow – even if that tomorrow is an independent Scotland. There are racists in Scotland – some have been responsible for awful crimes and there is no doubt that these people, when caught, must face the full force of the law. There is however, also a casual racism borne of ignorance and fear rather than hatred. This racism must continue to be confronted and challenged and there are many people ready to do that. When it is pointed out to those who use this sort of language that it hurts feelings and its use suggests that a person is a racist, many do learn to change their behaviour.
Racism, along with the sectarianism that plagues Scottish football must continue to be challenged and tackled. The Scottish Government is committed to doing exactly that. It is important that their efforts are not reduced to squabbling over internet responses with politicians who may feel that Scots are always ready to blame someone else for their ills. George Galloway is doing the exact same thing. People aren’t giving George Galloway a hard time because he is a unionist, but because he is a bampot unionist. Whether he likes it or not, many see him as a clown, a media whore and self- serving in the extreme. He only has himself to blame for that.
Comments like the ones made by George Galloway lead to people believing that you can’t live happily here in Scotland if you are English. They have led to me being asked “Don’t you find it difficult being English and living in the Highlands?” The answer to that is “No – never”. Articles like George’s can lead to paranoia and suggest that Scotland is a land of bigots and Scottish Nationalism akin to that of the BNP. This is absolutely untrue. There are Scottish Nationalist of every colour and race as there are Unionists of every colour and race.
Look around you – wherever you are just now, whether you are minded to be a Yes voter or a No voter, look at the people you work with, the people you live with, stand at the school gates with, the people you serve in a shop, restaurant or pub. Are they English or Scottish or from somewhere else? Does it matter? Do they care where you are from? I doubt it. Interested in your life and your story they may be. Plotting your imminent demise or some wicked racist atrocity, they are probably not. I never heard the saying “All Jock Tamson’s bairns” until I came to Scotland but there is a feeling in Scotland that you can be here and be Scots whether you are from here or elsewhere. Many, many people with Scottish parents or ancestors delight in their Scottishness. Most people coming to live here in Scotland from England or elsewhere feel at home, like this is their “place” and when asked where they are from will happily correct the assumption that they are from England with “No I’m from Scotland”. Scotland gets under your skin, into your heart.
So for George and others – your Scotland may be a land full of English hating bigots and those who would “rise up” and turn on their neighbours and friends but mine and most other people’s Scotland isn’t. If that’s what you find then I would respectfully suggest that you change the company you keep and take your head out of your computer screen. If you walked the streets a wee bit, drank in the pubs a wee bit, dropped in at some toddler groups or youth clubs or workplaces I would happily bet that you would find many of “Jock Tamson’s bairns” happily playing, living and working together. The referendum is not going to change that.