I don’t think I fully realised how badly Joan McAlpine had messed up with her “anti-Scottish” line on Twitter, which was raised in Holyrood yesterday, until she was ingloriously name checked by Douglas Alexander on BBC Question Time. Douglas went on to hector Nicola Sturgeon, asking if she agreed with Joan, in an unedifying spectacle that I fear will be replicated on all sides of the debate, up and down the party structures of SNP and Labour (and beyond), all the way out to autumn 2014.

For those who don’t know the context, the relevant parts of the transcript from the Scottish Parliament are shown at the bottom of this post.

This of course is the flipside of the ballyhoo that comes around when a politician calls the SNP xenophobes or their party conferences hate fests; it is the perfect situation to whip up as much fury and as many headlines as one can to do down the other side. The point that Joan McAlpine was trying to make was wholly separate to what “anti Scottish” as a standalone phrase actually means, but she uttered those words and the rest, as they say, is history. One could argue it either way but they’d be getting precisely nowhere as a result. I guess this is the risk that Alex Salmond has always faced when so many untried and untested amateurs fell into the Scottish Parliament on that crazy night in May. This won’t be the last such occasion where a storm is created over little more than clumsy wording.

I’ve read some more of the transcript from yesterday, not something that I often do, but the standard of debate in general is woeful, even fist-bitingly embarrassing in parts. You can read below the shameless, unnecessary bragging from the SNP about a few hundred new members and there was the charge from Kezia Dugdale that the SNP wants votes at 16-17 for the referendum but hasn’t brought forward legislation at a council level before John Swinney gently pointed out that that power is reserved. Awkward. My personal favourite was this one though:

Humza Yousaf (SNP): I commend the Scottish Labour Party for bringing up today’s debate. What subject could be more important than Scotland’s future? Although I cannot support the motion because of its obvious flaws, it is at least an attempt to engage with the debate, which is a refreshing change from the usual apocalyptic, scaremongering and fear-driven negativity that seems to come from Castle Grayskull.
Patricia Ferguson (Labour): Labour members pointed out to me that Mr Yousaf got his analogy slightly wrong. Castle Grayskull was not some kind of dark, louring place that people took their inspiration from; it was the place where the good guys got their power. If Labour is being associated with Castle Grayskull we are quite happy to accept that.

The main surprise that yesterday’s debate had in store was just how often Twitter was mentioned, primarily used to take errant messages and bash an MSP over the head with. It’s just so lousy. I know that we tried manfully to keep a Worst Motion of the Week debate going (and still intend to, watch this space) but if the poor standard of debate has percolated down into business-as-usual in the chamber itself, then there is not much to be done.

As to ourselves here at Better Nation, we have been informed on many an occasion by numerous people that they’d rather not write a guest post or rather not leave a comment as they don’t want their head bitten off by ‘cybernats’. For me, this is all wrapped up as part of the same problem – MSPs unable to act like mature, constructive professionals in the Parliament parallels the inability to hold a calm, considered debate online (I mean, goodness, just witness the Scotsman comments section; a tar that we have supposedly been brushed with sadly, rightly or wrongly).

So, getting to the overarching point of this post, and in a bid to stymie any further unhelpful ”anti-Scottish” or “xenophobe” slurs and ensure that the intended positive, non-partisan nature of this blog strives (or should I say is revived), the comments policy that was created recently will be more strictly enforced going forwards. We generally enjoy the rough and tumble of the comments section but content is king and if there is a point that any reader would dearly like to make, we all believe that a guest post with space to develop a point is often a better way to contribute to the debate than to leave a longer comment, so please consider this option if you do check this website regularly, or even just occasionally.

This isn’t a Nationalist blog, it isn’t a Unionist blog and it isn’t even a Green blog any more as we once passed it off as; it is a Scottish blog, and, as should be the case in the Scottish Parliament despite Joan McAlpine’s assertions, views are not illegitimate just because of where they lie on the Union-independence spectrum.


Joan McAlpine (SNP): Will the member take an intervention?
Ruth Davidson (Conservative): On the idea of reasonable argument—yes, absolutely.
Joan McAlpine: Since David Cameron’s intervention in the referendum debate, 300 people have joined the SNP. How many people have joined the Conservative Party?
Ruth Davidson: We are in the middle of a very big membership drive, and I would ask anybody who has an interest in centre-right politics to join the Conservative Party.
Let us talk about that reasonable debate, because there is an ugly side to the argument that has been made in recent days, and it has come not from the Prime Minister but from the very member who has just intervened. I am sad to say—it probably says more about me than it does about anyone else—that I follow Joan McAlpine on Twitter, and I know that she has tweeted that Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives are “anti-Scottish”. That type of ignorant, petty nationalism is an insult not only to us but to Scots up and down the country. I know the difference between patriotism and nationalism, and I do not doubt for one moment the desire of all patriots and nationalists to do what they think is best for Scotland. However, the narrow opinion that the only true Scots are those who believe in separation is demeaning to those who peddle it and an insult to the majority of people who live here. Ms McAlpine’s intervention is a sign of how the SNP mask can slip: a sign of SNP members’ desire to play the politics of grudge and grievance, to complain when they do not get their own way and to act as if they own the hearts and souls of all Scots and as if only Alex Salmond can speak for Scotland.


Joan McAlpine: As for the Conservative group leader’s assertion that those who suggest that what is happening is anti-Scottish are somehow narrow in their politics, I make absolutely no apology for saying that the Liberals, the Labour Party and the Tories are anti-Scottish in coming together to defy the will of the Scottish people and the democratic mandate that they gave us to hold a referendum at a time of our choosing, which, as the First Minister said, would be the latter half of the parliamentary session. The sight of those parties cosying up on the sofas of various Scottish television studios will really alarm the people of Scotland.

Neil Findlay (Lab): I think that the member should seriously consider what she is saying. Given what opinion polls suggest is the view of the vast majority of the Scottish people, is she suggesting that they are not patriotic and do not love their country? If she is, that is an utter disgrace.

Joan McAlpine: I did not address my comments to the people of Scotland; I addressed my comments to the Labour Party, the Conservative Party and the Liberal Democrats, who—thank goodness—do not represent the people of Scotland and were in their entirety outpolled by the SNP last year, as the First Minister said.
The anti-independence parties stood together against Scottish democracy yesterday in Westminster. That will be no surprise to the people of Scotland, because for four years between 2007 and 2011 those parties stood together to stop a referendum. Now they want to dictate the terms of a referendum. They want to exclude the young people of Scotland from choosing their future, but their elderly Labour peers down south say that they should have a say, even though they do not live here. The electorate told Labour what they thought of that strategy last May, but Labour seems to have learned nothing.


Jackson Carlaw (Conservative): I am a proud Scot and an elected member of this chamber and I have every right to be an active participant in this debate, which is what I intend to be. The claim by the SNP that those who vote SNP have some additional pride or more moral authority, or a birthright to speak on behalf of the people of Scotland, is offensive. If you spoke against someone who was gay, you would be homophobic. If you spoke against someone who was black, you would be racist. If you say that people are anti-Scottish because they belong to a different political party, that is a form of political racism, which is absolutely disgraceful and has no part in our politics. I suppose that, in the words of the Deputy First Minister, I should be relaxed about that type of remark, because it is what will win the argument for those of us who believe in the union.