“I’m not a Nationalist” announced Denis Canavan at the Radical Independence Conference event in Glasgow over the weekend. The emerging Father of the Nation figure was no doubt speaking from the heart but this line is nonetheless a clever way to soften the pro-Yes cause that can at times be too hardline, too patriotic and too, well, radical for the floating voters to get onboard with.
It’s a shame then that Denis was wrong in his assertion.
We’re all nationalists, every one of us. National boundaries must be drawn somewhere and we are unable to avoid taking a view on where this somewhere should be. How we arrive at that view can take many different forms but they are all a form of nationalism.
So what type are you? How do you decide in your mind’s mind which country you wish to live in? Here’s how I see the main options:
An economic nationalist
‘I’d be financially richer if we drew our border closer/further to home’ is the mindset of the typical economic nationalist. It’s not particularly worthy but it’s perfectly understandable.
The logical extension of economic nationalism is a small island, chock full of extremely rich people, driven largely by a motivation that no undeserving poor scoundrel will get their hands on his/her money.
This type of nationalism in milder forms is much more palatable. Most people work most days and questioning who it is you are working for, what it is you are helping drive towards, is not an unreasonable question. Picking a smaller or larger economy because it better suits your outlook is valid, and, despite what I wrote above, may not even necessarily involve being richer as a result of your choice. Ireland is scraping the economic barrel at the moment but you’d do well to suggest that they’d vote to join the United Kingdom.
That said, there is clear evidence that there is a significant tranche of economic nationalists in Scotland right now given a fairly recent poll that showed that about 60-odd% of us would vote Yes if we would be £500/year richer under independence.
The flip side of this little factoid is that many economic nationalists, and probably most, do not currently believe that they will be richer under independence and their inner economic nationalist is driving them to vote No in 2014.
A cultural Nationalist
A person who wishes to draw their country’s borders based on which people he/she feels an affinity with. It would primarily be political outlook, language, religion or race that would make the crucial difference. It could also be music or Wars gone by, as recent unionist arguments have hoped.
For me, and particularly with the relative success of the EU, I can’t say that I have more of a bond with someone from Dover as I do with someone from Dusseldorf. I do however sense I’m a part of something other, and greater, when I consider life through a Scottish prism. That’s neither wrong nor right, just the way it is.
One would expect that cultural nationalists have already made up their minds as to whether they are voting Yes/No, although in a political sense there may yet be some flexibility. Scotland and the rest of the UK may use the same words, but do we really speak the same language?
I suspect both sides will try to answer that question with different answers over the next two years but you either feel more British or Scottish, and noone can tell you any different if you believe that should dictate which country you wish to live in.
A Tartan Army Nationalist
I was tempted to mix what I consider Tartan Army nationalism in with cultural nationalism above, but I suspect those that go doe-eyed at the thought of St Kilda expressive dance at the Festival Theatre are not in the same bucket as those hardy souls who troop out to the Faroe Islands to watch the Scottish football team get their backsides handed to them by a bunch of fishermen.
And yet, I wouldn’t bet the mortgage that the Saltire-heavy, face-painted mob are squarely in the Yes camp.
There’s only so many times you can suffer footballing heartache before having any Nationalistic confidence crushed forever.
If we can’t beat Macedonia at home, can we really run the country ourselves? It’s not altogether a daft question.
A British/Scottish Nationalist
For me, no such thing really exists. You’re cultural nationalism may result in you wishing to live in a separate Scotland or stay in the UK but ‘British nationalism’ is not a philosophy in its own right. Something deeper must underpin it.
My personal belief is that many Scots see themselves as British nationalists but don’t know why and if they dared to scratch deeper might find they’d take a different view. I’m referring to the disappointingly many Scots who happily claim ‘I’d leave Scotland if we ever got independence’.
If there’s an economic or cultural reason for such statements then that’s fine. I just don’t believe there is.
A Nihilist Nationalist
There are sadly too many nihilist nationalists at the moment, those who would go out of their way to take no part in the brewing debate and who claim to have no interest in whether they live in the UK or Scotland. People too tired to think perhaps, or, for whatever reason, afraid of forming their own view.
And that’s a shame, because all views are valid and the referendum process will be richer the more people put into it.
My cultural nationalism has always leant me towards independence. I believe I’d be more motivated at work, I’d be even more engaged with our country’s politics and I’d generally be more optimistic for the future if Scotland was independent. That has recently been topped up with an economic nationalism directing me the same way what with defence savings and concentrated oil revenues likely to allow Scotland to balance its books quicker than the current UK is on course to.
All in all, I just hope the wider debate can at least discuss the correct forms of Nationalism – cultural and economic rather than bluntly Scottish and British.