One of the bizarre consequences of the independence referendum erupting onto the London news agenda in recent weeks has been a series of ill-informed articles on the Scottish condition. In good imperial style various hacks have regaled us with their prejudices without bothering to undertake any serious research or analysis. There have been many ignorant references to Bannockburn and Braveheart. It is not so much bias as laziness, or perhaps a condescension to bother their pretty cosmopolitan heads with trifling provincial details.
What becomes clear from several of the pieces, and indeed some of the comments of English politicians, is that they have never bothered to listen to what the SNP or supporters of independence actually say. Of course creating a false representation of your opponents argument in order to knock it down is an old political tactic, but the impression is that many of those lecturing us about how chauvinist and backward looking the “separatists” are genuinely don’t know any better. It seems they have never knowingly conversed with a supporter of independence. It is almost as cringe-inducing as the elderly aunt who has never met a black person but, when fortified by a couple of sherries, feels emboldened to explain what “their” problem is.
The Independent proclaims itself to be, well independent. And yet their editorial of 17 February stated “the tangible benefits of standing together far outweigh the inward-looking temptations of a retreat behind historic borders.” It would be easy to laugh, but it is actually quite sad.
It is not impossible to find the odd, or indeed downright eccentric, romantic nationalist harking back to some Sir Walter Scott style tartan Brigadoon. But we should not forget Scott was in fact a Tory Unionist spin doctor. And the vast majority of independence supporters are internationalists who long for Scotland to take its own place in the world. Indeed one could argue that independence supporters are sometimes too misty-eyed about their internationalism. Economic self-interest will be a much greater priority in terms of foreign policy for a newly independent Scotland than international human rights or UN peacekeeping.
Helena Kennedy said on TV at the turn of the year that she was not in favour of independence because she was an internationalist. Of course it is perfectly possible to support the Union and be a British internationalist but it is bizarre to assume that being in favour of peaceful cooperation between equal nations would exclude support for Scottish independence.