Friday, February 8, 2019

Whether we like it or not, the constitutional destinies of Scotland and Northern Ireland are entwined

Well, with a certain degree of trepidation, I'm going to make a few comments about the recent controversy relating to my fellow iScot columnist Jason Michael McCann.  My initial gut reaction to the tweet in which he was accused of branding British soldiers in Northern Ireland as "legitimate targets" was that it seemed considerably more clear-cut than the accusation of anti-semitism made against Grouse Beater.  Whereas Grouse Beater's comment had been extremely elliptical, and his detractors were having to make heroic efforts of interpretation to see in it what they were determined to see, Jason's comment did on face value appear to say exactly what it was alleged to say.  And yet his subsequent explanation (that he was simply quoting how republican paramilitaries would view the situation, and was warning about a return to violence that he did not wish to happen) was also more compelling than Grouse Beater's, because it was crystal-clear and fully backed up by reams of evidence from his own past writings.

It seems highly likely that the penny eventually dropped with the SNP leadership that they'd interpreted Jason's tweet incorrectly, and that they decided on the grounds of expediency to just let people carry on thinking that they viewed him as a monster.  That's not surprising but it is depressing, and it fits into a familiar pattern of 'little people' on the pro-independence side being ruthlessly thrown under the bus at the first sign of trouble.  I can remember way, way back when Jeff Breslin was the leading SNP blogger, and he innocently published some gossip about postal vote returns without realising he was technically breaking the law.  After he discovered his mistake, he did everything possible to make amends and even resigned his SNP membership, but that didn't stop a party spokesperson making a gratuitously disparaging comment about him in the press.  Some reward for him practically being the SNP's one-person alternative media presence during a crucial period in Scottish political history.  I know some will argue that these decisions are just hard-headed realpolitik, but there's also a case to be made that a lack of solidarity from the top, and a treating of foot-soldiers as instantly expendable, does eventually get noticed and can prove counter-productive.

Since Jason was hung out to dry, some Yes supporters who don't approve of him have seized the opportunity to really stick the boot in, castigating him for his membership of Sinn Féin and his decision to post a photo of himself with Gerry Adams.  One relatively well-known Yesser even cited her own supposed "opposition to sectarianism" as justification for her distaste towards the Adams photo - which rather eccentrically means she must think that the way to eradicate sectarianism is by treating the leaders of Northern Ireland's nationalist population as untouchable.  In a world where the Queen has long since shaken hands with the late Martin McGuinness, that's a destructive attitude that really belongs to another era.

It's worth recalling that the elected official within the SNP who played a key role in the campaign against Grouse Beater is known for her use of the slogan "Aabudy Welcome".  Some have laughed at the bitter irony of those words, because the ideology that underpins them all too often appears to be an authoritarian one of exclusion, and of censorship, and of silencing certain undesirable groups.  But actually one thing that she and her critics would surely agree on is that Scotland's Irish community is welcome in the Yes movement.  By the broadest definition, those of Irish descent are the largest ethnic minority in this country, and indeed I belong to that minority myself.  One of the key features of the SNP's civic nationalism is that we don't impose "Tebbit Tests" on people - we allow and encourage people to retain national identities other than Scottish.  People can be comfortably Pakistani and Scottish, or Italian and Scottish, or English and Scottish.  For someone who identifies as Irish, that means it's perfectly OK to have strong views on Ireland's political future, running in parallel with equally strong views about Scotland's political future.  No amount of waffle about the Old Firm can justify a lack of respect for Jason McCann's right to hold those parallel views, or indeed to hold Sinn Féin membership while he is also involved in Scotland's Yes movement.

In any case, whether we like it or not, the future of all of us in Scotland may be bound up with Sinn Féin's current strategy.  The more the SNP hold back from a definite commitment to a quick indyref, the more likely it is that the event that eventually makes the decisive difference will be Sinn Féin succeeding with the help of the Irish government in gaining a referendum on Irish unity. By that point, the pressure on the SNP to demand an immediate Section 30 order would be irresistible, and the Tories' "now is not the time" excuse for denying one would ring hopelessly hollow.  Scotland is not making decisions in isolation - we're all stuck in this "precious union" together, and that will become increasingly apparent as the months wear on.

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Scot Goes Pop fundraiser: If you'd like to help this blog continue during what could be an epic few months ahead, just a reminder that last year's fundraiser is still very much open for donations, and hasn't reached the target figure yet.

Also, did you know that Scot Goes Pop has a sister Facebook group?  It's called Scottish Independence Required By Next Tuesday, and you can find it here.