Monday, 20 May 2013

Was Independence Case Done Any Favours?

I was interested to see what kind of impact Nigel Farage and UKIP would have in Scotland but, instead of a report of UKIP's policies, how the party intended to fight the independence referendum in Scotland, unfortunately a handful of clowns wrote the kind of headlines for UKIP, they must have hoped for and, could not have bettered had they written them themselves. I watched the TV coverage and heard the abuse hurled in the direction of Nigel Farage, abuse which included cries of "Fascist", "Go back to England, you're not welcome here"; "You can stick your Union Jack up your arse" Apologists for the demonstrators have said it was Farage's views they objected to, not him as a person. A spokesman for the SNP said, "People in Scotland know how extreme and intolerant UKIP are" which must win top prize for irony. The Yes Campaign also refused to condemn the demonstration and said it would not rule out working with Radical Independence, one of the demonstration's organising groups, in the future.

Farage's reaction was just as intemperate, by claiming the demonstrators had exposed "a pretty ugly face of Scottish nationalism that was akin to Fascism." If either Nigel Farage or the demonstrators who hurled shouts of "Fascist" at him, had a clue what Fascism meant, what a real Fascist stands for, they would not be so quick to bandy the word with such abandon. Is it stupidity, lack of general knowledge, ignorance of what Fascism has done in those countries where it was dominant, or is it a combination of all of them, that causes the word to be thrown at opponents? I would have thought the activities of Hitler, Mussolini and their cronies, during the 1930s and 1940s, would have been so well known, even to the ignoramuses that pollute the internet, that to call Farage a Fascist would be such an obvious nonsense. Farage, by equating Scottish Nationalism with Fascism, merely underlined his ignorance of the Nationalist movement in Scotland. That comes as no surprise, as his and UKIP's knowledge of Scotland, its history and its politics, both past and present, is risible. The best thing that could happen in order to destroy any hope of UKIP making any kind of impact in Scotland, would be to give Nigel Farage and whoever else comes up from England, unlimited time and coverage in the Scottish media.

Throwing stupid accusations of "Fascist" at political opponents, or equating the National Movement in Scotland with Fascism, is just laziness and the kind of childish name-calling now so prevalent. It is akin to the shouts of "perv" or "paedo" that are regularly thrown as insults, when crowds of teenagers meet in the streets.  We never did experience Fascism in the UK but there are still far too many of us still alive, who lived during the years when it was dominant in Europe and South America, for the consequences of living under Fascism to be unknown. If there is one thing that sets my teeth on edge, it is to hear some snot-nosed adolescent, of any age, hurl accusations of "Fascist" at an opponent, because either they are too stupid to know any better or, are too lazy to educate themselves about how stupid they are. Do these people really think that Farage and UKIP are the same kind of people who built Auschwitz-Berkinau? Does Farage really think the kind of loud mouths he met in Edinburgh, are the equivalent of the death squads that wiped out whole villages in Eastern Europe? If they do, it is time they took some serious medical advice. If they don't, it is time for them to temper their language, unless they want to see politics in Scotland really descend into the gutter.

I have been involved in politics in Scotland, in one way or another, for over fifty years, campaigned in the streets in some of the roughest places in Scotland. On some occasions, the verbal abuse has been pretty near the bone and, in the early days when the SNP was just beginning to make its presence felt in Scotland, there was the odd physical altercation. Generally speaking, with the exception of the time of the miners' strike, physical violence of the type witnessed in other European countries has been largely absent. In fact, until the internet took over, the kind of bile and nastiness so prevalent on Twitter and Facebook, was unknown outside the realms of anonymous letters. It is the height of nonsense to suggest there are no racists in Scotland and it is not so long ago, self-styled asylum seekers in Scotland found the place anything but welcoming. But it is blatantly outrageous to suggest the National Movement in Scotland, in any of its organised and official guises, is founded on ethnic or racist grounds. To suggest the SNP or any other political grouping on the independence side of the debate, makes anti-English arguments, is to willfully misrepresent the politics of Nationalism in Scotland.

Unfortunately, it is impossible to legislate for stupidity and the reception given to Nigel Farage, allegedly to demonstrate against "the intolerance" of UKIP was as stupid as it gets. The UKIP are "intolerant" therefore we will stop them speaking, UKIP hate foreigners, therefore we will tell Farage to get back to England; UKIP knows nothing about Scotland, therefore we will tell Farage to stick the Union Jack up his arse. Aye, and to show the demonstrators were not anti-English, the leader of one of the demonstrating groups was, yup, you've got it - English. Both Alex Salmond and the Yes Campaign will have their own reasons for not condemning the tone of the demonstration and the kind of language used but I hope they have not damaged the independence case or set the tone for future debate between now and next year.


  1. The "headlines" for UKIP were indeed written by "a handful of clowns". Not by the protesters against Farage: the headlines were written by media professionals displaying the usual prejudices of their media employers.

    However, it is NOT true that this is what UKIP was hoping for. Their allegedly un-flappable leader's irresistible rise now looks different. He panicked when some students started asking him questions he didn't like. Later, when a BBC interviewer asked him a couple of questions he didn't like, he repeated the panic which he had shown earlier. Reaction from a friend of mine in Hastings, on the south coast of England (not a student, but somebody who is, like myself, a pensioner and a grandfather): "Scotland has shown how to deal with Farage; that example will be followed in England".

    As for Fairlie's suggestion of giving Farage and his cronies unlimited time in the media, that's what already happens! He seems to be on "Question Time" every other week! Farage had no intention of meeting any members of the public. He called a press conference in a pub, without even bothering to ask permission from the landlord of that pub. But the thing about a pub is, it's a public house. The whole point is that it's open to the public. So, some members of the public showed up and started asking Farage awkward questions. After over twenty minutes of him evading or distorting their questions, things began to get rowdy. And quite right too.

    Nobody "prevented Farage from speaking". What they did prevent was him getting it all his own way. They asked questions he didn't like. And he panicked. And he repeated that panic later, on BBC Radio.

  2. Farage made the ludicrous accusation that the protesters were "anti-English", despite the perfectly obvious English accents of some of them. Two protesters were arrested by the police for their part in the protest against Farage; one of them was Mike Shaw, the (ENGLISH) President of Edinburgh University Socialist Society. But, it has been objected, some of the protesters were from "Radical Independence". That proves they were anti-English! It does nothing of the kind. I couldn't take part in the protest, because, at the time of Farage's reception in Edinburgh, I was attending a public meeting organised by Radical Independence in Dundee. A Radical Independence meeting chaired by an English woman, incidentally. And one of the folk who spoke at that meeting, and was well received, was the (English) chairman of Dundee Trades Union Council. So much for the nonsense from ignorant commentators about Radical Independence being "anti-English". However, although I wasn't there, I have seen, and heard, extensive video footage from both inside and outside that pub. I have seen (and heard) far more than the brief and misleading clips shown on television. To begin with, the protesters were just asking Farage questions. After about twenty minutes of him evading their questions, things began to get a bit rowdy. We are told this is about "free speech". Okay, here's a question. You've got twenty people in a pub. Which one has the right to free speech? The answer from the biased media appears to be, the extremely rich, extremely right-wing, bigot is the only one entitled to free speech!

    1. I am sorry to have taken so long to get back to this. When I said Farage should be given unlimited time to make his arguments, I was referring to Scotland. It doesn't matter a toss how many times he is on Question Time as Scotland is rarely if ever discussed. I have yet to see him put under any pressure on Scottish questions because his audiences are never interested in Scottish issues. The attitude and knowledge about Scotland of UKIP are risible and the best way to highlight that is by giving them the opportunity, not only to make their case, but to be questioned on it. If they refuse to answer questions, that is what should be highlighted.

      No matter how much the TV films were edited, if the comments about "Fascist scum" "Go back to England, we don't want you here" etc. had not been made, they could not have appeared. They did appear because I heard them and I saw the demonstrators shouting abuse. I don't think a big Yes banner did much for the independence cause, being seen among those who were shouting the abuse.

      The independence cause is too important to be allowed to be damaged by that kind of juvenile behaviour. Personal attacks and abuse of opponents does not win arguments, it just irritated neutrals and those who might be sympathetic to the cause of independence. Hopefully the demonstrators will learn.