I am ready and willing to discuss the pros and cons of Scottish independence with anyone. I am happy to be disagreed with, so long as I have been listened to.
Yet for the past week, every breakfast time, along with my pro-biotic yoghurt and low fat cereal bar, I’m being asked to swallow opinions in the press that anger me, not so much because I disagree with them, but because they either entirely misunderstand or misrepresent the case for independence.
Yesterday it was The Guardian coming out in favour of No, with the sign-off: “Nationalism is not the answer to social injustice.” Agreed. But this debate is about ‘independence’. Elsewhere in the piece it talks of “the ugly nationalism that insists that everything is the fault of some other group, while we are different and better than them” and “the coded anti-English prejudice [that] lurks near the surface”.
How and why have the Guardian ignored the fact that at the forefront of the independence campaign are groups like English Scots 4 Yes, Women For Independence, Scottish Asians For Yes, Italians For Yes, Polish For Yes, YesLGBT? Do they sound like ugly anti-English nationalists to you? Just look at them the misguided, divisive Nationalist thugs…
In any case, nationalism is in the eye of the beholder. As one wag on twitter put it:
I would go further. As I have said repeatedly, I am Yorkshire by birth, Scottish by residence, European by outlook. The bit I want to lose is the ‘Brit’, this outdated notion that ties me to people with whom I share little in terms of values and attitudes. I want to lose a national identity, not gain one. I am a ‘de-nationalist‘. Sure, I am emphasising differences between me and the London-centric English, but I am not saying I am better (although being a Yorkshireman, this is self-evident in any case). And at the same time I am saying I have much in common with the Irish or the Swedish or the Spanish. By continually casting the pro-independence cause as ‘nationalism’ with all the baggage attached to that word, even in the face of the harmonious cooperation of the disparate groups mentioned above, the media does itself huge discredit.
But this, and the facile No editorial by the Scotsman, pales into insignificance next to the statement made by Deutsche Bank, shared yesterday by the increasingly excellent Channel 4 journalist Paul Mason.
“Why anyone would want to exit a successful economic and political union with a G-5 country – a union which another part of Europe so desperately seeks to emulate – to go it alone for the benefit of… what exactly, is incomprehensible to this author.”
David Folkerts-Landau, Group Chief Economist
There you have, in a nutshell, the wrong-headed attitude of almost the entire political and economic establishment. What independence supporters want is ‘incomprehensible‘ to them. They are so blinkered, they cannot see past their profit forecasts. They cannot even begin to imagine why anyone would dissent from this supposedly beneficent union we are in, despite the food banks, zero hours contracts, bankers’ bonuses, expense scandals, foreign wars, terrorist threats, establishment paedophile rings, xenophobia, elitism, yadda yadda yadda… ad infinitum. Where do you begin to debate with someone who doesn’t just disagree with you, but doesn’t even see that there is a debate to be had?
This is someone with the academic intelligence to become a top economist, but without the emotional intelligence to consider, even for a second, that they might be wrong. Someone from an industry with a very recent reputation for getting things utterly and catastrophically wrong. And his words are reported as gospel here and here and many other places with the admittedly eyecatching soundbite that “a Yes vote would lead to a new Great Depression”.
Meanwhile, there are hundreds and thousands of people in Scotland campaigning every day to make the points that he refuses to hear, their voices drowned out by a mainstream media who espouse the same values as Mr Folkerts-Landau. Some democracy we live in.
Make an economic case for the Union, please, by all means. I, for one, will and do listen to you and take it on board. But if you are not going to even accept there is a case that needs to be made, I am through dealing with you.
(Apologies must go out to my fellow blogger, Rory ffoulkes, for rather hijacking our blog with pro-Independence rants in recent weeks. Normal service will be resumed shortly.)