Not so easy

yesIt is easy to mark Siol nan Gaidheal as an out-group. It is easy to justify intolerance of their ideology. It is easy to rationalise excluding them from the Yes movement. In matters of politics, I have learned to be wary of easy choices. In matters of ethics and morality, I find even more cause to be mistrustful of anything presented as an easy answer.

I have not made a study of Siol nan Gaidheal. I know enough about their ideology to be certain that I have no interest in knowing more. As someone who self-identifies politically as a civic nationalist, I find ethno-nationalism totally alien and profoundly objectionable. Racism is, quite apart from any other consideration, intellectually offensive. The ‘blood and soil’ nationalism espoused by Siol nan Gaidheal is, from my personal perspective, an affront to science and logic. It is an ugly ideology. It is ugly because it is facile. It is ugly because it arrives at significant conclusions about the character of individuals and groups on the basis of ‘evidence’ which is wholly inadequate and/or totally misleading.

You cannot know a person by the colour of their skin, or by any other aspect of their physical being bestowed by nature. You cannot know a person by their ancestry or their geographic origins. You can only know anything meaningful about a person from the conscious, considered choices that they make.

To my mind, the stuff peddled by Siol nan Gaidheal is rather too ludicrous to be considered dangerous. It would be easy to dismiss. So I don’t dismiss it from anything other than my own mind. Because I’ve learned to be wary of things that seem easy.

It is easy to condemn Siol nan Gaidheal. So easy that we might do so without thinking. We might just go along with the condemnation and the intolerance and the exclusion without questioning the process and without considering the implications. It is seldom a good idea to do anything thoughtlessly. It is always a good idea to consider the implications of any action. It is only sensible to examine what is actually going on with an apparently easy process. It’s good to question everything. The more obvious and easy it seems – or is made to seem – the more is likely to be revealed by questioning.

Why exclude Siol nan Gaidheal from the Yes movement? It can hardly be because they support the cause of restoring Scotland’s status as an independent nation. That, after all, is the primary aim of the Yes movement. What is proposed is that Siol nan Gaidheal be excluded on account of their motives for supporting independence. Which necessarily implies that their motives have been scrutinised and judged to be unacceptable. By whom? Who, in the Yes movement has the authority to conduct such scrutiny? Who has the right to pass judgement?

Who decides which groups and individuals are to be subjected to such scrutiny? Who decides which individuals and groups are exempt from any examination of their motives?

What criteria are applied in assessing whether an individual or group is fit to be part of the Yes movement? Who selects these criteria? Who ensures that the criteria are fairly applied? Who oversees the process by which individuals and groups are approved or rejected?

How does one apply for accreditation as an approved part of the Yes movement? To whom must one apply? Who has to apply? If not everybody, who decides which individuals and groups need not apply?

What seemed like an easy choice to exclude Siol nan Gaidheal from the Yes movement turns out to be rather more fraught when one takes the trouble to ask the awkward questions. It turns out to be more problematic than we’ve been led to suppose because asking those awkward questions brings the realisation that excluding Siol nan Gaidheal has implications, not only for them, but for the Yes movement. The process of excluding any individual or group necessarily and unavoidably says something about the character and nature of the entity which is doing the excluding.

The Yes movement that I have known and cherished is open and inclusive. It is totally open and inclusive. It is open and inclusive, not because those who are part of the Yes movement choose that it should be so, but because it is incapable of being anything else. By it’s very nature, the Yes movement cannot be other than open and inclusive. It is devoid of the capacity to be exclusive. It lacks the structures, the hierarchies, the regulations and the apparatus required in order to formally include or exclude anyone.

It is this that has made the Yes movement special – perhaps unique. Excluding Siol nan Gaidheal destroys this essential quality. Instituting a process by which any group or individual may be excluded necessarily transforms the Yes movement into an organisation. I would strongly urge that those who suppose casting out Siol nan Gaidheal is an easy choice think long and hard about the unintended consequences.


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Scotland’s paper

the_nationalThere is an increasing sense that The National is, not just the only newspaper in Scotland to reflect that half of the population which aspires to independence, but also that it is the only part of the media which is actively engaging with Scotland’s politics.

I have long maintained that The National’s real value lay, not in its support for independence, but in the way it demonstrates that a different perspective is possible. There is an alternative to the cosy consensus of the British establishment media. The National has proved that. The National provides it.

The launch of YES DIY is a further step in this process. With its Roadshow events, The National has already established a reputation for reaching out to the public in a manner and to an extent which is, I think, unique in our time. The paper has also gone further than most to allow access to its pages. It devotes an exceptional amount of space to readers letters and comments reprinted from its website. There is already a ‘what’s On’ feature for Yes  events in the print version as well as a very useful online calendar that can be used to create personalised reminders of upcoming events.

This remarkable two-way engagement is now to be enhanced with a twice-weekly feature about Yes groups throughout Scotland. And that is a damned fine thing!

One of the things that inevitably comes up in every discussion of independence campaign strategy is the problem of media access. Well, here it is! Not everything we might wish for. But wishes rarely come true. Not in the way we hope. It’s a start. It’s a foot in the door. The National is a small wedge inserted in a tiny crack in the British establishment’s media armour. It is up to us to drive that wedge home. It is we who must open up that crack until the armour is broken.

I hear criticism of The Nation. Most of it ill-informed. Much of it petty and prejudiced. All of this criticism misses the point that, whatever the paper’s provenance, it is what we make it. Some say The National was only launched to cash in on the demand for a pro-independence newspaper. Well, duh! If the Yes movement has the power to bring about the launch of a new newspaper in a time when the traditional print media is in serious decline, then it has the power to shape that newspaper. Especially when Callum Baird and his team are so evidently amenable.

The National is by no means safe. We cannot afford to take it for granted. There are a lot of very influential people who would like to see it fail. If we make it viable, we make it more secure. If we make it profitable, we effectively own it. It seems obvious to me that the entire Yes movement must get behind The National. Why would we not? Why would we decline this opportunity? That would be madness.

But it’s not only the Yes movement that stands to gain from making The National a success. The National should be respected by all who value media diversity. It should be embraced for the contribution it makes to creating media which serve society and democracy rather than established power and corporate interests.

Buy it! Read it! Share it! Promote it! Make The National work for the Yes movement, for Scotland and for democracy.


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