Scottish political tribalism: an outsider’s perspective

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by Sue Varley

I’ve been puzzled for a long time about this supposed hatred and antipathy between the SNP and its supporters, and the Labour party and its supporters.  In the five years I’ve been aware of Scottish politics I have to say that although I have been reading about it, I have never seen this supposed hatred being reflected back from the SNP towards Labour.

When I saw the results of the 2007 election, I naively thought it would be good to have minority government as opposed to the party system at Westminster, because I assumed that each party would work to find consensus and get as many of their policies implemented as possible.  

To some extent the Tories did do this, but the Lib Dems set out their stall even before the SNP formed a government by refusing to discuss coalition unless the SNP dropped its intention to hold a referendum.  And it did not take long for this newly arrived on-looker to the game to realise that Labour would oppose everything put forward, even their own amendments and policies, simply so they could “accuse the SNP” of breaking another manifesto promise.

It is very easy to see the hatred that Labour have for the SNP, as Gerry Hassan points out it exists at all levels of the Labour party, and is not confined to Labour in Scotland.  But I have been continually astonished to keep reading claims that apparently the SNP share this same hatred for the Labour party.  With no history of allegiance to or even real interest in, either the SNP or Labour in Scotland, I had no pre-2007 bias to distort what I have seen since then.

There has been weary disdain from Alex Salmond when he has explained the Government’s position over and over again and still gets the same tired old destructive responses from both Labour front benchers and the TV interviewers.  There was real anger from Nicola Sturgeon over the deliberate wrecking of the minimum pricing for alcohol bill, I feel this was justifiable given the huge level of professional support the bill attracted from police, health care professionals et al.  I have seen an occasional strong comment on some sites from nationalists, but it all  pales into insignificance when compared to the hate, vitriol and nastiness that comes towards the nationalists.

While Gerry refers to the “rage of the so-called ‘cybernats’” and describes these ‘cybernats’ as “part of the Nationalist community” he does admit that “Labour’s detestation of the Nationalists is found at all levels of the party, whereas the manic hatred of Labour seen in ‘the cybernats’ is found at the margins of the party.”

But I just don’t see this cybernat rage or this manic hatred, it is certainly not evident in the SNP itself even at the margins of the party.  If SNP politicians, be they MP, MSP, MEP or councillor, were caricaturing Labour in the same way that Gerry states that Labour regularly do to the SNP, it would be all over the MSM.  The “SNP accused” stories would be even more frequent than they are.  The media would have a field day because they would have real anti-SNP stories to report, they would not have to resort to invention, spin or distortion to get their anti-SNP propaganda.

What I do see is well reasoned and expressed refutation of Unionist lies of the too poor, too wee too stupid kind.  I see misdemeanours and crimes of Unionist politicians exposed and commented upon, and I see well presented information putting forward a very strong case for Scottish independence from Westminster.  I also see a complete lack of reasoned support for the continuation of the Union, despite frequent pleas to Unionists to put their case, and I see ridicule for the Unionist politicians who keep telling us that they are going to present this positive case, but never do.

I also see real anger at the prosperity of a nation being wasted and destroyed.  I freely admit I was raging last week when I saw David Cameron trying to prevent investment in Scotland’s re-industrialisation through exploitation of our renewable energy resources.  And I was angered over Longannet.  And Gordon Brown’s failure to support the Peterhead project, and the Dunfermline Building Society.  And the great number of Scottish lives wasted by Tony Blair’s wars.

I see bitterness at the lack of respect for Scotland’s people and the blocking of aspiration.  I see frustration that after decades of Labour rule in Glasgow nothing seems to improve with respect to health, housing, education, employment, the culture of drink and violence.  I see disillusionment that the Labour party no longer supports the ideals it once fought for.  I share in these.  It’s why I became a supporter of independence when I became aware of the political reality in Scotland post devolution.

Gerry seems to believe that both parties are responsible for the political tribalism, but he equates behaviour such as Labour using “politics of fear and negativity for years against the Nationalists” with ‘cybernats’ believing that “they are taking a stand against an omnipotent Unionist establishment which is biased against them.”  I have to say that these two behaviours are nowhere near equal in the negative effect they have on political life.

I also have to ask, what am I missing here?  What is Gerry seeing that I completely fail to see?

Does he confuse the anger over the way Scotland and her people have been treated by the British of all political classes, and the desire to end this destructive situation for Scotland with hatred of Labour?  Or am I really just another blinkered ‘cybernat’ taking a stand?