By Mike Small
We live in a democracy of double standards.
Je Suis Charlie and all that, but Steve Bell’s cartoon is just racist. Worse than that, it’s not funny.
A relentless anti-Scottish rhetoric has become mainstream. To protest is to be ‘chippy’. To complain is to be ‘precious’.
But the test is this. Can you imagine a Scottish newspaper publishing an equivalent cartoon about the English? You can’t and I’m so glad you can’t. It would be thought outrageous and bigoted. You can’t imagine someone coming on your television and arguing that the English language should die. You can’t imagine a vastly paid BBC presenter calling someone a ‘one eyed English idiot’.
We don’t need to rest on the English alone to peddle this sort of stuff. We have our own bigots here.
Poor Allan Massie is suffering from selective memory: “We have already seen vile behaviour in the course of the Scottish referendum campaign, with insults flying, open hostility in the streets, and a nationalist mob braying outside the BBC in Glasgow. The mood in Scotland remains tense and ugly – and those living south of the border should take note because the mood could quickly sour there too.”
He seems to have forgotten about George Square where a unionist mob ran riot through Glasgow while the boys in blue failed in their basic duty.
Fear breeds anger and hatred and the deep pool of self-loathing that many Scottish unionists draw on is becoming ever more apparent. “If, as many fear, the Scottish Nationalists take control of English affairs that mood will turn to fury” he complains without telling us where such fury would go.
“Democracy is at stake” we’re told with an irony bypass he seems oblivious to. For decades Scottish votes have been wasted and we’ve tolerated a government we didn’t elect.
To vote is to undermine democracy.
“A government formed with the support of a party that rejects England and the English – what would English MPs and English people make of that? Why on earth should the English tolerate this? Who’s speaking for English independence? Middle England would be furious and, speaking as a Scot, I have to say it would be right.”
“The English bulldog has woken from a long sleep, and is beginning to snarl” he writes (‘If Scotland rules England, I can foresee the Thames foaming with much blood‘) in threatening tones. Massie, channeling Enoch Powell, has descended from High Tory to float off to somewhere on the far-right consumed by a torrent of cultural self-loathing and political apoplexy where he may disappear amongst the pages of English tabloid bile.
How to respond to such bigotry of Bell, Massie and Mitchell?
It should be confronted and called out again and again. But we should rise above it. Our agenda is social justice. Let others speak of rivers of blood if they like. We are about hope, change and solidarity. This disgraceful narrative of casual racism should be mocked but not mirrored. Progressive England and progressive unionists should stand up and not act as apologists for this. It will be interesting to see if they have a voice.