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Siol nan Gaidheal
A review of the two forms of nationalism

"He canna Scotland see wha yet
Canna see the Infinite,
And Scotland in true scale to it."

Hugh MacDiarmid, "A Drunk Man looks at the Thistle"

In light of the latest rabid outpourings of Jack McConnell, London's man in Edinburgh, seeking to link Scottish Nationalism with the excesses of Monsieur Le Pen in France, and other continental right-wing fascists, it is time for Siol nan Gaidheal to address this errant nonsense and introduce a note of sanity to the argument. "We have to put the politics of nation, identity and hatred into the dustbin of history" blithely quoth McConnell. The equating of nationalist expression with hatred and racism is just one of the more spurious arguments used by Imperialists (English and European) to justify their own expansionism, and we utterly refute it.

Nationalism has been described as having a "Janus face" - in particular by the eminent historian Tom Devine. He was referring to the habit of certain nationalist parties to present a culturally exclusive face, which incited hatred, whilst denying the existence of this facet of their organisational personality. However, a recent correspondent to one of the Scottish dailies cited a dualistic view of the concept of nationalism - that there are two distinct types, which cannot co-exist, and in fact may be said to be mutually exclusive. He classified these as 'micro-nationalism' and 'macro-nationalism', and they are valid descriptions of the two ideologies. We shall now examine these in a little more detail.

Micro-nationalism is the natural expression of the desire of small nation states to retain their unique identity, nationality and culture, whilst at the same time remaining active participants in the wider world, often expressed in a struggle to break away from a larger composite state. This idea of micro-nationalism was expressed in the Greek uprising against the Ottoman Empire, Finland's struggle against the Russian Grand Duchy, the rise of the Dutch Republic, and as has most recently been seen, East Timor's independence from Indonesian rule. Micro-nationalism is the true face of Scottish nationalism - a desire for the retention of traditional national values, but still a willing partner in appropriate outside ventures. Scotland has evolved a unique cultural fabric based on essentially Celtic foundations, incorporating kin-based social groups, land tenure, music, language and literature, which immigration has influenced but not irreversibly altered. So the essence of Scotland remains her ancient culture, derived from the various groups who comprise the indigenous population. Her nationalism is a benign one, based on social democratic values rather than national chauvinism and racial superiority.

Macro-nationalism, on the other hand, is the ugly face of fascist empire - an unremitting drive for expansion (or lebensraum), the imposition of a particular set of cultural values on conquered or colonised nations, backed up with military might, and an altogether aggressive intent towards close neighbours. Classic examples of this view of macro-nationalism would be the Roman Empire, the British Empire, and the Third Reich. Exclusion of any ideals not held by the base nation becomes the creed, and the extermination of any dissent to these becomes an overwhelming necessity. Certain benefits may accrue but these occur at the cost of the conquered nation's indigenous culture. It becomes a mere province, its assets to be disposed of at the whim of the conqueror, and its opinions denigrated when they do not coincide with those of the Imperialists. Once the differences between the chauvinistic 'motherland' are eroded, cultural levelling is achieved, with the resultant political acquiescence to what is, in essence, rape. In Scotland's particular case, with reference to her colonial relationship with England, Lord Cooper, Lord President of the Court of Session, once opined that: 'The principle of the unlimited sovereignty of parliament is a distinctively English principle, which has no counterpart in Scottish constitutional law.' He added that he could not see why 'it should have been supposed that the new parliament of Great Britain must inherit all the peculiar characteristics of the English parliament but none of the Scottish parliament'. This trend continues to the present day with the inequalities inherent in the Vichy Parliament.

So - where stands Scotland now in the light of this dualistic scenario? Scotland has not, and never has had, any particularly expansionist ambitions, no desire to create and dominate an 'empire', and no aggressive intentions towards any of our close neighbours. Our desire for independence cloaks no hidden agenda of world domination! Far from it - while an understanding of our own society, its past, its culture, its values and institutions is the birthright of all Scots, this must be in the context of Scotland's current place in the world today. Our nationality is authentic because it is not determined by mere narrow materialistic aims and devices.

Scotland is a nation for these very reasons; an ethnic group with a territorial, institutional and historical consciousness which owes nothing to resultant mythology. We must celebrate our past, and cherish it, but also live in the present and look to the future - for it is there that our children will live, and their children. Built on the solid ground of our nation's culture, diverse as it is, Siol nan Gaidheal are sure that we can reclaim our community and its constituent network of solidarity's, and the certain knowledge of its preservation in the future.


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