Perth Stramash square

The Perth Stramash

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WITH A GRANDIOSITY that is very individual and characterises the man, Alex Salmond proclaimed in October 2012 that the arrangement for a referendum he had reached with David Cameron was ‘the Edinburgh Agreement’. The name has stuck. I intend to write about a recent event that can be characterised as the ‘Perth Stramash’, an unedifying demonstration of what has happened to Scotland in recent years.

What does the Perth Stramash tell us about Scotland in 2022? Quite a lot, and not much of it good. It shows Scotland to be disfigured by a nationalist movement that believes it has right – in the old days, it would have claimed God – on its side, and that its opponents are somehow morally defective simply by virtue of being its opponents.

As Effie Deans says, “Scottish nationalists are angry because nationalism makes people angry” (‘Lily of St Leonard’s’, 18 August 2022). This goes at least some way towards explaining the Perth Stramash: the allegedly righteous anger of the Scottish nationalists was being expressed. This has echoes of another country in another century. It did not end well.

By this interpretation, the Scottish Conservatives are an illegitimate political force, demonised first by the Labour Party during its own decades of domination of Scottish politics and now, in more virulent and intolerant terms, by the SNP.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Take, for example, a speech Ms Sturgeon made in Glasgow at a nationalist event in Glasgow in 2019, in which she shouted menacingly:

“The Scotland we seek is open, welcoming, diverse and inclusive, and no Tory is ever  going to be allowed to change that…. And down that Boris Johnson path lies a future where Boris Johnson has his strings pulled by Donald Trump. Make no mistake, if we accept for our country that future, our National Health Service, workers’ rights,   environmental standards – all of that is on the line. That is not the Scotland that we want.”

That was scaremongering of a most outrageous kind – and played to the gallery of her activist followers.

Yet in 2021, in the Holyrood election, the Scottish Conservatives won almost a quarter of the seats in the chamber with almost 600,000 constituency votes plus even more list votes, emerging as the second largest party. It is not plausible for nationalists to claim Conservatives are an alien growth on the Scottish body politic, because a substantial number of Scottish voters support them. I do, when the Conservative candidate has the best chance of defeating the SNP in my constituency, just as I vote Labour when the Labour candidate is best placed to do that – and as I would vote Liberal Democrat in similar circumstances.

In Perth, on 16 August 2022, an election hustings was held by the Conservative Party, to be attended by the two leadership candidates and party members. There was no secret about this, and the nationalists seized on it as a target for their allegedly righteous anger.

The Perth River Tay SNP branch posted on Facebook “let’s give a nice welcome to the new UKGov candidates at their only Scottish hustings event”. I do not imagine anyone was much in doubt about what a ‘nice welcome’ would mean. And so it turned out. The ‘nice welcome’ included eggs being thrown at Conservative members, who were also spat upon and abused in the vilest of terms. The BBC’s utterly inoffensive Scotland Editor, James Cook, was shouted at, with cries of “traitor” and “lying scum”. Because of the vile abuse being shouted at him by a man nearby, he wasn’t able to respond to the woman who insistently wanted to engage him on the ‘Claim of Right’, a nationalist King Charles’s head whose legal relevance has been dismantled by Roddy Dunlop, QC, Dean of the Faculty of Advocates and also here.

Next day, Ms Sturgeon, and some of her ministers, expressed condemnation of the treatment received by Mr Cook. No mention was made of the treatment of citizens going about their lawful business, at the hands of a baying mob. One must conclude that  she regarded Conservative members as fair game. Ms Sturgeon was clear in her own mind that the malefactors were not SNP members; nevertheless, as we have seen, a local SNP branch was involved in preparing the ‘nice welcome’.

What does the Perth Stramash tell us about the state of Scotland in 2022? First, that there is a nationalist element that believes it has the right to harass citizens who are behaving lawfully. We saw that in 2014, and we have seen it since – particularly disgracefully when, in 2015, nationalists stalked, harassed and photographed Margaret Curran, a Labour candidate in that year’s general election, as she canvassed.

Second, that same element does not accept that people who disagree with it have the right to express their disagreement unmolested. If they do express disagreement, they are to be shouted down, abused and jostled.

Third, those who disagree must be classed as English or ‘English-loving traitors’, because no ‘true Scot’ could possibly reject Scottish separatism, and actually because Scottish nationalism is founded on a hatred of the English.

 

 

 

 

 

Fourth, separatist supporters are blind to what they are perpetrating. Neil Mackay, a journalist with the Herald, tweeted in February: “When it comes to hate and online abuse in Scotland, the No camp is just as bad as Yes. Both sides of the political divide need to clean up their act. Neither is better than the other. There is a parity of nastiness across the aisle”. I don’t doubt he continues to believe that, even after the Perth Stramash. Yet it is the separatists who assemble mobs, hold mass meetings (no, not ‘marches’ – have you ever seen them ‘march’ anywhere?).

Fifth, the SNP leadership does not accept it has any responsibility for this state of affairs. But it does: it bears very significant responsibility for having whipped-up and spread hatred of Westminster, England, the UK and, especially, Tories over years and decades. If we think back ten years, can we recall any where else in Scotland this kind of threatening and intolerant behaviour surfaced – well, perhaps apart from at certain football matches?

The last decade has seen a deepening and widening division in Scotland between those who think they have the right to rip Scotland out of the UK, regardless of what the majority wants, that majority whose view was clearly expressed in a referendum in 2014. The SNP leadership has shown them the way by trying to overthrow the result of that referendum, calling for another, to give Scots the chance to give the right answer next time, and constantly inventing grievances against Westminster, England, the UK and Tories.

In 2014, the SNP leadership set the tone, vilifying the UK and trying to silence criticism of their own project. Only a Freedom of Information request revealed the way in which Alex Salmond and his staff tried to bully the then Principal of the University of St Andrews into withdrawing reservations she had expressed about the future of academic research funding in the event of Scotland leaving the UK. Happily, Louise Richardson was made of stern stuff and did not accede to this demand.

BBC Scotland has been less robust. The baying mob that gathered at Pacific Quay to protest about Nick Robinson scared the Beeb, and its Scottish operation has been careful not to cross the SNP, or even to ask its leaders searching questions (which amounts to the same thing). It was purely inadvertently that Sarah Smith, in 2021, the then Scotland editor, who had filed overwhelmingly anodyne reports about Scottish affairs, mentioned that the Covid crisis allowed Ms Sturgeon to ‘enjoy’ more authority than previously. She used the word ‘enjoy’ in the sense of ‘having’ or ‘accessing’, not of ‘taking pleasure’ in it. But a hurty tweet from Nicola Sturgeon was enough to unleash the cybernats onto Ms Smith, who, in panic, publicly apologised four times. No wonder Ms Smith was relieved to depart for Washington DC which she regards as less toxic (Washington DC!) than the atmosphere of ‘bile, hatred and misogyny’ that she experienced in Scotland.

As the Sarah Smith incident suggests, the lead in hatred and abuse from the nationalists in Scotland comes from the top. Ms Sturgeon’s SNP has created a deeply unpleasant atmosphere of hatred, suspicion and recrimination. We see it in the way that she rudely addresses some journalists and many members of the opposition parties at Holyrood – without Presiding Officers, past or present, trying to restrain her. On one particularly notorious and disagreeable occasion four years ago, she responded to a perfectly reasonable question from Willie Rennie, as gentle a person who has sat as an MSP, with: “That all goes to show that Willie Rennie is a pathetic attention seeker”.

The look of incomprehension and shock on Rennie’s face said it all. And who should take the lead in enthusiastically applauding that piece of surly abuse? Why, John Swinney, who recently assumed his Holy Willie persona when responding to Liz Truss’s similar comment about Ms Sturgeon.

Ms Sturgeon cannot be surprised when the whirlwind she has unleashed is ratcheted up by those on the wilder shores of nationalism. On 19 August, @grazzar09, a deluded cybernat, claiming to be a member of the Alba party, an offshoot of the SNP, tweeted:

I am one of these ‘morons’ who was at Perth

So:

I refuse to be silent

I refuse to be told what to do by our so-called leadership

I will stand up for Scotland

I will protest until our country is free again

I call on all patriots to join us

#ScottishRevolution

Another, @TheIndyNinja1, tweeted on 18 August 2022:

A wee heads up to all you horrified people out there re Perth. That was but the starting whistle. We are no going to be nice fluffy nationalists anymore. We are going to make our sovereignty felt. And you are going to feel it. And we wont be doing it to you but for you. [sic]

This is the Perth Stramash and what it tells us about Scotland in 2022. Namely that there are people who believe we do not live in a ‘free’ country. They haven’t a clue about what ‘freedom’ means: it means notbeing among the 10,000 boys kidnapped in Nigeria by Boko Haram in 2016. It means not having Russians blow your house to smithereens in Ukraine in 2022. It also means being able to go to a meeting in Scotland of a party you detest and stand outside, jostling and shouting insults and spitting at those going to that meeting, with the fully centralised police standing by and neglecting to intervene.

The UK is one of the most free countries in the world. But I wouldn’t put money on freedom of speech surviving long in any iScotland. Nationalists – whether in the SNP, Alba or some other fringe separatist group – perhaps the ‘proto-fascist’ (quote by Gordon Wilson) Siol nan Gaidheal, whose banner featured in Perth – think they are the only patriots in Scotland, and that the rightness of their cause justifies loutish and increasingly out of control behaviour. The rhetoric of their leaders has unambiguously given them that impression and encouraged their sense of entitlement and exceptionalism. There is something Trumpian about it. The surreal impression is that the widely viewed as outlandish and risible antics of the ‘Scottish Resistance’ are being normalised and, even worse, taken seriously by people whom one might previously have called ‘canny Scots’.

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