Over the last few weeks, people around the world have been hearing about the Scottish referendum on independence. Overnight, the news spread across the globe that the United Kingdom might be on the verge of break-up, and often the idea was met with disbelief. How could it be possible? Where was it coming from? Why was it even a question? Many explanations were given in the world press, but few answers. A common argument was that during difficult economic times, such as felt during current austerity measures, nationalism always reared its head. Most people, however, couldn’t realize how much was being hidden from them, and they would have been shocked to see the real face of Scottish independence.
Unfortunately, most interested readers were served media coverage that appeared neutral, but was completely skewed toward a certain bias. Words like “nationalists” and “separatism” were used in abundance, with pictures of screaming men painted blue and white.
Which made it easy for people to assume that this was just more right wing reaction against difficult times. People heard about the Scottish National Party (SNP) and unconsciously aligned it with Golden Dawn in Greece, Le Front National in France, and other extremist parties.
The SNP may be a nationalist party, but Scottish nationalism doesn’t look like we’d expect. The independence movement as a whole has never excluded people based on race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, or any other identity. In fact, protection against all discrimination based on these identity categories was explicitly written into the draft constitution prepared for an independent Scotland by the SNP.
Even the English were free to join the movement, because it wasn’t anti-English either. And while many people may have good reasons to prefer to maintain the British union, painting the independence movement as a right wing backlash simply isn’t fair or true.
Many media outlets didn’t come outright and say it, but most of them conveniently left out anything that showed the broad, popular appeal of the movement that attracted all kinds of people.
Now, before someone accuses me of cherry-picking my images, I’ll freely admit that I am. Since ninety percent of media coverage showed brawny boys in screaming in kilts and blue face paint, there’s no reason not to show also that the Asian community, the LGBT community, the Muslim community, and many other minority groups were all largely in favor of independence.
We regularly hear about how unreliable news media is in Russia or China. But the problems extend into the West if a popular movement in Europe is being portrayed as extremist when in reality it is welcoming of a wide variety of participants. Don’t we deserve better? Shouldn’t we demand it?
The truth about Scottish nationalism is that it doesn’t resemble the nationalism we’re told to be afraid of. It is inclusive and widely supported by exactly the minority groups that right wing nationalist groups tend to target with hate. It is diverse, made up foremost by people seeking to win self-determination for their nation. That’s a kind of nationalism, but not one to fear.