During the first referendum campaign, I identified something that I termed the Hassan-Riddoch Syndrome. A form of posturing pontification that offers little in the way of fresh insight or meaningful analysis but relies instead on an intellectually vacuous and tediously negative pseudo-critique spiced with the odd gobbet of laboriously contrived controversialism.
Many of you will recall how the Yes campaign was incessantly lectured by self-appointed arbiters of “proper debater” on how we were all talking to the wrong people about the wrongs things at the wrong time and in the wrong way. The sideline snipers are still at it. Regaling us with their distorted perceptions and their contrarian conclusions.
You know you’re dealing with some seriously puerile attention-seeking when you see a phrase such as “Age of the Imperial SNP“.
You know you’re about to be dealt some profoundly ill-informed, reality-denying drivel as soon as you see the majestically deluded reference to the SNP’s supposed “expectations about a landslide” in last week’s elections.
It doesn’t get any better as you go on. What Gerry Hassan offers is an account of the election and its outcome clumsily contorted to fit his rather sour regard for Scotland’s politics. We can safely disregard most of it and skip to the supremely shallow and magnificently misguided final paragraph.
Here, Gerry Hassan pompously decrees that “Scotland has to be about more than two competing claims of nationhood”, while revealing a stunning failure to comprehend the fact that those “two competing claims” definitively encompass the things he insists that the lack – or exclude. To imagine that political fault-lines in Scottish politics represent no more than a “debate between two nationalisms” is to disastrously fail to understand what these “nationalism” represent. It is to utterly miss the fact that they are shorthand for ideologies that go far beyond mere differing concepts of nationhood.
This simplistic appreciation of the new divide in Scottish politics fails to recognise the principles and ideas that are associated with what Hassan sees only as “two nationalisms”. It fails to recognise that they are indeed about “things both mundane and fundamental”.
The debate between pro- and anti-independence is, in reality, a debate between two very different concepts of society. Those campaigning for independence aren’t doing so solely for the sake of making Scotland an independent nation once again. They are fighting, not merely for independence, but for the potential and the promise that this entails. They are fighting for the opportunity to create a better, fairer, “more human and humane” society.
Those fighting to preserve the structures of power, privilege and patronage which define the British state are doing so from motives rather less worthy. They are either those who are served well by the old order and the old ways, or those who are made fearful by the insidious urgings of a ruling elite with vast resources at its disposal.
It’s not that Scotland has to be about two different claims of nationhood. Scotland already is about two different claims of what kind of nation it should be. What we saw in last week’s election was another stage in the process whereby the people of Scotland come to make choices between these competing claims.