Monday, 30 January 2012

The Psychology of Nationalism

An interesting debate on the effects of "independence" on Nicky Campbell's Big Question.

All the usual back-and-forth but, for me, two very interesting interventions that say a lot about the psychology of the two camps. On one side, mainly emotion. On the other mainly argument and logic. The facts as always in dispute.

In this debate, in a way that you don't get when professional politicians are interviewed in a formal setting, the emotional, faith-based character of the Nationalist position was made very clear. It started almost immediately with an intervention by Allan Bissett, a playwright,  who had hardly started (2.40 mins in to the recording) when he brought up "the Scottish cringe". Then the academic Ewan Crawford launched into a rant (around 21 mins in) about Scotland being "too wee and too poor" to exist as an "independent" country.  

The interesting thing about these arguments is that Nationalists are always attributing the "Scottish cringe" to others and claiming that the notion that "Scotland is too wee and too poor" is their opponents argument. In fact, in my long experience of debating with Nationalists, it's always the Nats that bring these things out in any discussion. Nobody else does, because nobody else believes it. It seems the ideas of the "Scottish cringe" and "too wee too poor" have unique and irresistible attraction for Nationalist activists: they just have to blurt it out.

Why is that? Why is it always the Nationalists, who claim to love Scotland so much, more than anyone else, who claim that, if you oppose "independence, you must be "anti-Scottish"; why is it the Nationalists who always bring up these negative arguments about Scotland and the Scots?

I'm no psychologist but it's as if they were transferring, in an almost textbook Freudian manner, their own their deepest fears and beliefs on to the other protagonists in the debate.We, the Nationalists, secretly believe that Scotland is "too wee and too poor". We, the Nationalists, suffer from this awful "cringe". But that's too painful to acknowledge, so we'll bring them into every argument and project them on to the non-Nationalists on the other side of the debate. "Look", we'll cry "you hate us"!

The overwhelming impression I was left from The Big Question with was of Nationalists externalising their own inferiority complexes and expressing them as "love o' ma country" with the converse belief that if you don't have feelings of doubt, inferiority and low self esteem, then there's something wrong with you...!!!?.

Maybe we don't need a referendum: maybe we just need more psychiatrists.... 

Tell me about this "Cringe" you think everyone else has....


  1. In her latest promise to leave the country the other day, Michelle Mone stated that "we wouldn't survive" if we were independent. Modern Scottish Unionist politicians take care to avoid that one, though it remains a common sentiment among the laity. Still, I agree that it would be better for Nats to cite it directly, rather than caricaturing it as "too wee, too poor".

    Can you tell us which Nat you're quoting with that "love o' ma country" line which you place in inverted commas? I'm sure you wouldn't make that up as a straw man, as you accuse the Nats of doing with the "too wee" stuff. My impression is that it's supporters of the Union who are at pains to express an irrational "love" of Scotland - Douglas Alexander and Jim Murphy have done so fairly recently.

  2. Sure.

    I was standing at a polling station with party colours etc.(as you do)and chatting to the SNP rep, also in party colours.

    It transpired that we agreed about almost everything...housing, education, taxation, health etc. We wanted the same things.

    I said "Y'know, we have so much in common. We should be in the same party trying to deliver schools, hospitals, doctors, jobs and so on"

    To which my new Nat friend replied, verbatim "Ah but, ah luv ma country".

    End of conversation.

    What's to say?

  3. Joan McAlpine SNP MSP said only last week that intefereing in the referendum and disagreeing with a question on devo max was anti Scottish.

    I got an SNP leaflet through the door yesterday with the bold assertion on the cover "The only party with Scotland at its heart".

    They do it all the time. They wave our flag as if they owned it.

    They probably think it's true that they uniquely love our country, but it's not?

    I presume politicians claim to love their country because the SNP is always accusing them of not doing so....