Rob Stothard/Getty Images
Under the SNP, being outraged is Scotland’s fastest growing industry. Production of outrage has risen to record levels and exports of pious outrage are surging. Decades of investment by the SNP in a moral superiority complex are, it seems, paying dividends.
There is a cost, however. Excessive supply may drive down demand. Too much outrage is quite boring and carries with it, in this case, the risk that the Scots in their entirety will be defined outside Scotland as a bunch of whingers, when it is just some of the nationalists who are a bunch of whingers.
The latest victim of the phenomenon is Sadiq Khan. With wearying inevitability, the Mayor of London’s intervention in the debate on Scottish independence has caused outrage in the SNP. Khan is in Scotland this weekend to make a speech to what is left of the Scottish Labour party. He trailed some of his remarks centring on the divisiveness of nationalism.
“There is no difference between those who try to divide us on the basis of whether we are English or Scottish and those who try to divide us on the basis of our background, race or religion,” he said. “The antidote to Brexit and the rise of right-wing populist parties is not to run away, break away or push our neighbours away. It is to lead in a different direction – the right direction. Now is the time to build unity, create a more United Kingdom and ensure everyone has the opportunities to succeed.”
The stuff on unity is great, but I’m not sure Khan is right either in his definition of modern Scottish nationalism or classification of Brexit. There are plenty of civic nationalists north of the border who are even more right-on than lefties in London. But it’s a view. It’s his view. People say stuff in a free society that you don’t like. The Nats have been rude about London Labour and “Westmonster” and Unionism for years, with impunity. With Khan’s speech we’re in “person says a thing” territory, although that will never do in modern Scottish nationalist politics.
The First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, who surely knows better, led the way on the outrage front on Saturday morning, offering a little lecture on “social justice” to the first Muslim Mayor of London.
“I’m a big admirer of @SadiqKhan but today’s intervention is spectacularly ill-judged… it is an insult to all those Scots who support independence for reasons of inclusion & social justice – the antithesis of what he says, and it is a sign of the sheer desperation and moral bankruptcy that has driven so many from Scottish Labour’s ranks. Very disappointing.”
Love that “very disappointing”. Try saying it in a Maggie Smith as Miss Jean Brodie voice…
Presumably Khan will now have to grovel and apologise for speaking his mind, or for speaking about the nationalists in the way many of them speak about their opponents.
But I come back to the point of how it looks outside Scotland. It is a wonderful country (I’m biased, what with being Scottish) with so many strengths: the people, the humour, the invention, the scenery, the whisky, and BBC Scotland’s greatest ever programme Still Game. The irony is that the outraged wing of the SNP bangs on about about raising Scotland up, while actually diminishing it and making a great place look petty and small.