There’s been a running theme recently on Unionist social media.
It’s the claim that the No vote in 2014 was an anomaly – a rare victory of progressive, internationalist, inclusive politics over the anti-establishment, isolationist, separatist tone that won out in the EU referendum and now the election of Donald Trump.
Of course, the alternative view is rather simpler – that perhaps the forces that won the EU referendum and 2016 presidency also won the independence referendum.
(WARNING: While I’m not going to reproduce any of the material or quotes from some of the individuals or groups listed below on the site, I will be including archived links. While I disagree with many of the views to the most profound degree, neither do I wish to pretend they do not exist: I also want to provide sources for my conclusion as to where they stand on any of the three campaigns. Keep this in mind before you click.)
Right to far-right: Gerry Gunster, (the US analyst who ran the Leave campaign); Arron Banks, (major UKIP donor & co-chair of Leave.EU); Donald Trump (US President-Elect); Nigel Farage (former UKIP leader); Andy Wigmore, (major UKIP donor & Director of Communications for Leave.eu); and Raheem Kassam, (UKIP leadership hopeful & Breitbart London Editor in Chief).
Let’s have a look at some of the individuals or organisations who were involved with, or supportive of, the winning side in the Scottish independence referendum, the EU referendum, and the Donald Trump presidential campaign.
Eddy Morrison (National Front/BNP/others)
Tommy Robinson (Former leader, EDL)
Now, it’d be unfair to tarnish the anti-independence movement by association with the above organisations and individuals (not that such unfairness ever stopped No supporters from doing just that to Scottish independence supporters, of course).
After all, plenty of professed left-wing, socialist, anti-war folk supported No, Leave, and Trump – George Galloway being the most infamous example. Likewise, there are plenty of people who support only one or two of the above, and found themselves on the losing side of at least one referendum or election.
Of course not every No/Leave/Trump supporter is a racist, or fascist, any more than every Yes/Remain/Clinton supporter was uniquely saintly: the vast majority of people are reasonable, thinking, compassionate human beings who voted they way they did because they thought it was best for them, their family, and their future.
The key difference is that those people have no control over the direction of what happens next. We aren’t getting Super-Devo-Plus-Max, because the parties & individuals interested in such a settlement have no power or opportunity to deliver it. We’re not getting a “Lexit,” because the left-wing Leave advocates have no power in the UK or Scottish Governments. Even in his first few days as President Elect, the likelihood of a tempered Trump is dropping by the day.
(Which is not to say there are no anti-EU, pro-Trump individuals who also advocate Scottish independence: tons of Eurosceptics like Arron Banks, Paul Joseph Watson, and others seemed perfectly fine with it, even encouraging, when it was perceived as bad news for the EU or a perceived soft UK, or they just wanted rid of subsidy-junkie Scotland. On the other hand, I doubt Jim Sillars is a big Trump fan despite advocating a Leave vote.)
The people and organisations listed above are 3 for 3. They got every result they wanted. Look at the post-indyref UK Government: it sure isn’t the government Scotland or progressives in England, Wales, & Northern Ireland voted for. Look at the post-EUref UK cabinet: full of Brexiters and the most right-wing elements of the party. The US cabinet is the same story, amplified on an American scale.
Either Blair MacDougall, Ian Smart, and others really, truly believe that the movement for Scottish independence really is the same as the rhetoric which fuelled a Leave vote in the UK and Trump in the USA, or they don’t and just lie about it. And let’s be unflinchingly clear: even the “moderates” in the “mainstream” parties, not to mention the official No campaign, were not above using their dog-whistle language.
If Scotland wants to be independent they have the absolute right to do so. But I think nationalism is a mistake. And I am half Scots and feel it would divide me in half with a knife. The thought that my mother would suddenly be a foreigner would upset me very much.
– Tony Benn, 18th August 2012
We’ve got friends and relations north and south of the border and we don’t want to make each other foreigners.
– Alistair Darling, 31st August 2012
“I do not want my kids to be foreigners to each other” says Alan Cochrane. #bbbcqt #indyref
– Better Together’s official Twitter account, 18th October 2012
We have the spectacle of a hard line nationalist saying ‘you will still be British after independence’. If you are no longer part of the UK how can you be British? Your friends in Wales, your family in England and your workmates from Northern Ireland will, effectively and overnight, become foreigners.
– Alistair Darling, 10th November 2012
Alistair Darling will today accuse the SNP of attempting to ‘turn family into foreigners’ with its plan to break up Britain.
– The Times, 14th February 2013
The Aberdeen schoolgirl said she and her friends were going to vote to remain part of the UK because they did not want their relatives in England to become foreigners.
– The Telegraph, April 2013
The nature of my work means that I am based in London, like tens of thousands of Scots now facing the same prospect of becoming foreigners in our own land.
– Ian Taylor, 7th April 2013
In simple terms, why make Sir Alex Ferguson a foreigner?
– Johann Lamont, May 2013
My son, for example, who went to university in England, I think I’d be uncomfortable with the thought that he’s now a foreigner.
– Margaret Curran, 25th May 2013
So says the lady whose policy would make all English people foreigners! Irony is obviously still allowed on Twitter
– George Foulkes, 25th May 2013
Over 3 centuries we have lived together, worked together and frankly we’ve got together: getting married, having children, moving back and forward across our borders. Such is the fusion of our bloodlines that my surname goes back to the West Highlands and, by the way, I am as proud of my Scottish heritage as I am of my English or my Welsh heritage.
– David Cameron, 7th February 2014
Do you wantonly break up a union of 307 years, splitting kith from kin and wounding a nation… They are NOT good reasons for the break-up of a strong, democratic nation in an uncertain world… Nor can we forget how fully the blood of us all is mixed in the families of our four nations, or how freely it has flowed, as one, in war. We are, in tradition and effect, one nation.
– Lt. Gen. Sir Norman Arthur, letter distributed by Better Together, March 2014
A wonderful country and people in the grip of a narrow, divisive, arrogant, controlling and insular creed called Nationalism… My grandson in England, aged ten and quarter, looks utterly baffled and very sad at thought of his Grandparents being in danger of becoming foreigners. He keeps asking “Why Grandpa?”
– Dr Richard Marsh on Vote No Borders’ website, 21st June 2014
How will independence affect the identity of Scots like me who feel both Scottish and British? With a home in Scotland can I no longer be British? Will I be stopped at the border every time that I travel between England and Scotland? What will happen to all those Scots who live and work south of the border? Will their place of birth still be their home, or will they become foreigners in their native land?
– The Earl of Glasgow, 24th June 2014
I say to the noble Earl, Lord Glasgow, that yes, they will be made foreigners in their own country. Their own children and grandchildren will be disenfranchised of their birthright.
– Lord Forsyth of Drumlean, 24th June 2014
I do not want my granddaughter to become a citizen in a foreignland, and she does not want her cousins—the children of my other son, who live in London—to be foreigners, with different passports.
– Lord Cormack, 24th June 2014
As regards race, there are different races in the United Kingdom but the Scots do not make up a separate race. Otherwise, if we voted yes on the 18th, my brothers, my sister, my nephews and my nieces would not only become foreigners but would also be part of a different race, which is just unimaginable.
– Lord Maxton, 24th June 2014
Like the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, I have two grandchildren living in Scotland with a Scottish mother and an English father, and two grandchildren living just outside Cambridge with a Scottish mother and an English father. One set of them will be foreigners. Whichever way we go, the family living in England are going to have foreign cousins and the family living in Scotland are going to have foreign cousins.
– Baroness Adams of Craigielea, 24th June 2014
I don’t want my kids to feel like Scotland is going to become a foreign country.
– Ed Miliband, 4th July 2014
However proud Scots may be of their heritage Scotland, by official definitions, is not a nation state. Moreover, the people of today’s Scotland are of the same mixed ethnicity as the rest of the UK… Not only do we share common and deeply integrated ethnicity in the UK, we share a universal culture and a common love of our different regional cultures.
– Tony Rush, 8th July 2014
For sure, there must be change. We must have that, and we will, but not by tearing this country apart. We must stay as family, not become foreigners to each other.
– Harriet Harman, 10th September 2014
Suddenly Scots who work next to us live next to us are our friends, our neighbours, our work mates suddenly become foreigners. Is that not an extraordinary proposition for a nation that had marched together?
– John Major, 10th September 2014
But for me this is a question of the heart and the soul. I don’t want my parents to become foreigners to my children. I don’t want the example of tolerance, fairness and courage Britain has set to disappear. I don’t want our nation diminished.
– Michael Gove, 12th September 2014
The process of separation and vilification is depressing to watch but familiar enough. Scottish nationalists are preparing a rarer trick, last seen in the dying days of Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia. They are trying to break up an existing multi-national state and turn neighbours into foreigners.
Hundreds of thousands of Scots meanwhile live in the rest of the UK and hundreds of thousands of English, Welsh and Irish people live in Scotland. They could become foreigners in their own country.
– Nick Cohen, 16th September 2014
Better Together preyed on fears of “kith and kin” becoming “foreigners”, appealed to shared “bloodlines” and “ethnicity”, and talked of the turmoil of “borders” and the loss of “our land”. Then their parties and papers continued it during the general election, with immigration mugs and endless poisonous headlines about refugees.
They used “foreign” as if it was a curse, an affliction, an undesirable trait – which is exactly what the far-right believes. And now they have the gall to act surprised at the results, and utterly fail to see the same forces at work across the ocean.
And even after the Brexit vote they haven’t learned a thing.
Twiterstorm (sic) tonight. Apparently many Nats don’t undersatand (sic) that “independence” would mean that their English realtives (sic) would be foreigners.
– Alex Gallagher, 6th October 2016
enjoying SNP supporters on my timeline arguing that if we were independent, the English wouldn’t be foreigners
– The UK’s Greatest Economist, 6th October 2016
SNP would turn English people living in Scotland into foreigners in their own country. Of course it’s uncomfortable for them
– Ruth Davidson’s favourite blogger, 15th October 2016
A No vote didn’t stop the forces who were victorious this year. In fact, in 2014 the No campaign rode that tide to victory – indeed, spurred it on with the evocation of its toxic language – because preserving the United Kingdom was worth any cost. Even if it meant turning a blind eye to the deluge looming darkly over the horizon.