A couple of things have come up for me this week as the Scottish election campaign builds towards another seemingly inevitable SNP triumph.
Firstly, a friend, a committed ‘Yes’ voter and an SNP member said he was going to have to stay home on polling day. He could not bring himself to vote SNP this time, he said, because he is so appalled by the SNP’s inaction over MSP Sandra White’s behaviour.
The SNP MSP apologised for re-tweeting a grossly offensive anti-semitic cartoon posted by a Neo-Nazi she follows online and whose tweets she has reposted before. She said she posted the image “in error” and no disciplinary action has been taken against her. The implication for my friend was that a degree of anti-semitism is tolerable within the Scottish National Party.
The second was the case of Scotland’ s only Chinese councillor, Yen Hongmei Jin, who resigned from the party when no action was taken over racist criticism from a fellow party member which questioned her right as a non-Scot to organise a Burns Night. Her complaints about this treatment were not acted upon and she was left feeling “isolated.”
Taken together these two things have added to an already uneasy feeling that the SNP’ s roots might be showing.
I wondered last year when I saw the phalanx of SNP MPS at Westminster decked out for the Queen’s Speech in white roses in honour of Hugh MacDiarmid. The poet, despite his undoubted literary brilliance, was a political idiot who flirted with fascism and communism. He wrote admiringly of Hitler’s notion of “blutsegefuhl” or blood feeling. He also wrote of his belief that Scots were racially superior to other peoples.
Do the MPs who wear the white rose do it in ignorance of McDiarmid’s other writings or do they feel they are unimportant? I have no idea, as as they were unchallenged on this by the Scottish press. It’s as if the Conservative Party were to wear ribbons celebrating Ezra Pound and no one were to mention his dubious politics.
As well as penning the famous lines “The rose of all the world is not for me/ I want for my part only the little white rose of Scotland that smells sharp and sweet and breaks the heart”, there was more.
He also wrote in a poem entitled :”On the Imminent Destruction of London, June 1940”
“Now when London is threatened
With devastation from the air
I realise, horror atrophying me,
That I hardly care. (...)
For London is the centre of all reaction
To progress and prosperity in human existence
Set against all that is good in the spirit of man,
As Earth’s greatest stumbling block and rock of offence.”
He wrote too in another wartime poem “the German Bombers” (quoted in Fascist Scotland by St Andrews University Professor Gavin Bowd:
“The leprous swine in London town
And their Anglo-Scots accomplices
Are, as they have always been
Scotland’s only enemies.”
Many prominent Scottish Nationalists through the 30s and even during the Second World War did sympathise with the German Reich.
Here, from George Campbell Hay just before the outbreak of war:
“The war will come in Spring, they say;
And if it comes I bet, my friend,
They’ll find some ‘Belgium’ to defend.”
Did anyone think of this as the entire contingent of Scottish SNP MPs walked through the lobbies opposing airstrikes on IS positions in Syria in December 2015?
Bowd quotes a ludicrous letter dated 1939 from the ‘Scots Order” to Rolf Hoffmann the Nazi propaganda chief, which to my ears has echoes of today’s Cybernats and their vitriolic denunciations of the BBC and any other news outlet which dares to carry any criticism of the SNP.
“Your ‘news from Germany’ is dispelling the lies against Germany propagated by the English press in Scotland (which is controlled by Jewish freemasonry)...
“The Celtic peoples of Scotland, Ireland and Wales desire no further participation in continental wars on behalf of Jewish-controlled England (…)
“We fly a string of Welsh, Irish and Scottish flags and would a like small Swastika flag to fly alongside to show our good feeling. Wishing you every success for German Liberty and World Peace.”
Of course, the modern party has managed to dissociate itself from the aspect of its checkered past which may have linked it to white supremacy and Nazi sympathy, and to create instead an democratic ideal of civic nationalism based on creating a brighter future for all. I don’t doubt that this is the sincere goal of most SNP voters.
However within the huge influx of members into the party there may come echoes of nationalism’s uglier face, puffed up with notions of the innate superiority of the Scots to other races. Hence the kind of racial abuse that Yen Hongmei Jin experienced. Is the Party’s Chief Executive Peter Murrell on top of his brief on this?
The SNP party machine also chose to believe White’s assertion that she retweeted the offensive image by mistake. Is that really credible?
The progressive, photogenic SNP of today claims that it is very different from Europe's other nationalist movements. But perhaps it has more in common with them than it likes to admit.
Fascist Scotland: Caledonia and the Far Right by Gavin Bowd, published by Birlinn 2013.
Blog on the White Rose poem by John Cairns