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Anglophobia and Xenophobia in Scotland have Nothing to do with The Constitutional Debate

Forward thinking though we may be in Scotland, we’re far from perfect, and any society that wishes to call itself progressive must acknowledge that reality. But truth be told, we Scots are not very good at facing up to our demons. The truth is that Scotland has its fair share of bigotry, sectarianism, xenophobia, and – yes – Anglophobia.

Xenophobia in Scotland, particularly Anglophobia, has sadly been politicised for so long that we seem incapable of having a sensible discussion about it. Unionists firmly believe that Anglophobia is exclusively symptomatic of Scottish nationalism, and consequently, nationalists have come to view it as little more than a politically motivated slur. All of this results in a scenario where we’re all discussing each other’s motives, rather than the offensive behaviour itself.

For as long as there has been a movement for Scottish independence, so too has it been subject to accusations of Anglophobia. It’s a characterisation of Independence supporters built on a narrative of parochial, ethnic nationalism; the type of which simply isn’t present in Scotland, hence it must always be presented as lurking sinisterly beneath the surface.

Let’s get something absolutely clear, Anglophobia, and xenophobic sentiments in general have nothing whatsoever to do with the constitutional debate, however much some individuals might like to believe it. Racism is racism, and we should call it out as such whenever we see it, political point-scoring off the back of it merely divides our opposition. There are independence supporters who are anti English, but their are just as many Anglophobic unionists too – believe me, I’ve met plenty of them!

Earlier this week, STV’s Stephen Daisley suggested that independence supporters were guilty of “denialism” with regards the existence of Anglophobia in Scotland. He’s certainly on to something, but the term “denialism” misunderstands what’s actually going on. When xenophobia is repeatedly – and unjustifiably – conflated with Scottish nationalism, it puts people on the defensive from the off, and ensures that we never actually get down to discussing the real problem: that is, racism.

Let’s not forget that the far-right, those openly and unashamedly racist, xenophobic and sectarian organisations such as the Orange Order, the SDL, Britain First, the BNP and – depending on how charitable you’re feeling – UKIP, all vigorously supported a No vote in 2014. But racism is racism, ignorance is ignorance, and it’s motivation has as much to do with how you voted in the referendum, as it does with people “coming over here to steal our jobs”; a bigot will use whatever he or she needs to justify bigoted opinions.

We can sometimes be a little self congratulatory in Scotland, and thus blind ourselves to very real layer of intolerance which exists here. “We’re all Jock Tamsons bairns” isn’t a sentiment held by everyone, and it’s a phrase I’ve heard uttered with great conviction throughout more than one racist diatribe. Racism has to be tackled head on, but the moment we try to politicise it, we dilute our opposition, and effectively let the perpetrators off the hook. As a progressive nation, it’s our responsibility to stand up to racism, intolerance and xenophobia wherever we see it, without distraction, otherwise we’re just another part of the problem.

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