I was checking the SNP web site for media releases today and I noticed for the first time that this is the image they display at the top of their home page:
I was struck by it for reasons I’ll discuss in a minute so I snipped the picture and tweeted it with the words – Misappropriation of national symbol for party purposes. Political use of children. Perhaps I should have added a question mark at the end but, well, I didn’t. Within the space of a few hours it had been retweeted and commented on by more people that I would have expected.
Most comments were supportive, one or two a little over-enthusiastically so (check out Godwin’s Law) and two were hostile. One of them tried the old cybernat trick of smearing with ‘You need watching you seem terribly interested in pics of kids.’ The other did raise some substantive points:
no one image is cultivated- seems to me they represent big, small, fat, thin, white, brown, male and female [I think he meant throughout the SNP web site] … do any of the main parties stand up to scrutiny when it comes to the image portrayed? … so is it dressing kids up and getting them to wave flags that’s the wrong?
Those three questions coincidentally touch on why I was struck by the image.
The first point is that this is not just one of a whole series of images the SNP use on their web site: it’s at the top of the home page, where most people land when they look for the site. So it is significant, unless it was chosen randomly. But the SNP are too clever, and too well funded, for that.
The second point is that, yes, I did take the precaution of checking the web sites of the three main unionist parties – Conservatives, Labour and Liberal Democrat – both their UK and Scottish sites. Not one uses the image of a child on the banner at the top of their home page.
The third point is the one that is perhaps the most pertinent to my view of the SNP – ‘is it dressing kids up and getting them to wave flags that’s the wrong?’ Of course it’s not inherently wrong but how they do it it tells you something about the SNP and their mind set.
To return to the first thing I mentioned on Twitter – the appropriation of the saltire specifically by the SNP, and generally by those who want independence. Nothing’s going to wrench that away from them. But, sadly, it does introduce an element of ambiguity into the use by everyone else of what should be a non-party and unifying symbol. Although I went through a childhood phase of being fascinated with the flags of the world, I’m not a great fan of their role in political discourse. Not for nothing has the phrase ‘flag waving’ come to have a pejorative meaning. And not for nothing do nationalist rallies feature kilted warriors bearing ever higher poles to wave over what may be a modest gathering to make it look larger and more war-like (psychologists may have a view on what it tells us about the individuals concerned).
If a flag is symbolic, how much more redolent of meaning is a young, fresh-faced boy also waving one aloft? See, he’s smiling and looking boldly to the future. All that youthful hope and promise. Couldn’t he be your own child, or even your grandchild? The SNP are said to struggle with the older generations. What better way to tug at their heartstrings? Judging by how some SNP members adorn their children with all the national and party symbols and how the party hands out balloons for kids at all sorts of events they are likely to have thought very carefully about the potency of this image.
I’ve written before about the SNP and children (here, and then here), to the irritation of many. I believe in civic education and in teaching children about democracy and politics. My view, and it’s one I tried to inculcate in my children, is that it should teach young people to think for themselves about politics. I’m not sure that’s the SNP line, hence the boy with the flag. But then, the SNP isn’t a normal political party, is it?
Footnote – I usually say that only abusive comments will not be published on the No Thanks! blog. On this occasion any comments referring even archly to paedophilia/other political parties/other parliaments will go straight into the bin. We all know it exists but it’s never what a few nationalists claim and this is not the place for that sort of false linkage.