I try to avoid the trivial and the personal in writing about Scottish nationalism. Honestly. But sometimes the small details and how people behave are the best way to grasp the big picture. And if you let people get away with bad small things, the good big things can only too easily disappear by default. The price of liberty … etc etc.
So today I bring you five details all culled from Twitter this morning that taken together tell you more than you might think at first glance. All are contained within images, three photos of people and two of newspapers. All involve our Scottish first minister.
Let’s start with the couthie first minister, ‘Oor Nicola’ as the more fawning supporters of the SNP and separation call her. There’s no denying her popularity with many and their perception that she’s ‘fighting for Scotland.’ Personally, I’d prefer a first minister who’s knuckling down to governing for Scotland but it seems to be fighting that many SNP supporters want.
Here’s a couthie photo taken from today’s Mail on Sunday. You can be sceptical about the source. I’m interested in one fact that’s not the Mail’s editorial line:
You’ll spot it because the paper’s helped with their headline and annotation of her programme, presumably taken from a diary issued by the Scottish government media team:
10.55 a.m. Selfies with the First Minister.
This, note, on a school visit with school children. Not a photo opportunity with staff and pupils. Not an action shot having a maths problem explained or a science experiment underway, those subjects the government wants to encourage. But a selfie with children, and from a party whose attitude to young people seems to be that they’re not much more than potential nationalists who need to be brought into the fold from an early age (extensively documented on this blog – see here for example).
Then there’s the first minister as cult figure. This I know will be an especially contentious claim for many nationalists. But cast your mind back to the series of rallies the SNP held in the wake of Ms Sturgeon’s selection as SNP party leader. Here’s what some might call an iconic image from the biggest of those rallies at Glasgow’s SECC:
The picture was taken from the SNP web site. So there can be no doubt that this is an image of the first minister they wish to portray – a vast arena, ecstatic crowds, arms outstretched in benediction, a shaft of light overhead illuminating the whole triumphal scene.
Turn now to the FM as would-be stateswoman. Here she is the other day meeting the German ambassador at her official residence, Bute House (question for another time – why does the leader of a UK devolved administration need an official residence?):
You can find many such photos of Nicola meeting foreign representatives.
Then a few weeks ago she met the new UK prime minister, Theresa May, at Bute House:
Spot the difference?
Yes, it’s that long-standing nationalist shibboleth – flags.
In all those photos except one you’ll find the saltire and the flag associated with the visitor. With Theresa May? Two saltires. Coincidence or a sort of SNP ‘two fingers up’ to the UK? I referred to ‘the FM as stateswoman’ but in truth the wee trick played on the prime minister shows no more than the first minister as small-minded point scorer.
Finally, from today’s cullings from Twitter we have another item from the Mail on Sunday:
It’s the much-promised and much delayed (check Hosie and Y-fronts) campaign for another separation referendum, now re-cast from a summer wooing of No voters to ‘Let’s ask them why.’
Look at those words carefully. She will be
asking NO voters why they rejected independence in 2014 … a fact-finding mission to ‘understand’ what motivated No voters.
Of course the Mail put their own particular spin on this news but at its heart what arrogant tosh.
She wants to find out why most of us had a diametrically-opposed view to her on such an existential issue two years ago and she thinks a cosy blether is the way to do it? Well, there’s a heap of evidence available going back to the referendum itself. I analysed some of it myself including the top three reasons No voters gave for their choice in a survey commissioned by the Economic and Social Research Council:
- I feel British and believe in the Union
- there were too many unanswered questions, and
- independence would have made Scotland worse off economically.
So there you go, FM. That’s a good part of your fact-finding done for you and you’d best attend to dealing with these concerns. We know you’re constantly chipping away at the British identity (although – see flags above – we’re watching you closely on that one). As to the other two, all I can say is good luck but you don’t need to ask us about them.
I said at the beginning of this article that I try to avoid the personal in writing about Scottish nationalism. I do hope you’re not so naive as to take what I write here as some sort of ad hominem attack on Nicola Sturgeon. She is after all both leader of the SNP and first minister. It is her choice to set the tone in what she says and does, although of course behind her there is a large and usually efficient party machine advising on what is the most effective approach to the related businesses of politics and government.
Understand also, as I’m sure you do, that all the small details listed in this article – no more than what appeared on social media in one morning – are part of a much bigger picture. It’s a picture that needs constant monitoring.