What seems like an eon ago, before the 2014 referendum, I wrote an article on the lie that Scotland is a colony of England. It was in response to the use of the word ‘colony’ by the late SNP leader Gordon Wilson but it’s had an unexpected afterlife as I’ve been able to refer the occasional nationalist to it as they’ve repeated the misapprehension. Apart from a feeble ‘Well, they’re not exactly best pals in Belgium!’ or ‘Some of those examples are different’ I’ve never felt my argument has been seriously refuted. I don’t count being called a ‘clown’ by Wings’ supporter Lindsay Bruce, @RogueCoder250 on Twitter, in response to my latest reference to the piece.
My exchange with Bruce did elicit one interesting comment, by @AnnClaes3. This is the exchange up to that point:
I then asked her if she could provide me with a reference to the claim that the United Nations (UN) had described Scotland as a colony of England. At first this produced these two retweets
which hardly constituted proof of anything except that I now knew at least three people believed the claim.
On further pressing, I was referred to an article called Does Brexit vote underline Scotland is not a country, but a colony? by Alf Baird, a retired professor of maritime business. This is an opinion piece in which, in order to answer his own question in the affirmative, he cites (and provides links to) the UN Special Committee on Decolonisation and UN resolutions on decolonisation. I don’t agree with his argument and, for me, when he talks about
Occupation by settlers … substantial, focused, and rising occupation by settlers from the administering Power [he means England]
he sails perilously close to the position of ultra-nationalist group Siol nan Gaidheal (characterised as ‘proto fascists’ by Gordon Wilson, mentioned above).
However, to be fair to Professor Baird, he does not anywhere claim that the UN itself says Scotland is a colony of England.
I made a couple of further attempts to see if there was any truth in the original allegation. First, I searched Google as widely as I could using keywords like ‘Scotland … UN … colony … England.’ Nothing. Second, I clicked through to the UN pages mentioned in Baird’s article, checked them, and did a final search of the UN website (not an easy one to navigate, but I did at least make an honest attempt). Again, nothing.
If anyone knows I’ve missed anything, please tell me.
My searches did throw up some other references to the UN and Scotland, including
Scotland is the assault capital of the world according to UN stats on violent crime (Daily Record)
This Human Rights Day, new report to United Nations shows Scottish Parliament and Scottish Government must go further on human rights (Scottish Human Right Commission)
but I expect these are less welcome to nationalists than confirmation of the now apparently spurious claim that the UN says Scotland is a colony of England.
The three tweeters who have made the claim in the last week or so have just under 3,000 followers between them, not huge by Twitter standards but that’s nearly 3,000 people who have been exposed to, perhaps believed, and for all I know retweeted, the misapprehension that the UN say Scotland is a colony of England.
I have been kind enough to use the word ‘misapprehension’ about this allegation. But it originates somewhere and someone knows it’s not a misapprehension, it’s a plain and simple lie.
And this is how it goes. Falsehoods are planted in the fertile soil of social media. Some wither on the vine and are never heard of again. Others take on a life of their own and bounce around cyberspace until eventually becoming accepted as given truths by the unthinking.
I have no problem with people making contentious claims, of any sort, but they must be willing and able to substantiate them. And the rest of us must be willing to challenge those claims. If a case for independence is to rest on emotion, fair enough. Say so. But if you want it to rest on facts be prepared for people to ask if they’re true or false.