One thing that really stuck me about the leaflets from Ukip and the BNP for the recent European Parliamentary election was the fact that they were stuffed full of cheesy patriotic symbols — Union Flags, Spitfires, Winston Churchills and so on. Any electorate in the world will have a certain contingent who are enticed by nationalistic rhetoric at the expense of good policies.
In England, Ukip and the BNP have cornered this market pretty well, with the English Democrats also doing a good job of it. One thing that these three parties have in common — aside from their narrow nationalism — is the fact that they are all pretty vile.
Here in Scotland the nationalist vote is completely mopped up by the SNP. We all know that the SNP uses national symbols which appeal to base instincts which may entice certain types of voters. This gets up some people’s noses, including mine.
But the SNP have done a grand job by keeping a lid on the nastier side of nationalism. For this we can be thankful. All though there is, without a doubt, a nastier side to some of their supporters — as we have seen with the Cybernats — you won’t find these types of views coming from the mainstream of the party.
Indeed, the party is at pains to promote a progressive type of nationalism. They embrace civic nationalism. They reject ideas of Scottishness defined in terms of ethnicity. They avoid anti-English approaches. And we can be especially thankful that violent methods do not form part of the nationalist agenda in Scotland.
This is combined with progressive policies, including an enlightened approach to immigration and a positive agenda towards Europe. While in many other parts of the world nationalism may be equated with right-wing or fascist concepts, the SNP combine a nationalist ideology with a broadly centrist agenda.
Whatever the motives of the voters, the SNP’s form of nationalism is a great deal more tolerant — and tolerable — than the forms of nationalism we see from the likes of Ukip, the BNP, the French National Front, the Movement for a Better Hungary, or any number of extreme parties across the world.
Richard Thomson recently described the SNP as being part of “unquestionably the best behaved nationalist movement in the world”. Looking at the European election results and seeing where nationalist votes seem to go, it’s easy to agree with him.