What women want…#1

Welcome to the first in a series of very special guest posts.  All of them from women, all of them telling us what they want from the political parties in this election.

Despite being a vital part of the electorate – particularly in this Scottish election – it can be hard to hear women’s voices and for the issues that matter to them to feature in the daily drive for votes.  So the burd decided to rectify that and invited several women to share their thoughts and views on this blog space.  I’m looking forward to reading their posts as much as you are!

First up is the quite wonderful Sara Sheridan. Sara  is an historical novelist. Her latest novel, Secret of the Sands, is based on the real-life story of James Raymond Wellsted, the first European to be given permission to enter the interior of the Arabian Peninsula in the 1830s. She lives in Edinburgh, is a floating voter and tweets as @sarasheridan.

If it wasn’t for Nana…

My Nana was an ardent feminist. Born at the turn of the century, she was among the first generation of women who had the right to vote on equal terms with men for most of her adult life. She cherished this. I vividly remember her saying that women’s suffrage had been hard won (she was born the year of the Suffragette Hunger Strikes) and that my female cousins and I didn’t only have the right to vote but also a duty to do so. We owed a debt of gratitude to those women who had made huge sacrifices, so if it was possible to vote, we absolutely must. As a result I’ve voted in almost every election of any kind since I was 18.

I’m not politically active, or indeed, particularly well-informed. I know more about art than I do about politics, but nonetheless, in the words of Gelet Burgess, I know what I like. The sad truth is, however, these days I don’t like what I see. The political headlines make me incredibly sad and even angry, and in the last ten years as I head for the polling booth I don’t go with a spring in my step, a sense of pride and the thought that Nana would be glad I was doing my duty. This may be an inevitable side effect of ageing – the mellowing of youthful passions. But my passion hasn’t cooled for other long-held principles and the truth is I’m not alone. Voting figures are lower and lower and if it wasn’t for Nana I probably would have given up casting my vote a while ago.

This is because in the mellee of egos that constitutes our political system, many of the things I care about are falling by the wayside. The mass-communications that could enable our politics for good have instead turned it into a bland conglomeration of stinted opinion cloaked in the occasional media frenzy of blame or denial. In the run up to the election the Liberal Democrats called. In the past I have sometimes voted Liberal.

The man was friendly and asked me if I’d be voting Liberal again. I told him that given what was happening in Westminster I couldn’t possibly trust a Liberal politician. ‘But that’s in England,’ he said. I pointed out that Westminster’s decisions impinge on Scotland and that they are part of the same party. I despise what the Liberals have done to their principles to gain power and my vote is almost my only effective way to demonstrate that. The current marches and protests aren’t changing policy so my best shot is to vote on principle against the Liberal Democrats (and the Tories for that matter, though I have never voted Tory).

From his reaction I don’t expect I was the first person he’d spoken to who felt that way. That we are closing libraries and cutting back school budgets, scrimping on the NHS and allowing our transport system to fall into disrepair while allowing huge bonuses to be paid to bankers, particularly angers me. Thinking about it, the issue I have is that given the failure of Labour to spot the imminent collapse of the financial system and the failure of the Tories and Liberals to deal with the fallout of that in a fair or kind fashion, it is very difficult to trust any politician. This is, of course, not a new problem and there is probably no solving it. As the maxim goes, the desire for power (so integral to political success) should exclude anyone from standing for election.

I should also say that I’m not a nationalist of any stripe. I simply think that it’s too inward looking a philosophy and always feels closed minded. I heard Alex Salmond speak the other day and to me he sounded so provincial and small-minded that it made my skin crawl. I’ve never voted SNP. It’s a philosophy that makes the world smaller and more contained rather than larger and freer. I heard radical historian Ilan Pappe talk at the book festival last year and he compared the philosophy of nationalism worldwide (Zionists, Irish Republicans, Nazis). People here were shocked, but I think he is right.

I care about a lot of issues – I care about libraries (I’m a swot of course!), I care about healthcare, I care about homelessness and unemployment. I care about net neutrality and the steady erosion of our liberties both online and off. I care about the rich/poor divide and the rise of corporate business. Some elements of our culture are amazing – I’m proud to be European, to be British and to be Scottish. As a single mother I was supported for a short time by the state until my first book sold and since then from time to time I’ve been supported by successive public funds including the newly rebranded Creative Scotland. My career and indeed my education wouldn’t have been possible without that kind of public investment. Also I’ve benefited enormously from the NHS.

For all these things I’m deeply grateful. But when it comes down to this particular election the issue I care most about is integrity and sadly, I’m not seeing that. Not really. And the truth is, I’m still not sure how I’m going to vote.

47 thoughts on “What women want…#1

  1. the SNP, like you said earlier, need to do a lot more awareness raising, keep on educating the public especially those who hold negative views of the party, about what we’re campaigning for. you know i met a traditional Labour voter who thought it was the Labour party in westminster who froze the council tax! that’s the kind of misinformation, lies, spin, propaganda, media brainwashing the SNP is fighting against. but looking at it historically, the SNP has come a far way from nothing.

  2. Pingback: 31: Some Mothers… | davidsberry

    • Thanks for the link Dave! And for a really thoughtful post on Mother’s Day and its origins. I learned something new today so thanks!

    • Hi Douglas, Thanks for your comment and the link. Yes, the PPB was a great way to celebrate International Women’s Day but also to start addressing the deficit. I thought it was – and is – great. But the policy and comms wonk side of me also feels that much more needs to be done. Taking existing policies and wrapping them up in the equivalent of a nice cardigan in women’s sizing isn’t enough. It’s the stage of development that parties – and others – need to think about women (and my own personal favourite, children) and think about how that policy will impact on them. For example, what will £1 billion extra for the NHS deliver for women, what will it mean to women and how can we express that? Which is not necessarily to then leap to investing some of it in improving women’s health or throwing some money at obvious women oriented issues such as breast cancer but simply to think a bit more roundedly about what that money might deliver.

      I think one of the real shifts in this campaign for the SNP has been for Salmond in particular to start talking about the values of the SNP in the context of independence and what kind of Scotland independence could help create. It’s softer language, less masculine imagery and vision and I think it will start helping shift women’s caution and opposition to “change”.

  3. I think this initiative to better understand the views from key sections of over 50% of the electorate is long overdue. Politics in general in my view is way too male dominated and better balancing the composition,view and aspirations away from that needs to be a continuous battle to break just another glass ceiling, but of course will require the same determination and struggles as was needed to break the previous ones.

    In terms of the comments so far yep some are perhaps too strong in rebutting
    some of the implications here in regard to nationalism but the statements themselves need to be robust enough to withstand debate. Yep only part of the article touches on this but since the overall topic is of politics in Scotland , then referring to the governing party and one of the top two political parties will carry more emphasis, especially when apparently stating that one of them (the nationalist one) is not an option and never will be , and to state that with
    an unfortunate, and I believe completely unintentional inferences which are
    highly offensive to many provides ample room for a robust debate as we can see🙂

    Having members of the electorate apparently just dismiss ‘nationalist’ parties as not an option is concerning in a number of ways –

    . The nationalist parties need to shoulder some of the blame as ultimately
    they have a large influence on how they are viewed, although so
    does the MSM🙂 In this regard the SNP
    has emphasized civic nationalism as a paramount not sure if this is
    something Sara has not read, does not agree with also or the SNP
    has not sufficiently marketed ?

    . For any group or demographic under represented/under engaged in politics
    there is a two way street here in that yep much of the current politics
    is rotten (we can all see this), but ultimately the focus needs to be on
    how to change it and as part of that better understand the area. To have
    heard a speech by Alex Salmond not liked it , read a pretty well regard
    historian (who I also like) and simply dismiss one of the two largest political
    parties in Scotland does not frankly seem very logical nor sound. The
    specific point with Alex is well taken and many times it has been shown
    that his smugness does turn off the female demographic so this should
    be looked at seriously, perhaps a transition to very adept Nicole would
    be a win win in this situation.

    . In terms of Ilan Pappe I think you will find that he refers to the extreme
    xenophobic areas of nationalism such as the Nazi attempts to exterminate
    the Jews and in his words the Israeli ‘ethnic cleansing’ of the Palestine
    people which is part of the reason he supports self determination of
    a separate state for the Palestinian and Israeli peoples. Self Determination
    and Civic Nationalism are two areas I think it would make sense for
    Sara to ‘swot’ up on before taking any premature decisions on what
    options are open to her.

    At the end of the day having a government serve the best interests of “the people” has got to always be the focus, but a key ingredient that can’t just be dismissed is understanding who ‘the people’ actually are. In Scotland sovereignty lies with the people and they should shape there own destiny and it is not reasonable to regard this as any more parochial, small minded etc than any other people shaping their own destiny be it Norwegians, Danes, French, Germans, Irish, English etc.

    • Great comment and agree wholeheartedly with nearly every word. On civic nationalisam, Humza Yousaf wrote this great blog post a wee while ago http://www.betternation.org/2010/12/scottish-civic-nationalism-the-bhangra-bagpipes-solution/

      I’d commend it to all. But it also got me thinking, in the context of your comment, that the SNP has very much pitched its civic nationalism at ethnic and religious minorities in Scotland. Could it, should it do more to make its case to women, like Sara, who instinctively are turned off by nationalism?

      • ‘Could it, should it do more to make its case to women, like Sara, who instinctively are turned off by nationalism?’

        Yes it should and perhaps a good start would be some high profile ladies to meet discuss, learn and debate. I would suggest Nicole reach out to Sara or visa versa – not to brain wash one or the other but to better understand each others positions and perhaps give Alex a bit of a smacking down🙂 Equally people like Sara if they want to get more involved in it have more to do also.

        The link you sent is a good start and there is much more out there that open minded blogs , and political parties should promote to educate so people are in position to better make informed decisions.

        Also meant to mention that in the posts above much of it got a bit polarized in the debate I think more a combination of mutual misunderstandings and passions. Posters like Indy I have seen many times and is in the main a very good a well balance poster as I think actually are all the posters you have attracted here – none to be scared of even if they get a bit passionate (you should see some of my other posts when I get going🙂 ). In any case I respect your decision to add moderation based on this thread, but personally don’t think you need to do that.

        All the best in acting as a catalyst in opening up debate here ,but as always be careful for what you wish for🙂

      • Thanks for all those wise words – I have operated a very free and open policy towards comments and just put the moderation in place temporarily, in order to put the brakes on a wee bit. And at least give me time to digest comments before adding them.

        About to reverse the moderation requirement though, on the very basic rationale that I am not around enough to provide instant and regular moderation.

        I think it did all get a bit polarised and having read, and re-read Sara’s comments I still feel folk leapt from A to J. But have no desire to re-ignite it.

        We all have a duty to get involved more or at least try to be tolerant of each other’s views. I do my best….. sometimes it’s not good enough!

  4. Interesting discussion on nationalism. Sara, do you think it’s possible to support Scottish independence without being “nationalist”, or does one entail the other?

  5. Late to the party, and sad (but not disappointed) that certain commenters have chosen not to listen.

    Whilst James is right to point out Greens (it is his job) it doesn’t solve the thorny issue of where to place your constituency vote. Leaving out the Lib Dems and the Tories leaves you poor options (not that they were much better with them there). Labour don’t tend to listen to anyone. I hope that the SNP are better than the commenters on this blog are currently behaving.

    Mr. Peat Worrier and the Burd have both commented recently on how the SNP female vote seriously lag to the men’s. If the attitude of the SNP as a whole match the commenter’s perhaps this is the reason?

    My outlook is very local, and then works outward. See what the person I might be voting for at the constituency level has to say, has done, plans to do in the area I live, and if they have matching interests and would represent those interests well in parliament. If that person is exceptional, then maybe it is worth voting for that person against more national arguments about which party is best.

    • Thanks for those comments that bring a little sanity to proceedings! And some wise words – we forget, in the clamour about governments and First Ministers, that first and foremost we are voting for someone to represent our interests in Parliament and look after the interests and promote them in his or her constituency. It’s an important consideration and one that I am currently struggling with. But that’s a post for another day!

  6. The SNP is not Alex Salmond? And yet they feel the need to put ‘Alex Salmond for First Minister’ on the ballot paper?

    I enjoyed Sara’s post because it was honest, a view not tainted by party political loyalties and as such was quite refreshing.

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  8. Maybe Sara you should extend your world view and look at the experience of other independent countries in Europe like Norway, Finland or Sweden.

    • And maybe you should take your patronising and wilful inability to actually read and understand what Sara said to another blog?

      Sara Sheridan is an internationally published author who has researched Scottish and world historical events to create a number of fictional stories that by the by, highlight the achievements of some of Scotland’s forgotten heroes (of their time) and brought them to a much wider audience, as well as bringing to people a better understanding of important historical and cultural moments. I think she is capable of having a world view without your encouragement. But hey, you only mean she is to have the same world view as you, not one she has figured out for herself.

      Like Better Nation, I have today started to moderate comments before they get posted. It says a lot about folk out there that both our blogs which were open, inclusive and happy to hear and share and debate feel we now have to do this.

      A final point – battering a person with your views of someone else’s opinions ain’t ever gonna make them change their minds. There are a number of Cyber Nats out there who need to realise this. No, I don’t share Sara’s perspective on nationalism but I respect her right to hold that perspective. It isn’t an uninformed one – it is one arrived at after considering a renowned philosopher’s position on nationalism. And it was one shared, rightly or wrongly, by many Scots. That is the SNP’s challenge, to change their minds, or else there isn’t ever going to be a majority for independence.

  9. It’s really interesting that this thread has taken this turn. I’m not a nationalist of any stripe (I reiterate) but my article really wasn’t about nationalism (or otherwise) – it was about my disillusion with politics and a real sea change in my attitude towards voting in particular and politics in general. Focusing on one sentence of that (whether you agree with it or not) is to take what I’m saying out of context. I’m absolutely prepared to concede that perhaps I might have phrased what I said more gently or in neutral terms – though I was asked for an opinion piece. I really didn’t mean to offend anyone and judging by the defensive replies I obviously have.
    For the record if you read Hitler – well, I think he was a nationalist and would have termed himself that way (it was the Nationalist Socialist Party, remember?) and I also mention Zionism and Irish Repulicanism too (but you’ve ignored those comparisons). What I would add is that my objection to nationalism is that it makes the world smaller (my view – clearly not yours) and more provincial – and I don’t think that’s a good thing.
    However, the article is much wider and my point (my real point) is that I’m not being given the choice of someone I feel i can trust who represents my views and that the way politicians have to express themselves (and some of the responses today make it clear why) is often so neutral that it means nothing. That both saddens and disheartens me.

    • I think it may be a touch selfish to ask that you are given the choice to vote for a politician that represents you and your views. I dont have that choice. I have a choice of some that come close to representing me and some that dont. That is politics in a plurality of millions. Who are you to get something that millions of others dont?

      There are only 129 MSPs. How can a group that small represent all of the view of all of the people?

      • Really? If that is the case then 50+ per cent of the electorate must be wrong then, because there seems to be an awful lot of people sitting on their votes waiting for a party to speak to them, that represents them and their views.

        There are an awful lot of people like Sara who are totally turned off by politics, politicians and what they see as important. I think that is the issue rather than people like Sara and the 1 million other Scottish voters who didn’t bother in 2007 and won’t bother this time round either.

    • Yes, funny that, Sara, how all these male commenters are ignoring the much bigger and substantial part of your article about how disillusioned generally you are with politics and what parties and politicians stand for these days….. Be assured you are not the only woman to feel that way. We may just have hit upon a reason why!

      • It is perhaps symptomatic of the society we are in that those who dont like what they see and dont like what they hear expect those they are looking at and those they are listening to stop looking and stop listening,

        Previously they engaged them and told them to change. Failing that, they challenged them, become political themselves and gave people someone else to watch and listen to. Yet now the expectation is that the politicians have to adapt in some unknown way to meet a separate and an unknown need for every person not engaged in the political process. If nothing else that is unrealistic.

        We have the political parties we deserve. It is our behaviour as voters and as citizens of Scotland that shape our politicians and our political parties. If the people of Scotland actually wanted something radically different then the people of Scotland would seek it.

        We could start by asking what it is we really want from our politicians. And the problem is that every person would give a different answer. So its averaged out. Our politicians basically represent an average of the people of Scotland.

        Also, it is lazy to assume that someone is not voting because they are disillusioned with politics.

    • Sara: sorry things here went the way they did. I can tub-thump and chest-butt with the best of ’em but I’ve been staying out in the hope that someone would respond in your original terms. Your original thoughts deserved to be seen in the broader light of disillusionment—especially among women—in the conventional process of political representation.
      Churchill once said that democracy was the worst kind of government—except for all the alternatives. Just as Communism is wonderful in theory but sheer hell when practiced by human beings, Western democracy has moral holes you could drive a mounted police charge through.
      But then life’s like that: your partner, your children; your job; the last chapter you wrote are all flawed and imperfect. Yet we learn to embrace them despite that, sometimes even love them because of their imperfections. Why should politics be set up on a pedestal and held to different standards, as we already do with religion?
      By all means give your vote to the Greens—I find them decent people with principles that I can identify with. But if you ONLY vote for the Greens, you are abdicating your rights to choose who will run this country. Think of it as the moral equivalent of an outdoor adventure, camping in the wilds without the comforts of home. Though you are forced to compromise your standards, sleeping on lumpy ground, scrambling up rough tracks, scarfing indeterminate berries, you come out the end of it reinvigorated, with restored confidence in yourself and your abilities. It’s boot camp for the heart.
      Or you can just stay home.
      p.s. If you’d like a little internationalist nationalism that takes global capitalism full on and puts “I am not a number: I am a free man” in the shade (and don’t mind Catalan) try Esquerra’s PPB here:

  10. I am quite aware that Alex Salmond is not everyone’s cup of tea. But the SNP is not Alex Salmond – and even those who do not like Alex Salmond would think twice about placing him on the same spectrum as Hitler! I mean think about it. Think about what the Nazis actually did and then tell me it is reasonable to suggest that SNP politicians are in the same ballpark. Nicola Sturgeon perhaps? Linda Fabiani? Or what about the late Bashir Ahmad?

    If you choose to publish an article making that suggestion that’s up to you – but you cannot expect to get anything other than a shocked and negative reaction – and what is the point really when it is not a representative point of view?

    Suzy. Off the top of my head the council tax freeze, 1000 extra police officers, abolished the graduate tax, ended privatisation in the NHS, reduced hospital acquired infections to lowest ever level, saved A&Es that were under threat, stopped any new nuclear power stations being built, invested heavily in renewables and gave the green light to Beauly-Denny line, ended right to buy & re-started council house building, increased provision of free nursery education, abolished prescription charges, reduced primary class sizes to lowest ever level, cut business rates for small businesses, increased free personal care in line with inflation and scrapped GARL.

    If you don’t agree with these things fair enough but it’s a bit of a cheap shot to say the SNP has not achieved anything. Given that the SNP has had a majority of one and has had to work with other parties to get anything at all through the Scottish Parliament I think they have done pretty well.

  11. Can someone please tell me exactly what the SNP government has actually achieved in the last 4 years? I would say that when Iain Gray ripped up the SNP’s manifesto in the Parliament it was extremely dramatic but he did have a point!!!!

    I personally would never vote SNP because to be perfectly honest, I do not particularly like their leader nor other members of the party and I have to add have had first hand experience with quite a few of them.

    As for Liberal Democrats, I am with Sara. I would not vote for them due to what has happened in Westminster. Am I particularly bothered about Scottish independence? No, I am not!

    Turning to the Tory’s. I have “suffered” David McLetchie for far too long now and I want him to go. In Pentlands it is a straight fight between Labour and the Tories and I certainly will NOT vote Tory due to the fact that David McLetchie is a perfect example of the stereotypical Tory who, in my opinion and experience, does not give a damn about the working class.

    I, like Sara, feel a duty to vote due to the fact that our ancestors fought so hard for women to be given the right to vote. Do I know who I will vote for on 5th May? No, I do not. However, my vote will certainly not be cast in favour of any of the above three for the reasons I have stated.

  12. Mo it is not the failure of the SNP! That in itself is a preposterous thing to say. Why the hell do you think that it is up to SNP members and supporters to prove that they are not fascists?

    Don’t you think the onus should be on the person who makes that kind of suggestion to demomstrate that thete is some kind of evidence to support it?

    Otherwise what rules are we operating by? Are we going to start asking people if they have stopped beating their wives?

    As I said, there is no basis whatsoever for suggesting that the SNP is in any way on the same spectrum as the Nazis. It is a ridiculous idea and it is an offensive one.

    That is not simply the point of view of an SNP activist – it’s the point of view of the vast majority of Scots people, whether or not they support the SNP.

    Maybe the section of Sara’s post where she says that Alex Salmond makes her skin crawl and brackets the SNP with the Nazis is a small one but it reveals a mindset which is in no way typical of Scottish voters, of whatever gender, so I wonder why you chose to publish it. Would it not be more useful to publish something less extreme?

    • What and not give you something to fulminate about? Gies a break.

      I invited Sara – and other women on to MY blog because I am interested in their opinions. Sara did posit her views within the context of research and theory she has looked at. She is entitled to her views and I am happy to air them. Just as despite my initial inclination to remove your comment, I think it has a right to be aired and read. But nobody is forcing you to read what is on here or indeed, comment on it!

      There are big messages in what Sara says for all politicians and political parties.

      Want another one? Try Suzy’s above. Another woman totally cheesed off with politics and politicians.

      And you are deluding yourself – I know, because they tell me, that Alex Salmond does make a lot of women’s skin crawl. That divide of love or loathe him amongst women has been in polls for a decade now. SNP activists and members need to know that because they are the only ones who can do something about changing that. If the SNP loses this election, I would lay money on women’s votes going elsewhere being part of the reason. I’ve been flagging up for months now how crucial they might be to the outcome this time.

      Finally Sara did not equate the SNP with the Nazis – read what she wrote properly.

  13. I won’t be presumptions and speak for other people’s nationalism but my nationalism is about being ABLE to do something to help my fellow man (and woman🙂 ) whether they are Scottish or not.

    The truth is that until we have power over our own resources we cannot deploy them for good at home or abroad and we leave imperialist politicians and diplomats in London, Washington and New York to wreak havoc in our name.

    There was nothing ‘nationalist’ about the Nazis by my definition of the word. They were imperialists and supremacists. These are the very things I am fighting against as a member of the SNP.

    I find this pigeon-holing of all ‘nationalisms’ together downright offensive. I would never dream of comparing Pappe with Stalin just because they both call(ed) themselves Communists.

  14. Have to take issue with both Dave and Ron there. I have canvassed thousands of voters over the years. Most of them have been nice, some of them have been less so but not many have been as offensive as Sara.

    I have to say if someone started talking like that on the doorstep I would very quickly thank them for their time and move on. Most voters – especially women – would never be so rude as to say that someone made their skin crawl or compare the democratically elected government of Scotland to the Nazis.

    If someone does that then you know what – it’s not up to us to try and “explain ourselves better”. There is no logical basis for comparing the SNP to racist movements – the opposite is true. Therefore someone who makes that argument is not basing it on fact or logic but on prejudice.

    There’s just no point trying to engage with a closed mind guys. Move on and speak to the next person who might be more open to persuasion.

    • And that attitude kind of explains why support for independence has increased barely at all in the last ten years.

    • I think for the first time ever on any blog anywhere I agree with Indy.

      I really dont like a lot of what Alex Salmond says and, frankly, hate how he presents his version of Scottishness as the one true Scottishness. Tartan coloured spectacles and all that.

      But he has never articulated his nationalism in the terms of Hitler or any other dictator. He has never come close to that. Indy has a point. How do you argue with that. Can it even be argued with? Or is that where any debate about nationalism is in the minds of people like Sara?

      • The debate about nationalism has always been on these terms – lots of academics, historians, philosophers etc have arrived at it. Many Scots really don’t feel comfortable voting for a nationalist party, the SNP has done a lot to shift that and you are right, the nationalism espoused by the SNP is outward looking, inclusive and civic. But there is no denying that many people still don’t realise that – that is the SNP’s challenge to shift that and change these perceptions.

        Read again what Sara wrote – what she doesn’t like about Salmond is that what he says often comes across as close minded and narrow and insular. There are many who might agree with that.

        She did not link the SNP or Salmond intrinsically with Nazism or any other dictator. What she did was explain why she doesn’t vote SNP. She then elucidated her concerns about nationalism in its extreme forms – including republicanism and Nazism – again it is a concern that many share.

        I wanted to give space during this election to women whose voices are not usually heard, the sort of women who make a big contribution in individual ways, who I suspect have come to feel either embittered or agnostic about politics. Feeling that its values do not represent them any more. And who are not given space to articulate their views and opinions without being set upon by others – mainly men, as this blog has demonstrated. And we wonder why these women turn away from politics and even voting?

        Shame on us, all of us who have or have ever had connections with a political party, frankly that less than 100 years after women got the vote, so many in Scotland feel disillusioned and disengaged from the political process.

  15. On the issue of Scottish nationalism. One of the defining issues in politics for me in my adult lifetime has been war in Iraq in particular, but Afghanistan too and various others. I see breaking up the UK as a way of finishing the job of dismantling the British Empire and the pro nuclear weapons, pro war mentality that British governments seem to have.

    I hope Scottish independence would result in a more peaceful outlook, and we might be less inclined to try to be in with the big boys with big guns policing the world.

    • Steve – good points, like you I am a nationalist because I am an internationalist. It’s a complex argument but no one articulated better for me than Jimmy Reid. It took him a long time to come to that realisation but I’m glad he – and many others – did and do.

  16. Yes – I do understand nationalism is a thorny issue for those who are up for that – not me. I can see your point of view, sorry you can’t see mine (or rather, that you are making rather a lot of presumptions about mine) All I can do, really, is refer you to the articles of Ilan Pappe on the subject (who has plenty of logical reasons not to vote for any kind nationalist party and wouldn’t see English nationalism as benign any more than I do.)
    And specially for James – yes, I think I may well vote Green as my best alternative. I like their rhetoric and also their (necessarily) international outlook. Let’s hope they can stick by their guns and restore a little of my faith.

    • Hi Sara, the point I was attempting to make was that the issue of ‘nationalism’ depends on how it is defined. You say that Pappe would take a negative view of Scottish or English nationalism – that being the case, the same would go for ‘British’ nationalism. So where do we go with the right of people to self determination?
      Interestingly, the international outlook that you perceive of the Green movement makes the case for an independent Scotland, for it is only through independence that Scotland can make its internationalist outlook felt on the international stage. Take renewables – a sovereign Scottish government would be able to go on the front foot regarding tax and investment incentives for an industry that has the potential to turn Scotland into a genuine powerhouse for green renewable energy. Ditto a North Sea green power inter-connector to the heart of Europe.

      • Thanks Ron – this is more like it! These are the kinds of arguments that need to be aired to encourage folk to change their minds or at least become more neutral about constitutional change.

  17. You Boyz…
    At the risk of sounding like a parody of the Saturday Night Live sketch years ago where five macho jocks lounged around the studio, discussing ‘wimmins problems’ with nary a female in sight, despite their good intentions (and even SNP advocacy), the other comments I read here start off from what I see as flawed premises.
    Firstly, I think we may be committing that M/F cardinal sin of not listening. When Sara says “I don’t like what I see”, we have no choice but to accept that at face value and not tell her why she’s wrong to feel as she does. Bzzzzt! Wrong!
    Second, in as far as we ARE listening, we fall into trap No 2 which is, as males, we expect to act, to do something about it—to fix ‘things’. So most are right in there, telling Sara what she should believe and what actions she should take. Bzzzzt! Wrong!
    And thirdly, the trap into which we have all fallen (including me) is there is not one damn open-ended question to Sara (or, for that matter, The Burd wot started all this) so that she has an opening back into the dialogue and we might all learn something in receive mode, as opposed to the transmit mode all us blokes have been stuck in so far. Bzzzzt! Wrong again! Game over.
    All classic, bloke-ish mistakes. Let’s turn down the testosterone, guys—and hope some women join in this blog to rescue us from ourselves.
    Whaddy’all think?

    • Agree wholeheartedly David. Which is why I approached women to contribute their thoughts and views to the election and offered them this “safe space” in which to do so. The tone of some of the earlier comments and later ones in this thread is frankly offensive. It’s my blog and if it continues I’ll remove them.

      Women’s voices are not heard enough during elections – time we all started listening to them a bit more. They make up more than half the electorate after all….

  18. The problem Sara has, like so many others, is that for those who are truly interested in trying to make Scotland a better society there is no good or logical reason not to vote SNP. Illogical and spurious reasons therefore become crutches.

    I don’t say this out of spite because I understand what a huge step it can be to change a life-long allegiance to anything. Loyalty, for many of us, is part of the human condition.

    Fear of the unknown is a powerful force against these allegiances changing. That is why it is so critical the SNP take the opportunity to retain power so it can further reduce this factor and allow people like Sara to see that their concerns are unfounded.

    • I think some of the SNP commentators have seized on the small amount of space Sara devoted to her thoughts and views on nationalism and ignored all the rest.

      Sara is a floating voter – as many women are. She is also someone who gets absolutely the duty and right – and indeed, privilege – of voting – as many women do. But feels utterly let down by all the parties in politics currently – as many women do.

      And if educated, articulate women like Sara see Scottish nationalism within a different frame of reference than SNP members and activists do, then that is the failure of the SNP surely not the failure of the voter? The SNP does not talk about its core values and nationalist beliefs enough, and has only recently started to articulate what an independent Scotland might look like and feel like. Much. much more of that is needed to persuade people to vote for independence.

      Most people respect and want Scotland’s right to choose its constitutional future but many are unsure how they would vote. They are fed up with such an important issue being noised up by cant and rant from parties on the respective sides. People want an honest debate so they can make an informed choice. They don’t trust the politicians to deliver that and what a sad indictment that is. Like Sara, many of them are looking for integrity and failing to find it.

  19. On the nationalism point, I think you can even see civic nationalism as intrinsic and inward-looking even without the racist overtones of ethnic nationalism. I think it lends itself (at times) to the parochialism and even isolationism than Sara worries about.

    That said, I disagree that the SNP’s nationalism fits that category. Sure, there are philosophical and moral issues about prioritising your own population over others – but the flip side of that is, if you don’t do that – who else will? They aren’t saying Scots (born here or “naturalised”) are BETTER than other nationalities, just that they want to make their lives better. I think that’s a noble objective… but I do understand that it comes with some baggage. Perhaps further reading on the topic of civic nationalism (and may I recommend Anthony Smith, Lieven De Winter and James Kellas?) may make this distinction better than I can.

  20. The Burd is to be commended on her foresight in giving people like Sara a platform in her blog. I need to declare an interest as an SNP candidate in this election but, having stood on a doorstep or three in an attempt to wrest my home area from the dead hand of ‘aye been’ Labour, I have met a lot of Saras.
    These are mature, articulate women who, for all their life experience, retain both idealism and a healthy contact with their soul. The general run of politics owes much to tribal instincts and military terms, so it’s little wonder there is–in the words of Cool Hand Luke–a failure to communicate. On behalf of all the rosette-wearing anoraks pestering you over the next 5 weeks with ritual cant, I offer my apologies.
    But there are some for whom standing up for their home patch, articulating what its people feel and do and aspire to, being prepared to stand up and take flak in their cause is what drives us. Not all rogues are in politics and not all idealists are in single-issue causes. And while some may have entered politics for money and career, don’t try accusing any SNP member who kept faith through the dark decades of Thatcher and Blair of that.
    I’m saddened that Sara thinks the SNP narrow. I have worked in five countries, speak three languages and have friends all round the world and find it a broad church. And one of the many lessons I learned in my 25 years furth of Scotland was how to be proud of who you are without it needing to be at anyone else’s expense. The Swiss and the Costa Ricenos know this. Closer to home, the Irish do too. In their recent election and despite their financial maelstrom, not one party stood on a platform of re-union with Britain to save their fiscal bacon. They’re proud and capable. Ninety years of freedom will do that to a people.

  21. Fascinating piece. One possibly presumptuous thought, though. It almost sounds like you worry you’re letting your Nana down even by identifying the failures and hypocrisies that litter politics. Quite the opposite, to my mind. Doggedly sticking with a party that lets you down (like the union leadership do with Labour, for instance) surely isn’t what any good democrat would want?

    I’m biased – I’m coordinating the Greens’ campaign – but where do we fit in your assessment? On the issues you raise (protecting public services from cuts, internationalism, social justice, net neutrality) you do sound like exactly the sort of voter we’re aiming for.

  22. I find it perverse in the extreme that Sara regards Scottish nationalism as small minded and parochial yet views British/English nationalism as benign. Of course I suspect that Sara wouldn’t describe her adherence to the British State as nationalistic but that is what it is in practical terms – the national ability to make sovereign decisions for good or ill.
    As for her linking of Nazi nationalism that ‘made her skin crawl’ – it is outrageous that she seeks to link this with the forward looking, inclusive civic nationalism of the SNP.
    Sara would be better off looking closer to home, with the skin crawling antics of the war criminals in the Blair government & their obsession with nuclear weapons.
    Turning to Scottish nationalism/sovereignty, why would any self respecting Scot wish to have their country run by others, shutting themselves off from the international mainstream with no input into the decision making counsels of the EU & UN?
    Why deny your own country the powers to make a difference – the power to grow the economy, create wealth, invest in public services. And the wherewithal to tackle the scourge of poverty, where resource rich Scotland has a third of its children living below the poverty line, a damning indictment of political impotence within the Union.
    No other country – not England nor any of our neighbours – would put up with this state of affairs. Nor should Scotland which is why a vote for the SNP is the only sensible and progressive vote for Scots at this election.

  23. “I should also say that I’m not a nationalist of any stripe”

    I would like to say that.

    I would like to say that when Scotland is independent.

    Because, to me, we would be like any other normal nation where nationalism is no longer the issue but integrity is.

    Are Hungary, Czech, Slovenia or Slovakia small minded or do they have a sense of their own integrity?

    Anyway, if you were honest, you would probably accept that your comments have got more to do with the politics of Westminster (“closing libraries and cutting back school budgets, scrimping on the NHS and allowing our transport system to fall into disrepair while allowing huge bonuses to be paid to bankers”) rather than Holyrood.

    Nationalism can be a funny thing.

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