Of all the countries in Europe, two countries stand out for having no discernible Far-Right movement. Scotland and Spain. While Scotland does have one UKIP Member of the European Parliament, David Coburn is seen by most people as a joke, and his party performs abysmally in every other election. At present, UKIP polls at about 4-5 per cent.
That isn’t to say that Scots are left-wing. They’re not particularly more left-wing than other britons, as shown by polling from Yougov. The differences between England and Scotland are slight, with Scots being somewhat more centre-left than say their Londoner compatriots.
Pure Fascism in Scotland has always been rooted in British Nationalism, and not in Scottish Nationalism. An example of this was the celebrations in George Square in Glasgow on the night of the independence referendum. It was full of people making Nazi Salutes, but the people there unequivocally belonged to British Nationalism.
Bigotry in Scotland takes strange forms, and you can land in the middle of protestant flute bands who march against Catholics. Try to start a conversation about Gaelic, and you’ll suffer a tirade about how the language is dead and shouldn’t be supported. Yet those same people who complain about Catholics or Gaelic speakers will happily cheer Muslim refugees opening cafés in Argyll.
Meanwhile in Spain, the country has bled through a terrible crash that saw unemployment sky-rocket and there is a corruption scandal that is eating the biggest party, Partido Popular, alive. Sleaze and corruption together with economic anguish from many should be the hot-bed for the type of resentment politics that the far right offer. But the only far-right party that I know of, Vox, which was formed in 2014, received 0.2% in the 2015 elections.
Usually this is explained with Franco. Franco was a right-wing authoritarian ruler that inoculated the Spanish at least during these current generations. The same phenomena is visible in Portugal which followed the same path. But Scotland has not suffered from this fate, so why is Scotland more like Spain and Portugal than the Netherlands or Sweden?
All nationalisms create an external enemy that is blamed for all the wrongs of a country. With civic nationalists, that external enemy, that ‘them’, is often abstract. Scottish Nationalists like to lay the blame of all wrongs on the abstract Westminster. Catalan nationalists do the same, except with Spain’s institutions. They channel a destructive urge into a distinct path.
The Scottish Nationalists have taken that abstraction, and have dressed it in social democratic wrappings. It becomes easy for nationalists to both ferociously attack their abstract ‘other’ and to embrace refugees. Since this becomes a viable way to channel resentments into a non-destructive path, the far right who would otherwise feed on those resentments do not grow.
There is something in that for all of us to learn from, as we see the far right grow in Germany and in Sweden and in France. The Scots have something to teach us, and we should study their method.