After those two post I recon we still need to muse on:
- the uncomfortable historic link between Fascism and Scottish Nationalism;
- that thing about the Declaration of Arbroath.
For the former, Gavin Bowd (as right) has done the business.
That was then …
Scotland was no less caught in the rising fascist tide than anywhere else. South of the Border, Mosley had his Blackshirts, and the support of the owner of the Daily Mail. In Ireland, O’Duffy (sacked as police commissioner by de Valera) was a long-term admirer of Mussolini and set about moulding the Army Comrades Association (i.e. Free Staters) into his National Guard (better known as the Blueshirts).
Mosley had his small coterie in Scotland: 3,000 mustered at Dumfries Drill Hall for a BUF rally in April 1934. another rally, later in the same year, at Edinburgh’s Usher Hall ended in a major punch-up. One reason why Mosley failed to get traction was because any natural support, among the Orangemen, rejected the admiration of Mussolini and his papal links.
Far more dangerous was Alexander Ratcliffe’s Scottish Protestant League in Glasgow and John Cormack’s Protestant Action in Edinburgh. Protestant Action gained 24% of the vote in local elections in 1935, rising to 32% the following year. Cormack had his “Kaledonian Klan” (geddit?) street-fighting in the Irish-Catholic slums.
Added to which, there was the seduction of the intellectuals. “Hugh MacDiarmid” and or his alter-ego, Christopher Murray Grieve, had signed up for a “Scottish fascism” in the 1920s, and hardly resiled from that stance. In 1940 we find him writing to Sorley Maclean asserting Nazism was a lesser enemy than the French and British bourgeoisie. Once upon a distant time, I had a passing interest in MacDiarmid’s verse, and I still have as a legacy Alan Bold’s anthology: in it I won’t find this, from June 1940:
Now when London is threatened
With destruction from the air
I realise, horror atrophying me,
That I hardly care.
John Manson includes that as a “rediscovered” poem. One can see why it remained unpublished for another 60+ years.
MacDiarmid was in good company: Douglas Young (who would be leader of the SNP in the later War years) writes in 1939:
If Hitler could neatly remove our imperial breeks somehow and thus dissipate the mirage of imperial partnership with England he would do a great service to Scottish Nationalism.
Fascist-symps were numerous in the cream of Scottish society (“the rich and the thick”, or at least the effete). Patrick Boyle, Earl of Glasgow, had organised the British Fascisti, buggered off to France when his debts became pressing, and returned to help finance Mosley and the Anglo-German Fellowship. Jocelyn Hay, Earl of Errol (later shot in the Kenyan “Happy Valley” debacle) was another BUP stalwart, to the extent of flaunting a swastika. Montagu Douglas Scott, Duke of Buccleuch was an appeaser, consorting with von Ribbentrop in London, and so pro-German George VI “resigned” him as Lord Steward. When Rudolf Hess flew to Scotland in 1941, it was to meet with Douglas Douglas-Hamilton, the Duke of Hamilton, another Ribbentrop associate, a visitor to the Berlin Olympics where he met Hitler. Nor should we glide over Archibald Ramsay, MP for Peebles, rabid anti-semite, pillar of the Right Club, and the only MP interned during the War.
Several lesser lights glimmered in Nazi circles: a coiffeuse from Dundee ran a letter-box for spies, and spent the War years in prison. Derrick Grant, who had offered his services to the Reich earlier, arranged his German “holiday” to coincide with the outbreak of War, and was recruited to be Radio Caledonia. At the top of this midden was Norman Baillie-Stewart, Anglo-Irish with no direct Scottish connection, but cashiered out of the Seaforth Highlanders when he was found guilty of spying for the Nazis. going on to be the “Sinister Sam” of “Germany Calling”, and later “The Man in the Tower”.
Other names in the frame
It would be wrong to draw a direct line from the Nationalists of the 1930s to the SNP of today.
So let’s not over-egg Arthur Donaldson‘s pudding. Donaldson was drummed out of the SNP in 1940, and ran his own Nazi-infiltrated United Scotland. His other achievement was the Nationalist Mutual Aid Society, to spirit don’t-wannabes into the Highlands and avoid National Service. He was arrested in 1941 and briefly detained until the Nationalists reclaimed their own, made him into a campaign. He prided himself as the Scottish Quisling (but Archibald Ramsay claimed he was first choice). Donaldson was leader of the SNP from 1960 to 1969.
Another briefly-detained was anti-conscription Ronald MacDonald Douglas, who betook himself to Ireland for the duration. Douglas is more significant as the link between Rosheen Napier, a major SNP financier, and the literary circle around MacDiarmid. The salacious can speculate on the ménage à trois of Douglas, Napier, and Marjorie Brock: the former two met when Douglas, keeping out of circulation in Dublin, already shacked up with Brock, fell in with the ex-convent girlie. Douglas was the epicentre of the 1320 Club (that number is explained later) which dedicated itself to the armed struggle, “total independence from England through violent means if necessary”. Whether Douglas was a fantasist or not, he muttered about importing arms from Switzerland and claimed to have met Hess.
… and this is now
This is the easy bit.
It is wrong to draw a direct line from the pre-War to here, though the right-wing of the SNP, still carrying a yen for the principles of the Scottish Party of 1932-4, is a latent force. There’s a prospect for the future, once the “social democratic” tendency of Salmond and Sturgeon loses its gloss.
The Daily Mail, or — to be more precise — Dominic Lawson went ape over a bit of casual vandalism:
The Scottish Nasty Party and how its growing intimidation and intolerance of dissent reeks of fascism
The windows of the Scottish Conservative & Unionist Party offices in Aberdeen have been spray-painted with the word ‘scum’ and the unmistakable sign of the swastika.
The front door has been similarly defaced with a giant letter Q, for Quisling: that is, traitor. Labour Party offices half a mile away were also daubed with similar abuse.
A local Conservative councillor, Ross Thomson, described this as ‘the ugly face of nationalism’. This showed restraint on his part.
In his place, I might have pointed out that the political party that actually used the swastika as its emblem was the Nazi party: short for National Socialist.
That induced predictable rushes-of-blood-to-the-keyboard on Facebook.
The takes-the-cake, though, came from Damian Thompson in the Telegraph:
Alex Salmond, the SNP and ‘fascist Scotland’
If Scotland votes for independence, will its government confiscate the estates of English landowners? The SNP is talking about a tenants’ “right to buy” – three such innocuous little words! – even if the landowners don’t want to sell. As my colleague Charles Moore pointed out in The Spectator, “one great independence leader who played this issue politically was Robert Mugabe”.
Cue shrieks from cybernats, the digital wing of the SNP, masters of coordinated outrage. They always go bananas if anyone compares Alex Salmond to a dictator. Which happens a lot these days. There’s an authoritarian streak in the Scottish government that is making people nervous.
Independence is not ipso facto an absurdity. It may be a cause sparked by emotion and identity but it is one also built on reason. This is an argument between competing but equally legitimate patriotisms in which neither side has a monopoly on either truth or virtue but in which each base their arguments, for the most part, on a sincere and peaceful different calculation of the national interest. As these things go, this one is going pretty well.
Finally, I would only observe that this hysterical – in every sense of the term – broadside against the enemy within plus the suggestion Britain has been betrayed by a decadent and feeble elite at Westminster is so infused with ressentiment that it comes closer to being authentically fascist – at least in worldview – than anything [Winder] has found in the Scotland he so feverishly imagines exists but which bears precious little relation to the Scotland most of us actually inhabit.
And I still need to get from Arbroath in 1320 to Independence Hall in 1776. Leave that till tomorrow.