View across the Outer Harbour of Stornoway

Sunday, 6 November 2016

Nationalistic fervour

There seems to be an international resurgence of what I can only view in a negative light: nationalistic fervour.

We have seen plenty of it in Scotland in recent years, with an independence referendum that was run, by the Yes camp, along those lines.

It is actively propagated by Vladimir Putin in Russia, whose unstated aim is to reunite the old Soviet Union into a new Russia, starting with the Crimea, and possibly continuing with the Baltic States. Fomenting political instability, claiming discrimination against Russian minorities will be given as pretext, once Putin sees the way clear - at the moment it is not.

I was shocked, back in June, when the Brexit referendum yielded a (narrow) vote to leave the EU, again on the grounds of nationalism. Give Britain its sovereignty back, away with meddling Brussels bureaucrats. Teresa May's government thought they had the political mandate to act on the result forthwith, but a challenge in the High Court a few days ago delivered the judgment that Parliament should have a say first. The three justices who handed down this judgment were subjected to on-line and off-line abuse. The Lord Chancellor has (at moment of writing) not spoken out against this, and I hope Members of Parliament will call on her in the Commons to do so, however belatedly. What really concerns me is this cry "the will of the people". Why do we need referenda, when the will of the people is being acted out by MPs, elected every 5 years (or so)?

Glancing across the Atlantic, with the American presidential election grinding to a close shortly, we have the Republican Party's candidate Donald J. Trump promising to put America First. Build a wall along the Mexican frontier, at the Mexicans's expense; threatening to negate on clause 5 of the NATO treaty, which obliges all member states to act militarily if another member state is under attack; and choking dissent.

Fourteen years ago, I attended a concert in London to celebrate the Golden Anniversary of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. When I approached Buckingham Palace, the mood I encountered was not one of celebration and merry making. It was an ugly, threatening, nationalistic mood, redolent of the Germany of the 1930s.