Ruth Davidson Election 2017


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Ruth Davidson

Recorded coverage of a speech by Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson on George Orwell and the 2017 general election, at University College London, Monday 15 May.


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You make it sound like First Dates. I think I will need Fred, the

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concierge, to help us unaware. I hadn't really honoured to have been

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asked to give this lecture, honoured personally but also in particular

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because of the very invitation. It shows how the world has changed, and

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I believe for the better. Apart from being the great novelist we know,

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George Orwell was a guardian both of language and of democracy. He was a

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foretell of future perils and as Tony saw rightly says a man of the

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left, but he was also an old and here I stand to give a lecture in

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his honour. I don't kid myself he would approve. He said that

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politicians imply language to make murder respectable and give an

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appearance of solidity to pure wind. Goodness knows what he would make of

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the current election campaign. Strong, stable... No!

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LAUGHTER I want to take a step back from the

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general election, if only for an hour, to discuss one element of his

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legacy, and as a subject matter I have chosen what we might now called

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the politics of identity, or the question of nationalism and

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patriotism. It was Orwell who wrote the two should not be confused, and

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I would like to use this speech to examine the differences between the

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two and how we need to combat the narrow nationalism of our times and

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find a more pluralistic unpatriotic way forward. I would also like to

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speak about some of my own experiences as a politician in

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Scotland, and as someone who for more than five years has been

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contesting a constitutional battle for identity politics has become

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staples of the debate. To begin with, if we are going to discuss

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this evening the difference between patriotism and nationalism I think

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we should begin by defining exactly what it is we mean. What first then

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of patriotism? For Orwell, patriotism was devotion to a

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particular place, which he says "One believes to be the best in the world

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but has no wish to force on other people." For me patriotism is the

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accepted that one might as easily have come from Brazil as Britain,

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but which are the same time recognises that since we are here,

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in Britain, and since we all happen to be born on this particular set of

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rocky islands in the north-west corner of Europe, let us all

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celebrate it and feel pride in it, let us cheer Mo Farah directory, but

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let's make sure we stick around and watch Usain Bolt break another

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record as well. As Orwell suggests, patriotism is more unlikely. It

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doesn't impose itself, doesn't take itself too seriously. It is the want

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that the UK will succeed at the Eurovision but not really caring

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when Bulgaria gives us nil points. LAUGHTER

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It is my preparation of dogs but not mind when people prefer cats. It is

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my coming out as homosexual women but not having a problem with

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heterosexual men, as long as they take the bins out!

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LAUGHTER So to be patriotically British does

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not mean we have to oppose. Indeed patriotism celebrates difference and

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messiness and we can be proudly Scottish, Welsh, Asian, Pakistani,

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and at the same time enjoy our Britishness. Patriotism does not

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force us to rank these identities in order as if one or other has a

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higher claim. I am proud to be Scottish and British. I am proud to

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be Scottish and British and have campaigned for the UK to remain

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within the EU. I'm proud to be Scottish and British female in a

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Christian and Conservative and from five and a fan of Hamilton the and

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prepare dogs to cats, and so on. Patriotism simply says here is

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great, come on in, the water is lovely. Patriotism is in this

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respect are very positive thing, thing that can be sure, joined. It

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doesn't set barriers but it celebrates our place in the world.

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-- it can be shared and joined. If that is patriotism, how do we define

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nationalism? Words are powerful beasts, and this one, nationalism,

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appears at first glance to be very near synonym for patriotism, and

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indeed for many the two are completely interchangeable. For

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Orwell, however, they were very different. When he was writing about

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nationalism in 1945, it was a time when the impact of aggressive

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nationalism was of a different order of magnitude than anything we face

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today, and his definition of nationalism was not only referring

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to nationhood or attachment a government. Rather, National was in

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his view the process of thinking one's individuality into a bigger

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unit, whether a country or a political ideology or a religion. He

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defined it as the assertion that this unit should be promoted above

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all else as inherently virtuous, and that which was not that unit was

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therefore without such virtue. By nationalism and he wrote, "I mean

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first of all the habit of assuring that human beings can be classified

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like insects and that whole blocks of millions are tens of millions of

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people can be confidently labelled good or bad." He continued that

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nationalism is the habit of identifying oneself with a single

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nation or other unit, placing it beyond good and evil and recognising

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no other duty than that which advances its interests. Orwell is

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describing nationalism as a form of what today we would call identity

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politics. And it is one of which he is clearly not a fan. It is a state

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of mind by which definition cannot tolerate plurality. It is a state of

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mind where one ideology, one method, must take precedence over all else

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and which demands people support one camp or the other. And if you are

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unwilling to make that decision then National 'ss will be perfectly happy

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to make it for you. -- Nationalists will be perfectly happy to make it

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for you. And treating people like insects to be smeared onto a display

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board takes the force of a moral imperative. If we go back to Orwell

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again, he said" as nearly as possible no nationalised Evra Cox,

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thinks are right about anything except the superiority of his own

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power unit -- no Nationalist ever talks. No nationalised can conceal

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his allegiance." Patriotism can be the celebration of random geography,

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but nationalism is the assertion that your place, your view, your

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belief, the man's pre-eminence above all else. They are, I suggest, not

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so much synonyms as mere polar opposites. I want to say something

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that will I suspect getting into quite a bit of trouble, especially

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this close to an election, and it is this. Unfortunately, when it comes

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to nationalism, Orwell has all of us skewered, including myself. Because

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very few of us, particularly those involved in politics like Tony and

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myself, can really say we do not exhibit some degree and elements of

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these characteristics in ourselves. Politicians by our very nature

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divide into campus. Our camp, we declare, is where all the wisdom,

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morality, energy and decency resides, and we assert that nothing

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but perfidy lies in the other. This is the nature of party politics,

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particularly three weeks out from an election, or three weeks on

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Thursday, if you're counting. So George kind of got us on that one,

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but it is not just politicians. Orwell has all of us. We are a

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tribal species and in our effort to make sense of the world it would

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simply be easier to draw the boundaries of our own identities

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with our rejection of the other. And a further uncomfortable truth Orwell

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hit upon 70 years ago is that for some of us the Nationalist instinct

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is stronger than for others. To be specific in this instance, I will

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speak of us Scots. There was an MP who said in a speech to parliament

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that every Scotsman should be a Scottish nationalist. It was not

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Alex Salmond but was John Buchan, the author of The 39 Steps, Unionist

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MPs. He went on to add that if it could be proved a Scottish

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Parliament were desirable, we should support it. He proved in the early

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days Unionists to be devolutionist as well. In short, nationalism runs

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deep, particularly when as often is the case your football and rugby

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team is getting hammered, and indeed on such occasions I am sorry to have

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to report that even the most passionate Pro-union Scots may have

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questioned both the fortunate and parentage or large swathes of the

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English population. In short, nationalism is part of the Scottish

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psyche and it would only be hypocritical to deny it. But the

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challenge laid by Orwell, the challenge, it is how we react? Do we

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submit before this Nationalist instinct? And

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dichotomy it demands of us? Or do we follow patriotism, where... And like

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all great writers the questions posed by Orwell tamers. It seems to

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me that far from fading overtime this one demands are direct

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attention now, because whether it is due to the perceived failure of

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globalisation or the after-shocks of the financial crash, we all know the

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Nationalist impulse strengthened once again in recent years. In

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America, Britain, France and all across Europe, we see it, that in

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order to rise again, others must be put down. That we cannot build a

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home unless there is a wall around it as well. The line between country

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and party is blurred, being the vessel by which a nation is made

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whole. Whether it is Journey to the Mountain of Forever-- whether it is

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Trump's claim to make America a great again, the Austrian party, the

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France, each chose a campaign slogan setting themselves up as the saviour

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of the nation, the culture and the land. And those not of the tribal

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type, they were portrayed as proponents of progress, threats to

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nation or betrayers to people. Their arguments were not fully examined or

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tested. The message carriers were simply othered. It is easier to

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undermine than engage. But what of nationalism on these shores?

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the people at the Oval foundation here made it clear to me they booked

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me before Theresa May called snap general election. In discussing the

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rise of political nationalism, I want to talk about the situation

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that I know best, the position that we face in Scotland with regards to

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this issue. This question of identity and nationalism is one that

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now dominate our public discourse. It has done not just my pal in

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politics but will pretty much mind Thyer adult life. -- not just my

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time in politics but pretty much my entire adult life. It did not start

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with the current SMP. In the 1980s and 19 90s it was Scottish Labour

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who carried the flag. Another Scot who's been invited here to give the

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Orwell lecture, Robin Cook, declared that under Conservative Party

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government to all intents and purposes Scotland is an occupied

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country. That sentiment help lead to the birth of a devolved Scottish

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parliament in 1999. And then the election of the Scottish National

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Party to government in 2007 put the question of full independent front

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and centre. In 2014, we famously held after referendum on Scottish

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independence in which 55% of the population decided to remain within

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the United Kingdom. Rather than saying the matter settled, we see

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the issue is pushed back to the fore, with the SNP calling for a

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second independence referendum as early as next year, before the net

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kingdom leaves the European Union. If you had not heard much from

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Scotland these past few years, apart from the question of the

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Constitution, that is because very little else has had a hearing. And

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because these questions remain dominant. When I see colleagues and

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commentators down here wrestle with Brexit questions of, how

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post-referendum politics challenges traditional party structure and

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dominates voting intentions I like to think that we in Scotland got

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there before you. I guess the question is how do we apply Orwell's

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lessons about nationalism and pitches and two others in Scotland.

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As someone who's been closely engaged in one side of the

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constitutional battle these last years, a am aware of the need to

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tread carefully. It would be easy to suggest that Scotland is divided

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between nationalists in one hand and patriots on the other, to say that

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there were 1.6 million nationalists in 2014 who demand we reject all

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else for their own ideology, and on the other hand there were 2 million

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patriots who voted no to independence and choose the right

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way. But, I fear that would be people into exactly the nationalist

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trap that Orwell warned about 70 years ago, where we falsely separate

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people, like insects, into whether you're on the truth is far more

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complex. As I've already set out, the nationalist instinct described

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by Orwell can be applied to all sides of the political divide in

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Scotland, including Mike Boone. They also believe that most people in

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Scotland on both sides of that squad -- including my own. I did not agree

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with the supporters of independence in 2014 and I still do not now. But,

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if you believe that the vast majority of those that supported

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independence did so because they believe it was the best thing for

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Scotland and I will never condemn them for doing so. I will stand up

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to any member of Matthews Goodbody who does. However, caveats aside,

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the truth is the nationalist politics identified by Orwell. -- I

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will stand up to any member of my party who does. Has become a key

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part of political practice in Scotland. It is doomed pursued quite

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deliberately said that many people who do not subscribe to the

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so-called good side of the Altman feel voiceless and hopeless. Once

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again, Orwell was the first. Examining the nationalist mindset in

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1945, Orwell hit upon three common trends. Firstly, obsession, no

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nationalists, he wrote, ever thinks all talks all rights of anything

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else except the superiority of his own power union, he will show great

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sensitiveness about such things at the corrects display of flags, the

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order in which different countries and named. Secondly, he identified

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instability, the nationalist fervour remains constant when the object of

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his or her obsession may change. Thirdly, indifference to reality,

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the nationalist will not just of the negative matters affecting his own

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side, road Orwell, he has a remarkable capacity for not even

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hearing about them in the first place. I have to say that the those

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of us in Scotland, many of us, at least, it all sounds remarkably

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familiar. Obsession, tick. We've not had an awful lot else from the SNP

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in the last few years. Sensitivity about the size of headlines, tick. I

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think no further than they SNP MP who claim national industry and

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claimed BBC bias about the size of Scotland on the BBC weather map.

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Instability, the further remaining constable of the object changes.

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When Nicola Sturgeon join the SNP 1986, she was attracted to a party

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whose policy was to withdraw from the European Community, she now

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claims that leaving the EU is the reason that Scotland needs to

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revisit independence. As we had yesterday, she will not promise to

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take an independent Scotland straight back into the youth. Then

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there is the point about superiority, and it all brings the

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truth. In Scotland, political nationalism has introduced the idea

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that one side of the constitutional divide can be the authentic voice of

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the people of Scotland and only it has the right to be heard. The other

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voices are, by their very nature, illegitimate and phoney. As Billy

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Connolly said, I love Scotland but I hate the way the nationalists think

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they own the place. To repeat, I do not suggest it is only the Scottish

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National Party that is guilty of this trend, or political parties in

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Scotland are elsewhere in the UK have been at fault at time, claiming

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to have a monopoly on the national mood, as if there was one political

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party which can claim the collapse of the nation. But I would suggest,

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that the modern SNP has made this technique its own. If I can give you

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a few examples in recent weeks that may not have made it down here. Back

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in March, the Prime Minister set out her opposition to the second

:19:35.:19:38.

referendum on independence. Responding, Alex Salmond declared

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that no self-respecting Scot would accept a Westminster Prime Minister

:19:43.:19:48.

undermining Scottish nationhood. The implication being that to agree with

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the prime Minster on this issue would be to somehow concede that you

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were a lesser type of Scott, of pig last week talking about the local

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council elections Nicola Sturgeon said the following, Labour let

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Scotland down by losing so many seats to the Tories. In other words,

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Labour had not just built be attracted to the Electric, they had

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actually shamed the nation by allowing the hated Tories to win

:20:16.:20:20.

seats. Or, looking at it in another way, Scottish voters couldn't vote

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for one of the main political parties without it being an Scottish

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and someone else's fault. Or in a similar vein at the SNP party

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conference, the economy minister summoned Terry summed up a debate on

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Brexit with the following comment, this debate comes down to Scotland

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that is the Tories in Scotland is going to win. As a member of

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government who had just seen over half a million of his fellow

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countrymen and women vote Conservative at a Scottish election,

:20:56.:21:02.

is that half million not Scotland is well? I'm Scottish, in fact I've

:21:03.:21:07.

never lived or worked outside the nation of my birth. A seed to no man

:21:08.:21:13.

in backing blue in any round. Apparently I had to choose between

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being Scottish and being conservative is according to Mr

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Brown I cannot be both. What do you think about immigrants? Can we leave

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the questions because there will be a question session after this. The

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implication hangs in the air, we are other, we deserve to be shouted

:21:43.:21:46.

down. The media has often assisted in the narrative. After the council

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results one tabloid declared, the back, that the Tories were now

:21:52.:21:56.

preparing to invade Scotland once more. -- one tabloid declared, they

:21:57.:22:02.

are back. Think about that, people putting themselves forward at an

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election to gain support of their neighbours in a democratic vote

:22:06.:22:08.

because they want the local communities in which they live are

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now being referred to as some sort of invading force. This technique

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has, for a long time been effective and if people feel bullied and

:22:18.:22:20.

hectored in supporting the SNP than I do not blame them. The Juncker

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Plan works. When I became leader said Wood has change the culture of

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the party. -- the othering works. I wanted to make the culture, saying I

:22:41.:22:46.

believe in X and if you believe in X you are a Tory as well. The question

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that is handing over others in this coming election is whether that is

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about to change. I very much hope it will. After ten years of the SNP

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government, there is an undoubted sense that people have rather had

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enough. They include parents have begun to notice that while these

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constitutional contortions of capital hugely occupied, the

:23:13.:23:15.

children's education has been getting steadily worse and worse,

:23:16.:23:20.

and that perhaps that is the greatest rebuke against nationalism.

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It does not actually make the changes, any good government will do

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that. My hope is that in Scotland decades long obsessed with the

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constitution will come to an end and that we can start using the enormous

:23:38.:23:42.

powers of Parliament to improve the actual fabric of our country. The

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lesson that I hope is also heeded right across the UK, as well, as we

:23:47.:23:54.

the EU. To conclude, the difference between nationalism and patriotism

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is not a question of degree, all well is correct about that.

:23:59.:24:03.

Nationalism is about power and its obsessive pursuit and the

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dichotomised nation of population into the authentic and the

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inauthentic. Nationalism, Orwell wrote, is power hunger, temperate by

:24:12.:24:18.

self perception. Amen to that. Yet, here in the second decade of the

:24:19.:24:23.

21st-century, despite his efforts nationalism is still confused with

:24:24.:24:26.

patriotism and that is because too often the political movements that

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would put fully insured that that's the case. Showing that we must

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remain vigilant against nationalism's seductive simplicity

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is and always be ready to embrace the complex and difficult and the

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other. Like Albert Camus, I love my country too much to be a

:24:45.:24:48.

nationalist. To Orwell, it is nationalism not patriotism that is

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the last refuge of the scoundrel. Like all well I say we should not

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confuse the two. Thank you APPLAUSE -- like George Orwell I say we

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should not confuse the two.

:25:11.:25:13.