All Danes are nationalists in the Scottish sense of the word



Dannebrog 120/365
Originally uploaded by Blue Square Thing

When I lived in Denmark, I was a Social-Liberal Party activist. This party is very internationalist in its outlook, and I’m sure many members would define themselves as anti-nationalists.

These days I’m a member of the Scottish National Party (SNP), and I’m sure some of my Danish friends might feel slightly surprised by my personal political journey.

However, I don’t think I’ve changed very much politically in the past decade — I’ve moved slightly towards the left, but I definitely haven’t given up on my internationalist outlook. However, in Danish terms the SNP isn’t a nationalistic party at all.

The SNP’s strand of nationalism is what is called civic nationalism, which Wikipedia defines as follows:

Liberal nationalism, also known as civic nationalism or civil nationalism, is a kind of nationalism identified by political philosophers who believe in a non-xenophobic form of nationalism compatible with liberal values of freedom, tolerance, equality, and individual rights.[…] Liberal nationalists often defend the value of national identity by saying that individuals need a national identity in order to lead meaningful, autonomous lives and that democratic polities need national identity in order to function properly. Liberal nationalism is the form of nationalism in which the state derives political legitimacy from the active participation of its citizenry (see popular sovereignty), from the degree to which it represents the “general will”. It is often seen as originating with Jean-Jacques Rousseau and especially the social contract theories which take their name from his 1762 book The Social Contract. Liberal nationalism lies within the traditions of rationalism and liberalism, but as a form of nationalism it is contrasted with ethnic nationalism.

A good example of this was Ruth Wishart’s speech to the independence march and rally in Edinburgh last year:

A Scot is someone born here, and anyone who has paid us the compliment of settling here.

This sentiment is completely alien to the xenophobic far-right nationalistic parties that are unfortunately common in Denmark and many other European countries.

Arguably almost all Danes and all Danish political parties are nationalistic in the Scottish sense of the word, in the sense that they all consider Denmark to be the best basis for Danish democracy.

In the SNP, we certainly do not wish to exclude anybody from Scotland. We just want Scotland to become a small boring Northern European democracy, enshrined in the EU, like Ireland, Denmark and Sweden, instead of being a very small part of the United Kingdom, which in many ways is very different from Scotland.

It is probably unfortunate that the SNP chose to use the word national in its name because of the connotations this word often has. This was why Angus Robertson, leader of the SNP group in Westminster, felt compelled to say the following in an interview with an Austrian newspaper:

Wir Schotten sind offene, freundliche Menschen, wir sind Weltbürger — von daher ärgert mich die deutsche Übersetzung meiner Partei: Wir sind keine Nationalisten. [We Scots are open, friendly people, we are citizens of the world — because of this the German translation of my party annoys me: We are not nationalists.]

(This article is a modified translation of this one that I wrote in Danish a few months ago.)

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