This week, Netherlands prime minister Mark Rutte has sought to retain his job by mimicking the fascist PVV. In that country these days it’s an orthodox, indeed popular, part of electioneering to call not just for immigration to be reduced, but for actual Dutch citizens to be ‘sent home’ on account of their ethnicity. Conservative Rutte used the enthusiastic pre-Turkish referendum flag-waving amongst the Turkish diaspora to ‘crack down’ on, well, Turks – even where they’re actually Dutch. The message? ‘You wan’t anti-immigrant rhetoric as a proxy for outright racism? Sure, we Conservatives can give you that, so no need to actually vote fascist’. It seems to be working for Rutte, too, with victory at today’s election likely due not to the decline of nasty right-wing thinking, but the ability of conservative parties to capture and reflect it.

The German government supported the Dutch one in its fairly naked racism. Why? Because AfD and the coming elections, obviously. And here’s Austria’s extreme right wing FPO wells out in front. Like choosing your ice cream at Nardini’s, the big question for Austrians seems to be ‘what flavour of Nazi is it you  want?’

In France, the fascists remain the most popular party and continue to shape political debate there. And so on it goes. In each country, there’s a true nasty party, and a would-be nasty party which wants its votes. The language of the former is however much outright racism they can get away with. For the latter, it’s the language of immigration.

In England, Labour feels vulnerable to UKIP although in truth it’s the way the Tories use immigration which scares Labour most in the north and across middle-England. So Labour’s been trying to combine it’s liberal instincts with at least a stab at getting a bit of that ‘anti-immigration’ vote. Result? Incoherence.

In Scotland, though, it’s different. No-one says it’s perfect by any stretch, but using immigration as a cheeky proxy for something much worse doesn’t give politicians the same purchase. That’s likely a relief to Scottish politicians of all parties. But it won’t be Scottish politicians who are calling the shots in the unionist campaign. That’s why there’s a great risk that unionism will be tempted to wave the anti-immigration flag. It doesn’t need to wave it too high, mind. Just a bit higher than independence supporters, and since in Scotland paradoxically nationalists don’t wave the anti-immigration flag at all, (which England’s unionist commentariat affects not to notice) the unionists won’t need to put theirs all that high.

But watch for it. Across Europe, immigration is a nasty proxy. There are people and parties of the centre-left combatting it and with a fair wind they’ll defeat it too. Look at Macron in France, for example.

If anyone starts using immigration in the long independence referendum campaign, we have to call it out for what it really is…


5 Responses to IPolitics: Scottish unionists must avoid a dangerous flirtation with anti-immigration politics
  1. I’m not sure why my comment on crystal-ball McTernan was moderated out – it’s a verifiable fact at a public event in 2014 relevant to your article.
    If you are not going to engage with people who take the time to read & thoughtfully reply to your posts, there’s not much point.

    • Hi David. Posts go right up automatically unless it’s a first-time poster in which case the first post has to be approved – it’s just the WP format easiest for our purposes here. You’re not a first-time poster so it’s not obv why your post didn’t go right up, tbh. It’s been put up manually now. If it happens again we’ll sack the idiot who’s working the controls at this end. Thanks very much for your comments – they’re massively appreciated.

  2. Good post:
    This problem was extant in 2014:
    I attended an event at Summerhall, chaired by Gerry Hassan, at which John McTernan (and fair play to him for participating) in a diatribe regarding the ‘demographics timebomb’ alluded to the 100,000s of immigrants that would be required from places like Africa & the sub-continent. I and many others called him out on this …

    • Ah, re the last, it seems that you were a first time poster with this post. Normally, first-time posts go up close to right away. Today, though, our entire team was out doing frivolous stuff, frankly, and we’ve just got back to the screen. You’ll find your posts go right up automatically in future. And thanks again.

  3. It is the failure of neo-liberal economics and multi-national tax dodging corporations which are the root of the problem,not immigration.
    The Tories in England cannot admit this because it is at the core of their ideological beliefs and as far as they are concerned,There Is No Alternative.
    I think most Scots are aware that our economy and social services will take a big hit when England’s Tories pull up the drawbridge and start deporting EU citizens back to point of origin.
    This will be a major issue during our independence campaign,and should highlight that the Westminster approach of one size fits all for most policies simply doesn’t work in Scotland.
    The unionist politicians,of course,don’t care because they have little or no interest in making Scotland a successful country,only the maintenance of the gravy train to London.


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