May 9, 2012 by Nash Riggins
Alex Salmond has been called quite a few names since his unequivocal rise to power; however, even the most appalling of these labels has been forgiven amidst last week’s assertion by controversial historian David Starkey that Alex Salmond has effectively developed into a “Caledonian Hitler.”
Unsurprisingly, Starkey’s statement instantly received cross-party condemnation, and rightfully so; after all, the tactless comparison carries a certain unscrupulous association with the personification of evil that any democratically elected official possessing a sound stream of consciousness would prefer to avoid. Yet whilst the mainstream media attempts to crush Starkey and his credibility into oblivion, they are completely ignoring the man’s radical justifications for the parallel.
In truth, all politicians share at least one common bond with the infamous leader, given that he was indeed duly and fairly elected by a body of his peers. On the other hand, Starkey’s – perhaps overstated – argument is that Alex Salmond poses a blatantly easier target than most with which to draw this comparison, due entirely to his fierce nationalist ambitions.
Indeed, Salmond knowingly drew a line in the sand in 2011, when he pompously proclaimed that: “this party, the Scottish party, the national party, carries your hope.” The sheer arrogance of this assertion is unsettling to say the least; after all, it’s one thing in order to allow a nationalist-mentality to guide a political party’s entire platform, yet for Salmond to arrogantly claim that his party is “the” national party of Scotland should be a slap in the face to every free-thinker in the country.
It’s great that Alex Salmond and his SNP have Scotland’s best interests in mind, and it only makes sense for Holyrood to prioritise the welfare of its tiny nation over the broader spectrum that Westminster struggles to maintain from London – but Alex Salmond is a damn fool if he truly believes that the Scottish Labour party, the Scottish Lib Dems or even the Scottish Conservatives do not also prioritise fixing roads in Glasgow over solar subsidies in Manchester. Furthermore, the SNP have taken their self-assumed role as “the” Scottish party a step further by shamelessly utilising ancient national symbolism in order to ensure that, when voters hear the word ‘Scotland,’ they instantly visualise Alex Salmond’s glorious face.
Take the Stirling SNP’s new campaign tactic: ahead of the upcoming local council elections, the party has ensured that every home and flat within 40 miles has received their tabloid-style election newspaper, unsurprisingly dubbed “the Thistle.” Now in its third issue, the Thistle contains eight pages of by-line-free articles that brazenly slam anyone and everyone not associated with the SNP. More trivial still, the publication includes several pieces in which the unknown authors have clearly bent over backwards in order to associate their party with the unrelated successes of others – most notably, a preview of Disney/Pixar’s upcoming children’s movie Brave, which after three paragraphs somehow transforms into a glorification of the SNP’s promises to increase tourism revenue in an independent Scotland.
Overall, the entire publication is both absurd and slightly insulting to the political process. In order to ground the publication as something “local,” dozens of pubs from surrounding villages were encouraged to buy out ad-space in the Thistle, which will no doubt convince local ‘workies’ that the SNP is the official party of local, hard-working people. Yet can it be ignored that there are more photos of Alex Salmond in this “local” publication than there are of the actual candidates running? In effect, this piece of nationalist propaganda illustrates the willingness of local politicians to run for office based solely upon the cookie-cutter policies of Scotland’s First Minister; we are meant to believe that what’s best for Stirling is what’s best for Scotland (and what’s best for Scotland is unquestionably the uncontested rule of its “national party”).
In an ideal world, perhaps ten or eleven curious voters would actively seek out the manifestos of the Scottish Labour or Conservative candidates running for local council positions, only to discover that their policies are – point-for-point – literally identical to the SNP bar Scottish independence. Unfortunately, we don’t live in a perfect world; the majority of potential voters don’t have the time – nor the inclination – to ‘Google’ every single candidate’s manifesto. As a result, their votes ultimately depend upon the emotional propensity brought forth by the best-designed campaign materials that get shoved onto their laps via the letterbox. This phenomenon is counter-productive against the democratic method; that is to say, people deserve the right to decide for themselves, rather than have their votes swing based upon the skill-levels of semi-professional design teams. Yet in a society in which vast portions of the population take absolutely no interest whatsoever in politics, how can democratic methods truly flourish? Perhaps they can’t – which is precisely why it is left to political parties such as the SNP to win your vote based not upon policy agenda, but based instead upon the emotional appeal of a psychologically comforting, nationalist ideology.
Is it fair to compare Alex Salmond to Adolf Hitler? The short answer is absolutely not – such a comparison is deplorable and tasteless. Yet is it not outlandish in order to expect numerous indirect repercussions from the lack of regulation regarding the local campaign propaganda that Salmond’s subordinates have commissioned? On the other hand, the First Minister would find it far easier in order to distance himself from such an ill-conceived comparison, were it not for his naive endorsement of the SNP’s official response to Starkey’s outlandish assertion, which ostentatiously stated: “This offensive nonsense is actually an insult to Scotland and to the people of Scotland.”
No, Starkey’s comments were not offensive to Scotland, they were offensive to one man from Scotland – that is, unless you are under the misguided assumption that Alex Salmond is Scotland. Yet as we reach full circle, this presumption appears to have hit closer to home than we should all like to think; that is to say, in the rush to his 2014 referendum, it appears that Salmond is undeniably – if only unknowingly – working to mould every local council into an identical shape with which to drive his aggressively nationalist policies home and onto a seemingly uncontested political battlefield. Does this political strategy undermine democracy? History, as well as an overly cantankerous Dr Starkey, says “yes.” Unfortunately, in the case of Mr Salmond, the rest of us will just have to wait and see.