Extremism, Prejudices and All of Us Together:

The finger of extremism is often pointed by supporters of Westminster at proponents of Scottish independence but this tactic of the establishment merely serves to awaken us to the limitations of London based politics.  It also reminds us of the old fashioned saying. ‘people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones’.

It is ironic that Westminster establishment types point the finger at politics in Scotland when their own political sphere has become so extreme.  Indeed, so extreme that Labour politicians are scared to voice support for immigration least it loose them votes with the English electorate.  The labour party should be ashamed of its fear – it is this type of fear that enables extremists to flourish unchallenged.

Labour party fear over immigration can be contrasted with the position of Nicola Sturgeon, who asserted the positive benefits of immigration throughout the referendum and who, with Natalie Bennett and Leanne Wood, brought a positive message on immigration to the general election campaign – including fronting up Farage in the debates.

The difference between Westminster extremism and Holyrood progressive thinking can be seen in the independence referendum, for example, the Scottish Government enabled EU citizens to vote but the extremist Westminster position seeks to exclude EU citizens from voting.  This exclusion is actually a symptom of a much greater Westminster political malaise.

This exclusion symbolises the deeply entrenched attempt by one group of people to signal another groups of people as: ‘not like us’.  By pointing the finger at people supposedly ‘not like us’ the London based establishment seek to deflect our attention away from who actually live, ‘not like us’ – the wealthy who exploit ‘us’.

The establishment’s modus operandi is to scapegoat people whether it be Scots seeking self-determination, people coming here from other countries, benefits claimants or those who experience ill health.

Scapegoating occurs not simply because the establishment are so ethnocentric they can’t recognise their own prejudices but because the establishment require divide and rule tactics to keep us from recognising what the real problems are in the so very unequal collection of nations that make up the UK.


Scapegoating of ‘Ajockalypse Now’, ‘foreigners, ‘immigrants’ and/or ‘scroungers’ deflects everyday people from realising who the real enemy is: the elite who have just been bailed out with tax payers money at the expense of the poorest people in our society.


Scapegoating of ‘Ajockalypse Now’, ‘foreigners, ‘immigrants’ and/or ‘scroungers’ deflects everyday people from realising who the real enemy is: the elite who have just been bailed out with tax payers money at the expense of the poorest people in our society.

The referendum shone a torch on the establishment and that is why the pro-indy side is flourishing.  People who were scared of change in September, post-indyref have now accepted the critique that last year characterised Westminster as an exclusive club.  In contrast to Westminster, the indy referendum brought about an opportunity for people not necessarily aligned to political parties to create a vision of a more equal society.

At the centre of this process were groups like the National Collective, Bellacaledonia, Independence Live, Independence TV, etc.  One of the most promising developments with the potential for longer term impact was Common Weal which emerged as a think tank for change and acted as a vehicle for papers and presentations on issues such as citizen’s income, land reform, participatory democracy, a new economic model, etc (see book).

Some people might call these suggestions radical but I would say that it is common sense to promote the development of an economy based on higher wages, productivity and investment rather than to enable poverty wages and speculation.  Indeed, there was even a time when the Tory party of MacMillan understood this type of economics.

My conclusion: The extremists are not those promoting a different and self-determined aspiration for Scotland – they are the establishment at Westminster that seeks to vilify others whilst unpicking the very fabric of our society.

Some have critiqued the Common Weal papers for being too academic and not accessible to the public.  Indeed, some commentators who have made a bit of cash from successful books about the referendum can be found chastising ‘academics’ and academic events for being out of touch and not speaking enough to everyday people.

The wonderful thing about the referendum was the spot light it afforded to ALL people who live in Scotland, whatever their origin, to be recognised as citizens, voters and fellow Scots.  The main stream London based media and the Westminster establishment can’t get their heads round this but it also sets a high bar for us – post-indyref.

The referendum in its-self acted as an example of social justice where the views of people from all types of backgrounds could be recognised as important and where all sorts of people could come together to discuss politics, their aspirations and their life problems and feel part of something – a sense of togetherness.

So when some people (who have done rather well out of the referendum) point the finger at ‘academics’ and scapegoat them as if they are a homogenous group – they fail to practice what they were previously preaching on social justice.

Many of us have highlighted the academic versus real world debate as spurious.  In my own work (over a couple of decades) I have supported teachers, social workers, community educators, early years managers etc to carry out PhDs whilst continuing to work and impact on the real world.

We have co-written academic papers, co-produced articles and carried out collaborative community based learning events that have overcome any notion of academic/real world divide and led to real change in local people’s lives.

We have run collaborative courses for undergraduates in various professions and carried out real life participation projects to enable children and young people to self-empower and influence the adult created structures that impact on their lives.


So it would be useful if the gnarly old hacks that are in danger of becoming self-appointed referendum royalty would pause for a moment and reflect on the fact that there are different types of academics.


So it would be useful if the gnarly old hacks that are in danger of becoming self-appointed referendum royalty would pause for a moment when looking down from the lofty position and reflect on the fact that there are different types of academics.

Some of us have spent our time promoting social justice and participation in the real world, for example, working closely with local authorities, developing professional learning and enabling policy and law to be developed that recognises the rights and aspirations of everyday people.

If we are to generate the 70% type of figure that is required to provide an unchallengeable mandate for independence we need to avoid alienating whole groups of people (even if they are ‘academics’).

So where does that leave us, well it gives us an indication of the problems of trying to keep the sense of togetherness going that was so enjoyable in the referendum.  It is so easy to slip into infighting and disagreement.

Hence, I am not writing this text in order to shoot down the people who helped lead the alternative media that was so important to the referendum campaign. I am simply asking these people to reflect on their own prejudices and assumptions that they make about their fellow Scots as we continue to evolve our collective understanding of what a new Scotland should look like.

The point of the Common Weal banner ‘All Of Us Together’ – is that these media types should not get too, ‘fair away with themselves’ or think themselves any more important than the rest of us. I have been thinking about that phrase ‘All Of Us Together’ a lot recently.

When we are working with students who are going to go on to work with children and families, we encourage them to open up to their own prejudices.  Often they identify groups of people as not the same as us, e.g. traveller folk, disabled people, people receiving benefits or workers born in other countries.

‘Not the same us’, – who is ‘us’ I will ask.  Indeed, in these enlightened days another student will often pose this question before I have a chance to take my turn.  The sort of prejudices we have encountered include the belief that travellers should have to stay in one place if they want to receive services, children whose parents have exploited the benefits system should be refused services in order to punish their parents and immigrants should teach their children English before they are allowed to access nursery provision.

It doesn’t take long using group work and case studies to unpick these prejudices.  My favourite approach is to asks students to imagine themselves or a relative being treated like this – it is easy to vilify a stranger more difficult a loved one.  Nicola sturgeon used a similar approach in the general election when talking about UK citizens accessing health care abroad.

That is the thing about using a term like ‘us’ – ‘us’ has to mean people of all backgrounds (not people who are the same) – if ‘All Of Us Together’ are to work for a more equal society.

It is not that we should pick on people for being prejudiced, all people are prejudiced.  What we require of our new politics is that when people see they are prejudiced they reflect, put their hands up and apologies.

To help our students along the way I tell them of occasions where I have had to reflect.  For example, I never thought of myself as a racist, I had black friends when growing up, play rugby with black players, my favourite sports starts were black (Muhammid Ali and Viv Richards), I had huge respect for political figures like Martin Luther King and Malcolm X and I went out with a black girl friend, etc. (I came to realise later this was potentially tokenistic tosh).

Whilst growing up, I had picked up some decidedly dodgy views about people from South Asia.  Indeed, I lived in a community which celebrated black footballers but assumed people from India and Pakistan were not sporty and ‘all’ wanted to be shopkeepers or doctors.  Our communities at the time were also populated with myths about arranged marriage, housing and food choices.

It was not until my late teens that I started to realise that I had racist views.  I learned from an excellent modern studies teacher called Mr Griffiths about the history of immigration to the UK and about political figures from South Asia who promoted Human rights and anti-colonialism.

My education was furthered at university in Northern Ireland where I played cricket with South Asian cricketers who would educate me about their family histories and cultural differences whilst strolling round the boundary and lounging about in the sun.

I studied anthropology and sociology and came to understand how stigma, generalisations and stereotypes were fostered as part of colonialism as a method of enabling the UK to do terrible things to everyday people in other countries, whilst ripping those countries off for their natural resources.

On returning to Scotland in the early 1990s I was a very different person much more aware of the racist society that we live in and with a completely different view of Scotland to my 18 year old self who had once argued with a friend that Scotland didn’t have a problem with racism.

That doesn’t mean I was or am cured of prejudice – the thing about prejudice is it crops up when you least expect it.

So when on a work trip to New Orleans last year I was mortified when I walked into a restaurant and there was a tall handsome African-American man wearing a bright blue shirt and black trousers standing at the entrance and I assumed he was the maitre d’ and started to speak to him when it struck me he might not be the head waiter – turned out he was waiting for a table like us.  In my defence – all the waiters were wearing blue shirts – but it’s no defence.

This is an example that we specifically use on our courses. It was a very major embarrassment. A quick and fulsome apology helped to some extent, but, I still shudder at my ineptitude. The lesson for me which I discuss with our students is that there is no point creating anti-racist learning opportunities for others if you can’t put them into practice your-self.

And there it is, we all have prejudice and our only friend is the ability to quickly be reflexive and/or to offer a speedy apology.  So – message to indy-celebs – academics are human beings too and any time you hard-nosed indy-journos want help with your reflexivity just gee me a call.