Scotland politics

Election 2017: Davidson uses Orwell lecture to attack nationalism

Ruth Davidson Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Ruth Davidson said issues of identity and nationalism had dominated "for pretty much my entire adult life"

Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson has used an address to the Orwell Foundation to criticise what she sees as "obsessive" nationalism.

In her speech to the London gathering she insisted that nationalism was wrongly confused with patriotism.

Quoting the writer George Orwell she said: "Nationalism is power-hunger, tempered by self-deception."

However, both the Scottish National Party and Scottish Labour hit back at her views.

The SNP's Deidre Brock said Ms Davidson's "own political message could not be more tribal".

And Labour's James Kelly said the Scottish Tory had put the "narrow British nationalism" of the Conservatives ahead of what was best "for the people of this country".

Ms Davidson told her audience: "Nationalism is about power, and its obsessive pursuit, and the dichotomisation of a population into the authentic and the inauthentic.

"Here in the second decade of the 20th century, despite his [George Orwell] efforts, nationalism is still confused with patriotism.

"That is because, too often, there are political movements that deliberately ensure that is the case."

The politician was speaking as parties campaign for seats at the General Election on 8 June.

Ms Davidson claimed that in Scotland issues of identity and nationalism have dominated the agenda "not just for my time in politics, but actually for pretty much my entire adult life".

'Bullied and hectored'

As the first Conservative to address the organisation, she added: "The truth is that the nationalist politics identified by Orwell - the attempt to classify and label human beings into groups marked 'good' and 'bad' - has become a key part of our political practice in Scotland.

"And it has to be said that this has been pursued quite deliberately, so that many people who do not subscribe to the loudly advanced, so-called 'good' side of the argument feel voiceless and helpless.

"Because in Scotland, political nationalism has introduced the idea that only one side of the constitutional divide can be the authentic voice of 'the people of Scotland'.

"That only it has the right to be heard. That other voices are, by their nature, illegitimate and phoney."

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption At the 2015 election Ruth Davidson posed with a union flag while travelling in a tank

She went on to say she could understand voters feeling "bullied and hectored" into backing the SNP.

But Ms Davidson said that after 10 years of the SNP government at Holyrood, there "is an undoubted sense that people have rather had enough".

Opposition parties criticised Ms Davidson's stance.

The SNP's Ms Brock said of the speech: "This is a lesson in double-think from Ruth Davidson, whose own political message could not be more 'tribal' - it is Orwellian to lecture others on nationalism when she's the one who drapes herself in a flag and drives around in a tank.

"Her claim to the moral high ground is totally undermined given that the SNP's vision of an independent Scotland is inclusive, outward-looking and internationalist, while Ms Davidson supports a Brexit Britain turning its back on its nearest neighbours and trying to make enemies of our European allies."

'Shouting match about flags'

Scottish Labour's Mr Kelly called the Ms Davidson "an embarrassment".

He added: "This is the leader who turned our political debate into a shouting match about flags rather than the issues people care about. At every turn Ruth Davidson has put the narrow British nationalism of the Tories ahead of what's best for the people of this country.

"Davidson and Nicola Sturgeon are both blinded by flags and it is working families who lose out. There is an alternative to the extreme nationalism of the Tories and the independence obsession of the SNP.

"It's a Labour government fighting for better wages jobs and public services, not fighting for a economically catastrophic hard Brexit or a second independence referendum Scotland doesn't want."

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