The re-emergence of authoritarian nationalism is shaping the world we live in today. We have witnessed its steady growth in Scotland where 13 years of SNP government have sounded the death knell for the freedoms we once took for granted. We now live in a society where people, because of Brexit, the coronavirus and the downturn in the economy, feel betrayed and insecure and tend to want someone, preferably an outsider, to blame. That scapegoat, for thousands of SNP supporters, is invariably Boris Johnson, the Westminster Government or even England itself. Meanwhile, the rise of social media has enabled us to share our grievances instantly and globally and this in turn has created an opening for many predatory cybernats to circulate smears and insults and to violate what we used to consider the acceptable boundaries of civic debate.

It is a great irony that the party whose supporters seem to churn out so much animosity, is also the party in government that seeks to introduce a Hate Crime Bill; the perfect marriage between nationalism and authoritarianism. It should come as no surprise to anyone that, Humza Yousaf, the SNP government’s Justice Secretary, responded to widespread criticism of his Bill by doubling down on his intention to ban free speech. In October, he told Holyrood’s justice committee that discussions that incite hatred and take place even in private dwellings, could lead to a criminal conviction. Presumably all homes in Scotland will have to be fitted with mandatory bugging devices, so that teams of government eavesdroppers can listen in to every ‘private’ conversation? Calum Steele, general secretary of the Scottish Police Federation, has warned that children could inadvertently grass on their own parents ‘insulting’ remarks about transgender rights, immigration or refugees, if they repeated the remarks in the school playground to other children who might tell their own parents who hold different views.

The Hate Crime Bill comes hard on the heels of the bill to criminalise parents who smack their children. Kids have been advised by the SNP government to report a smack from their parents to their teacher or to the police, so that they can be arrested and charged with assault. A similar attempt to snoop on families was made by the nationalist government in 2014 when they introduced their controversial Children & Young People (Scotland) Act, better known as the ‘Named Person’ legislation. The Orwellian law aimed to provide every child in Scotland with a state monitor from the moment they were born until the age of 18. This snooper’s charter was quashed by the Supreme Court who ruled that the Act breached the European Convention of Human Rights.

The SNP government’s predilection for rigid authoritarian control came another cropper when their Offensive Behaviour at Football Act, was repealed by a majority vote at Holyrood in 2018, when right and left united to bring it down. The Act sought to criminalise fans who sang sectarian songs, primarily at Old Firm matches, but it was widely seen as unworkable, with aspects that could once again be interpreted as an attack on freedom of speech. The list goes on. The nationalists’ penchant for bad law has exposed their authoritarian tendencies. They seem to say “We, the government, will dictate how you live, think, work and behave from cradle to grave”. Sadly, the coronavirus pandemic has played right into their hands. Now we have a daily dose of Nicola Sturgeon telling us who we can meet, where we can travel, which businesses can remain open and which must be closed, where we can eat and when we can have a drink. Indeed, the SNP government’s prohibitionist bent has come to the fore with their draconian drink-driving legislation, their minimum pricing of alcohol and now their complete ban on pubs and restaurants selling booze in more than half of Scotland.

When masked protesters in hazmat suits, waving saltires, set up camp at the Scottish border with banners warning visitors from England to “stay the f*** out”, we began to see the true face of authoritarian nationalism that Nicola Sturgeon tries so hard to hide. We witnessed it again in August, when nationalist protesters displayed a banner stating ‘England get out of Scotland’ at Waverley Station in Edinburgh. Anti-English and anti-Boris Johnson sentiments peaked when cybernats mounted a social media campaign to boycott Baxters soup, after the UK Prime Minister had the audacity to visit the successful factory in Moray in the summer! Nationalists even called for a boycott of Tunnocks tea cakes, when the Scottish bakery removed the lion rampant from its logo and re-branded their snack as the ‘Great British Tea Cake’. There was a similar outcry from the Nats when Mackies of Scotland re-branded their mint chocolate with the union flag.

All of this should sound warning bells for what Scotland would be like after independence. Not only would we face a crushed economy with massive debts and no further fiscal transfers from our English neighbours, we would also suffer swingeing tax hikes, spiralling mortgages, plummeting pensions, an underfunded health service and a failing education system. Even Andrew Wilson, the SNP’s economic guru and chair of their ‘Growth Commission’, admits that it would take a generation for Scotland to recover from independence; a generation when we would all have to enjoy the fruits of authoritarian nationalism, bolstered by partition and the severing of our ties with the United Kingdom.

Stephen Walt, Professor of International Affairs at Harvard University, has said that the coronavirus pandemic has strengthened the state and reinforced nationalism. He claims that governments who have introduced emergency measures to control and manage the virus will be reluctant to relinquish these powers when the crisis is over. “In short, Covid-19 will create a world that is less open, less prosperous and less free,” he said. The SNP government’s apparent support for snitching, snooping, clyping and grassing will turn Scotland into a modern-day East Germany, where domestic political surveillance will ensure that everyone will have to toe the party line. There’s a famous quotation that says nationalism is like cheap alcohol. First it makes you drunk, then it makes you blind, then it kills you. Slàinte Mhath!