Why Covid-19 has become the new nationalism - Alastair Stewart

Covid-19 has not really tempered the 'old debates' about Scottish independence and Brexit. It has muted them for a time. Slowly but surely discussions and debates are popping up about how both can be achievednote-0.

By Alastair Stewart
Monday, 12th October 2020, 7:00 am
It is impossible to predict how the Covid factor will influence next year's election
It is impossible to predict how the Covid factor will influence next year's election

In the meantime, Covid-19 is the new nationalism in Scotland, the UK and many countries across the world. It transcends traditional political conviction and centres on the question of who protected the most lives. It is a behemoth of opinion in Scotland that has yet to be unleashed but one day surely will. It's also going to shape the political landscape for the next ten years and all the moments of disdain, pride, disillusion, fear or relief from the last six months will be unleashed.

During World War Two, plans were already afoot for what the post-war world would look like. As early as 1942, the Beveridge Report captured the mood for social change - it promised full employment and the welfare state. This appetite for change blindsided Winston Churchill, and Labour's Clement Attlee was sensationally elected in 1945.

Like with World War II, the narrative will eventually be used to define how 'we' suffered, sacrificed and acted together. Nationalism is about creating, garnering and expressing a collective sentiment to achieve a political objective – and as tawdry as it sounds, the political achievements and failures of the Covid-19 response will have their day in the public court.

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Alastair Stewart

And they might not lead to the radical conclusion that some anticipate. COVID-19 has exposed the vulnerabilities in our healthcare, our welfare and even our economic systems. It's also shown the total confusion between who is responsible for what at Scottish and UK levels of government.

It's just possible that after nearly a decade of constitutional and political unrest that some stability will be preferred over a gamble on pastures new. Whereas the British public rejected a war leader in 1945, Scots will likely have a choice to leave the whole system within the next few years. That decision will not be taken lightly.

The Scottish Parliament elections next year will not be as indicative a conclusion about this as some suggest. It is already anticipated that the SNP will take a majority. But like with the 2014 referendum, the decision will be determined by more than party affiliation – and one way or the other Covid-19 should not be underestimated.

Rightly or wrongly, Covid-19 is the new political dynamic of our times. It will be a question, as an old friend is fond of saying, of who used their 'political capital' most effectively.

Alastair Stewart is a freelance writer and public affairs consultant. More from Alastair at www.agjstewart.com and @agjstewart