Neale Hanvey: Why it is wrong to criticise me speaking to Nigel Farage

Picture the scene. The independence movement has pulled through the current chaos and a new campaign for independence is underway. The case has been diligently researched, is solid and we aspire to secure around 60% support for our cause in an impending democratic process.

A call comes through to the campaign HQ asking for a speaker to face one of our opponents in a media debate, but the only people available from our side are offended by the politics of the person speaking for the Union and refuse to take part.

The HQ team eventually talk them around and they reluctantly agree to participate but are completely unprepared for their opponents’ tactics because they have thus far refused to share a platform with “them” and so get demolished in the debate.

I hope you agree that the above won’t help us win because the vast majority of independence supporters, regardless of party, understand that we need to up our game and get match-fit to deliver independence.

There have been two occasions when certain individuals have refused to share a platform with me, but I am glad to say that on both occasions, the organisers refused to cave to their pressure, de-platforming the individuals as a result. As far as I’m concerned, that is the only way to deal with petted-lip politics – if you’re too precious to defend Scotland, perhaps it’s not your cause after all.

If a sports team refuses to engage with another team in a tournament, they forfeit the match – they lose! What they don’t get to do is bleat to the organisers that they don’t agree with the tactics their opponents use, the cut of the grass or the colours of the strip opponents plan to wear. If they even tried, they’d be laughed out of the tournament – and rightly so.

It’s not remotely credible for any of us to demand who, how, or on which platform we will deign to grace with our presence. Never mind to then successfully deliver a persuasive argument that commands broad appeal and national unity for change. Frankly, the notion is for the birds. Does anyone think Bannockburn would have been celebrated in song if it went something like this?

O’ Flower of Scotland,

When will we see yer likes again?

We’re right offendit,

By nasty Edward’s reign,

We’re black affrontit, (wi’ who?!)

King Edward’s word-ies… etc, etc

You get the picture, that’s not how battles are won, or how a nation’s songs are inspired. While we may not be engaged in a battle on a field, it is a battle nonetheless, and battles can be either won or lost.

Since 2019, I have been called many things by strangers who are allegedly offended by my “far-right” homophobic and transphobic views on biology. To a veteran lefty with a science background, this was quite the puzzle, but it was even more of a surprise to my husband and our children. You would have thought my other half might’ve noticed such tendencies at some point in the near 30 years we’ve spent together campaigning for equality.

We have no pretences of importance. We’re just a pair of normal guys who’ve walked the walk as best we can for a very long time. So, if some try to portray me as a swivel-eyed bigot, I just can’t take them seriously and scoff in their general direction.

I freely admit I get offended by reckless economic and social policies, but I’m not the one refusing to defend my position. I’m particularly offended by a prioritised focus on compelled thought and speech whilst in energy-rich Scotland our people continue to face poverty, business owners struggle to keep people in their jobs, and our vast resources are handed over on a silver platter for the benefit and enrichment of others.

But what offends me the most is that many (not all) of the very people the movement entrusted to champion our cause post-indyref appear to have put their own narrow interests before all else. Squandering multiple opportunities to break our nation’s chains in the process.

Some may decry this comment, but I have seen the grift up close and personal – and the self-entitled pomposity of some is as far removed from those hope-filled summer days of 2014 as you can get.

As hard as it is to hear, it’s the simple, unavoidable truth.

To those who defend such selfish acts and unforgivable omissions, I say this – you can call me whatever names you like, you can whisper behind my back, you can stand in self-righteous indignation with your nose in the air for all the good it will do Scotland.

But I absolutely refuse to be told by anyone to stand down, to give our opponents a free pass, or in any other way alight from the urgent need to advance the case for Scotland’s rightful return as a free nation of the world.

That’s a platform of defeatism, and I refuse to stand on that.


(This article was first published in The National on 27/04/2023)

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