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books: Fascist Scotland - Caledonia And The Far Right

Provocative take on far-right Scots

Fascist Scotland: Caledonia And The Far Right

by Gavin Bowd

(Birlinn, £12.99)

In this well-written and provocative book Gavin Bowd sets out to show how "Scotland provided its own cohort of idealists, fanatics and traitors for extreme racist, nationalist and authoritarian politics."

Oswald Mosley's unsuccessful attempt to establish a footing north of the border for the British Union of Fascists and support from the Italian-Scots community for Mussolini's Italian Fascist Party are dealt with, along with pro-Franco politics in Scottish academia and alleged sympathy within the Scottish National Party for fascism and nazism. There are examples too of Scots accused of treachery during WWII and the fate of neofascist organisations in Scotland up to the present day.

It is the chapter on "the nazis and the Nats" which is no doubt the most provocative section of the book. Poems by Hugh MacDiarmid are cited as evidence of how a combination of "anti-Englishness and anti-imperialism" could lead to a "downplaying of the threat emanating from Berlin." Those more in the know about MacDiarmid and the history of the SNP are more entitled to settle such claims.

The main sources of support for fascism within Scotland, though, are shown to come from among the usual suspects - the Tory establishment, the aristocracy, big business and the military.

An example is Captain Archibald Maule Ramsey, Tory MP for South Midlothian and Peebleshire, who created the "Right Club," a clandestine squad of anti-semites and anti-communists. He was the only British MP to be interned during WWII.

Bowd's contention that "it remains wilfully naive to think that there can be 'nae nazis' north of the Cheviots" is one that few will disagree with, yet the book leaves the impression that the pudding is very definitely being over-egged.

Looking for evidence of the toxic legacy of fascism in modern Scotland, Bowd points to a remark made by singer Rod Stewart in 1970 expressing support for Enoch Powell's anti-immigration policy even though Stewart - a Londoner born and bred - isn't even Scottish.

And he cites a leaflet exhorting people to "Buy Scots goods and keep a Scots worker working" as evidence of fascist traces among Celtic nationalism.

Whether that is so is debatable, but the fact that pro-union Gordon Brown's infamous "British Jobs For British Workers" slogan doesn't get a mention may lead some to conclude that Bowd needs to widen his gaze from specifically Scottish nationalism if he is to do full justice to his subject.

Alex Miller

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