A Force for Nothing Good
The far right are using the constitutional debate as their latest disguise. No decent person who supports Scotland's place in the UK should go anywhere near them.
"I don't accept that gas chambers were used to execute Jews for the simple fact there is no direct physical evidence to show that such gas chambers ever existed... there are no photographs or film of execution gas chambers... Alleged eyewitness accounts are revealed as false or highly exaggerated."
Those are the words of Alistair McConnachie, the founder and leader of The UK A Force for Good. This organisation is so clearly not a force for anything positive that I’ll refer to it as AFFG.
No decent person should attend their events, repost their propaganda or donate to their fundraising drives.
The far right, all over the world, follows familiar tactics. They know that their ideology will be rejected if put before voters directly, so they seek trojan horses to hide their cause inside. This tends to involve seeking issues that represent the insecurity caused by a fast-changing world: immigration, climate change, women’s rights, LGBTQ issues… In Scotland, the far right has latched onto the sense of anger that many pro-UK voters feel. They seek to exploit a fear that the SNP is trying to strip them of their identity.
I have written before about how those who reflexively respond to Scottish nationalism with a form of British nationalism are playing into the SNP’s hands. The SNP want this debate to be a binary choice between incompatible identities. In opposing that we should want a discussion where issues of identity are parked in a modern pluralism and instead pragmatic concerns around the economy dominate. From this perspective, the flag-waving antics of AFFG are strategically self-indulgent and counterproductive. However, even if AFFG’s tactics were effective they should still be pariahs.
Who Are AFFG?
AFFG is McConnachie’s creation. He and his followers have become a familiar sight waving Union flags as part of ‘counter demonstrations’ against various Scottish nationalist marches and rallies. McConnachie organises the protests, hosts their podcast, and is the director of the company behind the group. Challenged about his Holocaust denial in 2018, McConnachie was unrepentant. “I stand by that comment,” he told The Herald.
He is not the only extremist in AFFG’s ranks. John Robertson, a regular fixture by McConnachie’s side, was a leading activist and candidate for the fascist BNP. A Scottish BNP member named John Robertson, interviewed by the Telegraph at the fascist party’s annual festival some years ago told them:
"Muslims are breeding like mice…It's unbelievable what's happened in Glasgow. One in the belly, three in the pram. Gipsies everywhere begging in the streets. Rapes and murders all by immigrants. I'm really worried. I think we're going to hell. That's why I joined the BNP."
Another AFFG stalwart is Maxwell Dunbar, a former Treasurer of the Glasgow branch of the fascist BNP. He was recently asked to leave a protest against gender self-ID after he turned up with a homemade homophobic banner.
To have an organisation run by a holocaust denier is surely bad enough, but when you know he is also surrounded by people with a long track record of fascist activism, it cannot be ignored.
All of this is well documented by journalists, albeit not in one place, so why raise it now?
Last week Humza Yousaf was interrupted at the Edinburgh Festival by a heckler who told him to “f**k off”. This was amplified approvingly by many on social media who no doubt wish they could have done the same. However, when it was pointed out that the heckler, Niall Fraser, has a history of associating with AFFG, some rushed to defend him, or even to deny his well-documented links to these extremists.
The SNP have been attacked for their tolerance of extremists in their movement and their inability to see bad behaviour on their own side of the constitutional argument. The conditioning of a decade of identity culture wars is leading too many on the pro-Union side to indulge unsavoury characters in a similar way.
It isn’t always easy to spot extremists. That is precisely why extremists are using the constitutional debate as a Trojan horse. They turn up at mainstream organisations’ events and seek legitimacy through proximity.
None of us are responsible for the actions of others, we are only responsible for the organisations we are members of and our own behaviour as individuals. We can all make sure that whenever we come across AFFG online or offline we challenge them. A good start is using the image below to reply to them whenever you see them.
With thanks to a volunteer who shared much of this information.
Culture Corner: Father Kolbe’s Preaching
Coincidentally, today is the feast day of Saint Maximilian Kolbe. It was on the 14th of August that Father Kolbe was murdered by lethal injection in Auschwitz. Sixteen days before an inmate had managed to escape from the camp. The Nazis chose ten men to be locked in a cell and starved to death to deter further escape attempts. Father Kolbe offered to take the place of one of the men. For more than two weeks Kolbe preached to the men as they died of thirst and starvation around him until the Nazis became impatient and murdered him and the remaining three prisoners still clinging to life.
If you have watched The Truman Show you will recognise the piece of music below as the uplifting score that plays when Jim Carrey’s character finally escapes his fictional prison. When you realise that the music was written as part of a requiem for Kolbe, inviting us to imagine his grace in those days of slow, painful starvation, it is a far more complex listen.
In Case You Missed It…
John Ferry has a good piece on the consequences of the SNP Government’s FOI disclosure on EU membership. In particular, he asks whether we are supposed to believe that SNP Ministers have not asked for, received, or read this advice on the central policy of their government.
Former Scottish Green Leader, Robin Harper was in the Sunday Mail criticising his successors for their abrasive style.
Alex Salmond’s interview in the Sunday Times makes it clear that he would prefer it if Kate Forbes was leading the SNP.
The least surprising story in Scottish politics.
Professor Graeme Roy has a must-read analysis in The Herald today on the difference between what Scotland produces (our GDP) and what we earn (our GNI).