A LOT of work goes into the methods deployed by the political and right-wing media elites to disparage the cause of Scottish independence. Sewing a sense of economic uncertainty is a prerequisite of undermining anything that challenges the political status quo.

This was why the first independence referendum was characterised by a slew of disinformation about what a fully autonomous Scotland would look like. David Cameron and Alistair Darling admitted that there was no reason why an independent Scotland could not be economically sustainable. Each of them probably considered that it was safe to say such a thing as the prospect of Scottish independence from their then vantage points was remote. But when the numbers began to tighten and the independence heat was on the British state was forced to reach into its armoury for two weapons that had served it well when building its slave empire: bullying and disinformation.

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George Osborne, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, insisted that an independent Scotland would be deprived of sterling. There was no good economic reason for this and Osborne knew that such a move would cost industry in the rest of the UK who exported to Scotland. Nor was there any acknowledgment of Scotland’s equal ownership of a currency its strong export performances had helped to strengthen. No matter: even though an independent Scotland would overnight have become one of the UK’s closest allies it still had to be punished. When this didn’t look like working they turned to propaganda and outright falsehoods to shore up their faltering position.

The best one was about an independent Scotland being denied access to the EU followed by the one about an independent Scotland not being able to survive the banking crisis. Claims that Scottish independence was simply anti-Englishness in disguise began to dominate the Unionist narrative.

The UK Labour Party and its branch office in Scotland chipped in with claims that leaving the UK would destabilise the fight against global inequality before meekly surrendering to the forces of far-right Conservatism in the next Westminster election.

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In recent months another means of deprecating the Yes movement has become apparent; it’s almost imperceptible but it’s there nonetheless and is beginning to “gain traction” as the best think tanks like to say. I suspect we’ll see more of it as we edge closer to a second referendum. This is the notion that “tribalism” is bad and must be avoided at all times. It suggests that belonging to a group or a movement in which you invest a degree of emotion as well as time and intellect is deemed to be suspect.

Only those considered to be near the wrong end of Britain’s social spectrum are ever accused of tribalism. It’s not something that nice middle-class people and the aristocracy can ever be guilty of. Thus if you are a football fan, especially of Celtic or Rangers, you must be tribal. If you are proud to wave a Saltire or even merely to attend a march or a rally for independence then you are exhibiting signs of tribalism. In the immediate aftermath of the first independence referendum the size of the audience in Glasgow that greeted the new SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon was quite astonishing – as was the numbers flocking to join the party.

How to explain such a phenomenon? Having disparaged people like these for the entire duration of the referendum campaign it couldn’t now begin crediting them with making a mature political choice after mature reflection. Thus, it had to be explained as “tribalism”, meaning that not much thought had gone into their choices and that people were being moved by baser instincts.

As SNP conferences began to set new audience records a way had to be found by political journalists to explain this phenomenon. Us journalists, of course, like to think that we attend party political conferences because, well … we have to scrutinise the democrat process and interpret it for the ignorant and indolent masses.

We believe that we are there because their intellect and writing abilities have won them the golden ticket of a political ringside seat. In many cases, though, we are there not because we are brilliant writers but because regurgitating party press releases and not breaking ranks with the pack doesn’t require great writing or analytical skills.

Party conferences are not really supposed to be popular, sold-out affairs. Thus those who insist on spending entire weekends like this voluntarily must be “tribal” and lacking proper intellectual motivation. You see, when the political classes led by the think tanks and the pamphleteers and the journalists choose to disparage “tribalism” they do so because they fear that increased popular knowledge of the business of politics and analysis of it will render their jobs obsolete. And rarely possessing the intellectual range to alter their own offerings they instead choose to explain this away as mere “tribalism”.

Tribalism and our instinct to be tribal are no tawdry and scrofulous things. They merely come with the human toolkit for survival in crowded and hostile places. We use them for personal security and to reinforce our beliefs. We all possess tribal tendencies. I observed it at close hand when I worked as a student at Glasgow’s Theatre Royal, the home of Scottish Opera.

Many of those who paid a premium to join groups such as The Friends of Scottish Opera were tribal too, as were one or two of my fellow ice-cream sellers who would suddenly adopt what they considered to be a posh accent in the hope that they might gain promotion or gain favour with this highly influential and moneyed set. It was entirely harmless and the source of many a right good laugh. These people would never be described as tribal though. Such a pejorative is only used for political underclasses and movements.

It’s important for those who arrange Britain’s politics and for the think tanks who suckle at it that no-one gets too carried away by the effects of political decisions. It’s always better to steer a middle course; to appease and to acquiesce; to be reasonable and well-behaved. No good will ever come with possessing strident views or of permitting emotion to cloud judgement.

Of course, we permit extreme levels of child poverty and live with inequality and avert our gaze from the extreme mortality gap that exists in our poorest neighbourhoods. We knowingly permit our government to sell lethal arms to evil regimes for the purposes of slaughtering their own people. But those are the only extremisms allowed in this country. There are set rules and boundaries within which we must reasonably discuss these things. To go beyond them is to risk being accused of “tribalism”. Yet those who agree those rules practise the most lethal tribalism of them all.