AS I read through my copy of The National on Tuesday, I found myself reflecting on the fact that there were in its pages a number of instances where the question arose of how we use words, and of how words and their meanings can be inspiring or challenging.

Emer O’Toole on page six touches on the question of how the terms “nationalist” and “Unionist” are treated as being diametrically opposed to one another, and of how a strong undercurrent of British nationalism is blithely ignored. I would agree that it is essentially British nationalism that sits in direct opposition to Scottish independence.

This is why a proponent of British nationalism can easily promote the idea that there is no such thing as Unionism, or that there is no border between Scotland and England. It is why Boris Johnson does what he wants, when he wants in relation to Scotland. It may also be paradoxically why there is rising support for English independence.

I have personally never had any problem at all with the word “nationalist”. I have always regarded Scotland as my country, and always wanted my country to have the dignity of independence. If this means I am a nationalist, I accept the libelling. I find that blending nationalism, republicanism and socialism together as one comes naturally to me.

READ MORE: Political science expert says British nationalism is 'behind much of Unionism'

On page eight, Angus Cochrane turns our attention to a report about social-distancing rules being broken at a virus-hit Scottish call centre. This report reminded me that the phrase “physical distancing” has been judged preferable to “social distancing” because using the phrase “physical distancing” instead of “social distancing” implies an understanding that there is a greater need to distance ourselves physically than socially.

There is the argument that presenting the phrase “physical distancing” for use instead of “social distancing” must inevitably lead to some measure of confusion. We seem to have arrived at a point where the phrases “physical distancing” and “social distancing” may now have become interchangeable. We may now even encounter references to “physical and social distancing measures”.

Michael Fry asserts on pages 12 and 13 that the pandemic has political implications for the First Minister as well as being about the worldwide spread of a new disease. The word “pandemic” presents itself in a different light when we look at its political impact. Coronavirus could fundamentally change the campaign for independence.

READ MORE: Michael Fry: Will the SNP give up control of the economy post-Covid?

On page 17, Paul Kavanagh, aka Wee Ginger Dug, focuses on the fact that an inability by the Conservatives to cope with the rise in support for independence could have the effect that people in Scotland would find themselves equating the idea of independence with democracy. It occurs to me that there could also be a unifying effect. Independence, unity and democracy could come to be seen by Scots as effectively one issue.

On pages 20 and 21, Hamish MacPherson deals with how the Highland potato famine occurred in the context of the Clearances, which began when the Battle of Culloden was lost by the Jacobites, and with how the Clearances was a process of ethnic cleansing. As in dealing with the Great Hunger in Ireland, if the word “famine” is used, it can be misleading. The question of how we use words, and the question of how words may work for or against us, constantly arises.
Tomás Ó Gallchóir