REACTIONARY politics are a staple of the British psyche. How else could the UK have elected a government that prioritises the wellbeing of statues over the safety of women, or for a statement as banal and meaningless as “take back control” to have so fundamentally altered the course of its four nations?

While generally more prevalent at Westminster than north of the Border, Scotland is by no means immune to this – and with the Holyrood poll mere weeks away I’ve been left wondering if this is in fact the most reactionary election in our recent history.

Scotland’s many short-lived political parties over the years weave a fascinating tapestry of the events surrounding each election, like a time capsule of concern.

The 2021 election will be no different, taking place against a backdrop of reactionary politicking, both in the form of new parties and in the furore around legislation such as the SNP’s Hate Crime Bill.

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Personally I have my own questions about the legislation, not least because the police appear to be about as likely to arrest you for a hate crime as they are to commit one themselves. But to get to that conversation first you would have to dig past the anti-woke outrage and accusations levelled at the so-called trans agenda that have come to characterise opposition to the bill.

Like with the Named Person policy that came before it, there’s much reactionary fervour and misinformation around what it actually does and who it protects. Really, it’s about what the bill represents, and that’s a convenient tool for reactionaries to rally their supporters behind.

Policy aside, there are also several new parties standing for Holyrood this year but two in particular stand out to me: the Independence for Scotland Party and George Galloway’s Alliance for Unity. While on polar opposites when it comes to the constitutional question, they are functionally two sides of the same coin.

At their core, each was set up in response to progressive political change and employ the same reactionary rhetoric as one other.

The ISP have broadly been hiding their lack of policy in areas other than opposing reform of the Gender Recognition Act behind a facade of “maximising the Yes vote”, the argument being that a vote for the SNP on the constituency ballot and a vote for the ISP on the list will lead to the most pro-independence voices in the Scottish Parliament.

Except that’s somewhat disingenuous. If maximising the Yes vote through tactical voting was the singular goal of its strategists they would be advocating a vote for the Scottish Green Party on the list, given that the Greens have an established voter base, functioning party machinery and some actual credibility.

But of course, that’s not really the intention of the ISP. Maximising Yes is a secondary concern. It’s really about reactively splintering from the SNP over their perceived support for transgender liberation.

Which they are more than free to do – just don’t wrap up in a Saltire and tell me it’s about independence.

Galloway, on the other hand, has couched his opposition to independence in the same reactionary rhetoric that has worked so well for Nigel Farage and his ilk. This week he went after the Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf for not being “a Celt like me”.

Though in his defence, this may have just been autocorrect misreading the word ‘cat’, or maybe another word that begins with C and ends with T.

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Galloway’s Alliance for Unity have form on this front. Late last year the party’s official Twitter account went after the SNP over moves to make education more inclusive of LGBT people, proclaiming that the party was teaching about anal sex and rimming “with bananas and Nutella”. Of course, this wasn’t true, but it certainly got the attention of many anti-LGBT activists.

Any degree of progress sees pushback from reactionary and socially conservative forces, often in the guise of safeguarding concerns be that the far-right white genocide conspiracy theory or the moral handwringing over the what-ifs of having gay teachers.

Really though, it’s the last gasps of a dominant group trying to hold onto its power. It’s why the Independence for Scotland Party, set up supposedly to protect the rights of women and girls, has a candidate list made up almost exclusively of white men.

And it’s why Galloway, the so-called socialist, would happily condemn Scotland to Tory leadership under the most illiberal, populist government in years just to stick it to the independence movement.

So is this the most reactionary election in Holyrood’s history? Yes and no.

As an independence supporter and left-wing commentator, I have my head firmly in the independence movement, as I suspect you do too, dear reader. And in that sense, we can see many of the forces at play in the lead-up to this election and the backdrop of hostility towards progress that it is playing out against.

The independence movement is increasingly fractured, and the cracks are most obvious to those of us within its bubble.

Equally though, it is a bubble. While groups set out stalls ahead of the vote, the rest of Scotland is broadly getting on with it and won’t have even heard of the ISP or Galloway’s last-gasp attempt at being relevant. Come election day, I suspect the general political make-up of Holyrood will broadly stay the same.

Outside of those bubbles that naturally form around ultra-reactionary movements, life goes on. Election night will come and go, with the ISP and AU taking their place on the bench alongside the Scottish Family Party, and the tapestry will grow a little longer with it.