by Colin Campbell
AN excess of hatred, bile and bitterness from hardcore nationalists we are well used to, with unionists, England and the English, the Tories and Tory voters, and the Royal family, including the Queen and Prince Philip, as their prime targets.
But even the more softly spoken nationalists, who exude neither bile nor bitterness, often don’t seem to be quite all there.
One such is former BBC personality and now independence fanatic Lesley Riddoch, one of their most prominent media voices, who would no doubt be angling for a top media job in an independent Scotland, maybe as head of the Scottish Nationalist Broadcasting Service.
Riddoch’s current speciality is portraying an independent Scotland as a flourishing Caledonian version of Norway, a country she hugely admires.
She has no monopoly in her admiration of Norway, although sometimes it seems she thinks she does.
I, like many other people, have visited Norway quite a few times and every time I go I look forward to returning. The people are welcoming and friendly, speak perfect English, and are easy to chat to and engage with. Oslo feels like a winter wonderland when the snow is piled up and sparkles with pristine cleanliness when the sun shines down in the summer time.
On the bus ride from the airport into the city, a journey of about 20 miles, scattered in lush acres of space are the biggest houses you will see on the planet. Their occupants either have huge families or huge heating bills, or both, but they can afford these spacious homes because Norway is a hugely prosperous and very rich country due to the accumulation over the years of massive oil revenues.
Unfortunately, an independent Scotland would be neither prosperous nor wealthy, and with no credible currency and the loss of financial support from the rest of the UK, would be a lot worse off than we are now.
There are other differences between us and them which sully the dreamy Norwegian visions of Lesley Riddoch, who has been amusingly dubbed the Nordic Princess by some wry sceptics.
You can walk or cycle from one side of Oslo to the other without feeling even a tinge of concern about the area you’re in, and, even on a weekend night, without seeing anyone drunk. There no doubt are some social problems there as there are everywhere else, but they are not usually visible to outsiders.
But how much walking or cycling across Edinburgh or Glasgow could you do on a weekend night, or any night, and still feel perfectly safe? How far on a Saturday night would you be able to go without seeing someone drunk? In fact, how far would you need to go to find someone sober?
Scotland has the worst drugs problem in Europe. Norway trails far behind us in that respect. Scotland has one of the worst drink problems in Europe. Again, Norway is very different.
Maybe Lesley Riddoch thinks in an independent Scotland all the tens of thousands of junkies and alcoholics would give up their bad habits and take up cross country skiing, or some other healthy outdoor pursuit, Norwegian style.
It’s not, of course, clear what she thinks, other than that she has some kind of pie-in-the-sky post independence vision of boundless wealth, health and happiness.
Making these comparisons is, in the eyes of nationalists, “talking Scotland down” rather than dealing with basic realities.
But whether softly spoken like the Nordic Princess or filled with bile and bitterness, like so many others, facing up to reality is something that nationalists are always at pains to avoid.