A number of Scottish nationalists were last week left outraged after it was revealed that a chain of McDonald’s restaurants ordered staff to refuse Scottish banknotes as a valid means of payment. Accusations of racism have been levelled at the fast-food giant, labelling the policy ‘anti-Scottish.’ Ill-advised and foolish the decision may be, but racist or anti-Scottish it certainly is not.
McDonald’s, contrary to the headlines printed by a number of Scottish publications, have not ‘banned’ Scottish banknotes. Rather, a Lincolnshire-based franchisee, who runs a number of restaurants in the area, took the decision himself for his own group of restaurants. There exists no nationwide ‘anti-Scottish’ policy under which McDonalds’ over 1200 British restaurants operate.
Indeed, the franchisee in question cited the recurring problem of counterfeit notes as his principal reason for advising employees to refuse Scottish notes. The impracticality of the move is evident. Choosing to do away with Scottish money is a reactionary gesture, a short-term solution to the far-reaching problem of the circulation of fraudulent banknotes. Unsurprisingly, it is not an issue confined in its impact to Scottish banknotes. Much like the permanent confiscation of London nightclub Fabric’s licence, the decision is guilty of placing disproportionate emphasis upon a localised, minor manifestation of a problem much wider in scale and deeper in origin.
Customers carrying Scottish banknotes in the very small number of restaurants affected will, of course, be placed at significant inconvenience. However, to then make the logical leap to the conclusion that McDonald’s are somehow anti-Scottish is completely unfounded. In fact, the debacle might be said to fall under the banner of the politics of self-righteous victimhood at the heart of SNP rhetoric around the question of independence.
To be clear, upon many related issues, the SNP is right to adopt a defensive, protective attitude. The outrage from right-leaning London-based newspapers after the party’s near clean-sweep in May 2015 hinted at a profound discomfort with the alternative political mood in Scotland, just as the continued offensive onslaughts on Nicola Sturgeon by leading figures like Owen Smith reveals an uneasiness with the progressive, separatist politics which the SNP has every right to exercise.
But the McDonald’s fiasco aligns itself more with the cries of ‘It’s a conspiracy!’ with which the most dedicated supporters of independence are now commonly associated. Think of the infamously ‘distorted’ BBC weather map. Leading SNP figures argued that the BBC’s new 3-D weather map put Scotland at a visual disadvantage, appearing to reduce its size while giving undue ‘precedence’ to England and Wales. The image continues to resurface eleven years on. Or the farcical nature of the debate surrounding Tesco’s decision to replace the saltire with the British flag on its packs of Scottish-grown strawberries. First accused of an ‘anti-English’ bias, Tesco, after naively believing the issue to be resolved, were then subjected to the fury of cybernats at an ‘anti-Scottish’ act of injustice.
The upsurge in nationalistic politics in Scotland has increasingly exhibited itself in such trivial instances. The desire to construct and substantiate an ongoing anti-Scottish narrative is one which will actively inflate any scrap, rag, or patch of evidence to support the claim that the United Kingdom is inherently working against Scotland’s interests. Otherwise valid claims that, for political, social, or financial reasons, Scotland may better prosper independently, are damaged as a result. With IndyRef 2 looming, the need to put an end to the self-penalising ‘anti-Scottish’ reflex is of paramount importance.
Image credit: Flickr/ Howard Lake