• STV
  • MySTV

Mhairi Black stirs anger in those left behind by the new Scotland Stephen Daisley

Analysis: The country’s youngest MP has been the target of Unionist insults, writes Stephen Daisley.

Mhairi Black SNP candidate for Paisley and Renfrewshire South in the 2015 general election of 2015 on the campaign trail in Paisley.
SWNS

Mhairi Black fair riles them, doesn't she?

The SNP MP for Paisley and Renfrewshire South was termed a "slut" by the prominent Unionist academic Dr Jill Stephenson during a Twitter exchange, the Sunday Herald has reported.

In the comments made before the general election, Dr Stephenson described the Nationalist politician as an "appalling harridan" and a "foul mouthed little slut" in one of a series of hostile tweets.

The apologism in response to the Sunday Herald article was wearingly familiar. Just as Nationalists rationalise and justify the cybernat sludge flung at JK Rowling and others, a power of Unionists were syllogising themselves into a right old lather to excuse the remarks. Only Nationalists are abusive online. Jill Stephenson is not a Nationalist. Jill Stephenson was not abusive.

Others pointed to the abuse Dr Stephenson has received from cybernats, some of which is revolting and deeply derogatory to women. Yet I can find no evidence that Mhairi Black has ever so much as tweeted the academic a "hello" let alone a four-letter tirade.

What, then, inspired her jeremiad against Black?

Dr Stephenson is no 12-follower cyber-nobody. She is professor emerita of modern German history at Edinburgh University. I am told she is renowned for her research on the role of women in Nazism. She was a member of Academics Together, the No campaign's higher education branch.

The professor is not alone in her irrational contempt for someone barely five minutes in political life. Solicitor Ian Smart has branded Black a "wee Nazi". Also no anonymous Twitter egg, he is a past president of the Law Society of Scotland.

Professor Tom Gallagher charged her with embodying "the culture of negation that is assailing Western civilization", quite an achievement for a 20-year-old from Paisley, and posited that she would heckle José Ortega y Gasset if he gave a lecture at her alma mater Glasgow University, an even greater feat since the Spanish philosopher has been dead for 60 years.

The Daily Mail guffawed at her gauche fondness for McDonald's and buying rounds of drinks for her friends. Even the eminently sensible Daily Record briefly became obsessed with her and her Twitter profile.

Perhaps we can chalk this up as the sort of juvenile taunts that fly back and forth in contemporary online debate.

Wings over Scotland's Stuart Campbell recently set about retweeting posts describing Nicola Sturgeon as a "bitch". This was in response to Scottish Labour releasing a dossier of SNP members who had called Unionists "traitors" and other unpleasant epithets on Twitter. (All Scottish politics now takes places at the level of the playground. Please Miss, Willie Rennie pulled my pigtails and called me an ethnic nationalist!)

Or perhaps an explanation lay in the misogynist flavour of Dr Stephenson's word choice. "Slut" carries a particular contempt for liberated young women.

Of course, the Nationalists' smelling salts routine would carry more credibility if they hadn't lustily defended Alex Salmond's own sexist braying against Tory minister Anna Soubry. That, a party spokesperson said, was a "boisterous but good-natured exchange". No one sees the hump on his own back, runs an old Yiddish proverb.

No, I don't think this was about sexism. It was about iconography. Mhairi Black has a long career ahead of her in which to flourish as an MP but for now she is a symbol. A marker of how Scotland has changed and by how much it has changed.

It was said of Margaret Thatcher that she roused such antipathy in the Scots because she was "a woman, an English woman, and a bossy English woman". Black is an emblem of the new Scotland that confuses and offends the old Scotland. She is a woman, a young woman, and a working-class young woman. She's not supposed to be an SNP MP, she's supposed to be a Labour voter.

Women have often been at the helm of the SNP's advances but Black differs from her foremothers. Winnie Ewing was a middle-class solicitor who spoke like Miss Jean Brodie on a day trip to Glasgow. Nicola Sturgeon hailed from Labour's West of Scotland heartlands but was too obviously a nationalist, joining the SNP rather than Labour at the height of the struggle against Thatcherism. Margo MacDonald, to whom Black merits comparison, was a trailblazer, not one of 56.

That Mhairi Black stirs such choler in Unionists underscores the trauma inflicted on May 7. It feels like it's not their country anymore, that they no longer understand Scotland. They do not see themselves in her and what they do see, or what they think they see, scares them.

These fears are misplaced. Scotland has changed and while it will surely change again it will never be what it was. But the transformation is political, not essential; no one has lost their country, just the old assumptions and crumbling certainties. The more irredentist Unionists will have to come to terms with that and they could start by trying to understand rather than revile Mhairi Black.

Analysis by Stephen Daisley, STV's digital political correspondent. You can contact him at stephen.daisley@stv.tv.

One account. All of STV.

This field is required. That doesn't look like a valid e-mail format, please check. That e-mail's already in our system. Please try again.
ShowHide
Forgot password?
This field is required. This must be at least 6 characters long. Did you enter your details correctly?
If you've forgotten your details then use the 'Forgot password?' link.
Need to reset your password?

We'll send a link to reset your password to

We've sent you details on how to reset your password

Please check your email and follow the instructions.

Forgotten your email address?

Have you forgotten the email address that you previously joined with? Don't worry, by emailing enquiries@stv.tv we can help.

One account. All of STV.

This field is required. Please enter at least 2 characters
This field is required. Please enter at least 2 characters
This must be at least 6 characters long.
ShowHide
This field is required. This must be at least 6 characters long.
You must be over 16 to join STV.
This field is required. This doesn't appear to be a valid date
We need this to check that you live in an STV region.
This field is required. This doesn't appear to be a valid postcode
Would you like us to email you about our great shows and services from time to time?
We'll only send emails we think you'll like (see example) based on information you have supplied and shows you have watched on STV Player. For details on emails and advertising, see our STV & You page.
Would you like to receive emails from the Scottish Children's Lottery about draws, instant games and competitions?
We support the Scottish Children's Lottery (SCL), which is managed by our colleagues at STV ELM Ltd. You can find out more about the SCL on its website, including its Privacy Policy.

By continuing you agree to our Terms of Use, and understand our Privacy and Cookie Policies.

Upload Profile Picture

Please make sure your image is under 2mb in size and a valid JPG, PNG or GIF.

Are you sure?

Unfortunately, you'll be unable to access our premium content. We’ll be sorry to see you go, but if you change your mind you can rejoin us at any time.

Please verify your STV account

Please verify your STV account using the email we sent you. If you have lost the email, we can send you another one, just click the button below.

Thanks

We've sent you a new verification email.
Please check your email and follow the instructions to verify your account.

Welcome to STV
Thanks for joining us.

Oops!

Sorry, you must be at least 12 years old to place a vote for your Real Hero.

Please review our Voting Terms of Use for more information.

Oops!

Sorry! It seems that you are using a browser that is incompatible with our voting service.

To register your vote please copy the below URL in to your regular mobile browser. We recommend Google Chrome, or Safari.

http://shows.stv.tv/real-heroes/voting

Oops!

Sorry, you seem to have already voted in this category.

Thanks for voting

Now share your vote with friends on your social network

Share on twitter Share on facebook

Cast your vote

Please register or sign in to continue.

Cast your vote

This field is required. This doesn't appear to be a valid date

Cast your vote

Please fill out this form to cast your vote. As you are under 16 years old you will not create an STV account. Why do we need these details?

This field is required. Please enter at least 2 characters
This field is required. Please enter at least 2 characters
This field is required. That doesn't look like a valid e-mail format, please check.
Location This field is required.
Parental Consent This field is required.

That's you. All that's left is to click the 'Submit Vote' button below. By doing so, you confirm that you and your parent or guardian have read and accept our Voting Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Cookie policy, and that the details you have entered are correct. We'll look after them as carefully as if they were our own.