Scotland recently captured public attention following the integration of LGBTQ+ content into its schooling– making it the first country to successfully adopt such sentiments into its educational curriculum. However, the decision has not come without significant backlash – nor erased instances of homophobia in Britain. Rather, the lingering influence of the far-right movement has contributed to the ongoing normalization of systemic discrimination.
The curriculum, put into practice in September, places emphasis on uplifting the voices of LGBTQ+ role models, preventing discrimination, and normalizing alternative family models, “ensuring [that] all children and young people receive the support they need.”
Although for Britain’s Far Right, including groups such as Patriotic Alternative (PA), the inclusion of LGBTQ+ content threatens the traditional values of the nuclear family – in which “the central building block of our nation” is comprised of a man, woman, and their children. As such, the public acceptance of diversity from a national institution has spurred waves of anti-LGBTQ+ sentiment – whether inflicted by those proudly associated with the group, or rather those who have simply been exposed to such ideals through their normalization.
So, what exactly is Patriotic Alternative?
Founded in September of 2019 by known neo-Nazi Mark Collett, Patriotic Alternative describes itself as a “community building and activism group …” designed “to raise awareness of issues such as the demographic decline of native Britons, the environmental impact of mass immigration and the indoctrination and political bias taking place in … schools.” Centered around twenty fundamental tenets, PA strives to protect the ‘integrity’ of Britain – a nation for those of English, Scottish, Welsh, and Northern Irish descent, and as such, social infrastructure (such as the welfare, healthcare, and education systems) would cease to benefit those from other backgrounds. Under this plan, immigration and asylum would cease to exist – viewing immigration as an erosion of British culture, and an environmental detriment.
While Patriotic Alternative itself is a relatively new organization, its origins have roots in the nation’s complicated relationship with fascism.
Fascism in Britain
Despite attempts over the past decades by figures such as Sir Oswald Mosley and John Tyndall, Britain’s fascist movement has ultimately struggled to make significant headway. Establishing the British Union of Fascists (BUF) in 1933, Mosley strived to follow in the footsteps of popular European fascists: Hitler and Mussolini. Viewing economic turmoil as an opportunity to rouse political support, Mosley began to amass followers called Blackshirts.
Similarly, John Tyndall, leader of the National Front (NF) and founder of the British National Party (BNP) espoused anti-Semitic and racism ideology – even participating in a general election in 1979. However, in post-war Britain, Mosley and Tyndall’s messages of hate were met with general hostility – the state even declaring the BUF as a public enemy. Given the strong sense of national pride in the wake of WWII and the defeat of Nazism, Britain was more inclined to turn towards the Labour Party for political representation than far-right fringe groups.
Although the history of fascism in Britain has been relatively feeble when compared to other European nations, the fact remains that the ideologies of such groups have continued to exist in the public consciousness. With PA capturing attention through use of ‘White Lives Matter’ banners on Scotland’s Ben Nevis this past August, their message has gained a rather public platform. Even for those who may not be familiar with the group itself, the very presence of such views (primarily dispensed through social media platforms) allows for the spread of xenophobic ideas – subsequently bleeding into the mainstream in the form of violence.
Rising Anti-LGBTQ+ Crime
Amidst attempts by Scotland’s Directors of Education to normalize diversity within the public sphere, LGBTQ+ centered hate crimes have only continued to climb across the United Kingdom, with instances of crimes based on one’s gender identity and/or sexual orientation rising by 5% in Scotland alone since April 2020. In August, two men in Edinburgh were publicly robbed and beaten for their sexuality, reportedly having been called slurs by their attackers. Likewise, the UK has seen an uptick in crimes against transgender individuals, making them four times more likely to become the victim in violent offenses.
When they are not attacking immigrants or racial minorities, Patriotic Alternative has also great taken issue with the LGBTQ+ community. In an article posted to their website, the group reinforced harmful stereotypes of transgender individuals being confused and unnatural; hypothesizing that gender affirming treatments causes irreversible bodily damage and that trans-ness is the result of the “WOKE entertainment industry,” indoctrinating young people. Even going as far as proposing an alternative curriculum, PA’s messaging drives home that teaching children about the very existence of LGBTQ+ individuals and their history is simply unacceptable.
Considering the reach and accessibility of the internet, this influence from far-right groups is significant, as it gives not only a platform but also perceived validity to xenophobic thoughts and behaviours, with real world repercussions. While Scotland settles into its first term under the new inclusive curriculum – undoubtedly provoking intolerant reactions from a wave of individuals, we must continue in the outright condemnation of far-right ideologies to curb their spread, calling them for what they are: not an “activist group” to be welcomed in public discourse, but rather a hateful, white supremacist form of neo- Nazism.