Guardian rejects complaints from 300 readers who found Steve Bell 'incest and Scottish country dancing' cartoon racist

The Guardian received more than 300 complaints over a Steve Bell cartoon depicting the SNP's Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon dancing in kilts.

The strip features four frames in which Sturgeon says: "I will happily support a Labour Government on a caseby case basis… and I will not make Trident a red line issue… but I will never ever compromise on our core demand… for incest and Scottish country dancing!"

Guardian readers’ editor Chris Elliott today revealed he had received 300 complaints and that the vast majority of 1,000 comments underneath the cartoon online were negative.

But he defended Bell's right to draw the cartoon and dismissed the suggestion it was racist.

Elliott described Bell as “a cartoonist who makes Marmite seem like skimmed milk and he is unrepentant about the cartoon”.

Elliott quotes Bell as saying that he did not regret the cartoon. “I can only ask: what are the core demands of the SNP, failing Trident (that sparked the cartoon) or social justice? Obviously their core demands do not include incest and Scottish country dancing. I wasn’t seriously suggesting that they did. That was a joke. Not everyone found it funny.”

He added: “There was another element to the flood of criticism, which was from disappointed former fans on the left who have thrown in their lot with the Yes/SNP campaign, who were either trying to put me right in a kind of saddened ‘We thought better of you, Steve’ manner, or more commonly, vilifying me as some form of apostate.

“It’s strange, but I suppose not unsurprising that people expect you to make a cartoon that expresses their own opinions … I do get a sense of rather manufactured outrage here, and absolutely deny any charges of racism of any kind.

“I am half Scottish myself, and that part of my identity is very dear to me, and not something to be defined by SNP enthusiasts.”

Elliott described Bell as a “equal-opportunities offender” and added: “I do think his brand of leftwing views finds nationalism of any kind anathema. I am not defending the cartoon, but I do defend his right to draw it.”

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