Sunday, 10 June 2012

Scottish or British?

I'm going to try to be brief. I today read a number of blogs on both sides on this very subject and realised that my attention was suffering towards the end. Brevity is the soul of wit.

If there ever is a referendum called by the SNP and no matter the result, neither of which are matters, in my opinion, truly at issue, then, irrespective of the result, the following day I'll still be Scottish. And so, still, will be all of us on the (hypothetical) winning side. And while the lunatic mainstream of the SNP might protest otherwise that protestation will only go to show why I am so certain of the correct call on this matter.

Obviously the SNP has a sensible fringe. Those on the left whose calculation is that they have more prospect of power in Scotland than in Britain; those on the right who think that only independence will bring a degree of financial realism to our affairs; those in the centre who think that there might be cultural advantage in being left to our own devices.

But mainstream SNP opinion proceeds from the assumption that everything that is wrong about Scotland is in some way the responsibility of the Union with England. I just don't agree with that. And neither, in their heart of hearts, do very many others. That's why there won't ever be a referendum. Not because the SNP wouldn't like to persuade others to reach that conclusion but because they know they can't.

So we're left with the last Nationalist position standing: "Vote for Independence because it would make us happy and, for you, it won't make any actual difference".

And it's against that background that we have the ludicrous soul searching over the last few days over the concept of nationality, admittedly started by a contribution by my own leader as incoherent as everybody else's.

I'm in no doubt what Country I currently live in: Scotland, But of which State am I currently a citizen? Is it Great Britain, making me British, or the United Kingdom, making me UnitedKingdomish, or even, as most of the rest of the world would have it, England, making me, whether I like it or not,, I won't even say the word.

This is not however a unique dilemma. One of our closest neighbours in mainland Europe is a Country legally called The Netherlands, invariably referred to as Holland and whose people are.........Dutch.

It really doesn't matter. What matters is what that state delivers. And my state delivers a mature democracy; freedom of speech and, largely through a universal language, an openness to the world. And , for all we might argue about the minutiae, it would protect me, as far as it could, from foreign incursion, educate any putative children I might have and provide me with medical care, in sickness and in health.

So, why should I seek another State instead? Because it would be "better"? Mibbees aye, mibbees naw but, to be honest not, to my mind to the extent that I'd be inclined  to let hold of nurse. And even if I was inclined, like Sir Sean, not in real life but in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, to take the "leap of faith", and  emerged alive on the far side, I'd still wonder whether the moment before my foot hit the hidden causeway had really been worth the advance.

But there is another reason. There are lots of very sensible people who argue for British withdrawal from the European Union. Those on the left who complain that it is tying our economic policy into a downward spiral of austerity; those on the right who argue that its over-regulation hampers enterprise; those in the centre who say that it stifles national diversity. And they've all got a point. But, if there ever was a EU Referendum, and their side won, that victory would not have been delivered by their small fractions of sensible objection. It would belong in the main part to those those who don't like foreigners very much and who thus want to have as little to do with them as possible. Those who want to look back rather than forward.

And, much as I might disagree with them, even I accept they'd only want to look backwards to 1945, not to 1707. I, on the other hand, am for looking forward. For, as Tawney observed "If there is to be a golden age, it will lie not in the past but in the future."


  1. Your state also spends your taxes on nuclear weapons and engages in dubious wars which alienate us from large parts of the world. It has unelected lawmakers and a preponderance of privately educated ministers and top civil servants. It's economy is one of the most unfair in the world. And the current state of its democracy means there's next to no chance of changing any of the above.

    You could be part of building a state which could be much better than that, but no, you're quite comfy as you are.

  2. You have, of course, put your finger on it. Ian is doing just fine out of the status quo. He's a lawyer. He's not poor. He can afford to look at the coalition's savage attacks on the poor and the sick and the disabled and the vulnerable as an ideological abstract, in much the same way most of us look at famines in Africa or genocides in far-off places we couldn't quite pinpoint on a map, like Syria or Burma.

    Such things are clearly bad, but we can safely pontificate about them because we have no responsibility to do anything about them. Well-off Labour activists like Ian are obliged to denounce the Tories in principle, but the Tories being in government makes very little ACTUAL practical difference to his life, so he can afford to treat it as a wee political game, a bit of sport.

    In that, Ian and his ilk have a luxury that a great many people can't afford. It's that luxury which allowed Labour to sell out so many of its principles for power, and ensured that once they got power they did so little with it.

    The Tories being in power doesn't noticeably change Ian's life, so he can afford to casually dismiss the value of an independent Scottish Government freeing the poor and vulnerable from their clutches.

    To some people, though - and demographics show that the SNP's growing support comes mostly from such people - it's not abstract at all, not just a silly wee power game. It's a matter of something close to life and death, and that Labour sneer so easily about that is the greatest of all their many shames.