More than a little surprised at the intensity of debate on loyalty that erupted on Twitter as we approached the bells last night. It seems that I was being controversial when I argued that Unionists were more confused in their loyalties than people like me, for whom the welfare of the Scottish people is my top priority.
Before I am to post a blizzard of comments amplifying their position, let me try to paraphrase what was being said from contributing unionists across the party spectrum:
- You can be loyal to more than one cause
- Being loyal to Britain does not prevent loyalty to Scotland
- EU supporters were, by definition, loyal to the EU
- As London is the capital and seat of the monarchy, loyalty to it is normal
- Some Unionists do prefer Westminster to Edinburgh. Both camps have wide view
All but #3 are agreed. Naturally, we each hold a spectrum of loyalties over all our myriad endeavours (family; school; club; friends; business; etc) and this extends to the political sphere, where voters (rightly?) can hold multiple loyalties to parties, policies, individuals and even traditions. I have made no value judgement nor queried the validity of any of these, although some, like the BNP, are sailing close to the wind in my view.
However, when it comes to the matter of independence for Scotland, there are some tenets of my own that I don’t mind putting down in black and white. All are free to query them but the only thing likely to disqualify opinions you may hold yourself is if you question my right to hold my own. These truths, as our American cousins say, I hold to be self-evident:
- The people of Scotland are sovereign, as stated in the Declaration of Arbroath. I don’t care what English custom says: I’m a Scot.
- My definition of ‘Scot’ is all those who were born here or who chose to make their home here. Race, colour, religion, etc are irrelevant in defining the people of Scotland—we’ve always been a mongrel nation; long may it remain so.
- My loyalty is to the people of Scotland. Insofar as we bind with our friends, as we did with our English friends these 300 years, I have loyalty to that bond, appreciation for the friendship it brings, pride in what we have achieved and respect for their distinctiveness within it.
- I am also a committed European. Despite William/Philip/Napoleon/Hitler and whatever local miscreant the next centuries dredge up, I remember our Viking forebears who settled and enriched us, our merchants in Flanders and the Hanseatic Ports, Scots Russian admirals, regiments of Scots with Gustavus Adolphus and Louis and the whole history of international outlook. Scotland is, was and can be European in a way Apopleptic of Tunbridge Wells may never manage.
- Where loyalties come into direct conflict, as when wars break family loyalties or when London dumps unwanted nukes on the Clyde, everyone has a choice to make. What I am very clear about is that Scotland—or more exactly what I honestly believe to be in the best interests of the Scottish people—is my primary loyalty. All others I will seek to maintain but where a conflict arises, Scotland has clear priority.
I do not issue any challenge for anyone to make similar declarative statements. But I though it might clear the air and speed the debate along in 2012 if we got these ground rules straight. But, given the above, any unionist has to choose their own priority: is it to the Union in London or to their own version of what I write above? To date, most have managed to fudge and pretend both are valid. The road less travelled is to come clean and say which has priority.
For, when push comes to shove and a clear conflict between Scottish and British interests exists (e.g. feed-in tarriffs or North Sea oil revenues) it can’t, in my opinion, be both.