I was struck by a post elsewhere this week. Though I disagreed with its conclusions, I was impressed a young and principled unionist could make their case without implying that everyone in Scotland would go bald and slobber uncontrollably post-independence. In the interests of balanced debate, I reprint the article verbatim from the Glasgow Guardian in acknowledgement of its good sense to print opposing views in this vital debate.
“Too often in the debate surrounding independence is the term nationalism used, and no-one seems particularly sure in what context they wish to use it. Many pro-Union supporters pigeonhole Scottish self-determinism as a concept used primarily to stir up emotions of patriotism to encourage a ‘Yes’ vote in 2014. Yet, some pro-Independence supporters would argue that it is sheer hypocrisy to condemn Scottish nationalism on one hand while beating the drum of ‘how great the UK is’ on the other.”
I’m with you so far: actually a pretty solidly objective basis from which to launch an argument.
“Here, I may be guilty of fitting into the Tory stereotype, and find myself drawn towards the question of Europe as an initial point of reference. Whilst I am not a fan of single currency, I do believe in the concept of Europe in the same way I believe in the United Kingdom; we have more that unite us than divides us. But Europe is not fixed – just look how much it has changed in our life time, with the recent decision by the Prime Minister for a referendum being testament to that. Whilst Yes Scotland states that ‘it will be the people who live in Scotland who will be in charge’, it also affirms that ‘an independent Scotland will remain part of the European Union’. Can this balance really be guaranteed? By the time Scotland has applied and been accepted as an EU Accession State, what will the EU look like? Will it really hold Scotland’s interests at heart? Our relationship with the rest of the UK is far more long-standing, with our Sterling Currency far more responsive to financial fluctuations than the Euro currency we would have to join. I believe that greater devolution will allow for Scotland to have the best of both worlds; self-governance with a historic safety net of support in London, rather than in Brussels.”
Here’s where we start to diverge. I do accept there seems a logical inconsistency in independence from the UK but not from Europe—but only if they are effectively equivalent: dominant superior powers that limit (cripple?) any benefits from that independence. Even assuming renegotiating Scotland’s place within Europe takes longer than the independence process itself, there would be so many factors over which Edinburgh would take sovereign control that present subservience to London is far more severe than any subservience to Brussels—present or contemplated. And, instead of the present 7-soon-to-be-6 MEPs, we’d have something like Denmark’s 13 and a seat at the top table to argue our case. And we’re not presently arguing to join the Euro but to stay aloof, as Sweden has done.
“There is also consensus among pro-Independence supporters that an independent Scotland will be a more fair, just, and equal nation. If this argument was correct, then who wouldn’t vote for Independence to rectify the social problems that we face in the United Kingdom? The main reason, I believe, why this argument is ineffective, is because these social problems are shared by citizens throughout our country. Are the social ills we face in Glasgow any different from those faced in Birmingham or Sheffield? Of course not; these are national problems that require a collective national response. Why would you want to push a more progressive policy in Scotland than throughout the rest of the United Kingdom? Do we not feel a moral obligation to help our wider family in the rest of the country? We can achieve so much more together than we can apart, and that to me, is the definition of the Big Society. We are a nation with so much in common, and Scotland is as fundamental to this sense of collective identity as any other part of the UK.”
This is where we really part company. The argument that our sharing similar social ills must mean we belong together is actually looking through the telescope from the wrong end. Equally plausible is it’s precisely because we have shared the same doctrinally capitalist/fiscally spendthrift Tory/Labour governments for centuries that their equally cack-handed social policies have homogenised British society geographically, yet fragmented it socially to the extent cited. That Scotland is more couthy, down-to-earth and egalitarian is underscored by the resurgence of its culture (Kelman or Connolly) and explains the demise of Scottish Tories. This latter because they became (unnecessarily in my view) just a branch of Lord-Snooty’s-chums Tories of Englandshire.
“I think that we are better together because Scotland has an integral role within the UK, contributing positively towards the country as a whole. I believe that Scottish identity is as independent from the UK as it is shared, and as progressive as it is responsive. We have a precious relationship which could achieve so much more through collaboration between devolved and central governments to benefit everyone.
We agree that UK-with-Scotland and England-with-appendages would be very different places. Likewise no-one gainsays all that the countries of the UK achieved together in the glory days now gone. But here is where the glib unionist assumption that what is good for Britain (by which they mean England) is ipse facto good for Scotland. Were Scotland’s identity respected, why would all the oil money go South or Scotland have to tolerate Faslane less than 20 miles from its biggest conurbation? The fiscal outlook for England is poor, with Osborne borrowing way beyond his worst expectations. Scotland shorn of that English millstone would be solvent within two decades through oil, renewables, marine engineering and whisky/tourism. If we have sense, we’d look to Scandinavia whose advances in education, co-operation, global business and social justice put all Brits to shame. And, by learning from them. we’d be better placed to teach our benighted English cousins for whom, despite all this rammy, we do have a fondness.
“Furthermore, when this is combined with our valuable position on the global stage as a United Kingdom, the potential for positive change is even greater, and I don’t think even the most reluctant nationalist could argue with that.”
Carys Hughes, Glasgow University Conservative Association
And here is the main delusion that we Scots do not share. Starting with its Norman origins, tackling Wales, failing in Scotland, the English have two traits that we Scots don’t share: 1) a hankering for empire; 2) a resulting mistrust of foreigners. This claptrap about being a global power is historic and ended with Suez, although the English have yet to accept it. I hate to deploy the “too poor, too wee” argument often leveled at us, but it’s true. Despite a £40bn defence budget, the UK would be unable to re-take the Falklands if the Argentinians were minded to throw the clock back 30 years.
To all those open-minded Conservatives like Carys Hughes, I suggest that a future with hidebound England who thinks foreign policy consists of invading those we don’t like only as an American poodle and waving Trident warheads at the rest is not an enlightened one. Staying in the UK sells an inferior future to Scotland, mainly as a prop for wonky English delusions. But, as a member of the Nordic Union—pretty much paragon of what civilisation can achieve—we might in the long run bring the English back from the brink of that penurious future they are pursuing that sits poorly with their gracious, if now faded, civilisation to see the better future we do.