Sunday, 15 May 2011

What would happen to the Brits if Scotland were independent?

A nice column today from David Mitchell in today's Observer.  The comedian skewers a neglected issue raised by the spectre of Scottish independence.  How would us Brits feel, deprived of our country?

When I appeared on an episode of Question Time broadcast from Musselburgh, near Edinburgh, the issue of Scottish independence came up. One of my fellow panellists, the SNP deputy leader, Nicola Sturgeon, was at pains to make clear that her party had nothing against England and were admirers of that country. 
What I didn't say in response, what I've kicked myself for not expressing ever since, was: "Yes but you've got it in for Britain. You may be happily in cahoots with the morris-dancing English and the Eisteddfod-organising Welsh, but my country, the Britain of London where I now live, of Swansea, my mother's home town where I spent a lot of time as a child, and of Galloway, where my paternal grandparents lived, is something you want to destroy. I'm British, I care about this and I've a hunch I'm not the only one." 
I'm slightly embarrassed to admit to this British patriotism. The Scottish equivalent feels more politically correct, focused as it is on cultural distinctiveness and national self-determination. No Scottish state has existed for hundreds of years so, unlike Britain, its image is untainted by actions, by realpolitik and compromise, by the slave trade and colonialism. But a desire for Scottish independence is no more rational than a desire to preserve the union, so either both desires should be ignored or both taken into account. 
I don't think I should get a vote in a referendum on Scottish independence – I understand why that's a decision that would have to be taken by those living in Scotland. Otherwise, it would be like calling a Europe-wide vote on whether the UK should adopt the euro. 
Scotland's fate mustn't be decided by people who consider themselves to be primarily English, Welsh or Northern Irish. But I'm sad that, as a result, most of those whose emotional investment is in the union, we children of this potential divorce, won't have a say.
If Scotland ever goes it alone, those buoyed up as their sense of nationality gains accompanying sovereignty might take note of, and even fleetingly mourn, the fact that there are losers in that arrangement, too, and I'm not talking about oil revenues. The British will have lost their country.
It's not an unprecedented state of mind to which Mitchell refers.  Many citizens of the former Yugoslavia, for instance, mourn their multi-national state and their multinational identity.   Let's hope that there is no opportunity for a similar sense of loss in the United Kingdom. The Scots, Welsh, English and Irish nations can be accommodated within the UK in a way that is simply not possible the other way about.

10 comments:

Timothy Belmont said...

As a staunch Unionist, I'm totally against any sort of Scottish independence, no matter what they say. How, on earth, could they afford it? More bail-outs from the EU?

Salmond believes that Scottish soldiers etc would defect to a new Scottish Army, does he?

Is it confirmed that Scotland "owns" oil and oilfields off-shore?

Toque said...

Unfortunately 'The Brits' are opposed to any form of English governance, and until they learn to accomodate England and imagine a new type of British identity that is multinational rather than Anglo-British (Anglo-centric) I don't think Britain can accomodate the Scots, Welsh, English and Irish nations.

Anonymous said...

Mitchell is a pointless guilty, too frightened even to present his own opinion on the BBC's flagship political programme.

Seymour Major said...

For those who are not Scots, getting in touch with our feelings as they would be, post Scottish Independence, is a rather pointless exercise. Far better to try and look at things from a Scottish perspective.

When it comes to preserving the Union, the Conservative Party has an appalling record. Why?

Because they continously fail to understand the dynamic of national identity in politics. Let me put this another way. Nationalism feeds off the identity of its polity. The stronger that identity, the stronger the political party which represents it.

It is time to acknowledge the strength of the Scottish identity. The Conservative Party should, by now, have allowed the Scottish Conservatives to form their own party. The Conservative party is probably more UK Unionist (or one nation) than any other national party. Therein lies the problem. UK Unionism is a form of UK Nationlism which has a tendency to subsume regional national identity.

A separate Scottish Conservative party does not have to be non-unionist but separation is necessary in order for such a party to have a Scottish identity, be Scottish-centered and be able to compete with the SNP.

Timothy Belmont said...

I enjoyed reading the last writer's point; well-written and insightful.

The Aberdonian said...

Yes, the Scottish Tories have to become independent of the UK party - they should model themselves on the pro-federal right-wing parties in Quebec such as the present ADQ or its predecessor the Union Nacional. These parties were right-wing, pro-federal but small "n" nationalist.

Why did the Quebec right break from the Canuk Conservatives - because the Canuk Tories were riddled with Orangemen - yep they infested Canadian politics as well - who were determined to persecute Francophone and Catholic Canadians (there is some overlapping between the two groups). Check out Ontario Conservative Party history for details.

Concerning Chekov's main topic, there is always nostalgia for gone states. Joseph Roth made a bit of money writing elegies about the end of the Habsburg state such as the Radetzky March and the Emperors Tomb. There is nostalgia for the old USSR - considering in some places what has replaced it - Turkmanistan being a glaring example.

The end of the Ottoman state has also produced a number of elegies. A fictional one of note is Birds without Wings by Louis de Beneires (Captain Corelli mandolin author). Considering the chaos of the Balkans and the Middle East-----

TB - Why would Scots not move to an independent army. Irish soldiers from the disbanded UK units joined the Free State army after its creation. And of course the Irish Citizen's Army - the parent of the IRA, the Irish Army, was founded by Captain Jack White DSO. Ironies.

Kilsally said...

Aberdonian talks of `infestation` by Orangemen - is he aware of the Mohawk Orange Lodges in Canada or that Dr Barnardo was a Dublin Orangeman

The Aberdonian said...

Kilsally, I was not aware of the Mohawk Orange lodges or Dr Banardo being a member of the lodge.

I am aware however that four Conservative Canuk PMs were Orangemen - including the first PM John MacDonald. However it depended on the level of bigotry being practiced.

Lets look at some of these beauties:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manitoba_Schools_Question

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louis_Reil

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conscription_Crisis_of_1917

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sam_Hughes

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ontario_Progressive_Conservative_Party

If you are familiar with the "Murdoch Mysteries", Inspector Murdoch is subject to discrimination in the Toronto police force due to his Catholic faith.

David said...

Gentlemen
This is good and fascinating stuff - I stumbled upon your views via Scot goes Pop.

Erudite. Engaging and informative.

And this from a republican, socialist - in John MacLean's and Matthew Lygate's tradition.

Civilised stuff.

Best and fraternal greetings
Daibhidh

Anonymous said...

Hello. And Bye. Thank you very much.