Monday, September 05, 2011

Scottish, British (?), and European

The majority of people in Scotland would subscribe to an idea of multiple identity. Being Scottish and British and European is something that a large number- probably the majority- of the people of Scotland accept as their identity.

However the rise of the SNP has brought the central pillar of this identity- Britishness- sharply into focus. A significant number of people reject their British identity. Campaigning  at the last general election in the North East of Scotland, I found plenty of doors that said "I never vote for London based parties". Even when I pointed out that the Scottish Liberal Democrats were based in Edinburgh, it was plain enough what the message was: "independence-nothing less".

Now, the SNP is rising in the polls for Westminster seats, while the Scottish Conservatives are actively deciding if they even have a future in their current form. Meanwhile, Alistair Darling's memoirs explains just how dysfunctional the Scottish Labour Party had become, that they not merely tolerated the monstrous behaviour of Gordon Brown, but actively elevated him to the leadership of the national party. The neo-Stalinist cronyism of the Central belt of Scotland Labour Party was written up to a catastrophic national government level.

The position of Scotland within the Union is under question as never before.

Yet as I find myself contemplating the tapestry of Scottish history I ask myself a big question. What did Scotland as a separate state ever accomplish that was better than what was accomplished as a partner in the British state?

Apart from the mud-clad fantasy of Braveheart, it is absurd to consider the years of a separate state as much of a success. Robert the Bruce, the quintessential Scottish hero- and an ancestor of mine- died of leprosy, the quintessential disease of squalor and filth. Yet fast forward the Scottish story, and the achievements of the Edinburgh enlightenment or Clyde engineering were precisely because Scotland was part of a larger economy and society. British Scotland was far more successful than anything Separate Scotland ever offered its people.

I have always believed- and still do- in Scottish Home Rule. I believe in a Federal Britain. Yet, more an more I see the complete rejection of British identity by many in Scotland. Yet, I think that this is a fantasy too.  A separate Scottish state could barely have a border with the rest of the former UK, and if it did it would have major economic challenges, yet the SNP proposes policies that make it increasingly likely that  borders would go up at Berwick. The SNP proposes joining Schengen- yet unless the rest of the former UK joined at the same time, then border posts there would certainly be. Many in the SNP actively want such and outcome, of course.

However, even if physical barriers can be avoided, there would be more and more economic barriers. The Scottish banking sector would need to be shrunk dramatically, since the smaller state would not have the resources to back RBS or HBOS. How many thousands of high paying jobs would need to go in Edinburgh to make that happen?

As Scotland drifts towards outright separation and the UK loses its identity, I wonder if I may end my days holding a passport with a shield of three lions, not England of course, Estonia.


John Minard said...

The federal Liberal Democrats are pushing for a greater package of home rule powers, and in the hope that this improves the standing of the Scottish Lib Dems. However, it falls into the SNP trap of being portrayed as a paternal giving of powers, rather than being 'of the people'. Also that Scotland's ills will still be blamed on the remaining Westminster links as the SNP keeps pushing for this new entity of a completely independent Scotland.

I believe the Lib Dems need to offer an alternative scenario and represent that in their own form.

Self Determination versus Nationalism!

Cicero said...

The point is that it is Home Rule, not Devolution, and that, by definition, is from the people not from "the government".

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure that British Scotland ever accomplished anything that we couldn't have done on our own.
I don't think being dictated to by Westminster or being dependent on English money is healthy for Scotland and in fact I think that is part of the reason why Scotland is in the mess that we are currently in.

Someone at conference - don't know who, BBC didn't show that bit said that Labour has a vested interest in keeping the poor, poor as their political support survives on support from the working class and the poor.

Its also in some cases true for the union. The unionist argument is that Scotland can't survive on our own. Now, thats been the argument for over 300 years. It begs the question, whether the UK has a vested interest in keeping Scotland poor so we stay in the UK.

If thats the case then we are better off leaving and finding our own way and yes we might make mistakes but at least they will be our mistakes.

I believe in a federal uk but outside of that given a choice between independence and the status quo - i'm not sure whats best for Scotland.