Monday, February 17, 2014

A positive case for Britain? Where to start!

A Yes supporting friend of mine called last night and said that he had still not seen one positive argument for the Union. I suppose that he might still be trying to cope with the destruction of the economic case for Scottish separation that has taken place over the past four days.

Let me then quickly summarize a positive case for the continuation of Britain.

Britain matters

Britain matters economically.
The sixth largest economy in the world, our peers are not just France and Germany, but Japan, Brazil, China and even the United States. Britain has significant economic influence over the whole EU (just for comparison, as a separate state, Scotland would be the economic peer of Greece). Britain is a leading member of all the major international economic groups of the world- and not merely a member but a leading player. Our cars, for example, from Jaguar to Aston Martin, Rolls Royce to the Mini to name but a few are technical marvels and style icons. Britain makes nearly twice as many cars as Italy- home of Ferrari and Fiat. British initiatives are usually listened to because we have the economic clout to back up our words- the EU single market was almost entirely a British initiative and is now seen as one of the great European achievements.

Britain matters politically
Britain is not just one of the five permanent  members of the UN security council, not merely the leading member of the Commonwealth of Nations, it is also a leader in virtually every diplomatic and political club on the planet. British funding of international aid programmes is internationally admired. We have a set of Embassies and diplomatic skills that virtually no other country can match. Britain can, when it chooses, make the weather on any subject that matters to it-  and as a leading Danish politician said only last week, smaller countries do not have that privilege.

Britain matters militarily
Britain is second only to the United States in its importance in NATO- and as one of the five legitimate nuclear weapons states it offers nuclear protection to the whole of NATO. British armed forces have been deployed across the planet in peace keeping and civilian protection roles, not just in Afghanistan, but in Sierra Leone, Mali and indeed in 80 countries across the globe. British troops are internationally respected for their professionalism and dedication. 

Britain matters culturally
The Union Jack is an international icon, used across the world on anything from clothes to furniture: you can almost literally see the Union Jack on everything. British music dominates the media of the whole planet, the English language is a global phenomenon and attracts millions to our country simply so they can learn it. The richness of our television, theatre, film making, music, dance, poetry, novels is spectacular- and we have a significant claim to be the most culturally influential country on the planet. Our multi-national tolerance is hugely admired and in soft power we stand almost in a different league to any other. From the BBC to British Airways, from Jaeger to Save the Children, British brands are global leaders.

Britain matters technologically
Britain has the most vibrant tech scene in Europe and probably second only to silicon valley across the globe. In industry, from jet engines to drugs, Britain is a hi-tech whizz kid. . A leader in research and technology, Britain has more living Nobel laureates than any European country. From Stephen Hawking to Peter Higgs, British global leadership in science is astonishing. 

Britain matters emotionally
Britain has a proud record of standing up for the right thing. Our country was the first to oppose slavery- decades before other European nations, or especially the United States, which only emancipated slaves in 1863, and abolished the colour bar only within our life times. William Wiberforce was a moral leader who remains internationally admired. Britain has been a doughty and decisive opponent of tyrants from Bonaparte to Hitler and even Stalin and Mao. For all her faults, the courageous decision to fight alone in 1940 deserves great respect. Meanwhile, Britain has become the home of millions from all around the world, a rich, diverse and vibrant country. 

Britain has been able to do this, because at its heart there is not one root nation, but four nations, whose culture and history and even languages are protected and promoted within a secure democracy. It has allowed us to be open and tolerant- the home of a diverse mixture or peoples and opinions within our sometimes raucous political traditions of freedom and dissent.  

So to respond to Hugh MacDairmid, whose poem, the Little White Rose I quote:

"The Little White Rose

The rose of all the world is not for me.
I want for my part
Only the little white rose of Scotland
That smells sharp and sweet—and breaks the heart."

Hugh MacDairmid

I make a Reply to Red Hugh

For my part, the rose of all the world is in my heart.
The cumin scented tea rose, blushing in the afternoon,
the trellised climbers, frosty pink or warm yellow as an August Moon.
The hybrids sprawling out across the day, the dog rose out in early May.
My British garden a riot of colour and perfume, not merely showing a single bloom.

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