Well I’m back from London. Had a great time in the belly of the beast. It’s a great place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there. Unfortunately, if we vote no in the referendum we won’t have much choice. We’ll be a suburb of London whether we like it or not.
Meanwhile Michael White, the Guardian’s chief political bod, has decided it’s time to lift his wee heid out of the Westminster bubble for all of 10 minutes to pass down his words of wisdom on the speech given by Alex Salmond to the New Statesman. Michael thinks that Eck made a fine speech, but the Guardian’s politics savant is still not convinced by the case for independence. Now there’s a surprise.
According to some statistics which were scrawled down on a fag packet by a random drunk person in a pub, and are therefore considerably more reliable than anything that issues from the Office for Budget Responsibility, 97% of people in Scotland have never heard of Michael White. 2.95% of Scottish people are vaguely aware who Michael White is but don’t give a toss about his opinion. Meanwhile 0.o49998% are indeed interested in Michael’s opinion, but only so they can snort derisively at it in the Guardian’s comments section. Which leaves 0.000002% who believe Michael’s opinion is a serious and significant contribution to the debate, that would be Blair McDougall.
Michael’s description of the Scottish debate is like reading a review of a movie by someone who hasn’t seen the film, hasn’t read the book it’s based upon, and doesn’t know that the book is non-fiction and not a novel. It’s not just that Michael lacks knowledge of Scotland, he struggles with the distinction between the Scottish constitutional claim and that Broons strip where Daphne got jealous of Maggie’s new hat.
The Guardian puts the anal in Scottish political analysis. The Guardian’s chief political analyst’s argument against independence can be summed up in a single sentence, which saves the bother of reading his piece. It boils down to “wanting Scottish independence is just like supporting UKIP”. He writes:
They all [UKIP and supporters of Scottish independence] invite us to believe that everything would be easier if we could only be free of international obligations – not free of the benefits, of course, but free of the costs and the constraints.
The constraints on Scotland which Mikey so lightly glosses over are considerably more onerous in the case of Westminster and Scotland than anything the EU imposes on the UK. The EU does not decide whether the UK goes to war. It does not decide what UK spending priorities should be. It does not collect all our taxes and give us some back in return, calling it a subsidy. UKIP and Scottish independence supporters are not opposed to similar obligations. But that’s only the start of the differences that Mikey is blind to.
UKIP wants to take the UK – and Scotland with it – out of the EU to exist in a glorious isolation where our political elites are free to ape the worst excesses of US capitalism all wrapped up in the vinegar soaked brown paper of a Little Englander’s Romanian phrase book, whereas Scotland wants independence so it can connect directly to Europe and the wider world without David Cameron or Nigel Farage as intermediaries. This is not a distinction that Michael has considered. Or is even aware of. He still thinks it’s about Daphne’s hat. He doesn’t bother offering us any method of solving the questions and the troubling lack of accountability or any commitment to equality in the UK. He contents himself with the observation that Ed Miliband’s vision of social democracy has yet to take hold. Once it does, it will be like sprinkling the debate with a thick coating of magic fairy dust. Or maybe not.
As political analysis Michael’s Caledonian musings are not even anal, he just makes an arse of them. It’s more than a wee bit alarming that a politics guru can’t get over the simple word “nationalism” and appreciate that common or garden words mean different things in different contexts and that this is true in spades of political words. You’d think that would be the most basic tool of his trade.
The goal of a movement which seeks self determination for a country without a state is qualitatively different from the nationalism of a political party which seeks to aggrandise an existing state and isolate it from the world in a red white and blue wet dream. The goal of Scottish independence is diametrically opposed to the goal of UKIP, and many if not most supporters of Scottish independence are nationalist only in so much as they recognise the existence of Scotland as a nation.
Recognising the existence of matter doesn’t make you a materialist, recognising the existence of Scotland as a nation doesn’t make you a nationalist. It makes you a realist. And the only realistic way in which Scotland can find and act upon solutions to the many problems which confront this country is to have the powers that independence bring. Westminster isn’t going to solve our problems for us, they’re too busy milking us dry to feed the beast that is London. That much ought to be clear even to the most thrawn Guardian political correspondent.
But Michael is representative of the dominant view of Scotland in the Westminster bubble. It’s a view best exemplified by the recent BBC2 documentary Mind the Gap, which supposedly explored the effect that the increasing dominance of London is having on the rest of the UK. The programme told us that London is a UK national asset. Fair enough, in that case Scotland is owed – at the very least – Camden, 3 tube lines, a chunk of Crossrail, and Chinatown – because we like Asian food and aren’t afraid of immigration.
The programme offered us a paean to London’s growth at the expense of the rest of the UK, and told us that not only was it inevitable, but there is no alternative. Scotland is merely the most distant of London’s suburbs, far beyond the end of the Metropolitan line where it can safely be forgotten. If you cannae get somewhere with an Oyster card it’s probably not worth bothering about.
Although touted as an examination of the tensions that London’s economic and political dominance were causing, the programme got through its entire 1 hour running length without mentioning the biggest tension of all, the possibility that Scotland will reject Westminster’s decision to treat the rest of the UK as a supplier of people, capital, skills and talent for London’s benefit and that we will take 10% of the population, 30% of the landmass, 37% of the balance of trade, and over 90% of the oil with us.
In the view from the London commentariat, Scotland, her needs, her distinctiveness, her challenges and her opportunities are entirely invisible. When they do force their way onto the Westminster agenda, they are met with a mixture of contempt, scorn, and utter incomprehension. They can countenance no alternative to putting all our eggs in London’s financial basket.
And that’s why Michael White sees UKIP and Scottish independence as evil twins. In very different ways both threaten the dominance of the London that White has made his career in. UKIP threatens to take London out of Europe and isolate a city that depends upon networking and communication with other financial centres. Scotland threatens to take away a significant part of the wealth and resources that the city requires to operate. For Michael and his ilk, the rest of the UK exists to service London. Scotland’s argument, that this wealth and these resources should be used to benefit and develop the nation of Scotland, is not an argument that is easily understood by the Metrocommentariat. They can’t see the difference between Scotland and Stevenage.
Is Scotland a country, or a neglected far off suburb? We can be a country which makes its own decisions and forges its own path in free cooperation with other nations, or we can be a dingy station at the far end of a closed down London commuter line.
I know which I prefer.