Today, Thursday, The National is publishing a special edition to mark the commencement of a new stage in Scotland’s campaign for independence. Make sure you buy a copy. Give it to your friends and family. The disgraceful treatment of Scottish concerns by the Conservative government in Westminster this week finally puts to rest any pretence that Scotland can make its voice heard in the Westminster parliament. That’s why it’s all the more important that those of us who do have Scotland’s interests at heart refuse to be silenced, refuse to be quiet, refuse to be well behaved and compliant good little Jocks and Jockesses.
It’s not merely that Tories are gonna Tory, it’s that the rules of the Palace of Westminster and its archaic pretendy democracy mean that Scotland was not and is never going to get a fair hearing in that place. The rules of Westminster mean that Scotland will always be marginalised, ignored, and infantilised. When the best you can hope for from a supposed parliament is that they might just, if you are very lucky, patronise you, then it’s time to recognise that the parliament is not capable of serving as a democratic representation for the will of the people of this country.
Make no mistake, what this debate is now about is about whether Scotland is a country and a nation or whether we are content to resign ourselves to the same status as an English county council. Today on social media, British political commentators who really ought to have known better have been asking with faux outrage why it is that Scotland demands special treatment, demanding to know why Scotland deserves more consideration than Manchester does. Well last I checked Manchester wasn’t a signatory to the Treaty of Union. Last I checked Manchester was a city and not a nation with a much longer history than the UK. Last I checked Manchester didn’t have an independence referendum and narrowly voted to remain a part of the UK because it was promised that it was going to be an equal and valued partner in a family of nations.
But it is precisely as a region that the British establishment regards Scotland. There is no significant difference in the mind of the British establishment between an English provincial city and an ancient nation that is one of the constituent parts of this so-called union. Our trappings of nationhood are just so much fancy dress, costumery and pageantry to be dragged out on special and officially sanctioned safe occasions in order to give British nationalists a warm cosy glow and to let them feel that their British nationalism isn’t really just another name for English exceptionalism. We are the tartan drag on English nationalism that allows it to believe that it’s not nationalist at all. We are the lipstick on the pig.
This is not a union. A union implies equality. A union implies respect. A union implies that partners listen to one another. But when Scotland tries to speak we are answered with the jeers of a British nationalism that won’t countenance anyone or anything standing in its way. We are only in a union on their terms and on their sufferance. We are only in a union as long as it is cost free to the British establishment. We are only in a union that suits the braying donkeys of the Tory backbenches and the complicit abstentions of the Labour party. And that’s no union at all.
Our choice is a silence dressed up in the fancy dress of shortbread and tartanry bereft of content and self-knowledge, and resigning ourselves to the reality that Scotland is the gagged possession of a Brexitland Britain, or saying out loud – “Nae mair. Fuck this fur a gemme o sodgies.” Theresa May tells us that now is not the time. We’ll be the judge of that Theresa. We don’t need your permission, we don’t need your consent. And we’re not going to ask for it. It’s time to play by different rules. Scottish rules.
There are no certainties any more, except the certainty that Westminster offers Scotland no control over its own destiny. We have no choice about living with uncertainty, but I’d rather live with an uncertainty where Scotland can navigate its own path through the darkness, can make its own choices about heading for the light, rather than depend helplessly on a British establishment that offers us no choice at all and shipwrecks us on the vanities of Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees Mogg.
Get what you’re given Scotland, or make and take what you need. That’s the difference between dependence and independence. Choosing independence means choosing self-respect. Choosing independence means choosing never to be silenced. Choosing independence means refusing to allow others to define you.
What has happened in the House of Commons this week means that there will most definitely be another independence referendum in the not too distant future. That referendum will be fought against the background of a Westminster which has treated Scotland with contempt and disdain. It will be fought against the backdrop of a Westminster which has destroyed the devolution settlement which the people of Scotland were sold as being the great British constitutional alternative to independence. There can be no Vow Mk II. There can be no more promises of love, no more commitments to improved and entrenched powers for Scotland. There are only the brays and boos of backbench Tories, and the handsitting compliance of the Labour party.
In the words of the German philosopher Meister Eckhard, “And suddenly you know: It’s time to start something new and trust the magic of beginnings.” Now we all know what the Conservative government thinks of us. We all know what they believe Scotland’s place to be. We all know that we can continue to be sidelined and marginalised and the interests of this country can be traduced. We all know that the devolution settlement that Scotland fought for so hard for so long lies dead and bleeding on the floor of the House of Commons. We all know that we are nothing more than an English county council dressed up in a tartan ribbon as far as the British establishment is concerned.
So let’s start something new and trust in the magic of beginning a better Scotland. This is the time. This is the time to be bold, to be brave, to be imaginative. This is the time to play by our own rules. We will win that better Scotland, but we will only win it by not being silent.
Mapa Gàidhlig na h-Alba / Gaelic Map of Scotland
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