There’s a very peculiar trope which has developed amongst opponents of independence of late. It was seen in an article in the Daily Mail, or to give it its proper title the Daily [spit] Mail, by one Stephen Daisley. It was seen on Tuesday of this week in an article in the Herald by Andrew McKie. That trope is whatiffery. They compare the real universe in which we are actually living with an entirely imaginary universe in which Scotland voted for independence in 2014 in order to say that things are either not so bad just now, or would have been far worse in their Mirror Universe of sub-Star Trek fictioneering.
Just imagine all the horrors that would have happened if Scotland had voted Yes in 2014, they write. The arse would have fallen out of the oil price, and England would have been forced by the EU to put up barbed wire all the way from Gretna to Berwick. We’d all have been living in hovels and fighting for the last remaining stockpiles of Pot Noodle. Aren’t we so lucky to have voted No eh, where we’re living in a UK where the government is making contingency plans to stockpile Pot Noodles and medicines and to deal with the massive disruption that will be caused because they’re creating a hard border with the EU.
The problem with this conceit is that we are actually living in a universe in which Scotland voted No in 2014, and the political mess and possible economic disaster which we are facing are a direct consequence of that No vote. They are trying to distract us with imaginary horrors which didn’t happen when we’re far too worried about the horrors that may be on the horizon. Horrors which are a consequence of what really did happen. Horrors which are happening because Scotland voted No.
It is a sign of just how desperate British nationalism has become that it now has to resort to imaginary arguments against independence. The truth is that no one knows what would have happened in Scotland if the country had voted to become independent again back in 2014, because it didn’t actually happen. A Scotland that voted for independence in 2014 is and shall always remain entirely hypothetical. The imaginary developments of a fervent supporter of independence dreaming of the Scottish paradise that would have welcomed us if we’d voted Yes in 2014 are equally as valid in this context as the doomscape imagined by British nationalists. Funnily enough, that sort of article doesn’t make it into the pages of the Scottish press, but it’s equally fictional and equally accurate as any of the dystopian futures past that opponents of independence pen, and which they get published in the anti-independence press which dominates the Scottish media landscape.
There is a qualitative difference between the backwards looking projections of catastrophe in the Mirror Universe of British nationalists and forecasts of doom to come. That difference is that the scenarios of the whatifferies didn’t really happen. They are set in a past that did not take place. We can state with 100% confidence that they are as imaginary as those alternate histories in which Britain lost WW2 and was occupied by the Nazis, or there was an invasion of alien lizards which took over the government. Oh wait. That last one really did happen. Back in the real world, this one we’re all living in right here and right now, these fervent imaginations are not anything that we need to worry about in our real lives.
On the other hand warnings of future problems deal with matters which by definition have not yet happened. Like Schrodinger’s Cat they remain potentialities no matter how outlandish or ridiculous they are, which is why the likes of Gordie Broon is so fond of them. However as far as the British nationalist Mirror Universe of a dystopian Scotland which voted Yes in 2014 is concerned, the cat is not only most definitely dead, it has been skinned so that Boris Johnson can use it as a hat and what is left of its corpse has been flattened and squashed by the Brexit bus.
What is it about British nationalists. Sometimes you just feel like sighing and telling them in an exasperated tone that a pissed off teenager would aspire to, “Look. You won. Get over it.” They need to own their victory in 2014, and that means that they need to take responsibility for everything that has happened ever since. They can’t escape this reality or their responsibilities by resorting to imaginary scenarios in which something else entirely happened, because that something else didn’t happen. We didn’t vote Yes in 2014. It is quite incredible that British nationalist journalists need to be reminded of that fact.
The truth is that Scotland was promised security and stability. It was promised EU membership. It was promised safety and peace of mind. Those were the key offers of the Better Together campaign in 2014 which were promoted by those same commentators who are now resorting to fantasy scenarios. Yet a Scotland that’s not actually been involved in a world war has never been less secure, less stable. It has never had less safety or peace of mind. And it’s all the fault of that British government and British establishment that told us that we could only have those things if we trusted in them.
All the problems, all the issues, all the difficulties, all the uncertainties, all the fear and worry that Scotland is currently experiencing don’t go away just because British nationalist journalists dream up a fantasy in which something else entirely happened. They’re happening because Scotland voted No in 2014. Proponents of that No vote need to own up to that, to own it, and to deal with it.
Opponents of independence like to try and scare us with stories of what might have happened if we’d voted Yes in 2014 because they have no answers to the British nationalist shambles which Scotland currently finds itself in. Those of us who support Scottish independence have an escape route from the mess that British nationalism has created. Where’s theirs? We’re not served by musings about the shape of futures past. It’s the future before us which concerns us.
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