What is wrong with Britain? Let me list the ways. Mind you, if anyone embarked upon a serious and detailed accounting of the myriad ways in which the British state is a fundamental screw up, they’d still be listing them by the time that the Sun runs out of hydrogen and starts to consume helium instead, causing it to swell up into a red giant and engulfing the Earth. This is expected to occur in approximately 5 billion years time. So considerably sooner than Theresa May is likely to start listening to alternative opinions then.
Given that, all anyone can really do, at least while maintaining a semblance of sanity, is to mention some of the more egregious ways in which this so called United Kingdom is neither united nor fit for purpose.
Amidst the Brexitosis which has been occupying the body politic, last week Prince Philip crashed his car. Reports say that he was turning out into a main road, was blinded by the sun, even though it’s still not a red giant, and hit another vehicle carrying two women and a baby. This would seem to suggest that the accident was Prince Philip’s fault, as he was the one who had the obligation to give way to oncoming traffic. The women were injured in the collision, not that you’d really have learned that from the press coverage of the event, which focussed almost in its entirety on the fact that the person who appeared to have been responsible for the crash was uninjured despite overturning his Land Rover. Thankfully the baby escaped without any harm.
One way of reporting this incident, typical of the Daily Mail or the Express, would have been to talk about how an elderly EU immigrant from Greece who’s lived off state benefits all his life and has a sense of entitlement the size of the sun after it’s turned into a red giant caused traffic mayhem, injured two women, and risked the death of an infant. There could have been demands to know why this 97 year old was still driving, and how the only reason he’s still doing so is from a wilful pigheadedness, especially since he’s in the fortunate position of being able to rely on staff who can drive for him. That’s something which can’t be said for a 97 year old who relies on the state pension.
Philip’s pride and arrogance risked the lives of other motorists, and in this case an infant as well. Then just two days after the accident, he was seen driving on a public road, and wasn’t wearing a seatbelt. Clearly he’s learned nothing, and equally clearly there is no one who is able to stand up to him and take his car keys away from him. There could have been a headline saying, “Out of control pensioner who endangered baby is still driving dangerously.” It’s fine if Prince Philip wants to endanger himself. It’s not fine that he’s endangering other people.
Naturally that’s not how any of this was reported. Instead we got the entirely predictable wall to wall sycophancy and Nicholas Witchelling. Ooooh, isn’t he MARVELLOUS! Isn’t he a wonderful example of British grit. The women and the baby who were the real victims were almost completely ignored. Pointing out the truth means pointing out the myths upon which the monarchy rests, and that would never do.
Brexit has been reported in a very similar way. It’s all about the prestige of the UK. There’s a fixation on status and an absolute and unquestioning deference to the myths of Britishness. Myths which are never to be questioned or examined critically just like the monarchy can never be challenged. The damage and harm to us plebs is ignored. Yet the UK is founded upon some myths which fall apart on even the most cursory examination. There’s the myth that the UK is a great power, when the reality is that this country acts as a cheerleader for the Pentagon. There’s the myth that the UK punches above its weight, when in fact it is no more influential than any state of a similar size with a similarly large economy.
It’s because of the myths of Britishness that we are told that the UK can’t possibly accept the so-called Norway solution, because “we” can never be rule takers, only rule makers. The UK can’t accept the Irish backstop, because that means having our hands tied until the agreement of Dublin is secured and that would never do. The natural order of British things is for Dublin to have its hands tied, just like Edinburgh’s. Only lesser countries can thole a lesser status, not the UK. Because we’re British and we won the war you know. The only thing that would be damaged here is the pride of those who can’t accept the realities of Britishness and who cling to its myths.
This is in marked contrast to how Scotland is portrayed. Just about everything about Scotland is up for question. It seems at times that there is nothing about Scotland that isn’t derided by proponents of the UK as myth or fiction. It is of course right that a nation should examine itself and its past with a critical eye, but the central myths of Britishness remain unchallenged. The biggest myth of all is the myth of union, a myth which remains as sacrosanct as the press coverage of the royal family. The myth that this is a family of equal nations when the UK is in fact a unitary state in which the majority gets to impose its will on the minority nations.
Let’s spell it out. Let’s burst the bubble. Scotland is not a partner in a union. There is no union. There are no unionists, only British nationalists. Brexit has taught us that. The way in which Scotland has been ignored at every stage in this process proves it. The way in which this Conservative government preaches its respect for the will of the people but undermines, contradicts, and traduces the will of the people of Scotland and the devolution settlement proves it.
If you oppose Scottish independence that doesn’t automatically make you an opponent of nationalism, it makes you a supporter of the British state and British nationalism. You don’t get a free pass like Prince Philip gets a free pass in the press – and as a supporter of an independent Scotland I am not going to support you in your delusion. It’s not the job of independence supporters to repeat the myths of the Nicholas Witchells of British nationalism. We should no longer allow them to endanger everyone else with the stories they tell themselves.
This is not a debate between nationalism and non-nationalism. It’s a debate about whether Scotland wants to wake up and live in reality, or continue to be silenced and endangered amongst the dreamscape of the myths of Britishness.
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