Since there’s fireworks going off all over the place and I have to stay indoors with the dog to make sure that he doesn’t freak out, I thought I might as well write another blog article. Dog owners don’t get to have a social life on the 5th of November. So Ginger’s misery is your gain. Actually he copes quite well with the noise, better than any other dog I’ve had, but he does get a bit worried and needs his daddy to be with him to provide reassurance that the nasty noises aren’t going to come and get him.
There was another article about Scottish independence in the Guardian. Only it wasn’t so much an article about Scottish independence as a not so thinly veiled warning to voters in the rest of the UK that they need to vote Labour because the Tories will break up the UK. The piece told readers that if Boris Johnson wins the General Election, Scottish independence becomes an inevitability – the only way to prevent it is to vote Labour. the logic appears to be that if people in England don’t vote for one party that the electorate in Scotland has rejected but instead vote for another party that the electorate in Scotland has rejected, we’re going to rethink this whole independence idea.
Funnily enough, if you open the pages of a Tory leaning newspaper, you’ll most likely find an article warning voters in the rest of the UK that they need to vote Conservative because Labour will break up the UK. Which means that it doesn’t really matter who voters in the rest of the UK vote for, Scottish independence is nailed on, it’s just that the two main UK parties disagree about who bears the responsibility for causing it. Hint – you’re both equally to blame.
Reading the comments in English based newspapers on articles about Scottish independence are a recipe for frustration. It’s always the same old tropes – Spain will veto you, deficit, hard border, the EU doesn’t want you, how can you be independent if you want to join the EU which won’t let you in anyway, once in a generation, you don’t know what currency you’ll use but you’ll have to join the euro, leeching off English taxpayers, breaking up is hard to do, you hate the English, Scexit, defunct mediaeval artificial construct, but London didn’t want Brexit either, and on and bloody on. No matter how often or how detailed independence supporters give responses to these non-questions, the same old ignorance constantly rears its thick skull. It’s like being stuck in a time loop and being forced to watch reruns of Better Together’s Patronising Woman for all eternity. Only without her wit and charm. Now eat your cereal. Paying for it has contributed to Scotland’s deficit.
The fact is that, at least judging by the comments of those who are engaged enough with the issue to bother posting a reply in the online edition of a newspaper, most people in the rest of the UK simply haven’t got a clue what it is that drives the demand for independence in Scotland and are equally ignorant about the issues around the debate. The tectonic plates have been slowly shifting for decades, ever since the Scottish cultural renaissance which began in the 1970s, Brexit has merely sped the process up.
Many of the answers to the questions so earnestly posed by those posting on articles on sites like the Guardian are staring those posting them in the face. Given that both the Conservatives and Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party are hell bent on taking the UK out of the EU as quickly as possibly after next month’s General Election, the only answer to the question “When will an independent Scotland become an EU member?” that is remotely relevant is “A damn sight sooner than the rest of the UK.”
Since Jeremy Corbyn is currently stomping around the country telling those attending his election rallies that this General Election is a once in a generation chance to get a radical Labour government then there’s also an equally obvious answer to the ‘once in a generation’ claim. Can we presume then that if Corbyn loses this election that the Labour party will not stand in another General Election for another twenty years or so? Because unless the Labour party is proposing to dissolve itself if it loses this election and never to stand for Westminster again, we’d like to hear a lot less from Labour MPs in Scotland about how there shouldn’t be another indyref for a generation.
Mind you, we’ll be hearing a lot less from Labour MPs in Scotland after the General Election because there won’t be many of them left. Although to be honest we haven’t heard that much from them until now because except when Hugh Gaffney sticks his foot in it they’re a pretty invisible bunch. Martin Whitfield, Ged Killen, and Danielle Rowley have got an even lower public profile than Shadow Scotland Secretary Lesley Laird, which is a bit like being less famous than the vetinary nurse who expresses your dog’s anal glands. And unlike the Labour party in Scotland, when she makes an arse of things she’s doing it on purpose.
The reason that Scotland is heading for independence is because the union is and always was a great political pretence. The unitary state that told Scotland it was a union could only maintain the fiction of union as long as Scotland was politically on the same page as the rest of the UK, and that was the case for much of the 20th century. Scots could pretend to themselves that our country wasn’t a subordinate part of a Greater England, but an equal partner in a family of nations. But politically Scotland and England are increasingly divergent. When Scottish voting habits began to diverge from the rest of the UK in the 1970s, a development which was not unrelated to the renewed critical interest in Scottish culture which began in that decade, the fiction became increasingly difficult to maintain. Scotland could no longer pretend to itself that it helped to shape the UK, instead it became clear that Scotland gets what its much larger neighbour votes for. It became clear that Scotland isn’t a partner in forming the political priorities of the UK, the UK deforms Scotland.
That was bad enough when we were subjected to lengthy bouts of Conservative rule that Scotland didn’t vote for. Scottish voters could always comfort themselves with the hope that at the next General Election, or the one after that, we could once again get a Labour government and Scotland would again feel represented. Then Tony Blair happened and Scotland learned that the only way Labour could get into power in England was by dressing in Tory drag. However we did at least secure the prize of a Scottish Parliament, and that provided Scotland with an alternative political focus to Westminster. At long last, for the first time since 1707, Scotland was able to debate Scottish politics on Scottish terms.
Then there was the 2014 referendum, when people in Scotland thought that the question before them was should Scotland become an independent nation, or should it remain a part of the UK. Most believed the pleas of the anti-independence parties that Scotland was loved, was wanted, was needed. They were prepared to give Westminster one final chance to prove itself. But the Westminster parties weren’t dealing with the same question as the voters of Scotland, the question that Westminster thought Scotland was answering was “Should Scotland bugger off or shut up?” Much to the shock of the anti-independence parties, Scotland has refused to shut up. If we are indeed going to be a part of this construct that we were told is a union, then it bloody well ought to behave like a union. Clearly, it has not. At every turn, Scotland has been treated with contempt and disdain.
Brexit has been the final nail in the coffin of the great pretence. A new British government comes along at most after five years, but Brexit is forever. Brexit has concentrated minds in Scotland. It has made us realise that we can no longer pretend to ourselves that we live in a country which is a partner in a union. We’re a subordinate and marginalised region which must do what it is told. We see Ireland within the EU and realise that there is indeed one nation in these islands which is an equal partner in a family of nations. It’s not Scotland. And we say to ourselves, we’ll have some of what they’re having.
The slowly shifting tectonic plates of Scottish politics and culture were always leading to this conclusion, but Brexit has created an earthquake which has brought the end about far sooner than it could otherwise have happened. It was however always going to happen anyway. That’s what those who write articles for the UK press blaming Labour or blaming the Tories never seem to grasp and which is beyond the ken of those who infest those newspapers’ comments sections. It’s not about England, and it never was. It was always about Scotland finding itself.
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