Daniel Hannan was a Conservative MEP who was at the forefront of the campaign to get the UK out of the EU. Even before the rest of the Conservatives succumbed to the nostrum of the sunlit uplands, the unicorns of free trade deals with former British colonies who’d be desperate to restore their links with the mother country, and the red white and blue cakeism of enjoying all the benefits of EU membership with none of the duties or responsibilities, Dan was there, waving his wee flag and preaching about the evils of an EU that imposed laws on the UK. Laws that the UK didn’t vote for. Laws that were devised by people whom the UK couldn’t vote out of office all by itself even though we won the war you know.
Now that the UK is officially out of the EU and well on its way to uplands that bear rather more of a resemblance to grey and desolate moors where serial killers have hidden the bodies, Dan is at something of a loose end. This is partly because he was deemed too weird even for a local Conservative association to adopt him as a Westminster candidate. Instead Dan now fills his days bringing joy to the world by penning articles in the Telegraph and other right wing publications in which he continues to preach the gospel of according to bunting.
In his latest piece, he believes he understands why there has been a surge in support for Scottish independence. It certainly can’t be because of Brexit, because Brexit is going to shower the above mentioned unicorns and cake on those sunlit uplands that we keep hearing so much about. Oh no. Scottish people would love Brexit, and they’d love the UK, if only it wasn’t for those pesky nats who keep, and I quote, “trashing the British brand”.
There is no problem with Brexit in Dan’s universe. The fact that from a Scottish perspective we are in exactly the same position, only for real this time, that he imagined the UK to be in as an EU member has flown by him. Quite possibly to one of those sunlit uplands that he keeps telling us about. There is no problem that Scotland is a part of a UK where its voice is unheard, where its parliament is undermined, and where the promises made to it have been traduced. None of this is real. The only thing that is real for Dan is that those horrible separatists keep saying nasty things about his beloved Britain.
According to Dan the rise in support for independence isn’t because of the coronavirus epidemic either. Scotland hasn’t really seen a Scottish Government which has delivered a more coherent and cohesive message. It didn’t really experience a much lower death toll once the strategy of the Scottish Government began to diverge from that of the British Government. And did so in the teeth of trenchant criticism from those British nationalists in Scotland who are now demanding to know why the Scottish Government didn’t diverge earlier and more decisively. The response of the Johnson administration in London hasn’t been chaotic, incompetent, and confused. But this is all just propaganda from bitter separatists who are hell bent on breaking up the most successful union the multiverse has ever seen.
Of course this last statement comes with the unspoken rider that we’re defining “union” as the UK and “successful” as “good for London and the South East”. Telling Scotland that the UK has been the most successful UK in history at funnelling wealth, capital, and talent into the maws of London and the South East wouldn’t persuade many to vote against independence. It would however be considerably more accurate. But hey, historical accuracy is just trashing the British brand.
The fact that Dan cannot and will never accept is that the British brand has of late been most spectacularly trashed by people like Dan. Brexit has unleashed an intolerant right wing xenophobia into British politics. It feeds upon a rosy nostalgia for an Empire long gone and for WW2 which was arguably the only time in history when the UK’s war was one that it didn’t go looking for and where our opponents were unequivocally the bad guys – and that was only because they were your actual Nazis. But despite this wallowing in nostalgia and the never ending crusade to stick union flags on everything, Dan tells us that “Unionism” is driven by practicalities and transactional politics, not by emotion and identity politics. Suuuure thing Dan. I’m sure that the British nationalist thugs who have developed a habit of beating up independence supporters and ethnic minorities in the centre of Glasgow are doing so purely out of a concern about the need for a central bank.
Let’s suppose however that Dan was right. Let’s imagine that we didn’t have Theresa May’s hostile environment or the Windrush scandal or institutionalised racism perpetuated by the British state. Let’s pretend that Brexit didn’t happen and that EU citizens who’ve chosen to live here we’re living in uncertainty and fear for the future. Let’s conjure up a reality where the UK wasn’t a colonial power. Let’s make believe that the UK really is an equal partnership of four nations who all happily and productively work together for their common good and the smaller ones aren’t dragged along in the political wake of the largest. You know, the UK that Dan thinks we all live in. The only way in which vile separatists could succeed in persuading a majority of the Scottish electorate that independence is the way to go would be if that electorate was blind to reality. In other words, Dan must think that we’re stupid. We seem to have heard that particular formulation before.
Dan’s is merely the latest addition to the angst ridden opinionating of British nationalists who are at a loss to explain the rise in support for Scottish independence without actually laying any blame at their own door. That’s the common theme in all these British nationalist analyses. It’s never their fault that more and more people in Scotland seek independence.
That’s the core conundrum of modern British nationalism in Scotland. In order to defeat the independence that they so fear, British nationalism has to face up to its own role in creating it. It’s the way in which Scotland has been marginalised and sidelined by the British state which is driving independence. It’s the way in which the British Government unilaterally undermines the settled will of the Scottish people which is driving independence. Solving these issues requires a radical and fundamental change in direction from the British state. It would mean owning up to the deceit of the Vow and the lies made in the Better Together campaign of 2014.
Support for independence is rising in Scotland because many in this country believe that the British parties and their leadership lied to us. For the British state to start to rebuild that lost confindence would mean admitting that they lied to Scotland. And that in turn would mean that they would destroy any case they hoped to make in a future referendum. Because if they have admitted to lying once, then we can’t believe anything they tell us in future. Either way, they’re screwed, and they know that they’re screwed. So instead they prefer to lash out, and rail against Scotland for having found them out. The UK’s reputation has been trashed by the Conservatives and Brextremists like Dan Hannon.
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