Back in the distant days of early 2016, there was no real prospect of another independence referendum any time soon. Indeed there was no prospect of one any time within the next decade. I remember doing a talk for a local SNP branch in early 2016 and was asked when I thought that we’d once again be on the march for independence. Realistically, we were then looking at another ten years before it even became a serious option. It was entirely possible that there would be no second referendum before 2030.
But that was then and this is now. Over the weekend DRoss used his conference speech to the Conservative party to castigate his fellow members south of the border for not caring enough about keeping the UK together. The speech prompted BBC presenter Andrew Marr, no friend of the independence cause, to ask part time Prime Minister Boris Johnson if he took any responsibility for the rise in support for independence and the fact that it is now widely believed that the UK is in a terminal decline and that Scottish independence is on the horizon.
Naturally Johnson denied that any of this was his fault. What else would anyone expect of a man who has spent his entire life shirking responsibility. Johnson can’t even take responsbility for the number of children that he’s sired. Instead we got more of his usual vacuous waffle about how much the UK does for Scotland, how ‘awesome’ it is, and the inevitable spurious pleading that a generation hadn’t passed. He also made a statement which was unintentionally revealing. This is a man who has spent his entire political career pandering to a brand of right wing specifically English nationalism, and he remarked to Marr that the union was “one of the great achievements of this country”. Which merely begs the question, which country was he referring to? In the eyes of a politician like Johnson, whose actions in office have proven that he cannot distinguish between British and English nationalism, the remark seems to mean that on a deeper level – one which is possibly not even that deep – he views the political subjugation of Scotland as one of England’s greatest achievements.
The speech that Douglas Ross made was revealing in its own way too. In the eyes of the leading shill for British nationalism in Scotland, the precious union is at risk because his own party is unaware that it’s a union at all. However he had no real suggestions about how the Conservatives should respond to the crisis that he identifies, other than to redouble their efforts to subjugate Scotland even further as though this would make the ‘problem’ of Scottish independence go away. The solution which the Scottish Conservatives seek is that of an abusive spouse who believes that he can force his partner to love him through threats and intimidation.
However what really upset Douglas was the growing belief within his own party that the end of the UK is approaching. After spending decades telling Scotland that it’s too poor and to dependent upon a fiscal transfer from England, British nationalists in Scotland are now finding to their horror that their message has been internalised by the wrong people. Conservatives in England are coming to the view that if England gets rid of Scotland they’ll financially benefit, and they’ll no longer have a significant part of the UK which loudly and obstinately voices its opposition to the vainglorious Brexit project.
The truth that opponents of independence are still in denial about is that the rise in support for independence, the fact that the topic of another referendum is very much on the table, is very much their responsibility. This was not inevitable. If opponents of independence had been more circumspect, had listened more, and above all had not taken the victory in 2014 as a signal that they could ignore the desire in Scotland for self-determination, Scotland could indeed still have been decades away from taking the prospect of independence seriously.
Instead the Conservatives and Labour took 2014 not as a warning from the people of Scotland, not as a shot across the bows of a British state which was taking Scotland for granted, but as a vindication. They paid – at best – lip service to fulfilling the promises and commitments that they made in order to win the referendum, while at the same time hypocritically castigating those of us who continue to support independence for ‘not respecting the result of the referendum’.
Even Brexit did not have to be a boost to independence. But instead of acknowledging that Scotland had voted to remain in the EU by a considerably larger margin than it had voted against independence, we got Conservative politicians telling us that Brexit was a UK wide vote and Scotland simply had to suck it up. They compounded this error by not allowing the Scottish Government or wider Scottish society any input into the form that Brexit was to take. The result is a Brexit that was made in England by the right wing extreme of the Conservative party, which is being foisted upon a reluctant and unwilling Scotland. That’s bad enough, but then the Conservatives decided to use Brexit as the opportunity to undermine the devolution settlement and to centralise power in the UK even more. If you wanted a political exercise in how to piss Scotland off, you couldn’t have done better.
All this was compounded by the British Government’s woeful mishandling of the covid-19 pandemic. Now we have British nationalist politicians who have done their utmost to ensure that Scotland doesn’t have the full powers of an independent nation insist that they are fed up with independence supporters comparing Scotland’s performance to England’s. Yet comparing Scotland to England is the only valid comparison to be made as long as Scotland remains a part of the British state.
There is now an increasing body of opinion in Scotland which seeks independence not for reasons of nationalism, but simply because we’re fed up with the lies and deceit of the British state in general and the Conservatives in particular. If we must be governed by incompetent self-serving fools, we should at least ensure that those are fools that people in Scotland have the power to vote out of office. Scottish independence is not driven by the usual claims of nationalism, the aggrandisement, the harping back to lost days of glory, the vanity, the delusions of grandeur, the imperial arrogance – those are all to be found in abundance amongst British nationalists. Scotland’s independence supporters are driven by the simple desire to live in a normal country with a government that is answerable to the people of this country. That is entirely the fault of the British parties, and the Conservatives in particular. The only reason that independence is back on the table is down to their lies, their incompetence, and their deceit.
The purpose of this blog is to make a positive case for independence, to attack the pretensions of British nationalism, and to formulate arguments which will help to persuade no voters, undecideds, and soft yes voters to support independence. It’s also to boost the morale of those of us who are already involved in this campaign. I do not provide this platform to allow people to attack others in the movement with whom they disagree. Other people might choose to use their platforms to do so, I don’t.
So if you want to share your favourite conspiracy theories about Nicola Sturgeon or anyone else in this movement – you can go elsewhere. I am past caring whether you think that this means you are being censored. You have no absolute right to use this blog and you most certainly don’t have the right to abuse my hospitality by insulting me personally.
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My new book has just been published by Vagabond Voices. Containing the best articles from The National from 2016 to date. Weighing in at over 350 pages, this is the biggest and best anthology of Wee Gingerisms yet. This collection of pieces covers the increasingly demented Brexit years, and the continuing presence and strength of Scotland’s independence movement.
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