It’s good to see that Alister Jack is being called out for his outrageous comments in the banal collection of britipologetic essays edited by the equally banal free Andrew Bowie published before the recent Conservative Conference. The essays were supposed to demonstrate the case for the Union, but all they have done is to highlight the intellectual desert that is modern British nationalism in Scotland and to illustrate the weakness of the anti- independence argument in a post Brexit age.
Indeed far from strengthening the case against Scottish independence the essays have merely demonstrated serious flaws in anti-independence arguments by revealing that even the continuing existence of Scotland as a nation is no longer guaranteed by the so-called ‘muscular unionism’ of the modern Conservative party, a reflexive anti-independence knee-jerk which is fundamentally nothing more than an aggressive and reactionary English nationalism which seeks the effective destruction of Scotland and Wales as nations and distinctive political entities in their own right and their incorporation into a single supposedly British nation which is nothing more than Greater England.
In his essay, Scotland Secretary Alister Jack wrote that he did not like to refer to the UK as a union of four nations, claiming that the union gives us “one great nation”, and went on to describe being Scottish as a “regional variation” within the UK. He also effectively erased the Scotland England border by reducing it to nothing more than a sign post by the side of the road, as though it had no more functional significance than a sign post announcing that the traveller is entering a particular local authority.
In another essay in the same book, former Prime Minister Theresa May equated being Scottish with being from Yorkshire as though Scotland, a kingdom in its own right which united voluntarily with the kingdom of England in 1707 to create the United Kingdom, was functionally, constitutionally and politically equivalent to a large English county.
It is not necessarily a pro-independence stance to accept the existence of Scotland as a nation in its own right. This was always the understanding of traditional Scottish Unionism. Just before the 2014 referendum the Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron gave a speech in which he declared that the UK is ” is not one nation. We are four nations in a single country.”
This is not a controversial or contentious position. The Treaty of Union of 1707 made no reference to the abolition of Scotland as a nation or its replacement by a single British nation – “great” or otherwise. In fact the Treaty contains important provisions ensuring and guaranteeing the continuation of important Scottish national institutions.
However faced with the prospect of a second independence referendum and an anti- independence case which the Conservatives have themselves fatally flawed by their pursuit of a Brexit which takes no account of Scotland’s reservations or objections, the Conservatives are now trying to double down by delegitimising Scotland’s status as a nation with the right to self-determination.
In doing so the Conservatives are sowing the seeds of destruction for the union that they profess to love so much. The United Kingdom can either be a union of four nations or it can be a single nation, it cannot be both simultaneously. The two conceptions are mutually exclusive. This is constitutional politics in the real human world we are talking about here, not a theological debate about the nature of a single God and the Holy Trinity.
In this new Tory concept of the UK, the centuries long understanding of traditional Scottish Unionism that Scotland is a nation in a voluntary union which it joined freely and which it is free to leave if it chooses to do so has been unilaterally ripped up by a Conservative Government in Westminster which has not even bothered to make a pretence of obtaining any sort of democratic mandate from the people of Scotland to do so. The Tories know that no such mandate would have been granted, they are a party which struggles to win the electoral support of less than a quarter of the electorate of Scotland yet they are using the Commons seats and votes they won elsewhere in the UK to ram through fundamental changes to the nature of the UK without the consent of the people of Scotland, indeed without even going through the motions of consulting with them.
We are now in the ludicrous situation where the man who heads the Scotland Office, a UK government department which only exists because of the constitutional status of Scotland as a constituent nation of the UK, by his own admission does not like to acknowledge the fact that Scotland is a nation. That makes Alister Jack’s position untenable. His job only exists because Scotland is a nation. He is now in the exact same situation as a health minister who doesn’t think there should be an NHS or a Foreign Secretary who refuses to acknowledge the legitimacy of any foreign government.
Given Alister Jack’s comments, The National asked whether the Scotland Office still considers Scotland as a nation. A spokesBrit for the Scotland Office refused to answer, saying only that Jack’s comments speak for themselves. Indeed they do, and the refusal of the Scotland Office to give a simple answer to such a simple question speaks volumes. This is not a trick question, it’s not a difficult question. A Yes answer is in no way incompatible with a belief that Scotland would be best served by remaining a part of the UK. However for Jack’s Scotland Office the question is too difficult and politically loaded to answer. That can only mean that the Scotland Office does believe that the question of whether Scotland is a nation is at the very least hedged about with doubt and qualifications.
Alister Jack must resign. A man who does not believe that Scotland is a nation or who at the very least thinks that it is a difficult or contentious question is not a person who is fit to represent Scotland at the highest level of what we have always been told is the government of a union between four nations of which Scotland is one. Of course Jack will not resign. He has no shame, and with the honourable exception of The National, the Scottish press will fail in its duty to the people of Scotland and will not attempt to hold him to account.
But we have learned an important lesson which the independence movement will sing from the rooftops during the next referendum campaign. It’s not just devolution which has no future in a Conservative led UK but neither does the very existence of Scotland as a nation.
This is your reminder that the purpose of this blog is to promote Scottish independence. If the comment you want to make will not assist with that goal then don’t post it. If you want to mouth off about how much you dislike the SNP leadership there are other forums where you can do that. You’re not welcome to do it here.
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