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A game of loyalties: the Scottish independence debate is about belonging, not policy

23 July 2014

23 July 2014

It’s less than two months until the referendum on Scottish independence. Two months to decide the future of two (or, if you prefer, four) countries. No pressure and it’s not a small thing at all.

Sensible Unionists (the qualification is, alas, eternally required) can, indeed do, acknowledge that something was lost in 1707 and that this something mattered. They might also agree that independence in 2014 would bring some benefits. Something real would be recaptured, if you like. In any case, the sky would not fall; some things would probably improve. We should expect them to. Only a dolt assumes everything must be worse after independence. (There are some dolts out there.)

But then only a chump would assume everything must be better after independence too and only a blinkered partisan thinks there are no good reasons for maintaining the Union or that nothing at all that’s useful might be lost by ending it.

It seems obvious to me that even if you accept the gains that might accrue from independence these would be offset, to some degree at least, by losses. (The reverse is also, as I say, true.) There is ample room for a prudent sense of ambivalence about all this. Also for scepticism.

Not everyone agrees. Here, for instance, is Peter Arnott writing at the pro-independence website Bella Caledonia: 

We believe that if one accepts that Scotland is a real country, and that democracy is the best (least worst) form of government, then, within that definition, a Yes vote is logically the inescapable choice to make. We are, perhaps unreasonably, bewildered, frankly, that anyone thinks differently.

This is the essence of the nationalist case. The essence, too, of nationalist befuddlement that anyone might possibly have cause to think differently. And that bewilderment helps explain, I think, some of the problems the nationalists have had in persuading their countryfolk to endorse separatism.

Yes, separatism. Not a loaded word, not when nationalists such as Mr Arnott make it plain they consider Scotland a wholly distinct, separate, real country. There is no room in this worldview for a layered or otherwise nuanced sense of national identity. A Yes vote, after all, is logically inescapable.

But – and this is the inconvenient thing some nationalists refuse to allow – Britain is also a real country and, yes, also a democracy. Moreover, if a nation is a kind of imagined community it’s plainly possible to belong to more than one such gathering. We know this not least because it’s the situation in which many Scots cheerfully find themselves. As do plenty of Welsh, English and even Irish citizens.

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That is, there is no necessary contradiction between thinking Scotland a place, a country, even a nation of its own and also considering it part  – an important part – of a bigger, British, nation. There can, for sure, be tensions and distinctions here but they’re also, at least in part, the kinds of ambiguity that have made us who we are and that have, you might even be minded to argue, made Scotland an interesting place.

The invitation to build a new country is an attractive one. But accepting that offer requires us to leave a country we’ve already built. Clearly, some people will relish the challenge; others, quite reasonably, will think it’s an unnecessary and unattractive proposition. People can disagree in good faith on this.

Or at least they should be capable of doing so. Mr Arnott, however, is one of those nationalists who disagrees. You see:  

The only real argument the No side have got is that democratic choice like that is too dangerous for us.

Oh really? It is true that the No campaign has concentrated on the uncertainties that must inevitably be produced by a Yes vote but that’s not the same – not at all the same – as arguing that Scotland is somehow incapable of making a perfectly decent fist of life after independence. Of course the technical matters of currency, international association and so much else can be worked out. They can be resolved because they would have to be resolved.

More interesting, however, is the evident empathy gap that exists between the two sides. One can concede the attractiveness – or at least the theoretical appeal – of its opponents’ vision; the other cannot even admit there is a reasonable alternative view.

Indeed, increasingly it is the Yes campaign that issues thunderous warnings of the consequences of a No vote. Vote No and watch the UK leave the EU! Vote No and see the NHS destroyed! Vote No and see how you like Westminster avenging itself on the uppity Jocks who dared to even hold a referendum on their future! Vote No and get your just desserts, you timorous, craven bastards! How do you like them apples?

Sure, all of the above could happen but it is all fundamentally unknowable. A hysterical hypothesis presented as cold, iron fact by a ‘relentlessly positive’ campaign for secession independence.

Here’s the thing, however: it is entirely possible to accept that Scotland is a real country and that Britain is a real place too. A real country in large part built by and dependent upon Scottish contributions.

Consider these repositories of national culture and memory: Rule Britannia, the Oxford English Dictionary, the Encyclopaedia Britannica, the Dictionary of National Biography, the British Museum, the BBC, the Bank of England. Each of them, to one degree or another, was conceived or developed by Scots. All in the past, certainly, but a reminder or an illustration of how un-English many of Britain’s institutions are. If Britain is a ‘created’ construct or identity it is one that’s been forged by many a Scotch smith.

Of course it is possible to reject all that and to walk away from it as though it counts for little or has nothing to say about our future. That’s a respectable view. It is less respectable, however, to claim there are no decent reasons for other people to value 300 years of shared history and see in it an identity and pooled sovereignty that’s worth maintaining.

Most of all, I think it is foolish to pretend there’s no conceivable cost to independence or that there is only one respectable or logical way to vote in this referendum. (This applies to dunder-heided Unionists too.)

Because I suspect that, actually, that kind of nationalism is a thin and often petty kind of business. Which is fine, I suppose, but it’s the certainty with which it is expressed that is most revealing and, often, unattractive.

Does Scotland have the confidence to vote for independence? Well, sure she might. But you can flip that question around and ask if she has the confidence to remain a part of the Union too? Does she, that is, think her identity threatened or otherwise thwarted by maintaining the constitutional status quo or is she sufficiently confident to think her Scottishness can flourish alongside her Britishness and that the latter is no threat to the former? That, much more than the future provision of childcare or the better development of tidal energy policy, is the real nub of the matter.

In the end, it’s a game of loyalties, of belonging and, in some senses, the expansiveness of your Scottishness.


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  • neda

    Equality and the Labour party? In the same breath. You must be a time traveller from the 80s.

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  • hadi

    A succession of excellent posts, monty61. Keep it up. We’re winning.
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  • hadi

    Equality and the Labour party? In the same breath. You must be a time traveller from the 80s.


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  • gavin

    Self government is surely the desired outcome for all nationalities. Including the country sometimes referred to as the UK, at other times as England.
    Yet this could all have been averted by the inclusion in the referendum of Full Fiscal Autonomy or Devo Max. All polling having shown this to be the preferred option of those who live in Scotland. Westminster, as represented by Cameron, Miliband and Clegg, vetoed this option, so as to retain its economic and political hegemony.
    Is it too late to bring this forth, or are we on the verge of history, with Cameron as the mid-wife to the birth of a new Scotland?

  • Dennis Smith

    There’s a lot of soggy fudge here that relies on undefined terms like ‘country’ and ‘place’. It helps if you start with terms with relatively clear meanings, such as ‘nation’ and ‘state’. Scotland and England are nations, the UK is a multinational state, as recognised by David Cameron when he talks about ‘our family of nations’. Whatever the UK (or Great Britain) may be, it is not a nation. Historically, most Scots have acknowledged a dual Scottish-British identity – Scottish by nationality and British by state (citizenship).
    The problem with this duality is that is it can’t be reconciled with any decent theory of democracy – government of the people by the people for the people. The UK fails this basic test of democracy because a vote has a different value in different parts of the polity. Within the current boundaries of the UK there are two possible ways of bringing nation and state into alignment – by voting for Scottish independence, or by annihilating both Scotland and England as nations. I suspect the second option would be as unpopular in England as in Scotland.
    There is of course a third possibility – constructing a new level of democracy in some kind of supranational polity. The snag is that the EU is a least as promising a candidate for this purpose as the UK, so this route does not have much appeal for Anglo-British chauvinists.

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  • http://www.military.com/spouse/military-deployment/reintegration/returning-to-home-life-after-deployment.html Jeffrey Dowling

    Thanks to Dr Brave for bringing back my wife,and brought great joy to my family?

    Hello to every one out here, am here to share the unexpected miracle that happened to me three days ago, My name is Jeffrey Dowling,i live in TEXAS,USA.and I`m happily married to a lovely and caring wife,with two kids A very big problem occurred in my family seven months ago,between me and my wife so terrible that she took the case to court for a divorce she said that she never wanted to stay with me again,and that she did not love me anymore So she packed out of my house and made me and my children passed through severe pain. I tried all my possible means to get her back,after much begging,but all to no avail and she confirmed it that she has made her decision,and she never wanted to see me again. So on one evening,as i was coming back from work,i met an old friend of mine who asked of my wife So i explained every thing to her,so she told me that the only way i can get my wife back,is to visit a spell caster,because it has really worked for her too So i never believed in spell,but i had no other choice,than to follow her advice. Then she gave me the email address of the spell caster whom she visited.(bravespellcaster@gmail.com}, So the next morning,i sent a mail to the address she gave to me,and the spell caster assured me that i will get my wife back the next day what an amazing statement!! I never believed,so he spoke with me,and told me everything that i need to do. Then the next morning, So surprisingly, my wife who did not call me for the past seven {7}months,gave me a call to inform me that she was coming back So Amazing!! So that was how she came back that same day,with lots of love and joy,and she apologized for her mistake,and for the pain she caused me and my children. Then from that day,our relationship was now stronger than how it were before,by the help of a spell caster . So, was now stronger than how it were before,by the help of a spell caster . So, i will advice you out there to kindly visit the same website http://bravespellcaster.yolasite.com,if you are in any condition like this,or you have any problem related to “bringing your ex back. So thanks to Dr Brave for bringing back my wife,and brought great joy to my family once again.{bravespellcaster@gmail.com} , Thanks.

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    DO YOU NEED YOUR EX BACK VERY FAST

    DON YOU WANT YOUR LOVER TO LOVE YOU AS NEVER LIKE BEFORE

    ARE YOU SUFFERING FROM A LONG TIME SICKNESS

    ARE YOU FACING FINANCIAL PROBLEMS

    ARE YOU SEEKING FOR A GOOD JOB

    DO YOU WANT TO BECOME A HOUSE OWNER

    ARE YOU LOOKING FOR A FIRST CLASS GRADE

    DO YOU WANT TO COME OUT FIRST IN YOUR EXAMS

    ARE YOU A STAR AND YOU WANT TO BE SO POPULAR TO THE WHOLE WORLD

    DO YOU WANT TO BE RICH

    DO YOU WANT YOUR BUSINESS TO KEEP MOVING

    DO YOU HAVE A COMPANY OF ANY KIND AND YOU WANT IT TO EXPAND

    DO YOU WANT YOUR HUSBAND OR WIFE TO KEEP TO YOUR WORLD

    ARE YOU FACING ANY MARITAL PROBLEMS

    ARE YOU FINDING IT DIFFICULT TO GET PREGNANT FOR YOUR HUSBAND

    ARE YOU EXPERIENCING MISCARRIAGES ANY TIME YOU TAKE IN

    DO YOU WANT TO COMPETE IN ANY LOTTERY GAME

    ARE YOU FACING HARDSHIP

    HAVE YOU BEEN THREATENED BY SOMEONE

    DO YOU WANT TO BE SUCCESSFUL IN ANY THING YOU LAY YOUR HANDS ON

    IS YOUR SON OR DAUGHTER BEHAVING STRANGELY

    ARE YOU FACING WITCH CRAFT MANIPULATIONS

    DO YOU WANT TO CAST A STRONG LOVE SPELL ON YOUR GIRL OR BOY FRIEND

    DO YOU NEED MAGIC POWERS TO DO ANY THING YOU WANT

    ARE YOU FINDING IT DIFFICULT TO CHOOSE A LIFE PARTNER

    DO YOU WANT YOUR PARENTS TO BE PROUD OF YOU

    ARE YOU EXPERIENCING FAILURE AND DISAPPOINTMENT IN ANY THING YOU DO.(ETC)

    i will advice you out there to kindly visit the same website http://bravespellcaster.yolasite.com,if you are in any condition like this,or you have any problem related to “bringing your ex back. So thanks to Dr Brave for bringing back my wife,and brought great joy to my family once again.{bravespellcaster@gmail.com} , Thanks.
    …………………..

  • Terry Collmann

    “just desserts”? Cranachan versus Eton Mess, presumably

  • The_greyhound

    Debate? What debate? the SNP bunker has been sending out briefings for weeks to its dejected trolls – the message being “prepare the faithful for defeat”. Half of all the crazed nonsense we now get from the SNP is that a NO vote in September will only be a tactical set back. Odd, because 19th September clearly marks the end of salmond’s political career, and the beginning of the dissolution of the SNP.

    Like most people in Scotland I can’t wait to see the back of the Weirs’ independence campaign, and the back of the rancid little SNP. No more hysterical piffle, bald lies, pseudo-historical maundering, ranting crypto-racism, or any of the other nationalist crap that has so disgusted decent people in Scotland.

    • monty61

      Amen Brother.

    • Peter Arnott

      Alex Salmond has planted an electronic device in my brain that he runs from his “lair” under Edinburgh Castle so that I do his foul bidding without question.

      • randomsausage

        I read BellaCaledonia for about a week. It was like getting hit on the head by a pissed off salmon. If your goal was to persuade the undecided (me) you failed horribly with your didactic approach. In short, bollix.

    • ChuckieStane

      Still got the tin foil hat then Neil?

      • The_greyhound

        Still want it back, loser?

  • CraigStrachan

    George Galloway makes the key point when he asks “if Britain is so terrible, why does Alex Salmond want to keep so much of it?”

    I expect nationalists will look back on this referendum as a squandered opportunity, when they were forced to make an illogical and ill-conceived “continuity” argument for independence, instead of a logical and emotionally satisfying “clean break” argument. I also expect they will lay the blame at the feet of Alex Salmond, who has tried to be too-clever-by-half and ended up outsmarting himself.

    • abystander

      One could equally ask of Galloway, if Britain is so great why has he spent his political life seeking to change it radically?

      Unsuccessfully.

      • CraigStrachan

        I imagine he’d say that it is Britain he wants to radically change.

        Alex Salmond wants to take Scotland out of Britain, but wants us to believe nothing much will change at all.

  • NorthBrit

    Name one other nation in the world that claims to be country within a country.

    More sophistry from the man who told the House of Lords that if you are a member of a club with two members, if one member leaves, the club continues.

    Unionist logic is a pitiful thing.

    If you like being British, argue why Britain is a good thing. Don’t pretend to be a “proud Scot” while sneering at the idea of an equal union by calling dissolution of the Union “secession” or “separation”.

  • Mike Cullen

    I’m defined, by those who apparently make definitions, whoever they are, as Scottish and British because I was born here and I live here. I don’t ever seriously feel either. The concepts are completely meaningless to me. I seriously don’t understand what they mean and what use they serve. I’m more concerned about the death of socialism, and the thunderous chasm opening up between the haves and have nots. I can no longer see a way to influence this “British” society, through their so called democracy, as all major parties drift further from fair principles, and Westminster sanctions increasing poverty, suffering and death among the poor. I’d like to try to build something new, something fairer, something more democratic. I don’t care how they might define me so long as I get that opportunity. I don’t believe this is at all “nationalist”, it has nothing to do with nations and everything to do with people. Independence offers the chance to create a new, fair, properly democratic country, it really is that simple.

    • Denis_Cooper

      If you don’t feel that you are Scottish in any meaningful way, why do you still expect to have any part to play in how Scottish society develops?

      • alexicon

        Mike expects by voting YES.

        • Denis_Cooper

          I asked why, not how.

          • Mike Cullen

            I said I don’t feel Scottish or British. I don’t see things through that nationalistic prism. I see a completely unfair society, and want to build a fair one. Independence gives us that chance. Nationalities don’t come into it.

          • alexicon

            You also asked how.
            He expects to play a part by voting YES.

  • Cath Ferguson

    “It seems obvious to me that even if you accept the gains that might accrue from independence these would be offset, to some degree at least, by losses”

    That’s surely true for any country in the world that might want to voluntarily cede all sovereignty to a “union” with a much bigger neighbour. We could, for example, elect to become the 51st state of the US and be run by Washington and I dare say there would be some gains to offset the losses.

    And yet no independent country in the world has a movement that wants to be run from somewhere else far bigger than them. There is no movement in Ireland saying, “Independence brought some gains but also some losses, lets go back to being run from London”. Similarly you can’t imagine a movement in Norway saying, “Scandinavia is good and we lost being Scandinavian when we became independent from Sweden so we should go back”

    All the good things about the British Isles – co-operation, being neighbours and friends, sharing etc can be kept while allowing Scotland to run her own affairs. Those who say that can’t possibly be the case are destroying something bigger.

    • The_greyhound

      What a lot of muddled thinking.

      The Weirs’ independence campaign, and the lies the SNP broadcast in support of it, can’t disguise a plain truth, that Scotland will be substantially poorer if it votes for independence, that it will be the only country in the developed world to be using someone else’s currency on the Zimbabwe basis, and that its own economy and its trade relationships will be severely impaired. Independence would come at too high a price, and it is plain the public aren’t prepared to pay such a price just to indulge salmond’s personal vanity.

  • Denis_Cooper

    I hesitate to make this comment on an article written by somebody who has shown within just the last twenty-two hours that he doesn’t really believe in democracy and can’t see any problem with our Parliament being over-ruled by a court in Strasbourg, but it does come down to whether you are prepared to be outvoted and forced to go along with the will of the majority, or at least that of the plurality, within a particular political unit.

    Just as I will never accept that our elected British Parliament can be over-ruled by an unelected court made up mainly of foreigners, whether it is based in Strasbourg or Luxembourg, so I will never accept that British representatives can be over-ruled by representatives elected in foreign countries through majority voting in the EU institutions.

    I will accept, sometimes grudgingly and with difficulty, that I may be outvoted by my fellow British citizens, and although I am English and of mainly English stock back to the 18th century at least and resident in England I am prepared to accept that British citizens resident in Scotland, and in Wales and in Northern Ireland, may sometimes contribute to the majority or plurality who outvote me.

    But if enough of those British citizens resident in Scotland take a different view and strongly resent being outvoted by their fellow British citizens in the rest of the UK then clearly there must be a question whether we form a sufficiently unified British “demos” to underpin a British “democracy”.

    This is not something on which I as an Englishman can really express any opinion,
    it is for the Scots to decide among themselves whether they see themselves as being sufficiently united with the rest of the British to stay in the same political unit and accept whatever majority or plurality decisions may emerge through the British democratic system even when the vote goes against them; however I wonder how those who want Scotland to separate and become an independent sovereign state will react if/when the majority or plurality of Scots outvote them.

    • abystander

      Being outvoted is highly unlikely when in a political union you have 90% of the votes.

      As to me being outvoted by my fellow Scots, so be it.

      • Denis_Cooper

        Actually I’ve been outvoted at almost every general election.

        • abystander

          My commisserations.

          We shouldn’t confuse

          1 Supporters of a party being frequently outvoted within a political system and

          2 A national group being always outvoted in a political union with a bigger national group.

    • ChuckieStane

      Denis, those that want independence will be disappointed in the event of a No vote. The degree of engagement seen during the campaign means that they are unlikely to take a back seat in future Scottish public life.

      Perhaps more interesting will be the reaction of those campaigning for a No vote if they win. Many are campaigning for purely party political reasons not any great conviction for the union.

      Scotland will have (for the first time) democratically voted for the union.

      As in 1707 when church bells in Edinburgh rang out “Why am I sad on my wedding day?”, other than a few shouts at the declaration, it is unlikely there will be any celebrations in the streets of either Scotland or England.

      • Denis_Cooper

        Oh, I would have a quiet celebration.

      • FF42

        I would be relieved that we made the best decision for Scotland. It’s like someone trying to break our marriage. We got through it and it will be fine.

    • Peter Tugendhat

      “he doesn’t really believe in democracy and can’t see any problem with our Parliament being over-ruled by a court in Strasbourg”

      Denis, are you arguing that the UK ceased to be a democracy when Parliament ratified the ECHR in 1950? Or was it in 1959 when the Strasbourg court was set up? If so, I am surprised it’s taken the British people so long to realise, after successive governments of various political shades!

      Is it the geographical location of the court or its European nature that is undemocratic? Because the UK Supreme Court in London can also override Parliament you know. It’s called separation of powers, which is fundamental to liberal democracy.

      • Denis_Cooper

        Firstly, the UK Supreme Court cannot override Parliament.

        Secondly, as far as I can tell Parliament never passed any measure to positively approve the original Convention, it was passed under the Ponsonby Rule which merely required that neither House objected to a treaty laid before it:

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ponsonby_Rule

        Thirdly, the substance of what is now Article 46(1) in the Convention was already in the original 1950 Convention as its Article 53:

        “The High Contracting Parties undertake to abide by the decision of the Court in any case to which they are parties.”

        No, the UK did not cease to be a democracy when that Convention came into force, but one is entitled to wonder how parliamentarians in 1950 could have been so casual about that blatant affront to our national sovereignty and democracy, and so careless about giving that hostage to fortune.

  • Ben Aan

    I like to use a sensible and common sense approach to most things.
    To me, the referendum is about control. At the moment we have 59 MPs representing Scotland, a country with 30% of the land area of the UK, an even greater percentage of sea area, but due to a low population density, very little say or control over this country. I understand why Westminster wants to hold on to that control and power but I do not understand why any ordinary voter living in Scotland would want to give that power and control back to Westminster on the 19th of September.

  • scotcanadien

    People, please compare this fairly well balanced piece with the anti-Scottish rant of the same date by Hamish McDonnell in another part of the Spectator. It is self loathing Scots like McDonnell who are driving the Scots to Independence. (Thank God!)

    • Wessex Man

      Yes indeed, thank you Hamish but get your finger out, time is running out.

  • Wessex Man

    Why oh why do you always have to write a thousand words where a hundred would do? are you paid by the amount of words? If not downsize!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • scotcanadien

    A reasonable piece which covers both sides of the argument. But why has it taken so long for such an article to emerge from the NO side? And although Alan Massie is now willing to concede there are two fairly evenly balanced sides to the argument, that does not apply to many others in the NO camp, nor to the vast majority of London based journalists who know very little about the Independence arguments, and worse know absolutely FUCK ALL about Scotland.

  • Gray

    Like Peter I must admit I’m a fervent Yes voter and struggle to understand how anyone with intelligence can fail to see that we’re defeinitely not Better Together.

    I have asked myself the question “Am I blinded to the alternative?”

    So as a rational person I have to consider the arguments and conduct an analysis.

    I listen to those who would have us vote No, they are at somewhat of a disadvantage as we do know history and can then disprove some of the more obvious lies that they have used during the campaign. Those who promote Yes can be pilloried for their imagination of a future independent Scotland, but cannot be proven wrong.

    Unfortunately those who would have us vote No all seem to have their own personal agenda for wanting the union to remain. Better Together spokesperson Alistair Darling and his Labour MP cohorts immediately spring to mind.

    I see a Britain where a few are excessively rich and growing richer and many more who are becoming decidedly poorer as a result of this government and all their predecessors during my lifetime of mishandling the economy to create such a situation. George Osborne would no doubt disagree that this isn’t how a capitalist economy is supposed to work.

    So let’s examine how a Yes vote might change things.

    I have always been against nuclear weaponry so as none of the UK parties are suggesting they remove Trident (preferably altogether but at least away from central Scotland) so to think by voting Yes I could have this would probably have swayed it for me.

    But hang on, we’ll be living in a richer country, more money to spend on housing, roads and other infrastructure. More jobs as a result. The type of jobs in Scotland that our best leave home for. The opportunity for some sort of wealth redistribution so that foodbanks can become a thing of the past.

    We’d also have a government elected by proportional representation which I’ve always considered a hugely fairer system of democracy that FPTP in that even minorities can get some representation of their views and albeit the exceptional result in 2011 apart will usually produce some sort of consensual government. We certainly won’t have some unelected second chamber that dictates to the masses.

    And we’ll have a constitution that will say that the people are sovereign and no longer subjects.

    Lets also throw in continuance of free healthcare, free education and land reform.

    So I ask myself, there are a whole list of reasons I would consider good enough on their own to want to vote Yes, why on earth would anyone wish to vote No?

    • ChuckieStane

      You point about the personal agendas of the main “no” protagonists is well made.
      The unionists parties, but more specifically their politicians and bag carriers, personally stand to lose a great deal in the event of indy. Peers, MPs researchers, support staff etc scrambling for a seats and jobs in a unicameral Scots parliament. Hopes of high office for the Alexanders dashed. Dreams of ermine as reward for long service on the Labour back benches dashed for ever. The three parties thrown into turmoil as they have to split or disband.
      This self-preservation shines through whilst their arguments of too wee, too poor and too stupid are repeated without conviction.

      • FF42

        Incidentally the “too wee, too poor and too stupid” moniker is a straw man. The words are only ever used by Nationalists. The Unionist argument is that Scotland is prosperous now and is too clever to put that prosperity at risk by choosing to become smaller. You can disagree but that is their argument.

        • ChuckieStane

          Sorry, FF, but is central to virtually every BT argument.

          Too poor to afford pensions, too poor to afford benefits, too poor to have any defence forces, too wee to defend ourselves, too wee to “punch above our weight”, too wee to have any influence, too wee to have any clout in europe, too stupid to be able to mange our own resources.

          Frankly, TWTPTS in one form or another is about all they have

        • David Edwards

          As an “outsider” (australian with english parents) I would beg to differ about the predominance of english flags. My experience of england, scotland and wales was that the only people that called themselves british were the english. I travelled all over England Scotland And Wales by rail.Only in England was it British Rail. In Scotland Scottish Rail and in Wales, Welsh Rail. So I hope Scotland and Wales both get independence and England can be its own independent country once more.

    • FF42

      I am not a fervent NO supporter but I am a rational one. I can try to answer your question.

      While I have a certain sentimental attachment to the Union as a symbol of being together with the other nations of our island, the important thing for me is that whatever we have must work. If that’s independence, then so be it.

      Scotland does well out of the Union. Our companies sell tonnes of stuff to the UK market, which in the main means people south of the border. This prosperity provides a fairly decent lifestyle to most Scots. Some other small countries achieve prosperity in different ways; others are less prosperous. But that’s how we do it now and the commercial opportunities it provides are probably the main purpose of the Union as far as Scotland is concerned.

      If we are to jump ship we need to know about the vessel we are jumping into. leaving the Union comes with significant costs. Those costs are short term, ie they will come quickly, well understood, and highly probable to certain. What concrete benefits does independence bring that are greater than those costs? That’s where the case for independence falls down. I have asked that question and and am happy do so again and listen, but so far nobody has ever come with any convincing reasons.

      Because we are leaving the integrated UK market and moving from selling to an internal market that we are part of and instead trying to sell at the same level as exports, Scotland will inevitably see a large part of its economy move south so that business stays in the UK, where the customers are. That’s fine if we immediately get access to equivalent new markets through independence that we didn’t have access to before, but we won’t.

      Long story short, there will be less business in Scotland in the years following independence, which means higher levels of unemployment and more poverty. It will also means less funding for welfare as the taxbase diminishes. John Swinney effectively admitted in his leaked memo that keeping to the fiscal rules will mean less welfare spending in Scotland compared with Scotland now and the UK in the future, not more. So much for free healthcare, free education and wealth distribution.

      The Whitepaper is long on assertion – we will be more prosperous; we will spend money on this, that and the other; we will save for the future; we will be low tax and high spend; we will create an independent country where we can do our own thing, but there won’t be any borders; we will have a currency union and the rest of the UK will agree because they don’t have a right to an opinion on the matter etc – without providing a basis for those assertions. If we are asked to make a sacrifice for independence and it will be a sacrifice at least in the short and medim term, the false promises in the prospectus don’t make me feel good about the project.

      That’s why I am voting NO. I have considered the arguments and I am still open to argument. The independence case just doesn’t stack up.

      • Gray

        You seem to be basing the argument for No on the prospect of Scotland’s
        economy plunging into doom and gloom as the result of independence.

        I’m
        not an economist but I can do basic arithmetic and as things stand
        currently Scotland would be richer per head of population as an
        independent country.

        Scottish companies do a lot of their
        business in the UK and also all over the world. I fail to see why that
        would change unless others were to put up barriers to trade. That in
        itself of course would force companies to seek new markets and
        opportunites which may be no bad thing in this rapidly shrinking world
        in which we all live.

        I believe that where there is a market need
        there will be a business to supply that demand. I also believe that
        businesses are in business to make money. Very simple philosophy I’m
        sure, but if some companies wanted to move away then others will appear to fill the void.

        If
        you are still open to argument might I suggest you are more worried
        about rUK punishing the Scots for having the temerity to vote for
        separation than for the Scottish economy per se.

  • abystander

    But the English do not think of Britain as Mr Massie thinks of Britain.

    They think and speak as if Britain and England are synonymous, and that Scotland is a kind of extension of England and was ever so.

    This is the tragedy of Scottish Unionists. They are the only real believers in “Britishness”. The “British” option is not real. They must choose to be Scots or ersatz English.

    • ChuckieStane

      As Mr. Massie points out, there is less than two weeks ’til a vote that could end the UK as we know it.

      Polling this week by YouGov and others asked what were the most important issues facing the country at this time. Scottish independence was not listed as an option. Is there any other country in the world where the reduction of landmass by a third and population by a tenth would not be an issue?

      It would appear that Britishness and Englishness are indeed synonymous in the minds of many and the loss of Scotland would therefore leave that identity unchanged.

      Scots bought into the union big time and, as stated atl, Rule Britannia etc. were the result. North British and “NB” were in common usage in Scotland. The truth is nobody in England ever used South Britain.

      There is no reciprocity in the importance placed in the union by unionist Scots and their English counterparts.

    • Wessex Man

      I wonder why it’s now more English Flags adorning houses all over England now and not Union Flags or could it be that we don’t regard English/ British in any way to be inter-changealbe.

      • scotcanadien

        Adorning houses all over England!? I stay in Cambridge for part of the year and also travel all over SE England and I seldom see any English flags except on hotels, public buildings, churches etc (copied from what the Scots do) OR flown by louts, chavs and football supporters.

      • ChuckieStane

        It may well be that there is a shift, particularly in mainstream society and football has helped..
        I watched much of the World Cup on the continent in the presence of large number of Dutch, Belgian and French supporters at their respective matches. All were happy to support their team and, regardless of social background, sported national colours. Many in England seem still to struggle with being English – why not be proud to be English?
        (If the English are shy about being English, none have the cringe like Hamish Mcdonell’s shame at being Scottish on the other thread).

      • abystander

        On the other hand we had theDailly Express confirming that Andy Murray plays in the England Davis Cup team.

    • Damon

      “But the English do not think of Britain as Mr Massie thinks of Britain.They think and speak as if Britain and England are synonymous,”
      Nice of you to explain to us English Unionists what we think. And you’re wrong. Speaking as one such English Unionist, I think of Scotland as a country that has a *distinct* culture and a *distinct* role to play within the Union. That role is always evolving, as it will continue to do when you get some form of devo-max after the ‘no’ vote.
      Your generalized reference to ‘the English’ is a bit of a give-away, I think.

      • abystander

        I wouldn’t want to suggest all the English do that but I think, well, in my experience, friends, family, colleagues, almost all do. If asked to give a coherent account of the distinction between British and English most could not.

        An anecdote now, I accept it is just that. A very good friend, minor public school, Oxford, lawyer, English, a well educated, erudite man, discussing the 100 Years War opined that the Scots had been recruited by the English to fight the French. He knew nothing about Scotland’s role in that, her alliance of very long standing with France, but assumed that as Scotland is part of “Britain” when England/Britain fought France then the Scots must have been fighting with the “British”. Just an example.

        Scotland has a distinct culture and role like any other country in the world which is not dependent on the Union and predates it. Scotland did not come into existence in 1707 and will post date the Union.

        • Damon

          Thanks for your considered response, abystander. Well, the anecdote about your English friend doubtless reflects the shortcomings of English education, Oxford degree notwithstanding.
          Education, incidentally, is one of several areas where we could learn a good deal from our Scottish neighbours. Anyway, I think all the salient arguments have now been put on both sides, and the matter is in the hands of the Scottish electorate, as it should be. In my view, there’s not the slightest contradiction or conflict between Scottish patriotism and British patriotism. We must just agree to differ, while we both wait nervously for the vote.

  • ChuckieStane

    “But accepting that offer requires us to leave a country we’ve already built.”

    Alex, The truth is that country has left us.

    For good or bad the union, Empire et al, achieved remarkable and unifying things. The world has moved on, the UK has moved on and, most importantly, London has moved on.

    Many (but by no means all) Scots propsered under the union. They made decisions that were best for them as individuals, families and communities at that time.

    We are now in a different time. Scots must decide what is best for themsleves, their families and communities now and for the future.

    For many of us, considered thought has lead us to believe independence offers the greatest opportunities.

    • Alexsandr

      the problem isnt scotlands. It is that London has become unlike Britain, and the metropolitan liberals have taken over.

      • dado_trunking

        If metropolitan liberals = Magna Carta second row, then yes.

  • Peter Arnott

    Oh…and Alex…if we were being asked to vote for the Benefits of Union in a spirit of confidence, in a spirit of respect and with your intelligence, you’d be winning hands down. But we’re not and you’re not.

    Interesting times!

  • Peter Arnott

    Thanks for the thoughtful response, Alex. But my original piece on Bella didn’t come out of a clear blue sky of a context of reasoned argument. It came out of the relentless strategy by the No side of demanding the very crystal ball gazing you rightly rubbish from the yes campaign…ALL the time.

    http://bellacaledonia.org.uk/2014/07/17/dinner-with-no-voters-or-what-i-wanted-to-say-before-the-pudding-hit-the-fan/

    My argument, which I’m sincerely delighted that you address so seriously, is that the Moral Hazard is on both sides. And that if we vote No, then the deplorable complacency of wer haverin classes in abjuring all responsibility for decisions made in Westminster will evaporate. We WILL be responsible.We will have given a specific Scottish mandate to Westminster.

    I’m not comfortable with that. You are.

    Respect.

    • The_greyhound

      Why quote the idiot bellacaledonia website? Everyone knows its an SNP stooge. You might as well quote Business For Scotland a though that wasn’t an SNP sockpuppet too.

  • weescamp

    This pooled sovereignty thing. It implies sharing doesn’t it? But how can we share things equitably when the control is all in one place and we only represent a minority view.

    • Peter Arnott

      Precisely. The issue in principle is where power resides. Does it devolve upward from the citizen to the State? Or devolve downwards from the State to the subject. (Bit of a give-away there). Alex is of course right to say that it is perfectly possible and democratic to choose to map the multiplicity of all of our identities onto whatever model we choose. Scotland, the UK, a European state, a world state, even. My argument is that it is only for 15 hours out of the last three hundred years on September 18th that the people in Scotland have been asked AS Scotland, this question. ( We were never asked this kind of thing when Scotland was independent either.) We will have 15 hours of specifically Scottish self-rule at 10pm on September 18th. I think we should hesitate before handing it back.

      • Peter Arnott

        Oh…actually it was THIS blog entry Alex Quoted, if anyone is interested. http://bellacaledonia.org.uk/2014/07/22/who-are-the-scots/

        • monty61

          I just read this. Hilarious. I’ve been arguing with swivel-eyed Gnats since I was at school in Aberdeen in the late 70s (it’s not really a debate as most Gnats are incapable of listening and comprehending the other side of the argument, as Alex points out).

          Though it’s only recently I realised that you lot really believe this pish, as opposed to just spouting it because you are on the wind-up.

          • Peter Arnott

            Thank you for maintaining the tone of sweet reason. I must just be off and slaughter a goat.

            • monty61

              Sweet reason? For Gnats a post secession Scotland will always have blue skies, the oil price will always be high, and every government and institution will be falling over themselves to give us the best possible deal on everything.

              Your blog lumps together all sorts of unrelated stuff in a big stew … lots of BAD things = done by Westminster of course. Taking POWER back = everything will be fixed because the Scottish people are sovereign (and therefore will have magical powers to defy the laws of economics). Panglossian pish.

          • terregles2

            ” You lot really believe this pish” I take it the school debating society didn’t invite you to take part.

        • benbecula

          I’d rather read toilet paper.

      • monty61

        Same ‘ourselves alone’ nonsense that Alex is highlighting. Democracy exists at many levels, and power likewise. The logical outcome of this argument would preclude a seceeded Scotland from joining the EU or signing any national treaty that limits absolute sovereignty of a Scottish parliament. Which is patently daft.

        • Peter Arnott

          Not the first or last to misread Scotland through an Irish prism, can I likewise refer you to article which talks specifically about pooling sovereignty on the understanding that power devolves up and out, not down and through. Thank you.

          • monty61

            Irish prism – well maybe. Here are some solid Gnat attitudes which may well mirror some in Ireland pre-1916:

            – Grudge against the English (tick – though not nearly so justified. Cromwell behaved rather better in Scotland than he did in Ireland for starters)
            – Indifferent rule from a ‘foreign’ capital (tick – again, a popular Gnat fantasy is that we live in misery and squalor under John Bull’s jackboot. But again, the Irish had rather more justification).
            – ‘Neutrality’ or at least antipathy towards our national defence responsibilities – tick. Everybody loves Scotland/Eire so we don’t need submarines, carriers etc do we? A few fishing boats painted grey, we’ll be fine. Besides the Yanks will bail us out.

            Let’s not forget that the state-sponsored influx of Scots in the 17th century was the source of much misery for the local Catholic population for centuries, with a straight line to The Troubles 1969-1998. (Not to mention the infamous Black & Tans). Scot Gnat claims to shared victimhood don’t wash much in Eire.

            • Peter Arnott

              I don’t know who you think you’re talking about but suspect that these “Gnats” may exist only in your brain. I made a point about it being a misreading of history to equate Scotland and Ireland, and you set up a straw man saying the opposite of what I said to then knock down. I am one of these not nationalist nationalist, as it happens. The United Kingdom, all of it, is unjust, unequal and in thrall to corruption. I believe I am acting in solidarity with the all the peoples of these islands when I vote to renegotiate its social dysfunction this September. The little bit of it I happen to live in has an historic opportunity to escape the path chosen for it by an elite (many of whom are Scottish) that means it and the world no good.

              • Blair Spowart

                “Escape the path chosen for it by an elite”

                I don’t think that most politicians are genuinely malevolent, but I can see how a Yes vote might stop Scotland having any ‘bad’ influence – after all, it would barely register on the global political map. But, there seems to be an assumption among some Yes voters that Scotland’s politicians are incapable of corruption and elitism, as if they’re inherently more moral than their counterparts south of the border – they’re not.

              • benbecula

                ” I am one of these not nationalist nationalist(Sic), as it happens.” – you mean you’re just another mixed up YES supporter. Why don’t you just get behind the labour party if “equality” is your aim. There is just something fundamentally dishonest about people such as yourself pushing for Scottish independence.

                • Claire Welsh

                  Equality and the Labour party? In the same breath. You must be a time traveller from the 80s.

            • Damon

              A succession of excellent posts, monty61. Keep it up. We’re winning.

      • Wessex Man

        er, of course Scots had the choice , well the Scottish Parliament did, as did the English Parliament or do you mean the average punter around at the time, if you do the same applies to England.

        • Peter Arnott

          Yes. Of course it does.

    • FF42

      I agree with you up to a point. The issue is that England is ten times the size of Scotland, so the main control is in the larger part. So you could say that such an unequal relationship could never work just because of the different sizes. But it isn’t a zero sum game. Scotland gets genuine benefits out of the Union. More than England in fact, again due to the relative size of each country.

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