This myth is about telling Scots that as an independent nation, we would become non-entities on the global stage. No one would care what we think, and our concerns would be brushed to the side as the Big Boys took control. We would just have to shut up and take it. There are two major problems with the supposed truth of this myth: 1. we already hold no influence and 2. it is not influence that these people seek, but unearned authority.
I’ll take the second point first, because I don’t like following convention. What influence is it that these people talk of? They are, of course, referring to military action, which is made abundantly clear by Moore’s demands that the SNP must explain what an independent Scotland’s defence force would look like, as well as the particularly telling line:
“Scotland deserves to know whether it is going to be part of making the world more secure or simply watching from the sidelines in the future.”
Moore is not interested in “influencing” other countries. When I “influence” someone, I do it through dialogue. I express my take on the situation and try to get the other person round to my way of thinking. That is influence, but it is not what Moore and his ilk want. They wish to “influence” people in the same manner that an armed police officer “influences” you to stand still and hold your hands up (hopefully nowhere near an London underground station turnstile…) It is not influence through discourse; it is compulsion through force.
Unionists like Moore continue to think as if the British Empire still existed. They think that Britain can - and should – tell other countries what to do, and that they have the moral authority to know what is best for everyone (which just so happens to also be best for them – funny that). They know that an independent Scotland would not have the capacity – nor, more importantly, the desire – to boss other nations around and compel them to see the world as unionists do. Rather than being a problem, this is actually one of the refreshing changes that independence would bring.
Secondly, we already hold no influence in the world. How could we? Unionists such as Ruth Davidson tell us that we have influence as part of the “great nation” that is the United Kingdom. But this would only work if the UK’s foreign policy was shaped by Scottish interests. Scotland has no desire to wage war on other countries – we’ll leave the macho appendage-waving contests to other, more primitive-minded nations such as the UK and USA. Unionists of a more pacifist mindset say it is precisely because Scotland doesn’t want to indulge in warmongering that we must remain in the union – as a calming influence. But it’s clear that we don’t hold any sway with the UK government, whose only interest is in keeping up the appearance that the UK is one of the big players on the global stage. If we don’t have any influence within the UK, how on earth could have have any on the global stage?
Saying that Scotland would have no influence on the world implies that small countries have no influence. Perhaps this is true – on their own. But in the 21st century, there is no place for rogue states unilaterally deciding what is best for the rest of the world. Consensus must be built among groups of nations, and Scotland must be allowed to build that consensus with nations that it does not necessarily share borders with; countries that share our ideals rather than our head of state; countries that have no interest in ignoring the UN and making up stories to allow them to remove dictators who no longer do what they are told to do.
As Salmond’s spokesman says in the BBC article, the contribution of smaller countries such as Norway, Denmark and Sweden shows up the lie that smaller countries cannot make a contribution to military action when there is a international consensus. What they can’t do is wage war on other countries by themselves. The idea that this is a bad thing is one of the biggest myths of all, an attitude more suited to the 19th century, much like the union itself.
Scotland’s biggest influence on the world has been through our thinkers. As an independent nation, one which puts education at the forefront of its national values, we can strive towards a second Scottish Enlightenment. That is far more important than having nuclear submarines parked in the Clyde. An independent Scotland would not lose its influence on the world – instead, we would finally rediscover our voice.
Scotch Myths is a series Doug Daniel.