What Are Project Fear So Afraid Of?

imagesNationalBy Peter Arnott

1) Scotland Branch

The deep and historic local paradox of the “Independence Question” is that the ruling class in Scotland have always actually been in favour of independence from UK control- from 1707 to the present day. They think they’ve already got it. This, it may seem strange to say, is why they’re so overwhelmingly against our voting for it now.

The terms of the Treaty of Union that Our Ruling Class negotiated in 1707 meant that from the outset, the law, the kirk, the schools and Universities retained their functional distinctiveness and indeed, “independence” from the amalgamation of merely political power that happened when the Parliament voted itself out of existence. So, throughout the18th Century, while the Kirk provided universal schooling against the wiles of the Papacy, the land owners, crucially, kept right on owning the land, indeed kept a very tight hold of it indeed with the help of the rather more stringently feudal character of distinctive Scottish law.

Between them, these institutions fostered the growth of an argumentative, egalitarian, enlightened and yet sheepishly unambitious bourgeoisie, overwhelmingly loyal to the Empire and the broader culture offered by British trade and the English language. In the 19th century, this middle class was added to by the bureaucratic, mercantile and military employment prospects of the Empire and its civil service, so eagerly sought and filled by comparatively well-educated Scottish ” lad o pairts” – Scots at less than a tenth of the population of the UK provided fully a third of the colonial bureaucracy.

In the twentieth century, the secretariat of the welfare state, local government, nationalized industry and industrial scale education was a similar pool of opportunity for the advancement of a new clean-collared echelon of Scottish Labour Aristocracy.

Thus evolved a succession of unelected and anti-nationalist national hegemonies within an unsupervised outpost of a British state that granted functional independence to this succession of Scottish elites, who remained aloof from democratic oversight both from Westminster, which didn’t care that much, and, more importantly, from an electorate in Scotland which didn’t count for anything.

As a matter of the exercise of practical power, then, the Scottish Ruling Class are already “independent.” They are independent of an indifferent London, but also, crucially, they are independent of us. This is why, for them, political Independence is unnecessary. They already have “independence.”

That’s how they know so well it is far too good for the rest of us.

Scotland has been governed since the Union in 1707 by a series of locally unaccountable local elites each with their power derived from subservience to the bigger, wider, British elite of which they form the cadet branch, deriving satisfaction from being effective servants of that wider unaccountable interest. On the most banal level, this explains why our devolved politics at Holyrood have been both quietly efficient behind the scenes in private while resembling a screechy playground fight in public. “It’s Oor Baw!” they all cry, as if Scotland was a single piece of property to be screeched over in public and efficiently controlled in secret.

As indeed, in some senses, under the stewardships of successive hegemonies, it always has been run and screeched over. It is this pre-democratic sphere of privilege, safe from London because un-regarded by London, and still effectively unaccountable in Scotland, that is now seriously threatened.

The question in the referendum can be ultimately rephrased as: Do You Think that Political Power in Scotland should be in the gift of a sovereign Scottish People, or remain in the gift of sovereign power invested in the Westminster parliament? Put the question that way and you understand why they will move heaven and earth to stop us.

It is also why the anti-nationalist Scottish National Establishment is so steadfastly and paradoxically running away from power and responsibility. They are used to power without responsibility, is the explanation. They’ve come to prefer it that way. It is not power they fear, or even nationalism they oppose, ultimately. It is effective democratic oversight. It is democracy itself they’re afraid of.

There is something finally rather primitive at the base of our democratic under-development. The Scottish Middle Class, which includes the Labour-voting, publicly employed middle class, tends to support the Union because, ultimately, they don’t trust the people in the next street.

This is why from the Scottish Law Society to the BBC and CBI as well as Labour dominated local government, the powers that be in Scotland are in the No camp. Devolution has already exposed them and made them vulnerable and scrutinized in way they’re not used to, and they fear that independence might finish them. But “the people” was the fiefdom from which first the Scottish Unionists and then Labour drew their “deliverable” vote, once upon a time. And while first the Protestant Ascendancy, then the welfare state and mass employment and housing lasted, they did indeed deliver a stream of MPs and real leaders through their passive, un-consulted, barely visible and slavishly reliable electoral base. That this political base began to disintegrate, along with the collective provision and mass employment on which it was founded, was an obvious sequel, and it seems curious that Labour, for example, should have been taken so much by surprise. But they were. Even having lost two elections in a row they barely seem to credit it and act as if some terrible mistake will soon be corrected and everything will return to normal.

A return to normality is what they are gambling on in September. They only took the gamble because they were certain that our fearfulness, our inexperience of self-rule, would still slavishly deliver the vote they wanted. They are not so sure now. They will move heaven and earth to stop us. By contrast, if the Yes side can persuade the people of Scotland that it’s “Independence” that is “normal”, and the only real expression of sovereignty and of democracy, then heaven and earth can’t stop us.

2) London Branch

To dispense with the absurd before attempting the sublime, this week has seen the launch of both the Better Together and Yes Scotland constitutional pitches.

On the Yes Scotland side, this was in the form of the draft constitution presented by Nicola Sturgeon. On the “No Thanks” front we had a photo-op in front of a poorly designed, half built impersonation of the Parthenon in Athens, where real democracy was invented.

Passing over the symbolic imbecility in the name of kindness, I do wonder whether these New Powers they are talking about borrowing – “The Best of Both Worlds” as they have called them, have been signed off line by line at Westminster, where the power, as opposed to the power, will still remain. Have the PLP been squared? The 1922 Committee? After they deliver the No vote they promised to the senior branch of our representation, are they really sanguine that all those Welsh and English and Northern Irish MPs will be happy to see more sweeties given to the Scots, especially after we’ve just voted our only real bargaining card off the table? Michael Forsyth certainly seemed to think otherwise in the Daily Politics Studio. “Best of Both Worlds? Cake and Eat it, more like”, he seemed to say. And in the end, after a No vote, it won’t matter what they’ve promised the electorate in Scotland. What they can get through Westminster will be what matters.

It may be that a Yes Vote is the vote for certainty by comparison. Vote No and God knows what we’ll get. We certainly won’t have any say in it.

In any case, to loftier matters, or rhetoric, anyway.

“In Scotland , the People are sovereign” says the top line of the new Scottish Constitution proposed this week by Nicola Sturgeon. Well, I’ve looked it up. And in Scotland, in England in Wales and Northern Ireland, Elizabeth Windsor Saxe-Coburg Battenburg is sovereign.

To say otherwise is treason, I’m delighted to report.

The word “sovereign” is not just a word in a constitutional monarchy. It is the origin and principle of every authority in war making and law making, tax raising and spending. Our politicians are fond of describing Britain as a democracy. But Britain HAS democracy. Not IS a democracy. Democracy is just a way of administering. The crown exercises sovereignty through parliament. Parliament is a conduit of power, not the source of it.

Now some will say this is pedantry, that the Royal Family are just window dressing for the tourists, and they’d be right about that. The living individual members of the brood are incidental. What matters is that power in this country, by which I mean the UK, is ultimately unaccountable to the people. The people are not sovereign in the UK. Let alone the Scots in Scotland! The people are subject. You ask a lawyer.

Scotland, with its paradoxes of a powerful bourgeois culture with no aspiration to take charge of their own destiny, can stand for the whole for which it is, again paradoxically, the most representative historical constituent. It is a constituent part of the whole, under the crown, but it is just a bunch of constituencies under the Crown in Parliament at Westminster. In exists as an administrative unit. It does not exist, as such, in democratic terms at all. Let alone as a sovereignty.

(Glasgow Cathcart exists, as a parliamentary constituency. Scotland, like England, Wales and Northern Ireland, doesn’t. The parliament in Holyrood exists as democratic window dressing to the administrative devolution of powers that existed before 1999. These powers are loaned, not sovereign in themselves. Again, ask a lawyer.)

Unwritten results of old wars and horse-trading aside, the deeper crisis afflicting this pre-democratic polity of ours is the decision by its rulers that democracy, in the sense we have understood it, has rather had its day. Among those in the know, ever since Alan Greenspan, architect of the nineties and noughties speculative boom and bust, went into Bill Clinton’s office the day after his inauguration in 1993 and told him to forget everything he had promised by way of state action to improve the lives of the population during the campaign, the world’s elite have operated their casino on a post-democratic basis.

The market, Greenspan told Clinton, has replaced the polity as the arena of free choice. Extend participation in the market place and you serve freedom better than any occasional plebiscite. Wealth will accumulate hugely for the elite, while the extension of credit will mean that everybody can play within limits set by the rule makers of the market. The rule makers of the market will in every case outrank the rule makers who have been elected in the frankly antique exercise of “democracy.” There are laws in draft and about to come into place that will enshrine the interests and legal status of transnational corporations so that they will forever be able to ignore the merely voted for laws in the localities in which they happen to find themselves and sanction any government who attempt to stand up to them.

Underpinning this bleak enthronement of the dismal science, this sovereignty of the market, is the exhaustion and corruption of the Enlightenment Project. Smart people don’t believe in anything anymore. They talk about the Wisdom of Crowds, they talk about the money markets. They don’t talk about freedom and justice and truth. I should feel embarrassed even to type the words. Such ideas are fine for the public prints, but proper grown up folk only ever talk about power.

And it is this power, as ever, in its modern, weary guise, that guides the flow of what Kurt Vonnegut called “The Great Money River”, with that flow of capital being the only good, the only value that anyone believes in. Everything else is dust and ashes.

In this weary atmosphere of nihilism and wealth accumulation, the words “In Scotland, the People are sovereign” are not only treasonable, they are revolutionary. In six words, they potentially upset everything, like the five words from the beginning of the democratic era : “all men are created equal.”

They are a throwback, an absurdity, a joke. Aren’t they?

If we vote for them, on September the 18th, then we are not merely upsetting the apple-cart of our local elite, we are denying the very structure on which the glorious revolution of 1688 was founded, and of which the Treaty of Union was the capstone. We are fatally undermining the deal that built the Empire and that sustains the unrepresentative exercise of power in these islands and well beyond.

We are darting at the heart of the elite everywhere. What’s not to like about that?

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28 replies

  1. Don’t worry, the elite will simply ignore and deny it. If we try and effect it they will firstly tell us we are too wee, too stupid and too poor to matter. Then we have a choice. We can do a Chavez and use the oil to buy influence, but then we have to nationalise it . . .

    At least with a currency union we will have insulation from the usual money market punishments for uppity countries (ask Argentina as well as Venezuela). England never much bothers when the BoE sets a base rate that is inimical or out of step with us now so I doubt they will after Independence. I see they kept it the same this time around but note when it goes up it will not be to quell a housing bubble here in Scotland, yet my mortgage and my offspring’s rent will both go up as a result. Note I have pretty much paid off the interest on my mortgage yet my rate will still increase.

  2. I really should get my own blog started…

    You failed to ask where power *truely* comes from. It comes from what you can convince people to do.

    Granted, threatening people with death or violence can convince some people, but at the end of the day, if everyone says “no” to someone, then that person has (roughly) no more power than anyone else. (And you still need to be able to convince people to threaten on your behalf, if you want to have power over more than a few people)

    The simple act of refusing to participate in their system, (which they designed and built to benefit only themselves) if done by enough people, will turn them into nothing more than people in fancy dress.

    Remember, they have no more power than we choose to give them. You just have to realise that you can *always* say no.

  3. In Scotland – the people are sovereign – It is such a beautiful Idealistic and attainable thing that I can’t do anything else other than vote YES.

    • The people’s sovereignty, or democracy, is a very fragile thing, so guard it jealously. That can only mean voting YES, as you say. If only we the people were sovereign here in England. Good luck to the Yes vote on Sep 18, and good luck as an independent nation, from a proud Englishman.

  4. At a meeting in Paisley last week, Jim Sillars spoke of the potential for an independent Scotland to deliver what he called a “working class Parliament. It was a tantalising and exciting vision of a social democracy at the very end of his speech he said this. He has said it many times before, but it’s such a good line I think I will say it now.

    “On the 18th of September, between the hours of 7 am and 10pm, the people of Scotland are sovereign, nothing and no-one can take that sovereignty away for those fifteen hours. At one minute past 10, we will either have thrown that power away or at long long last our time (the time of working class people) will have come.”

  5. As an English lawyer with no knowledge of Scots law principles (Pro-Yes by the way), I am interested in understanding better the practical distinction between Parliamentary sovereignty and popular sovereignty. In both cases, it seems that individuals elect representatives who have the power to make laws. Are there checks and balances on lawmakers in popular sovereignty between elections that the people retain? Maybe I’ll do some research!

  6. Hugh MacDiarmid called them ‘the loyal Kikuyu’.

  7. This neatly explains why JK is voting no.She just doesn’t understand that outside her billionaire bubble there are actually Scots living from day to day.I believe Norman Tebbit recently got a shock.He thought food banks were just being used by lazy greedy people who didn’t necessarily need the food.He apologised and had the humility to realms he was wrong.Maybe JK needs to do the same.But would it make any difference! She is a publicity seeker and only gives to charity if it involves a photo op I.e look at how egalitarian I am folks.Billionaires will not oersude Scots to do as they want.Its about power and control.The upper classes want to rule the common man.

  8. Sovereign?, that will do for me!

  9. This article by Peter Arnott is one of the most comprehensive demolition jobs on the “British Establishment” that I have had the privelege to read.

    I had never before considered how the land-owning fraternity already considered that they had “independence”. Independence from any kind of scrutiny as they continued to accrue yet more acres of our native land to themselves by using, not only, the law of prescription but by any subterfuge that an overbearing aristocrat could devise.

    I cannot but look forward to an Independent Scotland where land ownership is transparent and all, and every, tax due on that holding is paid in full. No more “Ginge Manor Estates Ltd.” registered in Nassau, Bahamas, as per David Cameron’s father-in-law, Lord Astor, whose 17,500 acre estate on Jura is registered off-shore and pays no tax. Whatsoever.

    • Don’t expect any sudden change to Lord Astor’s estate. The initial response by the Scottish Government to the report last month by its Land Reform Review Group advice on taxation, isn’t encouraging.

      Currently I am an admirer of the SNP but once Independence is achieved, while not wanting revolution I will wish augmented evolution.

  10. This is great to see the real anatomy of power being tackled this way, including the manner in which the Christian religion was perverted by landed power. Spiritual colonisation is always the deepest form of colonisation because it goes to the soul, and on both Catholic and Protestant sides of the equation it is tragic to see how true faith was usurped. In that respect, partly prompted by Andy Wightman’s “The Poor Have No Lawyers,” I have been reading Thomas Johnston’s long out-of-print (1929) “The History of the Working Classes in Scotland.” Chapter 5 is called “The Democratic Theocracy.” As much of my work these days is with theology and spirituality I have scanned it and placed it on my website to raise awareness (long out of copyright, I think). The short URL for the pdf is: http://goo.gl/sIwZGz

    • My children went to a religious school ( in England ) and received a sooper ” comprehensive” education ie no financial or educational selection of entrants.

      Having said that I’m intrigued by your term “spiritual colonisation” and do wonder if religious schools should be abandoned in an iScotland.

      • My issue is with the subversion of the spiritual by corrupted religion, and not with religion in itself. In fact, I see good religion as the trellis up which the spiritual vine of life grows, so no problem with the kind of school you describe. What bothers me is when I see Jesus teaching “love one another” and the hawks reverting back to the old law of Exodus, and quoting “an eye for an eye”. This discredits both outward religion and inner spirituality and is the reason why we need liberation theology to liberate theology itself. Gustavo Guttierez, the Peruvian “father” of liberation theology said: “To liberate = to give life”. In the face of the obscenity that is Trident, that is why a minority of us would see the Scottish referendum as being profoundly a matter of spiritual concern.

    • Thanks for that. Just finished reading the litany of barbarity therein. We are truly fortunate to live in Enlightened times in a post Christian society unbothered by clergy unless we volunteer to be.

      • Aye, though my criticism of Johnston is that he brings out the dark side of the church in Scottish history, but not its bright side. Both were interwoven and not only must we not forget the latter, but in my view, we must work to refine it, to give life.

  11. I thought your introduction was so good…. I firmly believe it should be taught in schools… it summed it up so well and so clearly… without the fog that makes people lose interest… classically excellent…

  12. If you liked this article I reccomend you read “Caledonian Dreaming” by Gerry Hassan. He covers the whole panoply of vested insterests and Scotland’s Elite in this book. He also covers many more topics. It’s a fine and thought provoking read.

  13. “The first man who, having enclosed a piece of ground, said to himself: ‘This is mine’, and found people naive enough to believe him, was the real founder of civil society. From how many crimes, wars, and murders, from how many horrors and misfortunes might not any one have saved mankind, by pulling up the stakes, or filling up the ditch, and crying to his fellows: Beware of listening to this impostor; you are undone if you once forget that the fruits of the earth belong to us all, and the earth itself to nobody.” (Rousseau).

    The rot set in long ago. The Swiss were fortunate in not having any kings or princes to get rid of before they could establish their democracy. But they did have to rise up against the ‘liberals’ (wealthy entrepreneurs and industrialists) who had taken control of parliament and whose factories were putting traditional craftsmen out of work.

    Democracy means “people power” or “rule by the people” i.e. by all those entitled to vote. The “representative democracy” we know is a contradiction in terms because it places the decision-making power in the hands of a very small minority who, for obvious reasons, cannot represent the spectrum of views of the majority. Political parties, representing sectarian interests, are thus inherently undemocratic.

    Representation as a system of administration would only be ‘democratic’ if the people as a whole had decided – by majority, or preferably by consensus – to give their decision-making power to representatives. That has never been the case and therefore our present system, in democratic terms, is illegitimate. It is, as Lord Hailsham observed, an “elective dictatorship”. The power claimed by royalty is in any case always stolen power, as Rousseau explained.

    Our passports declare us to be ‘subjects’, but the monarchy has no real political power – or claim on our allegiance. The idea that the Queen owns the sovereign power and that parliament merely exercises it on her behalf is just part of the fraud – the means by which the true sovereignty of the people is denied by those who claim to represent it on our behalf.

    Rousseau astutely noted the paradox of representation (essentially the point Jim Sillars made): “The English people believes itself to be free; it is gravely mistaken; it is free only during the election of members of parliament; as soon as the members are elected, the people is enslaved; it is nothing. In the brief moment of its freedom, the English people makes such a use of that freedom that it deserves to lose it.”

    Every parliamentary election under a representative system that was not chosen by the true sovereign is a reinforcement of that effective political enslavement.

    • For further clarification, this from a Swiss colleague who has lived for many years in Finland and is therefore familiar with both Swiss direct democracy and Finnish representative (so-called) democracy:

      “It is easy to show that what is called “representative democracy” is not a democracy nor was it ever intended to be one. A quick look back in history helps us to understand where we are today. The Athenians practiced active citizenship: They debated and took decisions in the Assembly, the Council, and the courts. They made decisions about foreign policy, about war and peace. What set Athenians apart from the rest of the world was not the exclusion of women and slaves, but the extraordinary degree of inclusion and participation. While Athenian democracy was built from below, modern democracy was built from above. For example: The Founding Fathers of the USA were mostly rich and propertied men. Their concern was to install an efficient central government. They wanted a “republic”, and certainly not the Athenian type of democracy. In the Federalist 63 Madison makes this crystal clear: The true distinction between ancient and modern democracy “lies in the total exclusion of the people in their collective capacity from any share in the government.”1

      “Representative (liberal) democracy” is a “democracy” without popular sovereignty, like an egg without the yolk. It is a regime that prevents people from exercising their political sovereignty. There exists a gap between rulers and ruled, between people and governments. They are separated by a categorical inequality, usually enshrined in the constitution. Laws are made on behalf of the citizens, not by them or with them.”

  14. ‘….that Robert the Bruce had delivered the Scottish nation from this peril; and, most controversially,

    that the independence of Scotland was the prerogative of the Scots people, rather than the King of Scots. In fact it stated that the nobility would choose someone else to be king if the current one did anything to threaten Scotland’s independence.

    While this last point is often interpreted as an early expression of ‘popular sovereignty’ – that kings could be chosen by the population rather than by God alone – it can also be argued to have been a means of passing the responsibility for disobeying papal commands from the king to the people. In other words, Robert I was arguing that he was forced to fight an illegal war (as far as the Pope was concerned, since they were meant to be fighting against the Infidel, not each other[3]) or face being deposed. However, the context suggests that this claim was made to bolster Bruce’s position as the legitimate ruler of Scotland. A justification had to be given for the rejection of King John in whose name William Wallace and Andrew de Moray rebelled in 1297. The reason given in the Declaration is that Bruce was able to defend Scotland from English aggression whereas, by implication, King John could not…..’

    http://www.proudscotland.co.uk/pagefiles/declaration.htm

    ‘popular sovereignty’ the Scots people – a translation and an interpretation of the Declaration of Arbroath

  15. This is an incredibly helpful article.

    It gives a sharp and clear analysis of who already holds the real power in Scotland and why they wish to remain anonymous and wish to retain the status quo. Then, having done that, it shows the way this is happening more globally.

    Yes, those 6 words are revolutionary, and, as someone earlier up the comments says, that makes Sept 18th just the beginning of our work.

    September 19th: the morning after the centuries before? It depends what we do next

  16. Project fear has moved me from a federal union to a independent country,why?

    1.campaign has shown no respect to a educated scottish nation waiting on clear balanced information.

    2.they slur the 1st minister at will,forgetting the ball is Scotland.

    3.ive learnt so much from blogs,Lallands Peat Worrier,Bella Caledonia

    4.MSM to a penny,follow the project fear line.

    5.Im waiting on David Hasselhoff to declare no

    6.If a country like Scotland with all it’s resources and people can’t be independant,mankind is doomed

Trackbacks

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