2007 - 2021


I’ve been involved for several months now with the Coalition of Resistance in Glasgow, an interesting development with a participative format and an activist focus, designed to draw together disparate groups resisting the cuts across Glasgow offering mutual support and solidarity as well as practical help.  At the time of launch back in July, I was mildly nervous about the direction this initiative could take.  Don’t get me wrong, it was a great launch – with very short top table speeches followed by participative group sessions.  To help us on our way the already established CoR in England had sent up a speaker to tell us about the work that they had been doing there and give us some pointers in how most effectively pinpoint pressure.

The speaker was very welcome, spoke very well and informatively, however insisted on referring to the need to target the “national” government, the “national” conference of CoRe and the need for a “national” strategy of resistance. None of which I disagreed with, however it was transparently clear that his nation and mine are not one and the same – and moreover he seems to think that his includes mine.

This certainly isn’t a new development on the part of the English Left. Most of them don’t even acknowledge that they are the English Left, claiming that their scattered supporters in North Britain qualifies them for “national” status, but it is becoming more and more jarring as time goes on. Take the latest campaign from the UNITE union, if ever there was a campaign to make a Scottish Socialist’s blood boil this has to be it. Under the slogan of “Don’t Break Britain” an image of a giant wrecking ball is shown, aiming for central England, leaving Scotland untouched in the hinterlands.

That wrecking ball isn’t going to miss Scotland as it swings but moreover I’ve got no objection to Britain being broken. In fact, I’d quite like that wrecking ball to aim itself at the already existing cracks running up, down and across the UK.. Not half as much as it has to be said thought that its more direct victims, maimed Iraqis, orphaned Afghanistanis and terrified Libyans. In fact, if I was a Chaigos islander and got my mits on that ball, I’d probably be tempted to see if I could do a swapsy for one of the Cruise missiles that it planted where I used to live. Sometimes I feel the English Left, lacks a level of ambition. More than once in the coalition of resistance meeting the speaker talked of the need to bring down “the” government, but they show no appetite for taking on the whole corrupt UK state and smashing it to smithereens.

A Scot talking about the English, particularly in less than glowing terms, always tempts the Irvine Welsh accusation that we “oppress ourselves by our obsession with the English breeding the negatives of hatred, fear, servility, contempt and dependency” but I’d like to think that we’ve moved on. Rather like an excitable but untrained puppy, that you love dearly but wish that they would stop chewing the furniture, the radical English Left always leave me somewhat saddened that they are not all that I would have hoped from them. In ordinary times, this tends to prompt a sigh, a wry smile and a certain resignation, but these are no ordinary times. The mantle of “Englishness” has been seized. Snatched from under the noses of the descendants of the Levellers, the Peterloo rebels, the Swing rioters and the Liverpool dockers, it is now in dangerous hands.

The English Defence League has claimed Englishness as it own and shone it back in a distorted mirror, bleached of its diversity. The British bulldog sitting quietly at the feet of John Bull has been replaced by an English pitbull, fiercely loyal to its master and snarling at anything which threatens to disrupt its precarious place in its masters affections, taking the kicks with deference and snivelling, before snapping at anyone who threatens the the table from which they obtain their crumbs. The EDL are undoubtably a problem, but on their own they are containable. Outside a small constituency which responds to their calls they are derided, a more worrying development is the influence that they appear to be having on the mainstream.

First New Labour, now Blue Labour – the party of Keir Hardie is rapidly becoming more like the one founded by Mosley. When in power it presided over a racist immigration system that saw hundreds of thousands of people denied asylum or sent back to danger and persecution. It locked up old men, pregnant women, scared teenagers and terrified toddlers. In the name of “terror” and “bogus asylum seekers” it introduced a level of state surveillance unparallelled anywhere else in the world, where its citizens are captured on camera multiple times a day as they go about their business. It persecuted entire communities, conducting raids on flimsy evidence and using even flimsier evidence to persuade judges to lock up citizens without trial. Now – out of power and searching for popular notion to re-connect with the populace – it has seized on the racism promoted by its own policies, whipped up to a frenzy in the streets and pubs of working class areas by proto-fascist bullyboys and is offering it back to the public as fascism-lite. Glassman, one of its key architects has stated that Blue Labour should rally around family, faith and work, a gender neutral restatement of the 3Ks.

Hard times bring disjunction, unsettlement and anxiety – how can they not when your paypacket is lighter, your fridge is empty and your home is under threat. Eighty years ago, that insecurity was exploited in Germany as a murderous and vile ideology gained a grip – an ideology that in principle still horrifies us, but it is worth remembering that concentration camps are not the first sign of fascism, but among the last.

It is time for the English Left to put its own house in order. I extend the warmest comradeship and solidarity to them as they do that. They have a challenge on their hands that I think it is difficult for us to understand here, but no good will come of ignoring the national question and what England is becoming. To dismiss the English as racist, narrow minded Daily Mail readers pitted against the glory of the British Working Class is to risk a self-fulfilling prophesy. The English Left needs to develop and nurture an English identity which is inclusive, radical and progressive. One which celebrates the diversity of English culture and remembers with pride the traditions which have shaped it.

One which is capable of looking beyond its borders and further than just those those that it shares an island with, to remote Pacific Islanders, maimed Iraqi children and Libyan civilians bombed out of their homes as the UK government turns on the dictator they  covertly supported for years

Comments (0)

Join the Discussion

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. This is a remarkably patronising article, which shows a profound ignorance of both the debates going on in various parts of the English left and a contempt for popular opinion. If it’s in any way typical of the ‘Scottish left’, then you have some big problems in your country. Fortunately, I don’t think it is.

    To dismiss Blue Labour as ‘fascism lite’ is just infantile – really, quite pathetic. (Quite apart from falling foul of Godwin’s law, of course). Blue Labour, whatever you may think of it, is an attempt by sections of a party that has become dominated by a deracinated, intellectual middle-class elite to reconnect with popular opinion. Yes, it does tackle, among many other things, the issue of immigration – not an issue that the Scottish left has had to deal with yet, as you have very little of it, and you know very little of multiculturalism English-style. It is challenging, on all sides, and brings about strong feelings. Glassman has realised, as the wider left is realising, that the kind of position represented by this piece – call anyone who dares to discuss immigration a ‘fascist’ and hope they go away – is part of the reason why horrible monsters like the EDL are appearing. If you don’t realise that, you don’t know the first thing about why the left is failing, all over the UK.

    The English left needs, certainly, to root itself in English culture and history, as the Scottish left does. But our situation is very different to yours. When I read commentators like Gerry Hassan I see writers of the Scottish left who get this, and have serious things to say about it. This article, by contrast, is both ignorant and insulting. Bella can do better.

    1. Allen Aitken says:

      you are ignorant to believe that scotland quote “the issue of immigration – not an issue that the Scottish left has had to deal with yet, as you have very little of it, and you know very little of multiculturalism ” that is the problem with the left in england so warm and smug wrapped up in a bubble of self ignorance, 1 have you ever been to a city in scotland? 2 Immigration facts 26% of those living in scotland were born in england, im sure if any group south of the border reached such numbers the blackshirts would have been out rounding up non anglos, the point she was making was the left in england has not produced an ideology that dosen’t smack of imperialism, personaly i’ve wasted too many years explaining to the left down south, it seems you must learn the hard way, i just feel sorry for those who put their trust in the likes of you

  2. ewanmc says:

    ‘Mutli-culturalism English style’ ?? Please elaborate? I am genuinely intrigued, having lived in both England and Scotland. Maybe I am living in a parallel universe but guess what, there are many ‘new Scots’ here in the south side of Glasgow.

  3. Scotland’s ethnic minority population is around 2%. England’s is around 9%. Most immigration has an impact on England, because England is where most immigrants want to stay within the UK, for economic and often family reasons. Glasgow, your most diverse city, has around the same ethnic makeup as Hull, which is one of our least diverse cities. Over half of the population of England’s capital city were not born in England. Edinburgh has nothing comparable.

    Scotland is far more ethnically homogenous than England, and has seen far less immigration. This is one of the reasons that you are able to harbour a clearcut nationalist movement and widespread nationalist sentiment, and it is one of the reasons why such an approach would not work in England (which is maybe for the better.)

    Ethnic and demographic change in England is now very rapid. Over a quarter of the children born in England last year were to foreign-born mothers. Whether you regard this as good or bad or neither, it is certainly a big and rapid change and for many it is destabilising and confusing. The EDL, which is far less significant than the media and the left make it out to be, is an outgrowth of the fear these changes generate for many, as was the BNP. England’s other issue is that we don’t have a mainstream nationalist response to this; we don’t have a party, say, like Plaid or the SNP, which can articulate our sense of nationhood in a way which is inclusive and not based on fear or bigotry. I don’t see this changing while we remained governed by Westminster in its current form.

  4. mhairi says:

    Glassman’s views are simply repugnant.

    “Britain is not an outpost of the UN”
    “The people who live here are the highest priority”
    “Britain should renegotiate the rules on EU migration”

    This is EDL territory. Beyond the racism and xenophobia tho, the sexism that permeates his work jumps out at you – Labour as an unhappy marriage of a middle class woman and a working class man, not only demonstrating that he doesn’t actually understand the structure of class as a relationship to the means of production, but that progressive identity politics are simply written off as a middle-class, trendy, guardian reading, tofu consumer’s concern – a retrogressive step that women, Blacks and gays on the left have fought for *years* against.

    As for the racial structure being different in England than it is here, then yes, that is true to an extent – our ethic communities don’t come as colour coded as down south. That is not to say that we don’t have racism and bigotry – Neil Lennon is testament to that.

    I dont have a problem with Glassman or anyone else discussing immigration, I just have a problem with what they say about it. There is global migration on an unprecidented scale because the West is waging war on third world nations – sometimes with bombs, sometimes with international finance, sometimes with the effects of climate destabilisation.

    Lets look less at how awful it is for rich Westerners to have to put up with smelly Brown people and start thinking about how disgusting it is that people can’t remain in their own countries because of the actions supported by the Governments of these rich Westerners.

  5. Yes, I’m certain that what motivates Maurice Glasman is a hatred of ‘smelly brown people’ and a desire to defend ‘rich Westerners’. As I was telling the Peoples Front of Judea only yesterday.

    Much as I love arguing about immigration on the internet (*sarcasm*) I think I’m going to give responding to this miss. I can read better stuff in Socialist Worker. One thing that might be worth considering though – especially for a site which campaigns for ‘independence, self-determination and autonomy’ is the implications of this statement:

    ‘Glassman’s views are simply repugnant … [he says]: “The people who live here are the highest priority”’

    Is that repugnant? Because you know that’s what self-determination means, right? That the people of a particular area, usually defined as a historic ‘nation’, which is usually (for example, in the case of both Scotland and England) a mostly ethnically homogenous group of people inhabiting a specified landmass, have the right to determine what happens to that nation, and to the people within it.

    Is this website now set against self-determination, or does self-determination only count on some issues and not others? And if you argue that a government should not prioritise its own people – the ones who vote for it, pay for it and are required to obey the laws it passes – are you not arguing not only against the principle of national self-determination but against the basis of representative democracy?

    Complicated, isn’t it? I blame the smelly brown people. Mmm.

    1. bellacaledonia says:

      ” a mostly ethnically homogenous group of people inhabiting a specified landmass, have the right to determine what happens to that nation, and to the people within it” – actually that is explicitly NOT what the SNP argue, nor anyone I know in the independence movement.

      Nor is it, for example what Alasdair Gray speaks of when he writes of ‘Why Scots Should Rule Scotland’:

      I’m really not sure of your choice of defining self-determination as “The people who live here are the highest priority”’ which has echoes of paternalism, the opposite of my understanding of self-determination.

    2. mhairi says:

      Ignoring your reference to “ethnic homogenity, …”the people of a particular area…have the right to determine what happens to that nation, and to the people within it.” is not the same as saying that “the people who live here are the highest priority”.

      Self-determination means that you are not ruled over by an external force – i.e. if you live here you get a say in what happens here, if you live outwith, you don’t. That isn’t the same as restricting migration (ie determining who lives here, and consequently who gets a say), which is what Glassman is proposing.

  6. svenja says:

    Regarding Paul’s criticism – in my understanding (having chosen Scotland as my home, being foreign-born) the SNP did not form as a response to immigration and multiculturalism, in case you were implying this (maybe you weren’t). It formed in response to cultural hegemony and, some would say, the impacts of colonialism It stands for freedom and Scottish independence. Scotland was never a colonial power (it tried, and failed – part of what brought it into financial trouble big enough to push the upper-class lairds to sign the oath of allegiance). As you acknowledge, the situation in England is very different. Furthermore, statistics do not always reveal what living somewhere feels like – it does not account for pockets of concentrated multiculturalism (as in the Southside of Glasgow, where I also live).

    If I have children here, I will be among the quarter of foreign-born mothers in the statistics you name. I feel offended at the suggestion that this might be a problem. I go with Alastair McIntosh that someone belongs if one cherishes, and is cherished by, a place and its people.

  7. Gerry Hassan, not so long ago, made the point the biggest problem the UK ‘left’ have is their utopia is in fact a dystopia. This dystopia is magnified many fold when the UK ‘left’ try to define and determine what the SNP actually stand for because in attacking the SNP they have to attack many of their own fundamental concepts,ideas while shining a search light on their own deficiencies and failures over the last few decades. The dystopia now becomes a serious dichotomy and turns the discourse into a ‘What have the SNP ever done for us?’ scenario.

    In 1977 I was a Unionist RN Officer who could never believe the UK Union would ever be broken. In the mid nineties having left the RN I was a Libdem activist pursuing the case for a federated UK. In 1999 I had a brief hope that devolution would logically lead to that end until it was clear at Holyrood that Dewar and Wallace were Millbank puppets carrying on Westminster’s hegemony by default. By 2003 I realised that the only way the UK political system at Westminster would reform is if some one took a wrecking ball to it. Like many Scottish federalists it was clear the only wrecking ball around was the SNP. The argument went – a vote for the SNP would bring Westminster to its senses. In 2007 with the SNP as the biggest party and Scotland having clearly made a statement of intent I waited with baited breath for the penny to drop at Westminster.

    In the last four years I have made the move to full support for the SNP as a social democratic party, as an effective Scottish government and with independence the chance to achieve for Scotland all that Labour and the left have failed to achieve in the last 100 years.

    The SNP are successful because they are a ‘big tent party’ where both the left and right have a voice but more importantly they have a core policy that unites all who wish to see Scotland doing better for all its people – independence. The Scottish Labour Region is loosing core vote and only held on to a 32% vote share in May 2011 courtesy of disaffected Libdem voters who voted Labour 2:1 over the SNP – according to research by Edinburgh University. The UK Left’s answer is more of the same old, same old posturing – called Blue, new or totally askew Labour.

    ‘Independence’ is the word that sticks in too many of the UK Left’s throat for them to be useful or effective in the unique political revolution that is gaining momentum in Scotland. The Scottish left know this and seek to distance themselves. I suggest Mr Kingsworth, this is why Mhairi finds the English left embarrassing and out of touch – the ‘I’ word is not an anathema to Scottish socialists.

  8. @Svenja – I did not suggest, as a matter of fact, that immigration on this level ‘might be a problem.’ I did point out that it concerns many people in the UK. Simple statement of fact, I’d have thought, however much elements of the left might want to pretend otherwise.

    I didn’t suggest either that the SNP was formed in response to immigration etc (though doubtless too much immigration from England bothers them ;-)) But you make my point for me when you talk of ‘freedom and Scottish independence.’ What is Scotland? Who? Why? These questions go to the heart of the matter, and neither you or Mike seem very comfortable tackling them head-on.

    Incidentally, the idea that ‘Scotland was never a colonial power’ is risible. Scots were up to their necks in the British (not English) Empire, just as the English were, and to pretend otherwise is very dishonest.


    Can you tell me, then, how you define self-determination?

    Can you tell me, also, why you have chosen this thing called ‘Scotland’ as your unit to which it should be applied? You clearly feel very strongly about this ‘Scotland’ – yet equally clearly it’s an artificial cultural construct. Why choose ‘Scotland’? Why not ‘Britain’? Why not ‘Europe’? Why not ‘Edinburgh’?

    You and the Scots nats (just like nats everywhere, including here in England) choose a specific historic nation as your focus of political power. A historic nation is also a historic ethnic grouping – a certain group of people made it a ‘nation’ at all. That’s not to say it can’t now be multiracial, or even have open borders – that’s politics, and you can do what you like with the future. It’s not to say that national and ethnic identities are one and the same – clearly you can adopt a national identity without being ethnically ‘of’ that nation, and many of us do. But it is a fact that this thing called ‘Scotland’ was formed by people considering themselves ‘Scots’, and who continue to see themselves as distinct enough from their neighbours in ‘England’ that they want to sever all political cords.

    You can’t get around this, really. Svenja mention Alastair McIntosh, who struggles with this impressively all the time, but even he does not offer clearcut answers to the ‘why Scotland’? question, and his deep attachment to Gaelic isles culture as a specific thing, and his sense of not wanting it to be lost, has a depth and an honesty to it.

    I’d be very interested to hear the answers. I’m not trying to catch you out, but I do think that this is very, very complex, and that the usual political blah does not fill the gaps.

  9. Ewanmc says:

    “Scotland is far more ethnically homogenous than England, and has seen far less immigration. This is one of the reasons that you are able to harbour a clearcut nationalist movement and widespread nationalist sentiment, and it is one of the reasons why such an approach would not work in England (which is maybe for the better.)”

    Yes, of course we have all been eating bannocks and watching Braveheart in the last 10 years, brooding our nationalist sentiment. The sycophantic attachment to the neo-liberal right by Blair, the Iraq War , Scottish Labour closing A&E wards and being infatuated with their own self-importance never happened! A corresponding SNP membership surge, they had a chance at governing where a moderate social democratic agenda was even possible. So many people I know, yes working class that is, not just the “deracinated middle-class elite” have a visceral distaste for the Labour Party and have simply abandoned them. That is the sentiment, but I am more than happy for you to continue with your delusions.

    1. I think you’ve missed the point Ewan. Possibly deliberately.

  10. Scottish republic says:

    The premise was that a larger trades union movement would protect the rights of working people more effectively through a louder voice.
    Quite logical in itself as a concept.

    The ‘however’ is that Thatcher destroyed such notions with the complicite aid of the E nglish electorate. Scotland never endorsed Thatcher and has almost entirely rid itself of Tories (a jolly good thing in my view).

    Labour’s hunger for power saw Blair become more Tory than Thatcher and the Labour party become a centre right party.

    Now the ‘Blue Labour’ concept is hardly worth mentioning because the Labour party is already the Tory party. No, they’re not quite as right-wing as Cameron’s lot but give them time and another stint in government and they will be.

    What Thatcherite / Blairite policies were reversed? None, but they did try to further right and would have given a bit more time.

    Brown – we’ll cut albeit a bit slower and less deep is more right-wing than some Tory backbenchers.

    The stinking corpse of the union needs to be given its just burial and from it new countries born to the benefit of all working people. Social democracy will appear in Scotland at the hands of the Scots and in England when they see it works.

    1. This is very interesting Mike, but it’s no more than a restatement of a kind of standard leftish position on the state of the UK. ‘rejecting the model offered by the British State which is intrinsically exclusive, hierarchical, militarist and secretive…’ etc. All fine, but sentiments like this are held widely by English lefties too. What’s it got to do with self-determination for Scotland?

      My feeling – my suspicion, perhaps – is that the trad left, if you can call it that, meets with a real tension when it tries to reconcile its cosmopolitan/internationalist/egalitarian/multiculturalist/post-modern aspects with its commitment to any form of nationalism or expression of national identity. We see this in England all the time – look at the cartwheels people like Billy Bragg constantly have to turn in trying (impressively) to reconcile these impulses.

      My feeling, increasingly, is that they can’t be reconciled, if we’re being intellectually honest. But I would be happy to be proved wrong. A response, though, will have to tackle these questions head on. Questions like:

      What is Scotland?
      Why Scotland?
      What is ethnicity and how does it differ from national identity and why do either matter?
      Is the nation state the primary political actor?
      If so, presumably it should put the welfare of its own people first?
      If it doesn’t do that, how does it have autonomy or self-determination?
      If it does do that, how do you square it with wider left demands of things like open borders and global equality?
      Why is the British state oppressive but the European Union not? Or if both are – since both limit Scotland, and England’s freedom to self-govern, why not leave both?

      As I said before, I’m not trying to catch you out here. These are genuine tensions, in Scotland as well as England, and I think all of us have to explore them honestly, even if we find conclusions we don’t like. very few people are doing this at the moment, but brushing it under the carpet can’t last.

    2. This is good example of why terms like ‘right’ and ‘left’ are far too simplistic to apply to the contemporary situation. What we have in the UK is three mainstream parties who have, in their different way (and arguably Labour has been most successful at it) made their peace with the power of global capital. Parties around the world have done this, from the SNP to the ANC. Blue Labour, actually, is a reaction against this, as, on the other side, is Philip Blond’s red Tory idea – both are about re-rooting power in local communities in order to create a barrier to the power of rootless finance and big business. It’s something that makes a lot of sense to me, and which ‘the left’ ought to seriously consider, not least because it’s rooted in peoples’ everyday realities rather than global abstract notions (see the above article for a good example of where this leads you).

  11. Davy Marzella says:

    Paul Kingsworth wrote – ” Scotland’s ethnic minority population is around 2%.”
    Does that include those of Irish descent in Scotland , and if not , why not …….. ?
    Could it be anything to do with them being “white” ?

    1. Davy – yes it does, I’m going on official data. Ethnicity is not the same as race. English people in Scotland count as ‘ethnic minority’ too and vice versa.

      1. Davy Marzella says:

        I presume the official data is not very accurate then , Paul. Those of Irish descent in Scotland alone would be more than 2%.

    2. You’d better take that up with HM govt then, Davy. Either way, your initial suggestion that ‘ethnic minority’ translates as ‘not white’ is inaccurate. Just take a look at any diversity monitoring form.

  12. bellacaledonia says:

    Paul I realise further response is necessary to your challenge to define what I mean by ‘self determination’ and I’ll try and write a proper piece in this later in the week. But Jim Kelman’s essay from the Edinburgh Review ‘A reading from Noam Chomsky and the Scottish Tradition in the Philosophy of Common Sense’ which became his introductory talk written for The Self Determination and Power event in Govan in 1990 is probably a more articulate expression than anything I can manage. You can read it here:

    I’d also stand by what in wrote in Democracy 2.0:

    Self-determination is about new emerging forms of democracy. Forms that reflect the kind of society we might want to create, ones that might be inclusive, participative and creative. The potential remains for means and ends to be joined in a way that can engage with the many thousands of people entirely disenfranchised from politics by the wholesale merger of ideological outlook and policy that has taken place over the last twenty five years. The fragmentation we know is far wider and runs even deeper. Dislocation with the spaces we inhabit will define our age.This disenfranchisement takes multiple specific forms, from deep disillusionment, paralysing cynicism, to actual exclusion due to electoral incompetence. The opportunity to simply opt-out is most easily accepted because there is rarely any opportunity to ‘opt in’ other than to take part in facile exercises in pr and window-dressing: ‘consultations’, citizen juries and such facades. Britain is not alone in Western Europe but it is different.As Eric Canning has written:

    “The British State itself is an anachronism even by comparison to the other major states within the European Union who have moved forward from old colonial forms. The British state structure is archaic in its monarchic and oligarchic forms of prestige, patronage, power and privilege. Its rituals are arcane and obscure, masking an autocracy of authoritarian control operating behind a democratic facade.”

    The idea is that we can move from cultural subjugation to active citizenship, from being the top end of a stagnant pool to the mouth of a free flowing river. To do so we need to draw on the traditions of republicanism and a socialism that are liberating and liberatory, contemporary and grassroots and abandon our statist past, be it the Whitehall or Strathclyde model of turgid centralism.A new republicanism can help shift us from the status of subject to citizen, from passive liturgent to active participant.And yet, despite the frequent cry of Dick Gaughan’s ‘No God and Precious Few Heroes’, we exist in a state of voluntary servitude, a state loathed by many, blissfully ignored by more and even celebrated by some. Only if we can shift from meek acceptance of rule by an external authority can we hope to move forward out into the world. Part of this has got to be about rejecting the model offered by the British State which is intrinsically exclusive, hierarchical, militarist and secretive, and part of it has got to be about moving forward to a model where you can engage with the whole world.

    1. Davy Marzella says:

      Good stuff Bella……. the song “No Gods and Precious Few Heroes” was written by Brian McNeil , borrowed from a poem by Hamish Henderson – although Dick Gaughan does do a great version of it.

  13. Davy Marzella says:

    Paul raises some challenging questions about what constitutes a “nation”.
    Why should an arbitary line imposed between the Solway and the Tweed be of any significance , particularly to those living immediately either side of it ?
    I am not any kind of a “nationalist” , but I am in favour of Scotish independence as a means of breaking up the imperial UK state , with the long-term eventual hope for a world free of borders.

  14. svenja says:

    @Paul I just wrote a really long response, then clicked on the wrong button and don’t have time to write it again 🙁 Just briefly, I think I did misunderstand some of what you said in my emotive response, partly due to my experience of the UK’s cruel treatment of immigrants (and Germany’s, where I’m from). I think it would be better to talk about ‘carrying capacity’ than ‘overcrowding’ in England, and about promoting compassionate immigration policies that are devoted to helping and supporting people to be safe and have their basic needs met, whether they are allowed to stay in the country or not (much better use of money that’s currently wasted on World Bank type “development aid” – never mind the wars that are being started elsewhere!)
    I’m not sure if asking “why Scotland?” will get you many good responses since the question seems to be construed in quite essentialist terms, when I think the answers are a complex mixture of emotive and rational responses. For me, the reasons why I support Scottish independence are primarily utilitarian (being brought up profoundly anti-nationalistic), and made up of a mix of arguments for decentralisation, psychological benefits like strengthened confidence (overcoming the ‘cultural cringe’ that I observe all around me with people apologising for their Scottish accents as not being ‘proper English’), stronger environmental policies (with some promising starts being made), putting into practice more egalitarian values currently held in theory by the Scottish Parliament, with a government that’s physically and culturally closer, and preserving multiple indigenous identities within Scotland (both in real terms and in ways in which they can be useful to disenfranchised urban folk – this project is a great example of it: http://www.galgael.org).

  15. bellacaledonia says:

    Hi Paul, here are some attemps at answers or at least responses to your questions…

    What is Scotland?

    *At first I’m tempted to quote Malcolm Tucker on semantics (http://michaelgreenwell.wordpress.com/2011/09/05/disingenuous-lite-or-disingenuous-max/) but foregoing this…it’s where I was born and live and feel allegiance to. I’m more interested in its future than its past. It has in all my political experience been the point of resistance: it was at the centre of the Anti-Apartheid Movement, the Miners Strike the Anti-Poll Tax Movement, the peace movement and the campaign for more democracy all seem to be part of a campaign for a more civilised way. So, Scotland isn’t just an ancient nation it’s a place with a potential for change.

    Why Scotland?

    *It has achievable scale.

    What is ethnicity and how does it differ from national identity and why do either matter?

    *Ethnicity is about blood and race and national identity is about culture. The first is a closed group the second can be a carrier of values (both positive or negative).

    Is the nation state the primary political actor?

    *It’s one of the primary political actors. There is stil a difference between Denmark and Texas.

    If so, presumably it should put the welfare of its own people first?

    *It should and can act ethically and be run by its own people, by which I mean the people who live in it.

    If it doesn’t do that, how does it have autonomy or self-determination?

    * I think we are discussing tow different types of autonomy which you have misread from our banner. I’m meaning Negri and Castoriadis.

    If it does do that, how do you square it with wider left demands of things like open borders and global equality?

    * I don’t think its a zero sum game. For example Scotland wanted to welcome new people to our country but this policy was quashed because it didn’t suit English political attitudes. You’ll need to make the case for me to buy into your dichotomy, which I don’t believe in.

    Why is the British state oppressive but the European Union not? Or if both are – since both limit Scotland, and England’s freedom to self-govern, why not leave both?

    * Again I don’t share the visceral attitude to all things ‘Euro’ which (imho) has been greatly shaped by a hostile English tabloid media. The EU is lots off things (bureaucratic, centralised undemocrati incompetent for eg) but it doesn’t send young Scottish men to die in illegal wars, the British State does. The EU didn’t occupy Ireland for 30 years. The British State did. The EU doesn’t have WMD in Scottish waters, the British State does. The EU didnt contaminate Scottish water with depleted uranium, the British State did.

    1. Davy Marzella says:

      Bella wrote -“*Ethnicity is about blood and race and national identity is about culture.”

      I have always considered ethnicity to be more about a shared culture , heritage etc.
      Nations are man-made.
      “Races” don’t exist

  16. George Mackin says:

    I think there are a number of articles here- I would have liked for you to go into some detail as to the new ways of participation in COR. Is this a positive experience? What are the weaknesses and strengths of operating in such a manner? Or what about ‘New Blue Labour’? So much areas to cover?

    It bugs me when those on the English Left use/imply the term English and British as being one and the same. It’s ignorant and chauvinistic. Period. The speaker should ken better. The English left have a history of that ? Bad manners, is it not.

    Sir Walter Scott, remarked you canae chuck stanes 400 miles and is that not key to this issue – a deep antipathy to centralisation and neo-liberal agenda pursued by the Tories and New Labour.

    However you wish to weigh the national question ( and you can tie yourself in knots on what is a nation) Scotland is one. If it walks like a duck, speaks like a duck..It’s a duck.

    There is so much romantic pish written about Scotland that you could lose the will to live mid-sentence. Not in this case.

    1. mhairi says:

      Thank you for this – you are right there are a number of areas for development and I may well develop on them at some point 😉

      Quickly tho, I do think that COR is a very interesting development, particularly in structure. It operates differently up here than down south with a much more activist participatory focus, and I think that it is the stronger for it.

      I think the latest colour adopted by Labour is Purple (low taxation, small state, tough on crime etc) sounds like the Tories again, just a different bit of it.

      1. George Mackin says:

        Thanks and Hi, Mhairi,
        I was speaking to some friends in a Glasgow pub (I’m sure you will ken a few of them- Is Scotland not a small country ) and there was some discussion on COR and I could only pick up a little but it sounded promising. Eddie Truman has been mentioning the Spanish students, that have been organising in Edinburgh, and again there seems a freshness in how they have been going about their business.

        I’m stuck here in exile, in the Ancient Burgh of Linlithgow- so perhaps, I should pay a wee visit to the two cities and get a sense of what is going down.

        And I’m sure you will agree : it is not only what we believe but in the manner we organise and treat others that is also very important.

  17. I find it interesting that Paul fails to argue any case for the relevance or involvement of the English left in this Scottish reality.

    Legally Scotland is a nation state, its people are sovereign, its system of law unique to Scotland, its constitutional practice is unique to Scotland and its relationship with its crowned head is particular to Scotland.

    The confusion occurs when people like Paul conflate what is, in legal and constitutional terms, with the Westminster entity of the UK Parliament which has no legal status as a nation it merely represents a political entity created and agreed by the Treaty of Union by the two separate and pre-existing nation states – England and Scotland. The EU recognises the UK Parliament as the overarching entity but also recognises the rights of nation states within that entity. Hence the EU has no power to adjudicate or interfere in the Scottish Sovereign Parliament’s decision to charge English students University fees as it is an internal matter for the constituent members of the UK.

    There is no such legal construct as a ‘UK Constitution’ or a ‘UK nation state’. To create a UK constitution and nation state would require the repeal of both Scotland and England’s ‘Claim of Right’ statutes. This has never occurred because both ‘Claim of Right’ statutes were protected for ‘all time’ by the 1707 Treaty of Union. The two statutes are very different. The English ‘Claim’ establishes the English Parliament as sovereign where as the Scottish ‘Claim’ reaffirms the 1320 Declaration of Arbroath’s entrenchment in Scots Law by restating the people of Scotland are sovereign. In legal and constitutional terms the EU is right in stating it can not interfere in issues between to sovereign nations.

    In 1953 Lord Cooper, President of the Court of Session,stated as part of a judgement on constitutional issues, that the 1707 Union Treaty makes clear that neither the English nor Scottish constitutional practice could be made subservient to the other and questioned Westminster’s assumption of solely English constitutional practice in its day to day operations. He restated that both ‘Claim of Right’ were protected for all time and that in Scots Law ‘all time’ meant exactly that. In turn when Winnie Ewing announced in 1999 that the session of the Scottish Parliament of March 1707 was reconvened, this was not just a piece of whimsy, it has direct constitutional impact because under Scots Law and constitutional practice the Scots lend their sovereignty to the Scottish Parliament in the first instance as per the 1689 ‘Claim of Right’.

    When you look further at the UN Convention on Human Rights (The right of a nation to self determination) and the Treaty of Vienna (The right of any nation state to withdraw from a pre-existing treaty) then it is clear any decision for Scotland to withdraw from the Union is a decision for the sovereign people of Scotland to make untrammelled by any other external party.

    This in turn leaves the context for many of Paul’s posted arguments superfluous – Scotland is a nation state, is recognised by the EU as such and our status is protected under the UN Convention on Human Rights.

    1. Looks like semantics to me. Want to talk about nation states? England does not even have legal recognition as a nation. Anywhere. Well done on your recognition – we have none.

      As for the English left and Scotland – that’s not got a lot to do with what I was writing. I’m not involved in ‘the English left’. If you want to put up barriers, I’m sure you could keep them out.

  18. bellacaledonia says:

    Interesting debate. But only up to a point. It could be argued though that many of the questions being asked here, and a lot of the answers too, are ones which are simply based on outdated and not very useful semantics.

    In this writer’s opinion, semantics and closed definitions have contributed to the demise and marginalisation of a large section of the left – and not just in England.

    Bella Caledonia since its inception has always championed the concept of “fuzzy logic” while giving space to a spread of viewpoints that may not agree with the looseness of fuzzy logic.

    That’s one starting point. Another is democratic practice. Working democracy does not wait till leftists sort out the definitions and parameters. It has a logic of it its own which grows out of historical processes and is based around very specific GEOGRAPHICAL areas.

    This, as Mike notes above, was spelled out in 1992 by Alasdair Gray in the first paragraph of his book WHY SCOTS SHOULD RULE SCOTLAND. In this sense Scots are anyone who lives and works here in Scotland.

    Scotland? This is a clearly defined democratic entity with clearly defined geographical boundaries. This is no longer negotiable (sea shores and sea bed apart). How this democratic entity and its geographical boundaries came to be defined is for historians to discuss. But from a political-institutional perspective the over-arching question is what political powers should this democratic entity have and how should they be devolved and used. All the rest is just typical leftist definition-splitting that goes round in circles and goes nowhere.

    As Gerry Hassan wrote in the Scotsman yesterday: “Scotland finds itself in a place where it has the potential to make its collective future, to decide what kind of society we want to live in, and the actions and change we want to bring this about.” Well said, that man.

    Kevin W

  19. bellacaledonia says:

    Two other points are worth throwing into the mix here. First I don’t really buy the ‘left and right don’t matter any more’ idea. I feel proud of the left traditions (particularly it’s libertarian ones) and the need for an articulate green-left or left-green analysis has never been more spectacularly clear.

    This doesn’t mean there’s not a need for new critical thinking and responses (that’s desperate) but I’d be interested to hear how your abandonment has come about.

    Second, I’m not sure I can quite buy your %-analysis of immigration and race relations issues either Paul. There’s something in the Anglo-British culture (both popular culture and the ‘institutionalised racism of the Met etc) that needs to be owned up to and examined, I believe. This is not so say that Scotland is free from racism, far from it. But I think to hide behind a % analysis is too easy.

    1. Hi Mike,

      I don’t know what you mean by ‘% analysis. You’ll have to expand.

      On left and right – these are 18th century terms, and I really don;t see their overall relevance today. Perhaps I approach them as you approach your nation – aware of a proud history but more interested in looking forward that exhuming it. If we were starting from here we would not invent these tribes, and my abandonment of labels stems from my desire to try and think freely, without being intimidated by the need for tribal loyalty or groupthink – which I find rages through the left (and the right, maybe to a lesser degree.) It’s very self-limiting. All the really interesting thinkers and doers I know are outside these creaking old labels.

  20. Thanks Mike. There is some clarity there, for sure. I feel somewhat the same about England.

    I don’t have a ‘visceral hostility to all things Euro’ myself; quite the reserve, i feel part of it, and would much prefer England and its political class to feel part of it rather than acting like the 51st state of America. But of course, Europe and the Eu are very different things. The latter may not send your boys to war, but it will control almost every other aspect of their lives. You can’t have meaningful independence in a superstate, as we are all finding out.

    As for your definition of ethnicity – actually, this is not correct. Both ethnicity and race are very fluid (the latter, in my view, doesn’t even exist in any meaningful sense.) But an ethnic group is not a racial group, it’s a collection of people who share a culture, a homeland, a broad set of values, a language and a sense of history. In this sense, actually – in my view at least – it’s very open. For example, my ancestors are Greek, Norman and Viking, but I’m seen as ‘ethnically English.’ As some stage, outsiders became insiders. Whether you call the group they joined ‘ethnic’ or not is slightly beside the point, but we shouldn’t assume immutability.

  21. bellacaledonia says:

    I take your point about ethnicity. You are quite correct.

  22. Scottish republic says:

    I don’t give a sod about DNA or ethnicity. It’s gone way past all that now. Politically, the union is anathema to the healthy future of the peoples of these islands.

    I do see that Scotland historically and still is in its heart a nation. The best future for the Scots is independence and for England for that matter too. England becoming a nation will then allow the English to look at the society they live in and choose a better one for the people and not be blinded by all this Brit nat garbage.

    1. That’s a big ‘hear hear’ from England!

Help keep our journalism independent

We don’t take any advertising, we don’t hide behind a pay wall and we don’t keep harassing you for crowd-funding. We’re entirely dependent on our readers to support us.

Subscribe to regular bella in your inbox

Don’t miss a single article. Enter your email address on our subscribe page by clicking the button below. It is completely free and you can easily unsubscribe at any time.