2007 - 2021

Coulport, Devo Max and Imperial Britain

Henry 1st of England is reputed to have died of a “a surfeit of lampreys”, These days, I am getting the same feeling of being stuffed
to death with Unionjackery.  What with Betty Windsor’s Golden Jubilee and then Olympic hysteria, it’s the Butcher’s Apron everywhere you look. And this is having the intended effect. Recent polls show a significant fall in support for Scottish independence and a rise in support for “devo-max” – whatever that means.

All rather depressing, I fear. But depression is a luxury we can’t afford; there’s too much to be done. First and foremost, we must get people to realise that devo-max is a dead end. Because it is the least demanding of change, and the least radical of options, it has a certain superficial attraction for the feint hearted, and a seductive appeal to the politically naive. But it leaves us with no control over the – literally – life or death question of war and peace. We would still have Trident, and the biggest arsenal of nuclear missiles in Europe (at Coulport), and we would still be dragged into foreign wars in distant lands, in the interests of  American foreign policy, and Big Oil.

There was a fascinating photo in the Herald recently. Joann Lamont, Ruth Davidson, and Margaret Curran all beams and smiles shaking hands with Alastair Darling at the launch of the Better Together campaign. Tory and Labour united in defence of the Great British State. The new loyal imperial British Labour Party, lost in a love-in with the Tories, all sweetness and light. Class war – what class war? That’s all over now – just don’t ask me who won. Keir Hardy would be burling in his grave.

So. we are “Better Together”, are we? Funny, there’s many a woman managed to struggle out of an abusive and violent relationship would dispute the optimism of this breezy slogan. Women who are glad they are not “together” with former partners, happy to escape at last their domination and bullying.

In a similar way, Scotland has suffered too much and too long from our 300 year old partnership with our larger neighbour. We have too many empty landscapes, depopulated through ethnic cleansing, (clearances which the Lowland factors were more than happy to enforce). We have a de-racinated and alienated working class, ignorant of its own history, and of the struggles fought in the past. Numbed by the mindless cult of celebrity, dreaming of escape through instant lottery wealth, the people sleep walk in an unreal world. But the inanities of Big Brother and the X-Factor will not satisfy the desire for meaning and purpose in life. “Unless the people have dreams, they perish.”

In the past, we have sent too may brave young men to die in foreign wars. Today at Coulport, we have the biggest arsenal of nuclear missiles in Europe. Why? Because we are British. We are home to the world’s most powerful machine for the mass killing of human beings, Trident. Why? Because we are British. We pay a terrible price for being “together” with England in the imperial British state. Time for a divorce.

We suffer from the most powerful and effective form of control; that is,  the oppression which is internal and self-imposed. This is so effective, it does not even recognise itself as oppression, but sees it as self-definition. We are proud to be British, and independence is a denial of Britishness. So, we accept our allocated subservient role proudly and dutifully.

In post-Cold War Europe, independence is in fact the norm. What we in Scotland are seeking is regarded as self-evidently just and desirable. The barriers to us achieving this gaol arise from “the mind-forged manacles of man” – to use William Blake’s lovely phrase. It is not somebody or something “out there” that is holding us back, but we ourselves, our own lack of imagination, failure of insight and courage.

Economics are invoked; threats of financial disasters are raised as a spectre to browbeat us. Everybody knows we in Scotland are just not capable of conducting our own affairs, and ruination will be the consequences. Well, to coin a phrase,  “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn”. Bean-counting was never my forte, and, as Wordsworth said, “high heaven rejects the lore of nicely calculated less or more”. Let me just observe that Estonia, which has a smaller population than Strathclyde, can manage its own affairs quite nicely, thank you. So, why not Scotland?

No self-respecting independent country would tolerate our shameful subservient situation. Unionist hostility to independence is in fact the hostility of unthinking nationalism – British nationalism. The present conflict is not, as often portrayed, between Scottish nationalism and the “normal” Unionist rest. It is between two conflicting nationalisms. Scottish, which is fundamentally
communitarian and internationalist in its outlook, and British nationalism, which is inherently imperialistic.

It was ever thus. Since its creation by massive bribery and corruption in 1707, the British state has been congenitally and irredeemably, an imperialistic construct.  I expect the conservative right to deny this – they would, wouldn’t they? But I am surprised at the persistence of the Brit left in resolutely defending the imagined benefits of remaining in  imperial Great Britain.

National aspirations of all other former colonial states are approved, but the desire of the very first British colony – Scotland – for
normal independence is somehow considered reprehensible. Why so?

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  1. Dave Coull says:

    In 2002, the SNP conference was in Dundee, and NATO was on the agenda. A small group of us, not members of any political party but generally supportive of independence, leafleted that conference saying “No Tae NATO”. Happily, the SNP rightly decided against advocating an independent Scotland join NATO.

    In the years since then, some of us have been campaigning, on a non-party-political basis, for a referendum on independence, with the intention of campaigning for a pro-independence vote in that referendum.

    Now, ten years later, the SNP conference is in Perth, and NATO is again on the agenda. Why? The reasons against Scotland being in NATO are just as strong today as ever. So what has changed? The suspicion is, what has changed is that some politicians have decided it’s in their own interests to serve the interests of foreign agencies. The suspicion is that some politicians have quite simply sold out.

    Some of us had agreed to be “ambassadors for independence” in a campaign directed by Angus Robertson. But with suspicion re who HE might be an ambassador for, that is bound to be undermined.

    The SNP is still completely opposed to Trident, we are told. But would NATO really accept a Scotland which, in accordance with the clear wishes of the great majority of Scots, sent Trident down the Clyde, with instructions never to return?

    The SNP is still completely opposed to nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction, we are told. But would NATO really be prepared to accept that an independent Scotland could EXCLUDE from its waters, and from its ports, any Navy vessel it suspected of carrying such weapons?

    The SNP is still opposed to illegal wars and foreign military adventures, we are told. But could an independent Scotland signed up to full membership of NATO really choose for itself not to get involved in wars in eastern Europe, Africa, Asia, or South America?

    We suspect that what is being promoted is a fudge – a fig-leaf to cover the reality of a massive U-turn by the SNP.

    Well, we’re not members of the SNP. So why should we care?

    Because what is at stake is far bigger than the politics of one particular party.

    We are going to have a referendum on independence. There WILL be a broad-based, non-party-political, campaign for a “Yes” to independence. In order to enthuse the majority of the people of Scotland about turning out to vote decisively for independence, you first of all have to enthuse a significant number of folk to be very active in campaigning for this. Some of these folk will be SNP, but a great many will not.

    If you were head of a British or American or other intelligence agency which wanted to minimise the enthusiasm of activists to go out and campaign vigorously for the maximum possible pro-independence vote in the referendum, what would you do? One thing you would do is seek to make it look like the SNP is abandoning its principles where weapons of mass destruction and militaristic posturing are concerned. Because nothing could be more depressing or more calculated to sap enthusiasm.

    But whatever the motives of those seeking to commit an independent Scotland to membership of NATO, it’s a bad policy, and it is a policy which could have severely detrimental effects on “Yes” campaigners and on the result of the referendum. Both principle and tactics demand the clear message “No tae Nato”.

    1. Doug Daniel says:

      Dave, all we have at the moment is a policy proposal from an SNP member (albeit an extremely senior one) to change the absolute “No to NATO” policy into a “Yes to NATO, if certain conditions are met” policy. If the membership of the SNP still feel as strongly about this as they did 10 years ago, then the motion will fail, simple as that.

      I don’t think it’s helpful to portray this as a straightforward U-turn. Yes, the SNP is indeed still proposed to Trident and illegal wars. But if you read the wording of the proposal, it is very clear that an independent Scotland would only be continuing with NATO membership IF we are not prevented from removing Trident and IF Scotland can participate only in UN sanctioned action. If those two conditions cannot be met, then we revert to the original strategy, joining Sweden, Finland and Ireland in Partnership for Peace.

      My own preference is Partnership for Peace. But I’m open to a compromise if it can be shown that continuing with NATO membership – with these caveats in place – would be beneficial to Scotland’s defence needs. Not every member of NATO is America or the UK. When we’re thinking of the world’s military aggressors, I don’t think many would count Norway, Denmark and Iceland among them. Indeed, Iceland is a perfect example of NATO allowing a country to join on its own terms, since Iceland is not required to have a standing army. If NATO membership does not interfere with Scotland’s ability to get rid of Trident and refusal to take part in illegal wars, then I’m inclined to wonder what the fuss is about.

      If you can show why NATO membership would still be bad even with these caveats in place, then I’ll listen. But most of your arguments there seem to be answered already by Angus’ proposal. I also don’t find what appears to be an insinuation that Angus Robertson is some sort of agent of British/US intelligence to be particularly helpful to your argument either. That’s entering the realms of conspiracy theory, and people just aren’t going to listen to that.

      1. Dave Coull says:

        In reply to Doug Daniel, yes, this is at present just a motion to the SNP conference, but senior members of the SNP are already acting as if it is policy.

        And OF COURSE it’s a U-turn. In an article for the Scotsman, Jim Sillars called it a U-turn. He called it a U-turn which he strongly supports. Now, I have never been a fan of Jim Sillars, but at least he is acknowledging that this massive reversal of policy, which he supports, is in fact a U-turn, which is more than can be said for Angus Robertson. Is calling it a U-turn unhelpful to a sleekit attempt at a massive change of policy wrapped up in ambiguous wording? I sincerely hope so!

        NATO is and always has been a nuclear alliance. Every member of NATO, regardless of whether it has nuclear weapons itself or not, in becoming a member, is accepting that. Furthermore, NATO has always refused to rule out the possibility of being the first to use nuclear weapons. Every member of NATO, in becoming a member, is accepting that,

        In his article in the Scotsman, Jim Sillars drew attention to the wording of Angus Robertson’s motion to the SNP conference, in particular to the phrase about “negotiating the speediest safe transition of the nuclear fleet from Faslane.”

        Sillars speculates that would mean 5 to 8 years.

        That probably IS what Angus Robertson means. Which is yet another reason why this sleekit U-turn should be rejected.

        The quickest way to make Trident safe is to disarm the missiles’ nuclear warheads. That could easily be done within 3 months. Being generous about it, 5 or 6 months – but NOT 5 to 8 years. Granted, it might take longer for the United Kingdom of Southern Britain and Northern Ireland to construct or prepare a base for the subs. But that is THEIR problem. Simply making Trident safe can be done in less than 6 months.

        And perhaps, instead of wasting yet more billions on a new base for Trident which its taxpayers could ill-afford, the UKSBNI should seriously consider, very belatedly, accepting its responsibilities under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty which it signed, and recognise what is obvious to most of the world, that Trident is an obvious breach of that Treaty.

  2. vronsky says:

    When NATO membership was last aired at an SNP conference I was the first speaker against. I was supported by Stewart Hosie – incredible, when I listen to him now. As I recall we didn’t win the debate – the topic was ‘referred back’ – SNP parlance for kicking it into the long grass.

    Some years before I had joined the SNP as it seemed the only electorally credible radical party. It looks as if I should be folding my tent again when I hear myself sounding like an old member of the Labour Party – ‘yes, but there are still many good people…’ True, but the good people are a very long way from holding the reins.

    There are two touchstone concerns: looming NATO membership (which is a proposal to join an American criminal gang) and the refusal to investigate the conviction of Ali Abdelbaset al-Megrahi (when it’s quite clear he was framed for American reasons). These issues are linked in an obvious way: they suggest that the interests being served by the SNP lie far furth of Scotland.

    I have a ‘Yes’ sticker on the back screen of my car but I’ve started to wonder what I’d be saying ‘yes’ to.

    1. James Graham. says:

      Voting Yes isn’t about Alex Salmond, the SNP, party politics or party policy.

      It’s about restoring Sovereignty, so that Scotland is actually able to make decision about the EU NATO and everything else that a normal independent country does. .

      Without independence, none of this is relevant.

  3. Paul says:

    Not sure why we’re all getting so exercised about NATO, there are varying degrees of membership and we simply do not know how it’ll pan out. All any political party can do is offer a policy with options contained there-in, if anything, the SNP might be hedging its bets with the electorate but is that so bad?

    Also, in terms of what we are saying yes to, we’re saying yes to Scotland becoming independent (with all the usual caveats any other independent country has to deal with) we’re not saying yes to perpetual SNP rule.

    I’m not a member of the SNP either, I don’t know if I’d vote for them after a yes in 2014, in the same way I don’t know if some bigwig from NATO will turn round and say ‘its oor ball and yoor no playin’ in which case we can tell them to ram it.

    I would like to think they’re following the model of the Scandinavian countries and going down the PfP role in NATO, I’d be happy with that.

    1. Galen10 says:

      I agree with Paul; it’s up to the Scottish people as a whole to decide post “yes” vote in 2014 what their chosen defence and security options should be. Many of those who oppose NATO membership seem to do so almost solely on the basis of the nuclear weapons issue; however it is perfectly feasible for Scotland to require the removal of Trident and be part of NATO.

      I doubt the majority of Scots share the anti-NATO views espoused by Dave and vronsky above; remember Denmark, Norway and Iceland are members, while Ireland, Sweden, Finland and Austria are not.

      I’d be quite happy to be part of NATO without the nuclear weapons on the Clyde, but wouldn’t die in a ditch to bring it about, and would be quite happy with the option of going it alone.

  4. ExtermiNATOr says:

    A WMD and particularly nuclear free Scotland, would I hope exclude not just the US’ missiles, the explicit purpose of which is to kill millions of people, but the nuclear propelled submarines and surface boats. The common submarine and nuke-propelled cargo ship propulsion reactors were the design basis for the fatally flawed Fukushima and many ageing onshore American nuclear power station designs, right down to storing used and thus highly radioactive fuel rods in cooling tanks above the reactor cores themselves.

    Many countries have banned nuclear propelled cargo ships and submarines from their waters. Whilst this is one of the thorny issues, secondary to attaining independence, it does not in anyway mean that deferral or their eradication should or could be delayed. If the UKplc board of directors and chairman or agent Cameron or other corporate office-boys at Westminster were at all the authors of their own deeds or thoughts or had any sense, they’d be better beginning the removal of their WMD hardware and other nuclear threats to the Scottish nation, land, seas and people without delay. Relocated to the bonny banks of the Thames, perhaps the warmongering swine playing at empire, hanging on the terminally spent short-lived American empire’s coat-tails. might mute their blood-curlingly blundering threats being made to 9/10ths of the world’s peoples.

    There’s should be no possibility of half-measures, get rid of this junk before it gets rid of us, with either a bang or a whimper.

  5. Derick fae Yell says:

    These are choices to be made by the Scottish People, after Independence. Without Independence there is no choice. NONE. NATO, like the Monarchy (I have been a republican since I was about 6 years old) are means of neutralizing a scare story. Can be changed in the future (and a Constitution should have the flexibility to do this, from day one). Ditto staying with Sterling initially – and that has the advantages of preventing a ‘spiteful’ City or security service inspired attack on an Scottish currency in the early years and reducing the ‘harm’ that Scottish Independence will do to England (as sterling will be bolstered by having Scotland in a sterling zone due to our natural resources but without having them effectively stolen to do it). The less potential harm we do to them, the more we weaken their resolve to hang on to us. Ditto remaining in the EU – neutralizes some business opposition (and anyway is simply a statement of the existing position – we will still be in the EU on Independence. My preference would be for EFTA – again a discussion for our Independent Parliament and civil society to make. Not us, this side of a referendum which has yet to be won. Not the SNP at this point in time. As long as it gets us over the line. That most important line. Whiter than white risks getting us a NO vote and the consequences of THAT would be appalling. Softly softly catchee monkee

  6. DougtheDug says:

    Devo-max has always been pie in the sky but what has to be made plain is that it will never happen. Whatever the outcome of the independence referendum, devo-max will not happen.

    It’s instructive to look at the Lib-Dem website and try and find any policies which map out a way forward for a written constitution (which is a prerequisite for federalism), federalism, home rule or even devo-medium and you won’t find anything. This is from the party which you would expect to be in the vanguard of any governmental or constitutional change. You can take it as read that the Tories and Labour have nothing either. Devo-max is a dead duck, pie in the sky, jam tomorrow, it’s in the post or any other similar phrase you care to throw in.

    I’m not a supporter of NATO which now appears to be acting not as an anti-Russian European defensive organisation but as a foreign legion for US interests in Libya and Afghanistan. However the question of NATO has to be settled before the referendum.

    What many don’t understand (and until recently that also meant me) is that if Scotland becomes independent then it will inherit all the treaty obligations of the original state which is the usual state of affairs for successor states. What that means is that an independent Scotland will be a member of NATO from the word go as the UK is currently a treaty member. What we have to decide is if we want to leave not if we want to join.

    The proposed defence policy update is here:

    I understand the proposed policy to be that Scotland will stay in NATO unless that means keeping the nukes on the Clyde. I recognise the logic but I want Scotland out of NATO altogether.

  7. vronsky says:

    I’m not agin NATO because they have nukes, I don’t think we should be party to America’s resource wars of aggression. A cooperative defence alliance NATO is most certainly not – it is singularly American (with some conscripted auxiliaries), aggressive and destructive. I’m a little taken aback that this seems to be a contentious view on what I thought was a generally leftist website. As to ‘varying degrees of membership’ I’m sure the mafia could make us the same offer – but it’s still a criminal gang and (sulky old Catholic that I am) I feel the offer should be declined. I appreciate the argument that until we have independence we have nothing to talk about, and while we remain within the union our moral and political preferences are neither here nor there, and let’s not offer any radical ideas about what the world should look like in case it complicates The Question on referendum day – but is that the prospectus that will change everything – vote yes to keep everything the same? That’s one tricky campaign, and not the conversation I usually see on Bella.

    1. Vronsky – there are principles and aims, which are one thing. Well two things. And there are tactics, which will bring about those principles and aims, and which on the surface may appear different, but in their long term effect are the same

  8. How many times do we need to have this conversation? The SNP will not decide on our membership (or otherwise) of NATO. This will be the job of our democratically elected government, who can stand on a pro- or anti-NATO platform.
    Stop muddying the water and get independence!

  9. vronsky says:

    Oh well, topic closed, nasty uncomfortable stuff. Let’s not talk about it. I expect it wil be all right on the night. All things are possible after independence, even if every political party we have is just the same as every political party we had before. It’s a mystery.

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