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?