It’s Time (for Scotland to Grow Up)

 

The referendum in 2014 will be about much more than just whether political decisions affecting Scotland are made in Edinburgh or London. Well, in some ways this is exactly all it should mean, but the reality is the way Scotland votes will tell us who we are and what we think of ourselves as a nation, and will lead us to question what exactly it is we’ve just voted for. This will be true regardless of whether we vote “yes” or “no”. It will mark a watershed moment in Scottish history, one which I think could be described as the day Scotland “comes of age”, like in so many feelgood movies where a boy or girl embarks on a summer that redefines their relationships with those around them, and points them in the direction in which they will grow to become a man or woman. In short, it will be the moment Scotland finally grows up – or at least it should be.

 

People often compare Scotland’s relationship with the UK (and by that I naturally mean England, because our country’s relationship problems have nothing to do with Wales and Northern Ireland) in terms of a marriage. Some political unions are indeed like marital unions, but the imbalances in the UK have meant that Scotland’s place in the union has always felt – to me, at least – like that of an offspring. After a 291 year childhood where Westminster made all our decisions for us, in 1998 we were asked if we wanted our own key to the house, and entrusted to spend our pocket money how we saw fit (although Westminster still looked after the energy bills, the TV licence and other housekeeping duties deemed to be too difficult for us to fully understand). After an incredibly short adolescence in comparison, we’re about to find ourselves in a position where we decide if we want to “leave home” to make our own mark on the world, or remain in a perpetual state of juvenility, afraid to cut the apron strings, preferring instead to just loosen them slightly.

 

Some will say that I’m just accusing those who vote “no” in the referendum of being childish. Well, I’m afraid the current state of Scotland is indeed an incredibly juvenile state of affairs, and how you envisage Scotland to proceed afterwards determines whether or not you’re displaying maturity. What we have is a country that wants to have all the freedoms of independence, but none of the responsibilities. If that’s not childish, then what is it? The main reason there is such a popular appetite for independence is because Scotland has never fully gotten behind the union, always wanting to have separate institutions, leading to the current situation where Scotland exists as a sort of half-country. Sometimes we’re Scotland, other times we’re the UK. This is rarely more apparent than during sporting events like the Olympics, with people on both sides of the debate claiming Scottish athletes for their own cause. It’s a schism that has existed for three centuries, and 2014 is the perfect time to finally resolve it.

 

If Scotland votes “no” in 2014, there will be a mass outcry from people in England – only some of whom will be from the Tory party – saying that Scotland needs to stop trying to have its cake and eating it (coming in the form of calls to reform Barnett, where “reform” is that peculiar neo-liberal interpretation similar to “reforming” a chocolate bar by placing it beside a heat source, as well as calls to reign back some of Holyrood’s powers, including some that were never reserved in the first place). I’m afraid there is absolutely no faulting the logic to this – having said “no” to becoming an independent country, people in England are fully entitled to question why we should continue to have the kind of autonomy we currently enjoy and which they do not. What can our answer be to this? “Because we want to.” Again, we come back to the psyche of the teenager (which people of my age may recall as being the chanted chorus in Billie Piper’s inaugural hit), wanting the world without wanting to pay for it, much like a right-winger wanting safer streets but not wanting to pay the taxes that pay for them. Those in the Better Together campaign who claim the union gives us “the best of both worlds” are guilty of just such an attitude, and it’s all the more obvious given that their main argument for not voting “yes” can effectively be summed up as “it’s a big, bad world out there…”, like an over-protective mother telling her son not to venture outside the garden. This infantilisation is completed by the fact that those who oppose independence so vehemently refuse to take responsibility for what a “no” vote would mean for the future of Scotland, pretending instead that we can live on as 18 year olds forever, protected for all time from the dangers of that big, bad world by the magic of the union. If this intellectually insipid argument seriously wins over the Scottish people, then we have far bigger problems than we realise, and any thoughts that we could see a second Scottish enlightenment are clearly ridiculous.

 

I want independence chiefly because I feel Scotland is a country and should therefore have the same rights as any other country, but also because I am quite simply unsatisfied with the status quo. If Scotland turns down the chance to become independent and we try to carry on as if nothing had happened, then nothing is resolved, and questions remain unanswered. We cannot stay in this juvenile state of affairs. We need to make a grown-up decision about who we are and what we want. The idea that a “no” vote should lead to a winding up of Holyrood is generally regarded as the stuff of Tory nutcases who have always opposed devolution, but the reality is that, unless we press for a fully-federalised UK, anything else is insulting to the same people we have just pledged to remain politically aligned with. It’s inconceivable that, having done so, we could continue trying to be two nations at once. “We like your nukes and tanks, but if you don’t mind, we’ll do everything else our own way, thanks.” We become the adult who refuses to move out of mum and dad’s house, but complains when asked not to come clattering home at 2am when they have work in the morning. “You can’t tell me what to do!” “Well move out then!” “No, I don’t want to!” Instead of trying to be a wee pretendy nation with our own health service, education system and courts, would it not be time to finally admit we’re too feart to be a real nation and just assimilate fully with England, after 300 years of kicking and screaming, and finally turn Britain into a country, rather than just an island (subject to Welsh approval, naturally)? Would it not be time to finally stick our colours to one mast and stop trying to be two nations at the same time, switching from one to the other when the going gets a bit tough?

 

We would instantly see ourselves subject to the full horrors of the Tory party, but you know what? At least it would be an honest, grown-up decision.

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  1. No matter what some in the Nationalist community wish to believe, there will be no shaking hands and letting bygones be bygone when the result is declared. It doesn’t matter who wins the referendum, the losers have no place in the public life of post-referendum Scotland.

    1. Colin Dunn says:

      You really believe that? Serious question, not snottiness. Is this what happened to all of those other countries which have become independent in the last 50 years or so?

    2. Stuart Mac. says:

      Nonsense. If that were the case, Campbells and MacDonalds would still be fighting. Scots can forgive, they just don’t forget easily. We don’t forget decades of Thatcherism either, nor are we stupid enough to ever allow that situation to happen again.

  2. David Moynagh says:

    To stand by and even consider a future involving tory england in whatever guise would be more than acting like a juvenile. Indeed it would be acting like a juvenile delinquent. The analogy of mother and son would be of a greedy obese alcoholic mother using the son as a meal ticket. A yes vote is our biggest chance to rid ourselves of the parasitic flesh eating bug called the tory. That in itself is sufficient reason. After independence we must ensure that the sickly stench of tory is never allowed to contaminate Scottish air. They should be considered vermin.

    1. Doug Daniel says:

      It’s not just our biggest chance of ridding Scotland of Tories, it’s our only chance. But if, as a collective, we spurn that chance, then I feel we have to be truthful about what we’re effectively saying.

      What I’m basically saying is that the current devolved situation isn’t good enough whichever way you look at it. If we vote for independence, then the idea that “devolution is a process, not an event” is proved true. But if we don’t, we need to ask where that process is supposed to be going. If not independence, then where? If we’re never going to become a proper nation, then why are we even bothering with this half-arsed effort? If we don’t want to be a proper nation, I’d rather we just stopped lying to ourselves and face the consequences like adults, rather than the childish notion that we should be allowed to keep side-stepping the issue. At least we’d have a bit of self-respect.

      Of course, if the public were presented with this proper, grown-up version of the referendum – “do you want to be a proper nation, or do you want to fully integrate with England?” – then I think it’s pretty obvious what the result would be. And the truth is, if we vote no, this is what the end result will be anyway, for all intents and purposes at least. It’s unsurprising that the depressingly immature unionist politicians who are so vocal against independence completely refuse to acknowledge that this is what will happen, and instead to try and sell us a fairy story. Well, I’m tired of this juvenile debate. We’re either a country or we’re not, so let’s stop fannying around.

  3. DougtheDug says:

    The idea that Scots will get “more devolution” if Scotland votes no to independence is, to put it quite bluntly, nuts. The only reason that Scotland has any devolution at all is because it was a reaction to the threat of independence. Once that threat’s gone then devolution will simply wither and die as any powers which allow a significant deviation from English policy will be removed and no new powers will be granted.

    If Scotland votes no, the sequence from the 70’s onwards through the Scotland Act 1998 to the new Calman inspired Scotland Act 2012 to the no vote will be summarised by:

    1. “We want independence!”
    2. “Here have some devolved powers and shut up”.

    3.”We want independence!”
    4. “Here, have some more devolved powers and shut up”

    5. “We don’t want independence we want devolution!”
    6. “Just shut the f**k up”

    1. Doug Daniel says:

      Exactly, independence is our trump card, and the idea that throwing away our one trump card will still let us get more devolution is not just a childish notion – it’s bare-faced lying.

      That Labour are willing to go with this idiotic idea just shows you the utter contempt in which they hold the electorate who have kept them in the style they’ve been so accustomed to over the past 50 years.

  4. Alasdair Frew-Bell says:

    Fear, corruption and treachery led us and imprisoned us in the British State and the very same imperialist divide and rule tricks will be used to attempt to provoke the default “Scotch cringe” among our weaker compatriots. There will be much blood on the carpet.

  5. Castle Rock says:

    If we do vote No then in many ways we should be assimilated as part of England…

    …it really is a frightening and horrible thought. I’ve spent most of my adult life explaining, debating and arguing for the right of Scotland to be a Nation. If we throw it away then we don’t deserve to be thought of or have the right to be a separate State.

    And it’s not the horrors of the Tory party that I’m worried about, it’s those in the Labour party who will strip Scotland bare to ensure that we never challenge Westminster rule again.

  6. James Graham. says:

    2014 is the acid test for Scotland,. If we return a No vote, Scotland claim to be a distinct individual nation will be rendered null and void. Because no real country would willingly (Remember, we’ve never been asked!) cede control over its affairs to a foreign state.

    A No vote will be a denial of nationhood. Scotland pretensions of statehood will be invalidated. We will genuinely, out of choice, be just an extension of England, or a ‘region’ of Britain, call it what you want

    I honestly can’t see this happening, when it actually comes down to it, and each of us are alone in that little voting booth in 2014

    But if it does, I’m off!

    1. Doug Daniel says:

      “I honestly can’t see this happening, when it actually comes down to it, and each of us are alone in that little voting booth in 2014

      But if it does, I’m off!”

      Yeah, I always worry I sound like one of those folk like Jim Davidson or Paul Daniels who say they’ll leave the country if X gets voted in, but my opinion of my fellow countrymen will be so low in the event of a “no” vote that the thought of moving abroad will be extremely appealing. If Scotland refuses to embrace this chance at creating a modern, social democratic country, then it perhaps makes sense to go to one that already exists.

      But considering I got homesick just living in Glasgow, I doubt I would follow through with such a plan. The thought of having to live without easy access to north-east haddock and Stonehaven oatcakes…

      1. Alasdair Frew-Bell says:

        There’s always stay, take to the hills and fight; for real if necessary. It’s been done before, elsewhere. The system doesn’t expect conventionally law
        abiding Scots to be so radically bold. Just make sure we get our act together and make it unnecessary.

  7. Albalha says:

    Doug,
    I agree with you, and the quote from Liz Lochead is pretty much what I say to people when they seem unable to see this vote as anything other than a ‘vote for Salmond’, that in my view is a problem. When do you think the SIC and others will become more vocal, get out and about, engage with the many in Scotland who are undecided? The SNP and its paid up supporters are in the bag, but I worry about the narrative still being written as SNP versus the rest. I know there is time and I just hope a mature debate can take place away from partisan politicians.

    Alison Balharry

  8. Alasdair Frew-Bell says:

    A.A.Gill commented some years ago that Scottish nationalism was dull. All about balance sheets and accounting and the wee Scotch lawyer mindset. Nothing to energize the spirit of a nation. Well, the National Movement has two years to prove the contrary. Perhaps we might start by being cultural nationalist not just nationalist. Scotland has to change not just in the way she is governed but in the perception we have of her. The 300 years of British Scotland skewed and distorted our history, our culture and our identity to fit the model of a dependable, celtic twighlighty, dependency. One in which the individual, the man o pairts, might prosper but the nation, the collective, would sink into fabulous extinction leaving behind only a residue of grotesque tartan parody; the stuff of tourist tat and bizarre portrayals in films with “Scotch” characters or themes. Out with the awkward, edgy real, in with the safe, stereotypicallized bogus. That the many are quite content with this pseudo-culture, a culture that sits so neatly within the North Brit context, is an indicator of how far we need to go to cleanse the stables of the mind-dumbing spurious.
    Culture has always been at the bottom of the list in mainstream Scottish nationalism, very British that, so maybe it is now time to move it to the top.

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