Dismantling the British State



Exclusive interview for Bella Caledonia with Tariq Ali prior to his double-lecture this week in Edinburgh and Glasgow.


Tariq Ali interviewed by James Foley.


JF:  Scottish Labour politicians claim they speak for internationalism, and often accuse independence supporters of parochialism and petty nationalism.  As an internationalist living in London, why are you supporting independence?


TA: Because I don’t accept the claims of New Labour or their coalition lookalikes that they are the internationalists.  Their internationalism essentially means subordinating the entire British state to the interests of the United States.  They have made Britain into a vassal state: on Iraq, on Afghanistan, on various other things.  This isn’t even a big secret.


So I would challenge very strongly any idea that the governments within the British state have been internationalist.  They haven’t been, for a very long time.  That is something that needs to be squashed.


The second point is this: an independent Scotland, a small state, has far more possibilities of real, genuine internationalism.  That means establishing direct links with many countries and peoples in the world.  The Norwegians, for instance, both in their media and in their culture, are attuned to countries all over the world.  I was in Norway last week at a conference on the Middle East, chaired by a Norwegian diplomat.  And she said she’d just come back from two years in the Palestinian city of Ramallah, and she knew all about it.  So the fact that you’re going to be small doesn’t mean you’re going to be parochial.  On the contrary, it can have exactly the opposite impact.


JF: Many Labour politicians will also deride the SNP as neoliberal populists, as anti-working class, and so on.  What’s your views on Scottish nationalism?
TA: The Scottish National Party has been transformed.  When it was first set up, it was small-C conservative, and a bit archaic.  But that was changed by the ’79 Group.  Although many of its members were initially expelled, including Alex Salmond, they are now in government.  Also, the SNP have been recruiting a lot of people, including Labour supporters and former members of far-Left groups.  I personally do not agree with their social and economic program, I think it’s too weak.  On many other things, I would also have criticisms.


But I think I would definitely support a Yes vote, purely for the reason that the Scottish people have a democratic right to determine their own future.  This is the first time they’ve been asked to actually vote on that.  The Union that was pushed through opportunism, corruption, and bribery in 1707 was not the result of a democratic vote, as we know full well.  Which is why they had to fight the battle of Culloden.  That was a decisive episode of Scottish history, because that defeat at Culloden imposed the Union as we know it, something totally dominated by Britain.


The SNP is now trying to break with that tradition, and effectively to ask the Scottish people to declare the independence which they once had.  And I think it would be better for Scotland, and I think it would be better for England.  New Labour have become totally corrupt, in my opinion, on every social, political, and economic front.  New Labour are the new Tartan Tories.


This doesn’t mean the SNP should not be argued with, debated with, and I’m sure people within its ranks will do that.  And the Radical Independence alliance is a massive factor in this.  I’ve been invited to speak to a Yes meeting organised by the SNP in Kirkcaldy in June, which I will do.


I’m very very strongly in favour of Scottish independence, and always have been, despite disagreements with the SNP.  The idea that one can’t disagree with the SNP if one supports independence is just absurd.


JF: Could you talk a little about the potential global implications of a break up of Britain?
TA: I think, in particular, it would be very positive for England, which has always been the dominant factor in the Union.  It will open up new political space.  It may not benefit progressives initially, but it will at least allow politics to be discussed afresh and anew.  That’s the first thing: it will be good for English democracy, which is in a very sad state.


The second thing is that it will help even the most rabid unionists in Britain to understand that the game is over, and that they have to move some way towards abandoning imperial pretensions.  Those pretensions persist even though they’re a joke in the system, and they’re only leading courtesy of the United States.  And who knows?  Maybe it may open up space for British independence again.  I mean genuine British independence, which hasn’t happened since at least 1956.


We shall see what happens, but I doubt the effects will be negative.  And I think an independent Scotland , playing an independent role in world politics and in Europe, would have an impact in Britain.
The other thing that’s worth saying is that this can only be done with the consent of the Scottish people.  No one can force it.  So there can be no argument that arms were twisted.  If anything, the campaign of fear and intimidation that has been waged by London is utterly pathetic, and I hope Scottish people will fight against it.
I remember when Tony Blair came on his last tour of Scotland, and he said, If you vote for independence, every family will lose £5,000 a year.  Who dreamed up that figure?  Some bureaucrat in Whitehall who wants something to frighten the Scots.  And then I read, just a few days ago, that Danny Alexander is repeating these absurd figures.  They do this because they want to frighten people, by saying your living standards will decline.  But there’s no reason they should decline if the economy is properly handled.


JF: Do you think British elites are worried about the prospect of independence?


TA: Sections of them probably are, because they will see it as a blow to British pretensions.  But I think there may well be a section of the elite that might well say, Fine, it will save us money, it will stop the subsidies, etc, and Scotland doesn’t make much money anyway.  This is the section of the elite which believes that the only way forward is effectively to sell the British economy and the cities of the South to the rich, to oligarchs from various nationalities, Ukrainian, Russian, Arab, etc, who dominate large parts of the financial markets in London today.  That section of the elite, which thinks this is the future, won’t care at all, whatever they say in public.


JF: Do you think the Unionists are bluffing over the question of currency union?


TA: I think they are largely bluffing.  But I think Alex Salmond should call the bluff by saying, If you are going to behave in such a mean spirited and petty-minded way, then Scotland will have no alternative but to create its own currency.  As it is, Scottish currency looks different from the currency in Britain.  Scotland prints that money.  And we will print our own currency, if you bar us from influence, we will seek other ways. I think Salmond should be sharp on this, and call their bluff.  He shouldn’t be frightened.


JF: Can I ask a little bit about the historical element of this.  Why do you think the neoliberal counter-revolution was so successful in Britain?


TA: Well, I would challenge the view that it’s been successful.  Or if has been successful, it’s largely because the trade unions and the Labour Party didn’t put up any struggle or fight against it.  If you look at South America, even small countries in that continent who challenged neoliberalism, and have broken from it to various degrees, have done so with the help of huge social movements which erupted.  Unfortunately, the British trade union movement was so defeated after the Miners’ Strike that they just gave up.  They didn’t struggle, they didn’t fight, and once the Labour Party had effectively killed itself by becoming New Labour, then you had in Tony Blair a hardcore Thatcherite leader.  And he carried on in the same old Thatcherite way.


So in terms of providing any alternative to these people, New Labour and the Conservatives collaborated in saying there was no alternative.  And it’s not that people support it, especially after the Wall Street crash in 2008.  It is effectively that they have not been presented alternatives.


If Scotland gains independence, and its leadership has the guts, it could break with neoliberalism.  In Britain, there was no force from below to challenge it.  People felt defeated, they felt demoralised, and they felt that they had trusted for a long time had betrayed them completely.  And the way people challenge this is from the right.  The growing support for UKIP, in particular, is a way of opposing the games played by the elite.  It’s foolish, because Farage and company offer absolutely nil.  But that is the scale of the desperation.  And nothing exists on the Left to challenge that.


In other parts of Europe, there are challenges from the Left.  But not in Britain.  I would not say people accept it, I would say they have been shown no alternative by any group of people.


JF: You’re going to speak this week about “dismantling” the British state.  Some people have asked you mean by this.


TA: I mean that the British state, created by the Union in the 18th century, has effectively been unchallenged.  The only written aspect of the British constitution is the so-called Treaty of Union of 1707.  Now, what the Scottish people are voting for, if, as I hope, they do vote yes, then the British state as it exists is dismantled, full stop.  The vote for Scottish independence is the end of the British state as we know it.  How it will develop after that remains to be seen.  But, certainly, Scotland breaking away dismantles the British state.


JF: A lot of socialists would deny that there is something particularly toxic about the British state, and would say that all capitalist states are bad.  Of course, we know that rivals like France, Germany, and Italy have their problems as well.  Do you think there is a distinctiveness to the state of British?  And does this mean we have to challenge it in a special way?


TA: On one level, it can be said that the capitalist economy of these states is more or less the same.  But these states do have peculiarities.  In the case of Britain, as my old friend Tom Nairn has pointed out, these peculiarities are in the realm of satire.  The preservation of a monarchy, kept going largely through the monarchic internationalism of the House of Hannover, which found rulers for Britain when it ran out of natural ones.  Creating and maintaining this monarchy is a farce.


The House of Lords is also totally undemocratic.  All of this gives the British state an archaic character.  The fact that the absurd soap opera Downton Abbey is incredibly popular is an indication of what that means.  All this has bred within Britain a deference to the ruler, a doffing of the cap, and all that, which transfer to Scotland in the same way, in the sense that the same Royal family has a house in Balmoral when it comes to Scotland and so on.


The modernisation of Britain has been impeded by this.  So the British state has its features.  And I think it’s something that needs to be broken with.  But it’s been impossible to break with them any other way, so Scottish independence would be a good way to start.  And by the way, when Norway decided to break from Sweden in 1905, they did so for similar reasons, that they wanted their own country, and they were fed up of being dominated by Stockholm.  And it happened relatively amicably.  So these things can happen.


Of course, you can argue that since capitalism is now dominant everywhere, then one shouldn’t do anything.  But that would be a retreat into total passivity and fatalism.


JF: Britain lost its Empire generations ago, but is Britain still imperialist?


TA: Well, it is a sub-imperialism, contracted to the only Empire which exists today, which is United States of America.  But other countries still have imperial pretensions.  Some try to revive their past, as Putin is doing in the Ukraine.  Others try and pretend, and in fact do box above their weight, because they’re attached to the coat-tails of an existing Empire.  If you look at all the big Empires that existed, the Japanese, the German, the French, the British, what are they now?  They’re effectively contracted to the United States of America.  There is absolutely nothing they can do without getting Washington’s permission.  It is the United States that is the only Empire today.


JF: You mentioned the poor state of English democracy. How worried are you by the rise of populist right-wing politics in England?   Why do you think this is so successful in England right now?


TA: Well, it’s successful because there’s nothing else.  Effectively, the two issues on which UKIP campaigns are the European Union and immigration.  Those are linked, because the immigration they attack, largely, is immigration from the European Union.  Unfortunately, these are popular demands in the whole of Europe at the moment because of the economic crisis.


Also, in my opinion, the Left has been very weak in not putting forward strong critiques of the European Union and how it functions today, because they’re scared of being considered anti-Europe.  But it is not anti-Europe to argue that the European Union is totally corrupt, bureaucratic, undemocratic, run by the elites, and is, effectively, a bankers’ union.  That’s just a fact.  But the Left hasn’t been campaigning like that, except in France, by the way.


So you have a situation where a party emerges from the bowels of the old Tory Party, and comes up with all this stuff, and fascist groups starting doing entry work in it, and it’s become a political force, whose main aim is to put pressure on the Conservatives and break them from Europe.  And they have certainly succeeded in pushing all the Westminster parties to the right on immigration.  So that is why they have arisen.


But I think there’s a deeper problem, which is argued by the late Peter Mair, a fine political scientist, in his posthumous book, Ruling the Void.  It effectively argues, correctly in my opinion, that what we have now in the advanced capitalist world is a situation where the political class does not represent the needs or the views of the bulk of the population.  This is leading to growing alienation from politics as such.


So the democratic deficit in Britain is very strong.  It’s huge.  And this is also a reason why the Scottish people should take this opportunity and break out of the prison that is the United Kingdom, and develop their own policies, and discuss openly ways to go forward.  They shouldn’t accept a smaller version of neoliberal Britain as their aim in life.


JF: A lot of people are worried about the implications, if Scotland leaves, about the future for centre-left Labour governments in the remaining UK.  In the context of UKIP, rising populism, the Collins Review, and so on, what is the future for British social democracy?


TA: My opinion on this has been openly expressed since the launch of New Labour.  It is now generally accepted that there is no fundamental difference between centre-left and centre-right, in British politics, or for that matter in French or German politics.  Effectively what we have is an extreme centre.  Extreme because it backs wars and occupations.  Extreme because it declares wars on its own people, tries to blame the victims for the crimes committed by the elites.  Extreme because it is prepared to dismantle fundamental democratic rights in order to prevent dissent in discussions of the secret state.


This extreme centre encompasses both centre-left and centre-right.  They make a few cosmetic noises when each is in opposition, but by and large, when they are in power, they do the same thing.  To this day, the New Labour front bench has not even been able to say that they will break from the coalition’s fundamental policies on the economy.  They can’t say it, because they are their policies.  They are no different.


So all this talk about weakening Left forces in what will be left of the United Kingdom is a cover.  A cover for what?  For nothing.  It bears no relationship to reality.  The trade unions are weak, the last General Strike was in 1926, so the notion that one is somehow betraying the unity of the Scottish and English working class is nonsense.  In any case, that unity can be exercised behind independent frontiers.  Socialists always used to argue for unity of the international working class, until the First World War showed the strength of nationalism of the retrograde sort, which gripped the workers as well.
So none of these arguments are serious arguments, in my opinion.  The hardcore unionists have a serious argument saying, God, church, monarchy are the uniting factors of our Union, and have been since 1707, and we shouldn’t break with them, and woe betide the Scots who want to do it.  That’s at least a consistent view, but completely anachronistic.


JF: Some people also argue that Scotland and England will get dragged into a race to the bottom after independence.  They also talk about corporation tax and so on.  Do you think things will really improve if Scotland gets independence?


TA: Well, I think the basis have been created for things to improve.  Whether they improve or not will depend on two things.  Whether the leaders of the SNP are prepared to go further in terms of creating a social democratic Scotland or not.  I hope to God they are.  Secondly, and most importantly, whether in an independent Scotland there will be the desire of people to participate more actively in politics on every level.  Not just through existing institutions, but through the creation of institutions to supervise and watch the new Scottish democracy.  They need to participate in it, and speak up when things aren’t going right.  In a smaller country, it is much easier to do that.  I think that probably will be the effect.  And the Left in Scotland has to play its part.


JF: What’s your views on the Nordic model and other varieties of capitalism?  Can Scotland draw on these ideas?


TA: Well, we’re talking about a period in which the capitalist system has triumphed, and the ideas of socialism have suffered a huge defeat globally.  So we’re living in a very strange transition period, which may well last until the end of the century.  One shouldn’t exclude that.  So one has to operate with what exists, and see how capital in its worst aspects can be regulated, how a state can be regulated that works for the benefit of working people…I mean, this was an aim of Labour in 1945, and that program was a good one, by the way.  It actually did change living conditions for people, and even today, I don’t live in Scotland, but people tell me that the education system in Scotland is better, from that point of view, than the English education system.


This is where an independent Scotland could make a big difference.  If it handles its economy properly, its oil, the lesson to learn is from Norway, which invested its oil wealth very wisely.  As a result, it has a social democratic welfare state which is the envy of virtually everyone.  When I was there, my Norwegian friends said, I won’t see you until October because I’m going on six months leave.  And I said, six months leave?!  Why, what’s happened?  And he said, my wife is having a baby, and according to Norwegian law, both partners are allowed six months paid leave.  I was surprised, because I knew there was something like this, but I didn’t know the details.


So, people feel, in some ways, that they survive better under social democratic governments, or under a consensus which accepts that certain reforms are invaluable.  And it’s the privatisation programs of the British elite which have wrecked the country.  Now, they’re selling off the health service.  New Labour should remember this.  There was an article by former health secretary Alan Milburn in the Financial Times last week arguing the case for private health, while pretending that it’s a way of protecting the National Health Service.  This is what has created the anger in Britain and in Scotland.  It’s New Labour that has done this.  And one has to break decisively from those politics and create a better society.


This will not be the socialist society many socialists dream of.  But it would open up the space where at least such things can be debated, and reforms implemented that improve the living conditions of Scotland.  There is absolutely no reason why an independent Scotland can’t begin to reindustrialise, and build a big shipbuilding industry, with the help of countries outside Europe, who are ready to go.  It’s silly just to see Scotland’s future in relation to England or even the rest of Europe.  If it’s imaginative, it can go way beyond that.
JF: A lot of people’s big anxiety is that Scotland will be isolated after isolated after independence.  How should Scotland prevent that?  And what sort of alliances do you think Scotland should build?


TA: But isn’t Scotland isolated now?  I would say Scotland is isolated now, by being part of Britain.  Britain isn’t, but Scotland certainly is.  So this notion that it would become isolated after independence is wrong.  The sets of alliances it should build?  Initially, the aim should be to construct alliances with the Scandinavian bloc, particularly Norway and Sweden.  I think they would be received with open arms, to do economic deals, tourism, political deals, etc.  So the Scandinavian bloc is one possibility.
Within the European Union, they should fight for the right of smaller states to have a say.  Scotland should also build ties with smaller republics within the European Union, or even those areas within the EU which are not yet independent, like Catalonia.
That’s not to mention the world at large.  Why should Scotland be dependent on Britain to mediate its relationships with countries in Asia, or Africa?  So I think Scots have to look abroad.  The one institution that will have to be created, amongst the new ones, will be a Foreign Office, and overseas trade, that is very important.

Comments (26)

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  1. Dan Huil says:

    The last paragraph of Mr Ali’s answers, about the foreign policy of a future independent Scotland, makes important points which are not mentioned enough in the referendum debate.

    1. Ian Kirkwood says:

      Yes, I agree Dan. For me, this is a fundamental argument and reason for independence. Scotland is isolated and clearly suffers from being a minority partner in the UK. It truly can be so much better. The Nordic model is a good one, I have 30 years experience of it and I would love to see Scotland moving in that direction and eventually other parts of Britain too. That second part needs a lot of work though.

  2. Will print and read at leisure more than a few times.Coincides with my own thoughts that Scottish independence is good for all the countries in these islands.

  3. Tried to print all I got was 15 pages of 1 line and then 1 page with the picture.What am I doing wrong?

    1. Hen Broon says:

      Copy and paste the text you want in to a Word or Notepad document, then go to Print Preview to check it is as you want it, then print.

  4. Tartanfever says:

    I admire Tariq Ali very much, however, I get the impression he’s not that clued up on the specifics of the Scottish economy nor the White Paper.

    That aside, his contributions on the wider national and international prospects are very encouraging. It’s nice to see New Labour being called out, and indeed, the aspirations of Tory Britain as the handbag carriers of the USA.

  5. tammcgarvey says:

    Well said indeed Tariq.
    The British state, still wrapped in its flag of Empire, continues to rust and corrode, revealing its rotten heart kept alive by modern slavery, exploitation and a history of elitest greed that has subjugated many millions over the last few centuries.
    We are fortunate these days that much of the worlds knowledge is at our finger tips. I would suggest that those who want to retain the status quo do a web search on the evils of our Empire. The initial genocide of native Americans, slavery, the Indian Raj, the Irish starvation, more slavery, China’s opium wars, theft of gold and diamonds in South Africa, war mongering then stripping of assets then modern forms of slavery. The list of empire attrocities is endless and is still being added to.

    The British establishment is so bloated and rusted into position, with its powerful vested interests, that it is unable to even consider the new realities and the growing need for a new social, economic and environmental paradigm. Its like a great oil tanker heading for the rocks without steering or a sober captain.
    Scotland has a wonderful opportunity to be among the first nations to grasp this nettle and be important players in moving forward into a fairer, more democratic and less destructive world.
    The old establishment is afraid that if we in Scotland get a Yes vote we might end up being a success. Demonstrating such successes may cause our good friends south of the border to further question the intent and methodologies of their masters in Whitehall who are, as you say, the puppets of oligarchs and corrupt global power mongers.

    As for internationalism. Scotland has long been internationalist, by deed and by nature. While there are negative instances, for a small nation we have a reknowned reputation for hosptality. Scotland has given much to the world – the iconic tea towel does not lie. Around the time of WW1 John Maclean fought for a Scottish Socialist Republic, not because he wanted to be separatist but because Scotland could never fulful this dream while shackled to the British Empire.
    And before it is assumed that I am merely making some kind of hardcore socialist argument, the system we live in and what we think of as capitalism is an abstaction. If it was textbook capitalism we could probably live with it. What we have is beyond capitalist extremism and much closer to entrenched corporate gangsterism. Check out who is doing most of the hardcore lobbying in Westminster and Washington.

    These forces are already trying to scupper the debate, accusing the Yes campaign of making false promises while they defend a grasping evil empire built on falsehoods.
    Change is inevitable and you cant stop an idea whose time has come. If it doesn’t happen in Scotland it will pop up elsewhere.
    This debate goes beyond the present political parties and policies in Scotland.
    The energy of the debate certainly isn’t anti-English, anti business or classist.
    Its about the infected politics of Westminster and the small cluster of cleptocrats who are running the show.
    This is potentially the start of a longer term reality of new possibilities.
    A vote for No is a vote for a status quo with no obvious future but built on the gross sins of the past.
    A Yes vote, despite its issues, means at least some kind of positively charged change, and we need change.
    So lets get ahead of the game and make it happen here, now.

    1. Agreed tam, except for your point about a No vote. I certainly won’t be the status-quo. If the worst happens it will make the highland clearances seem like a walk in the park. I know I’m probably being pedantic, but on B.B.C Breakfast this morning that fine scots lass, Carol Kirkwood, was again, as have many of her co-presenters, giving “North Britain” big licks. And that’s whats we’ll become, or already are in the mind of the worst Prime Minister this country has ever had, if we don’t vote Yes. When Nicola Sturgeon says that this is our last chance for a generation to become an independent country, i don’t agree. If we don’t take this opportunity we will never get another chance, because Westminster will see to it we don;t. This is the British State we are fighting, and they don;t like losing, so they will quite literally take any action to preserve what they see as their “right to rule”. Only recently have they realised that they are in danger of losing, so from now on the fight will get really dirty, and to paraphrase Al Jolson, “You ain;t seen nothing yet folks”.

      1. tammcgarvey says:

        I Agree with you Alex and thanks for commenting. I had put up a post on another conversation and described the similarities between present Westminster and the Whig government at the time of the Irish starvation ( I refuse to call it “the famine” because it was preventable) and I just didn’t want to repeat myself, maybe I should have.
        Well over 1 million people were deliberately left to die rather than upset the free market system. I dont think the present lot are that much different from their Victorian predecessors -Trevelyan, Russell and Senior, at the time of the Black 47. The conditions of starvation have largely been displaced to developing and third world countries, but now we have food banks, jobcentre sanctions, cut backs, bedroom tax, withdrawal of services, rising prices etc. and then the eejits who trashed the economy blame the poor for their miserable conditions. Yes indeed, I really worry about the coming slapdown if Scotland says No.
        Its good to use the past to inform the future, though I hope I dont come across as a doom-meister.
        Lets hope a Yes vote will be the best decision we ever make.

  6. derryvickers says:

    It was valuable the UK being a ‘vassal state’ to the US during WW2. They came to our aid; without it I’m afraid we would not have defeated Germany. I’m old enough as a child in school to remember D Day – the teachers put the radio on for all of us to hear. Norway was unfortunately not so fortunate.

    I won’t dwell further as I’m fully supportive of us being in Europe if only so that I don’t have to listen to another D Day whether within an Independent Scotland or as part of the UK

    1. Gary says:

      It was gaining their assistance in WW2 that made us a “vassal state.” They exacted a price for assistance and this meant the end of the gold standard and gave them access to the Empire’s markets. This and the loans which have only just been paid back finished the Empire and finished Britain’s position as a superpower. The “special relationship” is one where we had to be grateful for the terms of the loan under the Marshal Plan and it’s extended terms. This was only granted because of their fear that Communism would take a grip if we were allowed to go into “bankruptcy” which we would have.

  7. Douglas says:

    Interesting enough, though it is dodgy history to construe the massacre of Culloden Moor as a battle in which the Union was chiefly being contested.

    True, there were many anti-Unionists in the Jacobite ranks, and anti-Unionism provided much energy and numerous recruits to Charlie´s cause; in fact, the articles of Union were repealed and burned, if I recall correctly, when Bonnie Prince Charlie reached Edinburgh in the summer of 1745.

    But even if there had been no Union of Parliaments in 1707, the Stewarts would have had a claim to the throne after 1688, and Bonnie Prince Charlie would have probably gone for it anyway; so it is equally valid to see the 45 as the last campaign of a very long civil war in Scotland, but also the rest of Britain and Ireland, dating back almost a century earlier.

    If Bonnie Prince Charlie had really come to liberate Scotland from the Union, he would never have invaded England…he got as far Derby remember, before turning back, and there was a run on the pound in London, with the capital gripped by panic….

    1. andyshall says:

      Good points, Douglas. The Young Pretender was essentially a unionist in that he saw himself as King of Great Britain and Ireland. His political and religious absolutism was also detested by many in Scotland, hence more Scots fighting for Hanover than for Stewart at Culloden.

  8. Agree with Douglas. Interesting and lucid insight into the current state of Scottish and British politics, but the strength of the interview as a whole is undermined by a poorly informed and overly simplistic approach to the historical context of the Union of 1707 and Culloden.

    1. Douglas says:

      Exactly, Ashley.

      Scotland was always small fry for Charlie, merely the appropriate launching pad to regain the throne in London. Which explains why, decades later, after the Jacobite cause had long since been extinguished, visitors to Charlie in exile in Europe would report that, when the 45 came up, he would often break down in tears and exclaim, “Oh, my highlanders, my highlanders, what became of my highlanders…!” He was racked with remorse presumably, which possibly explains why he died an alcoholic.

      For what can be said without any room for doubt is that Culloden and its aftermath saw a savage, brutal and utterly pitiless repression of the Gael and Gaelic culture in general, and the full militarization of the Highlands by the British State, a legacy we still have with us to today in so many different ways, not least, the forts built after the 45 and named after “the butcher” Cumberland himself – Fort William and Fort Augustus – just in case anybody might forget which side won on Culloden moor.

      In Gaelic, the town of Fort William is known as Gerastan, which means garrison, plain and simple: an occupied territory.

      And you can´t help but think that the humiliation of the Gael paved the way for the catastrophe of the Clearances and with them, the annihilation of so much of Gaelic culture. Gaelic Scotland had been so thoroughly humiliated after the 45, that it took almost 150 years before any real resistance to the Clearances emerged. A total catastrophe for auld Scotia, a hollowing out of the country.

      A few years back I took a trip to Cape Wrath,and needless to say, having traversed almost the entire length of Scotland, was unable to get there due to the fact that the British army uses it as a place to practice bombing and other such manoeuvres.Trident is the most obvious example of the need to demilitarize Scotland once independence is secured, but there are plenty of others.

  9. yerkitbreeks says:

    Scotland will have no problems finding international friends – many will remember the marches and other opposition up here to Britain’s recent wars, compassionate freeing of Al Megrahi etc.

    The place oozes internationalism.

  10. Calgacus says:

    Tariq Ali is one of the most perceptive political thinkers out there. But his comments on economics here!

    Scottish independence without its own currency is a joke. It’s not a matter of Salmond calling any bluff. Maintaining currency union is suicidal – it would be maintaining subjection to the UK with a mere verbal declaration of independence, while terminating direct influence on the UK. It is like demanding “taxation with NO representation”!. Look at what is happening on the continent, in Ireland – impoverishment of nations by the dozens by the worst designed monetary system of all time, the Euro – an unmatched engine for wreaking economic destruction outside of war.

    There is absolutely no reason why an independent Scotland can’t begin to reindustrialise, and build a big shipbuilding industry, with the help of countries outside Europe, who are ready to go. There certainly is if Scotland doesn’t have its own currency. Currency union makes such plans dependent on the goodwill of a third party – England if Scotland keeps the pound, and even worse Germany & the ECB if Scotland opted for quick suicide by joining the Euro.

    If it handles its economy properly, its oil, the lesson to learn is from Norway, which invested its oil wealth very wisely. As a result, it has a social democratic welfare state which is the envy of virtually everyone.

    Complete, ahistorical nonsense. Norway has been spectacularly foolish in its oil investment. It just has enough oil & non-oil wealth to squander and stay rich. Its immense sovereign wealth fund is just a way to direct colossal sums to Wall Street by losing gambles. (It was lost ca. $80billion there in 2008 – an unbelievable sum for a small country) It had a social democratic welfare state before oil. The social democratic welfare state is the cause of Norwegian and Scandinavian prosperity, not an effect. It is a poor sort of socialism that betrays such self-doubt that Socialism WORKS – something I never would have imagined saying about Tariq Ali. If Norway used its oil wealth in traditional, sane ways, it would be a great deal richer and more powerful than it is now. (If anyone desires links to academic & business critiques of Norway’s follies, I will provide them.)

  11. TheBabelFish says:

    Reblogged this on The Babel Fish and commented:
    As political analysts go, Tariq Ali is one of the best. A truly wise man. Nice to find he has reached many of the same conclusions I have about my country. This is well worth a read, more top quality content from Bella Caledonia, one of my very favourite indy blogs.

  12. Anand says:

    I have been reading Tariq Ali’s articles for a long time. I am really surprised that neither the interviewer, nor Tariq made any reference to Scotland continuing with the pound. One would have thought that the Euro experience would certainly have set alarm bells ringing.

    How much control would Scotland have in the pound? What happens when there is a devaluation/appreciation? How does one control liquidity?

    All the good intentions of politicians can be in vain if hard constraints like money are not considered. It’s like arguing one can fly without considering gravity.

    This is a very good article by Yanis Varoufakis, a Greek economist, who knows a thing or two about the Euro disaster, having experienced it himself, about the need for Scotland to have its own currency:

  13. salim saleh says:

    The British politics are colonial

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