2007 - 2021

What is Choice?

When no-one in the ruling elite actually believes in anything other than their own right to rule, history shows that freedom usually comes after the spilling of much blood. Nothing of social value is given to the majority from autocratic oligarchs in decline. It has to be taken before the damage to the people and the nation is too great. That is where we are in these stormy days of Autumn, in relation to Westminster. The blood here, I hasten to add, will be metaphorical. Corrupted from without and corrupted from within the London government staggers and falls over all of us. Its blubber and grease corrodes every surface it touches. In Scotland we have a choice, at least. The people of England have a terrible problem. For them there is no escape unless they make a fundamental alteration, one they have seldom made in their history. Which currently consists of not choosing between the Tories or Labour or the Liberals (all of whom have failed and betrayed them in turn) but of some other radical alternative, as yet not attempted, but which I imagine will look a bit like a socialist republic, but then I am a dreamer. The last attempt at a republic in England in the 17th century began and ended in a blood-bath. There was nothing metaphorical about that. It dragged every acre of Scotland, Ireland and Wales into it.

What of Scotland then? What dreams do we have for our own tribe?

It seems to me we have a simple choice. We either carry on as normal and go down in the Brexit flood or we break free and form our own country. That is all Scottish politics is about this October in 2018. Those who want Scotland to remain a part of the United Kingdom are lying to the people. It is as simple as that. They have made their choice and it is the way to oblivion. To make a new nation is not easy but it does require courage and it is a gamble. Do the SNP have the courage necessary, and are they brave enough to gamble? How bad does it have to get before the penny drops with the leadership that playing the game is part of the problem and not the solution? I know it is easy enough for the likes of me to say this, but I am Scot and I have a vote and this what I see. Many see what I see. I am sure the leadership of the SNP see this as well. We all see it, we all know it. Do we have to rely on the SNP? The choice is stark and getting starker. Ironically it is not one of our own making, but we must make the choice, for our own good, for the future, for the ones who come after us and will call an independent Scotland normal, their own country, their home. For good or bad, but their own none the less.

In many ways we should not be surprised by Brexit and the seemingly inevitable no deal conclusion. The ruling class have historically violently resisted every European power alliance that has arisen, whether they have been the French, the Spanish or the Dutch. This reaction to what they perceive as a threat may seem at the time to be a display of vitality and strength but in fact only contributes to their undoing. It’s how every empire falls. Why should the English empire be any different? Unique unto itself its difference is its similarity to all that has gone before. Radically identical every oppressive regimes collapse has both a particularity and a universality which energises its inevitable demise.

Observation in literature may be revelation, but in the politics of modern Scotland it can be a painful experience. Conception can be a mutual joy, but birth is always a singular pain. Yet the birthing of a nation, of Scotland, is what we are seeing, experiencing, bearing and it is not easy. There are decisions the people have to take and choices we have to make. The observation is available to all, the revelation less so. Many see the slow conversion of Billy Connolly to independence as a sign of hope. In this process we plant the seeds of progress wherever we can.

Theresa May has survived the hound-dogs of her own party up to now, but she may not survive the savagery which is coming from them later. She will learn the hard way, I suspect, the maxim of Montaigne, “Learning must not only lodge with us: we must marry her.” (On Educating Children). The Prime Minister’s strategy of surviving one crisis only to stumble into another one is no example to a child let alone a polity. One thing I think the Scots have learned, being the children of experience if nothing else, is that the real choice the Tories have is, it is either Brexit or the Union. As Gordon MacIntyre-Kemp has pointed out in The National (October 18th) that Article IV of the Act of Union of 1707 states

“That all the Subjects of the United Kingdom of Great Britain shall from and after the Union have the full Freedom and Intercourse of Trade and Navigation to and from any port or place within said United Kingdom”.

There was an amendment (Article VI) in 1800 which goes further and states that in:

“all treaties made by his Majesty, his heirs, and successors, with any foreign power, his Majesty’s subjects of Ireland shall have the same privileges, and be on the same footing as his Majesty’s subjects of Great Britain.”

That is why the so-called “backstop solution” to the problem of the border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic and the UK is mince. It will take more than the vague pronouncements of a bunch of un-elected Lords who have been herded together to come up with a new Act of Union to square this circle. But what the whole sorry mess does do is prove that this entire Brexit business is the unintended result of attempt by David Cameron to placate his anti-European backbenchers and the result has gone horribly wrong, so that we will have to suffer an outcome which benefits no-one. It also shows that no Tory politician really believes in anything. Theresa May, David Mundell and Ruth Davidson were all pro-Europe at one point. No wonder the majority are sick of politics and politicians. No wonder conspiracy is the new philosophy. When truth is relative then rumour becomes certainty and we sweat in the shade and shiver in the Sun.

Day by day it becomes clearer that Scotland is not “on the same footing” as the rest of the UK. Davidson and Mundell have made it abundantly clear that their priority is to keep their party in power in Westminster, come what may. They, it would seem, have made their choice. The question is: just why do Unionists such as they prefer the prolongation of a declining situation, i.e. the UK, to the possibility of a positive beginning, i.e. an independent Scotland?

There may be an answer in Greek mythology. There is the story of Zeus and Poseidon, two of the greatest gods, who competed for the hand of the goddess Thetis. But when they heard the prophecy that Thetis would bear a son more powerful than his father, both withdrew in horror. Since gods plan to rule the heavens for ever, they don’t want a more powerful offspring to compete with them. So Thetis married a mortal, King Peleus, and gave birth to Achilles. Mortals, on the other hand, desire that their children should outshine them. This myth might teach us Scots something important in relation to the UK. Or as Yuval Noah Harari puts it in “21 Lessons for the 21st Century” (Cape, 2018),

“Autocrats who plan to rule in perpetuity don’t like to encourage the birth of ideas that might displace them. But liberal democracies inspire the creation of new visions, even at the price of questioning their own foundations.”

There is no “new vision” on offer through Brexit. Only a step back into the 1950’s. A modern, independent Scotland, however, does inspire a new way of living in relation to ourselves and our neighbours, our culture and our environment. It represents the future. The Tories plan “to rule in perpetuity” because they see themselves as the natural party of government, as political gods, and the UK as the best of all possible worlds, much like heaven. The Tories won’t rule for ever, and the UK isn’t heaven. The choice we face is between the past or the future. In reality the acts of Westminster are limiting our choice. The choice they offer Scotland is not a choice at all: it is a myth. Our real choice here is that we must marry our courage to our future.


©George Gunn 2018

George Gunn’s new play “The Cloud Dwellers”, the story of Olga Ivinskaya, the inspiration for Laura in Boris Pasternak’s famous novel “Doctor Zhivago”, will be given a moved reading at 7.30 pm on Thursday 1st November at The Bungo, Nithsdale Rd, Glasgow.

Comments (13)

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  1. Wullie says:

    The English republic never ended in a bloodbath, the genocidal Gen’l Monk headed south to proclaim Charles II & the republic collapsed!

    1. Willie says:

      Not sure that the bloodshed will be as metaphorical as you suggest George.

      Northern Ireland, together with the mainland IRA campaign was anything but metaphorical.

      The miners strike was not metaphorical.

      But of course the Tories know that. Stanley Johnstone knows it but doesn’t care as it’s not affecting him. But it could, and one suspects a lot easier than he suspects.

      The hatred displayed to the poor, to the filthy immigrant, to even the gormless Jocks, does not augur well, as it didn’t in Northern Ireland.

      Fortunately, we have not gone down that road. But tell me this George, where do folks go when democracy disregards them, where the fusion of state and corporate interest rapes them at every opportunity.

      Metaphorical, I’m not so sure, and NI may sadly be but a tinderbox where the matches will once again come out.

  2. w.b. robertson says:

    Brexit offers a “new vision”. whether it is a success, history will judge.

  3. Alf Baird says:

    Great article George. The constitutional (i.e. Act/Treaty of Union) route seems Scotland’s only hope now and that depends on whether Mr. Blackford and his Scotland majority have the bottle for the fray, and if the FM allows them to up the ante. Scotland’s MP’s hold our nation’s sovereignty and a majority of them might at least make the effort to test the ‘Scotland may dissolve the UK Parliament’ thesis, the matter most probably ending up in a court somewhere. This would at least inform those of us who are interested in Scotland’s actual constitutional/legal ‘status’, if any, within our cherished and supposedly ‘forever’ ‘union’. Might be a good idea to do this whilst there is still something recognised as ‘Scots Law’. Might also be a good idea to do it before Brexit. Come on Scotland’s MP’s, dae sumhin!

  4. David Allan says:

    Enjoyed this read immensely and thanks for the ref to the terms of Act of Union.

    I’m beginning to consider devolution as an impediment to independence. Instead of the populous venting their anger and frustration at Westminster we have created a half-way house where our valliant efforts to mitigate and protect ourselves from policies enforced upon us not of our choosing are providing Scottish Unionists with an opportunity to attack our every effort . They constantly attack Holyrood never suggesting any solutions themselves and the public judgement clouded by poor political coverage shifts against Holyrood and not the real source of our problems.

    I look at the Stormont situation and begin to wonder if leaving the mess to London civil servants might better create and hasten the conditions for Independence.

    If May says again ” now is not the time !” I believe this option should be explored.

  5. Jamsie says:

    Yet another poll shows no change in the mood of the Scottish electorate.
    And it indicates that the SNP and the Greens will lose seats in 2021.
    All those people who want to remain part of the U.K. have a right to be heard.

    1. David Allan says:

      “All those people who want to remain part of the U.K. have a right to be heard.”

      An interesting tactical change being demonstrated here – No longer using the want to remain BRITISH ticket !

      1. Jamsie says:

        I always refer to remaining part of the U.K.

        1. David Allan says:

          Am I to understand then that you are not one of the “Proud Scot ,Fiercely British” types – congratulations Jamsie.

  6. Lochside says:

    Excellent and erudite article. The fact of Scotland’s sovereignty seems to have eluded the SNP’s leadership as the key to taking down the whole Brexit boorach.
    Devolution, is and has been proved, to be as Enoch Powell remarked ‘power retained’. Yet, we’ve had to sit out the charade (on both sides) of the SNP trying to reasonable in their approach to the sham ‘negotiations’.

    All this has done has diminished the constitutional issue, the only real issue, to less than a footnote. It has also diminished the SNP to the level of a an English county council (Northamptonshire?) bleating that it is being ignored. The average Scottish voter, outside the cybernat hothouse bubble, see only ‘tweets’ by Nicola Sturgeon and other feeble attempts to chip in from the sidelines while the jackals of the msm reinforce the narrative of nonsensical fakery spewed out by Westminster puppets of the City of London. How much of of an own goal was it to have 56 seats in 2015 when we had the right to declare dissolution of the Union…but didn’t…why? because it wasn’t in the manifesto!!…this from the party which has campaigned for its whole existence for our Independence!

    How craven, is proven by losing half a million votes at the last GE. The Tory traitors in Scotland may be at a slight ebb while Ruth Davidson is in maternal mode. But SLAB are, while we speak, mobilising the their Trade Union collaboraters into attempting strike actions across Scotland so that they can undermine and blame the SNP for Austerity. The fact that it is working speaks volume of the colossal ignorance and disinformation that has been allowed to be disseminated by the corrupt press and BBC. Another trojan horse in the SNP’s wet wet wet political strategy.

    1. Alf Baird says:

      Methinks there are too many recent unionists and/or career politicians in the SNP parliamentary ranks, Lochside. Neoliberal social democrats are not ‘real nationalists anyway, are they? They don’t wear the cause on their sleeve, or wave the saltire any longer, it seems. Is independence really their raison d’être? Are they really ‘up for it’? With the national majorities the SNP holds, ‘real’ nationalists in any other colony would have taken their country back by now, and other colonies didn’t even have a constitutional treaty and Act with which to help legally justify their liberation, far less Westminster’s begrudged acknowledgement of their national sovereignty. But all we hear is “now is not the time” and “wait for indyref2”, or rather Quebec 2, if it happens. And even in the event of a yes vote in any indyref2 what would Westminster write in that ‘Independence Scotland Act’, should they even decide to draft it? Do we ‘sovereign’ Scots really need the representatives of foreign countries to enact and grant our independence for us? Fanciful. Meanwhile Brexit looms, and more cultural No voters keep piling in……..

      1. Lochside says:

        Yes Alf, I agree with every word you write. A party led by people who will state quite frankly that they are not ‘really’ nationalists, or wish the party did not have the word in its title gives the game away. Apparently, we have to await a poll, (by whom, the usual suspects?) to demonstrate that a ‘majority’, unspecified, of the electorate want Independence, before we can have another Referendum. despite the one in 2014 and its predecessor in 1979 were blatantly manipulated and distorted by illegal practices in plain sight, never mind the ones that were not visible.

        This proposition is taken seriously by the SNP leadership, despite the fact that this UK state has a democratic model based on Representative Democracy. That is whomever wins the most seats wins, not who wins the most votes, whether actual or as a percentage of the entire electorate. Yet the SNP leadership, led by qualified lawyers, persists in asserting that plebiscites trump (sorry!) representative democracy. The latter being the basis that even Thatcher agreed was the legitimate method of deciding Scotland’s right to dissolve the UK union.

        Our Sovereignty was sacrificed on the pyre of the 2014 advisory Referendum. We were in a sovereign equal union until then. Cameron astutely played on Salmond’s gambling instinct and placed our Sovereign necks in a noose of a constitutional cul de sac. We are now in a narrative created and supported by the SNP leadership of trying to justify our right to breaking a Union by posturing as a region or colony of Greater England. For this reason alone, we need a new leadership in the SNP or a new party.

  7. PIPER says:

    Always been that, our cord cut at birth never forgotten.Alba runs blood red in our birth being like our first cry,breath being the same life birth death sentence,Alba always,BELLA.

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