Three Arguments for the Union

The principles arguments for remaining in this Union have traditionally gone in a cycle rotating through these three phases:

You Don’t Exist

We Love You

We May Destroy You

The first assumes that there are no discernible cultural features or languages or institutions to Scotland, and that there are no real differences of opinions, no social differences, no marked distinction in attitude outlook or worldview. Britain is One. An example was Jackson Carlaw’s covid-hysteria when he claimed (prior to his unseemly exit): “It is ridiculous to suggest Nicola Sturgeon could close the border. There is no border – we are one United Kingdom.”

No amount of evidence can counteract this argument.

The second is often rolled out in a custodial or possessive manner, but essentially implies that the relations between constituent nations of the Union are one big happy family.

The third might seem in contradicton with the first, but it’s really not. When used by some Scots it’s an expression of cultural self-hatred. Since Brexit and the inevitable undermining of devolution it is the dominant narrative.

At present we are led to believe that Anas Sarwar is a populist genius about to depose the First Minister, and in a new hallucinogenic statement by Michael Gove pretend that Douglas Ross is on the verge of a historic victory. The pro-independence movement is supposed to be on the rocks and in perpetual gloom, but that’s not how I see it at all. The problems for the Conservatives and Unionist’s are mounting.

At least the Conservatives latest strategy to prevent a vote has become much clearer. They will use the Brexit Playbook: outsource to front-groups; shovel out propaganda about generous funding and try and undermine the confidence of people in their own competence. It’s kind of like Brexit in reverse in which the Unionists will argue both that sovereignty is worthless, and that national independence is something impossible to define or achieve.

It must argue that in contrast to the almost unimaginable potential of Global Britain and Britannia Unleashed – Scotland has virtually no potential at all. The great potential about to be unleashed on the world peters out at Carlisle.

This makes sense if you follow the unionist logic:

  1. The Union is the most precious thing in the world. It is almost mystical. It is unique in the world.
  2. It’s been hugely successful for all nations.
  3. Scotland couldn’t survive on its own because – after 300 years of this precious union it is impoverished and dependent on the benevolence of one of the other nations in the Union.

The argument is incomprehensible.

But there are a number of other real contradictions and problems facing the Conservatives and Unionists in the coming months that should be understood.

First, as Michael Keating, professor of politics at the University of Aberdeen writes:

“The union, rather than being a multiform creature, is now presented as a single thing in need of definition and codification. The nebulous concept of Britishness is pressed as a common foundation, and higher values such as democracy, freedom and fair play are appropriated as “British values”. Michael Gove defines unionism as being about liberty, institutions and the rule of law, and says it is based on individuals, in contrast to “identity politics” of left and right and the peripheral nationalisms. However, these are universal rather than distinctively British values; more tellingly, they underpin the modern Irish, Scottish and Welsh nationalisms. Only in England do these common values feature in the school curriculum as being distinctly British.”

Gove has to make these arguments whilst simultaneously introducing the Police and Crime Bill – a dangerous attack on people’s fundamental rights, which includes provision to allow for:

• Gypsy & Traveller vehicles to be seized
• 3 months jail or £2.5k fine for a nomadic life without a travellers passport
• Banning of “disruptive” protests
• Up to 10 years jail for damage to a statue

So ‘Unionism’ is about liberty but also about repression of basic democratic rights.

It’s all meaningless.

A second conundrum the Conservatives have got to indulge us in is the very idea of British democracy. The idea that Scotland is still – somehow – basically a Labour country – and that a Labour victory might be just around the corner.

Yet as John Harris explains, this is highly unlikely:

“Labour may still dominate all of the big English cities, but across the rest of the country such enduring Tory themes as law and order and patriotism, and the party’s apparent embodiment of optimism and opportunity, seem to have fused with Brexit to make the Conservatives even more immovable. The party has won more English votes than Labour in every general election since 2005. In 2019, its vote share in England was 47.2%. From UK-wide statistics, we also know that Labour was backed by 30.6% of low-income voters, but 45.4% supported the Tories.”

England is deeply held by the Conservatives. Despite widespread examples of nepotism and corruption by Johnson’s regime as James O’Brien states: “Their complete failure to protect us from huge, real, fatal problems seems not to matter.”

Added to this is the problem of Brexit. Brexit was driven by a culture of racism and a crisis of English self-identity, but it manifests itself as British Nationalism. So the driver can’t be satisfied and the internal dynamic can’t find expression. English nationalist fervour creates British nationalist outcomes yet drives away the other constituent nations.

Third and not last: they know they can delay a referendum but they also know they can’t do this forever. The language has changed. This gives the Tory Party in Scotland a difficult tightrope to walk. They can garner support only on the basis of creating a Great Fear about the prospect of a referendum. Yet they also have to pretend that the Prime Minister will never grant a Section 30 Order. At the same time they know that that stance is a fundamentally undemocratic and a wildly unpopular one.

Their argument is “You must Vote Tory to stop a referendum” but also “there never will be another referendum.”

Finally there are real problems with trying to replay the Brexit strategy. The front groups that played black ops with dark money in Brexit were playing to a rich background noise of anti-immigration and racism loudly supported by the wealthy tabloids. The groups that the Tories will rely on are not fit for purpose and are packed with dense Scottish aristocracy not ‘charismatic’ Farages’ or ‘cunning’ Cummings’. Added to this the independence movement has been alive and building for eight years or so, and the arguments for the union have been fundamentally picked over and destroyed. If the Scotland in Union brigade (A Parcel of Brogues?) are a semi-detached crew, so too are the Conservatives, as Sarah Vine’s ‘Ubiquitous Fish’ gag revealed.

The three phases we started with are now redundant:

You Don’t Exist – we clearly do.

We Love You – you clearly don’t.

We May Destroy You – I don’t think so.

Despite all of this, on the day of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill – a ‘staggering assault on right to protest’ – the need for Yes supporters is to both press for our own independence but also to show solidarity with the people of England and Wales. This must be done despite the fact that we are being asked to be tethered to a fundamentally reactionary and malignant political entity.


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Comments (21)

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  1. Ariel Killick says:

    Perfectly sums it up – if only the message could get out more widely (I have a sub but my social media is little better than useless, like for many, just a algorithmically broken microphone to a nearly empty room, and only randomly working at that..) I despair a bit tbh.

  2. Axel P Kulit says:

    Despite all the good points you make I fear a NO vote in the next referendum is still a 50/50 possibility.

    As tot eh anti protest bill, protests are a safety valve and we know what happens when safety valves are jammed off.

  3. Iain macphail says:

    I do wonder if the UK Gov strategy if denying a referendum while there is a court case in progress that seeks to rule on s30 might backfire on the parcel of brogues?

    Os loved that line, very good!

  4. Chris Ballance says:

    The three strategies commonly deployed in an abusive relationship. Designed to provoke the reaction of “his attempts to destroy me just show how passionately he loves me, because I’m really not worth his love.”
    But do please keep taking the optimism pills Mike – optimism and belief in our own worth is definitely the best counter-attack.

  5. Graham Ennis says:

    Being a fundementally evil and malignent entity is why the English ruling class has survived so well. It rests on a pyrimid of lies, deciet, manipulation, and racism. But now quite obviously the whole shaky twoer of it all is swaying and will fall down over the next decade.
    Firstly, the young are deeply disenchanted and alienated. They regard the whole of the presesent system as a huge joke.
    Starmer has no chance in this situation to get them onside. He is regarded as part of the problem. In scotland, with its deep radical tradition, the tories are a zooological relic, They will never, ever, take any kind of real power in Scotland again. Labour is now regarded by a good portion of Scots as not being what it was, and polling disasterly at the moment. That leave the SNP. I hate to say this, but splittist tactics are being used. in the last referendum, a group I am connected to did a special statisitcal analysis of the vote count. It was fiddled. Huge odditiies were discovered in the probablilities of the vote. Another group, in Scotland, unknown to us, did the same and got the same result. This is absolutely true. Also, nobody wanted to look at the evidence. Now that it is clear that the Tories will not grant a license for another referendum, we are in deep trouble. The Tories will relentlessly do what they did last time, if it ever getsd to that. But I do not think that is the route of Scots history in the next 10 years. Absent the holding of a referendum, political social and emotional pressure in the Mass of Scottish people will inevitably have to go somewhere. Sadly, this can only lead to a strong pressure by a section of the population who would support acts of lawbreaking, protest, etc, that can only end in violence by the English state. The blueprint of this is the events in Ulster, where what started as a peaceful protest rapidly turned into violence, and for the same reasons. As Lenin said, (He did get some things right) “A single spark can start a praire fire. “. In the increasingly tense political situation in Scotland, something is bound to happen, while the present leadership battle is going on. The force of opinion has been left wavering about, The UK will take steps to prevent the nest referendum, and in the most dangerous circumstances, leadership of the Independence movement is going to shift away from the SNP, and into the street, and to other elements. I think a dangerous situation is opening up. If the SNP leadership are disgraced or tainted by what is going on at the moment, other things are going to happen instead. Please read between the lines in this missive. I will say only that I expect the worst.

    1. Chas Gallagher says:


      I’ve been warning about, ‘between the lines’, for years now. Don’t these dumb and stupid, establishment English nationalists never take a long hard look at their own history stretching from Ireland, Malaya, India, Kenya, Cypress et al to see how their intransigence and a belief of their right to rule has brought about our current crisis?
      If there is an INDY REF 2 majority and they refuse a Referendum then they better beware and they can,’t they were not warned!!!

      1. Graham Ennis says:

        Chas, I agree. My somewhat tortured prose is because I have to be careful not to give free free ammunition to the enemy.
        In realty, I think that within 2 years, the events in Scotland will have sharply focussed attention on what is going on in the Scottish street.
        The street will be aharply focussing its attention on London, as BREXIT starts to sharply bite the UK economy.
        The offer, already discreetly made, that an independent Scotland would rejoin the EU, in an accellerated process, would be a given.
        The campaign for an independent Scotland would get legs from rejoining the EU. The situation the rest of the UK, in its present troubles,
        would be an interesting contrast. The EU card is a vital one to play. it is worth billions to Scotland. Also it reattaches Scotland as an equal member of a huge euro-economy. What have the London Goverment actually got to offer that would match that?.
        Also, there is the neutrality issue. No more entanglement in English/American wars etc.
        There is much else. But the critical events are in my opinion all going to take place in the next 60 months.
        Its a given, in the coming year, that the SNP policy of making explicit the Holyrood election will determine the support for Independence as well, given that the SNP is going to get a clear majority of seats, puts the irons in the fire. The UK London regime will say no. Lots of Scots have said yes. Clear lines are drawn.
        All this could happen over the next 60 months. A NO from london would catalyse a hard core of nationalsists to take the issue to the streets, and Whoever runs the SNP as first minister has to internationalise it, taking the struggle to the UN and to Strasbourg. Meanwhile, various stratergies need to ber worked on. Once the London regime has said no, there is really no other way to go. so then its a choice between silence and action. What kind of action is a matter for the Scottish street.
        They will not be told by anybody what to do, or how to behave. The protests that have been seen before in other countries struggles, will force more conservative Nationalists to the left, and to radical views, as other wise there will be a big internal fight in the SNP. All the ground work for the next phase will then be there, which is to make the situation in Scotland untenable for the unionist elements, and to copy the Catalans, in their tactics. What is absolutely clear is that after a refused referendum, (This time with foreign observers) the situation is possibly going to end in only two ways. Either there will be negotiations, and a settlement. Or there will be a Catalan type struggle, agisnt the forces of the English state,. I rather fear that the English deep state will not meekly give in. So be it.

        1. James Mills says:

          You have the outline of a very bad B-movie there , Graham .
          You almost appear to WANT violence on ”the street ”. I hope I am misreading your prophecies !

          1. Graham Ennis says:

            Since I have been queried on here about seeming to want there to be a violent struggle for independence, let me set the record straight.
            I am an Irish citizen. We know more than we ever wanted to, about violence, repression, and refusal of our lawful rights under international law.
            Friends of mine died in the recent national lioberation stuggle there. No sane person wants violence or war. but, cvircumstances led to one in Ireland, the last time. It lasted 30 years. The Irish did not start that war, it was startyed on them, by the local un ionists, enthusiastically supported by the British military. I fear that the main problem, in a few ywears time, will be the Scottish Unionists, (This time I am speaking openly) who are right wing poltitical extremists and monarchists, and already have a well organised paramilitary force that makes its nasty precence known on Orange festive days. Judging from the coverage I have seen, the Scottish police escort them, even though nthey are wearing weapons, carrying knives and sabers, etc…and wearing paramilitary uniforms. Nothing is said about this. There is tiome now that it was said. There needs to be peaceful conter-demonstrations agains these humiliating and dangerous parades. I do not see any. If there were, the police would stop them. Something is very wrong here.
            Also, in my time in Scotland, I met a lot of very good scots, who were ex professional soldiers, and often in special forces. Also nationalists. (Hard core). this creates a situation where whether or not the SNP wants it to happen, it is going to happen. From discussions, I learned that a number of them would automonously start using violent protest, and if that did not work, paramilitary violence. With the Scottish UVF at large, I think people would call that a war. To my certain knowledge, there are already informal groups of veterans who have amongst themselves discussed this matter. It only takes oner small group, and the situation becomes violent, and beyond SNP control. This event, would initiate copies, and other groups, that would eventually meld into a national liberation force. The london Goverment would put Scotland under a state of emergency, shut down the Hollyrood Goverment and shut the parliament, and institute direct rule. (its a time and tested technique that was used in Ireland, and also whenever therer was a national liberation uprising in the British empire. None of this would be under the control or direction of any SNP parliament and goverment. It would be autonomous. It would also be unstoppable. As the brits learned in Ireland, even if all but a small fraction are captured or killed, there are always patriotic nationalists who would replace them. I am very plainly setting all this out. It is not an inducement to violence, it is a warning about it. The big problem is how to restrain the outbreak of violence. The only way to do this is for the UK goverment to grasp that it is inevitable, unless they watch their step, compromise, and make an agbreement. The SNP has, after a yes vote, to follow the Catalans. The Catalan Goverment, now in jail or in exile, is an example. The Scots Goverment need to make special contingency plans, without violence whatsoever, in the event of a refusal of a referendum, or a YES vote, to have a cadre of the cabinet in Dublin, as an administration in exile and in waiting. Much else, but I hope that the UK intelligence services are reading what I am saying, as I am only saying what many scots are saying in Private, amongst friends, if there is a ban on a referendum. The political route is then closed, and violence is inevitable. Also, a number of irish paramilitary veterans would engage themselves. (Spontaneously). There is no IRA now in existance to restrain them, and everyone in Ireland is deeply sympathetic. The situation would quickly become uncontrollable by anyone. On any side. Again, I say all this as a warning. I am sure Bella perople might not agree with me, being a law abiding journal, but its me saying this, not them. we now have perhaps a year to get a referendum, if that. Thats why I am writing. The UK intelligence agencies are aware of this as well. They will already be making emergency plans for what the Americans call “Co-Intel-Pro and black operations. (If they were not, they would not be doing their job). As soon as a referendum is refused, we are sitting on a political time bomb, that will eventuaslly change into a real one.
            Coments expected and a debate on how to stop the violence held.

          2. Tom Ultuous says:

            Graham, the depressing thing is it will probably be what the tories will be hoping for by then. At the moment the Covid crisis is masking their brexit incompetence. They’re also deliberately antagonising the EU to keep the anti-EU feeling alive among their thick supporters. They’re maybe even hoping the EU will pull the plug on the deal so they can shift the blame for the impending catastrophe. Hopefully the EU won’t fall into their trap and, sooner or later, the tories will run out of excuses. I would’ve guessed at that point they’d unilaterally remove the border in the Irish sea (thus necessitating one on the Irish mainland) and await the IRA mainland blitz. Another decade of flag waving / Vera Lynn war songs / Dunkirk spirit and No surrender to the IRA to go through. Maybe they’re hoping the Scots will help cement the siege mentality. The empire under attack from all sides.

            It could all have been avoided by having an English independence referendum instead of a brexit one but, as was the case with the EU, they want their cake and eat it.

          3. Niemand says:

            Civil war in Scotland! Well that’s something to look forward to.

            You claim not to want this but you do and none of your weasel words can hide that; your entire world view and language you use is full of hate and strategies that are clearly aimed at violence, even all out war, being the end game ‘if need be’. No civilised person would ever suggest such a thing, not least as it could destroy Scotland, a land full of an increasingly diverse population who would be horrified but such an eventuality. And it almost seems ridiculous to have to say it, but the history and situation Scotland is so different to Ireland the parallels you make are absurdly reductive.

            These comments are making Wings look like Andy Pandy. And yet it is all left here like it is fine.

  6. Tom Ultuous says:

    The tories really are scraping the bottom of the barrel. Their ten pence a head scandal is starting to dry up so they’re now attempting to paint NS as turning a blind eye to a party riddled with sex pests. It’s only a matter of time before she’ll be a shape shifting lizard.

    1. Graham Ennis says:

      Tom, the entire English Tory party is full of shape shifting lizards.

  7. George S Gordon says:

    Great analysis Mike. I’d just add a confounding factor, which is BBC Scotland. While they are duty-bound to be impartial, whatever that means, their focus is mostly on stories where the Scottish unionist parties make claims about policies, either their own or those of the SNP (meaning the Scottish Government).

    They take little account of the fact that we have two governments, despite that being one of the main arguments promoted by unionists. In many ways, the UK government defines what happens in Scotland, especially (but not exclusively) in the economic area. This should mean a much higher focus on news and analysis on UK government policies and activities. Instead, BBC Scotland presumably assumes UK government news is covered by the BBC main channel, and relates “the news where you are”, largely ignoring the specific effects of UK government policy on Scotland. We might get a blog from Douglas Fraser, but he hardly ever appears on the broadcast news.

    I’ve no idea how deliberate it is, but I’m often infuriated by the way their reporters carry out interviews. Even Martin Geissler, who seems above average, did it the other day. During an interview with someone from the education sector, who was complaining about the Scottish Government, the interviewee went on a bit and wasn’t clear enough for Geissler – who proceeded to convert the rambling responses to snappy anti-government soundbites.

    And I’ve yet to hear BBC Scotland explain clearly to viewers, or to Douglas Ross, that complaints about non-publication of the OECD report are unfounded. Did I miss it?

  8. Graham Ennis says:

    Inevitable I think. A great many Scots and Irish are going to suffer if this happens.
    A war on two fronts. Also, the Militant wing of Welsh nationalism is dorment at the moment,
    but inevitably some people will have a hard think in Wales if the idea spreads there.
    The problem there would be even worse, as during the BREXIT vote, all the Welsh speaking areas voted to leave and all the English speaking areas, which are now overrun with ritirement immigrants, voted yes. This is going to cause a second uproar in Wales. A number of English speaking border counties are also tory voters.I fear the worst. Unlike the last time in Ireland, the UN and EU would intervene, given the scale of the things. A completely hideous situation, but quite possible with what is going on. I rate this sceanario as 40% yes 60% no at the moment, but events like BREXIT will probably tip the balance. God help us.

    1. Tom Ultuous says:

      And it’s all so the tories and their chums can escape the impending EU investigation into tax avoidance, offshore accounts and money laundering.

      1. Derek Thomson says:

        Precisely so Tom. Well put.

      2. Graham Ennis says:

        Exactly correct Tom. The whole point I am making, is that once Scotland enters a crisis situation, due to the intransigence of the UK London Goverment, the SNP will have no real control over the situation, as the Nationalist radicals in Scotland are going to make all the running, in various ways. Given what I have said earlier, it will follow the pattern of Ireland, where gradually more moderate forces were overtaken by small militant groups. These groupscules have a tendency to conduct vigerous discussions within them, and to interact and form a larger opposition group. This is how the IRA split from the “Officials, and became the provisionals. The rest is history. What people do not grasp, is that no matter how much they want a peaceful solution, the hard men (and women) will be those making the running, while the SNP is in great danger of also splitting. This in turn is going to create a situation where no one is in real control of events, such as militant actions against the UK Goverment. All of this is going to lead to internal splits in such groups and factions joining together. All of this is well described in the media during Irelands recent “Long war”. Its absolutely commonplace, as the French discovered in Algeria, and others are now discussing in the Lebanon and parts of Syria. its the way revolutions and uprisings work. So another issue is how does the SNP get a grip on such a fraught situation. Well, by splits, factionalising, etc. Again, see Ireland. This is a war which once started, runs on autopilot. Nobody has the power to stop it, except the UK Goverment, by moving onwards to serious negotiations and discussions and offering a deal. But it took a bomb under Thatchers arse to wake her up to the brutal realities of the Irish war. Insurrections are either multi-headed Hydra, or headless beasts. Choose one. This brings into view the idea of solidarity, of first of all Nationalists having an actual plan to minimise violence, coordinate, and trying to work to a cohesive plan. This is something the London Regime will absolutely oppose and try to obliterate. This in turn leads to a long war, with both sides exhausted, morally and politically. My blunt words are based on personal experience. So before a war starts in Scotland, as it eventually must, if there is no political route to independence, a good idea is to work as the catalans did, to a plan. It did not get them independence, but it did give them a large international support, and a situation for the Madrid Goverment that is leading it relentlessly to a situation where they have to extract themselves, and let Catalonia go. I am a bit depressed that my posts on here are not attracting a lot of comment, as its the duty of the intellectuals, in a country in the situation Scotland is in, to draw maps to liberation. Can we please have an open serious discussion. As I said, if Scotland gets a NO, then horrible things are inevitable.

        1. Tom Ultuous says:

          If it ever comes to that Graham let’s hope the lessons of the past have been learned. The only time they ever cared was when the economy or they themselves were the target. The killing of innocent bystanders only plays into their hands (consider those in power failing to act on bomb warnings).

          1. Graham Ennis says:

            Sadly Tom, your analysis of the situation is exactly on the ball.
            The thing about allowing the whole thing to drift into a paramilitary campaign, as happened in Ireland, is that it puts everything into deep freeze, from social issues to political ones. It also leads to the eventual shutting of the local parliament, and direct rule, by a colonial “Secretary of state. “.
            This, from the point of view of London, is perfect. There is no change, a lot of viol;ence that means the special security laws aee reintroduced in the UK as a whole, “Because of the threat” and a political lockdown. The so-called Anti-terrorism legislation is used now against non violent protesters in the UK as a whole, and the use against anti-nuclear protestors is routine. We are already, in practical terms, there.

            The dangers I have outlined are fairly obvious, as they were to the Catalan Nation. Beware of the false flag operations, deliberate provocations, etc.
            The Scottish police also are an issue. They are a danger spot. For all practical purposes, they are under the domain of the UK security services.
            So I hope this puts what I have posted here, over several large posts, into context. Its worth looking up something back in the sixties, called the “Burntollet Ambush” where thousands of peaceful nationalist community civil rights protestors were attacked by Unionst and UVF extremists. All coordinated with the then RUC. This is what to expect. I was there that day. It was a tipping point. The factual racism and even racist killings, of the Scottish police, are a warning sign. Also the sympathy of a considerable number of Police for the UDA etc.
            All that a skilled “Country team” of security service operatives needs to do, is infiltrate, at a critical point in time, and the game becomes a new and dangerous one.
            I think there needs to be a public debate on this, but its essential that the Scottish Nationalist community take all of this onboard. It will probably play out as I have horribly described, previously. But its absolutely essential that the Catalan route is stuck to, unless and until the London regime start the violence.

          2. Tom Ultuous says:

            Graham, I agree with you on the Scottish police being an issue but, unlike the RUC, they won’t have the blessing of the government who pays their wages.

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