Dear Bella Caledonia

Dear Bella Caledonia.

Thank you for publishing Europe for Scotland’s open letter to EU leaders. I’m happy to write this to people in Scotland to ask you all to join us and add your names.

We need a trans-European effort to defeat Trumpism, now personified on this side of the Atlantic by the Johnson government in London. You have the misfortune to be on the front line of this. It’s also an opportunity to turn the tide.

No one can do this on their own.

We have taken the initiative as Europeans in solidarity with Scotland. The idea began in England when it became clear that a hard Brexit was on its way. It has been organised by a young Italian and German couple.

The aim is a civil society initiative that can become more than a protest. We hoped, optimistically, to reach 10,000 supporters by the election this Thursday. If so, and if there is a majority for independence in the new parliament, we thought there could be the basis for an ongoing campaign. Its aim: to persuade EU leaders to offer Scotland generous terms for re-joining in advance of any referendum.

After four days there are now 7,500 supporters of Europe for Scotland. Please join us and please ask someone you know to do the same, preferably a fellow European who lives anywhere in the world outside the UK.

In my experience of the Scottish left, which as readers of Bella you probably feel yourself to be part of, there is a scepticism about the EU that is justified and a belief that you don’t need help from anyone to win independence, which is not. I’d like to address both.

We want to shift the narrative from Trumpite rhetoric of negativity, hostility and separation to positive and intelligent solidarity. And do so by challenging EU leaders to rise to the moment.

We are not naïve about the EU. When we contacted people close to Brussels about our initiative they talked about the accession process and the rules etc. Rules are good, in their place. They must not determine direction – or depoliticisation follows. Much of the EU has been about imposing depoliticisation, just like Blairism and its Cameron successor.

But not any longer. Neoliberalism has failed. Depoliticisation is no more. The EU can put the era of austerity behind it when it comes to accession, just as it has with the €750 billion solidarity fund. Scotland must not be treated like Croatia not only because it is counter-productive but because Scotland is unique – a nation that has been an EU member for 47 years taken out against its will.

So our call is a challenge to European leaders to step up – an important reason why we need your support in signing the appeal and asking others to.

Does Scotland need any such support? Isn’t independence about self-determination, the purer the better? No it isn’t. I reflect on Tom Nairn’s pioneering debate about this question the introduction he asked me to write for the new edition of The Break-up of Britain just published by Verso.

Independence is about having a relationship with the wider world, not leaving it. It is Brexitism and its Trumpite ideology of antagonism to neighbours and immigrants and freedom of movement that is about putting one’s country “first” and boasting of exceptionalism.

In seeking initial signatures I was queried by a friend from southern Europe who said: “We supported the Irish when they fought for their independence. Where can I hear from the Scots? What are doing to demand our solidarity?” I answered that she could not want the Scots to take up an armed struggle. “No!”, she replied, “But I do want to support people who raise the flag of their cause, show courage and call out to the world.”

This is what we Europeans need and ask for. If indy becomes a dispute between two states, the larger will always win as it can set the terms. If Scotland is to break away from the confining antagonism of Westminster, then its independence needs to become an international and especially a European-wide expression of solidarity and collaboration.

It’s hard for governments like the SNP’s to appeal to the public, and anyway like all politicians they like ‘message discipline’. But you won’t win a national struggle especially one about joining a larger union if it is confined. Our campaign is about breaking the chains of mental confinement.

Together, then, we Europeans must defend ourselves from being drawn into the UK’s disintegration led by England’s frustrated leaders. Please join the call to inspire Europe’s leaders to hold out a generous hand to Scotland and add your names.


Comments (32)

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  1. Daniel Raphael says:

    “Independence is about having a relationship with the wider world, not leaving it.” Just so. The sort of independence that makes most sense is abundantly represented at and by this site, and I hope many of Bella’s Scottish readers will sign the Europe for Scotland letter.

  2. Michael says:

    I’m very cautious of initiatives like this that “narrativise” the current situation. My scepticism is that talking about legal frameworks and agreements as a story of poor wee Scotland, big bad Brexit the knight in shining armou EU is designed to distract from the real nitty gritty by evoking emotions, rather than inform people and help to bring clarity to the issue.

    Other than so middle class Scots can travel hassle free to their holiday homes on the continent, are there any really strong arguments for Scotland rushing to jump out of the UK frying pan into the EU fire?

    1. Colin Robinson says:

      ‘I’m very cautious of initiatives like this that “narrativise” the current situation.’

      And so you should be. It’s otherwise called ‘spin’.

      1. Anthony Barnett says:

        No, spin is when you don’t call it by it’s name

        1. Colin Robinson says:

          Is it? I stand corrected! I always thought it meant ‘a particular viewpoint or bias, especially in the media; slant, as in “to put one’s own spin on a story” or “narrate”.’

    2. Derek Thomson says:

      The E “fire” means joining a voluntary group of states who pool certain things for the common good of all the states. The UK “frying pan” is to be totally controlled by another country which only wants access to our resources, and treats the Scottish people (and their elected representatives) with complete and utter contempt. Hope that makes it clear.

      1. Derek Thomson says:

        EU I meant, obviously.

      2. Niemand says:

        Apart from a Scottish Parliament being able to make new laws on many subjects, and having complete devolved power over:

        agriculture and fisheries
        education and training
        health and social services
        justice and policing
        local government
        sport and the arts
        tourism and economic development
        many aspects of transport
        some aspects of tax and social security

        If that is ‘totally controlled’ and treating ‘the Scottish people (and their elected representatives) with complete and utter contempt’ then there is surely some misunderstanding.

        1. Tom Ultuous says:

          It’s utterly contemptable they want to take all devolved powers back and might well have the power to do so in the future.

          If Scotland votes NO and Ireland votes YES disgruntled loyalists will be offered generous packages to relocate to the British colony of Scotland thus ensuring a unionist majority there until 1691. Scotland – a green beacon of renewable energy OR a ghettoised dumping ground for Eton toff problems of their own making. It’s your choice.

    3. Tom Ultuous says:

      Frying Pan = Stole our oil and sold off our nationalised industries to their pals for a song.
      Fire?. Would the EU have had the “control” to do the above? Can you tell me 3 EU laws you disagree with Michael?

      You seem reluctant to sign yourself out of the asylum because it means you’ll automatically be enrolled in the local library.

    4. Anthony Barnett says:

      Hi Michael, but that isn’t the ‘narrative’ i’m arguing for, it’s a childish story you are projecting onto me. London and Johnson are the one’s taking the country out of the EU and setting a direction, or narrative, and I’m arging we need a different one and must not allow them to set the terms of the debate.

      1. SleepingDog says:

        @Anthony Barnett, on that point, you could argue that the Conservative–Unionist vision is the real ‘nanny state’, with its ‘we know best’, ‘constitutional politics is for the grown-ups’, sweeties-and-smacks, go-to-bed-without-supper austerity-is-good-for-you pitch. Their narratives generally avoid describing the British Imperial aspect of modern UK, in case the children start asking “Why this? Why that?”. When I once remarked to a European incomer (who is very fond of Scotland) that the UK seems quite a backward place compared to what I hear about modern Europe, their response was along the lines of “Well, I did not want to mention it, but now you have…”.

        British corporate media’s default pitch seems generally that we have nothing to learn from Europe (apparently a bunch of stereotypes more fitting for Eurovision than peopling our nearest neighbouring countries). Even when mentioned, it is often in the context of rivalry; while ridiculous intellectual and cultural barriers are thrown up, like the BBC’s execrable concept of ‘British Science’. And as for any past injuries the British have cause on the continent, it may be a rare historian who mentions them in polite company.

        1. Tom Ultuous says:

          SD, one of my favourites is “best stalls handlers in the world” when watching “UK” racing. Really? Has somebody actually went round the world studying stall handlers? You wonder why they didn’t just become a royal correspondent.

          1. SleepingDog says:

            @Tom Ultuous, are there any other European royal correspondents? The UK seems to be winning the Wikipedia page by default:
            Perhaps the UK’s Court Circular is the paragon of royal newsletters, or something? Hmmm. How about, nobody else stashes away the proceeds of centuries of crime like the British royal family? Now that’s worldbeating.

          2. Tom Ultuous says:

            Be careful SleepingDog. THEY are not averse to the odd hit.

    5. John Learmonthmm says:

      I wonder if the peoples of the EU were allowed a choice as to whether they would like to become independant states or remain in the EU what the outcome would be?
      Daft question as they never will be allowed, Brussels knows whats best and its underlying belief is….don’t trust the people, just leave all the important matters to your betters such as the signatories of the letter.
      Meanwhile youth unemployment in Spain/Italy/Greece is 50%. What do the ‘great and the good’ propose to do about it?

      1. Tom Ultuous says:

        They already are independent states and responsible for their own youth unemployment levels. I wonder if the peoples of the “UK” were allowed a choice on the latest “mega” trade deals “superwoman” Liz truss has brokered with Australia and India what the outcome would be or, as Sleeping Dog has pointed out elsewhere, if they were allowed a vote on NATO membership.

        In any case John, it’s good to know that if the clown denies us an independence referendum you’ll be the angry man at the front of the charge.

        1. John Learmonth says:

          Independant states have their own currency which means they can control interest rates/govt borrowing/debt etc.
          The euro currency means that ‘europe’ (or at least that part that is in the € as for some strange reason Denmark/Sweden/Poland/czech republic/Hungary show no interest in joining) means you are not independent and are thus in thrall to Germany which essentially bankrolls the entire project.
          Its claimed by some in the SNP that we would rejoin EU, however for the life of me I’ve yet to see a senior EU politician state publicly that we would be allowed to re-join. Would we?highly unlikely as the Spanish for obvious reasons would veto our application.
          If/when we get independence rule out rejoining the EU, its not going to happen .

          1. Michelle Shortt says:

            Spanish veto will not happen unless it was a UDI. Can’t believe people are still trotting out that mince.

          2. Tom Ultuous says:

            John, are all countries who’ve joined the euro experiencing high youth unemployment? I see the GBP is up a massive 3 cents against the euro since Johnson’s “deal” was struck but is still 15 cents lower than before the Brexit referendum and 60 cents below its best ever euro rate. This is all despite Johnson’s vaccine gamble looking like it may pay off and we’ll be fully opened before the EU which, according to the Murdoch newspapers, is disintegrating in the absence of the “UK”. Doesn’t look good, does it? Me, I’d rather belong to a stable currency than one that’s being manipulated by hedge fund managers who’re bankrolling Johnson.

            Your Spain veto is wishful thinking. The EU missing out on the chance to stuff it up Westminster is as likely as the orange lodge coming out in favour of Scottish independence.

  3. Tom Ultuous says:

    Name added. Thanks for the support Anthony.

  4. Paddy Farrington says:

    “Our campaign is about breaking the chains of mental confinement.” This is spot on. Scotland’s quest for independence is internationalist, and this wonderful initiative gives new expression to this sentiment.

    Upon reading the impressive list of names in the media, I was struck by the breadth of support from the humanities and social science, but also by the lack of scientists. Perhaps they are there, just not reported. As a (now retired) scientist myself, I wonder how we can help scientists overcome their natural reserve and back this and similar initiatives.

    1. Anthony Barnett says:

      Thank you, yes our lack of a network with scientists is a weakness and we discussed it but could not solve the problem. TGhere is a larger issue of bringing scientists out of the shell of not speaking about public affairs. COVID has brought this home to us all. So thank you.

  5. SleepingDog says:

    Influence over foreign policy is almost completely lacking for the UK electorate at general elections, and at any other time apart from the rare referendum on Europe. Foreign policy is still essentially a royal prerogative, with crown-appointed diplomats and imperial officials, run by Whitehall and secret services, colluded on by the political parties of power (the last major threat to this foreign policy consensus was Jeremy Corbyn’s team’s programme for Labour, and that was taken out by concerted reaction), and conducted largely in secrecy. At least there would be the potential for the Scottish electorate helping decide who their friends were internationally after independence. The British Empire needs enemies, hence all the sabre-rattling. With the rest of the UN Security Council members, it has enormous financial interest in war. For all its (possibly remediable) faults, the EU’s origins derived from building peace projects, and the great collective wish of the people’s of Europe to avoid the conflicts in past centuries. This work is unfinished, conflict has often been pushed outside of Europe’s borders into proxy wars and economic warfare, imperial crimes, resource extraction, environmental degradation, ecosystem poisoning, abuses against the person and intellectual property theft.

    This is a rational summary of global threats from the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists:
    It is not a short read, but nukes, climate emergency, pandemics and next-generation warfare feature, along with the failure of governments to appropriately counter them. Which governments, indeed states and empires (even if they flinch from that term) are part of the problem? If the Scottish electorate want to work with others in Europe and around the world to try and solve these problems, then independence frees them from the yoke of UK, one of the main offenders.

  6. florian albert says:

    ‘We want to shift the narrative . . . And do so by challenging EU leaders to rise to the moment.’

    What reason is there to think that EU leaders would respond to this call ? EU leaders could probably have retained the UK as a member of the EU by making some modest concessions on the issue of free movement of workers before the 2016 referendum. They chose not to.

    1. Colin Robinson says:

      Because we’re exceptional, that’s why. Wha’s like us!

      1. Tom Ultuous says:

        We were already EU members removed against our will. We’re the only country in the history of the world to vote against our own independence.

        Indeed, wha’s like us.

        1. Colin Robinson says:

          Scotland has never been a member of the EU.

          1. Tom Ultuous says:

            You should be working in the immigration department with Priti.

          2. SleepingDog says:

            Interestingly enough, Brexit took 12 overseas territories out of EU association:
            “As a result of Brexit, the number of Overseas Countries and Territories associated with the EU has been reduced from 25 to 13.”
            and not all of them had a vote, it appears.

            If they gained their independence from the British Empire, would any be allowed to (re)join, perhaps as one of its integrated Outermost Regions (jeez, European colonialism really messes with the map)?

          3. Colin Robinson says:

            I can’t imagine they would, SD, as they would no longer be ORs (or, indeed, even OCTs) if they became independent. To qualify as an OR or an OCT, a region, country, or territory must be constitutionally linked to an EU member state.

    2. Tom Ultuous says:

      The EU could’ve chosen to exempt the “UK” from their investigation into tax avoidance, money laundering and offshore accounts. That would’ve totally removed any need for the Tories themselves to leave the EU. As far as free movement was concerned. By the time of the Brexit referendum there were more non-EU migrants being allowed into the “UK” than EU ones. Why? The Tories had total control over the non-EU migrants but they needed them. Immigration was the opium of the people. Pack them in, don’t put any of the tax they generate into services and blame them for the pressure on services. Simples for the simple.

      All the Brexiteers have really facilitated is Tory tax dodging.

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